moved that Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (home security measures), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, this is something my constituents have been talking about. It is an issue that is near and dear to their hearts, one they have been dealing with over the past few years. They are glad to see that something is finally being done.
I am proposing Bill C-234, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (home security measures). It was reinstated from second reading in the previous Parliament. The bill would help make home security more affordable for Canadians by creating a home security tax credit. This non-refundable tax credit would be applied to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of a security system installed in an individual's home. This would include any structure that is separate from an individual's home, such as a garage or a barn. The maximum dollar amount eligible for the tax credit application is $5,000 a year.
I am proud to mark the first hour of debate on this important piece of legislation, which would make a real difference in the lives of Canadians, especially those in rural areas. Like many parts of rural Canada, my riding of Prince Albert continues to suffer from increasing crime rates, and my constituents have made it very clear that they expect action on this file.
The bill came about through a variety of different ideas and consultations among colleagues in the Conservative Party. More importantly, it came to fruition through a meeting I had back in 2016. I have to give some context for the meeting.
On a Friday afternoon I got a phone call from a guy named Terry in my riding, who was very mad. He was upset. He informed me that he had another break-in. Someone broke in on his farm. His insurer was telling him that it may not be able to reinsure him, and he wanted to talk about it. I told Terry I was in the Christmas parade in Prince Albert, and I suggested we get together Saturday morning after the parade and talk about it.
When I was in the parade, I remember quite vividly that all of a sudden my phone went off. I hit the speaker button and Terry said there was going to be a few other people at the meeting. I told him it was not a problem; it was fine. He said some neighbours wanted to talk about it too.
I got to my office after the parade and there were 25 people in my office. This was with six hours of notice. They proceeded to tell me their property had been vandalized. They had been targeted, had things stolen out of their shops and had gas and vehicles stolen. They felt the police force was not doing anything about it and the legal system was letting them down.
They wanted action. They were upset. Of course, a lot of the actions are not federally regulated; they are provincially regulated. Having said that, they wanted to vent and let people know what was going on, and to look for solutions.
We came to the conclusion that we would hold a town hall meeting, so we put together a meeting at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Centre for the next Saturday morning. They asked me not to advertise it, because they did not want the criminals to know they were not going to be home. I did not advertise it. I just let them spread notice of it by word of mouth.
That Saturday morning when I got to the hall I was nervous. All of a sudden, there were cars in the parking lot and it was full. There were cars parked all the way down the street. I got downstairs and there was probably 200 to 300 people packed into this hall. We had no sound system, no speakers. We were expecting maybe 25 to 35 people, but it was a huge crowd.
I have to thank the mayor of Prince Albert. He quickly grabbed his sound system and brought it back so we could present. We brought together RCMP, city police, provincial colleagues, MLAs in Saskatchewan and Crime Stoppers, and we proceeded to talk about the options and what was available.
As we went through the meeting, there was a recurrent theme: People's property had been broken into once, twice or three times. Some felt a lot of this was gang-related, and some felt it was drug-related. People were looking for solutions. They seemed to know exactly where these culprits were coming from. The police were looking for advice on how they could best handle it, and even the municipalities wanted to know what they could do.
People knew that the one place where the criminals were hanging out was the only place on that road, so one solution came up: Maybe the road should not be graded. They wanted to let the snow blow in to keep the criminals home. Different ideas were tossed around, but what became very apparent was that people wanted to see action on this issue.
This is not unique to Prince Albert. In Alberta, former Alberta justice minister Doug Schweitzer wrote to the Minister of Justice asking for more serious penalties for rural crime. There was an Alberta task force, and the issues in my riding were issues right across Alberta. They are issues right across Saskatchewan, right across rural Ontario and in Quebec. They are right across the country.
One thing that was really unique, which the RCMP made me aware of, was the addictions issue and what they had seen or suspected when we had a slowdown in the oil patch. People who were making good money were all of a sudden out of work or no longer had a job, but they still had addictions. They still had issues.
What did they do? They resorted to crime, to stealing or whatever they could to feed their addictions.
There are many different issues in the background that need to be addressed and there are different things that we should be looking at as parliamentarians on how to solve this problem or make it better for our constituents. This is just one way. We will hear other ideas and suggestions from the Conservative Party to deal with this in a holistic manner.
One may ask what a home security system does? It actually does a lot. When one thinks of the idea of a tax credit for a home security system, first, people would have a good security system in place. What does that system do? It deters people from breaking into facilities or homes. That is one thing. Second, if people do break in, it allows police to have good identification factors to make the appropriate arrests, and hopefully those identification factors will stand up in a court of law. It provides a chance to identify who the culprits are. In a lot of cases, they are repeat offenders who are already known to the RCMP or the police, and the police need the evidence to proceed with arrests and to put the accused through the courts and to get convictions. That is one thing.
There is another thing that has come about, which I did not expect. It was a surprise. It should not shock me now, but it did at the start. People want action. They want us to do something. They want us to take action. Not only that, they want us to acknowledge that there actually is a problem. They want Ottawa to realize that they are in a situation for which they cannot seem to get a resolution. More people talk to me now, since the announcement of this bill, about how they have been personally impacted. I encourage all members to go to people not only in the rural areas but also in towns and cities, and they will find all sorts of examples of break and enters and crimes where a security system might have been the thing that would have deterred that action.
The head of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association called me on Saturday. He wanted me to know that the company was going to send a letter of endorsement for my bill and that he had been talking to APAS and SARM, who were thinking of doing the same thing. We are starting to see the need for action for people in rural Canada. They are looking for hope and this would give them some hope. This bill would allow us to talk about the issue, and it is a good issue that we should be talking about. This is very relevant to pretty well everybody in rural Saskatchewan, rural Canada or even in urban centres or cities. People want to feel safe in their homes. They want to make sure their families are safe, that their homes are their castles that will not be violated by any means. This will be one step in doing that. This will provide some of that comfort and safety for families. It is something that we should look at doing.
It is not just the family home. Like I said, it is the garage, the barn or the outbuildings that farms may have on their acreage. The bill would allow people to position the appropriate tools in the appropriate place so they can get the appropriate coverage to do what they need to do. This looks to me like a small step moving forward to deal with rural crime.
I look forward to hearing the debate and this bill's going to committee. This is a bill that people can work with quite easily. It is very simple: it is a $5,000 tax credit, which is easy for people to include on their tax returns. It shows them that we care and it starts the conversation about exactly what we need to do on rural crime. We are going to see different examples and ideas come from our colleagues in all parties on how to address this issue and hopefully find some solutions. If this bill gets people talking about it, then it is a success. I am looking forward its going to committee, and if there some things the committee wants to do to expand it or make it better, I look forward to those, too.
At the end of the day, when this bill hopefully passes and all parties agree that it makes sense and is something we want to do, I hope we can look our constituents in the eye and say that we started down the road of fixing this problem. Hopefully we will be creative enough as parliamentarians to discuss what we are going to do about the other parts of the problem, namely, what we will do about addictions, what we will do about the economic situations that a lot of people have been forced into, and what we will do about getting people jobs so they do not have to resort to crime in order to feed their families. Those are the types of things that we also need to discuss, and not just home security systems or home system monitoring and protection. Hopefully this is the start of those types of conversations among ourselves.
I hope to have intelligent conversation on this. This is something we can all look at and say we can get behind: that it makes sense and we can move it forward. If we can make it better, let us make it better. I have never been one to say that it is my way or the highway, and I am not about to say that with this bill.
I look forward to the spirit of the bill being recognized and appreciated, and the spirit is that we need to be doing something to help our constituents in rural areas and cities to protect their houses, to protect their families and to provide the security that they need. We are seeing lots of groups and individuals stepping on board. They are looking at this and saying this is a start.
As I said, when I talked with Arnold for about 15 minutes, he gave me an example of cattlemen in a rural area. People had gone out to their farms and shot cattle. We had a scenario just outside of Saskatoon, I think this spring, where somebody went in and shot some buffalo. They actually cut the gates and let them go. Buffalo wandering around in small towns is not something good. Again, we can see there is a recurring theme here that we need to provide better protection for people in rural Canada.
I want to stress that it is not just rural Canada. There are other examples. A person called me today saying that in urban centres they could use something like this bill to protect themselves. It would just provide that extra sense of safety.
I do not think I need to go on to use my full 15 minutes. I will stop there and I look forward to seeing support from all parties on this. I look forward to this moving through the House, to the debate and to positive suggestions that all members may have, participating in this dialogue to address things like rural crime and break and enters, and see some resolution and benefits for all our constituents.