House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ukraine.


Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you will find the consent of the House to see the clock as 1:30 p.m., so we may commence with private members' hour.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it agreed?

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved that Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, as one walks the streets of London, the quartiers of Paris, the piazzas of Rome, one stands in awe. The buildings speak to us, of great artists and philosophers who lived within, of revolutions staged there that changed the world, of the growth and advance of societies and cultures that those buildings mark.

We look at that built heritage in those great cities, not just for its own intrinsic beauty but because those buildings tell stories, of people, of history, of that place, and of who we are. We may be living in the here and now, but the built heritage informs us of the many twists and turns of humanity that brought us here.

Built heritage matters. It is important. It tells us who we are and why. It is no surprise then that the great places of the world are defined by their built heritage, and that is what people come to see. It informs and it inspires.

It is the same in Canada. We are debating this bill seeking to protect Canada's built heritage while we are inside Canada's most iconic building. We more than most can appreciate the meaning that the very special sense of this place gives to the tremendous honour we have in serving in the House of Commons.

Our built heritage here, all around us, reminds us of our past, our founding Fathers of Confederation, the Inuit and aboriginal peoples who first made this home, the trappers, the railway, the industries, the farmers and labourers who built the economy. All of those are literally carved into this building. The stone and the wood too speak to our lands and our forests. We have all around us a tangible example of why preserving our built heritage matters.

Bill C-323 seeks to preserve and protect our country's important historic built form by encouraging its restoration. The bill would do this through two simple devices. The first element is a 20% tax credit for spending on the restoration of historic buildings. The second element is an accelerated three year capital cost writeoff for the rest of the restoration cost.

The policy rationale behind the bill is simple. There is strong public interest in encouraging the preservation and restoration of significant historic buildings. However, the cost to individual owners is much higher than the alternative of demolition and new construction. When we ask private owners to preserve historic buildings through a heritage designation, we are asking them to deliver an important public benefit, but we are asking those private citizens to bear the full high cost of delivering this, something from which we all benefit. Through the tax credit and the accelerated writeoff, we are proposing to provide a modest measure to offset some of the privately borne costs of restoring important buildings in our communities.

Too often the economic burden creates an incentive to demolish. We just witnessed that with last month's demolition of the 110-year-old Beaux Arts Bank of Montreal building at Yonge and Roselawn in Toronto. Although plans had been designed to incorporate restoration of the heritage building into a new development, at the end of the day, the owners chose to demolish instead, resulting in much unhappiness in the surrounding community.

This bill would help to change those calculations and give property owners a reason to do what is right not just for their interests, but in the community's interest.

This is not a partisan initiative. It crosses party lines. I want to thank the Liberal members for Cloverdale—Langley City and from Kingston and the Islands for their help with this proposal.

The bill is based upon a policy initiative that was under development under both Conservative and Liberal governments. It relies upon work done within Parks Canada in anticipation of such a tax credit proposal, including the development of the national register of historic places.

I appeal to all members of the House to consider the bill in that non-partisan spirit as a genuine effort we can all support to make our communities better places to live.

It is important to observe that the reach of this tax credit is managed. Not every old building in Canada will be eligible. Only buildings on the national register of historic sites will qualify. These are generally the most important of the buildings that receive heritage designation under provincial or territorial law.

The bill would also give the minister the power to extend the credit to all heritage designated properties in a province or territory, but that is a decision that will belong to the minister. This protection would ensure that the cost to the public purse of the credit would remain manageable and it would prevent any abuse aimed at taking inappropriate advantage of the new tax credit.

The bill would also ensure that the taxpayers' exposure is controlled in another way. Only costs directly related to restoration of the heritage features would be eligible. A professional licensed architect would have to certify both those costs and that the work is done in accordance with the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada”, a document prepared by Parks Canada in anticipation of exactly an initiative like this bill. The structure of how the credit works would also eliminate the need to create any new bureaucracy to manage the program, further minimizing any costs to the public purse.

In fact, the annual impact on federal finances of this program applied to historic properties all across Canada will still be but a tiny fraction of the $3-billion cost of the restoration of the Parliament buildings currently under way.

The support for the bill is strong. The National Trust for Canada, a national non-profit organization committed to working to save historic places in Canada, has urged support for the bill.

In the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, Canada lost more than 20 per cent of its historic building stock, and losses continue apace.... [Bill C-323] would transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, with spin-off effects including the creation of more skilled jobs and less environmental impact and waste than new construction.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada supports the bill, and notes that:

Policies that promote preservation and re-use of historic properties have demonstrated huge economic returns on investment through job retention and creation, tourism, and enhanced property values.

Heritage Winnipeg notes the similarity of the bill to the heritage restoration tax credit south of the border, which they call a great U.S. success story with a 40-year track record. Bill C-323 “presents an historic opportunity”, they note.

Montreal Mosaic, a partnership of non-profit community organizations, calls for support of the bill based on its economic, environmental and historic benefits.

Heritage B.C. says this is something the heritage community has wanted for a long time:

It's consistent with our goals to preserve cultural heritage. It seeks to do that by creating an incentive to rehabilitate heritage buildings rather than to replace them.

Right here in this city, Heritage Ottawa says it strongly supports Bill C-323.

All across the country, municipal councils, the folks who are on the front lines, are balancing private property rights against the public interest in preserving built heritage, and they have to struggle with those very difficult decisions. One after another, those municipal councils are passing resolutions endorsing the bill.

When we think of the places we love to visit around the world, built heritage figures prominently. From the French Quarter in New Orleans to the Great Wall of China, from the Taj Mahal in India to the castles of Prague. The same is true in Canada. From the Grande Allée in Quebec City to Stephen Avenue in Calgary, from Peake's Wharf in Charlottetown to the distillery district in Toronto, we are drawn to these beautiful, story-filled places, and it is their historic buildings that define them. They become the places people go to visit, to learn, to shop, and to dine.

This demonstrates that we value and enjoy the historic buildings and the environment they create. It is where we want to be, and of course, the bill has the potential to aid the restoration of our historic buildings, not just in our big cities. It can lead to the rescue and restoration of important elements of Canada's built heritage in all parts of our country, in rural hamlets and small towns, and occasionally even places in our wilderness. Our history can come to life everywhere.

In Canada, however, we have been the victim of twin arguments that lead people to undervalue our history and our built heritage. First is the traditional student's lament, that Canadian history is boring. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Certainly, our body count falls far short of that of the old world, and we lack the marketing hype of the history of our American neighbours, but Canada's stories are more intriguing than most, drawing in strands from the European and the U.S. experience as input into the history we have made in building this unique and wonderful country, more near to perfect than any other, I would argue.

Indeed, most of those who have grown to know and love our country's history have travelled that path guided by heritage buildings that were the gateways to the stories of the past.

Think of them: the tower on Signal Hill looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, the place where so many explorers came as they opened up this continent; Province House in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the cradle of our Confederation. We think of the Citadelle in Quebec and the old walls of Quebec City that stood witness to the battle on the Plains of Abraham, which changed our destiny here in the North American continent; and, of course, in Halifax Pier 21, which welcomed so many who came to build this country. There is the Old Port of Montreal, which spoke to the burgeoning growth of a Canadian economy. There is Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake that bore witness to the battles of the War of 1812, which determined our destiny as a separate people here on the North American continent, different from our neighbours to the south.

One can go to the railway station in Winnipeg, and others across the country, to learn and understand the tremendous role that railways played in the binding together and the building of this country, and the growth of our economies, both rural and urban. When one goes to the Palliser Hotel in Calgary, one sees the dynamism of that city and the promise it held for the future; and, of course, the old Hotel Vancouver, and so many other buildings there, speaks to the tremendous other side of Canada's history.

Again, built form is the core of it all. Indeed, built form tells us who we are and where we came from, and that is what inspires those who love history.

The other argument is that we are a young country and thus lack history and any built heritage worthy of preservation. Never mind the list I gave, that certainly is not true. With four centuries of history comes 400 years of built heritage, and we have had none of it wiped out in the carpet bombing of a world war, as has happened in other places.

Canada is filled with built heritage treasures, but we keep losing them. For example, Toronto has seen other losses recently, including the demolition of the iconic Stollerys building frontage at Yonge and Bloor; incidentally, once the men's wear business owned by a former member of this House for a Spadina riding. The beautiful Empress Hotel at the corner of Yonge and Gould was also recently lost.

The great architect and author, Eric Arthur, in his 1964 book, Toronto, No Mean City, lamented, “In the march of progress, we have ruthlessly destroyed almost all our older architecture..”. His books documented beautiful treasures of buildings that were lost to the wrecker's ball. One can only wistfully dream of what character that city would exude had some of those jewels survived. As he said, “surely no city in the world with a background of three hundred years does so little to make that background known”.

While the generations that preceded us have allowed much of our story to be lost, with this bill we have the opportunity to bestow a gift to future generations. That is the gift of seeing, knowing, and understanding where they came from, the roots of their communities as reflected in a preserved and restored built heritage.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Bill C-323 presents us with an opportunity to make Canada's history, in the form of its built heritage, an enduring legacy to benefit Canadians for years to come. It is a fitting year to adopt this policy, which is perhaps long overdue, but which would deliver lasting benefits for generations to come. The 150th anniversary of Confederation is indeed an opportunity for us to focus, both on that past, but on how we can tie that past to the future for the generations to come, how we can make that meaning of all that Canada is meaningful forever. Preserving our built heritage is a big part of that.

I have several other private member's bills. I selected to proceed with this one. I have two others that dealt specifically with Canada's built heritage, other important historical buildings that are at some risk. One is the birthplace of John Diefenbaker, a place in Neustadt, Ontario, which I thought would be most appropriate to have purchased and acquired and run as a museum for the benefit of all Canadians. Indeed, former Prime Minister Harper made that commitment under the previous government. Sadly, that appears not to be happening. That building is at risk and may forever be lost.

Another that I believe should be a museum is the summer home of John A. Macdonald in Rivière-du-Loup, a place that hosted cabinet meetings. People talk about the “winter White House” in Mar-a-Lago right now. The home in Rivière-du-Loup was the “summer 24 Sussex” before there even was a 24 Sussex. That is where the government operated for some time during the summers.

Fortunately, that has been saved by a group of benevolent citizens through something called Canadian Heritage of Quebec. By contract, it runs it as a bed and breakfast, but its existence is precarious. It is not only something that could benefit from a tax credit such as this but something that is worthy of even greater support.

I chose to proceed with this bill, because it has the potential to benefit properties all across Canada. To help protect that built heritage for our future generations, to help us know ourselves and our history much better, I urge all members of the House to support it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am definitely sympathetic to this bill. I have received a lot of calls from areas in my riding about it. My riding is built on a huge amount of heritage. We have several historic railway stations. The line was built in the 1890s, and we spent all of 2016 celebrating the founder of our region, Antoine Labelle.

When I was growing up, my father spent a lot of time with a bunch of people creating heritage committees and saving the stations. In 2008, on election night, the train station in my hometown burned to the ground. I think it is really important that we do preserve our heritage.

I have a couple of quick questions for my colleague. There is no upper cost limit in this bill. I am curious to know if my colleague thinks there should or should not be one.

I know that the United States has a tax credit for heritage buildings. What does my colleague know about the return on investment for that cost for the government?

Also, and I do not mean this in a partisan way, why did this not happen in the last 10 years?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of controlling costs, and I spoke to that somewhat in my speech, the most important control is that this applies only to properties that are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, and that creates a limited frame of properties. Properties could be added to that, but the government is in a position to control that, because it is done through Parks Canada. While we welcome properties going onto it, if there is a concern that there is too much financial exposure, that gives the Government of Canada an ability to manage that cost.

In an ideal world, I would have extended this tax credit to all properties designated at the provincial and territorial level, but instead, I gave that power to the minister, something that is in the structure of the bill, which would ensure that those costs can be kept under control.

Certainly Parks Canada had in the past, when the policy was being prepared, come up with projections and said that the cost was quite small, a tiny fraction of what we are spending on the restoration of these five or six buildings around us in the parliamentary precinct. From that perspective, it does that.

Why it did not happen in the past over Liberal and Conservative governments is a good question. This is an opportunity for all of us to solve whatever failures occurred due to other priorities people focused on that allowed these things to be delayed. Now is the time, on the 150th anniversary of Confederation, to put an end to those delays and proceed forward with this policy.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from York—Simcoe for this important bill. It is certainly important to many of the middle-class owners in my riding who are involved in heritage buildings.

I would ask the member this. Does he think that the 20% tax credit is also appropriate for wealthy people, the millionaires who happen to live in historic homes?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the tax credit will only apply to those on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. Therefore, it will not be just anyone who happens to own a nice old house. It would have to be, obviously, one of the most significant properties in the country.

The 20% number is less than in the U.S. In the U.S. it is a 25% credit. This is a bit more modest. However, I also believe that there is a public interest and a public benefit that comes from preserving our built heritage. We all benefit from it.

It is not surprising that when a municipality moves to designate a heritage property, there is often enormous conflict, and property owners resist, because they are being told that we are effectively, as a state, expropriating part of their property. We are telling them what they can do with it. We are forcing them to keep it the way it is. We are forcing them to protect it, but they are going to have to bear the full cost of that. This is a way of modestly offsetting that and allowing some balance, some incentive, something that makes it a little easier for that property owner to bear, something that I believe will make it a lot easier for those who are seeking to preserve heritage across the country to get people to accept the notion that it is indeed something they should co-operate with in the public interest. I think that is why we see that so many municipal councils have agreed and support this policy. It will help them deal with problems.

If we look at the situation at Yonge and Roselawn in Toronto, the property owners had worked effectively with developers. They were trying to come up with a way to make it work. However, at the end of the day, the numbers did not work, the pro forma did not work for the property owners, so they demolished it.

I believe we have tried to strike the right balance. It is a little more conservative than the American tax credit, but nobody is getting rich off of this. Rather, it is something that will just provide a measure of offset for costs that we are asking private owners to bear to deliver in the public interest.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak directly to Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property). Again, I would like to thank my colleague from York—Simcoe for putting forward this important legislation. Indeed, it is the first time legislation like this has come before the House, although there are similar laws in place in the United States.

We are going to support this at second reading. We would like to get this to committee to have some discussion. The reason we are going to support it is that we really do believe in maintaining our historic buildings as part of our cultural heritage. When I was mayor of Cranbrook, we were looking for ways to try to increase the support for keeping historic buildings, and this is certainly one way to do that. There is an additional cost of course, if someone owns a historic building. It is up to about an additional 21% in cost, so offsetting it with a 20% tax rebate for the improvements seems absolutely appropriate.

I want to talk about some of the support that has come forward to me on the bill.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has said it believes:

...there is an important federal role for leadership in heritage conservation. Policies that promote preservation and re-use of historic properties have demonstrated huge economic returns on investment through job retention and creation, tourism, and enhanced property values.

Policies such as tax incentives not only help protect cultural resources and the history represented by heritage places, they promote respectful redevelopment in our communities. In addition, conservation, repair, and adaptation fight climate change by producing less carbon than new construction.

I also received a letter from the National Trust of Canada, which says, “The significant impact of the measures proposed in Bill C-323 would be felt” in ridings across Canada It goes on to say:

They would transform the economic fundamentals for saving historic places...encouraging the rehabilitation of heritage buildings of every size and type. In the process, they would create more skilled jobs than new construction, and promote the retention of existing buildings, which serve as important carbon sinks.

It further says:

There are many examples of the significant financial and environmental impact of heritage conservation.

Job Creation--Studies show building rehabilitation generates upwards of 21% more jobs, including skilled jobs, than same investment in new construction;

Economic Stimulus--The Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund (CHPIF), a Canada-wide pilot program (2003-2008), was designed to test the benefit of a heritage tax credit. The results were impressive: Federal contributions of $21.5 million supporting 49 projects leveraged over 8 times more in private sector investment ($177.2 million); and

Sustainability and Climate Change--Building renewal and re-use capitalizes on materials and energy already invested, reduces construction and demolition waste, and avoids environmental impacts associated with new development. A recent study shows that it takes from 10 to 80 years for a new “green” building to make up for the negative climate change impacts of its construction. In other words, the greenest building is one that already exists.

From a community in my own riding, the city of Nelson says:

These tax measures could transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, and encourage building conservation of every size and type, from landmark commercial buildings to modest homes.

Council has learned firsthand the significant financial impacts of heritage conservation in Nelson. Further studies have also shown that building rehabilitation generates over 21% more jobs...than the same investment in new construction...capitalizes on materials and energy already invested; reduces construction and demolition waste, and avoids environmental impact...

It went on to say that, “the significant impact of this Bill will be felt in Nelson”. Indeed it will be felt in all of the communities in Kootenay—Columbia and across Canada. It urges the the support for Bill C-323.

While we will be supporting the bill for all the right reasons, right through second reading, we do hope to have some further discussion at committee. We are a bit concerned that there is no means test for the tax rebate. The millionaire or billionaire owner of an historic building in, say, Toronto's Forest Hill would be able to claim a 20% tax credit, despite being well able to afford to pay for the work without a federal subsidy.

We will explore that a little further at committee. We definitely support the principle of this bill, and will be supporting it at second reading.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property).

This private member's bill from my colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, is a very timely piece of legislation that I believe will benefit Canadians from every community across this country, particularly as Canada gears up to celebrate its 150th birthday in July.

Over the past 150 years, Canada has grown immensely, both culturally and in terms of population. Just this week, Statistics Canada released data from the latest census that showed Canada continues to be the fastest-growing country in the G7.

The census data released also demonstrated that Canadians are increasingly choosing to leave rural areas and migrate towards large urban centres. With this urban centre growth in population, one of two things tends to happen: either there is urban sprawl or older homes are torn down in order to build new subdivisions that can house more people.

One hundred and fifty years ago my home province of British Columbia had a population of just 36,000 people. Today, it has a population of over 4.5 million. As we continue to build new buildings and continue to pursue innovative architecture to accommodate this vast increase in population, we must make sure that we are preserving our history. Heritage homes tend to be found in central locations, as people settle and develop around communities that have existed in the past.

These properties also tend to be the first targets for demolition as developers and landlords tend to find it cheaper to demolish and rebuild. It is not expedient for them to restore and maintain heritage properties. However, as we approach Canada's 150th birthday, it is a perfect opportunity to remind Canadians to be be proud of our history and our heritage. It is an important opportunity to encourage them to preserve the work of Canadians who came before us, rather than tear down and build anew.

This is exactly what the bill from the member for York—Simcoe aims to do. Bill C-323 would create a new tax credit for the rehabilitation of buildings that are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

With this legislation, Canadians restoring heritage properties would be able to claim a 20% tax credit on rehabilitation costs, as well as receive an accelerated capital cost allowance. Furthermore, this legislation would give the Minister of Canadian Heritage the power to apply this credit to provincially and territorially designated historic properties that are not included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

We know that these kinds of initiatives work. The Canada 150 infrastructure fund was set up under the Conservative government and intended to assist communities in building new infrastructure to help their constituents celebrate this very special milestone of our country.

This legislation would help us preserve the history of our communities. In the mid-2000s Canada ran a pilot project for this kind of policy, the commercial heritage properties investment fund. This pilot program generated eight private sector dollars for every one public sector dollar invested in the restoration of heritage homes. This is much higher than the five private sector dollars earned in an equivalent program conducted by our neighbours down south in the U.S.

Furthermore, this program, on average, doubled the market property values of historic properties, business revenue, and occupancy rates of the historic properties.

Canada clearly has the appetite and potential to restore and uphold our heritage properties. With Canada 150 on the horizon, this is the perfect opportunity to assist Canadians in preserving our history.

We also want to encourage the creation of new jobs: construction jobs, restoration jobs, and new trades jobs. By including the acceleration of the capital cost allowance alongside the tax credit, the legislation would reduce the long-standing conflict between what constitutes a deductible repair versus a capitalized cost, a problem that often slows down or completely hinders rehabilitation projects.

Finally, this policy just makes good sense. Canadians already enjoy a home renovation tax credit, so why not have this same tax credit for heritage home restorations? By minimizing costs to Canadians engaged in restoring heritage homes, we are also incentivizing Canadians to restore and maintain these important pieces of Canadian history.

This legislation also has broad support from stakeholders right across the country. National Trust, one of Canada's leading heritage protection advocacy groups, said, “This is an idea that has widespread support from heritage advocates, federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities”.

Architects have called the bill a win-win for heritage advocates and for local economies looking to create jobs.

We know the long-lasting benefits and impacts that heritage properties can have in our communities. In my own riding, we have the Elgin Heritage Park, an entire area that is dedicated to the preservation of Canada's history. Stewart Farm, located in Elgin Heritage Park, is on Canada's register of historic places. Stewart Farm offers Canadians and schoolchildren an opportunity to have a first-hand view of the life of pioneers and the history of Surrey's agricultural sector. This property could benefit from this legislation and help children of future generations to continue to learn and benefit from its operations.

These are the kinds of initiatives that we should be undertaking as we approach Canada 150. I hope that my colleagues on all sides of the House will join me in support of Bill C-323.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this chamber to outline how the Government of Canada is committed to a fair and efficient tax system that benefits middle-class Canadians.

The bill before us today, as sponsored by the member for York—Simcoe, seeks to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property. However, tax changes should ideally be undertaken through the budget process. This is to allow the government to fully consider the trade-offs, balance the priorities, and undertake new fiscal commitments only to the extent they are affordable.

This is why the first point I want to underline is that the government is committed to ensure that federal tax expenditures are fair for Canadians, efficient, as well as fiscally responsible. This is the reason that in the government's first budget, growing the middle class, we announced that we would be undertaking a comprehensive review of tax expenditures. This exercise is part of a broader government commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective or obsolete programs. At the end of this process, Canada will be one step closer to fairness and efficiency for its citizens and taxpayers.

The bill before us today contains several examples of the issues that would need to be considered when assessing the fairness and efficiency of a tax measure, and I will discuss a few of them.

For example, a key consideration is whether the measure would actually encourage the preservation of historic properties or simply represent a windfall to property owners for doing what they were already required to do.

Another question is whether such a tax credit would create any new inequities between historic property owners and other homeowners.

A third obvious question is how much of a revenue cost such a bill would entail for the government. This question is certainly relevant. As currently drafted, Bill C-323 contains no upper limit on the amount that can be claimed for tax purposes. The government would also have to assess whether requirements of the bill would be practical for the Canada Revenue Agency and Parks Canada to administer.

These are only a few examples of the considerations that would have to be weighed carefully in assessing Bill C-323.

From day one, our government has been focused on advancing the economy for middle-class Canadians. Last year, we replaced the previous system of child benefits with the Canada child benefit, a simpler, tax-free, more generous, targeted benefit that would help those who needed it most.

The CCB, built on our middle-class tax cut, has reduced taxes for nearly nine million Canadians. These two measures together mean that more middle-class Canadians have more money in their pockets, and they can use it as they see fit.

A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their children. When the middle class thrives, we all thrive. We have committed historic levels of investments in infrastructure, which will expand opportunities and deliver stronger, more inclusive growth.

Canadians value fairness. That is why, in budget 2016, we also took action to improve the integrity of Canada's tax system to protect the country's revenue base and to give Canadians greater confidence that the system would be fair to everyone.

Here is what we are doing. In April 2016, the revenue minister announced a series of actions that the Canada Revenue Agency will take to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance, thanks to the $444.4 million commitment in budget 2016. These funds are enabling the CRA to hire additional auditors, develop robust business intelligence infrastructure, increase verification activities, and improve the quality of its investigative work. These additional employees will increase the number of CRA audits focused on high-risk taxpayers by 400%.

Furthermore, the government is streamlining its efforts by embedding legal counsel within investigation teams, so that cases can be quickly brought to court. Two new mechanisms are being formed: a special program dedicated to stopping the organizations that create and promote tax schemes for the wealthy, and an independent advisory committee on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance that will provide strategic advice to the CRA on approaches for combatting offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Canada has also been a very active participant in international efforts to address tax evasion. We are an active member of the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, which was established to ensure that high standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes are in place around the world. Canada has also developed an extensive network of bilateral tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements, which provide for exchange of information.

As confirmed in budget 2016, legislation was recently adopted to implement the common reporting standard for the exchange between tax administrations of information on financial accounts held by non-residents. Canada joins more than 100 other jurisdictions that have similarly committed to implement the new standard.

Canada has also been actively engaged in a second multilateral initiative aimed at addressing base erosion and profit shifting, or BEPS. This refers to certain tax planning arrangements undertaken by multinationals, which, though often legal, exploit the interaction between domestic and international tax rules to minimize taxes. Canada has already implemented a number of the BEPS project recommendations. Going forward, the government will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to BEPS.

Canada supports the important goal of improving corporate transparency globally. The government has agreed to strong rules in both the Financial Action Task Force and the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes in support of corporate transparency. Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations enhance Canada's requirements for financial institutions regarding the collection of information on beneficial owners of corporations.

In closing, I would like to assure hon. members of our government's commitment to helping the middle class and those who are working hard to join it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House on behalf of my constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith to speak to the benefits of heritage conservation, energy conservation, and job creation.

New Democrats have long supported Canadian heritage and we support the goal of this private member's bill of preserving historic stock. New Democrats support maintaining historic buildings as part of our cultural heritage and due to the cost of repairing these historic buildings, we support government involvement to help defray the costs.

This legislation would help to clear the path for the creation of good green jobs; jobs that are stable, safe, and family-supporting; jobs that do not endanger the climate or the environment; and jobs that help us in the gradual transition away from reliance on fossil fuels.

I thank the City of Nanaimo, which I am honoured to represent, for its very detailed letter supporting the benefits of Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act for the rehabilitation of historic property.

Chris Sholberg, who is a planner with community and cultural planning in the City of Nanaimo, wrote to me to say that the bill is “inspired by the successful US Federal Historic Tax Credit Program, the outcome of which has leveraged over $78 billion in private investment since 1976, resulting in the preservation of over 41,000 historic properties, and in the creation of hundreds of thousands of housing units, many for low/moderate income families.”

He wrote, “In Canada, Bill C-323 has the potential of achieving the same success, widely affecting property owners and developers, the construction industry, and positively impacting the economy, job creation and environmental issues.”

The letter went on to say that the tax measures contained in this bill “would transform the economic fundamentals for renewing historic places, and will encourage building conservation of every size and type, from landmark commercial buildings to modest homes.”

The City of Nanaimo provided examples of buildings within the city that would benefit from such an incentive, including the Great National Land Building, 17 Church Street; the Occidental Hotel, 432 Fitzwilliam Street, also known as the Oxy; Nanaimo Firehall Number 2 on Nicol Street; the Nanaimo Hospital, now Malaspina Lodge, on Machleary Street; and Fernville, also known as The Land Residence, on Irwin Street.

I thank the city for its strong advocacy and its encouragement for this federal partnership that could help jobs and the preservation of historic buildings at the local level.

I also received a letter encouraging support for the bill from Chelsea Challis in Nanaimo. She wrote, “As a member of the development and construction industry in Nanaimo, I regularly witness historic properties being demolished because the cost to restore and maintain them is more expensive than tearing them down and replacing them with new buildings”.

The letter went on:

The unfortunate consequence of this method is that the city immediately loses a piece of its history that can never be replaced. Furthermore, with current building codes, regulations, and the high cost of construction materials, new structures cannot be built with the same charm and craftsmanship as many historic buildings were originally constructed with. The current system does not encourage architectural preservation but, rather, encourages demolition and replacement. Bill C-323 will give owners and developers an incentive to save and restore their historic properties, which will not only benefit them, but will also benefit the entire community.

Ms. Challis wrote, “Studies show building rehabilitation generates upward of 21% more jobs, including skilled jobs, than the same investment in new construction.

She adds to the list that the City of Nanaimo provided The Jean Burns Building recently destroyed mostly by fire in downtown Nanaimo and also The First Nanaimo Scout Hut.

I am grateful to members of my community who have provided letters of support.

I will note that I also have a letter that I just received this morning from Laurie Gourlay, writing on behalf of Salish Sea Trust who encourages us to “specifically address rehabilitation of historic buildings, with all of the cultural, economic and social benefits that that provides,” and inviting our attention to “the parallel benefits afforded when similar considerations and support are provided to cultural and natural rehabilitation measures.”

We thank the member for bringing the bill forward. We look forward to speaking further, when we have the second hour of debate on the bill, about some of the specific benefits with respect to jobs, the environment, and conservation in our own communities. Also, New Democrats will raise some concerns at committee about ensuring that this benefit is particularly targeted toward lower- and middle-income earners, who are particularly economically crunched when it comes to finding the budget for doing the kinds of conservation and heritage renovations the bill supports.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Before we adjourn, members will recall that earlier this week, we recognized our page supervisor, Lynn Legault. As we adjourn today, this will mark the last moment she has been able to serve here in the House, after 32 years of serving this place.

Lynn, we just want to express our gratitude again for all of your service to this place and to Parliament. Thank you very much.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 2:13 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:13 p.m.)