House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guidelines.


The House resumed from September 27 consideration of the motion.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Motion No. 30, sponsored by the member for Mississauga South.

The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider amending the Income Tax Act to provide a care giver tax credit for those who provide care in the home for preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill or the aged.

I would like to commend the member for bringing this motion forward. The recognition of the problem of unfair tax treatment, in particular of families that choose to have one member of the family stay at home, is commendable. It is a good thing to bring this forward and to talk about it. There are, however, at least three questions that I would like to ask the member. I will talk about them in my presentation today.

The first question is where is the cost benefit analysis, or at least an estimate of the cost and the benefits of the changes that this motion would bring about and put into law?

My second question is why is the government's only response to this issue to put in place more taxpayer funded day care? I will talk briefly about that in my presentation.

The third question I have is that the government of which he is a member has been in power for three years now. Why has the government not acted on the portion of the motion which would bring into place equal tax treatment between families that choose to have one parent stay at home to take care of the children and those families that choose to hire, either through day care or some other place, someone to look after their children while they are at work? Why has the government not dealt with this inequity in the tax system? Why has it not taken this unfairness out of the system?

That is the third question for the member. I will deal with it later in my presentation.

First, where is the cost benefit analysis? The member for Mississauga South, the sponsor of the bill, said in his presentation: "The viability of M-30 needs to be assessed, not from a financial perspective, but from a balanced perspective, taking into account both social and fiscal reality". I agree with that.

How can this member ask me and others to support this motion when a cost benefit analysis has not been done? How can we possibly support a motion when an estimate of the effect this would have on the finances of the country has not been completed?

I would suggest that no member of Parliament should, in good conscience, vote in favour of a motion like this. We must have a cost benefit analysis that is at least accurate enough to give us a ball park figure of the costs and the benefits of this motion. The hon. member has failed to provide that. I certainly cannot support this motion on that basis.

Second, why has the government's only response to this issue been a promise for more taxpayer funded day care? Of course, this promise was made in the red book. It is another one of those promises that has not been kept, by the way. In the government's tally, 72 per cent or some such thing of its promises have been kept. By my tally, 28 to 30 per cent, if someone is generous, have been kept. This promise for more spending on day care, which is by the way something I do not support, is a promise that has not been kept. Canadians should hold the government accountable because it made a promise and a promise should be kept.

It is one of the things on which the government did campaign. It is an issue that was talked about during the campaign. Other Reform candidates and I spoke out against this during the election campaign while the Liberals spoke out in favour, yet it is certainly a promise the government will not be keeping.

Why has that been the government's only response, a promise which it is not going to keep, but a promise to spend more on publicly funded day care? It is not going to solve the problem.

The third question is the most important. Why has the government, of which the member who has sponsored this motion has been a part for three years now, not deal with this unfairness that he points out is in our tax system. It gives an unfair tax advantage to people who pay others to take care of their children.

It is not for government to tell people how they are going to care for their children. It is important that parents have a choice whether they will have their children looked after by someone else while they work or if they choose, to have one parent stay at home and look after the children without having the tax system punish them for making the choice to have one parent stay at home.

That is wrong. There is no job in this country, including the job of Prime Minister, which is as important as having children very well looked after. Studies have shown that it is important for one parent, and it does not matter which parent, stay at home with children in their younger years. If a family chooses to do that because they believe that is their responsibility as a parent, then the tax system should not punish them.

Reform has said some very specific things in the fresh start document which was released on October 17 and has been talking about and presenting across the country. This fresh start document says that there are two visions of how and what this country can be. One vision has been shared by the Liberals and federal Conservatives over the past many years. It is a vision of big, very expensive government. Higher and higher taxation is necessary to support this big government. That taxation has been a job killer and has also made it very difficult for parents to support a family with only one person working. It is high taxation and high payroll deductions that have caused this problem.

The other vision, which is the vision that Reform and many Canadians share, is a vision of a Canada with a much smaller federal government, much less intervention in our lives, and a government that would cost less and so would allow less taxation.

Our fresh start has three proposals concerning taxation which would make it much easier for parents to choose to have one parent stay at home with the family. In fact, it would make it easier for those parents who choose to have both work and someone else look after the children while they are at work.

The first proposal which is for all families, whether both parents work or not, is an increase in the basic personal exemption amount from $6,456 to $7,900. That will lead to a tax reduction for all Canadian families. That is important.

The second proposal is critical and would deal with the part of this motion to do with the unfair tax treatment of families, in terms of taking care of children. The second proposal allows for an increase in the spousal amount from $5,380 to $7,900. That levels the playing field.

Furthermore, as part of our commitment to the family, the child care deduction of $3,000 to $5,000, which is currently in place and it is available only to parents using outsiders to take care of their children, will be extended to all parents, whether they choose to stay at home with their children or to have someone else look after their children. These three proposals would be far more effective in dealing with the concern that is expressed in this motion.

In conclusion, I would say to Canadians that they do have a choice. They have a choice with Reform to make things much better for the family with respect to taxation and with respect to security through changes in the justice system and other changes. With respect to this motion, the proposals that we have put forth in our fresh start platform certainly would do a much better job in dealing with the issue which is considered by Motion No. 30.

Because there is no cost benefit analysis and because our proposal would deal with this matter in a much more complete way, I personally cannot support the motion.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too want to add my voice to the discussion on Private Members' Motion No. 30.

I am speaking as the mother of two wonderful daughters. I fully understand the difficulties many families face when choosing to work or to stay at home. This motion will help in making the decision easier for families. The efforts of the member for Mississauga South will balance the skills of equality between those who choose a two income household with the children in daycare and those families who choose to designate a parent to care for their children in their own home.

These proposed changes to the Income Tax Act will ensure that families can make the best choice for their needs. The disabled, the chronically ill and the aged in the home all deserve caring individuals.

The motion implies that the Income Tax Act discriminates against families who make the choice to provide care at home for the categories of people mentioned above. The motion appears to target the provision of the Income Tax Act which disallows the deduction of child care expenses by one earner couples.

In addition to the needs of children, Motion No. 30 considers the welfare of families caring for elderly and chronically ill family members. Those of us who listen to CBC Ottawa will have heard this morning a discussion of an individual who is caring for a parent who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. They noted the cost of care and the need that there is, especially in this day and age

when so many people are living longer and having ailments which deserve the care and nurture of family members.

Families with disabled family members face the greatest challenge of all. In these cases a lifelong commitment is required, not simply the assistance of family at the dawn or the sunset years of a family member. These families face a continual challenge to help a family member overcome their disability and to live a happy and productive life in Canada.

What is good about Motion No. 30 is that it says that the government can help without creating a big, expensive bureaucratic institution or program. With a few small additions and changes to the Income Tax Act, this motion would empower individuals to choose the best way to both work and care for their families.

The motion creates a policy that would recognize the value of work at home, provides more options for direct parental care, eases the demand for long term care and child care facilities, promotes work opportunities, promotes financial independence in the home and encourages a better quality of life for families.

I want to speak about some of the things the government is presently doing which will connect nicely with the intent of this motion.

The child care expense deduction helps parents who have modest incomes with child care expenses which they incur while earning income, attending school full time or taking an eligible vocational training course.

The child care benefit supplement is another program which helps parents who choose to remain in the home to raise preschool children. This year it is $213 for each child six years of age or younger. This is in addition to the regular benefit of $1,020 for each child.

There is also the working income supplement which helps low income working class families meet some of the extra costs relating to employment income, for example, child care and transportation to and from work. This relates to a non-taxable benefit of up to $500. Changes introduced in our 1996 budget will double the supplement to $1,000 by 1998. This will increase benefits to more than 700,000 working families by an average of $350 a year. While the working income supplement is available to two income families, it is also available to single earner families where one spouse stays at home as a caregiver.

It is important to note that this motion takes into consideration the needs, the care and the availability for individuals to stay at home and provide that care and to use the tax system as an incentive and as a way to encourage the nurturing and give support to families who need the supplement.

As indicated in the budget presented to the House on March 6, 1996 the WIS or the income supplement will provide maximum annual benefit increases that will range from $500 to $715 in July 1997 to $1,000 in July 1998.

The motion suggests tax assistance should be made available to families that provide in home care for elderly relatives or relatives with disabilities. Again tax assistance for people with disabilities and for the families caring for elderly or disabled relatives at home is provided by a number of existing tax measures.

I could go on to delineate the tax measures but I support the intent of the motion, that as a community and as Canadians we need to care about, think about and ensure that for individuals who give the care and nurturing in the home for preschoolers, people with disabilities and other groups that need specific care by their families that there is included in the tax system the necessary incentives and benefits.

We can argue the notion that the income tax system and the way it should operate and the projections as to the impact on our budget needs to be taken into consideration. It is too bad that somehow delineating the cost of the program was not indicated in terms of the impact on our 1997 budget.

There are good intentions in the motion put forward by the member in the care for Canadian families. I will support the intent of the motion and encourage that we find the ways and means by which we can attend to this motion in our ongoing consultations on what we need to do for Canadian families.

I stand in support of the motion.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on the motion put forward by the hon. member for Mississauga South, whom I know well as we both sit on the Standing Committee on Health. I have often had discussions with him and I know that he is a kindhearted man. This is not the kind of motion that can be rejected out of hand.

I say this with certain reservations, however. The motion could not be approved without any amendments either, as it may involve changes to programs.

Our listeners must realize that the federal government, and the provinces as well, may decide to go one of two ways. The first and more familiar one is through programs, by providing grants, funding public services or supporting quasi-public services for seniors, families and so forth, but always through funding. This is often the budget item that attracts the most attention.

What the hon. member for Mississauga South is proposing today is a tax credit for those who provide care in the home for preschool children, the disabled, or the aged. There is nothing wrong with that.

Of course the federal and provincial governments alike should help these people, especially if they are using incentives, a positive approach instead of creating obligations. Only those who can, and really have the means to do so, provide such care. It is proposed to provide tax credits, which means giving a little more to those who give their time to improve the well-being of preschool children or persons who have become incapacitated.

I would like to focus on the disabled. I imagine most members have organizations dedicated to the disabled in their ridings. In my riding, there is one that has been around for many years-I even worked for them before getting elected-and its goal is to help the disabled get integrated into society or at least ensure that they live at home instead of being institutionalized.

This involves some support from either close family members or anyone willing to help, be it out of friendship or kindheartedness. They need someone to provide some support.

The same could be said about the aged. For some years now, it has been the policy, in Quebec at least, to help the aged, even those who are progressively more incapacitated, live at home as long as possible. To this end, they are provided with access to home care and other services. But despite these efforts, all their needs are not met, and that is where a family member can make a valuable contribution.

Let us also take a look at the consequences of the move toward ambulatory care. In Quebec, some families are hit harder than before in the sense that limiting hospital stays acts as an incentive to let the patient go home as quickly as possible, but there has to be someone to give them a hand after they leave the hospital.

So, the period in question can be very short, but it can also be rather long. Therefore, the tax credit formula suggested by the hon. member deserves consideration. Indeed, when a person requires regular care over a period of a few months, but only for an hour or two per day, we should encourage people to provide such care at home, instead of taking the person to the hospital.

However, this solution poses a number of problems, and the hon. member for Joliette mentioned some of them at the beginning of the debate. We do have some reservations and concerns. Should the government accept the proposal made by one of its members, would it result in an attempt to make a change? We do not want to sound overly distrustful but, given this government's pattern in its attempts to make changes, we have learned to become distrustful of these attempts, and for good reason.

Does it mean that some expenditures should be eliminated at the same time? This is unfortunately the case. I am referring to the transfers to the provinces, more specifically to the new Canada social transfer, which we have been hearing about since last year. All the moneys paid to the provinces for health, post-secondary education and social assistance now come out of this single fund. All these sectors have been grouped together, However, the government took this opportunity to significantly reduce the amounts transferred. In the case of Quebec, the shortfall will total billions of dollars. Those who are watching us are very familiar with the process: the federal government targets our provincial government, which then has no choice but to make cuts, including in the health sector. Indeed, people must realize that such cuts are the result of a reduction in transfer payments.

Personally, I would find it hypocritical on the federal government's part to suddenly be generous by granting more tax deductions and credits to caregivers if, at the same time, it kept making cuts in transfers to the provinces. These things must be explained to our fellow citizens. My three years in this House have taught me to be suspicious and critical of the government's actions, which is the role of the official opposition.

I know the hon. member who tabled the motion. He is a very generous person. I also know the hon. member who spoke before me, and I realize that government members have good intentions. However, what would the government do with such a motion? Would it use it as encouragement to continue making cuts in transfers to the provinces, cuts that affect precisely those people whom the hon. member for Mississauga South wants to help? These are the reservations I have.

As for the member's intentions and the value of his proposal, one cannot oppose such a positive approach, whereby ordinary members of society, that is people close to a sick person, would look after this person. In fact, we must encourage it.

Since my time is running out, I will conclude by underscoring this point. I do not want my speech to be interpreted as an unconditional acceptance of a change that would reinforce the government's tendency to impose cuts on the provinces, while maintaining very strict conditions, including the five conditions relating to health.

Given these conditions, provincial governments are forced to cut into the health care sector, which is high profile, while the federal government, through a tax deduction and credit system, would do just the opposite. This seems hypocritical and unacceptable.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to express my support for the intent of Motion No. 30. I am pleased to see an initiative to support the family coming from the other side of the House. It is support to increase personal freedom

and choice and to recognize the importance of allowing individuals to exercise responsibility over their own affairs.

To remind the House, Motion No. 30 reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider amending the Income Tax Act to provide a caregiver tax credit for those who provide care in the home for preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill or the aged.

One of the most important effects of this motion is its impact on child care. The present tax situation discriminates against parents who choose to stay at home with their children. We in the Reform Party believe that the care of children falls within the domain of families and that parents must have full responsibility in Canadian society to nurture and provide for children.

Current federal government programs are intrusive and restrict the choices that parents may make in deciding on the best type of care for their children. The role of government, on the other hand, is to provide a fair tax and benefit system that provides parents with the opportunity to properly care for their children in the manner of their choosing.

Unfortunately this motion's sponsor was right when he predicted that his colleagues would stand up and declare that their paltry subsidies to stay at home parents are sufficient. This statement in and of itself is ridiculous. It is even more shameful when placed in contrast to the amount of provision made available to parents who place their children in day care.

Parents are very frustrated today in that they would like to spend more time with their children but they cannot. One of the reasons is that they cannot afford to have one parent stay at home with the children because they need two incomes to survive.

An Angus Reid survey indicated that 45 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men were in agreement with the question that if they could afford to, they would stay at home with their children. Furthermore, 57 per cent of parents with younger children said they would work primarily to make ends meet and would stay at home if they could.

In the same survey, 25 per cent of women and 24 per cent of men agreed with the statement: "I feel guilty about the amount of time I spend at work away from my kids". Among parents with children under 12, the proportion who agree with this statement rises to 32 per cent. Twenty-five per cent of women and twenty-two per cent of men agreed with the statement: "I am too tired when I get home to spend quality time with the kids".

Our children are our future, the future of this country, and here we have parents lamenting about the opportunities lost for spending time with their kids. This government has recognized it. The member for Mississauga South has certainly analysed the tax system and his statement is clear: "What is worse is that a deduction is worth more to a high income earner than a low income earner. For example, someone who makes $60,000 a year and pays $5,000 for child care space receives a refund cheque from the government for $2,600. However, if someone makes only $30,000 and incurs the same $5,000 cost, their refund is only $1,800. That is an $800 difference when both taxpayers incurred the same expense for child care costs".

In other words, I gather the intent from this member's motion was to alleviate the tax burden of the stay at home parents. He recognizes it but not everyone on that side of the House does.

Whether this inequity was set up intentionally to discriminate against parents who choose to provide home care is irrelevant. It exists. The fact is it does discriminate. Despite evidence of this, the government has made no effort to develop a policy that treats all families equally, affording them the independence and freedom of choice they desire in areas of legitimate concern.

We are hearing more and more of those concerns all the time on the social side, parents lamenting about not being able to spend that time with their children.

It is imperative that this discrimination be ended. I would encourage all parliamentarians to do this by endorsing, to some degree, this motion. It should have some amendments to it. They should endorse this motion or one similar.

The same sort of discrimination occurs in the provision of care for the elderly and the infirm. Once again, the government claims to have a system in place that is sufficient for helping families that want to care for their ailing members at home.

Despite the fact that even for pragmatic economic reasons, Canadian governments are moving in the direction of encouraging more home care options, there is no evidence that the federal Liberals are planning to adjust the tax system to make home care an economically viable option for individual Canadian families. It is just not in the cards with this Liberal government.

According to the government, the infirm dependent credit which can generate savings of up to $400 or $8 a week is sufficient to help the average Canadian family know its choice to care for elderly parents at home is not being subject to financial discrimination or penalty.

That is a paltry amount when we look at the costs of home care and the cost to the federal government or provincial governments, even local governments, to care for the elderly. There should be greater consideration given to those people who want to look after their elderly parents at home through a tax break. That is not happening.

According to the government, the present circumstances surrounding the medical expenses credit do not require changing. This is in addition to the medical expenses to the home care provisions.

The 17 per cent credit for expenses in excess of the lesser of 3 per cent of the net income is available to all Canadians, but for those who have employer paid health plans this benefit can be added to cover uninsured costs, while most Canadians have to get by on this paltry credit alone.

In other words, for those who have a government health care program or a group health care program through one of their businesses compared to those who do not, the ones who have a group health care plan of course benefit from this and those who do not really have to foot the bill themselves. I do not think that has been covered adequately by not only government but by the health plans available right now.

Having expressed support in principle for the motion, I want to state clearly the need for far more tax reform than the cut and paste approach the present system is bound to.

The Reform Party has committed itself to real substantive tax reform in the form of a simple, flat and visible tax. This system will do away with the gross inequities that are part of the present system, including discrimination against home care, of preschool children and the disabled and elderly.

The member for Vegreville pointed out some of those tax breaks. I do not believe I have to repeat them.

Reform's final flat tax policy will start with a sizeable personal tax credit that will protect a larger number of low income individuals from income taxes. An additional credit will be provided for each child. We want to move that credit up from $3,000 to $5,000.

Reform is the only federal party today which offers a comprehensive fiscal alternative to the discriminatory priorities of the present government which clearly has no regard for millions of Canadian families struggling under the economic burden that is growing under this Liberal administration. We want to work in partnership with the Canadian taxpayer. That is what governments should do. That partnership involves providing tax relief to all taxpayers.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As it would appear there are no further members who wish to speak, under our rules the hon. member for Mississauga South may sum up the debate.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all hon. members who over the last few months as we have had private members debate on Motion M-30 have taken the opportunity to discuss the motion. The motion says that we should consider the advisability of amending the Income Tax Act to provide a caregiver tax credit to those who provide care in the home to preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled. I am very gratified that so many members spoke in favour of this motion.

I want to comment briefly on the position articulated by one member on the concern about the costs of such a change. The member has raised an excellent point.

We must always assume that there is no new money to be spent on new benefits or across the board tax cuts or anything like that. But it is incumbent on the government to look at other ways to fund perhaps by consolidating other tax benefits to create this caregiver tax credit.

I would use as an example what was done with the seniors benefit which is a consolidation of the old age security and the GIS brought into a new credit, a new benefit for seniors outside the tax system. It is funded by the former envelope for OAS and GIS. I see that as a parallel which may be an opportunity.

A number of members have raised the issue about how do we get the money. I could give a couple of examples. The previous speaker talked very briefly and quoted me with regard to the child care expense deduction. If we converted that deduction to a tax credit and also made it subject to an income test, that would generate approximately $400 million in savings to the government.

There is the spousal non-refundable tax credit which is available to all where one spouse is working and one is not but it is not subject to having any children. If we were talking about using our limited resources to apply for those who really have need or are investing in children, having those funds diverted to being part of this new caregiver tax credit certainly would be an option. That would generate $1.2 billion of additional funding for the caregiver tax credit.

The final item I would give as an example is the equivalent to spouse non-refundable tax credit. This is a benefit to families which split up. Not only do two adults get the credit but one of the children can be elevated to the adult status for a third credit. In my view it benefits families that split apart rather than those that stay together. If we were to rethink these kinds of things we would find it would generate a savings of somewhere around $200 million.

In total those items which I have simply talked about right now generate somewhere upward of $2 billion of funding that could be directed toward the caregiver tax credit.

This being a private member's motion, I remind all hon. members that it is not encumbering the government to do anything. A private member's motion is simply to ask the House to consider the advisability of looking at this and possibly some funding sources.

I will conclude by quoting the wife of the President of the United States who I thought had a very interesting comment. She said that we can talk about family values all we want but would it not be better if we looked for ways to have legislative initiatives that would value families.

I thank all hon. members for participating in this debate on a family issue, something that is very near to me. I ask hon. members for their support in making Motion M-30 an issue which the government should give some consideration to.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

At the request of the hon. whip, division stands deferred until Tuesday, November 5, 1996, at 5.30 p.m.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Dear colleagues, it being 11.50 a.m., is it the pleasure of the House to suspend the sitting for 10 minutes?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11.50 a.m.)

The House resumed at 12 p.m.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-41, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have a ruling with respect to the groupings at report stage of Bill C-41, an act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Canada Shipping Act.

There are 15 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-41. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows: Group No. 1: Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 12; Group No. 2: Motions Nos. 4 to 11; Group No. 3: Motion No. 13; Group No. 4: Motion No. 14; Group No. 5: Motion No. 15.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the Table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-41, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 33 on page 2 with the following:

"the order, a .1) where both spouses or former spouses are not ordinarily resident in the same province at the time an application for a child support order or a variation order in respect of a child support order is made, or the amount of a child support order is to be recalculated pursuant to section 25.1, and the province in which the child in respect of whom the application is made and is ordinarily resident has been designated by an order made under subsection (5), the laws of the province specified in the order, a .2) where an application described in paragraph ( a ) is made in respect of more than one child and the children are not ordinarily resident in the same province, the Federal Child Support Guidelines, and,''

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-41, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 10 on page 3 with the following:

"(5) The Governor in Council shall, by order,"

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-41, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 18 on page 3 the following:

"(5.1) Notwithstanding any provision in any Act of Parliament including this Act, the Governor in Council may not amend or repeal an order made under subsection (5) and may not establish guidelines under section 26.1 applicable to a province that has, under subsection (5), been designated a province for the purposes of the definition "applicable guidelines" in subsection (1)."

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-41, in Clause 11, be amended by replacing lines 18 to 20 on page 13 with the following:

"orders for child support, including guidelines"

Mr. Speaker, the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois has in mind the very specific context where the parents who are divorcing no longer live in the same province at the time an application for a child support order is made to the court.

Why did we present this motion? We did so because the solution put forward by the Minister of Justice for determining which grid will apply in these cases does not strike us as the best one. The minister is proposing that the court use the federal grid in such a case.

In our opinion, however, the federal grid is inadequate because it makes no allowance for provincial transfer payments to families. The Quebec grid, on the other hand, was developed by the level of government closest to families, the one that sets family and social policy, the one that determines tax policy, the one that looks after day care, income security programs, family assistance programs, health programs, and I could go on.

In Quebec, as in other provinces, government policies result in transfer payments to individuals and families. However, since the government approach reflects a certain vision of society, transfer payments made by the Quebec government differ from those made by other provinces.

Accordingly, since the federal grid takes income tax alone into account, the amounts set out in its grid of payment levels will undoubtedly differ from those in a provincial grid. Therefore, if the federal grid is applied to parents of children living in Quebec, for example, the whole process is distorted.

In addition to skewing the child support system, the imposition of the federal grid in cases where parents are not living in the same province will lead to an unfair situation within a province. What justification can there be for the fact that all children within a province will not be entitled to the same treatment, simply because the non-custodial parent is living in another province?

Perhaps the minister thinks the other provinces in Canada will go along with the proposed grid. We have no intention of doing so. However, the minister must keep his word and respect the spirit of his bill. If, as he says, he really means to recognize provincial grids at some future point, he must therefore agree to uniformity within the provinces first. He must not impose his grid on a parent paying support who does not reside in the same province as his child.

I would also like to emphasize that the custodial parent, usually the mother, generally changes place of residence less often than the father.

Thus, in order to respect provincial autonomy, and to ensure that children in the same territory are treated uniformly and their economic stability respected, it is very important that the grid to be applied be the one drawn up by the province in which the child resides, regardless of the place of residence of the paying parent. This is a matter of justice.

Moving on immediately to Motion no. 2, I will try to explain it to our audience. This is a very important motion, because it reveals the specific intentions of the federal government concerning the possibility of recognizing the guidelines drawn up by the provinces.

The word "may" confers upon the government virtually absolute discretionary power. I say "virtually absolute" because, as Professor Garant has stated, "the courts have invariably decided that discretionary power is never absolute". The Canada Interpretation Act, which applies to all legislation passed by the Canadian Parliament, stipulates in section 11 the difference between "shall" and "may". I quote: "The expression shall' is to be construed as imperative and the expressionmay' as permissive".

I would point out that, in this case, the verb used in clause 1(4) of the bill is "may". The clarification of the Minister of Justice's intentions, which he offered during testimony before the committee is most revealing: "The creation of guidelines for child support is something new for the Government of Canada. This is the first time we have done this. It is difficult to predict all of the questions that will arise in future. We have, therefore, used the words that were in the clauses before the Committee, in order to allow the government some degree of flexibility".

It is obvious, furthermore, that, despite the fact that it says it will recognize the provincial guidelines, the government is not too keen on the idea, and I again quote the Minister of Justice: "It is the government's objective to have a national system, a uniform system. The trouble with the present system is that it is unpredictable. So generally speaking, we want the system for determining child support payments to be predictable, uniform and national. The government acknowledges that individual provinces may wish to establish the amounts and the guidelines, but it is important for the national objective to have some degree of uniformity".

Clear and specific. To avoid upsetting the provinces by invading the jurisdiction they have over family matters, the government says: "If have your own guidelines, we will respect them". However, at the same time the government says in the legislation that it will decide whether and when it will recognize provincial guidelines. I believe there is some contradiction here.

We do not go along with this proposal. We want the minister to recognize clearly the expertise of the provinces in this area and to

leave it all up to those provinces who take the initiative to develop their own guidelines. You cannot have both, that is impossible.

The problem with all this is that the government knows perfectly well that the guidelines it is about to adopt will also be used unofficially in cases that come under the jurisdiction of the provinces, which is somewhat embarrassing for a government that keeps talking about the flexibility of the federal system and its intention to decentralize. There is only one honest and acceptable solution to this problem: let the government accept our amendment and promise to recognize the guidelines that are adopted by the provinces. That is what we want to see happen.

On Motion No. 12: the words "but without limiting the generality of the foregoing" should be deleted in clause 11 of the bill. This clause creates a new section in the Divorce Act, a section that lists the criteria to be met by the provinces if they want the federal government to recognize their own guidelines.

Why do we want this deletion? The answer is quite simple. Here again, the federal government is trying to establish discretionary powers. In fact, it is telling the provinces that it may recognize their guidelines, provided they meet the criteria set in section 26.1, but it also says, with the words we want deleted, that these criteria may change without prior notice and, above all, that there may be other requirements that are not specifically provided in the legislation.

This is unacceptable. Why should a province rely on some future recognition of its guidelines if at the same time the government reserves the right to change at any time the criteria for such recognition? How can a provincial government do any proper planning when it does not know what the federal government is going to do? This is a cat and mouse game.

The rule of thumb for legislation should be clarity: the terms, the objectives and the consequences of non-compliance should all be crystal clear. Clause 26.1 the government is proposing is not clear, anything but.

To show its good faith, the government should clearly set the rules of the game. Obviously, the words "but without limiting the generality of the foregoing" must be deleted from the text of the final version of the bill. I hope my government colleagues will accept my amendment.

There is still Motion No. 3. The purpose of this motion is to protect provinces that adopt their own guidelines, once these guidelines have been recognized by the government.

This motion specifies that once they have been recognized by order in council, the guidelines of a province cannot be revoked by an act of Parliament or by any provision of this legislation.

It was also quite clear from the minister's testimony that the minister was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that provincial

rates might differ from the federal rates. He did not like this idea at all, to say the least.

Bearing this in mind, we ask that the bill include a clause that would guarantee the continued recognition of a province's guidelines, once those guidelines have been recognized for the first time.

Quebec is about to adopt its own guidelines. The process leading up to this legislation has been a long one. The Quebec government held extensive consultations with stakeholders. It also had to align this new legislation with its policies in the works and its vision of where it should be going in terms of family policy.

What we are asking the government is to respect the will of the provinces, and this bill is a case in point. Since the Quebec government has just reviewed its own guidelines, I see no other choice for the federal government but to accept and respect the work done by the provinces, including Quebec in this case.

As you know, we must be careful to avoid overlap and duplication in this area.

Divorce ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the first group of proposed amendments to Bill C-41. I will speak briefly to the four motions we are presently discussing which have been submitted by the Bloc Quebecois.

We have five groups of amendments to discuss. Although some amendments were put forward in my name, they were really drafted by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam. She has done an incredible amount of work dealing with this bill. She has analysed it and gone through it with a fine tooth comb. She has worked to try to better the bill on behalf of Canadians. I want to pay tribute to her.

Motion No. 1 deals with designating the applicable provincial law should both spouses or former spouses not be resident in the same province at the time the application for the child support order is made. Under the amendment the applicable law would be that of the province where the child is ordinarily a resident.

The second part of the amendment put forward by the hon. member from the Bloc states that if there is more than one child of the marriage and they live in different provinces, then the federal guidelines would apply.

I feel the amendments fill a hole in the bill as they describe situations that are left out of the bill in its present form. Therefore, my view is that Reform will be supporting this motion.

Motion No. 2 which was also put forward by the Bloc changes the word "may" to "shall" to make it obligatory that the governor in council designate a province for the purposes of the designation of applicable guidelines as set out in the bill. This amendment also

makes sense. It should not be discretionary which provincial laws apply for enforcement.

Motion No. 3 seeks to establish that the federal guidelines will not apply in a province where there are provincial guidelines for payment of support. We feel that it is very necessary to have national guidelines. They should be established and at least be present to be reviewed by the court in addition to any provincial guidelines. In light of that we will be opposing Motion No. 3.

Motion No. 12 limits the power of the governor in council so that in making the guidelines the governor in council can only take into consideration the matters raised in paragraphs (a) through (h). We will be soon be debating Motion No. 4, a Reform amendment. We feel the government has this whole issue backwards as far as whether the court looks at the guidelines first and then looks at extenuating circumstances surrounding the case. We believe it should be the other way around.

Reform opposes the amendments as we feel that they support what is already contained in the bill and would allow the guidelines to be used first, rather than see the court look at extenuating circumstances such as the ability of the non-custodial parent to pay and other issues that may arise. That sums up my comments on group No. 1 amendments as put forward by the Bloc Quebecois.