Bill C-288 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Johanne Deschamps Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
Opposition Motion—The Environment
Business of Supply
April 14th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak today to the Liberal opposition motion on climate change. In the next 20 minutes I will try to show that, as we look ahead to the climate change conference in Cancún eight months from now, we must take real action to deal with the climate change crisis we are going through.
I do not know whether it is a coincidence or not, but it is a bit paradoxical that the Liberal opposition motion comes just a few hours before an important vote on NDP Bill C-311. It is as if the Liberal Party were trying to show that a parliamentary motion was the best response to a legislative initiative. There is nothing stronger legislatively than a bill, whether it comes from the government or from a private member.
The Liberal Party showed leadership on this issue in the past. I remember when the Liberals introduced Bill C-288, which was sponsored by the member for Honoré-Mercier. The purpose of this bill was to implement the Kyoto protocol. At the time, the Liberal Party understood that it took a bill to ensure that international climate change agreements, and the Kyoto protocol in particular, had some regulatory teeth. This is what the NDP has understood in recent years, and a parliamentary motion is no substitute for a private member's bill.
We think the Liberal Party motion, which I would describe as epic in length, is commendable. In the 13 years I have been sitting in Parliament, I have rarely seen such a long motion. I have read it and re-read it. There are no less than 10 points in this motion. The position of this Parliament could very well have been summed up in just three or four points, as the Bloc Québécois did on the eve of the Copenhagen climate change conference.
What did the Bloc Québécois say a few weeks before the Copenhagen climate change conference? The Bloc limited its opposition motion to three points. First, Canada must commit to doing everything in its power to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2oC higher than in the pre-industrial period. Second, it must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. Third, it must commit to giving developing countries the technological and financial means to adapt to climate change.
The motion could have stopped there, but no, here we have a 10 point motion, which we support, of course. Nevertheless, the motion could have been clearer.
Let us look at the first point. The Liberal Party wants the government to:
...use the legislative, regulatory and fiscal authorities already available to the Government of Canada to put in place immediately a national climate change plan that implements economy-wide regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and invests in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency in order for Canada to compete in the new green economy;
How could we be against this first point of the motion? We are somewhat surprised that today, in 2010, the Liberal Party is proposing regulation. I remember what the Liberal Party was proposing in 1997-98. I was here in the House at the time. It was not proposing a regulatory approach to fight climate change. It was proposing a voluntary approach.
It proposed sector-by-sector negotiations of greenhouse gas reduction agreements that would not have the force of law. This was done in the pulp and paper sector and the steel industry. However, it became evident that the voluntary approach put forward by the Chrétien government made it impossible to respect our international commitments on greenhouse gas reductions. Today, the Liberal Party realizes that the voluntary approach proposed by the Liberal government at that time has not achieved its objectives and that a regulatory approach is needed.
We have before us a Conservative government that does have a regulatory framework for fighting climate change. However, after all these years, we are still waiting for greenhouse gas reduction regulations. We have not found an approach that could have resulted in substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The government has two means at its disposal: the regulatory approach and implementation of a greener tax system, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide tax incentives to environmental industries that contribute to those reductions. I will come back to that later.
However, we only have a regulatory framework before us, one without targets and without greenhouse gas emission regulations. We support the climate change regulations. However, we do not want to adopt the sectoral approach proposed by the federal government, which consists of putting all Canadian industrial sectors on an equal footing, especially the major industrial emitters.
In Quebec, we figure that we have been taking responsibility since the beginning of the 1990s. Manitoba was one of the first provinces to implement a plan to fight climate change. These plans have produced concrete results: in 2007, we saw a 23.6% reduction in greenhouse gases in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, compared to the 1990 levels.
Now, all the federal parties seem to be proposing putting the Quebec manufacturing sector, which has cut its greenhouse gas emissions, on an equal footing with the other major industrial emitters. I am referring, of course, to Canada's oil and gas industry. This is unacceptable, because this approach favours the polluter-paid principle, instead of the polluter-pay principle.
We are saying yes to regulations, but as my colleagues said earlier, we must use the triptych approach that was developed at a university in Austria, which puts responsibility on the provinces. Canada can obviously negotiate greenhouse gas reductions on the international scene, as Europe did with an 8% reduction as part of the Kyoto protocol. But let the provinces achieve their targets in their own way, in their own jurisdictions. We must remember that under the Constitution, natural resources are a provincial jurisdiction.
The government has been proposing this asymmetrical approach for so many years within the Canadian federation. Yes to a Canada-wide target for reducing greenhouse gases, but let us keep our provincial reduction targets.
The Liberal Party's second point is that the government should “stop putting Canada’s environmental and economic future at risk by insisting that Canada must wait for the United States to act first before showing our own leadership on this most vital issue.” Over the past few years we have seen the central federal government's complacency and lack of leadership when it comes to climate change. This is why the provinces decided to negotiate agreements with American states as part of climate groups.
This demonstrates that nations, that the Quebec nation, can negotiate with American states and move the climate issue forward more quickly than the federal government has been able to do over the past few years.
The best example is most likely that of automobile regulations. For years Ottawa refused to implement automobile manufacturing standards similar to those in California. Quebec decided to harmonize its standards with those in California. It was successful in pressuring central governments to adopt more acceptable federal environmental standards.
This shows that Quebec is better than the federal government at influencing the fight against climate change on a continental scale.
The third point of the motion talks about setting “a domestic legally-binding long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050”. This is probably the weakest aspect of the motion, which is unfortunate. We would have expected more from the Liberal Party.
We can set long term targets, but we also need to set short and medium term targets. Where are the greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020? For the past few years scientists have been saying that if we want to limit temperature increases to two degrees Celsius, industrialized countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below the 1990 level by 2020, and not by 2050.
With this motion and this government we will be putting off dealing with these problems. They refuse to tackle climate change in the short and medium term and are deferring efforts until 2050. We cannot accept this, especially at a time when industrialized countries are meeting in Canada for the G20. We must send a clear message: in eight months in Cancún, we will be ready to make short and medium term commitments.
Unfortunately, this motion gives no indication of any short and medium term efforts. It talks about long term efforts, which are commendable and which we do not oppose. However, this is an urgent problem that requires short and medium term targets.
The fourth point of the motion has to do with reporting “to Parliament annually on its policies and proposals to achieve the trajectory toward the 80 percent target and revise as necessary”. I think these aspects were taken from Bill C-288, at the time introduced by the Liberal Party. The purpose is probably to allow the environment commissioner to play a greater role. Parliament must focus on achieving these targets. We completely agree with this proposal.
The motion goes on to talk about establishing “a non-partisan expert group approved by Parliament to set a science-based emissions trajectory to reach that 80 percent reduction target”. Clearly, we must ensure that any targets we set are not subject to the vagaries of political change in Ottawa. Science has to resume a leading role in helping elected officials make good decisions.
The budget for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was cut. The government is trying to muzzle Environment Canada scientists by giving them a communications guide and telling them that their research, reports and documents have to be relevant to the government's goals and policies. That is nonsensical. A healthy government should ensure that scientists have complete independence to do their scientific work.
That is why we need an independent group of scientific experts to make recommendations to parliamentarians and government free from the influence of political vagaries in Ottawa.
The sixth point calls on the government to “reverse the decision to cut the ecoENERGY program”. The first thing this government did when it came to power was initiate a program review. It directed the Treasury Board to assess the ecoenergy programs and divide them into three categories: programs to cut, programs to maintain and programs to improve.
That was terrible for the economy itself, and especially for the desire and the vision to stimulate a greener economy. The ecoauto program was eliminated. The program was not perfect. It provided tax incentives to people who purchased vehicles that consumed around 9 litres of gas per 100 kilometres. The government wanted to change the tax paradigm to give people who bought energy-efficient vehicles a refund. I strongly believe that the measure was in line with what I would call strategic environmental assessment to achieve better governance and greener taxation.
Environmental companies told us that under the wind power production incentive or WPPI, they received tax assistance of 1¢ to 1.5¢ per kilowatt hour produced using wind energy. This program was very successful and promoted wind energy. Subsequent budgets have not provided any money for the WPPI or any tax assistance for the wind industry, and Canadian companies are now telling us that they are going to leave Canada for certain U.S. states, because the American taxation system is more beneficial.
The green shift is failing. Canada does not realize the impact of the decisions it is making, at a time when all the world economies that are going through financial, climate or food crises all agree that what is needed is a green new deal. The basis for our economic recovery must be such that we can build an economy that is not in the stone age, but really turned toward the future.
That is why, in October 2008, the UN sent a clear message to industrialized countries about a green new deal. We must reinvest in renewable energy, promote energy efficiency and make our buildings greener. Sadly, the government has missed this opportunity.
I could go on at length, but I will keep my remarks to just a few minutes. This official opposition motion is clearly commendable and worthwhile. We will support this motion, but we would have liked it to go further and be more in keeping with the principles in Bill C-311 in order to deal with the climate change crisis we are going through now, eight months before the major climate change conference in Cancún.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
March 25th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC
Mr. Speaker, first, I want to once again thank the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle for introducing and vigorously defending the bill which, as we all know, had reached the Senate before the October 2008 election was called. I am also taking this opportunity to thank Liberal members who have spoken so far, whether to address the first bill, namely Bill C-207, or this one, Bill C-288. I also want to thank NDP members.
The tax credit is for a graduate who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed his studies, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a region that is facing economic and demographic difficulties. The bill provides for a tax credit of up to a maximum of $8,000 to a young graduate, for a minimum of three years.
The purpose of this legislation is to curb the exodus of young graduates towards large urban centres, to encourage them to settle in regions to undertake their professional career, and to hire, for the regions' benefit, a skilled workforce.
The tax credit applies to an individual who, in the 24-month period that follows the date on which he successfully completed studies leading to the awarding of a recognized diploma, begins to hold a job in his area of specialization, in a designated region where he is going to settle.
At second reading, some members pointed out that the bill should be complemented by a comprehensive regional development plan. I certainly agree with this view, but Bill C-288 is a first step that will allow our regions and our regional businesses to hire and keep a skilled workforce.
I am very grateful to all those who have expressed their support here for this legislation, and to those who came to support us at various events, including the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec (FADOQ), the Liberal member for Honoré-Mercier, and the NDP member for Churchill, who were present at the press conference organized by the Bloc Québécois to support these measures. All these stakeholders expressed their support for this concrete and effective incentive, which consist in giving a tax credit to young graduates who settle in a designated region to work there.
A similar tax credit implemented by the Quebec government has proven its worth. The program was established in 2003, which means that it is almost in its eighth year. It helps new graduates settle in resource regions, the description used by the Government of Quebec. In the first year of the program, 2,000 young people applied for the tax credit; this number has since risen to 9,000. Some regions are beginning to feel the positive effects of this program. In my region, in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, migration is still negative but has almost reached zero.
Therefore, I am asking the members of this House to help our rural areas and to help our regions experiencing economic difficulties and losing population by supporting our youth. We must stop the population drain and the exodus of youth. These are two important issues in our regions. We must help develop processing industries by providing our businesses with access to the skilled labour force they need.
No one in the House would be surprised to hear me say that the regions of Quebec, and a number of regions in other Canadian provinces, are at the end of their rope and have been since long before the economic crisis. I am thinking about northern Ontario and British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Several parts of these regions have been hurting for years. It goes without saying that a tax credit to encourage young people to settle or even stay in a region would be greatly beneficial.
Our regions are going through a real crisis and the Conservative government is not paying any attention. I hope that this time the members opposite will have a little more humility and sensitivity and listen to the cry for help coming from the regions and the young people who live there.
I am especially disappointed in the Conservative members from Quebec and even more so in the two ministers from my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, who are very familiar with this measure that was implemented by the Government of Quebec in 2003, as I was saying earlier.
Again, I am calling on the Conservative members from Quebec, more specifically the hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and for Jonquière—Alma who, I repeat, are well aware of the importance of and benefits derived from this legislation and this program, to pass along the message within their caucus about the positive aspects of such a measure.
For those members who do not realize, the Government of Quebec is not the only one that has adopted such programs. The Saskatchewan provincial government has had a similar program for a few years, which gives a credit of up to $20,000 over a period of seven years.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer's report mentions five Canadian provinces—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—that have introduced incentive measures to attract young people to regions that are experiencing economic difficulties or that are losing young people.
The bill addresses a very serious problem. Many regions are in a period of economic distress, which of course is only increasing the trend of youth out-migration. Indeed, the further we go from the main centres, the more the population is declining. Quebec, like Saskatchewan, has taken measures to stem the tide. As I mentioned earlier, other Canadian provinces have adopted incentive measures.
The exodus of youth and the depopulation of the regions are not new phenomena. However, for decades, they were offset by high birth rates. With the drastic decline in the birth rate, the challenge today is to keep these young people in the regions and to attract others to come and settle there. Time is of the essence because the trend has continued since the 1990s and the situation is worsening in several areas of Quebec and Canada.
At present, the population is declining in 6 of the 17 administrative regions in Quebec, including the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspé and Mauricie. The regions need young people, especially skilled young people. With youth out-migration, the population ages faster and regions become less vital. The exodus of skilled individuals reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines regions' ability to innovate. These factors affect the potential for development and could send the regions into a downward spiral that will ultimately destroy them. It is a downward spiral that cannot be stopped.
The shortage of skilled workers in the regions is not solely a matter of training. In fact, the young people from the regions are no less educated than those in the big cities. The problem is rather that young people from the regions do not live there any more. There is an out-migration of young people and skilled workers.
I would like to remind the members of the House that when the Standing Committee on Finance studied this bill, an amendment was added to ensure that this program was truly directed to the regions. Metropolitan regions with a population of more than 200,000 are excluded.
I would like each member of the House, particularly those in the Conservative Party, to take the time to study this bill closely so that they can see the positives in this measure that would help the regions and young people.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
March 25th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
Niki Ashton Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my deliberation on Bill C-288 by setting the stage. I was born in a town called Thompson, Manitoba, a town of 15,000 people. Like most of the people I went to school with who chose to pursue post-secondary education, I had to leave my home community. The closest place I could achieve a post-secondary education and follow my educational path was 800 kilometres away in Winnipeg.
Hundreds of young people leave my community and communities like mine every year. Most of them do not come back. They do not come back because they go to a place to get an education and they put down roots there, whether by meeting other people, establishing a family, finding a job or liking where they are. I was one of the few who decided to come back because it was important to me to come back to give voice to the exact issues we in northern and rural Canada face: The bleeding of our population and of young people leaving to pursue opportunities that might not be supported in our region; and the challenges that we face in accessing services that Canadians in urban centres take for granted, whether health care, child care, infrastructure, recreation or basic services that so many Canadians have in abundance in urban centres.
For me and my party this bill is about responding to one of the biggest challenges that rural Canada faces, which is about losing that capital, losing that most valuable resource, our young people, that human resource which allows our communities to continue to exist, to build and prosper into the future.
The bill is fundamentally about investing in rural Canada, and as the rural and community development critic for the NDP, I am proud to stand here to say that we are supporting our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and are certainly glad to see the cooperation of the Liberal Party. I am very dismayed to see the position of the Conservative Party, a party that claims to represent rural Canada and that in fact has members of Parliament that span, certainly, the prairie region. When it comes to a bill that looks to respond fundamentally to one of the biggest challenges we face, not only are the Conservatives not supporting the bill but they are also criticizing it, this innovative step that goes to the core of encouraging the retention of young people in our rural communities. Many of their constituents would be dismayed to hear that as well.
This investment in rural Canada is a beginning and ought to be one step in a broader strategy on how we continue to build our country. Many people talk about how urbanization is the new wave and that we have so many people not simply coming from rural Canada, but also others moving from other urban centres and people immigrating to Canada, all of whom are increasingly going to urban centres.
While that may be true, rural communities still exist. Rural communities exist because people have laid roots there and because some of the most fundamental economic drivers in Canada are based there. Resource extraction, whether mining, oil and gas, or the minerals found in soil, and forestry are based in rural Canada. So much of what our economy depends on comes from rural Canada, and without people living in these communities, that extraction, that economic driver, would not exist.
What we need to be looking at are steps to invest in our rural communities. Looking at encouraging young people to come back is a key step. This needs to be followed by other steps that we in the NDP have been fighting for for quite some time, and that certainly are based on the fundamental values that our party was built on, in terms of investment in health care, for example.
The disparities between health care services in rural Canada and urban Canada are shocking. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities published a report in 2009 that discussed how quality of life in rural Canada was less than in urban Canada, which is unacceptable. One of the main ways in which it is worse is health care.
I am saddened to stand here and say that I do not have a family doctor, like so many people in my community and my region. We have fewer doctors compared with our population needs. We have less ability to access services, and certainly when it comes to acute care and specialized services.
We also do not have child care. We have fewer child care spaces than many urban centres have per population. Many young people want to make a go and stay in their communities and work in the industries that exist around them, but without those child care spaces many of them, particularly women, cannot pursue their chosen paths.
We also have substandard transportation infrastructure in my region. I rose in this House last week to talk about how I represent communities that do not have all-weather roads. In the year 2010, I represent 22 communities that do not have an all-weather road, not because they cannot have one, but because the federal government has not partnered and not been part of an innovative strategy to look at that. I am pleased to hear it has heeded the calls from the province and, certainly, at the federal level, from advocates, to look at solution around all-weather roads. I hope we will be looking at this in the very near future.
Moreover, there is the issue of recreational infrastructure, looking again at the fundamental question of the quality of life and at the need for basic services that keep people in their communities and keep them healthy and, in general, allow these communities to grow in a much better way.
Bill C-288 is part of that step and the reinvestments that we need to be seeing in rural Canada.
I would like to respond to some of the claims that I heard from the governing side today and on other occasions.
Someone commented that this undertaking would be too expensive. Speaking of offensive, I think that statement is offensive, to use that same language. It seems to me that many investments in rural Canada would be seen as being too expensive. It is too far away and there are not enough people, et cetera.
A couple of weeks ago, we saw quite a substantial flip-flop by the Minister of Industry. Organizations in my riding and across Canada were told that the community access program, which allows them to access the Internet, which many Canadians take for granted, was going to be cut. A senior's organization, The Pas Golden Age Group in Manitoba, was told that it would no longer receive money to invest in accessing the Internet. Yet after substantial pressure, and I am sure significant pressure from its own constituents, the government turned around.
Was the initial claim correct that it was too expensive to invest in something as fundamental as Internet service in rural Canada? Once the Conservatives heard the voice of reason and how fundamental this was, it seems the government realized quite abruptly that a change of course was needed.
We certainly hope that similar sentiments will be applied to this bill, in recognition that this is key to way we look at building our rural communities and the future of our country.
The other statement that really struck me was the reference to certain regions being economically depressed. What is offensive about being called economically depressed?
I come from a mining community, and I know communities where generation after generation people have given everything for the benefit of not just their community and the company there, but also for their country. We need to turn around the language where people say that Fort McMurray or some other region in Saskatchewan might be seen as economically depressed. We need to change that language because in these communities we need to be looking at alternatives. We need to look at ways of supporting the diversification of those economies and at other opportunities, rather than letting people who have given everything to our country suffer.
One step in that support for rural Canada as it builds to the future, despite the economic situation, would be to support this bill. It is a bill that gives back and gives to the future of Canada's rural and northern young people.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
March 25th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to debate Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions).
As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance for several years now, I want to point out that our committee has studied this bill many times. The committee has been through numerous consultations and amendments other than those mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, and I believe we have achieved a state of near-perfection.
Though this bill is somewhat imperfect, that is the case with most private members' bills in this place. It is no fault of anyone's, but with the private members' bills that are brought forward, there will be some imperfections because of the limited resources we have as individual members of Parliament. We are not the government. We do not have the bureaucracy behind us, so some of the bills are limited in terms of detail. We have to try to work those details out. That is the reason we send these bills to committee.
However I feel the bill does address a crucial area of the Canadian economy that the Conservative government has chosen to ignore.
The parliamentary secretary spoke about what happened in committee. The government could have taken steps to propose better legislation. It could have tabled legislation using all the resources of the government to address this issue. It could have tabled a more complete bill, a bill that would have considered the needs of regions, that would have tied regional development, along with job creation, innovation, which we have been talking about, and green technologies, to consider the needs of students and their employment futures.
Instead the government decided to shut down Parliament and go on vacation for a couple of months and came back with nothing more than a vision to change the national anthem.
Given the failure of the Conservatives to work for all Canadians, I think at this point Bill C-288 is the best option we have on the table.
To ensure a prosperous national economy, wealth must come not only from big cities. We need a broad range of skills and professions in all regions of our great country. As the member for a Montreal Island riding, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing people who live in the regions. I want to talk about the labour shortage, the high cost of transportation, the lack of public transit and other huge challenges for those who live in the regions.
Those are just some of the reasons I support this bill.
The failure of the government to propose long-term solutions to strengthen the economies of our smaller regions has led to entire communities being left behind. The costs associated with regional economic failure are too great to completely catalogue in the short time permitted for me today.
Of course these include the stagnation of economic development and growth in smaller communities, the breakup of communities as the most capable of the young people migrate elsewhere, the departure of industries as the local talent pool dries up, and increased burdens on the EI system as unemployment in the region increases.
These students sometimes not only move away from the regions into the cities but they also move away from the cities to other places and to other countries.
Bill C-288 introduces a tax credit for young graduates who settle in one of the geographic regions listed in the Regional Development Incentives Act to take up work in their field.
The tax credit can be anywhere from $200 to $750, which is a substantial amount to students who have recently completed their studies and earned their degrees and are ready to work. I do not think this measure will bankrupt the government. That kind of money will not hinder economic growth. In fact, these graduates can work in the regions and create still more jobs.
Even if they want to return to their hometowns, many new graduates cannot because they have student loans and simply cannot work for the typically lower salaries offered in the regions.
This bill would encourage many Canadians to return to their home regions after completing their studies. It would enable new graduates to benefit from a tax credit equal to 40% of their salary, up to $8,000. That is one of the things we asked for when the bill was referred to the committee.
The Bloc proposed an $8,000 tax credit. I proposed that that amount be spread over three years, in order to prevent students from returning for just one year to take advantage of the tax credit and then moving somewhere else.
The committee decided to introduce an initial amendment to spread the $8,000 over three years: for example, $3,000 the first year, $3,000 the second year and $2,000 the third year. That way, young people will stay for 12, 24 or 36 months or longer after they get their first job.
This would provide young graduates who want to ply their trades back home an adequate financial reason to do so, and at minimal cost. The provincial government in Quebec has already instituted a measure similar to the one proposed in Bill C-288 and it has been quite successful so far.
While the bill has much potential, we also talked about costs. We have had all kinds of costs and that is why the Liberals introduced an amendment that would be applicable to communities of 200,000 and less. We had a cost of $600 million and I think the Bloc came up with $160 million. We are comfortable with $160 million, so we in the Liberal Party are ready to support that.
Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Finance proposed an amendment that was approved by the member who had originally introduced the bill. That amendment ensures that the bill targets rural regions in particular, by excluding students who move to cities with a population of more than 200,000. Thus, the bill will achieve its goal, while ensuring that the cost of implementing it will be relatively low.
This amendment would ensure that the tax credit is extended only to those students who choose to settle in truly small communities, not as the member opposite, the parliamentary secretary, just suggested. Thus it helps the bill better achieve its stated goal while minimizing the costs associated with implementing the bill.
In committee we try to improve some of these bills, but the Conservatives did not help or make any suggestions when in fact we did try to work out regions or areas where this bill would be applicable. Hopefully, places like Fort McMurray would not be one of those areas, but if there was all of a sudden—
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
March 25th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC
Mr. Speaker, I see we are facing extremely different points of view. I do not understand. We are not talking about unfairness. Bill C-288 is designed specifically to encourage young people—who usually have to go to urban centres for training or study purposes—to return to the regions if they wish.
The regions of Quebec are at a crossroads. Indeed, several regions have been hit hard by the forestry crisis. I said in my speech that several regions still depend on a single industry, and I used my region as an example, because that is the case there. If we want to develop secondary and tertiary processing, we need to have a skilled labour force. In order to have a skilled labour force, young people must return to the regions. But young people who go to urban centres develop a network of friends and might be tempted to stay in those urban centres instead of returning home, knowing they will not find work there.
This is an incentive. This does not affect other options, other credits that young people can benefit from. This is an additional measure, nothing more, but one that will encourage young people to return to the regions.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
March 25th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC
moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, again we are gathered to debate Bill C-288, to give every new graduate who settles in a designated region a tax credit. This bodes well, because it means the bill has passed committee stage.
In 2007, my colleague the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord introduced a similar bill, namely Bill C-207. It received support from a majority of the members in the House at all stages and even got as far as the Senate. I promise my colleague, young people and the regions of Quebec to have the same determination to get this bill passed.
To put this into context, the purpose of Bill C-288 is to give a tax credit to every new graduate who settles in a designated region. Since being introduced in the House, this bill has come a long way and has received a great deal of support.
Bill C-288 is supported by a variety of groups and generations throughout Quebec: the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, or FECQ, and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, or FEUQ, which represent 40,000 and 125,000 students respectively in Quebec; the FADOQ network, which has 255,000 members, and the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, which represents 972 municipalities. They have all given their full support to the bill. What is more, the bill is supported by a number of RCMs, chambers of commerce and youth employment centres.
In addition to this sizeable support, last November the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I delivered 3,000 postcards in support of Bill C-288 to the office of the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. Contrary to what some people have suggested, these postcards were indeed signed by people who are affected by the bill.
I would also like to thank the representatives of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec who came to show their strong support for Bill C-288 by testifying before the Standing Committee on Finance. I greatly value their support because, in a way, this bill is designed for the thousands of students and graduates who will move out of large urban centres to go live and work in the regions.
The main purpose of this bill is to attract young graduates to the regions in order to help solve two main problems: the exodus of young people and the serious shortage of skilled labour. It is important to encourage young graduates to settle in the regions, where they will start their professional careers, and to recruit skilled labour for the benefit of the regions.
The exodus of young people is becoming increasingly problematic in terms of the economic vitality of areas that are far from large centres. These areas need young graduates in order to develop and to enhance their ability to innovate. Obviously, giving recent graduates who settle in regions a tax credit of $3,000 per year—up to a three-year maximum of $8,000—would help revive local economies and meet labour needs.
The exodus of young people has a negative impact, both socially and economically, on any region. It speeds up population aging and reduces the average education level of the people left behind, which undermines the region's ability to innovate. The more remote regions are losing the most residents. In many cases, they depend on one type of industry; these are called single-industry regions.
Gone are the days when resource regions could prosper based solely on extracting natural resources for primary processing elsewhere. In order to grow, the regions will have to look to technology and develop their processing industry more.
Quebec was hard hit by the forestry crisis. Since 2005, Quebec has lost 26,000 jobs in the forestry industry alone, that is, the industry and related services, such as transportation and logging equipment. This represents 50% of Canada's total loss.
Since the Conservatives came to power, about a third of all forestry jobs have disappeared. Some regions have been decimated. Since the summer of 2004, my region, the Upper Laurentians, which has been hardest hit by the crisis, has lost 58% of all forestry jobs in Quebec.
Of the 17 forestry companies in my riding, 14 have been forced to close their doors. Heavy machinery operators, engineers, technicians and truckers have borne the brunt of these job losses. Those with higher levels of education, special skills and expertise, such as engineers, have been forced to leave our beautiful region to find work in their fields.
The Government of Quebec realized that to promote regional economic diversification, it would have to develop new business opportunities in other fields.
This is a major hindrance to the development of secondary industry and high-tech. In all of the studies that have been done, many companies have said they would only be able to stay in their region if they did not grow very much. So long as businesses stay small, they can take care of professional and technical work themselves. If they grow, they have to hire skilled workers. Difficulty finding such workers in the regions might force companies to relocate to urban centres, where they are more likely to find qualified workers.
Bill C-288 proposes a beneficial tax measure for all young eligible graduates in Quebec and Canada. Quebec is not the only province experiencing a youth exodus. Across Canada, economic activity has gradually moved from more rural regions to larger centres. Some provinces—Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba—have introduced a graduate tax credit. The Quebec government introduced its credit in 2003, then amended it, so that it now resembles the tax credit proposed in Bill C-288, which I am talking about today.
The Conservatives tried to derail the debate on this bill by grossly inflating the cost of the program. In his November 24 report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer assessed the proposal according to a number of different scenarios. I would like to clarify some of the data so that members can focus on the essence of the bill.
First, the regions designated in this bill will be determined by the Minister of Finance, after consulting with the provinces involved. Second, the regions will not be designated based on the number of people who would be affected; they will be based on the needs identified in these regions far from Canada's major cities. I should point out that the bill excludes metropolitan regions with more than 200,000 residents. Third, the bill must focus on resource regions and regions with low rates of urbanization that are struggling with long-term unemployment rates, an indicator of poor employment prospects.
Finally, we used economic and health regions as geographic criteria. We then used the long-term unemployment rate to determine the regions where job prospects are more difficult—4.7% and up in 2006. From these regions, we considered only the regions that had over 12% of their population living in rural areas.
In total, we identified 34 health regions that met these criteria, representing 8.24% of the Canadian population. According to the estimates of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, such a measure would cost around $230 million per year, rather than the $600 million claimed by the Conservatives.
Of course, other regions could be added during the discussions between the federal government and the provincial governments, but these regions will have to meet the requirements of the bill, and have a high long-term unemployment rate, combined with a low rate of urbanization or a low population density.
Adding a few regions that meet the above criteria would not substantially increase the cost of the bill.
We still want the support of Liberal and NDP members for this Bloc Québécois initiative. We hope that Conservative members will put aside their partisan ideology and act in the interests of young graduates and the regions.
I believe that many young people who are about to complete their post-secondary education or professional training are waiting for this bill to pass. A number of my colleagues have probably had exploratory visits from young graduates. These young people are in contact with community stakeholders, the decision-makers, and are in a position to determine the regions' needs and to tell us what kind of labour force is needed in our regions to develop secondary and tertiary processing.
The bill creates many expectations. It provides an incentive for attracting youth back to the regions. However, young people who are interested in returning are also interested in the quality of life they may find there. A young person who moves to the region may start a family. Families add vitality to a region.
As I stated earlier, this time I hope that the Conservative members, especially those from Quebec—in particular the members for Pontiac, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière—Alma—as well as the independent member from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier will understand that they must put their regions' interests ahead of their party's interests in order to support all regions of Quebec and their young people.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), as reported (with amendment) from the committee.
Bill C-471--Pay Equity Task Force Recommendation Act
Points of Order
December 10th, 2009 / 3:20 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-471, the pay equity task force recommendations act, on the grounds that it requires a royal recommendation.
Normally, royal recommendation interventions are made before the first hour of debate, which occurred on this bill last night. However, after a request from the Liberal Party, who had an event of some importance last night, we delayed that so that we would not unduly delay the members opposite from attending their most important event.
Let me make my intervention now. Bill C-471 proposes to do two things. First, it imposes on the government a duty to implement the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force report that sets deadlines by which this must be done. It is noted in clause 2 of the bill that this includes establishing “all statutory oversight agencies”.
The second component of Bill C-471 is to immediately repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which was passed by Parliament nine months ago in March 2009. I have objections to both of these components and will address them in turn.
Turning to the first component, subclause 2(1) of the bill imposes an imperative duty on the government to “implement the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force set out in its final report”. I have considerable concerns with this provision. While a sponsoring member may attempt to argue that Bill C-471 is similar to the Kyoto protocol implementation act or the Kelowna accord implementation act, which you ruled in order in the last Parliament, there is significant distinction.
In your ruling on September 27, 2006, regarding Bill C-288, you stated:
In a ruling earlier this week on a similar matter, namely, C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, the Chair made a distinction between a bill asking the House to approve certain objectives and a bill asking the House to approve the measures to achieve certain objectives. So too in the case before us, the adoption of a bill calling on the government to implement the Kyoto protocol might place an obligation on the government to take measures necessary to meet the goals set out in the protocol but the Chair cannot speculate on what those measures may be.
In the case of Bill C-471, the measures are set out in detail in the 113 recommendations of the task force report, which is referenced in this bill. The recommendation is that “Parliament enact new stand alone proactive pay equity legislation”. The other 112 recommendations describe the measures that should be included in that legislation.
As a result, this bill raises grave concerns. It places an impossible duty on the Crown of implementing the recommendations, which can only be done by passage of legislation. It seeks to bind this or a subsequent Parliament to pass this new legislation, which I submit would unconstitutionally undermine the fundamental principle of parliamentary sovereignty. It would fundamentally alter the relationship between the Crown and Parliament, and that is the heart of the financial initiative.
In your February 24, 2005, ruling, you aptly quoted:
Suffice it to say that those relations are neatly summed up in the phrase, “the government proposes, and parliament disposes”.
Bill C-471 clearly turns that relationship on its head by both proposing and disposing the measures in purposes for which public moneys should be spent. This is made even more apparent by subclause 2(2) of the bill. This provision sets the deadline by which the government must implement the task force recommendations. In particular, it states:
The Government of Canada shall ensure that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place no later than January 1, 2011.
This provision of the bill also distinguishes it from Bill C-288 and Bill C-292, considered in the last Parliament. Neither of those bills dictated the establishment of new institutions, much less as part of its expressed terms. Based on the task force report, the duty in subclause 2(2) entails the new creation of two new statutory agencies as well as a new system of adjudicators. Assuming Bill C-471 is constitutional and the government is bound by its terms, it has no choice but to establish these new bodies.
It is trite to say that such a measure would require the expenditure of new funds to a new purpose. For example, the Speaker's ruling of September 19, 2006, concluded that the creation of advisory committee requires a royal recommendation, since this clearly would require the expenditure of public funds in a manner not currently authorized. For this reason, Bill C-471 requires a royal recommendation to be in order.
The second component of Bill C-471 also clearly demonstrates that a royal recommendation is required. As mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, Bill C-471 at clause 3 repeals, in its entirety, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. This repeal would take immediate effect if this bill were to be given royal assent.
To fully understand why it has an impact on the financial initiative of the Crown, it is first necessary to understand the purpose of the PSECA. The purpose of this act, put simply, was to remove jurisdiction over public sector pay equity complaints from the Canadian Human Rights Act and to create a new statutory scheme for dealing with public sector pay equity issues proactively.
By the same token, the PSECA removed jurisdiction for dealing with public sector pay equity complaints from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Complaints that arise out of the PSECA process are instead dealt with by the Public Service Labour Relations Board. The grounds for those complaints are defined in the PSECA.
This is underscored in the PSECA's consequential amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which states:
The Commission does not have jurisdiction to deal with complaints made against an employer within the meaning of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act [related to the pay equity provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act].
The effect then of clause 3 of Bill C-471 is to reverse all of that. This has two distinct impacts. First, it gives jurisdiction over public sector employers to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal, whose jurisdiction was expressly removed in the PSECA. Second, it subjects public service employers, that is, the Crown as employer, to liability for new statutory grounds of complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Both of these impacts infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown.
In the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, O'Brien and Bosc state a fundamental principle of the royal recommendation at pages 833 to 834:
An appropriation accompanied by a royal recommendation, though it can be reduced, can neither be increased nor redirected without a new recommendation...A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown's financial initiative.
Mr. Speaker, this principle is reflected in your ruling of February 11, 2008, in which you held that Bill C-474 required a royal recommendation because it proposed to substantially alter the mandate of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The same principle applies to the bill before you today.
The object of the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act was to fundamentally change the structure, process and jurisdiction for dealing with public sector pay equity issues from what existed before the passage of the act. A royal recommendation accompanied the budget implementation bill, which included the PSECA.
Accordingly, repealing the PSECA and giving the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal jurisdiction over public sector pay equity complaints is essentially a fundamentally new and altered purpose for those organizations. No royal recommendation accompanies that change in Bill C-471.
The royal recommendation that accompanied the PSECA cannot be redirected to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal, and past appropriations for the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal cannot be used for a purpose and jurisdiction that Parliament expressly removed from the PSECA. On that ground alone, Bill C-471 infringes upon the Crown's financial initiative.
In addition, the bill infringes upon the financial initiative on the basis that it exposes the Crown to a distinct liability that would be paid by public moneys. As stated in Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 21st edition, on page 714:
Any proposal whereby the Crown would incur a liability or a contingent liability payable out of money to be voted by Parliament [requires the Queen's recommendation].
In this vein, a June 12, 1973, Speaker's ruling held that a royal recommendation was required for Bill S-5, an act to amend the Farm Improvement Loans Act.
The Speaker noted:
It may be said that the proposal in Bill S-5 does not in itself propose a direct expenditure. It does, however, propose substantial additional liabilities on public moneys.
Similarly, a May 5, 2009, ruling from the Speaker of the other place ruled Bill S-219 out of order because it would change the Crown's liability under the Canada Student Loans Act. As held in that ruling:
The passage of Bill S-219 would expand the range of conditions under which the government would have to make good its guarantee of loans under the Canada Student Loans Act. This would change the existing scheme, since payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund might increase due to the change in possible obligations. As such, the bill should have a Royal Recommendation, and would have to originate in the other place.
This is also consistent with a ruling on February 12, 1988 regarding Bill S-4, an Act to Amend the Canada Shipping Act. In that case, Mr. Speaker, you found that increases to the limits of civil liability of shipowners did not require a royal recommendation because the payment was covered by the authorization in section 30 of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
My correction, Mr. Speaker, if you were not here in 1988. You have been for so long, I think of you as being here forever. That is a compliment, and please take it as such.
That act essentially provides that the Crown could be civilly liable in court for breaches of what is known in the common law tradition as tort or property law. Crown liability for breaches of its law of civil salvage is also expressly provided under section 5. Section 30 provides judgments issued by a court against the Crown are authorized to be paid.
The case of Bill C-471 is clearly distinguishable from Bill S-4 in that it creates a new and distinct statutory liability for the Crown under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Crown Liability and Proceedings Act does not authorize payments for new statutory liabilities of the Crown. In fact, section 33 states:
Except as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, nothing in this Act affects any rule of evidence or any presumption relating to the extent to which the Crown is bound by an Act of Parliament.
Bill C-471 would create a new and distinct statutory charge of the Crown's liability. The more adversarial quasi-judicial setting of the human rights regime is fundamentally different from the proactive and integrated approach of the PSECA.
Under the PSECA, pay equity obligations are integrated in the bargaining process subject to complaint on certain grounds of the Public Service Labour Relations Board. In contrast, under the Canadian Human Rights Act, liability is initiated by individual complaints adjudicated before an administrative tribunal and potentially results in awards for damages. The authority for awarding those damages is the Canadian Human Rights Act.
As you may recall, Mr. Speaker, through the previous complaints based process under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the government has paid out of public moneys multi-billion dollar judgments. The Crown's obligations are significantly different under the PSECA and a royal recommendation is required to change that.
Before concluding, and I know the wish is for me to conclude quickly, I would like to address a point that may arise during the study of this bill. As we know, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act has been passed by Parliament, but it has not been not been proclaimed into force. Like many other statutes, Parliament delegates to the Governor-in-Council the authority to determine the day on which the act comes into force.
This transitional period, as one of the terms under which Parliament has passed the law, allows the executive time to prepare for the effective implementation of provisions. For purposes of assessing the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-471, it does not matter whether or not the legislation has been proclaimed into force, it suffices that the law has been passed by both Houses of Parliament and that it has received royal assent.
What is and should be most critical and salient is Parliament's decision to make law. In the 21st edition of Erskine May, in formulating the test for whether a charge is new and distinct, it is stated at page 712:
The question may arise whether a proposal for expenditure or for increased expenditure is not already covered by some general authorization. The test for determining this question in the case of a substantive proposal, ie. a provision is in a bill, as introduced, is a comparison with existing law.
In this case, the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act was passed by Parliament on March 12, 2009. It forms part of the Statutes of Canada, it reflects the will of Parliament and it will be implemented under the terms passed by Parliament because that is what the law directs.
As Erskine May puts it, it forms part of the existing law, this is the law against which the provisions of Bill C-471 must be compared. To look at it another way, there would be no purpose for clause 3 of Bill C-471 but to change the law. It follows that in this instance it also changes the purposes and conditions for which the House has authorized expenditures. For that reason it requires a royal recommendation.
While Bill C-471 is a short bill, it has significant consequences and there are multiple reasons for which it requires a royal recommendation to be in order. I should also add that the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the sponsor of Bill C-471, has said that he believes Bill C-471 would result in some additional unspecified costs for the government. In other words, the leader of the official opposition, who is the sponsor of this bill, agrees that his own bill requires a royal recommendation.
Committees of the House
December 2nd, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions).
December 1st, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC
Mr. Chair, the motion was that we deal with Bill C-288 today. If the committee members prefer that it be done after the pre-budget study, I have no objection to that. We can extend the meeting by a half-hour or an hour, or we can proceed right away. That is up to the members. We are entirely open on that. If you want to do it right away, we can do it.
Yes, we can do it now, that's simpler.