Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to the motion brought forward by the member for Winnipeg Transcona. I will repeat it so it is fresh in our minds: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider implementing a tax credit or tax rebate that would compensate parents for the substantial costs of enrolling their children in youth activities”.
I think an element is missing from our tax system, from our wealth distribution system, that could be useful to our society in that it could prevent certain tragic situations. Let me explain.
We are talking about youth activities. We can think of anything that can complement family education: piano lessons, violin lessons, participation in sports like judo, hockey, baseball, all those things that complement a child's education. The discipline that a child will acquire by taking piano lessons for many years, for example, the fact that he or she will learn that it takes a lot of work to become a good pianist and that results cannot be achieved without effort, all this will help that child through his or her whole life. I think the motion before us would help us reach that goal.
When the Liberals tell me that we cannot afford that, I say that we have a tax system that provides credits for professional hockey teams, and as long as businesses can benefit from tax deductions for that kind of thing, we should provide a deduction for parents who have to pay for their kids to take piano lessons, to play hockey or to participate in other types of educational activities.
The government cannot, on the one hand, agree to deduct money for professional hockey teams and, on the other hand, claim that it is not possible to change our tax system to meet such needs.
The other element is that these costs can sometimes be considerable. For example, a family with three children could spend several thousands of dollars per year on such courses. With a tax credit, the costs involved would be less for each family, and it could allow some children to take courses that their families would otherwise not be able to afford.
Earlier, the Reform Party member mentioned that this is the time of the year when people prepare their tax return and that they do not want to be stuck with an additional credit. I happen to see things very differently. There are parents who have kept receipts for such costs, for youth activities that are not tax deductible. These people would be very happy if they could get a deduction for such costs. These are positive and useful activities that benefit children.
Another important element is that it would promote volunteer work. In all these organizations, there are volunteers who put in several hours every week. In the municipality of La Pocatière, which is located in my riding, there is a judo club and some music schools where piano and violin teachers do a lot of volunteer work. If we could increase the number of students by reducing costs, it would promote and recognize the volunteer work done by these people.
It would also encourage new initiatives. Again, last year, a music teacher came to see me about starting a music class in a school in Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska at the primary level.
There is the cost evaluation. Obviously this is not easy. Contributions must be sought from parents and from institutions. If there had been such a tax measure, it would have been an incentive for this new kind of initiative. I think that this sort of effort would be beneficial, and an investment in society.>
I think this is very important. We should be investing in these activities so that fewer young people get off on the wrong foot. The best way to prevent juvenile delinquency is to make activities available to young people that give them a chance to develop their potential so that they can decide what they want to do with their lives. If the traditional educational system does not give them this opportunity, this kind of activity can help them to discover interests and demonstrate their potential.
If we look at it in terms of investment, it is no longer simply an expenditure, as the Liberal member was saying earlier. I am extremely surprised, but this is becoming more and more of a reality: the Liberal Party and the Reform Party have similar views on this issue.
For example, the Liberal and Reform members tell us this will be complicated. They wonder how youth activity will be defined, and if it will not create additional bureaucracy. I think this is hiding behind the principle itself. What they are actually saying is that they do not want equalizing measures in our society. They want everyone to have fewer and fewer equal opportunities, when the member's very motion says:
—the government should consider implementing a tax credit or tax rebate that would compensate parents for the substantial costs of enrolling their children in youth activities.
The member for Winnipeg—Transcona did not have to write today's Income Tax Act. He is merely drawing the House's attention to the relevance of doing something along these lines. I would have expected the government's attitude to be more one of being willing to consider this motion, to see what can be done.
In today's society, what can we do to give everyone a more equal opportunity?
How, for instance, will we ensure that the children of parents with low income will enjoy this sort of benefit? This sort of consideration can be examined in committee. Legislation may have to be amended as a result.
We already have a tax credit for charitable donations. I think we could quickly and precisely link the sort of tax credit sought in the member's motion to the existing tax credits for charities. This way parents could be strongly encouraged to ensure their children will participate in such activities.
Parents who, at supper time, are organizing the week's courses and setting their own schedules up accordingly, will not say, as the Reform member did earlier, that this is not a matter for the government.
Under such circumstances, parents who have an opportunity to give their children more training will do so. They must also have equal opportunity, because in recent years there has been more pressure on taxpayers and particularly on parents in terms of family income. Would this not be a way to distribute wealth better?
Productivity in society has increased a lot in recent years. Banks for one are making huge profits. We are looking for ways to redistribute this increased productivity in society.
Would it not be a drop in the bucket, but nevertheless significant and valid to say that one way the government could ensure gains in productivity are returned to the people would be through this tax credit or a remittance of taxes to parents wanting their children to fully benefit from activities for youth.
I think all Canadians—children, parents or the agencies providing the services—would find that this was a fair and important act. I encourage the House to consider this sort of argument.
While the motion is not votable, I hope the government, in response to the arguments raised here, will pay attention and include such action in the next budget.