House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Winnipeg North Centre Manitoba


David Walker LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of enthusiasm that I join in this debate on the private member's motion first presented to the House by the member for Nepean.

The need for change to the child support system is recognized by Canadians and the government. As many in the House have noted the question of child support touches deeply and in many respects is a very personal issue. It relates to family responsibilities and to the well-being of our children.

Accordingly the government is committed to broad consultations with those Canadians most affected. That is why as task group of MPs has been formed to conduct a series of open round table discussions on child support.

As many of you will have noticed, the subject of child support payments raises, when it comes to parental responsibilities and the well-being of our children, questions which are deeply felt and which in many respects are very personal.

This is why the government is committed to broad consultations with those Canadians most affected. It has, therefore, set up a task force of members to hold a series of open round table discussions on the subject of child support payments.

As a member of that task group I welcome the deliberations of the House. They constitute a thoughtful and highly valued source of advice. At the same time I am confident that whatever the results of our current debate, the House shares my eagerness to hear what Canadians will say to the task group.

Over the coming weeks we will be asking Canadians to share their experiences and make suggestions with respect to the tax treatment of child support. The task group will provide feedback and advice on this issue to our government colleagues.

We have worked out a schedule to reach a cross-section of Canadians, including representatives of custodial and non-custodial parents, child advocates, women's organizations, lawyers, accountants, community groups and others concerned about this issue.

We have set out a schedule of meetings in Regina, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Moncton, Toronto and Ottawa and are providing ways for those not in those cities also to participate and make their views known to the task group, to the government, and to the House.

The task group will listen to Canadians with an open mind, guided by a number of clear principles. Our over-arching principle is that the child's needs come first. Tax rules for child support must place paramount importance on the welfare of children.

Second, we are committed to the principle of fairness. That includes fairness between custodial and non-custodial parents as well as fairness to other taxpayers. We must treat all family situations equitably whether there has been a marriage breakup or not.

Third, while tax equity demands that tax be paid on income, this exercise is not at all about increasing government revenues.

The issue surrounding child support payments encompasses more than just their tax treatment. Questions relating to levels of support and enforcement are critical as well. It is a sad fact that a great majority of single mothers in Canada receive no support payments at all for their children and that the great majority of support orders are not obeyed.

Our goals therefore are broader than those of the current motion. We want to create a more equitable system for child support determinations. That includes generally increasing the value of child support awards, simplifying the process, providing similar awards in similar family situations.

I can understand that Canadian women affected by the Thibaudeau decision may be sceptical of the government's intent. I want to reassure them that although the decision is being

appealed the government recognizes the need to improve the child support system.

The fact remains, however, that the court's ruling has led to tremendous uncertainty and possible chaos in Canadian family law. As well, in dealing with only the income inclusion and not the deduction the ruling has created an unbalanced system.

We expect to achieve significant progress toward a better system by the end of this year. That includes reviewing the tax system, legislating child support formulas to simplify the system and finding more effective ways to enforce support orders.

We hope to be able to make significant improvements by the end of the year, specifically through revision of the tax system and legislative measures on child support formulas in order to simplify the system and with a view to finding more efficient means of enforcing support orders.

I am confident that the insights Canadians will provide the task group will make a major contribution to this important work.

I thank the hon. member for her motion and the House for the opportunity to speak today.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too am very happy to speak to this motion and I wish to congratulate the hon. member for Nepean for bringing it to the floor.

The motion, for those watching this on television, has to do with the taxing of child support payments. It states that taxes on child tax support payments should be paid by the payer rather than the recipient. On its face it tends to make sense, but when we delve into it a bit deeper we find a host of interrelated considerations.

This bill is particularly timely following as it does the Thibaudeau decision recently received from the Supreme Court. This decision has caused a general review of the whole situation of tax status and the support paid to families after a marriage breakdown.

I have a couple of insights I would like to bring to this debate and to the broader debate, but I want to assure those watching on television that whether this bill survives or passes the Commons, this is not the end of the story. It will go on. Parliament will come to a reasoned position, one that will be satisfactory to all of the various perspectives on this issue.

The broad perception is that the tax treatment is not fair. I have a fair amount of personal experience in this because I have been paying maintenance payments, as many people have, for years. My ex-wife and I have talked at great length about this. We have come to an agreement outside the judiciary on how we would handle it.

The real problem was alluded to in a presentation by the hon. member who preceded me. It is that the vast majority of people who are required to make maintenance payments do not and they skip. When we are looking at this we have to look at it in the broader context. How do we get the deadbeat parents to accept responsibility for looking after the children that they brought into the world? Why is it that every time we turn around in our country we are able to escape whatever responsibilities we should have as individuals and pass them off to the state?

The broader question is how do we go about nailing the deadbeats, whether they are male or female. Perhaps we should look at changing the income tax structure so that if money is paid by the state, then the people who owe it have to pay it back.

If the individuals owed the tax department the money, would they get away with it? I think not. If they do not make their payments and look after their responsibilities we as a people, as a nation, are forced to look after their responsibilities.

As we go down this road it is going to be very important not only to consider what is fair to the people who are involved, but what is fair to the taxpayers and to once again inculcate the sense of responsibility to people when they bring children into the world to look after their responsibilities.

The problem is interprovincial because if people skip from one province to another, they have to be tracked. It is a question of will. If people involved in the breakdown, in the divorce, are rancorous and do not want to pay, how do we go about doing this with a sense of fairness so that they will pay? It is the children who are involved that we want to protect.

I would like to read briefly from a very thoughtful letter I received from a constituent on this issue just the other day. Her name is Zanne Cameron and she wrote quite a long and involved letter. It is very touching:

As a single parent receiving support payments, I was immediately bumped into a 33 per cent tax bracket. The GST was introduced the same year, and I have seen health care premiums increase from $80 in 1983 to $180 quarterly in 1994. A middle class income is no longer $35,000 a year. It is somewhere over $45,000 or more. Yep, it is tough out there. You know what, though? It is not tougher for me than for married couples or single people with no children. Making a living is not easy.

In the broader context of doing what is right, we have to do what is right for the family. The question then comes up, if people are not divorced and choose to stay home and raise a family or if one parent does, how is it that family then does not

get the same tax break? That family cannot income split the same as a divorced family does.

We should be ensuring there are reasons for families to stay together rather than to break up. We cannot look at this as a straight forward tax this person or tax that person situation. We have to look at it based on what is best for the children and what is best in the context of our nation.

I would like to read once more from Miss Cameron's letter:

No matter how you dice it, support payments are income to the receiving parent. This is not really a feminist issue at all. All parents, single or married, must pay taxes on their income. We as women are not special here, nor are we the only single parents. The fathers of these children are also their parents, some more so than others, but these are private issues. I do not feel that it is fair to assume that all divorced men with children neglect them.

In conclusion, we cannot automatically assume every marriage breakdown is the same. We cannot automatically assume every divorced dad or every divorced mom is not conscious of their responsibilities and may not end up being a better parent because of the situation they are in.

Miss Cameron goes on to make a solemn kind of suggestion which is that the income be split. The more one thinks of it, the more sense it makes. Rather than taxing all one or the other, split it down the middle and tax 50 per cent to the recipient and 50 per cent to the payer. It does not necessarily have to be all one way or the other. In a divorce, heaven knows there are all sorts of very complicated issues which arise.

As part of a judgment why not decide who is going to get the tax benefit so as to induce the most possible income will go to the children? Why could it not be left that a person who is in a fairly high tax bracket will make the payment to someone in a low tax bracket to give the benefit of the tax deduction 100 per cent to the payer? In another situation, if the recipient does not want to pay any tax and the payer is quite happy to pay the tax, then why could that not be done, or any combination?

We do not have to go all in one direction or all in another. If for the sake of the tax department and for the sake of simplicity we need to have it all one way or another, then it would seem to me the appropriate thing to do would be to split it 50:50.

I want to reiterate to all of the people affected by the Thibaudeau decision that on the face of it it does tend to make a lot of sense. Many people out there think that perhaps this Parliament is not sensitive to their needs. However, I want to assure everyone that at least from this side of the House, I know from the government side, but I think also from the Bloc, we are going to work together as parliamentarians to come to an agreement on this which will be palatable both to the payers and the recipients and fair to all concerned. This is particularly to benefit the children involved.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West Ontario


Marlene Catterall LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of the motion of my colleague, the member of Parliament for Nepean, and to compliment her on bringing this issue to the House for debate.

In her motion the member is addressing a crucial factor contributing to the poverty of women and children in Canada. That is the tax treatment of support payments in cases of divorce or separation.

Twenty years ago I first heard a woman who had been through the experience deliver the warning that any woman is one husband away from poverty. In 1994 the situation has not changed much. The most recent report of the Vanier Institute confirms that the majority of women who walk out of a marriage walk into poverty. The actual figure is that two-thirds of women whose marriages break up end up in poverty, along with their children.

When Statistics Canada conducted its recent comprehensive survey of women's experience of violence, it learned that 45 per cent of women had experienced violent abuse during a previous marriage; 15 per cent reported being victims of violence in their current marriage. These figures indicate that women do leave abusive marriages in great numbers, but to escape the danger of a violent marriage they must be prepared to accept the abuse of poverty.

When single mothers are poor, their children are poor. Since this Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000 the situation has become worse, not better. At that time one in six Canadian children lived in poverty. Now that ratio has grown to one in five, an increase by 20 per cent of the number of poor children in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

As we promote better education and training, we ignore the single greatest factor in children dropping out of school: poverty. A poor child is four times as likely to leave before completing high school.

As we try to address the challenge of maintaining a universal, accessible health care system while containing its costs, we are failing to address a significant factor adding to the demands on our health care system: poverty. Poor children are many times more likely to be seriously ill, to have serious accidents and yes, to die than non-poor children.

The treatment of family income on the breakup of a marriage is the significant factor in the poverty of women and children. Report after report has shown the impact of both inadequate support payments, the failure in 75 per cent of cases to pay the support as ordered and finally, the taxation of support payments in the hands of the custodial parent.

Let me mention just a few of these reports from the last few years. The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Family Law Commission and its report on Financial Implications of Child Support Guidelines, May 1992. The Ontario Fair Tax Commission Report on Women and Taxation, November 1992. The Status of Women Canada, Analysis of the Tax Treatment of Child Support Payments, January 1993. Le rapport du Protecteur du citoyen de la province de Quebec on Child Support, Proposals for Reform, November 1993.

All these reports have said the same thing: the tax treatment of child support payments needs to be changed. It is hurting women and it is hurting children. All these reports identify the taxability of child support payments in the hands of the custodial parent as a major contributor to the poverty of women and children. Canada is the only country in the world that taxes child support payments in this way.

Most recently the Thibaudeau court decision has called the tax policy discriminatory on the basis of marital status because tax treatment for a couple supporting children is not the same as for two separated people supporting children. Our government has appealed this case in order to avoid the chaos of cases in the thousands coming before the court to vary orders which were established under the existing law and which some will argue took into consideration the tax treatment of support payments.

The big losers again would be the custodial parents, most of whom are women, and their children. Most of them do not have the resources to ensure their interests are well represented before the courts.

Our government is committed to achieving an orderly transition from the present system to a better way. Our goals generally are to increase the value of child support awards, to simplify the process, and to create a more equitable system.

We realize the vast majority of single mothers in Canada receive no support payments at all for their children and that the vast majority of support orders are not obeyed. This represents not only a burden to that majority of single parent householders in this country, but to all of us as the responsibility for caring for these families is often assumed by our social security system.

Our goal as a government is to achieve concrete results by the end of this year, including reform to the tax system, legislating child support formulas and finding ways of working with the provinces to enforce support orders.

We know there are no easy answers. That is why an important part of this process of finding solutions is listening to the experience of people on the ground. That is why we have set up a task force to consult with Canadians, to consult with those involved with this most unfair system and to find those solutions.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Nepean for bringing forward this issue. With her motion she has ensured that at last Parliament and not the courts will address the inequities of the current tax laws. She will have to her credit what is all too rare in our system: an action by an individual member of Parliament that rights a wrong, that will potentially improve the quality of life and the future prospects of over one million Canadians. I congratulate her.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Nepean for bringing forth this motion. This motion will help us participate in a much needed debate on a very important topic.

Clearly the current system around the issue of child support payments is unfair. It is outdated and simply is not working. The hon. member has helped us to recognize this vital concern that the system must be reformed and that we must find a system which is fair to women, men and most especially to the children who unfortunately experience the breakdown of the family.

Understandably, this has been a topic of interest in my own riding of London-Middlesex and indeed obviously right across this country. This is a vital concern which interests all Canadians.

Both this motion and the Thibaudeau case show that the current system is not working. It is outdated and in bad need of repair. However, simply eliminating taxation of support payments will not necessarily improve the situation.

Without discrimination against women I support the appeal of the decision and the task force to consult further into taxation measures and enforcement of child support payments. We need a more balanced system which is fair to all involved. However, I say again most especially we need a system that keeps as its first priority an adequate level of support paid regularly and on time to the children who have experienced the breakdown of their family.

On a personal note, as an educator for some 21 years in Ontario I can attest to the learning and social difficulties experienced by many children who come from broken and poorer families. All too often these children are unhappy in school and they underachieve as a consequence. Let me hasten to add there are many obvious exceptions to that. There are young people who are so well balanced and mature they manage to live through the breakdown of the family and carry on fairly nicely to successfully complete their education.

I say again, and any teacher anywhere in this land can tell you, all too often that is not the case. All too often these students have a number of problems which must be overcome if they are to successfully complete their education. Many times, unfortu-

nately, that education is interrupted or prematurely ended because of the problems that I have mentioned.

I commend the hon. member for this motion. We have heard many people speak out on the issue in our ridings, in the media, in this Chamber and obviously in the courts. Times have changed and the legislation to deal with this important problem must keep pace with the times.

As it now stands, the government is short $330 million in tax payments and $660 million in deductions. The issues that this case and this motion raise go far beyond narrow questions of taxation or legal interpretation. Most important and as part of his comprehensive review of social programs, the Minister of Human Resources Development in co-operation with the provinces will have to come to grips with the fact that the vast majority of single mothers in Canada receive no support payments at all for their children and that the vast majority of support orders are not obeyed. That is a pathetic fact that I think we all acknowledge. Indeed, one of my colleagues across the way spoke to this on a more personal basis earlier.

We simply cannot have the courts and the laws of this country flouted in such an important area as the support of one's offspring.

The system dates back to 1942. That date alone calls to mind that the system is outdated. The problem was that lawyers and judges frequently failed to increase payments to offset taxes. High income fathers got off without paying tax on part of their income while children suffered to make up the shortfall. Even with the tax benefit a majority of support agreements are in default in Ontario and some two-thirds of children from separated families live in poverty. That point has been made before in this House and today again, but it is a point that is so dramatic that it cannot be made too often. Some two-thirds of children from separated families live in poverty and the fallout of that, both in the school systems and in society at large, is incalculable. It is really a major problem that our society must come to grips with.

A modern and comprehensive approach would boost enforcement and set minimum support guidelines to ensure that children are properly served.

I am pleased to see the emphasis on fairness to Canadian women and I am sure the first people to support this would be those very women. The priority must at all times be the children involved. Whatever is going to be most effective to make sure that they are adequately cared for is the system that I and Canadians want to support.

To sum up, an appeal of the Thibaudeau decision may not seem necessary since Ottawa and the provinces are already studying ways to improve child support guidelines. I think the appeal is a good step as it will help us come to grips with the system in a more comprehensive way and to find that balanced system which we are sorely lacking right now.

Because the court only examined one side of the formula, the tax but not the deduction, there is this imbalance of which I speak. The father can claim the deduction but the mother no longer pays tax, a far richer subsidy than anyone intended. I do not think there can be anyone in this House and I have heard from very few Canadians who would object to the statement of the hon. Minister of Finance. He put it very succinctly and he put it very well and with common sense: Someone has to pay the tax.

The fact of the matter is that someone must pay that tax. It cannot simply be forgone.

In closing, I support the task force chaired by the Secretary of State for the Status of Women because I fully recognize with the government the need for change. Again I commend my hon. colleague from Nepean for her motion. I hope the end result of this process will be a much fairer system recognizing the needs of the children.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer my support to this motion which calls for the government to amend the Income Tax Act so that child support payments are no longer considered taxable income for the recipients.

I would first congratulate the hon. member for Nepean for raising this matter in the House of Commons.

Last March I wrote to the Minister of Finance urging him to make changes to the Income Tax Act in order to rectify this inequity. In the past few weeks the issue was thrown into a state of chaos by the Federal Court of Appeal rendering its judgment in the well publicized Thibaudeau case.

In effect the court ruled that separated custodial parents did not have to include child support payments as part of their income when filing income tax returns. This decision has raised public attention to the urgency of reforming the Income Tax Act with respect to child support payments. I am proud to see that this government recognizes the importance of this issue and is already taking measures to address the matter in the fairest way possible.

I have no problem supporting this motion as well as the government's recent decision to appeal the Federal Appeal Court's ruling. I must admit that, at first, I was having my doubts regarding the government's decision, but I then realized that appealing this judgment would better serve the interests of those who were the most concerned, namely children.

The government appealed the Thibaudeau decision so it may come up with a better arrangement to avoid a potentially disastrous situation in the meantime. It is my understanding that the court's ruling is causing much confusion among both support payers and recipients.

Lawyers from across the country are receiving phone calls from clients who want their support payments lowered. If the court ruling was allowed to stand thousands of applications would have to be litigated, Canadian courtrooms would be clogged and the result would be needless anguish and expense for all parties concerned.

In addition, it is also thought that the recent court decision would further aggravate the problem of failure to pay support payments since non-custodial parents would have less incentive to comply with court mandated support payments without the benefit of tax deductions.

Moreover, since the federal appeal court's decision did not deal with the deductibility of child support by the payer it left in question how the tax will be paid on income that is directed to child support.

If the ruling was left untouched its effect would be that separated parents unlike other parents would not be required to pay taxes on money they use to support their children. Clearly this type of scenario would create a very unfair situation for married couples with children.

The government, realizing that a change is due, is going to consult Canadians who are the most directly affected. The Secretary of State for the Status of Women will head a task force made up of MPs, which is to hold a series of public hearings, very shortly, on various issues regarding child support, including the tax system, and report to the government.

Moreover, the Minister of Justice asked a federal-provincial-territorial committee on family law, which is presently looking into a whole range of issues concerning child support, to present its report before the end of the summer.

The findings of the task force and of the family law committee will guide the government in its review of a new and fair child support system.

Currently there are over 1.2 million children who live in poverty. If we consider that among female lone parent families 62 per cent have income below the poverty line it is easy to see where the majority of these children come from.

In my opinion, the tax rules relating to child support payments probably have something to do with these grim statistics.

I believe the question at hand is one of fairness for single parents and their children. Child poverty has reached frightening levels in this country. It must be dealt with now. This government will soon introduce measures that will improve the circumstances of single parents and their children. By making reforms to the tax system and legislating child support formulas to simplify the system, this government will demonstrate its commitment to tax equity and reducing child poverty.

This is a very important area of social policy and merits a great deal of the government's time and attention. Unfortunately the opposition parties are much more preoccupied with constitutional issues and questions such as law and order. The threat of Quebec separation creates economic instability and stifles our growth, but worst of all it detracts our attention from important social matters that need to be addressed urgently.

I am sure the members of the Reform Party would notice a huge difference in the crime statistics they quote so often if issues such as child poverty were the priority of all members of this House.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion today. I congratulate the hon. member on behalf of Canadians families for taking the initiative to bring this bill forward.

Tax treatment of child support is not merely an issue of taxation. The tax treatment of child support goes to the fundamental principles of justice and equity. The paramount consideration in determining the issue of tax treatment of child support must be in the best interest of our children and in the best interest of the family, not the legal or economic considerations which are often the determining factors in taxation issues.

Fundamental to this legislative debate here today are the principles of equity and fairness. To tax child support payments is inequitable. To give a tax deduction to the payer of child support is inequitable.

During my 17 years of practice in the field of family law I saw the burdens that exist as a result of the inequities both economic and social and that are still existing today due to the marriage breakdown and the breakdown of families and family life.

The economic and social inequity is borne by the custodial parent who is left without the burden to provide the financial and the non-financial contribution to the support of the children as a result of marriage breakdown.

I draw the attention of the House to the Moge and Moge Supreme Court of Canada case and its reasoned judgment which gives details of the hardship, the economic disparities, poverty and inequities that exist as a result of marriage breakdown in our society today. I also draw attention to the allocation of child support, the quantum and the inequities that exist throughout

our country. I recommend this decision to members for their reading for background information.

Another inequity that exists is that a payer of child support should be rewarded with a taxation deduction to provide an incentive to support one's very own family. We should question the underlying issues of morality and equity and ask why Canada is the only country in the world to tax child support payments and to provide such a deduction to the payer.

Another inequity in the present system is that the families that stay together and are united in marriage are not provided a tax deduction or allowed income splitting to provide economic equity for our stay at home mothers or one income families.

In conclusion, in keeping with the fundamental principles of justice and equity and to afford legal, economic and social protection of our families as they exist today, all the inequities that are raised in this bill must be addressed without delay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be given the opportunity to speak on this particular proposal.

The Thibaudeau case has occurred, the appeal has been undertaken, there will be hearings, but what is important at the end of all of this is to remember the following. Most people, and most often women, do not get child support payments. Many of those who do-and I am told it is a majority-do not get them paid and many who do get them paid do not get them paid on time. It would seem to me that unless these particular problems are corrected at the end of the process we have done a great deal for very little.

Let us remember there is a great deal of inconsistency throughout the country with respect to child support payments. Let us remember that one can be given a particular award in a particular province in a particular situation. Yet there can be a like situation and the award can be entirely different. That is within the one province, let alone comparing provinces and territories.

Let us also remember that most people rearing families after broken marriages are women. Let us remember that women's earnings, their ability to earn and to spend on themselves and their families, are reduced significantly as a result of marriage breakdown. Let us remember that whenever they attempt to get justice, either to have an appropriate amount paid or to have whatever was decided paid on time, it often costs them a great deal of money; most often resources they do not have.

Therefore, in my view, it is a matter of fundamental justice. A number of things have occurred. A ruling was handed down, an appeal will be launched and public hearings will be held across Canada. That is all well and good, but, as I mentioned earlier, if the problems I have identified-and I identified only a handful-are not resolved, it will be most unfortunate, because one thousand women, hundreds of men and thousands of children are adversely affected. There are no specific provisions in place to ensure that children do not fall into the poverty trap, that they receive what is rightfully theirs and that they enjoy the same opportunities as children who do not come from broken homes.

Those are the few comments I wanted to make. I reiterate that if at the end of the process the problems I have identified are not corrected it will be for naught. In most cases women and children suffer. We must correct that for their sake.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia


Mary Clancy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a few comments in this debate. I begin by congratulating the hon. member for Nepean on bringing forward the motion. Her interest in and her support for women and children caught in untenable situations have long been known. We are all very grateful to the hon. member for Nepean for bringing it to the forefront in the House of Commons.

With regard to the whole way the income tax system deals with the questions of child support and maintenance, there is a rather high level of misapprehension and misunderstanding out there among even those people who are involved in the system.

The first thing to remember is that we have a very bad rate of collection of maintenance and child support in the country. Currently only 37 per cent of child support orders are enforceable in Canada.

When I started practising law in 1980 it was worse. The non-compliers were in the high nineties. However clearly 63 per cent of child support payments are unenforceable and in the province of Ontario 80 per cent are either unenforceable or in arrears. That is unacceptable in a country like Canada. That is why I want to speak very much in favour of the government's initiative in setting up the task force to go across the country to consult with Canadians, the women who receive these payments on behalf of themselves and their children, the men who pay the payments, and the lawyers who represent them both.

The ramifications of the Thibaudeau case are not simple. They are very complex. The problems of the tax system are not simple; they are very complex.

We have here a question of fairness, not just fairness to those people who are the payers and payees of child support but fairness to families as my colleague from Central Nova and other colleagues have mentioned. There is a question of fairness to those mothers and fathers who co-parent and who also need tax breaks.

There is the question of poverty among women and children. It is very important to note that we should not separate women and children. The number of children who live below the poverty line is unacceptable and in the vast majority of cases their mothers live with them. We have to look at the problem and deal with it in the broader sense, not merely in the context of the Thibaudeau decision and in the context of the Income Tax Act.

Fair taxes are something that we on this side of the House are very concerned with. It is absolutely crucial that Canadians, and Canadian women in particular who think the Thibaudeau case was a bonus for them, understand there is more to it. We must have a policy.

I commend the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and the Secretary of State for the Status of Women. This task force will bring us the consultations we need to formulate the policy.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. I simply want to say how much I support the motion of the hon. member for Nepean.

As other members have pointed out, in other countries including the United States, there is no tax on child support payments to women who receive them. Yes, there is taxation on alimony payments to former wives, to formers spouses, but not on child support that is sent to a mother. If they can do it in the United States certainly this is one area where we can copy them.

I also simply want to make the point that fathers who are still in the family have the obligation in the family to support their children. There is no special tax break of the same nature that they have under the present law.

I simply as another member want to fully support the initiative of the hon. member for Nepean and hope that the court appeal will in no way impede in the long run what she is attempting to do.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to have the consent of the House for a few moments to close the debate on this very important matter.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent, given that the time has expired, to grant a few more moments to the hon. member for Nepean?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank everyone on all sides of the House for speaking in support of Motion M-14.

The motion has received a tremendous amount of interest right across the country. There have been an incredible number of contacts made to me personally from every province, from women, from custodial parents and from payers whom I want to thank publicly in the House of Commons.

This motion was born because of the plight of children. We as a nation have said consistently that to look after children we must decrease poverty. We must ensure that our children are properly looked after.

It was because of people bringing the issue to my attention during the recent federal election campaign that I brought the issue forward in the House of Commons. It has been a great privilege for me to have had the opportunity to present it and to have three one-hour debates on the votable motion before the House.

Again, on behalf of all parents and all children, I hope we have unanimous consent in the House to approve the motion. I thank the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice. There is no doubt in my mind that we will move ahead to enact some change to the Income Tax Act to allow the children to be better taken care of.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, before you ask us to vote on this motion, as chief government whip, I would like to announce that this vote will be a free vote as usual. All votes on private members' business are free votes, and this one will be no exception.

I just said in French that before Your Honour asks us to vote I would like to announce as chief government whip that the vote will be a free vote as usual in Private Members' Hour.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has expired.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the said motion?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried, on division.

(Motion agreed to.)