Interventions in Committee
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Kathleen Cooper
View Kathleen Cooper Profile
Kathleen Cooper
2015-06-18 15:48
First of all, to tell you about the Canadian Environmental Law Association, we're a non-profit public interest organization specializing in environmental law. We're also a legal aid clinic within Ontario. We provide legal representation to low-income individuals and vulnerable communities.
Then we have law reform priorities, and in setting our strategic priorities, one of those is environment and human health. In deciding within that large topic how to set priorities, we take a population health approach, the same as Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and public health agencies everywhere do. You set priorities by focusing on issues where large numbers of people are potentially or directly affected or where you have serious outcomes.
You can't get much more serious than a known carcinogen where there's strong science. Radon, as I'm sure you're going to hear later as well, is in a class by itself compared to most other environmental carcinogens. That's why we've focused on radon.
I'm going to speak today to a report we prepared last year, “Radon in Indoor Air: A Review of Policy and Law in Canada”. I believe you've been circulated the media release that was issued the day we released the report. That's all I was able to have translated given the time pressure of meeting with you today.
We canvassed policy and law across Canada at the federal and provincial levels and looked at jurisdictions and roles. We focused on public buildings and building codes, looked at other relevant provincial policy and law and the associated common law, and made a number of recommendations, but I'll focus today on just the recommendations we made with respect to the federal government.
Overall, our findings were that Canadians need better legal protection from radon. We found a patchwork of inconsistent and mostly unenforceable guidance.
For the federal government, we found that really important leadership has occurred, and Kelley Bush from Health Canada will provide some details on that for you today, although we definitely made recommendations for more that can be done. At the provincial and territorial level, where actually most jurisdiction lies, we found a wide range of laws that need to be updated or that contain gaps or ambiguities. There's very limited case law, which points to the need for improving a law or for law reform. I won't get into detail on what's been done at the federal level on radon, although the report does, because Kelley will be doing that for you later on.
Just in summary, under the national radon program there has been very valuable research, testing, and mapping of high -radon areas. The guideline for indoor radon was updated in 2007. The national building code was updated with respect to radon provisions, there's a certification program for radon mitigators, and there has been a national campaign to urge the testing by Canadians of their homes. It's recommended that every home in Canada be tested.
We recommended, to build on that important work, that there really is a logical next step here. Through the work of the Green Budget Coalition this past year, we recommended a tax credit for radon remediation. We recommended that the Income Tax Act add a tax credit for radon mitigation of up to $3,000 for individual Canadians, so long as it's done by a certified expert under the national program. That was not included in the budget, although we think it's still a very good idea. We had some very positive response from the federal officials we spoke to about it.
We also recommended that there be clearer messaging about radon, and that we use words like “radiation” and “radioactivity” because they are accurate and are what people understand more in terms of the risks of radiation and radon. We also recommended that there be better data sharing nationally between the federal government and the provinces and territories in terms of the testing that's done, along with the sharing of information that's paid for nationally, and that information be available publicly.
In terms of recommendations for federal action as well, we note that the David Suzuki Foundation report that came out just last month says the World Health Organization has recommended a lower level of 100 for indoor radon. Currently, our federal level is 200 becquerels per cubic metre. We definitely supported that recommendation and recommend that the federal government reduce the indoor radon guideline to 100.
The other two areas I want to touch on that are relevant to your investigation here have to do with the Canada Labour Code and the need to update it as well, and also the need for improving the uptake across Canada of the naturally occurring radioactive materials guidelines, the NORM guidelines. I'm going to speak to those two areas now.
Under the Canada Labour Code, there is the only legally enforceable limit for radon in Canada that's broadly applicable, but it's only for federally regulated workplaces and it remains at an outdated level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre. We think it should be brought down to the federal reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre to begin with, and we think that level should come down to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. On the updating of that level, apparently what was going to happen in 2015 now sounds like it's going to happen in 2016, so it would be great if your committee recommended speeding up that process.
In terms of the NORM guidelines, these are guidelines that were prepared by a federal-provincial-territorial committee. We interviewed occupational health and safety inspectors across Canada and found a lot of confusion and uncertainty about workplace radon rules or whether the NORM guidelines apply. In fact, they apply to every workplace in Canada. In any indoor space that is a workplace, including the room in which you are sitting, those guidelines apply.
However, it's a reactive, complaint-driven system. Inspectors get few or no complaints because there is a lack of awareness, so they don't take enforcement action. Also, some inspectors didn't think that radon was an occupational health and safety issue at all. They said that enforcement action was unlikely because the only agreed-upon levels for radiation are those for radiation-exposed workers. That is just not accurate, so we've made recommendations in response to that situation.
Turning to the recommendations we made with respect to the Canada Labour Code, as I've mentioned, it should be brought up to date swiftly. It's out of date by many years and still at that level of 800 becquerels per cubic metre.
With respect to radon, we recommended that the federal-provincial-territorial radiation protection committee, which deals with far more than radon—it deals with a whole manner of radiation exposure issues—convene a task force for occupational health and safety inspectors across the country so that there is clarity and there is a more generalized consistent application of those NORM guidelines to ensure worker health and safety. The consequences of that inconsistent application are that you're going to have uneven worker protection across the country and the possibility that people are overexposed, both in the workplace and in their homes, if they happen to be unlucky enough to have high radon levels in both of those indoor locations where they live and work. Related to that, we made a range of recommendations about provincial labour codes, which I won't get into.
In another area of occupational exposure, with respect to radon mitigators, we also recommended that CAREX Canada, who you're going to hear from later today, undertake, with the Canadian national radon proficiency program, research and dosimetry monitoring for radon mitigators so that we can make sure their workplaces are safe as well.
Just to recap on the findings in this report and to recommend to you to take up some of these recommendations in your deliberations on this topic, we found a need for greater legal requirements rather than guidance in this area for several reasons, including the need to underscore the seriousness of the problem and to support public outreach messages by the federal government and by other organizations who you're going to hear from today, including the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment.
Also, there's a need for legal requirements to require testing in public buildings and to ensure public access to that information. As well, there's the need to correct that inconsistent response among both the public health and the occupational health and safety inspectors and to provide them with tools to take action with respect to radon. As I mentioned, we found limited to no case law under either statutes or common law. We also found that improving the law or law reform is a better remedy than costly and situation-specific litigation to resolve radon problems.
Then, as I mentioned, there's a need for specific federal government action, including updating that federal guideline and putting in place a tax credit to help Canadians undertake radon mitigation when they have high levels, updating that Canada Labour Code, and ensuring the NORM guidelines are applied.
We've calculated the health care savings from prevented lung cancer deaths. If all homes in Canada were mitigated to the level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, you'd see more than $17 million a year in savings through prevented lung cancer deaths. It likely would be double that if you were to reduce the level to 100 becquerels per cubic metre. Then, of course, anyone who works in cancer will tell you that the indirect costs are five times higher than the direct costs, so a lot of savings are possible there, along with the avoidance of the pain and suffering associated with lung cancer.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
I'd like to start by continuing the questioning from Ms. Moore regarding labelling of homes. As you say in your notes, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radon in group 1, which means we know it's carcinogenic.
This is a question for everybody. Do you think houses should be labelled once they've been tested and that before and after remediation perhaps one could have a different label?
Kathleen Cooper
View Kathleen Cooper Profile
Kathleen Cooper
2015-06-18 16:28
We looked at the provincial statutes, which I didn't get into in my presentation, and there is home warranty legislation in several provinces that says new homes are statutorily deemed to come with what are called “implied warranties of habitability”. In that case, it would mean that they had followed the building code, and the building code requirements largely have been or are being updated across the country to incorporate the national building code requirements for radon.
When you talk about existing homes, that's a little trickier, because when you sell a home, you have similar kinds of disclosure statements and requirements, and they may or may not provide information about radon. I think the idea is intriguing.
I think it would be better if we were to increase this awareness. One of the reasons we wanted that income tax credit was for the federal government to send a strong signal to the public to take the issue more seriously, get their homes tested, get them remediated if the levels are high, and have a tax break to be able to accommodate it.
I'm sorry; I'm drifting a little bit from your question.
Kelley Bush
View Kelley Bush Profile
Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:30
The only thing I can add is that under the national radon program we have worked with the Canadian Real Estate Association, and they now do have guidance that they provide with regard to radon. Based on our discussions with other countries, such as the U.S., that have had a national radon program in place for longer, with regard to.... Every home has radon. It's not a question of whether or not it's in there. I don't know about labelling, but I can tell you—
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, on labelling, if you've done a test, presumably the results of the test are there.
Kelley Bush
View Kelley Bush Profile
Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:30
When we get calls from members of the public who have tested their home and are concerned because they want to sell it but they've mitigated it, our response to them is that everything that we've seen in the U.S. in regard to what they can communicate is that they've addressed the issue, they've made their home a healthier home, and it's a value-add. That's what they've seen in the U.S. It doesn't impact it in that way. I don't know if that directly answers your question.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Maybe I'll try another question. You mentioned that Health Canada has studied the effects of energy retrofits on radon. My question is about whether there's a synergy. We want to encourage energy retrofits for other reasons, and I'm wondering in terms of these two issues, energy efficiency and exposure to radon, whether there's some synergy in promoting both at the same time.
Kelley Bush
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Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:32
That is absolutely what Health Canada's looking at with the research we're doing, from two perspectives. From the perspective of the work that's being done to retrofit a home, is there an opportunity to build radon out in that situation? Secondly, with regard to what's being done to retrofit and seal up the home, is there a risk of increasing the radon level in the home? That research is still ongoing so we don't have all of the results.
Tom Kosatsky
View Tom Kosatsky Profile
Tom Kosatsky
2015-06-18 16:43
You know, anyway, that smoking causes lung cancer in smokers. You probably also know that to a degree it causes lung cancer in people who live with smokers. I won't really talk about either of those things, but if you can get to the slide that's marked “Lung Cancer in Lifelong Non-Smokers”, you'll see that there is a new thing that's been described only over the last, about, 10 years, which is lung cancer in lifelong non-smokers, something which, before this committee invited me to speak with you, I didn't know much about. It turns out that it's a whole other disease. It has some similarities to smokers' lung cancer but some very important differences.
The geography is different. It's a huge phenomenon in Asia and in Asians in Canada. It has a female predominance, so there are far more lung cancers in female non-smokers than in male non-smokers. The age distribution is different, so it tends to present itself at a much younger age than smokers' lung cancers do. The cell types, the cancer types are different. The typical small cell squamous lung cancer that you see in smokers, you don't get in non-smokers. You get a whole different cell type and cell shape. The genetics are different, so there is some family relationship. It's not very strong, but there's a very strong genetic relationship based on genetic analysis. You can almost predict who's going to get it, which is a really important thing. Further, it tends to be much more symptomatic at diagnosis than is lung cancer in smokers. The five-year survival, oddly, is better, even though it presents later, for non-smokers' lung cancer than for smokers' lung cancer. In many ways it's a different disease.
Radon-related lung cancer is somewhere intermediate, because, as I'm going to say, most radon-related lung cancers occur in smokers. The question of whether it is more cost-efficient to stop smoking was right on the mark.
The next one is called “Principal risk factors (excluding occupational exposure)”, only because you asked. There are a number of conditions, including radon exposure, that are associated with non-smokers' lung cancer, like the history in your family. It's associated with hormone use in women. It's associated with environmental tobacco smoke. It's associated, to a degree, with air pollution. It's associated with cooking-oil fumes, so indoor cooking over a long period of time. It's associated in Asia and Africa with domestic heating by wood and wood products in the home. Those are also associated with lung cancer. Something that I didn't know much about before is that it's associated with lung infections like tuberculosis and other lung infections over a long period of time. It's also, like so many of the other bad things in life, associated with being poor. Getting lung cancer is associated with being poor, even if you eliminate all the other stuff. To a degree it's mitigated or prevented by a diet high in fruits and vegetables, so eat your leafy greens, eat your fruit, and you're less likely to get lung cancer no matter what else you do.
The next one is an American slide. It has a little American flag, and it looks at the attributable percentage of lung cancer by cause. For active smoking, it's 90%. For radon exposure in the U.S., it is between 9% and 15%, and in Canada it's estimated at 15%. For workplace carcinogen exposure, it's 10%. For air pollution, it's 1% to 2%. That adds up to more than 100% because, as you'll see, some of those causes add to or multiply each other. If you're exposed to radon, don't smoke. If you smoke, don't be exposed to radon.
Non-smokers' lung cancer is a really important cause of lung cancer. It's about number six in terms of all the causes. Radon-related lung cancer—this is U.S. data but for Canada it would be the same—is number eight. How could that be? It could be because smoking and radon exposure are interactive, so one multiplies or adds to the effect of the other. That leads, in any case, to non-smokers' lung cancer being a very bad issue.
Any radon exposure is bad news, not just at over 200. An artificial limit, no matter what it is, is not very useful for lowering the whole population's exposure. It would be better if we were all exposed to less radon rather than picking one area, maybe for convenience, or one level. It may be good for convenience, but it's not a really useful population health measure. For the whole population, it would be better if we were all exposed to less radon. It's a linear relationship. The more radon you're exposed to and the longer you're exposed, the more likely you are to get lung cancer.
The other thing is that, as I was saying, the more you smoke the more it interacts. On the last slide, which I made up using Canadian data, most radon-associated lung cancers occur in smokers. If you've never smoked, as you get up to high levels, like interior B.C. levels, of radon about 36 people out of 1,000 exposed to those levels would get lung cancer. On the other hand if there was no radon exposure and you did smoke, about 100 people would get lung cancer. If you add the two together, you're exposed to a high level of radon and you smoke, 270 people exposed to those two for their whole lives, smoking and radon, will get lung cancer. It's 270 out of 1,000 people; that's tremendous.
How can you lower it? The number one way to lower it is to stop smoking or to never have smoked. The number two way to lower it is to lower your radon exposure, and you'll do that for everybody in the population. The less smoking there is, the less radon there is, the less lung cancer there will be, to the point that as we lower the level of smoking exposure, radon will become a more important cause of lung cancer. But there will be a lot less lung cancer. If we eliminate smoking, there will be less lung cancer in general, but all of these other causes other than smoking will increase in focus. The big issue is the interaction, the doubling, tripling, quadrupling, or really octupling effect, because it's an eight-time effect, of smoking and radon will go away.
What's been the Canadian public health stance on radon? Before the year 2007, it was pretty passive and largely seen as a private issue. Health Canada was helpful. They gave advice when people asked for it. That was at the time of the 800 becquerels per metre cubed, or 800 disintegrations per second per metre cubed level, which is what a becquerel is. Then when the level was lowered a more active stance was taken. Health Canada was involved with large-scale testing across the country to establish a radon profile across the country so that we knew what our levels were likely to be. They were much more active in terms of giving advice, and with this lower guideline, they promoted it and they encouraged “test and remediate”. Test and remediate to me is not the way to go. The way to go is to build it out in the first place.
If you look at this complicated Ontario slide, Ontario looked at levels of radon across the province and how many cases of lung cancer could be saved by doing something for those above 200 becquerels per metre cubed, by adopting 100 becquerels per metre cubed, by adopting 50 becquerels per metre cubed—all of which are attainable—or by going to as low a level possible and getting close to outdoor air levels, which are relatively benign. At 200 becquerels per metre cubed, if every Ontario resident got their house from that point down to outdoor levels, 2% of all the lung cancers in Ontario would be averted. If you got down from current levels above 200, if everybody tested and remediated and they successfully got their house down to background or no radon, it would avert 2% of all lung cancers. If all houses in Ontario with any level of radon in them could get down to outdoor levels, we'd get rid of 13% of all Ontario lung cancer deaths. If there were a way to do it, why not do that? Why not get it down lower?
The next slide looks at the change in levels of radon over time. This is Dutch data. Canada would be the same. Yes, as we've made our buildings tighter, radon levels have increased. This is even more reason to look at the joint effects of building changes on radon.
Tom Kosatsky
View Tom Kosatsky Profile
Tom Kosatsky
2015-06-18 16:53
I can finish in one minute.
Even if everybody tested, and everybody whose house was over 200 did remediation, we'd only touch lung cancer in Canada in a minor way. So what should we do? We should and we can build radon out. The new building code, the guidance levels, and provincial adoption help but only in a minor way. It would really help if we installed fans along with this dead-end piece of plastic that's part of the new building code, vent the radon out, and have very low levels in people's houses. People wouldn't tamper with it. You'd live in a low radon house. You wouldn't have to label it. You would know it when you moved in.
It will take years before every new house in Canada has a low radon level, but at least our children and grandchildren won't have this scourge. It's much more cost-effective to do that than it is to mitigate. The cost is much lower per house, and it will have long-lasting effects on the house itself.
What should we do? We should adopt a population approach, look at the whole population and not just the people who have a lot of radon in their houses. We should question the current guideline and lower it to as low as reasonably possible. We should legislate radon-resilient building stock, so we could build radon out of new buildings. People who live in existing houses will say, “How come my neighbour has this house? I want that too.” That would be the best encouragement for people themselves to test and remediate.
We should use provincial authorities for day care centres, schools, and workplaces to emulate what goes on there in our own houses, and we should integrate the anti-smoking and radon-lowering messages, because if we have no smoking and no radon, we will have almost no lung cancer, the number one cause of cancer deaths in this country.
That's the message. Thank you for hearing me.
Anne-Marie Nicol
View Anne-Marie Nicol Profile
Anne-Marie Nicol
2015-06-18 17:06
You should also have a slide deck from me. It says “Radon and Lung Cancer” on it. I recognize I am the very last person, and I appreciate your persistence. Luckily many people have also spoken to a number of the points that I wish to discuss, so I will go very quickly over the first few slides.
I am an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. I also work at the National Collaborating Centre with Tom and Sarah, and I also run CAREX Canada, which is the carcinogen surveillance system funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. I am here because we prioritized Canadians' exposure to environmental carcinogens and the leading causes of cancer-related deaths from environmental exposures, and radon gas was by far the most significant carcinogen. I admit that when I started my research at CAREX, I had never heard of radon gas either. When I went back into the literature, I realized that over time Canada has actually played a very important role in understanding radon and lung cancer.
The data from many of the studies that were done on uranium miners, at Eldorado and even here in Ontario, has been used to determine the relationship between exposure and lung cancer. We've actually been on the forefront of this issue but very much in an academic context rather than in a public health context.
We've already discussed the fact that the WHO notes that this is a significant carcinogen. I would also like to point out that agencies around the world are coming to the conclusion that radon is more dangerous than they had previously thought. In 1993 we had a certain understanding about the relationship between radon gas and lung cancer. That's doubled. The slope that Tom was talking about used to go like this and now it goes like this. Radon is now known to be much more dangerous than we had originally thought. The reason for that is that radon is actually an alpha-particle emitter.
We are a uranium-rich country. Uranium is in the soil and as it breaks down there is a point at which it becomes a gas. That means it becomes movable within the soil. That gas itself gives off alpha radiation, which is a very dangerous form of radiation that can damage DNA. On the next slide you'll see both direct and indirect damage to DNA. This information is compliments of Dr. Aaron Goodarzi. We actually have a Canada research chair studying this at the moment in Alberta.
The next slide, on radiation and DNA damage, shows that alpha radiation is powerful. It doesn't penetrate very far, so if it hits our skin, it doesn't do as much damage as it does if it gets into our lungs. Our lungs are very sensitive. The lining of our lungs is sensitive and when the cells in them are irradiated, they get damaged. Alpha particles are very destructive. The damage is akin to having a cannon go through DNA. That kind of damage is hard to repair, and as a result the probability of genetic mutations and cancer goes up.
The next slide is on strategies for reducing risk. Just to recap, the kind of damage done by the radiation emitted from radon is significant. The damage is difficult for the body to repair once radon is in the lungs.
The next slide is on education and priority setting. Radon does exist across the country. People have developed radon-potential maps. This one is compliments of Radon Environmental where they've looked at where uranium exists and where the potential for higher-breakdown products is, although we do recognize that every home is different. Also there's a map of the United States to show that we are not alone in this and that the states that are on the border have a similar kind of radon profile to that found in Canada. We know that under our current Canadian strategies, we need to educate not just the public but ourselves. Most public health professionals have never heard of radon. When we do work out in public health units, environmental health inspectors, public health inspectors, and medical health officers are still unaware that radon is dangerous. Many bureaucrats and ministries of health are unaware that radon is dangerous.
Also health researchers are only really beginning to do work in this area across the country. In order to have building codes changed, people need to know why you're changing them. We need testing and remediation training. People need to understand why they're actually doing this kind of work.
Kelley Bush alluded to the fact that they've been tracking awareness among the population. This is done by Statistics Canada. The next slide shows a representative Canadian sample. It's been done since 2007 actually, but these are results for 2009 onward. You can see that about 10% of the population were aware of radon. That's gone up to about 30%. This is the number of people who know what radon is and can accurately describe it. We're still at around 30% of the population who know that radon can cause lung cancer.
Health Canada does recommend that everybody test their homes. The next slide, which is also using data collected by Statistics Canada, clearly shows that very few people have tested their homes. Less than 10% of Canadians across the country have tested their homes. We have had a radon awareness program since 2007, so why aren't people testing? We don't have regulatory requirements, as Kathleen Cooper stated earlier. People need to be aware and motivated to change. It's up to the consumer. We have left it up to the consumer to test their own home.
I believe things like denial, the invisible nature of the gas, and people simply being unaware contribute to this. Test kits are still not that readily available across the country. You can phone and ask where you can find them, but they're not always there. In rural regions it's much harder for people to get access to test kits. People then fear the downstream costs of remediating—i.e., I don't want to go in there because I don't know how much it's going to cost me to fix my basement. In some cases the costs can be somewhat considerable, depending on the structure of the home.
Turning to the next slide, I believe to reduce the lung cancer risk from radon gas we need more leadership. The government can legitimate this as a risk. It's something that people don't know about, and we need to take a stronger role in getting people more engaged in this topic. It's not just Health Canada; it's all levels of government—ministries of health, provinces, municipalities. We need to be training people in the trades so they know what they're doing when they're building those radon-resistant homes, and why. Why is that pipe important? Why is that fan important? Again, we need to build radon out, going forward.
Other countries have shown that providing financial assistance works. People will energy-retrofit their home because they get a rebate, but the energy retrofit does increase radon levels. There is clear evidence that this exists. The tighter your home, the more the radon gas remains in your home. In Manitoba they're doing research to look at that at the moment. In Manitoba, though, you can also now get a rebate through Manitoba Hydro to do radon remediation. Some parts of the country are starting, but we need to be offering some kind of incentive for citizens to do this.
I would also like to put in a plug for workplace exposure, because I do study workplace exposure and radon. There are places in the country where people work underground, or in basements and even ground-level buildings, where radon levels are high. Some of these are federal government workers. We need more testing and remediation for workplaces.
That's it. Thank you.
View Lawrence Toet Profile
I just wanted to touch on one of the items that came up from Ms. Nicol.
You talked about why people weren't testing and one of the things I heard was this whole aspect of labelling. Was that part of what you did in any of that research?
One of my concerns with the whole labelling aspect, which we already run into now, is the stigma with homes that have been remediated from grow-ops. You have this stigma in Manitoba that a house will carry for the rest of its life. You could have spent $100,000 remediating the house and going right back to the basics and it will still carry that label for the rest of its life. You can't even get a mortgage for that house. Is that one of the things you've also heard people are afraid of with this whole radon thing, that if we start to label it, we're going to run into this same issue where that house will carry the stigma for its lifespan?
Anne-Marie Nicol
View Anne-Marie Nicol Profile
Anne-Marie Nicol
2015-06-18 17:33
I think one of the things that the real estate agents are concerned about is that if someone has a house that tests high, then no one is going to want to purchase that house. But the evidence in the States where there are requirements for disclosure has been that people actually prefer a house that's already been fixed. With the corollary of asbestos, if you bought a house that had asbestos but has now been remediated, you're going to feel much better about being in that house than having to start from the beginning and testing it yourself.
It doesn't appear to be a stigma, at least in the United States, where people are required to disclose whether or not a house has been tested.
Mary Jane Patterson
View Mary Jane Patterson Profile
Mary Jane Patterson
2015-06-09 8:57
Good morning, committee members, staff, and Mr. Zilberbrant. Greetings from Waterloo region.
I am honoured to be part of this discussion today and am very interested in this topic. Our observation as a non-profit is that the private sector is ready and willing to partner and to show leadership, not only by sometimes sponsoring our work but many times by participating in it as well.
I work for REEP Green Solutions, an environmental non-profit organization that serves the Waterloo region. We focus on energy and water sustainability. In particular, we've delivered the EnerGuide for houses home energy evaluations for 16 years. We've now been in 14,000 homes in Waterloo region and participants in our program are collectively saving 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually through their home energy upgrades.
Some of the work we're doing is cutting edge and actually similar to what you described, Mr. Zilberbrant, such as climate change adaptation to prevent flooding and to protect our streams and rivers. When a business gets involved in one of our programs as a participant or a delivery partner, they're showing leadership because together we're helping to establish a new norm of behaviour in our community. The strongest most effective programs we've seen have government policy and incentives as their foundation. In other words, you have two legs of the stool in the description of this study: the private sector and non-profit organizations. I propose that we add a third leg, and that is government policy and incentives.
I want to give you examples from our stormwater program and our energy efficiency work to make three points. First is that private sector partners strengthen our impact. Second, government policy and incentives are an essential foundation for this work, and third, these programs are good for the economy.
Let me give you a recent example involving a bank as a partner and a property management company as a participant in our RAIN program. RAIN is an ecological approach to stormwater management. We had the pleasure last week of receiving a cheque for $5,000 from RBC to support a rain garden party at a six-plex residential building in Kitchener. Rain gardens are a creative and beautiful way to reduce flood risk and protect our streams and rivers by soaking up and slowing down stormwater. Although they're not new technology, they are cutting edge in terms of public adoption.
The private sector leadership in this case is twofold. One is the property owner doing something new and different to solve a flooding problem on his property, and the other is RBC showing their private sector leadership by helping our organization turn this single action into a living classroom in the community so that neighbours can come to our training session and a work party.
RBC receives positive recognition and the staff feel part of making their community better. I can say that this was really clear when we went to get the cheque. All the staff had blue T-shirts on and there were giant blue raindrops suspended from the ceiling with tips on how to conserve water. They were really proud of what their company was doing for the community.
What really made this project possible was the third leg of this stool: government funding and an incentive. Our work in stormwater management began with funding from the Province of Ontario and it continues now under contract with the municipalities. The local government also provided an incentive of $4,000 to the property owner to encourage uptake of this kind of project so that it can become a public demonstration of innovative stormwater management practices.
The third leg in the stool is really the first one. The government's role is very important in these partnerships to steer us to the future we want for our country and for our communities. We need good public policy based in evidence to provide a framework for private and non-sector action, and incentives to help put these policies into practice.
At REEP we often work with small and medium-sized businesses. If I look at it from their perspective, I see that they want to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the community. They want to increase their sales. They want to be responsible corporations, and sometimes, they also want to solve a problem on their property that we can help them with. In all of these cases, they're looking for ways that their goals intersect with the public good.
We want the public good to be well defined. Otherwise, we risk public sector investment going to activities that look good for public relations reasons but don't contribute to the end results we want for our country and our community.
One of the best examples I've seen of the private sector, the non-profit sector, and the government working together has been the ecoENERGY home energy efficiency program. The federal government provided the financial incentive to homeowners to spur them to action. They based it on a third party audit to benchmark and verify the results. REEP was one of the many service providers for that audit. A number of them were non-profit also. Renovation contractors were essential additional private sector actors providing the retrofits for these homes.
We worked closely with renovation contractors during that time. All of us were really proud to be part of a government-led initiative that we brought our local strength to. The contractors were key partners who helped spread the word about the program and spur uptake. They also benefited economically. We think somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million would have been spent in our community to implement those retrofits over the years. We really cannot underestimate the economic value of these programs and the jobs they create and sustain.
The ecoENERGY incentive ended in 2011, and there hasn't been anywhere near the retrofit activity in our community there was before. At REEP we used to do 100 energy evaluations a month. Now we barely do that in a year. It doesn't mean there aren't home energy retrofits happening, but there really isn't anything to spur homeowners who are putting it off to do it now, or to move it up higher in their priority list, or to access those people who aren't planning to do it already.
We've really looked for ways ourselves to encourage home energy retrofits in the absence of the incentive. For example, we've talked to our electric and natural gas utilities about working together, and in some ways, we are. But what we've heard from them is that they're really focusing on the commercial sector rather than the residential sector, because that's where they have the easiest gains and the greatest impact.
Some homeowner-targeted programs continue in some areas, but they're not able to have the impact the federal incentive was able to have. This demonstrates to me the importance of the federal government being at the table to provide a framework that makes sure key sectors or issues are not left out because they're harder to address. If you look at the residential sector, it accounts for 50% of our natural gas consumption in the Waterloo region and 30% of our electricity consumption. That's a really significant sector that we want to address.
I'll give you one more example of private sector leadership, in this case spurred by a Natural Resources Canada call for proposals. REEP is partnering with two businesses in the Waterloo region, Mindscape Innovations and Scaled Purpose, for a proposal to NRCan to encourage home energy retrofits by providing both a retrofit coach to help people through the process and innovative community-based financing to help address the capital cost.
We are proud to partner with these two local businesses, and very pleased that we may have the support of the federal government to provide this pilot, but I know that each gain and every retrofit will be hard won, because there really isn't anything like a federal incentive to motivate action by homeowners. If this approach had the support of a federal incentive to build on, then it could really fly. I feel sometimes like we're trying to build something in mid-air. We really need a foundation for the residential sector from the federal level to make things happen.
My conclusion is that the third leg of the stool is really critical. The private sector is ready and willing to partner, and their input really makes the impact much stronger. We can make that generosity and corporate innovation count most when there's a solid public policy foundation based in evidence that steers us forward together. Then we as non-profits and our private sector partners have something to build on. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, working together not only for our community but for our country, for our country's climate action plan. It becomes an economic stimulus and an environment benefit rolled into one powerful package.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I'm looking forward to the discussion.
View Stephen Woodworth Profile
Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome to the witnesses.
I'm sorry you can't be here with us in person, but I'm glad that you both had an opportunity to present your point of view and get some things on the record federally.
I especially welcome Ms. Patterson. I hope you don't mind if I call you Mary Jane. I'm very, very glad to have had the opportunity in this study to bring you here to talk about how non-profits partner with the private sector. You know that I'm a big fan of the work that you do and I'm really glad to get a chance to put some of this on the record federally.
I'd like to begin by asking you to describe the REEP House for sustainable living. First of all, describe what it is and its purposes, and also then tell us what role the private sector had in helping you to arrange that demonstration house.
Ms. Patterson, please.
Mary Jane Patterson
View Mary Jane Patterson Profile
Mary Jane Patterson
2015-06-09 9:08
Well, I'd be glad to and I did have that in the text of my remarks but I cut it out, because I knew I had to speak more slowly for the translators. So thank you for asking.
The REEP House for Sustainable Living is a 100-year-old house in the heart of Kitchener that has been renovated to reduce its energy consumption by 86%. It's one of very few renovated homes that are LEED platinum certified in Canada. It is part of our efforts to continue to encourage home owners to retrofit their homes by showing them in practice some of the things that we recommend in our home energy evaluations.
One of the things that's the most popular is the insulation room. We have a whole wall with different kinds of insulation displayed with the drywall removed so you can see each different type. We explain the R-value and the cost and the impact, and some of the environmental implications of each type.
As you pointed out, Stephen, there is a really neat combination of people who came together to make the REEP House possible, starting with the federal government grant during the stimulus funding time, and matched with provincial grants and local government, and then many private sector partners came together with us to do this.
I can mention, for example, Reitzel Insulation, a company in Kitchener that we had often worked with in the ecoENERGY program. They insulated the whole house for a value of about $16,000 as an in-kind contribution to the project. There are a number of other contractors who either provided lower prices for us or things at cost, or even outright contributions, to make that project happen.
View Stephen Woodworth Profile
Have you disseminated this technology and this information to building contractors in the Waterloo region area, and how has that effort been going?
Mary Jane Patterson
View Mary Jane Patterson Profile
Mary Jane Patterson
2015-06-09 9:10
We do get contractors coming in. Our focus is more on helping home owners understand how to choose between different types of insulation they encounter, but we continue to work with contractors, and sometimes they send their customers to the house so they can see the different options.
View Stephen Woodworth Profile
Very good.
I think the idea is to demonstrate to the building industry and to residential consumers that the kinds of technology, not just insulation but other kinds of technology, in the demonstration house will in fact pay back many times over, over time. Is that correct?
Mary Jane Patterson
View Mary Jane Patterson Profile
Mary Jane Patterson
2015-06-09 9:11
Yes, that's one of the important parts of the demonstration. The title of it is: “What do you want your annual heating bill to be?” We show under each type of insulation and also with a bare or wall—which is how we found the house—what the heating costs are, what it costs to upgrade with each type, and what the payback would be.
View Megan Leslie Profile
View Megan Leslie Profile
2015-06-09 9:37
Actually, Madam LeBlanc....
Sorry, but we're trying to be fair. Madam LeBlanc isn't here all the time and it's nice to have her here, but I do have a couple of questions, so thanks.
I want to start with Ms. Patterson. You said some really intriguing things in your testimony. Where do I start?
I want to explore this idea of a retrofit coach that you talked about. Also, I can't remember which organization it was, but you talked about another organization starting to focus on the commercial side because they felt they could get there and make some progress on the commercial side versus the residential side.
All of that is to say that I have a long background in energy efficiency. I was part of the community group of stakeholders for the EGLIH, the EnerGuide for low-income households, program that never actually saw the light of day. I'm very familiar with EnerGuide and ecoENERGY—I don't care what people call it—retrofits that are supported by the federal government.
When you talked about the need for a retrofit coach and about moving to the commercial instead of residential side, it really made me think about why people aren't just doing this. Why do they need an organization to help them? Why do they need incentives? Why do they need a retrofit coach? Even for the commercial side, you always hear this line that if businesses can save money, they're going to do it. But they're not. They're not engaging in energy efficiency without the help of incredible organizations on the ground. Why do we need these energy efficiency organizations?
Mary Jane Patterson
View Mary Jane Patterson Profile
Mary Jane Patterson
2015-06-09 9:39
Okay, there are a couple of parts there. I'll start with the residential, but I have some observations on the small business side also.
On the residential side, I guess one of the first things you learn when you enter this kind of work on energy efficiency and, broadly, environmental action is that human beings don't make decisions logically all the time or even often. There are many things that make us act otherwise.
Our work is rooted in something called community-based social marketing. The idea is that together we're creating a new social norm and that sometimes social norms are the things holding us back. When we don't see anybody else doing something, it feels weird, and we feel out of place. So, even though it's logical to do something, there could be a number of barriers that prevent us from doing it.
When we look at home energy retrofits, we've identified maybe three top barriers. One is the cost, especially the upfront capital cost, even though you know you're going to be paying it back over time.
A second one is knowledge, knowing what to do. That's where the home energy evaluation is really key. Many people think that if they replace their windows, they're going to solve the problem. One of the things we can let them know is that a window has a very low R-value. You can increase the R-value by making it double-paned or triple-paned or by adding features, but for the money you're going to invest in replacing the windows on your home, you're going to get a very low energy-efficiency return compared with what you would get if you spent the same amount money on insulating your home. At REEP House, the value of the insulation was $16,000. We probably spent that much on replacing the windows. The insulation probably took us 75% of the way to our 86% reduction in energy. The windows are a very small part of that. For the same cost, there was a really different impact. That's where knowledge can help people. People feel ill-equipped to make those decisions.
A third factor is trust. That's where a third-party organization, a trusted non-profit like REEP, can help people make decisions and choose among different options. People are a little leery of contractors. They might have one product they're pushing forward. People don't know how to compare quotes. The home energy evaluation is designed to help with a lot of that. We saw an opportunity to go further in creating this concept of a retrofit coach. We're basing it on something we heard about in the Washington, D.C., area. Really, what's missing is the federal incentive on our side, because in Washington, D.C., the coach was a very successful thing that they were able to have while it was funded. They really saw the coach almost as an app, which sat on top of a number of different state, federal, and local incentives along with utility incentives. The coach was helping people to navigate, to apply for, to qualify for, and to understand all of those things as well as to understand the retrofit work they needed to do and the different options.
I hope that goes part of the way to answering why we don't do what might seem logical.
On the commercial side, I think especially for small and medium-sized businesses it's day-to-day survival. Running an environmental organization, I can relate. I feel that we're like a small business. It's hard to stick your neck up long enough to see if there's some other option. Often cool new things like porous concrete cost more or you don't know about them. We need help to make those new things cost-neutral and attractive to people.
The three dozen businesses I talked about, which are taking part in our RAIN program, are learning about things like permeable paving, porous concrete, rain gardens, etc. We're offering them a free on-site visit during which we will walk around the property with them to show them the opportunities they have to prevent flooding and to institute those kinds of things.
We're making it cost-neutral just to get the information.
I'll leave it there for now.
Jacques Charest
View Jacques Charest Profile
Jacques Charest
2015-02-24 16:56
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to testify before the committee.
I am Jacques Charest, president of CAP Finance, the Réseau de la finance solidaire et responsable. This network seeks to promote solidarity finance and development capital in Quebec. In my day job, I am the executive director of the Chantier de l'économie sociale Trust, which is an investment fund created specifically for social economy enterprises. I will tell you about that briefly at the end of my presentation. However, I will try to be as quick as possible so that the members of the committee have time to ask me questions.
What is CAP Finance? CAP Finance was created a few years ago, around 2010. It includes the vast majority of financial institutions and funding agencies providing responsible finance in Quebec.
What is responsible finance? The first thing is to determine what we are talking about when we say social finance, responsible finance, development capital, and so on. For our part, we distinguish between development capital and social finance.
Development capital is when financial institutions provide pure venture capital, but with specific socio-economic goals. They clearly want a return on the investment, but they also want to create jobs and contribute to regional and local development. It is governed by associations. The job creation we are talking about is local.
Let's now talk about solidarity finance, which is the focus of our discussion. Solidarity finance attracts financial institutions, non-profit organizations, financial cooperatives and credit unions that invest almost exclusively in social economy enterprises and in local or community development. Their mandate is to provide, among other things, funding and new investment tools to social economy enterprises.
Our organization includes almost all the players. I will not list them here because it would take too much time, but you can see them in our document.
In 2013, together with Professor Margie Mendell and her team, CAP Finance commissioned a study on the subject because the data were insufficient. We wanted to know what the situation was in Quebec and what all the stakeholders in Quebec had invested in development capital and responsible finance.
Let's look at what we call responsible placement. I am not talking about direct business investment, but the purchase of responsible financial products, responsible funds, ethical funds, and so on. In 2010, responsible placement was at $161 billion. In 2013, it was at $274 billion. Responsible investing was at $13 billion in 2010 and $18 billion in 2013.
Let's now look at the assets of the responsible investment component. In Quebec, development capital investment is $17 billion. In 2013, investment in solidarity-based finance, meaning in social economy enterprises and in local development, was $1.4 billion, which is a 40% increase over 2010.
The market is there and there are investments. However, they must be done right. Work needs to be done on both the supply side and the demand side. Being able to invest to such an extent is the result of working on both supply and demand. You need intermediaries for investment funds. We will later talk about possible solutions for the government in this area. It is important to have stakeholders on the ground to work on the supply side just as much as on the demand side of the financing in order to avoid having very good products but no businesses, or the other way around.
So the situation has really gone from placement to investment in businesses. In terms of social finance, it is important to distinguish between what we could refer to as private businesses and non-profit organizations, or collective businesses. One is not better than the other; it is a choice people make. We chose the collective businesses, social economy enterprises, but it is important to make that distinction because not all of them need the same financial tools.
Those in the private sector are quite present. When we want to connect with social economy enterprises, we need to keep a few differences in mind. We need to see what type of financing is possible. We need to see it as a big picture. This is not about meeting the needs of one or the other, but to consider the needs that are specific to each clientele.
How could the Government of Canada contribute to this? I will talk about its contribution to the trust later.
As was mentioned before, it is important to support the intermediaries in the market, either through specialized or central funds, through a fund that could sustain other funds or through credit enhancement funds. The question is whether we need those subsidies. That is the case in some instances. Are we talking about first losses or loan guarantees? That might be the case, but these are solutions that we need to consider to figure out how to facilitate the development of social finance in Quebec.
In addition, we need to make development capital accessible to our stakeholders, meaning the institutional funds, workers' funds, retirement funds, pension funds or foundations and reduce barriers to investment. Mr. Huddart actually referred to that. On our end, we are working with businesses and funds. However, there are problems and barriers, simply because people cannot invest in a limited partnership. So we must try to get around that.
As Cathy Taylor mentioned earlier, the easiest way is if we consider ourselves businesses and cover all the products and investment support measures intended for private businesses. We often see programs that are for businesses in category 1. Why are they not for NPOs or cooperatives? It's because that's the way things are. There are also programs for the capital and the shares of a company, but since there are none for social economy enterprises, we must find an equivalent.
As I mentioned earlier, in some cases, we should establish mixed structures. We should determine how laws can be amended to include joint ventures. We are talking about either type B businesses or fixed assets. We need to see how a third or a fourth type of business can be included and make sure that we are really talking about social finance and social enterprise. Whether they are for-profit or incorporated, fixed assets must remain with the companies.
There are some solutions I would like to mention. I can share two projects with you accepting that I may be talking about my own businesses. The fact remains that they are a fine example.
The Chantier de l'économie sociale Trust was founded at the beginning of 2007 with the help of a government subsidy. Its capital is at $53 million. Initially, the federal government granted a subsidy of about $20 million, which enabled us to obtain $30 million in investments and loans from workers' funds and the Government of Quebec. With that, since 2007, we have been able to invest $45 million in 127 businesses in Quebec. That has generated nearly 2,500 jobs, 400 entry-level jobs and $265 million in investments. In addition, based on our plan, those numbers will double over 15 years. So we are talking about one subsidy that helped get the  movement off the ground and added a great deal to the trust. We have made investments across Quebec.
Finally, as one last example, I will tell you about one of our current projects. We have created a fund for NPOs involved in housing to help with renovations. That is under the federal program. Our project is geared toward those who need help to make it to the end of the first mortgage, but who don't have enough money to afford the cost increases. So we have worked with our partners, private investors and tax-advantaged funds. The goal was to raise $31 million and to loan the money to those people, based on the formula that worked for them.
In this case, the arrangements with CMHC work very well. We need to make sure that these new types of financial products are valid as programs and allow us to invest.
With a $31-million project, we will be able to renovate 1,200 housing units. In this case, one program just needed to be changed. In terms of housing, mortgage is not always the best financing option.
Bard Golightly
View Bard Golightly Profile
Bard Golightly
2014-10-08 15:42
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm Bard Golightly, chief operating officer of the Christenson Group in Edmonton, Alberta. We're a residential development company. I'm speaking today on behalf of all my colleagues across the country in the Canadian Home Builders' Association.
Canadian Home Builders' represents more than 8,500 member companies from coast to coast in new home building, home renovation, and residential development. Our industry generates more than $120 billion in economic activity each year and supports over 900,000 jobs for Canadians, directly contributing to the economic health of families and communities across the country.
First, I'd like to touch on the importance of federal infrastructure investment in relation to the affordability of new homes. The new Building Canada plan is important to home builders, to our customers, and to the communities of which we are a part. It is particularly important because federal investment in infrastructure acts to reduce the cost being levied on new home buyers through municipal development taxes, which are a major factor in driving up new home prices and the unfortunate part of the new market fundamentals.
CHBA applauds the government's robust investment in core municipal infrastructure: roads, transit, water, and wastewater systems, and encourages ongoing investments focused on these core areas.
Second, prosperous communities require new households, particularly young working families and new Canadians, to be able to enter the housing market and become homeowners. Unfortunately, it is these younger Canadians and families, those hardest hit by the economic downturn, who face increasing challenges when it comes to home ownership.
Young buyers who are at the start of their working lives are the best able to responsibly take on a long-term debt in the form of a housing investment, yet this is the very group most adversely affected by tighter mortgage rules. These rules, coupled with the inherent challenge of saving for a down payment as house prices rise much faster than incomes, mean an increasing number of young working people and families are being locked out of home ownership.
The tightening of mortgage rules was implemented to stabilize the housing market. With that now achieved, CHBA believes that first-time buyers need and deserve special consideration when it comes to mortgage rules. This would support their home ownership dreams and contribute to prosperous communities.
Reflecting this view, CHBA recommends that well-qualified first-time homebuyers should have access to insured 30-year amortized mortgages. Current rules requiring qualification for the five-year mortgage commitment are quite sufficient to safeguard against debt overextension. We estimate that approximately 85,000 households would be added to the pool of potential homebuyers by such a measure, at no additional cost and little additional risk to the federal government.
Related to this issue is the issue of ever-increasing government-imposed costs on housing. While most such costs are linked to other levels of government, the federal government could improve affordability from coast to coast by ensuring that taxes levied by provincial and municipal governments on new homes are GST exempt. Currently, federal GST applies to new home taxes, levies, charges, and fees imposed by other levels of government, amounting to a tax on tax, amplifying the excessive level of taxation on new homes.
Such an action would demonstrate the federal government's commitment to fair taxation of Canadians, and also signal its concern about how rising new home taxes are reducing affordability, particularly for younger people and families seeking to achieve new home ownership.
I'll end with one final recommendation in the key area of home renovation, a $60 billion-a-year industry that's undermined by cash operators who evade taxes.
Bard Golightly
View Bard Golightly Profile
Bard Golightly
2014-10-08 15:46
Cash operators undermine legitimate business and harm consumers, and reduce government tax revenue.
CHBA therefore recommends a modest targeted home renovation tax credit to tackle the underground cash economy. An ongoing federal tax measure requiring receipts would undermine cash operators, as past federal programs have shown that even modest incentives can dramatically suppress the underground economy. Careful structuring of incentives could ensure that all or most costs would be offset by increased tax revenues. The purpose of this is not stimulus; it would be a modest measure to address the underground economy with minimal fiscal impact. Such a measure could address key socio-economic policy priorities by focusing on first-time buyers, aging-in-place seniors, and/or those undertaking energy efficiency renovations.
Thank you very much.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
You mentioned energy efficiency. Did the ecoENERGY retrofit program help your members at the time? Did it create jobs from people renovating their homes to make them more energy efficient?
Bard Golightly
View Bard Golightly Profile
Bard Golightly
2014-10-08 16:13
It did. Those kinds of things have a further reach, though, than just assisting our members. What they're really doing is reaching out to Canadians who want to improve their own affordability in their own homes. So while it did generate economic activity, what it did do was make housing more affordable.
View Gerald Keddy Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome to our witnesses.
I have a couple of questions for Mr. Golightly.
We had introduced, for a period of time, the home renovation tax credit. You mentioned in your comments that you thought it had minimum fiscal cost to the government.
I just want to break down a little bit three points that you made. One was to protect affordability for new residential construction. Second was to tackle the underground economy in home renovation. The third was to support skilled trades development and to advance innovation in housing.
My question is this. Would the former home renovation tax credit not work towards serving all four of those asks? Number one, you would bring your underground economy contractors, of which there is an untold number.... I couldn't guess. I'm going to ask you for a number, so you can come up with it. But however many there are out there, it would force them into the skilled trades, because a lot of them would have unskilled...or maybe good carpenters, but not skilled carpenters working for them, and certainly not journeymen carpenters working. It would also help, on the third point, to advance innovation in housing, because these guys aren't watching what's current; they're not advancing the trade.
I'll stop there to give you time to answer.
Bard Golightly
View Bard Golightly Profile
Bard Golightly
2014-10-08 16:15
I believe you're posing a question on what the value is in the underground economy. We could get that information or do our best estimate on it. I would appreciate the opportunity to provide that for you at a future time.
You raise a very interesting point. The program would touch all of the areas you inventoried. I hadn't thought of it from that perspective, but it would serve triple duty.
I think the other piece that's important is that we landed up previously, and would again, in a situation where we're delivering quality. We strongly believe that the tax revenue to the government.... The potential is there for it to be not revenue neutral, but revenue positive for the government.
View Mark Adler Profile
View Mark Adler Profile
2014-10-08 16:39
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate your all being here this afternoon. It's a very interesting discussion. However, in my very limited time I'll focus initially on Mr. Golightly.
After I first got elected in 2011 a fellow came to me wondering why he couldn't take advantage of the home renovation tax credit. He pulled out a piece of paper and said there were the renovations he did on his home, and here was a piece of paper to show that he paid for them. It was just an eight-and-a-half by 11 piece of paper, with the numbers $500, $5,000, $2,000, $3,000 on it, and at the bottom the wording that the contractor had received his payment in cash. He was curious why he wasn't eligible to take advantage of the housing tax credit.
How much of a problem is the underground economy? I hear from people all the time who tell me that they've got tradespeople coming into their home to renovate their kitchen, to build an addition to their home, and who legitimately only want the job if they are going to be paid in cash. How much of a problem is that in the home building industry?
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