House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.


Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question, but I am flabbergasted.

I just cannot get over how the other opposition parties are playing right into the government's hands. The opposition parties that want to get on board with the plan to set up a committee are telling Canadians that they are not smart enough to have an opinion about something as important as the voting system.

The Conservative government made changes, but it never put forward a motion or a bill to change the voting system. Now the government wants a partisan committee composed of elected men and women to come up with a proposal that suits their personal interests.

I am not the only one to say that. I challenge the government to find a single political analyst who supports the government's proposal. The NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and the other parties are flirting with the government. I could just about fall off my chair.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska. The member was talking about being hyperpartisan and how to take that out of politics.That is the platform that we ran on, a platform of real change, of positive change. Having accepted the motion from the NDP, we are reaching across the aisle, looking at ideas from all members.

Would the member be open-minded enough to reach out to his constituents through Twitter, through a town hall, through emails, voice drops, whatever, to bring them into the process and let them speak to what they would like to see in terms of electoral reform here in this country?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his question.

I will be pleased to consult my constituents and ask their opinion. I think that everyone will do that. The committee will do it and the members will too. However, ultimately, I will never tell them that it is an elected official, here in the House, who will make a final decision on the voting system, the very foundation of our democracy, without asking for their clear opinion.

I would like to remind everyone that I studied math and computer science and that I also have an MBA. Right now, there are 26 million voters registered in Canada. Even if we look at the worst-case scenario for a referendum, which is about 50% of voters, that would still be 13 million people who voted during the most recent referendums on the voting system in the various provinces in Canada.

Here in the House, the government is saying that, in the next six months, the committee members will decide what is good for Canadians and that they will do so during the summer, when they are busy barbecuing, sitting around their pools, or vacationing in various places across the country or throughout the world. No, thank you. I will not play the game of the members across the way and I hope that the other opposition parties will not play either.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

I am very happy to stand up today to speak to the motion. My colleagues have outlined the core of the motion, what we are proposing for the committee, and the good news about the co-operation that seems to be bursting on the scene here in the House of Commons. However, I would like to give a little context. Since I did spend six years doing a Ph.D. on political science, I might as well geek out a bit and use some of that knowledge, as we look at changing what is a fundamental institution of our country.

In early political science, all that political scientists studied were rules. They studied the institutions by which we make decisions. They tried to say that if we had a certain set of rules or institutions, we would always get a certain outcome. That was how political science really started. They soon found out that was not the case because a little thing called human behaviour got in the way. Consequently, in the fifties, we had a behavioural revolution. All we studied was human behaviour, saying that was what determined the outcomes of politics. However, after some while, they found that institutions did matter, and we had this kind of merger of the two ideas. It was said that both institutions, the rules by which we make the decisions and human behaviour, help to determine how we make certain political outcomes. Therefore, in a way, the rules by which our institutions are structured bound our behaviour.

We notice this in the House of Commons. We are elected through the first past the post system currently. That sets up an adversarial system in the House of Commons. By the nature of the rules, we have to have a majority on one side, followed by an opposition on the other. The expression that we are two sword lengths apart, and all that, has come from that tradition. However, it means we have an adversarial system. The government proposes something, and then our job as opposition is to criticize it.

These kinds of rules exist in all kinds of legislatures. Some first past the post majority systems are very adversarial. We see that. We see conflict and nastiness. Others are less so. Others are more co-operative. Although they are adversarial and although people are pitted against one another, the behaviour within the House matters. Therefore, I am hopeful that what we are seeing here today is perhaps us taking control of this institution, realizing that we are bound by the current rules we have, but deciding to change our behaviour collectively.

I was in the last Parliament. It was very adversarial, and it was by nature. I was very opposed to a number of the bills that the Conservatives put forward, the way they were pushed through the House of Commons by closure, omnibus bills, and those types of things. I was not just angry at the content of the bills, but a lot of the ways by which those bills were forced through Parliament offended me. I spoke up about that quite a lot.

Now, we are in a new Parliament, and we have had promises that things are going to work differently. We have the same rules we had before, but perhaps we can have different behaviour. What I have noticed as an MP is that we have vestiges of the last Parliament. We are still acting that way. We have a different Prime Minister. We have different positions on this side of the House, and maybe we do not have to be so adversarial. I was very happy with the motion we put forward, but I was extremely happy to hear that the government had decided it would support it. To me, that represents an important cultural shift in the House. I will not say everything is roses, but it does say to Canadians that this place is different now than the last Parliament. That would never have happened in the last Parliament, and it is an important step forward.

If the vote does pass next week, we will have a committee that will go forward to study our electoral formula, the formula by which we redistribute our votes, but also other aspects of the electoral system. That is very important.

We actually have two institutional changes to consider. We have the matter of how the electoral formula will redistribute our votes. The other consideration is the way we are going to make the decisions about how we change the votes.

The Conservatives have been quite clear. They demand a referendum, although I have not heard much detail, for example, on the threshold of acceptance. I do not know if it is 50% or 60%. They have not laid out much in the way of specifics in terms of what their referendum would look like.

I think it is a valid thing for them to argue, although I do not agree with it at this point. We have a bit of a conundrum here in the House of Commons because we had an unusual election promise. It is playing out that we are a little uncertain about how this should go forward.

As an example, our platform included a promise to bring in a mixed member proportional system. We have made that very clear. We made that clear in many elections, all the way through. If we had been elected in a majority in the House of Commons, we would have had a mandate to put through a mixed member proportional system. In other elections, parties campaigned on referendums to change electoral systems. I did not see that in the Conservative platform. I did not see a proposal for a referendum. This is a new thing for the official opposition to suggest this.

We had from the Prime Minister an election promise that I have not seen in any other election. It was not a promise for a specific system; it was a promise that changed the current system, and that is unusual. I think we have had a bit of trouble trying to figure out how that should happen because we do not have a lot of precedents to look at. We do not have many countries where we can say a government was elected with a majority making a promise to change the system, without giving an idea of what that would be.

I suspect if I were a Liberal, I would probably like a alternative vote system because that would benefit me in upcoming elections. I have read the work of the very respected political science professor from Quebec, our Global Affairs minister, whose preference is for some version of alternative votes. I know that the Liberals will be going into the committee thinking that this is their top preference and what they would like. Of course, Canadians know what the NDP's position has been forever, which is a mixed member proportional system, so that is what we will be going into the committee for.

With the Conservatives, we know it is the status quo, but the promise from the Prime Minister is that we will not have the status quo. I am quite happy that we have come to point where we have a committee that can show Canadians what a proportional system would look like. It is not an adversarial system. We know committees are set up to be adversarial. One side has a clear majority and another side argues. It is just like here in the House of Commons. Eventually, if behaviour changes, sometimes we can make amendments to committee reports, or sometimes bill will change slightly. That is if the behaviour changes, if the culture is different. However, it is still a majority system, where the majority kind of rams things through.

If the motion holds, we are getting into a position where we will show Canadians how we as politicians will operate under a proportional system. That is incredibly important. It is almost a preview of what Canadians could see if we changed our electoral system to make it more proportional.

My colleagues have outlined very well what we have proposed here. They have also outlined, and again thanks to the government for agreeing, that this is a better structure for a committee that we should go forward with. However, what we need to hear as soon as the committee is struck are the principles for it.

I have a bill in front of Parliament concerning gender equity, which would nudge parties toward running more women candidates in the hope that we can get more women elected to this place. Canada is ranked 61st in the world in terms of the number of women who are elected to this legislature. We used to be 19th in the world. We have fallen to 61st because other countries have taken measures within their electoral laws to prompt parties to run more women candidates. I know we started to have that debate here, but I think that would be something that the committee might consider. Because we are proportional, we could have a very balanced discussion about that.

I know what my sights are set on. It is trying to get as much of a proportional system as we can, but which the parties can agree on. The second thing is to fundamentally change this place to make it more reflective of the Canadian population. To have only one-quarter of our members being women, parties have to nominate more women candidates. We want a Parliament that reflects Canada more broadly and that the politics and presence of all Canadians are felt in this place.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the comment of the member for Burnaby South that had the NDP won the election with a majority government, it would have brought in proportional representation. History belies this point. New Democrats have been in power in six or seven provinces and have never actually done it, even though they made that promise over and over again. Their federal and provincial parties are the same party, it is in their constitution, so it is a little strange for them to say that.

On another point, we have talked about first past the post and mixed member proportional. First past the post, as a term, was introduced to be diminutive. It was introduced to say it is a horse race, not a real system. I wonder if we could, as a group, agree to call it single member plurality, which is the correct name for it. We should do that or start giving everything nicknames. For example, mixed member proportional could be first past the post with consolation prizes. There are a whole lot of different systems out there and we should be using the technical terms so we do not bias the terminology.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is technicality versus what the public is most familiar with. Of course, we will not have to talk about it much because the last election was the last election that used first past the post/single member plurality, so perhaps it will be thrown into the dustbin of history and we will have a new system.

I take the member's point that we have to make it clear when we are explaining to Canadians that this is a very technical thing, which I have been explaining for 20 years to people. I really hope the government puts all of its resources into this to help Canadians through this, because it is basically a mathematical redistribution of votes, which is not that sexy most of the time.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member had some interesting things to say and I thank him for doing so. In the last election, I heard at thousands of doors an awful lot about a variety of issues, with emphasis on the economy, jobs and employment, the refugee crisis. I had conversations about leadership and preferences for the person people wanted as prime minister. I cannot really recall a comment about electoral reform and the desirability of it. This was not an issue that the majority of Canadians based their decision on, so it is a little disingenuous for parties or the government to claim this mandate for doing so.

In the member's speech, he talked about the NDP's desirability for proportional representation and he talked about the desirability perhaps of the government for an alternate vote. This is again a discussion of political parties deciding how they want to set up the system. Why will they not agree that Canadians ought to have the final say with whatever proposal is put forward and decide yes or no by referendum once the consultation is concluded?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, these are great questions and these are the kinds of discussions that will take place in committee. However, let us be clear that we all have partisan choices. New Democrats have been clear for decades that ours is mixed member proportionality, but the member's preference is for the current system.

In the election campaign, the Prime Minister made a promise to the Canadian public that that would be the last election under first past the post or single member plurality, as my colleague would call it. That is what we are trying to move towards. I would encourage the member to drop the spirit of the last Parliament and work with this Parliament. He should not use the adversarial system of the last Parliament and change his behaviour. Let us all work together on this.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his expertise.

I am wondering whether, like me, he is at least somewhat optimistic about the outcome of this process. He is very familiar with how parliamentary committees operate and how they make recommendations.

Does he share my rather cautious optimism regarding the answer the government will get from the committee when it submits its report and recommendations based on its consultations?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hope springs eternal, and I forgot to mention in my speech how much I would like to thank the member for Skeena and the member for Rosemont, from our party, for making this happen.

We will have this committee, we will have our discussions, and there will be a committee report. I think it is something that is such a big change that we will have to take it step by step. However, I am very happy with the first step we took today.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, I must inform her that she has about seven and a half minutes remaining and I will have to interrupt her at 5:15 p.m.

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I do not have 10 minutes to speak, I am pleased to be able to speak to this motion on the special committee and, more generally, on electoral reform.

I want to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for the work he has done. I also want to commend the work done by the member for Edmonton Centre, among others. In the previous Parliament, my former colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, Alexandrine Latendresse, also worked very hard on the issue of electoral reform.

I would like to point out that most NDP members who were here before 2015 did a great deal of consultation in their ridings and used every means available to them to talk about electoral reform in a general sense in order to get a clearer picture of the most common concerns.

One of the most frequently raised points on the topic of electoral reform and our current system was that it does not make sense for a majority to have 100% control over Parliament when the majority of Canadians did not vote for them. Many people told me that minority governments are also perhaps not so effective, because that situation often leads to quick elections and not much work gets done during those Parliaments.

Nevertheless, many people have told me that they much preferred minority governments because members were forced to talk to each other to achieve their goals. Others told me that the problems started up again as soon as majority governments returned and they were allowed to take all control.

It obviously does not make sense to talk about electoral reform in a committee controlled by the majority government. If that had been the process, it would have made a mockery of our democracy, and I supported the proposal by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley to ensure that the committee reflects the percentage of votes we received.

As a result of his work, we will have a committee in which at least two parties will have to agree on the recommendations for them to be included in the report. At the very least, two parties will have to work together. For some recommendations, it may be two different parties than for other recommendations. At least the composition of the committee will leave us no choice but to work together. I am so happy about that.

Now, I will talk a bit about the points that are most often raised when I speak to people in my riding. One of the concerns that is raised most often has to do with the principle of local representation. People are worried that, if a new system is put in place, they will lose their local MP. They think it is extremely important to have a representative in the riding and to be able to contact someone who will help them. They are afraid of being forgotten if they are placed with a member who comes from a big city, for example. That is one of the points that was raised most often in the discussions that I have had with my constituents.

People also wanted to ensure that every vote counts. That is important. People told us that they always felt as though their vote was lost. They feel that is unacceptable. They said they liked voting for small parties and for people who really share their beliefs, but they know that if they do so, their vote is basically worthless. They often feel as though they cannot vote for their preferred candidate, who will do the best job, but instead they have to vote for the least objectionable candidate, according to the context and that person's chance of winning. That is not how people want to vote.

These are really important elements to consider and the committee will be able to examine the different systems based on these factors, as well as factors related to local representation and the ability of small parties to exist.

If we reform the electoral system, we need to remember that one thing that is different about Canada is that independent candidates regularly run in local elections. In my opinion, we need to take into account the fact that some members want to run as independents or that some candidates want to try their luck that way.

All of these different points can be studied by this committee, and no one party will have control. Obviously, the committee will produce its findings, but there is much more. With respect to witnesses, if a party has the absolute majority, it can block a witness who may have views that differ from the party's, for example.

This could affect more than the committee's decision or the recommendations it makes. It could affect the work that members do in this committee and even the reliability of the committee process. If people only listen to the witnesses they want to hear, the testimony will not reflect reality.

In such a comprehensive process, it is important to hear from experts who can provide information and talk about all the possibilities. Once we have this information and the recommendations on the table, we can decide on how to proceed.

However, for now, it is important to arrive at these recommendations based on as much information as possible. We must work as a team and be sure that our process is democratic and representative. Once this process is complete, we can decide what to do with the recommendations. Do we submit them to the public in a referendum? Do we move straight to a bill because there was a broad public consensus? To do so, we have to do the work fairly and equitably. All parliamentarians, who represent all of the political views across the country, must have a chance to be heard, participate actively, and vote.

With this process in place, the first step will be to make some specific recommendations. Once we have the recommendations, we can decide what to do. A number of Conservative colleagues have mentioned a referendum, which is why I wanted to touch on that topic. Before we talk about a referendum, we need to know what we would ultimately want to ask in a referendum. Right now, we want to look at all of the proposals. We cannot hold a referendum to ask the public whether they agree with each of our proposals.

When a referendum is held, the question must be clear. I think the proposal needs to be quite clear so that people understand it and can respond accordingly.

I am very pleased to conclude the debate on the excellent motion moved by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 7, 2016, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to canvas the House, you would find the will to call it 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Electoral ReformBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:30 p.m., we will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cambridge for his fine speech and his bill, which is quite laudable and very hard to oppose. My question is very simple. I was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for a few years. Every year we had to take a first aid course, so that we would be able to give first aid to anyone who might need it, whether it was during our missions or while on exercise in the forest.

My colleague wants to offer a tax credit for that. That is good. As members know, we on this side of the House love tax credits. In his bill, did the member include any guidelines or provisions to ensure that official, recognized organizations would be the ones to provide the first aid courses, in order to ensure that this tax credit does not become a means for private companies to set up shop simply to make money while offering poor-quality courses?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged that there are others in the House who are as passionate about this particular issue as I am.

I understand his concern and, yes, there are safeguards in place. The provinces oversee the accreditation of institutions like the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, and all these organizations that responsibly offer this kind of training. It is very clear in the bill that only accredited courses would qualify for this tax credit. As accreditation has been the provinces' responsibility, they have been doing a fairly good job of that.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on the bill, and the New Democrats will be supporting it.

We are, however, concerned about the excessive proliferation of what are called boutique non-refundable tax credits that have been added to the Income Tax Act in recent years. These non-refundable tax credits are generally believed primarily to benefit middle- to upper-income families for whom financial barriers are less of a concern.

This also may have the unintended consequence of subsidizing the corporate sector by inadvertently encouraging employers to abandon their existing first aid training for employees. Finally, we believe that access to lifesaving training such as first aid and CPR should be equitable.

Will the hon. member consider ensuring the bill would commit the government to assisting low-income Canadians or Canadians with no taxable income to take these lifesaving courses, and ensure that corporations still provide these necessary services to their employees?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited to hear that New Democrats will be supporting the bill, and I thank them for that.

To the first part of his question, no, this is not a boutique tax credit. A boutique tax credit, by definition, is one that supports a very small number of people. There is a very specific parameter around the tax credit. The benefits of the bill would be available for anyone in this country who availed themselves of a training course, so by definition I would suggest that it is not.

I share the hon. member's concern about potentially having adverse impacts in terms of suggesting that other employers would not offer this anymore. I do not have any reason to believe that would be the case. This is a very modest bill. We are not suggesting we would be paying for 100% of the cost of this training. Because I have kept this very modest, it would not have the impact that the member was necessarily suggesting.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.


Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-240, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit — first aid). I thank my colleague from Cambridge for bringing this important issue to the House.

I was excited to see my colleague opposite offering Canadians a tax credit rather than increasing their taxes. I hope it is the first of many.

This bill, as we all know, proposes amending the Income Tax Act to provide a non-refundable tax credit to individuals who complete a first aid or other health and safety instructional program or course. The proposed tax credit will be similar to the federal student tuition taxation credit for everyone who takes life-saving first aid, CPR or automated external defibrillator, AED, training.

This bill could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. Tax credits like the one proposed in this bill will encourage Canadians to get trained and certified in CPR, first aid, and AED use. During an emergency, having someone on site who is trained in first aid and CPR could make the difference as we all know.

In fact, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are 40,000 cardiac arrest incidents in Canada each year. That is one every thirteen minutes, and 85% of those incidents will take place outside of hospitals. After 12 minutes, the survival rate is just 5%. After four minutes, significant brain damage can occur. During an emergency situation, CPR plus an AED double the chance of survival.

These are our neighbours, our friends, and family. The importance of CPR, first aid, and AED training is clear just by looking at the number of people who spend their hard-earned money to be trained, groups like Scouts and Girl Guides, youth groups, babysitters, camp counsellors, first responders, just to name a few. That includes, of course, both adults and children.

St. John Ambulance alone, certifies more than 550,000 Canadians a year, with more than 100 locations across Canada, including a location in Lindsay in my riding.

The proposed bill will have a direct impact on Canadians who may be considering training, but are worried about the cost. However, for most people looking to take these types of courses, it really is not about the prices. It is about helping our fellow Canadians. Therefore, why not give them thanks from the Government of Canada, after all they are spending their own money.

Canadians coast to coast will see the direct benefits of this proposed change. This is not a new issue of importance for Canadians or for the government. It was our government that initiated the national AED program, which saw $10 million funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada, to install AEDs in rinks, arenas, and recreation centres all across Canada.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, this initiative, recently concluded, was responsible for the installation of 3,234 AEDs and the training of 25,360 Canadians on how to respond to cardiac arrest situation.

In my riding this program allowed for 23 AEDs to be installed in public access areas like the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden, the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton, and the Lindsay Recreation Complex.

This program has already been responsible for saving 10 lives across Canada.

I believe this bill represents a continuation of a number of tax credits initially started by our previous government, including the children's fitness and arts tax credits, both of which are now sadly gone, and the volunteer firefighters tax credit. The volunteer firefighters tax credit had the same effect I think this bill will have. It encouraged Canadians to be trained and to help each other. It allowed for Canadians to help themselves. Again, it is not about the cost, it is about helping our fellow citizens.

As such, we should let the measure we are discussing now, and the previously mentioned measures, act as a way of giving back to Canadians for trying to help and do the right thing. In many small communities, like those in my riding, many firefighting departments are completely run by volunteers. These Canadians sacrifice their time and safety, even time with family, to help protect others.

Increasing the number of Canadians who have the financial ability to be trained in CPR, first aid, and AED use will help Canadians coast to coast to coast, especially in remote and rural areas where medical assistance is not always around the corner.

A 2012 Ipsos Reid poll showed that 38% of Canadians said that they had provided first aid, and 78% believed it was important to know how to perform first aid. While the information is a few years old, it is still very relevant for the discussion on this bill. The results showed that two in three Canadians had taken a first aid course, with only 18% having taken it within three years of the poll, and 49% having taken it more than three years before that poll.

Canadians who have taken a first aid course are significantly more competent in their skills to help someone in a medical emergency.

The results of this poll help paint a very big picture. It paints a picture of the importance of first aid, CPR, and AED training. Similar information has been found by our neighbours south of the border. According to the American Heart Association, each year more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. Almost 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die.

CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person's chance of survival. Seventy per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes. Unfortunately, only about 46% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest get the immediate help they need before professional help arrives.

Our Conservative Party highly values life and life-saving capabilities, and I support incentives and rewards to help save lives. If more medically trained personnel exist, financial burdens to emergency services may be reduced, resulting in greater efficiency and productivity.

While there is much to praise about the proposed bill, I look forward to seeing what the potential cost of these measures will be. We need to ensure that proper balance of tax credits and fiscal responsibility are there.

Canadians are kind and generous people, as we all know. I believe the bill would give Canadians an increased opportunity to be certified in first aid, CPR, and AED use, which of course, as I think we all agree in the House, is a benefit to all.

I would like to thank the Canadian Red Cross, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, St. John Ambulance, and all the organizations that have promoted, trained, and certified Canadians in first aid, CPR, and AED use. I would also like to thank the volunteers, because we cannot forget the volunteers who work so hard in our communities to make them safer.

People should remember that during CPR, we should push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute, or to the beat of the Bee Gees song, Stayin' Alive.

I encourage all members to support the bill and to encourage all Canadians to get trained in first aid, CPR, and AED use. It could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-240, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, to provide a tax credit for first aid courses. This bill proposes to introduce a non-refundable tax credit of up to $200 for all first aid courses, cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, and automated external defibrillator training.

The member for Cambridge introduced this bill with the intention of providing a financial incentive to encourage more Canadians to receive first aid and other emergency health and safety training courses. If adopted, all taxpayers and their eligible children would become eligible for this credit. I want to congratulate him on this initiative and tell him that the New Democrats will be proudly supporting this at second reading.

First aid, CPR, and AED are skills that can be used by everyday citizens in emergency situations to stabilize health conditions until first responders arrive. An Ipsos Reid poll commissioned in 2012 revealed that nearly 40% of Canadians say they have provided first aid in their lifetime. The majority of first aid is provided, importantly, to a family member.

As well, while nearly 80% of Canadians believe first aid is a very important skill to have, only 18% of Canadians have been certified. According to the Red Cross, Canadians with first aid training and certification are considerably more confident in their skills to be able to help someone experiencing a medical emergency. It saves lives.

Here are a few relevant facts about first aid in Canada. The Red Cross estimates it trains approximately 600,000 Canadians every year in first aid, CPR, and/or AED. While nearly 80% of Canadians believe first aid is a very important skill to have, only 18% of Canadians were certified. An Ipsos Reid poll commissioned in 2012 revealed that 40% of Canadians have provided that important skill to their family members. First aid saves lives, and efforts to promote this training should be encouraged.

New Democrats support the objective of this bill and look forward to engaging in a deeper study at the committee stage. As a party, New Democrats believe fundamentally that the lens of equity and social justice should be applied to all legislation that passes through the House. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that New Democrats are always concerned by the proliferation of non-refundable tax credits that have been added to the Income Tax Act in recent years.

Many expert observers argue that these kinds of tax credits primarily benefit middle- and upper-income households. To quote a 2013 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

These credits...make the tax system less transparent and...once they are put in place there is little...accountability of the amount of money spent on them or their effectiveness.

...a large number of current deductions and credits disproportionately benefit high earners....

The question of accessibility cannot be forgotten in the larger discussion around the promotion of first aid training. When assessing this bill, members should ask themselves who benefits and who could be left out. Certainly, this bill can achieve the desired effect of promoting first aid training among a number of families. However, the same must be focused on low-income Canadians and those on social assistance.

There are Canadians for whom the cost of first aid training presents a barrier. These are the Canadians who might not have enough income to benefit from a non-refundable tax credit, and like the rest of us, these Canadians would also greatly benefit from first aid training. It is, therefore, my hope that this bill progresses to the committee stage and that the committee is given the opportunity to take a closer look at the issues of accessibility in this bill, in the hopes of broadening its reach.

On a similar note, New Democrats believe all bills involving tax credits should be properly costed before being adopted by Parliament. In my research on this bill, I asked the Library of Parliament to draw up a rough estimate of the annual cost of Bill C-240. Accounting for multiple variables, the analysts have estimated a cost at between $30 million and $60 million per year. While relatively small in the grand scheme of a $300-billion budget, it is not insignificant, particularly when we consider the number of proposals for tax credits that have been introduced in Parliament and the others that are already on the books.

Finally, this initiative may also have the unintended consequence of subsidizing the corporate sector by inadvertently encouraging employers to abandon their existing first aid training programs. We would have to keep a close eye on that.

These are some of the issues that New Democrats believe require consideration at committee stage, and I look forward to having the opportunity to participate in that analysis.

As I have stated before, Mr. Speaker, this bill has the laudable goal of promoting life-saving first aid training among Canadians, and it spurs a conversation about how best to improve first aid training in our communities.

While reading Bill C-240, I was reminded of the local heroes in Vancouver and across Canada who either teach or use first aid, CPR, and automated external defibrillation to save lives every day. My thoughts go to those remarkable first responders in Vancouver who have worked admirably throughout the years, and today, often in very challenging situations, to make our communities safer for everyone.

I have often had the great pleasure to meet with firefighters in Vancouver, from IAFF Local 18, people like Rob Weeks, Lee Lax, Dustin Bourdeaudhuy, and Chris Coleman. These are hard-working local heroes who, with their workmates, often on the front lines of traumatic and tragic events, provide life-saving skills every day. In their jobs they save lives, livelihoods, homes, and more. In my meetings, I hear the pride they have to serve the public and to perform their jobs with honour and professionalism. These men and their colleagues truly make Vancouver a safer community for everyone. On behalf of the residents of Vancouver Kingsway, I want to thank them here in this House for their work.

I have also listened to the legitimate requests these local heroes have made to improve their occupational health and safety, and their quality of life. I have heard their requests for a firefighter compensation fund, funding for increased staffing in fire halls, and better PTSD services for working firefighters. We need to act on these justified and necessary requests, and do so soon.

My thoughts also go to first responders such as Tom Stamatakis, from the Vancouver Police Union, and the men and women who serve us in the police forces across this country. I have heard of the valiant work of policemen and policewomen who patrol the streets and are often the first people to answer emergency calls. In cities sometimes blighted by organized criminal activity, the policemen and policewomen are on the front lines every day to make our cities and towns safe and secure places to live. They save lives every day as well. I want to thank them in this House for their work.

In my capacity as health critic, I have also had the great pleasure of meeting with representatives from the Paramedic Association of Canada. Paramedics save lives every day in emergency situations, using first aid skills, and a variety of other specialized medical training. We need to thank them and support them in their work.

My thoughts also go to the countless organizations in Canada that provide first aid training in schools, community centres, and offices, to better equip the public for emergencies. Many see first aid as a form of community care, a form of empowerment for people in our communities to take care of themselves and save lives.

As many know, Vancouver is blessed with its location between the mountains and the ocean. Despite the wonderful geographic features that make Vancouver so unique around the world, we also live with many of the associated risks. Vancouverites are active boaters, swimmers, hikers, and skiers. These exciting sports are part of the attraction of the west coast lifestyle, but they also raise the risk of accidents and emergencies. Widespread first aid training is vital to creating a safer environment for Vancouverites, British Columbians, and indeed all Canadians, to get out and play in our beautiful environment and our country. Therefore, thousands of Vancouverites, and millions of Canadians, count on incredible non-profit Canadian agencies, such as the Lifesaving Society, St. John Ambulance, Canadian Ski Patrol, Canadian Red Cross, and Heart and Stroke Foundation to provide life-saving first aid training.

Vancouver is a city that sits on a seismologically active fault line. Frequent minor earthquakes in the region are a reminder of the power of the earth beneath the feet of Vancouverites and British Columbians. For years, geological scientists have predicted the possibility of a large seismic event in the Pacific northwest. The “big one”, as it is commonly referred to, could strike here, at any time. We had recently a magnitude 4.1 earthquake on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. Earthquake preparedness is part of the way of life for Vancouverites. We need to make sure our first aid training, our seismic upgrading, and our preparation for our population, particularly on the west coast, is given a high priority by the Liberal government.

To conclude, I want to reiterate that the New Democratic Party's support for Bill C-240 is strong. We believe more needs to be done to promote first aid training among Canadians to make our communities safer. We look forward to a vibrant debate at committee stage and beyond as we work to improve and implement the provisions of this important bill.

Once again, I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Saint-Maurice—Champlain Québec


François-Philippe Champagne LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

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.