When a new Parliament is elected, Members of Parliament are selected to write and present their own bills in the House of Commons. MPs are given the opportunity to bring their best ideas for study and debate, and ultimately could be passed into Canadian law. These bills are known as Private Member’s Bills, and in my earliest days as an MP, I was able to present my own legislation, Bill C-240, to the House of Commons.
Bill C-240 was about making first-aid training more accessible and affordable for Canadians. It would have provided a 15% non-refundable tax credit to Canadians who take First Aid, CPR, and AED training courses, encouraging Canadians to take these courses for the safety of their friends and families.
As many of you know, C-240 was defeated, and will not become law, but I wanted to explain the process, what happened, and how C-240 is still improving access to First Aid for Canadians.
When I first got the call to start drafting, I had two main conditions for any ideas: 1) Will it help Canadians? 2) Could this bill pass and become law?
The numbers I had seen were clear: more than half of Canadians live in a household with no First-Aid certified members, and a third had never taken a course at all. With Canada’s aging population, it was clear to me that this tax credit could encourage a change in the lives of many Canadian families, and keep our loved ones safe.
C-240 was very well-received. Letters of support came across my desk from St. John’s Ambulance, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canada Blood Services, and more. Many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle offered to second my Bill, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
After weeks of discussions with my colleagues, and meeting with stakeholders like St. John’s Ambulance, Bill C-240 passed at Second Reading with 227 of 308 MPs voting in favour.
Most Private Members’ Bills don’t make it past Second Reading. Winning the vote was a testament to the leg work and research that my team and I had done. Afterwards, Bill C-240 headed to the Finance Committee, where MPs would study its impact both on the public purse and for the public.
The committee asked several questions about the bill: What was the cost? Would 15% savings be enough to encourage training? How would this help those who don’t owe taxes at all? (One of the challenges with Private Members’ Bills is that they are not like government legislation — individual MPs cannot table legislation to spend money.)
Ultimately, the Finance Committee recommended that the House not move forward with the Bill. After debate, the House of Commons accepted their assessment, and on November 29th, C-240 was voted down.
Despite having concerns about the bill, the government ultimately agrees that first aid must be a priority. They’ve decided to adopt my efforts into their current public safety priorities and make First Aid Training part of the public education program on emergency preparedness. At the end of the day, C-240 accomplished far more than a tax credit because far greater resources are now being directed towards first-aid promotion as a result of my work with the Minister of Public Safety.
As many of you will know, and many Canadians see every single year, the federal government funds a campaign called “Get Prepared” which raises awareness on emergency preparedness. This is run year-round to educate Canadians on how to recognize the risks of household dangers and natural disasters.
After C-240, the campaign is expanding to include information about First Aid training, why you should take these courses, and how to access them. More Canadians are going to be encouraged to get certified and get prepared, making communities safer for all of us.
This is a long term issue, and there are no quick fixes, which is why I’m so excited to see the Government working to address emergency preparedness in this manner.
Talks with the Minister on this matter are ongoing, and I can happily say, after two years of work promoting First-Aid, steps are being taken to increase the number of Canadians ready to help themselves and others in an emergency.
I want to thank every Cambridge resident, stakeholder organization, and House of Commons colleague who supported me in advancing the conversation on making Canada a safer country for everyone.
Thank you for all your support.
Bryan May, MP