House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was care.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The chief government whip has requested that the vote be deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

Is that agreed?

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among all the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

moved that Bill C-306, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (public transportation costs), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-306, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (public transportation costs). This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to allow an individual to deduct certain public transportation costs from the amount of tax payable.

Public transportation includes a public transportation service by bus, subway, commuter train or light rail. Of course, the definition included in the bill is not restrictive and could be expanded in time to other types of mass transportation.

In 2005, everyone believes that promoting public transportation must be a priority. The purpose of Bill C-306 is, essentially, to provide Quebec and Canadian taxpayers with a tax deduction for the cost of their bus or train pass, in order to further encourage them to make greater use of the various modes of public transportation. That was the basic objective of the bill: to encourage people to use means of transportation that are far more economical and ecological and at the same time lessen the pressure of vehicular traffic on our highway systems.

I do not think there is any point in making a long argument to demonstrate the benefits of making public transportation a priority, nor of the necessity of doing so. We all agree on this and there have been public awareness campaigns around it for some years. All manner of organizations have carried out studies to demonstrate its merits and are seeking solutions to increase its use.

However, despite all the virtues ascribed to public transportation, it has often been overlooked by governments. A tax incentive alone will obviously not set everything right and make it possible to achieve this objective. Some people will say that it is one thing to favour increased use of public transportation, but that does not solve the infrastructure needs. I agree entirely. And here, I must point out one important detail, and that is respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

The federal government's actions must be in its own areas of jurisdiction. It should be remembered that funding for public transportation is an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. It is obvious, though, that the needs are great and Quebec's financial capacities are limited—we all know why. For many years, there has been a serious problem with the fiscal imbalance, which undermines the Quebec government's ability to meet the needs of municipalities, particularly in regard to financing public transportation infrastructure.

The federal government has too much tax room in comparison with its responsibilities. We have been saying so for a long time, but we can never say it enough: the money is in Ottawa while the needs are in Quebec City. The Bloc Québécois has been denouncing this situation at every opportunity and will continue to do so as long as the federal government has not responded to the mounting pressure to increase transfers to Quebec, without any conditions, of course.

Quebec must be the master of its own choices and priorities, and most importantly, have the fiscal room to respond adequately. Instead of interfering in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, as it has a great propensity to do, the federal government should use the tools at its disposal, in particular by changing the Income Tax Act to provide the tax incentive proposed in Bill C-306.

What must be kept in mind are obviously the economic and environmental benefits of this measure in both the medium and long terms, which will outweigh any costs involved in granting this kind of tax deduction. We must avoid shortsighted strategies and instead make responsible, sustainable investments beginning right now.

Insofar as sustainable development is concerned, I would like to mention two aspects that should be taken into consideration to ensure such a measure is sound. People must be wondering why an incentive should be favoured by means of a tax deduction.

I would say that one of the most important aspects of public transportation has to do with environmental issues.

Without question, public transportation promotes a better environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy consumption and enhancing quality of life and the urban environment.

This is the Kyoto era and we have a collective responsibility to find ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Public transportation is an effective way, is safer than transportation by car and provides better mobility. Heavy traffic in cities has an impact not only in terms of productivity, but also in terms of atmospheric pollution.

According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, between 2002 and 2003, the number of cars increased by 5.5%, which represents close to 18 million cars on the highways of Quebec and Canada. Just think about that; it is huge. If nothing is done to encourage alternative modes of transportation, there will be harmful consequences in the very near future in terms of increased atmospheric pollution, the ability to get around in urban settings and the possibility of achieving Kyoto protocol objectives. There is an urgent need to take action and promote responsible transportation choices.

One responsible choice is to encourage public transportation and that is precisely the purpose of Bill C-306, to give an incentive likely to influence users directly.

Allow me to provide a few figures that speak for themselves. A 60 km commute can cost up to 10 times less with public transportation than with a car. To get from Longueuil to Montreal on the metro might take 10 minutes, while sometimes you have to bank on over an hour by car, regardless of weather or traffic conditions.

The bus produces up to nine times less greenhouse gases than the car. The metro causes even less pollution since it runs on electricity. A full bus represents between 40 and 50 cars during peak hours, which translates into over 175 tonnes fewer greenhouse gas emissions a year. These figures confirm, beyond any doubt, that environmentally speaking, public transportation is paramount and a tangible way of contributing to a healthy environment.

When debating a legislative measure such as the one before us today, we must give its economic impact serious consideration, too. In this regard, it is obvious that public transportation also plays a major role, for example, by reducing the costs related to traffic congestion for companies and drivers. Economic growth in Quebec and the major urban centres depends on an efficient, rapid transportation system that improves mobility.

Clearly, everyone is a winner: companies will be more competitive, particularly in the context of guaranteeing just-in-time delivery, and users will realize substantial savings. This means direct economic benefits for the community as a whole.

I refer members to an important study published by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal entitled, “Public transit: a powerful economic-development engine for the metropolitan Montreal region”. According to this study, in 2003 alone, public transit enabled Montreal households to save almost $600 million in travel expenses. These savings resulted in increased household purchasing power, which generated significant economic spin-offs for the greater Montreal region.

According to this same study, economic losses related to traffic congestion in Montreal are estimated at nearly $1 billion annually, and public transit contributes directly to reducing losses caused by traffic congestion. Furthermore, a 2% increase in the modal share of public transit means 19 million fewer car trips in the Montreal region. The economic benefits total more than $150 million annually. That is why it is important to promote the increased use of public transit. These are just a few, albeit very significant, examples.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that this proactive measure received unanimous support from various organizations concerned with public transit. These organizations and urban authorities responsible for managing public transit are on the lookout for initiatives encouraging users directly to use their services.

For the past ten years, some of them, including the Montreal transit authority, have requested tax measures from higher levels of government to encourage people to leave their cars parked at home.

They have been waiting a number of years already for governments to act. In the meantime, a broad coalition has been established over the years calling for measures that are cost effective in the short term, but sustainable in the long term.

There is a consensus on such a measure. All that is lacking is the government's political will to proceed and promote increased use of an essential public service that benefits not only users but society as a whole.

I am taking advantage of this debate to invite the federal Minister of Transport to be consistent for once with his remarks on December 12 in the Gazette , to the effect that the government should permit a tax deduction for bus passes. As we saw with the most recent budget, the Minister of Transport's powers of persuasion do not reach as far as his colleague in finance. Still, I invite him to be a little more persistent and fight this important battle within his government. It is an opportunity for the minister to make political hay and serve everyone's interests.

In closing, I invite all my colleagues in this House to support Bill C-306. It concerns people's quality of life, environmental protection and economic vitality. Today's decisions determine the course of the future.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this questions and comments period as part of the debate on Bill C-306 introduced by my hon. colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.

Here is a bill that meets two fundamental objectives. First, it will reduce the pressure on our highway system. Second, this is the kind of policy that Canada should have put in place many years ago. Why? Because, in order to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets—a commitment made by the federal government under Kyoto—efforts must be made to ensure that Canada's taxation policy plays its role to the fullest.

Naturally, reaching this reduction target requires that the regulatory process follow its course. Also, there should be a shift from a voluntary approach to a more compulsory one for industries and for all sectors of economic activity in Canada. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the tax policy and tax instruments available to the federal government are effective.

In Canada, the federal government often refuses to adopt environmental fiscal policy. What is environmental fiscal policy all about? It is designed to provide tax incentives, tax deductions and tax credits to those who switch to better environmental principles.

As my hon. colleague pointed out, the federal government could very well have responded to this kind of initiative in its budget by including tax deductions or tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. That is the purpose of Bill C-306: to provide tax credits to public transportation users. Still, the government stubbornly continues to put forward greenhouse gas reduction plans, even though the results are an increase instead of a reduction.

The government has come onside with the opposition in adopting measures consistent with environmental fiscal policy.

To conclude, because I am running out of time, I will ask my hon. colleague this. With this type of policy, can Canada reach its targets in terms of greenhouse gas reductions?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and for the additional information that he provided.

Indeed, I think that a bill like this one can not only help users, as I mentioned in my speech, but can also send a positive message. Of course, it is the federal government that is responsible for the environment. It simply has to make a decision to send positive messages to the public and explain the importance of public transit and its economic and environmental impact. In my opinion, Bill C-306 is a good way to send positive messages to the public.