Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-210, whose purpose is to implement a tax credit for participation in amateur sport.
Straight off, I will tell you that the objective pursued by this bill is quite commendable. As the Bloc Quebecois critic for amateur sport, I will always be in favour of the idea of taking various measures to promote physical activity and participation in sport. It is also crucial to promote a better quality of life, better health for our fellow citizens. In this regard, we can only encourage a greater awareness of the benefits of sport and sport activity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is the most eloquent expression of this.
Thus, in the face of it, it is easy to recognize the relevance of this measure, whose purpose is to provide families with more money for participation in sport activities. But what does this really mean?
Although I support the purpose of this tax credit, I am still convinced that this is not an appropriate measure, and I will explain why. What my colleague really wants with this new provision is to reduce the tax burden of families, thus allowing them to afford the sport activities that they want.
However, I believe that it is not necessarily the families in question that will take advantage of this reduction. And to demonstrate this, I would like to make some comments on tax credits in general.
I am not totally against this kind of measure, quite the contrary. Under certain circumstances, it can be an effective measure. However, with regard to the current debate, I humbly believe that there are many other ways that are much more worthwhile and especially much less costly to achieve our goals.
First, the implementation of a tax credit is sometimes extremely costly for the government, before, during and after. This does not include the administration costs and also the fact that it would take two to three years to calculate the indirect costs, and we would not even be sure that this tax credit would really achieve its objectives, which are to put more money in the pockets of families. Ultimately, this may cost more in expenses than in direct benefits for the taxpayer.
Second, should a family be unable to claim this tax credit, it would still be paying the administration costs with its taxes. It would also pay for the gap between the money that its neighbour is receiving and the shortfall in federal revenues.
So, before supporting such a measure, we must make sure that all alternatives have been considered. If the intention is to provide tax relief to families, this could very easily be done differently and at a much lower cost. The goal is basically to increase the wealth of taxpayers. Why then not increase the basic personal exemption, or the dependent credit or the child tax benefit? Why not simply give a tax cut to those in that particular bracket?
Middle-income families have benefited the least from the tax cuts in recent years. No wonder some of them are having a really hard time paying the fees to participate in sport activities.
These few examples show that tax measures much more appropriate than the ones proposed by my colleague are available.
Other areas of this bill also require our attention. I consider that the bill is not only inappropriate, but also somewhat discriminatory. Why limit the tax credit to sport activities?
How can the government arbitrarily grant a financial benefit for sport activities and not for other activities, such as cultural activities? What about musicians and the outrageous price of some instruments? What about all those who have other equally important and worthwhile interests with respect to their health and well-being?
A brief analysis quickly reveals that the scope of what is being proposed in this bill is much too limited. Besides, it is about time we stop deciding everything for our fellow citizens.
I think that this tendency to want to centralize everything and have the state decide for the taxpayers is becoming less and less acceptable. Personally, I would rather leave more money in their pockets and let them make their own decisions. After all, this is their money; they should get to decide. This is a matter of respect and fairness.
I would also like to touch on some aspects of the bill, particularly in reference to the formula for calculating the credit.
Under the bill, the formula takes into account “...the total of all fees paid by the individualin the year for the individual... to participate in amateursport”. Personally, I think this provision would lend itself to abuse. No limit for the fees is provided. Does it mean that golf club membership fees would be deductible? Because one needs to go to a golf course to participate in that sport. Could I also deduct my $3,000 new golf clubs? Because without clubs one cannot play golf.
I truly believe that this bill is like giving a blank cheque to the taxpayers and I have a feeling that this measure will mostly benefit the rich. To those who may argue that the regulations will clarify this, I would like to point out that, under the bill, the governor in council may only makeregulations prescribing the types of fees thatmay be deducted. “Types of fees” refer to the eligible activities, not to the amount spent on those activities.
Imagine the risks of such a provision and all the misinterpretations it could lead to.
It would have been wise and logical to establish the maximum amount that can be deducted, as is the case for most other tax credits, or at least to give explicit power to regulate the amount of the fees.
Therefore, for all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support this legislation, because we are convinced and have shown that, unfortunately, the objective sought in this bill will not be achieved.
The federal government has the key to allowing everyone to breathe easier and to improve their quality of life, whether through sport, leisure activities, art or any other endeavour. For several years now, the government has had surpluses coming out of its ears, and it is our money. Therefore, it has an obligation to return part of these surpluses to those from whom it took that money.
This way, people will be able to decide for themselves what they want to do with this extra money, whether they want to spend it on sport activities, on leisure activities or on anything else. I truly believe that each person should be able to decide what his or her priorities are.
In closing, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his initiative and express to him my respect for the interest he has shown in trying to improve the well-being of families. My disapproval has certainly nothing to do with the principle; it has to do with the process.
I would also like to remind the federal government of its commitment to play a key role in promoting and developing physical activity and sport. It certainly has the means to do it. As for the families, the athletes and all the organizations that are working toward that end, they are greatly in need of it.