Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on private member's Bill C-306. The bill proposes that tax assistance be provided to those Canadians who use public transit. The intent of this measure is to promote the use of public transit in order to improve the environment. We all agree that this goal is a worthy one. However, the question is, is tax assistance for transit passes the best method to promote an increased use of public transportation? Based on numerous studies, the answer is no. There are much more effective ways than that.
For instance, the Liberal government has put in place infrastructure programs that make direct investments in public transit. Under the new deal for cities and communities we are making significant funding available to municipalities which they can use to address priorities such as public transit.
Since the mid-1990s the government has invested more than $12 billion in its infrastructure programs. These include programs such as the $4 billion Canada strategic infrastructure fund, the $2 billion infrastructure Canada program, and the $1 billion municipal rural infrastructure fund. We are using these infrastructure programs to fund projects across Canada, including public transit in our major urban centres. Let me take this opportunity to present some of these projects.
We have committed $450 million toward the RAV transit line which will link the city of Richmond and Vancouver International Airport with downtown Vancouver. This rail link is planned to be operational and in service in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics Games in British Columbia.
Significant federal funding is also being directed toward public transit projects in Toronto. Some $385 million is being provided to GO Transit to expand and improve its commuter services. A further $350 million has been committed to help modernize and invest in capital renewal of the Toronto Transit Commission.
We are also committing $103 million to renovate Montreal's metro.
The new deal for cities and communities is a priority for our government.
In fact, the first measures relating to this new deal were taken in 2004, including the full refund of the goods and services tax to municipalities. This measure will give municipalities new resources totalling some $7 billion over 10 years, which they can use for major infrastructure priorities such as public transit.
We decided to go even further. In the 2005 budget, we pursued our commitment to provide cities and communities with reliable, long term funding, to help them meet their needs. In particular, we confirmed that we would give them $5 billion over five years to support environmentally sustainable infrastructure, including public transit. The Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities is already negotiating with the provinces and territories to reach an agreement on this funding.
These investments, and others, will result in a significant improvement in public transit services all across Canada. The improvement of these services will encourage people who normally use their cars to switch to public transit.
One of the key environmental challenges facing the world today is that of climate change. The government recognizes the importance of addressing these challenges.
In April 2005 my colleagues the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Industry released “Moving Forward on Climate Change: A Plan for Honouring Our Kyoto Commitment” which will be used to guide the federal government's approach to implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I am pleased to report that key elements of this plan were funded in budget 2005.
These initiatives include $1 billion for an innovative Clean Fund to further stimulate cost-effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and—in the event that the national interest is at stake, and Canadian businesses are contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions—for projects elsewhere.
There is a $250 million partnership fund to deliver targeted support for large strategic projects that are jointly agreed upon priorities for the Government of Canada and provinces and territories.
There is an expansion of the wind power production incentive and a new renewable power production incentive to encourage the production of electricity from clean, renewable power sources.
They also include expansion of the EnerGuide for Houses retrofit incentive program. A total of 500,000 housing units will have benefited from this by 2010.
An estimated $295 million in enhanced tax incentives through accelerated capital cost allowance will encourage investment in efficient and renewable energy generation.
In addition, a plan to develop a sustainable energy science and technology strategy in conjunction with the provinces and territories is scheduled by the end of 2006.
There is also a $300 million enrichment of the green municipal fund, which makes investments in innovative green municipal projects in areas such as energy and water savings, urban transit and waste diversion to strengthen the sustainability of communities. Half of this amount will be targeted to the cleanup of brownfields, which are abandoned or idle properties where environmental contamination is known or suspected and where there is an active economic potential for redevelopment.
In total, budget 2005 targeted over $4 billion in investments over the next five years for key initiatives included in the climate change plan, bringing total federal spending in support of measures to address climate change to over $6 billion since 1997.
Existing climate change programming includes measures to support science, impacts and adaptation research, international work, policy development, public education and outreach, such as the one tonne challenge, and technology development and demonstration, such as funding for sustainable development technology Canada.
We understand that more action will be required in the future. The government has pledged to introduce additional measures as resources permit. We will continue to learn from our investments and international experience.
This government believes that the plan and climate change measures introduced in budget 2005, in combination with climate change initiatives already under way, will shift Canada toward a clean energy future and increase the efficiency, sustainability and international competitiveness of the Canadian economy, while moving toward our emissions reduction objectives under the Kyoto protocol.
Many initiatives will also be important to spur activities and to change behaviours in ways that mitigate climate change impacts and generate other environmental benefits, such as meeting Canadian objectives for reducing air pollution, since atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions often come from the same sources.
In addition to addressing the problem of climate change, our government wholly supports the conservation and improvement of our environment. The government's commitment to this is illustrated by the environmental initiatives announced in recent budgets, over and above those more directly related to climate change, which have exceeded $7 billion since 1997.
These investments include measures to clean up contaminated sites; to design, implement and enforce framework legislation such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Species at Risk Act; to improve air and water quality and to invest in the development of environmental technologies.
Our actions show that this government takes our environment very seriously. We have invested heavily in infrastructure programs. We are putting in place a new deal for cities and communities. We have provided significant resources to address climate change and have developed a climate change plan for Canada. Clearly, we are doing our part and we are doing it through much more effective ways than providing tax assistance for public transit.