Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation
Jim Flaherty Conservative
Concurrence at Report Stage
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- March 7, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
May 21st, 2013 / 6:20 p.m.
Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin third and final reading at debate stage of this important piece of legislation for taxpayers and tax professionals, Bill C-48, the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012.
I have to admit that it is certainly not the most riveting or the most exciting piece of legislation that has ever come before Parliament. However, it is a very important piece of legislation and it is going to go a long way and a significant way toward the goal of simplifying Canada's tax system.
As previous Parliaments' efforts to adopt these technical tax amendments were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, we have seen a considerable backlog develop over the years, making it more important now to act and to finally pass these technical tax amendments.
We all recall even the Auditor General of Canada recently cautioning over a growing concern, and outlining that concern in a 2009 report. She said:
Taxpayers’ ability to comply with tax legislation depends on their understanding of how the rules apply to their own circumstances. ... Uncertainty about how the law should be applied can also add to the time taken and costs incurred by tax audits and tax administration.
Of course, I could not agree more with the comments from the Auditor General. Furthermore, I would also like to flag that the Auditor General also made some important observations about the impact of not dealing with this issue in a timely manner, an impact with far-reaching implications.
Among the many negative effects for taxpayers of the uncertainty over the backlog of outstanding income tax amendments, the Auditor General's report identified:
higher costs of obtaining professional advice to comply with tax law; less efficiency in doing business transactions; inability of publicly traded corporations to use proposed tax changes in their financial reporting, because they have not been “substantively enacted”; ...and increased willingness to use aggressive tax plans.
Before continuing, let me pause here to thank my colleagues on the finance committee from all sides for their timely and swift consideration of the technical tax amendments, 2012, earlier this year. I also want to thank them for giving their unanimous support to the legislation. It is little wonder, as during the multiple hearings the finance committee held, we heard from dozens of witnesses ranging from the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants to the Canadian Tax Foundation, and many more. They were all calling for the timely implementation of today's legislation.
Permit me to share with the House and with all Canadians some snippets of what we heard at committee, all underlining the lengthy process to get this legislation to this stage and the importance of Parliament finally adopting it.
First, allow me to quote from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which said:
Bill C-48 marks the end of a very long road, one with many twists and turns over the years. The last technical bill on income tax received royal assent in 2001....
That speaks for itself. It was a long time ago. They continued to say:
...it is fair to say that we greet the technical tax amendments act of 2012 with a sense of relief. We support Bill C-48. The CICA understands how important it is for taxpayers to have greater certainty and a clearer understanding of Canada's federal income tax system.
We listened to the Canadian Tax Foundation, and again I will quote at length. The CTA said:
We live in a rapidly changing world, and this legislation must respond dynamically to changes in commercial transactions. Can you imagine how much work would be required if you made no repairs to your home or your car for more than 10 years? That is what has happened with these two statutes. The last bill addressing technical amendments was passed in 2001. ... [The Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012] represents 10 years of repairs and maintenance in updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. Its passage is important to all Canadians. ... I want to emphasize it again. Its passage is very important to all Canadians. ... Delays in the passage of tax legislation leave taxpayers and their advisers in a no man's land of uncertainty. My message for the Standing Committee on Finance is that you should encourage passage of this legislation....
I will give the House another example. The Certified General Accountant's Association of Canada told finance committee:
...we encourage you to move swiftly to pass this important piece of legislation. The bill deals with a massive backlog of unlegislated tax measures. Its passage would, in our opinion, bring greater clarity to the tax system and strengthen the integrity of our laws.
We all know these delayed technical amendments cause serious difficulties for taxpayers, businesses, professional accountants and their clients, and of course, government. We heard some very vocal support for the technical tax amendments act, 2012 at finance committee from these and many other public interest organizations and tax professionals. The support was a big part of the reason the legislation received unanimous support from all members, from all parties, on the committee.
For those watching at home, and parliamentarians, I want to briefly recap the content of the technical tax amendments act, 2012. As I alluded to earlier, the vast majority of these amendments have already been publicly released in either a previous budget or a previous technical tax bill. In addition to that, the vast majority of it was previously and extensively released prior to introduction during the multiple public consultation phases. The ultimate legislation, in point of fact, incorporates a tremendous amount of the feedback provided by Canadians during those many public consultations.
Today's act, among other things, would further simplify Canada's tax system through numerous technical amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and related legislation. I would like to further add that today's legislation also takes key steps to close some tax loopholes to create a stronger and fairer tax system for all Canadians.
I want to quickly review the legislation, part by part, to highlight some key measures and what they hope to achieve. Even though today's act is obviously extremely technical in nature and includes seven different sections, I will keep my remarks brief.
I will commence with Part 1 of the bill, which would modify the Income Tax Act by taking into account comments we received during our extensive consultations and which would create simpler rules for non-resident trusts.
Parts 2 and 3 deal directly with the taxation of Canadian multinational corporations with foreign affiliates, implementing changes, some of which date all the way back to 2004, that would make Canada's tax system more fair and equitable, and of course, easier to administer. As is the case with the majority of measures contained in the bill, these changes, again, are the result of extensive public consultations.
Part 4 of the bill deals with the concept of bijuralism. More specifically, it contains amendments that will ensure that the bill will function effectively under both common and civil law. This means that amendments dealing with certain legal concepts, such as rights, interest, real and personal property, life estate and remainder interest, tangible and intangible property, and joint and several liability, will accurately capture common and civil law in both official languages.
Part 5 of the bill is designed with fairness for taxpayers in mind and sets out to close tax loopholes to ensure that Canadians would carry their fair share. The act would close tax loopholes related to specified leasing property, ensure that conversion as specified investment flow through trusts and partnerships into corporations are subject to the same rules as transactions through corporations—
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
Extension of Sitting Hours
May 21st, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off. Obviously my hon. friend did not hear this and has not read the motion. I will respond to his macho riposte at the end of his comments by pointing out that the motion would do three things: first, it would provide for us to sit until midnight; second, it would provide a manageable way in which to hold votes in a fashion that works for members of the House; and third, it would provide for concurrence debates to happen and motions to be voted on in a fashion that would not disrupt the work of all the committees of the House and force them to come back here for votes and shut down the work of committees.
Those are the three things the motion would do. In all other respects the Standing Orders remain in place, including the Standing Orders for how long the House sits. Had my friend actually read the motion, he would recognize that the only way in which that Standing Order could then be changed would be by unanimous consent of the House.
The member needs no commitment from me as to how long we will sit. Any member of the House can determine that question, if he or she wishes to adjourn other than the rules contemplate, but the rules are quite clear in what they do contemplate.
As I was saying, the reason for the motion is that Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
We agree and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons.
However, do not take my word for it; look at the facts. In this Parliament the government has introduced 76 pieces of legislation. Of those 76, 44 of them are law in one form or another. That makes for a total of 58% of the bills introduced into Parliament. Another 15 of these bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate, bringing the total to 77% of the bills that have been passed by one of the two Houses of Parliament. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly and productive Parliament.
More than just passing bills, the work we are doing here is delivering real results for Canadians. However, there is still yet more work to be done before we return to our constituencies for the summer.
During this time our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Through two years and three budgets, we have passed initiatives that have helped to create more than 900,000 net new jobs since the global economic recession. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7. We are taking real action to make sure the budget will be balanced by 2015. We have also followed through on numerous longstanding commitments to keep our streets and communities safe, to improve democratic representation in the House of Commons, to provide marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers and to eliminate once and for all the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.
Let me make clear what the motion would and would not do. There has been speculation recently, including from my friend opposite, about the government's objectives and motivations with respect to motion no. 17. As the joke goes: Mr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So it is with today's motion. There is only one intention motivating the government in proposing the motion: to work hard and deliver real results for Canadians.
The motion would extend the hours the House sits from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 or 7 p.m., the House would sit instead until midnight.
This would amount to an additional 20 hours each week. Extended sitting hours is something that happens most years in June. Our government just wants to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, earlier this year. The motion would allow certain votes to be deferred automatically until the end of question period, to allow for all honourable members' schedules to be a little more orderly.
As I said, all other rules would remain. For example, concurrence motions could be moved, debated and voted upon. Today's motion would simply allow committees to continue doing their work instead of returning to the House for motions to return to government business and the like. This process we are putting forward would ensure those committees could do their good work and be productive, while at the same time the House could proceed with its business. Concurrence motions could ultimately be dealt with, debated and voted upon.
We are interested in working hard and being productive and doing so in an orderly fashion, and that is the extent of what the motion would do. I hope that the opposition parties would be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come forward to a vote. I am sure members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer, but the first indication from my friend opposite is that perhaps he is reluctant to do that. Members on this side of the House are willing to work extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians.
Some of those accomplishments we intend to pass are: reforming the temporary foreign workers program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity; enhancing the tax credit for parents who adopt; and extending the tax credit for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their home.
We also want to support veterans and their families by improving the determination of veterans' benefits.
Of course, these are some of the important measures from this year's budget and are included in Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We are also working toward results for aboriginals by moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water and finally giving women on reserves the same rights and protections other Canadian women have had for decades. Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, and Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act would deliver on those very important objectives.
We will also work to keep our streets and communities safe by making real improvements to the witness protection program through Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. I think that delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week.
We will work to bring the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, into law. Bill C-48 would provide certainty to the tax code. It has been over a decade since a bill like this has passed, so it is about time this bill passed. In fact, after question period today, I hope to start third reading of this bill, so perhaps we can get it passed today.
We will also work to bring Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, into law. The bill would support economic growth by ensuring that all shippers, including farmers, are treated fairly. Over the next few weeks we will also work, hopefully with the co-operation of the opposition parties, to make progress on other important initiatives.
Bill C-54 will ensure that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This is an issue that unfortunately has affected every region of this country. The very least we can do is let the bill come to a vote and send it to committee where witnesses can testify about the importance of these changes.
Bill C-49 would create the Canadian museum of history, a museum for Canadians that would tell our stories and present our country's treasures to the world.
Bill S-14, the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act, will do just that by further deterring and preventing Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials. These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, would implement that 2009 treaty by amending the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to add prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish.
Tonight we will be voting on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which will allow Canada to honour its commitments under international agreements to tackle nuclear terrorism. Another important treaty—the Convention on Cluster Munitions—can be given effect if we adopt Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.
We will seek to update and modernize Canada’s network of income tax treaties through Bill S-17, the Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, by giving the force of law to recently signed agreements between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Among other economic bills is Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act. The bill would protect Canadians from becoming victims of trademark counterfeiting and goods made using inferior or dangerous materials that lead to injury or even death. Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods may be used to support organized crime groups. Clearly, this bill is another important one to enact.
Important agreements with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would be satisfied through Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which would, among other things, create the Sable Island national park reserve, and Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, which would provide clear rules for occupational health and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.
Earlier I referred to the important work of committees. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations inspired Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act. We should see that committee's ideas through by passing this bill. Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are yet still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. All of these measures are important and will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part.
In my weekly business statement prior to the constituency week, I extended an offer to the House leaders opposite to work with me to schedule and pass some of the other pieces of legislation currently before the House. I hope that they will respond to my request and put forward at our next weekly meeting productive suggestions for getting things done. Passing today's motion would be a major step toward accomplishing that. As I said in my opening comments, Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, vote on bills and get things done.
In closing, I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for this motion, add a few hours to our day, continue the work of our productive, orderly and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.
Business of the House
May 9th, 2013 / 3:05 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue the debate on today’s opposition motion from the NDP. Pursuant to the rules of the House, time is allocated and there will be a vote after the two-day debate.
Tomorrow we will resume the third reading debate on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act. As I mentioned on Monday, I am optimistic that we will pass that important bill this week.
Should we have extra time on Friday, we will take up Bill C-48, the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, at report stage and third reading.
When we come back from constituency week, I am keen to see the House make a number of accomplishments for Canadians. Allow me to make it clear to the House what the government's priorities are.
Our government will continue to focus on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. In doing that, we will be working on reforming the temporary foreign worker program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity and parents who adopt; extending tax credits for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their homes; supporting veterans and their families by improving the balance for determining veterans' benefits; moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water, which my friend apparently objects to; giving women on reserves the rights and protections that other Canadian women have had for decades, something to which he also objects; and keeping our streets and communities safer by making real improvements to the witness protection program. We will of course do more.
Before we rise for the summer, we will tackle the bills currently listed on the order paper, as well as any new bills which might get introduced. After Victoria Day, we will give priority consideration to bills which have already been considered by House committees.
For instance, we will look at Bill C-48, which I just mentioned, Bill C-51, the Safer Witnesses Act, Bill C-52, the Fair Rail Freight Service Act, and Bill S-2, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, which I understand could be reported back soon.
I look forward also to getting back from committee and passing Bill C-60, , the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1; Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act; and Bill C-21, the political loans accountability act.
We have, of course, recently passed Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act and Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act. Hopefully, tomorrow we will pass Bill S-9, the nuclear terrorism act.
Finally, we will also work toward second reading of several bills including: Bill C-12, the safeguarding Canadians' personal information act; Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act; Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act; Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act; Bill C-57, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act; Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act; Bill S-6, the first nations elections act; Bill S-10, the prohibiting cluster munitions act; Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act; Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act; Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act; Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which establishes Sable Island National Park; and Bill S-17, the tax conventions implementation act, 2013.
I believe and I think most Canadians who send us here expect us to do work and they want to see us vote on these things and get things done. These are constructive measures to help all Canadians and they certainly expect us to do our job and actually get to votes on these matters.
I hope we will be able to make up enough time to take up all of these important bills when we come back, so Canadians can benefit from many parliamentary accomplishments by the members of Parliament they have sent here this spring.
Before taking my seat, let me formally designate, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), Tuesday, May 21, as the day appointed for the consideration in a committee of the whole of all votes under Natural Resources in the main estimates for the final year ending March 31, 2014. This would be the second of two such evenings following on tonight's proceedings.
Business of the House
May 2nd, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I thank the opposition House leader for his stream-of-consciousness therapy.
Our government, however, is very focused. Our top priority is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. With that in mind, this afternoon we will continue second reading debate on the cornerstone item of our legislative agenda, which is Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We will continue this debate tomorrow.
Next Monday, May 6, will be the fourth day of second reading debate on this important job creation bill, and Tuesday May 7 will be the fifth and final day.
Once debate is concluded, the House will have an opportunity to vote on the substantive job creation measures in this bill.
On Wednesday, the House will debate Bill S-8, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. This will be the fourth time this bill is debated at second reading so it is my hope and expectation that this bill will come to a vote.
With the vote, there will be another clear choice before the House. Members will be voting to allow for national standards for on-reserve drinking water. This is a question of basic equality. I know the opposition voted against equality for women on reserves when it voted against Bill S-2, matrimonial property on reserves, but I hope they have stopped grasping at excuses to oppose equal treatment for first nations and will now support Bill S-8.
While I am speaking about aboriginal affairs, allow me to take the time to notify the House that I am designating, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), Thursday, May 9, for consideration in committee of the whole all votes under Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014.
On Thursday, we will continue to advance the economic priority of our legislative agenda by debating Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012, in the morning. Following question period on Thursday, May 9, we will continue Bill S-9, the nuclear terrorism act at third reading. I understand there is broad support for this bill, so I hope to see it pass swiftly. Then we can move on to other legislation, including: Bill C-49, the Canadian museum of history act; Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act; Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act; Bill S-10, the prohibiting cluster munitions act; Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act; Bill S-13, the coastal fisheries protection act; and bill S-14, the fighting foreign bribery act.
Finally, Friday, May 10 will be the seventh allotted day, which I understand will be for the NDP.
Business of the House
April 18th, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, the opposition House leader expressed concern that the scheduling of several opposition days, on which the opposition gets to determine the subject matter of debate in the House of Commons, showed a complete absence of a plan and a complete absence of any ideas for policy innovation. Having heard the debate and the resolutions coming from the opposition for debate on those days, I am inclined to agree with him.
Sadly, they have shown that when the opposition has the agenda, there are no new ideas and there is nothing of value spoken. However, the Standing Orders do require us to have those opposition days scheduled as part of our procedure, and that is what we are doing.
I would like, however, to respond a little bit to his comments on the time allocation on the bill yesterday. Yesterday's bill was Bill S-2, a bill to give aboriginal women and their children on reserve the same matrimonial rights that other people have. It is a bill that has been in Parliament for five years, through a series of Parliaments, in fact, and it has not yet come to a vote. To paraphrase the President of the United States in the recent State of the Union address, the aboriginal women and children of Canada deserve the right to a vote. That is why we did what we had to do, after five years of obstruction from the opposition preventing the bill from coming forward.
The bill would provide the protection they have been denied for decades. It is truly shameful that, starting with the Leader of the Opposition, every single opposition member stood up against this bill at second reading. They voted against the principle of protecting aboriginal women and children and providing them with rights equal to those of all Canadian women off reserve. They voted against giving them protection from violence in the situation of a domestic family breakdown and giving them the same rights to matrimonial homes that other women have had for decades in this country.
It is another example of how the NDP approaches things. It claims that it is for women's rights and aboriginal rights, but when it comes time to actually take action, it does not. It is “do as I say, not as I do”.
This afternoon we will continue the New Democrats' opposition day. Tomorrow is the fourth allotted day, when the New Democrats will again propose our topic for debate. Monday shall be the fifth allotted day, which will see a Liberal motion debated. Tuesday shall be the sixth allotted day, with a further New Democratic motion being considered.
Next week is victims week in Canada, so on Wednesday, the House will continue the second reading debate on Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act, which aims to put the protection of society and of victims front and centre.
On Thursday morning we will consider Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012, at report stage. After question period on Thursday, we will start report stage for Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, which was reported back from the transport committee this morning.
Finally, next Friday, Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act, will be again considered at report stage.
Committees of the House
March 27th, 2013 / 3:45 p.m.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Finance, in relation to Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation.
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.
March 26th, 2013 / 8:50 a.m.
The Chair James Rajotte
I call this meeting to order.
This is meeting 112 of the Standing Committee on Finance. Our orders of the day, pursuant to the order of reference of Friday, March 8, 2013, are to do with Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation.
Colleagues, I want to welcome officials back from the department to our clause-by-clause consideration of the bill this morning.
Obviously this is a fairly sizable bill. I'm proposing that we do our clause-by-clause consideration in parts. There are eight parts to this bill, and there's one schedule.
Is it okay if I proceed in that manner, colleagues?
Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
March 21st, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will try to make my voice carry. I can do it because I had the pleasure of being involved in the theatre when I attended university.
I heard the interpretation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. I am disappointed with his whining about expediting the process. That was the kind of comment I heard during consideration of Bill C-48, the mammoth 1,000-page bill. Our witnesses said that it was time to adopt the huge tax bill, but they did not ask us to expedite the process. They thought the bill was so lengthy that, given the time allotted, it would be adopted without really having an opportunity to make improvements and that we would have to live with it.
Who is acting in good faith? In a few minutes, the government will introduce a bill and it will probably be impossible for us to study it in its entirety given the time allotted. Therefore, I reject the member's claims.
Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
March 21st, 2013 / 3:25 p.m.
Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC
Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which brings about a number of improvements in response to recommendations concerning the military justice system.
Bill C-15 is simply the latest incarnation of various bills introduced in the House, such as Bill C-7 and Bill C-45 in 2007 and 2008, and Bill C-60, which came into effect in July 2008. Bill C-60 simplified the structure of courts martial and created a mechanism to choose a type of court martial more comparable to the civilian system. Bill C-41 was pretty good. At the time, it went farther than Bill C-15 did initially, but unfortunately, it was never adopted.
It is important to note that Bill C-15 came about because of concerns over how the military justice system has worked for years. A number of flaws were identified in the wake of the 2003 report of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, and the May 2009 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Justice Antonio Lamer's authority was well established, and the government had every reason to take the former chief justice's many recommendations into account. To a certain extent, Bill C-15 is a response to those concerns. However, because it does not go far enough, we proposed amendments in committee. One of our amendments was agreed to, but the others were rejected, unfortunately. Nevertheless, we are pleased that Bill C-15 was improved enough for us to be able to support it at third reading.
By way of context, it is important to note that our military justice system operates separately from our criminal justice system because our military personnel play a special role in our society. Because of their role, they have certain special powers that ordinary citizens do not. Along with that, they have to comply with very high disciplinary standards related to the hierarchy and organization of the military system on the ground so that they can respond effectively during military operations. A lot of very structured preparatory work also has to happen.
There is a very specific way in which the military justice system must answer to that structure, which is separate from society. The system must be held to very high standards and must not needlessly trap veterans and former members of the Canadian Forces after they have finished serving. They find themselves trapped in needless uncertainty because of mistakes they made that, normally, would not result in a criminal record.
We can be pleased with the fact that, in committee, the NDP was able to get a major amendment passed, which changed nearly 95% of disciplinary code infractions so that they will no longer result in a criminal record.
That is the main reason we are now supporting Bill C-15.
As everyone knows, a criminal record comes with very unpleasant consequences. For example, a criminal record can keep a member from starting a new life and pursuing a second career, a career that could be limited by the member's inability to travel to the United States or to fulfill certain duties that he is qualified for because of his military experience and training. The fact that it is so easy to have a criminal record after spending one's life in the armed forces is a major irritant and totally unacceptable.
I mentioned two reports, one by Justice Antonio Lamer and one by a Senate committee. However, we would have liked the government to respond more quickly, and we want it to respond with tangible measures to the report by the former Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice LeSage. He also completed a study on the National Defence Act, which he presented to the government in December 2011. Bill C-15 does not really cover that, which is very unfortunate.
Another aspect is rather ironic. I am currently a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. We recently examined Bill C-48, a huge and very technical bill that makes changes to some aspects of the Canadian tax system. Instead of a gradual, piecemeal approach, we would have liked to see a more major reform, although not a massive one that would make it impossible to study the military justice system.
I was a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I noticed a very similar approach when it was time to change some details in the Criminal Code. There was a real lack of vision, which is truly appalling. Our soldiers, who fulfill a very important and admirable role, both in Canada and around the globe, should definitely not be victims nor should they be subjected to such improvisation on the government's part. It is really appalling. Our soldiers would be much better off if the military justice system had the same or similar standards as the civilian justice system, since this would bring us in line with other countries.
When the NDP forms the government in 2015, our party will be committed to doing more to make a real difference, which will allow us to offer all members of our armed forces a justice system worthy of that name and, above all, worthy of the appearance of justice earned.
That is probably the most important aspect, and the final point I wanted to make. Ensuring the appearance of justice is a fundamental principle of our justice system. This appearance is especially fundamental because it forms the basis of public confidence and, therefore, the confidence of members of the armed forces in the military justice machine.
I hope the government has listened to our hopes and wishes. I thank the government again for accepting a fundamental amendment regarding the consequences of possibly getting a criminal record.
I am now ready to hear my colleagues' comments and answer their questions.