Mr. Chair, the last time we talked about this motion, I think I was mandated to go back and get a little bit of information for the members of the committee in terms of background. I now have that information. Perhaps the clerk can pass it around. I can briefly summarize this situation.
This issue goes back to 1998 when these employees were granted stock options to buy shares through a company benefit package. That's when JDS Uniphase bought this company, located on Vancouver Island. The value of the stocks soared to $300, and these employees had a very substantial capital gain that they would have had to pay tax on. As you guys remember, the dot-com bubble burst, and the $300 stock collapsed. However, the tax liability remained. This is a situation that certainly was experienced by many Canadians in the dot-com and technology stock bubble of 2000 and 2001.
These particular employees approached their member of Parliament, who is now the Minister of Natural Resources. They asked if he would fight on their behalf. He did, and ultimately the minister was able to secure a remission order from his colleagues at the cabinet table. This remission order set aside the tax liability on the part of these taxpayers. They are the only ones in Canada who received such a favourable tax ruling under this remission order.
This particular motion relates to whether this was astute or proper or a legitimate move on the part of the cabinet and whether this sends a signal to other taxpayers that they should receive similar treatment under the law.
We have a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that says that all Canadians should be treated equally under the law. Given the fact that this has now been unequal treatment, I think it behooves this committee to look at whether that was fair or not.
There's also an issue under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says that all Canadians should have the benefit of equal treatment under the law. It's a pretty fundamental tenet, Mr. Chairman, and although this case only affects a few dozen people, and particularly in one political constituency in the country, the principle is a fairly important one. That is why I thought we should a look at it. Should we be granting remission orders? Should there be any kind of mechanism that allows certain taxpayers to become favoured over other taxpayers, or is that a principle that none of us can really afford to see abrogated?
That's the point of this motion.