House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I have received notice from the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley that she is unable to move her motion during private members' hour on Wednesday, May 5, 2004. It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence.

Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour.

It being 5:54 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We have consulted with the other parties and were advised, and this may change, that there were no further speakers on the bill that we are debating, so if there was a desire to extend for a few minutes to allow this question and answer period that was going on, we certainly would consent to that so we could put the question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

With respect, there is no more time left and we will have to continue on.

The House resumed from March 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-303, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel expenses for a motor vehicle used by a forestry worker) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-303, introduced by the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which had first reading on November 18, 2002.

I believe this was a bill which had been introduced in the House previously, and had to be brought back. My colleague will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe it died because of the election in 2000.

I would like to remind the House what Bill C-303 is, before going any further. Obviously, it is about forestry workers and the income tax credits that might be available for using a vehicle when such workers have to cover long distances or work far from home.

As my colleague himself mentioned in his speech, this bill was introduced in 2000, and at the time my colleague contacted the Minister of Finance to ask his opinion and find out whether he at least would establish a tax credit for forest workers, who are unjustly treated in comparison with workers in certain other industries.

The then finance minister said that indeed, he would review the tax system to look at his options for responding positively to the request. That was in 2000. The then finance minister has become the current Prime Minister.

It became quite clear in the last budget that there had been no response. Since 2000 there still has been no response. On the eve of the election, if my colleague wrote him another letter, he would probably get the same answer as in 2000, “We will study it, analyze it and see whether it is possible”. Meanwhile, we have never received a response.

This is very frustrating when we look at the history of the forestry industry in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, particularly Ontario or the maritime provinces. From a historical point of view, the forestry industry was probably the most important industry, before agriculture, for the development of Quebec and all the maritime provinces and Ontario.

In the Gatineau-Hull-Ottawa area, a major forestry industry developed over the years. This area finally opened up as a result of forestry.

Like my colleagues from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques and Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, I am from a region where forestry plays an extremely important role. The forestry sector is currently in crisis with respect to forest management because it has become apparent that the Government of Quebec wants to cut its investment. This is catastrophic considering that $1 invested in the forestry industry is worth all the more when it comes to forest management.

The forest is an extremely important resource, particularly in Quebec, and needs to be maintained, managed and continually developed in order to produce a cultivated forest that we can use effectively and efficiently.

I would like to come back to the bill. I could go on at length about forest management since this automatically affects forestry workers. The less management there is, the more workers must, to some extent, travel long distances, often on what are referred to as forest access roads, or roads that are barely ridable.

They are therefore required to have vehicles that are more powerful than the car I use, for example, on highways or paved roads. Forestry workers have to drive vehicles that are efficient and powerful.

This is one of the things for which my colleague was calling for a tax credit. These workers have no tax credit for use of their vehicles. The vehicles they need have to be far more efficient and therefore cost more, as well as being harder on gas.

In addition, we have heard today that there has just been another gas hike, and this is quite significant for the Montreal region among others. It will, of course, spread across the country, because once it has started, we know very well it will not be restricted to Montreal. Forest workers will have additional gas costs because of the price hike, which has been going on for some time now and is continuing.

A tax credit is therefore being called for to ensure that these workers receive the same treatment as workers in a large number of industries. For instance, travelling salesmen who use their private motor vehicle are entitled to a deduction, allowing them to amortize the vehicle as well as part of the operating costs. There is, of course, a restriction when the vehicle is used for family or personal purposes outside of work.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that forestry workers are treated fairly. If there is one class of workers in our society that has been treated unfairly throughout our history, it is the forestry workers. These people were exploited, especially in the regions. Historically, the big companies they depended on took advantage of them. Back home, we had the Price company. Workers were exploited and mistreated. There was a time when they were almost treated like slaves. They were earning very little money and were forced to buy everything they needed from the companies' stores. The same thing happened in the fishing industry in the Gaspé, where people were dependent upon the big companies, which treated them almost like slaves. Historically, that is how forestry workers were treated.

That is a part of our history that we almost relived not so long ago because of the softwood lumber crisis and the government's withdrawal from the forestry industry. Believe it or not, not so long ago, some people were still living in tents and not eating too well, I am afraid. They had to fend for themselves, alone in the forest, for four, five or six days at a time. That is what these people were required to do to earn a living.

These days, with the ongoing softwood lumber crisis, the problem is even more obvious, because we are going through a crisis and people have to travel longer distances. Residents in my area and in the riding of my colleague have to travel to the Abitibi area, hundreds of kilometres from home, to earn a living. Others have to travel to the North Shore. Some even have to go as far as New Brunswick. They travel very long distances, for which they are not compensated.

That is no way to encourage people to go to work and try to earn a living, not to mention the fact that, under the current employment insurance scheme, these people need to work a certain number of weeks to be eligible to EI benefits. So, they are doubly penalized if we do not give them a tax credit for the use of the motor vehicle they absolutely need to get to work.

I also talked about forest management, but I would like to focus on one aspect. I am talking about forestry workers, among other things. For years, many of them did not have a pension plan, and many still do not have one. At 50 or 55 years old, with the working conditions that they have experienced, these people are now almost unable to do their work. They find themselves almost without any income and several of them become welfare recipients.

If there is one thing that the government should think about it is the establishment of a pension plan or an aid program for older workers, for this category of people, among others. Members in the House should seriously consider this and vote in favour of Bill C-303, as my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques is asking.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on Bill C-303, which proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to provide a tax deduction for automobile expenses that forestry workers incur when they travel to work sites that are far from their homes.

The proposed bill would cover daily out of pocket expenses for operating a motor vehicle. Examples of such costs are maintenance, gasoline and insurance. It would also cover interest charges on money borrowed to acquire a vehicle. It would also include depreciation costs.

I think the initiative is a worthy one but fraught with all kinds of problems. I would like to go over some of those problems.

Certainly I would not take away from any of the comments made about forestry workers by my colleague who just spoke. Forestry workers are the backbone of the forestry sector and forestry is a sector that contributes significantly to our economy. In 2002 alone, forestry exports contributed more than $32 billion to our economy and our trade surplus. Today more than 350,000 hard-working Canadians are directly employed in this sector.

The core of the bill would give a special package of tax benefits to a narrow group of employees. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we uphold the basic principles of fairness and even-handedness in public policy matters and in taxation matters.

Travelling in the forestry business is an expensive part of the job. There is just no getting around it. Providing tax relief on this type of isolated basis certainly is problematic. Let me raise some of the concerns about this approach.

We know that other groups of employees incur exactly the same kinds of commuting costs as forestry workers. People who work in construction or in the oil and gas sector are obvious examples. I certainly have some experience from working in the oil industry in terms of travelling back and forth to work. These workers travel huge distances, often up to seven and eight hours' worth, to work sites. I am sure there many more examples of people who have to travel as part of their job description.

We know that all employees, no matter where they work, incur some form of mandatory employment related expenses. Employment expenses can vary in their nature and in their amounts. There seems to be no reason that one group would be more deserving than any of the others in access to an employment expense deduction.

The cost of getting to and from work is one of a range of costs that employees incur. Like virtually all employment related expenses, there is no specific income tax deduction. Instead, there is a general tax recognition by way of the basic exemption. The basic exemption is one that applies to all employees and indeed all taxpayers.

Prior to 1988, there was a $500 deduction for employment expenses. The general deduction recognizes that all employees incur some work related expenses. The employment expense deduction was integrated into the basic exemption. The basic exemption has steadily increased since 1988 and now stands at just slightly over $8,000.

The member for Scarborough—Rouge River proposed that the general $500 deduction be reintroduced as a way of recognizing the broad array of potential employment expenses. However, this would cost approximately $1.3 billion per year in revenue foregone in the tax system.

Once we have opened up the door to this type of employment expense, in fairness we would also have to recognize volunteers and their expenses. Statistics Canada reports that there were 6.5 million volunteers in Canada in the year 2000. Giving each one of them a $500 tax credit would cost $3.25 billion in lost tax revenue.

The bill tries to address an obvious problem facing the forestry industry. However, it does not address the root of the problem: this government's inability to properly manage its books and to resolve trade disputes with the United States. The softwood lumber issue has caused dislocation, unemployment and problems, especially in our rural communities. It needs to be resolved. It needs to be resolved at the highest level.

I would suggest that the other thing we should consider here is the whole employment insurance program. Not only does the employment insurance program consistently overtax people in the forest industry, but when they are laid off due to softwood taxation, tariffs and so on, it sometimes takes months for them to get their EI cheques.

I believe we have to address this issue globally. It means broadly based tax relief for all Canadians who are looking for some help. We want to specifically help people in their personal income taxes, allowing them to reduce the amount of taxes paid. We need to stop the gouging in the EI system. We need to ensure that the money goes to the people who need it in a way that helps them out properly.

In closing, let me say that due to the concerns I have raised, I will not be supporting this private member's bill.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-303, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel expenses for a motor vehicle used by a forestry worker).

The summary of the bill says:

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act. It provides that a forestry worker may, under certain conditions, deduct motor vehicle travel expenses from income where the taxpayer was required under a contract of employment to use the motor vehicle to travel to and from the taxpayer’s ordinary place of residence and the taxpayer’s workplace or the employer’s place of business.

The enactment also provides that a forestry worker may, under certain conditions, deduct from income

(a) the interest paid on borrowed money used to acquire the motor vehicle; and

(b) such part of the capital cost of the motor vehicle used by the taxpayer as is allowed by regulation.

I am very pleased to be able to take part in the debate on this bill in the House. It is the third time that my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques brings this issue back. I would like to explain again, for the benefit of members, the reality that is experienced by some forestry workers in Quebec and Canada.

Here is a concrete example from my region. In my riding, some people have to go to work for a week at a time at the other end of the province. I live in the Berthier—Montcalm riding, and people there go to work in the forestry industry in Abitibi, on the North Shore, or elsewhere. Their vehicle is essential to their job. They use it to travel to the area concerned and for their work once they get there.

We have realized that, in the present situation, with no income tax deduction for these workers, there is no incentive to go to work. In the current context, with the lumber crisis and enormous pressure to drive down the cost of labour, a worker does not have much left at the end of the year.

The situation is the same for everybody, for those who work in the forest and for those who work in plants. All those involved in the forestry industry in Quebec and Canada are having a hard time, particularly with the softwood lumber crisis. There is less and less money to support families.

In 2000, my colleague wrote to the then finance minister, who is now the Prime Minister, to ask him to consider the possibility of restoring tax fairness for those people. I met with people from my riding, but I realized that similar situations existed throughout Quebec, particularly in the forestry regions.

There are people in these regions who work in forest management territories. These territories have shrunk because there is less cutting going on. This forces workers to travel further to find work. In so doing, they have to assume heavy costs that are not tax deductible.

In February 2000, my colleague wrote the Minister of Finance, who is now the Prime Minister. This is what he said in his response:

What constitutes a reasonable level of expenses for motor vehicles is a complex issue that requires a thorough study. The review of this issue and of other components of the tax system concerning motor vehicles is still going on. We will inform you of the results as soon as it is completed.

This letter was dated June 2, 2000. At the time, he expected a response in the subsequent months and that the situation could be corrected in the next budget if the government decided to follow up on his request. Moreover, the bill that was introduced at the time would have improved matters. The member had hoped the government would support it in order to help forestry workers.

Unfortunately, the then finance minister, the new Prime Minister, never deigned to follow up on the response he had given before. When the minister said, “We will inform you of the result as soon as it is completed”, my colleague expected to receive information, but it never came. We never received it. We had to do additional research.

The Income Tax Act is very clear:

At any time, the distance admissible as a business expense is the distance between the employers' office and the forest camp office and the cutting site, provided the forestry worker received instructions at the office of the camp. At no time is the distance from the worker's home to the stump admissible.

So, people are put in the position of having to use a motor vehicle, something essential to their work and required of them by their employer. They have to use it to get to their job, which is often hundreds of kilometres away, but get no tax deduction for this. The cost of this vehicle, one that is often hard on gas, is quite high because a person needs a powerful vehicle for that kind of terrain. You know how expensive gasoline is these days.

All the expenses to get to the work site weekly, once calculated from the mathematical and economic point of view, may convince them that it is not worth going to the job. So, society ends up with people on its hand who would rather be working but are instead remaining unemployed and sometimes end up on welfare because they are in an area where there are no jobs or opportunities to make use of their skills.

For that reason, I hope that Bill C-303 which we are discussing today will gain the support of most of the members of this House. The other times it has been debated here, some were in favour and some were not. Unfortunately, we did not have the outcome of the studies undertaken by the Department of Finance available to us then.

Today, with the budget just behind us, we know that forestry workers earn their living by the sweat of their brows. Yet they see the federal government once again with an $8 billion surplus. Next year, it may be as high as $10 or $11 billion. These workers have to cope with a very restrictive employment insurance program, and are often unable to get enough weeks of benefits on top of the weeks they have worked to secure an income all year. Once again, we have been waiting for this bill since 2001.

In the cases that I am talking about, forestry workers who often work away from home find that it is unacceptable that a government that has such a huge surplus does not encourage them to work when they want to do their job and, indeed, this job must be done. There may be a manpower shortage. This is absurd. There are people who would be available to do this work, but they cannot, because the financial bottom line will be negative at the end of the year if they have to go to work and pay for all the costs.

It is this situation that the current bill is designed to correct. I hope that it will be passed and that the tax laws will be changed accordingly. There must also be a different interpretation of the regulations, so that workers who want to work, who want to make a living and who are forced to travel long distances do not have to assume a portion of the cost, which is unacceptable.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I expect members of this House to be particularly sensitive in these times where, because of the softwood lumber crisis, people are going through very tough situations. The financial survival of families is on the line. Often, this situation, this imbalance, this lack of acknowledgment of the tax expense means the difference between maintaining the independent small business, self-employment and quitting the job.

This is why I would like forestry workers to get the acknowledgment they deserve. I would also like them to be given the satisfaction of being able to work, of bringing an income home and of supporting their family. They have developed skills in this sector, and employers are waiting for them to do the work that must be done.

I cannot conceive that members of this House could deny a tax credit to workers using their own vehicle as a tool. I would hope that, at a time when these workers are going through such a serious crisis, we can show some sensitivity. It would be a good opportunity for all the members in this House to support the forest industry by approving the tax credit requested. It could come from this year's surplus.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to speak to Bill C-303, sponsored by the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, whom I want to congratulate. I think this is the third time the member has introduced this bill in the House. It shows how committed he is to the cause of workers and how he recognizes that they need help.

For the benefit of those who are watching us tonight, the bill reads as follows:

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act. It provides that a forestry worker may, under certain conditions, deduct motor vehicle travel expenses from income where the taxpayer was required under a contract of employment to use the motor vehicle to travel to and from the taxpayer’s ordinary place of residence and the taxpayer’s workplace or the employer’s place of business.

The enactment also provides that a forestry worker may, under certain conditions, deduct from income

(a) the interest paid on borrowed money used to acquire the motor vehicle; and

(b) such part of the capital cost of the motor vehicle used by the taxpayer as is allowed by regulation.

This could be a great bill, because it deals with a specific industry. I think some members have already pointed that out. Others, however, like some members of the Conservative Party of Canada, have said that all workers face the same problem, they all need to travel to and from their workplace. I can only conclude that they still not realize the kind of work these people do and what is required of them.

Let me give you an example. I used to work in a mine. To get to work, I could use my car, the same car I used on Sundays. I can assure the House however that loggers who work in the forests and have to travel 100 or 200 kilometres in mud and in awful road conditions need more than just a regular car. That is the whole difference.

Also, given the jobs available elsewhere, people can carpool to get to work. Four workers, for instance, can travel together in the same car. Oftentimes, loggers have to travel alone.

Costs are very high. These are groups of people who were traditionally ignored by employers. I remember that, at one time, the Consolidated Bathurst paper mill used to hire loggers. One day, it got rid of them, gave the work to contractors and there were no longer any benefits of any kind.

Some time ago, perhaps 50 years—and I can assure the House that I was not born yet—forestry workers were better treated than some of them are today. They had camps, with a cook to prepare meals. They had a place to sleep, with good meals, and they had work for the day.

Today, this is no longer the case, as the Bloc Quebecois member mentioned, and some are living in trailers or in tents. In 2004, there are forestry workers who work in the bush, sleep in tents and wash in the lake. Such is life for some of them.

It is not like what the Conservative member was trying to tell us earlier, when he said that these people did not deserve such benefits, because their situation is like that of any other worker.

For example, in New Brunswick, some people work as loggers and this is their livelihood. There are workers who lost their jobs at the age of 54 or 58, because the Minister of Human Resources Development decided that they should hang up their chainsaw, that it was over. Then, they began hiring small contractors who no longer work for large companies such as UPM. Forestry workers must use their own means of transportation to get to work.

It is true that they cannot work in their community. For example, some leave Tracadie-Sheila to go to work in Boylston, or in the region of Sussex. It is like that everywhere. Such is the life of forestry workers.

Many of them are forced to travel by themselves. The costs generated by the use of their vehicle are totally different from those incurred by a vehicle travelling on paved highways.

That is why a logger has to use his own car.

As for his chain saw, it is tax deductible. However, he has to buy it. He uses one chain saw every year. That is why chain saws are deductible for loggers.

Why could the vehicle he uses to go to work in the forest not be tax deductible? We have heard over and over again in this House that the Conservatives want the government to lower taxes. It has lowered taxes for employers but when it is the employees' turn, it says that it cannot treat them differently from others.

However, as I said at the beginning of my speech, they are different. In the forestry sector, there are over 75,000 loggers. They are not the best paid usually. Their working conditions are among the worst.

Just imagine what I told you. It is the truth. Back home there were loggers who had to live in campers and get washed in the lakes. We still see that today in 2004. And they are being told that the work they are doing is no different from what others do.

We need our loggers. How many times have we heard people say “Oh that one, he is only a logger”. However, when people in a urban centre anywhere in the country buy a 2x4 to repair or build a house, they do not even think for two minutes about the person who went into the woods to cut the tree to make the 2x4. They do not even think that that person entered the forest at 5 o'clock in the morning, worked very hard with his chain saw in the sweltering heat, and was eaten alive by mosquitoes all day long. They do not talk about that.

At least in the mine there was always one good thing: there were no mosquitoes. We had warm food, stoves and all those kind of things. We could always find a vehicle to go to work because the mine employed 1,400 people. There were perhaps 600 people on a shift. There were always people in the neighbourhood who could use the same car. We were able to help each other in this respect. There are five days in a week, four workers per car. It is possible to use one's car once a week only.

Things are different for loggers. They have big expenses. They even have to pay for the gas for their chainsaw. They have all sorts of expenses. Even if they get a tax deduction, we can still imagine their expenses, with the gas they have to use in their chainsaw. They have no choice.

That is why I think the bill introduced by the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques is good. Last December, the Liberal government reduced corporate taxes by $4.2 billion. When friends are involved, there is no problem. When the Prime Minister, with the companies he turned over to his sons, can get away with not paying any taxes in Canada, it seems there is no problem. But when it comes to an ordinary lumberjack, there is a big problem. The same treatment is not available to an ordinary lumberjack or other worker.

It is about time the government did something. Something has been done for mechanics, when they sought a GST exemption on the tools of their trade. We are here to amend laws and bring about changes.

The Bloc Quebecois member's recommendation is a good one. This is a good bill and that is why I will support it. I am sure my NDP colleagues will also support this bill because it is a step in the right direction. Once and for all, this legislation will help the little guy and not the large corporations which the Liberals and the Conservatives want to help. That is the difference between the political parties.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, it was like music to my ears when the member for Acadie—Bathurst praised my colleague, the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who introduced Bill C-303.

We all know that there are some relatively large agglomerations in the Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques riding, but there are also some smaller communities which have a very high human value. Therefore, the value of a community cannot be measured by the number of people living there.

So we all recognize the social concerns of my colleague, the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who has introduced this bill to amend the provisions of the Income Tax Act regarding travel expenses for a motor vehicle used by a forestry worker.

In fact, I said earlier, with respect to my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst, that I really appreciate working with him on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In any case, I had an opportunity to cross a good part of his riding. During a flight to the Gaspé, my airplane was detoured to Fredericton. I then had to rent a car and drive across the riding of Acadie—Bathurst. I even went past the entrance to the Brunswick mine, where the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst worked, I believe, before becoming an MP. I have often heard him refer to his experiences as a worker in the Brunswick mine. I am sure that the member for Acadie—Bathurst agrees with many of the points the Bloc Quebecois supports. It is unfortunate that the member for Acadie—Bathurst stands in a province other than Quebec, because I am sure that in the coming election campaign he will be able to tell his fellow NDP candidates what good work the Bloc Quebecois members do here in Ottawa.

From what I understand of this bill introduced by my colleague, it aims primarily at striking a balance between different professions. I am tempted to mention a few of the professions that can deduct the costs of the equipment they need to do their job, like optometrists and dentists for example.

I have a dentist friend who was telling me that you can easily spend between $1 million and $1.5 million to equip a dentist's office, because of the numerous computer-assisted programs, electron microscope tooth decay tests, bad breath tests and anaesthetic gases involved. These can generate significant costs.

Therefore, the reasoning behind this bill is not to allow certain job categories to use their status to justify a deduction. There is one important criteria here. We have to prove that what is requested of the profession, or rather of the workers, is related to the profession.

When our colleague the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques introduced this bill, he just wanted to achieve a certain tax fairness. Why did I talk about dentists? I have a great respect for that profession. But they have managed to convince the various Revenue officials that if they have equipment that is worth close to $1.5 million, it is because they need it to do their job.

They are not buying sophisticated anaesthetic gas systems simply to enjoy having them; they are an inherent part of their job.

The forestry worker needs his motor vehicle to get around. Before I was elected to this House I worked for 14 years in the pulp and paper industry, and I know the facts. Unfortunately, companies in Quebec and Canada used not to worry as much about reforestation as they have in the past 20 years. They always considered the forest as an inexhaustible resource. I am sorry, but that is not so.

The woody resource, that is the trees and the wood in the forest, is farther and farther from the mills. Certainly the situation was different for paper makers in 1929. One example is F.F. Soucy, a fine, efficient mill in Rivière-du-Loup in my colleague's riding. In the wake of the Enron bankruptcy, the holding company for F.F. Soucy has acquired the Daishowa mill in Limoilou, Quebec.

The woody resource is increasingly distant from the factories; forestry workers have to go and cut wood on site. I do not mean any disrespect to the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, but there are not many spruce-fir forests in his riding. They are in the resource-rich regions of Quebec.

Forestry workers have to take their vehicles and leave on Monday at 3 a.m. to arrive at the sites at 8 a.m. They have to climb into their skidders, cut the timber and return home on Friday afternoon.

They do all this with their own vehicles. They have to cover part of their transportation, which is their own responsibility. This comes out of their own pockets. The purpose of this bill is simply to achieve greater fairness.

Since I have just three minutes left, I would like to point out that, prior to the 2000 election, I introduced a bill along the same lines to allow mechanics to deduct from their income the cost of purchasing their tools. As hon. members may know, a young person just out of technical school can easily spend $15,000, $20,000 or $25,000 on tools. These are necessary to work as an automotive technician.

So, in the 2000 pre-election period, I tabled my private member's bill, which was rather along the same lines as this one by my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Its purpose was to allow young workers as well as experienced workers to deduct the cost of purchasing their tools.

I am anxious to see how the Liberal majority over there will vote on this bill. I would remind those listening, both here and at home, that prior to the 2000 election, the Liberal MPs had voted in favour of my bill, knowing that there was an election coming on November 27, 2000. They voted in favour, so that mechanics could deduct the cost of tools required for their job.

Unfortunately, my bill could not go through the whole parliamentary process because of the election that was called on November 27, 2000. After the 2000 election, I reintroduced the same bill and the Liberal members were hypocritical enough this time to reject it.

This has shown just how hypocritical this government and the members of this party can be if they want to. Before the bill was passed, because there was an electoral campaign going on, they knew that they should visit mechanics shops, or people would take them to task. They voted in favour of the bill before the election, but when the election was over, they rejected the bill.

If these people have any respect, if they have a any respect for forestry workers, I challenge them to approve the bill introduced by my colleague.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased, at the end of these two hours of debate, to have received the support of several members of this House regarding the bill that I proposed.

This brings me back to the original reason for this initiative. Some workers in my riding, in a municipality named Saint-Jean-de-Dieu, must travel to Abitibi—a distance of about 1,000 kilometres—to work in the bush. They must get there with a vehicle that they then use in the bush. This is why they use a very sturdy SUV, commonly called a 4 x 4, which is also a gas guzzler.

However, rather than remain unemployed in their town, these workers preferred to travel 1,000 kilometres from home and come back on weekends. They wanted to be able to absorb some of the costs incurred by agreeing to work that far away because, as some hon. members pointed out in their speeches, these costs ultimately jeopardized their ability to have an adequate income to provide for their families.

This is why, at the end of this presentation, I am now asking all the members of this House to support my proposal.

The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans made a very relevant comparison. Here, on the eve of an election, Liberal members once voted in favour of a bill relating to mechanics, because they were fully aware that, had they not done so, it would have been difficult to explain to their constituents why they had voted against this legislation.

In the current context of the softwood lumber crisis and the reality experienced by these workers, I hope that the House will be as receptive today and that the bill will be referred to a committee, so that it can be reviewed there and become part of the tax legislation, so as to do justice to our forestry workers.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is the House ready for the question?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.