An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities)

Sponsor

Kevin Waugh  Conservative

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

Status

Defeated, as of Oct. 19, 2016

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Excise Tax Act in order to increase the goods and services tax rebate rate for school authorities from 68% to 100%.

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.

Votes

Oct. 19, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2Government Orders

November 15th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, the member talked about the generous programs of the government, which it is basically financing with debt, large volumes of debt that will be paid for by future generations. This debt will have to be paid by them through higher taxes. That is quite the legacy the government is leaving for our children, the next generation that comes after us, and probably our grandchildren.

The member talked about how we are going to help children in school. With his school board experience, it is interesting that the member also voted against Bill C-241, which was a private member's bill that would have helped school boards have an easier time paying the excise tax with a reduction.

On child poverty rates, the member must know that the Liberal record is quite terrible. Between 1993 and 2005-06, when the Liberals were in charge, child poverty rates stayed exactly the same. During the Conservative government's years, child poverty rates actually went down significantly. They went down from 14.7% for the last year figures are available. There was a nearly 2% difference from the start to the finish of the government's record. Why is the member voting for a budget that will basically leave future generations with huge amounts of debt and worse off--

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 19th, 2016 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-241, under private members' business.

The House resumed from October 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 17th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, this journey to get a 100% rebate back to school boards in Canada has been a passion of mine for nearly 10 years. I was a school member in Saskatchewan for nine and a half years.

School divisions in our country pay the GST. They are rebated 68%. That means they end up paying 32%. This is clearly a tax on a tax, federal to provincial and territorial authorities. It means $187 million that could be used in the classrooms is being taken away today.

I spent the good part of this summer going coast to coast. I talked with parents, educators, government officials, and most of all I talked with trustees. They all agreed that this bill should go to reading. I attended the Canadian School Boards Association's annual meeting in Winnipeg in July. Trustees from across the country lined up to support the bill. The rebate of $187 million to school authorities ends up to be less than 1% of the entire federal budget.

The Canadian School Boards Association's outgoing president Janet Ford said that it was illogical that school boards, as publicly funded taxpayer-funded institutions should be paying the goods and services tax.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation, which represents over 200,000 teachers, agrees that public services administered by school authorities that are publicly funded should not be taxed. That was signed by its president Heather Smith.

Don Morgan, who is the education minister in Saskatchewan, said that the introduction of the bill was timely as the reciprocal taxation agreement signed between the federal government and the province of Saskatchewan recently expired in December. This reciprocal fund included all government ministries, but did not include the public service organizations such as school divisions. This would be an opportune time to revisit this agreement. Don is pleased to provide his support for Bill C-241 as the education minister in the province of Saskatchewan.

Across our great land we have had dozens of letters supporting my private member's bill, from the Western Québec School Board, a great letter from the Ottawa-Carleton school district, the Toronto public schools, and the Seine River School Division in Manitoba, which would save $130,000 annually to be added back into its classrooms in Manitoba.

I will quote the board chair of the Calgary Board of Education, Joy Bowen-Eyre, who stated that $3.6 million would be returned to its division. That is equivalent to the entire operating costs of a large elementary school of 600 students.

From my city of Saskatoon, public school chair Ray Morrison said that an additional nine full-time teachers would be added with the $723,000 that would be returned through this rebate.

The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Board of Education and its chair Diane Boyko said that nine full-time teachers or 21 more educational assistants would be hired immediately if the division would receive the full GST rebate.

There is not one school board in my province that would not receive the benefit of my private member's bill.

On October 5 in the House, the Liberal MP for London North Centre stood up and said that it was an honour to rise and mark World Teachers' Day. The member commended the more than 40 members of the current Liberal caucus who were teachers. The member from London North Centre said, “We are a team committed to education and educators.”

I ask each and every member across the aisle, including the member for Papineau, who once was a teacher, to support my private member's bill. It was the Liberal government in 2004 that gave municipalities a 100% rebate in the GST. It went from 57% all the way to 100%. I ask the government to support Bill C-241, do the right thing, and refund the GST to school authorities like it did to municipalities across the country 12 years ago.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 17th, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-241, sponsored by my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood. The bill would amend the Excise Tax Act to allow for a 100% rebate of the GST for school authorities. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Alex Atamanenko, the former MP for British Columbia Southern Interior, for his work on the bill's precursor, Bill C-259, in the 41st Parliament. I am very pleased to see the bill come back in this Parliament and am also proud to support a fellow member from the Saskatoon area.

The bill is about fairness. School authorities operate under provincial jurisdiction and are funded by provincial governments. Why should one level of government be taxing another level of government? At present, school authorities receive a 68% GST rebate, which means that they pay 32% of the GST on everything they buy. In Saskatchewan alone, that works out to be approximately $8 million that could be spent in classrooms.

Although education is a provincial responsibility, the federal government should not interfere with a province's ability to invest as much as possible in education. An extra $8 million would go a long way to improving and enhancing education services for kids in my province.

Health care is another provincial responsibility, but it receives a 100% GST rebate. Given the increasing pressures on school authorities, the time has come to afford them the same treatment.

It is perfectly logical that school authorities should not use taxpayer money to pay tax on products and services, since they are funded by the provinces. We in the NDP also believe that the federal government must maintain sufficient transfers to the provinces to better fund educational institutions.

The cost of providing educational opportunities for children in Canada is an expensive undertaking, and the level of investment in education is the subject of much debate.

Studies have looked at the level of investment required for education. One of the tools used is called the dependency ratio. It is the percentage generated by dividing the population of children under age 17 by the population of adults aged 18 to 64. In the last census, Saskatchewan had one of the highest dependency ratios, at 49.2%, and was well above the national average. Quebec had one of the lowest dependency ratios. Saskatchewan had the distinction of having one of the highest dependency ratios since 1989.

Research conducted by Saskatchewan school boards indicates that the province has more onerous needs, for both youth and older residents, than other provinces. I quote:

As a result of the age distribution of the population, Saskatchewan is facing needs beyond those of other provinces.... These needs will not disappear. This province has a larger proportion of young people of school age and a larger proportion of individuals over 65. In other words there are fewer people of working age to support those who are not working. There are fewer people to pay the taxes required for support of services such as education and health.

According to the same research, the realities that exist in my home province are the following: Saskatchewan has more young children per working-age person than any other province; Saskatchewan has more senior citizens per working-age person than any other province; the federal government is downloading spending on public programs and services, and this has an indirect effect on education; and Saskatchewan is spending a smaller proportion of total expenditures on education than previously while spending a larger proportion than ever before on servicing the debt.

Decreases in education funding have effects on programs for children. That is obvious. In Saskatchewan today, there are classrooms with 35 or more students.

Sadly, the provincial Sask Party government has only made things worse. More than 350 full-time educational assistant jobs were eliminated by this government. Students are not getting the one-on-one attention they need, and as I mentioned, too many classrooms have 35 kids or more. Some schools are crumbling and desperately need repairs, and classes have been forced into hallways, art supply closets, and even boot rooms. Despite years of windfall revenues, new schools that were desperately needed were not built. Now this government's only plan is to plow ahead with a privatized, rent-a-school P3 scheme that costs more and takes longer and hands control of our public assets over to corporations. For example, in Saskatchewan, an American corporation will be responsible for the maintenance of 18 schools.

In its 2014 budget, the Sask Party government in Saskatchewan cut the education capital budget by nearly 20%, taking $23.4 million away from school building and repair needs, despite the desperate need for more classrooms and smaller class sizes to relieve overcrowding.

When the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education delivered its $2.2-billion budget this year, 13 of the province's 28 school divisions were allocated less money than in the previous year. The ministry blamed teachers' salaries and left these individual school boards to make up the shortfall.

Charles Smith, an assistant professor with the Department of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said the government had effectively shifted its financial obligations onto school divisions. He said, "They're basically asking that institutions do the cuts that they don't want to do themselves. The school boards are left holding the shortfall that they had no hand in negotiating".

It is very clear that school authorities in Saskatchewan, and I am sure elsewhere, are facing huge challenges. An injection of funds via a 100% GST rebate would provide a much-needed boost for school authorities and the communities they serve. The extra money could be used to build and maintain schools, hire more teachers and educational assistants, address inequities in education for indigenous children, and give all kids the one-on-one attention they need and deserve.

How can we be sure that these extra revenues will be used for education? This year the Saskatchewan government retained the GST refund for the health regions, which was normally used as part of their operating revenues. This added insult to injury and put an even more onerous burden on local health authorities.

I began by saying that this bill is about fairness, and I would like to close by reminding my colleagues about the issue of tax fairness. Over the last decade, governments have increasingly shifted the tax burden away from corporations and onto individuals. Canada now has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the G7.

In 2014, for example, for the first time in Canada's history, more than half the federal government's revenue was shouldered by personal income taxes. If Canada's corporate tax rate was the same today as it was in 2000, we would be collecting an extra $20 billion a year in revenue, enough to fund a national child care program, free university tuition, or a children's dental care program. Instead, it has been cut in half since 2000.

What do corporations do with this money? Sadly, this money is not being reinvested in the way we hoped, in the economy, so not only have we lost out on revenue that could be used to provide services but there is also very little economic benefit derived from these corporate tax breaks. Statistics Canada data shows that Canada's corporate cash hoard is more than $626 billion. That is more than the federal debt and almost a third of Canada's GDP.

If the logic for these corporate tax cuts was to get the economy moving and working, it just is not working. It really is regular everyday Canadian taxpayers who are paying the price. The rest of us have had to make up the shortfall by paying more than our fair share. At the same time, local, municipal, health, and school authorities are being squeezed when governments download costs to an even lower level of government.

In the end, there is only one taxpayer, as our Conservative friends like to say, and in this instance, I would agree with them. We have to stop letting corporations off the hook. We have to stop offloading their fair share of taxes onto individual citizens, who not only pay more in taxes but also have to pay again in another way, by having fewer and fewer services delivered at the local level.

I have seen first hand the realities facing the local school authorities in my riding, and I believe that Bill C-241 would improve their budget situations. However, I would ask my hon. colleague if this bill would in any way mandate that the extra monies be put back into local school authorities or if provincial governments could simply withhold this money and use it any way they wanted.

I am also cognizant that the bill, if passed, would have cost implications for the federal government. According to the Library of Parliament's estimates, the real cost to the federal government of refunding the GST to school authorities was about $339 million in 2016, and then the changes put forward in Bill C-241 could represent additional costs in excess of $160 million annually.

The NDP would like to refer the bill to a House of Commons standing committee so that a thorough analysis could be conducted into the reality that school authorities are facing and the various measures the federal government could take to help them deliver a quality education to children everywhere.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 17th, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in the debate on Bill C-241, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities).

The bill would increase the goods and services tax rebate rate for school authorities from 68% to 100%.

We oppose this bill for a number of reasons, the main one being that it would result in federal interference in an area under provincial jurisdiction.

If we use this tool to give money to schools, that could be perceived as money given directly to provincial institutions. Why those institutions and not others? How would we decide to whom this change would apply and to whom it would not? I am not saying it must never be done, but it is important to have an organized approach to making these choices rather than doing it randomly.

Furthermore, this bill would be costly: an estimated $190 million in 2016 rising to $220 million by 2021. When the GST was introduced, measures were put in place to ensure equal treatment across the public sector, and that includes school boards. Making arbitrary, unfounded changes to the GST could have unexpected consequences for other levels of government with responsibilities related to primary and secondary school funding.

I would add that the bill is not in line with our government's primary objective, which is to grow the middle class and the economy. Our government has a much more all-encompassing program to stimulate the economy and improve the lives of middle-class Canadian families.

I would like to share some examples of measures in budget 2016 that are already proving their worth.

The government introduced the Canada child benefit, which, I would remind the House, is the most significant social policy innovation in a generation. This benefit is providing families with up to $6,400 per year for each child under the age of six, and up to $5,400 for each child aged six to seventeen. Middle-class Canadian families can use that money to invest in their children's education and well-being. The fact is that nine out of ten families will receive more in child benefits, including 4,000 families in my riding. I would also like to point out that the Canada child benefit is not taxable, which is quite significant.

Another very important measure introduced by our government is the middle-class tax cut, which has helped nearly nine million Canadians.

Our tax cut and Canada child benefit truly are measures that will help the middle class and those working hard to join it by enabling them to save money, invest more, and stimulate the economy right now.

We believe that a strong economy starts with a strong middle class that has access to high-quality jobs. The government introduced additional measures to support that in budget 2016, with a focus on young Canadians and the middle class, who all want to secure sustainable employment, and rightly so.

Everyone agrees that young Canadians need to be adequately prepared to enter the job market today and in the future, and for that they need to have access to education and training.

That is why the government changed the Canada student grants program by increasing the amounts for students from low- to middle-income families. This increase also applies to part-time students. We also expanded the program in order to make more students eligible for it.

We can see the results, as more than 350,000 students will receive more money for their education. In addition to scholarships, many students are eligible for Canada student loans, but sometimes they worry about not being able to pay them back. We are injecting $131.4 million over five years into the repayment assistance plan so that students are not required to start repaying their loans until they are earning at least $25,000 a year.

Theses measures reduce the financial burden on young graduates and offer the future members of the middle class the peace of mind they need to take some time to find a good job.

To help young Canadians find rewarding work early in their career, we are helping them acquire work experience. How are we doing that? The government is creating up to 35,000 additional jobs over each of the next three years through the Canada summer jobs program. This investment will ensure that at least twice as many job opportunities are supported under the program.

Budget 2016 is about the middle class and those working hard to join it. As I said earlier, it includes measures for young people, as we just saw, but also for pensioners, as I will demonstrate shortly.

The government worked with the provinces to strengthen the Canada pension plan, the CPP, so that young people can retire with dignity when the time comes. This collaboration with the provinces resulted in an agreement for a more generous pension plan for Canadians.

CPP benefits will increase from one-quarter to one-third of eligible earnings. The maximum income covered by the CPP will also increase by 14%. This new system will be phased in over seven years, starting on January 1, 2019, so that the short-term impact is minimal and gradual.

In closing, I would say that the government has a comprehensive policy for middle-class Canadian families. The government is supporting the middle class with tax cuts and the Canada child benefit; it has taken many steps to help Canadians access suitable training and find good jobs; and it is ensuring that Canadians will have more money when they retire.

These are just a few of the social policies that the government is implementing to grow the economy and the middle class. The intention behind Bill C-241 is good. However, the bill does not align with the policy of growing the middle class that is the basis for our efforts to build a Canada that can face all the challenges of this century.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 17th, 2016 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support Bill C-241 to reduce the cost of GST to our local schools in Canada. The federal government already provides a 68% rebate for the GST cost to schools. However, this bill would reduce the impact of the GST for the remaining 32%. All members of the House should be able to agree that the federal government should not be making money off of the back of our education system in Canada.

Canadian families understand how tight resources are at their local schools. For instance, look at the number of fundraisers that parents have to participate in on a yearly basis. In the history of Canada, parents have never been required to pay the number of fees that they are today, whether it is for pencils, craft materials, or surcharges for athletics, music, or shop classes. Parents know that there is simply not enough money to provide the quality of education that they desire for their children.

Using 2014-15 as a benchmark, this bill would save schools across Canada a total of $187 million, which is almost $200 million a year that would be reinvested into Canada's future generation. This works out to tens of thousands of dollars for each and every school across our country, which is why it is so perplexing that the Liberal government would oppose this bill.

Instead of giving hope to parents that the federal government could in some small way help their schools, the Liberals have said that they are in fact opposed. However, wait a minute, would this not mean that the Liberals are opposed to helping the middle class?

I am a little more than confused by the Liberal logic here. According to the parliamentary secretary, the Liberals will not be supporting this bill because it infringes, they say, on provincial jurisdiction, and that it would increase the amount of money available to public education in the provinces. However, what about imposing a carbon tax? If the Liberals were sincere about this new-found principle, they would not be imposing a carbon tax.

Furthermore, if the Liberals believed they should not meddle in provincial jurisdiction, we would not see the standoff between the provincial health ministers and the Minister of Health at the federal level with regard to the next health accord. Clearly, the argument that this is under provincial jurisdiction at this point is one of convenience and not one of principle.

I would submit that since this bill only affects the GST rebate, which in fact is a federal tax, this bill safely stays within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The real reason that the Liberals oppose this bill is that they broke the bank and they cannot afford this tax break to public schools, and hence this tax break to the middle class. It is hard to be a tax-and-spend government when elected on the heels of a Conservative government that cut taxes for families to the lowest rates in 50 years. I understand that.

What we have seen from the Liberals is absolutely unchecked spending. A $10-billion-a-year promised deficit has ballooned to a $30-billion-a-year actual deficit. A tax cut for the middle class that was supposed to be revenue neutral turned out to cost the federal government $1 billion per year, which in turn will be passed on to the taxpayer. The economy, despite budget 2016, continues to sputter, with dismal growth performance and plunging investor confidence.

I am generally a fairly optimistic person, but the Liberals are digging Canada into debt at levels we have not seen before, and it is the next generation who will be forced to repay it. The government is mortgaging the futures of our students, which this bill is attempting to help.

The Liberal government says it would be imprudent to make piecemeal changes to the GST because of their tax review. However, we all know that this review will not be looking to decrease taxes.

The Liberals are so far into the red that it would appear they have no choice but to look for hidden ways to raise taxes to pay for their out-of-control spending. We have already seen this with the increased payroll taxes that the Liberals have recently brought in. The expansion of the CPP will start taxing people at a higher rate in the very near future, but Canadians will not see the benefit of this for at least 40 years.

The Liberals cancelled the legislated tax cut to small businesses, thus breaking their campaign promise, while also promising to bring in a crippling carbon tax that will make small businesses even less competitive against the American market and result in many Canadians losing their jobs.

The government also cancelled a whole host of tax cuts for Canadian families, largely the middle class. These included cutting the children's fitness tax credit, the children's arts tax credit, the textbook tax credit, the education tax credit, and income splitting for families. That is a long list.

Who will pay for this reckless economic approach? Our students will pay for this approach. Our young people will pay. My generation will pay for this reckless spending approach.

Canada's demographic pressures are well understood. As the baby boomers retire and the size of families shrink, the ratio of Canadians who are working versus those who are not is approaching unsustainable levels. To put it simply, there are fewer people working compared to those collecting benefits than at any point in our history as a nation, and the trend is only getting worse. In 1990, there were five working Canadians per senior. In 2011, there were four working Canadians per senior. By 2030, there will be only two working Canadians for every senior. Why is this relevant? It is relevant because it means that the future government will have less ability to pay down debt because the taxes collected each year will be needed to pay rising expenses such as pensions and health care costs.

I support Bill C-241 because I believe that putting money in the pockets of our schools is more important than the wasteful spending we presently see from the Liberal government. Our schools need more funding, not a carbon tax that would increase the costs of our local schools as they are forced to pay more to run their buses, heat their schools, and purchase supplies. Our rural schools will pay the heaviest cost.

Teachers and other front-line educators tell us that students are losing the ability to learn experientially in our school programs, such as shop, band, and fine arts, because these programs are being shelved. In place of these creative programs that develop the skills that young people need to succeed in the skilled trades, these children are directed to study online, because the Internet is cheaper.

Why do we have such a shortage of skilled trades in Canada? It is because we have put our money behind convincing kids to get behind a screen instead of living life in the real world.

Who has the most to lose because of this? It is the vulnerable students among us. It is those who come largely from financially insecure homes. These students are the least likely to be able to afford the secondary fees for supplies to participate in these classes. At the end of the day, that is a national tragedy, because often it is these students who have the most to benefit from acquiring a skilled trade.

It is clear that schools in Canada could use this money that would be granted to them through a GST rebate.

Our students are our future. When parents give their children a hug before they get on the school bus or they get dropped off at school in the morning, those parents want to know that the government is doing everything in its power to benefit the future of their children. This legislation would help provide that support. This legislation is about our future generation. This legislation is about supporting Canada.

I ask all members of Parliament on this side of the House and across the aisle, especially those with kids, to think about their children and to consider the future of this great country. I ask them to support this piece of legislation.

The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (school authorities), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present e-petition no. 389, signed by hundreds of Canadians.

The petitioners are calling on members of Parliament to support my private member's bill, Bill C-241. Second reading will be on Monday, October 17. Bill C-241 seeks to amend the Excise Tax Act to refund 100% GST paid by Canadian school authorities.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 23rd, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present another petition signed by Canadians who are calling on members of Parliament to support Bill C-241, which seeks to amend the Excise Tax Act to refund 100% of the GST paid by Canadian school authorities.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 19th, 2016 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present two more petitions signed by Canadians who are calling on members of Parliament to support Bill C-241, which seeks to amend the Excise Tax Act to refund 100% GST paid by Canadian school authorities.

June 9th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
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Jean-Denis Fréchette Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and vice-chairs.

I would like to introduce my colleagues. With me today are Dr. Mostafa Askari, assistant parliamentary budget officer; Chris Matier, senior director, economic and fiscal analysis and forecasting; Tim Scholz, economic analyst; Elizabeth Cahill, financial adviser-analyst; and Jason Jacques, director of fiscal analysis.

Thank you, committee members, for this invitation to appear and for the opportunity to discuss our recent reports. Since our last appearance before your committee on April 19, we released eight reports, including two analyses last week on the cost estimate of private members' business, Bill C-239 and Bill C-241. These two studies were done in the context of your committee's routine motion requiring the PBO to conduct a detailed and comprehensive costing analysis of selected private members' business appearing on the order of precedence.

Since yesterday, Bill C-239 is, of course, no longer on your agenda.

Since the committee’s notice of meeting also refers to our recent reports and since those cover a wide range of topics, I will stop there, Mr. Chair.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2016 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I taught French for over a decade in high school and in the adult education system. As a teacher, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-241.

As everyone knows, school boards can get a 68% refund on the goods and services tax, the GST. The bill proposes increasing the GST rebate to 100%. That would contribute to increasing the funding that our school boards are getting, which is extremely important.

I am pleased to support the bill. The bill was introduced before by my former NDP colleague Alex Atamanenko. I want to point out that he did very good work during the time I knew him in the last Parliament.

I am very pleased that my colleague is bringing back this pertinent bill, which could help those in education who need it. I absolutely agree that we must go on. Even though it must not intrude in provincial jurisdictions, the federal government has a responsibility to provide health and education transfers. It is extremely important that it make these transfers so that the provinces can make appropriate investments. There is no logical reason for the GST rebate to be 68% instead of 100%. The figure is arbitrary. This bill would help school boards that need it.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the school trustees and people on the school boards in my riding and thank them for their work. For example, Jean-François Houle, the chair of the Commission scolaire des Chênes, has been doing an excellent job for about two years now, since he accepted the position vacated by Jeanne-Mance Paul. She did fantastic work as chair of the school board. I met her on a number of occasions. She attended every important community event in Drummondville. I thank them for their significant involvement. These people do excellent work, outside of their professional careers.

An honourable mention goes to Christiane Desbiens, a young retiree who left her position in December 2015. She was also very active as the chair of the school board. She did a lot of work to increase the graduation rates and the services offered to students within the Commission scolaire des Chênes, which is growing.

I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the arrival of France Lefebvre, who was recently appointed chair a few weeks or months ago. I congratulate her on her appointment and I wish her good luck in the future. There is a lot of work to be done, but I am pleased to see that the new staff is taking their work seriously and will continue to take on any challenges that arise.

I would like to mention Brigitte Bourdages from the CEGEP in Drummondville. I want to congratulate her and tell her to keep up the good work.

In closing, I would also like to thank everyone in the greater Drummond area who made the Drummondville university campus possible. Keep up the good work. There is a lot of work to be done in the field of education.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2016 / 2 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Yes. We are going to see real change, Madam Speaker, with the new government, I can assure the member of that and I will talk a bit about that real change.

I suspect, if we would have had a dialogue with the Conservative minister of finance at the time, the types of arguments he would have been bringing forward would have been something to the effect of, “What is the actual cost?” and “Where are you going to get the money to replace it?”

We are talking an estimated $200 million a year, in terms of lost revenue. An hon. member has just indicated that it is less than $100 million.

I think we should take a look at the percentage difference, because it is important for us to recognize, and I do believe the member did, that there are current rebates. When we talk about the actual dollar amount, my understanding is that it is closer to $200 million over the years.

If we take a look at those selected boards where there are rebates, and we are talking about the municipalities, as has been pointed out, in I believe 1994 the rebate was raised to 100%, recognizing through our municipalities the important role they play. There were different types of stakeholders at the time that articulated why we needed to move in that direction, and it was 2004. I believe it was a Liberal administration back then that recognized that this was something that had some value to it.

We also give exemptions to universities and public colleges of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 67%. If we take a look at our school authorities today, and this is what the member is trying to enhance, it is estimated at about 68%. Then for hospital authorities, facility operators, and external suppliers it is based on 83%.

What we are really talking about is that gap between 68% and 100%, and this is what the member is advocating for.

I know a question was put forward to the member with respect to the type of consultation or representations that might have been made to the member. I am not too sure in terms of exactly where the provinces themselves might be at.

We also need to take into consideration, when we talk about school boards or school entities, that there are public entities and there are private entities. I am not 100% clear, but I believe that the member across the aisle, by his actions, is implying that it would apply to both private and public. I do not know to what degree there would be an additional cost, but I can assure members that there would be an additional cost factor to it if we have both private and public.

I think the current government has been very clear in terms of what our taxation priorities are. We do recognize the need for reforming our taxation. We have seen some of the most significant changes probably in the last 15 or 20 years in terms of taxation policy with an underlying theme that what we want is for taxation to be fair. We want people to be paying their fair share.

That is why one of our government's first initiatives back in December was Bill C-2 which provided a middle-class tax break which will ultimately benefit all Canadians indirectly and nine million directly. That was a very important priority of this administration. Along with that particular tax change, we saw a tax increase for Canada's most wealthiest, those who have an income in excess of $200,000 a year, again with the idea that Canadians expect a fair taxation policy.

The Government of Canada has not given up. We recognize there are many inequities within our taxation policies. That is one of the reasons we made a commitment to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy in the long term. The government made a commitment for the coming year to undertake a review of the tax system as a whole to ensure all tax measures are fair, efficient, and fiscally responsible.

It is very important to recognize that the federal government has a responsibility to work with the different stakeholders and get a sense from them where they believe the inequities are and how we might be able to assist in trying to cure some of those inequities while at the same time establishing some priorities as to where we might be able to act.

Would it not be wonderful if the Conservatives had left us in a better situation as opposed to a deficit? Would it not be wonderful if they had provided us with a better situation? Would it not be wonderful if we could just wave a wand and see if we could deal with all tax inequities and deliver the types of tax breaks that we on the Liberal side would like to deliver? It might take a bit of time in order for us to do that.

Do not underestimate the commitment of this government and our ability to work with others to deal with issues that come before the House of Commons, like the member opposite who brought forward Bill C-241. We recognize that is an issue which we will have to look at.

I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Finance that in the negotiations and the consultations that will take place going forward, one of the agenda items could very well be the issue of our school divisions both public and private.

I would encourage the member across the way to continue to lobby any way he can. I know through consultations with the Government of Canada what we have seen is a genuine commitment to work with Canadians, consult with Canadians on the very important issues of tax fairness. I can assure members as we witnessed even in that small window from the moment in which we took office to the time we presented legislation on tax fairness to the presentation of the budget, that thousands, and if we factor in the Internet, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were brought in to the circle of consultation in the hope of improving our system.

The good news to the member across the way, even if he does not get what he wants within this legislation, that at the end of the day, he is looking across the way at a government that is genuinely concerned about reforming our tax system. We will do our work in terms of talking to the many different stakeholders, because we want what all Canadians want, and that is a higher sense of tax fairness.

Excise Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2016 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-241.

Like my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood, I understand what this additional money could mean to our school boards from coast to coast to coast.

This is a well-thought-out bill that would benefit all taxpaying Canadians. This is an additional tax burden on what already tax-funded school authorities pay. The GST was lifted from municipalities for precisely this reason, and the same should be true for our schools and the good of our students attending them. Therefore, the comment of my colleague across the way that we do not want a precedent is wrong, because we already have had a precedent municipally since 2004.

Let me tell the House why I am passionate about the bill. School is in my blood. My 91-year-old mom was a teacher, starting at the age of 17 in a little schoolhouse in Prince Edward Island teaching eight grades. My daughter is a primary school teacher in the GTA. My first job was as a teacher's assistant in summer school. In addition to my professional career, I have been a youth leader for over 32 years, organizing weekends, camps, directing camps, planning activities. I have spent a lot of time with children, and it is through these various endeavours that I have gained an appreciation for the needs of our youth. The most basic need is a good, solid education to start them on the path to success.

I do not believe this should be a partisan issue. We all have schools in our ridings and we all have children in those schools who deserve to have the best education we can give them.

Not surprisingly, the author of the bill has received widespread support for the bill from all over the country, and he shared some of their messages with me. One that was very striking came from the Calgary Board of Education. It would have received an additional $3.6 million in fiscal year 2014-15 if it had had the 100% GST refund. The quote reads in part:

To put this into perspective, $3.6 million is equivalent to the entire operating costs of one of our large elementary schools for 600 students.

That same school board welcomed 427 Syrian students and is expecting more. Imagine how a $3.6-million increase in the school board's budget could help provide the necessary services and support to those new students. They wrote to the Prime Minister about it. Like my colleague, I believe that a 100% GST refund would be an excellent way for the government to support our schools.

In my own province of Ontario, the main cities, as one can imagine, have experienced an enormous growth in student population, while my riding is experiencing declining enrolment. The following is a quote from the Lambton Kent District School Board's annual budget. It states:

While this Provincial funding amount is stable year-over-year, about two-thirds of [grants for student needs] funding is enrolment based. The declining enrolment in our region has a significant impact on GSN funding requiring cost saving measures to be implemented.

Just this week, on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, was an article about the radical choices the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is having to make. Its 2016-17 budget proposes many cuts, among them, upward of 38 teachers, four ESL teachers, four principals and vice-principals, and 47 administrators, support, and learning support staff. This is all to cover a $9.3-million budget shortfall. The additional 32% GST rebate would cover almost half of that shortfall in Ottawa.

Let us talk a bit more about the cost of doing this. The lost revenue from rebating 100% of the GST has been said to be about $187 million. We talked about how that compares with the revenues received. Let us talk about how it compares with some other things.

Compared with the $10 billion in interest we are going to pay each year on our deficit, it is a small amount. Compared with the $2.65 billion we gave to the foreign climate change fund or the $1.2 billion for Syrian refugees or the $5 billion in foreign aid, it is a small amount.

These are Canadians who will benefit from the bill, our children, who deserve a bright future. Our children are our most important asset. They are the future.

This week, during Science Odyssey, there were many activities promoting that more young people get interested in science. I loved when the Minister of Science said that children are born curious. This is a fact, and stimulating that curiosity with science-based activities in school requires funding that current school boards are struggling to find. Therefore, the money rebated back through Bill C-241 could also help more school boards put a focus on science. More science in schools from the early ages on up will encourage boys and girls to enter this field where the future of well-paying jobs lies.

Another thing I like about Bill C-241 is that the mechanism to rebate the money to school boards is already in place. Since municipalities and other organizations receive their rebates, no new structure has to be put in place to make it happen. It can be done quickly and cost-effectively.

Think of the cost of the kinds of activities school boards are trying to promote these days: robotics, computers, coding. All of these things cost more than the crayons of old, and here is an easy way to help schools and to help our children as well.

I was glad to hear the member talk about another example of curriculum that has been added to the schools, which is the first nations, Métis, and Inuit component. As a mother of two non-status Métis children, I am proud to see this introduction. The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association has said that it would use this rebate to implement that curriculum.

One other thing I will say is that looking through the gender lens of a gender-based analysis, which we are currently studying in our Status of Women committee, we see that teaching is a profession that is more predominately women than men, especially at the primary grade level. It is also a fact that with many cuts to the school board budgets that have occurred over the years, many teachers are now having to purchase with their own money their own supplies for arts, crafts, and activities within their classrooms.

We would never imagine making a construction worker responsible to pay for the equipment they are using, nor would we expect policemen and firefighters to pay for the tools of their trade. However, we do see it in this female-dominated environment. Therefore, the returning of the full GST rebate to the school boards would, in my opinion, ease this gender-biased burden, and can be part of the measures described in budget 2016.

I encourage members to support Bill C-241. I am not sure if this is the shortest bill ever written, at just 30 words, but I do know that this little bill, if successful, would have the biggest positive impact that schools have experienced in a very long time.

Let me say that the loss to the government coffers is miniscule in the whole scheme of things, miniscule to the government but gigantic to the students who attend our Canadian schools.

I thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for bringing forward this very positive initiative. I also thank my colleagues on all sides of the chamber for their attention to Bill C-241 and the benefits it would bring about for our children.