Loading articles...

Fossil fuels not among Scheer's targets to cut federal corporate handouts

Last Updated Sep 20, 2019 at 1:40 pm EST

Pumpjacks are shown pumping crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., on June 20, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

The world doesn’t just need more Canada — it needs more Canadian oil, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Friday.

As such, Scheer indicated fossil fuel subsidies, which the Greens and NDP have vowed to eliminate, would not be among the cuts he intends to make to corporate handouts and tax assistance to pay for some of his spending promises.

Scheer said earlier this week he would slash at least $1.5 billion from federal handouts and tax-break programs to corporate Canada to help pay for the $9 billion in tax cuts, credits and program spending promised so far in the campaign.

“As long as there is international demand for oil and gas, I believe that Canada should be the one supplying it,” Scheer said in front of a local Saint John hospital.

“The projections for consumption of oil and gas well into the future are only expected to rise and I believe it’s much better for the world, much better for our environment, for Canada to be supplying that energy.”

The former Conservative and Liberal governments have promised to eliminate inefficient subsidies by 2025 as part of pledges through the G20 and G7 economic groups of nations, annually since 2009.

But it wasn’t until June 2018 that Canada made any progress on the file, signing an agreement with Argentina to conduct a peer review of each others energy subsidies to identify what can and should be cut. A draft consultation report suggested Canada couldn’t itself identify any inefficient subsidies from Ottawa for fossil fuels.

However, Environmental Defence said in a recent report that Canada’s $3.3 billion annual federal and provincial subsidies to fossil fuel companies amounts to Canadians paying oil and gas companies $19 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, and undermines climate action efforts. The federal portion of that is nearly $300 million, not including the $10 billion or more Export Development Canada loans out to help Canadian companies finance oil and gas production in other countries.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development says Canada spends more per capita on fossil fuel subsidies than any other G7 nation.

Scheer’s environment plan includes a pledge to export more Canadian oil and gas, which he said is produced with more environmental regulations and is therefore cleaner than that produced in foreign companies.

Scheer added another $1.5 billion to his campaign promises price-tag Friday, with a pledge to spend that over four years to help provinces buy new MRI and CT scanners to cut wait times.

Scheer said a Conservative government would buy the imaging machines to replace aging ones, which he says would reduce the time Canadian wait for those tests.

Scheer cited a Conference Board of Canada report that found there are excessive wait times for those tests, costing the economy billions of dollars.

“Today, medical imaging equipment across Canada is falling behind,” he said. “We don’t have enough equipment to meet the growing demand for potentially life-saving tests and the wait times for important tests and treatments are too long as a result.”

He says that with Canada’s aging population, the demand for those tests will only increase.

The Conservatives said the investment would give provinces more spending flexibility, with the federal government footing the bill for replacing out-of-date medical imaging equipment.

Scheer also said he wrote to every premier before the election to tell them a Conservative government would not cut federal transfers for health care and education, and would increase them by at least three per cent a year.

Scheer is campaigning in Atlantic Canada for the first time, a region where he is trying to carve back out seats for his party after a Liberal sweep of the region in 2015. There are at least a dozen seats in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island the Conservatives are eyeing, particularly after several high-profile and long-serving Liberals opted not to run again.

New Brunswick is home to Canada’s largest oil refinery, which almost exclusively processes imported oil. Scheer and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs are pushing a plan to build an energy corridor across the country where pipelines and hydroelectricity can be shipped, in part so New Brunswick can process Canadian oil rather than foreign products.