The following is an edited exchange taken from Hansard in the legislative assembly March 6. Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne is questioning Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann about balancing climate change initiatives with the need to grow the economy.
VANTHUYNE: Earlier today, I talked about reducing the effects of climate change while growing our economy and wondering if it’s possible to do both at the same time. My questions today are for the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and I recognize and appreciate that we’re in a bit of a unique situation here in the North.
We’ve signed on to the Pan-Canadian Agreement on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and, yet, we’re mandated and we want to reach the goal of growing our economy.
So I have a question to the minister: does the minister believe that our obligations to reduce the impacts of climate change can be met while we undertake initiatives to grow the economy?
SCHUMANN: Yes, I believe we can do both, and the member is right. We signed on to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and the Paris Accord Agreement.
These are commitments that we have made as a government. We are moving on those. We are moving on these strategies. The Energy Strategy, the Petroleum Resource Strategy, and the Climate Change Strategic Framework … (are) in lock-sync together.
It’s a complicated issue when all of a sudden we shift our economy from a resource-based economy, around mining, around petroleum and oil and gas, and all of a sudden now we’re signed on to these international agreements.
We’ve had to change how we think and move forward. It is a challenge on how we pull these things all together because we’re such a small jurisdiction and we live in probably the harshest part of the country, but our government is working very hard on how we can grow these initiatives to continue to grow our economy as well as meet the obligations that we’ve signed on to.
VANTHUYNE: That’s a reply that I like to hear; that we can grow our economy and meet our environmental obligations at the same time.
There are a number of studies out there that are looking at different types of weather events around the world, such as heat waves and precipitation and the huge storms that we’ve been having, and many of those same studies also look at the impacts on agriculture, industrial output, even labour productivity.
So I’d like to ask the minister: what is our government doing to measure the impacts of climate change on economic activity in the Northwest Territories?
SCHUMANN: I believe we’re already doing it because climate change is already here.
When I’m speaking down south, I don’t say climate change is something that’s coming; it has already impacted the Northwest Territories.
As a number of members in this house know, we continue to say that it’s already warmed up by four degrees in some parts of the Northwest Territories.
So, as the Ministry of Infrastructure, in particular, we know the challenges around climate change. We have changes around construction, around maintenance, around building of ice roads, operation of government infrastructure, and that’s just on our side.
That’s not even on the private side of things or what industry faces around climate change, around the difficulty of the ice roads for the diamond mines.
As these new strategies roll out and we sign our bilaterals with the federal government on investment of our $500-and-some million that we’re going to be receiving from the federal government around these things, there is a climate lens put on most of those programs going forward, and we’ll have to have a serious look at how we’re going to roll them out and how they’re going to be a part of our economy.
VANTHUYNE: Thank you to the minister for his reply. I appreciate it. We have a number of forthcoming strategies: the Energy Strategy, the Climate Change Framework; we also have the Mineral Resources Act, and other environmental pieces of legislation under review and set for change. Are these new strategies and laws being looked at through the lens of having the economy grow while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time?
SCHUMANN: As I’ve said, we are very concerned about this. When we went out and did our public consultation, some of the biggest things we heard is the cost of living and how it relates to our economy and how we’re going to move these initiatives forward.
We have to be very careful, and, at the same time, we have to meet our commitments that we’ve signed on to.