Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the member for Trois-Rivières.
The budget tabled last week by the government raises a number of concerns for the future prosperity and sustainability of the economies of my riding of Edmonton—Strathcona, the city of Edmonton, the province of Alberta and Canada. It most certainly raises questions about how well the Conservative government has listened to Canadians about their future prospects. In sum, the economic action plan 2013 is rife with promises and a display of now defunct programs, but short on long-term vision, timely delivery of needed supports and missed opportunities.
The province I come from has a long history of leadership in energy. It is not just in energy resource extraction, but also in innovation and consultation in new energy ideas. The Alberta clean air strategic alliance has a long record of multi-stakeholder consultation and consensus in decision-making on cleaner energy standards. The concept of sound decision-making through consultation and consensus is one that is apparently foreign to the Conservative government.
Alberta industry and the public alike have long called for a dialogue on a cleaner energy strategy for the province of Alberta and for the country. Recently the premier of Alberta called on the federal government to endorse this concept. The concept of a more sustainable energy future has been endorsed by other well-known centre of right leaders, including Preston Manning and the late Peter Lougheed. However, on the so-called jobs, growth and, in very small print, long-term prosperity economic action plan, there is no mention in the budget and no dollars for action on a Canadian clean energy strategy. This is despite the fact that we still have in place, as far as I am aware, a Canada-U.S. clean energy dialogue.
Of note, the term “long-term” appears to have been added to the title in small print as a mere afterthought. The budget certainly seems to have given short shrift to a longer-term sustainable economy. There is no commitment or dollars for consultation with the public or the diverse energy sectors, let alone energy consumers, on a Canadian energy strategy. All of this is despite calls by a number of premiers, including Alberta's, despite calls by major energy sectors, including oil and gas, energy efficiency and renewable power sectors, and despite calls by existing and potential major economic players, including first nations.
Sound decision-making on allocation of taxpayers' money for energy projects requires consultation and a cogent plan. This budget also fails in recognizing the potential for substantial cost savings and job creation from investment in energy efficiency, and cost savings to families, business and to government. In fact, the Conservative government appears to have completely disregarded the potential for reducing its massive deficit simply by reducing its own energy use instead of cutting jobs.
By way of example, this budget allocates no dollars whatsoever to the return of the extremely popular ecoENERGY home retrofit program. It was brought back in 2011 for one year only. It was very popular, oversubscribed and then unceremoniously cut.
Here is what one of my constituents, a property manager, wrote to me. Mr. Tarek Merhej, vice-president of KARST Property Management, said:
I read your comments this morning in the Edmonton Journal relating to the ecoEnergy Program where you mentioned: “There's not even the return of the eco-energy retrofit program that helped homeowners make their houses more energy efficient and it is a sector where Alberta has shown leadership.” And I couldn't agree more. I was one of the many people I'm sure who were too late to take advantage of this program. I had selected my builder on large principle by the fact that their houses were Energuide engineered and rated but unfortunately by the time I had received my possession date, the program had expired. I have shared this disappointment with many and I simply wanted to thank you for speaking up as you do and demonstrating, as you put it so well, that “this budget shows a lack of understanding of Canadians' priorities.”
Energy retrofits, whether for homes, businesses or government facilities have huge potential for creating well-paying jobs. The Energy Services Association of Canada shows a tenfold increase in jobs per billion dollars spent between coal fire power and building retrofit. The Alberta Federation of Labour study forecasted 6,500 to 14,000 new jobs in just a two-year period from this sector. It also suggested that a good bridge in jobs between boom and bust years in the energy economy would be energy retrofitting.
It also reduces energy costs for homes, businesses and government. Approximately 15% of household costs are for heating. We have been told in committee that energy efficiency for commercial buildings can reduce energy consumption costs by 50%. It would also reduce pollution and carbon. BOMA, an association that works on buildings to increase their energy efficiency, reports that buildings contribute 20% to 30% of greenhouse gases in this country.
It would be good for business. Realtors and building owners advise that energy efficient buildings are in the highest demand for leasing. It would trigger private investment where governments adopt supportive policies or infuse matching supplementary grants.
Who has testified to this? The Energy Services Association of Canada, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada, or BOMA, and the Real Property Association of Canada, are hardly environmental radicals. All have testified in a current study before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on significant potential job creation and cost savings, for the federal government alone, through expanded energy efficiency.
Let me share a few of the examples that they have shared on projected savings. Before the Centre for Inland Waters was retrofitted, 50% of its operating budget was spent on energy and water, $1.5 million a year. Post the retrofit, it is projected to save $9.1 million. Due to an energy retrofit for CFB Halifax, it is achieving a guaranteed $1.4 million a year in savings. Place du Portage is being guaranteed an annual savings in energy bills of over $450,000.
A total of $43 million per year is projected from energy bills from the overall current federal retrofit program, and it could be more if a long-term strategy and commitment to seeking reduced energy costs for the 40,000 buildings that are owned or leased by the government was approached. That is hardly small potatoes.
Energy retrofits and energy efficient equipment manufacturing are important sectors in my constituency and deserve policy measures to support and foster their growth. Yet, there are no prospects for similar savings for homeowners or small businesses because this budget provides zero support for them.
The government, with great fanfare, announced its removal of tariffs on hockey equipment. Yet based on the estimated cost by Ottawa's Valiquette's sports, a one time purchase of hockey equipment for a child in midget or minor hockey costs about $1,000. The removal of the tariff would reduce that by about $180. Of course, that is a saving for those families who could afford to buy the equipment in the first place.
If support had been provided instead, or in addition, frankly, for home energy retrofit for an average middle-class home, that same value or more in savings could be gained each year, not as a one-off.
What about skills training that was talked a great about by the government? Indicative of the government's lack of comprehension of the global shift to investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, very little recognition is evidenced in this budget for the potential job market if targeted assistance were provided for skills training in this sector.
Few small firms can afford to pitch in the requisite $5,000 to match federal-provincial support. There is terrific potential for small energy audit and retrofit enterprises, including student jobs, and including for aboriginal communities and technical graduates or apprentices, but can they afford a start-up of $5,000? Then again, apparently neither the provinces nor territories have been consulted on the matching grant scheme anyway. Who has been consulted on the skills training or job creation priorities? The big question is, has the energy efficiency sector even been consulted?
With regard to the accelerated capital cost write-off, it is an excellent initiative if parallel measures are instituted to actually trigger the purchase and deployment of the equipment toward cleaner energy production or pollution abatement. Regrettably, the budget is limited in developing clean energy technologies, and we see no new measures to actually trigger the uptake of this equipment. Sadly, the budget allocates a mere $1 million this year for sustainable development technology. More is proposed for the future, but we will wait to see how the government pays down its deficit.
Sadly, in the budget, the key word for education is “commercialization”. There is no support for pure research. There is no backing off on firing scientists or shutting down of the renowned Experimental Lakes project, despite substantiated results in cleaner waterways arising from their research.
Infrastructure is the same story. Some money is coming forward, but not enough to actually address the rising infrastructure deficit. In sum, the budget is more about politics and short-term interests than a road map for long-term sustainable prosperity for all Canadians.