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.