An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Chris Charlton  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Feb. 5, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment allows tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct from their taxable income any travel and accommodation expenses that they have incurred in order to secure and maintain employment in a construction activity at a job site that is located at least 80 kilometres away from their ordinary place of residence.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 5, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

October 29th, 2014 / 5 p.m.
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Christopher Smillie Senior Advisor, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Canada's Building Trades Unions

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Canada's Building Trades Unions represent close to 500,000 members in Canada and more than three million in the U.S. We represent people who go to work every day on job sites large and small in the energy sector, and commercial and residential sectors. We're the largest private trainer on the continent and we invest more than a quarter billion dollars a year in Canada in training infrastructure. So we know jobs. We're paid by our members to find jobs every week. If we don't find them a job, we're not doing our job.

Jobs are essentially a private sector responsibility, right? My submission today is that the federal government can easily assist with mobility measures in the Canadian labour market that would assist people who wouldn't otherwise go to where the work is and get them when the employers need them. This can be done through tax credits or a restructure of the employment insurance benefits system and do it all rather cheaply compared to other government spending. My submission is that a mobility assistance measure would ease the strained temporary foreign worker program by transitioning Canadians to labour markets where their talents are required. Even if it's a short duration it helps the economy and the country. A mobility measure would encourage people to get off employment insurance and start working again: a noble cause on both fronts.

All construction work is temporary. All construction work is transitory. Skilled tradespeople are dispatched wherever the work may be. The lucky ones get travel assistance from either the construction employer or the large client. You heard from Janet from CAPP. Sometimes her members pay to fly back and forth to their job sites. The existing permanent relocation tax credit available through the Income Tax Act doesn't make sense or apply to temporary workers who work in transitory industries. No one is moving their family and home for a temporary six-week job on a large apartment building being built in Saskatoon or Hamilton when your kids, wife, and home are in Welland, Barrie, Tuktoyaktuk, or elsewhere.

Canada needs a change in incentive policy for in-demand occupations when relocating for temporary work. lt doesn't matter to industry, it doesn't matter to Janet, or it doesn't matter to me if it's a tax credit or an El grant: industry is united. Parliament had a chance to do something late last fall with Bill C-201. However, the bill was handily defeated because of partisanship. Mobility and getting a job is a non-partisan issue to Canadians. The Government of Canada introducing a mobility assistance policy for in-demand workers is not a partisan act. The government helping people temporarily relocate for work is not a partisan exercise. The government's expense getting them there today means tax revenues tomorrow from the worker, the capital asset, and the company doing the work.

The pilot I suggest in my written submission to the committee starts small; $4 million in forgone tax revenue. lt returns $12 million in income tax paid by individuals alone. Pick a few occupations most in need and choose a few major projects to determine eligibility in the pilot. Federal budgets are about wise spending choices and this modest pilot certainly falls into the frugal category when you look at the breadth of public program spending in Canada. For example Public Works indicates the various departments in Ottawa spent about the same amount on public polling in 2013 as this request would be.

This measure could also help Canadians get the training they need in a different market where there is work and an employer willing to tap into the Canada job grant. Use the mobility measure to get to where the training is for the job you're about to start. The job grant is dependent on an employer willing to hire you. Markets with hot employment markets will require more people to be trained. There is a natural link here. The Canada job grant, despite the noise, is the single most important change to the training landscape in two decades.

April 1st, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

I wonder, Mr. Myers, if you have any thoughts about either the apprenticeship program or labour mobility and Bill C-201 in particular.

April 1st, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

I'm happy to be able to ask another round of questions. I want to follow up. I think Mr. Larson was the only person who spoke in his presentation about the skill shortage, but it's certainly come up since then in conversation. It's a vexing problem for us right now, because we have high unemployment in some parts of the country and we have labour shortages in other parts of the country, particularly in Alberta in the oil sands, and we've certainly spent a bunch of time at the human resources committee talking about that unique circumstance.

One of the issues, of course, relates to labour mobility, which is a bit of a fix to that situation. I had put a bill before Parliament, C-201, which was supported by the building trades, and I'm sure, Ms. Annesley, your organization supported it as well, and many contractors did. It would have allowed building and construction trades to write off their travel and accommodation expenses if they worked more than 80 kilometres away from home.

I wonder if I could ask all of you if you support that kind of initiative as part of the solution. I'm not at all suggesting that it's the ultimate fix, but I would very much like to have your views on record on that.

Ms. Annesley, maybe we could start with you.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-201 under private members' business.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of a bill introduced by the member for Hamilton Mountain. Bill C-201 would allow tradespeople and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes when they secure and maintain employment at a construction site more than 80 kilometres from their homes.

TaxationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 4th, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition about the enactment of Bill C-201. The member for Hamilton Mountain has introduced Bill C-201, which would allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes, so they can secure and maintain employment at construction sites that are more than 80 kilometres from their homes. This is signed by many petitioners from my riding and local ridings, who are all in favour of this.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to be able to rise in the chamber tonight to thank my colleagues from all sides of the House for putting partisanship aside and doing the right thing; the right thing for Canada's building and construction trades, for employers who cannot find enough skilled workers to meet their job requirements, for regional economies and for the taxpayers of this country. We could have achieved all of that simply by supporting Bill C-201, an act that would allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct from their taxable income any travel and accommodation expenses they incur to secure and maintain employment in a construction activity at a job site located at least 80 kilometres away from their ordinary place of residence.

However, it is clear from the Conservative members' comments in this debate that they are once again going to allow partisanship to stand in the way of good public policy. In fact, the member for Yukon basically said as much when he stated essentially that I should not have had the audacity to introduce this bill because, in his view, it should have been introduced by the Conservatives as part of their budget process. I would have been happy for that to happen. In fact, ever since I first introduced this bill in 2006, I have repeatedly been in touch with the government, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, to indicate that I would happily withdraw my bill if the government wanted to introduce it as a Conservative budget measure. However, eight years later, the building trades have still only received lip service instead of action and, frankly, they deserve better. What they are getting from the current government is the same run-around that they got from previous Liberal and Conservative governments for the last 35 years. It is a disgrace. The reasons being articulated by members on the government side just do not hold water. I only have five minutes to participate in tonight's debate, but thankfully all of the arguments are easy to rebut.

The first argument put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue was that the bill would be very costly and that the cost would be significant to our economy at this time. However, just a few minutes later he went on to take credit for “Canada's strong economic performance”. Well, which is it? Did the Conservatives fail and the economy is still fragile? Or is the economy robust and the Conservatives are simply refusing to act? Either way, the government is failing Canada's building and construction trades.

The next argument put forth by government MPs is that the Canada jobs grant is a better solution than my bill for the skilled labour shortage, which has been identified by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as the number one issue facing its membership. However, oops, the Canada jobs grant does not actually exist yet and, given the provinces' rejection of the federal approach on this file, it may in fact never get off the ground. However, that of course has not stopped the government from already spending taxpayer dollars on advertising this non-existent program.

To add insult to injury, the Conservative talking points then suggest that my bill would provide tax relief for “personal expenses that reflect lifestyle decisions”. That argument is buttressed by examples of imaginary workers who would use my bill to scam the government by going to the cottage so they could claim to be more than 80 kilometres away from a job site that in reality is close to their primary residence. That argument is so absurd that I do not even know where to begin, but suffice it to say that tax credits only return a percentage of the actual money spent on travel, so no one is going to come out ahead financially under this bizarrely concocted Conservative scenario. It would be cheaper for them to live at home. I do not think I will be taking any lessons on tax evasion from a government that has done nothing to recover the $5 billion to $7.8 billion in Canadian tax revenue that is lost annually to tax havens around the world.

The last argument put forth by the government is that the bill would “raise equity concerns”, meaning that by singling out tradespersons my bill would not go far enough in offering the same benefits to other workers. On that point, we can agree, and I would be more than happy to entertain amendments in committee to broaden the coverage of my bill. I had specifically kept the focus narrow to keep the bill revenue-neutral and to alleviate the cost concerns that I knew would be at the root of the government's objections. However, by all means let us include others; the members of ACTRA, for one, would be delighted. However, the only way to do that is to actually vote in favour of my bill at second reading, so it will end up in committee where amendments could be made. That is where the rubber would hit the road.

I know the Conservatives are not sincere in wanting to improve the bill. They have their marching orders. Even those members like the MPs for Brant and Mississauga—Streetsville and the Minister of Labour, who spoke out in favour of my bill at the HUMA committee, now appear to be backtracking. I cannot believe they would just allow themselves to be muzzled by the PMO. Nor do I want to believe they are the kind of politicians who say one thing to one audience and something else to a different crowd. I want to believe they are more principled than that.

So today in these final few seconds of second-reading debate, I want to speak directly to them and say to stand up for what they believe in, that they know this bill is the right thing to do; to talk to their colleagues and tell them that it is never wrong to fight for what is right.

On February 5 when this bill comes to a vote, let us make history. Let us pass this initiative that helps the very men and women who have literally built our country. Canada's building and construction trades deserve nothing less.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-201, an act to amend the Income Tax Act , would in essence allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct from their taxable income any travel and accommodation expenses that they have incurred in order to secure and maintain employment in a construction activity at a job site that is located at least 80 kilometres away from their ordinary residence.

Let me first say that our government encourages new ways and ideas to improve Canada's tax system. Our government has a strong record of tax fairness and tax relief. We work diligently to treat each tax dollar we receive responsibly. Therefore, we are always open to ways that can keep money where it belongs, in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.

We realize that Bill C-201 has good intentions, such as providing tax relief for tradespersons and indentured apprentices who have to travel a long distance to work. We thank the member for her concern for these hard-working Canadians, but unfortunately the bill itself has too many problems for the government to support it.

Like speakers before me have mentioned when the bill was first debated, the bill contains flaws that could create opportunities for tax planning. It is a piece of legislation that could pose a very significant cost to taxpayers. Further, the bill is redundant, considering that our government already has thoughtful and practical measures to support apprenticeships and tradespersons.

Allow me to elaborate on that point. In response to growing shortages of skilled labour in some parts of our country, our government already provides a number of measures to support apprentices and tradespersons who are an integral part of our economy. Specifically, the government has introduced a number of measures to encourage businesses to hire apprentices and Canadians to pursue careers in the trades.

Let me share what we have done. Budget 2006 introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit which provides eligible employers a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, up to $2,000 per apprentice per year. Budget 2006 also introduced the apprenticeship incentive grant, which provides $1,000 per year to apprentices upon completion of each of the first two years of an apprenticeship program in the red seal trades. Also, budget 2009 introduced the apprenticeship completion grant, which provides $2,000 to apprentices upon completion of their certification in red seal trades.

We have consistently supported tradespersons in Canada. Budget 2006 also introduced an annual deduction of up to $500, in 2013, for tradespersons for the cost of new tools in excess of $1,117 that they must acquire as a condition of employment. Budget 2006 also increased to $500 from $200 the limit on the cost of tools eligible for the 100% capital cost deduction which may be claimed by self-employed tradespersons and businesses. Our government has also extended the fees eligible for the tuition tax credit to include those from examinations required to be certified as a tradesperson in Canada.

It does not stop there. In addition to these tax measures and grants, our government, through economic action plan 2013, proposed new measures to support the use of apprentices in three key areas. The first is changing the government's approach to procurement by introducing measures to support the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts. Second is ensuring that funds transferred to provinces and territories through the investment in affordable housing support the use of apprentices. Third, we are encouraging provinces, territories and municipalities to support the use of apprentices in infrastructure projects receiving federal funding as part of the new building Canada plan for infrastructure.

To further reduce barriers to accreditation in the skilled trades, economic action plan 2013 announced the government's intention to reallocate $4 million over three years to work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements for apprentices, as well as examining the use of practical tests as a means of assessment in targeted skilled trades.

Economic action plan 2013 was a large commitment by our government to support the skilled trades and encourage growth in these very important industries. Unfortunately, the member opposite who put forward Bill C-201 voted against every one of these measures. Therefore, it is surprising to see her claim full support for tradespeople across the country.

Having established how our government has been, and continues to be, proactive when it comes to providing practical support for apprentices and tradespeople, I would like to discuss the important policy concerns that the bill raises. To put it bluntly, as drafted, Bill C-201 would make it difficult to ensure that tax relief is not provided in respect of personal expenses reflecting lifestyle decisions. For example, expenses incurred by eligible individuals who choose to live more than 80 kilometres away from the workplace for personal reasons would qualify for the tax relief. Furthermore, the open-ended nature of the proposed deduction would make it vulnerable to unfair tax planning. For example, individuals could arrange their affairs to claim a recreational property, such as a cottage more than 80 kilometres away from work, as their principal residence and deduct the cost of maintaining their urban residence as an expense required to secure and maintain employment. Legislating tax credits that are open to abuse is not how we create a fair tax system for all Canadians.

Finally, implementing Bill C-201 would cost taxpayers up to $60 million. Since our government already has significant measures in place to provide tax relief to tradespeople, we do not see any added benefit to forgoing more tax revenue for a measure that may not prove to be effective, and a measure that could subsidize personal choices, for that matter.

We take pride in the fact that under our government the overall federal tax burden is the lowest it has been in 50 years. In total, our government has introduced more than 160 tax-relief measures since 2006, reducing taxes in every way that the Government of Canada collects them. These are real measures that are helping all Canadians across the country: tradespeople, apprentices, families, seniors, and the list goes on. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from the personal income tax relief introduced by the government, with low- and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. The average family of four is saving over $3,200 per year in taxes, and more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls.

This is great news, and more work must be done. However, we must be cautious of proposals that would unnecessarily burden the work our government is doing to balance the budget. Our government is focused on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills, and communities, underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keep taxes low, and returning to a balanced budget.

Therefore, it is our position that Canadians do not need Bill C-201. It contains too many flaws. It costs too much, and it is redundant, considering the policies we currently have in place to help not only tradespeople, but all working Canadians as well. With that, I encourage my fellow members to vote against the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to this bill amending the Income Tax Act to deal with travel and accommodation deductions for tradespersons.

It is no surprise that this legislation comes from my colleague and friend, the member for Hamilton Mountain. Nickel Belt and Hamilton have much in common besides their good sense in electing New Democrats to the House of Commons.

My colleague has been tireless in her support and advocacy for working men and women. Like her, I understand the extraordinary contributions made by tradespeople for our economy and our communities. People in Hamilton and Nickel Belt get this.

Like her, I know the extraordinary contributions unions make in the fight for justice, fair wages, pension protection of workers, and so much more. Examples are the Edgar Burton food drive in Sudbury, led by local 6500 USW, and the building of the cancer treatment centre in Sudbury, which was driven by all union members in Sudbury and Nickel Belt.

Unlike the government opposite, we on this side respect the union movement and the role unions play in building our communities and our country. The Conservatives proved last night, by supporting Bill C-525, how they feel about unions.

This is a reasonable proposal before the House today. It would allow tradespersons and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes so that they could secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres away from their homes.

I worked for a mining company for 34 years as a tradesman. I know the importance of the trades and the need, from time to time, for those skilled labourers to travel great distances to projects in other parts of the province or country.

Sitting these past two years on the natural resources committee, I understand the demand for skills in these major oil and mining projects and the likelihood of our workers travelling great distances to secure these jobs. This is an issue that is going to become increasingly important in our country.

This bill will help our working people and their families. The Canadian building and construction trades have been asking for this legislation for over 30 years. They got a lot of words from successive Liberal and Conservative governments, but no action.

Let us think about taking this reasonable small step in helping these tradespeople and our economy.

Construction workers cannot claim their travel or accommodation expenses when they accept jobs in other parts of the province or country. Building and trades officials report that the average expenses to relocate can be about $3,500. Some cannot afford to pay those expenses knowing that they cannot get a tax credit for them.

The member for Hamilton Mountain has done her homework on making this a win-win situation for everyone. It would solve the challenges in our regions where one area suffers from high unemployment while another suffers from temporary skilled labour shortages. Let us help the skilled workers get to where they need to be.

This legislation is even revenue neutral, given the savings that would happen in employment insurance benefits. The government has trouble figuring this out.

I have a response to a petition I submitted last month that was in favour of Bill C-201. The government calls this bill costly and flawed. The government insults workers, claiming that this tax relief could be open to much abuse, with moves done for lifestyle decisions rather than for work.

Any tax credit is, of course, open to abuse and requires safeguards and monitoring, which the Canada Revenue Agency is supposed to provide. It is not that difficult to confirm that a move has been made to take a skilled job that has not been filled.

The government response also alleges that certain individuals might receive a windfall gain and would have incurred ineligible travel and accommodation expenses in any case. I do not know who they were thinking about when they made these comments. It was probably Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, Harb, and Lavigne. These people I named are not tradesmen. They are professional fraudsters. They are senators.

It is not difficult to make clear what an eligible expense is and who qualifies.

The CRA is also there to investigate any double-dipping.

This is also a win-win for the employers, giving them access to much larger pools of qualified workers. We need to act when we look at this country's demographics, including the baby boom generation, the numbers to retire in the next 10 years, and the statistics on shortage of skilled workers.

This bill has been introduced in every parliamentary session since 2006. It was part of the NDP's election platforms in 2008 and 2011. What we want is simple. The bill would allow tradespersons and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so that they can secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres away from their home.

These mobile workers across Canada continue to have to worry about maintaining a residence and their family, while spending their own money to travel in order to find work. The tax credit would cover the cost of travel, meals and accommodation and reduce the amounts paid by employers for the same things. The 2008 budget offered a similar break to truck drivers in order to reduce problems associated with mobility in that industry.

I remember what the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department director, Robert Blakely, said at the 2012 pre-budget consultations:

We have spaces for nearly 2,500 people to enter the construction industry in the next five years, and another 163,000 people in the five years after that. It's an industry that is going to change. If we have trained people all across the country, we need to be able to move them.

There are an estimated 1.6 million construction workers in Canada. An estimated 10% of them travel each year. This legislation is even revenue neutral, given the savings that would happen in employment insurance payments.

The government has trouble figuring this out. The government needs to do the real math, not the nonsense of estimating the cost of the bill at $60 million per year.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak on Bill C-201. It is a well-intentioned bill, but there are some serious flaws.

The economy is and still remains fragile. Simply put, now is not the time to engage in an estimated $60 million per year of reckless and duplicate spending.

Our government will continue to identify efficient ways of supporting our apprentices and tradespeople while creating jobs and economic growth. To put it bluntly, Bill C-201 does the exact opposite of this. It is a costly and flawed piece of legislation that could expose Canada's tax system to a high likelihood of abuse.

Specifically, it would create new costly tax loopholes that would be vulnerable to unfair tax planning, as the deduction is drafted in an open-ended manner. It would give workers in one field an unfair advantage, potentially distorting the labour market. It would make it difficult to ensure that tax relief is not provided for personal expenses, solely reflecting lifestyle decisions. It would result in certain individuals receiving a windfall gain for those individuals who would have incurred eligible travel and accommodation expenses in any case. Also, it would cost in excess of $60 million per year. These are clear and plain reasons why our government cannot support such a bill.

Rather than advance the flawed policy of the NDP bill, our Conservative government has introduced a number of measures that actually support tradespersons, encourage businesses to hire apprentices and encourage Canadians to pursue careers in the trades.

In 2006, members will remember that our government introduced the apprenticeship job creation tax credit which provides eligible employers with a tax credit equal to 10% of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in the first two years of their contract, or up to $2,000 per apprentice per year.

Also back in 2006, our government introduced in the budget the apprenticeship incentive grant which provides $1,000 per year to apprentices upon completion of each of the first two years of an apprenticeship program in the red seal trade. Then, in budget 2009, our government introduced the apprenticeship completion grant which provides $2,000 to apprentices upon the completion of their certification in a red seal trade.

Let us not forget that it was our government that introduced, in 2014, an annual deduction of up to $500 for tradespersons for the cost of new tools in excess of $1,127 that they must acquire as a condition of employment. Budget 2006 also increased to $500 from $200 the limit on the cost of tools eligible for the 100% capital cost deduction which may be claimed by self-employed tradespersons and businesses.

In addition, there are a number of existing measures under the Income Tax Act for employees, including tradespersons, who travel or relocate for employment.

First, the moving expense deduction recognizes costs incurred by workers who move their ordinary place of residence at least 40 kilometres closer to their place of business or employment in order to pursue employment opportunities. Eligible costs are limited to the amount of income earned at the new location for the year.

Second, the special and remote work sites tax exemption allows employers to provide board and lodging expenses to employees on a tax-free basis. This exemption is limited to benefits paid by the employers on behalf of the employees, which ensures that eligible expenses are incurred for employment purposes.

Third, the travel expenses deduction allows employees who are ordinarily required to carry out the duties of employment away from the employers' place of business or in a different location to deduct travel expenses incurred, including 50% of meal expenses where they are required by the employer to pay their own expenses.

Fourth, similar to the travel expenses deduction for employees, self-employed individuals may deduct reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the generation of income from a business, including travel expenses, for example, lodging, and 50% of meal costs, while they are away from home.

Fifth, the northern residents deduction provides tax relief to individuals in northern and isolated communities to assist in attracting skilled labour to these communities.

Finally, the Canada employment credit, the CEC, introduced by the government in budget 2006 recognizes work-related expenses in a general way. In 2014, the CEC provides a tax credit on employment income up to $1,127.

As hon. members can see, our government recognizes the importance of the skilled trades to Canada's economy. We continue through our economic action plan to support economic growth and job creation, which includes a number of initiatives that directly support the development of a skilled, mobile and inclusive workforce within an efficient labour market.

Economic action plan 2013 proposes new measures to support the use of apprenticeships in four key ways: supporting the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts; ensuring the funds transferred to provinces and territories through the investment in affordable housing support the use of apprentices; encouraging provinces, territories and municipalities to support the use of apprentices in infrastructure projects receiving federal funding as part of the new building Canada plan for infrastructure; and providing $4 million to work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements for apprentices.

This kind of support for skills training is crucial to Canada's long-term growth, which is why our Conservative government is committed to maintaining this strong momentum. What the opposition does not understand is that in order to sustain this momentum more needs to be done than just creating training opportunities in high demand areas. It also requires creating the overall conditions for economic success that create high demand in the first place. It is for this reason Canada's economic action plan is a low-tax plan that will eliminate the deficit in 2015, reduce red tape and continue to promote free trade and innovation.

The results of our efforts speak for themselves. Since the depths of the global economic recession, the worst since the Great Depression, Canada's economy has created over one million net new jobs. These are overwhelmingly full-time, well-paying jobs in the private sector. I am proud to say that this is the strongest growth record among G7 countries, and others are noticing.

We are garnering international attention with Bloomberg recently declaring that Canada was the second best country in which to do business, just behind Hong Kong. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have recognized the benefits of our plan. They expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G7 over the next few years.

Our government remains focused on the drivers of growth and job creation: innovation, investment, education, skills and communities. These are underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and returning a balanced budget in 2015. Unfortunately, bills such as Bill C-201 would do nothing to strengthen Canada's economy. It contains too many flaws, would cost too much, and it fails to take into account the effective policies we currently have in place to help not only tradespersons but all hard-working Canadians.

Given the many shortcomings in the proposal before us today, I encourage my fellow members to vote against this legislation.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to such an important issue for tradespeople across the country.

The bill introduced by the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain would allow skilled workers to deduct from their taxable income travel and accommodation expenses. It would also allow them to maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres from their home.

This is a much-needed bill. Tradespeople are the engine of our economy. Construction is the biggest private sector industry in the country. It boasts 17,000 companies and employs a million Canadians. It creates more than 12% of our gross domestic product.

Skilled tradespeople include heavy equipment operators, electricians, welders, carpenters and so on. These workers are essential on construction sites. It is impossible to do the work without them.

However, the trades are facing significant challenges, including a shortage of workers and workforce mobility issues.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that Canada will need at least a million more skilled tradespeople by 2020. In Quebec alone, more than 730,000 professional and technical jobs will open up in the coming year alone. Some of the most sought after workers include industrial mechanics, welders and industrial management supervisors.

The construction industry estimates that it will need an additional 252,000 workers.

These trades require solid math skills, creativity and technological know-how. The pay is good. Skilled professionals earn 3.1% more than the average Canadian.

However, there is a recurring issue and that is workforce mobility. I am not talking about interprovincial mobility, just regional mobility. The placement of work sites in Canada is based on need. In construction, mining and infrastructure, major work sites are often in regions that are far from major cities.

Workers who want jobs far from home have to pay for their own travel and accommodations while still paying for their permanent residences. Those costs eat up a significant portion of their earnings and are not deductible under the Income Tax Act. That makes working far from home a less attractive proposition, not to mention that these people are also away from their families.

According to the building and construction trades department of the AFL-CIO, mobile workers spend an average of $3,500 of their personal savings to relocate temporarily.

While some regions of the country are experiencing high unemployment, others are suffering from a labour shortage. The bill introduced by the member for Hamilton Mountain offers a two-fold solution to the problem. Workers working at job sites at least 80 kilometres away from home would not have to take a financial hit. This solution is needed all the more because of the Conservatives' employment insurance reform, which forces workers to accept jobs within 100 kilometres of home.

In addition, Bill C-201 would boost government revenues because the cost of these tax credits will be outweighed by the employment insurance savings this bill will generate.

We also have to consider employers. They will have access to a larger pool of skilled workers, and Canadians will have access to jobs. Employers will no longer have to resort to temporary foreign workers.

Tradespeople have been waiting for a solution to this problem for a long time. The construction trades have actually been asking for this law for the past 30 years. The Conservatives and the Liberals have done absolutely nothing. The NDP has put forward a real solution.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Hamilton Mountain because she has been fighting for this for years. In 2006, she introduced Bill C-390 and in 2008, Bill C-227. Now she is at it again with Bill C-201.

If the members of this House really want to support tradespeople, they must support this bill. It is time to pass this bill.

This bill will enable mobile workers across Canada to maintain their residences while relocating to get work. The tax credit would cover travel, meals and accommodation reduce amounts paid by employers for those purposes.

The 2008 budget provided this kind of tax relief to truckers as a way to minimize mobility issues in that sector. Everyone in the industry agrees. This bill will really help workers relocate to job sites.

According to the president of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Local 67, Geoff Roman, we have become too reliant on skilled workers to foot the bill when the country faces a labour shortage.

Robert Blakely, Director of the Canadian Affairs Building and Construction Trades Department agrees. He said:

The baby boomer generation, which no one expected was ever going to retire, is going to retire. We have spaces for nearly 2,500 people to enter the construction industry in the next five years, and another 163,000 people in the five years after that...If we have trained people all across the country, we need to be able to move them.

In Quebec, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 568, strongly supports the bill. Financial secretary Laurent Talbot stated:

The math is simple. More tradespeople working equals a lower unemployment rate.

It is true. There are roughly 1.6 million construction workers in the country and 10% of them move every year. At an average cost of $3,500 per worker per year, a 15% tax credit would cost the government $525 per worker per year, for a total cost of $84 million a year. For the same number of tradespeople receiving on average $393 in EI benefits a week for an unemployment period of four weeks, the government would pay $251 million in EI benefits a year, or nearly two and a half times more than under the bill, if it were passed.

The tax credit proposed in Bill C-201 would translate into a net savings of $167 million a year. That is not insignificant. This solution has been advocated by a number of experts. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities made two similar recommendations in 2008 as part of a study on employability.

Last year, the committee addressed the issue of labour shortages again and made the following recommendation:

Recommendation 30.

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada study the anticipated cost of introducing new fiscal measures that would help people who find jobs far away from where they live, for example a tax credit for travel and lodging if a person must work more than 80 kilometres from his or her residence, and that it study the potential impact of such measures on labour mobility and labour shortages.

After eight Conservative budgets, there still is no measure to correct this problem, which this government does not seem to take very seriously. Conservative members have said they support labour mobility, which is inconsistent. This is true of the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca and the member for Prince Albert. Liberal members should also support this bill, given that it affects the entire country and there are construction workers in all ridings.

I hope that the bill introduced by my colleague from Hamilton Mountain, Bill C-201, passes. Tradespersons need to be supported across Canada, and they need to be treated with respect, like all workers in Canada.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

January 30th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-201, which would provide skilled trades workers with a tax deduction for certain work-related travel and accommodations.

I will be supporting this bill at second reading, so that it can move forward and be examined more thoroughly by the House of Commons finance committee.

Bill C-201 would help skilled tradespeople with the costs of travelling to work. It might help address some of the regional skills shortages that exist in Canada. This is an important issue, with a thriving construction industry being a vital source of good, well-paying, middle-class jobs. It is important that we do what we can to support these workers and their families.

Large parts of the construction industry are involved in short- to medium-term projects, and skilled tradespeople are often required to travel or temporarily relocate for work. In my part of the country and throughout Atlantic Canada we have a lot of workers and tradespeople who travel to other parts of the country to work for periods of time and then return to their families and make money in the meantime, which helps pay their mortgage, their family costs, and expenses in their homes in places like Hants County and Kings County of Nova Scotia. However, among construction workers, the cost of relocating is cited as a significant impediment to labour mobility. Not only would this bill provide tradespeople with some relief from the costs of relocating for work, but it would also provide them with a financial benefit that they or members of their family could spend in their home community, which would help support their local economies at home, such as in places like Kings—Hants.

By helping skilled tradespeople with the costs of travelling to work, Bill C-201 could also help address these regional skill shortages and potentially help to increase Canada's productivity. However, there are some important questions surrounding this bill that have yet to be answered, especially regarding the costs. I would hope the finance committee will be able to study the costs of implementing this kind of measure, once the bill has passed at second reading. It is important for parliamentarians to know how much legislation will actually cost before we make final decisions. As parliamentarians, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our citizens and Canadian taxpayers to fully understand the impacts on the fiscal framework in Canada of our decisions and the legislation we pass.

In the first hour of debate on the bill, the member for Hamilton Mountain estimated that approximately 160,000 construction workers in Canada could benefit from the tax credit in Bill C-201 at a cost of $84 million per year to the federal treasury. Then she estimated that when we consider economic spinoffs and potentially reduced EI payouts, the government could actually save $167 million per year under Bill C-201. On the other hand, the parliamentary secretary to the revenue minister argued that Bill C-201 would cost the treasury approximately $60 million per year at maturity. Therefore, there is a wide disparity in the numbers being cited in terms of what this would cost or potentially save taxpayers.

In cases where private member's bills are expected to have significant costs or impact on the fiscal framework, the finance committee in the past has asked the PBO to calculate what that fiscal impact would be before a second reading vote. However, the PBO has not been able to estimate the fiscal impact of this particular bill. The PBO told my office that it had tried to estimate the costs of this bill but could not. This is why. It stated:

There was not sufficient detail in the bill around the definition of trades persons nor around the details of what constituted travel for the purposes of commuting or for the purposes of relocating, nor was there sufficient data from stats can to allow any meaningful costing of this bill.

Therefore, it appears that Bill C-201 is still lacking details that are essential to providing a meaningful cost estimate, and the PBO has said that its office is having difficulty costing it because of that lack of granularity.

Still that is no reason, necessarily, to throw out the baby with the bathwater on this one, because there still may be some positives in the intentions to provide some level of support to skilled tradespeople and their families, and an opportunity for us to do this. We at the finance committee, perhaps, can pass some clarifying amendments that can help address some of these concerns, can better define “skilled tradespeople” exactly in terms of how we would constitute it for this application, and also more clearly define “relocation” or “commuting expense” so we can actually cost the bill and the PBO can actually cost it.

Another area where we have some questions is around the distance a worker must travel to qualify for a tax deduction. Bill C-201 proposes that a skilled tradesperson would qualify for this tax deduction if the worker travels at least 80 kilometres for work. The threshold of 80 kilometres may result in a large proportion of the benefit potentially going to daily commuters in the Toronto area or other metropolitan areas, workers for whom this credit is not necessarily intended.

For instance, workers who commute between Barrie and Toronto travel 96 kilometres each way, and those who commute between Guelph and Toronto would travel 95 kilometres each way. We would want to have this discussion. Is that the intention of this bill? Perhaps it is, but I am saying that there may be some definitions of what defines appropriately a commute for financial benefit considered under this bill. These are areas where there are good roads, infrastructure, strong or reasonable public transit, which help to facilitate a daily commute more so than that which would exist in other areas of Canada that do not have the same highly evolved infrastructure. Therefore, the finance committee may want to consider establishing different thresholds, depending on geography and infrastructure, instead of having one across-the-board threshold when it comes to how far people must travel to qualify for this benefit.

We may want to look at examples from other jurisdictions. As I mentioned before, a thriving construction industry in Canada is an important source of good jobs and incomes for Canadian middle class families, and we can no doubt all talk about individual stories of workers who have travelled great distances for work. I know in my father's case he was not in the construction trade but he drove 52 miles from Cheverie to downtown Halifax every day for work, for decades. Today, I know the local construction workers in my home community of Cheverie drive into Halifax every single day on sometimes terrible roads in awful conditions in the middle of winter, leaving their homes at 5 a.m., driving home in the evenings, leaving before dawn and getting home after dark, and piling into cars with their lunch boxes and their thermoses and their gear ready to go to work, driving over these rough roads in terrible conditions, every single day from Cheverie, Bramber, Walton, Scotch Village, and all our local communities.

Part of the discussions around this bill will enable us to talk to the people in our own communities who commute long distances every day, and particularly people in skilled trades whom we need to support in any way we can. I appreciate the challenges facing the construction industry in areas where there are serious labour shortages, but we need to ensure this bill is targeted in such a way that it actually addresses those issues.

Improving labour mobility in Canada would lead to greater productivity and more prosperity for Canadians. At the same time, we must be careful not to drive a critical mass of young Canadians out of economically disadvantaged communities that need them. We have to monitor this and we have to craft public policy carefully.

Canada is experiencing very uneven economic growth. There is a strong connection between our growing provinces and the existence of natural resources. We need national strategies around the extractive sector in oil and gas and the related construction industry if we are going to ensure that the prosperity is shared across Canada and enjoyed by all Canadians, regardless of where they are from.

This bill could perhaps help to address some of those inequities and help young Canadians see some of those opportunities. However, we will have to delve into those details on a more granular basis at the House of Commons finance committee.

The House resumed from October 31, 2013, consideration of the motion that Bill C-201, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel and accommodation deduction for tradespersons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Deductions for TradespeoplePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

January 29th, 2014 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of Bill C-201, introduced by my colleague from Hamilton Mountain, which would allow tradespeople and their apprentices to deduct accommodation and travel expenses. These are people from Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick who support my NDP colleague's bill.