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.

Sponsor

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 16, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 11th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 16th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
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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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 5th, 2001 / 2:15 p.m.
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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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 5th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 5th, 2001 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal 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.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymond Lavigne Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance 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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 5:45 p.m.
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Durham Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to enter the debate on Bill C-209. I congratulate the member for Jonquière for bringing this very important issue to the floor of the House of Commons.

I live not too far from Toronto and have occasion to go there from time to time. One thing we have in that area, which I am sure Montreal and other urban centres in Canada have, is traffic gridlock. There is an inability to travel down the roads in any kind of meaningful timeframe. More important, as other members have mentioned, is the impact on greenhouse gases and the fact that the family automobile is contributing to our environmental problems.

I am told that the average automobile will inject the amount of C02 emissions into the atmosphere equal to four times the weight of the vehicle every year. We can see that this is a detriment to our health and also to our road safety.

There are many different ways to deal with the whole issue of greenhouse gases. An area I am involved in is what we call ecological tax reform. That is the ability to shift taxes toward polluters and away from people who are undertaking environmentally friendly practices. It is in that vein that I look at this legislation and enjoy the ability to engage in the debate.

I have had the advantage of being on public transit systems all over the world. When I was in Moscow I was amazed that its subway moved about a million people a day. This is really a tremendous feat. It shows what could be accomplished if we could get more people onto the public transit system. It is a very useful piece of legislation.

The problem we have when we deal with these kinds of issues is the question of the choice. In this case it is the choice of different types of policies to achieve the objective of lowering greenhouse gases.

I started to study this legislation and some of the other studies which have been around. For instance, recent studies showed that on average a tax subsidy of this nature would only increase ridership by 15%. This was in view of the fact that ridership was at a very low level in the first place, with only 19% of available people using public transit. People who have studied this issue have said that this kind of incentive would have a very low effect on increasing ridership.

We have to look at it in that vein, because if it only increases ridership by 15%, it means that the other people who are already taking public transit are the ones who will get the lion's share of the benefit. We really have not influenced public policy or the culture of people to be more sensitive to the environment and use public transit as opposed to vehicles. It is that issue which is essential to the whole issue of greenhouse gases. We need to change our culture toward how we handle ourselves in the environment and how we use our automobiles and so forth.

When I look at the legislation, it is unclear to me whether it will have that impact on changing people's choices about how they carry on in the environment.

I will take it one step further. This is an overview of the environmental concerns. When I started to read the legislation I got a little confused because it talked about providing receipts for transportation costs. For instance, from time to time I take OC Transpo. I buy some tickets at the store. I give the bus driver the tickets when I get on the bus but I do not get a receipt. That is the normal course of business on most public transit systems. The reality is, in a majority of cases people do not have receipts. However the legislation requires people to provide receipts for this tax deduction.

It talks about reasonable amounts paid by the individual in the year for the use of public transit. I do not know what reasonable means. However it is clear to me that the income tax system is designed to find people's taxable income, and taxable income is usually considered to be earnings from employment. We do give some a blanket deduction for employment expenses. The bottom line is that we pay tax on the balance.

The legislation would change that to some significant degree in the sense that it would allow people to claim expenses which would be personal in nature. For instance, if somebody went to a hockey game in Montreal, presumably they would use the public transit and this would be allowed as a tax deduction. This seems a very strange way to reward people. I presume we are saying that if somebody else walked or whatever they would not receive a benefit from this. For that reason, these kinds of changes to the Income Tax Act would help one group of people and would be a detriment to another group.

Another issue we are talking about is that of people who live in urban areas where there is public transit available. My riding is fairly large and has about 125,000 people. However we have very little public transit. The only public transit we really have is when Toronto's GO system sends a bus to our area from time to time. In other words, it is basically a rural or semi-rural area. These people have no choice but to use their cars to go to work.

What the legislation says is that people who live and work in urban centres will be given a benefit and those who live or work in rural areas will not. For that reason it is a terribly unfair piece of legislation.

There is no question that we need more people using rapid transit. The question is, how do we do it? It may be effective for rapid transit systems to use more alternative fuels like ethanol as opposed to gasoline driven engines. This might have a more positive effect.

There is a whole gamut of different policy tools that governments could look at in the fuel cell technology. The government has been very supportive of Ballard Power and developing that kind of technology. There are all kinds of other different technologies out there that desperately want our support.

Government to me has always been about choices. We obviously cannot accomplish all the wonderful things we would like to do to reduce greenhouse gases. It is clear that we must start doing more than we are today.

The member has not mentioned it, but I suspect we are talking about millions of tax dollars going into a project of transit passes, only to attain an increased ridership of no more than 15%. We may well ask if we could take the same money and use it more effectively in new types of technology to reduce greenhouse gases.

Vancouver is debating municipal legislation that would require a special driver's licence to drive in the city. That would represent a quota system in which only so many licences would be issued and a person could not drive in downtown Vancouver without one. It is a way of pushing traffic out of the downtown core.

We need to put more emphasis on public transit. One of the things I am trying to do in my riding is get the VIA Rail train to be a commuter train. That would be a positive way to get people off the roads and onto the rail system.

First, giving an incentive for transit passes would not achieve a great deal. Second, it would give benefits to people who already use public transit. Third, it seems unfair because a lot of communities in Canada do not have the advantages of public transit.

In conclusion, I am opposed to the legislation although I thank the member for Jonquière for bringing the issue to the floor of the House of Commons.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2001 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, it gives my great pleasure to speak to a motion put forward by my colleague from Jonquière, whose great concern for the environment has endeared her to everyone in this House.

So that everyone knows what we are talking about today, let me remind especially the heritage minister that we are dealing with Bill C-209, which would provide tax benefits to those who use public transit. I am told that the heritage minister likes to use public transit, that she takes the subway or the bus every time she can and that this brings her closer to her constituents.

The hon. member for Jonquière has introduced a private member's bill that would allow Canadians to deduct certain public transportation costs from the amount of tax payable.

This is an important piece of legislation that comes at a time when environmental issues are of great concern to society. As parliamentarians, we have to wonder how we can, individually and collectively, promote public transit. To promote public transit is to take any measure possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In essence, the bill introduced by the member for Jonquière deals with pollution.

Let me tell you something. I am 39 and I have never owned a car. Early in life, I decided that I would use public transit. I never really had a car. I went to write the test and I had three months to practice. I have to admit that I was not a very good driver. It is out of courtesy for the community that I do not own a car. Beyond the wisdom of such decision, however, is concern for the environment.

Of course when you live in Montreal, it is easier to organize your life around public transportation.

I would like to digress for a moment, Madam Speaker. Every Sunday, from three to five o'clock, whenever I have a chance, I visit your constituency, because I train at the Claude Robillard Centre. I know that you share my loyalty to that institution, which provides Montrealers with access to equipment of great value.

I now go back to my main point. If, as parliamentarians, we were to adopt the bill put forward by the member for Jonquière, that would give us an opportunity to show our solidarity towards public transportation.

I want to cite one statistic that will particularly enlighten this debate: 80% of workers have access to subsidized parking. The fringe benefits package offered by employers includes the possibility of a parking spot.

We can imagine the kind of competition public transportation is against. This is why the member for Jonquière says that if nothing is done to correct the situation, there will be an increase in the use of cars.

The member for Jonquière was telling us about the following experience: in Quebec, all the cars that are driven to work would, bumper to bumper, represent a line going from Montreal to the Gaspé peninsula. People are used to driving to work. The member for Jonquière is quite right to wish that as parliamentarians we could provide benefits that would be a little competitive.

I hope that all members in this House will want to immediately give a good hand of applause to the member for Jonquière, who has been forward looking and who is proposing through her bill that public transportation be competitive. I also ask the President of the Treasury Board to share our enthusiasm, because she is also from Montreal.

I have my own card here. A transportation card, that we call a CAM in Montreal, costs $48.50. I buy it at the beginning of every month. I always use public transportation. According to studies, public transportation users pay about $1,000 a year, while car users pay $8,000. Can members see how it could be socially beneficial to reinforce public transportation and to have tax deduction measures accordingly?

The most interesting thing, when we compare pollution generated by cars, as is the case for all those people who are driving to work is that public transportation is responsible for 32% of greenhouse gas emissions. I know people living in the suburbs cannot always do otherwise. It is different for them than for people living in Montreal, in Quebec City or all those living in urban centres.

In these statistics, I noticed that a single bus can carry as many passengers as 40 or 50 cars. In addition, its toxic gas emissions per passenger kilometre are a mere one-quarter of those produced by the cars. When efforts are made to use public transit, it means as many as 40 or 50 fewer cars on the road.

Public transit is interesting not only from the point of view of savings, but also from an environmental point of view, since greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to one-quarter. I think this is the most valuable aspect of the bill introduced by the hon. member for Jonquière.

There is a link we should establish with Canada's international obligations. I think the hon. member for Jonquière was our environment critic when Canada signed the Kyoto protocol. If my information is correct, when the Kyoto agreement was ratified, Canada undertook to reduce by 6% domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. If we compare the 1990s to the 2010 decade, we, as Canadians and Quebecers, should reduce our greenhouse gas by 6% under that international agreement.

However, the hon. member for Jonquière told us that if the present situation remains unchanged and nothing is done for public transit, Canada will not only be unable to keep its commitment, but emissions will actually increase by 35%.

What does that mean? It means that, in the end, we do not have much choice but to encourage more people to use public transit. Among the solutions available to us to meet the targets agreed to in Kyoto is the need to increase the use of public transit.

It is also interesting to note that the United States, a country to which we like to compare ourselves with regard to certain social measures, has measures similar to what the member for Jonquière is proposing.

I am happy to tell members that in the United States non- taxable bus passes have led to a 25% increase in the number of people who use the public transit system. That experience was conducted in a society similar to ours, with large cities and extremely busy roads. That initiative was successful in discouraging people from using their cars.

Since my time has expired, I will conclude by saying that I am hopeful that all members of the House will support Bill C-209 and that a few years from now when we assess the success of environmental measures, we will be able to say that we as parliamentarians helped to reduce pollution.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

April 5th, 2001 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

That is right. And the same applies to public transit. We must encourage the use of public transit and make sure that when Bill C-209 is brought back to the House for debate in a short while, the government will invest in the proposed initiative.

Another thing surprised me. This morning at the Standing Committee of Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, we heard the parliamentary secretary. He talked about climate changes. We also heard about the Kyoto protocol.

The government says it is prepared to invest hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars in some areas. It will also invest $100 million in the foundation. We were supposed to achieve major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 levels. But the fact of the matter is that there has been a 13% increase based on those levels. Not only did we not reduce our emissions, but we increased them by 13% even though the government told us that it had invested huge amounts in support of sustainable development.

It is estimated that only one-third of the reduction objectives set in 1997 for the period between 2008 and 2012 will be met. We can see that on one hand the government refuses initiatives, as small as they may be, that would be highly effective in dealing with climate change, but, on the other hand, with the hundreds of millions and even the billions of dollars it has spent, it has not even managed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it has only managed to increase them.

The bill to establish this foundation raises a lot of questions besides what we were able to observe in a relatively short time. In less than 24 hours we were able to see that the government is saying two different things but is not getting any results.

Of course the Bloc Quebecois is against the establishment of this foundation because it raises a lot of concerns, to which I will get back later on. I could go through them quickly.

There is the division of power and the fact that Quebec already has such a foundation. There is the concentration of power and the fact that the bill is rather vague in its definitions, which I would describe as risky, and so are the expressions used. There is also a huge disparity between the recommendations from the issue table and the bill.

Of course if we talk about the foundation itself, the objective pursued is certainly a lofty one. Sustainable development, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, are all lofty goals, but this bill is obviously not the tool we need to achieve results.

If we look at the situation in Quebec, I said earlier that there is indeed a concern with regard to the division of power. This bill seems to be another roundabout way for the federal government to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, this bill is so broad in scope that it could enable the federal government to invest in an area that should be under Quebec and the other provinces' jurisdiction.

At first representatives from the other provinces could be supportive of the bill. They never take exception to the fact that the federal government gets involved in their jurisdictions and manages things for them. For Quebec, however, this is unacceptable.

During consideration at committee stage we prepared amendments effectively asking that Quebec be allowed to opt out of that foundation, with full compensation, because our province already has a foundation, the Fondation d'action québécoise pour le développement durable. The government invested close to $45 million in that foundation.

Allow me to digress for a moment. Earlier I referred to our discussions this morning at the standing committee on natural resources regarding the Kyoto protocol. It was mentioned that greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 13% in Canada. However, Quebec is the province with the lowest increase, with 7%. This is almost seven times less than the province with the highest increase.

So we feel that the foundation is effective. If it had an additional $25 million or so to promote technologies, the results would be even more conclusive.

As far as we are concerned the issue of the foundation is settled: we do not need it. All we need is money, because the needs are in Quebec. One also wonders about a foundation that is outside the government. The government would hardly have any control over it. Automatically there is also the element of concentration of powers.

The foundation can look after its own business itself, but we know that there is always an important link with the government—not with parliament—because it is the government that, to all intents and purposes, appoints the 15 directors. The bill provides that the first seven are appointed by the government and eight others by the directors themselves. We know that ultimately the government will be appointing all 15.

Today, certain people reminded me that when the government, the Prime Minister in particular, began establishing foundations or agencies with directors he himself appointed, he seemed to be rewarding his friends with plum appointments. If he has a lot of such appointments to hand out before leaving, maybe he should be leaving soon.

So here are another 15 friends he can introduce to the board of directors, 15 who, for all intents and purposes, will be accountable to the government. The government even has the right to remove them for cause.

The bill is rather vague with respect to the definition of “eligible project”. Does an eligible project to improve air quality mean that they will also fund projects having to do with nuclear technology, for instance? Nothing would appear to prohibit it, although this would run counter to the Kyoto agreement and nothing would indicate the contrary.

Who will, indirectly, draw up the eligibility criteria? The government as well, but the foundation will never be accountable to parliament. It was this that prompted a major amendment. This amendment called for the auditor general to be able to audit the foundation in order to evaluate its performance against objectives, the way in which funds were distributed, and whether such distribution was cost-effective.

Even before that amendment was proposed a request had been made to ask the auditor general to appear before the standing committee on natural resources.

We can see the impact that visit would have had on the drafting of various clauses and changes to be made to the bill. The auditor general has repeatedly criticized the fact that appointments made by the Prime Minister and the government are more often than not based on partisanship rather than merit. The risk is still there.

Had the auditor general appeared before the committee to assess the bill, he could have suggested changes to avoid these near conflicts of interest that can exist between the government and a so-called independent foundation.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

April 5th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, why a law to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology? The question arises: Why establish a foundation, especially one outside the government? I think this kind of question is totally relevant, especially since two things happened since yesterday which made me wonder even more about the reason for this foundation.

The first thing happened yesterday during the debate on Bill C-209 brought forward by my distinguished colleague from Jonquière, for whom I have the utmost respect because of her mind as well as her heart. The member for Jonquière presented a bill calling for a tax deduction to encourage greater use of public transit.

In his reply, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said that it was an excellent initiative on the part of the member. I was amazed to hear him say that. I thought it was a great start. It was great, but it did not last.

He immediately went on to sing the praise of all government policies regarding the environment, air quality and so on, to brag about the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even the billions of dollars invested in these areas, all that to say, in the end, that he would not support the bill because it was too simple.

As simple as Bill C-209 may have been, it could have had a major impact on climate change, thus on sustainable development.

In a previous political life, as an alderman in Sherbrooke, I sat for several years on the Sherbrooke area transport commission. Many studies were carried out on road transport—especially on motor vehicle transport versus public transit—and I noticed that the impact was significant.

Depending on economic cycles, ridership varied according to the subsidies the public transit system got. Of course, there were operation subsidies and capital grants.

We were promoting public transit, but ridership varied depending on the economy cycle. When subsidies started to drop and the price of cars started to go down or rebates were offered with no freight fees and 0% interest, people stopped using public transit.

Instead of spending millions of dollars to establish a foundation, the government could have supported or should support the bill brought forward by my colleague from Jonquière in order to improve ridership. But I gather that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance does not understand a thing about the Hygrade sausage principle: the more you eat...

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

April 4th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this early evening to address Bill C-209, which seeks to amend the Income Tax Act and allow individuals to deduct certain public transportation costs from the exorbitant amount of income tax the government opposite extracts from them each year.

I would like to commend the hon. member for Jonquière for bringing forward an insightful and innovative amendment to the Income Tax Act. The merits of the bill are numerous, not just for individuals but for society as a whole, and I am delighted to bring some of them to the attention of the House this afternoon.

Perhaps before I do, I will just digress for a moment from my speech to say that I was very disappointed in the remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. It is quite obvious from his remarks that the government has decided yet again that it will be advocating that all the Liberal members vote against this particular legislation, and that should come as no surprise. The government is increasingly reluctant to offer Canadians any form of tax relief and of course that is what the bill sets out to do.

I seem to have struck a nerve over there because I hear them heckling even though hardly any of them are in the House.

The reality is that the remarks made by the parliamentary secretary dealt almost entirely with how the Liberals can shovel money out the door in all their grandiose programs and plans of how to spend tax dollars rather than offer Canadians tax relief. That is indicative of the way the government has operated and continues to operate.

As to the bill itself, the first benefit is the most obvious, that is, this amendment to the Income Tax Act would reduce the tax burden on Canadians, something the government opposite is reluctant to do and something our party has been advocating for years.

The bill will not go so far as to reduce taxes to the levels we have been promising Canadians, but it will nevertheless provide relief to some Canadians who so desperately need it. I am referring to the thousands of students, seniors and low income Canadians who rely on public transit as their sole source of transportation. For these people, driving their car to work or school is not an option since they usually do not have that luxury.

I need look no further than my eldest daughter, who lives with me in Ottawa and does not have the luxury of even owning a car. She is a struggling student, as so many are in our country, a fourth year student at Carleton, and she travels for about an hour and a half every day to get to university and then to get home in the afternoon or evening. She spends about three hours every day on public transit.

That is not unique to my daughter. Many students and many working Canadians in our country have to face similar long hauls on public transit. Without the public transit system, many of these people would be forced to quit their jobs or drop out of school. Without public transit, seniors would be unable to access essential services such as health care. Providing these people with a deduction for the expense of public transportation will not give them a windfall by any means. However, as anyone who has experienced the struggle of living paycheque to paycheque knows, every dollar does count.

There are also benefits to society beyond the immediate benefit to the individuals who use public transit. The implementation of this amendment would provide an incentive for commuters to leave their cars at home and begin or go back to using public transit. Often the cost of driving is only marginally higher than the cost of public transit. Most people usually elect to drive for no other reason than the sheer convenience of it.

The statistics on public transit highlight this trend. Only 19% of Canadians are frequent transit users and 11% of them are semi-frequent users while 22% are occasional users. An astonishing 48% of Canadians do not use transit at all.

This amendment will widen the gap between the cost of driving and the cost of public transit, giving public transit greater appeal and reducing the number of cars on the road. This single action is where the benefits to society begin.

One of the immediate benefits would be to the environment and consequently to the air we all breathe. For every bus we are able to fill, we are able to take up to 50 cars off the road. This is a critical number when we consider that six of seven major air pollutants come from cars and light trucks, which emit four tonnes of pollutants every year on average.

In 1997 Canada made an international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 emission levels by 2008-12. Despite the fact that Canada has yet to ratify the agreement, there is no reason for us not to at least attempt to meet our commitments.

We could simply follow the precedent established by our neighbours to the south and renege on our international commitment because of the downturn in the economy. However, this is not an option for Canada since we are consistently reminded by the Minister of Finance that Canada is immune to a recession.

Fortunately for the environment, this means that the Canadian government could withstand the minor tax exemption such as the one being proposed today.

Also of benefit to Canadians, which may not be as apparent as the immediate benefits to the environment, are the numerous benefits that accompany a reduction in the congestion on our roadways. Congestion is very costly to Canadians in terms of its impacts on the economy and road infrastructure.

Recent studies in Canada, the U.S. and Australia have estimated that congestion costs in urban areas are in the order of $1,000 annually per household. It therefore stands to reason that if businesses are able to move their goods to market more efficiently the cost of goods will go down. This is yet another example of how the bill would improve the lives of all Canadians.

The toll that congestion takes on our roads is self-evident. We have all experienced first hand the deplorable state of our national highways, the gridlock occurring in our major cities and the inability of growing towns to expand their existing road systems to accommodate population growth.

The government has made it very clear that it does not intend to spend any more than the current 4.1% of the $5 billion it collects in fuel taxes on improving our roadways. If we intend to retain the antiques we have, without further deterioration, we have to reduce the number of people using them.

The bill would hopefully provide the incentive for the people of Canada to take action where the government refuses.

I could continue with my praise of the bill, but I would like to take a few minutes to make a few comments on the whole issue of private members' bills and their place within the House. Each year the members elected to the House bring forward their ideas for improving the lives of all Canadians. More often than not, these ideas are allowed to fall off the order paper without having been given, in my opinion, due consideration.

I have been extremely fortunate that in the past two months my name has been drawn consecutively in the two private members' draws. This was an unprecedented opportunity for me to select and to present two of my six private members' bills.

The first, Bill C-237, was a bill that would have amended the Divorce Act to ensure that divorcing parents begin custody discussions on an equal footing. They would start out with joint custody and work from there. The bill was intended to remove children from the often bitter battles that accompanied marital breakdown to ensure that they could not be used as pawns during settlement negotiations. Put simply, the bill would have put the children's interests ahead of the divorcing parents.

However, the bill was not considered important enough to vote on by the private members' committee so it fell off the order paper after one hour of debate.

My second bill, Bill C-272, has not yet been debated but regrettably has been handed the same sentence: a one hour debate before it too drops from the order paper. The bill would have allowed adoptive parents a one time income tax exemption for expenses incurred during the adoption of a child. Unfortunately, the bill has also succumb to the same fate as my previous bill despite the apparent benefits to Canadian families and children.

While I appreciate the limited time the House has to consider legislation each year, I believe that as elected members we could be doing a better job of how we select and debate private members' legislation. An opportune time for us to examine these procedures is during the all party discussions on parliamentary reform.

As elected members, we owe it to our constituents to find a more effective means of bringing bills with merit into law. I am pleased that the process worked in favour of this particular private member's bill, Bill C-209, and I am pleased to express my support for the bill.

I will sum up by saying that I really hope the bill passes. I hope that it does not succumb to the same unfortunate treatment as my previous bill in the last parliament. That particular bill, after a lot of work and with the support of the majority government, the Liberals, was passed on to the justice committee. However, in the end, the Prime Minister called a premature election and the bill died at the committee stage.

The bill today, should it pass, would go to the finance committee where hopefully it will not suffer the same fate as my last bill. I urge all members to do support the bill and to vote for it.