House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I are neighbours and we share a good number of events, like Remembrance Day and other occasions.

Notwithstanding his fine work, I think he is a bit subject to the same weasel language that comes from the government he is a member of. I know that the budgets in Markham have been approved. I know that in order to get that approval, the only thing the government was concerned about was to have its signs up, and it had very explicit directions as to when and how to erect the signs.

However, when I speak to the people of Markham and ask if the shovels are in the ground and if the people are at work on construction, the answer is no. Yes, there has been approval. Yes, there has been some engineering and architectural planning going on; but do they have shovels in the ground, do they have construction ongoing? Not in my riding. That is what counts in terms of the creation of jobs.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two areas that perhaps the member could comment on. Bill C-51 is changing the rules of the game with regard to early withdrawal or commencement of CPP benefits. The effect is that if one takes CPP early because one needs it, one is being penalized; but if one defers it beyond age 65, one actually gets more. Therefore, the people who really need it get penalized and those who do not seem to need it get a premium. That confuses me about the government's intent.

The second one is probably equally as important, which is the EI commission and the so-called non-tax, according to the government, of increasing premiums on EI to enable the government somehow to start working its way back from this terrible deficit. It appears that rates will have to go up by something like 35% to 45% to deal with the problem the government has created.

I wonder if the member could enlighten the House as to whether or not we have third party testimonials to these problems.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second point the member raises is a hugely important one.

The government is proposing a massive hike in payroll taxes, beginning in the year 2011. It acknowledges that this is going to occur in its budget. It is now a part of its fiscal plan.

The impact of that on a two-earner family is that their EI premiums will go up some $1,200. For a small business employing 10 people, the EI premiums will go up some $9,000.

Those are large penalties, large increases in taxes on jobs, especially if the economy continues to be fragile and unemployment continues to be high. The government should at least consider, if the Conservatievs are the government at that time, which I do not assume they will be, increasing those premiums at a slower rate.

While we all agree that EI premiums have to be balanced over the cycle, it is all a question of defining what is the length of that cycle. The government has an extreme measure producing punitive hikes in EI premiums, whereas an alternative could be more gradual increases to balance the EI books over a longer cycle.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member and if I am correct, I could actually spend some time with the hon. member this week and tour some of the massive amounts of construction happening around York region. The member might then actually consider changing his mind yet again and voting in favour of the bill.

Alternatively, and I know he can answer the question, which of the projects is he now considering going to the mayors in the towns of the York region and the regional chair to say he is now no longer willing to support? Is it the new arena that we are building? Is it the new tennis courts that are being built? Is it the repaving of Highway 27 that we should stop? Is it the soccer bubble and artificial turf that are going into Richmond Hill? Or should we cancel the emergency management centre, or cancel once and for all the largest outdoor ice rink being built in his riding at city hall, a project that was on hold for 20 years and that we finally got done and the mayor and the town are ecstatic about?

I wonder if the member might help me with that.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, since my colleague mentioned soccer fields, I will tell him about one project that we on this side of the House would never have done. We would have never paid $500,000 for a soccer field for a private school with 160 students. I believe it is in Collingwood. If he is asking me about projects that I would not do, there is a project that would have liberated $500,000 for something more worthy.

The member does not seem to listen. As I said in my speech and have repeated several times by now, it is not that we are opposed to these projects that he described; it is the fact that, in 300 days since the budget, the government has put money out for such a lamentably small proportion of those projects. Twelve percent of the money has been put to work for projects across this country. In our view, that is a totally inadequate result, and the government has failed in implementing this project.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-51 especially following my colleague with the Liberal Party.

This gives me a chance to point out to my other friends in the House of Commons what an odd and strange thing it is that after voting for the Conservative government 79 times in a row, the Liberals should choose this bill on which to vote against the government when this bill contains a number of features in which we in the NDP find enough merit in to warrant our supporting the bill. It is an odd set of circumstances to find the Liberals arguing against a populist initiative like the home renovation tax credit.

We can criticize the home renovation tax credit. We can point to lots of things that we might have done differently. But no one can deny the fact that the general public is enjoying it, using it, and in fact renovating their homes as we speak so that they can get in under the wire and get the deduction in their income tax.

We are mystified that the Liberals would now be voting against the initiatives in Bill C-51 that deal with drought and flood relief for farmers.

Granted, Bill C-51 is an omnibus kind of a bill, a ways and means motion that acts like an implementation act for the budget. I cannot imagine the political sense in voting against some of the initiatives in this bill that are clearly popular and clearly in demand across the country.

One of the other initiatives in this bill, which we can support in some measure, is the provision that would provide first-time homebuyers with that much more access to the home ownership market.

It is just hard to fathom the reasoning, if there is any reasoning, or logic behind the Liberals' position to date, in supporting the government 79 times on all kinds of initiatives with plenty of reasons not to support them and then doing this 180-degree flip-flop and voting against the government on Bill C-51.

With what little time I have for this speech, I would like to tell the House some of the things that we in the NDP would have done differently with respect to the home renovation tax credit for example.

We suggested to the Minister of Finance during a prebudget consultation that there should be a home renovation initiative, but it should be geared toward energy retrofitting, not toward anything one could imagine in terms of redecorating a house.

We did not really agree that it was necessary to provide a tax incentive for people to redo their sundecks at their summer cottage for instance, but we did agree that there would be merit in providing a tax incentive so people could replace their energy-inefficient windows, put in a new furnace, insulate their homes, change their lighting ballasts to more energy-efficient lighting, or put computerized thermostat controls in their homes. Any initiative that had a green lens would have had a lot more merit.

A lot of us feel that the work that needs to be done to save the planet is the work that could be done to get us out of this economic slump. In other words, the economic stimulus money that we put forward should have had, and could have had, a transformative effect on the way that we conduct ourselves with our finite energy resources.

I remind members that a unit of energy harvested from the existing system is indistinguishable from a unit of energy created at a new generating station except for a few key considerations: first, it is available at about one-third the cost; second, it is available and online immediately to sell to some other customer. The moment a light switch is turned off in a room, that unit of energy can be reused somewhere else without the lag time necessary for building a new generating station. Third, and perhaps most important in this environmental climate, a unit of energy harvested from the existing system instead of being generated at a new generating station would create as much as seven times the person years of employment. We could accomplish all of these virtuous things at once.

We could harvest energy out of the existing system. I would remind members that the largest single untapped pool of energy in North America is that being wasted out of our inefficient homes, buildings and smokestacks. If we could reclaim that energy, it would be available at one-third of the cost; it would be online immediately, and it would produce three to seven times the number of person years of employment. That would have been a win-win situation that we could have enthusiastically supported instead of being tepid as we have been in our support for Bill C-51 with a number of provisos and our very qualified support.

Another thing we should have seen in the home renovation tax credit is an emphasis on removing asbestos from our homes. We know that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known, and yet it was the federal government from 1977 to 1984 that subsidized and paid for the installation of Zonolite asbestos insulation in over 350,000 Canadian homes. The government promoted it and said it was a miracle product that people should put in their attics to make their houses warm and to save money. What it did not tell people was that asbestos kills. Zonolite insulation was loaded with the most virulent type of asbestos known to man, tremolite. The government contaminated and stripped away the value of 350,000 Canadian homes at the minimum. That is just counting the ones that were directly subsidized by the government, never mind the ones where some innocent homeowner went to Beaver Lumber and got a couple of sacks of Zonolite and spread it around in their own attic. We do not know how many homes were contaminated that way.

Again I come back to the point that the work that needs to be done for environmental remediation or greenhouse gas emission controls is the very work that we could have launched into to get ourselves out of this economic slump and put the country back to work. God knows there is enough work to do. There are environmental disaster areas all over the country from the Sydney tar ponds to the place where I had a job, in Canada's Arctic, flying around in helicopters picking up all the old barrels of jet fuel left behind by the American military which are rotting into the tundra today. There are mine sites and tailing ponds, and there are Canadian homes that are unfortunate enough to have Zonolite in their attic. That would have been a very good target for the home renovation tax credit if we could have used it to make our homes more energy efficient and less dangerous by getting Zonolite out of attics so it will not take away from the value of homes.

We support Bill C-51 when it comes to a vote, partly because we believe in some of the issues such as the revenue-sharing agreement with Nova Scotia. The newly elected NDP government of Nova Scotia is anxiously looking forward to a $175 million transfer payment, the enabling legislation for which is Bill C-51. We can support that, and I cannot believe that my Liberal colleagues in the House of Commons are not supporting something that the province of Nova Scotia has been waiting for and looking forward to so anxiously.

One of the things that also could have been done, if we were really serious about getting money into circulation quickly, and that should have been contemplated more thoroughly in these enabling measures is expanding eligibility for EI. As an aside, leading up to other comments on Bill C-51, when the Liberals gutted EI in the mid-1990s, and they made it so that virtually no one qualified anymore, the impact in my federal riding of Winnipeg Centre alone was a loss of $20.8 million a year. That was just in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, not in all of Winnipeg. Federal money in the amount of $20.8 million a year that used to flow into a low-income riding was now sucked back out by the federal government. Liberals did not use that money to provide income maintenance to other people in other places. They pulled that money back and used it to pay down the debt, pay down the deficit, give tax breaks to corporations, give tax breaks to the wealthy. They robbed Peter to pay Paul. It was like some perverse form of Robin Hood. They robbed the poorest people in the country, in the inner city of downtown Winnipeg, and they sucked that money out and gave it to their friends for political partisan purposes. That is what happened. That was the experience of EI during the 1990s.

Can anyone imagine the impact that had? The eligibility for EI was one thing but the amount per week under the new rules was another. The amount people were allowed to collect was reduced.

If we put a dollar into poor people's pockets, they will spend it the same day on the basic needs to support their family. Had the Liberals made the EI system fair so that eligible people actually ended up getting the benefits that they paid into all their lives, it would have had a dramatic impact on the amount of money that was in circulation in our communities and certainly in my riding of Winnipeg Centre.

As a carpenter by trade, one of the things that has always bothered me about the EI system is that for tradesmen on the tools who go to community college for apprenticeship training, the six weeks of school every year for four years, there is a two week waiting period. It is as if they have been laid off or lost their jobs. A lot of apprentices are struggling to get by on apprentices wages. I had two kids and a family when I was an apprentice. They cannot afford to have that two week interruption in their incomes. Many of them know it is their turn to go to community college now but they wait until they can save up some money.

There is no reason to penalize apprentice carpenters just because they are going to community college. They did not quit their jobs. They are not unemployed. Why are they being penalized? That would be one way to keep more people in the apprenticeship system with more income maintenance coming into our communities to apprentices and in the best interests of everybody concerned.

I am finding it hard to see any coordinated effort to address many of the social problems in my riding that stem from chronic, long-term poverty. I am not proud of the fact that my riding of Winnipeg Centre is the second or third poorest riding in Canada, depending upon what measurement we use regarding the incidents of poverty or the average family income. As a low income community, we have many of the predictable consequences that stem from chronic, long-term poverty and many of the social conditions that are not desirable in any way, shape or form.

The only response that we have seen from the Conservative government to date to address many of these social conditions is getting tough on crime and building more prisons. In the absence of a national housing strategy, the government seems to have a new housing strategy. The choice will be minimum security, medium security or maximum security.

Let me say how critical we are of this, not only because of the appalling lack of understanding of the social conditions that are the root causes of crime, but also the disproportionate impact this has on the aboriginal people in my community.

Twenty per cent of the people in my riding self-identify as first nation, Métis or Inuit. This is a statistic that will shock members, but 66% of all the inmates in the province of Manitoba's correctional institutes are aboriginal, first nations, Métis or Inuit. My riding has the highest concentration of aboriginal people in the province with 20%. Overall, only 8% or 9% of the population is first nations and aboriginal and yet they are 66% of the people in prison. They are going to jail at a rate that is nine times higher than the general public.

When we start putting in mandatory minimum sentences for property crimes, such as theft over $5,000, substance abuse or drug offences, we will exacerbate what is already a national disgrace in terms of the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in those prisons and we will exacerbate it to the point that it will go from national disgrace to social tragedy.

Members can mark my words that this is so wrong-headed that we can find no one anywhere in the community of social development and social welfare who thinks for a moment that getting tough on crime by putting more people in jail for a longer period of time will do anything to make the streets of Winnipeg safer. If longer jail sentences resulted in safer streets, the United States would have the safest streets in the world. Let us face it. It locks up people at a higher rate than any other country in the world, and going that way is folly.

I said that as an aside to talk about Bill C-51 and some of the initiatives that the government has undertaken and some of the situations that it is trying to address. No one is denying that the world experienced an economic downturn but I suppose the only place we differ is in how we deal with it and the best way to stimulate the economy.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would be interested in the witnesses we are having tomorrow at the committee on government operations and estimates. We were unable to find out how many person years of employment are in fact being created by these stimulus proposals, infrastructure proposals and the spending put forward by the government so we decided to go to the industry itself.

In the absence of any other concrete way to measure job creation, we decided to invite the Canadian Construction Association to be our witnesses and the Building and Construction Trades Department, which is the plenary organization for the building trade unions. They monitor and keep very careful track of the people working in the industry mostly because they run dispatch union halls with job boards. They can tell down to a person how many people have been dispatched out to these jobs and they can also track the number of hours worked by each employee because of the dues check-off that comes into their building trade union offices.

We might be able to measure the efficacy of the infrastructure spending strategy of the federal government by using management and labour, the two actors in the construction industry. If we cobble those two together, we should be able to get an accurate picture. We are not convinced at this point in time that the type of infrastructure proposals and spending committed to by the federal government to date are the best bang for the buck that we will get from our tax dollars to stimulate the economy.

In fact, in many regions of the country, the construction industry was already quite busy. My home province of Manitoba did not feel any appreciable drop in the jobs in that industry's sector. There were jobs lost in light manufacturing, but the stimulus spending associated with new construction will not affect the light manufacturing sector. The same could be said for the province of British Columbia and regions of Quebec where there were terrible job losses in forestry and in light manufacturing.

However, if a bridge is being built in that community, it will not necessarily put the unemployed loggers back to work. This is where there may be a disconnect. Even though billions and billions of dollars are flying out the door at breakneck speed with very little accountability and true tracking of the efficacy, and even where the money goes, we would like to be able to measure with some degree of certainty that these dollars are being spent wisely.

Let us talk about the elephant in the room here. We now have a structural deficit of tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars that we will need to somehow find a way to cope with when the economy begins to recover. We have spent a bundle of money.

I am as guilty as the next in saying that the government needs to do something to help us through the economic downturn but was the money spent wisely? Did we get the best bang for our buck? Did we achieve any secondary objectives that would have been beneficial, such as a transformative shift in our energy policy, as I made reference to before? The work that needs to be done to save the planet could have been the work to do that would get us out of the economic recession in which we find ourselves.

Those are some of the flaws that we find in Bill C-51.

However, the House will note that the NDP is in support of the economic recovery act because it would put into effect things such as the home renovation tax credit, the first-time home buyers' tax credit and the revenue sharing agreement between Nova Scotia that will result in $175 million of federal money being transferred to the newly elected NDP Government of the Province of Nova Scotia. Darrell Dexter is a happy guy because of this and so it is no big surprise that we are voting for it. It is a big surprise that the Liberals are voting against it.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one day when I leave this place I will remember the member for the work that we did together on the whistleblower legislation. We actually saved that and it became law in Canada because of the work of two opposition members.

The member has laid out his laundry list of some of the things that he specifically likes in this bill but also laid out some of the problems with Bill C-51. I think that has been the concern of all of the opposition parties.

The only difference right now is that members of the official opposition have the role of holding the government accountable and we cannot afford to pick and choose a little menu, which one do I like and which one do I not like. There needs to be a voice within this place at all times that shows that we are keeping the government accountable with regard to raising EI premiums on the backs of Canadians and changing the CPP by hurting Canadians with regard to taking CPP early.

The government is doing a number of things on a platform that has a $60 billion deficit and the highest unemployment rate that we have ever had.

I hope the member will understand and perhaps comment on the need to keep the government accountable for its incompetence and mismanagement of the finances of the nation.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Mississauga and I have worked shoulder to shoulder on any number of issues in the House of Commons and I have a lot of respect for his views and the comments he makes today.

It is worth reminding Canadians that Conservative governments historically, provincially and federally, have been the most wasteful, overspending, deficit-building, debt-building governments in Canadian history. No one exploded the national debt like the Mulroney Conservatives.

We all know that the Grant Devine Conservatives in Saskatchewan not only exploded their debt and deficit and almost bankrupted the province, they now hold their cabinet meetings in prison. The premier should be--I will not even go there.

However, successive Conservative governments have been the most wasteful in Canadian history. There is no question about it. It is worth reminding ourselves of that as billions and billions of dollars go flying out the door with breakneck speed with only the faintest hint of accountability to it.

We are frustrated at the government operations committee just as they are frustrated at the public accounts committee and the finance committee trying to track where all this money is really going. We are not sure that it is being spent well.

All we know is that the bill at the end of the day will be unprecedented. I am afraid of what programs the government will cut to pay off this debt. It will be all of its favourite bugaboos that it does not support in any event, whether it is public health care or who knows what is in its crosshairs when the dust settles on this debt.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hear the member talking about the money going out, the stimulus funds and the economic stimulus package as being administered in an incompetent way.

We are working with our provincial partners right across the country, with the provinces, the municipalities and the universities with the knowledge infrastructure fund. Which of those partners is the member calling incompetent?

Unlike the previous government that sent money out the window to individuals for advertising purposes, we are working with responsible agencies in every area of the country to ensure that projects of high value to Canadians are delivered.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member from Nanaimo is getting my speech mixed up with some previous speaker because I never used the word “incompetent”. I did criticize the priorities set out. In fact, I spent most of my speech saying that there should have been more emphasis on energy conservation and some transformative way to change the way we shift from a carbon based economy to one that is sustainable over time.However, I did not use the word “incompetent” at all in my speech. That was the member from Mississauga.

However, I will reiterate that we had a missed opportunity because I do not think we will see this kind of free for all spending coming up again for decades to come. There will be an era now of belt-tightening. I am concerned about the things the government will choose to cut to deal with the deficit that it created.

We should all take a deep breath and gird ourselves for the onslaught of cutting, hacking and slashing of every social program by which we define ourselves as Canadians because that has been the hallmark of previous Tory governments and we have every reason to believe that sort of attack is about to begin today.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member about his speech, in which he referred to the home renovation tax credit, and said that the NDP was in favour of this measure.

I would like to know, based on the assessments he and his party did, whether this measure is as important as one might imagine, and whether it is worth carrying it over for another year.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is very real and practical.

I do not think there is any way to measure whether the renovation work being done by homeowners today would have happened anyway without this tax credit. I do not believe the tax credit is big enough to actually change a homeowner's mind. If a homeowner installs a $20,000 kitchen, the tax credit would be $1,350. I do not think that is enough to make or break that home renovation.

It has created some excitement and advertising, but I honestly do not believe they are dollars well spent unless the program is targeted toward energy retrofitting. Building a new sundeck is something the homeowner probably would have done anyway. If a homeowner needed a small addition to his or her house and was going to spend $30,000 or $40,000 on the addition, the $1,350 from the federal government would not be the determining factor.

Therefore, the billions of dollars spent on the home renovation tax credit may be popular and may buy the Conservatives votes, but I do not think it will stimulate the economy in any way that would not have happened on its own accord.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre a question on the home renovation tax credit, which is very popular but, he is right, does not go far enough.

He said something about asbestos. A lot of homes and small businesses today are infested with asbestos. Could the hon. member to tell me his thoughts on the following? If the home renovation tax credit is expanded, should homes that are filled with asbestos be included, maybe at 100% of the cost to remove it? As we know, asbestos is a burden on our health system and people have cancer because of it. Could I have his thoughts on that?

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the asbestos issue is very serious. In the 1970s and 1980s the federal government subsidized the installation of asbestos insulation called Zonolite. At the same time, it subsidized the installation of UFFI, urea formaldehyde foam insulation. As soon as it learned that UFFI was irritating to some people, it began a nationwide campaign to eradicate UFFI from all the homes it was put into and paid 100% of the cost.

Sometimes it was an enormous amount of money. People had to take off exterior siding, scrape off the UFFI and install new insulation and siding. André Ouellet, the minister of consumer and corporate affairs, within months of learning that UFFI was irritating, began a huge UFFI removal program.

We are calling for a similar program for asbestos. UFFI was irritating. Asbestos is deadly and is in just as many homes. There should be 100% financing to people to remediate their homes and make them safe and free of asbestos so their children can grow up in the safety and security of not being contaminated by a deadly carcinogen.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-51, which is before the House today.

It is no surprise that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill. I say it is no surprise, because it contains a number of elements that the Bloc itself proposed in the two recovery plans it released a while ago now, even before the last election.

For example, the home renovation tax credit was inspired by the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois; I will come back to this in more detail. We would have liked to see this credit primarily for renovations that aim to improve energy efficiency, but overall, we are satisfied with the measure.

The same goes for the first-time home buyers' tax credit. Although the government's proposal does not go as far as the Bloc's, it is still a first step.

The bill would implement Canada's international commitments to the IMF, which were signed in 2008. This bill also amends the Canada pension plan, which Quebec is not a part of. So that does not affect Quebec.

I really want to emphasize that the Bloc Québécois supports the measures in this bill, many of which were in fact proposed by the Bloc. There is no poison pill in this bill. Unfortunately, many of the other bills that the government has introduced have contained interesting measures, but in many cases, they have also contained little measures that the government knew the Bloc Québécois or another opposition party could not accept. Unfortunately, people got caught up in political and partisan debates. That will not be the case today: we will vote for this bill because we are satisfied with it.

To those watching on television and the brave souls in the gallery, that might seem logical. We support these measures, so we will vote in favour of the bill. That sure makes sense to me. But apparently that is not always the case for all of the parties.

I want to go back to some of the things Liberal Party members have said. Last spring, the Conservative government introduced its budget. The new Liberal Party leader, the Leader of the Opposition, said that the budget was bad for Canada, that it was inappropriate, that it lacked vision and scope given the challenges we were facing. We agreed with the opposition leader that the budget was bad.

We had a hard time understanding what happened next. If they thought the budget was bad, then logically, they should have voted against it. However, the Liberals said that the budget was bad but that they were going to vote for it. And that is what happened. During the summer, the Liberal Party adopted a number of strategic positions. Then the government came back with Bill C-51, and the opposition leader said that his party supported the measures in the bill.

So supportive was he that, in the heat of new session of Parliament in September, when people thought the government might fall and we were all wondering whether there might be an election, the Liberal Party said that it was so supportive of the measures in Bill C-51 that if the government fell and the Liberals were elected, it would implement those measures.

So it was not only in favour of them, but it thought they were good measures. So they think they are good measures, yet they vote against them. So when they are in favour of something, they vote against it, and when they are against something, they vote for it. That is a strange thing to do, and I think they are increasing public cynicism. Such behaviour smacks of partisanship and political strategy. It discourages citizens, who think they cannot trust politicians, because no one knows where they stand.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has always, since its inception, made a point of voting in a very simple, logical and understandable way. If we think it is good for the people we represent, that is, Quebeckers, we vote in favour; if we think it is bad for them, we vote against. It is simple. We have been doing this from the beginning. It is not always easy or strategic, but people know they can count on their Bloc Québécois members to fulfill the most important and fundamental duty of a member of Parliament, which is to vote in the House, to pass legislation and to approve the government's budgetary measures. What purpose do the 308 elected members serve if they vote only strategically and not based on what they think is best for their constituents?

I say this because I am not happy about the behaviour of these political adversaries, who ultimately, are tarnishing the reputation of all politicians. This kind of behaviour unfortunately sometimes leads people to believe that we are all the same, that we say one thing before the election and do the reverse afterwards.

Even though technically this is a matter of confidence—a vote that could bring down the government and trigger an election—we will support Bill C-51, because it contains good measures. That does not mean that we have confidence in the government. When the Liberals proposed a motion of non-confidence, we supported it, because overall, we have lost confidence in this government because of everything it has done. When a motion says that, we vote according to our convictions.

But let us come back to the bill that is before us today and the best-known and probably most popular measure it contains: the home renovation tax credit. As I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois had been calling for such a measure for quite some time. We would have preferred that it be more specific and focus more on home improvements that help improve energy efficiency. Instead of coming up with a moderately generous program that applies to all kinds of renovations, the government could have introduced a more generous program that focused on certain areas or certain types of renovations to boost the energy efficiency of our homes.

We believe that this is important, because as a society and as individuals who want to leave the world in good shape for our children, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, in Quebec and Canada, because of our climate, the energy efficiency of our homes has a major impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, especially if we really want to reduce global warming and the resulting climate change, which even the most conservative expect will be increasingly catastrophic. I am not talking about the Conservatives on the other side of this House, but about the most conservative, least alarmist scientists. Everyone agrees that we are headed for disaster.

We have to do this for the environment, and we have to do it for our economy as well. In the future, the best-performing, most prosperous economies will not be the ones that burn the most oil. If some members of this House do not believe that, then I am sorry to have to bring them back to reality. In 40 or 50 years, a country's economic performance will not be measured by the amount of oil it can burn and the amount of greenhouse gas it can spew into the atmosphere.

That is clearly a dead end since hydrocarbons such as oil are a non-renewable source of energy. Such a source inevitably costs more, is more difficult to find and will eventually run out. There needed to be a response at the turning point and we would not have been alone. A number of countries have devoted a significant part of their recovery plans to a green shift. I am not talking about the Liberals' green shift, but a true willingness not just to stimulate the economy or protect our planet, but to do both and position ourselves for the economy of the future, which will be based on sustainable development. When we improve our home's energy efficiency, we decrease our energy consumption, which is good for Quebec's society and economy.

In Quebec, we have a wealth of hydroelectricity. We can export it to the U.S. Nonetheless, if we do not want to harness every river in Quebec to export even more hydroelectricity, then we simply have to consume less. This will leave us with more to sell abroad and will allow us to become wealthier. Socially this is good. It is also a good measure for individuals. I do not know many people in this country who are truly excited when they receive their energy bill. Energy is expensive. It is a significant expense.

Speaking from experience, this summer the home renovation tax credit applied to my personal situation. Like anyone else who can afford to own a small home, I wondered how I could benefit from this program. I was true to the Bloc Québécois position and asked myself how I could improve the energy efficiency of my home. I decided to convert my heating system to geothermal. This is still a very expensive undertaking. For new homes it is not so bad, but to convert an existing home, it is rather expensive.

Let me explain to make this clearer. Geothermal heating or cooling, because this applies in the summer as well, works the same way as a heat pump. In a heat pump, there is a compressor with a radiator inside. A liquid circulates through a second compressor and a second radiator outside. In the winter, it draws heat from outside and brings it into the house and in the summer it does the opposite. It draws heat from inside and sends it outside. Heat pump systems are more affordable than radiant heating with those good old electric furnaces or hot water radiators in our homes. Using a little energy, it is possible to get more energy from outside to heat our home than we consume.

How does geothermal energy work? The energy comes from the ground. For example, near the entrance to my home, a 300 foot well was drilled in a U loop in which a liquid circulates. Depending on the season, there is a thermal exchange using the liquid to either heat or cool the house. At that depth, the temperature in the soil and rock is fairly constant, hovering at about 7oC throughout the year. That temperature may seem cold but an air-source heat pump would have to draw heat from the air when it is -10oC. It is obviously going to be easier to obtain heat from a source that is 7oC.

Conversely, in the summer, when it is time to cool the house, the heat from the house is sent into the ground, which is still 7oC. It is easier to put the heat into ground that is 7oC rather than putting it outside where the temperature could be 30oC. Geothermal systems have the advantage of using only one compressor. The second heat exchange is passive and simply uses a pump to circulate the liquid through the tubing in the soil.

Why am I explaining this? Because geothermal technology allows us to significantly reduce our energy consumption. That is but one example. I could have given others but I only have a few minutes left and I have personal experience with this system.

Depending on the model and specific applications, the energy savings can be between 50% and 70%. We can also save on hot water heating and air conditioning.

Geothermal is a good application for Canada and Quebec. In fact, it is rather unusual that it is used so infrequently and that we have done so little in this area.

The United States uses geothermal energy more for strictly air conditioning purposes than Canada does. But in Canada, it is useful for air conditioning and heating. We are behind. How can we explain this? Obviously, attitudes need to change. In the beginning, although the volume is not high, it is expensive. We need to introduce incentives to encourage people to make the transition. Unfortunately, that is not yet being done on the large scale. I must admit that there are grants to encourage this type of energy, but more could be done.

The program before us, the home renovation tax credit, could be used to help move this type of technology forward. This is not the only technology; there are many others, but this is the one I had the time to talk about and that I have personal experience with. This type of technology is becoming more common. We could significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and our energy consumption, make money and be more prosperous.

These types of measures are lacking in the Conservative vision. Obviously, this government does not believe in the science of climate change. The Prime Minister once wrote to his constituents that the Kyoto protocol was a socialist scheme—and probably even a separatist scheme as well.

Do you really think that the people who signed the Kyoto protocol, that is, the leaders of governments around the world, have been manipulated by the environmentalists? I personally doubt it. The reality is that this government is largely controlled by the oil companies and that the Liberal Party also gives in to the blackmail used by the oil companies.

I would like to quote the leader of the Liberal Party. When he was in Montreal, he said, “The stupidest thing you can do is to run against an industry that is providing employment for hundreds of thousands of Canadians.” He was talking about the oil sands industry. According to the Alberta government, the leader of the Liberal Party is the best defender of the oil sands industry; he is even better than the Prime Minister.

There is a lot of work to do. The Bloc will support the bill, because it is a step in the right direction. However, we must continue to vigorously defend a greener economy and truly sustainable development.