An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (amateur sport fees)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Peter Stoffer  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 4, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted this evening to have the opportunity to address Bill C-210, introduced by my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. It is not the first time that he has introduced this particular bill. In fact, he did so two years ago and it died on the Order Paper.

In his usual inimitable way of being very proactive, determined and dogged in pushing forward priorities on behalf of working people and children in our society, he reintroduced the bill, which is today in its second hour of debate. Very simply, we are dealing with an amendment to the Income Tax Act that would allow the deduction of fees paid by an individual for the participation of a family member in amateur sport or physical activity.

I noted with interest that the previous speaker critiqued the bill by saying this was a tax deduction for physical activity with sports involvement, but why was there no advocacy for lower taxes? It seems to me that typically the Conservative member has totally missed the point of the bill.

The bill is about addressing the reality that we have a major challenge in this country. As parliamentarians we have a major responsibility to be addressing ourselves not just rhetorically and with empty words but in concrete measures to deal with the issue of health promotion and prevention of ill health.

This is not just about families having more dollars in their pockets. This is about recognizing that it makes perfect sense to give people the opportunity, by financially removing the barriers for lower income families, to enroll either as adults or their children in sports activities that are specifically part of a comprehensive health care strategy.

I was very pleased on Tuesday, honoured in fact, to have the federal leader of the New Democratic Party in my Province of Nova Scotia launch the health care platform of the New Democratic Party.

I know the government is pushing off an election for as long as it thinks it can possibly do so. One cannot blame it for that because its focus is entirely on how to clean up its image in view of the scandals. Somehow then, it will make a run for it in an election campaign, where it has somehow persuaded people that it simply came back to life and discovered a lot of things it has been neglecting. In fact, it has been tearing things down for the past 10 or 11 years.

The reality is we are going to have an election. The election campaign is already underway. The writ has not been issued, but Liberal cabinet ministers are flying around the country at public expense announcing electoral goodies and gimmicks. The election is underway and that is why we have launched our health care platform.

I think this serves as one concrete example. It is not exhaustive. It is not going to change the state of health of the entire population. However, if we are serious about promoting good health and healthy fitness activity, then we should ensure that it is not denied to families who are going to have difficulty paying for the registration of, for example, a child participating in gymnastics at the YMCA or YWCA or a child joining a local sports team and so on. It is a very concrete measure.

The question has also been raised, and I welcome the question, about why this deals only with physical activity? Why does it not also deal with a proposed tax deduction for participation in artistic and cultural activities? This would also strengthen the health of our communities and give an opportunity for families to equally have access to that kind of participation for their own enrichment and creative development.

My colleague from Dartmouth introduced a similar private member's bill to achieve that. Of course, the Liberals voted it down, as they would no doubt on this occasion as well if we were having a vote today. This is a vote that will not take place today. I think that is obvious, but would be carried forward.

I regret to say that I see no sign that we have that kind of support from Liberal members for this measure to provide for a tax deduction for those participating in sports activity, any more than they were prepared to provide that kind of recognition for the involvement in artistic and cultural activity. One aspect was to strengthen the body and the health of the individual. The other was to support the mind, body and spirit through artistic and cultural activity.

I know some people are skeptical when they look at a private member's bill like this. They say, “Oh well, what is the point anyway in an opposition member introducing a private member's bill?”

The member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore has demonstrated on several occasions the value of members introducing a private member's bill, and keeping at it and at it until it finally finds its way into public policy.

Let me mention a parallel private member's bill. It can be seen as one that acts in parallel to the bill that has been introduced here. It deals with the compassionate leave provisions that are actually now in the process of being implemented.

One of the things about being in opposition is that a member has to be prepared to be stubborn, persistent, and constantly out there trying to persuade the public that this is something that can be dealt with. Finally, the government gets it sometimes.

It finally gets it because one of the things that we do as New Democrats is encourage people to ensure they let the government members know when they do support a private member's bill. In the instance of the provision for compassionate leave, this was an absolute passion for the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.

He kept coming back and back to the government, saying it was surely revolting for family members--in the final days and weeks, and we believe it should be months--of loved ones coming to the end of their life, facing terminal illness or in palliative care, not to be at their side because financially it was prohibitive for them to leave employment.

The government finally responded to this pressure, albeit inadequately and not as comprehensively as it should have. It has provided for six weeks of such passionate care. We believe that six months should be the minimum.

We think the bill should be extended so that it is not just the immediate parent or spouse of a dying relative, but the family member in the family unit who is in a position to leave employment and be there providing that care.

Let me return by way of wrap up to the specific tax deduction measure proposed here that would support healthy activity, participation in health promotion activity, physical activity, and involvement in sports to serve as a preventive measure in order to drive down the costs of health care. Those costs would get spent in the end because of chronic and acute illnesses that could have been avoided in the first place.

I urge all members to think about the plain good sense of this bill. The bill has a concrete application to a big problem that we have in this country. There is a very high and escalating health cost to care for people suffering from illnesses that could have been prevented through such measures.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

It is not just for seniors, Mr. Speaker, but for families right across the country. The NDP introduced Bill C-210, which would offer people the opportunity, when they sign up for physical activity or sports, to claim the registration fees as a tax deduction similar to that of a charitable donation.

Seniors who are in the lawn bowling clubs and dance clubs and families who put their kids in hockey, soccer or whatever, the fees that they pay should be tax deductible. That would encourage more and more people to become physically active in our society.

If a person is physically active, the chances of the person using the health care system are greatly reduced. Physically active Canadians are healthier citizens. A healthy body and a healthy mind mean a person makes healthy choices.

For the investment on the tax deduction for people who participate in sports and physical activities, we would save tremendous amounts of money on the tail end of the health care services. If we provided proper recreational facilities for our youth, families and seniors, we would prevent the health care system from being overused and we also would prevent a lot of social injustice issues in the very near future.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2004 / 5:40 p.m.
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Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore for bringing the proposals to our attention.

I know the hon. member and I like him very much. In the years that I have been here I have known him to be an enthusiastic amateur soccer player. He has helped us all get organized in terms of playing a few games of soccer, particularly with the pages. He likes to be involved athletically as well as in the House.

There is much argument that amateur sport is a vital ingredient to the development of our society. I do not think that is in issue here. It also contributes to our Canadian identity. It has the power to enrich our lives in many ways.

Personally I quite enjoy a game of hockey. I play every Sunday night. I have to say that as the years go by, the players seem to get faster and younger. I do not know how that works, but I think other members here can identify with that. I have a sense of a conflict of interest here because indeed it does cost some money to play on Sunday nights.

It is all part of a healthy lifestyle that people participate in sport. They feel better about themselves and about their fellow Canadians. Athletics leads people to leading a healthier and a longer life. I think that is statistically verifiable.

In this vein, members will remember that one of our colleagues, the member from Broadview, issued a report which was quite descriptive of the healthy benefits of participating in sport and how sport would reduce coronary disease, colon cancer and non-insulin dependent diabetes by as much as 50%. These are all significant benefits not only to the individual involved, but of course to the larger society.

In addition, we agree that sport enhances our sense of Canadianism, our sense of pride. We all sit in front of the television watching our athletes compete in the Olympics and in other events. There are very few people of my generation who cannot say where they were when Canada beat Russia in the final game in Moscow, which was kind of distinctive. Just as everyone from my generation knows where they were when President Kennedy was shot, Canadians particularly know where they were when Canada won that game.

We can recall the 2002 Olympics where both the men's and the women's hockey teams won Olympic gold. It was an extraordinary point of pride for our country.

Recently, Perdita Felicien won the gold medal in hurdles in both the indoor and outdoor track and field world championships. She lives in the riding neighbouring mine, in Pickering. We take great pride in her accomplishments.

There is hardly a school boy or school girl who has not thought of the enjoyment that they received from participating in sports in school.

We agree with the benefits. We agree in some respects with the principles of the hon. member's bill. However, the government will have to resist the bill for a number of reasons. We believe that the bill is inefficient. We also think that the bill gives an unfair advantage to sports activities over other forms of activities which Canadians participate in and enjoy. We think it would be an inappropriate use of the tax system. We also think it would be quite costly.

Let me unpack those in a little more detail.

First, on the inefficiency, we think the bill will be an inefficient bill because it will cost a lot of money, and yet it will not achieve the stated goal of the hon. member. We do not think it will have any significant impact on participation rates in sports, and that is the goal of the bill.

If I understood my hon. colleague's argument, he felt that finances were a barrier to sports participation. Surveys have been done which showed that a minuscule number of Canadians, namely 2.3% to be exact, said that the cost of sports fees were a barrier to their participation. I agree with my colleague that Canadians are an inactive society. We are a bunch of couch potatoes. However, money is not the barrier here. It appears to be either a lack of time, or interest or other impediments. We think this is an inefficient use of the tax system. The goal would not be achieved by using this instrument.

The second point I would like to make is about the inequity that the bill may well create between Canadians because in some respects it gives an unfair advantage to sports activities to the detriment of other types of activities.

I have three daughters and if one of them said that she needed $100 to go to a sports activity and the other one said that she needed $100 to participate in the theatre, I would get a tax deduction for one child but not for the other. I cannot quite rationalize that. Either I should get it for both or I should get it for nobody.

Bill C-210 would create some difficulties as people tried to squeeze things like dance and things of that nature into some sort of form of athletic activity. Those who could not squeeze themselves into something as an athletic activity would not be covered by the proposed tax measure. On that point, we think it is unfair.

We think the use of the tax system by the general taxpayer to in effect subsidize another individual's personal consumption choices is not necessarily a good idea. I can think of a variety of examples where people make personal consumption choices. If I went hiking on the Bruce Trail or somewhere like that but I did not pay anything to do it, I would not receive any tax benefit. However, if I went hiking and paid a fee to go through a park or something of that nature, that would be a possible deduction. This would create some distortions which would be an inappropriate and inefficient use of the tax system.

I am sure that hon. colleagues would agree that participation in amateur sport is clearly a personal choice.

Finally, the really significant point here is, if we agree that it is inefficient and a poor use of the tax system and it disadvantages certain Canadians while giving an advantage to other Canadians, it would be very costly.

The finance department costs this item out at $450 million. Let me give the House some perspective on that. Members may recall in the health part of the budget that $300 million was set aside for a national immunization program. That is a worthy goal, and the hon. gentleman's bill is a worthy goal. However, $450 million seems to be an extraordinary sum of money.

Those are essentially the four major reasons why the government will not be supporting the hon. gentleman's initiative. Notwithstanding the fact that we all like him a great deal and think he is a wonderful soccer player, we do not think that the bill would be an appropriate use of the tax system. We do think it would be a costly bill. In some respects it would provide an unintended form of discrimination among Canadians.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank all members for agreeing to have the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore give his time to me so that I can speak first. The hon. member has another engagement and he would certainly like to reserve whatever time he may have later for the opportunity to put his own points forward on his own very worthy bill.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that this is the type of private member's bill that you personally would be interested in. I want to compliment and commend the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for following this issue through for many years now, raising it in the House a number of times and trying to garner support and interest from other members of Parliament. It is such a worthy subject.

The reason I think that you, Mr. Speaker, would be interested in this is because it deals with amateur sports, fitness, and trying to use our taxation system to encourage youth to take part in amateur sports, thereby enable more youth to avail themselves of the opportunity to play in organized sports.

Most MPs in the House would be aware that there are growing costs associated with having one's children involved in any amateur sport. For whatever reasons, the costs seem to be escalating. Both of my kids played hockey up to the high school level.

I know full well the cost per year of trying to keep my kids in skates. The same is true whether it is gymnastics, tennis or any number of activities that we want our kids to be involved in, for all the obvious health and social reasons. It is becoming a real barrier and a real burden.

More and more parents are having to face this uncomfortable choice and wrestle with their annual budgets as to whether or not they can afford to have their kids take part in this most healthy of social choices they could make.

It further complicates the issue, just by way of introduction, when physical education is shed first as more and more school boards come into a budget crisis. The schools have been forced to choose between academics and physical education, and more and more the latter has fallen by the wayside.

We have a generation of kids--and this is not a brand new problem, it has been a growing problem--that are increasingly sedentary and the predictable consequences are starting to become very self-evident. We have a generation of children where obesity, for the first time in Canadian history, is a chronic medical problem among our children. We recently heard from a doctor who told us that he is finding high levels of cholesterol in 10 year old children. Imagine, cholesterol and clogging of the arteries in 10 and 12 year old children.

It is generally accepted that we must encourage this generation of kids to get more active, and all subsequent generations of Canadians. We are no exception; we should be more active. In fact, we should walk 12,000 steps per day, if nothing else, and I am not sure very many of us do.

This has become a huge public health issue. Too many of our kids are watching television and playing video games, and they are not involved in physical sports. It used to be that kids got their exercise doing chores around the farm and household. That is less and less the case.

The member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore has put forward a very viable and timely idea. We would encourage and make possible for more parents to get their kids involved in sports if we were to amend the Income Tax Act so that their amateur sport fees and costs were tax deductible at roughly the same taxation credit as charitable donations, roughly 34%. The idea has great merit.

The idea needs to be fleshed out. There are some people who criticize this idea. For instance, they do not want golf green fees at some expensive golf course to be tax deductible. However, I should point out that it is tax deductible for business purposes sometimes to belong to these golf courses. My colleague from Nova Scotia is targeting a basic ma and pa situation where it might cost the parents an additional $1,200, $1,500 or even $2,000 per year above and beyond school taxes to keep their kids in some kind of fitness activity, such as amateur sports.

We are envisioning the overall cost to the government to grant this tax deduction to be calculated at a couple of thousand dollars per household, not the grossly inflated cost of the fees at a private golf course, which might be $10,000 or $20,000 per year. That is not the point and I hope members do not cloud the issue by raising that point.

We are trying to target the working family that is having a tough time paying the $300 or $400 fee to be on a hockey team, plus the cost of a good pair of skates. I gave my son a pair of skates at Christmas, a middle range pair of skates, which cost $325. That was not the best pair on the shelf by any means, nor was it the cheapest either.

We can see what working families are going through. It is getting more and more difficult to keep kids in sports because of the time factor associated with parents being able to give up their time during the evenings and weekends to take their kids to sports. With the added burden of the cost factor, more and more working families are simply having to say that it is not possible within their limited budget.

We can hearken back to not too long ago when the federal government was willing to play an active role in encouraging more kids and all Canadians to take part in healthy activities through the Participaction program. Arguably that was the most successful public relations program that any Canadian government has ever undertaken. It literally changed the way we think about activity and about sports. Some people would call it social engineering, but they can call it whatever they want. At a relatively low cost compared to the benefit of having a healthier citizenry, Canadians were motivated to get off the couch, to get active and do something.

This bill is in the same vein. In the very best interests of Canadians, in the very best interests of public health, we want to encourage more kids to get active. We want to enable them to play sports. The physical benefit is one thing but there are obvious public health benefits. There is also the well documented social benefits associated with being involved in organized sports. Healthy bodies and healthy minds mean healthy choices that kids make.

Let us not just talk about the relief to our beleaguered medical system. Let us also talk about the relief to our criminal justice system. The more we get kids involved in healthy choices, the less likely they are to run afoul of our criminal justice system. We would much rather subsidize to some small degree their ability to play sports than we would reserve a jail cell for them, or see them appear in court in our criminal justice system down the road when they run afoul of the law.

This is such a self-evident issue. It does not need a great deal of argument to convince those of us in this room that we want more kids playing sports because it is the right thing to do and because it builds healthy minds and healthy bodies. If we can use our tax system as a way to steer more families and more children and youth into healthy living, then why are we not doing it?

We believe there should be a minister of health and also a minister of healthy living. We were glad to see that development in the most recent cabinet structure. We do not need a minister of managing illness which is really what the Minister of Health has become.

Anything we can do to encourage the overall general public health of Canadians we are morally obligated to do so. I do not accept the argument that it is a huge cost factor in terms of lost taxation revenue for the government.

As I said, the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore has pointed out to me that this bill was never intended to apply to someone who spends $20,000 on green fees at a luxury private golf course. This bill was intended to give relief to the working family that otherwise would not be able to afford to enrol their children in an organized sports team in their community club.

Those fees have gone up lately too. The trickle down effect of budgetary cuts and transfer payments has reached the lowest common denominator, the neighbourhood community clubs in our municipalities. The federal transfer payments to the provinces have been cut. The transfer payments from the provinces to the municipalities have been cut. That has manifested itself in higher fees for something as simple as a community club, to play on a soccer team, or a hockey team, or a baseball team, or whatever organized sport. Those fees have gone up and working families are having a hard time finding the coin to get their kids active. We all know we have to get our kids active because we have to make our kids healthy.

I was speaking to a doctor in the context of my efforts to have trans fats banned in the country. In that context I was speaking to a lot of medical health practitioners. I was shocked to learn that there are 10 year olds with high cholesterol problems. I was shocked to learn the level of obesity among our youth. It is epidemic. I was shocked to learn that one 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola has 13 teaspoons of sugar in it.

Unhealthy things are coming at kids from all directions. It has resulted in the least healthy generation in Canadian history. Ironically, with all the advances in medical science and with all the developments and our ability to keep people alive longer, we are not any healthier. In fact, we are less healthy than when people had to throw bales around on the farm or had to help with the seeding and the harvesting on the farm. We are now an urban society largely and our children are less active than ever before.

I urge members to do all they can to support initiatives like this one. Specifically, I urge them to see fit to support Bill C-210 as put forward by my colleague, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. We should do anything we can to make sure that the next generation is healthier than this generation.

With the exception of some MPs in the House of Commons, the Participaction campaign had a profound effect on the health of Canadians. Some of us here are still too sedentary, but Participaction worked. However, that program is dead. We could successfully argue there is justification to institute new initiatives that would be just as effective as the Participaction program to help youth get involved in sports.

I should point out, Mr. Speaker, that this tax deduction would apply to you and me. Reasonable gym fees or whatever would in fact be tax deductible as an incentive for healthy living. People should not call it social engineering; I know there will be those who do not agree that we should be manipulating people's behaviour patterns, but this is an exception. We are trying to encourage people to make healthy choices and to do the right thing.

In closing, I will simply say how much I appreciate the efforts of the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore in this regard. I personally thank him as a parent. I think the people I represent would thank him. They would be pleased to know that the House of Commons is seized of an issue that would be so beneficial and so useful to so many of them. Given the material we sometimes end up dealing with, this is a positive thing we could do for Canadians.

I again thank the hon. members for granting unanimous consent for us to trade places so that the member from Sackville could make his other prior commitment and still have an opportunity to speak to his bill later.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP 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.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you seek unanimous consent to allow my speaking time to be transferred to my colleague from Winnipeg Centre for the duration of this debate.

2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter GamesRoutine Proceedings

February 11th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to begin by congratulating the minister on his portfolio. It is something that those of us who have been here for a little while know he has been interested in for many years.

At the same time, I wish to acknowledge his predecessors, the member for Bourassa, now President of the Treasury Board, and the member for Simcoe North, both of whom have also worked hard to develop sports in Canada.

The debate about priorities for sports funding always seems to me a debate about more money to develop the elite athletes and the coaches who train them, or more money to build facilities for the masses. Therefore I want to congratulate the minister for stating his overriding goal in his statement earlier this afternoon to have more Canadians participating in sport and physical activity and to ensure that the barriers to participation are reduced, although we in this caucus note no reference at all to seniors in this discussion. There is lots of reference to young people, and we recognize the importance of the association of youth and sports, but we recognize that we also have to get our seniors more engaged in physical activity.

We see this debate about priorities even today. The minister is using the countdown six years from now to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver-Whistler to inform Canadians that his overriding goal is indeed mass participation. On this point he talked about the marginal and the disadvantaged. I would encourage the minister to look carefully at private member's Bill C-210 by the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore which would offer tax relief for people who help offset rising costs of participating in sports for young people by giving them a tax deduction similar to what Canadians currently are allowed for charitable donations.

I am reminded of Grantland Rice, the great American sportswriter who said, “When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he will ask not if you won or lost but how you played the game”. Too many of our younger people, and the minister to his credit referenced it, are not participating because they do not have the wherewithal to participate. They do not have the facilities. They do not have the equipment. We need to recognize that and do something about it.

In the minister's opening remarks on this topic, he said that he was fortunate to have such an amazing group of dedicated people at Sports Canada. In agreeing fully with that assessment, I want to pay tribute to an important individual who no longer is with us but who made a significant contribution to sport in Canada. That is the late Jim Thompson who was the chief executive officer and secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Association.

As the House may recall, Jim died very suddenly and unexpectedly in Vancouver 18 months ago. He was there to help the Vancouver-Whistler committee prepare what turned out to be an eventually successful bid.

Many years earlier I had the good fortune to work with Jim Thompson when he was a young production assistant and later on a very young producer at CBC network sports. He went on to become eventually the president of The Sports Network before taking early retirement. He was persuaded to come out of retirement and assume responsibility for the Canadian Olympic Association and the Vancouver-Whistler bid.

Although our paths had crossed very infrequently over the years, I happened to meet with him at the Toronto airport as he was leaving to go to Vancouver in August 2002, less than two days before his untimely death. We talked about the chances of the Vancouver bid and his views on where Sports Canada emphasis should be in the debate about funding elite athletes versus the general funding for participation.

Jim Thompson was an integral part of sports development in Canada over several decades. He certainly deserves to be recognized on this occasion because it is not just the athletes and the coaches who make immense sacrifices. In this instance Jim Thompson made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country, Sports Canada and the Canadian Olympic Association. To his wife and children we thank them for allowing Jim Thompson to work for something he truly believed in.

We in this caucus congratulate the Vancouver-Whistler committee for its successful Olympic bid. We look forward to a well run Olympic Winter Games six years from now.

We look forward to more Canadians availing themselves of the opportunity to join in the fun of participating in sports and the health benefits they will derive from such activity. In wishing our elite athletes every success in their international competitions, we in the NDP caucus also recognize that involving millions more Canadians in sports, physical activity and reviving the Participaction program will also be worthy of a gold medal for this country.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 7:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Also the Canadian women's soccer team, the hon. colleague mentions. It has gone further than anyone would have expected with great heart and determination.

Sport is also a school of life for young Canadians at a time when in schools we see less stress on physical activity. I do not know, maybe the hon. member really liked gym class. The problem is that so many young people do not and we have seen that often fall by the wayside. That is again where the need is to promote that.

The federal government agrees with the ultimate goal of promotion of participation in sports and we agree with the hon. member. It also believes, though, that there are other ways to achieve the goals of the hon. member other than in Bill C-210.

In fact, while it is well intended, the proposed tax measure would be inefficient, it would provide an unfair advantage to sport activities to the detriment of other activities and it would constitute an inappropriate use of the tax system. While I did not hear the member say the exact amount, clearly it would be very costly.

Let us take a few minutes to look at that.

First, the measures proposed in Bill C-210 would be inefficient and would not have any significant impact on the participation rates in sports, which the hon. member and I agree we would like to see increased. According to recent a Statistics Canada survey, only a negligible portion, 2.3% to be exact, of inactive Canadians believe that costs such as amateur sports fees are a barrier to their participation. Indeed, there seems to be a lack of time or interest as most important in terms of the impediment as to why people do not become active.

Second, the proposal would provide an unfair advantage to sport activities to the detriment of other types of activities. For example, the performing arts, and I am thinking in particular of theatre or orchestra subscriptions, also contribute to Canada's social cohesion and identity. Yet they would not be covered by the proposed tax measure.

Next, implementing this measure would be an inappropriate use of the tax system. Why? Because the general taxpayer would be subsidizing another individual's personal consumption choices. I am sure my hon. colleagues would agree that participation in amateur sport is a personal choice and that should not be influenced by the tax system. The tax system should remain neutral as to avoid distorting consumption patterns. I am sure my hon. colleague would note that.

Finally, the measures proposed in this bill would be very costly. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, I am bound to tell my hon. colleague that we have figured it would be about $450 million annually to only marginally increase the participation rates, if we accept Statistics Canada's view that 2.3% would be motivated by such legislation. The net result of $450 million is just not worth it.

However make no mistake. The federal government believes in the many benefits of sport and that is why it continues to do much for the development of amateur sport in Canada. Let me quickly provide some examples.

Where it is appropriate, amateur sport is supported through the tax system. For example, registered Canadian amateur athletic associations do not pay income tax, and I know the member agrees with that. These organizations also can issue tax receipts for donations they receive from individuals.

Further, thanks to our political commitment and succession of strategic investments, Sports Canada's annual grants and contribution budget now stands at $77 million. From that budget, Sports Canada provides some $49 million annually to support a wide range of sports organizations that contribute directly to federal sporting objectives.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Dick Proctor NDP 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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 7:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 7:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2003 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Peter Stoffer NDP 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.