Bill C-209 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Public Transportation Costs)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
Committees of the House
March 11th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
Sue Barnes London West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Finance regarding its order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2001, in relation to Bill C-209, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (Public Transportation Costs).
The committee has considered Bill C-209 and recommends that the House not proceed further with the bill.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
October 16th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
Pursuant to order made Friday, October 5, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-209 under private members' business.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
October 5th, 2001 / 2:15 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Pursuant to order made earlier today, all the motions at second reading stage of Bill C-209 are deemed put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, October 16, 2001, at the expiry of time provided for government orders.
It being 2.15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, October 15 at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2.15 p.m.)
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
October 5th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, death, taxes and traffic congestion are three things that we can be certain of in life and in the brilliance of Bill C-209 it deals with all three of them.
I congratulate the hon. member for Jonquière on this good idea.
The bill is very good and provides guidance and direction to the government where it has failed in dealing with more innovative ways in which we can reduce our greenhouse gases and dependence on fossil fuels. The bill would allow tax reductions for users of public transportation services in Canada.
There is a cost for our failure to deal with alternative fuels as we have not looked at ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. Some 16,000 Canadians die prematurely every year from poor air quality. The increase in asthma and other pulmonary related disorders among children has increased by a whopping 23% between 1980 and 1990. This has a huge cost upon our health care system.
Health care costs resulting from automobile use alone were reportedly over $1 billion a year. Motor vehicles are the principal source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 32% of the total amount.
The bill is important because it would lessen our dependence on cars. It is an innovative way to ensure that people would use alternative methods, particularly public transportation. We are one of the very few western democracies that do not have a national public transportation plan. There is no co-ordination within our country on how to lessen the dependence of the movement of people on our roads. The bill provides that option.
There are many economic benefits apart from the health ones. It lessens our dependence on using roads. Therefore it lessens the considerable costs that we have in terms of rebuilding our transportation arteries. It is a very significant deficit as members from across the country will attest. Almost all of us have some very serious significant problems in all of our ridings with respect to the transportation arteries in our country.
There has not been enough money applied to transportation arteries by the government. One source of revenue is gas taxes. The Canadian public would be surprised, in fact shocked, to know that only 4.5% of the revenues derived from gas taxes goes toward the improvement of transportation arteries. By comparison, some 90% of the money that is taken from gas taxes in the U.S. goes toward the improvement of transportation arteries.
We are no paragon of virtue in terms of public transportation. Perhaps, then, we ought to look not only within the bill but at the experiences within Europe. There were similar activities in Europe and the costs of private transportation use decreased. Private transportation use declined and public transportation increased dramatically.
My friend in the government made some assertions on the costs to the public purse of employing the bill. I take issue with that. I agree with him that there are certain costs. However those costs would be offset by the benefits not only in terms of health care but in terms of new construction on our arteries and greenhouse gas emissions which have a profound impact on agriculture. Greenhouse gas emissions and weather changes have had a profound impact on agriculture and on our gross domestic product. Therein lies some very strong economic evidence to support Bill C-209.
Canadians have done some very good work in looking at innovative ways to use our tax structure as a tool for environmental improvements. The tax structure could encourage the use of alternative fuels and alternative methods of utilizing energy. Those who use electrical power, solar power, or who have cars that do not use fossil fuels but rather combinations of methanol, ethanol and other substances that lessen emissions, should receive a tax credit.
Researchers who investigate other forms of energy use should also receive a tax credit. Perhaps gas taxes could be targeted toward the exploration, research and development of alternative fuels. There are quite a few researchers doing innovative work in a number of universities across Canada. Some excellent work on new types of electric fuel cells that hopefully will lessen our demand on fossil fuels is being carried out at the University of Victoria.
Bill C-209 could be a jumping off point into some very innovative and positive ways which the government could encourage the use of alternative fuels and alternative uses of energy.
Water is another area where there is abuse. The cost of water to us does not represent its true value. There are opportunities within our tax structure to encourage alternative uses of water and alternative methods to save water through the type of toilets we use. There are certain types of low flow toilets that decrease the amount of water use considerably.
There are alternative methods to water use within agriculture. Farmers have implemented very innovative ways, copied from Israel and Texas. They use low flow forms of agricultural irrigation that minimizes water use with maximal benefit. Those farmers, industries and consumers that are using alternative fuels of non-renewable resources should receive tax credits.
On the surface one might argue that there is a cost. My friend from the government is correct. That is, however, offset by savings in terms of encouraging this alternative method. The tax structure is a method of encouraging more responsible use of non-renewable resources that would provide not only an environment which is more conducive to our health but significant savings in terms of agriculture, health care and our economy as a whole.
I bring to the government's attention its failure to address this issue in a very substantive form and I congratulate the member for Jonquière for bringing this bill forward.
I encourage the government to work with the member for Jonquière and others in the House who are leaders in the environment such as the chair of the environment committee. He has been in the House for a long time and has some very profound and important ideas. He is also a member of the government. These members would advise us on what we could do to improve our environment.
I encourage the government to take a leadership role, step up to bat and look at the ideas within the House and our country. Considerable expertise, knowledge and research has been done. The government should work with the provinces to develop a comprehensive plan to have a more sustainable and healthier environment.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
October 5th, 2001 / 1:30 p.m.
Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to deal with the consideration of the merits of private member's bill, Bill C-209.
There is no question that encouraging the use of public transit is a laudable goal. As a matter of public policy this is a goal that is obviously consistent with the government's plan. Every time we remove a private automobile from our roadways, there is a direct effect in the reduction of greenhouse gases and that is a relationship that all of us can understand and appreciate. The government recognizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gases, but in doing so we must remember that the tax system is only one of the possible methods and mechanisms we can use in order to help us reach that goal.
First and foremost, governments at all levels must work together to be effective in this challenge. Second, I submit that we should examine the legislation we have before us today in light of the other options that are available to us and also look at where we could most effectively utilize the money that this proposal might cost the public purse.
It has been estimated that this proposal, if enacted, would in fact cost the public purse approximately $100 million annually. For $100 million annually, the question is, do we believe that this would accomplish the goal and would there be other expenses that might be incurred in its implementation?
Clearly those who already take public transit do not need a tax deduction to encourage them to use this service, so why, as the bill advocates, should we spend money from the treasury to provide a subsidy to those existing users? It might be beneficial to those current riders, I suppose, if they had sufficient income to be taxable, but the deduction from taxable income is not helpful at all to those who do not have a net taxable income.
Clearly this part of the bill is a discriminatory measure and would take away from the benefit a person of lower income might have received. Surely this was not the intent of the drafter of the bill, but it certainly would be the ultimate effect as it is drafted. Whether they were patrons of the transit system or whether they would decide to begin using public transit, surely a section of this nature is truly inappropriate. The bill would not legislate any sort of direct payment to the person who uses the public transit system but in fact would legislate a deduction from net taxable income. That is a very important distinction to make in relation to the bill as it appears before the House.
As I look at the bill my initial thoughts are that, first, the tax system credits proposed would not be equally applicable to all riders because of our graduated tax system. Second, if one is not taxable at all, obviously there would be no financial benefit or incentive under the bill. Third, if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by increasing ridership, why should we provide any financial support to those who already take the transit system? Fourth, this proposal would not appropriately target the group that we wish to encourage to take the public transit system, that is, those who currently simply do not use that system.
When we reflect on what we should consider, other alternatives ought to be taken into consideration. Some of the alternatives we should be looking at, I would suggest, are the infrastructure programs that are used for transit capital improvements, for direct capital investment and for adding to operating grants. These are effective ways of keeping down the cost of public transportation and also of broadening the base of support through the extra moneys that would be provided by capital infusion. We want to induce more people to use the public transit system and ultimately reduce greenhouse gases.
I would submit that public expenditures that are directed at creating the least expensive, cleanest, most well maintained, modern and efficient means of public transit would be a better and more direct method of achieving the goal of getting more riders to leave their cars at home.
Another problem with the bill is the practical application of the accountability section as drafted, subclause 118.96(3), which states:
The individual shall provide supporting vouchers indicating the amounts paid by the individual for the use of a public transportation system.
With respect to the bill itself, the word shall used in subclause 118.96(3) is a mandatory word which requires one to provide the supporting vouchers or receipts in order to deduct from the net taxable income this public transportation expenditure.
Let us think about what this really does. What does it really create? Not only does it create a new administrative problem for the traveller in having to obtain and maintain the receipts, but there is also an expense created for the travel provider on every trip taken by the taxpayer.
This is not to mention the fact that ultimately CCRA has to receive and store all of these vouchers, which conceivably could be in the hundreds per taxpayer, which again could be something significant.
The cost of producing the vouchers by the travel provider and the cost to receive and store these vouchers by CCRA would not be, I suggest, a positive use of government resources, again taking into consideration that the primary purpose of the bill is ultimately to reduce greenhouse gases.
In the bill I think what we are looking is possibly the creation of a very expensive administrative system, not only for the federal government but for all levels of government, which in effect really are part and parcel of the whole idea of public transit. That would include the provinces as well as the municipalities.
The government is committed to reducing greenhouse gases and clearly excellent public transit is one important part of that policy. The government is committed to the important principles of sustainable development across a wide spectrum of government activities. That means clear goals in relation to the environment. The federal government has required all of its departments to prepare sustainable development strategies for tabling in the House. As well, every federal budget since 1994 has included measures that will help achieve a better integration of the economy and the environment.
In budget 2000 and in budget update 2000, $1.4 billion was allocated toward key environmental challenges. One of those challenges of course is climate change. A green municipal investment fund is a part of those initiatives and is there to provide loans in support of municipal projects in such areas as urban transit.
As part of reducing greenhouse gases within the scope of mass transit, our government is also leading by example. The Alternative Fuels Act of 1995 requires that three-quarters of the federal government fleet, which includes those green buses we see travelling up and down the Hill, if vehicles meet the minimum feasibility requirements, will use alternative fuels. Clearly this is a positive step in reducing greenhouse gases.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the hon. member for bringing this important issue to our attention, but as I have articulated there are better ways to use public moneys in order to achieve the goal of minimizing greenhouse gases and better serve the environment. The tax deductibility provided in Bill C-209 does not meet the tests required for an efficient, effective and wise use of public funds. Therefore I am not in support of Bill C-209.
Business of the House
October 5th, 2001 / 9:55 a.m.
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties, as well as with the member for Jonquière, concerning the taking of the division on Bill C-209 scheduled at the conclusion of private members' business later this day.
You would find consent for the following motion:
That at the conclusion of today's debate on Bill C-209, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for second reading be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, October 16 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
May 30th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-209. I congratulate the hon. member for Jonquière for her consistent and strong commitment to environmental policy in the House.
I heard the Liberal member opposite boast of his government's commitment to public transit. The party that he represents actually committed a paragraph of verbiage to the public transit issue. I am certain that paragraph committed by the Liberals to the public transit system of Canada probably has not had the extraordinary level of impact on encouraging Canadians to take public transit that he may have expected. It is not the first time members opposite have been delusional about their party's red book commitments.
I commend our party's critic, the hon. member for Fundy—Royal, who has been so effective and instrumental in the development of our party's policies on environmental issues. In the last election our platform was highly rated by groups, including the Sierra Club, for its commitment to environmental policies.
On the specific issue at hand, that of incentivizing public transit through the tax system, my first gut reaction from the perspective purely of a tax system is that I do not like to see a tax code complicated through this type of Pavlovian tax policy where we encourage one kind of behaviour with one sort of tax policy and discourage another with a different sort of tax policy.
That being the case and given the overwhelming evidence that public transit is far less deleterious to the environment than individual automobile transit, the member's proposal is quite innovative and should be seriously considered.
I also see the potential for a tax break. Whether or not it complicates the tax code, we should always try to look for any tax break we might eke out of the Liberals. They are not biologically predisposed to lowering taxes by and large, so we should be supportive if they are embracing a tax reduction in any area.
I did hear the Liberal member opposite speak a few minutes ago of the emissions from public transit vehicles. He was disputing the information we heard earlier today relative to the overwhelming positive impact of public transit versus individual automobiles. He should remember that the emissions produced by a bus for the number of people in that bus on a comparative level have about 40 to 50 times less impact on the environment than individual automobile traffic.
While it addresses a very important environmental issue in urban centres, we also need a greater commitment to public transit in terms of a national infrastructure. It is a great notion to create incentives to encourage public transit, but we need a greater commitment on a national level to our public transit infrastructure.
This is becoming an increasingly important issue in smaller or growing cities and municipalities such as the greater Halifax area in Nova Scotia. From a fiscal perspective, if we look at the degree to which the federal government has cut back in recent years from transfers to the provinces, we see that the provinces have been forced into a position of cutting back transfers to cities. We as a country must take a serious look at a federal and provincial strategy to improve public transit infrastructure not just in the large urban centres but in cities such as St. John's and Halifax to serve a wider cross-section of Canadians.
This brings into play the whole issue of how the federal government will deal with the growth or the emergence of city states in Canada, the consolidation of municipalities and the commensurate increases in responsibilities. Some would say that due to the commensurate increase in responsibilities there needs to be an increase in the level of power of some of the consolidated cities that have emerged.
That debate is fraught with all kinds of constitutional landmines. We should not allow the fear of constitutional difficulties to prevent us from looking at real solutions. We should work with our provinces, not ram solutions down their throats, to develop joint strategies to address infrastructure issues, in this case public transit.
All of us who have experienced increased traffic levels and environmental damage by growth in our cities realize that the hon. member's initiative could go a long way to improve the situation in terms of attracting more people to public transit. However we must make sure that we do not ignore the greater issue of ensuring through federal and provincial co-operation that the moneys are there for better public transit infrastructure across Canada.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
May 30th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
Raymond Lavigne Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-209.
I am listening to members of the Bloc Quebecois, who want tax deductions for public transportation. They talk of greenhouse gases and pollution. When people drive behind a bus and it sends a blast of air into their car, that is not very healthy.
My riding of Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles is located near the Champlain bridge. While it takes the member for Laval 45 minutes on the autoroute to reach Laval, it takes an hour and a half to cross the Champlain bridge. Members can imagine how much greenhouse gas a body takes in there.
Before a tax credit is given, a proper public transportation system is needed. The member for Jonquière wants a tax credit, but I think we need light, rapid and pollution free, meaning electric, public transit to eliminate the greenhouse gases we get daily.
We have a light train project that starts at autoroute 30 and goes downtown; it will eliminate the greenhouse gases the buses emit. We have Mr. Chevrette's bill to restructure public transit. The member for Jonquière must have heard Mr. Chevrette say light trains were needed throughout Quebec.
Monorails, light, quiet and pollution free trains, exist throughout the world. We in Quebec are 20 years behind in public transit. It is therefore time to do something. It is time for new projects that will eliminate greenhouse gases.
Before tax credits are given, we must set up modern public transit, which the public will want to use, as is the case around the world.
When the Deux-Montagnes trains were put on the rail again, the number of cars had to be doubled. Imagine, twice as many cars had to be put on the commuter trains to Montreal. Let us not forget that there is still the problem of greenhouse gases.
Imagine if tomorrow we could have a public, electric, light rail transit system which could move about Quebec without noise and without pollution, like the one that is going to be put in using the Champlain bridge structure to carry commuters downtown. There ought to be another one, which would go east-west under boulevard Métropolitain, taking in Pie-IX, Henri-Bourassa, Avenue du Parc, joining Mirabel and Dorval, Dorval and downtown. Can we imagine what the Quebec of the future would be like?
In my opinion, before we start thinking about tax credits it is very important to invest in public transit in Quebec. In this connection, Mr. Chevrette has undertaken a magnificent initiative for improving mass transit, and I congratulate him on it. He did not increase the number of buses and cars by putting in more bridges. The commission looking into public transit said no to the construction of new bridges, and thus yes to modern noise and pollution free, mass transit, electric transportation with no greenhouse gas emissions.
A bill such as the one we have before us today ought to focus more on a mass transit system that would be free of greenhouse gas emissions.
I heard the hon. member for Surrey Centre say earlier that the Liberals had no project. I regret to inform him that had he looked at our red book, if he had read it, he would know that it contains a paragraph referring to the need to encourage public transportation and those who are interested in creating modern noise free and pollution free transportation so that greenhouse gas emissions may be eliminated.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
May 30th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in today's debate on second reading of Bill C-209, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.
It is not every day that we have a private member's bill with such an objective. Why would the Income Tax Act be changed? To provide tax credits to people who use public transit to go work or for occupations other than work. We know that there are now a lot of volunteers.
Before going into this bill in more detail, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the work done by my colleague from Jonquière. The hon. member for Jonquière was an extremely dynamic and active critic when she was involved with environmental issues. Everyone in the House surely remembers the determination and the passion with which she pursued the government on the issue of MOX. Our colleague is someone who believes that the environment is everybody's business, that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us.
If it is an individual responsibility, can you imagine what an essential responsibility it is for governments? There was a predecessor to the bill introduced today, which was proposed in 1999 by the hon. member of the NDP, Nelson Riis, who was a colleague of ours, as far as I am concerned, from 1993 to 2000.
At that time, the motion introduced by Mr. Riis called on the government to examine the issue of a tax credit for the use of public transit. That motion was very clearly passed: 246 yeas, 25 nays. It was quite a surprise.
What is even more surprising is that since 1999, after recognizing the need for such a study, the government that was re-elected for a third term with a huge majority has forgotten everything about it. They do not talk about it any more.
We know that governments are like citizens. Sometimes they need incentives. The bill introduced by the member for Jonquière acts as an incentive. Will the government agree to consider and implement this bill? I wish I could count on it, because it would send a clear message to everyone in Canada and in Quebec.
We realize that the environment in increasingly deteriorating, especially in overindustrialized countries, like Canada and Quebec that are in the shadow of the United States.
The recent decision by President Bush to ignore the commitments make in Kyoto is very worrisome, just like the lack of a strong response from Canada to that decision.
Vehicles are accountable for 32% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty-two per cent is a lot.
I have been living in Laval since 1967. In the last 30 to 35 years, I must say that the number of cars has increased. Of course, with the development of the suburbs traffic towards downtown Montreal has increased significantly.
In 1976, I could leave Laval at 7 a.m. and get downtown in 20 minutes.
Now when I come to Ottawa, and I do it at least once a week, I must be in my car by 6 a.m., and I can assure hon. members that I am not speeding; I cannot drive fast. It takes me between 40 and 50 minutes to leave the island of Montreal at 6 in the morning.
Does this mean that ten years from now people will have to get up at 5 a.m. if they want to avoid spending two hours to cover 20 kilometres?
My colleague is asking that there be a tax credit. The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve referred to subsidized parking spaces. Of course, here, as members of parliament, we have a parking space that is in addition to our salary. It is the same at General Motors. My point is that there are many places where this is provided.
The alternative is to get a bus pass. However, if I live in Laval and work in Montreal, I must spend twice as much money on that pass, because I must go from Laval to Montreal. Worse still, if I live in Laval and work on the south shore, I must get three different passes. These costs add up.
Why not recognize that a tax credit should be given to those who are lucid enough to decide to leave their car in the driveway and do their bit to help reduce pollution? Why not do that?
I know that the Minister of Finance has tremendous responsibilities. I know that tax abatements are very difficult to implement, but I also know that certain large corporations already enjoy sizeable ones.
Why not average citizens? Why do people who earn their living and must travel not get a break? Perhaps this would have some effect on the thousands of motorists who jam the Jacques-Cartier, Champlain, highway 15 and highway 13 bridges every morning. Perhaps this would motivate them to do their bit too.
Personally I hope that the government votes in favour of this bill. We are about to head off for the summer and it would perhaps be a nice thing we could all do for ourselves to pass this bill and be able to look forward to a cleaner environment.
We know that asthma and allergies are on the increase. This would eliminate these problems for our young people. Our seniors, for whom air pollution is a big concern, particularly for those suffering from pulmonary or cardiopulmonary problems, as many do, might perhaps be able to enjoy a quiet walk through the parks in metropolitan Montreal. They could say “My God, the air is a bit better”.
I know that I am dreaming, but when one stops dreaming, one has already died a little. I claim to be full of life, just as full of life as the member for Jonquière, and just as full of life as the majority of the members who are going to vote in favour of the bill introduced by the member for Jonquière.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
May 30th, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Madam Speaker, I rise to participate in the second hour of debate on Bill C-209. The purpose of the bill is to allow tax reductions for users of public transportation services in Canada.
I begin my remarks in support of the bill by congratulating my colleague, the hon. member for Jonquière, on her hard work in bringing the matter before the House. It is a notable effort to protect our environment. People where I come from highly appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
It is a very simple bill. It proposes to enable Canadians when filling out their income tax returns to subtract a percentage of the money they pay for public transport from the amount they owe in taxes.
In 1999 the House of Commons, by a vote of 240 to 25, adopted a motion asking the weak Liberal government to review the issue of tax exemptions for users of public transportation. However the Liberals have done absolutely nothing about it since passing the motion.
In the lower mainland of British Columbia where I come from, transportation is a very serious problem. The city of Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and traffic congestion is a very real concern for the people there. Transportation is a very serious issue for all the population of British Columbia's lower mainland.
The Greater Vancouver Regional District is planning to extend the TransLink service deeper into our lower mainland to connect commuters to downtown Vancouver. In fact, construction is going on. However there is no federal government support to encourage this type of extension which would take traffic off our already congested highways and streets.
To assist in paying for the infrastructure extension, the Greater Vancouver Regional District was planning to levy a vehicle tax on users.
Members can imagine how annoying it was. It was a very irritating idea. People were very upset about a levy on their vehicles. There was a huge public outcry for even suggesting that another tax must be paid by transit link commuters. I am surprised that this public outrage has not made any impact on the Liberal government in Ottawa. From its point of view, all the money it collects from gasoline taxes goes to general revenues. The government does not have the courtesy to put money where its mouth is, where there is a high demand, a high need, in our infrastructure development and public transportation.
Last November during the election the finance minister flew in a helicopter over the city of Surrey. He wanted to get a tour of the city. Probably he saw there was not enough support for him and his party in that area, so he chose to tour the city by helicopter. He admitted to the media that he was not aware of the transportation needs of this area. Talk about alienation. I do not want to elaborate on that, but he is a federal cabinet minister and claims he was not aware of the transportation concerns of British Columbians living on the lower mainland.
I challenge the finance minister on what he saw at that time. He is aware of the needs of transportation in that region. What has he done so far or what is he planning to do in due course? I am asking today: what is he prepared to do about the problems he saw during his trip?
When we compare the tax on gasoline with the tax in the United States of America, we see that 95% of the revenue in the United States is spent on roads, on highways and, most important, on public transportation. In contrast, in Canada something like only 3.5% of the revenue from gasoline taxes is invested in roads, highways or public transportation. On one side, south of the border, it is 95% and here at home in Canada it is just 3.5%. There is a big divergence or gap in the way that revenue is invested in transportation and so on.
This is a very good motion. At least it encourages commuters to use public transportation. Again, though, it is the responsibility of all levels of government to make sure that infrastructure development is there and that the public transportation system is there when the public needs it.
There are many benefits of adopting this motion, particularly in terms of pollution control, health and the environment. I will give some statistics on what is happening in Canada with respect to these three things I mentioned. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians consider that air pollution affects their health and 16,000 Canadians die prematurely every year because of the poor air quality. Between 1980 and 1990 the number of children hospitalized because of asthma increased by 23%. Health costs resulting from automobile use in Canada reportedly total over $1 billion a year. Motor vehicles are the principal source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 32% of the total amount. A single bus can carry as many passengers as 40 or 50 cars. It is equivalent to that. Its emission percentages per kilometre are only one-quarter of those of cars and other vehicles.
This bill is an ideal tool for meeting our Kyoto commitments. We promised that by the year 2010 our emissions would be 6% lower than 1990 levels, but if the current situation continues Canada will actually exceed those levels by 35%. Rather than a decrease of 6%, experts estimate an increase of 35%. That is very alarming.
There are certain economic benefits. Some 80% of people who travel to work are entitled to a subsidized parking space, while very few workers receive any benefit for using public transportation. When workers do receive such benefits they are required to pay taxes on them whereas most people who are entitled to a subsidized parking space pay no taxes on that benefit. This situation greatly discourages the use of public transportation.
Public transportation provides access to urban centres, thus promoting the development and economic growth of those centres and communities. The bill would increase the use of public transportation services. In the United States, for example, tax free bus passes led to a 25% increase in the number of public transportation users.
In the U.S. there is a $500 billion initiative to develop the transportation infrastructure during the next five years. I ask this weak Liberal government what its plan is. How much money does it want to put into this big investment area? Canada is the only G-8 country that does not have a national transportation infrastructure program. The Liberals have no plans to implement one. Bill C-209 offers one solution. I urge the Liberal government to stop resting on its laurels and do something to provide incentives to promote the use of public transportation in Canada.
I will also very quickly highlight the fact that I had a meeting with the disgruntled B.C. public transportation employees who are on strike. Of the three levels of organizational structure, they did not know who their bosses were. There is no responsibility at any level of public transportation organizational structure. I urge the federal government to show leadership and address the issue.