UPDATED: Reno 911: Hold that tax credit!

Since parliament has yet to pass the home reno tax credit, what happens if an election is called?

UPDATED: Reno 911: Hold that tax credit! Okay, I admit it —  I just really wanted an excuse to use that headline.

From CBC:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Canadians on Wednesday to take advantage of the home renovation tax credit, even though the credit hasn’t actually been approved by Parliament.

The 15 per cent credit is the subject of a massive advertising campaign and is designed to be part of the government’s economic stimulus package. It could see eligible applicants receiving as much as a $1,300 refund on their taxes if they invest up to $10,000 on improving their homes between Jan. 27, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010.

The prime minister visited an Ottawa home improvement centre on Wednesday to press the message that Canadians have just six months left to take advantage of the credit, which he said is “a way that every family can participate in our economic recovery.

“There has never been a better time to renovate your home,” Harper said.

The Finance Department intends to introduce the HRTC as a bill later this year.

But a number of things might happen this fall that could derail that plan, such as opposition parties defeating the minority Conservative government and triggering an election, said Keith Brownsey, a political scientist at Calgary’s Mount Royal College.

Brownsey said he feels the credit will be approved, noting that other budget measures have been dealt with in a similar fashion in the past. But he said he thinks the timing of the HRTC is pure politics.

“For me, it’s telling me there’s a election coming up, that the government wants to give a gift to those who renovate their homes and do it quickly,” he told CBC News.

Elaine Foulon, who was looking to buy an area rug from a Calgary flooring store, said she was shocked when she was told the HRTC is not a done deal.

“I don’t understand why it hasn’t passed because they have been talking about this for quite a long time,” she told CBC News.

David Matley, the owner of the store, was so sure the credit is in place, he offered to match it for his customers. Matley said he will live up to his pledge and wants the government to do the same.

He added he doesn’t appreciate the fact the Harper government is spending taxpayer money on ads promoting the credit while he has to tell his customers there’s still a chance it won’t be there for them.

Now, call ITQ crazy — really, do it; it won’t even be the ninth worst thing she’s been called today — but isn’t there actually a House of Commons rule about spending public money to promote legislation that hasn’t yet been passed as though it’s a done deal, since it’s sort of abrogate-y of the role of Parliament? Didn’t the Mulroney government have its knuckles rapped by the Speaker for doing pretty much exactly the same thing by running ads before the GST had actually gone through? Or is ITQ hallucinating again? (It’s been a long day, so that’s a distinct possibility.)

UPDATE: The perennially helpful Mike Storeshaw over at Finance, who, ITQ is obliged to note, did once mock her in his Hill Climbers columnette, but who has subsequently been forgiven because she eventually forgot about it, sends along the following clarification:

To be clear, the Home Renovation Tax Credit does have parliamentary approval, via the passage of a Ways and Means motion that accompanied the Budget.  It is fairly commonplace for tax measures like this to proceed this way, allowing the Canada Revenue Agency to begin administering the change immediately upon passage of Ways and Means, and having it fully legislated by amending the Income Tax Act at a later date. Notice of ways and means was in the Budget document starting on page 335, or you can find it here.

In a subsequent conversation with ITQ by phone, he confirmed that if the as-yet-not-officially-introduced measure were to be explicitly defeated by the House, that would, in fact, render the promise of a tax credit null and void; it’s not actually clear what would happen if there was an election between now and next April, when it would – in theory – be claimed by those filing their 2009 tax returns. Presumably, if the Conservatives were returned to power, they’d just go ahead with introducing the legislation as planned; if another party formed government, it’s not clear whether they would have to explicitly cancel the credit, or whether the claims would be processed even without formal legislation to enshrine the program.