Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his presentation.
I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-323. The bill before the House today, sponsored by the member for York—Simcoe, seeks to amend the Income Tax Act “to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property”.
Tax changes should ideally be made as part of the budgetary process. This gives the government a chance to fully examine all options, strike a balance between priorities, and make new fiscal commitments only when they are affordable and the government can do so responsibly.
Bill C-323 raises a number of issues that must be fully and thoughtfully considered. Of course, cost is one important element, but it is not the only one.
According to Parks Canada, there are approximately 13,000 historic sites in the Canadian Register of Historic Places. However, the number of distinct heritage properties is probably much higher. Indeed, the register includes heritage districts that could include more than one property. For instance, in Ontario alone, there are 121 heritage districts that comprise over 23,000 properties.
I would also like to point out another challenge when it comes to determining cost. The bill does not cap the amount people can apply for for tax purposes. It is completely irresponsible.
We also have to consider whether this kind of tax credit would actually promote the preservation of historic property rather than just provide an unexpected perk to the owners for doing work that they are already obliged to do.
Equality among homeowners is another very important issue we need to discuss. Some people will be eligible for the home renovation credit while their neighbours, who do not own a designated historic property, would not be eligible even though costs are incurred in both cases. That would be totally unfair.
This bill is also likely to result in a sharp increase in applications for historic designation. The government will have to assess Parks Canada's ability to meet that increased demand. That will result in more costs.
Moreover, as with any new tax credit, the government will have to evaluate the administrative burden on the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Government of Canada is committed to promoting equality and efficiency for the middle class and all Canadians, especially when it comes to our tax system. That is why, in budget 2016, the government announced that it would do a comprehensive review of tax expenditures. This effort is part of the government's overall commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and ineffective programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective and obsolete government initiatives. We are striving for equality and efficiency for the middle class.
The government recognizes the importance of preserving Canada's heritage in the interest of the middle class and all Canadians. As a matter of fact, the Income Tax Act already contains incentives to encourage individuals and corporations to make donations for the preservation of historic assets. Donations of such assets or donations intended to support the cost of preserving and maintaining such assets to registered charities are eligible for a charitable donation tax credit for individuals or a tax deduction for corporations. Registered charities are fully exempt from paying tax on the income they receive.
When we add provincial tax relief to the equation, the charitable donation tax credit comes to, on average, 46¢ for every dollar over $200. For most taxpayers who donate more than $200, this tax credit eliminates any tax to be paid on most of the donations and reduces other taxes owing.
A tax credit is also available for up to 75% of an individual's net income and can be carried forward for five years.
Canadian tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world. The federal government provides approximately $3 billion in tax assistance annually to the charitable sector.
The government acted responsibly by implementing a measure to strengthen the middle class. One of the first measures we implemented after becoming a government was to introduce a tax cut for the middle class, and that has been in effect since early last year. In total, nearly nine million Canadians are now benefiting from this tax cut.
The second measure that our government took to help the middle class and those working hard to join it was to introduce the new Canada child benefit in budget 2016. This measure gives more money to Canadian families in order to help them deal with the high cost of raising children.
Nine out of ten families are now receiving more money thanks to this program. The new Canada child benefit is simpler and more generous than the old child benefit system it replaced, and it is completely tax-free. It also does a better job of targeting the people who need it the most.
Thanks to the new Canada child benefit, about 300,000 fewer children will live in poverty in 2017 compared to 2014, which means that Canada's child poverty rate will drop by about 40%. This new benefit is the most important innovation in social policy in a generation.
A stronger Canada pension plan was a key promise we made to strengthen the middle class. We delivered on that commitment by working in close collaboration and common purpose with our provincial and territorial partners.
A secure and dignified retirement is certainly a top priority for hard-working Canadians. It has been a pillar of Canadian prosperity since the 20th century.
We know that middle-class Canadians are working harder than ever, and many of them are worried about not having saved enough by the time they retire. We also know that young Canadians in particular, few of whom can expect to have jobs that offer a workplace pension plan, find it challenging to save enough money for retirement.
We enhanced the CPP to improve long-term economic outcomes for Canadian families. Although it will take a little time to adjust, these foundational changes to our pension plan will provide better support to Canadians in the long term.
An enhanced CPP is the right tool at the right time to improve the retirement income security of younger workers. It is an opportunity for today's hard-working Canadians to give their children, their grandchildren, and future generations a more secure retirement.
In its previous budget, the government made major investments in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs that will help to secure a better quality of life for the country's indigenous peoples and build a stronger, more united, and more prosperous Canada.
Our government invested in modernizing and upgrading public transit, improving waste water systems, increasing access to affordable housing and protecting infrastructure from the effects of climate change. We increased funding for innovation, co-operation and partnerships to protect the integrity of our health care system. We put people first and we are giving Canadians the help they need right now, not 10 years down the road.
At the same time, our government is investing for the years and the decades to come, so that our children and grandchildren can inherit a Canada that is more prosperous and full of hope.