Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on this private member's bill. The procedural debate we had earlier is but an indication of the Liberal government's unwillingness to reform the tax system. Beyond the principles raised, it is obvious that, these past three years, the Government of Canada has sought to avoid at all costs changing the tax system to any great extent.
While the Minister of Finance received with great interest the papers on corporate and personal tax reform prepared by the Bloc Quebecois, the government did not act on either. On every issue, be it family trusts, the GST or tax havens, the Bloc played its role as a watchdog, defending the interests of the taxpayers, but the government failed to show the leadership one would have expected from a government looking to change things and make tax policies more effective, with respect to employment development in particular.
According to the Bloc's analysis of corporate taxation, the federal government could recover something like $3 billion a year by revising or eliminating some outdated, ineffective or unfair tax expenditures. The expenses specifically targeted by the hon. member in his bill deserve consideration. It would be appropriate to take an in-depth look at these expenses to see if, given the effort asked from everyone to help improve public finances, we can still afford to allow entertainment expenses as a tax deductible item. We must also look at who benefits from such deductions.
The same questions could be asked about the fact that lobbyists are allowed some tax deductions for their lobbying activities. It is rather strange that a group, whose mission is to try to influence parliamentarians so as to favour the interests of those it represents, can enjoy a tax benefit that does not exist for ordinary citizens. This is rather peculiar and a review of this whole issue seems in order.
So, whether we are talking about corporate or individual taxation, the federal government did not do its homework, as evidenced by the fact that a Liberal member feels compelled to table a private member's bill to deal with a very specific issue, namely the tax deduction allowed for entertainment expenses.
There is also a significant shortfall when it comes to personal taxation, because a lack of initiative or imagination on the part of the federal government keeps it from bringing about the tax reform that is so necessary. Here again, some $2.5 billion could be recovered, while about $4 billion could be reallocated annually, if the government reviewed or abolished some obsolete or inefficient expenses. Such a reform would also improve fairness within the federal tax system.
Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois fully supports this bill. Why should the Income Tax Act allow a company to reduce its tax liability by several thousand dollars simply because it happens to have, for example, a private box in a sports centre? This is something our society must no longer tolerate, in view of the hardships experienced by the poor. A government that imposes an employment insurance reform which has the effect of diminishing benefits provided by the program while increasing the surplus cannot maintain measures that favour those who have money, as well as measures that do not necessarily yield the anticipated economic benefits.
So yes, the hon. member is right to call for abolition of this type of deduction; yes, it would be right also to demand that the government carry out far more extensive taxation reform, that it take into consideration the points submitted by the Bloc Quebecois in two major documents on personal and corporate tax reform, from which a number of elements ought to have been adopted by the minister.
The fact that they were not is perhaps related to the fact that the minister has created a taxation review committee, a technical committee made up of experts, most of whom come from communities already taking advantage of the systems and conditions in place. Given such a context, it is understandable that the government is trying to avoid having a bill like this go any further.
I congratulate the hon. member, for at least this provides the opportunity to bring the debate out in the open on the eve of a federal election. I think that it will enable the voters to ask some questions of the various parties, such as: "What do you intend to do about these tax deductions? Does the Liberal Party of Canada feel these types of deductions ought to continue? What about the Reform Party, the Bloc Quebecois?"
In our case, the answer is obvious. Where the entertainment deduction is concerned, we feel this ought to no longer be allowed, especially for corporations, who use this in the end as a corporate perk, while at the same time often calling for the government to interfere as little as possible. You cannot have it both ways. There must be the greatest equity possible. I feel that the bill has the best of intentions in this area; it will not have any financial impact because it cannot be voted on, but it will have some impact on the political debates.
I hope that the people of Quebec and the people of Canada will take advantage of the next election to ensure that the next government, the next Parliament, all of the representatives who are here, will focus particular attention on this issue.
The Bloc Quebecois will certainly be there to remind the government that action is necessary. There is also a connection with political party financing. When a political party like the Bloc Quebecois is 100 per cent financed by individuals, and companies, organizations of any kind or labour unions cannot invest directly in a party, then it is only indebted to the electorate.
When a political party receives substantial contributions from banks, large corporations, even unions or other organizations, then its hands are tied when it wants to introduce tax reforms that only benefit the individual, and not people who were able to make sizable contributions to the party's coffers.
In concluding, I may say we applaud the principle behind the bill and the fact that the hon. member has asked the government to do what it failed to do for three years in terms of tax reform. We hope that the hon. member's initiative will be reflected as soon as possible in concrete government actions.
It appears that this sort of decision and action will not be taken until after the next election, but at least we hope that the Liberals will make specific commitments and that, if they are returned to power, they will keep their commitments and we will have a tax reform that eliminates all unfair deductions such as those for entertainment, although there may be some in other sectors too. The impact of each of these measures on job creation has to be assessed, and this will have to be a major criterion for tax reform, so the people of Quebec and Canada can trust the tax system and see clearly the advantages and disadvantages of each measure, and the new tax system will have to be fair.