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House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the incident that occurred last December in Little Grand Rapids was tragic.

We all know that despite the difficulties that were encountered as a result of the bad weather at the time lives were saved. Everyone who contributed to the rescue, including the RCMP, the Canadian forces and the local community of Little Grand Rapids, should be applauded for their efforts.

Now the hon. member has asked why the Canadian forces did not hire a civilian aircraft to assist with the rescue. As the hon. member knows, poor weather conditions were a key factor in this rescue. Immediately after the Canadian forces were notified of the accident a hercules aircraft from Winnipeg and a Labrador helicopter from Trenton were tasked to proceed to the site of the accident. The hercules aircraft was airborne with nine search and rescue technicians on board but poor weather hampered its ability to land immediately in Little Grand Rapids. Nevertheless, it circled the area in the hope that the weather would clear and it could land.

Despite the poor weather the Canadian forces did manage to deliver much needed medical supplies by parachute which offered some relief to those involved in the rescue. Due to time, distance and weather conditions, the Labrador helicopter in Trenton was stood down and two griffon helicopters from Cold Lake were tasked to proceed to the site. Unfortunately they were unable to make it due to bad weather. A Labrador helicopter and a second hercules aircraft remained on standby in Trenton ready for immediate take off if needed.

The Canadian forces did what they could to assist with the rescue. The Canadian forces decided not to hire a civilian aircraft to assist with the rescue because the crew of the hercules had advised that the weather conditions at Little Grand Rapids were severe and that a helicopter would have extreme difficulty flying into the site. In other words, the Canadian forces determined that to send a civilian helicopter into the area would have placed the helicopter and its crew at undue risk.

In the end, under the circumstances Canadian forces search and rescue personnel did everything they could in order to save lives.

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the budget of 1996 this government proposed changes to the old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, as well as the elimination of the retirement income tax credit and the seniors tax credit based on age. These proposed changes were, for reasons known only to Liberal spin doctors, called the seniors benefit.

Many seniors quickly realized that they would not benefit at all. Instead they would be heavily taxed on their retirement savings. Marginal tax rates on retirement savings could reach 75%, far higher than the maximum marginal tax rates imposed on working Canadians.

Members can well imagine the anxiety and consternation this proposal has created among Canadian seniors as well as those trying to make sensible decisions about saving for retirement.

Despite numerous questions in this House from the official opposition as well as other parties, the government has done nothing to relieve or diminish the concerns of Canadians about their retirement security.

On February 23, I asked the minister to provide some assurance to Canadians that this government will abandon its proposed clawbacks and taxes on Canadians' retirement savings of as much as 75%. The response from the parliamentary secretary was “wait for the budget”.

As hon. members and the Canadian public know, there was nothing in the budget the next day about the seniors benefit that would reassure seniors or those planning for retirement. The parliamentary secretary would have been well aware of that omission when he evaded my question.

That was over a month ago; one more month with Canadians left in limbo, left totally in the dark about what this government might or might not do to finalize its announced cuts to seniors programs and clawbacks of retirement savings.

My question is simply this. When will the government end this terrible uncertainty?

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to respond to the member for Calgary—Nose Hill.

The member could not be farther off base when she says this government has done nothing. This government has done much and is continuing to do more. As she will see in my answer, this is what we intend to do.

The government is committed to making the public pension system sustainable so that it will be there for future generations of Canadians at an affordable cost.

The proposed seniors benefit will slow the future growth in public pension costs by targeting benefits to the low and middle income seniors who need the benefits the most.

Last fall we took time to consult extensively with seniors groups, social groups and pension industry experts on the proposed seniors benefit. Meetings were held from Halifax to Vancouver. We listened carefully to the issues that were raised and the concerns that were expressed.

The government is currently reviewing the 1996 proposal in light of those consultations in order to ensure that the best possible policy is brought forward. We expect to bring forward legislation in the coming months. When legislation is introduced in the House, there will be further opportunity for public input during parliamentary committee hearings.

The government is committed to moving forward with the seniors benefit. It is vital that we ensure public pensions are there for those who need them.

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, a short time ago I asked a question regarding the concept of job creation through energy conservation and the energy retrofitting of the federal government's some 50,000 publicly owned buildings.

The idea is based on the concept that we can benefit in many ways from the demand side management of our energy resources and the increased commitment to the concept that we should be doing everything we can to embrace this concept for any number of reasons.

The first obvious reason is that the federal government could in fact save as much as 30% to 50% in operating costs. All the evidence shows that huge gains are possible in streamlining our energy use in our federally owned buildings.

The second reason is that we can reduce the wasteful use of energy. We can also reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions which obviously should be of some concern.

The third benefit, the most obvious one and the reason I raised the question, is that we have the opportunity to create thousands and thousands of jobs in the building trades, in engineering and in the manufacturing of all the technology that goes into high tech and state of the art energy efficiency.

The study we conducted with the carpenters union shows that there are between three to seven times the number of person years of employment in energy retrofitting as there are in new construction. This should be of great interest.

The last point is that every time we undertake a comprehensive energy retrofit of a building, the ambient indoor air quality benefits to such a degree and all the evidence shows that there are fewer days of sick time, people are more productive and they feel healthier. The best and most graphic example of this is my own staff who suffer because of the air quality in the Wellington building. It is one of those old, dated federal government buildings that could benefit from an energy retrofit program.

The reason I raise this now and the reason I am hoping the federal government will embrace this idea is that all of the above can be achieved at no upfront cost to the taxpayer. Many private sector financiers are anxious and willing to finance the upfront costs of this energy retrofit at 100%. The property owner, in this case the government, then pays the financiers back slowly out of the energy savings, and only if there are energy savings. It is an idea whose time has come and it is too good to ignore.

Another reason we should be showing the world how to live in a harsh northern climate in the most effective way possible is the unbelievable benefit in terms of the engineering and technology associated with energy retrofitting. We could be marketing it around the world and exporting our expertise in this area.

A unit of energy harvested from the existing system is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except we can preclude the need to build more generating stations at a huge cost. We could harvest these units of energy and resell them to other customers or export that energy to the United States or to wherever we want to sell that energy. This is another good reason environmentally why we should be doing everything we can to use our energy resources in a better way.

The government's answer to my question was that there already was a federal building initiative which was undertaking to try to energy retrofit federal government buildings. My problem with the federal building initiative is that it has been ponderously slow. It has only affected a handful of buildings. The red tape or bureaucracy involved is such that many of those investors have found it impossible to participate.

We are asking the federal government to release a block of buildings of 100 or 1,000 at a time, to get this thing under way and to put some people to work.

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased for the opportunity to speak about energy efficiency in federal government buildings.

We must rest assured that the FBI program will not be cancelled. It has met with such success that NRCan is working to expand it in co-operation with the provinces, municipalities and the private sector.

Earlier this week I participated in an FBI announcement in Place Vincent Massey in Hull, Quebec, with three of my colleagues. The federal government is committed to a 20% reduction from 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2005 within its own facilities.

Federal departments are delivering on this commitment through a number of energy efficiency programs administered by the office of energy efficiency. The FBI program is one of these. The FBI is an initiative developed by NRCan to assist government departments and agencies to improve the energy efficiency of their facilities.

It is estimated that once fully implemented in all government facilities the FBI will result in the creation of 20,000 jobs, the reduction of energy costs by $160 million annually, investments in the order of $1 billion, and untold market opportunities and environmental benefits.

In short, we are hoping to use energy efficiency programs such as the FBI as catalysts for a more vibrant economy.

Child BenefitAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.16 p.m.)