Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to today's NDP costly proposal for special preferential tax treatment for a select few Canadians.
Let me preface this by saying I fully appreciate that our country attempted, during the period 1971-88, to do some sort of income averaging, but now I think there are many other tax administrative tools that are much more effective and efficient in providing that type of income security and income levelling out.
Before I continue with my remarks here today, I want to be clear that our Conservative government has always been a strong supporter of the arts and culture. Our government recognizes that arts and cultural activities enrich our lives immeasurably as individuals, communities and as a country. Not only are they an expression of the many faces and many stories of Canada, but because of that, they help strengthen and define our Canadian identity.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to highlight some of the support that is available to Canadian authors, musicians and other artists under our Conservative government.
First, Canadian authors and publishers benefit from the Canada book fund. Its principal objective is to ensure access to a diverse range of Canadian-authored books in Canada and abroad. The program seeks to achieve this objective by fostering a viable Canadian book industry that publishes and markets Canadian-authored books.
For our filmmakers, key measures include the Canadian film or video production tax credit, which objective is to encourage Canadian programing and develop an active domestic production sector. This fully refundable tax credit is available at a rate of 25% of the qualified labour expenditure for an eligible production.
Musicians can benefit from the Canada music fund. Its objective is to enhance Canadians access to a diverse range of Canadian music choices; to increase the opportunities available for Canadian music artists and entrepreneurs; and to ensure that Canadian music artists and entrepreneurs have the skills, know-how and tools to succeed in a global and digital environment.
Members of the performing arts can take advantage of the Canada arts presentation fund, which gives Canadians direct access to a variety of quality artistic experiences, by providing financial assistance to arts presenters and the organizations that support them.
These artists can also benefit from the Canada arts training fund, which contributes to the development of Canadian creators and future cultural leaders of the Canadian arts sector by supporting the training of artists with high potential through institutions that offer training of the highest calibre.
It is clear that our government is helping artists to market their works and providing them with the tools they need to succeed on a local, national and international scale. Our Conservative government will continue to stand behind our artists and champion their causes and indeed, we are doing more. We provide numerous special incentives through the tax system to support the cultural industry in Canada. For instance, employed musicians may claim the cost of maintenance, rental, insurance and capital cost allowance on musical instruments against employment income earned as a musician.
Employed artists are also entitled to deduct expenses related to their artistic endeavours, up to the lesser of $1,000 or 20% of their income derived from employment in the arts. Artists who receive prizes for meritorious achievement in the arts, such as the iconic Governor General's awards in arts, do not have to pay taxes on these awards. As I noted earlier, film producers can receive a tax credit for Canadian film and video productions, including the cost of scriptwriters. Also, self-employed artists receive an immediate deduction for the cost of producing their work, even if the work is unsold and remains part of their creative inventory.
Clearly, our Conservative government wants to see a thriving cultural industry in this country, and we understand that the best way to achieve this is through a low tax plan. The positive initiatives I have highlighted are measures that benefit artists of today; however, we also are looking to help the artists of tomorrow. We understand the necessity to assist Canada's next generation of great artists, possibly the next Céline Dion or Justin Bieber. That is why we introduced the children's arts tax credit, available since 2011, to promote children's participation in artistic, cultural, recreational or developmental activities.
This credit is provided on up to $500 of eligible fees per child in respect of qualifying children's programs for those under the age of 16. This credit has been warmly welcomed across Canada, especially among moms and dads.
Here is what Christin Dewald, organizer of an arts summer camp in Calgary, said:
...it shows that our society understands the importance of creativity in the development of children. The children who attend our classes have the opportunity to use their whole brain. We see children develop new skills like problem solving and risk taking. As a result, these kids enjoy increased self-esteem.
Clearly, our government is supporting artists and helping to foster the arts here in Canada with smart and affordable policies. Unfortunately, today's NDP proposal is not such a similar policy. I would like to point out that income averaging, as outlined in today's NDP proposal, is an idea that was tried and failed in the 1970s and the 1980s.
As the Parliamentary Budget Office report on C-427 itself points out, expert opinions even then, “...suggested that the averaging provisions were exceedingly complex”.
Basically, when income averaging existed previously it proved to be a failure as tax policy, as it was used primarily by high-income taxpayers to avoid paying taxes. Not surprisingly, that is why over 20 years ago the then federal government eliminated income averaging.
Furthermore, bringing back income averaging today fails to recognize that there have been major reforms to the Canadian tax system since that time. When income averaging existed in the 1980s, Canada had 10 tax brackets. Today we have only four brackets, and the top federal marginal tax rate has decreased from 34% to 29%, not to mention that all federal surtaxes have been eliminated.
Again, all those tax reforms have made the need to bring in income averaging essentially redundant. However, do not simply take my word for it. Listen to the independent experts and the economists who have studied income averaging proposals.
For instance, here is what Kevin Milligan, a professor of economics of the University of British Columbia, had to say about income averaging and today's NDP proposal specifically:
[T]he NDP's tax policy proposals still need some more rehearsal time.... Many Canadians support the presence of a healthy cultural sector in our society. However, income averaging is an extremely clumsy apparatus for supporting the arts—to the extent it would even help at all. Let the debate on support for culture flourish, but let's keep income averaging out of it.
I could not agree more with that statement. We all support the arts and we all want to see the arts succeed in Canada, but we want and should want to do that with smart, affordable and effective policy. Unfortunately, income averaging is not such a policy.