Mr. Speaker, Bill C-201, an act to amend the Income Tax Act , would in essence allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct from their taxable income any travel and accommodation expenses that they have incurred in order to secure and maintain employment in a construction activity at a job site that is located at least 80 kilometres away from their ordinary residence.
Let me first say that our government encourages new ways and ideas to improve Canada's tax system. Our government has a strong record of tax fairness and tax relief. We work diligently to treat each tax dollar we receive responsibly. Therefore, we are always open to ways that can keep money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
We realize that Bill C-201 has good intentions, such as providing tax relief for tradespersons and indentured apprentices who have to travel a long distance to work. We thank the member for her concern for these hard-working Canadians, but unfortunately the bill itself has too many problems for the government to support it.
Like speakers before me have mentioned when the bill was first debated, the bill contains flaws that could create opportunities for tax planning. It is a piece of legislation that could pose a very significant cost to taxpayers. Further, the bill is redundant, considering that our government already has thoughtful and practical measures to support apprenticeships and tradespersons.
Allow me to elaborate on that point. In response to growing shortages of skilled labour in some parts of our country, our government already provides a number of measures to support apprentices and tradespersons who are an integral part of our economy. Specifically, the government has introduced a number of measures to encourage businesses to hire apprentices and Canadians to pursue careers in the trades.
Let me share what we have done. Budget 2006 introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit which provides eligible employers a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, up to $2,000 per apprentice per year. Budget 2006 also introduced the apprenticeship incentive grant, which provides $1,000 per year to apprentices upon completion of each of the first two years of an apprenticeship program in the red seal trades. Also, budget 2009 introduced the apprenticeship completion grant, which provides $2,000 to apprentices upon completion of their certification in red seal trades.
We have consistently supported tradespersons in Canada. Budget 2006 also introduced an annual deduction of up to $500, in 2013, for tradespersons for the cost of new tools in excess of $1,117 that they must acquire as a condition of employment. Budget 2006 also increased to $500 from $200 the limit on the cost of tools eligible for the 100% capital cost deduction which may be claimed by self-employed tradespersons and businesses. Our government has also extended the fees eligible for the tuition tax credit to include those from examinations required to be certified as a tradesperson in Canada.
It does not stop there. In addition to these tax measures and grants, our government, through economic action plan 2013, proposed new measures to support the use of apprentices in three key areas. The first is changing the government's approach to procurement by introducing measures to support the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts. Second is ensuring that funds transferred to provinces and territories through the investment in affordable housing support the use of apprentices. Third, we are encouraging provinces, territories and municipalities to support the use of apprentices in infrastructure projects receiving federal funding as part of the new building Canada plan for infrastructure.
To further reduce barriers to accreditation in the skilled trades, economic action plan 2013 announced the government's intention to reallocate $4 million over three years to work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements for apprentices, as well as examining the use of practical tests as a means of assessment in targeted skilled trades.
Economic action plan 2013 was a large commitment by our government to support the skilled trades and encourage growth in these very important industries. Unfortunately, the member opposite who put forward Bill C-201 voted against every one of these measures. Therefore, it is surprising to see her claim full support for tradespeople across the country.
Having established how our government has been, and continues to be, proactive when it comes to providing practical support for apprentices and tradespeople, I would like to discuss the important policy concerns that the bill raises. To put it bluntly, as drafted, Bill C-201 would make it difficult to ensure that tax relief is not provided in respect of personal expenses reflecting lifestyle decisions. For example, expenses incurred by eligible individuals who choose to live more than 80 kilometres away from the workplace for personal reasons would qualify for the tax relief. Furthermore, the open-ended nature of the proposed deduction would make it vulnerable to unfair tax planning. For example, individuals could arrange their affairs to claim a recreational property, such as a cottage more than 80 kilometres away from work, as their principal residence and deduct the cost of maintaining their urban residence as an expense required to secure and maintain employment. Legislating tax credits that are open to abuse is not how we create a fair tax system for all Canadians.
Finally, implementing Bill C-201 would cost taxpayers up to $60 million. Since our government already has significant measures in place to provide tax relief to tradespeople, we do not see any added benefit to forgoing more tax revenue for a measure that may not prove to be effective, and a measure that could subsidize personal choices, for that matter.
We take pride in the fact that under our government the overall federal tax burden is the lowest it has been in 50 years. In total, our government has introduced more than 160 tax-relief measures since 2006, reducing taxes in every way that the Government of Canada collects them. These are real measures that are helping all Canadians across the country: tradespeople, apprentices, families, seniors, and the list goes on. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from the personal income tax relief introduced by the government, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. The average family of four is saving over $3,200 per year in taxes, and more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls.
This is great news, and more work must be done. However, we must be cautious of proposals that would unnecessarily burden the work our government is doing to balance the budget. Our government is focused on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills, and communities, underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keep taxes low, and returning to a balanced budget.
Therefore, it is our position that Canadians do not need Bill C-201. It contains too many flaws. It costs too much, and it is redundant, considering the policies we currently have in place to help not only tradespeople, but all working Canadians as well. With that, I encourage my fellow members to vote against the bill.