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

Sponsor

Chris Lewis  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 23, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-241.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Economic and Fiscal Update Implementation Act, 2021Government Orders

April 29th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House. Before starting my intervention on Bill C-8, I will say that we have heard in the House that a couple of Canadian hockey icons have passed away. Ironically, when I was writing my speech, I got a text message saying that coach Greg Lanigan, who was from my riding and who was absolutely instrumental in my hockey career and building me to whom I am today, passed away on Monday. Coach Greg Lanigan will be in heavens' hockey hall of fame, at least in my books.

I will go through about five or six points here on Bill C-8. I will go through them in order, and I am reading all of this directly off of the summary sheet from that bill.

The first point is on the northern resident deductions. It says part 1(b) would:

expand the travel component of the northern residents deduction by giving all northern residents the option to claim up to $1,200 in eligible travel expenses even if the individual has not received travel assistance from their employer;

As I continued to go through Bill C-8, I did not see a deduction of travel expenses for skilled trades workers. I did not see that. I did not see a bill that could have simply been, quite frankly, infused into the budget, which is Bill C-241, my private member's bill, which would have a complete deduction of travel expenses. It makes one wonder, if we are going to give a $1,200 travel expense deduction to northern residents, which is great, would it not make sense, if indeed it is so important to pass this bill, to make sure that we recognize the skilled trades and those folks who are going to build back Canada.

The second point is on part 1(d). The bill proposes to:

introduce a new refundable tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farming businesses in backstop jurisdictions.

At least in Essex, and I just happen to be a bona fide farmer myself, Bill C-8 does not speak to those farmers who are still going through challenging times. As an example, dairy farmers in my riding are still waiting for compensation from the CUSMA deal. Therefore, why do we delay, as we are quite often accused of doing? Bill C-8 does not even consider all the issues.

The third point is housing, which is something that has been talked about an awful lot in the debate of Bill C-8. In the summary, by the way, I do not see where it says that young adults would be able to afford a home or find a home. Nowhere in there does it say that a hard-working young man or woman can actually find a home, let alone afford a home. The bill states:

Part 2 enacts the Underused Housing Tax Act. This Act implements an annual tax of 1% on the value of vacant or underused residential property directly or indirectly owned by non-resident non-Canadians.

That is a measly 1% tax. Here is an idea that may be a little bit crazy: Why not give support to municipalities? We could give to support to municipalities such as the municipality of Lakeshore in my riding, which has had to turn away major investments from major hotel chains because it has no stormwater capacity. Why not give major investments to the town of Essex and hamlets such as Colchester and McGregor so they could build the proper sewage systems and, all along the way, build capacity for homes? They are taking it from lagoons, and they are building plants.

Some might say it is because that falls under provincial jurisdiction. We all know there is only one taxpayer, so as opposed to pointing the finger at all of this unused property, let us give it to the municipalities. Let us give them support so they can build hundreds and hundreds of homes.

The other crazy one might just be that perhaps the government should tax itself 1% on unused property because we have a lot of federal buildings that are underused, and there are probably a bunch more now because of all the people who have not come back to work.

The fourth point is denied EI benefits. Bill C-8's summary states:

Part 7 amends the Employment Insurance Act to specify the maximum number of weeks for which benefits may be paid in a benefit period to certain seasonal workers.

Just like many other members in this House, I can say in confidence that my office is completely inundated with phone calls about citizenship, about passports or the lack thereof, about EI claims and about tax returns. Before COVID hit, for the four months of what I guess I could call “normalcy” as a member of Parliament, but I am not sure we can, we got return phone calls to our office helping us out along the way. Now, even our offices cannot get return phone calls.

Instead of coming up with ideas for the Employment Insurance Act, and instead of spending money on proof of vaccination for federal employees, why not get them back to work? That way, our offices could actually get answers on citizenships, passports, EI claims and tax returns, and we could actually help our constituents. I got a phone call from Sarah from Canada Post, who is still off work. By the way, she is a letter carrier. She works outside, and she still cannot go back to work. This is not brain surgery. They need to get back to work.

Regarding homelessness, mental health, opioid abuse and suicide, we all know the stories. We all have them in our own backyards. I know in the town of Kingsville, homelessness is on the rise. Again, we have all these federal buildings not being used. Perhaps that would be a great start for affordable housing.

If we want to talk about support. I recently spoke to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Windsor Essex and its members told us that they are completely burnt out. In Bill C-8, which is so important, where is the funding for mental health issues and more staff?

Finally, with regard to a just transition, I spoke to a gentleman from IBEW earlier this week, and he told me that some 700 coal jobs will be eliminated very shortly in the Regina area. Where in Bill C-8 does it talk about training for these 700 folks, so they do not lose their jobs forever and they can just transition into another clean energy project?

In closing, and I think I have laid it out pretty well, Bill C-8 would spend a whole bunch of money, but it would get very little accomplished. Those who need the greatest support have, one more time, been walked past and left behind, all while the remaining Canadians are left holding the tax bill.

March 29th, 2022 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Thank you very much.

Committee, thank you for the honour of being here today. It's my first time at the environment committee, so it's pretty cool.

My first question is to Mr. Rousseau. You mentioned a couple times.... In my capacity or portfolio as shadow minister for labour for the Conservative Party of Canada, I'm listening with very keen interest to all of your remarks. I think they're fantastic, so I thank you for your remarks.

You mentioned a few minutes ago that it doesn't seem as though the government has really come to the table. I introduced a private member's bill last Wednesday, Bill C-241, specifically for tradespersons. In your last remarks, you mentioned tradespersons and what they need. It's a deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons.

You mentioned you'll do whatever you can do to help out our trades folks. Would you be open and willing to putting a letter of support forward for this bill?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the member for Hamilton Centre, so I ask him to take this in the good spirit it is intended. That was the angriest agreement I have ever seen in my life, but I know it comes from a great sense of deep passion in the member. We appreciate his support and look forward to discussions in committee. If we can improve this bill, obviously we will.

I have a couple of notes to make. I would like to thank the acting speakers for filling in for the Speaker. I would like to wish the Speaker all the best going forward, as his health struggles are public. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Speaker. We know he will pull out strong and continue to be a great Speaker in the House.

I would like to enter into the substance of our discussion today, and that is Bill C-241, which was put forward by my friend and hon. colleague from Essex. I would like to start by saying he is extremely well-raised. He has two great parents in Kim and Helen, so a shout-out to his parents, because without them we would not have the member for Essex and this legislation. I thank Helen and Kim very much.

Let us talk about Bill C-241. I want to start by providing some context for this legislation. We are, undoubtedly, facing an affordability crisis. One of the chief drivers of this affordability crisis is inflation. What we really have is an inflation tax. We are actually in the midst of one of the largest tax increases in Canadian history.

Through spending, both necessary and unnecessary, and increasing spending going forward, we have run greater and greater deficits. In fact, we have deficits larger than we can finance without the help of the Bank of Canada. Through the Bank of Canada, $400 billion has been put into our economy. It is a basic axiom of economics that when we have more of something, and in this case 400 billion dollars' worth more, it devalues it, and that has the effect of increasing the price on everything else.

Canadians across this country are facing an affordability crisis. Then we add on top of that the carbon tax. I had the privilege of asking the Governor of the Bank of Canada what the inflationary impact of the carbon tax was. Strangely, he did not know the answer right off the top of his head. That is something I would have thought he would have been aware of. However, he was kind enough to provide a written response, where he said that fully 10% of the inflation we are facing today is because of the carbon tax.

It is in that context that I would like to discuss Bill C-241. Everyone is facing challenges, and perhaps none more than the workers and the people the member for Hamilton Centre spoke so eloquently about. They are the folks who are struggling up, sometimes from the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, and who are struggling to hang on. They are hoping to get up to that next level to get to the middle class. When we look at Bill C-241, it is those people, among others, that this legislation is going to help.

What would this bill do? It would put skilled trades employees on equal footing as giant corporations. As self-employed individuals, it would allow them to deduct the expenses associated with travel to their job sites. This is the exact treatment a corporation would receive. If a corporation paid for this travel, it would get to deduct this expense. However, through an oversight, which is what I will generously call it, tradespeople have been disadvantaged and do not get that same right.

Tradespeople are literally building our communities brick by brick. They are the ones who are putting in HVAC systems. They are the electricians who are wiring our world. We would literally be in the dark and the cold without their skilled trades, so why should we be disadvantaging them?

We need more skilled trades. As the member for Essex said, we will need a minimum of 350,000 new skilled tradespeople just in Ontario alone in order to meet the growing demand. We need to attract more people to this field. It is great work, but it is hard work.

The work means that one does not often go to a standard office. People do not go to the same place to work every day, because once a building is built, it is built, and it is time to move on to a new project. These are not located right next to their houses, and they do not have the option to relocate next to that project.

We have individual tradespeople, whom we increasingly need more of. We have people who are the salt of the earth working every day to build our community. What have we done to them? We have disadvantaged them economically just because of the way they choose to arrange the legal status of their work relationship. If they chose to be self-employed, they could deduct things. As an employee, they cannot. This is the very definition of inequity.

With the time I have left, I would like to go over a couple of stories. One of them is about Mitch. Mitch is a young electrician's apprentice doing a great job wiring commercial buildings all over the province of Ontario. He is currently living in his parents' house in the basement. He cannot afford a house because the cost of housing has doubled. When I talked to him about this legislation, he said it would be fantastic because with gas at $1.70, driving 200 or 300 kilometres away from his parents' house every day is quite expensive, and he is not able to save for a house. This bill might give him the opportunity to do so. We would make a difference in people's lives.

I would like to talk to members about Tommy. He is an HVAC apprentice who is working to gain experience. He wants to gain his Red Seal. He said to me that he drives 150 kilometres to work and does not mind it because hustling and hard work are what our country was built on. He knows that is what he has to do to get ahead. However, with the recent change in gas prices and the expenses of life, he is close to losing hope because he is not establishing the goals he sought for himself. It is not his fault. He is working hard. He is doing what we have all told him to do. It is just that the price of everything has gotten so expensive. This would be a break for Tommy, and he is excited about this legislation going forward.

The other individual I would like to talk about is Dennis Fedrigoni. He is the owner of Fed Air Systems, a commercial HVAC company in the wonderful city of Vaughan. He does HVAC all over the province, so the gas bills for his employees are absolutely astronomical. He is asking for a break not so much for himself, although he certainly would appreciate it as it would allow him to hire more skilled people into his business, but for his employees, who are struggling to get by.

I am really pleased by the fact that it appears as though all of the parties are signalling their support for this legislation, which I think is terrific. This is a common-sense solution. This is an area where politics should not get involved. We should not be looking at parties, whether they are NDP, Conservative or Liberal. I deeply believe that every one of the 338 of us wants to do what is right. We want to do what is best for Canadians and Canadian workers.

I thank the House. I look forward to this legislation getting to committee. Once again, I thank Helen and Kim for raising such a great son.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Bloc Québécois's position on Bill C‑241, which was introduced by my colleague from Essex. Let me start by saying that I think this is a very interesting bill.

Whenever we debate a bill, people get the impression they have to read through a lengthy tome in an attempt to understand all the clauses and the ins and outs. It scares them. In this case, however, the bill is less than a page long, so I think we can all take a good look at it. Short bills can sometimes be very efficient and within everyone's grasp.

This bill would amend the Income Tax Act to allow tradespersons to deduct from their income amounts expended for travelling long distances for work. This is an interesting idea.

Specifically, the bill amends subsection 8(1) of the Income Tax Act to apply to a taxpayer employed as a duly qualified tradesperson or an apprentice in a construction activity at a job site located at least 120 km away from their ordinary place of residence. The taxpayer must also be required to pay those expenses for travelling to and from the job site and cannot be reimbursed for them.

On the face of it, all this makes sense. That is why the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C‑241.

This bill was recommended by Canada's Building Trades Unions, which represent half a million workers. It is worth noting how interesting it is that this bill is supported by the labour movement, because it is rare to see a Conservative member introducing a bill that the unions are happy with. We will take it while we can.

In Quebec, which is what the Bloc Québécois is interested in, one in 20 jobs is in the construction industry, which is no small thing, since that equates to about 260,000 people. This bill could certainly cover other sectors, and many people will be able to deduct part of their expenses for travel over long distances. Basically, it will be very beneficial for them, and they will be very happy that a bill like this passed.

A deduction for travel expenses is not something unusual or unheard of. As others mentioned earlier, parliamentarians get to deduct their travel expenses, such as accommodation, meals and mileage, when they travel long distances. We benefit from that. It would not look good for us to tell others that they are not entitled to this, and it would send a rather odd message.

Other categories of workers receive the same kind of treatment, including salespeople who work on commission and certain professionals who get these same benefits. However, tradespersons are still not entitled to this benefit, which is surprising in 2022.

Construction sites are often located hundreds of kilometres from their homes. I am thinking specifically of two tradespersons I knew quite well and still know quite well because they are part of my family. I am talking about my two grandfathers.

My paternal grandfather worked as a plumber on construction sites for years. He worked on the Olympic Stadium, military bases and office towers. He did plumbing work on many different construction sites during his career, but he was not entitled to this kind of deduction. I am sure that he would have loved to have such perks.

People working on a job site far from home often do not see their families for many hours or even days at a time.

Also, having to incur that kind of expense to get to the job site can be demotivating. In a tight labour market, when people are struggling to find work, some people might decide it is worth paying for gas in order to travel 200 kilometres to work, because they need the job.

At the end of the day, it is also a matter of fairness. It costs them a lot of money to do their job. Not all employment contracts provide money for people to travel and do their job. Some employers will agree to provide accommodation or meals, while others will pay for mileage, but that is not the case for everyone. I think we need to give this opportunity to those for whom this is not the case.

I mentioned my grandfather. Back in his day, this might have allowed him to go and work on sites much further away. He was not able to do so, because he wanted to stay relatively close to home.

I could also talk about my other grandfather, who was also a tradesman. He worked as a lineman for Hydro-Québec for years at some very remote sites. In fact, I think he worked on just about every large dam in Quebec.

This could also benefit people from large urban centres who move to regions where there is often a shortage of expertise or a labour shortage. When a major construction site is launched in a region, and between 5,000 and 10,000 workers need to be hired all at once, this cannot be done with a snap of the fingers. In bigger cities, however, more workers are often available and are easier to find nearby.

Conversely, people who live in the regions, who want to be able to stay there but would like to have access to jobs or contracts in large urban centres, may need to take the travel factor into consideration. Staying in the region is therefore obviously an obstacle for them.

In short, I think this is good for everyone. It is just as good for workers in the regions as it is for workers in major cities. It is good for both big and small projects. Things obviously often need to move more quickly with big projects and, in this case, it would be more visible.

Another point is that there is a labour shortage right now. Because there is a shortage of workers, some businesses in the regions might be looking to hire workers but not finding any. Some construction projects might not get done or might take longer to be completed.

Having additional motivation in the form of this tax deduction would encourage people who would not normally accept these types of jobs to sign a contract. They will go because this tax measure makes it worthwhile, because they will get assistance and because we are acknowledging that taking on this job will come with expenses.

It is interesting because this plays a role in the current context of the labour shortage. There is a need for workers, and we have to find incentives for people to accept contracts. All the better if we can find ways to help them make that decision.

We can also consider those people who accept a contract that takes them very far away from their family for a long period of time. It is already a major sacrifice to not see their family for days or weeks at a time, to miss out on time with them and to be on their own. I think getting a little bit of assistance is fair compensation for travelling.

Other countries provide a similar incentive. For example, the United States has a tax deduction for tradespersons. It is a good example of a market that is quite comparable to ours, so I do not see why we would decide not to implement it here.

I think that inflation is something else we need to consider. People are talking about it more and more. Inflation is high. Prices are rising. Our first thought when this happens is that groceries are getting more expensive, so it is costing more to feed ourselves. Restaurants that took out loans during the pandemic lockdowns will have to raise their prices if they want to be able to pay down their debt. Otherwise, some of them will not survive. Hotels were closed, so accommodation costs will increase as well. The price of a litre of gas has gone up a lot, so travel expenses are also going up.

If we could help workers by letting them deduct all these expenses, it would also be a big help.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Lena Metlege Diab Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure, a great honour and a privilege to rise here in the House on behalf of the people of Halifax West.

It is always a privilege, a pleasure and an honour to rise here on behalf of the residents of Halifax West. I am pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-241, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons. I want to thank my colleague for bringing this important issue forward.

We committed in our platform to move forward with introducing a labour mobility tax credit to allow workers in the building and construction trades to deduct certain eligible travel and temporary relocation expenses and give them a tax credit on a yearly basis. I am proud of that commitment, and I do hope to see progress on it soon.

I want to take this opportunity today to reiterate the great value of the skilled trades for Canadians. Skilled trades workers literally build our cities, homes and communities. They master their craft, upgrade their skills, train the next generation of their trade and help fill our labour gaps while providing for their families.

We think the best way to address the skilled labour shortage and help small businesses grow is to invest in our tradespeople by giving them a tax break on travel expenses for work.

I am pleased to continually champion and highlight skilled trades and the wide variety of career options, which are in high demand. We need people of all backgrounds to choose these trades to fuel our economic growth and recovery. The people of my communities in Halifax West know that very well with all the new construction in our cities and in our neighbourhoods.

There are many ways to encourage people to enter the skilled trades. We can use our place in public life to highlight the value of the trades. We can make it easy to learn how to get into a trade. We can provide appropriate supports for those who want to pursue training, and we can invest to improve and expand the opportunities available, including for under-represented groups of Canadians who should also see a future for themselves in the skilled trades. Our government, I am proud to say, is doing just that. I will note that this is work that I was so proud to be involved in during my time as Nova Scotia's provincial minister of labour and advanced education.

To highlight the value of skilled trades workers and the supports available to build a successful and fulfilling career in the trades, our government recently launched an advertising campaign to promote the skilled trades as first-choice careers for young people and diverse populations. The campaign website, Canada.ca/skilled-trades, provides Canadians with information about what the skilled trades are, how to become a tradesperson and what financial supports are available to them while in training.

Two years ago, we announced the Canadian apprenticeship strategy, which paved the way for a new apprenticeship service. It will help first-year apprentices in eligible Red Seal trades get the hands-on experience they need for a career in the skilled trades. I also know first-hand from my days as a provincial minister of the great support and funding the Government of Canada provides to provinces and territories to help them raise awareness about careers in the trades.

Our government is investing nearly $1 billion annually in apprenticeship supports through grants and contributions, loans, tax credits, employment insurance benefits during in-school training, project funding, and support for the Red Seal program. That is a major investment and part of that is programs like the union training and innovation program.

Last week, I visited the Building Trades Advancement College in my riding to announce funding through that program to two local skilled trades unions. In fact, they brought this bill forward to me, which is why I am happily rising today to speak to it.

I was there with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 39, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 625. I was fortunate to see first-hand how federal dollars were being put to work securing the equipment and materials that our skilled trades workers need to upgrade their skills and train the next generation of workers. This included a spider crane, a scissor lift, electric conduit benders and many other pieces of equipment and training stations that this funding helped provide. That is one of many ways we support our skilled tradespeople and their livelihoods.

All this is to say that I will use my position here to stand up for the skilled trades, advocate for skilled trades workers and help to celebrate the trades generally to those considering what to do with their futures.

In addressing the bill today, we all know that the nature of the construction industry requires skilled trades workers to travel to project locations as they arise. Sometimes there is not enough work locally and travel is a necessity to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. The people of my province and my region understand that necessity well, although I have to note how far we have come in terms of our success, growing our own local economies and giving people the opportunity to stay and earn a living in their own communities.

When tradespeople have to travel to work and when expenses are not covered by their employer, they have to pay out of pocket for their travel expenses. Those costs can run high and at times make it prohibitively expensive to travel for a work opportunity. In fact, Canada's Building Trades Unions reports that 70% of building trades workers have had to pay out of pocket for work-related travel expenses.

For other Canadians, the Income Tax Act allows for a tax deduction for the cost of their travel, meals and accommodation when travelling for work. However, currently that option is not available to skilled trades workers who work on job sites in different regions or provinces from their primary residence. That is a discrepancy that calls for a policy solution. The status quo effectively penalizes people who are willing, ready and able to work and whom we need to build back our infrastructure, improve housing supply, address local labour shortages and support our recovery. We have an opportunity to correct that here and to put more money in the pockets of workers. This type of support is something that skilled trades workers support. It is one of many ways we can make working in the skilled trades more attractive.

In debating this bill, I do have a few questions. Some of them may have been raised in the questions leading up to this.

First, the bill would allow tradespeople and indentured apprentices to deduct from their income amounts expended for travelling where they were employed in a construction activity at a job site that is located at least 120 kilometres from their ordinary place of business. That distance is greater than some other proposed minimum distances and it certainly is greater than the one proposed by Canada's Building Trades Unions. I look forward to receiving more detail on the rationale or thinking that was used in selecting that number.

Second, I note that the bill does not contain precise definitions, perhaps most notably, of travelling expenses. We need to see greater clarity here because we know workers do not end up paying for just their transportation. They sometimes have to pay for accommodations, meals, etc. Therefore, I look forward to more clarity on that.

Third, I note that the bill does not include safeguards that contain its scope and cost. For example, there is no minimum period of relocation and no cap on the number of trips or on the amount of expenses that can be deducted in a year. I look forward, when the bill comes to committee, to hearing testimony from witnesses and so on to get a bit more clarity on that part of the bill as well.

Overall, I do appreciate what the member's bill is trying to achieve. Providing skilled trades workers with tax relief for the necessary travel that they must do for work is an important step that we can and must take. I expect that our government will move forward with a new labour mobility tax credit for workers in the building and construction industry. It would be an additional tool to support our hard-working tradespeople. I look forward to seeing this bill when it comes to committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not have a question for my colleague, but I would like to congratulate him.

We are often critical of bills that do not suit us, but when they do and they make sense, it is important to acknowledge that.

I am pleased, just as my NDP colleague pointed out earlier, to see that the Conservative Party, or at least the Conservative member for Essex, has suddenly discovered the virtue of standing up for workers.

It will be my pleasure to work with him on Bill C‑241. I will have the opportunity to say more about that in my speech later.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 23rd, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

moved that Bill C-241, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I will start by saying what an absolute honour this is. I am feeling completely privileged beyond belief. This is kind of mind-boggling, because while it is one thing to get to the House, it is another thing to be fortunate enough to be so early in Private Members' Business. It really, truly, is quite a remarkable day, and not just a remarkable day for me, but perhaps for close to a million trade workers across Canada.

I would like to first say thanks to the folks of Essex, who elected me to represent them. Without their support, I certainly would not be in this place today bringing forward this private member's bill.

Secondly, I would be very remiss if I did not say thank you to Tomi Hulkkonen. He is from UBC Local 494 from Windsor. When I ran for the very first time to represent Essex, he asked me to bring this private member's bill forward. Apparently, he has been working on this for some 11 or 13 years.

I gave him my word that, if indeed I was elected, and if indeed I was up early enough in the PMB process, I would bring forward this bill, so I am proud to bring it forward. I am proud that I could actually keep my word to Tomi.

My bill, the people's bill, the trade worker's bill, Bill C-241, is an act to amend the Income Tax Act, specifically to add a deduction. This would not be tax credit but a deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons. I also like to call it the “fair travelling tradesperson's bill”.

It is a very, very simple bill. It really is. It talks about three things. The bill reads:

where the taxpayer was employed as a duly qualified tradesperson or an indentured apprentice in a construction activity at a job site that was located at least 120 km away from their ordinary place of residence, amounts expended by the taxpayer in the year for travelling to and from the job site, if the taxpayer

(i) was required under the contract of employment to pay those expenses,

(ii) did not receive an allowance in respect of those expenses that is not included in computing the taxpayer’s income for the year, and

(iii) does not claim those expenses as an income deduction or a tax credit for the year under any other provision of this Act

Throughout this process, I have spoken to a number of trade associations, a number of trade unions, the managers and the leaders of such, and I have yet to find one that does not completely endorse this bill, which tells me that there is a huge void that needs to be filled. It also tells me that we have been walking by an opportunity to support trades and tradesfolks.

By 2025, Ontario alone will need an additional 350,000 tradespeople to fill the current need. As is often the case, tradespersons can be expected to travel long distances from one job to the next, far from home. With inflation at a 30-year high and during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, this bill is a common-sense proposal for hard-working Canadians.

When it comes down to it, this legislation is basic fairness for tradespeople. I made a commitment to the tradespeople in my riding to bring it forward, and that is exactly what I am doing.

In my opinion, this bill is, quite frankly, so simple. I want to tell a few stories of the folks that I have been speaking to along the way, because I really believe that their stories bring out the magic of what this bill will do for everyday Canadians and their families.

First and foremost, I want to speak to Canada's building trade unions. They have been very good in helping me navigate through, or stick-handle through, if one is a Canadian hockey player, I suppose, what exactly was needed.

CBTU represents members who work in more than 60 different trades and occupations and generate 6% of Canada's GDP. Their industry maintains and repairs more than $2.2 trillion in assets. Their work is not just done on site, but in facilities that provide modules or other components that are incorporated into the larger structures they work on. Once those structures are built, they are employed in renovation, maintenance and repurposing.

It goes on to say, under “Getting People to Work”, and this is a really neat one. This is really an important point:

Depending on private and public investments, at different times certain regions will have more employment opportunities than others. These conditions lead to a necessity for skilled trades workers to temporarily relocate or travel long distances for projects to meet the needs of the market. As projects are completed, workers will then return to their permanent residence....

...With families to support, temporary relocation costs can prove too burdensome for workers, contributing to increased reliance on programs like Employment Insurance and exacerbating labour shortages in certain regions.

As the Canadian economy transitions to net zero, the federal government needs to implement travel supports for workers in the traditional oil and gas sector.

It goes on to talk about addressing inequality in the Income Tax Act. It says, “In its current form, the Income Tax Act is an inequitable tax policy.” This is a very important point:

Today salespeople, professionals and Canadians in other industries can receive a tax deduction for the cost of their travel, meals and accommodations when traveling for work. The same option is denied to skilled trades workers who work on jobsites that are in different regions or provinces from their primary residence.

I have a few stories, and these are real stories, that I received in emails.

The following is an example of an apprentice. His name is Theo. He states, “As a carpenter apprentice, I travelled from Windsor to Timmins, Ontario, for several months in order to work at construction projects in remote parts of northern Ontario. I spent thousands of dollars of my money on gas, food and hotels, and I was not able to get any assistance for it. I also put a lot of kilometres on my car in this time and it wore out and depreciated a lot, which affected my ability to get ahead. I gave up a lot of time from family and friends in order to work. There is a lot of work opportunities in remote parts of Canada and a tax deduction on travel expenses would help apprentices like myself to travel to better work opportunities.” I love the word “opportunities”. He continues, “I hope that this bill passes and that all members of this Parliament support Bill C-241.”

Another email states, “Canada provides excellent opportunities for construction workers on projects that are often far away from places they call home. Canada has been built by skilled trades people that have left families and communities to travel to opportunities to work on projects that may not be available close to home. Canada is experiencing record labour shortages and it is crucial that Canada's assets with the workforce mobility removes the barriers to travel that currently exist.” That was from Tomi Hulkkonen, president of the Essex and Kent Building Trades Council. He went on to say, “Please note that the Carpenter's Union, Local 494, fully endorses this bill, as well as is willing and able to speak on this bill if asked if it goes to committee.”

This was a cool one. It says, “So, do we have a labour shortage in this country?” This was sent by another gentleman whose name is Russ. He writes, “I say we currently have a shortage of political will for fairness and mobility for the Canadian skilled worker. Today all of this can change if you vote yes to support the Canadian skilled worker in this non-partisan bill, which I fully stand behind and support. Your constituents have elected you to do the right thing for this country and contribute to our society, both ethically and morally. We are not asking for a payday or a handout. All we are asking for is fairness. Our country can have the skilled workers needed if the shackles regarding mobility can be released for the Canadian skilled worker.”

I have just a couple more.

Jaret is an electrician from Windsor with two young boys. He has been forced to travel across Canada, leaving his home province of Ontario, in order to provide for his family. If the stress of being away from home is not enough to deal with, imagine not being around to guide one's children while they are growing up. With all that added outside pressure, it would only be sensible to allow construction workers dealing with the same issues to be able to write off their travel expenses.

Peter, the executive director of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Manitoba, says, “You well know all major infrastructure construction projects in Manitoba's history have always relied on workers travelling from another province to supplement Manitoba's skilled tradespersons labour supply. The same can be said for every province across Canada. Promoting mobility by eliminating the current travel expenses for our construction trade workers is simply sound economic policy with a strong sprinkling of common sense. On behalf of the many construction contractor employers who I represent, I am dedicated to working with you and Russ and others who will support this critical and timely national incentive.”

I could continue with more testimonials, but I know my time is running short.

As we heard today in the House, the price of fuel, the price of hotels, the price of food and inflation all lie on the backs of the very tradesfolks who are building and have built this country, and they will continue to be the builders of this country in the future. To put that extra burden on them is absolutely unfair.

This is a fair bill that would leave money in the pockets of tradespeople and give back to the skilled trades, which have been walked past for many years and ignored. These workers are expected to travel across Canada to build our bridges, to build our roads, to build the homes that we all know we have a major shortage of in this country, and to keep our electric system moving. It really should be a no-brainer to, at the very least, send this bill to committee to be studied.

The neat thing about this bill is that it covers tradesfolks from coast to coast to coast, from St. John's, Newfoundland, to across Canada. It would not just help one area. It would help the entire country. If it looks like I am smiling a little today, it is because I am kind of excited to introduce a PMB, but the second reason I am smiling is that we have a major opportunity to do something huge for Canadians and for our skilled trades workforce. We can truly give them the support they not only deserve but need going forward.

As my time comes to an end, there are two last things I would leave members with. I suppose if there was ever a time for all parties to come together, become completely bipartisan and know what we are doing is right, it is now. Yes it can be studied, but knowing that what we are doing is right kind of puts a smile on my face.

I will leave one last thought. I do not know of any member in this place who does not get reimbursed for or write off their travel expenses. If that is good enough for members of Parliament, then it should darn well be good enough for the tradesfolks.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

February 8th, 2022 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this chamber today to introduce my bill, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, to allow a deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons. By 2025, Canada will need an additional 350,000 tradespeople to fill this void. I look forward to working with all parties in this place to pass this important legislation and give the necessary support for our tradespersons across the country when they must travel for work.

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