Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm usually on that side of the table, in your seat, sir, and I assure you that it is significantly more intimidating in this seat.
I want to thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the finance committee. I really appreciate the welcome here today and the ability to speak to Bill .
This bill was drafted more than a year ago, and it's amazing to finally be here to speak to it. I'm looking forward to answering your questions today, and to hearing from you and hearing about what you've also heard from stakeholders about Bill .
I know I must sound like a broken record by now, emailing you and your offices with videos about the bill and encouraging your support in the House. It's an easily explainable bill, and it's an easy concept to explain: Canada needs more people trained in first aid.
That's why I think there has been so much support for this bill. Bill was supported in the House by members of all parties. It passed second reading by a vote of 227 to 81. Thank you to everyone in this room who supported it, and to all the members who saw the value of Bill C-240 and have been advocates from the very beginning.
I recognize well that my role is often to advocate for and represent my riding of Cambridge and North Dumfries. However, private members' bills provide a unique and valuable opportunity to represent all Canadians on a national stage. They represent perhaps the best efforts of individual members to address an area of concern across this country.
That's something that was foremost in my mind when I was designing Bill . I wanted to ensure that Canadian values and interests were represented in the bill and that it would create a benefit that all Canadians could access equally.
This bill is easy to explain and was easy to conceive of because it's about something that's always present in Canadian lives: the possibility for an emergency situation to occur.
If someone cut their hand on a glass here in committee today, how many of you in this room would know how to respond? What first aid would you apply? Where is the nearest emergency kit located from this space? Every workplace has similar challenges, and most in fact have more serious emergencies than are possible here on the Hill. Factories, construction sites, and dangerous work environments are full of possible emergency situations, and we have millions of Canadians employed in these workplaces each and every day.
Of course, emergencies are not limited to a workplace. A weekend with your kids, an evening out with your colleagues, or a visit to a friend can easily become a dangerous situation calling for capable hands.
It's because of this and the approaching demographic shifts that we need to start a national conversation in this country about emergency preparedness and getting ready for the demographic changes that we know are approaching. The need for emergency preparedness has always been present in our society; however, with an aging population, Canadians need to be more ready for medical emergencies, more cardiac arrests and strokes, and more falls.
I want you to consider two staggering statistics that I think will illuminate the risk. One-third of Canadians have never taken first aid in their lives, and right now more than half of adult Canadians live in a household in which no members have up-to-date first aid or CPR certification.
The bill has the potential of making a lasting impact on those statistics, but it's not just about statistics. It's about people helped, injuries repaired, and lives saved. It's about families avoiding tragedy.
When someone undertakes first aid certification, what they're ultimately doing is gaining the skills and knowledge to serve their community, at a personal cost. This is a civic duty that many Canadians undertake, and it represents a public good. Increased education and training is something good governments want for their citizens and offer different incentives and support for.
Bill is applying that principle. It provides an incentive for individuals to acquire training that represents a public good. Unlike education, first aid training often doesn't directly benefit the person who got the training. It most benefits strangers—passersby and the people we encounter in our lives only briefly. There are thousands of stories of train passengers, bystanders, and shopkeepers leaping into action to save people they've never met. This is not only a public good; it's a Canadian good.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to cover some of the more specific details about Bill . Our government should provide a tax credit to those who take an accredited first aid, CPR, or AED training course. This tax credit would be non-refundable and provide a deduction in the amount owing equal to the lowest federal income tax rate, currently set at 15%.
Bill is a measured response. It's designed to appeal broadly to those members of this House who consider themselves fiscally responsible, as its costs are reasonable. This tax credit would come at a relatively low cost to the government, but would make a difference to the affordability of life-saving training for individual Canadians.
I'd like to explain briefly how I determined the cost estimate for this bill. According to Ipsos Reid, only 18% of Canadians have an up-to-date certification, meaning they have passed a first aid course in the last three years. That means approximately 1.8 million Canadians have taken this kind of training this year. The average cost for these courses is around $100. Bill would provide for a tax credit of $15 per person. At the average cost, that means the cost in lost revenue is approximately $29.3 million per year.
However, compare that to the value of a life saved, reduced trips to the hospital, pain and suffering reduced. Compare that to faster recovery times, which keep Canadians on the job instead of at home recovering.
The $29.3 million estimate is wildly inflated because not all participants in these training courses will be eligible for the tax credit, nor will they owe taxes, and more than half of certified Canadians have their training financed by their workplace and therefore would not qualify for this tax credit. When these facts are considered, we can see that the cost to the government will be much lower, likely significantly less than $14 million.
I hope that you've had a chance to review all the details of Bill .
I know that my time is limited here today, but I want to leave you with one final thought. When it comes to first aid, the confidence instilled with training is just as important as the knowledge. Training leads to confidence, and confidence leads to action in emergencies, and action leads to lives saved.
Protecting Canadians is something we can all support. In addition to answering your questions here today, I ask for your support for the sake of the well-being of all our communities.
I want to give a bit of background on why I brought this bill forward. I came by this honestly. I've taken this course, or courses like this, more times than I would like to admit. I worked most of my career with non-profits like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, which are some of the largest providers of this course.
When I was 30 years old, I was asked by my supervisor at the time to get my NLS certification and become a lifeguard. My first response was “Why?” Looking back, that allowed me to grow in my role. About a year after that, I became a general manager of one of the facilities and ended up going to another facility, running that facility, and building a new YMCA. The confidence that this training gives—I can speak first-hand—provides an ability to walk into so many different situations and recognize when things are safe and when they're not. It's incredibly simple training; it's incredibly valuable, and 18% is simply not good enough.
Right now, if the average Canadian were to require first aid because of a heart attack or a stroke, they'd have about a 4% chance that somebody within arm's reach would be able to help them. That's not good enough. We should not be okay with that, and we have an opportunity with Bill to send a message that this government considers that this type of training is important and that it needs to move forward.
I know my time is coming to an end. I thank you for your support on this issue and look forward to answering any questions you might have.
This is a question that has been asked a number of times. We've tried to extrapolate what we could expect from this initiative. We know that hundreds of organizations across the country offer this training. I know anecdotally that quite often those courses run at half capacity. The capacity for us to accommodate the growth is there.
As to how many people would take this up, that's a question I simply would not be able to even speculate on. This is a measured response to this issue. I hope I've been clear throughout this year that I don't expect this bill to result in millions more people rushing out to get this training; I think this is a first step.
When we did the research for this bill, we learned very quickly that there has never been a bill like it before in 150 years, according to the parliamentary library. There has never been an emphasis given to this training, so I don't know that we can answer that question, because this is all uncharted territory.
If your question is more along the lines of tax credits being an incentive, I think that they are. I think it's a modest incentive to those who are considering the training but might be on the fringe in terms of whether it's affordable for them or not.
Non-profit organizations subsidize these trainings right now; they are kept at very low cost. Trainers themselves can demand up to $1,000 to $1,500 for their services, and quite often organizations such as the Y are offering a break-even sort of proposition to provide these trainings. It's in response to recognizing that when somebody does this training, they're not doing it for themselves; they're doing it for everybody else.
I think it's laudable for the government to support that effort.
That's a great question.
To answer the first part, yes, I believe there's an element of the people in this country who are really making tough decisions in terms of spending, and every little bit helps. If this could move them in that direction then, yes, I think that's worthwhile.
To answer your question about whether or not employers would in fact stop offering this training, as I said, more than half of Canadians get it through work. This is a great question. We had not received that question until recently, and so we did the digging. We actually went out and talked with stakeholders. Every single person we spoke with, every single organization from medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations to very large auto manufacturers that might be in my riding....
Companies offer this kind of training for two reasons. One is that they can do it at a much cheaper rate and, as I said, take a break-even approach to it. If you can get 20 people in a first aid course and it only costs $1,000 and the course usually costs $100 for an individual, there's a saving of $1,000. Even if you have your employees go out and take it on their own and you're paying them for it, which is the case in a lot of situations, it would actually cost the company more than if they offered it themselves.
The biggest issue, though, and the biggest reason we heard back is that a lot of organizations want to control it. The emergency training is site-specific, and it's integrated into a whole health and safety approach. We've met and talked with organizations, and they emphatically said, “No, we would not.” They encouraged me and they said, “This is great for individuals; this wouldn't impact us positively or negatively.”
I'm not familiar with other countries around the world, specifically.
In North America, nobody is doing this well. When I say 4% in terms of having the opportunity to have somebody trained in an emergency, you have about a 4% chance in Canada. The only place that seems to have done this well is King County, which is where Seattle is located. I'm not 100% sure about how they did it, but I have read a couple of things about it. In King County, I understand that there was a governor or senator who lost a child, and this became a mission. They give training on it in schools. It's a cultural thing. It's something that is ingrained right from the very beginning. They take it two or three times in school, so it becomes a habit.
My vision is for this not to end here, because this is not going to solve all the problems. It's not going to get us to the 24% chance of having somebody within arm's reach, which is what they have in King County. This is just a first step. My vision is that at some point in our culture we can expect the following scenario: an expectant mother walks into a doctor's office, and the doctor says, “Hey, congratulations. You're pregnant. Here's a prescription for a first aid course.”
The fact that we don't do that, the fact that this isn't part of our culture, is really confusing to me. I think that's why the federal government, if it were to support this bill and move forward with it, would be giving very clear direction that this where we want to go.
I can tell you anecdotally, having been around this type of environment for most of my career and having talked to individuals who take it.
We used to have our camp staff take it every year, regardless of whether they needed it or not, just so that we knew everybody had been refreshed. It was part of the camp training.
We hear just that. Every time somebody takes it, their confidence level goes up.
It's funny, because the number one thing we would hear in training was that the instructors would always have to tell people to push harder when doing compression training on the dummies. Does anybody know what the response was from those people? “I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to break their rib.”
Well, they're dead. Their heart isn't pumping. You can't hurt them anymore. This is the element of confidence that we need to instill in people, that you're helping them by pushing harder. We've seen this a lot with defibrillator training, AED training.
Has anybody here taken AED training? I see that a couple of you have.
We've seen AEDs pop up all over the country. from the Conservatives has done a really good job of getting these out into his community. We've seen them pop up everywhere. The training associated with them has not grown. That's why this is included in this bill.
With regard to AEDs, we know that the rationale or the argument against the training is, “Well, they're self-explanatory. They actually tell you what to do when you open the box.”
If you don't know that, if you don't know that it tells you what to do, it's like handing a can opener to somebody who has never seen a can opener and saying, “Okay, go figure it out.”
This is a situation where seconds matter. People need to have the confidence to run to where the AED or the first aid kit is—and know where it is—and use it. I think that's the key. It's even knowing to call for help.
Your first question was regarding, say, a child or a youth who took it, or somebody who doesn't currently pay taxes, and that person would not receive a refundable tax credit. As I've said, that's outside the scope of what I could do with this bill.
I don't disagree with you even a little, but it's not within my power as a private member to do that in the legislation. This is as much as we could do while staying within what I thought was, and what I still believe is, being fiscally prudent. This is not an expensive tax credit. This isn't something that you're going to spend billions of dollars on, or even hundreds of millions on.
In the case of children, yes, they can actually transfer that tax credit to a parent, so it depends on the situation. In terms of efficacy, whether the relatively low benefit to taxpayers essentially justifies the cost is really what you're asking. It's almost impossible to measure. How do we measure a life? How do we sit here and say this is what we save by stopping this person from dying? Even if a few lives are saved, even if a handful of people—a couple of thousand, maybe 10,000 to 20,000 extra people—decide to take this training because of this credit or the attention that this credit is getting and those people go out and save just a few people, I don't know that any of you would disagree that it would be worthwhile.
It's also worth talking about the non-life-threatening first aid provision, those who sprain a knee or need a splint, those who need a cut patched. We had a number of very active basketball programs at my YMCA, and I can tell you I have splinted so many breaks and so many sprains that I can't even list them all.
I can tell you about one situation. A gentleman, a pilot by trade who used to work for Air Canada, broke his leg, and I was able to properly set that leg and splint it and get him to the hospital. He came back and told me the doctor told him that because it was properly splinted, he's looking at six weeks of recovery, not six months. That's the part we have to figure out how to measure. I'd be making numbers up if we tried.
Yes, it will be pretty short.
First of all, thanks very much for having us on this important issue. It's a pleasure to be here.
I think you've hit a lot of these issues already in a general way. We see ourselves as here to assist the committee in your review of this bill, and we thought it would be useful to explain the general framework or lens through which we in the tax policy branch evaluate tax credits like this one when they're presented to us.
As a general starting point, it's important to consider whether any proposal, any tax measure, is consistent with the general functions of the tax system. The primary function is to raise revenue, the revenues that finance the program initiatives that benefit Canadians.
The tax system does have secondary functions, and one of these functions—and this was touched on during your discussion—is incentives within the tax system to support economic and social objectives. They can be things like increasing savings and investment and promoting charitable giving. There are also disincentives in some cases, such as excise taxes on tobacco. There are a few activities we want less of, but there are many activities we want more of, and that's what we're talking about today.
A tax measure of the variety proposed in Bill C-240 serves one of these objectives-encouraging socially beneficial behaviours-at the expense of another-raising revenue.
In assessing such a trade-off it is important to consider whether the tax measure in question can be expected to be effective in meeting its stated goal, and whether it is efficient. That is to say, does it achieve its objective at relatively low cost compared to available alternatives? After all, the revenue forgone as a result of a tax measure could go towards government spending serving a similar end, or that supports other important government objectives.
One factor we take into account is the potential effect of the measure on the desired activity. Put simply, if the purpose of a tax measure is to encourage people to perform a particular activity, its effectiveness should be analyzed by looking at both its cost and the extent to which it causes more people to perform that activity than would have undertaken the activity in any event.
You touched on this as well. Tax measures also impose compliance costs for taxpayers and administrative costs for government, and there we're talking about the Canada Revenue Agency. These costs can contribute to reducing the overall efficiency of a measure, but it's important to consider how high the costs are and how the costs might compare to a similar measure if it were delivered as a spending program.
In addition to efficiency, equity is another criterion integral to policy analysis. Non-refundable credits provide taxable individuals with tax recognition at the same credit rate, irrespective of income level, versus a deduction, where the rate of relief increases with an individual's marginal tax rate.
There is often a strong case for making a credit non-refundable, to the extent that the measure is trying to properly account for the individual's ability to pay tax. However, non-refundable credits reduce an individual's tax payable and are therefore not useful for individuals who are non-taxable. Ultimately, the impacts of any tax measure on taxpayers at all income levels must be considered in the context of the overall progressivity of the tax system.
One final point, also of key importance when you're designing an efficient and equitable tax system and considering how the proposed measure might fit into that, is ensuring tax legislation is drafted in a manner that protects individual tax measures from being accessed in ways counter to the original policy intent.
During the course of our work on the tax policy development process at Finance Canada, legislative review and drafting of tax measures is a very integral part—Trevor is our expert—and ensures that technical issues don't arise that can inadvertently undermine the operation of the measure or of other provisions of the act.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to all the members of the committee.
We would be happy to elaborate further on any of these points or to answer any questions that committee members may have.
Thank you for your question.
There are probably two components to the design of the measure or the drafting of the measure. There are purely technical considerations in the way they interact with other provisions of the act, in particular with developments that have come since its introduction. For example, the definition of “qualifying child” references section 122.8 of the Income Tax Act, which was repealed and no longer exists. That's where the child fitness tax credit was. There are things like that.
I could discuss those in more detail later, but the fundamental design of the rule is also a question.
There are different ways to design a tax credit. Many of them are based upon a taxpayer claiming a credit for a specific expense that they've incurred that is in accordance with the goals of the credit. Examples are things like the adoption tax credit, the public transit credit, home renovation tax credit, or the teachers' tax credit. All of those require a specific expense to be incurred; you claim against that, and they have rules preventing the multiplication of those deductions.
There are others, like the volunteer firefighter credit and the volunteer search and rescue credit, between which I think this proposal would be placed in the act, since they provide tax credits in response to a particular activity, not necessarily in respect of a particular expense incurred. If you look at the wording of the bill as drafted, it does not work from a specific expense incurred, so there are concerns that it could be multiplied or claimed even when your employer is paying for it.
Probably the best way to go through it is to look at a very simple example. Let's say my son, who's my qualifying child, takes a first aid course in 2018, after this credit has received royal assent and is in the Income Tax Act. For the purposes of the example, he's a smart kid who successfully completes the course in 2018, and I'm filling out my tax return and deciding if I can claim it. For the taxation year in which he successfully completed the course—so that's 2018—I can make a deduction against my tax payable, so I can take the tax credit. It would be deducted, multiplying the lesser of $200 or the cost of the program.
Let's say the cost of the program was $100, but his employer—let's say he's a lifeguard—reimbursed him for the cost of the expense. It says the cost of one such program, and not the cost to the individual of the tax program or the amount paid or the amount paid to the extent that it was not reimbursed. Then there's a concern that while the cost is $100, you can deduct it. That's why you see in the teachers' tax credit, the one for school supplies, a specific rule saying that you don't get the credit to the extent that you're reimbursed.
The concern is that in that case people would claim the credit. Maybe they wouldn't win in court, but there is still a concern that people would claim it.
Also, if you run through that same example for my spouse, my spouse would look at that and say, “Well, our child did it in that year; he passed, and the course cost $100, so I can claim it.”
If the credit is a reward for successful completion of the course, maybe that's in accordance with policy, and maybe that's how people would interpret it. That's why you have, for example, with the public transit tax credit in subsection 118.02(3), I think it is, an apportionment rule saying that if one spouse claims it, the other can't, even though their kid took the course.
There are concerns like that. In my example, maybe the child—although I think you'd have to be 15, so you wouldn't expect them to have much income—both parents would get a credit and the employer would get a deduction, as we discussed earlier.
There are those kinds of design concerns, and that's what my colleague Pierre was saying about the potential for inappropriate access.
Well, I'm not surprised, but I must say I'm extremely disappointed that this motion comes forward at this time.
First, we all know that this bill was referred to this committee some four months ago now, or pretty close to it, and on several occasions members of the opposition attempted to get the bill before the committee so that we could study it and not leave this particular member hanging out there. I will put on record that we in the official opposition wanted this particular bill before the committee many weeks ago, and to bring it forward was continually refused.
I don't understand where the resistance comes from, other than that this is a top-down direction to members of this committee from the government side, who are not prepared as a government to allow members to speak freely, to do things freely. The idea is that if it doesn't come from the Prime Minister's Office, then it obviously is not good enough to be supported by this government.
I am extremely disappointed, then, that the government members on this committee left their own colleague hanging out there for four months, knowing full well that they were going to move this motion whenever it came forward.
If I were a member of a caucus that treated me like that, I would probably be pretty damned upset—
Boy, am I ever glad Mr. Liepert wasn't part of the former caucus of the Conservative Party, because he probably wouldn't have liked it.
In terms of the position here today, I think we can all agree around the table in terms of the intent of increasing participation in first aid programs. Mr. May himself testified here today that there are limitations in terms of what can and cannot be achieved in private members' business, and that there have to be further enhancements or incentives to have people come forward and take this necessary first aid training.
However, good intentions, given the limitations around private members' business, unfortunately do not always come forward with legislation that meets the objectives of good, sound tax policy. That was the intent when the House sent this piece of legislation to this committee: the intention is good, so we were to look at it further as a finance committee and ensure that it meets the objectives of sound tax policy.
I can't speak to how other members and other caucuses prepare for their meetings. Any question or faint disdain for our preparedness on this is, I think, the other member's prerogative. However, I am proud of the conversations that we've had as Liberal members. I'm proud of the back-and-forth and the research. Each member came here today asking questions, researching this, and speaking with Mr. May. That was in his testimony as well. I find it quite rich of the opposition to come here to criticize us for being prepared in how to act in moving forward on this.
Fair enough, Mr. Chair.
With regard to tax policy, I supported this coming to the House...excuse me; in the vote in the House, I supported this coming to committee. I support the intent wholeheartedly.
However, hearing testimony, doing the research, I have to look at this as a member of this committee and as an MP serving my constituents. Would an investment of $17 million create the incentives for more people to come forward and take first aid courses? Even if we use Mr. May's statistics that around 50% of people may receive this from their employers and therefore wouldn't need to access this, even if you take $8.5 million—let's cut it in half—as a cost for a $15 to $17 credit, I had to seriously think about this, because I think that although there's value there for anyone who is encouraged to take first aid training, I have to go back to my constituents as a member of the finance committee and as a member of this House. Is a $17-million or an $8.5-million expenditure fiscally responsible for a $15 to $17 credit? To my Conservative members, listen up. This credit is only applicable to some members of the public.
To Mr. May's credit, he acknowledges that he wishes it could have been more expensive, but those are the limitations of a private member's bill. It would be irresponsible, just because we like the intent, to spend by any means. If that's the Conservative will...they love boutique tax credits, but they're no longer in government.
It is our job, in my opinion, to look at intentions and to be fiscally prudent. As much as I support the intent and encourage our government to look at ways to increase participation, as the bill stands—and that's all that's in front of us here today—I have to support the motion put forward by Mr. Sorbara because, unfortunately, the fiscal parameters, to my mind, do not create the incentive we want. It's a price that I think is unfair.
Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I tried to get this to the clerk earlier. Unfortunately, just due to the nature of it, I'm going to ask for members' patience. We have a number of slots, two specifically, that have been opened up, which are the 22nd and the 20th, I believe. Pardon me; it's March 20 and March 22. Sorry.
One of the motions would be:
That on March 20, 2017 the Standing Committee on Finance study the Department of Finance report "Update of Long-Term Economic and Fiscal Projections" and report its findings back to the House of Commons.
Again, because there would be some involvement in terms of inviting guests, and to make use of that time, I would hope we would be able to expedite this motion.
The second motion is:
That on March 22, 2017 the Standing Committee on Finance conduct a hearing to study the potential impacts of proposed changes by the Canadian Securities Administrators to Best Interest Standard, Banning Embedded Compensation and Targeted Reforms on Financial Advisors, including on consumers, and report its findings back to the House of Commons.
Mr. Chair, the financial advisers have grave concerns about some regulations that are coming up and their impact on Canadians' ability to access quality financial advice, which will have an impact on their ability to save money for a house or invest money for their long-term prosperity.
Both of these, I think, are timely. Both of them I think would just involve one day of study. From speaking to a few people in my area, particularly on the financial adviser side, I know there are some great concerns with these regulations, and I think an airing of it here at this committee would allow the issues to come out and the public to know a little bit more about the issues at stake, particularly their impact on consumers.