Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for York—Simcoe for introducing this private member's bill.
Canadians take great pride in their built heritage, as they do in their diverse culture and history. Bill C-323 would provide Canadians with a much needed tax credit to assist them in repairing and maintaining heritage buildings. I have spoken with many constituents in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, and the bill is very welcomed there. We have many heritage homes and other buildings, and repairing them can be very expensive.
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development while we studied this bill. At the same time, the committee also looked at the state of federal funding and management of national heritage. Along with other members of the committee, I learned a great deal. I learned that between 2003 and 2006, the federal government offered financial incentives for the restoration of commercial buildings.
Over three years, the commercial heritage properties incentive fund contributed $15 million for this purpose. The economic impact of the fund was $143.4 million in restoration work, a sound investment, and in fact, almost a ten to one return on government investment. While the committee examined many heritage concerns, I will focus on the testimony and recommendations about built heritage because they speak directly to the issues we are considering here with Bill C-323.
The committee heard from Ms. Natalie Bull, executive director of the National Trust for Canada. Ms. Bull said:
Why would a parliamentary committee be concerned with the state of historic places in Canada? I think there are lots of great reasons. For a start, there is the potential for positive impacts on climate change. Canada's buildings are the third-largest greenhouse gas emitting sector, and the reuse and renewal of heritage buildings capitalizes on materials and energy already invested, reduces construction and demolition waste, and avoids the environmental impact associated with new development.
In addition to climate change benefits, historic places can contribute to a strong economy. Rehabilitation projects generate up to 21% more jobs than the same investment in new construction. They're a great stimulus measure, and they typically use local labour and materials, such that 75% of the economic benefits of heritage rehabilitation projects tend to remain in the communities where these buildings are located.
More jobs, action on climate change, and reduced waste all seem like excellent reasons to support Bill C-323. It would have been great for the government to have included funding for this in its budget released earlier this week.
Personally, I was very disappointed that there was no money in the government's 2018-2019 budget to fund a national home energy retrofit program across Canada for homes in general and nothing for heritage homes either.
Mr. Chris Wiebe, the manager of heritage policy and government relations at the National Trust, reiterated the organization's support for this legislation. He said:
First, we would recommend implementation of a federal heritage rehabilitation tax incentive, such as the measures recently proposed in Bill C-323. That is a proven way to attract private and corporate investment to privately owned historic places and to give them vibrant new uses. Two, the government could consider extending a rehabilitation tax credit to heritage homeowners to get even more impact. Three, federal investment in seed funding for creative financing mechanisms like crowdfunding could help many more charities and not-for-profits attract private donations and would save and renew some of the thousands of other heritage buildings that make up the fabric of our communities. Finally, an increase in federal cost-shared funding available for the national historic sites heritage places program would help turn the tide of neglect for these important national icons as well.
While Bill C-323 would not answer all of these questions, it would be a good start toward supporting Canadian heritage. In fact, when the environment and sustainable development committee, which I sat on, made its recommendations to the House of Commons on these matters, it spoke directly to the need for a tax credit. The committee tabled its 10th report entitled “Preserving Canada's Heritage: the Foundation for Tomorrow”, in December 2017, just two short months ago. Recommendation no. 11 of that report said:
The Committee recommends that the federal government establish a tax credit for the restoration and preservation of buildings listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
That would appear to be a slam dunk for Bill C-323. The committee recommends a tax credit for heritage building restoration and preservation. A bill comes before the committee that does exactly that, yet the Liberals on the committee went against their own recommendations and voted to kill the legislation. They forced through a report that recommended that the House stop dealing with Bill C-323. If those members of Parliament received anywhere near as much correspondence supporting the bill as I did, I have to say that their constituents will be very disappointed. Still, we have a chance to pass the proposed legislation at third reading, and I call upon all members of the House to support it.
Members may be interested in knowing what else the committee recommended on the issue of built heritage. Recommendation 12 of the report says:
The Committee recommends that the federal government, in co-operation with provincial and territorial governments, work to adapt future versions of Canada’s National Model Building Codes in a manner that will facilitate the restoration and the rehabilitation of existing buildings and the preservation of their heritage characteristics.
This is important, because old buildings do not easily adapt to new building codes. One example, given by Mr. Robert Eisenberg at York Heritage Properties, is that adding insulation to the roofs of older buildings increases snow load in the winter because heat no longer escapes through the roof to melt the snow, thus threatening the building's structural integrity.
The committee spent time looking at issues specific to rural areas, like my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, resulting in recommendation 13, which reads:
The Committee recommends that Parks Canada review its National Cost-Sharing Program and, if it is determined that rural sites are under-represented in applications for funding or in the awarding of funding, steps should be taken to improve the program.
Rural areas have specific struggles when it comes to preserving heritage buildings. In particular, there is sometimes a lack of specialized craftspeople and specialty materials available locally, and the cost to bring them in from bigger cities is prohibitive. That is why heritage buildings in many rural areas are left to fall into neglect. I am very fortunate in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia to have a number of very skilled tradespeople who are ready, willing, and able to rehabilitate heritage homes.
While recommendation 13 did not address the need for a tax credit directly, it is clear that the passage of Bill C-323 would be particularly valuable in rural areas like mine. Finally, heritage building owners would be able to afford the additional expenses required to restore these important buildings.
I wish to finish my remarks today by reading from a January 2017 letter I received from the City of Nelson that asked me to support Bill C-323. The City of Nelson said that 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.
I agree and that is why we will be voting in support of Bill C-323.