moved that Bill C-240, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit — first aid), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to rise in the House and speak to my private member's bill, an act to amend the Income Tax Act to provide a non-refundable tax credit for those who take first aid courses.
I recognize well that my role is often to advocate for and represent my riding of Cambridge in North Dumfries. This is a role that I am honoured and humbled to fulfill, and I thank the people of my riding for placing their trust in me.
Private members' bills provide a unique and valuable opportunity to represent all Canadians. That is something that was foremost in my mind when I was designing my bill. I wanted to ensure that Canadian values and interests were inherent and that my bill would create a benefit that all Canadians could access equally.
With my PMB I wanted to achieve a few broad goals. We need to start a national conversation in this country about emergency preparedness and getting ready for the demographic shifts that we know are approaching.
The need for emergency preparedness has always been present in our society. However, with an aging population, Canadians need to be ready for more medical emergencies, more cardiac arrests, more strokes, and more falls.
The need for basic medical emergency preparedness in Canada is still growing, and this need has never been greater. In Canada, there is a heart attack every 12 minutes. People experiencing cardiac arrest have their chance of survival increased exponentially if there is a first responder or similarly trained individual present. Unfortunately, in many cases of cardiac arrest, no one with this lifesaving knowledge is nearby.
Right now more than half of adult Canadians live in a household in which no members have an up-to-date first aid or CPR certification. This reality is as dangerous as it is unacceptable, particularly when the training is readily available. These Canadian households are not prepared for emergencies. They are at risk, and it is our moral duty to do whatever we can to help our citizens be better prepared.
This legislation would fill a void in our current legislative framework and our broader society. Training to prepare people for medical emergencies is there, and we know it works. The only limitation is how many people in Canada have the training and the confidence to take action. This legislation is a measured response to the need for an incentive to encourage more Canadians to get trained.
The bill is designed to provide a modest change, innovate within a sector, and improve lives in a measured and specific way.
The legislation has the potential to make a lasting impact on the lives of many Canadians without making a lasting impact on their wallets. It is designed to appeal broadly to those members of the House who consider themselves fiscally responsible, as the costs are reasonable. At the same time, the bill's appeal is obvious to those members who seek an avenue for bettering people's lives and making our communities stronger, safer, and healthier.
I hope that my attempts to create this legislation, however humble, will save lives and achieve far grander benefits than might otherwise be apparent.
When people undertake first aid certification, what they are ultimately doing is gaining the skills and knowledge to serve their community at a personal cost. Perhaps even more important than the skills they are learning is the confidence they are gaining in an emergency situation where literally every second counts. The confidence gained through these courses can be the difference between life and death. Undertaking first aid training and administering first aid are fundamentally selfless acts that benefit not only the individual citizen but our communities as a whole. The House has the opportunity to recognize, incentivize, and facilitate these selfless acts by reducing the costs incurred by these civic-minded individuals. That is something that all members should laud, appreciate, and promote.
With this private member's bill, I propose that our government should provide a tax credit to those who take an accredited first aid, CPR, or AED training course. This tax credit would be non-refundable and provide a deduction in the amount owing equal to the lowest federal income tax rate currently at 15%. This tax credit would come at a relatively low cost to the government but would make a difference in the affordability of lifesaving training for individual Canadians.
According to Ipsos Reid, only 18% of Canadians have an up-to-date certification, meaning they have passed a course in the last three years. That means approximately 1.8 million Canadians will take this lifesaving training this year. At $15 per person, the bill would cost the government a maximum of $26.5 million this year. Compared to the value of the lives being saved, this is miniscule.
Of course, not all course participants will be eligible for the tax credit, nor will they all owe taxes. More than half of certified Canadians have their training financed by their workplace. When these facts are considered, we can see that the cost to the government would actually be much lower, likely less than $13 million.
As I have said, a great many Canadians are trained in lifesaving first aid, CPR, and AED techniques through the generosity of their employers. This generosity is to be commended. These employers recognize the value of having certified employees in their workplace. However, employers who pay for their employees' training are not eligible for the tax credit, because they already receive tax incentives when they claim it as a business expense. Similarly, the employee cannot claim the cost of a course that their employer has paid for.
For many Canadians, however, this type of training is not available at their workplace. Many of these people are still interested in the training and frankly, society would be greatly benefited from their having this training.
First aid training is lifesaving. My hope is that by making first aid courses more financially accessible, Canada will have more citizens with these lifesavings skills. Having more people with first aid training increases the likelihood of trained individuals being at hand during an emergency.
One-third of Canadians have never taken a first aid, CPR, or AED training course. This is a huge lifesaving resource that we are not accessing as a culture, but we should be. Helping Canadians gain the skill to treat medical emergencies out of hospital also has the potential to result in cost savings to the health care system by giving individuals the skills to better respond to minor situations, such as cuts and scrapes, and the knowledge and confidence to help minimize the damage sustained in the case of more substantive injuries.
For someone who breaks a bone, for example, knowing how to place a splint could have a major impact on their recovery time and the cost associated with it. For someone having a seizure, a passerby with the knowledge of rescue treatments, how to give care, comfort, and first aid, and when to call for emergency help can prevent injuries and keep many Canadians safe.
It is my hope that Canadians will take advantage of this modest tax credit to gain the skills that might allow them to save lives, prevent injuries, and help keep their neighbours and families safe.
I know that I am not the only member of Parliament for whom safeguarding the well-being of Canadians is of the utmost priority. The member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston has made it his personal mission over the past number of years to increase the number of automatic external defibrillators in his riding and has campaigned for greater access to these devices all across Canada.
An AED is a small portable device used to deliver a shock to correct abnormal beating of the heart. These AEDs, when kept in public spaces, are an incredible asset to the safety of those around them. Every police cruiser in Ottawa has one of these devices, and it has directly resulted in around 10 lives saved every single year.
Every workplace under federal jurisdiction is required to have first aid kits for this same reason, but we need to ensure that their are hands capable of wielding these tools so that they can be effective at saving lives.
Before working in the House, I was an employee at the YMCA for many years. I remember, as the director of the YMCA about 10 years ago, my boss came to me and said that he wanted me to become a lifeguard. My first response was why. At 30 years old, why was this something that was important?
I am very glad for the opportunity to do that, although it was incredibly humbling, at 30 years old, to be taking lifesaving training with a number of 16-year-olds. However, I can say that this first aid training has made me confident that in the face of any emergency I would be able to safeguard the lives and well-being of my neighbours, my family, and my colleagues.
It is my hope to spread that kind of knowledge and confidence within Canada. I have been asking for support for the bill for the past few months. In fact, I have been nagging people to a certain extent and sending them video emails and those sorts of things. I have risen today in the House to debate it and ask for the support of all members.
I ask for this support for the sake of the well-being of our communities. The House has the opportunity to safeguard the lives of Canadians and display our commitment to emergency preparedness. I am confident that the members of the House will appreciate the impact of the legislation on the lives and safety of ordinary families. My hope is that my bill passes second reading and goes to committee, where I am open to any recommendations to make the bill better.
I thank members for their support on this issue, and I look forward to hearing their thoughts and answering any questions from the House.