House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

The Environment
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:45 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 6:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

moved that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (amateur sport fees), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise again to speak to Bill C-210. Not only is the bill a way to give a little back to the taxpayers of Canada and their families, but it is also a way to save potentially millions of dollars in our health care system and possibly even in our justice system.

The reason for that is what the bill seeks to do. People who enrol in sporting activities and clubs or who have children or dependants enrolled in sporting activities and clubs have approached me and I am sure all members of the House of Commons, regardless of political affiliation, to indicate the high cost of fees throughout the country to register children in hockey, baseball or whatever the sport may be. The bill seeks to offer people an opportunity to get a tax refund.

For example, if a person registers their child in a minor hockey program for $400, the bill provides that the person could claim the $400 as a tax deduction similar to a charity donation. The same percentage of tax refund would apply.

This is one of saying to the taxpayers of Canada, “Here is a little bit back”. And if we can encourage physical participation in sport, regardless of age, we would have a much more healthy and vibrant society.

I have been involved in sports for my entire life. The sport of which I am most fond, of course, is soccer. When I started playing soccer in Richmond, British Columbia, the fee to join was $2. Nobody complained about the fee at that time. Now in Nova Scotia the fee is $90 per child. I have two kids, so it costs $180. A lot of people find that prohibitive. They simply cannot afford to put their children in this type of sport, and soccer is one of the most inexpensive sports out there in terms of equipment required.

The reality is that we should be doing all we can to encourage physical activity for our children and, for that matter, for their families, especially the parents. People would get back into shape and we would become a much healthier society.

Does the bill address the issue of those who are on social assistance and simply cannot afford the fee to begin with? No, it does not, but being in the fifth party in the House of Commons on the backbench here I think it would be very wise for me to lob this bill over to the government members and tell them to look at it, because it is something we need to debate. This is something we need to encourage. We need to encourage more families to be involved in sports and physical activity, for a lifelong adventure, because if we are involved in sports when we are young, we will be involved in physical activity for the remainder of our lives.

We know that one of the greatest crises facing the country right now is obesity in children. Probably half the children in this country are obese. The reason is that we have become a techno-society. Kids will sit in front of the television, Nintendo games or movies and do nothing but sit. Many of us are couch potatoes. In fact, many in this House of Commons could not walk up seven flights of stairs without choking to death.

We need to change that. I think the way to do it is through the tax system by offering people an opportunity to claim some of the fees back as a tax consideration. If we do that and if people are encouraged to become involved in physical activity, I am quite sure that millions of dollars could be saved in the health care system. It is amazing that we sit in the House of Commons and demand that $2 billion or even more go to the health care system. We are always talking about the nth degree. What I mean is that we put money into the health care system to care for people who are sick but we should be trying to prevent people from getting sick because they are out of shape. We should encourage them to become involved in physical activities, in community sports for example, because nothing brings this country together better than amateur sports.

I notice that the government has no problems at all in assisting Olympic athletes or hockey teams when they compete in the Olympics, but why not help the very young to get an initial start in amateur sports by allowing their parents some of their own money back through the tax system?

This would free up more funds for families and quite possibly encourage more people to become active in sports, especially in amateur sports. Who knows: the young kids we help out today may very well be our future Olympians down the road. By doing that we would be encouraging a much better society than we have today. We all know that a healthy society is a very proactive society and one that will benefit everyone in the long term in terms of our health care.

As well, studies have shown time and time again that when groups of children are involved in sports activities those activities prevent them from getting into the justice system.

How many times in my own riding and in ridings throughout the country have MPs opened basketball courts, hockey rinks or new tennis courts, something of that nature, where a community has decided there is a need for their children that must be met?

Just a few years ago in the great community of Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia, I participated in the grand opening of a basketball court for the small community. That may not seem like a big deal, but the parents in that community identified a need for their children. The government was not there to help with any funding, although the parents did get a bit of money from their local councillor. People in that community did their own fundraising. They held bake sales and other things and built a basketball court, which is used all the time by the kids in that community. It is a wonderful thing to see the kids in this small community with an area where they can go to play.

We constantly hear about kids in communities throughout the country, especially kids in rural areas, who have nothing to do. The reason? There are no recreational facilities, no coaches and none of the framework that is required for these kids to participate. If we get them at a young age, we can encourage them to be active in sports lifelong.

Many of us in the House of Commons are active in sports. Members from both sides of the House are active in sports and all kinds of events. We have the House of Commons soccer club called the Commoners. The reason for the name is that this is exactly how we play: very common. The reality is that this gets MPs from all sides of the House together in an evening of fun. In fact, I encourage everyone to come out on October 22 and watch their fabulous members of Parliament from the five parties in the House of Commons defeat, once again, the brand new, young pages who are in the House today. This game will take place on the Supreme Court lawn. We have challenged them to a friendly sporting activity. I can assure everyone, on the record, because the pages cannot speak and I can, that we will defeat them one more time and hold the cup high for the House of Commons.

This is what I am saying. Even though that was in jest and it is fun, sports are fun. Physical activity is fun. But it is also very expensive. Again, if we can alleviate a bit of the financial pressure on families throughout the country, we will be doing them a great service. Besides, that is what we are here for. We are here to encourage a better society and to cooperate. Nobody wants to be out of shape. Nobody wants to develop bad habits at a young age. We can all change.

Not you, Madam Speaker. I think you are in great shape and I know you do a lot of physical activity in la belle province. The reality is that you are a role model and others need to follow your example.

A small way to promote activity in sports is this way, through the tax system. It would not solve all our concerns, but it would be one small way of recognizing the efforts of families, those hardworking taxpayers of this country who pay a lot of money to have their children registered in sports. If only we could say to them that if they spend x number of dollars on a particular item, they would get a bit back through their taxes. I think people throughout the country would say bravo to the House of Commons for this initiative.

We all know about soccer moms and hockey dads, et cetera. We know for a fact that many of them dedicate a large part of their lives to their children's activities. Once their kids are active in sports, that is what parents do. They dedicate their all weekends and nights and everything else to ensuring that their kids get the best of both worlds in terms of joining a team and taking part in a sporting activity.

Madam Speaker, I do not know if you yourself have ever taken part in team sports but I have done so my whole life and it is absolutely wonderful. Lifelong friendships are developed. Sports can be a lifelong healthy activity. Sports make people feel better and make them healthier.

I also cannot help but notice the number of people who have joined fitness clubs to get themselves into better shape. It is wonderful. We should encourage more people to do that. I admit that I could probably lose a few pounds myself and I am working on it. However through the tax system this is a great way we could do this.

I encourage all members of the House of Commons to carefully reflect upon the bill. I know it will not provide all the answers or solve all the problems but it is a small way that we can encourage it.

I know the government has fiscal responsibilities. I know it has concerns to meet in terms of balancing the books and everything. However if it can rush a bill like Bill C-48, which would offer millions and millions of dollars in tax concessions to the mining sector of the country, although for valid reasons, such as promoting investment and creating jobs in rural and northern parts of the country, but which will cost the treasury around $260 million by the year 2007, if we can help those companies, many of which are foreign owned, then surely we can find the time as members of Parliament to say to individuals and families, especially the taxpayers in our country, that we will look at them in a more favourable light and ensure that when they put money into sporting activities, club services or whatever, that they should be able to claim a bit of that back on their taxes.

I am not asking for the full amount to be tax deductible. I am asking for a small portion which would be exactly the same as a charitable donation. If we could achieve that it would go a long way.

In my own riding I have many people who dedicate a large part of their lives coaching their children. I also take the time to coach during the summertime. People dedicate a lot of time coaching basketball, hockey, baseball, gymnastics, whatever the sport may be. They love nothing better than to show a young person a particular skill in a sport and then watch that kid move forward.

We have a lot of people in our country who are simply not part of the sporting world because they simply cannot afford it or their parents do not have the funding or the money to get them into sports. Maybe this is one way to encourage and assist them to do that. If we can leave more money in the pockets of the average Canadian, they in turn could use those funds and perhaps be able to assist the various clubs and organizations throughout the country.

I encourage my colleagues in the Alliance, the Bloc, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party to support the motion. I know they may have particular points of view that may differ or may even be similar in some regards but I encourage them to support the bill. I know many of them are active in sports. I know the member for Medicine Hat himself is a fine athlete and I know he would want to support the bill, especially for his families.

The member for Halifax West is an outstanding soccer player for the House of Commons. We just played soccer a couple of weeks ago. He also has his children enrolled in sports. He and his wife know exactly what it is like to drive the kids here and there. He knows it is also expensive for those particular sports. I would encourage my colleague from Halifax West, my neighbour next door, to also support the bill. What a great plug that would be for him in his next householder to say to the people that he supports this wonderful initiative.

Again I encourage support throughout the House of Commons and I thank the House of Commons very much for the opportunity to bring this important issue to debate today.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-210, a private member's bill that proposes changes to the Income Tax Act that would allow individuals to claim a tax credit for fees paid for their participation or the participation of a dependant in amateur sports.

At first blush it is hard to disagree with the intent or the objectives of the bill. Any time we can get more people involved in amateur sports it is good for society. It goes into the health envelope: it increases participation and it decreases health expenses, as the learned member has indicated.

However it is my view that we need to review this proposal in light of what it tries to achieve and how it tries to achieve it.

First, it would appear that the hon. member's proposal has a clear and honourable intent: to encourage Canadians to participate in amateur sports. The government shares that goal with the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. We too recognize the importance of amateur sports and the importance of participation in sports and physical fitness activities.

Each year we contribute $77 million to Sport Canada. Let me tell members of the House some of the great things that Sport Canada does. It provides funds to amateur sports organizations to increase sports participation, support the development of young athletes and improve access to sport by underrepresented groups. It provides financial support to Canada's elite athletes to help them with their training and competition needs. It backs a wide range of sporting events held in Canada, both at the national and international levels.

We strengthened our commitment to sport and fitness in the most recent budget. We are now providing a further $70 million over five years for amateur sports. That includes $45 million to increase Canadians' participation in sports and other fitness activities and $25 million to support high performance athletes.

While we may share the member's objectives, we do not agree with the approach. The member's proposal suggests changing the tax system. I would contend that using the tax system for this is neither cost effective nor is it fair.

At this point let us take a closer look at how ineffective the hon. member's proposal would be.

The government is committed to encouraging Canadians to include physical activity in their daily lives and to help them reduce the barriers that prevent them from being active.

There are many such barriers. Statistics Canada reports several reasons that Canadians do not participate in physical activity. We all personally know many of these reasons: lack of time, lack of interest and health, injury or age concerns.

In fact, we have to look down the list somewhat to the barriers to participation before we get to the cost. I am not for a minute downplaying the cost because cost is a very real factor, especially when we are speaking about children from low income families, but many activities that are part of a healthy lifestyle cost very little. Swimming, walking and cycling are very good examples.

It is my view that the hon. member's proposal would do very little to encourage inactive Canadians to become active in amateur sports or increase their level of physical activity. In other words, this proposal would be ineffective. Even though this proposal would be ineffective, it is important to note that it would come at a very high cost.

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spends approximately $275 per year on recreational facilities and membership fees. Providing a 16% tax credit on these expenditures would cost the federal government almost half a billion dollars in lost tax revenue. And this money would be spent without having a significant impact on the level of physical activity of all Canadians.

In fact, almost all this tax money would end up, I submit, subsidizing the 8.3 million Canadian adults already participating in amateur sport. I believe the intent of the learned member's bill is to encourage people to get off the couch and into the gym, not to subsidize the people who are already participating in amateur sport.

Therefore, at a great cost, the hon. member's proposal would produce very little benefit in terms of increasing participation in amateur sport and fitness activities.

I certainly would look at other areas, certainly the subsidizing of children from low income families. I have seen it in my own community with soccer, baseball, and especially hockey. I think hockey is the worst example. Kids in low income families just cannot afford to participate in these sports. The sport has moved beyond them with these elite teams; it has moved beyond the original intent and certainly there is ample room for governments to move in that area, but again, this is not the answer.

As a general rule, under the current tax system tax deductions or credits are generally provided for one of two things. They either apply to expenses to earn income, things like employment insurance premiums, union dues and child care expenses, with which we are all familiar, or they apply to non-discretionary expenses that significantly reduce a taxpayer's ability to pay tax, such as above average medical expenses. Tax relief is not normally provided with respect to specific personal expenses that are incurred at an individual's discretion.

What message would the federal government be sending if, as the hon. member proposes, we did use the tax system to subsidize those consumers who choose to pay fees to participate in amateur sport? That such fees are more important than other personal expenditures, like sending a child to a theatre or to singing lessons? These are examples.

We would be asking those Canadians who choose not to pay such fees to subsidize those Canadians who do. We would be asking Canadians who choose to take part in physical activities such as jogging or cycling, which generally do not require a payment of fees, or who choose to spend their spare time in other non-sport related hobbies or activities, to subsidize those Canadians who choose to participate in sports that do require a payment of fees, such as golf and downhill skiing.

Let us talk about golf. Golf is the most popular participation sport for Canadians. More than 1.8 million Canadians regularly head to the links for some exercise and friendly competition. Under the hon. member's proposal, we would be asking Canadians to subsidize initiation fees, membership fees and greens fees. A lot of these courses are exclusive courses and the fees range up to $10,000 a year. I do not think the Canadian taxpayer would be that enthusiastic if we, the government, allowed a tax credit for those types of fees.

I want to make this clear: The government considers physical activity and sport to be very important to Canadian society. They, as the learned member has already adequately explained, have a very positive effect on individuals and communities. However, there are other personal activities that also lead to the personal betterment of individuals and to the development of healthy, cohesive communities. In engaging in these personal activities, Canadians also face substantial costs.

Let me provide two examples to illustrate that it would not be fair to Canadian consumers to subsidize amateur sport fees. A typical parent with a young daughter wants to encourage that child to be physically active by registering her in a local hockey league. That parent at the same time may also choose to register the same daughter in singing lessons because the child enjoys singing and appears to be talented. Both decisions would support the development of that child and with both decisions the parent would incur costs, but it would not be fair to subsidize one and not the other.

For these reasons and for the reasons I have already alluded to, I hope that the hon. members present would agree that this private member's bill does not fulfill the criteria of effectiveness and fairness, and I would ask all members to think very carefully before supporting the bill.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and debate Bill C-210. I appreciate the intent of this bill.

The hon. member who prepared this private member's bill had the concerns of parents who must deal with high fees to put their children in sports, and that is a very noble thing. Anybody in this place who is a parent has some sense of how expensive it can be to put children into hockey, soccer, football, or whatever the case is, especially if one has a number of children. Doing it year after year is a very common situation and can cost thousands of dollars. It cost around $500 to put my son in hockey this year. It is not an insignificant amount of money. It is a lot of money and so I appreciate the intent of the member's private member's bill.

It is a noble thing. But having said that, I am afraid I cannot support it and there are a number of reasons why.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

My friend is saying shame with a smile on his face.

It is important to note that there are a number of noble activities that parents support for their children as they are growing up. There are many ways to enrich their lives, keep them off the streets, and give them something that they can accomplish and be proud of.

If one has children who like to dance and wants to put them in ballet, that costs money. If one has children engaged in various kinds of crafts, obviously that can cost money. If one has them in music, that can cost a lot of money. There are all kinds of things that cost money that the children could go into that obviously this bill would not cover.

One of the obvious things is that we do not want to suggest that one activity should be of a higher ranking than another. Sports are a great thing. I participated in sports when I was growing up, my kids have and we support that. However other people make different choices because their children have different interests. We should not have legislation that favours one kind of activity. In doing that we discriminate against other kinds of activities. Frankly, that is what this bill does. For that reason I just cannot support it.

It is important to send the message to the public and to parents that we want to support them in having the money to put their children into all these kinds of activities. That is why the Canadian Alliance does not favour specific tax relief for certain activities that guide people, that says that if they follow our rules they will get a tax break.

We support, and I hope my friend who has moved this motion supports, general tax relief for all Canadians, so if they want to put their children into sports, or if they want to go into music or whatever it is, then by all means they should do that, but a lot of people today do not have the means to do that.

One thing we proposed in the 2000 election was a $3,000 per child tax deduction for single income families, single parents, and dual parents. That would put not a few hundred but thousands of dollars into the pockets of families with children under the age of 16. We received tremendous support for that idea in the 2000 election and people were very interested in that. It would demonstrate that the government recognizes the value of raising children and that it is a difficult job.

There is no question that one of the toughest jobs in the world is to raise kids. I am a member of Parliament and many people in this place have had other jobs where they have achieved tremendous things and high status in their professions. But I bet there is not one member who is a parent who has not found, in the middle of all the achievements, that when there is a problem at home with a child, they forget about everything they are doing and all that matters is what is going on with their child. I think we have all had that experience.

What I found, as our children grow up, is that it gets to the point where I would much rather see my children achieve than have some kind of personal glory for something that I have achieved. I think we have all been in that position.

I remember when my oldest scored a goal at a hockey game one time in the playoffs. He dived into the crease and knocked the puck into the net. I think I was happier than he was. I almost jumped on to the ice. I was so excited for him. The game went into overtime and his team lost if I remember correctly, but it was just a wonderful thing.

It is a wonderful thing if parents have the means to support their children to accomplish those kind of things. In this case it was sports. But in other cases it might be a piano recital, or whatever the case may be.

To the member who has proposed this private member's bill, I think it is a noble effort, but it is too narrow and it is shallow. It is too narrow in the sense that it does not cover all the activities. We must remember that the activities children want to engage in are endless. They may have no interest in the arts or sports. It may be computers that interests them. That may be where their talent lies, that is where they get their joy, and that is what they want to do.

In that case, that is where mom and dad, or mom, or dad, or whatever the case may be in that family, may want to devote the money but they do not have the money.

Let us support a tax deduction like the one we proposed in the 2000 election that opens up the ambit of choice for people so we are not limited by whatever the government happens to think of on that day.

One of the great things that I discovered being a member of Parliament is that I have come to appreciate how wonderful families are in the sense that they do so many things that governments could never do and they do them so well, by and large. I am speaking generally here. But by and large, nobody cares more for children than the parents of those children. Let us find ways to give them the means to look after their children.

If we were resourceful and sat down to look at the books of the government, where it spends $170 billion a year on all kinds of things, we would find all the stuff in there that was wasteful. We would find outcomes that did not achieve what they were supposed to achieve and in some cases were counterproductive or actually harmed the economy. There are things like that. If we were resourceful, I could guarantee that we would find a bunch of savings and we could use those savings to give to parents so that they could provide opportunities for their children.

In some cases it would not even be any of the activities that we talked about. In some cases it would be to send them to university because maybe they are in a situation where they do not have the capacity to do that otherwise. I also want to point out to my friend who proposed this, what if a parent has a disabled child who cannot participate in sports? This bill would discriminate against disabled children. We need to think in much broader terms about how we could help families

I have come to realize, after being here 10 years, that governments cannot decide what is right for families. That is crazy. Do not let the government do it. Let families decide what is right for families, who all have different heritages, traditions, and views about what is right for their children. Sure, there are times when individual families make mistakes, and that is a tragedy. But a much worse tragedy is when the government makes a decision that causes a tragedy for all families.

Let us not try to cure a problem for a small group of people by introducing a solution that would turn out to be a tragedy for a whole bunch of people. Let us find a way, instead, to take this motion, broaden it to include everything, and deepen it so that it would provide a lot more money to families so they can provide for their children in whatever way they see fit.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-210, whose purpose is to implement a tax credit for participation in amateur sport.

Straight off, I will tell you that the objective pursued by this bill is quite commendable. As the Bloc Quebecois critic for amateur sport, I will always be in favour of the idea of taking various measures to promote physical activity and participation in sport. It is also crucial to promote a better quality of life, better health for our fellow citizens. In this regard, we can only encourage a greater awareness of the benefits of sport and sport activity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is the most eloquent expression of this.

Thus, in the face of it, it is easy to recognize the relevance of this measure, whose purpose is to provide families with more money for participation in sport activities. But what does this really mean?

Although I support the purpose of this tax credit, I am still convinced that this is not an appropriate measure, and I will explain why. What my colleague really wants with this new provision is to reduce the tax burden of families, thus allowing them to afford the sport activities that they want.

However, I believe that it is not necessarily the families in question that will take advantage of this reduction. And to demonstrate this, I would like to make some comments on tax credits in general.

I am not totally against this kind of measure, quite the contrary. Under certain circumstances, it can be an effective measure. However, with regard to the current debate, I humbly believe that there are many other ways that are much more worthwhile and especially much less costly to achieve our goals.

First, the implementation of a tax credit is sometimes extremely costly for the government, before, during and after. This does not include the administration costs and also the fact that it would take two to three years to calculate the indirect costs, and we would not even be sure that this tax credit would really achieve its objectives, which are to put more money in the pockets of families. Ultimately, this may cost more in expenses than in direct benefits for the taxpayer.

Second, should a family be unable to claim this tax credit, it would still be paying the administration costs with its taxes. It would also pay for the gap between the money that its neighbour is receiving and the shortfall in federal revenues.

So, before supporting such a measure, we must make sure that all alternatives have been considered. If the intention is to provide tax relief to families, this could very easily be done differently and at a much lower cost. The goal is basically to increase the wealth of taxpayers. Why then not increase the basic personal exemption, or the dependent credit or the child tax benefit? Why not simply give a tax cut to those in that particular bracket?

Middle-income families have benefited the least from the tax cuts in recent years. No wonder some of them are having a really hard time paying the fees to participate in sport activities.

These few examples show that tax measures much more appropriate than the ones proposed by my colleague are available.

Other areas of this bill also require our attention. I consider that the bill is not only inappropriate, but also somewhat discriminatory. Why limit the tax credit to sport activities?

How can the government arbitrarily grant a financial benefit for sport activities and not for other activities, such as cultural activities? What about musicians and the outrageous price of some instruments? What about all those who have other equally important and worthwhile interests with respect to their health and well-being?

A brief analysis quickly reveals that the scope of what is being proposed in this bill is much too limited. Besides, it is about time we stop deciding everything for our fellow citizens.

I think that this tendency to want to centralize everything and have the state decide for the taxpayers is becoming less and less acceptable. Personally, I would rather leave more money in their pockets and let them make their own decisions. After all, this is their money; they should get to decide. This is a matter of respect and fairness.

I would also like to touch on some aspects of the bill, particularly in reference to the formula for calculating the credit.

Under the bill, the formula takes into account “...the total of all fees paid by the individualin the year for the individual... to participate in amateursport”. Personally, I think this provision would lend itself to abuse. No limit for the fees is provided. Does it mean that golf club membership fees would be deductible? Because one needs to go to a golf course to participate in that sport. Could I also deduct my $3,000 new golf clubs? Because without clubs one cannot play golf.

I truly believe that this bill is like giving a blank cheque to the taxpayers and I have a feeling that this measure will mostly benefit the rich. To those who may argue that the regulations will clarify this, I would like to point out that, under the bill, the governor in council may only makeregulations prescribing the types of fees thatmay be deducted. “Types of fees” refer to the eligible activities, not to the amount spent on those activities.

Imagine the risks of such a provision and all the misinterpretations it could lead to.

It would have been wise and logical to establish the maximum amount that can be deducted, as is the case for most other tax credits, or at least to give explicit power to regulate the amount of the fees.

Therefore, for all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support this legislation, because we are convinced and have shown that, unfortunately, the objective sought in this bill will not be achieved.

The federal government has the key to allowing everyone to breathe easier and to improve their quality of life, whether through sport, leisure activities, art or any other endeavour. For several years now, the government has had surpluses coming out of its ears, and it is our money. Therefore, it has an obligation to return part of these surpluses to those from whom it took that money.

This way, people will be able to decide for themselves what they want to do with this extra money, whether they want to spend it on sport activities, on leisure activities or on anything else. I truly believe that each person should be able to decide what his or her priorities are.

In closing, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his initiative and express to him my respect for the interest he has shown in trying to improve the well-being of families. My disapproval has certainly nothing to do with the principle; it has to do with the process.

I would also like to remind the federal government of its commitment to play a key role in promoting and developing physical activity and sport. It certainly has the means to do it. As for the families, the athletes and all the organizations that are working toward that end, they are greatly in need of it.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to say a few words in support of the initiative of my colleague, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. I will address some of the remarks of the other members in a few moments.

The bill calls essentially for changes to the Income Tax Act to allow for the deduction of amateur sport fees. It is important to note that the emphasis of the bill is on children. The member has pointed out that with the success of Canada's Olympic bid to host the future games in Vancouver and Whistler, now is the time for the federal government to invest more in our amateur athletes.

Bill C-210 is one way to encourage more young people and families to become involved in amateur sports and to help our struggling amateur athletes. By relieving some of the financial strain on these young athletes, more Canadians will be able to participate.

As the member and others have pointed out, active healthy people help to create a healthier Canada with less pressure on our health care system.

Canadians increasingly understand the advantages of funding amateur sport activities. This bill is one aspect of an overall rethinking on how we can invest in amateur sport and promote healthier living.

There are a number of issues and I think most of them have been covered by the members who have participated in this debate. For example, members have noted the reality about obesity. This is a concern. There used to be Participaction in this country because Canadians were deemed to be so much less fit than the Swedes, than a Swedish man 68 years old or some such thing. We have to admit in all candour that we have not been totally successful in that regard.

The member who proposed the bill noted that we have a generation of couch potatoes. He said that they do nothing besides sit and play Nintendo, but they actually do something besides that. They sit and eat while they are playing Nintendo and therein lies the problem.

When I was growing up many decades ago, we did not have the degree of organized sport that there is today. Kids went out to play and they made up their own games. There was a lack of organization. I do not recall anyone of my generation who really got into organized baseball, soccer or hockey until they were 12 or 13 years old. As young people we shovelled off our own ice or played road hockey. Whatever it was that we did, we did it on our own and consequently there were no costs involved.

We have a much different hands on situation now where children are organized at the tender ages of four and five years old. They are organized to play hockey on Saturday well before daylight in rinks and so on. With those realities come expenses. It is much more expensive than it was in my day when my parents kind of turfed my brother and me out the door and on to the street to play sports.

One of the realities is it is much more expensive. The member's bill would allow some of the money that a family pays in income tax to be used to make it more accessible for their youngsters to participate in sports.

The member for Hillsborough chose to focus on the adult part, that this would allow people who wanted to play at exclusive golf courses to have a tax benefit. I want to reiterate, having spoken to the member who has proposed the bill, that the emphasis is very much on youth and trying to get youth involved at an early age, as he said, to encourage a lifelong participation in amateur sport.

The member for Medicine Hat who also spoke eloquently on this topic assumed that the bill could only be for children of the taxpayer. I am not sure why that would need to be the case. Surely an empty nester or someone who has never had children and sees a child in need who would benefit from playing sports could elect to assist that young person by providing some funding for equipment or for an entry fee so that the child could participate in a sports league and develop.

I must say that while watching our own children participate in athletics in Regina where there is a large inner city aboriginal population, my wife and I are constantly struck by the relatively few members of the aboriginal community who actually participate in those group organized sporting activities. One can only assume that the major reason for that is money. Perhaps they come from single family homes or whatever the case may be but there simply is not enough money left over at the end of the month for many of those families to permit their children to go into an athletic event or participate in a team sport.

If this bill were to go through, there would be nothing to prohibit somebody who does not have children who would not benefit otherwise from saying, “This is an important social achievement and I want to help” and to do so in that way. As the member has pointed out, we do allow for donations. We encourage people to participate in the political process by offering generous tax rebates if they pay income tax. We have tax rebates for donations to charitable organizations, for the United Way, Doctors Without Borders and any other number of worthwhile organizations.

The member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore is saying that there should be consideration given to providing this kind of encouragement so that more children will participate in sporting activities. It would get them off their couches and out into organized activities. The end result would be a healthier society for all of us.

In conclusion, I want to commend the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore for putting forward a very thoughtful presentation. It is something I will be happy to support when it comes to a vote in this House.