Mr. Speaker, this journey to get a 100% rebate back to school boards in Canada has been a passion of mine for nearly 10 years. I was a school member in Saskatchewan for nine and a half years.
School divisions in our country pay the GST. They are rebated 68%. That means they end up paying 32%. This is clearly a tax on a tax, federal to provincial and territorial authorities. It means $187 million that could be used in the classrooms is being taken away today.
I spent the good part of this summer going coast to coast. I talked with parents, educators, government officials, and most of all I talked with trustees. They all agreed that this bill should go to reading. I attended the Canadian School Boards Association's annual meeting in Winnipeg in July. Trustees from across the country lined up to support the bill. The rebate of $187 million to school authorities ends up to be less than 1% of the entire federal budget.
The Canadian School Boards Association's outgoing president Janet Ford said that it was illogical that school boards, as publicly funded taxpayer-funded institutions should be paying the goods and services tax.
The Canadian Teachers' Federation, which represents over 200,000 teachers, agrees that public services administered by school authorities that are publicly funded should not be taxed. That was signed by its president Heather Smith.
Don Morgan, who is the education minister in Saskatchewan, said that the introduction of the bill was timely as the reciprocal taxation agreement signed between the federal government and the province of Saskatchewan recently expired in December. This reciprocal fund included all government ministries, but did not include the public service organizations such as school divisions. This would be an opportune time to revisit this agreement. Don is pleased to provide his support for Bill C-241 as the education minister in the province of Saskatchewan.
Across our great land we have had dozens of letters supporting my private member's bill, from the Western Québec School Board, a great letter from the Ottawa-Carleton school district, the Toronto public schools, and the Seine River School Division in Manitoba, which would save $130,000 annually to be added back into its classrooms in Manitoba.
I will quote the board chair of the Calgary Board of Education, Joy Bowen-Eyre, who stated that $3.6 million would be returned to its division. That is equivalent to the entire operating costs of a large elementary school of 600 students.
From my city of Saskatoon, public school chair Ray Morrison said that an additional nine full-time teachers would be added with the $723,000 that would be returned through this rebate.
The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Board of Education and its chair Diane Boyko said that nine full-time teachers or 21 more educational assistants would be hired immediately if the division would receive the full GST rebate.
There is not one school board in my province that would not receive the benefit of my private member's bill.
On October 5 in the House, the Liberal MP for London North Centre stood up and said that it was an honour to rise and mark World Teachers' Day. The member commended the more than 40 members of the current Liberal caucus who were teachers. The member from London North Centre said, “We are a team committed to education and educators.”
I ask each and every member across the aisle, including the member for Papineau, who once was a teacher, to support my private member's bill. It was the Liberal government in 2004 that gave municipalities a 100% rebate in the GST. It went from 57% all the way to 100%. I ask the government to support Bill C-241, do the right thing, and refund the GST to school authorities like it did to municipalities across the country 12 years ago.