I am ready to rule on a point of order raised on November 3, 2020, by the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader concerning Bill C-214, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (qualifying environmental trust), standing in the name of the hon. member for Calgary Centre.
In his intervention, the parliamentary secretary alleged that the bill should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. He argued that the bill would expand the definition of “qualifying environmental trust” to include a trust maintained for the sole purpose of funding the reclamation of an oil and gas well. As such trusts are taxed, he argued that the bill would extend the tax to a new class of taxpayer and should therefore be ruled out of order.
The hon. member for Calgary Centre argued that his bill would not create a new class of taxpayer, but would merely allow the oil and gas industry to use an existing tax mechanism already in use by the extractive industries. He also argued that an increase in tax revenue would only be incidental and would therefore not normally require a ways and means motion.
Bill C-214 would amend the Income Tax Act to include, in the definition of “qualifying environmental trust”, trusts that are maintained for the sole purpose of funding the reclamation of an oil or gas well operated for the purpose of producing petroleum or natural gas. As the sponsor of the bill noted, such trusts may already be used to fund reclamation activities by other extractive industries, but the act currently prohibits the use in relation to oil and gas wells. The bill's sponsor has argued that such a prohibition is unfair and that his bill seeks to correct the inequity. The Chair's decision, however, must be based not on the worthiness of the bill's policy objective, on which the Chair has no views, but rather on its compliance with our rules.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states at page 906, and I quote:
The House must first adopt a Ways and means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers.
The question before the Chair is whether Bill C-214 extends a tax to a new class of taxpayers. The tax treatment of qualifying environmental trusts, or QETs, is admittedly quite complex, with a series of offsetting credits and deductions between the trust and the corporation that contributes to it. Generally, such a trust is created by a corporation as it would provide a tax advantage.
However, this is not a circumstance where the bill proposes a tax reduction or a tax credit. The means by which this advantage is gained is through the creation of a separate and distinct taxpayer, the trust. The bill's sponsor argues that QETs already exist as a class of taxpayers. Indeed they do. At present, however, the Income Tax Act specifically excludes a trust relating to the reclamation of a well. This exclusion has been part of the act ever since these sorts of trusts were first introduced in Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Application Rules, in 1995, when they were originally known as mining reclamation trusts.
Having been renamed “qualifying environmental trusts” in 1998, the number of eligible industries was expanded to include other extractive industries in 2011 via Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures. Each of these bills was preceded by a ways and means motion. While they clearly contained other measures, the Chair believes that such a motion was necessary to expand the various types of industries able to create a QET.
Accordingly, a ways and means motion is necessary. The bill cannot proceed and should be discharged.
I thank hon. members for their attention.