Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-273, to amend the Income Tax Act to allow a tax deduction for volunteer emergency workers. I am especially proud since, as a former mayor of a smaller municipality, I had the opportunity to work with some of these men and women—because many women are now joining community emergency services—who do not hesitate to give up time to help their fellow citizens.
All too often, in smaller communities, they are paid on an hourly rate fee for service basis. When I speak of smaller communities, we could easily think of municipalities with a population of 10,000 and under, which cannot afford to pay anyone, be it firefighters or other citizens, on a full time basis. So, they rely on the goodwill of men and women who have the calling. One has to have seen these men and women at work, as volunteer firefighters, rescuers or ambulance technicians, for example, to understand that it is often out of passion that they go out and help their fellow citizens.
The purpose of this bill is to permit tax deductions for the men and women who perform between 50 and 100 hours of service as volunteer ambulance attendants, volunteer firefighters, or volunteers in search and rescue activities or other emergency situations. If they render 50 to 100 hours of service, they will be eligible for a $1,000 income tax deduction. If they perform more than 100 hours service, the deduction will be $2,000.
That is just and fair. Often the remuneration offered to such people by small towns and villages, per hour or intervention, is added to taxable income. As we know, income tax rates are graduated. Thus, our tax bracket goes up as our income goes up, and the percentage of income tax paid increases with income. As a result, at the end of the year, these sums are added to the annual salary of these people when they file their tax returns.
These people are volunteers. Therefore we presume that performing such services for their communities is not their main employment. They have other jobs, and often the pay for those jobs is taxed at the highest rates, come the end of the year. This tax deduction will make it very easy for them to be fairly compensated for the emergency services they have provided to their fellow citizens.
It goes without saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this legislation. We hope that it will be passed at the earliest opportunity. We are talking about volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance technicians, volunteers who take part in search or rescue operations, but there are also many other types of emergencies.
In Quebec, for example, we experienced the infamous ice storm. Of course, that required phenomenal cooperation across Quebec, with everyone helping everyone else. Of course, situations such as the ice storm are unique, but they help people get to know each other better. In many cases, people got to know their neighbours by helping one another.
Therefore, it would be fitting to adopt this bill and allow these men and women who are prepared to give some of their time for the well-being of their fellow citizens in emergency situations to get a tax deduction if they get paid.
Again, performing between 50 and 100 hours of service in emergency situations would give them a tax deduction of $1,000. Beyond 100 hours of service associated with such situations, they would get a $2,000 deduction.
We really must recognize this service. This is a good way for members of this House to salute the work of our fellow citizens who give their time for what is truly a vocation. I had the opportunity to meet the reeve of the Papineau regional county municipality and the men and women who were volunteer firefighters in the 26 communities of the RCM. To act as volunteer firefighters or volunteer ambulance technicians is a vocation for these individuals.
In Quebec, we are currently upgrading fire services. The requirements are high. A framework for risk coverage was approved by every RCM in Quebec. We are increasing courses and training for these people. They must enjoy providing these services to their fellow citizens and they must also be trained to do so.
These people have to dedicate a lot of time to these services, even though they work full time in other areas and are otherwise busy in their daily lives. Moreover, they use some of their time to take courses, which is not always easy to do. They must spend almost 400 hours in classes over a given period of time.
However, the fact remains that volunteer firefighter or ambulance technician training or training for other emergency service providers is now included in the safety coverage plan. Training is essential. Emergency workers love their jobs and that is primarily why they are doing them. They want to serve the people in their communities.
However, I would say that it is less fun than it used to be. There is more training, which requires a greater time commitment. In terms of getting a tax credit for this income, I know that many municipalities remunerate such individuals for the time they spend training. The fact still remains that this bumps up their income and puts them in a higher tax bracket. However, when tax time rolls around, it is not easy when they report the amounts they received from the municipality for training and for the emergency work they provided during the year and they realize that, ultimately, they owe the government money because they received additional income.
So, yes, I believe that the measure before us today is extremely appropriate. These individuals deserve a tax credit as compensation for their service to the community. It would be a nice way for the members of this House to thank these individuals for the work they have done and are doing for our communities.
Clearly, the Bloc Québécois strongly supports this initiative, Bill C-273, particularly as amended and improved because, initially, the amounts were $500 and $1,000. They have been increased to $1,000 and $2,000. Obviously, we strongly support this and it is a pleasure for us to do this for our constituents, the men and women who have given and who continue to give their time to provide emergency assistance to their communities. This is a fitting initiative and I hope that the House will adopt it without further delay, so that our constituents can take advantage of it next year.