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Speaking of climate change and where we need to go in Manitoba

Tuesday May 15, I had the opportunity to speak in the Manitoba Legislature on a resolution dealing with the Kinder Morgan Pipeline.   I chose to take the opportunity to refocus our efforts on reducing greenhouse gases emissions in Manitoba and addressing climate change in our province.  

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): You know, this resolution deals with an issue which is already being dealt with. The federal government has said that it will ensure that it's working with Alberta and BC and that the pipeline is going to be built.
      Our challenge here in Manitoba is to address the issues we have with greenhouse gas production in our province, that we have–we are still very dependent on fossil fuels. We need to convert over to a province which is less dependent. We produce too much nitrous oxide and too much methane. And we need to work out how we will be able to operate, in fact, in a way that's beneficial to farmers so that they are, instead of seeing nitrous–nitrogen go up in the air as nitrous oxide, have the nitrogen helping their crops to grow. So there are win-wins here.
      So we want to move to an economy which is carbon neutral or greenhouse gas neutral and, perhaps, even have an economy which would have a net storage of greenhouse gases. There is a lot of potential, a lot of ideas that are coming from a variety of sources. The government itself has talked about having electric buses in our transit fleet. But so far it's been all talk and no action. We're not seeing additional new buses built. We're not seeing a fleet which is converting over. What's happening at the moment is that nothing is really changing, but there's an opportunity to position a company like New Flyer, which is a major bus manufacturer in North America, to be at the forefront of making electric buses and electric transit vehicles.
      One of the things that clearly could be done is to look at the allocation of the money that's being raised through the carbon tax and how you can use some of that money to benefit the development of our economy, the development of our manufacturing capability here to produce electric vehicles and particularly, in this instance, electric buses.
      We heard from the trucking industry that their industry is going to be paying an excessive amount, proportionately, of money in the carbon tax, but the–so far, the government has not provided any specific incentives to the trucking industry in this transition period when we will be moving away from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. We know that these electric vehicles are on the way.
      Tesla has showed that they're already able to produce electric trucks, and it's not going to be too far in the future where the companies are going to want to use these. And we need to be making the investments and providing the support in order to help our trucking companies be competitive during this transitional period.
      There are–in the carbon plan, the climate change plan that was produced by the government, one of the problems was that they had selectively decided to not include any efforts relative to agriculture in the carbon plan. This is a big disappointment because agriculture is a very important industry in Manitoba, and it needs to be included. In fact, the Keystone Agricultural Producers have produced a climate-change approach which they have put forward, but the government so far has neglected.
      It is a problem when this government says that the agricultural is responsible for 30 or 32 per cent of the greenhouse gas production, but those numbers only include the nitrous oxide and the methane. They don't include the fossil fuels used in gas and diesel for trucks in the farm, for tractors on the farm, for other vehicles on the farm and for heating farm buildings. And so, Keystone Agricultural Producers told us, when we met with them, that they think that the agriculture probably is responsible for about 38 per cent of the greenhouse gases. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not closer to 40 per cent.
      Certainly we need to be paying attention to what's happening in agriculture. We need to make sure that we're providing the kind of support that Keystone Agricultural Producers are suggesting, that there would be support for operations which are working so that they produce less nitrous oxide. We know that there are numerous research studies which suggest that you can cut nitrous oxide production by a third very easily, by two thirds without too much difficulty, and maybe you can go even higher.
      But the conversion from the way we farm now to the way we will be farming, I am sure, in the future, where we're much more careful about the generation of nitrous oxide and we're much more efficient in making sure that all of the nitrogen that's put on the crops actually gets to the crops, that there is the possibility of providing to farmers carbon credits from saving greenhouse–decreasing–taking measures which would decrease greenhouse gas production, whether it's nitrous oxide or methane or whether it's related to the use of fossil fuels.
      Indeed, we can go further, because there's a lot of discussion about how it's possible to store carbon on the land depending on how we practise–what practices are used in terms of agriculture.
      And this also applies to how we manage our forests. And we need the research base so that we can accurately give people carbon credits for doing things which are responsible for storing more carbon, whether it's in agriculture or through forestry management. And, certainly, this is an area which we can and should be focused on because there is a large potential here.
      And so, at a time when this government has not even got its figures right in the case of the proportion of greenhouse gases produced by agriculture, we're debating this resolution instead of what we should be doing, is discussing how to have a really good and effective carbon plan, greenhouse gas plan and climate change plan in Manitoba.
      Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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