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House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was price.

Topics

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned in reply to my question a program for some $500 million. My question is to the member is simple. How much of that is administration costs? I have seen too many government programs that are out of line when it comes to administration costs.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to confirm to the member that there is virtually no cost to providing this benefit. As the member knows, it is being delivered through the income tax system. The benefit will be delivered on the assessment of people's income tax returns when they file them. The mechanism and the system is already in place as well as who qualifies. It will happen simply because they qualify on the basis of their eligibility for those benefits.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak on behalf of my constituents in Oxford. I have a great deal of difficulty in ultimately supporting Bill C-66. Once again, too many Canadians have been left behind by the Liberal government.

I would like to tell the House a little bit about my riding of Oxford. It is riding that is somewhat rural and somewhat urban. It has some industrial components and certainly agriculture. Agriculture represents about 30% of the income in my riding.

The bill does not take into account the costs to farmers of tilling their lands and getting their product to market, and all of the things associated with farming in which petroleum products are involved. It does not help the small business people who are currently facing 35% and 40% surcharges on their delivery, people who have to get their products from somewhere to complete it, to finish it, and to send it on somewhere else.

It does not take into account the cost of driving to work in those industries. It does not take into consideration the cost to many people in their homes. Many people are left out in this particular bill. It does cover up to three million people or a few more, but that means that about 90% of Canadians are left in the cold, so to speak, with the bill.

We have been led to believe by our colleagues opposite that it is out of their good graces that this money is to be handed to Canadians. It is like money that fell from heaven. This money belongs to Canadians. It is money that came from taxes.

An interesting sidelight to this whole thing is that when the war broke out in Iraq, there were people who talked about how some Americans would make a fortune from the oil industry because the prices would go up. This particular government made a fortune, not by invading another country but by a natural disaster.

Every time the price of petroleum products goes up a cent at the retail level, it generates upward of $32 million a year for the government. To hand some of this money back is not good graces, it is simply extra money that was taken and needs to be handed back.

There are three parts to the bill. Part of it is in the form of rebates to some Canadians. Some of it is for energy retrofit and some is for public transit.

My riding has three large urban centres, only one of which has public transit. The Minister of the Environment suggested that Canadians needed to change their ways. He was talking about bicycling and public transit. If we live in one of those communities that does not have public transit, this will not help. It is also pretty hard for those people in small industries to deliver their products on bicycles or for farmers to plow fields with a bicycle.

The bill does help some people in the urban areas that have public transit, but by and large, that represents one-third of my riding. Two-thirds of my riding gets absolutely nothing from the increase in public transit.

I am concerned about those people who are missed in the rebate. People who receive old age supplements will receive the money only if they have applied for them. There are literally thousands of Canadians out there who would be entitled to the GIS and who, for whatever reason, have not applied for it. Either they do not know it exists or they are not able to fill out the forms. Whatever the reason may be, they will not receive anything from this.

There are childless couples who may very well be working poor. They will not receive anything. They get up every day and go to work. They may ride their bicycles, but more than likely in my riding, they have to drive because it is a fair distance from where they live to where they work. Those people will not be entitled to it.

We talked about the people who are entitled to it. If we are looking at a rebate, my friends have talked in the past about how those who were not entitled to a GST rebate, got the money. Some were in jail, some were dead and some were out of the country. Certainly, I know of a number of students who were living out of the country who received a rebate. They thanked Canadians very much for sending the rebate, but they did live out of the country. Most Canadians would not have thought they were entitled to it, but they did get it.

We have the same scenario here, with all due respect. There are people who live in accommodation where their rent includes their heat, so they have not noticed any change in the energy costs unless they drive vehicles, and a lot of them do not. However, they will be entitled to it, where childless couples who are perhaps working poor get absolutely nothing. Somehow that does not seem right. I do not think that seems right to the average Canadian. It certainly does not seem right to the people on this side.

As we approach an election, we have come to the conclusion that this has more to do with postering for an election than it does to helping the average Canadian. Certainly the average Canadian in my riding will see little or no benefit from this bill. It will help 10% of the people in the country, there is no question about that. However, the average Canadian, whoever that average Canadian is, will see little or no advantage from this particular bill.

I think it was a valid question from my friend from Yorkton--Melville about the cost of administering it. The other side said there will be no cost. It will be done on income tax assessments when income tax returns are filed. There is always a cost associated with those issues. Absolutely, there is a cost.

The other point is that we need something more current to help those people who are in hardship situations. People will not be filing their income tax returns until well after the heating season. If this is an event that is supposed to be beneficial to people with the high cost of energy, the money will be gone. They have to wait to get their money back.

One of the problems this particular bill does not address is the tax on tax on fuel. It is interesting that in the United States 27% of the price of fuel is tax. In Canada it is 42%. That is a huge sum of money.

When we talk about this money going back, there is no question the money is over tax. Canadians are going to get their money back, but it gets funnelled through the system and the money just does not get there. This money will not flow overnight. People will have to spend a great deal of money to have energy retrofits done to their homes. I heard the member opposite talk about how he had his home done this year and it will save him 30%. With all due respect, he has the resources to do that.

If we are talking about the people at the bottom end of the income scale, they do not have that money to put out. I know that people in my riding who would energy retrofit their homes do not have that money. This money should be available to them. We should have some sort of a program if we are going to start cutting the consumption of energy in our country.

To simply say that people should ride bicycles and take public transit is not really effective in a riding like mine. I am sure that is true of many members in the House who have similar ridings to mine, in that we just simply cannot cut down on our transportation needs and use public transit. It does not exist.

We see that outside influences change the cost of our petroleum products. I think all members are well aware of what happened when Katrina struck. I think Canadians also have every right to question how all of that happened so quickly, how we started to see that go through our system. As the storm went through, the price surge here was tremendously high.

Who benefited from it? The government did. As I said, every time the price of fuel goes up 1¢ a litre, the government takes in about $32 million a year. If we were to look back over the last few months, we would see that the price of fuel has gone up a great deal. That $32 million is probably multiplied 15, 20 or 25 times over. This little bit of money going back to Canadians is really just a down payment to Canadians on what they have overpaid in taxes.

I will at the end of the day begrudgingly support the bill because there is some value going back to low income Canadians and certainly they are entitled to it. However, we could have done a lot better with the bill than what we have here today.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, this morning the former environment minister, the Liberal member from British Columbia, said that this program is basically recycled money. He said the government is taking money out of programs that are already in existence and it is smaller than it looks. He just felt it was not a good idea for this money to be coming out of other programs and then being put into this benefit. I am wondering if the member has any comments on that and whether he would think that the reason that has happened is that it is basically a consequence of a lack of planning or the result of poor planning by the government.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague has probably already identified that the former minister of the environment is astute in his assessment of where this money is coming from. It is fair to say that this program has perhaps more to do with an eye on an election than it does on good management and helping Canadians who have been overtaxed for a long time. My friend well understands that the former minister has a good grasp on what this program is all about.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is an amusing comment that this should be an eye on an election. I suppose we could have done nothing. That would have been a brilliant solution to rising energy costs, but the government took a fairly courageous step and put the bulk of the program onto an existing framework so that it could be administered virtually without cost. Is the member objecting to that? Is he objecting to $125 for seniors? Is he objecting to $250 for low income families? Are those the things he objects to?

As to the other part of the program, that program is already in existence. It is actually being bulked up and extended. As to the transit money, that is already in Bill C-48. It is just moving the money forward, getting parliamentary authorization to move $800 million forward, $400 million per year for the next two years.

I do not understand how he could even say that this has something to do with an election when in fact at least two of those programs already exist and are simply being enhanced because of the energy needs of the country.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has some issues that from his perspective certainly make sense to him.

I am not opposed to Canadians getting back some of their tax money that they should not have lost in the first place. There is no question about that. Some of these things, with all due respect, talk about “may do”. In my riding of Oxford, public transit money is not really going to do a great deal for most of the riding. We understand that. We understand that some of this is smoke and mirrors, that it does exist out there but that it gets brought forward, is rehashed and is made to look like it is something new. We are certainly not opposed to deserving Canadians getting tax money back in their own hands.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make one comment on the point the Liberal member opposite made about there being no administration costs and that they piggy-back on present programs.

One of the big complaints I get in my riding is that it costs more to have someone evaluate a plan to fix people's homes and make them energy efficient than they get in a grant from the government. However the government does not count that as an administration cost and yet that is a hoop and hurdle that has to be jumped through in order to access that money.

In the U.S., 27% of the cost of fuel is tax and in Canada it is 42%. Does that imbalance in taxes not affect the ability of our agricultural producers to compete in the international marketplace? When we have to pay so much more tax than our competitors, does that not affect our economy?

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer is that it absolutely affects us. It affects us in our agriculture, in our cost of production for agriculture and in our input costs. All of that is involved in this.

The other thing it affects, with all due respect to Canadians, is that it costs us in our industry. It costs us jobs. Most of our country is spread out and consequently transportation costs to get to work and to deliver products are major components of what the cost is of doing business in this country. When our taxes are too high, and in this regard they become somewhat of a hidden tax, but they put us at an uncompetitive edge on the world stage.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-66 today. The bill represents a commitment to assist the most vulnerable of Canadians with a major challenge, which, in some ways, is almost uniquely Canadian, and that is the Canadian winter.

The challenge to keep themselves and their families warm is a big one for many Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable among us. At the same time we are contributing to a greener environment and better housing, particularly for those who are most in need.

Canada is a great country and there are many benefits to living here. However there are a few challenges that go with that privilege and one of those challenges can be our weather. I do not think anybody would deny that.

I think Canadians appreciate better than most the change of seasons. The transition from autumn to winter can be particularly striking to the senses as the distinctive colours of autumn give way to the stark beauty of a Canadian winter. In addition to its unmistakable splendour, the Canadian winter brings an obvious challenge and that is staying warm.

For many Canadian households, businesses and communities, winter means increased energy consumption to heat homes, offices and public buildings. With the sharp rise in fuel costs, Canadians are bracing for a particularly costly winter.

The Government of Canada is clearly attuned to this pressing challenge and is helping Canadians to overcome it. Bill C-66, the energy cost assistance measures act, reflects this government's commitment to helping Canadians reduce energy consumption. I hope all members of the House will support it.

We intend to help individuals, families, communities, school boards and entrepreneurs across Canada to reduce energy consumption immediately and well into the future. Although all Canadians stand to benefit, those earning low to modest incomes will be eligible for additional assistance with energy costs.

In Atlantic Canada most houses are heated with oil. I used to run an oil company for the Irving family and I am particularly attuned to the rising cost of fuel. When I started in 1986 as the general manager of a very distinguished and historic oil company, the price of fuel was in the range of 27¢ to 28¢ a litre. We have seen the cost of fuel go up a number of times in that period.

The bill is designed to help those who most need help. It is also expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases resulting from energy consumption in Canada.

Bill C-66 would increase the government's investment in one of our country's most popular programs, the EnerGuide for houses program. This program provides financial support directly to Canadians who renovate for increased energy efficiency. What colleagues may not know, however, is that the legislation would significantly increase the amount of money available to economically disadvantaged Canadians. Bill C-66 commits up to $500 million over five years to EnerGuide for low income households.

From my experience in the energy business, I know of EnerGuide for houses as well. I know that Terry Watters, from sustainable housing in Wolfville, is one of the people who actually carries out this program and provides good advice to Canadians, like my colleague from Mississauga South who took part in this program.

Through this component of our bill, over 130,000 low income Canadians would be able to afford energy efficiency renovations and reduce their household energy costs for years to come. It also includes help for apartment owners with low income tenants.

Although Bill C-66 would provide immediate relief to many Canadians, I think it is particularly important to recognize that the bill and the broader energy relief package announced on October 6 are not one time only, stop gap measures designed to counteract a temporary crisis. On the contrary, they build on a range of existing programs of the Government of Canada to help families and property owners, as well as community groups, businesses and school boards, to improve energy efficiency.

Let me just take one of those initiatives as an example and that is the EnerGuide for existing buildings launched in 1998. This initiative helps improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use in commercial and institutional buildings. Canadians rely on many of these buildings every day, schools, hospitals, universities. The government's funding contributes to the comfort experienced in these buildings and helps to reduce operating costs. To ensure that public money is invested wisely, the initiative requires applicants to verify energy savings realized once the renovations are complete.

In the past seven years, the initiative has invested approximately $50 million in renovation projects in 4,800 buildings. Among other changes, the renovations have included the replacement of lighting systems, improvement to heating systems and the installation of new boilers. The total value of these projects exceeds $865 million. In other words, every dollar worth of federal incentive was matched 17 times over.

The savings generated by the program have also been striking. Annual energy costs have been cut by $125 million. For building owners, these savings make the decision to invest in building retrofits tremendously more attractive.

In addition, projects of this kind decrease maintenance costs, increase worker productivity and enhance health and safety, leading to further savings. Money once spent on energy can now be redirected toward the purchase of books for school libraries or the provision of better services in our hospitals.

Let me give members a greater appreciation of the success of this. Allow me to present the experiences of three institutions that have put the program into action: la Commission scolaire des Hautes-Rivières, the Regina—Qu'Appelle Health Region and the University of British Columbia.

Created in 1998 as a result of the amalgamation of three Quebec school boards, la Commission scolaire des Hautes-Rivières operates 51 facilities, including 39 primary schools, 8 secondary schools and 4 adult centres. In September 2001, the school board initiated a retrofit on 25 of its facilities. A wide range of changes were made to boost energy efficiency: new water heaters, lights, windows and doors were installed; energy management controls, along with a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system were introduced. In total, the renovations reduced the school board's energy costs by almost $300,000 a year.

Similar results were achieved in Saskatchewan with renovations to two hospitals: Regina General and Pasqua. The installation of several energy efficient technologies led to reductions in energy consumption of 11% at the hospitals.

The Government of Canada's support has also enabled the University of British Columbia to decrease its energy consumption, to reduce its operating costs and to cultivate an environment of energy awareness and responsibility.

The retrofit projects recently completed and others under way now at UBC are too numerous to describe. I had the opportunity to visit UBC this summer and I met with the faculty and students at the University of British Columbia. I can tell members that the people at UBC who work in facilities spoke in glowing terms about the improvements. Several areas on the UBC campus have undergone lighting retrofits. In some classrooms, outdated lighting tubes have been replaced with more energy efficient lamps and fluorescents. This change alone has produced savings of 30% in energy consumption. The university has also replaced incandescent light fixtures with fluorescent lamps. These new lamps provide the same amount of light but consume 80% less energy and last up to 10 times longer.

These remarkable success stories represent just the beginning. The government proposes a straightforward yet effective way to build on the significant accomplishments of initiatives and programs such as the one I just described. These programs vividly express the government's commitment to help Canadians save energy and to promote an energy efficient future.

This past summer, when our Liberal caucus met in Regina, we discussed a number of issues that we would like to see action on this fall. Our Atlantic caucus, in particular, felt very strongly that we had to find a way to help our constituents with the rising cost of energy. We felt, further to that, that if we could be of assistance, those who most needed it are those with the lowest incomes and quite often people living in the region that I came from, in oil heated homes, simply cannot afford to retrofit their houses.

We would like to do something for everyone. This is not an utopian world. In spite of the fact that we have improved this economy so much since 1993, there are limits to what we can do.

This is a bold initiative. I commend the Minister of Finance and his officials who understood the need and who took direction from the caucus saying that we have people in our constituencies who really need assistance, who really need help and who really need long term sustainable solutions. They listened to us and they produced a plan that I think does what we should be doing: helping those who need help the most.

I support this initiative and I encourage all members to do likewise.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to that very technical speech by my hon. colleague from the governing party about what people are doing with energy savings and so on.

Energy savings are great, but this is a place for debate. Members come here, the government makes a proposition, we debate whether it is good, bad or indifferent, whether it needs to be changed, and whether we like it or do not like it and so on, but far too often I get the impression that members on the government side are reading some bafflegab prepared by a government department.

They come in here and read these wonderfully crafted speeches with all kinds of technical data, telling us that light bulbs save so much energy and we should replace so many light bulbs and so on, but that is not debate. That is basically just being a mouthpiece for the department and the government. We would expect members standing in the House to enter into debate and give forth their own opinions.

The member had his own opinion in the last couple of minutes of his speech. He said he liked the idea because this is for people who need it.

What about the working poor? They are not going to see a dime. What about the childless couples who do not get the child benefit? They are not going to see a dime. How can he stand in the House and tell us how great this program is when a whole bunch of poor Canadians are not going to see a dime from this program? As for the government members who stand here and say this is a wonderful thing, I say that these people are deserving just like others and will need help just like others.

What is he going to do for them? That is what I want to hear.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that my hon. friend was not here for the beginning of my speech when I spoke about my own background in the oil industry. I do not think that departmental officials knew about that. I am discouraged to hear that facts should not be brought into the House of Commons and should not be allowed in debate, because frankly I think they should be.

The history of what we have done with some of these programs is very important. It is important for public institutions. It is important for them to save their money. It is also important as we move toward a greener economy that public institutions are given assistance so they can make the improvements they need to better serve their clients, whether they are students, patients or anybody else.

As I indicated, 3.1 million Canadians will get assistance under this program. That is a very broad number. They are the most needy of all Canadians. As I indicated, certainly from the Liberal caucus point of view we said we wanted assistance to go to those who most need it. The most vulnerable in our society are children, low income families and seniors. This program specifically addresses those people in a way that will give them help today and in years to come.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments of my hon. colleague from the great Dartmouth—Cole Harbour area. He talks about what light bulbs will do to reduce energy, but since 1993, under the Liberal government, emissions in this country have risen. They have not gone down. They have risen. I wonder what he is talking about when he talks about better things for the environment while emissions in this country have gone up under the Liberal watch of 12 years.

Plus, as my colleague from Alberta said, many people will not be assisted by this program. The problem is that an awful lot of people do not even participate in terms of energy purchases because they cannot afford their own homes. They are either renting or in social housing, where a lot of their costs are already taken care of, but what about those people who are just on the cusp, on the margin, those seniors and the working people who will not see a dime of this assistance?

This is why we have been encouraging the government to take the tax off energy. If it really wants to help people in terms of an energy rebate, it can just take the tax off energy in terms of electricity, home heating oil, natural gas, wood or whatever. That gives everybody an immediate break when they purchase energy.

My fear is that we are going to end up with the same dilemma we did a few years ago, and deceased people, students and people who do not even own homes or anything of that nature will get a cheque from the government and spend it on other aspects of the economy that have nothing to do with energy.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague from Sackville--Eastern Shore raise this issue this morning. I would expect that the opposition across from us would suggest that we should take the HST off energy. They have before. There are some people on our own side who might even suggest that too, but I cannot believe that the New Democratic Party thinks the savings on this should go disproportionately to the rich. That makes no sense. Why should we take HST off all energy costs if what we are trying to do is help those most in need? Why should the member and I get a bigger cut, because we use more energy, than the poorest among us?

This is a specifically targeted measure for low income Canadians, not for members of Parliament, not for CEOs, not for those who have a lot of money. It is for low income Canadians to assist them immediately with $250 for a family or $125 for singles, and down the road it will be there for those who need help. A lot of people cannot afford to upgrade their homes. This will allow them to do it.

It is simple to suggest that we could take the HST off all energy. Any one of us would love it, but it does not help those who need it most and this bill does.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-66 is an act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure. The bill states:

Part 1 of the enactment authorizes the making of payments to families who are eligible for the National Child Benefit Supplement, and to seniors who are eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Allowance under the Old Age Security Act, in order to deliver one-time relief for energy costs.

Part 2 authorizes payments of up to $500 million for the period...ending on March 31, 2010 to provide assistance for reducing housing energy consumption. It also authorizes funding of up to $338 million for the EnerGuide for Houses Retrofit Incentive Program.

Part 3 authorizes payments of up to $400 million for each of fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 for public transit infrastructure.

The short title of the act is the “Energy Costs Assistance Measures Act”.

The plan is to act on three fronts, providing direct financial assistance to low income seniors and low income families with children, helping families lower their future household heating costs by making their homes more energy efficient, and providing money to municipalities for investment in public transit.

In general, the income thresholds are as follows. We need to look at these. A single senior receives the benefit up to an income of approximately $19,300, including the OAS benefit. A senior couple in which both spouses receive the GIS receives the benefit up to an income of approximately $29,000, including the OAS benefits. A couple in which only one spouse receives the GIS receives the benefit up to an income of approximately $38,700, including the OAS benefits.

In addition to being available to low income individuals aged 65 and older, the energy cost benefit will also be available to those aged 60 to 64 who are entitled to receive payment in January 2006 under the allowance or allowance for survivors programs. These individuals receive the benefit for incomes up to $25,536 and $18,744 respectively.

Delivering payments to families and individuals in this way poses a number of challenges, but the government hopes to ensure that relief is delivered to Canadians in need. That is what it claims.

Making homes and buildings more energy efficient is a key way for Canadians to offset higher energy costs. The incentives will help Canadians save energy and money, but it is a small gesture.

The measures include $500 million to provide direct financial assistance of between $3,500 and $5,000 to low income households to defray the cost of items such as draft-proofing, heating systems upgrades and window replacement under the new EnerGuide for low income households program. For multiple unit buildings and rooming houses, financial assistance will range between $1,000 and $1,500 per unit. Cost savings will average about 30% per household.

We know that the cost of energy is a major factor in housing affordability. These measures, in addition to the residential rehabilitation assistance program, may help reduce energy costs.

However, in B.C. we have some very interesting small programs that hint at innovative directions. They hint at what could be done to help energy consumers shift their consumption patterns. They are bottom up rather than bureaucratic and top down.

One B.C. program is called Car Heaven British Columbia. It deals with vehicle purchase and scrappage. Participants who donate a car of 1994 vintage or older that is currently on the road will receive a $1,000 certificate toward the purchase of a new General Motors or Saturn vehicle. All participants who donate their old gas guzzler car through the program will receive a charitable receipt for a minimum of $50 and the car will be towed away free of charge. Cars and their parts are then disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

In addition, between June 1 and November 30, 2005, anyone can enter Car Heaven's draw to win a new car or rail tour package. There is no requirement to donate a vehicle to enter the draw. This program is an initiative of the Clean Air Foundation, not government. It can be found at the website carheaven.ca and the phone number is 778-371-7123.

In B.C. we also have an exemption for non-motorized, two-wheeled bicycles. These bicycles, non-motorized, two-wheeled, and their repair, as well as bicycle parts, bicycle accessories and their installation, are all exempt from provincial sales tax.

Tax exempt parts include most normal bicycle components. Tax exempt accessories include pumps, carriers and other items. Accessories and equipment are exempt from tax if installed by the seller at the time the bicycle is sold. Safety equipment such as lighting, including batteries, reflectors, helmets, safety vests and bibs, are exempt regardless of when purchased. This is a small but meaningful help to promote the use of bicycles. All we need now is for the feds to make it GST free. For more information, people may call 604-660-4524.

Then we have that scrap it in B.C. program. Owners of cars and light duty trucks of 1993 vintage or older currently insured in the lower mainland can trade them for one of the following incentives: $1,000 toward a new hybrid vehicle; $750 toward a new vehicle; $500 toward a 1998 or newer used vehicle; 50% of the purchase price of bicycle up to $500; $750 toward van pooling or car pooling with the Jack Bell Foundation; $500 toward a member in car sharing cooperatives; TransLink monthly passes, 18 months concession, 12 months in one zone, 9 months for two zones, 6 months for three zones; and the West Coast Express, 28-day passes. These are all incentives that are available.

To be eligible the vehicle must have been continuously insured in the last 12 months on the lower mainland and failed an air care test at some point in its history. Simply go to the website called “incentivesandrebates.ca”. There is also the Vancity clean air auto loan, up to $3,000 per vehicle in reduced interest payments. The Vancity Credit Union offers its members prime rate loans for the purchase of gasoline, electric, hybrid and dedicated natural gas vehicles. As of September, the prime rate was 4.5% and the loan is up to five years.

In B.C. Terasen Gas, in cooperation with the British Columbia ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources and Natural Resources Canada, now offers a program to encourage the use of high efficiency natural gas hydronic space heating systems in new construction and retrofit applications. The program will provide incentives to gas customers to help offset the cost of installing high efficiency boilers in commercial applications. In retrofit applications, additional incentives may be received for monitoring boiler performance and gas savings when an efficient boiler replaces a less efficient one.

Free workshops on the design application, installation and maintenance of high efficiency heating boilers in commercial buildings also are offered. The program began April 4 and runs until December 31, 2006. Simply call 1-888-477-0777.

The feds always seem to want to drive a big program from the top. I have given the example of small programs from the bottom. They spend a lot of someone else's money, taxpayer money, for a general objective.

The bureaucratic approach eliminates market forces and individual choice and flexibility. That style of administration is inefficient and sometimes is even outright wasteful. Generally it does not deliver any lasting improvement. The preferred choice is to not to take taxes in the first place to reward certain habits. Then taxes should be structured to reflect the true flow through cost of historical and external subsidies so the true cost is the consumer cost.

Retrofitting is good, but we need to stop building energy hungry office buildings and homes in the first place. In this case there needs to be a higher level playing field across the country for energy efficiency standards. The bill would deliver some dollars to some people. In the long run, it will do little to actually alter the underlying problem of the rates of energy consumption and the relentless trend of increasing energy costs. Governments should not be congratulated for just stop gap measures, for that is all we have seen from these Liberals.

The bill would not assist students, those receiving disability benefits, farmers, low income seniors who do not get the supplement of the OAS, childless poor Canadians or many who are close to the poverty line. Rather, raising the standard basic exemption on the income tax form would have zero administrative cost, unlike this program, and would help all who are in need.

People today are using energy like never before. Such items as dishwashers, microwaves, washers, dryers and a counter full of kitchen gadgets, personal computers, fax machines and modems have allowed us to save valuable time, but it does not come without a cost. It is increasingly important to manage the amount of energy we use, not only to save money but also to be kinder to the environment.

In conclusion, the bill may buy some votes in the short term, but it does little to help the Canadian dilemma of long term adjustment to the future cost of energy for the efficient movement of goods, capital and labour, or to heat our homes. Significantly, on this day of the release of the Gomery report, this is a money bill that is a confidence measure of the government.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I hate to admit this but there are some parts of that speech with which I agree. I have a very simple question for the member.

The government has brought forth a bill, not only to assist in retrofitting to reduce emissions and help people lower their cost for energy, but also to give money those who need assistance to pay for their energy. It is similar to what Liberals did a few years ago, and he was around at that time.

Does the member not believe that it is very possible the government will fall into that same trap again. People who do not use energy or purchase energy, or people who are in prison, or people who have died will also receive money as they did the last time? It was very bureaucratic and costly to run. I do not know how many millions of dollars was wasted on that.

We think a simpler solution to assist everybody, regardless of class of income, is to remove the tax from home heating essentials, even if it is done just for the winter. This would give everybody who uses energy an immediate break. Would he not agree with that?

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very pleasing to hear an NDP member beginning to espouse Conservative basic policy. He must be getting the message.

These are stop gap measures. We should have a long term plan to look at Canadian society's use of energy. We know where the direction of the cost of energy will be and those on the economic margin will always have difficulty facing that prospect.

The hon. member's fears of administrative bureaucracy and inefficiency are quite correct. Every speaker from the Conservative side today has talked about how inequitable is this plan. I mentioned a number of categories of individuals who would receive no benefit whatsoever.

The general comment I made is that a large federal government program, driven from the top down, is inherently inefficient, does not work and does not change the underlying problem. He has got the Conservative principle right. Do not take the dollar in the first place. That has a much better multiplier effect for the economy.

One of the suggestions I came up with, besides these small micro programs that are market driven and private society driven, is to simply raise the basic exemption for those on the economic margins. That would help people right across the country and it would absolutely cost no dollars to administer, unlike this series of programs.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to repeat myself, but I thought I asked a very straightforward and simple question. The hon. member may have answered in a round about way.

In Atlantic Canada we suffer the indignation of the HST. We call it the hated sales tax. It is the GST and PST combined. It is 15%. It is a killer for people who are purchasing energy in our province of Nova Scotia. Many people, regardless of income, have asked us to take the tax off.

If the hon. member wants to give the people in the country, especially in Atlantic Canada, an energy break, would he support taking the tax off home essentials like wood, gas and oil immediately, so everybody who purchases energy in our province would receive an immediate break?

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Forseth Conservative New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the principle is great. We would have to do some calculation as to the cost. We must look at regional fairness. In British Columbia we rely on natural gas where other areas of the country do not. However, the principle of not taxing in the first place is what I said in my speech, and the hon. member has something of a good idea.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue for Canadians, particularly since we are going into winter.

When I initially dealt with this issue, as part of the desire of my constituents of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, we asked how we could reduce the impact of the increasing fuel costs on Canadians, particularly those who are of modest means. We know that as the costs go up, we all pay the same at the pump. Those of modest means are the ones who are hurt much more.

Therefore, as a party we have implemented some solutions that will help relieve the financial burden on Canadians, particularly those in the lower socio-economic groups, directly, effectively and quickly.

I thought initially that we might be able to achieve this at the pump, by reducing the 10% federal tax on every litre of fuel, for example. On the surface it seemed like a good idea. When we examined this, and there has been some experience in the United States, we found that if we reduced the entire 10% per litre tax, the cost at the pump would be reduced by a very small amount, much less than 10¢, and the benefit would accrue to the oil and gas producer. That is not what we want to accomplish. We want to achieve a net savings for consumers tomorrow, and that is what we have done.

In summary, through the energy cost benefit, families who are entitled to receive the national child benefit, starting 2006, would receive $250. Seniors couples where both spouses are entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement would receive $250. Single seniors entitled to receive the GIS in January 2006 would receive $125. About 3.1 million payments or $365 million will be given to those individuals. It will provide a net savings to them as the burden of the increase in gas prices falls upon their shoulders. This is a direct saving and help to those groups.

We also have tried to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. If we are to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn, the best way to do that is to insulate our homes and buildings. If we are to meet our Kyoto requirements and go beyond them, the most efficient and effective way of accomplishing is improve the insulation in our buildings. We have the technology today.

Therefore, we are providing people with $500 million in direct financial assistance, which will be between $3,500 to $5,000 per home, to insulate their homes, improve their windows and draught proof. By insulating our homes more effectively, we will burn less fossil fuels. We will have less emissions of carbon dioxide and small particulate matter, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants which produce smog. Carbon dioxide is the prime generator of greenhouse gas emissions which affect global warming.

We are accomplishing this in two ways. We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address the issue of global warming and we are reducing the burning of fossil fuels which will assist in our air quality.

This is part and parcel of the much larger green budget that the Minister of the Environment has put together. This initiative is part of a larger package of solutions put together by the minister, which involves air quality, water quality and land. The Minister of the Environment has put together effective solutions to reduce the amount of pollutants. This ties into that.

Between 1990 and 2003 we reduced the number of pollutants in the air by about 90%. This includes significant pollutants such as dioxins, furans and other toxic substances. We have had a significant decrease over the last 12 or 13 years, which has helped improve our air quality.

Over the last year we have also implemented a number of solutions with respect to transparency and how government works. It is appropriate that we are speaking about this because the first Gomery report was released today. It is wise to look at the number of initiatives that have been put in place over the last year and a half to ensure that taxpayers' hard-earned money is spent wisely and effectively.

It is important that the viewers out there hear this and actually delve into the solutions and exciting initiatives that our federal government has implemented. They include a comptroller system and an internal audit system, an entirely new audit system that will examine in a very transparent and public way how and where the taxpayers' hard-earned money is being spent.

There is also the expenditure review system which forces every single department and every single minister to ensure that 5% of the expenditures are redirected from the lower priorities to the higher priorities. Every year there will be a constant weeding out of those projects that are not performing well. The people's money will be redirected into those initiatives that are more important for Canadians.

The audit system is extremely important. The comptroller general system is important because, in combination with the internal audit system, every single department will have an oversight mechanism to ensure that Canadian taxpayers' money will be spent effectively and where it should be spent.

We also have implemented new changes for crown corporations. There is a new system of how the crown corporation heads are selected. We have also made sure the crown corporations are under the Access to Information Act. Furthermore, the Auditor General will have the power to review the activities of some of those crown corporations. That has never happened in the history of our country.

I would encourage Canadians to look at the initiatives that we have put together and provide us with solutions as to how we can make the people's money work better for Canadians and make sure the process is more transparent and effective. At the end of the day we want to ensure that the people are getting the best bang for their buck with respect to our expenditures.

These initiatives have taken place over the last year and a bit. It is the responsible thing to do. These initiatives will ensure that in the future the moneys people give to the Canadian government will be spent responsibly, effectively and transparently.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from September 26 consideration of the motion.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate and to once again articulate the government's commitment to our agricultural producers and to helping them maintain profitable and sustainable operations, and to reiterate our continuing commitment to the protection of our environment and the health and safety of all Canadians.

I would like to assure members of the House, and indeed all Canadians, that the Government of Canada understands just how significant the Richardson's ground squirrel problem is for Canadian producers.

Management of ground squirrels has been a long-standing challenge for our agricultural producers in the Prairies. Through recent initiatives, the government is going beyond its traditional role as a pesticide regulator and is working actively to find solutions to the issue of ground squirrel control. Let there be no doubt that ground squirrel control is the issue.

The motion put forward by the member for Vegreville--Wainwright proposes to once again make a 2% strychnine solution directly available to farmers for the purpose of formulating their own bait to control ground squirrels. That would be a mistake.

I would like to remind the House that when the restrictions on the availability of the 2% strychnine concentrate were put into place in 1992, the government at that time undertook this action to protect Canadians' health, safety and their environment from possible serious adverse effects of this very dangerous poison.

Freshly prepared moist strychnine baits comparable to those which used to be prepared from the 2% liquid concentrate have been commercially available since 2004. This ready to use format means the mixing and diluting is done under controlled conditions in the safety of closed manufacturing facilities in both eastern and western Canada. Provincial agriculture departments are satisfied with the effectiveness of these new fresh bait products, and these ready to use products are safer for the farmer to use.

The government is not looking to move backward on this issue. Most OECD countries are moving away from the use of strychnine in any form. By this time next year, strychnine will not be used for pest control in any EU countries. It is also worth noting that all above ground uses of strychnine in the United States have been prohibited since 1988.

The regulatory proposal on which Health Canada is currently consulting only extends the use of strychnine for Richardson's ground squirrel control for the next three years.

This government wishes to move forward. It is time for a new approach. We have already informed the House that work has commenced on an integrated pest management strategy to help producers better manage the ground squirrel problem while offering a safer approach for the environment and the farmers who actually handle the strychnine treated bait and other toxic substances available to control ground squirrels.

Through the implementation of an integrated pest management strategy, producers will be able to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals being used. At the same time, producers can be confident that when they are using pesticides, they are being used in a way which maximizes their impact on the ground squirrel problem while minimizing their effects on human health and on the environment.

The experts developing the integrated pest management strategy come from many areas, including ranchers and crop producers, the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, rural municipality associations, Health Canada's own Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the University of Lethbridge, and even chemical companies. Developing the integrated pest management strategy will be a very thorough process, and work done to date has already added to our knowledge of the ground squirrel problem.

It is through the research and development of an integrated pest management strategy that we will be able to attain a healthy balance between pest control and a safe environment.

I want to assure the House that there are other products registered for use in Canada for controlling ground squirrels. Canadian producers are not without alternative products.

The government recognizes that currently, strychnine remains the control product of choice for Richardson's ground squirrel. However, reliance on strychnine is not sustainable in the long term. The dwindling global market for strychnine pest control products likely means that the cost of strychnine for Canadian producers will continue to rise. Science and research into new pest control products will play a critical role in ensuring the future competitiveness and prosperity of producers and for the entire agriculture and agri-food industry.

On September 22, my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced broad based national consultations on a new strategy for Canadian agri-food science and research. This strategy should help provide innovative solutions to meet new challenges and to prevent catastrophic losses in agriculture from pests such as ground squirrels. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for launching these consultations. It is only through science and research that we will be able to develop new strategies and new techniques to deal with problems that have plagued our farmers for decades.

These scientific advancements need to be combined with the knowledge of local experts and producers in the development of an integrated pest management approach to this issue. This is the modern and progressive way of tackling these sorts of problems. It is not by going back to old methods which have been rejected by other modern agriculturally developed countries.

It is through the use of modern science and research and integrated pest management approaches that we will find solutions which benefit producers while protecting the environment and the health of pesticide users and non-target animals and birds.

I urge all members of the House to reject the proposed motion.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to say a few words about the bill introduced by my colleague, the member for Vegreville—Wainwright, regarding the distribution of 2% strychnine solution to farmers.

I would like to congratulate my colleague on his desire to fight the animal pests that infest farmland and cause damage, which is hard for us to comprehend and evaluate when we do not personally face the problems they cause.

When people are wrestling with an affliction like this and see the effects on their hard work, threatened by vermin, using 2% strychnine seems like a panacea. I can understand why farmers who see their land invaded by rodents, their machinery in danger of breaking, and their crops being destroyed would be tempted to resort to this product.

It seems to me, though, that we should take a closer look, regardless of what it says in a recent report of the PMRA, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which concluded that using strychnine to fight northern pocket gophers, skunks, pigeons, wolves, coyotes and black bears does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.

It says that this does not pose an unacceptable risk. Even if only interim, this permission from the agency could hardly be more dubious.

I am sure that if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained, but I cannot understand how exposing oneself to a poison can be considered an acceptable risk. The document issued on September 22 states that the current use of strychnine to combat Richardson's ground squirrel is of real concern to the environment. We know very well that human health is closely connected to the quality of the environment in general and the quality of the land, especially regarding food production for animals and humans.

Yes, it does state that this is an interim regulatory decision on strychnine while we await the adoption of a strategy for fighting the Richardson's ground squirrel. The caution that has prevailed so far is relegated to the back seat, and for how long? I know very well that there are imperatives related to the extent of the damage that may be caused by rodents. I can understand that farmers feel they have their backs to the wall and are ready to defend their property and the fruits of their labour whatever the cost. I acknowledge the consequences for farmers of an epidemic of predators but also what this means from the social and economic standpoints.

That said, after looking at the danger from every angle, is the risk not too great? Some would argue that the PRMA has taken that into account, which would explain why only temporary permission has been granted until further results or comments are received. What is more, government agencies have been talking about this issue for 25 years now and they always come back to the same conclusions.

Strychnine is a potent poison.

Who can say that an individual needing to be in a hazardous area will not suffer consequences some day, even if exposed to an infinitesimal amount? Who can guarantee there will not be any side effects? Who can predict the environmental consequences of its ingestion by farm animals or wild animals or birds? There were lessons to learn from the mad cow crisis.

And who will manage this new problem? Keep in mind that this is not an issue of resolving an occasional problem of rodents, a squirrel here and a rat there. We are talking about infested land. We are therefore also talking about very significant doses of a deadly poison scattered across land used to grow food.

We are facing a serious dilemma. We absolutely must help the farmers who are dealing with the Richardson's ground squirrels and all the other predators.

However, it is not for nothing that in 1992, Canada limited the concentration of the product to 0.3% and 0.4%. It is not for nothing that 2% strychnine concentrate can only be mixed under the supervision of an authorized official.

Just look at the assessments conducted by recognized experts. I will cite just two. The results of a study on the possibility of secondary poisoning of scavengers clearly show that there is indeed primary poisoning of non targeted birds when bait containing strychnine is used on ground squirrels and that this can lead to a considerable number of secondary poisoning cases.

Another study on the possibility of primary poisoning of non targeted species was done in Saskatchewan. The results clearly show that this serious risk is considerable for non targeted birds and mammals.

What more can I say other than the risks are real. We could add to the list of recommendations on labelling, increase the number of operating tips, add to the regulatory measures on human health or even the environment, but that does not change the fact that using a potent poison is deadly.

Whatever precautionary rules are written or enforced, the risks involved in the use of a 2% strychnine solution are so high that we must, as the representatives of the people, insist on a search for other drastic solutions to a problem, which, I understand, is causing farmers grief.

The fact that this product concentration was prohibited in the US and Canada indicates doubt, to say the least, about its use on the part of governments and the appropriate study and research bodies. In Europe, the Bern convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats has made the use of strychnine in pest control illegal.

We can only be grateful that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is continuing its studies. I hope everyone seeking viable, effective and safe solutions to the spread of all sorts of predators to epidemic proportions will make their voices heard.

As a member of Parliament, I cannot permit the acceptance of such high risks and by means of legislation, at that. Regrettably, I am firmly convinced that it is our duty to put an immediate end to this motion, because its scope is too broad. I add that no interim arrangement is acceptable when human life is at stake and more importantly when the risk is present at various levels, including direct and indirect poisoning and when the environmental effects are hard to measure in the short, medium and long terms.

No risk is acceptable in this matter, whatever the circumstances that moved my colleague to introduce this bill. We must await solutions that do not threaten the integrity of life, at any level. I truly hope that this will come about as soon as possible.

In the meantime, lacking anything better, I prefer the use of 2% strychnine remain solely in the hands of the duly authorized and trained experts, even if it means the government approves, indeed insists on, emergency training for additional personnel to help farmers control the spread of crop-destroying pests. I propose this measure solely on compassionate grounds, since the situation is desperate. It would be much preferable to have lower concentrations used out of respect for nature.

It would be even better to have a clean solution put forward by our eminent researchers.

I regret it, but I must, in all conscience and for the reasons I have given, vote against my colleague's motion.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against the motion. I recognize that there are some very serious issues facing our farmers in terms of dealing with rodents that destroy crops and make it very difficult for farmers to maintain their livelihood. However I think it is very important that we talk about the context.

My colleague from the Bloc referred to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It would be great if we could have faith that this agency actually would protect the health and welfare of Canadians.

I point to a former pesticide that has recently been approved, 2,4-D. Its end use products were approved to treat lawns and turf. It was re-reviewed and it was determined that it did not entail an unacceptable risk of harm to human health or the environment. Perhaps Europeans are different from Canadians because 2,4-D is banned in Denmark, Norway and Kuwait and the registration is cancelled in Sweden and is severely restricted in Belize.

In 2002 a new Pest Control Products Act was proclaimed and yet the regulations were not promulgated for that act. Now if we did all of the work and the reviews and we developed regulations but never implemented them, one could question whether the process is rigorous enough for Canadians.

When we are talking about strychnine, one of the issues concerns the harm it does to other species. We know that rodents, squirrels and all manner of other creatures are eaten by other animals. There is also a chance for this kind of a product to actually get into water tables. We therefore must be very careful when we look at approving the use of such a high concentrate of a deadly substance.

I know this has come up in the House in the past and it has been a number of years since farmers have asked the government to take a look at their needs and to ensure the protection of their livelihood. I go back to a former member of the House, Dick Proctor from Palliser, who comes from a part of the country where this is very much a serious problem. I will quote from one of his former speeches in 2001. He stated:

I remind members, in the words of David Suzuki, that the human race is the most predatory animal in the history of the world. We have a phobia about eliminating anything and everything that gets in our way. Some day that is going to come back and cost us in a very large way.

This is a problem and I do not want to minimize it, but I think we need to and should look at alternatives. The issue has been around for 10 years. The government has absolutely failed to develop alternatives that would work as a replacement for liquid strychnine.

In that particular context, I think it is incumbent upon us to make a couple of points. Restrictions on the use of liquid strychnine were strengthened in 1993 due to its lethal effects on non-target animals that assist in controlling the gopher population, including raptors.

In our current context, just to say what is available for farmers, strychnine is currently available pre-mixed to farmers. As of April 17, 2005, there were 16 Canadian strychnine products registered. Ten were aimed at ground squirrels or gophers and were available in 0.4% concentrations. Two other products aimed at ground squirrels, one with 2% and one with 10% concentration, were available but both of them were listed as manufacturing concentrate.

All of the above uses of strychnine have been prohibited in the United States since 1988, so our neighbours to the south for a number of years have prohibited the use of this type of strychnine. It is illegal to use strychnine for pest control in most European countries and its use is prohibited by the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. When we hear citizens in many other countries of the world say that the use of strychnine is not acceptable in their countries, why would we consider it in Canada?

In Canada, farmers have to put the bait in the ground at least 18 inches. They have to bury the carcasses, so that the eagles, dogs and other animals would not be contaminated and spread the problem. We acknowledge that there is a danger of contaminating other animals that could have access to this.

Strychnine is highly toxic or very highly toxic to birds, frogs and mammals. In humans, the symptoms of strychnine poisoning begin 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion. It is important to talk about what happens to people when they ingest this product.

There may be an initial violent convulsion or minor stimulation may trigger violent convulsions. Breathing stops and the patient turns blue. The muscles relax completely between convulsions. There is cold sweat and the pupils may contract. After 10 to 15 minutes hypersensitivity returns with further convulsions. There may be one to 10 such attacks before recovery or death from respiratory arrest, otherwise known as suffocation. The fatal dose is usually in the range of 100 to 200 mg, but as little as 30 mg in adults and 15 mg in children has proven fatal.

This is a highly toxic substance. To talk about making it available in higher concentrations where it could impact on other parts of the population, both human and animal, is highly questionable.

On September 26, 2005, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, a branch of Health Canada, issued notice that it had re-evaluated the use of strychnine to control certain pest populations, such as northern pocket gophers, skunks, pigeons, wolves, coyotes and black bears, stating that evidence did not show that its use for these animals did not pose an unacceptable risk for human health or for the environment.

As I noted earlier, there had been some concerns around the PMRA process in taking a look at how it approves pesticides in Canada, and again, the fact that the regulations from the 2002 act have not been put in place.

However, the PMRA maintained that the use of strychnine to control ground squirrels like Richardson's, Columbian and Franklin was still a concern from an environmental perspective. It was agreeing that there was a concern around this. It issued a proposed acceptability for continued registration, PACR, which stated that due to the damage caused by ground squirrels and the lack of practical alternatives, it was recommending the continued use of strychnine for the next three years.

This proposal included a re-evaluation in three years, during which there would be work on an integrated pest management program for Richardson's ground squirrels by a group of stakeholders and some new regulations relating to enhanced labelling.

This problem has been going on for a number of years. Why has it taken so long to get adequate action for our farmers, so that they can protect their livelihoods without resorting to such a highly toxic substance.

The concerns of the PMRA were that the current use of strychnine resulted in appreciable amount of poisoned bait being available to non-target organisms, including songbirds. This is that old collateral damage. Let us call it what it is. Other creatures are dying because they are ingesting this poison and it was a use to which it was never intended.

Based on carcass counts, it was estimated that 1,950 songbirds were poisoned in southern Saskatchewan in the 2001 season. As well, a large number of poisoned carcasses would be available to predators and scavengers, including endangered species common to the area where strychnine is regularly used, like the swift fox and the burrowing owl.

The PMRA determined that new forms of bait and/or ways to reduce user reliance on strychnine need to be explored and we would concur. It is incumbent again upon the government to propose a solution that is going to meet the needs of the farmers and include farmers in this discussion.

John Worgan of the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency said the long term plan is to look at phasing out the use of strychnine for gopher control, with a short term goal to reduce reliance on strychnine. Paul Laflamme, Alberta's director of pest management, said, “There is a danger someone's pet or kids will come into contact with strychnine bait that was put out for the squirrels”.

Clearly, we need to be concerned about the interrelatedness of our environment. The strychnine does not stop at the rodent. It gets into all kinds of other systems. We must find another way to help our farmers and support them in looking at different ways to deal with this rodent population. I urge members of this House to vote against this motion.