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An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property)

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

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

Status

In committee (House), as of March 23, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-323.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property. It also establishes a tax deduction for the capital cost of property used in the course of such a rehabilitation.

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

March 23, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, having seconded Bill C-323 introduced by the member for York—Simcoe, I am delighted to speak to the very meaningful benefits this legislation would bring not only to the owners who preserve and restore heritage properties of all sorts, but to the communities where they are located, as well as to our national cultural heritage.

I represent a riding which has a magnificent respect for the original townsite of old Thornhill, applying its own regulations and encouragement of preservation and restoration under the Ontario Heritage Act. The City of Markham's heritage department offers short-term loans to owners wishing to embark on a restoration adventure, and upon an owner's commitment to conserve the heritage features of a designated property, the City of Markham will actually reduce annual property and education taxes by fully 30%. As well, since 2000, Markham has presented annual heritage awards to owners who have completed restoration projects in compliance with heritage standards.

I am pleased to share with members the pride that Cilla and I share, having survived the roller-coaster perturbation involved in the restoration of 111 John Street, in Thornhill.

The central part of the designated house, built in 1842 by a miller named John Lane, first served to house the coopers who constructed the wooden barrels to carry cornmeal and flour back to England. It was effectively a bunkhouse. The house did have a late Victorian expansion, but its 19th century charm survived even the dilapidated, fixer-upper state in which we found it and acquired it in 2007.

To make a long story short, our marriage survived the top-to-bottom three-year restoration of the house, and we were honoured to receive a Heritage Markham Award of Excellence for our restoration project. Just to clear the air and to assure this House that I support Bill C-323 for its high-minded goals of celebrating restoration and maintenance of Canada's heritage buildings far beyond old Thornhill, indeed right across Canada, and not for personal gain from the very reasonable benefits that this law would provide, let me inform members that because a heritage property demands constant loving care and repair that many homeowners today might find challenging, Cilla and I, unfortunately, no longer own this home.

When I had a close call with mortality a couple of years ago, I received stern spousal direction that I was no longer to venture up onto the roof to carry out maintenance and fixes or to wield my trusty chainsaw as an occasionally necessary high-level amateur arborist. So, reluctantly, we sold to, we hope, we believe, a family as enchanted with this heritage property as we were.

Let me thank members for indulging this explanation of my fixation with historic properties, modest and grand, and let me return to the very important specifics of Bill C-323.

My colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, in his introduction of this private member's legislation, reminded the House of the very real public interest in the preservation and restoration of heritage properties. He spoke directly to the cost burden that rehabilitation is usually more expensive than alternatives such as demolition and a replacement new build, but certainly it is far less expensive than the priceless loss of physical Canadian heritage in a tear-down.

He pointed out that the bill would help owners who are preserving historic places with a modest portion of the cost of delivering this important public benefit. This bill would create a 20% tax credit for rehabilitation of recognized, designated historic places. The bill would also create an accelerated capital cost allowance for eligible capitalized costs incurred under the same conditions as the tax credit.

What exactly are eligible costs? Under the provisions of Bill C-323, these are costs that would include construction, insurance, development, site improvement, as well as basic professional fees. These eligible costs would exclude acquisition, cosmetic and furnishing costs of such a structure.

Our sponsor, the member for York—Simcoe, reminded us that not so many years ago, the government implemented a pilot program with a tax credit and end goal such as the one this bill would create. He cited the fact that the response doubled, on average, the property values of the respective structures and that the tax credit actually incentivized significant GST and corporate tax revenues.

Many countries in different parts of the world have heritage grants and associated programs. The most similar policy, I believe, is the tax credit program in the United States, which provides a 20% tax credit on costs related to the rehabilitation of designated historic buildings, as well as a 10% credit on non-designated buildings built before 1936. The program in the United States was implemented in 1976. It is widely recognized as having been exceptionally successful with over 41,000 projects certified. As well, the program has been found to have a net positive impact on the United States Treasury of $5 billion over the life of the program to date.

Under Bill C-323, eligibility for the tax credit and accelerated write-off of any restoration project would have to be first certified by an architect, following Parks Canada's easily available published standards for conservation of historic places.

The integrity of this evaluation process is ensured through the use of criteria that are not only recognized across Canada, but internationally. There are many programs in different parts of the world which have adopted the Parks Canada criteria for their work in designating and recognizing historic buildings.

Although this process is very exacting, it need not be burdensome or costly and can, we believe, be very easily applied to the detail and the coverage provisions of Bill C-323. The Parks Canada historic sites record with regard to major structures and locations, I am sure hon. members recognize this, is world-class. Application of the Parks Canada historic sites standards to fulfill the provisions of Bill C-323 would be scalable, and again, as I said, not burdensome or costly.

In closing, I would echo the words of my colleague from York—Simcoe in saying that Canadians will be much more likely to embrace the idea of having their heritage properties designated as historic if the bill is passed by the House. While the design of the legislative package is very modest in dollar terms, it would represent a very meaningful investment in our national cultural infrastructure.

I encourage all members of the House, all parties in the House, to stand in support of Bill C-323.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this House on behalf of my constituents of Kingston and the Islands to speak in support of Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act. I will begin by thanking my colleague for York—Simcoe for putting forward this substantive and very timely legislation.

My speech today will focus on three themes. First, I will address the importance of preserving heritage buildings. Second, I will draw from my experiences as a municipal politician to explain why I believe there is a desperate need for financial incentives to encourage heritage restoration. Third, I will speak to the economic benefits associated with the restoration of historically designated buildings.

In his opening remarks during the first hour of debate, the sponsor of the bill talked about the sense of awe he feels when walking through historic sites. While we may come from different parts of the province and indeed different sides of this House, I can say that I share his sense of awe when I visit one of the many historic properties in my riding of Kingston and the Islands.

These buildings tell a story about who we are and where we came from. They impart important lessons from the past and remind us about the challenges we have overcome and the accomplishments we have had in this country. In short, they highlight and bring to life those special moments in our history that are worth remembering.

I have often said in this House that I am proud to represent Canada's first capital, which has firmly etched its place in our country's history. Kingston's rich history and culture endures and is kept alive by our treasured heritage properties. To give members some perspective, about 120 buildings in Kingston belong on the national register of historic places, and more than 1,000 are listed on the city's municipal register and designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. These include nationally important historic sites, such as the Kingston Penitentiary, the original CN station, and the Nine Mile Point lighthouse on Simcoe Island.

This brings me to the second focal point of my speech, which is the need for real incentives to restore and maintain heritage properties.

Growing up in Kingston, I was fortunate to learn from a young age to appreciate the historic value of built heritage. It was later on as mayor that I gained a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with owning or acquiring a heritage building. The reality is that many of our most prominent historical buildings are facing an uncertain future, and I would like to talk about a few examples to illustrate what I mean.

The outer station in Kingston is a designated historical site that was built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856, 11 years before Confederation, to serve as a halfway point between Montreal and Toronto. It holds a special role in our history and was used by Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, in his travels between Kingston and this place during the early formative years of our country. Among other notable individuals, King George VI famously arrived there on a visit to Kingston in 1939. The station was closed in 1974, and despite its historical importance, it now sits derelict and in ruins. This is what is known as demolition by neglect, a reality that, unfortunately, is far too common. After years of deterioration, the city has estimated that it would cost nearly $4 million for CN, the current owners, to repair this building and clean up the contamination of the land.

Another perfect example of a challenging situation in my riding is that of the Nine Mile Point lighthouse, which was erected on the western tip of Simcoe Island in 1833 to guide vessels navigating the northeastern waters of Lake Ontario. As the oldest lighthouse on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, and possibly in the entire Great Lakes, it is now retired from its operational duties and has appropriately been nominated for designation under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. The problem is that any potential new owner of this historic lighthouse might be responsible for the significant cost of maintaining this property and remediating it appropriately, as required by federal and provincial laws.

Restoration in both cases has definite community support, but the projects present a significant undertaking, and I am concerned that right now we do not have adequate incentives to encourage anyone to take them on.

Bill C-323 proposes a modest 20% tax credit for rehabilitation work done on designated historic buildings and a three-year accelerated write-off period for spending on these buildings. This would give interested parties the incentive to take on these projects.

These measures would increase the confidence of current and future owners of historic properties, encouraging them to rehabilitate and reuse historically significant buildings and avoid the grim alternatives of demolition or demolition by neglect.

This incentive is also a win-win in situations where the federal government is trying to divest of a building that no longer has an operational use. Nine Mile Point Lighthouse, Kingston Penitentiary, and Outer Station are all examples of federally owned properties, or those owned by a crown corporation, that are considered surplus and are no longer operational. While the federal government will not outright demolish these historic properties, it is also not required to do anything to preserve them.

The options are to let them remain as a liability on the federal government's balance sheet, in which case they will slowly deteriorate over time because the federal government is not required to repair them, as a third party would, or find a way to transfer them to an interested party who will actually invest in rehabilitation.

The tax credit proposed in Bill C-323 would make the second option more feasible. It would make it less likely that federal properties will be demolished by neglect, which is exactly what has happened in the case of the Outer Station in my riding.

When we talk about heritage properties, we often think about a few particularly special landmarks. I have just named a few that stand out in my community, and I am sure every member could do the same for their own ridings. However, we have to remember that built heritage also includes homes owned by private landowners, who face high costs to maintain their properties over time. As the member for Kootenay—Columbia noted in his speech during the last hour of debate, owners of historic buildings typically incur an additional 21% in costs, so it seems fair and appropriate to offset those costs with a 20% tax credit .

I will now move to my third and final theme, which is the economic benefit of the tax credit. To estimate the financial impact of this bill, we can look to the United States, which has had a historic tax credit program since 1981. The program has been a resounding success at stimulating economic growth and creating jobs.

So far, over $23 billion in federal credits have generated more than $28 billion in additional tax revenue and leveraged over $120 billion in private investment; 2.4 million jobs have been created, and tens of thousands of historic properties have benefited.

In Canada, a pilot program was launched in 2003 that yielded equally promising results. Over the five-year pilot project, $21.5 million in federal contributions supported 49 projects and leveraged $177 million or more than eight times more in private sector investment.

We should make policies based on the best evidence, and in this case, the evidence is very clear. lncentivizing heritage rehabilitation not only serves an important public goal but also stimulates exactly the kind of economic activity we need right now. It will generate considerable private investment and will create well-paying jobs in construction, skilled trades, and many other fields.

In light of Canada's 150th birthday, I cannot imagine a more appropriate time to be having this discussion. The experience of visiting a historic site can teach us much more about our past than reading a textbook, and we should not deprive future generations of this opportunity. If we do nothing, we risk losing these national treasures to demolition or demolition by neglect, which unfortunately is happening right now in my community.

We need to positively reward the goodwill of Canadians who are acting in the public interest by preserving our built heritage. To ensure our heritage buildings can be enjoyed by current and future generations, we need to get serious about rehabilitation, and we must act now before it becomes too costly or impossible to do so. My colleague has put forward this bill to do exactly that, which I am proud to support.

To conclude, I hope all members will think hard about the significant cultural and economic benefits that this bill could have to their communities and throughout the country.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-323.

I was here when the sponsor introduced the bill. I really liked his speech during the first hour of debate because I have seen and visited most of the buildings he mentioned. Needless to say, his speech made me feel quite nostalgic. I thank the member for York—Simcoe for this bill, and I want to start off by pledging him my support.

Historic buildings in the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou are a valuable part of our heritage, our history, and our culture. I am in favour of maintaining our historic buildings, but the cost of repairing and maintaining are at times prohibitive, especially in my riding's northernmost communities.

For example, Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque is a site of definite historical value. It is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places because of its connection to the 1930s gold rush in Abitibi.

Between 1927 and1950, many men looking for work came to Abitibi hoping to find a job. Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque was built in 1935 by Lamaque Gold Mines Limited to house the miners. It has a very particular architectural style. The next time you are passing through Abitibi, Mr. Speaker, I invite you to stop and visit the mining village. The site has two kinds of residential structures, namely, the workers' houses and the posh homes of the former mine managers, who were called “boss” at the time, even in French.

Everything still exhibits the unique character of the1930s village. Most of the houses in the village are still inhabited today, and the owners are responsible for maintaining the historic character when they do renovations. Conservation and original appearance are important to safeguarding the heritage and drawing tourists to the village, not only for the city of Val-d'Or but the entire Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

Very few people know that one of the first buildings in the Abitibi region was built in 1836, namely, the Sainte-Clotilde church in Kitcisakik. Still standing today, this church was built on the fur trade with Algonquin trappers from the area. It is now a designated religious heritage site in Quebec. It is one of the first buildings built in my riding. Dating back to 1836, it is nearly 200 years old.

In Whapmagoostui, which is at the limit of James Bay and Hudson's Bay, we find sites such as the Church of St. Edmund, constructed in 1879. Historic sites are important to maintain. It is critical that our history is understood and remembered, so that we can maintain an understanding of our past so that it is not forgotten.

Additionally, promotion of restoration efforts will create good, skilled jobs and promote economic development, while at the same time encourage tourism and promote respectful development while restoration efforts can help reduce environmental impacts of new building construction. This act would allow those struggling to afford the costs of rehabilitation projects to move forward.

However, it would also provide handouts to wealthy people who are not in need of assistance whatsoever. It does not seem reasonable to me that we should subsidize costs to rehabilitate these historic buildings while there is also a housing crisis in this country. I want clarity that the revenues lost from this bill will not impact Canada's ability to address the need for social housing in this country. As an indigenous person, I am very sensitive to that issue.

This bill gives me a chance to talk about the different priorities that a government needs to balance. A government has a responsibility toward the people who live within its borders. We all know that in Canada we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all people the same right. However, Canadian governments have shown that their priorities do not include ensuring the same standards of programs and services for indigenous people that they provide to other Canadians.

In general, I question the government's housing policy. However, today I question more specifically how a bill like Bill C-323 will respond to the current housing needs in indigenous communities. Unfortunately, due to Canada's colonial history, forced relocation, land appropriations, and poor government infrastructure in indigenous communities, we do not have many heritage properties. Therefore, if we are to implement a bill like this one, which will potentially reduce government revenues by millions of dollars annually, what will this mean for the indigenous people and indigenous communities in desperate need of housing? Will the government increase revenues elsewhere to ensure that the human rights of indigenous people are upheld?

Through the rules of the Indian Act, colonial governments have created the housing crisis that indigenous communities are experiencing. Under the act, restrictions on land ownership often prevent the development of housing programs. It is estimated that by 2031, the housing shortage on reserves will rise to 115,000 units. In order to bring the number of people living in each home on reserve down to the Canadian average of 2.5 persons per home, an additional 80,000 first nations homes are needed right now, yet the 2016 federal budget provided funding for first nations housing of just $206.6 million, which is enough to pay for 300 new homes, the servicing of 340 new housing lots, and the renovation of about 1,400 homes. To use the housing problem in my riding of Nunavik as another example, the aboriginal peoples Senate committee hearing on housing was told that Nunavik needs over 1,100 houses immediately. The $50 million included in budget 2016 is less than a quarter of the funds needed to address that shortage.

I have been asked many times by many colleagues on both sides of the House what the most important issue is facing indigenous people today, and what the government should do now to make reparations of historic injustices. Indigenous issues in this country have been neglected for so long that every single issue has become a priority.

I have one minute left. I just want to say that the NDP will support Bill C-323 because we believe in restoring historic buildings that are part of our heritage. Obviously, we also believe that it is important to understand how expensive these renovations are.

We will seek to amend the bill during review in committee in order for the tax credit to also be offered to people with a low or medium income. A billionaire can afford to renovate an old building, but it is harder for the average Canadian or low-income earners.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise today to debate Bill C-323. Before I do so, I want to thank my colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, for bringing forward the bill. As our opposition critic for Canadian heritage, I consider him to be a national treasure for his hard work on this file.

In fact, this is not the only private member's business he has brought forward. He also has two other motions on the Order Paper, Motion No. 67 and Motion No. 62, which are equally important matters that I hope the House will take up at some point. There is the recognition of Sir John A. Macdonald's summer home in Rivière-du-Loup, and Motion No. 62, which recognizes the birth place of the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker in Neustadt, Ontario, which is just outside my riding. It is an important historical marker in southern Ontario, recognizing an exceptional prime minister.

To the bill at hand, it is an important bill for our communities and for the preservation of our historical heritage properties across our great country. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for heritage buildings. There are many beautiful older buildings in my riding of Perth—Wellington, which I am proud to highlight from time to time. In fact, my Wellington county constituency office is in one such heritage building. It is a beautiful old post office. It was the Harriston town post office for many years. Unfortunately, as often these older buildings do, it fell into a state of disrepair.

Shortly after I was elected, I was able to take a tour of the building and to see the state of repair it was in at the time. Thanks to a hard-working local family, it took ownership of the old post office and restored it to an exceptionally high level of standard. Now my constituency office in Wellington county is located in that building. It has been renamed the “Old Post” and is now home to a number of different local businesses and community groups. I am proud to have played a small role in the restoration of that building.

In Perth—Wellington, we also have other important sites, such as the Fryfogal Tavern and Arboretum. The Fryfogel Tavern is actually the last surviving site along the Huron Tract from the 1800s. It is an old building with a great degree of heritage and history associated with it. Its original proprietor, Sebastian Fryfogel, was a Swiss national who came to Canada at the time. He served as the first acting warden of Perth county. He served as a tax collector for the county and was the local militia leader. He had a strong history in the country.

Currently, the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation is working to have that site designated as a national historic site. If it is successful, it would be the first national historical site in Canada to have a Swiss connection. Being of Swiss heritage myself, I find it is an important issue to highlight because it is an important site. I look forward to seeing Parks Canada review that documentation to hopefully make it a national historical site.

With 2017 upon us, and the 150th anniversary of Confederation, preserving and protecting our national heritage is important, now more than ever. Bill C-323 certainly would help us to do that.

As all members will know, rehabilitation and preservation of historic and heritage buildings is not necessarily easy. Nor is it inexpensive. When dealing with century-plus old buildings, the wiring is no longer up to code and accessibility standards have not been kept up to code. In many cases, neglected roofs need to be replaced, insulation needs to be redone, and windows need reinstallation in a way that preserves the historic and heritage nature of those buildings. Unfortunately, it is often not economically or financially viable to undertake these important renovations, so buildings are often demolished or, as the member for Kingston and Islands mentioned earlier, are left to be demolished by neglect. This is unfortunate because we lose a part of our history when we lose these important buildings.

Bill C-323 proposes to introduce a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property and will establish a tax deduction for the capital costs of property used in the course of historic properties rehabilitation. This will provide the owners of historical properties with a tax credit of up to 20% of the cost of rehabilitating the property, which will incentivize owners to restore their properties and assist them in their efforts to do so. In short, it makes it more affordable to preserve historical buildings, thus allowing more of our great historical architecture to remain standing rather than be demolished.

Bill C-323 would also create an accelerated capital cost allowance for eligible capitalized costs incurred during the same conditions of the tax credit. It would do so by allowing a minor reduction on the owner's income tax for the costs of rehabilitating the building. This would ensure that when owners of an historic property undertake restoration work at personal expense they are compensated. The restoration of a historic property, after all, is indeed a public good and it is only fair that, when individuals do the work at their own personal expense, we as a country are able to help in some way.

I understand there are some concerns that have been brought forward by different people about this bill, but I think that it strikes the right balance in preserving our heritage but also incentivizing individuals while respecting the public coffers as well. There are certain guidelines included in this bill. First, not any building qualifies. The building must first be on the National Register of Historic Places. Second, an architect must certify that the eligible building has undergone rehabilitation in accordance with the standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in Canada, and this will ensure that proper rehabilitation work has been done in accordance with the standards. It also incorporates a 10-year limit that the tax credit can be used. This strikes the right balance in terms of providing adequate support but not becoming too high a cost on the federal treasury.

I would also like to remind hon. members in this House that this bill is supported by a number of heritage and historical groups, including the National Trust for Canada, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving our national heritage. In fact, the organization appeared with a brief before the Standing Committee on Finance, and the brief stated, “The federal tax system and federal spending are vital instruments shaping the ability of Canadians to protect and revitalize heritage places”. The brief went on to recommend that the government should introduce a federal rehabilitation tax incentive for heritage properties in Canada. Bill C-323 would do such a thing. It would help us preserve our national heritage buildings and our national collective heritage.

Again, I want to congratulate the member for York—Simcoe for bringing forward this important bill. It is an exceptionally pertinent and important way of preserving our heritage buildings, and we as parliamentarians should make every effort possible to encourage those who own heritage buildings to undertake the necessary work to keep them in good repair.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, today Canadians proudly stand upon thousands of years of Canadian history and heritage. From the breathtaking totem poles that line the British Columbia coast, to the Algonquin wigwams that housed indigenous peoples on the unceded land upon which this Parliament currently sits, to Cape Spear Lighthouse on Newfoundland's eastern tip, to Fort Rodd Hill on B.C.'s Vancouver Island, to even the Justice Building down the road, the history reflected in our country's built heritage is simply astounding.

In this our nation's capital, we are surrounded by structures whose foundational stones were similarly foundational to the country we now call Canada. They herald the amazing accomplishments we have had together and serve as a reminder of the chapters in our history that we have not yet atoned for.

Throughout my 32 years working with Parks Canada, I was incredibly lucky to come face to face with Canada's built heritage every day. Through my work with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada's national historic sites branch, I saw the impact our heritage has on communities and heard the stories people told about their historic sites.

In Saskatchewan, Batoche National Historic Site reminds residents of the independent spirit of the northwest resistance. In Yukon, Dawson City returns us to the excitement of the Klondike gold rush, while in British Columbia, Colwood's Fisgard Lighthouse lets people on the open waters know they have reached home, just as it has done since 1860.

Across the country, Canada's built heritage reminds us of where we came from and where we have been along the way. From the smallest rural towns to our grandest cities, the history contained within these buildings forms what it means to call our communities home.

When I think about built heritage in my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, I think of George Lawrence House or Matheson House and what these places meant to the origins of both Surrey and Langley. While perhaps only the most ardent heritage buffs across Canada would be able to call upon their history, they have a profound value to the residents of my riding.

This is what makes heritage so valuable to maintain across the country. Everyone can think of a few national historic sites that inspire awe and instill wonder, but what makes them so valuable is their effect on the individual. Just as I take pride in the historic sites in my community, I am sure everyone in the House can identify a building, an area, or a district in their own riding without which their community would not be the same.

As the National Trust for Canada said, Canada's communities are made up of historic places that define our cultural identify, give shape and texture to our urban and rural communities, and attract tourist dollars. Yet every day, these places are being destroyed through desertion, decay, and demolition.

Today I would like to discuss Bill C-323 and measures that I firmly believe will benefit all Canadians. This discussion centres on three fundamental considerations concerning how this legislation would create tangible environmental, financial, and social benefits.

Canada's home-building industry is one our country's largest. It provides enormous economic benefits to our national economy and is the livelihood for many thousands of middle-class Canadians. This sector should be stimulated and encouraged, but we must do so in a way that is also environmentally responsible.

In most Canadian municipalities, home building is a major contributor to landfill waste. For example, Alberta's provincial department of the environment found that 25% of the province's landfill waste was generated by construction. By promoting the preservation of existing buildings, much of this discarded waste could be avoided, preserving natural resources and limiting the release of landfill greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, the preservation and maintenance of existing housing stock has consistently been shown to decrease potential C02 emissions. According to the National Trust, if every heritage property in Canada were to be restored rather than demolished and replaced with a new structure, this would represent the avoidance of C02 emissions equivalent to the annual energy use of approximately 14.83 million homes. To put this in a more familiar context, in the city of Ottawa, which Statistics Canada listed as having 151,495 single detached homes in 2011, this energy savings would meet the energy needs of all of Ottawa's single family homes for approximately 98 years. This is not just a lot of heritage meaningfully conserved. It is an incredibly positive environmental initiative.

Despite this, there is a frequently cited argument that suggests that tearing down heritage properties is in fact environmentally prudent. The logic behind this claims that heritage properties are equipped with out of date furnishings and technology that would otherwise help reduce their environmental footprint. Despite the fact that newly constructed homes are often more environmentally efficient, the resources needed to demolish and construct a new home means that it takes several decades for the new structure to become a net environmental benefit over the existing heritage property.

As the Preservation Green Lab reported in its study, "The Greenest Building", it takes anywhere from 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30% more efficient than an average-performing existing property to overcome, through efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts related to its construction.

The environmental benefits to heritage preservation are easy to see and an indication of the importance of the federal government's role in actively promoting it as an environmentally superior practice. Just as environmental protection benefits all Canadians, Bill C-323 would lead to equally comprehensive financial benefits.

To more closely examine the economic ramifications of Bill C-323, it is worth looking at the experience of our neighbours to the south. In 1981, the United States passed legislation creating a 25% federal tax credit for restoration of heritage sites. This built on legislation that was first introduced in 1976. In the three and a half decades since then, it is estimated that $23.1 billion in federal tax credits have generated in excess of $120.8 billion in private investment in historic buildings. This is roughly a 5:1 ratio of private to public investment, all of which ultimately ended back in the domestic U.S. economy.

Not only did the U.S. federal government's heritage restoration tax credit benefit the restoration industry, it boosted the entire national economy. This is due to the money multiplier effect, which explains how money being spent in one industry is eventually recycled into the broader civic, provincial, and national economy. If workers are paid to restore a heritage home, they may spend that money at Tim Hortons, whose employees will go on to, say, get a haircut, at which point the barber will buy sports equipment for his daughter. This cycle is essential to a government's economic considerations, and means that money invested in one area will necessarily benefit Canadians across the country.

In the United States, the confluence between public and private investments in heritage restoration has created great economic benefit. As the National Trust for Canada estimated, while the U.S. federal government spent $23.1 billion in restoration tax credits over the last 40 years, this credit resulted in an additional $28.1 billion in tax revenue, a net gain of $5 billion in tax revenue for that country. In short, the U.S. federal government made money by promoting heritage restoration.

In addition, heritage tourism represents a significant contributor to Canada's economy. Tourism is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, and it is estimated that cultural tourism accounts for one-third of that market. Reflecting the importance of this industry, the Canadian Tourism Commission reports that heritage tourism represents the past visitation of 34.5 million Americans and 2.6 million Canadian tourists.

As I have outlined above, I strongly believe that the preservation of Canada's heritage is a noble goal in and of itself. With that being said, however, the United States example shows how heritage preservation creates tangible benefits to society on the whole.

Based on the estimates of the National Trust, whose tireless efforts have left an indelible legacy on Canada's built heritage, since 1981, the United States heritage restoration tax credit has directly led to the preservation of over 41,000 historic properties that would have otherwise likely been left to neglect or demolition. This alone is a remarkable achievement, but it is the impacts on the broader society that make me believe Canada would be well served by a similar measure.

Along with tens of thousands of properties saved, the U.S. tax credit is estimated to have led to the creation of over 525,000 housing units, including 146,000 dedicated to low- and medium-income housing. In every corner of the country, we hear concerns about housing affordability. In my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, I can safely say it is the topic about which I hear the most from my constituents.

Today, we are debating legislation that would help address Canada's growing housing issue, but this is not the only benefit that Bill C-323 would deliver to Canadians across the country. In tandem with an increase in housing units, the U.S. tax credit is credited with creating 2.4 million jobs. These are reliable, middle-class positions across a multitude of sectors, and would ultimately benefit the entire Canadian economy. This money would overwhelmingly go to small and medium enterprises based in Canada, and the increase in employment would give communities across Canada a welcome boost.

Not only is heritage good for communities as they currently exist, but it benefits community rehabilitation. One can think of communities across Canada, such as Toronto's Distillery District, Winnipeg's Exchange District, and Vancouver's Chinatown, where heritage and culture are inseparably entwined.

This bill would not guarantee the preservation of all heritage buildings in Canada, but it is a great first start. In Canada's 150th year, I can think of nothing more appropriate than signalling our support for both the history of this great country and the welfare of the people living in it today. In this spirit, I offer my support for Bill C-323 and encourage my colleagues in this House to do the same.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved that Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, as one walks the streets of London, the quartiers of Paris, the piazzas of Rome, one stands in awe. The buildings speak to us, of great artists and philosophers who lived within, of revolutions staged there that changed the world, of the growth and advance of societies and cultures that those buildings mark.

We look at that built heritage in those great cities, not just for its own intrinsic beauty but because those buildings tell stories, of people, of history, of that place, and of who we are. We may be living in the here and now, but the built heritage informs us of the many twists and turns of humanity that brought us here.

Built heritage matters. It is important. It tells us who we are and why. It is no surprise then that the great places of the world are defined by their built heritage, and that is what people come to see. It informs and it inspires.

It is the same in Canada. We are debating this bill seeking to protect Canada's built heritage while we are inside Canada's most iconic building. We more than most can appreciate the meaning that the very special sense of this place gives to the tremendous honour we have in serving in the House of Commons.

Our built heritage here, all around us, reminds us of our past, our founding Fathers of Confederation, the Inuit and aboriginal peoples who first made this home, the trappers, the railway, the industries, the farmers and labourers who built the economy. All of those are literally carved into this building. The stone and the wood too speak to our lands and our forests. We have all around us a tangible example of why preserving our built heritage matters.

Bill C-323 seeks to preserve and protect our country's important historic built form by encouraging its restoration. The bill would do this through two simple devices. The first element is a 20% tax credit for spending on the restoration of historic buildings. The second element is an accelerated three year capital cost writeoff for the rest of the restoration cost.

The policy rationale behind the bill is simple. There is strong public interest in encouraging the preservation and restoration of significant historic buildings. However, the cost to individual owners is much higher than the alternative of demolition and new construction. When we ask private owners to preserve historic buildings through a heritage designation, we are asking them to deliver an important public benefit, but we are asking those private citizens to bear the full high cost of delivering this, something from which we all benefit. Through the tax credit and the accelerated writeoff, we are proposing to provide a modest measure to offset some of the privately borne costs of restoring important buildings in our communities.

Too often the economic burden creates an incentive to demolish. We just witnessed that with last month's demolition of the 110-year-old Beaux Arts Bank of Montreal building at Yonge and Roselawn in Toronto. Although plans had been designed to incorporate restoration of the heritage building into a new development, at the end of the day, the owners chose to demolish instead, resulting in much unhappiness in the surrounding community.

This bill would help to change those calculations and give property owners a reason to do what is right not just for their interests, but in the community's interest.

This is not a partisan initiative. It crosses party lines. I want to thank the Liberal members for Cloverdale—Langley City and from Kingston and the Islands for their help with this proposal.

The bill is based upon a policy initiative that was under development under both Conservative and Liberal governments. It relies upon work done within Parks Canada in anticipation of such a tax credit proposal, including the development of the national register of historic places.

I appeal to all members of the House to consider the bill in that non-partisan spirit as a genuine effort we can all support to make our communities better places to live.

It is important to observe that the reach of this tax credit is managed. Not every old building in Canada will be eligible. Only buildings on the national register of historic sites will qualify. These are generally the most important of the buildings that receive heritage designation under provincial or territorial law.

The bill would also give the minister the power to extend the credit to all heritage designated properties in a province or territory, but that is a decision that will belong to the minister. This protection would ensure that the cost to the public purse of the credit would remain manageable and it would prevent any abuse aimed at taking inappropriate advantage of the new tax credit.

The bill would also ensure that the taxpayers' exposure is controlled in another way. Only costs directly related to restoration of the heritage features would be eligible. A professional licensed architect would have to certify both those costs and that the work is done in accordance with the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, a document prepared by Parks Canada in anticipation of exactly an initiative like this bill. The structure of how the credit works would also eliminate the need to create any new bureaucracy to manage the program, further minimizing any costs to the public purse.

In fact, the annual impact on federal finances of this program applied to historic properties all across Canada will still be but a tiny fraction of the $3-billion cost of the restoration of the Parliament buildings currently under way.

The support for the bill is strong. The National Trust for Canada, a national non-profit organization committed to working to save historic places in Canada, has urged support for the bill.

In the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, Canada lost more than 20 per cent of its historic building stock, and losses continue apace.... [Bill C-323] would transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, with spin-off effects including the creation of more skilled jobs and less environmental impact and waste than new construction.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada supports the bill, and notes that:

Policies that promote preservation and re-use of historic properties have demonstrated huge economic returns on investment through job retention and creation, tourism, and enhanced property values.

Heritage Winnipeg notes the similarity of the bill to the heritage restoration tax credit south of the border, which they call a great U.S. success story with a 40-year track record. Bill C-323 “presents an historic opportunity”, they note.

Montreal Mosaic, a partnership of non-profit community organizations, calls for support of the bill based on its economic, environmental and historic benefits.

Heritage B.C. says this is something the heritage community has wanted for a long time:

It's consistent with our goals to preserve cultural heritage. It seeks to do that by creating an incentive to rehabilitate heritage buildings rather than to replace them.

Right here in this city, Heritage Ottawa says it strongly supports Bill C-323.

All across the country, municipal councils, the folks who are on the front lines, are balancing private property rights against the public interest in preserving built heritage, and they have to struggle with those very difficult decisions. One after another, those municipal councils are passing resolutions endorsing the bill.

When we think of the places we love to visit around the world, built heritage figures prominently. From the French Quarter in New Orleans to the Great Wall of China, from the Taj Mahal in India to the castles of Prague. The same is true in Canada. From the Grande Allée in Quebec City to Stephen Avenue in Calgary, from Peake's Wharf in Charlottetown to the distillery district in Toronto, we are drawn to these beautiful, story-filled places, and it is their historic buildings that define them. They become the places people go to visit, to learn, to shop, and to dine.

This demonstrates that we value and enjoy the historic buildings and the environment they create. It is where we want to be, and of course, the bill has the potential to aid the restoration of our historic buildings, not just in our big cities. It can lead to the rescue and restoration of important elements of Canada's built heritage in all parts of our country, in rural hamlets and small towns, and occasionally even places in our wilderness. Our history can come to life everywhere.

In Canada, however, we have been the victim of twin arguments that lead people to undervalue our history and our built heritage. First is the traditional student's lament, that Canadian history is boring. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Certainly, our body count falls far short of that of the old world, and we lack the marketing hype of the history of our American neighbours, but Canada's stories are more intriguing than most, drawing in strands from the European and the U.S. experience as input into the history we have made in building this unique and wonderful country, more near to perfect than any other, I would argue.

Indeed, most of those who have grown to know and love our country's history have travelled that path guided by heritage buildings that were the gateways to the stories of the past.

Think of them: the tower on Signal Hill looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, the place where so many explorers came as they opened up this continent; Province House in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the cradle of our Confederation. We think of the Citadelle in Quebec and the old walls of Quebec City that stood witness to the battle on the Plains of Abraham, which changed our destiny here in the North American continent; and, of course, in Halifax Pier 21, which welcomed so many who came to build this country. There is the Old Port of Montreal, which spoke to the burgeoning growth of a Canadian economy. There is Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake that bore witness to the battles of the War of 1812, which determined our destiny as a separate people here on the North American continent, different from our neighbours to the south.

One can go to the railway station in Winnipeg, and others across the country, to learn and understand the tremendous role that railways played in the binding together and the building of this country, and the growth of our economies, both rural and urban. When one goes to the Palliser Hotel in Calgary, one sees the dynamism of that city and the promise it held for the future; and, of course, the old Hotel Vancouver, and so many other buildings there, speaks to the tremendous other side of Canada's history.

Again, built form is the core of it all. Indeed, built form tells us who we are and where we came from, and that is what inspires those who love history.

The other argument is that we are a young country and thus lack history and any built heritage worthy of preservation. Never mind the list I gave, that certainly is not true. With four centuries of history comes 400 years of built heritage, and we have had none of it wiped out in the carpet bombing of a world war, as has happened in other places.

Canada is filled with built heritage treasures, but we keep losing them. For example, Toronto has seen other losses recently, including the demolition of the iconic Stollerys building frontage at Yonge and Bloor; incidentally, once the men's wear business owned by a former member of this House for a Spadina riding. The beautiful Empress Hotel at the corner of Yonge and Gould was also recently lost.

The great architect and author, Eric Arthur, in his 1964 book, Toronto, No Mean City, lamented, “In the march of progress, we have ruthlessly destroyed almost all our older architecture..”. His books documented beautiful treasures of buildings that were lost to the wrecker's ball. One can only wistfully dream of what character that city would exude had some of those jewels survived. As he said, “surely no city in the world with a background of three hundred years does so little to make that background known”.

While the generations that preceded us have allowed much of our story to be lost, with this bill we have the opportunity to bestow a gift to future generations. That is the gift of seeing, knowing, and understanding where they came from, the roots of their communities as reflected in a preserved and restored built heritage.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Bill C-323 presents us with an opportunity to make Canada's history, in the form of its built heritage, an enduring legacy to benefit Canadians for years to come. It is a fitting year to adopt this policy, which is perhaps long overdue, but which would deliver lasting benefits for generations to come. The 150th anniversary of Confederation is indeed an opportunity for us to focus, both on that past, but on how we can tie that past to the future for the generations to come, how we can make that meaning of all that Canada is meaningful forever. Preserving our built heritage is a big part of that.

I have several other private member's bills. I selected to proceed with this one. I have two others that dealt specifically with Canada's built heritage, other important historical buildings that are at some risk. One is the birthplace of John Diefenbaker, a place in Neustadt, Ontario, which I thought would be most appropriate to have purchased and acquired and run as a museum for the benefit of all Canadians. Indeed, former Prime Minister Harper made that commitment under the previous government. Sadly, that appears not to be happening. That building is at risk and may forever be lost.

Another that I believe should be a museum is the summer home of John A. Macdonald in Rivière-du-Loup, a place that hosted cabinet meetings. People talk about the “winter White House” in Mar-a-Lago right now. The home in Rivière-du-Loup was the “summer 24 Sussex” before there even was a 24 Sussex. That is where the government operated for some time during the summers.

Fortunately, that has been saved by a group of benevolent citizens through something called Canadian Heritage of Quebec. By contract, it runs it as a bed and breakfast, but its existence is precarious. It is not only something that could benefit from a tax credit such as this but something that is worthy of even greater support.

I chose to proceed with this bill, because it has the potential to benefit properties all across Canada. To help protect that built heritage for our future generations, to help us know ourselves and our history much better, I urge all members of the House to support it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his presentation.

I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-323. The bill before the House today, sponsored by the member for York—Simcoe, seeks to amend the Income Tax Act “to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property”.

Tax changes should ideally be made as part of the budgetary process. This gives the government a chance to fully examine all options, strike a balance between priorities, and make new fiscal commitments only when they are affordable and the government can do so responsibly.

Bill C-323 raises a number of issues that must be fully and thoughtfully considered. Of course, cost is one important element, but it is not the only one.

According to Parks Canada, there are approximately 13,000 historic sites in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. However, the number of distinct heritage properties is probably much higher. Indeed, the register includes heritage districts that could include more than one property. For instance, in Ontario alone, there are 121 heritage districts that comprise over 23,000 properties.

I would also like to point out another challenge when it comes to determining cost. The bill does not cap the amount people can apply for for tax purposes. It is completely irresponsible.

We also have to consider whether this kind of tax credit would actually promote the preservation of historic property rather than just provide an unexpected perk to the owners for doing work that they are already obliged to do.

Equality among homeowners is another very important issue we need to discuss. Some people will be eligible for the home renovation credit while their neighbours, who do not own a designated historic property, would not be eligible even though costs are incurred in both cases. That would be totally unfair.

This bill is also likely to result in a sharp increase in applications for historic designation. The government will have to assess Parks Canada's ability to meet that increased demand. That will result in more costs.

Moreover, as with any new tax credit, the government will have to evaluate the administrative burden on the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Government of Canada is committed to promoting equality and efficiency for the middle class and all Canadians, especially when it comes to our tax system. That is why, in budget 2016, the government announced that it would do a comprehensive review of tax expenditures. This effort is part of the government's overall commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and ineffective programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective and obsolete government initiatives. We are striving for equality and efficiency for the middle class.

The government recognizes the importance of preserving Canada's heritage in the interest of the middle class and all Canadians. As a matter of fact, the Income Tax Act already contains incentives to encourage individuals and corporations to make donations for the preservation of historic assets. Donations of such assets or donations intended to support the cost of preserving and maintaining such assets to registered charities are eligible for a charitable donation tax credit for individuals or a tax deduction for corporations. Registered charities are fully exempt from paying tax on the income they receive.

When we add provincial tax relief to the equation, the charitable donation tax credit comes to, on average, 46¢ for every dollar over $200. For most taxpayers who donate more than $200, this tax credit eliminates any tax to be paid on most of the donations and reduces other taxes owing.

A tax credit is also available for up to 75% of an individual's net income and can be carried forward for five years.

Canadian tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world. The federal government provides approximately $3 billion in tax assistance annually to the charitable sector.

The government acted responsibly by implementing a measure to strengthen the middle class. One of the first measures we implemented after becoming a government was to introduce a tax cut for the middle class, and that has been in effect since early last year. In total, nearly nine million Canadians are now benefiting from this tax cut.

The second measure that our government took to help the middle class and those working hard to join it was to introduce the new Canada child benefit in budget 2016. This measure gives more money to Canadian families in order to help them deal with the high cost of raising children.

Nine out of ten families are now receiving more money thanks to this program. The new Canada child benefit is simpler and more generous than the old child benefit system it replaced, and it is completely tax-free. It also does a better job of targeting the people who need it the most.

Thanks to the new Canada child benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will live in poverty in 2017 compared to 2014, which means that Canada's child poverty rate will drop by about 40%. This new benefit is the most important innovation in social policy in a generation.

A stronger Canada pension plan was a key promise we made to strengthen the middle class. We delivered on that commitment by working in close collaboration and common purpose with our provincial and territorial partners.

A secure and dignified retirement is certainly a top priority for hard-working Canadians. It has been a pillar of Canadian prosperity since the 20th century.

We know that middle-class Canadians are working harder than ever, and many of them are worried about not having saved enough by the time they retire. We also know that young Canadians in particular, few of whom can expect to have jobs that offer a workplace pension plan, find it challenging to save enough money for retirement.

We enhanced the CPP to improve long-term economic outcomes for Canadian families. Although it will take a little time to adjust, these foundational changes to our pension plan will provide better support to Canadians in the long term.

An enhanced CPP is the right tool at the right time to improve the retirement income security of younger workers. It is an opportunity for today's hard-working Canadians to give their children, their grandchildren, and future generations a more secure retirement.

In its previous budget, the government made major investments in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs that will help to secure a better quality of life for the country's indigenous peoples and build a stronger, more united, and more prosperous Canada.

Our government invested in modernizing and upgrading public transit, improving waste water systems, increasing access to affordable housing and protecting infrastructure from the effects of climate change. We increased funding for innovation, co-operation and partnerships to protect the integrity of our health care system. We put people first and we are giving Canadians the help they need right now, not 10 years down the road.

At the same time, our government is investing for the years and the decades to come, so that our children and grandchildren can inherit a Canada that is more prosperous and full of hope.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak directly to Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property). Again, I would like to thank my colleague from York—Simcoe for putting forward this important legislation. Indeed, it is the first time legislation like this has come before the House, although there are similar laws in place in the United States.

We are going to support this at second reading. We would like to get this to committee to have some discussion. The reason we are going to support it is that we really do believe in maintaining our historic buildings as part of our cultural heritage. When I was mayor of Cranbrook, we were looking for ways to try to increase the support for keeping historic buildings, and this is certainly one way to do that. There is an additional cost of course, if someone owns a historic building. It is up to about an additional 21% in cost, so offsetting it with a 20% tax rebate for the improvements seems absolutely appropriate.

I want to talk about some of the support that has come forward to me on the bill.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has said it believes:

...there is an important federal role for leadership in heritage conservation. Policies that promote preservation and re-use of historic properties have demonstrated huge economic returns on investment through job retention and creation, tourism, and enhanced property values.

Policies such as tax incentives not only help protect cultural resources and the history represented by heritage places, they promote respectful redevelopment in our communities. In addition, conservation, repair, and adaptation fight climate change by producing less carbon than new construction.

I also received a letter from the National Trust of Canada, which says, “The significant impact of the measures proposed in Bill C-323 would be felt” in ridings across Canada It goes on to say:

They would transform the economic fundamentals for saving historic places...encouraging the rehabilitation of heritage buildings of every size and type. In the process, they would create more skilled jobs than new construction, and promote the retention of existing buildings, which serve as important carbon sinks.

It further says:

There are many examples of the significant financial and environmental impact of heritage conservation.

Job Creation--Studies show building rehabilitation generates upwards of 21% more jobs, including skilled jobs, than same investment in new construction;

Economic Stimulus--The Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund (CHPIF), a Canada-wide pilot program (2003-2008), was designed to test the benefit of a heritage tax credit. The results were impressive: Federal contributions of $21.5 million supporting 49 projects leveraged over 8 times more in private sector investment ($177.2 million); and

Sustainability and Climate Change--Building renewal and re-use capitalizes on materials and energy already invested, reduces construction and demolition waste, and avoids environmental impacts associated with new development. A recent study shows that it takes from 10 to 80 years for a new “green” building to make up for the negative climate change impacts of its construction. In other words, the greenest building is one that already exists.

From a community in my own riding, the city of Nelson says:

These tax measures could transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, and encourage building conservation of every size and type, from landmark commercial buildings to modest homes.

Council has learned firsthand the significant financial impacts of heritage conservation in Nelson. Further studies have also shown that building rehabilitation generates over 21% more jobs...than the same investment in new construction...capitalizes on materials and energy already invested; reduces construction and demolition waste, and avoids environmental impact...

It went on to say that, “the significant impact of this Bill will be felt in Nelson”. Indeed it will be felt in all of the communities in Kootenay—Columbia and across Canada. It urges the the support for Bill C-323.

While we will be supporting the bill for all the right reasons, right through second reading, we do hope to have some further discussion at committee. We are a bit concerned that there is no means test for the tax rebate. The millionaire or billionaire owner of an historic building in, say, Toronto's Forest Hill would be able to claim a 20% tax credit, despite being well able to afford to pay for the work without a federal subsidy.

We will explore that a little further at committee. We definitely support the principle of this bill, and will be supporting it at second reading.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property).

This private member's bill from my colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, is a very timely piece of legislation that I believe will benefit Canadians from every community across this country, particularly as Canada gears up to celebrate its 150th birthday in July.

Over the past 150 years, Canada has grown immensely, both culturally and in terms of population. Just this week, Statistics Canada released data from the latest census that showed Canada continues to be the fastest-growing country in the G7.

The census data released also demonstrated that Canadians are increasingly choosing to leave rural areas and migrate towards large urban centres. With this urban centre growth in population, one of two things tends to happen: either there is urban sprawl or older homes are torn down in order to build new subdivisions that can house more people.

One hundred and fifty years ago my home province of British Columbia had a population of just 36,000 people. Today, it has a population of over 4.5 million. As we continue to build new buildings and continue to pursue innovative architecture to accommodate this vast increase in population, we must make sure that we are preserving our history. Heritage homes tend to be found in central locations, as people settle and develop around communities that have existed in the past.

These properties also tend to be the first targets for demolition as developers and landlords tend to find it cheaper to demolish and rebuild. It is not expedient for them to restore and maintain heritage properties. However, as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, it is a perfect opportunity to remind Canadians to be be proud of our history and our heritage. It is an important opportunity to encourage them to preserve the work of Canadians who came before us, rather than tear down and build anew.

This is exactly what the bill from the member for York—Simcoe aims to do. Bill C-323 would create a new tax credit for the rehabilitation of buildings that are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

With this legislation, Canadians restoring heritage properties would be able to claim a 20% tax credit on rehabilitation costs, as well as receive an accelerated capital cost allowance. Furthermore, this legislation would give the Minister of Canadian Heritage the power to apply this credit to provincially and territorially designated historic properties that are not included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

We know that these kinds of initiatives work. The Canada 150 infrastructure fund was set up under the Conservative government and intended to assist communities in building new infrastructure to help their constituents celebrate this very special milestone of our country.

This legislation would help us preserve the history of our communities. In the mid-2000s Canada ran a pilot project for this kind of policy, the commercial heritage properties investment fund. This pilot program generated eight private sector dollars for every one public sector dollar invested in the restoration of heritage homes. This is much higher than the five private sector dollars earned in an equivalent program conducted by our neighbours down south in the U.S.

Furthermore, this program, on average, doubled the market property values of historic properties, business revenue, and occupancy rates of the historic properties.

Canada clearly has the appetite and potential to restore and uphold our heritage properties. With Canada 150 on the horizon, this is the perfect opportunity to assist Canadians in preserving our history.

We also want to encourage the creation of new jobs: construction jobs, restoration jobs, and new trades jobs. By including the acceleration of the capital cost allowance alongside the tax credit, the legislation would reduce the long-standing conflict between what constitutes a deductible repair versus a capitalized cost, a problem that often slows down or completely hinders rehabilitation projects.

Finally, this policy just makes good sense. Canadians already enjoy a home renovation tax credit, so why not have this same tax credit for heritage home restorations? By minimizing costs to Canadians engaged in restoring heritage homes, we are also incentivizing Canadians to restore and maintain these important pieces of Canadian history.

This legislation also has broad support from stakeholders right across the country. National Trust, one of Canada's leading heritage protection advocacy groups, said, “This is an idea that has widespread support from heritage advocates, federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities”.

Architects have called the bill a win-win for heritage advocates and for local economies looking to create jobs.

We know the long-lasting benefits and impacts that heritage properties can have in our communities. In my own riding, we have the Elgin Heritage Park, an entire area that is dedicated to the preservation of Canada's history. Stewart Farm, located in Elgin Heritage Park, is on Canada's register of historic places. Stewart Farm offers Canadians and schoolchildren an opportunity to have a first-hand view of the life of pioneers and the history of Surrey's agricultural sector. This property could benefit from this legislation and help children of future generations to continue to learn and benefit from its operations.

These are the kinds of initiatives that we should be undertaking as we approach Canada 150. I hope that my colleagues on all sides of the House will join me in support of Bill C-323.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this chamber to outline how the Government of Canada is committed to a fair and efficient tax system that benefits middle-class Canadians.

The bill before us today, as sponsored by the member for York—Simcoe, seeks to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property. However, tax changes should ideally be undertaken through the budget process. This is to allow the government to fully consider the trade-offs, balance the priorities, and undertake new fiscal commitments only to the extent they are affordable.

This is why the first point I want to underline is that the government is committed to ensure that federal tax expenditures are fair for Canadians, efficient, as well as fiscally responsible. This is the reason that in the government's first budget, growing the middle class, we announced that we would be undertaking a comprehensive review of tax expenditures. This exercise is part of a broader government commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective or obsolete programs. At the end of this process, Canada will be one step closer to fairness and efficiency for its citizens and taxpayers.

The bill before us today contains several examples of the issues that would need to be considered when assessing the fairness and efficiency of a tax measure, and I will discuss a few of them.

For example, a key consideration is whether the measure would actually encourage the preservation of historic properties or simply represent a windfall to property owners for doing what they were already required to do.

Another question is whether such a tax credit would create any new inequities between historic property owners and other homeowners.

A third obvious question is how much of a revenue cost such a bill would entail for the government. This question is certainly relevant. As currently drafted, Bill C-323 contains no upper limit on the amount that can be claimed for tax purposes. The government would also have to assess whether requirements of the bill would be practical for the Canada Revenue Agency and Parks Canada to administer.

These are only a few examples of the considerations that would have to be weighed carefully in assessing Bill C-323.

From day one, our government has been focused on advancing the economy for middle-class Canadians. Last year, we replaced the previous system of child benefits with the Canada child benefit, a simpler, tax-free, more generous, targeted benefit that would help those who needed it most.

The CCB, built on our middle-class tax cut, has reduced taxes for nearly nine million Canadians. These two measures together mean that more middle-class Canadians have more money in their pockets, and they can use it as they see fit.

A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their children. When the middle class thrives, we all thrive. We have committed historic levels of investments in infrastructure, which will expand opportunities and deliver stronger, more inclusive growth.

Canadians value fairness. That is why, in budget 2016, we also took action to improve the integrity of Canada's tax system to protect the country's revenue base and to give Canadians greater confidence that the system would be fair to everyone.

Here is what we are doing. In April 2016, the revenue minister announced a series of actions that the Canada Revenue Agency will take to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance, thanks to the $444.4 million commitment in budget 2016. These funds are enabling the CRA to hire additional auditors, develop robust business intelligence infrastructure, increase verification activities, and improve the quality of its investigative work. These additional employees will increase the number of CRA audits focused on high-risk taxpayers by 400%.

Furthermore, the government is streamlining its efforts by embedding legal counsel within investigation teams, so that cases can be quickly brought to court. Two new mechanisms are being formed: a special program dedicated to stopping the organizations that create and promote tax schemes for the wealthy, and an independent advisory committee on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance that will provide strategic advice to the CRA on approaches for combatting offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Canada has also been a very active participant in international efforts to address tax evasion. We are an active member of the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, which was established to ensure that high standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes are in place around the world. Canada has also developed an extensive network of bilateral tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements, which provide for exchange of information.

As confirmed in budget 2016, legislation was recently adopted to implement the common reporting standard for the exchange between tax administrations of information on financial accounts held by non-residents. Canada joins more than 100 other jurisdictions that have similarly committed to implement the new standard.

Canada has also been actively engaged in a second multilateral initiative aimed at addressing base erosion and profit shifting, or BEPS. This refers to certain tax planning arrangements undertaken by multinationals, which, though often legal, exploit the interaction between domestic and international tax rules to minimize taxes. Canada has already implemented a number of the BEPS project recommendations. Going forward, the government will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to BEPS.

Canada supports the important goal of improving corporate transparency globally. The government has agreed to strong rules in both the Financial Action Task Force and the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes in support of corporate transparency. Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations enhance Canada's requirements for financial institutions regarding the collection of information on beneficial owners of corporations.

In closing, I would like to assure hon. members of our government's commitment to helping the middle class and those who are working hard to join it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 2:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House on behalf of my constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith to speak to the benefits of heritage conservation, energy conservation, and job creation.

New Democrats have long supported Canadian heritage and we support the goal of this private member's bill of preserving historic stock. New Democrats support maintaining historic buildings as part of our cultural heritage and due to the cost of repairing these historic buildings, we support government involvement to help defray the costs.

This legislation would help to clear the path for the creation of good green jobs; jobs that are stable, safe, and family-supporting; jobs that do not endanger the climate or the environment; and jobs that help us in the gradual transition away from reliance on fossil fuels.

I thank the City of Nanaimo, which I am honoured to represent, for its very detailed letter supporting the benefits of Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act for the rehabilitation of historic property.

Chris Sholberg, who is a planner with community and cultural planning in the City of Nanaimo, wrote to me to say that the bill is “inspired by the successful US Federal Historic Tax Credit Program, the outcome of which has leveraged over $78 billion in private investment since 1976, resulting in the preservation of over 41,000 historic properties, and in the creation of hundreds of thousands of housing units, many for low/moderate income families.”

He wrote, “In Canada, Bill C-323 has the potential of achieving the same success, widely affecting property owners and developers, the construction industry, and positively impacting the economy, job creation and environmental issues.”

The letter went on to say that the tax measures contained in this bill “would transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, and will encourage building conservation of every size and type, from landmark commercial buildings to modest homes.”

The City of Nanaimo provided examples of buildings within the city that would benefit from such an incentive, including the Great National Land Building, 17 Church Street; the Occidental Hotel, 432 Fitzwilliam Street, also known as the Oxy; Nanaimo Firehall Number 2 on Nicol Street; the Nanaimo Hospital, now Malaspina Lodge, on Machleary Street; and Fernville, also known as The Land Residence, on Irwin Street.

I thank the city for its strong advocacy and its encouragement for this federal partnership that could help jobs and the preservation of historic buildings at the local level.

I also received a letter encouraging support for the bill from Chelsea Challis in Nanaimo. She wrote, “As a member of the development and construction industry in Nanaimo, I regularly witness historic properties being demolished because the cost to restore and maintain them is more expensive than tearing them down and replacing them with new buildings”.

The letter went on:

The unfortunate consequence of this method is that the city immediately loses a piece of its history that can never be replaced. Furthermore, with current building codes, regulations, and the high cost of construction materials, new structures cannot be built with the same charm and craftsmanship as many historic buildings were originally constructed with. The current system does not encourage architectural preservation but, rather, encourages demolition and replacement. Bill C-323 will give owners and developers an incentive to save and restore their historic properties, which will not only benefit them, but will also benefit the entire community.

Ms. Challis wrote, “Studies show building rehabilitation generates upward of 21% more jobs, including skilled jobs, than the same investment in new construction.

She adds to the list that the City of Nanaimo provided The Jean Burns Building recently destroyed mostly by fire in downtown Nanaimo and also The First Nanaimo Scout Hut.

I am grateful to members of my community who have provided letters of support.

I will note that I also have a letter that I just received this morning from Laurie Gourlay, writing on behalf of Salish Sea Trust who encourages us to “specifically address rehabilitation of historic buildings, with all of the cultural, economic and social benefits that that provides,” and inviting our attention to “the parallel benefits afforded when similar considerations and support are provided to cultural and natural rehabilitation measures.”

We thank the member for bringing the bill forward. We look forward to speaking further, when we have the second hour of debate on the bill, about some of the specific benefits with respect to jobs, the environment, and conservation in our own communities. Also, New Democrats will raise some concerns at committee about ensuring that this benefit is particularly targeted toward lower- and middle-income earners, who are particularly economically crunched when it comes to finding the budget for doing the kinds of conservation and heritage renovations the bill supports.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

December 1st, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property).

Mr. Speaker, this bill creates a tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic buildings in Canada. It is designed to help those who invest in our cultural heritage.

It is a meaningful measure to strengthen heritage infrastructure. By maintaining historic buildings and undertaking costly heritage renovations, citizens undertake a considerable private burden from which we all benefit through the preservation of our past and the places that have made our country. This bill seeks, in a small way, to provide some support for them for the considerable investment they make on behalf of all of us.

With the 150th anniversary of Confederation nearing, this bill is an opportunity for all members of the House to show their support for preserving Canada's built heritage. These changes will help save our most important historical structures for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for generations to come.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)