Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on Bill C-234, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, home security measures.
I want to start by saying that I have a lot of respect for the member in question. I have worked with him, and I disagree with him profoundly on many issues, as he is well aware, but I respect the work he brings to the House of Commons. Also, having travelled through his riding numerous times, going into northern Saskatchewan and coming back as well, I understand the importance of this issue of folks feeling secure in their own community.
I will preface my remarks by saying that I certainly understand why the member has brought forward the bill. However, that being said, we believe that it is the wrong direction to take, and I will explain why.
First off, when we are talking about a non-refundable tax credit, we are actually talking about a tax credit that benefits those who have higher incomes. This is the same problem we are seeing with the disability tax credit, which is non-refundable. As members are well aware, it means that many people with disabilities, often the poorest of the poor, cannot access the disability tax credit because it is non-refundable.
As a result of that, and we saw this most recently during this pandemic when so many people with disabilities were struggling, in so many cases, they are not able to access the $600, which is a minimum amount to actually provide supports for those people with disabilities. Therefore, when we are talking about non-refundable tax credits, we are talking about people at the higher income threshold who will benefit from them.
That being said, this proposed tax credit for home security measures has been evaluated at costing close to $250 million. That is the starting point. The evaluation by the PBO is at $220 million, but that is rising, and with inflation we are talking about $250 million. However, if we are going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars, then what is the best way of making investments to protect and support our communities right across the country?
I will reference the valuable report that was put forward, and the NDP's complementary report a little later, but I do have to flag, because it is important, how a smaller amount made an extraordinary difference in community safety right across the country. That was with the crime prevention programs, which were actually stopped by the former Harper government when it cut $100 million from crime prevention programs and basically wiped them out right across the country. However, crime prevention programs, often staffed by very dedicated volunteers, made a huge difference in ensuring that community safety was paramount.
Every dollar that was spent in these crime prevention programs actually saved six dollars in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. So every dollar spent in crime prevention saves six dollars elsewhere and prevents crimes from being committed in the first place. I am a strong supporter of crime prevention programs. The ones we had in New Westminster and Burnaby, and the ones that existed right across the country, were an extremely important way of providing more safety and security for everybody in the community.
The former Harper government slashed and eliminated those programs, and the NDP caucus spoke out vehemently against that. It made no sense at all. It certainly was not cost effective. We know without crime prevention programs, the costs in policing and court costs are much higher than it would be to actually make those investments in the first place. It is important to note that for less than half the cost of this particular income tax measure, we could be seeing far more safety and security right across the country.
This is a stain on the record of the Harper government, which I do not think will ever go away. However, it is surprising to me that a new Liberal government, now five years later, has never acted to put back in place the crime prevention programs that were so effective right across the country. It is a tragedy.
The NDP, which has presented a building safer communities policy, has believed all along in those investments. Because they are cost-effective, and because they demonstrably lead to better community safety right across the country, they are the way to go. We disagree with the old parties that believe in being simply punitive after the fact. We believe the best route to public safety is ensuring that crime does not take place in the first place. That means removing the massive and growing inequalities we are seeing across this country.
During this pandemic, Canada's billionaires have increased their wealth by over $60 billion, yet so many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet. Investing in crime prevention programs, reducing inequality and putting in place a broad social safety net are all tools to ensure a broader level of community safety and security for everyone.
Earlier I said I wanted to reference a report on the topic of public safety in rural areas. This is very important, because this topic was studied by a House of Commons committee a few years ago. I want to reiterate that we are talking about a quarter of a billion dollars. Better investments could help make everyone safer.
The NDP's dissenting report was quite clear. Former NDP MPs Georgina Jolibois and Christine Moore were also part of the process. Our report addressed the indigenous situation and suggested investing to ensure that indigenous communities have the resources they need to improve quality of life, health and safety in each of these communities. The report also spoke about awareness raising and suicide prevention in rural areas. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly serious across the country.
My colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, also called for a national suicide prevention action plan. Rather than spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a tax credit for the wealthy, investing in a suicide prevention plan can make a huge difference.
There is also the issue of supporting victims, meaning women in rural areas who are victims of sexual or domestic violence. As we know, on any given day, 400 women in Canada are unable to find shelter from this kind of violence. That is appalling. This is something the NDP caucus has been calling for for a long time. Keeping people safer means making those investments. We have to invest to ensure that those 400 women have a safe place to go. Even if they are experiencing violence, that would make a huge difference. That is the kind of investment that counts.
Moreover, in the NDP's dissenting report to the committee's report, we brought up access to 911 emergency service. That service has to be available so that people in rural areas can call to get emergency services.
Although relatively inexpensive, all of these things could make a big difference in the safety of people living in rural areas.
Clearly, if we are talking about $0.25 billion, $220 million and then $250 million over the next few years, there are much more effective ways to spend that money on safety in rural areas and for everyone. Of course, this begins with using what has worked in the past, such as crime prevention programs. They were cut by the former Conservative government. The NDP will surely reinstate them if it ever gets the chance.