Mr. Speaker, the member for Cambridge is not only a great member, but he is also a friend.
The bill pursues a great goal. I think all members would agree to that. We all commend members who present private member's bills because we know how much work, time, and effort goes into them, and I know the member is genuine in trying to pursue a very important initiative in our country.
I took a course in first aid when I was an army cadet and it has served me well throughout my life, so I do understand what the member is trying to achieve, and I commend him for that because he has taken this issue very seriously. We had a number of consultations. We spoke together. We spoke with the minister, but as good as the policy objective is, the tax system is not the appropriate vehicle for action, and we believe it would be unlikely to increase participation.
Considering that 67% of Canadians have taken first aid courses, it is unlikely that a deduction of $15 claimed about 16 months afterwards would have a significant effect on increasing enrolment in our country.
In addition, the tax credit would be complicating our tax system and adding significant administration and compliance costs for the government.
I have the privilege once again to discuss an issue that is important to Canadians in the House, in their House of Commons. I thank my colleague for introducing Bill C-240, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.
Among other things, the bill seeks to provide a non-refundable tax credit to individuals who complete a first aid or other health and safety instructional program or course. I thank my colleague for his efforts, and he knows that. However, the Government of Canada is trying mainly to help the middle class and those working hard to join it. That is why in December, one of the first things our government did was to implement a tax cut for the middle class. In total, nearly nine million Canadians have been benefiting from this tax cut since January 1, 2016.
Next came budget 2016 and the new Canada child benefit. This benefit will provide additional support to Canadian families to help them deal with the high cost of raising children, and it will replace the current complicated child benefit system. The new benefit will also be better targeted to help those who need it most.
In the same vein, budget 2016 reflects our election commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective and obsolete government initiatives.
As a first step towards meeting this commitment, budget 2016 announced annual reductions of $221 million in professional services, travel and government advertising, starting in 2016–17.
Going forward, under the leadership of the President of the Treasury Board, the government will identify other changes and better align government spending with priorities.
In addition, the government remains committed to ensuring federal tax expenditures are fair for Canadians, efficient and fiscally responsible.
Individuals and businesses have expressed concerns related to the efficiency and fairness of the tax system and how the increasing number of tax expenditures has made the federal tax system more complex.
In the coming year, the government will undertake a review of the Canadian tax system to determine whether it works well for Canadians, with a view to eliminating poorly targeted and inefficient tax measures. Consequently, introducing a new expenditures outside the budget process would run counter to the objectives of the comprehensive review of current spending that the Government of Canada is currently conducting.
Let us take a closer look at what the bill sets out to do. As I said earlier, my colleague from Cambridge has a worthwhile goal, but we need to examine the degree of complexity that this proposal would add to the tax system.
The bill seeks to provide a maximum tax credit of 15% of up to $200 for the cost of a first aid or other health and safety instructional program or course successfully completed by an individual or the individual's qualifying child. The bill would provide a limited incentive, as I said earlier.
Let us look at the facts: the number of Canadians who register for a first aid course is already quite high, and that is very good. According to a 2012 Ipsos Reid poll conducted for the Canadian Red Cross, we should be pleased that 67% of Canadians have taken a first aid course, of which roughly a fifth were taken in the past three years.
What is more, existing policies at various levels of government make it mandatory to know first aid at the workplace. Many employers help their employees take this type of training. At the federal level, the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations stipulate how many employees are required to receive first aid training at federally regulated workplaces.
Furthermore, all the provinces and territories have adopted legislative requirements for the workplace regarding employee training in first aid. Given that a typical first aid course costs around $100, it is unlikely, in our view, that a $15 refund received up to 16 months after the training cost was incurred would lead to a significant increase in the number of registrations for such programs. The credit would probably mainly constitute a subsidy for the many Canadians who are already taking such courses. It is estimated that this would cost the Canadian government approximately $17 million per year.
The average benefit of this measure, in terms of reduction of income tax payable, would be weak relative to its administrative costs and compliance costs. What is more, the bill establishes no criteria for the quality or legitimacy of programs eligible to the credit. It is for these reasons that the government is opposed to this bill.
I would now like to draw the attention of the House to certain measures that the government has taken in budget 2016 to strengthen Canada's financial sector to support economic growth in the country. Canada’s financial sector framework balances various objectives, namely those of stability, competition, and meeting the evolving needs of consumers and Canadian businesses.
The financial sector plays a vital role in allocating capital efficiently to businesses and households across the economy. It must continue to play this role effectively, to ensure that Canada’s economic growth will be long-lasting and inclusive. Canadians deserve financial consumer protection that keeps pace in meeting their needs. In addition, the financial consumer protection framework must provide clarity to guide the operations of federally regulated banks.
Amendments to the Bank Act will be proposed to modernize the protection framework for these consumers by clarifying and enhancing protection measures through a new chapter in the act. They will reaffirm the government’s intent to have a system of exclusive rules to ensure an efficient national banking system from coast to coast to coast.
The government will collaborate with provinces, territories, and stakeholders to support the implementation of the framework, as well as to enhance consumer education and financial literacy. Stable and secure housing markets protect the greatest investment of many middle-class Canadian families. This is why on December 11, 2015, the government announced coordinated actions to strengthen the resiliency of Canada’s housing finance system, increase market discipline in residential lending, and promote long-term stability and balanced economic growth.
In closing, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Cambridge once again for his motion. I thank him for having proposed an important bill, and as I was saying earlier, we will have to oppose that bill as it now stands, for even though its objective is laudable, we have to consider its important tax implications, the cost of this measure, and especially the fact that 67% of Canadians have already taken part in a first aid program or course, and in our view a new tax credit will have a limited impact on participation.