Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to rise 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 a first aid course, Bill C-240. The bill has been returned from the finance committee to the House with the recommendation that it proceed no further.
I am thankful for the review by and insight of the finance committee of Bill C-240. The expertise the witnesses provided helps to clarify what the bill means. There is a growing need for basic preparedness in Canada. In Canada, there is a heart attack every 12 minutes, but people have a dramatically better chance of survival if a trained bystander is present. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, no one with this lifesaving knowledge is nearby. Right now, more than half of adult Canadians live in a household in which no one has up-to-date first aid or CPR certification. It is this issue that motivated my tabling of Bill C-240.
When someone undertakes first aid training, what they are ultimately doing is gaining skills and knowledge to serve their community. Perhaps even more important than the skills they are learning is the confidence they are gaining. In a situation where every second counts, that confidence can be the difference between life and death.
I am pleased that Bill C-240 was well received. I had letters of support from diverse groups, far too many to list here, but they include organizations as diverse as Heart and Stroke Canada and the Manitoba Association of Fire Chiefs. I am glad that so many came together to discuss this issue to create awareness and to improve emergency preparedness and public safety for all Canadians.
I have also had conversations with individual supporters, including local organizations that provide this key training, like the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance, which are always working to reduce barriers to getting first aid training in the hands of all Canadians.
I want to recognize that Bill C-240, like all private members' bills, has limitations. The major concern raised by the finance committee was this: Does Bill C-240 achieve its objectives inexpensively compared to the alternatives? This question is essentially the cost of forgone revenue versus the advantages of having additional people with first aid training. It is about the efficiency of the lost revenue.
The discussion at the finance committee presented evidence that there may be more efficient ways of accomplishing Bill C-240's goals. There may be additional options to explore for public safety education and for the health minister's involvement in encouraging more Canadians to seek out this training.
I have been clear about my goal from the very beginning. It is to make people in this country safer by better preparing Canadians to take action in emergencies. I believe that strong work is happening in this area and a promising dialogue on what we can do for emergency preparedness.
I am pleased with the conversations I have had with each of my colleagues, the finance minister, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Public Safety, and I am confident that these conversations will continue after my advocacy in the House.
I am aware of how strong an incentive it takes to create a widespread behavioural change and of the inherent limits of a relatively small tax credit. The NDP members, in particular, spoke to another limitation of the bill in their remarks at second reading and it is worth noting here. Because of the limitations on private members' bills that prevent them from calling for direct expenditures, there is an equity issue with a non-refundable tax credit. For those Canadians whose income may be low enough, they do not pay income tax and would not be eligible for a tax credit under Bill C-240. I regret that private members' business cannot address this issue. There are options available outside the PMB process for good ideas like Bill C-240, and I would be pleased to work with this government to pursue avenues for change.
I have acknowledged these limitations, both of Bill C-240, and in fact, of all private members' bills. Given that understanding, I have continued to advocate for other ways in which to improve the adoption of first aid training for Canadians.
The purpose of this PMB for me is about protecting more Canadians, not about the specifics of the bill. That is why I am happy to be working with the ministers involved with this portfolio in introducing innovative ways to move forward.
The PMB was drafted in the early days of Parliament, around two years ago. I was getting my office set up, hiring staff, and we were already putting together the pieces of Bill C-240. One of the things I realized at that time was that no particular department actually owns the topic of first aid exclusively. It is a topic that stretches across emergency preparedness, health, finance, and public service and labour. I would argue, in fact, that no ministry is completely untouched by the need for first aid training.
I want to talk about the things the government is doing in response to my advocacy on this issue. The number of votes in the House from all sides really helped to paint a picture of how important this issue is to Canadians. I have had substantive conversations with the public safety minister about the need for first aid to play a bigger role in Canadians' understanding of emergency preparedness. I am proud to say that changes are being made with a number of different projects to help promote first aid in response to Bill C-240 and my advocacy on this issue.
Everyone in the House, and many Canadians, are familiar with the get prepared campaign and its approach to emergency preparedness. Public safety, currently, has a get prepared campaign that consists of three parts: know the risks, make a plan, and get a kit.
I am pleased to say that a fourth element to this campaign will be added with the focus on getting Canadians first aid training. I will be working with the ministry on building resources like videos and information to help support this fourth area of focus. This represents a significant update to the get prepared campaign that helps drive home the point that preparations must be taken early and proactively, including first aid training.
I am also pleased to be working with the ministers involved with this topic on public safety week, which brings awareness to public safety in Canada. I will keep working on these projects, and others, to ensure Canadians are better protected and better prepared.
I have been asking for support for increased awareness around first aid training for the last two years, and today, I ask for support to continue the research and the conversation.
I would like to thank all of my colleagues, and all of the stakeholders across the country for their support on Bill C-240. The House has the opportunity to safeguard the lives of Canadians, and I am proud of the actions our government is taking to more directly address this issue. I want to thank all members who supported me in bringing this bill to the forefront.