Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise today to debate Bill C-323. Before I do so, I want to thank my colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, for bringing forward the bill. As our opposition critic for Canadian heritage, I consider him to be a national treasure for his hard work on this file.
In fact, this is not the only private member's business he has brought forward. He also has two other motions on the Order Paper, Motion No. 67 and Motion No. 62, which are equally important matters that I hope the House will take up at some point. There is the recognition of Sir John A. Macdonald's summer home in Rivière-du-Loup, and Motion No. 62, which recognizes the birth place of the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker in Neustadt, Ontario, which is just outside my riding. It is an important historical marker in southern Ontario, recognizing an exceptional prime minister.
To the bill at hand, it is an important bill for our communities and for the preservation of our historical heritage properties across our great country. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for heritage buildings. There are many beautiful older buildings in my riding of Perth—Wellington, which I am proud to highlight from time to time. In fact, my Wellington county constituency office is in one such heritage building. It is a beautiful old post office. It was the Harriston town post office for many years. Unfortunately, as often these older buildings do, it fell into a state of disrepair.
Shortly after I was elected, I was able to take a tour of the building and to see the state of repair it was in at the time. Thanks to a hard-working local family, it took ownership of the old post office and restored it to an exceptionally high level of standard. Now my constituency office in Wellington county is located in that building. It has been renamed the “Old Post” and is now home to a number of different local businesses and community groups. I am proud to have played a small role in the restoration of that building.
In Perth—Wellington, we also have other important sites, such as the Fryfogal Tavern and Arboretum. The Fryfogel Tavern is actually the last surviving site along the Huron Tract from the 1800s. It is an old building with a great degree of heritage and history associated with it. Its original proprietor, Sebastian Fryfogel, was a Swiss national who came to Canada at the time. He served as the first acting warden of Perth county. He served as a tax collector for the county and was the local militia leader. He had a strong history in the country.
Currently, the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation is working to have that site designated as a national historic site. If it is successful, it would be the first national historical site in Canada to have a Swiss connection. Being of Swiss heritage myself, I find it is an important issue to highlight because it is an important site. I look forward to seeing Parks Canada review that documentation to hopefully make it a national historical site.
With 2017 upon us, and the 150th anniversary of Confederation, preserving and protecting our national heritage is important, now more than ever. Bill C-323 certainly would help us to do that.
As all members will know, rehabilitation and preservation of historic and heritage buildings is not necessarily easy. Nor is it inexpensive. When dealing with century-plus old buildings, the wiring is no longer up to code and accessibility standards have not been kept up to code. In many cases, neglected roofs need to be replaced, insulation needs to be redone, and windows need reinstallation in a way that preserves the historic and heritage nature of those buildings. Unfortunately, it is often not economically or financially viable to undertake these important renovations, so buildings are often demolished or, as the member for Kingston and Islands mentioned earlier, are left to be demolished by neglect. This is unfortunate because we lose a part of our history when we lose these important buildings.
Bill C-323 proposes to introduce a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property and will establish a tax deduction for the capital costs of property used in the course of historic properties rehabilitation. This will provide the owners of historical properties with a tax credit of up to 20% of the cost of rehabilitating the property, which will incentivize owners to restore their properties and assist them in their efforts to do so. In short, it makes it more affordable to preserve historical buildings, thus allowing more of our great historical architecture to remain standing rather than be demolished.
Bill C-323 would also create an accelerated capital cost allowance for eligible capitalized costs incurred during the same conditions of the tax credit. It would do so by allowing a minor reduction on the owner's income tax for the costs of rehabilitating the building. This would ensure that when owners of an historic property undertake restoration work at personal expense they are compensated. The restoration of a historic property, after all, is indeed a public good and it is only fair that, when individuals do the work at their own personal expense, we as a country are able to help in some way.
I understand there are some concerns that have been brought forward by different people about this bill, but I think that it strikes the right balance in preserving our heritage but also incentivizing individuals while respecting the public coffers as well. There are certain guidelines included in this bill. First, not any building qualifies. The building must first be on the National Register of Historic Places. Second, an architect must certify that the eligible building has undergone rehabilitation in accordance with the standards and guidelines for the conservation of historic places in Canada, and this will ensure that proper rehabilitation work has been done in accordance with the standards. It also incorporates a 10-year limit that the tax credit can be used. This strikes the right balance in terms of providing adequate support but not becoming too high a cost on the federal treasury.
I would also like to remind hon. members in this House that this bill is supported by a number of heritage and historical groups, including the National Trust for Canada, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving our national heritage. In fact, the organization appeared with a brief before the Standing Committee on Finance, and the brief stated, “The federal tax system and federal spending are vital instruments shaping the ability of Canadians to protect and revitalize heritage places”. The brief went on to recommend that the government should introduce a federal rehabilitation tax incentive for heritage properties in Canada. Bill C-323 would do such a thing. It would help us preserve our national heritage buildings and our national collective heritage.
Again, I want to congratulate the member for York—Simcoe for bringing forward this important bill. It is an exceptionally pertinent and important way of preserving our heritage buildings, and we as parliamentarians should make every effort possible to encourage those who own heritage buildings to undertake the necessary work to keep them in good repair.