Mr. Speaker, I was speaking about housing, which is a critical issue to my city of Victoria. The budget only skirts around it. The budget's $800 million one time only affordable housing allocation is a 50% cut from money already passed into law by the NDP budget last year. Even with promises for aboriginal housing, it is still $200 million short of what was already committed. Where is the national affordable housing program that Canadians want and deserve?
Perhaps the Conservatives could learn from my city, Victoria, which has led the way by establishing an affordable housing trust in perpetuity. This is the level of government least able to pay for affordable housing, leading by example, while the federal government throws a pittance at a national problem. The federal government may acknowledge its responsibility to affordably house Canadians, but instead presents a budget that favours well housed corporations.
Where are the budget tools to tackle climate change? Since 1990, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have risen 24% instead of moving anywhere near a target of a 6% reduction. It appears that unwillingness to act at the federal level is the real culprit in this very disturbing trend. Innovation and leadership are coming from municipalities in cities like Victoria, which are implementing community energy plans. However, to carry these through successfully, they require energy efficiency programs, such as the ones the Conservatives are presently cutting, instead of more corporate tax cuts to the oil and gas industry.
First, the Liberals refused to impose new emission standards on their friends in the business community, and gave the hydrocarbons sector grants of $1.4 billion per year. Now, the Conservatives are continuing to provide these grants to this sector which is already reaping huge profits.
It would appear that the real problem is not the difficulty of meeting the Kyoto targets, but rather the government’s reluctance to make a sincere attempt to do so.
We are not lacking innovative solutions to the climate change problem. The NDP has proposed a national energy efficiency improvement program which would reduce emissions substantially. We also propose that tax grants and reductions no longer be used to support the producers of polluting fuels, but instead to encourage the Canadian clean energy industry. Such a measure would be not only an environmental strategy, but an economically astute environmental strategy.
At this dawn of the age of the green economy, the short-sighted solutions proposed in the budget may seem adequate, but overall they testify to a profound lack of long-term vision and an abdication of leadership on the part of the present government. In that respect it is continuing in the same vein as the Liberal government of the past.
I ask the government to take another look at its budget and to make the changes needed to show commitment to the real priorities of Canadians around housing, post-secondary education and the environment.