Madam Speaker, I am very happy to put some comments on the record about Bill C-271, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.
I must applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul. This very progressive bill has addressed a problem that has been touching on the education of our young people and the lives of our students and music teachers here in Canada. I can tell members from experience that I know well what it is like to have music students come to my home. It is something that I did at one time. I have to say that this private member's bill is long overdue.
First of all, I was appalled at the comments I heard from members on the other side of the House, particularly those from the Liberal Party.
Number one, what was said was that they have no problems with cash credits being given to students who go to formal institutions to get their education, but let me tell members a little about the kind of education that students get from certified music teachers.
A certified music teacher who is giving music lessons out of his or her own home takes the children through grade levels. There are standards. There can be music programs like those from the Royal Conservatory of Music. The music teachers give the lessons. The children do a lot of practice and cannot progress until they actually take the examination at the end of the year. If they pass the examination, they go to the subsequent grade.
This helps a lot of students, particularly students in rural Canada. There are schools of music all over Canada, but I would say that most of them are centred in major cities. Many of our students in our rural areas are at a disadvantage because of the cost of having to leave their homes and get their education elsewhere.
This is about investing in the future of our students. It is lifelong education. Members opposite often talk about lifelong education. Here today we saw a dismal display of the understanding of what education is all about. Clearly, music teachers, 20,000 of them across our country, are watching this and saying, “What are they saying? What are they talking about?” Clearly, there is a high standard of education from certified music teachers.
The downside is the cost to parents. As I say, I applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul for putting this much needed bill forward because many parents and students cannot afford the cost of extended music lessons. When students go through the public or private school systems, the cost of everyday life is great. The cost of books is great. The cost of education per se is great.
Over and above that, there are a lot of students who would like to become musicians and music teachers. They would like to achieve those kinds of goals. But in actual fact, by the time the cost of the instrument is paid for, whether it is a violin or a piano or another instrument that one wants to play, we find that these are very expensive. Some of them run into hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Qualified music teachers who build a home business of teaching students do much to contribute to the economy in their particular district. What I hear from members opposite is that there are merits in the bill and yet they divorce their support from this bill based on the fact that this is what we call homegrown business. Not only is it homegrown business, but it is formalized education outside the parameters of the bricks and mortars of institutional schools of learning.
Many students have reached very high standards and have gone to Julliard or to extended music schools all over the world. Where did they start? They started at home with a qualified music teacher, teaching them grades 1 through 9 formally, with the counterpoint and the other kinds of educational expertise they have to learn to get to a certain level before they can go further. They have a whole basis of formalized education that opens up a whole new world to them.
I came from a small place in southern Manitoba called Wakopa, a little hamlet, on a farm. My parents never had the kind of money that we needed to get through school. A lot of us took music lessons with the local music teacher.
Members opposite are playing the violin as if this is a story they do not want to hear. However, this is a very serious issue and it is a very progressive bill. I would call on members on all sides of the House to support the bill. It accommodates the education of many students throughout Canada, many students who would otherwise not develop.
Many music students are happy being able to study their music. They are happy to enjoy the music and the development it offers them. Apart from that, it is also a great part of the education of Canadian students. Many students would attest to the fact that. Because of those certified music teachers, their lives have been changed. It has opened up new worlds to them. It has helped them to develop as individuals. It has provided jobs for them.
Having some tax breaks and credits is of paramount importance to the education of our children. Members on all sides of the House have to look carefully at the attributes of music teachers. Music teachers have a one-to-one individualized relationship with their students. That helps the students to have a vision on how they can develop and grow. Once they get their basic music, then they can go on to all sorts of different fields. I know first-hand of students who have taken their basic music degree or music education and then later have gone to higher levels of education.
In some rural areas, as these students get into the higher levels of grades 9 and 10 or into their ARTC music degree, they will teach the beginner students as well.
The bill has a lot of merit. It has a lot to say about understanding the education and lifelong learning of individuals in our nation. We need to build a high standard of education. We need to encourage individuals, no matter what their backgrounds are or how much money they have. We need to give individuals a vision of who they can be. In many places, especially in rural Canada and in our urban areas as well, that certified music teachers provide that opportunity.
We talk about the feel good kind education and the enhancement of the well-being of somebody. However, it also very difficult formalized education. Anyone who has ever studied music would understand that. Anyone who has ever gone through counterpoint would understand the logistics of that kind of education as well.
We need to give a lot of support and credit to the students in our nation and to the 20,000 music teachers who work on a daily basis to help their students reach their highest levels of learning.
Over and above that, across the nation we have festivals where students can compete and understand what it is like to receive an award for their singing or for their playing. Many communities have music festivals that teach other kinds of skills as well, and they have built-in toastmasters.
I fully support Bill C-27. It is an extremely progressive bill that should have been in this House of Commons a long time ago. The Liberal Party has been in power over a decade and this has not come up in the House.
The teachers and the students in music have done very well. If there is anything the government can do to support their lifelong learning, it should be done. I would like to even see some things extended, where the price of instruments, et cetera are also included.
To conclude, the bill would add to the well-being and high educational standards to which every student wants to attribute themselves.