Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice to that of my colleague from Alfred-Pellan, whose riding is not unlike mine.
It gives me great pleasure to speak today on Bill C-306, which was introduced by my colleague, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. I salute her determination and perseverance with regard to this file.
In 2001, a similar bill, Bill C-209, reached first reading and was well received by numerous stakeholders, including the Canadian Urban Transit Association, CUTA. Unfortunately, the then Liberal government did not support this opposition bill. So now, four years later, we are experiencing serious problems related to infrastructure, pollution and, now, the spiralling costs of fuel.
My constituents in Vaudreuil-Soulanges have expressed their dissatisfaction to me, and they expect the federal government to take concrete action. My colleague told the House about innovative initiatives in his riding. The Festival des couleurs will be held in my riding on October 8 and 9. I invite the people of Montreal to use public transportation and the commuter train service. This solution put forward by the Bloc Québécois is simple, practical and effective. I am certain that everyone agrees.
Recently, the Société de transport de Montréal, or STM, indicated a great interest in this issue. For the past 10 years, the STM and a broad coalition of organizations have been unsuccessfully requesting that governments provide tax deductions for public transit users.
A tax credit compensating those who choose transportation habits more beneficial to the community and more responsible is but one option to encourage private vehicle users facing increasingly long traffic jams and urban problems such as parking shortages to jump on the band wagon.
In reaction to soaring gas prices, the Bloc Québécois recently proposed a series of measures, which included the tax credit for low income families and the tax credit for public transit users. By easing the burden of these families, we are also helping to prevent an economic downturn.
Monday night's emergency debate on the spike in gasoline prices was an opportunity for many of us to propose detailed solutions, such as a tax credit for public transit users.
Bill C-306 essentially provides Quebec and Canadian taxpayers with a tax deduction for the purchase of a pass in order to encourage them to make more use of the various modes of public transportation. The public must be encouraged to use modes of transportation that are far more economical and better for the environment, as well as contributing to reducing the traffic on our roads.
Such an initiative is long overdue. A number of countries are far ahead of Canada in their support of public transportation.
There have been a number of studies proving that it is very much in a community's interest to focus on the efficiency of its public transportation system for the sake of its competitiveness and prosperity. In order to gain full benefit from public transportation, moreover, the system must attract maximum ridership.
If people are encouraged to use public transportation, there is less pressure on urban infrastructure. The result is less investment in construction and repair, and improved traffic flow. This is good for both the economy and the environment.
The initiative proposed by Bill C-306 will attract new users. If the change can be made successfully, it will also help Canada achieve the Kyoto protocol objectives.
Earlier I was talking about the strategy to reduce pressure on transportation infrastructure. Allow me to give the example of the Université de Sherbrooke. Their innovative initiatives focus on the community choosing to make a firm commitment to use public transit. This fall, at the beginning of the new school year at the Université de Sherbrooke, roughly 5,000 students were given free passes to use the Société de transport de Sherbrooke, or STS, public transit. Instead of building more parking lots, the university recognized the long-term benefits of adopting a policy to encourage the use of public transit. In addition to stabilizing Sherbrooke's transportation network by increasing the student clientele from 16% to 20%, there is less congestion and more possibility for developing the university's property in the future.
A study by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal also found that congestion costs nearly $1 billion a year in the Montreal area alone and that public transit contributes directly to reducing losses incurred through congestion.
So, a 2% increase in the modal share of public transit means 19 million fewer car trips in the Montreal region. The economic benefits total more than $150 million annually. That is why it is important to promote the increased use of public transit. These are just a few, albeit very significant, examples.
However, there is one principle that we must keep in mind: the federal government must respect Quebec's jurisdictions.
There are many solutions to help public transit and reward users. The Bloc Québécois is proposing this tax measure, namely a tax credit that remains within federal jurisdiction.
I invite all members of this House to support Bill C-306. It has to with people's quality of life, environmental protection and economic vitality. Today's decisions will impact on the future.