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House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, Reform Party members present vote yes.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, NDP members present vote yes.

(The House divided on Motion No. 19, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I declare Motion No. 19 agreed to.

The next question is on Motion No. 35.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent that all members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Members of the official opposition will vote nay, Madam Speaker.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote yes.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, NDP members present will vote no on this motion.

(The House divided on Motion No. 35, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I declare Motion No. 35 carried.

The next question is on Motion No. 32.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, if the House agrees, I propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House with Liberal members voting yea.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Members of the official opposition will vote yes, Madam Speaker.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote no.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, members of the New Democratic Party will vote yes on this motion.

(The House divided on Motion No. 32, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I declare Motion No. 32 carried.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, if the House agrees, I propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded has having voted on the motion now before the House with Liberal members voting yea.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Members of the official opposition will vote no, Madam Speaker.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote no unless instructed otherwise by their constituents.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, members of the New Democratic Party present will vote yes on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I declare the motion carried.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, the motion we will be considering during private members' hour stands in the name of the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake. All parties have been consulted and have agreed that we will proceed with private members' hour, although we are passed the hour of seven o'clock.

The agreement encompasses the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup who would be given the courtesy, and that was agreed to by the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, that he speak first during private members' hour. That is the agreement we came to. I hope it will stand.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Do we have unanimous consent for that agreement?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 7.25 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

PensionsPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 1997 / 7:20 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should renew its commitment to British pensioners living in Canada and vigorously pursue an agreement with the government of the United Kingdom to provide them with pensions fully indexed to the cost of living.

PensionsPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the hon. member's motion concerning the government's commitment to British pensioners living in Canada.

I agree there is something entirely unacceptable in the present situation. As a result, pensioners are receiving and will receive in the future, if the situation does not change, the same amount they have received since the very beginning. Of course there was no indexation at the time, and now we have a situation that has become absurd, where pensioners who earned the right to a pension are in fact deprived of that right since the amount is not really significant. It is too bad the motion is not votable, but perhaps it could be examined in committee and we will see what can be achieved by going this route.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to a similar situation that existed with respect to American pensions. Last year, a very unfortunate decision was made by the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States when the tax treaty between these two countries was renewed. Formerly, people receiving American pensions received the full amount and declared half of the amount on their income tax return. In other words, someone who received $10,000 in pension payments in one year would declare $5,000, and as result of various tax deductions, low income people were not too severely penalized.

However, under the new tax treaty signed by the Government of Canada, and the Minister of Finance himself admitted it was unfair, pensioners are now taxed at source by the American government and have no way of recovering the amounts they are due. This is totally unacceptable. It leads to situations that make no sense at all.

For instance, someone in my riding is now faced with the following problem: formerly she received $400 per month, which by the end of the year added up to only $4,800. This person is 62 and it is the only income that person has. As result of the deduction at source, this person gets $290 per month instead of $400. It means $110 deducted per month. When your income only amounts to a few thousand dollars, this $110 per month is often needed to pay for rent and food. This is totally unacceptable. The minister

admitted it was unfair, but unfortunately, there has been no concrete action by the government in recent months to deal with the situation.

As you know, negotiations are under way with the U.S. government aimed at modifying the tax agreement. I have made representations to the minister and the senior officials responsible for trying to move this matter along, and according to their best case scenario, the tax agreement will perhaps be changed in 1998, if everything goes well, and if there is rapid progress.

During that time, those who are being penalized will continue to be penalized, and the government has proposed no stop-gap measures whatsoever to remedy the situation, none whatsoever. The latest budget contained not a single one. Yet the Minister of Finance's budget would have offered a fine opportunity to make some corrections, to improve these pensioners' situation. But nothing doing.

I find this absolutely deplorable, since there are 70,000 people across Canada who are affected by this situation. Of these, 10,000 are in Quebec, 1,643 in the lower St. Lawrence region alone. These are all people who went to the U.S. to earn their living, often in New England just across the border in Maine, but also all along the border. Now they are coming back to Canada and finding themselves in an absolutely horrible situation.

To repeat the example I gave just a while ago: when a person is entitled to about $10,000 from that pension, the Americans hold back $2,500, which means he or she is left with $7,500. Then when the person files income tax, he has to declare the whole $10,000 as income, even though the $2,500 has been lost sight of forever, with no way of ever getting it back.

Here is what is being suggested as an interim measure: in calculations for the guaranteed income supplement, for example, the actual amount received by the person could be used, and this would give him a better chance of being eligible for a sizeable portion of the income supplement.

It is hard to understand why the minister has not heeded these requests and why there have been no proposals made. It is not because no one has spoken of them to him, for there have already been important meetings in various parts of Canada, and it is known that 70,000 people are affected by this.

In my riding alone, at least 200 people have written to the minister in recent months. Hundreds of people have signed petitions to get this matter corrected, and we are still unable to rouse the sympathies of the minister to get him to correct the situation for low income earners.

There are some strange situations. For example, in the case of someone with a substantial pension of say $40,000 a year, $10,000 would go to the American government. In the past, this person was taxed on 50 per cent of the amount he or she received, that is $20,000.

Under the new convention, people earning a lot pay less income tax, and people earning little now receive less. This situation must be corrected. It is not a partisan situation, it is a situation that calls for concrete action by the government. In the same way as the member called for fair treatment of British retirees in Canada, I think our own people, Canadian citizens, who worked hard in the United States for a period of time, must enjoy the same treatment.

A number of people in my riding have often worked for logging companies as lumberjacks, cooks and in other capacities, where they have worked very hard. Today they choose to retire in their corner of the land of their birth, and the current situation is untenable.

I think we have reached the stage where more vigorous public action has to be taken to get the government to decide on this matter. At the end of March, I intend to hold a meeting of pensioners from Témiscouata and the whole Lower St. Lawrence region. I also invite all those who could be affected by this situation so that it is made clear that what they are going through is unacceptable for people whose income is only a few thousand dollars annually.

For example, there are women between the ages of 55 and 65 who are still not entitled to a pension and who wait a few years until their income is a little bit more respectable. Their American pension is all they get. They were used to receiving a cheque and making it last, but since January 1996 it has been a nightmare. They are forced to borrow money, to turn to their families, to find other ways of making ends meet. We are not talking about high income earners. These are people for whom this is truly the minimum amount they can manage on.

These are amounts that they have earned and that they have no possibility of recovering from the American government. It is completely impossible right now for a Canadian citizen to apply to the American government for this $2,000 or $3,000 to which he was entitled in the past.

Because the tax rules are different in the two countries, when a person declared his income in Canada, because of the salary protection measures we introduced that are not available in the American system, he was not as heavily penalized. He could cash the cheque. While he was receiving it, he could spend it as required and only paid taxes the following year. This is very different from the present situation where the amount is deducted at source and can never be recovered.

So if we have compassion for British pensioners living in Canada, I think we should show the same compassion for Canadian citizens living in Canada who earned a pension in the United States. I hope the government will take action in the short term because, if not, there will definitely be a lot of questions asked during the next election campaign, because people who are being deprived of the income necessary to their survival will certainly not be content with promises of future action.

A public servant told me they were doing everything possible to negotiate a change to the tax convention and that it will take place in 1998. He can say that to me, but for the person living with this every day, it is unacceptable, and it is vital that a temporary measure be worked out as soon as possible. I hope that the government will work something out in the coming months, so that equity for citizens of Quebec and of Canada in receipt of American pensions can be restored.

For these reasons, I am well aware of the importance of the member's motion concerning British pensioners and I hope that we can study it, that the member can take it to committee so that a concrete solution can be found, and that similarly, with respect to American pensions, a temporary, concrete solution can be found in the short term to correct the inequity that has been acknowledged by the minister.