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.


The House resumed from February 5 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

March 26th, 1998 / 5:30 p.m.


Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Motion No. 198, which is a motion to amend the child benefit. I am pleased to have the opportunity to join any debate where I can denounce the Liberal government for its high tax policies and increased use of stealth taxes.

That is what we are debating here, another stealth tax that this Liberal government is using to fill its tax coffers.

A person needs to review the history of the child benefit to fully comprehend what is happening.

In 1985 Tory finance minister Michael Wilson set out to reduce the children's tax exemption and to increase the refundable child tax credit for lower income families. In the 1985 budget he introduced a 3% threshold for full indexing. The benefit would only increase if inflation exceeded 3% in any given year. That was not a concern in the 1980s, as the lowest rate of inflation in that decade was in 1985 when it was 3.9%.

In 1988 the children's tax exemption was replaced by a non-refundable credit. In 1991 Canada was in the midst of a recession. By 1992 the inflation rate had dropped below 3%.

In 1993, the last year of the Tory government, the three major child benefit programs were replaced, which were the family allowance, the non-refundable child tax credit and the refundable child tax credit.

That government replaced them with a single income tested child tax benefit that is similar to the old refundable child tax credit. It meant that the maximum benefit would go to families with a net income under $25,921.

I want to talk about the threshold effect. Since inflation has not topped 3% since 1991 that means that neither the amount families receive for the child benefit nor the income tax level at which people can collect the maximum benefit have been adjusted for inflation, yet inflation has risen by a cumulative amount of 10% since 1991. That means that the real value of the child benefit has been reduced by 10%.

The non-indexing of the threshold level to receive benefits means that many families whose income has just kept up with inflation are now receiving lower benefits. This is the true legacy of this government: stealth tax.

By not allowing full indexing, this government saves money by allowing the real value of the benefit it pays out to decline. By not indexing the income threshold, it means that more families are collecting lower benefits and paying more taxes.

This is not the only place this government is using stealth tax technology. I mentioned it the other day when I was talking about bracket creep. I would like to make a comparison using that. Bracket creep occurs when an individual's pay rises to the point where they enter a higher tax bracket. While salaries have inched up over the past six years, the tax brackets have not. Like the child benefit payments and income thresholds, tax brackets are only adjusted when the consumer price index rises by 3% or more in any given year. Thus, individuals whose salaries have just kept up with inflation often find themselves in a higher tax bracket.

It looks like we have developed a pattern here. However, what is even worse than allowing this to happen is the fact that this Liberal government is doing it deliberately.

In his budget speech the finance minister made it clear that this is a deliberate move and that he intends to continue with this practice. He stated “Upon coming into office, the government and the Bank of Canada agreed to hold inflation inside a range of 1% to 3% to the end of 1998. That policy has worked. That is why we are announcing today that we will extend the current agreement with the Bank of Canada for a further three years”.

Thus, this government has made it perfectly clear that it intends to keep gouging the Canadian taxpayer in this fashion. Where is this government's commitment to child poverty?

It would appear that the Liberals only believe in fully indexing pensions when it comes to their own gold plated MP pensions and those of their political cronies in the Senate. They think that someone like former Senator Andrew Thompson, who showed up for work only 12 times in the past 8 years, deserves full indexing of his pension. They think it is fine for someone like Thompson, who received $600,000 in taxpayers' money over the last eight years, or $50,000 for every time he appeared in the Senate, to receive an indexed pension. They have no problems that a man who rarely ever showed up for work should now be receiving $48,000 a year in a fully indexed pension. That is almost twice what the average Canadian wage earner receives.

The Liberals eagerly support full indexing for Andrew Thompson, but when it comes to single mothers or low income families they are against full indexing. Members on the government side of this House should be ashamed of themselves.

That brings us to the motion currently before the House, M-198, and the attached amendment. The original motion read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review the level at which the child benefit is indexed.

Unfortunately, I think the Liberals have already reviewed the level at which the child benefit is indexed and they like it just fine. Full indexing would cost this government millions of dollars in tax revenue and that could lead them to actually having to make cuts. They might even have to lay off a few of the political hacks they have appointed to patronage positions or they might have to take away the full indexing of Andrew Thompson's Senate pension.

The amended version of the motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review the possibility of fully indexing the child benefit.

I am sure this government has reviewed the possibility of fully indexing the child benefit. If I were a betting person, I would say that the possibilities of the government agreeing to it are slim or none.

I congratulate the member for Shefford for her motion and her efforts to make the child benefit fairer. I assure her of my support and hopefully the support of my colleagues. But unless a few government members find their consciences and live up to their commitment to battle child poverty I do not see this government rushing to create a fair tax system.

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion M-198, moved by my colleague, the Progressive Conservative member for Shefford.

The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review the level at which the child benefit is indexed.

I thank the member for Shefford for giving us an opportunity to discuss the important problem of child poverty and to ask the government to devote more resources to it.

What is ironic, however, is that it was her own party, the Progressive Conservative Party, which decided, when it formed the government, to index the child tax benefit only when inflation exceeded 3%. The Liberals, who so vigorously opposed this measure when they were in opposition, maintained it when they won office, and have stuck with it since.

The result of this Conservative and Liberal policy is that, since 1992, the child tax benefit has not been indexed. During this time, inflation is driving up the cost of living of families, who see their buying power being slowly eroded. Collectively, families have lost over $800 million. They are distinctly worse off.

My colleague, the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, moved an amendment to this motion asking the government to review the possibility of fully indexing the child benefit. I am in complete agreement with my colleague.

Right now, the poverty of children and families is serious. It is obvious that the child benefit must be fully indexed. Large amounts should also be reinvested quickly, not just to increase the tax benefit, but also to reinvest in social programs.

Let us look at a few statistics, which will give us an idea of what poverty means in this country. According to Campaign 2000, the changes that have occurred since the federal government's commitment in 1989 to eliminate poverty among children are as follows: the number of poor children has increased by 46%; poverty in two-parent households has increased by 39%; the number of single-parent families has increased by 58%; the number of children living in families where unemployment is chronic has risen by 44%; the number of children in families receiving social assistance has increased by 6%; finally, the number of children living in unaffordable accommodation has increased by 60%. These figures speak for themselves. The problem is extremely serious. Poor children today number 1.5 million, one child in five.

Over the past 20 years, the number of double-income couples, the number of working mothers with young children and the number of single-parent families have increased relentlessly. The parents of young families are better educated, but their jobs are not stable and are often part time. Most of the time they do not provide benefits. In 1990, in 70% of couples with school age children, both parents work, whereas the figure was 30% in 1950.

In recent years, the average family income has stagnated, and in low income families, it has even dropped. In its December 1997 report, Statistics Canada indicated that low income families, which make up 20% of the population, had seen their family income decrease by 3% because of the drop in incomes, but especially because of the drop in government transfers, which account for 59% of their income. Under the Liberals, the poor have become poorer.

We have to face the facts: Canada's performance in providing support for families and children is pretty weak, in the words of the Canadian Council on Social Development.

The council explains that, in a comparison between Canada and nine similar countries, Canada ranks second behind the United States in child poverty, according to market income, and third in total income, behind the United States and Australia.

Faced with such figures, what have the Liberals done since they became the government? Instead of vigorously attacking the problem of worsening poverty, they have reduced transfers to the provinces for social assistance and are proposing that families be given the bare minimum for survival.

It is going so far as to suggest that they seek charity. Yet, in the first Liberal red book, in 1993, Jean Chrétien wrote “Government must be judged by its effectiveness in promoting human dignity, justice, fairness and opportunity”.

According to his own criteria, then, the Prime Minister's government is not a good one, for it allows millions of children to languish in poverty, jeopardizing their health and development, to the great despair of their parents.

Instead of equipping themselves with a true social development policy, the Liberals are settling for managing poverty by throwing a few crumbs from time to time so that people can keep their heads above water and to make the government look good.

In the 1997 budget, the Minister of Finance suddenly discovered the serious problem of child poverty in Canada. He described it as the most urgent problem.

This year's budget announces a $425 million increase in the child tax credit effective July 1999, with another $425 million to follow in July 2000. For July 1998 there is nothing more than has been announced ad nauseam for the past two years.

The Bloc Quebecois campaign platform called for an extra $1.15 billion to be invested immediately in the child tax credit. The minister had the necessary financial leeway to do so, since he shows no reticence about invading as sacrosanct an area of provincial jurisdiction as education with his millennium scholarships, to the tune of $2.5 billion.

It is not, therefore, any lack of money that is keeping the Liberal government from fighting poverty, because when visibility is at stake, it can easily find $2.5 billion in its coffers. The real problem with this government is its lack of political choices. Poor children do not vote, but university students do.

I have to say that child poverty is not an isolated phenomenon and any fight against it must provide support for families through employment, social security and community support programs.

The Canadian Institute of Child Health last year considered that the best way to improve the standard of living of children was to establish a national job creation strategy for adults with family responsibilities.

The Minister of Finance claims to be helping poor families by increasing the maximum deduction for child care from $5,000 to $7,000 or from $3,000 to $4,000, according to the age of the child. This measure is totally unfair, because, for the same $1,000 of child care, a high income family gets a lot more than does a low income one. Poor families whose income is so low that they do not pay any taxes do not benefit in any way from this change.

Last year, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that the child care deduction be replaced by a refundable tax credit, which would have resulted in poor families receiving a cash payment.

The Liberal government may be able to keep on ignoring the public's suffering, and refusing to reinvest in social programs to improve the lot of the most disadvantaged, but it could at least agree to full indexation of the child tax benefit so that they do not sink even deeper into poverty.

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in support of the motion of the hon. member for Shefford which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should review the level at which the child benefit is indexed.

The NDP has already gone on the record in speaking to the motion as fully supporting it. We also support the amendment put forward by the Bloc Quebecois.

I begin my remarks by saying the year 2000 is very close. I begin in that way because the year 2000 has very special significance in the House of Commons, not just because it is a new millennium but because back in 1989 members of the House unanimously passed a motion sponsored by Mr. Ed Broadbent, the then leader of the New Democratic Party, that by the year 2000 child poverty would be eliminated in this country. It is now 1998, nine years later, and the situation has not only not improved. It is appallingly worse than it was nine years ago.

I am very happy the motion is before us because it addresses in a very small way one thing that could be done to ensure the child tax benefit, put forward and agreed to by the provinces, would be fully indexed. Campaign 2000, a non-governmental organization made up of many supporting groups, has vigorously campaigned on the issue of child poverty and holding the House of Commons accountable for the motion that was passed in 1989. Much work has been done.

Here we are today still talking, not about fully eliminating child poverty but about one very small piece of it. In fact the child tax benefit is only partially indexed. What that says to all of us is that we have not come very far.

I looked in Hansard to find out what government members had to say about the motion during its first and second hours of debate. Frankly I assumed that government members would support something so modest that would bring us a bit closer to making sure the benefit was accessible and meaningful to low income and poor families. Regrettably that is not the case.

One of the Liberal members who spoke to the motion in the first round of debate said “Let us not forget that with an inflation rate of 1.6% per year restoring full indexation of the child tax benefit would cost the government about $160 million per year”. He went on to say that such revenue losses could threaten the government's programs to restore fiscal balance.

What about the threat to Canada's poor children? What about the threat to poor families suffering from the impact of years and years of slash and burn approach by this government? What about the threat to kids who are still living in a world where they cannot access programs, where they do not have adequate housing and where government programs are being cut back? Now we are living in an environment of increasing poor bashing. What does the government member have to say to those kids, the 1.4 million children in Canada who are living in poverty?

It is astounding because this is the same government that claims it wants to stop poverty for children and deal with poverty in Canada. This is the same government where the Minister of Human Resources Development said in a committee meeting late last year that the child tax benefit was the greatest social policy since the 1960s. If that is true, why cannot government members find a measly $170 million to protect poor families from inflation by fully indexing this benefit?

I will read further from Hansard the comments of other government members who spoke to the issue and who were trying to explain and rationalize why they could not deal with it.

On February 5, 1998 one member said “Second, there is a trigger. The Income Tax Act states that the child tax benefit will be indexed each year by the amount which the annual change in the consumer price index exceeds 3%. This policy of partial indexation is consistent with the treatment of most other parameters of the personal tax system and is respectful of the fiscal problems which are facing the federal government.”

Here we have another government member who is trying to defend what is really an appalling record by saying that the kids of Canada and poor families have to be respectful of the problems the government created.

The people of Canada, groups like Campaign 2000 and other anti-poverty groups like the National Anti-Poverty Organization are simply appalled at the government's record. The kids of Canada and their parents who are facing unemployment and massive EI cutbacks will be delighted to hear that they need to be respectful of the government's problems.

The reality is that the child tax benefit is being used as a political shield by the government. The government wants to hide behind the reality of poverty in Canada. The political grandstanding that has gone on in this issue by government members is simply disgusting.

The child tax benefit has now been announced four times. It is obvious the government will not provide adequate funds to index the fund. There was no announcement in the budget we just dealt with.

Earlier today when we were debating Bill C-28, the income tax amendments, there was reference to the so-called increase in the Canada health and social transfer from $11 billion to $12.5 billion. We know that it is not an increase at all. There is not one new dime, not even a penny, going back to the provinces in terms of transfers. It is simply a shell game being conducted by the Liberal government. It is the same kind of shell game that has gone on with the child tax benefit. This so-called new increase is a recycled announcement that the latest cuts will not come into effect.

One thing is clear. Poverty among Canadian children and families will not be eliminated by the kinds of measures that have been put forward by the government. What we need to see is a recommitment to national standards. What we need to see is full indexation of the child tax benefit. What we need to see is an increase in the child tax benefit to poor children living in one parent families so that the benefit will not be lower than what they would have received under the 1996 federal budget.

We need to ensure that all poor families receive the child tax benefit, including families on social assistance. Under the government's program those families, the poorest of the poor, will be excluded.

We also need to pressure the federal government to commit to a new national child care program, an early education plan and 150,000 new child care spaces by the year 2000. What happened to the promise from this Liberal government and the former Liberal government to create a national child care program? That too has evaporated. As my hon. colleague says, the election is over and it is back to the same old dirty business.

We in the NDP are committed to holding the government accountable. We are committed to working with organizations in Canada to ensure that the government is held accountable.

There is real disappointment about the performance on the child tax benefit. In fact government members—and there are the empty rows here today—are not even listening to the debate. The motion was an opportunity for the government to come forward and say that it would ensure full indexation at least on this small basis. Unfortunately that has not been the case. There is real disappointment over this matter.

We will continue to pressure the government to ensure there is full indexation of the child tax benefit. I thank the member for bringing forward the motion. It has been good to hear support from other parties. We have to keep the pressure up on the government to come through and say, if it is truly committed to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000 as members voted in 1989, that it has to take this one very small step. We have to take other steps as well, but this one in a very minimal way that will at least ensure full indexation and that poor families will not be losing pace with inflation.

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, March 24, 1998, all questions on the motion are deemed to have been put and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, March 31, 1998 at the expiry of the time provided for Private Members' Business.

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House agree to call it 6.30 p.m.?

Child Benefit
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Child Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, on December 11, 1997, I asked a question to the minister of defence concerning the process taken for the rescue of survivors of the Little Grand Rapids tragic crash. I asked the minister to explain why his department had failed to enlist locally available helicopters in this rescue, as was the case with the Red River flood.

The twenty hour wait for a rescue plane endured by the Little Grand Rapids plane crash victims was a result of what I believe is botched decision making by search and rescue operations. Officials had access to helicopters at the Canadian forces flying training school in Portage, la Prairie. However, they chose instead to try to use a plane to rescue survivors.

Those same helicopters were used during the Red River flood. They could have helped this time too. Instead of using those nearby helicopters, the military sent helicopters from Cold Lake, Alberta which never made it to the crash site.

The end of 1997 did not go quietly. Another plane crash occurred in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was a miracle that no one died in that crash. This incident has made people aware of how cuts and downsizing may be affecting airport safety. But let us go back to the Little Grand Rapids crash.

I have questioned the minister on the process of this rescue but that crash worries me in relation to other issues. There is no question that this fatal plane crash demonstrates the importance of having better landing facilities in isolated areas. When air is the only mode of transportation in and out of a community, it is an absolute must that the landing facilities be in the best conditions possible.

The landing strip in Little Grand Rapids had been described as the worst in northern Manitoba long before the crash. It is well known that its surface is uneven and gives pilots the impression that their angle of approach is too steep. The crash on December 9 was the third fatal plane crash to happen in Little Grand Rapids. The limited services to response measures in remote communities make it even more important to have a safe infrastructure. The plane was carrying one doctor and four social service workers who were travelling north to provide treatment for northern residents.

I was annoyed when the Reform Party suggested that a private helicopter went in to save the injured. It went in for one reason. He was taking in reporters to get a story. Had the intent been to help the injured, medical help should have gone with him, not a reporter. However, once they were there it only made sense to send out the most injured, and he is to be commended on that note.

Why did search and rescue workers not avail themselves of those local resources? Do they not have that flexibility? Lately we have received an alarming report concerning the rescue in Little Grand Rapids. The report states that the hercules rescue plane dumped more than 10,000 gallons of fuel at less than 600 feet within three miles of the runway. I understand the normal procedure is to dump it at no less than 5,000 feet. This is to allow for dispersion of the fuel and to decrease the risk of ignition. The fuel would be less concentrated on the ground or wherever it landed.

The minister mentioned in the House that this was done to save lives and that the weather conditions were not good enough to follow the guidelines. Nevertheless, when the dumping occurred the hercules had gone below the fog. It had cleared somewhat. The crew knew the ceiling had lifted and that the most critically injured had already been flown out. Was the option of taking the time to fly to the height requirement ever considered? Was the community informed that this was not the usual procedure?

The most critically injured were flown out by a private helicopter which landed before the hercules. The helicopters nearby could have landed as well and the injured would not have had to wait 20 hours to be rescued. Was the best option used during this rescue?

Child Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.



Wayne Easter Parliamentary 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 Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy 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 Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.



Wayne Easter Parliamentary 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 Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Pat Martin 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 Benefit
Adjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.



George Proud Parliamentary 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.