House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.


Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member has the floor.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 1998 / 4:45 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals hate to hear the truth. I was talking about things that go on in the prisons which tie into the judicial system. Pornography is rampant in prisons but according to the Liberals that is okay because prisoners need some form of entertainment within the prison system.

We could never support the bill until the Liberal government put some form of accountability into the legislation to deal with the insane decisions of some judges. If the Liberals are serious about fixing things in the justice system, why do they not fix the things that are wrong and not give the judges more money?

I will not support the bill. My colleagues will not support it. No one in their right mind—

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member for Thornhill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Elinor Caplan Liberal Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in today's debate. Quite honestly I did not plan to speak but I was provoked. I felt it was important not only for the constituents in my riding of Thornhill but for people across the country listening to the debate to understand what the legislation is all about. We need someone who will speak on the topic of the bill and explain to people why the government is taking the action it is taking.

The independence of our judiciary is important. As a matter of principle I believe judges must be independent of political interference, and they are. Those who call for accountability of judges should know that accountability is through judicial councils which review the work of judges.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot support the principle of judicial independence and at the same time use the word accountability in anything other than judicial review of judges' decisions.

I stand in my place today to say that I stand for the principle of judicial independence. I believe that judges should be accountable through the judiciary. Those who have complaints can go to the judicial council to ask for a review.

I have to further say that as a second principle I want leaders in the legal profession to come forward and apply to be judges. I do not want us to have people other than those who have years of experience and respect within the profession to have the opportunity to apply. I do not believe there should be a financial penalty for people who choose to serve. Being on the bench is a form of public service and I believe they should be well paid. If we want to attract those who are in leadership position among the profession, we have to make sure there is no deterrent to those who wish to serve.

I would also like to comment on the issue of courts administration. For the people who are watching and for my colleague across the House in the New Democratic Party who spoke at length about courts administration I point out that this is entirely a provincial jurisdiction. Courts administration is a responsibility of the provinces. They determine what resources they wish to put into courts administration. Anyone who has concerns about that should address their concerns to the attorney general of the province they live in or to their premier.

Since we see many provinces such as my home province of Ontario reducing their revenues through tax decreases of some 30%. costing in excess of $5 billion, anyone who wants to know where the money has gone that could have gone to courts administration, improved health care or improved education must look at the policy of tax cuts. Since that is the policy of the Reform Party opposite I find it heckles interesting on this matter. The responsibility for courts administration is entirely a provincial jurisdiction. It is inappropriate for us to take time of the House discussing matters that are clearly a provincial jurisdiction.

Regarding Bill C-37, the facts are that federal judges have not received a pay increase since 1992. They contributed to the deficit reduction plan which resulted in the first balanced budget in 30 years being tabled this year by the finance minister. That is something I am very proud of.

We also know that there are provincial judges across the country and there were remarks raised about what was happening on the provincial scene. While that is a matter of provincial jurisdiction, many of the provinces are adopting the same method the federal government has adopted, the establishment of an independent commission. For example, the Province of Quebec at the present time has a commission studying judges' salaries.

My assumption is that if a government establishes a commission it will look very carefully at the recommendations of the commission. That is exactly what the federal government did. We established an independent commission to make recommendations to the government so that we could ensure we were attracting the very best and the brightest, the leaders of the profession, to sit on the bench. They make very important and difficult decisions which affect not only public policy but public life.

The commission was called the Scott commission. The government accepted its recommendations on pay increases for federally appointed judges. I believe that is appropriate. It reinforces the notion of independence of the judiciary, which was my very first point.

If we are to determine salaries it is a very good process to engage people who are expert in understanding the role and ask them to advise the government. They did that and the government took that advice. While some may believe that number is too high, I am sure others believe that number is too low. The government has made the decision to accept the compensation recommendations of the Scott commission and I believe that is appropriate.

I also believe that the process for the selection of judges is a good one. We have public representatives on the committees who review the applications. There are also consultations with the law societies. Just for the record, I think people watching this debate should know that Bill C-37 is supported by the Canadian Bar Association.

We have those who are aware of the role of judges, how hard judges work, not only from the Canadian Bar Association but also from an independent commission established to review the matter agreeing that the government's action is appropriate.

I ask those in opposition to think about the implications of arbitrarily making decisions without seeking advice from those who know like the Canadian Bar Association or an independent commission that would review the workload and so forth.

My view is that there will always be debate. Salary issues are always contentious. There are always different points of view, but it is a responsibility of government, a responsibility the government takes very seriously. Bill C-37 reflects the appropriate balance between judicial independence and the obligation of government to set a salary level which will attract the very best, the very brightest and leaders in the profession to sit on the highest courts of the land.

The actions taken by the Minister of Justice are appropriate. The legislation deserves support. Our process in coming to this conclusion has been one that has been filled with integrity. As the member for Thornhill I feel it is not only in the public interest but in the interest of my constituents in Thornhill.

I am pleased to support the legislation because it responds not only to the principles I have articulated but to the needs of the judiciary and the judicial system. That is good public policy.

For those who stand in this place and use this opportunity to vent, I think it is completely inappropriate on this type of legislation. We should be talking about how we reward through compensation and remuneration those people who sit in judgment on the most difficult of subjects frequently and mete out justice in a way which is impartial and which should be wise and thoughtful.

How do we say to federally appointed judges that we appreciate what they do? On behalf of my constituents of Thornhill I say to them that we believe they provide a very important service to the people of Canada. We thank them. I believe the debate, much of what I have heard, is an insult to the judges of Canada.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm. He is a lawyer himself and could become a great judge. However, he is an MP today and represents his fellow citizens as I do mine, and he is totally convinced that clause 5 should be deleted. And that is what he is proposing.

Earlier it was said that the chief justice of the supreme court could have a retroactive increase of $25,000. Most of the people in my riding do not earn $25,000.

When we put poverty insurance on trial here. the members opposite laughed. Today these same people are prepared to give judges increases. We are not criticizing judges. We all know that judges, some of them at least, are fine judges. They work very hard. That is a fact, and everyone is aware of it, including us. But that is not what we are talking about today.

We are saying that, in a society where people suffer, where children in certain schools do not eat enough, where parents suffer from depression because they run out of money for food at the end of the month, everyone should be treated fairly.

When a person earns $150,000 a year, I think he or she can manage to buy groceries, to go to hospital, to buy prescription drugs.

When a person earns $15,000 or $20,000, that is something different. In my riding I have seen many forestry workers who start work at 5 a.m. and finish at 5 p.m.; they work for four or five months a year and, even with poverty insurance, do not manage to earn more than $25,000 or $28,000. They have children, and it is hard for them to manage their budget and meet the needs of every family member.

Now they are proposing to raise judges' salaries by an average of $17,000. Tell that to the people in my riding of Matapédia—Matane. This is unacceptable. A little raise, fine, but this one makes no sense. I am therefore asking my colleagues on the other side of this House to reflect on this and to accept deletion of clause 5. I think everyone stands to gain as a result.

I am sure that the judges themselves, those who are really not in it for the money, but to serve their fellow citizens, will understand that the House is not giving them the increase recommended by the commission.

On the other hand, it must be realized that a lot of lawyers put their names on the waiting list. They know what their salaries will be and what conditions they will be working in. If they really need more money, let them stay in private practice and leave room for others, for there are many interested in the position. Money must always be secondary, it must never come first.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to say that I will be voting against Bill C-37 and that I will be supporting this amendment from my Bloc colleague.

I do not think the government is in touch with the average Canadian. It is not listening to what Canadians feel about this issue. If it were it would not bring in a bill like this.

I want to share this afternoon three reasons why the government is out of touch with the Canadian public and three reasons why the Canadian public does not support this kind of wage increase at this time.

If Liberals were truly in touch with the grassroots of this country they would be hearing what we are hearing when we go back to our ridings about the desperate needs of Canadians in the areas of health care, education and crime prevention. These are all very serious issues and priority issues that face Canadians today.

Canadians are telling us as parliamentarians that we have to get back in touch with the priorities, the most important things that concern them.

They see the federal government, as it has over the past number of years, continuing to cut back on the amount of money going to the provinces. In turn, the provinces have a smaller amount of money to put into important areas like health care.

Members should talk to a person who has stood in line for over a year for an operation, or talk to parents who need to have bingos to raise funds for things in the classrooms, or talk to victims who have been caught in some of these consequences of serious crimes being committed. Those are the Canadians who are asking why in the world we would give money to judges who are making $177,000 a year already when we do not have money to put into those priority concerns that certainly all Canadians are worried about across this nation. It does not make sense.

Canadians are angry about this. We as parliamentarians need to remember that it does not really matter what we think about these issues here in the House. This is not the court that settles the issue. It is the court of public opinion that settles the issue. Come election time they will let us know how they feel about this and other issues.

Canadians have another concern about something like this. The government is sending the wrong message to law enforcement officers, the men and women on the frontlines defending us against the criminal element every day. They are the ones who have to do the dirty work for us. They are the ones who have to clean up the messes that are made by crime and criminals.

There are a lot of angry police officers out there who are looking at the 8.3% wage increase for judges while members of the RCMP have had a five year moratorium on their wages. When they finally got the government to act on it what did they get? They got a pittance. These are the people who are actually out there on the firing line.

If this government wants to continue to drive the wedge between those who are actually law enforcement and those who are sitting on the benches meting out the law, then this kind of legislation does that even more. It makes law enforcement officers angry. It increases their frustration of the inability of judges in many cases to actually bring the full extent of the law against the criminals these law enforcement agents are working so hard to apprehend and bring to court.

During the election and after I have had law enforcement officers tell me about their frustration of working so hard to bring the criminals to the courts and then the criminals get off on a technicality or are given a soft sentence. That is not right and Canadians know that is not right. There is a frustration and anger against some judges who do this sort of thing.

We now come to this House to give those judges a raise. The Canadian people are not happy with our giving them that kind of raise.

RCMP officers finally received a 2% raise retroactive to January 1, 1998. They will receive a second increment of 1% on April 1, 1998 and an additional .75% in October 1998. What does that add up? If my math is correct, it will be 3.5% over two years.

What are the judges going to receive? A supreme court justice's salary will go from $208,200 a year to $225,700 by April 1, 1998. I do not think the Canadian people think that is just.

Before anyone on the other side says I am against judges, that is not the case at all. We know there are many good judges who do fine work and work long hours to do their work well. We commend them for the work they do. But in this present economic climate when most Canadians are not receiving an increase at all in their wages or at the most the wage increase is indexed to inflation, this kind of obscene raise does not sit well with Canadians.

It does not sit well with us in the Reform Party. It obviously does not sit well with my colleagues in the Bloc. I am happy our Bloc colleague brought this motion to the floor because it needs to be debated. The government's legislation needs to be challenged and I want to serve notice that I will be voting with my Bloc colleagues in support of this motion.

I think that when we do this there will be a chorus of Canadians across the country saying we voiced their concerns in the House of Commons today and they will be supportive of where we as opposition members stand.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to enter the debate on this Bloc motion to delete from the proposed bill clause 5. I will be supporting this motion.

I want to address a couple of the points made by one of my Liberal colleagues opposite. She made the point that we want judicial independence so that it stands clear and will interpret and apply the law in the way that the legislators of this country both federal and provincial intended it to be enforced.

I could not agree more. I think we all agree on the independence of the judiciary. I think we want to commend those people. I think we want to recognize them for what they are. In order for them to do that and to have the kind of respect we want them to enjoy, they must be competent and able and must demonstrate solid judgment.

A lot of judges fit into that category. Not all of them do. But the important thing to recognize is that we want competence. We want to trust our judges. We want to depend on them. We want them to interpret the law as it ought to be interpreted. Where we have difficulty is when judges decide that what they think about the law is more important than what the House thinks the law is to be. We have difficulty when judges think they can write the law for Canadians, when they can reinterpret what the House of Commons said and when they can tell the House of Commons this is what we should be doing.

That is when the judges have stepped outside their independence. They have now taken over a position they had no business taking over. Let us never forget that a judge is a servant of the people to preserve the justice of the nation, to ensure the laws are applied fairly and with the intention and the spirit within which legislation was passed. Judges should not tamper with the sacred right of the people and the responsibility the people have given to them to represent their interests, to make sure the safety and the justice of the people are preserved. That is a point we must underline.

This raises the point of how a judge is appointed. The process of appointing a judge in Canada today leaves a lot to be desired. We want to appoint people who have demonstrated that they can be wise in their judgement, who have the courage to take on very difficult situations and ensure the principles of justice, fairness and righteousness apply in the administration of that justice. To do that means we have to step completely outside of patronage appointments. We must have a process that guarantees that. Unfortunately the process we have today does not guarantee this kind of independence. How can we expect to have an independent judiciary if the process itself is not one that guarantees or at least has the potential of bringing forward those people who are competent and who have demonstrated they can be trusted?

That bring us into the actual provision of this motion, the elimination of clause 5, which means to give to the judges a retroactive pay raise of 4.1% and another in the year following of 4.1%, a total of about 8.3% from the salary base from which they have come today.

My concern is not that judges are going to get a raise. They deserve to be adequately compensated. But it has to take place in the context of what else is happening in our society.

I draw attention to the context within which this proposal is being brought forward. My hon. colleague has just talked about the RCMP having received a pittance. Perhaps it is a pittance but it is what it is. Let me refresh our memories as to what it is. On March 27, 1998 RCMP officers secured a pay raise of 2% retroactive to January 1998. They received a second increment on April 1 of another 1% and an additional .75% in October 1998. That is not exactly a pittance but it does not even come close to what is being proposed for the judges.

Let us look at what the officers do for us. They are the ones who are at the front line, who are there to detect the criminal and try to find out who committed the crime and to do what is necessary to bring that criminal to justice. Those officers did not get the kind of raise they deserve. If they did, the judges should receive something similar.

More important is a totally different issue. The government has decided in Bill C-3 to deny the police officers who are to enforce the law one of the basic fundamental tools in order to detect who actually committed the crime, to make sure the identification is accurate. We are talking about DNA samples. They ought to be given that kind of authority, the tool that allows them to unequivocally determine who was at the scene of the crime. That is one area of the context, but there is another one.

Recently the Minister of Justice provided a fund of $32 million for crime prevention. It is a wonderful, noble idea to prevent crime. It is excellent. But what happened? Did any municipality, any province receive any additional fund so that it could apply and get the people out there to enforce the law? No. Should we prevent crime as much as possible? Yes we should, but we are not enforcing the law as well as we could and the police are not able to do their job simply because in many instances there are not enough of them.

Let me tell the House why there are not enough of them. Even if we could use all the RCMP officers for crime detection, that would be one thing, but the government in its wisdom passed Bill C-68 which establishes a firearm registration. Who has to administer the registration of all these firearms? The police.

Is that their primary function? Will that help them detect crime? Will that help them to make our society safer? Will that help them to bring to justice the people who have killed others, who have committed violent crimes?

It is not a small amount of money, $133.7 million per year estimated by the director of the new firearms registration unit. Where is the logic in all this? That is our context.

We can go one step further. We can go to the Young Offenders Act. We have been told for almost two years now there will be new legislation. What did we get? A proposal. Put that in context. It begins to look a little strange.

We have the RCMP officers getting a raise. We have civil servants getting a raise. We have other people in our private sector getting a raise. None of them are getting a raise anywhere close to what is being proposed for the judges.

These are the people we want to administer the law, to enforce the law, to pass judgment on criminals that is fair, just and righteous. Then we turn around and say they are in a special class and deserve more money than anyone else. If we really want to listen to the people, we should be doing things that are fair and equitable.

We have created a special class of people who deserve a raise over and above what anyone else is getting. I want to raise a point that has to do with the definition of spouse.

It is very interesting that this legislation says a surviving spouse in relation to a judge includes a person of the opposite sex who has co-habited with a judge in a conjugal relationship for at least one year immediately before the judge's death.

It is very interesting that this definition is different from the one that recently came out of the appeals court defining spouse. For judges a spouse is a partner of the opposite sex. It is interesting that we have that kind of definition here and we have another definition for the rest of Canadians.

What will happen now? Is an appeals court going to say this act is ultra vires or are we going to change the other legislation? It is fascinating that we have these kinds of things in legislation.

I propose to the government that it take this bill back, rethink the whole thing and figure out something that makes sense to Canadians.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak on Bill C-37. I think the public would find it very interesting to know that this is not the first time, not the second time but the third time that the government has revisited the Judges Act.

When we have issues such as victim rights, health care, aboriginal issues, economic issues to deal with, this government has tied up this House for the third time through committees to deal with the Judges Act. Why?

It is costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to deal with this act when we have people out there, as my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan mentioned, who cannot even get health care, when we have a judicial system that is clogged up, that denies justice to people, where justice has been absent for too long. The government has failed to take the bull by the horns and address these issues in a substantive and meaningful way.

Even with the Judges Act it had an opportunity to get it right. Instead of dealing with the substantive issue of putting accountability back in the system, transparency, scrutiny, we have the same old system where the prime minister appoints the people he or she sees fit to the Supreme Court of Canada.

That is not what we want. That is not what the public wants. It can be done. It is possible to enter accountability into the judicial system.

We can look at California. California has introduced elected judges. Judges can be elected. They run every six years. They do not run in the traditional sense as we run but they run on their record. They are forbidden to actually campaign. The purity of the system is that the judges are judged by their peers, by the public, on their record alone.

In this way judicial independence can continue. It is very important in a democracy. I would ask that if the government is going to revisit the Judges Act again, heaven forbid, that it consider this a substantive and positive issue rather than tinkering around with issues that have very little meaning or impact on the Canadian people.

There are other things we could have done. It has been intelligently proposed that lower court judges come under scrutiny in provincial or federal legislatures by the judicial justice committee. This would provide some element of scrutiny as to the qualifications of the individuals concerned. This would be a reasonable and cost effective way of ensuring that judges are the best we can attain and are not merely buddy-buddy with the political elites.

There are other issues that can be dealt with and should be dealt with and the government has failed to do this with our justice system. I will present some of the challenges and some of the solutions the government can tear apart and make better for the benefit of all Canadians.

The first thing is to streamline the judicial system which is getting clogged up. We have a system right now where there are ways in which a person can go through the courts for an extraordinarily long period of time while the victims wait in earnest to try to find some end to the situation they are in, some end to their victimization. This could be done if a committee were formed to find effective ways to expedite the judicial system from arrest to conviction.

A DNA databank should be put forth that is effective, cost effective and based on the good science we have which would enable the police force to have the tools and power to arrest and convict those who are guilty in an expeditious way but also enable them to exonerate those individuals who are innocent. The DNA databank cuts both ways. It will be a good decider in trying to differentiate between those individuals who are guilty and those individuals who are innocent.

We have to put justice back in the justice system. Justice delayed is justice denied. Now we have a system where we have enormous delays and procedural influences that can be put forward by clever lawyers who can clog the system for the benefit of their client. The judicial system today and the wars that take place within our courts have little to do with justice and everything to do with how clever and able lawyers are to manipulate a legal system that has more to do with how you can manipulate the system than whether justice is truly being served.

Sometimes I wish I were a lawyer so I could put forth some suggestions. I would implore those who are in the judicial system today who feel frustrated about the system they labour under and who want the best for their clients and the Canadian people to present those solutions to members from all party lines in this House so they can work to develop better solutions so that those individuals who are working in the courts are able to work more effectively.

Give the tools to the police. They are hamstrung in so many ways and they are getting increasingly frustrated as they put their lives on the line to make our streets safe.

I applaud the minister for putting forth her suggestions on crime prevention. A Reform motion was passed in the House of Commons that called for a national headstart program. That was supported by everybody but the Bloc. The minister could use her resources and power and call together in Ottawa her provincial counterparts in human resources, justice and health. The minister could put on the table all the programs today, take out what is not working and keep what is working.

This could be integrated with the medical community, train mentor volunteers in the middle, as was done effectively in Hawaii. Child abuse was reduced by 99%. We could use schools and the educational system for children between the ages of four and eight, use the parents and integrate them into the system. We would have a headstart crime prevention package that would be the most effective way to decrease crime.

We know criminal behaviour in many cases results from a fractured psyche that is a result of situations of child abuse, violence, sexual abuse, improper parenting, absence of proper parenting, and improper nutrition. A combination of all these during that sensitive first eight years of life fractures the development of the psyche and causes future problems, everything from personality disorders to conduct disorders and sometimes criminal behaviour.

The legal aid situation is getting out of hand. It is far too expensive. The system right now is untenable. A creative solution would be to go to a public defender system.

California developed a public defender system where individual lawyers were on salary. The question one had to ask was did this provide the defendants with an adequate defence as compared to the previous legal aid system. This has been analysed and the answer is very conclusive. It demonstrated that those individuals who were being defended under a public defender system had as good or better defence as they had before.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

moved that Bill C-366, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of mechanics' tool expenses), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am absolutely delighted today to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the 100,000 or so Canadian mechanics who pretty much keep our world turning.

Most little children by the time they are two or three years old have figured out that wheels make the world go round. Wheels get things moving and keep them moving. Anyone who has watched a child grow up would realize that at a very early age they figure out that engines make cars, trucks and airplanes move.

The private members' bill which I have prepared and presented and on which I speak today is about keeping engines on which we depend so much moving. More specifically Bill C-366 is dedicated to the mechanics or technicians who assemble, maintain and repair the cars, trucks, heavy equipment, recreation equipment, airplanes, trains and items of convenience which add so much to enriching our lives every day. If anyone has any doubt about that they should just ask their 16-year old son or daughter who has just received their driver's licence what their wheels mean to them.

Every one of us depends on the work mechanics do every day of our lives. We depend on them to keep the wheels turning so that we can go to and from work. We depend on their work to keep the wheels turning so that we can get our groceries delivered from the supermarket, go to the hospital, bring our families together, grow our food and so much more. Now because of unfair tax treatment we may well face a shortage of mechanics which may keep us waiting for all of these things. The passage of legislation as outlined in Bill C-366, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, deduction of mechanics' tool expenses, could help to ensure that this does not happen.

Since introducing Bill C-366 in March I have received over 6,000 letters of support for this bill. I am sure many members of the House have received letters of support as well. The letters are from mechanics, from various types of motor vehicle dealers and from many other companies and organizations involved in the automotive industry, with heavy equipment, any kind of equipment that requires mechanics to maintain and repair to keep them on the road or in the air.

I have received many thousands of letters from mechanics from every province, from British Columbia to Newfoundland. These people are frustrated that even though mechanics are required to spend huge amounts on purchasing tools to get and keep a job, they are not receiving a tax deduction for these costs. As a result there is a growing shortage of mechanics, a problem that will increasingly affect all Canadians who own or lease vehicles or any equipment for that matter.

I will explain what this bill does. Bill C-366 amends the Income Tax Act to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of providing the tools for their employment if they are required as a condition of employment. The deduction encompasses maintenance, rental and insurance costs, the full cost of tools purchased for under $200, inflation adjusted, and the capital cost allowance for tools over $200.

During my presentation I will explain what my bill would do if implemented. I will demonstrate the broad support for this change. I will explain how this more than anything else is an issue of tax fairness.

This bill is necessary for several reasons. First there is the investment needed to get and keep a job. To get and keep a job, mechanics must invest an average of $15,000 in tools. Some may invest as much as $40,000. We have heard from some of these people. They must make annual replacement purchases of up to $1,000. For example, the purchase of diagnostic hand tools which are required to work on anything newer than a mid-1980s vehicle would cost between $1,000 to $1,500. Regular upgrading of software for these tools alone may cost $300 a year. This amount is disproportionate in comparison with amounts in other employee groups that are required to provide their tools as a condition of employment.

The extent of this expense is exacerbated by the relatively modest wage level of mechanics. The average income for mechanics in Canada today is $29,000 a year. Clearly this kind of extra expense without the corresponding tax deduction is a great burden. If anyone needs convincing of this I will quote from a few of the letters I have received from mechanics.

Blair McKinnon, a mechanic from Lloydminster, Alberta said “A mechanic without tools is like a secretary without computer skills. Presently, I have about $7,000 in tools. To move up in my career, in two years the amount would double. As technology changes, tools change at my expense. The tool becomes a special tool and the price goes up”.

Eddie Sagal, president of Sagal Brothers Sales Limited, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan said “I am the New Holland dealer in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I employ about 10 service technicians, depending on the vagaries of business. These technicians have a great deal of money tied up in their tools. They can easily have $10,000 invested in a starter kit, while most have $15,000 to $20,000 worth of tools. They have to buy these tools themselves and they need them for their employment.

Jay Sinclair of Clandonald, Alberta said “I have been in the automotive trade for seven years now and plan to continue for several more. I have purchased approximately $8,000 in new tools, not including replacements. Due to the rise of electronics in newer vehicles, not only is there a call for more specialized tools but also more costs in the necessary tools. I feel it is unfair that the trade that requires the most tools purchased to stay employed is not considered as an expense on an income tax form. I know my employer does not adjust my wage or any others due to the purchasing of tools”.

We clearly have a problem: low wages combined with the high cost of purchasing tools which is not deductible.

This is a tax fairness issue. In its prebudget report in December 1997 the House of Commons finance committee stated:

The Committee believes that all Canadian employees should be allowed to deduct from their income the cost of large mandatory employment expenses. Special provisions in the Income Tax Act already apply to artists, chain saw operators and musicians.

To deny this tax treatment to apprentices and technicians in the automotive industry is not only unfair, it also imposes an impediment to employment, especially for the young who might choose to work as apprentices. Revising the tax treatment of such expenses would remove the impediment that exists under the present tax rules.

That is from the finance committee. It fully supports this move.

As well, this legislation is also completely consistent with the treatment of others, for example, small business people, including farmers and other independent business people. Farmers can claim for maintenance, rental, insurance and the full cost of tools under $200 and a capital cost allowance of tools over $200. That is what I used as the model for this bill. The mechanism for handling this is already in the tax system. This change will clearly make the system more fair.

Is it not funny, is it not interesting that with this government and with this finance minister tax fairness always means an increase in taxation. Tax fairness always seems to mean a tax hike. This is one case where tax fairness should mean less taxes for mechanics who need to have this tax deduction available to them.

Again, referring to some of these letters that I received on the issue of tax fairness, I will quote Richard Gauthier, president of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association “The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association was disappointed that the 1998 federal budget did not provide technicians with the tax changes that they deserve. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that equity and fairness is restored to the Income Tax Act by providing technicians the ability to deduct the cost of their tools as an employment expense”.

Ross Ulmer, the general manager of Ulmer Chev Olds in Lloydminster said “Every journeyman mechanic is required to have from $8,000 to $15,000 of owned tools in order to continue their trade. Most other professions, from musicians through plumbers and doctors, which require this amount of investment to continue their profession have tax incentives to allow them to deduct capital cost allowance on those items that are essential to the employment in their profession. These men and women are not asking for a break to take advantage of the tax system; they are simply asking for fair consideration given most other Canadians in similar circumstances”.

I have a whole stack of other people I could refer to, but obviously I do not have time.

The third issue is the shortage of skilled mechanics. The automotive industry is predicting that the lower enrolment rates in apprenticeship programs combined with high attrition rates in the existing workforce will soon place the industry in a severe shortage of skilled labour. Because employers require mechanics to supply their tools and because of the size of the required investment, it is difficult for young graduate mechanics to enter the labour market.

Can we really take a chance on allowing the wheels to stop? Many say no, including the House of Commons finance committee. The finance committee has stated that allowing mechanics to deduct the costs of their tools would increase enrolment rates in apprenticeship programs and would reduce what the industry considers to be a severe shortage of skilled labour.

With youth unemployment as high as it is and the fact that there is a real shortage of skilled mechanics, talented young Canadians should be able to see a career in the automotive industry. It is unfortunate a change which could be made by this government will not be put in place to ensure that this can happen.

I will quote from a letter I received from Ken Myhre, president of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He says that students who enter the automotive programs at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and other technical institutes in Canada face a significant outlay in tool costs as a part of their training program. Only when fairness is restored to these new entrants in the workforce will we see the technicians needed to meet Canada's workforce in the automotive sector.

Farmers and other businessmen and workers employed as artists, musicians and chainsaw operators can claim their tools. They are deductible. Obviously mechanics should be able to do so. The frustration felt by mechanics across the country is highlighted by the fact that I have received well over 6,000 letters in support of the bill in about two months.

Bill C-366 gives mechanics fair tax treatment and in so doing helps to reverse the shortage of skilled labour in the automotive industry and other industries requiring mechanics.

I conclude with a quote from a letter by Sandy Warrington of Paradise Valley, Alberta, who is writing on behalf of her son Scott who has just completed his apprentice motor mechanic papers after four years. Four years ago when she and her son went to the office in Vermilion they were warned that as a parent she would have to help support Scott since as a starting mechanic he could not afford to buy his tools. No kidding. That was the understatement of the year.

I will get five minutes at the end of this hour to wrap u[. I am looking forward to hearing the members who will speak on the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Lakeland for providing an opportunity to address the issue of making mechanics tools deductible.

On a personal level I inform the member that I am certainly quite familiar with the issue. I have met on several occasions with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association that has consistently raised concern regarding deductibility of tools as well as with individuals in my own constituency who own dealerships and employ mechanics that find themselves in this situation. They have also been very effective in advocating the case for the deductibility of tools.

I also assure my hon. colleagues that the government has been working on this issue and has found the interventions made by mechanics, their related associations and members of parliament to be quite helpful.

Having expressed our willingness to find solutions that will assist mechanics with regard to this issue, I want to spend a few moments outlining where some of the difficulties need to be addressed with respect to Bill C-366.

Tax recognition generally is not available for work related employee expenses because employers normally provide the items required for employees to perform their duties. While this is true as a general rule, individuals in some occupations including mechanics incur substantial expenses as a condition of employment.

However, mechanics are not the only occupation that incurs substantial expenses as a requirement of employment. Other expenditures for which tax recognition might be sought include personal computers purchased by employees, reading material, professional journals, business clothing, uniforms and construction safety clothing, home office expenses, and tools for employee trades persons, just to name a few.

Due to these realities we must look at adopting a more all encompassing approach than is proposed by the bill if we are to be able to be justified in providing the requested tax relief for mechanics. Any change in the tax treatment of employee equipment expenses would need to address all employee expenses incurred as a requirement of employment in a fair and consistent manner.

This private member's bill would also provide tax relief to all mechanics irrespective of the size of their expenditures instead of targeting relief to those incurring extraordinary expenses.

There are also a number of other issues which this private member's bill fails to consider that must be addressed before such a measure could actually be implemented. For example, provisions would need to be developed to ensure that tax relief is provided only for those items genuinely required as a condition of employment and not for those purchased for personal use. I am sure all members of the House would agree a tax deductibility or tax expenditure for personal use items would not be something they would support.

Given this consideration, providing full tax recognition as proposed by the bill would be unwarranted. The provisions needed to address these issues would inevitably be complex as they would need to account for a large variety of items for which tax recognition may be claimed and the different work situations in which such items are used.

To put the problem in context, consider the expensive provisions needed to ensure the equitable recognition of automobile expenses. Provisions governing the deductibility of employee equipment expenditures would apply to hundreds of disparate items and numerous occupations.

We need to take the appropriate amount of time and consultation. Some of that consultation has taken place with respect to the prebudget consultations in the finance committee which, as the hon. member so rightly pointed out, recommended this item be consider. We need consultation with respect to the affected sectors and to work through how such a tax deduction might work, minimizing its complexity while providing effective relief.

In light of what I have discussed it is clear that the government is serious about undertaking further studies on this matter so that a just and workable solution can be found for mechanics, taxpayers and the government.

I want to restate that the intent is one that would provide tax recognition not only for mechanics but for all those occupations that may find themselves in the same situation as the situation of mechanics described by my colleague across the way that have to make substantial expenditures and are not able to deduct them because they are employees and are not incorporated organizations.

The issue is one that the government will continue to work on. The interventions today by the hon. member are helpful in assisting the government to continue to pursue the issue. We will continue to speak with associations like the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association which has made numerous interventions, which I am sure has consulted with the hon. member across the way, and which has spoken with the department and myself in particular.

We are continuing to work on the issue. I thank the member opposite for bringing this important issue to the floor of the House for debate. I also thank him for the work he has done on the bill so far. I assure him and other members of the House that we will continue to work together to address the issue in a meaningful way. I say this in a non-partisan fashion.

I noticed in his opening remarks the hon. member was somewhat partisan, but I assure him we want to ensure the issue is dealt with in the most effective way, one that would reduce complexity, ensure efficiency and be in the best interest of the taxpayers, the government and the particular sectors that may be affected by it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Saint-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today to the bill of the Reform member for Lakeland, Alberta, which is aimed at allowing mechanics to deduct the cost of tools they have to buy for their work from their taxable income.

I am pleased to speak to this bill, which affects one of the most important industrial sectors of our economy, the automotive industry. As we all know, the automotive industry is constantly evolving, in order to meet new challenges and to keep its dominant position in our economy, which is of considerable advantage to all Canadians and all Quebeckers.

In this sector, independent business alone employs more than 150,000 automotive maintenance and repair professionals. There has been much debate about some major issues in the automotive industry, and now it is time to address the matter of the automotive maintenance and repair professionals, who are required as a condition of employment to purchase their tools and to maintain them in perfect condition, not to mention that they need to insure them as well.

This is a heavy financial burden because, on top of the normal wear and tear, technological progress also forces these technicians to continually update their equipment.

An apprentice automotive technician who is starting out must spend between $2,000 and $5,000 to purchase the tools he needs for his trade. That same technician, who could not start work without a set of up to date and well maintained tools, will have to spend over $15,000 on tools in his first 5 to 10 years. If he specializes this could be as huge a sum as $30,000 to $40,000. This is far from peanuts, and justifies a tax deduction.

At that level of work related expenses, there is no risk of creating a precedent, since this tax treatment is already applied to farm producers, forestry workers, artists and musicians.

Needless to say that the high cost of this kind of equipment accounts for the current shortfall in automotive service technicians, which is a major impediment to young people entering that field. That is not right.

The Minister of Finance is aware of the problem, since he recently wrote to me, saying “While some workers do incur extraordinary expenses in their jobs, finding a solution remains difficult”.

Since he recognizes that these are extraordinary expenses, the logical next step is to apply extraordinary deductions. That is the only solution.

Moreover, there is food for thought for our finance and revenue ministers here. Here is an field of work which must not be overlooked for our young people, especially knowing how high youth unemployment is.

The government must look at this problem very seriously. It must not argue that granting this deduction to mechanics would lead other trades to demand similar deductions. As I said, mechanics incur enormous costs buying tools.

Work tools are works tools, be they the virtuoso's violin, the lumberman's chainsaw or the mechanic's numerous tools.

Let me reiterate at this time the purpose of Bill C-366. First of all, the bill seeks to ensure that mechanics benefit from the same fair tax treatment as farm producers, one in line with the treatment of chainsaw operators, artists and musicians.

Second, it seeks to relieve mechanics of the financial burden that is imposed upon them since they are required to buy their own tools under their terms of employment.

Third, the bill seeks to alleviate the serious shortage of labour in automotive trades: enrolments in apprenticeship programs will be on the rise and an increasing number of mechanics will be able to continue working in this field.

Fourth, it seeks to create jobs for young unemployed Canadians and Quebeckers, since talented young people will become aware of the fact that a career in automotive trades is affordable.

Fifth, it is intended to allow mechanics to continue to provide the usual level and quality of vehicle maintenance and repair services, which will benefit all car owners.

For all these reasons, I think this bill is good for the economy and for the creation of jobs. The Bloc Quebecois and myself support the measures proposed in this bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-366, an act to amend the Income Tax Act to provide a deduction for mechanics' tool expenses. I want to congratulate the member for Lakeland for bringing this legislation forward and to tell him and members of the House that the New Democratic Party caucus fully supports this concept and we will be supporting this bill.

I agree, for the most part, with the parliamentary secretary that this is a non-partisan issue and to that effect note that this is not the first time such a bill has been presented in this Chamber. On many occasions, in fact, members of parliament have proposed amending the act in this regard.

Joy Langan, a former distinguished member of this caucus from British Columbia, who we talked about earlier today with respect to the breast implant issue, had a private member's bill back in 1992 which dealt with this topic and proposed the same amendments to the act. In addition, in 1992 the member from Manitoba, who I believe is currently the parliamentary secretary responsible for western diversification, among other things, put this issue before the House. The last attempt was made in 1996.

It is also interesting to note that my colleague, the member for Qu'Appelle, back in February tabled a similar piece of legislation to allow workers to deduct the cost of providing tools for their employment. That particular bill addressed the unfairness and injustice inflicted by the current tax system on workers required to provide tools as a condition of employment. In the case of mechanics, for example, the current tax system does not take into account that just to get into the trade, as has been noted by others, a mechanic needs $5,000, $15,000 or $30,000 worth of tools.

The member for Qu'Appelle noted that we have seen the benefits of allowing artists, musicians and others to deduct the cost of supplies and equipment and it is high time that we extend similar tax treatment to include the tools of all trades persons.

I listened intently to the parliamentary secretary. I heard him say that there are some difficulties. Tax recognition is not generally available for specific groups. We need an all-encompassing approach. He noted that he and his government would be seriously undertaking further studies.

I sincerely hope that is the case. It is high time that we did something about this issue. It is a non-partisan approach, although I am reminded of the old Irish proverb “You can vote for whomever you like, but the government always gets elected”.

I hope this government will act seriously on this particular bill. To that end, I remind the House and anyone who happens to be listening that government members opposite are taking a lot of credit for having balanced the books and working on debt reduction. But on whose backs were those books balanced? I would suggest that it was not on the backs of the captains of industry or the big banks. It was on the backs of ordinary Canadians who got hit with higher taxes, surtaxes and higher user fees. I think it is time to acknowledge the debt that is owed to those people and to repay them.

One of the ways that the government could accomplish that is by look seriously at helping ordinary folks who incur heavy costs to go to work every day and, as the member for Lakeland noted, make the wheels of this country turn.

Under the present tax system the favourable treatment of tools and supplies is subject to two conditions. First, tools supplied must be a prerequisite of employment. Second, supplies must be unusable after they have been used in the work for which they were purchased. For example, explosives supplied by a miner or gasoline supplied by a chainsaw operator are currently deductible.

Let us consider the various advantages of such an amendment to the act for the 150,000 mechanics and apprentices who are subject to the present tax system.

First, as I noted before, mechanics must invest between $15,000 and $30,000 in tools, an amount disproportionate in comparison with amounts invested by other employee groups who provide their own tools and equipment. Given the size of this investment, mechanics consider more favourable tax treatment entirely fair and reasonable.

Second, as noted, mechanics consider that they should be given the same tax treatment as musicians, artists, painters and the aforementioned chainsaw operators. More favourable tax treatment for mechanics' tools would eliminate a situation that mechanics perceive to be unfair.

Third, more favourable tax treatment would allow mechanics to purchase better equipment and provide better service.

Fourth, more favourable tax treatment would encourage more young people to become mechanics and trades persons, as has been noted.

Finally, more favourable tax treatment would facilitate the mechanics transition from school to work. Because employers require mechanics to supply their tools and because the size of the required investment is considerable, few young graduate mechanics can enter the labour market. Based on this argument, as was noted earlier, the House of Commons finance committee recommended in its last pre-budget consultation report that the tax treatment of mechanics' tool expenses be reviewed.

The government ignored this recommendation when delivering the 1998 budget, but we feel that now is the time to act.

I also want to note that I have received some correspondence on this from Sagal Brothers in Moose Jaw and the good folks who work at Nelson Motors in Avonlea at the John Deere dealership. There is a lot of interest on this particular topic. I sincerely hope that the government takes this bill seriously, does the necessary work and brings in something meaningful very quickly.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is nice that you could join us this evening, and myself particularly, because I know that you will be hanging on every word I am about to utter, as you like to listen very closely to what is being said.

I would like to pass on my thanks to the member for Lakeland who has once again brought forward a private member's bill to deal with what I consider to be an injustice and an inequity that has been around for too long.

I find it very interesting that the issue that is being debated tonight is so very logical. So logical, in fact, that I would have thought the government would have been able to deal with this change to the tax legislation itself without continually having private members bring forward this particular issue.

I certainly wish that the government would listen to what is being said and, if not pass this private member's bill, at some point in the not too distant future, because the issue is a very important one, change the legislation itself.

As has been mentioned before, this is not the first time this issue has been before the House. It is definitely non-partisan. This does not have anything to do with party politics. It simply has to do with logic and correcting an injustice.

In 1992 an NDP member brought forward a private member's bill to deal with the issue. As a member of the government in 1992, a Liberal brought forward legislation to deal with it. In fact, a Bloc member brought forward a piece of legislation in 1996 which unfortunately was not dealt with.

It is a very simple situation. One sector of our society, a very important sector, those mechanics and technicians who look after everything from our automobiles to very heavy duty equipment which is necessary for industrial development in this country, are being mistreated. Because it seems so logical, I am sorry to say that we have to stand here constantly to try to convince the government to make these changes.

What is actually happening is that a mechanic or a service technician is required by their employer to invest capital contributions of anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000. These are not pliers or simple screwdrivers. This is mechanical equipment that is very sophisticated. The automobiles and the heavy duty equipment that is available right now to industry is very sophisticated equipment.

A mechanic, whether a journeyman, an apprentice or a full-fledged mechanic, is required to have the proper tools to fix those pieces of equipment. These tools can cost upwards of $40,000.

We have heard that certain pieces of technical, computerized equipment can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. The problem is that when the mechanic goes out to buy the equipment, he does so and does not have the opportunity to deduct it from his taxable income. That in itself is an injustice.

When a business buys a piece of equipment, whether it is computer equipment or any other type of mechanical equipment, the business can write it off. It gets what is known as a CCA, a capital cost allowance. The business can write it off, but the individual mechanic cannot do so.

If members of government have ever walked through a mechanical bay, they would have seen the service technicians and the mechanics along with their tool bins. I am sure government members would be very surprised to see the type of sophisticated tools that are required to become a mechanic or a service technician in today's society.

In a previous life I was with a municipal government, which supplied certain tools, but each individual mechanic was required, as a requirement of employment, to bring with them their own tools and equipment. Those tools and equipment, unfortunately, are not at this point in time tax deductible.

We heard the parliamentary secretary say that the government, he and his department were somewhat concerned about this issue. He said that, in fact, there was an inequity and that the government would continue to look at the possibility of change.

He also mentioned two reasons we should be very careful when discussing this piece of legislation and supporting it. First, he said that if we do it for the mechanics we may well have to do it for other employees who are required to have some piece of equipment in order to perform their job.

If there is a possibility of correcting other inequities and injustices, that does not mean this one should be continued. If there are other inequities and injustices they should all be dealt with.

Second, the parliamentary secretary said that we have to be very careful because we have to make sure that these mechanical tools and pieces of equipment cannot and should not be used for personal use.

We talked about the farm equipment that can be deducted as a capital cost allowance. We talked about musicians who can deduct the purchase of a very expensive piece of musical equipment. We talked about chainsaw operators. They have already been dealt with by legislation and can write off their equipment.

I ask the parliamentary secretary “Do you not think that maybe a chainsaw operator will use his chainsaw once for personal use?” Perhaps a musician who has a very expensive French horn, who uses it to generate revenue, will sit down some evening to play it for guests.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Or the bagpipes.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

I appreciate that, but I would prefer the French horn as opposed to the bagpipes. It can be done in a much smaller location with the French horn.

Does the parliamentary secretary not think that perhaps these musicians do not use their musical equipment for some personal use? They still have the right to deduct this from their taxable income because it is necessary for their employment. Those two excuses do not really cut a lot of ice. They certainly do not have enough behind them to refuse this request to make mechanical tools a tax deduction.

We also talked about what would happen if tax deductibility were allowed by government. The first and foremost issue is that it will develop additional employment. It will allow people to enter into a workforce where there is a desperate need for people. We are not just talking about automotive service technicians, although they are very important. As other speakers have indicated, I have received substantial support from automobile dealers who suggest the inequity should be corrected.

We can also look at heavy duty mechanics. In my area, in particular in the farm industry, we are getting much more sophisticated and larger equipment that requires people who have been properly trained and who have the proper tools to fix the equipment. We have a shortage in this industry. Why does the government think we have a shortage in this industry although jobs in this industry are very good? There is a good wage base, a lot of job security and a lot of opportunity.

Why would young people coming out of high school not want to go to a tech school to take heavy duty mechanics or automobile mechanics and servicing? Because in order to get a job they have to invest $15,000 to $40,000 for equipment and tools. That is the same amount that cannot be written off on a capital cost allowance, a CCA, as one would normally deduct in a business. That would allow them to afford to go into that industry which is a very good industry. Maybe if we did that we would encourage people to get into the industry and we would not have a shortage of mechanics and technicians.

We have a community college in my community which has some very good programs with respect to mechanics. It has difficulty filling those programs, not because there are not competent people who would like to do it but because they cannot afford to do it. This is one of those areas in which the government could look to help the unemployed.

The government says it is looking at it. However, it has been looked at for many years even with previous governments. When members of this government were in opposition, they would have liked to see some changes but now that they form the government it seems that changes move very slowly.

The one thing that moves very slowly in this government is tax relief to Canadians in general. We could get into the very excessive payroll taxes in place now, the increased CPP which we have talked about ad nauseam in this House, the increased EI premiums and EI surpluses which have not been given back. So maybe we could start with one very small opportunity to have government support this private member's legislation so that one inequity and one injustice would be corrected.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today on behalf of the many mechanics and technicians of Battlefords—Lloydminster in support of my esteemed colleague's private member's Bill C-366, an act to amend the Income Tax Act to allow for the deduction of mechanics' tools.

It is only fair that young men and women working to advance their careers in this growing field should be treated the same way by the tax code. There is quite an inequity here. We see no logic or common sense in denying these young people that tax deductibility. The only thing we can see holding this up is that there is no desire from the government at this time to implement any kind of tax relief for their situation.

As the parliamentary secretary said so eloquently a short time ago, there have been interventions on this issue. I was at the finance committee with him during those interventions. It has been done for the past number of years and no one has really taken the bull by the horns and made it happen. I am wondering with such logic and common sense in place to put this tax code in place, why are we waiting. We talk about complexity of the act, that this cannot happen. The Liberal government says don't worry, be happy, we are studying it, something is going to happen somewhere down the road. I wish to tell young mechanics and technicians not to hold their breath. Their tools are going to be old and rusty before the government ever gets off its duff to make this happen.

My son is a mechanic. He is 19. Already he has over $6,000 worth of tools and it is a prerequisite of the job. The total is well over $6,000 which is a big chunk of change for a young guy starting his career in the workforce. If that were tax deductible there would certainly be an incentive to expand what he has and to work a little harder at the job.

There is a tremendous pride in the ownership of the tools. It is very self-evident in the workplace that they do. They keep the workplace neat and tidy because of that, because they own the equipment. My son has a little sticker on the side of his tool box that really says it all, “Don't ask to borrow my tools. The only thing we loan out belongs to the old tomcat and he always brings it back”. That is kind of evident of the way these kids feel about these tools. They worked hard to own them, so there is a pride of ownership. Why can we not extend that to being tax deductible as we do for all the other instances that were presented with here today?

There are differences in mechanic and technician tools deductibility. It is a growth industry. There is a tremendous demand for young apprentices. Exceptional expenses are involved. As opposed to a pair of shoes to feel better when you are working in a store, we are talking right off the bat of thousands of dollars of input.

Also we are looking at programs in our community colleges to get the young people into the workforce. A two year program puts them into a mechanic or body shop situation. They are earning money and paying taxes. It is only fair that there is an incentive to make that happen.

There is a shortfall in the job sector for youth employment that the government is so intent on addressing. There is a tremendous opportunity out there and making a deductibility for mechanics' tools and technicians' tools would certainly add to that. We would see many jobs filled in that sector. We have seen numbers as high from some interveners as 100,000 positions could be filled. It may take just this little incentive to make it happen.

The objective of the bill is fairness in taxation. I applaud my colleague's desire to see this done. He is the latest in a long list of people from all political parties who have tried to put this act before parliament and have it acted on. I have to stress the youth employment potential. It is economically positive. It is an excellent bill and I urge the government to act accordingly and have it implemented immediately.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted for the opportunity to add to the debate today since I too have had representations from people not only in my riding but from other areas around the country on this issue.

It is an issue of fairness. Professionals, even lawyers, are able to deduct the cost of office equipment which he or she needs in order to do their business. A doctor, a dentist or any professional is able to deduct the cost of equipment or have it apply in capital cost allowance schedules on income tax.

Why do we discriminate against certain groups of people like mechanics? That is the topic we are dealing with today, although I hasten to add there are others who are discriminated against in this way. It is a matter of great urgency that we actually get the government to move on this.

My colleague who just spoke was too negative. He said the tools will be all be rusty before the government will move on it. I take this occasion to appeal to the Liberal members on the other side who right now are in a majority. I beg them to act on this. It is so obvious and self-evident. The previous speakers have all spoken about this. All the different groups from the finance committee to others have heard presentations. It is a solid argument. There is no reason to hesitate on it.

In my riding there is a major shop and a number of other jobs that work on car repairs. The one I am thinking of is Peterson Pontiac in Sherwood Park in my riding. I had a letter from those people saying they need all this investment and they are among the only ones who cannot reduce their income tax payable by the amount of those tools. They actually have to buy those tools with after tax income. This for most of them effectively increases the cost by about 50% to 80% depending on how much money they are making.

To buy a $50 tool they have to earn $80 or $90 so that after they pay the tax on it they have enough money left.

I urge this government to do something about this. It is time to stop sitting on our duffs. We cannot do that anymore. We must get moving. We must do what is right. We must give fairness in taxation to mechanics.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank the members from all political parties who have spoken in support of this bill. I thank the parliamentary secretary who gave general support and some good reasons to support the bill but who also unfortunately came up with a few excuses as to why it has not happened, one being that other technicians should be included.

I agree with that but the government has had five years to make that happen. The parliamentary secretary also showed a concern regarding personal use of tools. That is an issue regarding any item that is allowed for deduction under tax regulations, so it just does not wash at all.

I thank the member from the Bloc Quebecois who spoke on this, gave his full support and made some very good comments. The member from the New Democratic Party said this is not a partisan issue, that it has been brought up before, which is the case. I thank the member for that.

I thank the member from the Conservative Party who gave full support and hit on several of the key issues. This member also pointed out that the government has been very tardy on this. I thank them all for their comments.

Our finance critic, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, a member of the finance committee, pointed out reasons employers require mechanics to own tools, which I think is a very important point. Anyone who has employed mechanics or who has worked with tools knows that tools tend to walk. This is not only because people steal them but tools get left on a piece of equipment, the equipment gets driven away and the tools disappear. Certainly they would pay extra attention if they were their own tools. I thank the member for making that important point and the member for Elk Island who showed his support for this bill.

We have what appears to be unanimous consent from the people who presented on this bill. I cannot understand why it has not happened before now. This is not a new issue. This issue has come up from MPs from all parties in the past, MPs such as Joy Langan, NDP, in 1992 and the Liberal member for Saint-Boniface. A Bloc MP in 1996 put forth a bill that would at least do some of these things.

This is not a new issue. This government has had five years to act on it. It has not acted and it is too bad. It is very unfortunate, particularly for the mechanics who really need this piece of legislation. I do not think we can wait any longer.

This is clearly a tax fairness issue. I find it surprising that just because it is a tax fairness issue that actually requires a reduction in taxation, it is not going to be acted on, at least through this bill.

I want to tell mechanics this issue is not dead. I have the 6,000 to 7,000 letters. I have the lists of groups and businesses that have supported this. I am going to keep going with this.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to make Bill C-366 votable.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the item is dropped from the order paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

May I ask the unanimous consent of the House to briefly revert to Routine Proceedings and Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its unanimous consent to revert to Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members