House of Commons Hansard #212 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the NDP for finally taking this opportunity to think about Canadian taxpayers' pocketbooks.

Obviously we disagree on what we should be doing for Canadians. Our government lowered the GST, from 7% to 6% to 5%. The NDP voted against that. We have lowered taxes for Canadian families by $3,000 since we have been in government. We have actually cut taxes over 140 times. However, the NDP voted each and every time against that.

Now it has new-found thoughts for Canadian's pocketbooks. If we look at its platform, the NDP has promised $65 billion in unfunded tax promises. These are promises for things it would do if it ever had the opportunity to form government. We know it has a $21 billion carbon tax, which is huge, but there is still a huge shortfall in income to pay for $65 billion in unfunded promises. Therefore, I was wondering, where is the NDP going to be making up the difference? Is it going to raise the GST too? Canadians would like to know where the NDP is going to come up with that difference, over $40 billion in unfunded promises.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary.

As he knows, a budget involves choices. According to the latest study from the Department of Finance on the budgets presented by the different parties, the most balanced and the most reasonable budgets come from the NDP. Next come the ones presented by the Conservatives, and trailing far behind are the budgets by the Liberals, unfortunately.

Budgets involve choices. We can talk, for instance, about their attacks on employment insurance, the hidden taxes they pass on to consumers and the fees imposed on small businesses. We could talk for quite a while about that.

However, I find it interesting that we agree on the principle in the House today. It is nice to work together on a bill.

I hope this co-operation will continue during the committee’s consideration of the bill and that the Conservatives will listen to the official opposition, which does not just whine for the sake of whining. Constituents do not agree with the decisions being made by this government, and we represent them. The government must listen to Canadians.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, to show support for my colleague following that last question from the government, I would like to say that we on this side will always oppose omnibus bills that directly attack the economies of our regions or certain segments of the population, even though an omnibus bill may contain some decent measures. There are always negative measures and, unfortunately, they overshadow the rest.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act and related legislation.

Generally speaking, bills should not be this lengthy. But since it should have been introduced years ago, we can understand why it is so large. It contains amendments that should have been made long ago and that must be made now.

I would like to congratulate the minister on finally introducing this bill, given that the last time Parliament passed a technical tax bill was in 2001. I believe we can say that this is long overdue.

In her 2009 fall report, the Auditor General at the time, Sheila Fraser, said this:

No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001. Although the government has said that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable, this has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted, including 250 “comfort letters” dating back to 1998, recommending changes that have not been legislated.

How is it that the last technical tax bill was passed in 2001, when the government acknowledged the need to introduce such a bill every year? Perhaps those were simply meaningless words from the minister. It happens all the time with bills. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened with a bill.

A few months after he came to the position, the Minister of Finance introduced the first version of a bill to make technical reforms to the tax system. I say “introduced” rather than “enacted” for a reason.

It was not possible to enact that bill, and not because it had not gone through all the necessary steps in the House; rather, it was because the government decided to throw everything out and prorogue the first session of the 39th Parliament, in 2007. The bill was reintroduced, but it must be noted that two elections and three prorogations later, no legislation has yet been enacted.

It is all very well to recognize that a bill like Bill C-48 needs to be introduced every year, but let us not forget to pass it. Let us hope that in the case of this bill, the Conservatives are not preparing us for another prorogation.

Bill C-48 implements about 200 technical amendments to the tax system, spread over more than a decade. It is therefore essential that we pass it, because ultimately, these changes to the system will have a positive impact on revenues and will deter tax avoidance.

We in the New Democrats have long spoken out against tax avoidance, unlike former governments. We believe that we must fight tax avoidance and tax evasion, while preserving the integrity of our tax system. For that reason, I will be supporting the changes made by this bill. It does not solve everything and we will have to do more to deal with tax evasion, but this kind of bill needs to be passed.

I would now like to talk about how thick Bill C-48 is. In the last year and a half, we have learned how fond the Conservatives are of giving us a lot to read. But they do not give us figures, testimony, scientific studies or exhaustive data to read—just a lot of different laws in a single omnibus bill.

It is not reasonable for one bill to lead to so many changes to so many laws. For once, at least, the laws are closely connected. I will therefore not accuse the minister of putting everything but the kitchen sink into one bill, this time.

I simply want him to understand that if he had done his job properly and each year we had passed a bill like this one, we would not be having to consider a brick like this. The work of Parliament would then be much more effective, and more importantly, much more transparent, not to mention the fact that we would have a good administrator for a government. This government is unfortunately proving that the opposite is true.

The massive size of the bill proves that there is still much work to be done in order to transpose these kinds of technical changes into legislation. If the job is not done, it will penalize the business community and complicate the process of the evaluation that Parliament must do.

However, I would like to reassure the minister: he is not the only one to blame. He did introduce a similar bill in the past, but we might say that his boss did not think it important enough to be passed. He preferred to keep opening Parliament and shutting it down.

It is difficult for a bill of this magnitude to get through the whole legislative process. We must not forget that the Liberals are also partly responsible. They were in power for the first five years after the last such bill was passed in 2001. What is more, some Department of Finance comfort letters date back to 1998. I am not an accounting expert, but according to my calculations, fifteen years have passed since 1998. The government should have been doing this work regularly every year for a long time now.

There were also warnings when the Liberal government was in power. For example, Marlene Legare, former senior chief of the sales tax division of the Department of Finance, said the following when she appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce on September 20, 2000:

Until now, the choice has probably been more in favour of combining measures so as to put forward fewer bills. I think the lesson that we learned from this experience is that it may be preferable to change the balance somewhat. That may mean putting forward smaller bills which would contain measures that would be enacted on a more timely basis.

Yet, here we are 12 years after the most recent technical bill. The idea of a greater number of “smaller bills” does not apply here. At this very moment, as we debate this bill, there are still 200 more changes announced in comfort letters, which are agreements approved by Parliament. As everyone knows, in Canada, Parliament passes laws. That is the case even though we sometimes get the impression that some people would prefer that it be done another way.

Bill C-48 contains a number of positive changes. I would like to mention three changes that have not yet been pointed out by the government. First, some income tax restrictions have been removed to help labour-sponsored venture capital corporations address transition issues resulting from the elimination of the support program for such corporations.

Second, the formula for allocating the taxable income of air transportation companies has been changed to ensure that the income generated by taxing these companies is allocated to the provinces and territories where the company is permanently located.

Finally, there is the implementation of a measure concerning the tax treatment of shares held by short-term residents, for the purposes of the air transportation tax, according to the comfort letters dated 2003 and 2007. The bill is not a step in the wrong direction. I simply want the minister to understand that in the future, it should not take so long to get this through.

To conclude my speech, I would like to quote Denis St.-Pierre, chair of the tax and fiscal policy advisory group of the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada:

First, the government must introduce a technical tax amendments bill. The last time a technical tax bill was passed by Parliament was over 11 years ago. Literally hundreds of unlegislated tax amendments to the Income Tax Act—which I showed this committee last year by bringing the Income Tax Act, if you recall—have been proposed, but not yet enacted, which brings uncertainty and unpredictability to the process. Second, we strongly feel that implementing a sunset provision would ensure that tax amendments are legislated...

He went on to say that it was necessary and healthy for our economy to introduce amendments annually or on a regular basis.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives took a long time writing these technical amendments into law. In a report tabled in 2009, the Auditor General at the time remarked that the Department of Finance had accumulated at least 400 technical amendments that were outstanding.

Can my colleague tell us about the actual scope of such a bill?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the actual scope of such a bill is important because legislation must be amended. The bill we have before us now is Bill C-48.

However, there is a problem because while this bill is being debated, other amendments that need to be passed pile up. This bill already contains a huge number of amendments. So, the process needs to be undertaken regularly. It is good for our economy and will combat tax avoidance. It is necessary and, in the future, it must be done every year.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening carefully to my NDP colleague and I would like to know, in clear terms, how the NDP will vote on this bill. Moreover, I would like to know whether we can count on the NDP regarding the measures we have put forward to reduce Canadians' taxes.

Obviously, in the past, the NDP said that it wanted to increase the GST. Twice, the New Democrats voted against the cuts proposed by this government. However, today, things are clearer and the NDP members are perhaps ready to say that they will support tax cuts for Canadians.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP will always be in favour of reducing the tax burden on Canadians. Still, we are talking here about all Canadians. It is not true that the NDP would decrease taxes on large corporations without requiring that they reinvest in their communities, as the Conservatives have done.

We can all agree that tax reductions were provided to large corporations without any conditions. They simply put the money in their banks. That was money belonging to the Canadian people, which has not been redistributed throughout the society and which is not making any contribution at all to the economy. That is not good economic management.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

When we talk about technical amendments to the Income Tax Act and other complex acts things are not always obvious, especially when the bill has some 1,000 pages. The issue is not necessarily the number of pages in the bill, but the fact that it has taken so long to be introduced.

When we talk about technical amendments, we know that it is a good idea, not only to clarify the law governing income tax and related matters, but also to reassure the entire business community.

What does my colleague think about the government taking such a long time? This is really a long time, because the amendments in this bill date back to 2001, more than 10 years ago. What impact will this have on ensuring that the public is well aware of the bills that affect us all?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it tells me that up to now we have been governed by poor administrators who have created uncertainty in the economic sector and among the general public. If we suddenly bring in tons of amendments to the statutes that affect the economy, the transition will be much more difficult than if a few laws were changed each year.

Thus, we have some poor administrators and they must realize that there are important things to be done, and that a bill like this should be introduced at regular intervals, and not once a decade.

Festival du Voyageur
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am excited to return to Saint Boniface this afternoon for the start of our world-class winter celebration called Festival du Voyageur.

This 10-day Métis and Franco-Manitoban event celebrates the joie de vivre of the voyageur and fur trade era. The Festival du Voyageur was founded in 1969 by a group of entrepreneurs from Saint Boniface and has become one of the premier annual celebrations in my home province of Manitoba.

People from around the world come to experience the Métis and Franco-Manitoban history, culture and dance.

The festival includes snow sculptures, delicious French-Canadian food and Métis games. As a Métis woman, I am very proud to celebrate our roots along with the rest of the country. I invite everyone to put on a colourful sash and join me for a trip to the past, to discover the world of the voyageurs and the Métis fur trade.

I would like to send a huge thank-you to the organizers, volunteers and participants.

Hey Ho! Meegwetch!

Government Spending
Statements by Members

February 15th, 2013 / 11 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the very distinct privilege of awarding the Diamond Jubilee Medal to Michel Fecteau, the founder of SOS Richelieu, and to the mayors of five municipalities affected by the historic floods of the Richelieu River.

Ironically, at the same time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence was saying, in a CBC broadcast:

We have the power to recoup costs, not only from the provinces and territories but also from other departments when the Department of National Defence provides them with a service.

That statement caused a public outcry in my constituency, which is located in a region that had already called in the army for help in 1998, during the ice storm. Quebeckers will categorically refuse to pay a second time, through their municipal and provincial taxes, for the assistance provided by the army, because they already paid for it once with their federal taxes.

This absurd proposal shows once again just how much the Conservatives improvise and then back down. More importantly, it shows how insensitive they are to the plight of flood victims who lost everything.

The Great Lakes
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, since Canada introduced new ballast water rules in 2006, there have been no new invasive species found in the Great Lakes. By taking a balanced approach, we have established a strong environmental record while helping the economy.

I am glad that the Great Lakes communities have advocated for a balanced approach to protecting our Great Lakes, unlike the proposed regulations that the state of New York abandoned last year.

Last year, Great Lakes communities in Canada and the United States, from Leamington, Ontario to Oswego, New York joined St. Catharines in calling for sensible and technologically achievable ballast water regulations.

As a member for a Great Lakes community, I call on the governments of Canada and the United States to do what is right and take a balanced approach to helping our communities promote jobs, economic growth, and the long-term environmental health of the Great Lakes' ecosystem.

Pink Shirt Day
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remind Canadians that Pink Shirt Day is Wednesday, February 27.

Pink Shirt Day started several years ago after a Nova Scotia high school student was bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt. The next day, many of his classmates showed up to school wearing pink shirts to stand up against bullying. The event has grown since then, and last year 6.4 million Canadians took part.

We all know that bullying can be a major problem and, unfortunately, we know the devastating impacts it can have.

I would like to acknowledge the wonderful work done in promoting this day on Prince Edward Island by Joe Killorn, son of Dr. Leo Killorn, a man who certainly helped me get my life in order.

I am sure that my colleagues in the House will join me and encourage everyone across this country to take a stand against bullying.

Status of Women
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have made gains in Canada in electing more women to all levels of government across our country. However, as new communications media, such as Twitter, change how we talk to each other and as more women choose to run for office, we must continue to stand vigilant against sexist vitriol geared to objectifying and belittling women in office.

I want to congratulate Ms. Diamond Isinger for her blog project Madam Premier, the purpose of which is to shed light on these types of comments.

I also want to thank my colleagues in this place who have reached across party lines to stand up for one another and me when this type of language comes to their attention, which, sadly, still occurs with some frequency.

Judge us on our policy and judge us on our performance. On behalf of all of my colleagues, all of the women in my life who have supported me in this journey—and this one is for them—all the women who have fought for our right to be here and all the women I certainly hope will follow us to this place, I know that together we will not tolerate those who seek to belittle us based on our gender.

We should name it and shame it.

St. Anthony of Padua Church
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Ottawa Centre, whose congregation is celebrating 100 years in 2013.

This beautiful church at Booth and Gladstone is a touchstone and a beloved landmark in Little Italy. It has survived two fires, and it holds a century's worth of memories. St. Anthony's has been at the heart of Ottawa's Italian-Canadian community, with its numerous parish associations, like the Sons of Italy, the Ladies' Aid and St. Anthony's soccer club. Who can forget Father Jerome who helped so many Italian immigrants settle in Ottawa during their first years in Canada?

I congratulate St. Anthony's clergy and staff, the Servite community and parishioners. We join them in celebrating 100 years of this proud Ottawa institution, and we look forward to the next 100 years.