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.