Well, it may be unnecessary, Mr. Chairman, but it is another example of what I tried to say a moment ago, that a tax exemption ought to be restrictive rather than too broad. At one time in the past-I do not recall when it was-it was decided to recommend this additional exemption for the benefit of the taxpayer who had substantial costs imposed upon him by reason of illness on his part or in his family.
It was decided at that time that an illness which extended for less than a 12-month period was one that ought not to have the advantage of the exemption, but that an illness extending to 12 months was probably so onerous that one ought to allow the cost as an exemption. Why a person should be incapacitated for 12 months and get a tax exemption running to perhaps $2,500-I do not know-while one who is ill 11 months and 29 days may not is just one of those questions in regard to a tax that is levied which remain insoluble.
Section 271 (c) of the act I thought covered hospital expenses, but it does not seem to do so. It covers only medical, nursing, drugs and other expenses. In other words, if a taxpayer is confined to a regular hospital and spends substantially more than 3 per cent of his taxable income is he allowed to claim that as a deduction?
I have here a book with which my hon. friend is very familiar, "Canadian Income Tax Act, 1956," 23rd edition. Section 271 (c) on page 59 has quite an extensive list. I am afraid it is not the same edition my hon. friend is looking at.
The difference up to the present time, Mr. Chairman, has been that if you have a nursing expense or hospital bill which would include a nursing expense, of course that is your medical expense which can be used in computing your deduction in excess of 3 per cent. There is no change in that. However, a person who is confined to his home or whose spouse or family are confined to his home could have this other additional exemption for a full-time attendant provided the illness extended over 12 months under the conditions mentioned. We are now extending that exemption so that a person who is confined to a nursing home and who may have a full-time attendant there can claim that as a deduction from income tax.
Well, it is not limited to an attendant in a nursing home; it simply mentions being kept in a nursing home. I am not clear yet as to what is the distinction. It seems to me that the 3 per cent rule is sufficient protection in the case of expenses of this kind, and if we are to include in medical expense care in a nursing home when that is necessary, then I fail to see why it must be an illness for a period of 12 months in order to qualify, because surely the 3 per cent rule which applies to every other kind of medical expense is sufficient protection against unnecessary and minor claims for illnesses of short duration. After all, people do not go to nursing homes just to save income tax; they go there because they need that kind of service.
I would like to support the view which was put forward by the hon. member for Greenwood that the requirement that the illness extend throughout a 12-month period is onerous. It seems to limit it to chronic cases instead of making it applicable to normal cases.
I doubt very much if there is, Mr. Chairman. I apprehend that a wheel chair is not necessarily one specially made for the particular kind of invalid, but that it is probably a chair which is on wheels. I do not know whether casters would conform to that, so that if a chair instead of being a rocking chair had been one with four casters on it, it is possible the judge might have found otherwise; but if there is a definition that is applied by the department I will put it on the record.