BY BILL PHILLIPS
With two electric cars as a backdrop and a freshly-minted dust advisory issued for the city, Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, extolled the need for Canadians to tackle climate change, during a stop at UNBC in Prince George Friday.
“The world really is at a pivotal moment,” she said. “We know that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of this generation, but it is a change that we have to address for the sake of the generations to come.”
She said investing in green technology is not only urgent, but possible.
“It’s a time that we can demonstrate that the environment and the economy go hand-in-hand,” she said. “The cost of not acting and not changing our ways by reducing our dependency on fossil will have us on the wrong side of history.”
She championed UNBC, the country’s ‘Green University’ and promoted the recent federal budget, which contained a one-time $2.2 billion increase to the federal gas tax fund, which is distributed to municipalities.
“It’s clear that communities know best where the funds should go to create good jobs and protect the environment here,” she said. “We’re here to celebrate your province’s and our country’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”
She also touted the federal plan to provide a $5,000 rebate to those purchasing an electric vehicle valued less than $45,000.
“The transportation sector is central to this future because that sector accounts for 25 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “Three-quarters of those emissions come from just two sources … passenger cars and trucks and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. The future of transportation will be led by zero-emission vehicles.”
However, the rebate limit of $45,000 also limits the type of zero-emission vehicle available for the rebate as very few retail for under the $45,000 threshold.
“It was viewed that for the really expensive ones, those people probably don’t need the rebate in order to make that choice,” she said.
For businesses, qualifying vehicles will also be eligible for a full tax write-off for the year they are put in use, rather than having to calculate deprecation year-over-year.
“For governments and companies with fleets of vehicles, this can become a hugely important incentive for fleets to change over to zero-emission vehicles,” she said. “ … In order for all Canadians to see themselves as part of the change, they need to feel confident about access to reliable and convenient charging options, whether they are travelling long distance or going about their daily lives.”
The federal budget provides $130 million to expand the network of charging stations across the country.
“We want to make it easier for Canadians to make greener choices,” she said. “We want to make the greener choices the easy choices.”
Bennett spoke only briefly about the ongoing controversy involving former Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould and whether she was inappropriately pressured to approve a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, which is facing criminal charges.
“We want to be able to move forward in a good way,” she said. “I think this is about the future of Canada and Canadians. There were two legal options going forward and a difference of option. We’re sorry that she felt the need to resign from cabinet. She was an important voice at that table … all of the Indigenous caucus members are really important to how we go forward and we need that perspective and view as we go.”
Listen to Bennett’s speech: