Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-241.
Like my colleague from Saskatoon—Grasswood, I understand what this additional money could mean to our school boards from coast to coast to coast.
This is a well-thought-out bill that would benefit all taxpaying Canadians. This is an additional tax burden on what already tax-funded school authorities pay. The GST was lifted from municipalities for precisely this reason, and the same should be true for our schools and the good of our students attending them. Therefore, the comment of my colleague across the way that we do not want a precedent is wrong, because we already have had a precedent municipally since 2004.
Let me tell the House why I am passionate about the bill. School is in my blood. My 91-year-old mom was a teacher, starting at the age of 17 in a little schoolhouse in Prince Edward Island teaching eight grades. My daughter is a primary school teacher in the GTA. My first job was as a teacher's assistant in summer school. In addition to my professional career, I have been a youth leader for over 32 years, organizing weekends, camps, directing camps, planning activities. I have spent a lot of time with children, and it is through these various endeavours that I have gained an appreciation for the needs of our youth. The most basic need is a good, solid education to start them on the path to success.
I do not believe this should be a partisan issue. We all have schools in our ridings and we all have children in those schools who deserve to have the best education we can give them.
Not surprisingly, the author of the bill has received widespread support for the bill from all over the country, and he shared some of their messages with me. One that was very striking came from the Calgary Board of Education. It would have received an additional $3.6 million in fiscal year 2014-15 if it had had the 100% GST refund. The quote reads in part:
To put this into perspective, $3.6 million is equivalent to the entire operating costs of one of our large elementary schools for 600 students.
That same school board welcomed 427 Syrian students and is expecting more. Imagine how a $3.6-million increase in the school board's budget could help provide the necessary services and support to those new students. They wrote to the Prime Minister about it. Like my colleague, I believe that a 100% GST refund would be an excellent way for the government to support our schools.
In my own province of Ontario, the main cities, as one can imagine, have experienced an enormous growth in student population, while my riding is experiencing declining enrolment. The following is a quote from the Lambton Kent District School Board's annual budget. It states:
While this Provincial funding amount is stable year-over-year, about two-thirds of [grants for student needs] funding is enrolment based. The declining enrolment in our region has a significant impact on GSN funding requiring cost saving measures to be implemented.
Just this week, on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, was an article about the radical choices the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is having to make. Its 2016-17 budget proposes many cuts, among them, upward of 38 teachers, four ESL teachers, four principals and vice-principals, and 47 administrators, support, and learning support staff. This is all to cover a $9.3-million budget shortfall. The additional 32% GST rebate would cover almost half of that shortfall in Ottawa.
Let us talk a bit more about the cost of doing this. The lost revenue from rebating 100% of the GST has been said to be about $187 million. We talked about how that compares with the revenues received. Let us talk about how it compares with some other things.
Compared with the $10 billion in interest we are going to pay each year on our deficit, it is a small amount. Compared with the $2.65 billion we gave to the foreign climate change fund or the $1.2 billion for Syrian refugees or the $5 billion in foreign aid, it is a small amount.
These are Canadians who will benefit from the bill, our children, who deserve a bright future. Our children are our most important asset. They are the future.
This week, during Science Odyssey, there were many activities promoting that more young people get interested in science. I loved when the Minister of Science said that children are born curious. This is a fact, and stimulating that curiosity with science-based activities in school requires funding that current school boards are struggling to find. Therefore, the money rebated back through Bill C-241 could also help more school boards put a focus on science. More science in schools from the early ages on up will encourage boys and girls to enter this field where the future of well-paying jobs lies.
Another thing I like about Bill C-241 is that the mechanism to rebate the money to school boards is already in place. Since municipalities and other organizations receive their rebates, no new structure has to be put in place to make it happen. It can be done quickly and cost-effectively.
Think of the cost of the kinds of activities school boards are trying to promote these days: robotics, computers, coding. All of these things cost more than the crayons of old, and here is an easy way to help schools and to help our children as well.
I was glad to hear the member talk about another example of curriculum that has been added to the schools, which is the first nations, Métis, and Inuit component. As a mother of two non-status Métis children, I am proud to see this introduction. The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association has said that it would use this rebate to implement that curriculum.
One other thing I will say is that looking through the gender lens of a gender-based analysis, which we are currently studying in our Status of Women committee, we see that teaching is a profession that is more predominately women than men, especially at the primary grade level. It is also a fact that with many cuts to the school board budgets that have occurred over the years, many teachers are now having to purchase with their own money their own supplies for arts, crafts, and activities within their classrooms.
We would never imagine making a construction worker responsible to pay for the equipment they are using, nor would we expect policemen and firefighters to pay for the tools of their trade. However, we do see it in this female-dominated environment. Therefore, the returning of the full GST rebate to the school boards would, in my opinion, ease this gender-biased burden, and can be part of the measures described in budget 2016.
I encourage members to support Bill C-241. I am not sure if this is the shortest bill ever written, at just 30 words, but I do know that this little bill, if successful, would have the biggest positive impact that schools have experienced in a very long time.
Let me say that the loss to the government coffers is miniscule in the whole scheme of things, miniscule to the government but gigantic to the students who attend our Canadian schools.
I thank the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood for bringing forward this very positive initiative. I also thank my colleagues on all sides of the chamber for their attention to Bill C-241 and the benefits it would bring about for our children.