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.