Bill C-40 (Historical)
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Jim Flaherty Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Message from the Senate
June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;
Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;
Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;
Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;
Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;
Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;
It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 11th, 2007 / 4:30 p.m.
Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member say that from April 23 to May 4 we did not discuss anything of consequence in the House. I guess that includes the four opposition days, which she must consider inconsequential. I guess that includes Bills C-40, C-43, C-48, C-10, C-22, democratic reform bills, finance bills, Criminal Code bills, two justice bills. I guess in the hon. member's opinion none of these are consequential.
All those things are pretty consequential to the constituents in my riding who care about Senate reform, safe streets and finance bills. They are very important. Does the hon. member truly considers those things inconsequential?
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 11th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the government, in proposing this motion today, has chosen once again to maintain its habitual lack of consultation and reluctance to attempt a collaborative approach to organizing the business of the House.
On more than one occasion, as I think the Chair will remember, I asked directly whether the government intended to make use of Standing Order 27. As other House leaders can confirm, the reply was, “probably not”. I do not think we would be off base in the opposition in expecting that if that were no longer the case, if the government had in fact changed its mind, that it would have decently given us a heads-up that it was going to propose this motion today, at least given us that notice some time earlier than around one o'clock this afternoon.
Frankly, as we saw the government House leader making his travels across the floor of the House, I will not say where he went, the heckling and yelling as he departed the chamber obviously indicates the kind of demeanour of which we have to deal.
I do not see what there is on the order paper at present that this motion will get through the House any more quickly than would have otherwise been the case. I presume, judging by the government House leader's remarks, that the government is principally concerned with Bill C-52, the budget bill.
It has represented to the House and to the public that the government is now extremely concerned the bill will not receive royal assent in time for certain expenditures to be booked in the appropriate fiscal year. Let us be clear. The fiscal year the Conservatives are talking about is 2006-07, and that is the point.
The issue is retroactive fiscal bookings for the last fiscal year, not the future fiscal year, as members would have gathered from the remarks of the government House leader. If there is concern about the lateness of the date, the government really has only itself to blame.
Usually federal budgets are delivered in or about the third week of February, which then permits the introduction of a budget implementation bill by the end of that month. If things are properly managed, this would permit the bill to be in committee before the end of March and to be passed at all stages by the end of May or, at the very latest, the beginning of June.
This year the government chose, for its own partisan reasons, to delay the budget until the third week of March. We did not even see it until then. Then it unilaterally interrupted the budget debate. Then having finished that, belatedly, it interrupted, again, the second reading debate on the budget implementation Bill C-52. That interruption lasted for three full weeks, getting the bill to committee only in the middle of May.
As a consequence, the government then bulldozed the bill through the committee, breaking procedural agreements, denying many interested and informed citizens and groups the right to testify on the bill. Let it be clearly understood that any procedural issue on Bill C-52 is a direct result of government breaking the agreement on the process, which had been fully settled by members of the committee.
Nevertheless, the bill is now only in its third day of debate at third reading and there is every indication that the third reading and final stage would come to an end in debate in the House by the end of business tomorrow at the latest.
It is important to underscore what these dates are with respect to the budget. Remember that the House resumed in the final week of January. The budget was not presented to the House until March 19, fully eight weeks into the parliamentary sitting. That was followed by a ways and means motion and the introduction of the budget bill, but that was delayed because the government interrupted its own budget debate on the financial principles of the government.
Its budget was late, the budget debate was unilaterally delayed by itself and then it finally got around to introducing the budget bill on March 29, which was debated at second reading for the first time on March 30. It was then debated in a haphazard, sporadic fashion, brought forward to the floor by the government, until April 23, and then it was hoisted altogether. The House did not see it again until May 14, full three weeks later.
Finally, it went to the committee, not as a result of any filibuster by the opposition or any party in the opposition. The delay was entirely the procedural mismanagement of the government. It was there for less than two weeks and one of those weeks was a break week when Parliament was not even sitting.
It finally passed through the committee, rather expeditiously, thanks to the cooperation of the opposition, and it was brought back to be debated at report stage on June 4. For how long? One day, that is all the report stage took. Now it is at third reading where there have been three days of debate, and probably a conclusion could have been arrived at very easily by the end of the day tomorrow.
This is why I made the point at the beginning of my remarks that there really is nothing on this order paper that could not be dealt with in the ordinary course of business without the measure the government House leader has introduced. Obviously it is a tactic to blame the opposition for the delays that lie entirely within the control of the government.
What is it then? If it is not Bill C-52, what is it that causes the government to move the motion today? Despite frequent requests for the government to outline its realistic legislative priorities before the summer, all we have heard repeatedly from the government House leader and from others on the government's side is a flow of partisan rhetoric. Legislation has in fact been moving along through the House and through committees, despite the government's erratic management of its agenda.
In fact, the most controversial bill on the order paper, and this is what gives me perhaps a little hope here, is probably Bill C-30, the clean air act, as it has been revised by members of Parliament. Significantly, only the government has been stalling it up to now. However, now we will have some extra time, some extra hours of sitting every day beginning on Wednesday.
Can we then conclude that the extra time the government is seeking is to facilitate the work of the House in consideration of Bill C-30? I certainly hope so. It is in this fervent hope that I indicate to the House that my party, the official Liberal opposition, will support the minister's motion for the extension of hours.
In the time available, in addition to Bill C-52, which will probably be done tomorrow, and in addition to Bill C-30, which I hope the government has the courage to recall and put before the House once again, the official opposition also looks forward to making progress on Bill C-11, lowering freight rates for farmers, on Bill C-14, dealing with foreign adoptions, on Bill C-23, dealing with criminal procedure, on Bill C-29, dealing with Air Canada and the use of official languages, on Bill C-35, dealing with bail reform, on Bill C-47, dealing with the Olympic, on Bill S-6 and Bill C-51, dealing with land claims and on Bill C-40, the private member's legislation that would provide free postage for mail from Canada to our troops in Afghanistan.
Then there is an item that was referred to in question period today. This is the bill we are anxiously awaiting to see, the one dealing with wage earner protection. I hope the government will follow through on the commitment given in question period, that it will table the bill in amended form so it can be passed at all stages and brought into law before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess.
Let me mention one other matter, which is outstanding and which should be dealt with by the House, or at least dealt with by the government when the House is sitting. This is the examination undertaken a few weeks ago by Mr. Brown in connection with the matters that have been of great concern to Canadians in respect of the RCMP pension fund.
As we understand it, there is a report due from Mr. Brown on June 15. That was the original undertaking given by the Minister of Public Safety. It would be very important for us to know that the examination is on time, that we will hear from Mr. Brown on time, and that the Minister of Public Safety will take the step that he promised to take and make that report public immediately.
Perhaps the government might also consider, in whatever time that remains before the summer recess, reforming its approach to the mood in the House. The mood could be improved if the government would refrain from certain of its more hostile practices. For example: no more gratuitous attack ads, no more broken agreements on how witnesses will be heard, no more manuals about dirty tricks for disrupting parliamentary business, and no more devious games to misuse Standing Orders of the House. A little good old fashioned good faith could change the mood for the better.
Business of the House
May 17th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
I would not do that.
Tomorrow is an allotted day.
Next week is constituent consultation week, when the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings and meet with constituents to share with them the activities of Parliament since the last constituency break.
For the interest of members, I will quickly review our plan for the context of our overall legislative agenda.
As he requested, this is currently strengthening the economy week, where a number of financial bills moved forward. The budget bill was sent to committee and, hopefully, it will be reported back tomorrow, or soon, so we can deal with it at third reading when the House returns after the break.
Bill C-40, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. Bill C-53, an act to implement the convention on the settlement of investment disputes, Bill C-33, the sales tax bill and Bill C-47, the Olympics symbol bill were all sent to committee and we all would like to see those back in the House for report stage and third reading.
In an earlier week, Bill C-36, the bill that makes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, was made into law after receiving royal assent.
Strengthening accountability through democratic reform week was a success with the consideration of Bill C-43, Senate consultation. We had three new democratic reform bills introduced that week: Bill C-55, to expand voting opportunities; Bill C-56, an act to amend the Constitution Act, democratic representation; and Bill C-54, a bill that would bring accountability with respect to loans. We hope to continue debate on that particular bill later today.
Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was given royal assent and is now law, which I think is the cause of the commotion now in all the committees where Liberals are using procedural tactics. Now they feel they can do it with a free hand.
Two other democratic reform bills are in the Senate, Bill C-31, voter integrity, and Bill S-4, Senate tenure. I really would like to have the term limits bill from the Senate for an upcoming democratic reform week if the opposition House leader can persuade his colleagues in the Senate to finally deal with that bill after 352 days. We may get 352 seconds in a filibuster, but they have had 352 days so far. They have been stalling for a year.
During the consultation week, I will be interested in hearing what our constituents think of the plight of Bill S-4 and the irony of those unaccountable senators delaying it.
We dedicated a good deal of our time focusing on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Now that we have had the help of the NDP, we restored the meaningful aspects that the Liberals gutted in committee to Bill C-10, the bill to introduce mandatory penalties for violent and gun crimes. We are continuing to debate that bill today at third reading.
Bill C-48, the bill dealing with the United Nations convention on corruption, was adopted at all stages.
Bill C-26, the bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to interest rates, was given royal assent.
Bill C-22, the age of protection, was given final reading and sent to the Senate, although it did spend close to, if not in excess of, 200 days in committee where the Liberals were obstructing and delaying its passage.
We made progress on Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation. We would like to see that back in the House.
Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) and a host of other justice bills are working their way through the system.
Members can advise their constituents that when we return, we will be reviving two themes, back by popular demand. Beginning May 28, we will begin again with strengthening accountability through democratic reform with: Bill C-54, political loans; Bill C-55, additional opportunities for voting; and Bill C-56, democratic representation.
Up next is a second go-round on strengthening the economy week with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will be called as soon as it is reported back from committee.
In the near future, we will have the improvement of aboriginal people quality of life week with Bill C-44. This bill will grant first nations residing on Indian reserves access to the Canadian charter of human rights. They have been denied this right for 30 years. Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is being delayed by the opposition. This is another bill being delayed by the opposition in committee.
After Bill C-44, I intend to debate Bill C-51. The agreement establishes the use and ownership of land and resources and will foster economic development. This bill illustrates Canada's commitment to the North and to settling land claims.
I wish all members a productive constituent consultation week and look forward to more progress on the government's legislative agenda when the House returns on May 28.
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
May 15th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain for his question and comments. This is a good example of the kind of social democracy we want to have in Quebec. We are a progressive political party. We on this side of the House do not think that essential services should be taxable. It is fine to tax luxury goods, but things as essential as speech language pathology services are currently subject to tax and this is contrary to the equal opportunity principles that the Government of Canada is supposed to stand for. This is why Bill C-40 is helping to shed light on the situation. I was surprised to learn a few years ago—and am still surprised—that diapers for babies are taxable.
Why must we tax essential goods and thereby impose an additional burden on the poorest people in society? Some industrial sectors—and I would point again to the oil, gas and hydrocarbon industry in Canada—are making fabulous profits and still get tax breaks. We pass bills here in the House to reduce the fees and taxes paid by corporations that rake in $250 million a year.
It is time to exempt essential services for our children and for everyone. If we can expand the range of exempted services, that is all to the good. We will have made progress towards equal opportunity.
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
May 15th, 2007 / 10:30 a.m.
Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on Bill C-40.
At the very beginning of his address, he mentioned the tax relief for speech language pathology services in order to help our young people and seniors, for example.
He drew the quite obvious connection between increasing poverty in certain areas and the use of various services, especially social services, speech language pathology services, and certain other ones. He also said that Bill C-40 would correct certain deficiencies in these regards because the poorest people often cannot pay for these services. That is what I understood him to say, and I would appreciate it if he could explain a bit more for us. What would he think of exempting even more services or professions?
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
May 15th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, today it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
First, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois and I will support Bill C-40, which amends various acts and breathes a little life into a number of industrial sectors and charitable organizations and lends a hand to some of society's more vulnerable members, including children and seniors.
Bill C-40 includes three parts that amend three or four important acts. It will make a number of products and services tax exempt for some people and some industrial sectors, such as Quebec's wine industry, which is growing fast. This bill will offer some administrative and tax relief to these sectors.
The first part of Bill C-40 concerns measures relating to the GST. The second proposes amendments to legislation in order to lift the tax on certain goods and services. Third, Bill C-40 sets out various measures pertaining to the excise tax on wine, beer and other spirits. Lastly, the bill contains amendments to the air travellers security charge rules.
The measures in the first part of Bill C-40 that relate to the GST fall into five main categories, the first being the exemption of certain health services. The second category consists of exemptions of certain services for charities, which I will talk about a bit later. The third category comprises measures pertaining to business arrangements, including arrangements for banking institutions and foreign banks that want to invest to restructure their Canadian branches or subsidiaries. The fourth category includes governmental and administrative amendments. Lastly, the process of applying the GST would not change a great deal, but significant changes would be made so as to streamline the administration of our taxation system, which is often a barrier to expansion and growth of some sectors.
The first area that is affected is health. The bill proposes to lift the tax on speech-pathology services.
My colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain touched on this yesterday, sharing his expertise in child psychiatry with the House of Commons. He explained that some children and groups in our society are more vulnerable than others. I am thinking about children who have serious language disorders and whose parents cannot use public services. To address their child's essential needs, they must use services other than public services. Often, GST is charged on these services, but we believe that they should be tax exempt. Such services are often expensive for needy families, but they are services the parents expect to receive. Consequently, this bill will lift the tax on speech-pathology services, which are essential to children's development.
Second, services for seniors with cardiovascular disease will be tax exempt. We know that cardiovascular disease is on the rise in Quebec, contrary to what we might have expected, because consumption of products that contribute to cardiovascular disease has decreased considerably. I am referring to smoking and drug use, among other things.
Nonetheless, we feel something needs to be done to alleviate the burden on seniors who are in precarious financial situations. Removing the tax from such services is as important as what is being presented in Bill C-40.
Another exemption in Bill C-40 has to do with social work services. Currently tax is applied directly to social work services. These services are particularly essential in areas of growing poverty.
In Montreal, there are so-called high-risk neighbourhoods that need essential resources and services. Unfortunately, for people in need of direct assistance—as it was called—and social support, believe it or not, these services are still being taxed. This bill proposes an exemption for these social services.
Nonetheless, the government could have gone further. Why stop at these exemptions? Why apply tax exemption only to speech therapy services, social work services, health services for our seniors who are experiencing cardiovascular problems? Why not extend this measure to other equally essential services? I am referring to services provided by certain health practitioners such as psychologists. If a child needs to consult a psychologist, his or her parents should not have to be taxed to use such a service.
We know that in our school boards there is currently a serious shortage of professionals. I am not talking about teachers, but professionals who are essential to the development of our children in our ever changing society. We must ensure that our children and youth in our schools can get the support they need. Unfortunately, limited financial resources often prevent these children from getting these services and force parents to use external services to meet essential needs. In my opinion, these services should also be tax exempt.
Another aspect has to do with the tax free status of certain products, specifically, the sale and imports of a product that can replace blood. Lastly, certain anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Ativan are also being given tax free status.
Basically, this bill makes certain essential services exempt from the GST, specifically in health care. However, the government could have made an even bolder move by expanding the types of services covered by Bill C-40.
Bill C-40 also covers another aspect, namely, the GST rebate for motor vehicles that are specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities. In my view, in our so-called just society that aims to give everyone equal opportunity—and Quebec society has already asserted this equal opportunity approach—people with disabilities must be given everything they need to fully integrate into Quebec society, into our society.
This mobility is crucial for people who are losing their functional independence and people with disabilities, so they may access public services. Some Canadians are confined to their homes—for all kinds of reasons, including disabilities—which limits their integration into our society. We therefore welcome this GST rebate for motor vehicles that are specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities.
Bill C-40 covers another aspect, namely, another GST measure, this time concerning charitable organizations. As we all know, these organizations are in precarious financial situations and are often forced to organize fundraising initiatives to survive or just to maintain administrative services. This is a common problem. Lack of funding is clearly a problem for charitable organizations. Yet, they provide a great deal of support to groups that, once again, are often very vulnerable. We see these well-established charities at work in our ridings, as they solicit us every year for a little help. Unfortunately, we have no programs or financial means available to be able to help them.
Examining a bill like Bill C-40 is a perfect opportunity for us to say yes, we can help them when it comes to taxes. We will support a bill that will exempt goods supplied with a property under short-term leases. What does that mean? It means that if a charity decides to acquire a good supplied by a property lessor in a short-term lease, this product would be exempt from GST.
To repeat, this helps out these charities and lightens their financial load. At the end of the day, we are not only helping charities, but also the individuals and groups who benefit from the services offered by the non-profit organizations. We commend the measure in Bill C-40 which aims to make goods supplied with a property for non-profit organizations GST-exempt.
The second GST measure is the transitional GST relief for a foreign bank that decides to restructure its Canadian subsidiary into a Canadian branch. We must have a better harmonized tax system. There is currently competition, which must be harmonized, particularly in terms of existing taxation in the United States. Transitional GST reliefs for the foreign banks that decide to restructure and set up shop here, in Canada, will only strengthen our financial market, our banking system, and the economies of Quebec and Canada.
The third measure is the exclusion from the GST/HST base of beverage container deposits that are refundable to the consumer. This is an interesting measure because our society has decided that sustainable development will serve as the cornerstone for its development. Such a society must encourage recycling initiatives. This is an unequivocal fact. However, although Quebeckers and Canadians have clearly affirmed their desire to focus on and accelerate the implementation of a beverage container recycling system—particularly in Quebec—there are still tax irritants, elements that prevent us from doing more in the areas of deposit-refund systems and recycling.
We must therefore make it easier to manage recycling and to exclude beverage container deposits from GST/HST. I believe that is a step in the right direction. Naturally it is not a panacea. It not enough to ensure that there will be a Quebec or Canada-wide recycling system based on a deposit refund system. However, it does remove a tax constraint and lessens the administrative burden on the application of a deposit refund system and recycling. In this regard, it is definitely a step in the right direction. It certainly will help organizations such as Recyc-Québec, which has carried out several studies and promoted this vital debate about the importance of implementing a deposit refund system.
There are other measures pertaining to the excise tax. I am thinking of, among others, part 2 of the bill, which amends the Excise Tax Act, 2001. Two significant changes are made by Bill C-40. First, the bill seeks to improve the operation of the excise tax and then to adjust administrative practices in order to develop and promote the growth of a certain number of industries, particularly measures pertaining to alcohol and specifically wine.
The objective of Bill C-40 is to encourage the growth of the wine industry in Canada. It is not a measure that benefits only the rest of Canada; it is a measure that will also benefit Quebec. We know that there are currently 42 vineyards in Quebec. More than 1,000 hectares of vines are now under development and 300,000 bottles of wine are produced each year. That shows that there is a vibrant wine sector at work in Quebec.
The latest competitions held in Quebec and in Canada have demonstrated the strength of this sector. Last month, from April 20 to 22, an important competition known as the Coupe des Nations was held as part of the Festival de la gastronomie de Québec. Believe it or not, Quebec was one of the standouts. The Quebec vineyards really stood out. They won 34 new medals for Quebec wines. Quebec vineyards won almost 35% of the medals awarded during this festival, at which many vineyards were represented. What does that prove? It proves that there is energy at work that we must maintain and that we must strengthen in the future to ensure that these vineyards can benefit from tax breaks.
What is there in Bill C-40 that will provide major benefits to this industry? It provides for deferral of tax by small vintners selling wine on consignment. They will not have to pay the GST until the product is sold. That is significant because it means that the vintners, who are very often small businesses—not even medium-sized businesses, except in very rare cases—with very limited resources at their disposal, will be able to put off an expense until the product has been sold.
Small producers will make their tax payments once the product has been sold. This will provide much more breathing room to the small vintners. In addition, our homegrown products in all regions of Quebec will certainly benefit from such a measure.
I will close by saying that we are in favour of Bill C-40, because it gives hope to the people who are most vulnerable in our society, it ensures increased growth in some essential sectors of Quebec economic activity, and it lightens the tax burden on certain groups in our society. All of this promotes a more sustainable society that favours fairness and economic growth.
The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
May 14th, 2007 / 6:15 p.m.
Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to present today the results of my consideration and analysis of Bill C-40, which I have studied closely.
This bill is divided into three parts. The first part aims to institute corrective steps to improve and specify certain measures having to do with the collection of the GST. The second part amends the act in order to zero-rate particular products and services. It then turns to the excise tax, laying out certain measures related to the taxation of wine, beer and spirits. The third part amends the rules on the air travellers security charge collected at various airports.
Let us take a closer look at each of these three parts. First of all, the measures concerning the GST and the HST, which applies in some provinces, are divided into five distinct categories. Also—and I find this quite interesting—this bill modifies rules that apply to health services, charities, business arrangements, governments and the process by which the GST is administered.
With respect to health, this bill amends the act to confirm—and this is very important to me—the exemption for speech-language pathology services. This important amendment confirms the tax-exempt status of these services and makes it easier for young people struggling with language difficulties to access them. As I said, this is a personal issue for me. I spent many years working in health care, specifically, in child psychiatry. I know that this measure will be very beneficial to children struggling with this difficulty and to their parents, because they are the ones who pay for therapy. Parents of children with such difficulties really appreciate this kind of tax relief. They need support, both financial and moral.
I am sure that this tax exemption will relieve parents who have to seek this kind of care of an enormous burden. During my years in child psychiatry, I saw countless parents struggle helplessly with the cost of these services. People were torn. Sometimes, they said they did not have enough money to ensure proper treatment for their children. I think that this bill will really lend a hand. This is an important part of this bill. It will give hope to these parents who need a lot of support as they try to provide their children with the services they need to develop normally. Now they will have the resources to ensure their children's optimal development. In addition to helping children, this measure will also help seniors access these services.
With the rising incidence of heart disease and stroke, many older people need speech-language pathology services. Often, older people have limited financial resources.
I think this measure will help children struggling with language difficulties, their parents, and various seniors who have unfortunately had accidents and need these services.
The bill also exempts health-related services rendered in the practise of the profession of social work. Earlier I heard one of my colleagues ask whether we should extend this to other professions, in particular psychologists, and potentially remedial teachers. It should really be considered, because these kinds of services most often target people with severe difficulties, and the government could provide additional assistance to these people.
Such measures are important because, among other things, they facilitate access to private social work services. So the people who really need it have quick access to these services without constantly wondering if they can really afford them. This measure in the new bill is very important.
We know that when the legislation takes effect, the government will be able remove taxes from sales and imports of a product that can, in some instances, replace blood, a very important alternative for saving the live of a seriously injured patient.
This bill will also restore the zero-rated status of a group of drugs, with very scientific names, known as benzodiazepines. This is extremely important because they are medicinal derivatives used by individuals suffering from anxiety. We are talking about such drugs as Valium, Ativan and others that relieve the anxiety of those suffering from more or less serious mental illnesses. They are also used to help with drug or alcohol withdrawal. This measure will once again relieve the financial burden for those individuals who require these types of medications. Quite often, the individuals who need these services or medications find themselves in more difficult circumstances. Therefore, we must support any measure that can help reduce expenses for these individuals and that also seeks to improve access to better and more significant health care. That is what we are going to do.
Finally, still in the health care sector, the bill will provide for the reimbursement of the GST for those who use specially equipped motor vehicles. I am thinking mainly of those with severe physical handicaps. When these individuals resell or have to adapt their vehicles, they need the government's help, once again, to make it easier to access services and, at the same time, improve their quality of life. Their everyday life changes considerably when governments provide more readily accessible financial assistance.
Charities will be affected by different measures in this bill. One amendment exempting supplies by charities of real property under short-term leases and licences will be extended to any goods supplied with such property. Hence, the range of services provided by charities is expanded without the rate of taxation necessarily being too high.
This measure represents savings for such organizations, which can improve their service to a clientele that, once again, often consists of the most disadvantaged in our society. This gives them some room to manoeuvre, which is quite often required to maintain their activities. They need government support and that is provided by this bill.
As far as business arrangements are concerned, the bill amends the GST Act. It provides transitional relief on the initial asset transfer by a foreign bank that restructures its Canadian subsidiary into a Canadian branch. This measure will act as an incentive to foreign banks in Canada to restructure their subsidiaries as Canadian branches, which will promote more competition in the Canadian banking sector.
The bill also removes technical impediments that hinder the use of existing group relief provisions under the GST/HST. This amendment simply clarifies the rules for the application of legislation already in effect.
In addition, the bill simplifies compliance by excluding beverage container deposits that are refundable to the consumer from the GST/HST base. This will make it easier for businesses to manage collection and will lighten the regulatory burden associated with deposits, with a view to promoting more recycling and environmental protection. The importance of it all becomes more obvious to me in the light of all the debates that are held on the various measures dealing with the protection of the environment here in the House and elsewhere. I think we should support any measure that can help save the planet. This might not be an impressive measure, but it is by making small adjustments that we will succeed and achieve results.
The fourth category applies to the government. If the bill is passed, it will exempt a supply of a right to file or retrieve a document or information stored in an electronic official registry. This provision will allow municipalities and other government agencies to provide information to individuals at a lesser cost than before. With such a measure, the individual comes out a winner since access to information will be easier.
The bill also ensures that a small supplier division of a municipality is treated in the same manner as a municipality that is a small supplier. Thus, fair treatment will be respected.
Finally, it is important to note that this is a significant change that must be taken into account in the application of the legislation. The bill adds a discretionary power—which is interesting— for the Minister of National Revenue to accept late-filed applications for the GST New Housing Rebate and the Nova Scotia HST New Housing Rebate for owner-built homes, where exceptional circumstances have prevented the applicant from meeting the normal filing deadline.
These are measures that support the ordinary citizen, who is often overwhelmed by all the paperwork involved in applying for an exemption or a rebate. Sometimes people are denied their right because they did not manage to fill out the entire form on time. In that situation, we are helping them in a very tangible way.
The bill adds a discretionary power for the Minister of National Revenue to accept late-filed elections between closely related financial institutions for adjustments that they are required to make for the provincial component of the GST and the provincial sales tax.
As far as exchanging information is concerned, it permits the Minister of National Revenue to exchange GST and QST information in Quebec with foreign governments that are signatories to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The government will thereby be in a better position to deal with tax evasion. How much money is lost through the entire tax evasion scheme? How many people do not pay taxes when they should? If, through measures that will allow for a better exchange of information, we can limit tax evasion, that is a major bonus for the government.
Finally, the bill gives the Chief Statistician of Canada the discretionary power to provide statistical information concerning business activities to the provinces, similar to an existing provision in the Income Tax Act. This new power will give the provinces better access to income statistics, which will allow them to better focus their public policies.
I would now like to discuss some of the measures that propose an amendment to the excise tax. These measures deal with tobacco and seek to give greater precision to certain provisions contained in the Excise Tax Act in order to better defend against the smuggling of tobacco products and facilitate collection of taxes on tobacco. The bill includes measures to extend the requirement to identify the origin of tobacco products to all products, including those sold at duty-free shops or for export.
It clarifies that cigarettes, tobacco sticks, fine-cut tobacco or cigars, but not packaged raw leaf tobacco, may be supplied to the export market or the domestic duty-free market.
As for alcohol, the bill has two main objectives. First, it allows provincial liquor boards and vintners to possess an equipment similar to a still for the purpose of analyzing substances containing ethyl alcohol without having to hold a spirits licence. I believe that, for the security of citizens, vintners must be better able to ensure the safety of their operations and products.
This measure will help liquor boards, especially in Quebec, and vintners reduce the huge paper burden as well as major costs for these licences. Moreover, to promote the growth of the wine industry, the government, by passing this bill, will allow for the deferring of the payment of duty by small vintners selling wine on consignment in retail stores operated by an association of vintners.
There are also measures to help vintners. My colleague talked about Quebec wine producers earlier. In 2006, there were 42 vineyards in many regions of Quebec, including Lanaudière, the Eastern Townships, Montérégie and the Lower Laurentians. Every year, over 100 hectares of vines are cultivated in Quebec, and the sector has experienced steady growth over the past few years. This measure will help wine producers and will diversify and increase wine production in Quebec. The main products are excellent: white wine, ice wine and fortified wine. This measure will promote the development of this industry, improve marketing of products made in Quebec and support the province's agro-tourism opportunities, which are becoming more and more popular. I am thinking of Quebec's Wine Route and its network of small producers who will appreciate this support for the development of their industry.
The third and final part of the bill includes previously announced relief provisions with respect to the air travellers security charge. It also addresses the Air Travellers Security Charge Act. Basically, the bill relieves, in particular circumstances, the air travellers security charge in respect of air travel sold by resellers or donated by air carriers.
The bill provides authority for the Governor in Council to add, delete or vary by regulation the schedule of listed airports. For example, the bill will immediately change the status of three Quebec airports to ensure that standards are appropriate for the market and market demands.
The bill removes La Grande-3 and La Grande-4 from the list of airports subject to the surcharge under the Air Travellers Security Charge Act. This measure reflects the special nature of these airports where security is not as big an issue as it is in larger airports that have different goals. This corrects a situation that these airports found challenging.
However, the amazing increase in air traffic at the Mont-Tremblant airport, which is somewhat the opposite, has meant that the minister has decided to include it in the list of airports now subject to the air travellers security charge. This is a good thing because there is a lot of international traffic at this airport.
Consequently, it is clear that all these measures, changes and improvements mean that Bill C-40 is evidently in the best interest of Quebeckers. We are convinced that the people as a whole will support us. The Bloc Quebecois will then vote in favour of this bill.
I would like to end by saying that Bill C-40 is designed to correct the technical shortcomings I mentioned earlier pertaining to the GST and the excise tax. The tax would be removed from certain medical services so as to facilitate access to them and lighten the tax burden for charitable organizations. The bill contains measures that will benefit small wine producers. It tightens the rules governing the production and sale of tobacco products in order to fight smuggling and it adapts the air travellers security charge to the present situation in Quebec.
The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of this bill and will support it.
Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006
May 14th, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate a number of the members who took the time to review some of the provisions of Bill C-40 as they relate to their regions or matters which are of particular interest to them or their constituents.
In the question I asked of the previous speaker, I was not being facetious. I looked at the bill and took the opportunity to review its various provisions. Being the co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee, it made me wonder why so many of these provisions which appear to be clarifying or directed at operational efficiency are not necessarily changing the legislation with respect to the exigency of a tax.
One member described this as an omnibus bill. That is exactly what it is. It touches a number of acts. It does not read as a story from beginning to end where everything builds on everything else. In fact, one has to have in hand the related legislation and the specific sections to which those changes may relate and then they must be looked at in context. I suspect that if we were to take all of the related documents that tie into this to help us understand what it really meant, it would probably take days and days simply to peruse everything.
Having said that, it certainly makes a good case for those who craft the legislation to consider the use of regulations more fully in terms of providing the tools to those responsible for accountability of the legislation to be able to make the kinds of changes where fairness or operational efficiency, et cetera, may be the object. Any regulations appended to a piece of legislation must be authorized by the legislation itself. We cannot make law through regulations, but we can certainly provide the detail.
As a chartered accountant I have spent many years playing around with provisions within the income tax system. That document is very unwieldy and cumbersome, but in some respects it takes into account some of the other tools that are available to modify legislation or at least the application of legislation by the use of regulations. There is a variety of other documents, whether they be interpretation bulletins or information circulars, which also help Canadians.
I wanted to raise that point simply because it happens a lot in this place. It is very difficult for members of the finance committee who have the opportunity after second reading to have witnesses from the department come forward to provide explanations. Everyone is not a tax expert. What is needed is the lay language, what we lay out for other parliamentarians.
The way this place operates, very often parliamentarians have seconded the responsibility to do the due diligence on legislation to their colleagues at committee. They accept that the work has been done in a proper fashion and that the key elements of concern have been raised with officials and other witnesses, who may be stakeholders and have come before the committee to deal with it. It makes it very awkward to ask what the relevance is of the third reading debate if we cannot really get into some of the detail.
There is a lot of detail here. I am not sure whether or not there will be many answers forthcoming from the House. It would be a very interesting process to try to explain some of these measures. For instance, there is a page and a half which deals with the definition of what a returnable container is and a returnable container charge. The amendment in one aspect takes about a half a page to insert the words “the returnable container in a province”. That is the change. I am not sure whether or not there is anything more to that, other than there has to have been a dispute at some point in time where someone challenged the legislation on a clarity issue and this was simply a matter of trying to resolve that and put that issue to bed.
A number of members talked very well with regard to the changes as they affect charitable groups and organizations. I certainly concur with the direction of the changes that have taken place, particularly since most members of Parliament have been extensively involved with charitable groups. Those groups have had very good representation on the Hill. A number of the points they have raised, whether it be directly with members or through related committees, have been very helpful.
Scanning down the list of issues, some who may be watching will probably wonder why we are talking about the GST and HST. That came up in the 35th Parliament when there was legislation to provide for the replacement of the GST with a revenue equivalent, which was taken up by certain provinces. The HST, which stands for harmonized sales tax, rather than goods and services tax, combines both the federal and the provincial taxes into a one line item.
In this bill the principal measures that were taken with regard to the goods and services tax, or where applicable the harmonized sales tax in certain provinces, have to do with a couple of key areas, certainly in the area of health. With regard to health, Bill C-40 confirms the GST-HST exemption for speech language pathology services. It also exempts health related services rendered in the practise of professional social work, zero rates sales and the importation of a blood substitute known as plasma expander. It restores the zero rated status of a group of drugs collectively known as benzodiazepines. It broadens the specially equipped vehicle GST- HST rebate so that the rebate applies to motor vehicles that have been used subsequent to being specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities.
I looked at those specifically. I cannot say that I have looked at much more in the bill simply because there was not sufficient time to do it properly. The one area where I thought the bill opened up some interesting horizons has to do with the exempt status of health related services rendered in the practise of the profession of social work.
If we look at the related legislation and look at the practise of social work, I have a feeling that the discussion of this and maybe the change that has been made here may open up a broader range of requests for the same exempt status with regard to social work as defined. I am not sure that is a bad thing either, but it does point out that the tax system is never static.
When certain changes are made, others in the same or similar activity want to examine the rationalization for a change in the Excise Tax Act or the Income Tax Act. They want to more fully understand whether or not we are talking about providing benefits to certain groups that may have a stronger lobby or that may have come up with certain other challenges or interpretations to the application of existing rules, to changes in regulations or to changes in the laws in other jurisdictions. We often want to look at those to ensure we are keeping up with the trends with an international filter on what we do.
I thought that was interesting and I certainly support it conceptually. I do not know what might come up, but every time we touch something, others see a relation to their work somehow.
On Friday I had an opportunity to work in my constituency office. I had a visit from a gentleman who has a business which provides home care for seniors. It is an expansive home care service, and includes such things as bathing, medication, shopping, almost whatever service the senior might need. The gentleman asked whether there was any way he could get some breaks. It is an important job and he has to pay people, which is his biggest expense. He would like some sort of subsidy or assistance because, like most social work, it is generally some of the lowest paid work on a per hour basis of most professions. There are a lot of people who are paid very, very poorly in the provision of social related work.
I am not sure how we get from here to there, but this is part of that whole argument about the prosperity gap, about the difference between the rich and the poor. That gap is widening. There are only certain amounts of money. For people who require social assistance, as related to the social work definition, there is only so much that can be afforded and only so much that can be taken out of the customer to provide the services. I flag that issue. This may open up some interesting horizons for a number of businesses that qualify under the current definition of the profession of social work.
There is the discussion also related to charities. As I said, I certainly agree with the exemption of supplies by charities of real property under short term leases and licences.
There is a section on business arrangements. I do not think I can add any more to the debate on that.
There was some discussion about tobacco and alcohol. I thought it was interesting. This morning my private member's bill related to alcohol warning labels was before the House. I looked very carefully at the provisions in Bill C-40 to see if there was a tie-in. I suppose the only tie-in is that they both relate to alcohol, but not with regard to the tax.
In any event, with regard to tobacco, this bill extends the requirement to identify the origin of tobacco products to all products, including those for sale at duty free shops or for export, consistent with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is an international treaty on tobacco control. It also clarifies that cigarettes, tobacco sticks, fine cut tobacco and cigars, but not packaged raw leaf tobacco, may be supplied to the export market or the domestic duty free market. These changes were made, I am sure, from the interventions of the duty free industry and certainly those who are involved in the export market. We have had a number of discussions over the years about how we operate vis-à-vis other countries with which we have trade relations.
With regard to alcohol, the bill authorizes private laboratories, provincial liquor boards and vintners to possess a still or similar equipment to produce spirits for the purpose of analyzing substances containing ethyl alcohol, which is beverage alcohol. Ethanol is another word that is used to describe it. It is a poison, but I will not go there because that is a whole other area of interest, certainly with regard to me, but in any event, with regard to analyzing substances containing ethyl alcohol, it authorizes laboratories, boards and vintners to possess a still or similar equipment without holding a spirits licence.
That is interesting because it seems to me that in our legislation having a licence to do something, to possess things and so on, is a precursor to doing certain activities. In this particular case, I am sure that probably a number of petitioners made argument before the tax authorities that in the case of private laboratories or provincial liquor boards and vintners, where the analyzing of substances takes place, the need for a licence was not necessary. I suspect that we are talking about some other regulatory implications, but in this particular case I suspect that the licensing process may be a problem for some of them.
The other area I simply want to comment on is the GST rebate program for tourists. As we know, this has been a very contentious issue for a number of members of Parliament, particularly with regard to those members who are in border areas.
Tourism is an extraordinarily important part of the Canadian economy. I had the opportunity to chair the outdoor caucus of our caucus in the last Parliament and I got to know quite a bit about the tourism industry. Particularly after SARS, which was I think what spawned that caucus, that group of parliamentarians interested in the tourism impacts, it was amazing to find out how sensitive the industry was to disruptions that in fact really did not affect tourist areas but were more in the urban centres. Yet we found that in a broad range of goods and services, whether it was lodging, rental of boats or fishing equipment or other purchases of equipment, all of those things took a dramatic decline.
There is another aspect. I think those members who are from the Maritimes, and in particular P.E.I., will tell you that tourism is down very substantially now. They believe, whether because of SARS or because of the GST rebate program for tourists, that those who had come here in the past suddenly found that this was enough to make them look for substitutes. They started to look for other options. In fact, many found that the substitutes, which were a better economic deal for them, had the same or similar benefits or enjoyment they had when coming to Canada.
Therefore, I am very pleased to see that this also has been resolved. I think it is important that Canada's tourist industry continue to be well supported. It is unfortunate that some damage has been done. In an economic downturn, and in particular where the dollar has been quite strong, we have to be vigilant about the unintended consequences of certain moves.
I think it behooves all of us to continue to urge those responsible for the accountability of our financial policy to think it through very carefully and to do the consultations that are necessary to ensure that our tax system remains not only operational but fair.