Ottawa and Estonian Heritage Initiatives (3)
Eestlased Kanadas 17 Jun 2017  EWR
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The Honourable Peter Van Loan, Member of Parliament for York-Simcoe is well known for his support and attention to the interests of his fellow Estonian-Canadians. Mr. Van Loan has long been one of the strongest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies and tactics, he’s been a strong proponent of the planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism and he frequently speaks publicly about his Estonian heritage as well as on matters critical to Estonia’s safety and security. As the opposition’s Heritage Critic in the House of Commons, Mr. Van Loan’s private member’s Bill C-323, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (rehabilitation of historic property), comes at an interesting time for Toronto’s Estonian community.

Mr. Van Loan explains the premise of his bill as follows:

“Bill C-323 seeks to preserve and protect our country's important historic built form by encouraging its restoration. The bill would do this through two simple devices. The first element is a 20% tax credit for spending on the restoration of historic buildings. The second element is an accelerated three year capital cost writeoff for the rest of the restoration cost.

The policy rationale behind the bill is simple. There is strong public interest in encouraging the preservation and restoration of significant historic buildings. However, the cost to individual owners is much higher than the alternative of demolition and new construction. When we ask private owners to preserve historic buildings through a heritage designation, we are asking them to deliver an important public benefit, but we are asking those private citizens to bear the full high cost of delivering this, something from which we all benefit. Through the tax credit and the accelerated writeoff, we are proposing to provide a modest measure to offset some of the privately borne costs of restoring important buildings in our communities.”

If Mr. Van Loan’s bill were to pass it could provide significant economic incentive to those considering redevelopment of “heritage” sites; such as Eesti Maja and the former Chester Public School at 958 Broadview Ave. Some of the proposed tax credits could enable 100% recapture or write-off of heritage related redevelopment and construction expenses over a period of time. For sites with slim profitability or less than attractive risk assessments under current tax and economic formulas, there could be tangible benefits under C-323. Developers currently veering away from heritage rebuilds, or failing to find mutually beneficial business cases with owners of heritage sites, may be savvy and patiently wait to see how Bill C-323 shapes up after the committee stage and second reading.

Unlike many other private member’s bills, Mr. Van Loan’s proposal has support from his Liberal colleagues governing from the other side of the aisle. The question for Toronto Estonians is if Bill C-323 does succeed, could it make 958 Broadview Ave more attractive to developers? Could a renewed redevelopment partnership make sense and dollars under C-323? Time, and how the possible new tax strategies shape up, will tell.

Surely, Mr. Van Loan wasn’t thinking about Eesti Maja as a potential benefactor of his bill when he stood in the House of Commons to introduce it. Nevertheless, his attention to all things relevant to his Estonian heritage could have an unintended impact on the other “House” he frequently speaks at. It wouldn’t be the first time a building of significant importance to Toronto Estonians gained an advantage coming from support and debate that has taken place in the House of Commons over the last 50 years.

Allan Meiusi
EWR Contributor
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