Mr. Speaker, having seconded Bill C-323 introduced by the member for York—Simcoe, I am delighted to speak to the very meaningful benefits this legislation would bring not only to the owners who preserve and restore heritage properties of all sorts, but to the communities where they are located, as well as to our national cultural heritage.
I represent a riding which has a magnificent respect for the original townsite of old Thornhill, applying its own regulations and encouragement of preservation and restoration under the Ontario Heritage Act. The City of Markham's heritage department offers short-term loans to owners wishing to embark on a restoration adventure, and upon an owner's commitment to conserve the heritage features of a designated property, the City of Markham will actually reduce annual property and education taxes by fully 30%. As well, since 2000, Markham has presented annual heritage awards to owners who have completed restoration projects in compliance with heritage standards.
I am pleased to share with members the pride that Cilla and I share, having survived the roller-coaster perturbation involved in the restoration of 111 John Street, in Thornhill.
The central part of the designated house, built in 1842 by a miller named John Lane, first served to house the coopers who constructed the wooden barrels to carry cornmeal and flour back to England. It was effectively a bunkhouse. The house did have a late Victorian expansion, but its 19th century charm survived even the dilapidated, fixer-upper state in which we found it and acquired it in 2007.
To make a long story short, our marriage survived the top-to-bottom three-year restoration of the house, and we were honoured to receive a Heritage Markham Award of Excellence for our restoration project. Just to clear the air and to assure this House that I support Bill C-323 for its high-minded goals of celebrating restoration and maintenance of Canada's heritage buildings far beyond old Thornhill, indeed right across Canada, and not for personal gain from the very reasonable benefits that this law would provide, let me inform members that because a heritage property demands constant loving care and repair that many homeowners today might find challenging, Cilla and I, unfortunately, no longer own this home.
When I had a close call with mortality a couple of years ago, I received stern spousal direction that I was no longer to venture up onto the roof to carry out maintenance and fixes or to wield my trusty chainsaw as an occasionally necessary high-level amateur arborist. So, reluctantly, we sold to, we hope, we believe, a family as enchanted with this heritage property as we were.
Let me thank members for indulging this explanation of my fixation with historic properties, modest and grand, and let me return to the very important specifics of Bill C-323.
My colleague, the member for York—Simcoe, in his introduction of this private member's legislation, reminded the House of the very real public interest in the preservation and restoration of heritage properties. He spoke directly to the cost burden that rehabilitation is usually more expensive than alternatives such as demolition and a replacement new build, but certainly it is far less expensive than the priceless loss of physical Canadian heritage in a tear-down.
He pointed out that the bill would help owners who are preserving historic places with a modest portion of the cost of delivering this important public benefit. This bill would create a 20% tax credit for rehabilitation of recognized, designated historic places. The bill would also create an accelerated capital cost allowance for eligible capitalized costs incurred under the same conditions as the tax credit.
What exactly are eligible costs? Under the provisions of Bill C-323, these are costs that would include construction, insurance, development, site improvement, as well as basic professional fees. These eligible costs would exclude acquisition, cosmetic and furnishing costs of such a structure.
Our sponsor, the member for York—Simcoe, reminded us that not so many years ago, the government implemented a pilot program with a tax credit and end goal such as the one this bill would create. He cited the fact that the response doubled, on average, the property values of the respective structures and that the tax credit actually incentivized significant GST and corporate tax revenues.
Many countries in different parts of the world have heritage grants and associated programs. The most similar policy, I believe, is the tax credit program in the United States, which provides a 20% tax credit on costs related to the rehabilitation of designated historic buildings, as well as a 10% credit on non-designated buildings built before 1936. The program in the United States was implemented in 1976. It is widely recognized as having been exceptionally successful with over 41,000 projects certified. As well, the program has been found to have a net positive impact on the United States Treasury of $5 billion over the life of the program to date.
Under Bill C-323, eligibility for the tax credit and accelerated write-off of any restoration project would have to be first certified by an architect, following Parks Canada's easily available published standards for conservation of historic places.
The integrity of this evaluation process is ensured through the use of criteria that are not only recognized across Canada, but internationally. There are many programs in different parts of the world which have adopted the Parks Canada criteria for their work in designating and recognizing historic buildings.
Although this process is very exacting, it need not be burdensome or costly and can, we believe, be very easily applied to the detail and the coverage provisions of Bill C-323. The Parks Canada historic sites record with regard to major structures and locations, I am sure hon. members recognize this, is world-class. Application of the Parks Canada historic sites standards to fulfill the provisions of Bill C-323 would be scalable, and again, as I said, not burdensome or costly.
In closing, I would echo the words of my colleague from York—Simcoe in saying that Canadians will be much more likely to embrace the idea of having their heritage properties designated as historic if the bill is passed by the House. While the design of the legislative package is very modest in dollar terms, it would represent a very meaningful investment in our national cultural infrastructure.
I encourage all members of the House, all parties in the House, to stand in support of Bill C-323.