Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak on Bill C-201. It is a well-intentioned bill, but there are some serious flaws.
The economy is and still remains fragile. Simply put, now is not the time to engage in an estimated $60 million per year of reckless and duplicate spending.
Our government will continue to identify efficient ways of supporting our apprentices and tradespeople while creating jobs and economic growth. To put it bluntly, Bill C-201 does the exact opposite of this. It is a costly and flawed piece of legislation that could expose Canada's tax system to a high likelihood of abuse.
Specifically, it would create new costly tax loopholes that would be vulnerable to unfair tax planning, as the deduction is drafted in an open-ended manner. It would give workers in one field an unfair advantage, potentially distorting the labour market. It would make it difficult to ensure that tax relief is not provided for personal expenses, solely reflecting lifestyle decisions. It would result in certain individuals receiving a windfall gain for those individuals who would have incurred eligible travel and accommodation expenses in any case. Also, it would cost in excess of $60 million per year. These are clear and plain reasons why our government cannot support such a bill.
Rather than advance the flawed policy of the NDP bill, our Conservative government has introduced a number of measures that actually support tradespersons, encourage businesses to hire apprentices and encourage Canadians to pursue careers in the trades.
In 2006, members will remember that our government introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit which provides eligible employers with a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, or up to $2,000 per apprentice per year.
Also back in 2006, our government introduced in the budget 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 trade. Then, in budget 2009, our government introduced the apprenticeship completion grant which provides $2,000 to apprentices upon the completion of their certification in a red seal trade.
Let us not forget that it was our government that introduced, in 2014, an annual deduction of up to $500 for tradespersons for the cost of new tools in excess of $1,127 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.
In addition, there are a number of existing measures under the Income Tax Act for employees, including tradespersons, who travel or relocate for employment.
First, the moving expense deduction recognizes costs incurred by workers who move their ordinary place of residence at least 40 kilometres closer to their place of business or employment in order to pursue employment opportunities. Eligible costs are limited to the amount of income earned at the new location for the year.
Second, the special and remote work sites tax exemption allows employers to provide board and lodging expenses to employees on a tax-free basis. This exemption is limited to benefits paid by the employers on behalf of the employees, which ensures that eligible expenses are incurred for employment purposes.
Third, the travel expenses deduction allows employees who are ordinarily required to carry out the duties of employment away from the employers' place of business or in a different location to deduct travel expenses incurred, including 50% of meal expenses where they are required by the employer to pay their own expenses.
Fourth, similar to the travel expenses deduction for employees, self-employed individuals may deduct reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the generation of income from a business, including travel expenses, for example, lodging, and 50% of meal costs, while they are away from home.
Fifth, the northern residents deduction provides tax relief to individuals in northern and isolated communities to assist in attracting skilled labour to these communities.
Finally, the Canada employment credit, the CEC, introduced by the government in budget 2006 recognizes work-related expenses in a general way. In 2014, the CEC provides a tax credit on employment income up to $1,127.
As hon. members can see, our government recognizes the importance of the skilled trades to Canada's economy. We continue through our economic action plan to support economic growth and job creation, which includes a number of initiatives that directly support the development of a skilled, mobile and inclusive workforce within an efficient labour market.
Economic action plan 2013 proposes new measures to support the use of apprenticeships in four key ways: supporting the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts; ensuring the funds transferred to provinces and territories through the investment in affordable housing support the use of apprentices; 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; and providing $4 million to work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements for apprentices.
This kind of support for skills training is crucial to Canada's long-term growth, which is why our Conservative government is committed to maintaining this strong momentum. What the opposition does not understand is that in order to sustain this momentum more needs to be done than just creating training opportunities in high demand areas. It also requires creating the overall conditions for economic success that create high demand in the first place. It is for this reason Canada's economic action plan is a low-tax plan that will eliminate the deficit in 2015, reduce red tape and continue to promote free trade and innovation.
The results of our efforts speak for themselves. Since the depths of the global economic recession, the worst since the Great Depression, Canada's economy has created over one million net new jobs. These are overwhelmingly full-time, well-paying jobs in the private sector. I am proud to say that this is the strongest growth record among G7 countries, and others are noticing.
We are garnering international attention with Bloomberg recently declaring that Canada was the second best country in which to do business, just behind Hong Kong. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have recognized the benefits of our plan. They expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G7 over the next few years.
Our government remains focused on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills and communities. These are underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and returning a balanced budget in 2015. Unfortunately, bills such as Bill C-201 would do nothing to strengthen Canada's economy. It contains too many flaws, would cost too much, and it fails to take into account the effective policies we currently have in place to help not only tradespersons but all hard-working Canadians.
Given the many shortcomings in the proposal before us today, I encourage my fellow members to vote against this legislation.