Question Period: Climate Change – December 17, 2014

Climate Change


Mr. Coon: My question is for the Premier. The extreme weather that we have been experiencing is a reminder that our existing infrastructure was not designed to withstand the impacts of climate change, but climate change is what we have, and it is speeding up. During the last rainstorm, raw sewage poured into the Petitcodiac River because the treatment system was not designed to handle more than 25 mm of intense rain. On a single road, on Route 933 outside Shediac, a $1-million hole opened up as a result of the intense rainstorm.

Can the Premier assure us that increased infrastructure spending is not only about creating jobs but also that spending will be focused on infrastructure that is designed to ensure that climate change will never put our safety, our health, or our environment at risk?

L’hon. M. Melanson : Je suis très content de la question qui m’a été posée.

Il faut comprendre que nous avons, au Nouveau-Brunswick, des infrastructures qui ont été construites il y a plusieurs années. Le niveau d’investissement dans l’entretien de ces infrastructures n’a pas été adéquate au fil des ans. C’est pourquoi nous allons annoncer aujourd’hui un budget d’immobilisations. Nous allons nous assurer que, lorsque des investissements seront faits, ils le seront selon les normes actuelles et non pas celles d’il y a plusieurs années. Nous devons penser à faire en sorte que les routes pourront résister davantage aux grandes tempêtes que nous envoie Dame Nature et qui sont tellement imprévisibles.

Il faut aussi souligner que les initiatives visant à réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre feront partie du budget d’immobilisations que nous allons déposer aujourd’hui, et je suis extrêmement content de cette initiative. Donc, j’apprécie beaucoup la question du chef du Parti vert.

Mr. Coon: New Brunswick’s own 2014 climate action plan says that Fredericton and Moncton have had more extreme rainfall events in the past decade than in any other decade on record. The report says that, as climate change accelerates, we can expect even more intense weather across all parts of New Brunswick, with more frequent flooding, soil erosion, and water contamination, not to mention frequent and expensive washouts on our roads and the destruction of bridges. This is creating real hardship for New Brunswickers.

Can the Premier guarantee that the engineers hired to design the new infrastructure have been educated on the impacts of climate change and will specify appropriate construction measures to protect New Brunswickers from harm in the future? Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Melanson: Again, the initiative that we will be announcing today in the capital budget actually follows what the honourable member has mentioned. It is very, very critical that we build infrastructure that—with today’s standards, in terms of how we build our infrastructure—can withstand, as much as possible, some of these big storms and unpredictable storms that we face.

I hope that the third party leader has a conversation with the opposition members, because they seem to be against this, opposing this infrastructure initiative that we announced during the campaign.

Today, we will be explaining more details, because New Brunswickers expect to have safe, strong, and solid infrastructure that they can use to avoid some of the hardship that the honourable member just mentioned. That is why we are going ahead with this initiative, and details will follow today.

Mr. Coon: The growing damage caused by rapid climate change is beginning to cost the public purse a lot of money, at a time when we are faced with significant deficit and a large debt. The cost of the repairs needed following the storms of 2014 is well past $50 million, by my calculations. This far exceeds the revenue of $30 million that will be raised next year by rolling back the property tax cuts on business. How does the Premier plan to accommodate the rapidly growing cost of climate change in next year’s provincial budget?

Hon. Mr. Melanson: Obviously, all of what I said earlier would still be applicable to answer the question. Certainly, climate change is something that we are taking seriously. That is why you will hear, in the capital budget, that we will have a specific initiative. We will use our assets to do an energy retrofit program, so that we can have more efficient buildings and reduce carbon emissions in the province.

Certainly, it is very important that we do focus on using asset management principles in making our decisions on how to allocate these tax dollars that are very precious to taxpayers, because these are their dollars. In a few hours or minutes, we will be able to explain the capital budget in detail, and I hope the honourable member will be pleased with this initiative.