MPs have and will continue to criss-cross the country soliciting ideas that might make it into Jim Flaherty’s 2013 budget. (If you’re in St. John’s, NL Friday morning, you can bend the ear of the junior minister of finance, Ted Menzies at one of these consultations) One thing we know for sure about Flaherty’s budget: There ain’t a lot money that can be spent on new programs. But what about tax breaks that would spur spending on public assets, assets the government would normally assume financial responsibility but for which, in a time of austerity, it doesn’t necessarily have the ability to do so? Tax breaks come with a cost to the treasury — the government is giving up revenue it would otherwise have — but if tax break helps obtain a public good at a cost that cheaper than the cost of the government doing it, I bet there’s a business case to be made.
And that sounds like it was exactly what Conservative MP Gord Brown (Leeds-Grenville) was doing today in his riding south of Ottawa. Brown isn’t the highest-profile MP on the Hill but he’s been around a while, is popular inside his caucus, and has absolutely zero reputation for saying things that are completely out of sync with the government’s general direction. That’s one reason I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one in Flaherty’s budget this spring:
In a.. speech.. Thursday, Brown said he plans to introduce a private members bill that would allow Canadians to donate money for the maintenance of federal heritage assets and get a tax receipt.
“Theres no mechanism for people to do that,” Brown said after the event.
People can now donate to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, for instance, and get a tax receipt, but they can’t direct their charitable donations toward the conservation of heritage properties, including the Rideau Canal, which is both a national historic site and a world heritage site.The measure would allow Ottawa to collect more money for the upkeep of the physical properties along the local waterway, said Brown.
[Read the rest: MP plans bill to boost canal | Local | News | Brockville Recorder.]
— Jennifer Ditchburn (@jenditchburn) January 24, 2013
Ditchburn’s story is particularly disturbing if you’ve been watching how Conservative MPs have been handing out cheques willy-nilly over the holidays. I’ve counted $600,000 handed out just since Nov. 1 from the federal treasury to fix up curling clubs across the country. And, as Ditchburn wryly notes, the federal regional economic development agency for Quebec has given snowmobile clubs in that province nearly $4 million [as I note in this blog post, Ottawa handed out more than $6 million to snowmobile clubs in the last Parliament] to buy trail grooming machines — while Environment Canada is starved of the funds to properly operate our national parks.
Perhaps the government will thank the volunteers Ditchburn reports on by giving them a tax credit too!