Dion announces massive program to retrofit homes

BURNABY, B.C. – Liberal Leader Stephane Dion urged Canadians to take
a long-term view that Canada must reduce energy consumption as he
campaigned for his carbon tax Friday against a backdrop of soaring gas
prices and an onslaught of Conservative attacks on the Green Shift, the
centrepiece of his election platform.

On the lawns of a housing
co-op in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, where residents want to
replace a 26-year-old water and heating system with efficient, clean
energy, Dion unveiled his biggest platform promise to date, a
$575-million program to help Canadians make their homes and other
buildings more energy-efficient.

Dion said Friday morning a
Liberal government would provide up to $10,000 in tax credits to help
people retrofit their homes with insulation and energy-efficient
heating systems, doubling the benefits of the existing government
program.

 
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion visits a housing co-operative in Burnaby,B.C., on Friday.
Photograph by : Andy Clark/Reuters

It would also provide interest-free green mortgage loans of up to
$10,000 per household to help pay for upfront costs of major
energy-saving retrofits.

The program, to be implemented over four
years, also includes a $140-million retrofit partnership fund to help
upgrade low-income housing across Canada – including federally funded
co-operative housing – and to reduce energy costs for those least able
to pay.

The proposals were immediately endorsed by the Pembina
Institute – an environmental think-tank. Pembina argued massive
efficiencies are needed in Canadian buildings, which account for more
than 10 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions.

Dion
continued on the theme Friday afternoon after being greeted on the
lawns of the University of Victoria by dozens of placard-waving student
supporters – and a few others carrying Conservative signs.

During
a talk to a packed theatre of students and professors, Dion compared
the $600-million cost over four years of Harper’s two-cent tax cut on
diesel fuel with his $575-million proposed investment in green
retrofits.

He said Harper is trying to buy people’s votes and "underestimating the Canadian people.

"We need to choose between the gimmicks and the vision," he said.

During
a question-and-answer session with the students, Dion had harsh words
for Harper’s statement Thursday that the Liberals’ Green shift plan
jeopardizes national unity. Every policy difference is not a unity
issue, he said.

"I think it’s shameful and for only this reason we should stop to consider this man as a leader for our country," he said.

Earlier
Friday, Dion dismissed Harper’s promise to cut two cents off the
four-cent excise tax on a litre of diesel fuel. He said the price had
already risen two cents since Harper made the campaign promise.

"Mr. Harper himself today admitted that the price of oil and gas will continue to grow," Dion said.

"He
said it’s unavoidable. So what is his strategy, then, for Canada? What
is his strategy to help our families to cope with this problem today
and tomorrow for our children and grandchildren? We are one of the less
energy-efficient countries of the world."

Dion’s proposed carbon
tax is aimed at discouraging use of oil, diesel and other fossil fuels
by raising taxes on them and using the $15 billion in revenues to
reduce income and business taxes and provide incentives for use of
clean energy.

He said Harper is hard up to find an economist who
agrees with his charge Thursday that the Green Shift plan will be a
"catastrophe" for the Canadian economy if it’s enacted.

"He’s fighting a shadow opponent because he’s afraid to fight me and the truth," Dion declared.

He
said people warm to his environmental plan to tackle climate change as
soon as they understand it’s a tax shift and not a tax increase for
most Canadians.

"You say to people, ‘We’ll tax you less on what you like – your income – and we’ll shift it to pollution," he said.

The
Liberal leader called B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell a "hero" for his
government’s environmental policy, including a controversial carbon tax.

"B.C. will be, for the fight against climate change, what Saskatchewan has been for medicare. It will be a pioneer," he said.

In
the evening, Dion addressed more than 650 supporters who attended a
dinner in the riding of liberal incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal in Surrey, B.C..

Dion
won thunderous applause for calling for an apology in the House of
Commons for the 1914 exclusionary federal policy under which a ship
full of Sikhs called the Komagata Maru  was turned away from shores of
B.C. and 20 people died.

Harper recently apologized in a park in Surrey outraging thousands of Sikhs and others who expected it to happen in the Commons.

Dion said the apology must be in Parliament, "not in a park or in a press release, but in the house of Commons."

Dion also received an endorsement of his own Friday, with renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman pledging his support.

Bateman
said he has long advocated for the need to stop subsidizing things that
are bad for the environment and to financially support activities that
benefit the environment.

Dion also dismissed Friday a report, as
did Green Leader Elizabeth May, that they have a pact to try to channel
voters from each other’s party to try to block Stephen Harper’s
Conservatives from winning the Oct. 14 election.

The pact
reported in a Montreal newspaper, La Presse, would have them each
directing supporters to whichever party’s candidate has the best chance
to defeat a Conservative candidate. Dion said all his arrangements with
May are open and transparent.

 

© Canwest News Service 2008