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


Scott Duvall  NDP

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


Introduced, as of March 11, 2021

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

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to allow tradespersons and indentured apprentices to deduct from their income any travel 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 km away from their ordinary place of residence.


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.

April 22nd, 2021 / 3:30 p.m.
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Sean Strickland Executive Director, Canada's Building Trades Unions

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It's a pleasure to be here this afternoon.

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee on reforms to the employment insurance system that reflect the needs of Canadian workers.

Sean Strickland is my name. I'm the executive director of Canada's Building Trades Unions. We represent 14 international construction trade unions, and we have over half a million members across Canada.

Reforming employment insurance has long been a high priority for Canada's Building Trades Unions, and the pandemic has put a light on cracks in the system, as you're very much aware. I want to thank the committee for the work you are doing.

We appreciate the government's measures to support Canadians through the pandemic—unprecedented times for sure. The recent extensions of benefits through the budget—the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy and extending sick leave—will help workers through this unprecedented time. We're also encouraged by the announcement we heard from the Province of Ontario today in terms of paid sick days, and we are looking forward to the successful rollout of that program as well, as it will help our members deal with the pandemic.

The construction industry accounts for 6% of Canada's GDP, and the industry has been a key player in keeping the economy going during the pandemic. However, industry employment is down from pre-pandemic levels, with unemployment nationally at 8% and much higher in certain regions of the country. The additional supports and the CERB have helped bridge the gap, and current reforms to EI are an opportunity to better support workers in the long term.

In our brief, we have included eight recommendations to update the EI system. I'd like to expand on a few of those in the time I have.

Let's talk about apprentices. Currently, apprentices enrolled and participating in the in-class portion of their apprenticeship, which often lasts only a few months over a period of years, often do not receive their entitlements from EI until after training is completed. This wait creates an economic barrier for apprentices to complete the in-class portion of the training and challenge the certification exam. To grow Canada's skilled trades workforce, we need to expedite the EI applications for apprentices to allow them to receive EI payments faster and complete their training.

As we look to rebuild our economy, we recognize the changing nature of work, and we've included recommendations to extend the EI training support benefit, address the limits in the Canada training benefit and support workers seeking retraining or skill upgrading.

There are a few key areas that we need to focus on. For example, Canada's energy sector is changing. As it changes, so does the nature of work, and a just transition, including skills retraining, needs to be included to make sure no worker gets left behind. We need to lessen the confusion of navigating the system to ensure more workers can utilize training programs and benefits.

As the economy changes, we also need to crack down on employer misclassification of workers, who are often labelled as independent contractors or self-employed, allowing employers to evade EI and other payroll deductions. A recent study in Ontario by the Ontario Construction Secretariat indicates loss of revenue to governments in the magnitude of $1.8 billion to $3.1 billion annually. Addressing the misclassification of workers will help broaden EI's base and prevent free-riding and undercutting competition.

Canada's Building Trades Unions is also requesting that the dedicated EI program liaison officers be restored. Think of an apprentice who doesn't know the system. They submit a report to an EI office that redirects them to apply for other similar jobs, not understanding the cyclical nature of construction and how a union hiring hall works. This not only confuses the apprentice but leads to deferring apprenticeship completion. CBT recommends that each of Canada's four regions have its own liaison officer who can understand the specific issues pertaining to the region and the building trades.

I'd like to also talk about getting Canadians back to work in the construction sector. There's a private member's bill in the House, Bill C-275, which will help get workers back to work across Canada. Unlike many careers, construction is temporary, in that you build a project, complete it and then move on to the next. This can require workers to travel and to temporarily relocate for work. Costs could be too much for a worker and could disincentivize them to travel. This can create labour shortages in different regions, with high unemployment in others—something that a skilled trades mobility tax deduction would address.

Currently, the temporary foreign worker program is a tool used to support labour shortages. However, it is not being implemented accurately with labour market information data. This has become a bigger issue in certain trades and regions, particularly in B.C. We need to better address how temporary foreign worker applications are reviewed, make it easier for skilled trades workers to travel to where the work is, and rely less on temporary foreign workers and government programs like EI.

I thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to answering questions later during the deliberations.

March 18th, 2021 / 3:10 p.m.
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Sean Strickland Executive Director, Canada's Building Trades Unions

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's great to see everyone this afternoon. I apologize for the late start. I had technical difficulties, as is the way as we deal with some of these issues through the pandemic. I applaud each and every one of you for having these meetings and forming this committee.

I represent Canada's Building Trades Unions, part of North America's Building Trades Unions. We represent 14 international construction unions with offices in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa. Combined membership of our two organizations is three million unionized construction workers across the U.S. and Canada, including 600,000 members in Canada.

Canada-U.S. trade relations and energy policy have a direct effect on our workers on both sides of the border. The potential closure of Line 5 has the full attention of our leadership in the United States and in Canada, and it is being raised at the highest levels of elected and government officials. Discussions are also taking place to dissuade potential implementation of buy America policies to be recast as buy North America to the greater benefit of both of our countries.

We encourage, in the strongest terms possible, the Canadian government and all elected officials to do everything in their power to prevent the closure of Line 5, and, if the closure becomes a reality, to invoke the 1977 transit pipelines treaty.

You are familiar with the cataclysmic effects such a closure would cause—potential loss of 25,000 jobs and increased prices for gas, propane, and petrochemical products used in manufacturing.

The closure would not end our demand for petrochemical products and fuel but would result in the industry workarounds that you heard about previously from Mr. Mancinelli, which would require upwards of 2,000 trucks a day or 800 railcars and increase the number of barges carrying oil on the Great Lakes.

The environmental impacts of closing the pipeline would be greater than those of continuing to safely operate the pipeline until the new Great Lakes tunnel for the pipeline is built. We must do everything in our power to keep Line 5 operational and fight like hell if the courts allow for the easement to be cancelled.

However, at the same time our unions are progressive enough to realize that the greening of the economy is inevitable and necessary, but we need to be smart about it. We need to operationalize the recently agreed-to U.S.-Canada road map, elevate the discussion, and create a bilateral U.S.-Canada energy policy that addresses our cross-border energy needs and secures the energy future of both the U.S. and Canada. This transition is not turnkey, and it needs to address the thousands and millions of American and Canadian jobs affected.

CBTU recommends that the government establish a task force to examine the future of energy jobs. This task force would focus on developing a bilateral energy policy with the United States; coordinating the new technologies to power our energy future, such as carbon capture and storage, renewable methane technology, small modular reactors, and hydrogen; greening our infrastructure; and, for our members, supporting workers through the transition. This task force would communicate and work in conjunction with the newly formed U.S. Office of Energy Jobs.

To support workers, we recommend higher labour standards and collective bargaining for renewable jobs, like wind and solar projects; a skilled trades workforce mobility tax deduction; the adoption of private member's bill C-275, which would create fairness for workers and support worker mobility; a dedicated visa program that allows skilled trades workers to travel more easily between Canada and the U.S.; and of course government support for retraining energy workers.

Line 5 is crucial to our economy and is an issue we will continue to advocate for. Line 5 needs to be part of a long-term vision that focuses on building the energy future of the United States and Canada so we will not be faced with the same hurdles—fighting to save projects or pipelines—time and time again.

We need a bilateral energy policy to secure both our nations' energy futures and a transition for workers at the same time.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

March 11th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-275, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (travel expenses deduction for tradespersons).

Madam Speaker, this bill, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, would accomplish three things: eliminate a long-standing tax unfairness for building trade workers, improve labour mobility, and give businesses access to an effectively larger pool of qualified tradespeople.

Currently, paragraph 8(1)(h) of the Income Tax Act generally allows an income tax deduction for employees who have work-related travel expenses that have not been reimbursed. However, a CRA interpretation continues to deny that to those working in the building trades because of the nature of the work on what are called “job sites”, often making it difficult to avoid social programs such as employment insurance. My bill would fix that by allowing a tax deduction for travel expenses for tradespeople or apprentices who are required to secure or maintain employment in construction activity at a job site.

The passing of this bill would project a net savings to the government and is the right thing to do.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)