Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak at third reading of Bill C-28. Once passed, this bill will implement certain tax measures that were not part of last spring's budget implementation bill. That bill received royal assent on June 22, 2006.
Budget 2006 was the first budget for Canada's new government. It was well received by Canadians. However, the House should know that the best is yet to come.
By now, members of the House are well aware of what is contained in the bill before us. I would therefore like to focus my remarks on some of the particular proposals in this bill that will open up opportunities for Canadians, opportunities that will lead to a stronger, more prosperous Canada.
I am sure that any of the members of this House who are parents would want their children to have opportunities that perhaps they did not have. Canada's new government believes in creating those new opportunities for Canadians wherever they live in this great country. That is why budget 2006 took action to help families and individuals, as well as businesses, Canada's job creators, by lowering taxes, rewarding effort and making Canada a better place in which to live and do business.
One of our first actions was to return money to Canadians by reducing the GST. We also provided other significant personal and corporate tax relief and investments in the budget that will create jobs and boost Canada's economy by improving incentives to work, save and invest.
Most recently, we took decisive action by announcing a tax fairness plan that provides $1 billion per year in tax relief for seniors and pensioners. The tax fairness plan significantly enhances the incentives for Canadians to save and invest for family retirement security.
I want to talk today about the proposals in this bill that will set Canada on a firm track for tomorrow by providing opportunity today. I would like to start with the fitness tax credit, because our health and especially the health of our children is a key part of a prosperous future for Canada. After all, without our health, how can we enjoy all the great opportunities that this country has to offer?
There is little doubt that regular exercise improves the quality of life. Encouraging families to help their children get into the habit of being physically active is an important goal and one that is becoming increasingly important. Our new children's fitness tax credit will help families provide that encouragement to their children. In doing so, it will help our children to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Specifically, Bill C-28 proposes that the credit cover eligible fees up to $500 for enrollment in an eligible program of physical activity effective January 1, 2007. That date is coming up pretty quickly.
The need for this tax credit is underscored by the challenges presented by childhood obesity. In the past two decades, obesity has emerged as one of the biggest health problems facing Canada. The purpose of this credit is to facilitate access by children and youth to eligible programs of physical activity and recreation. This will be an important catalyst to help children maintain regular exercise, balanced growth and, most important, a healthy lifestyle that they can take with them into adulthood.
To help the government decide which programs of physical activity should qualify for the children's fitness tax credit, the Minister of Finance appointed an expert panel, chaired by Dr. Kellie Leitch. The panel recently presented its report. I would like to thank Dr. Leitch and the panel members for their thoughtful insight into this issue.
The government is renewing the panel's recommendations to decide which programs of physical activity should qualify for the new credit. Healthy bodies promote healthy minds, and healthy minds go hand in hand with better learning.
This new government can help. We recognize the importance of education beyond high school in getting a good job with a secure future. Canada's new government wants to do all it can to help Canadians achieve that goal. To do that, Bill C-28 contains proposals from budget 2006 that will help with the costs of post-secondary education. Moreover, once graduates are in the workplace, there are measures from the budget that will help Canadians with some of their work related expenses. Let me briefly outline these important proposals. Let me start with education measures.
Any of us who have helped put our children through university or college know that textbooks are expensive. To help parents and students with these costs, Bill C-28 proposes a new non-refundable tax credit to provide better tax recognition for the cost of textbooks. This measure would be effective for 2006 and subsequent taxation years.
Eligibility rules for this new tax credit will be the same as those for the education tax credit and will provide benefits to almost two million post-secondary students. We know that not all students attend school full time. In recognition of that, the textbook tax credit applies to both full time and part time students. For full time students, the amount will be $65 for each month of full time post-secondary study. For part time students, the amount will be $20 for each month of part time post-secondary study.
What does this mean to the bottom line? To give an example, a full time student enrolled in college or university for eight months would qualify for a textbook tax credit of $520 for the year. This represents a reduction in that student's taxes of about $80. This all adds up for a student. Helping students with the cost of textbooks is one important step that Canada's new government has taken to help post-secondary students with their education related expenses, but we have done even more.
Many hard-working students earn scholarships. To help them meet their tuition expenses, Canada's new government wants to reward them for that dedicated hard work. As members of the House may know, under current legislation only the first $3,000 in scholarship, fellowship or bursary income received by a post-secondary student is not taxed. In other words, any money received in excess of $3,000 is included as income for tax purposes.
The government believes that students should be rewarded, not penalized, for their academic excellence. That is why in budget 2006 we proposed to fully exempt all scholarship, fellowship and bursary income from tax. Once the bill before us is passed by Parliament, this measure will provide tax relief to more than 100,000 deserving post-secondary students.
This government is well aware that in today's knowledge based economy, a more educated and skilled labour force is key to Canada's competitiveness in the world. Government investments in education and training are therefore critical to productivity and economic growth.
As I have just outlined, Bill C-28 proposes measures to help students with their post-secondary education, but we also recognize that there is a need to help Canadians once they are in the workforce. That is why the government, in this bill, has introduced specific measures to help in that regard.
First, the Canada employment credit complements the personal income tax reductions introduced in budget 2006 by recognizing the extra costs to Canadians sometimes associated with joining the workforce. For example, a uniform might be required to work in a particular store or business, or special safety equipment could be needed to work on a construction site. For some Canadians, and particularly low income workers, these expenses can sometimes make the difference between being able to accept a job or not.
In the past, Canadians have raised concerns that if they have their own business or are self-employed, they can get tax deductions for certain expenses, and if they are employed, they do not. We do not think that is fair.
Bill C-28 changes that by proposing the Canada employment tax credit to help Canadians offset the costs of working. A credit of $500 is now available on employment income and that credit will double to $1,000 starting January 1, 2007. Canadians can put this money toward work expenses, like uniforms and safety equipment, and that helps working Canadians.
Of course, finding the right job is not always easy. Some Canadians find themselves stuck in low paying jobs and for one reason or another, often financial, they are not encouraged to consider the trades as a possible career source. However, as we often hear, employers are crying out for people, especially skilled workers, for example, in the construction industry.
Budget 2006 helps by proposing a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit. This credit will encourage employers to hire new apprentices to learn a skilled trade. With the measures contained in Bill C-28, effective May 2, 2006, about six months ago which was budget day, eligible employers will receive a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, to a maximum credit of $2,000 per apprentice per year.
I explained earlier how the Canada employment credit will provide financial relief in recognition of work related expenses incurred by employees. The new government also recognizes that many people employed in the trades must have their own tools as a condition of employment. Budget 2006 provides assistance for these workers with a tax deduction of up to $500 for the cost of tools in excess of $1,000. The Canada employment credit and tools deduction together will provide tax relief to some 700,000 employed tradespeople.
Canada's new government wants to make it easier for new Canadians to pursue their dreams. Certainly reducing taxes is part of our plan. We have done that and we are not finished yet. However, as I have outlined today, helping Canadians realize their dreams is about more than just cutting taxes. It is also about helping families encourage their children to become physically active and have healthier lifestyles. It is about helping students with their education. It is about helping Canadians get and keep good jobs.
With the measures in the bill we are debating today, the new government will help Canadians accomplish those goals. I therefore encourage all members of the House to work together to pass this bill so we can get on with creating even more opportunity and an even stronger more prosperous Canada for today's generation and for those who will follow us.