House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand this evening and support a private member's bill put forward by my colleague who, unfortunately, is unable to be here. The hon. member for Westlock--St. Paul has put a tremendous amount of effort into the proposed legislation and it is most unfortunate that his health will not allow him to be here to actually speak to this tonight. Therefore I will attempt to fill that spot.

Bill C-271 is an act to amend the Income Tax Act to do with tuition credits and education credits. It amends the act by extending the tuition credit and education credit to individuals who follow a formal course of instruction given by a qualified music teacher for students 16 years of age and older.

At first blush, one might say that this is a bit of a narrow focus but when we do the research on this, as my hon. colleague has, we find that it is a very important issue. Many studies have been done on the value of this sort of encouragement for further education specifically in this field of music.

Bill C-271 would level the playing field for students who wish to pursue music education and also for the music teachers industry. In doing the research we find that it is quite a large industry. A good number of individuals are involved in this.

A constituent of mine provided me with some information on this. There are currently 20,000 private music teachers in this country with an average studio size of 15 to 20 persons per week. We are talking about potentially 400,000 people, so it is much larger than at first might be suggested.

I would remind the House that constituents in my riding of Macleod are impacted by this and concerned enough about it that they have written letters to me and I am sure other members of the House have received those sorts of requests for us to give serious consideration to the bill.

The Income Tax Act currently allows for a tax deduction for individuals who are enrolled in an education institution that is certified by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to be providing courses, other than those designed for a university credit, that furnishes a person with skills for or improves a persons skills in an occupation.

Bill C-271 would extend this same tax deduction to individuals pursuing an accreditation in music from a qualified music teacher, and that is an important part of this. It is only from qualified music teachers.

The formula for calculating the tuition credit and education credit for students pursuing an accreditation in music, as provided in Bill C-271, is simply the same formula that is used to calculate the standing current tuition credit and education credit for students who are already enrolled in post-secondary education.

This of course is certainly under the certification of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and provides courses other than those designed for university credits and it furnishes a person with skills for or improves a persons skills in an occupation.

Bill C-271 has several accountability measures that are very important to the Conservatives in the House because we are always concerned about accountability. We have seen such a lack of it in the House and in the government that accountability is very important. We do not support anything that does not bring accountability into it.

This accountability measure would protect against tax fraud, which also is important. Individuals can only claim a tax deduction for music lessons if they are enrolled in a course of instruction that leads to a diploma. There is an end to this that has to culminate in a diploma before any tax credits are allowable.

The course must be given by a person who is certified by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to be a qualified music teacher and is in the business of giving music instruction. It is very specific in the accreditation of the teachers and of the roles of the students.

In addition, individuals must prove their enrolment by filing a certificate issued by the qualified music teacher with the government. We are never too excited when we see more government interference but if we are going to provide accountability then this is a necessity in this case.

Bill C-271 sets out criteria for the Minister of Human Resource Development to apply when determining eligibility for qualified music teachers. Under the bill, the minister must certify any person who holds an associate or licensed diploma in music, teaching or as a solo performer and that is granted by a designated educational institution, holds a bachelor of music degree or higher in instrumental music, voice or theory, or is a member of a provincial music teachers association.

I am sure a lot of members of the House are not aware that there are provincial music teachers associations. In fact, the author of the bill has consulted very closely with these music teachers associations to ensure they are i comfortable with this and understand all the implications. They were all very supportive of it and are looking forward to seeing it happen.

The Conservative Party believes in greater accessibility to education by eliminating as many barriers to post-secondary education as possible. The transfer will be distributed to provinces and territories on the basis of the numbers of enrolled students. We believe strongly that provincial jurisdiction must be respected. I am sure there will be some people who would suggest that certainly this is provincial jurisdiction but it is important to remember the overarching role of the federal government in this. It does have to play a role in addressing tuition and standards.

Analysis conducted by the Library of Parliament suggests that the costs associated with the bill would be negligible. It makes everyone on this side of the House quite happy when we can actually accomplish something without a burden on the taxpayers.

In addition, the cost to the treasury of extending the tuition credit, an education credit to individuals who follow a formal course, would be partially offset by the tax collected from the music teaching business as a result of increased enrolment. That is a strong argument for supporting this because not only will it encourage students to further their educations but it will expand on an already existing and vibrant music industry. We all know that it will help make the world a much happier place if we have more people who actually know how to play musical instruments.

I would take myself as the exception because I am not much good at playing any instrument but I envy those who can and, especially for those who have the talent, we need to provide them with the opportunity to take part in this at a reasonable cost. We also need to encourage those teachers to continue their business. Lots of these teachers have had wonderful careers in the music industry and can impart some good information, knowledge and advice to the students. Any way we can encourage that I think would be great.

This would create greater access to an alternative form of education. Not everyone fits in the mould like we all think they should. I know some very talented young people who would benefit if we were to extend the tuition credit and the education credit.

We must also be aware that Bill C-271 is a job-creating bill. It is designed to help the students but it is also designed to help the teachers. It would serve to not only create more and better paying careers for music teachers as a result of increased enrolment but it would also provide individuals who receive music accreditation with better paying careers. Hopefully it would increase their musical talents or at least help them to take advantage of that.

The music teaching industry has started a letter writing campaign in support of this legislation. I am sure that hon. members have been aware of this and I certainly hope have answered in the affirmative that they are going to support this bill. The Conservative Party believes that greater access to education is an essential component to creating a more productive economy.

Further to that, I might remind the House that it was only a few weeks ago that our leader actually put forward a very positive education proposal to help those who are not necessarily going to pursue a university education. We very much require more tradespeople. We will never see a more glaring example than in my province of Alberta. We are so short of labour in Alberta right now, with the booming oil industry, that we cannot find enough tradespeople to build the facilities that we need to help produce the oil and gas that heats the homes all across this country and also in the United States of course.

We are very much encouraged with the support we have of continuing the unfettered flow of oil and gas across the border, much to the surprise of some of the members opposite who might suggest we use that as a tool. That cannot happen. It is not a federal jurisdiction. We do not want to see that happen.

I am getting a little off topic. The issue is that it is not only the music industry that can benefit from looking outside the box. Not everyone needs a university education. Our leader put forward ideas to encourage tradespeople by helping them buy their equipment, encourage instructors to add to their programs to help students get the required trades skills that will be needed in the future, and to encourage the industries to develop apprenticeship programs. This bill very much fits into the mindset that the Conservatives have of encouraging education not only for youth, 16 and older, but for all those interested in contributing in other than just university roles.

Canada is very rich in musical talent and I envy people from the Maritimes. They seem to have much more talent. Albertans seem to be quite talented at extracting oil and gas from the earth, but we see the talents that the folks have in Atlantic Canada. Maybe we can teach more of these young Atlantic Canadians and they can impart some of their talent on those of us in western Canada. That is not to say we do not have a lot of talent in that part of the country.

I found some other interesting notes that I would like to share with the House. According to a benchmark study done for the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, funding for music programs is not keeping pace with demand and, hence, the need for this new piece of legislation. Quebec and Ontario have seen the largest decrease in the size of music programs, and time and financial resources are the biggest impediment to implementing these programs.

Other studies have found that the benefits of musical instruments are numerous other than giving us a lot of entertainment value. We all enjoy listening to those who are talented. Students involved in music programs actually show an increase in their IQ. I will not go into any further comments about how much music is needed in the House, but I think we all know that it would certainly help.

Music increases SATs, and the ability for students to retain more knowledge. It lowers their stress levels and increases their enjoyment of school, and goodness knows we could use more of that.

I will wrap up by quoting a researcher from the University of California in Irvine which stated:

Taking piano lessons improves specific math skills in elementary school children, according to a study by UC Irvine researchers. Piano instruction is believed to enhance the brain's “hard-wiring” for temporal reasoning the ability to visualize and transform objects in space and time. Music specifically helps with fractions and proportional math.

I support this bill and urge my hon. colleagues to do the same.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, there is not much doubt on all sides of the House that this is a commendable initiative.

I want to ask my hon. friend a number of questions. What would he say to a parent who has a child who is not musically inclined but is a dancer for instance? Would he extend this kind of tuition credit to somebody who is interested in art, or somebody who likes horseback riding, or somebody who plays hockey?

If this kind of personal enrichment credit were extended to people outside the formal education system, why would any of the demands from other parents with children who are personally enriched in other areas be less worthy than those in this particular bill? Is my colleague aware of what credits and deductions the Government of Canada already gives for music students and other students?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, we look at this as a wonderful first step and we are not suggesting this should be the end. Unless I am mistaken, this Liberal government has been in place for almost 13 years and we have not seen this type of forward moving, encouraging legislation for young people. I guess we need a private member's bill to do the government's work. It is interesting to note that those members stand up and criticize a good step like this when they have had 13 years to bring it forward.

I would put this as step number one. We would certainly like to take it further, but one step at a time. If we can get the members on the opposite side of the House to support this, and I certainly hope they do, then we would be encouraged enough to bring some other forward looking legislation before the House again.

I do not have all of the dollars and cents on the credits. As I said in my remarks, it is very minimal, almost nonexistent. It would be offset by the tax credits and the taxes collected by the teachers who have more jobs.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very excited about this private member's bill because at one point in my life I was a music teacher. This bill is exciting and forward thinking. It would build small business and enhance the music that we need in this world.

Research has shown that if children are musically trained their brain develops. Mathematics and music and all those kinds of things do good things toward the development and the educational potential of our students.

We know in terms of credits that any small businesses get write-offs in terms of their homes such as hydro et cetera. However, it is very expensive to pay for music lessons. Over a number of years the costs add up. How many students would be encouraged to keep up with music studies if there were some financial benefits?

We have two daughters who are violinists. It is very costly to keep those kinds of lessons up. This happens to many families across our nation. Members on this side of the House are trying to speak to the needs of middle and low income families. Could the member please speak to this issue?

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I will refer back to some of the research that was done by the hon. member from Westlock—St. Paul. I once again commend him for the tremendous effort that he put into this. We are looking at 400,000 people involved in the present program. I would not want to speculate how much that number would grow, but in 10 seconds I think it would grow immensely.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

One has to enjoy this position, Madam Speaker, because one hears a lot of ideas, some of which are more commendable than others and in terms of the idea itself, this is not a terrible idea. However, when we begin to unpack it, as I hope to show over the next few minutes, it does not stand the sniff test.

The bill is intended to extend a tuition tax credit and an education tax credit eligibility requirement to include courses of education given by a qualified music teacher. Under the bill instruction provided outside, and this is a critical point, the formal education system by a qualified music teacher would become eligible for the tuition tax credit and education tax credit. The bill also proposes that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development be given authority to certify music teachers for the purposes of these two tax credits.

The intent of the bill is commendable. Hopefully, it would in fact encourage participation by Canadian students in music and I would not argue with any of the benefits that the hon. member outlined in terms of music lessons and playing music. However, the Government of Canada and in fact all governments have a long standing resistance to extending tax credits and deductions, and things such as that to what are essentially personal enrichment exercises. As I said in my question, if it is not music then it must be dance and if it is not dance then it must be some other cultural activity, whether it is art or something of that nature. If it is not a cultural activity, then why could it not be a sport activity?

Any of us who are parents are spending considerable sums of money on the enrichment of our own children, however, we do not spend that money with the anticipation that somehow or another the government should share in that enrichment exercise.

Since 2001 almost $740 million has been provided in all aspects of the creative process by encouraging excellence among Canada's artists, promoting arts and culture among the population as a whole. In budget 2005 we put in new funding in the amount of $860 million which is to take that initiative from 2005 to 2010.

I would like to discuss the tax measures that the bill proposes to amend. Tuition and education tax credits are the principle measures through which the federal income tax system recognizes the cost of post-secondary education and occupational training. As we will see, the tax assistance is quite generous. In 2005 alone, it is estimated the education related tax measures will reduce taxes paid by students and supporting persons by approximately $1.5 billion which represents 45% of direct federal assistance to individuals for post-secondary education and occupational training.

These tax measures include: a tax credit for tuition fees in excess of $100, an education credit based on an amount of $400 for each month of full time attendance or $120 for each month of part time attendance, provided in recognition of non-tuition costs of post-secondary education or occupational training, for example, the cost of textbooks, supplies or tutoring.

When a student has insufficient income to take full advantage of the education and tuition tax credits, unused amounts can be transferred up to a maximum of $5,000 per individual. Students can carry this forward indefinitely. The first $3,000 of bursary and scholarship income received by students is tax exempt. Graduating students can benefit from a tax credit or interest paid on Canada student loans comparable to provincial government student loans programs.

Within this extensive tax support, the tax credits recognize that students pursuing post-secondary education or occupational training invest in their education to increase their future earnings. These two tax credits are available to all students enrolled in post-secondary education including music students, provided those courses are taken at a university, a college or CGEP, or any other post-secondary institution, or an educational institution providing non-university courses that furnish or improve that person's occupational skills, provided the institution is certified by the minister.

I must stress that as long as a music student is within the educational system as such, be it a university, college or a CEGEP, or as long as that student is taking these courses and expending these moneys for the purposes of improving an occupational skill, the government is there to support them. However, if the student is taking a course that is outside of those parameters and it is simply for personal enrichment, then the government does not support activities that are personally enriching. Otherwise, as I said, there would be no end to the requests on the part of taxpayers to support their particular personal enrichment.

Well over 4,500 of these institutions across the country have received certification. These privately run institutions offer training in areas that include informatics, business and management skills, piloting, and of course, music lessons.

We can see that the Income Tax Act already includes provisions to ensure that students who take music courses at a recognized institution outside of a university or college, with the hope of pursuing a career in music, can claim tuition and education tax credits.

The Income Tax Act already includes provisions that ensure that schools that provide music lessons outside the formal post-secondary education system can in fact issue tax receipts for the tuition credit, provided these courses or lessons are aimed again at improving occupational skills. These schools again must be certified by the minister.

I hope members will agree that the post-secondary music courses and training are already more than adequately recognized under the Income Tax Act, both from the viewpoint of the student and from the viewpoint of music schools and music teachers that operate outside the formal education system.

If the intent of Bill C-271 is to ensure that post-secondary music training is recognized for tax purposes, then the proposed amendments are superfluous and should be rejected by the House. However, if the intent behind Bill C-271 is to extend tax recognition to all music courses taken by all Canadians, then the bill raises some very serious fairness issues.

Indeed, it is a matter of principle that the Canadian income tax system should not recognize discretionary personal expenses.

As previously stated, the tuition and education tax credits have a specific purpose, namely, to recognize costs incurred by students in post-secondary education or occupational training. Extending those two credits to all music students, regardless of why they take their lessons, would significantly change the nature of those two credits from recognizing education related expenses to recognizing expenses related to music courses taken for personal enjoyment or personal development of the individual.

There is no doubt about the value of taking lessons in music, dance, art or whatever. That is not the argument here. There is no rationale from a tax policy perspective to provide a tax credit to Canadians in recognition of the costs of music lessons if they are only for the purpose of personal enjoyment.

I hope that over the previous few minutes I have made the distinction that if a student is there to improve his or her occupational qualifications, the government is with the student. If a student is there to pursue post-secondary education, the government is with the student. However, if the person is there merely to enrich his or her own personal development, then frankly that should be done at the person's own expense.

There is also no reason to provide tax relief for music students and not for other individual personal development. As I have said, we could outline all the other areas of personal development that Canadians may wish to pursue, but not necessarily claim tax credits, including such things as dance lessons, sporting activities and memberships in any number of local clubs and the like.

I hope I have persuaded members over the course of these last few minutes that this bill should fail for the reasons outlined above. The government is there to support people who are pursuing occupational qualifications or post-secondary qualifications. However, the area of personal development is not one which the government or the taxpayer for that matter should be asked to support.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-271, to extend the tuition credit and education credit to individuals who follow a formal course of instruction given by a qualified music teacher.

I want to congratulate the member for Westlock—St. Paul on his bill.

I also want to say that, although they do not get the same media coverage as government bills, many private members' bills have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people. Bill C-271 is one such example.

As members of the House, it is our privilege to introduce bills. Most of the time, these bills are extremely important to the public. I intend to take advantage of this privilege in due course to benefit my riding and my constituents.

First, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-271, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (tuition credit and education credit). This is an important bill because it will allow hundreds of music teachers to issue an income tax receipt to their students. Currently, tuition expenses cannot be claimed for courses provided outside post-secondary institutions, meaning universities and colleges.

Education has always been a priority for the Bloc Québécois, and Bill C-271 moves in that direction. How can we oppose an initiative that will allow more musicians to take upgrading courses by limiting their financial losses? Ultimately, this bill attests to the public's interest in music.

My riding is no exception. For example, in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, the Chicoutimi school of music currently boasts 700 students, including some 100 in an integrated arts program. Such an initiative will have a direct impact on the wallets of some parents, who are paying hundreds of dollars a year.

The music field is a major strength of my region and the Saguenay. The many music schools, the Conservatoire de musique de Saguenay, the Festival de musique du Royaume, the Orchestre symphonique du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and the Société d'art lyrique, the many choirs and choral competitions are just a few examples of a region that hums to the beat of music.

This bill will be good, therefore, for a region like mine because people who decide to take music courses from a private teacher in order to acquire or perfect skills will be entitled to the same credit as people who go through the traditional education system.

On another note, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about federal government intrusion into an area under Quebec's jurisdiction. As we well know, the federal government has had a bad habit for years now, when it transfers money to the provinces, of dictating and demanding in return certain Canada-wide conditions and standards. We need only think of parental leave and the gas tax.

Quebec has to fight all the time to save and protect its jurisdictions such as health, education, municipalities, and so forth.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, I can attest to that. I just returned from some consultations in Canada in the four western provinces. Also as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, I have had the opportunity to meet many representatives of organizations that came to testify in committee.

Quite frankly, there are two visions in Canada, two ways of seeing things. In Quebec, we want our jurisdictions protected and respected. Outside Quebec, we see that people or many organizations and association representatives want national standards from sea to sea. Those are the two visions we have in Canada.

That is why we have this concern about the federal government becoming involved or intruding in the responsibilities of Quebec and the provinces. It is important, therefore, for the federal government not to erect any barriers or make any requirements in regard to music diplomas.

I would like to finish my remarks on the Bloc Québécois' support in principle for Bill C-271. In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the member on his initiative with this bill. I would like to ask him to provide a few specifics in regard to the concerns that I just raised, namely the fact that the federal government might be tempted to try to intrude on a jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Chair, I thank my hon. colleagues for this opportunity to speak on an important principle, one that the New Democratic Party supports.

Throughout the lifelong participation of Canadians in the education system, but oftentimes within government, there is a very narrow focus, a focus that includes only those times when Canadians are involved in the formal education system and not the extension of that education beyond and throughout the lives of Canadians. Report after report and study after study demonstrate the need for Canadians to involve themselves in the pursuit of education and the betterment of their lives throughout their lives.

While we support the intent of the bill, we have a number of questions that cause us some concern. I will outline a number of them as I address the bill tonight in the short time made available to me.

It is interesting to hear the call for the increase in access to education, as the member from the Conservative Party suggested tonight, while there is an intention in the opposite direction.

It is quite ironic to hear from the Liberal Party that somehow there is investment and direction from the party toward lifelong education while at the same time we are witnessing unprecedented growth in the amount of debt load being incurred by our students in this country today. Students are simply trying to improve themselves, become more viable members in our economy and make Canada once again a competitive nation.

The irony abounds. It must not go unaddressed. In the rhetoric on the promotion of education as a principle, that too must be met with action. The numbers speak loudly in black and white. Year in and year out for the last 14 years, the average debt load for a student leaving post-secondary education in Canada has been increasing by $1,000 per year. That is an unprecedented and dramatic rise in the debt load that we are asking our students to incur as they go forth into the world and try to better themselves in society.

The bill also speaks quite dramatically to the precipitous decrease in the music options and the arts in general being offered through our public education system. There is a need for me to emphasize each of those words: public education system.

At one point I had the misfortune of being in education under the Harris regime here in Ontario. I have since found myself living under the auspices of the eminent Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell. Both of these so-called leaders brought forward an assault on our education such as has very rarely ever been seen in the Canadian political spectrum.

It was a piece by piece death. It was death by a thousand cuts to our education system and to those educators hoping to provide a sound grounding in education for our students. Music programs have eroded. Physical education has eroded. Piece by piece under conservative governments, whether in name or in action, we have been brought to a point where parents are desperate to find whatever forms of artistic education and betterment they can for their children. This must not go unchecked.

It is ironic that at a time when there are many serious issues facing our country when it comes to education we are presented with a bill that is in a sense a one-off and does not capture the debate.

The debate is about the Liberal government promise to restore to the provinces the $4 billion in social transfers that has been taken out of the system. The system has been gutted. The promise was to restore that to the provinces in order for them to be able to properly administer the education system, which they are primarily responsible for. Instead we are talking about a one-off tax credit for what is an important yet narrow field of education, as opposed to the gutting of our education system, which was initiated by the federal government and then encouraged by governments such as the Harris and Campbell governments.

We have talked a lot about the investment in our young people and investment in Canadians in this pursuit of lifelong learning, yet it comes down to the initiation of a tax credit rather than the proper funding of the public programs that are already in place. The instruments are in the room, the teachers are ready to teach, and yet we find conservative government after conservative government, supported by a federal Liberal government, willing to take the fight to the teachers themselves as opposed to taking the fight to the problem, to the challenge of preparing our teachers and our young people for the world we face.

That world we face requires the creativity and ingenuity spurned by those very musical and artistic programs that existed in our public schools but have slowly and quietly been eroded. This bill addresses some small part of that by moving it into the private sector and suggesting that this is enough, by suggesting that this is how we are going to compensate for a continual and consistent erosion of our public education system. Obviously, it is not enough.

Let me speak for a brief moment about an experience of what education in the music and the arts can bring to a community. In my northwestern community of British Columbia, a youth fiddling group started up some years ago. I had the pleasure of working with this group, developing them, encouraging them to go further afield, and watching what the principle of their education system was.

This is a small group made up almost entirely of volunteers and parents who encouraged extraordinarily young people to get involved in fiddle music, as simple as that may be. One might suggest that this was only for the enjoyment of that music, but this group had taken on the principle of what it is to be in a community, to exist within a community and within a larger family, in supporting these young people who have now toured our province and plan to tour the country.

The group has grown to almost 100 young people. The parents are intimately involved in these students' education. Their education through this music has become a vital part of these children's lives, allowing them to prosper and allowing the community and the families to strengthen. We need to encourage such initiatives wherever we can.

Without addressing this fundamental question of the role of public education in our system and the role of public education in the arts, and allowing for what is at best a well intentioned but overly narrowly focused piece of legislation, it is difficult to reconcile. It is difficult to turn to the teachers in British Columbia and to the parents putting their children in those schools, who have been watching the slow and steady deterioration of the services available to special needs children and to all children who enter our public system.

It is no longer acceptable. It is time for the federal government and all parties in the House to raise the cry and finally acknowledge that an investment at this point in a young person's life makes all other investments pale in comparison.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to put some comments on the record about Bill C-271, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.

I must applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul. This very progressive bill has addressed a problem that has been touching on the education of our young people and the lives of our students and music teachers here in Canada. I can tell members from experience that I know well what it is like to have music students come to my home. It is something that I did at one time. I have to say that this private member's bill is long overdue.

First of all, I was appalled at the comments I heard from members on the other side of the House, particularly those from the Liberal Party.

Number one, what was said was that they have no problems with cash credits being given to students who go to formal institutions to get their education, but let me tell members a little about the kind of education that students get from certified music teachers.

A certified music teacher who is giving music lessons out of his or her own home takes the children through grade levels. There are standards. There can be music programs like those from the Royal Conservatory of Music. The music teachers give the lessons. The children do a lot of practice and cannot progress until they actually take the examination at the end of the year. If they pass the examination, they go to the subsequent grade.

This helps a lot of students, particularly students in rural Canada. There are schools of music all over Canada, but I would say that most of them are centred in major cities. Many of our students in our rural areas are at a disadvantage because of the cost of having to leave their homes and get their education elsewhere.

This is about investing in the future of our students. It is lifelong education. Members opposite often talk about lifelong education. Here today we saw a dismal display of the understanding of what education is all about. Clearly, music teachers, 20,000 of them across our country, are watching this and saying, “What are they saying? What are they talking about?” Clearly, there is a high standard of education from certified music teachers.

The downside is the cost to parents. As I say, I applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul for putting this much needed bill forward because many parents and students cannot afford the cost of extended music lessons. When students go through the public or private school systems, the cost of everyday life is great. The cost of books is great. The cost of education per se is great.

Over and above that, there are a lot of students who would like to become musicians and music teachers. They would like to achieve those kinds of goals. But in actual fact, by the time the cost of the instrument is paid for, whether it is a violin or a piano or another instrument that one wants to play, we find that these are very expensive. Some of them run into hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Qualified music teachers who build a home business of teaching students do much to contribute to the economy in their particular district. What I hear from members opposite is that there are merits in the bill and yet they divorce their support from this bill based on the fact that this is what we call homegrown business. Not only is it homegrown business, but it is formalized education outside the parameters of the bricks and mortars of institutional schools of learning.

Many students have reached very high standards and have gone to Julliard or to extended music schools all over the world. Where did they start? They started at home with a qualified music teacher, teaching them grades 1 through 9 formally, with the counterpoint and the other kinds of educational expertise they have to learn to get to a certain level before they can go further. They have a whole basis of formalized education that opens up a whole new world to them.

I came from a small place in southern Manitoba called Wakopa, a little hamlet, on a farm. My parents never had the kind of money that we needed to get through school. A lot of us took music lessons with the local music teacher.

Members opposite are playing the violin as if this is a story they do not want to hear. However, this is a very serious issue and it is a very progressive bill. I would call on members on all sides of the House to support the bill. It accommodates the education of many students throughout Canada, many students who would otherwise not develop.

Many music students are happy being able to study their music. They are happy to enjoy the music and the development it offers them. Apart from that, it is also a great part of the education of Canadian students. Many students would attest to the fact that. Because of those certified music teachers, their lives have been changed. It has opened up new worlds to them. It has helped them to develop as individuals. It has provided jobs for them.

Having some tax breaks and credits is of paramount importance to the education of our children. Members on all sides of the House have to look carefully at the attributes of music teachers. Music teachers have a one-to-one individualized relationship with their students. That helps the students to have a vision on how they can develop and grow. Once they get their basic music, then they can go on to all sorts of different fields. I know first-hand of students who have taken their basic music degree or music education and then later have gone to higher levels of education.

In some rural areas, as these students get into the higher levels of grades 9 and 10 or into their ARTC music degree, they will teach the beginner students as well.

The bill has a lot of merit. It has a lot to say about understanding the education and lifelong learning of individuals in our nation. We need to build a high standard of education. We need to encourage individuals, no matter what their backgrounds are or how much money they have. We need to give individuals a vision of who they can be. In many places, especially in rural Canada and in our urban areas as well, that certified music teachers provide that opportunity.

We talk about the feel good kind education and the enhancement of the well-being of somebody. However, it also very difficult formalized education. Anyone who has ever studied music would understand that. Anyone who has ever gone through counterpoint would understand the logistics of that kind of education as well.

We need to give a lot of support and credit to the students in our nation and to the 20,000 music teachers who work on a daily basis to help their students reach their highest levels of learning.

Over and above that, across the nation we have festivals where students can compete and understand what it is like to receive an award for their singing or for their playing. Many communities have music festivals that teach other kinds of skills as well, and they have built-in toastmasters.

I fully support Bill C-27. It is an extremely progressive bill that should have been in this House of Commons a long time ago. The Liberal Party has been in power over a decade and this has not come up in the House.

The teachers and the students in music have done very well. If there is anything the government can do to support their lifelong learning, it should be done. I would like to even see some things extended, where the price of instruments, et cetera are also included.

To conclude, the bill would add to the well-being and high educational standards to which every student wants to attribute themselves.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the motion is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Pursuant to order made Thursday, October 20 the House shall now resolve itself into committee of the whole to consider Government Business No. 19, I do now leave the Chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 19, Hon. Jean Augustine in the Chair)

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

October 25th, 2005 / 7:10 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That this committee take note of softwood lumber.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

7:10 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Madam Chair, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to bring the House up to date on our efforts to resolve the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.

The softwood lumber dispute is a vital issue affecting all Canadians. This dispute has already been going on for too long. I want to assure the House that the government is highly committed to resolving this dispute, which in fact is its top trade priority with the U.S. I can assure you that the government will steadfastly pursue its efforts to have the duties lifted and to get the deposits back.

We are continuing to work with our Canadian partners. Our collaborative relationship with the provinces has greatly helped maintain a united Canadian front vis-à-vis American protectionist interests. The continuing efforts of our Canadian industry to enhance its productivity and remain competitive in spite of the burden of this dispute are also laudable.

The importance of our relationship with the United States is lost to no one. We trade $1.8 billion worth of goods and services every day, 86% of our exports go to the U.S., 300,000 people cross the border every day, a truck crosses this border every two seconds. We are the largest trading relationship the world has ever seen.

In fact, it is because of the importance of this relationship that we negotiated the NAFTA in the first place. We wanted a rules based agreement with a dispute settlement mechanism that would bring certainty to our primary trading relationship.

For the NAFTA to have the integrity we all need, it is not good enough for the rules to be followed only when they are convenient. Despite the unanimous extraordinary challenge committee ruling on August 10, the United States still refuses to revoke the duty orders and refund the $5.1 billion in deposits. This is unacceptable. The bottom line is that the NAFTA cannot lead to North American solutions if settlements under its provisions can be overturned by special interests. The NAFTA must be respected.

To protect the NAFTA, we have engaged in a four track approach on softwood lumber, involving advocacy, litigation, retaliation and finding new markets.

We have engaged U.S. officials at the most senior levels. The Prime Minister discussed the dispute with President Bush, most recently a little over a week ago. The Prime Minister underlined the need for prompt and faithful implementation of NAFTA decisions. This is necessary if we are to preserve the NAFTA's integrity. President Fox of Mexico joined with us, and we welcome his support for respecting the NAFTA.

I have discussed the issue with Commerce Secretary Gutierrez and the U.S. trade representative Rob Portman and I have raised it with the ambassador to Canada.

Ambassador McKenna and our consuls general to the United States are meeting with state and local leaders to explain our position and gain their support. When the Prime Minister, my cabinet colleagues, the ambassador and the consuls general of Canada will be addressing American citizens and business people in the months to come, they will emphasize our concerns about the softwood lumber dispute, the threat it poses to NAFTA and the negative impact of duties on employment in the United States as well as on access to home ownership, an essential part of the American dream.

Canada is also working together with a number of like-minded American organizations, which believe that the duties adversely affect American companies, workers and consumers as well. Illegal duties on Canadian softwood lumber not only have a negative impact on many American industries dependent on softwood lumber, but ultimately they represent a disguised tax for American consumers.

Through our lobbying efforts, we are making Americans realize the burden these duties are putting on their everyday lives.

We are fighting our battles in the courtroom as well. On the litigation front we are aggressively pursuing legal challenges under the NAFTA, the WTO and before the U.S. Court of International Trade. Of these legal challenges, our key focus remains the U.S. Court of International Trade, where, if successful, the United States will be compelled to revoke the orders and refund our deposits.

On the issue of retaliating against our neighbours, I can tell members that this is not our preferred course of action. We have requested authority from the WTO to retaliate against the United States in three separate cases. These processes will take time and any retaliation would be preceded by consultations with Canadians.

Hon. members should also be aware that the government is working with the lumber industry to find new markets for Canadian lumber, capitalizing on our strengths in markets outside the United States. We cannot afford to miss opportunities in emerging powers, such as China, India, Brazil and Korea.

In support of these efforts, two weeks ago my colleague, the Minister of National Revenue, announced a $2.5 million investment in the Chinese market.

I have also asked that softwood lumber become a priority of our Canadian missions. We are continuing our close cooperation with the provinces and industry as part of the Canada wood export program, to help Canadian softwood lumber producers.

The government is sensitive to the impact the softwood lumber dispute has on communities and workers across the country. No other industry in Canada has been subjected to the same degree of U.S. trade actions as the lumber industry.

In response, the government has made available $356 million in federal assistance to forestry workers, communities and industries. In addition, I announced that $20 million would be made available to assist industry associations with their legal expenses in fighting this long-standing dispute. The Minister of Industry has said that he will shortly bring forth a new set of programs to help our workers, communities and companies.

Looking forward, we will continue to fight on all fronts in addressing this issue. We will continue to press our litigation challenges. We will seek new markets and opportunities beyond the United States. We will ensure that the NAFTA and its dispute settlement rules continue to work the way they were intended, with support from Mexico and through our intervention in the coalition's constitutional challenge. We will press our case in the U.S. and seek new and influential allies to help defend the interests of Canadians. We will deal with Americans who recognize the value of free, fair, rules based trade. We will continue to raise the softwood issue at the highest levels of the U.S. administration.

In closing, I would like to thank all the Liberal MPs who have worked so constructively with us on this issue, especially the members of our forestry caucus. I also want to thank the members of our department who have toiled tirelessly on this file, some for many years.

I want to assure members that in seeking a resolution to the softwood lumber dispute, we recognize that different conditions prevail throughout the industry and throughout Canada, that there are different conditions in maritime Canada, the border mills, central Canada, the west and B.C., and that independent remanners are different from primary producers.

We will work very closely with the provinces and the industries to achieve a resolution that is in the best interests of all Canadians. We will not stop fighting until we have found a solution to this dispute. Above all else, the NAFTA must be respected.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Madam Chair, the minister was echoing some of the tough talk of the Prime Minister and was sounding very stiff and rigid, but we know that he is about as rigid as Silly Putty.

In fact, the government's position is a bit like Silly Putty. It just stamps itself on something and then takes whatever impression it thinks is most suitable at the time. We hear the minister stand now and embrace NAFTA, as if his government actually brought it to this country when he knows full well that he and members of the Liberal Party vigorously opposed NAFTA. In fact if I am not mistaken, the current Prime Minister left the cozy confines of the private sector with the sole stated purpose of defeating free trade, with the Liberal Party.

The minister mentioned our new ambassador, Frank McKenna. Our new ambassador made a statement just a few weeks ago indicating that the American system of government was dysfunctional. Add that statement to some of the other provocative, unhelpful, objectionable language that has come from the benches of the Liberal Party over the past number of years. Does the minister really think that will help in coming to a resolution over the softwood lumber dispute?

More important, I would like the minister to stand in his place and tell us which of the Prime Minister's statements he agrees with. These are statements that the Prime Minister has made publicly just within the last 48 hours: he is open to negotiations on the softwood lumber dispute; he will not negotiate on the softwood lumber dispute; or he might negotiate some aspects of the softwood lumber dispute? Which is it?

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Madam Chair, we on this side do not have to take lessons from members of the opposition, members of the Conservative Party which left this country with a deficit of $41 billion, a total debt that approached 68% of our GDP and an unemployment rate of 11.2%.

We have worked conscientiously to create wealth for Canadians throughout the years by introducing discipline in government. We will not take lessons from the Conservatives in terms of the economy that they bequeathed to Canadians, that we inherited and which we had to rectify.

We have already said in terms of the softwood lumber dispute that first and foremost the terms of the NAFTA must be respected. This is bigger than just the softwood lumber dispute. This is the constitution, the constating document that governs the world's largest trading relationship.

At the same time we have said that we seek a long term durable resolution to the softwood lumber dispute, one that will bring certainty to our workers, certainty to our companies and certainty to our communities.

Softwood Lumber
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Chair, it is a pleasure for me, as the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, to speak in this take note debate.

I would like to provide the minister with a specific example. We are going to get down to brass tacks tonight. In my riding, we have Tembec, Kruger and Domtar. These companies are all having incredible difficulties at the present time just because large amounts of money are being held at the border.

These companies want to ask the minister, through me, why it is so hard for this government to give them advance loans on the money that they have already deposited. It is only loan guarantees that they need.

I will provide an example. Tembec is currently completing construction of a laminated panel factory in Amos to be called Temlam. It has invested $ 99 million. The only thing it wants—not money or new programs or projects, not at all—is to know whether the government can give it an advance loan on the money that is frozen at the border and that it knows it will get back. That is all it wants to know.

Can the minister tell us whether or not the government will be able to provide these advance loans? That is all people want to know in my riding.