Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the debate on this bill. It is yet another one of those bills that keeps cropping up in the House with great regularity: we need a tax break on this; we need a tax break on that.
If I am not mistaken, it was only yesterday or two days ago--the days seem to run together here--that we were discussing the necessity to stop charging GST on babies' diapers. There was a very impassioned presentation by the member sponsoring that bill over in the Bloc section, a young mother who on behalf of millions of parents in this country, said it is wrong to charge GST on one of the basic necessities of life.
We have a bill today that says we ought not to be paying income tax on money that is used for our children to participate in sports.
People can tell by looking at me that I am a great athlete. I certainly support sports. It is little known that in my youth, among other things, I entered into a 50 mile bicycle race. I am indeed very interested in physical fitness. It has served me well in all these years to have been physically fit because now that I am not anymore, somehow my heart and the other parts of my body are still coasting on the physical fitness that I developed when I was a young person. My heart is strong and my lungs are strong.
There is no way that anybody could be opposed to the participation of our youth in sports activities.
When I was a youngster we did not have a whole bunch of these organized activities. We did not need $500 or $600 worth of hockey equipment to play hockey. As a matter of fact, we played hockey without hockey sticks; we could not afford them, so we used branches from trees. It worked.
Should I say what we used for pucks? We could not afford those little round rubber discs but we got some out in the pasture that worked equally well and in winter when they were frozen, they were great. We did not have to have shin pads and all of that stuff when catalogues tied around our legs did just as well. They absorbed a lot of energy.
That shows that I am from a different era but still it does indicate that being involved in group sports is something which all of us should support.
With respect to taxation, it is true that our Canadian families are taxed to death, whether we talk about diapers for our babies or about enrolling our children in sports activities like hockey, soccer, baseball and whatever other activities that youngsters engage in. Nowadays that costs a lot of money. We no longer play on the creek or find an empty slough somewhere and scrape the snow off to play there.
There was nothing wrong with that. It was a lot of fun and it served the families of day, but nowadays more and more families are living in cities. That type of a facility just is not available and people use skating rinks. They have to be rented and as a result if youngsters are to be enrolled in hockey, for example, then there is a fee to enter the club, even for a youngster.
Mr. Speaker, I know that you have some passing interest in hockey. I happen to have had some but at a much lower level of course. We always enjoyed it when our son played hockey. Our second son was quite involved in soccer at a certain time but our first son played hockey. We had a lot of fun sitting and watching him plan, Gretzky-like. Gretzky of course had not been come along yet, but our son would plan the plays with his friends and we would watch them execute them once they were on the ice. It cost us a little bit of money, but it was money that was well spent and well invested.
Now we have a young fellow in our family who happens to be the son of number one son, so he is our grandson. He is seven years old and he made it onto the Alberta team. I believe that this weekend he is planning on going all the way from Sherwood Park just east of Edmonton, where they live close to us, to Calgary for his first out of town tournament. It is rather exciting. He is a neat little guy. I love the way he skates. He is only seven years old but he dips and doodles just like a pro. He is being coached very well by his dad and by the coaches on his team.
Again there are expenses involved with all the equipment that little youngster needs, all of the registration fees required by the team, and all of the travel costs now that he is in the provincial tournament. I understand that in a couple of weeks his team is going to a neighbouring province. They are going to Regina, Saskatchewan for another tournament. That all costs a lot of money and it has to be paid for with after tax dollars. That is where the crunch is and that is what the bill is about.
While in principle I think it is great to have a bill that reduces the tax burden for families, I would like to broaden it so that it includes everyone. Not everyone plays hockey or soccer. Some people are engaged in activities which are just as costly but which do not involve the purchase of sports equipment.
For example, when I was a youngster I took piano lessons. That is another very little known fact around here. I studied with the Toronto Conservatory of Music and finished up to my grade nine. One of my favourite things now when I have meetings in my riding, if they permit me, is to ask them to find me a piano and I will pound out O Canada for them at the beginning of the meeting.
I say this blushingly and obviously with no lack of pride, but I actually got a standing ovation a couple of years ago after I played it. People sort of expect others to limp up to the piano, fumble around on the keys and hope they hit some right ones. When I play O Canada, I play it solidly and with a good pace because I do not think that our national anthem should be dragged out. The point of the matter is that when I played it, everybody was surprised and they stood up and clapped for me. That was a good moment. I enjoyed that.
However, those piano lessons cost money. It cost money, even in my day, to get piano lessons. Many families are incurring those expenses. This bill does not address the issue of families and music lessons, or ballet lessons, or swimming lessons, or other things like that. I guess it might include swimming lessons because that has to do with sports activities and sports teams.
It is true that families should have a break on taxation. I would like to see a much more broad based reduction in taxes for families. I would like to see the overall rates reduced. We should greatly increase the basic exemption. That is my view.
We should recognize in our income tax laws that raising children is very costly. There are the costs for the diapers, the sports activities, the music lessons, all the other things that youngsters do, their dancing lessons, their ballet lessons. There are the costs of feeding them, clothing them, buying their medicines, paying their dental bills, buying their glasses, paying their tuition fees when they go to college. Certainly in the elementary and high school years there are fees to be paid, the school usage fees, the gym fees and all of that stuff. It all costs money.
I would like to see a substantial increase in the basic exemption for parents and also an increase in the basic exemption for each dependent child. In that way the parents could choose which activities they wanted to support for their children. They would not be limited to the narrow scope of what the bill provides.
With that, let us just say that Canadian families are taxed to death. Let us do what we can to reduce the tax burden so they have more money in their family budgets to provide for their family needs.