Bob Rae steps up to defend carbon pricing

Bob Rae was in Toronto today to deliver a speech on energy policy. Included in that was a defence of putting a price on carbon.

I also want to say today, to everyone in this room, that we have to move the discussion along with respect to this question of carbon pricing. Do you know who’s providing the leadership today on carbon pricing? The province of British Columbia. And the province of Alberta. They’re not afraid to talk about carbon pricing. They’re not afraid to use market mechanisms to force innovation and more conservation. They’re not afraid to send the right messages to markets. They’ve done that. They’ve moved ahead of the game. The Conference of CEOs, under the leadership of John Manley, has said exactly the same thing. We have to send a signal to the markets about the price of carbon going forward and we have to do it in a way that, once again, will force producers and force the industry to become more innovative. And that’s a more effective way to do it than, and this is really ironic coming from a so-called Conservative government, the kind of centralized, command-and-control regulatory approach which now seems to be the vogue in Ottawa.

Now, you and I both know our shared experiences as a country in trying to have a national conversation on this question of carbon taxing or cap-and-trade—either technique, either method of trying to create a signal to the markets about price. But I’m here to tell you that if we don’t send a signal to the markets about price, the market won’t take us seriously when it comes to conservation and the market won’t take us seriously when it comes to greening the economy and the world won’t take us seriously when it comes to those things.

What’s more, the industry itself is asking for this. Talk to a CEO of any major energy company in Canada and they will tell you we need to know what prices are going to be and what government policies are going to be in order for us to make and justify the investments to our shareholders that we know we have to make. Two projects right now on carbon capture, two separate major projects on carbon capture, have been put on hold by two major companies for the simple reason that there is no signal to the market. That’s wrong.

But I know full well that anyone who steps up to the plate and says this is something we have to do and at the same time provide for tax cuts to lower and middle income people, provide for real cuts in income taxes, make sure that regions that are badly effected are helped and not hurt, it’s quite possible to do it, but anyone who suggests it will immediately have their head blown off. But, having my head blown off many times, I don’t mind. What I do mind is the absence of national leadership. What I do mind is the fact that the provinces are getting together, and getting together again at the end of this month, they’re going to be talking about the need for a national energy strategy. They, themselves, are taking steps to move forward. The province of Ontario, the province of Manitoba, the province of Nova Scotia, they all want to move forward. Quebec wants to move forward. It already is ahead of the federal government when it comes to setting targets and getting there and sending signals to market. So the federal government is hiding under its chair while that conference is going on. And the federal government is hiding under its chair when the national industry and the CEOs of this country are looking for leadership. And they don’t find it.