Mr. Speaker, it is a true honour for me to stand in the House on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport to speak to Bill C-8, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic and fiscal update, which was tabled in the House by our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on December 14, 2021.
This is an important piece of legislation. It is a bill that includes a wide number of critical supports that workers and businesses need to help them continue to tackle COVID-19, such as support for provincial and territorial health care systems with vaccines, more ventilation in schools and rapid tests. It also includes several tax measures, such as tax credits for businesses that are purchasing ventilation supplies and teachers who purchase school supplies to assist with virtual learning.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, keeping Canadians safe and healthy has been our federal government's top priority. Canadians have sacrificed so much over the past 23 months to protect themselves and their communities. When this pandemic is finally over, our national government will ensure that the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic underpin Canada's pandemic preparedness to make sure that Canada is always ready, moving forward. In the meantime, there are things we need to do now to continue to keep Canadians safe and to support our recovery.
I will focus my remarks on four key areas of the proposed bill: improving ventilation in schools and community buildings, rapid antigen tests, the small businesses air quality improvement tax credit, and the COVID-19 resilience stream.
Regarding improving ventilation in schools and community buildings, as members know, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for families and educators, with school closures followed by varying degrees of reopening. With students across the country now back at school, and the continuing impact of the omicron variant, we need to make sure our children and teachers are in a safe environment. Improvements to school ventilation are an important component of that. That is why today's legislation proposes up to an additional $100 million to provinces and territories through the existing safe return to class fund, as well as $10 million to first nations for on-reserve schools.
We are also giving the provinces and territories the flexibility they need to spend the funds on the ventilation-related improvements they deem most important. This includes repair or replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units; increasing maintenance of existing systems, to ensure optimized operation; and other interventions that bring in more outdoor air or result in cleaner air, such as the installation of operable windows or portable air filtration units.
As members may recall, the safe return to class fund, which was originally announced in August, 2020, provided $2 billion to provinces and territories for their efforts to ensure a safe return to school and to protect the health of students and staff. The fund is helping provinces and territories by supporting, for example, adaptive learning spaces, improved air ventilation, increased hand sanitation and hygiene, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. In my riding of Davenport, 18 schools have benefited from this fund, which is amazing.
Additional funding that we are proposing in the bill we are discussing now, Bill C-8, would if approved provide the complementary funding provinces and territories continue to need as they work alongside local school boards to ensure the safety of students and staff members throughout the school year.
As our economy continues to recover and grow, parents should be able to fully return to work and trust that their children are learning in a healthy and safe environment. School is critical for children's development, their mental health and their future success.
I will move on to rapid antigen tests and ensuring they continue to be available to Canadians and to businesses. They will play a key role in helping to keep Canadians safe as we continue to find our way out of this pandemic and move into a post-COVID economy.
Throughout the pandemic, our federal government has continued to ensure that provinces and territories can make decisions based on public health advice and not budget limitations, as we work together to keep students, teachers, staff and families healthy and safe during this unprecedented school year. For example, we have provided over $3 billion in direct transfer payments to the provinces and territories for testing and contact tracing through the safe restart agreement.
In addition, the federal government has made significant investments in building testing capacity within the provincial and territorial health care systems, having purchased and shipped over 80 million rapid tests to them at a cost of over $900 million. With the continuing demand for rapid tests, Bill C-8 would allocate an additional $1.72 billion to the Minister of Health for the procurement and distribution of rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories, as well as directly to Canadians. With this initiative, and funding through the safe return to class fund, the federal government is helping to keep students and their teachers safer.
Moving on to the small businesses air quality improvement tax credit, we know that federal government support is not restricted to the classroom. We remain committed to also helping businesses and organizations improve their ventilation and air quality in order to keep Canadians safe. Proper ventilation makes indoor air healthier and safer, and helps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Many small businesses are on the front lines of the pandemic. They are enforcing vaccine mandates, installing protective barriers and making sure workers and visitors are safe. Many want to make further improvements to their indoor air quality, but investing in equipment to improve ventilation can be very costly.
With Bill C-8, the federal government is proposing a refundable small business air quality improvement tax credit of 25% on eligible air quality improvement expenses incurred by small businesses. This will make it more affordable for them to invest in safer and healthier ventilation and air filtration. Businesses would receive the credit on eligible expenses incurred between September 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022, related to the purchase or upgrade of mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and the purchase of stand-alone devices designed to filter air using high efficiency particulate air filters. The credit is up to a maximum of $10,000 per location, and $50,000 in total.
Eligible businesses would include Canadian-controlled private corporations and unincorporated sole proprietors. The credit would also be available to eligible corporations and individuals carrying on business through partnerships. By helping businesses invest in better ventilation today, the government is helping to keep Canadians safe now and in the future.
Finally, regarding the COVID-19 resilience stream, we know that Canadians of all ages, children, seniors, young parents, amateur athletes and more, are gradually returning to community spaces such as arenas, swimming pools, libraries and community centres, but these buildings also require ventilation improvements. Building on the $150 million to improve ventilation in public and community buildings announced in 2020, the 2021 economic and fiscal update announced an additional $70 million over three years for Infrastructure Canada to support ventilation projects in public and community buildings such as hospitals, libraries and community centres. Funding will be delivered through the COVID-19 resilience stream of the investing in Canada infrastructure program.
In conclusion, I can assure the House that the government will continue to work with provincial and territorial partners to provide a healthy school environment for students, teachers and staff members in this challenging time. We will continue to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to beat COVID-19 and protect Canadians and Canadian businesses through this crisis. That is why support of Bill C-8 is so important, and I urge all members of the House to swiftly pass the bill so we can ensure that all these measures are implemented as quickly as possible.