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House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table in the House today a petition from several hundred Canadians from across the country calling on parliament to officially declare November as Incontinence Awareness Month and to support local communities in Canada in educating and informing constituents across the country about incontinence.

I have one point that is very important. According to statistics, in any group of 300 adult Canadians of all ages, approximately 15 of them experience incontinence. I remind everyone in the House that we have 301 adult Canadians sitting in the House. I ask members to do the arithmetic and draw their own conclusions.

Incontinence often leads to depression and isolation, and is, for many care givers caring for an aging spouse, the last straw before admission to a long term care facility. It is one of the three leading causes of institutionalization.

It is my honour to table this petition in the House today.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present two petitions from my riding of Nanaimo—Alberni.

In the first petition, the petitioners call upon parliament to give Canadians a break by instituting tax relief of at least 25% in federal taxes over the next three years, starting with the next federal budget.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition, the petitioners call upon parliament to oppose any amendments to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other federal legislation which will provide for the exclusion of reference to the supremacy of God in our constitution and our laws.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Progressive Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, it is a privilege for me to present to the House a petition bearing the signatures of residents and users of the wharf facility in the community of Durham Harbour, in the riding I have the honour to represent, Madawaska—Restigouche.

The signees are asking that parliament authorize, with no further delay, dredging work that is badly needed. Some work was started in 1985 but was never completed. These people have already shown much patience.

I therefore whole heartily support their request.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.

The first petition draws to the attention of parliament that Canadians from many backgrounds have been affected by crimes against humanity. They pray and request parliament to support Bill C-49, to recognize crimes against humanity and establish the creation of an exhibition within the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition contains over 2,000 signatures. It draws to the attention of parliament the ban by the Chinese government of the Falun Gong practice. It calls upon parliament to continue urging the Chinese government to release all arrested Falun Gong practitioners, lift the ban, withdraw the international arrest warrant against Mr. Li Hongzhi and achieve a peaceful resolution through open dialogue.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

November 19th, 1999 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement among the Government of Canada, Governments of Member States of the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan, the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Government of the United States of America concerning co-operation on the civil international space station and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I am going to use the 32 minutes I am allowed since we are in favour of this bill.

However, as I mentioned in my remarks before question period, I would like to reiterate our disappointment in the fact that we are called upon now to discuss this bill to ratify an international agreement reached nearly two years ago, when the deadline for the ratification of the agreement is January 29, 2000. Since the House does not sit in January, parliamentarians are really called upon to express their views on this bill at the very last minute.

Perhaps I should address one particular aspect of this bill. It seems to have become a habit, as I noticed myself last year with Bill C-54, to include the substance of the bill in the schedule. While the bill per se is only six pages long, the schedule contains 26 pages.

There is a provision in the bill that says that, once the bill passed, after nearly two years, the minister will only need an order in council to amend the agreement through changes to the schedule. It is as simple as that.

Here we are, two years later, and this is the first time we hear about that in the House. It might well be the last, even if the agreement can be changed at the international level by different partners.

I dare say that I find this rather highhanded. It may be a matter of form rather than substance, but I would not like the government to continue in that vein, because it would be tantamount to gagging members of parliament.

This project, a civil international space station, is extremely important, and the Bloc Quebecois obviously does not want to unduly hold up the legislative process, because the impact of this project in Quebec is quite significant. I remind the House that the Canadian Space Agency is headquartered in St. Hubert, near Montreal.

The space agency has offices in each province, but since its headquarters are in St. Hubert, many businesses in the Montreal area and in other regions in Quebec benefit from the spinoffs.

The bill itself is quite short; it is only 6 pages long. It might be interesting to give a general idea of each one of its clauses. When I have to address the House, I make a point of reading all the clauses of a bill, even when there are many. In this case, there are only 13, so we should be able to go through them fairly quickly.

We have no problem with clause 1, which deals with the title of the bill, since we are talking about the Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation Act.

I will ship the first part of clause 2, but I would draw the attention of parliamentarians to the definition of “minister”. I know it is commonly used in legislation. It is good to remind people that we live in a so-called sovereign state.

The definition of “minister” reads “member or members of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada.” This is the Queen of England of course. It is good to remind ourselves that, although Canada claims it is a sovereign state, it still maintains very clear ties with the monarchy.

Clause 3 states “The purpose of this Act is to fulfill”—I emphasize the word fulfill—“Canada's obligations under the agreement”. We are talking about two years later.

Clause 4 states “This act is binding on Her Majesty in right of Canada or a province.” Same as before.

Clause 5 states “The governor in council may designate one or more members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada as the minister or ministers for the purpose of this act.” We have no problem with this one either.

Clearly clause 6 gives a lot of power to the minister. It reads “The minister may delegate any powers, duties and functions to one or more persons”. One comment in this respect. I hope the minister will not delegate any duty to the secret service agent who lost his documents. We are talking about space and things could go wrong.

Clause 7 states:

The Minister may send a notice to any person that the Minister believes, on reasonable grounds, has information or documents relevant to the administration or enforcement of this Act, requesting the person to provide, within any period that the Minister specifies, that information or those documents to the Minister or any person that the Minister designates.

That is very nice. Such notice could be sent to people who might have important information on space research, many aspects of which may be top secret.

Clause 8 reads as follows “No person in possession of information or a document that has been provided under this act or the agreement shall knowingly communicate it”. But there are two exceptions.

That is when the communication or access is in the public interest or necessary for the administration or enforcement of the act or the agreement.

Clause 9 states:

The Governor in Council may make regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary for carrying out the purpose of this Act and giving effect to the Agreement—

The governor in council is the cabinet. I repeat, this agreement can be changed merely by changing the schedule, without going back to the House.

Clause 10 states:

The Minister shall, by order, amend the schedule to incorporate any amendment to the Agreement—

As I just said, the agreement of parliament is not required.

Clause 11 is longer, so I will just give a summary.

Section 7 of the criminal code is amended to include offences committed by a Canadian crew member even if he or she is in space. Similarly, the law would apply to a crew member from a partner state who commits an act or omission affecting the life or security of a Canadian crew member or a flight element belonging to Canada.

As for clause 12(3), it is worthwhile reading it in its entirety, for it is not very long:

If the employee or the dependants referred to in subsection (1) elect to claim compensation under this Act, Her Majesty shall be subrogated to the rights of the employee or dependants and may, subject to the Agreement implemented by the Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation Act, maintain an action in the name of the employee or dependants or of Her Majesty against the person against whom the action lies and any sum recovered shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

As we can see, this is very vague. However, it is normal to have recourse, but all this is subject to the approval of Her Majesty, which is “subrogated to the rights of the employee or dependants and may, subject to the agreement implemented—”

Clause 13 deals with the coming into force of the act.

The schedule, which is the agreement itself, is very interesting. It mentions many things.

It indicates that the whole process began in 1984. We are discussing the agreement now, in 1999, but the whole process began in 1984. Since then, there was, among other events, a meeting between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada at the time. I will never forget that meeting, which ended with the former Prime Minister and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the U.S. President, Mr. Reagan, bursting out in song together. At the time, everyone recognized that Canada was very, very close to the Americans.

I am pointing this out, because we recently travelled to Russia to meet a Russian parliamentary committee on science and technology, as part of an economic mission led by the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development. People asked questions about the space station, because the Russians are experiencing financial problems and are having difficulties meeting the requirements of the agreement they signed in 1998.

The Russian parliamentarians' objections had to do with Canada always appearing to be too close to the United States and to be in agreement with the Americans.

Earlier, I mentioned our ties with the Commonwealth. The Russians believed, and they were very blunt about it, that we were too close to the Americans, and they had doubts about the future of the space station. So much so that they insisted on keeping a separate module, which is the exception on board this particular space station. The Russians absolutely want a module not accessible to the rest of the space station, because they do not trust the Americans.

Now, I will not go over all the other pages of this substantial schedule, which deals with international rights and obligations, management, intellectual property and, of course, research. The latter is an important issue, because Canada is taking part in this initiative. I think it is important that we preserve intellectual property rights over the research Canada will have invested in. The same thing goes for the other participating countries.

I would like to underscore the special contribution of Canada to this research project through the Canadian Space Agency, thanks to the mobile servicing system. People will ask “What is the mobile maintenance system?”. It is the famous Canadarm, which will be able to move just about anywhere in the station.

I was fascinated , during a visit I paid with the other members of the Standing Committee on Industry to the space agency in St. Hubert, by the way mobility is achieved. The Canadarm has two hands, so to speak, and if it attaches itself to one part of the station, the other hand can move about and attach itself to another part of the station.

I saw that. I think that people can go and visit the centre. They can see this discovery, which has put Canada and Quebec's scientific community on the map, as they say, because this system will be used not only for repairs but to assemble all of the elements of the module. Canada's participation is therefore vital to the construction of the station.

I would also like to mention the role played by Quebecer Julie Payette in a research expedition in the international space station. She was the first Canadian to go there. Her particular contribution was important, since she was the head of the medical team, which obviously monitored the health and physical condition of the astronauts and which carried out very serious medical research.

Since the beginning of medical research in space, a number of treatments for diseases have been found, thus improving health. There are obviously a lot of questions about bone density and balance. In short, it is very important.

This project, which will span over 20 years, requires a $1.4 billion contribution by Canada. This may seem expensive, but the economic benefits are estimated at over $6 billion.

An investment that will yield such substantial economic benefits is a good investment. Overall, it will create 70,000 jobs, which is significant. This is one reason that motivated us, in the Bloc Quebecois, to support this bill. These jobs are not only in the province of Quebec, since, as I said, the Canadian Space Agency has divisions across the country. But Quebec is glad that the agency has its headquarters in Saint-Hubert.

We are not talking only about public servant or researcher jobs paid by the agency, but also about jobs in the private sector and for people who do research on a contractual basis or who try to apply research elements identified by the agency itself. The application aspect is very important and it also creates a lot of jobs.

There will be enormous economic and scientific benefits in our daily lives. Because of the financial limitations of a country with 30 million people, the space agency has decided to limit its activities to certain niches.

Besides the Canadarm and the mobile maintenance system I mentioned earlier, the agency has become a world leader in satellite communication. This is not necessarily related to this particular project, but the Canadian Space Agency developed RADARSAT, as well as other applications. Another project will be launched shortly, which will contribute further to the advancement of satellite communication. This means that soon someone in the Sahara desert will actually be able to speak on the phone with someone in Ottawa. They will be able to communicate. This is no small thing.

And that is not all. Those interested in geography can expect to see more accurate maps, because it will be possible to take shots to within approximately two metres from the ground. Agency representatives told us that the Russians and the Americans do not want it to be any closer, apparently for security reasons.

During my visit, I observed the seriousness of Agency employees, especially their pride when astronauts from around the world come to the training centre devoted solely to use of the Canadarm. All astronauts, whether they are Russian, American, European, or Japanese, come to Saint-Hubert regularly for training. This is great for the city of Saint-Hubert and for Quebec. It is also good for Canada.

I would now like to talk about what I think is the most important aspect of the civil international space station, and that is co-operation among various countries. These include Canada, the United States, Japan, Russia and European countries; others could join eventually.

The word “partnership” appears throughout the agreement. It is used very frequently. I think this is very important. This is a step forward for the advancement of aerospace science. This multilateral agreement has been quite a shot in the arm. Since the end of the cold war and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Russians have joined the expedition. I think this is good.

Speaking of history, this year the Canadian Space Agency, which has its headquarters in Saint-Hubert, is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

I will conclude on a political note. The word “partnership” crops up everywhere in this agreement. Canada has agreed to discuss an important agreement with other nations, but has said in advance that it is not interested in discussing partnership with Quebec. This government is prepared to talk with everyone except Quebec. That is how much this government seems to care about a wish expressed in 1995 by 49.6% of Quebecers.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-4, the civil international space station agreement implementation act. This bill represents a key advancement in Canada's important role in the development of the international space station and further strengthens the very valuable level of international co-operation that began under the previous Progressive Conservative government.

As a point of recognition the PC Party has supported this bill from its inception as it is a further development in the process that began under the leadership of Brian Mulroney. On this level I must congratulate the minister for continuing his government's commitment to the agenda set by the former prime minister.

Beyond furthering Canada's reputation as a major player in international efforts, the bill provides for an important contribution to the development of the Canadian scientific community. However, it must be noted that this is but a scratch in the surface of where we must go in order to further develop our high tech industry which stretches well beyond our responsibilities to the space program.

The bill is easy to support given the origins of its purpose. Beyond this, it is one that is merely evidence of the Liberal government's chronic, mediocre commitment to advancing the Canadian context of technology. For instance, since 1993 the government has steadily cut into the budget of the Canadian space agency, reducing it from $378 million in the 1993-94 budget period to $350 million this year and ultimately down to a level of $300 million in the future.

As the developed world around us races toward the future the Liberal government creeps along a path of complacent indifference toward this most vital sector of our economy and of our well-being. As our talented technology workers head south of the border—incidentally, with the Prime Minister's full support—the Canadian technology sector, stifled in large part by high taxation, slips further and further behind our competitors.

As an example of the fast rate of change in the United States I will point out the incomprehensible speed at which the technology sector is advancing in the United States. Through innovation and e-commerce, for example, Dell Computers is generating $30 million per day in Internet sales every single day of the year. How does it do it? Hard work and a system that rewards innovation and growth.

As further evidence, in Santa Clara, California alone, 64 millionaires emerge every day from the competitive and rewarding environment that is so vital in fostering this astronomical rate of growth. These are two examples of many.

Why does this not occur in Canada? One need only look at this bill to appreciate the cause. It has taken nearly two years for the government to finally get Bill C-4 through parliament, just barely making it for the international co-operation deadline in January.

This slow rate of progress is not a confidence building approach. Taking this long to get through a piece of legislation which we all, in essence, support is remarkably counterproductive, especially when one realizes that we should be dealing with far more issues related to the technology sector.

The government must get off its duff and accept that we are losing the great war for talent. Yes, the bill does provide money for research and development to the technology sector, but it is incredibly far from being enough. Everywhere else this industry is in a brawl with no rules, whereas in Canada, among the countless punitive regulations and taxes, the most telling rule is “Leave if you don't like it”.

That is what our talent does. They do not wish to have to reply to the question of “Where were you during the great enterprises of Y2K?” by saying they were waiting for the Liberal government to stop diddling over long overdue legislation and tax cuts. That is why they leave. There is virtually no commitment to ensuring that we give our massively talented workforce the tools to prosper in the most important industry of the present and indeed the future.

It should come as no surprise that the government waffles on this issue. In fact it becomes more and more apparent that its interest wanes when it is asked to support something it did not create.

I strongly urge that the government take some leadership on this issue. I do not offer this appeal on the basis that we begin massive new spending projects. Quite the contrary, we need to offer an environment that allows the technology industry to do what it does best, innovate. However, it is hard to do so when there is an increasing burden of taxation on the corporate sector and on the individuals it employs. This is completely unacceptable.

The only way we can bring Canada up to a far greater level of productivity in technology is to slash taxes. We need to cut taxes in a meaningful way for Canadian businesses and Canadians, not as window dressing for the posterity of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

The government need not provide the capital if it is encouraging the incentive. That incentive lies at the end of the day, when the hard working and talented Canadian workers are able to see a substantive reward for their efforts. Should this occur, should we rise to the occasion, the government and the country will reap the rewards of excellence.

My party and I fully support Bill C-4 and do not wish to further delay this valuable piece of legislation. I will, however, restate my message to the government that it best begin to change this lethargic approach to the industry and get on the ball. It has to recognize and respond to the rapid rate of change. It is barely able to govern effectively with its present complacence with regard to pressing issues which, as it happens, may disqualify it from successfully governing for the future, and that is the kind of leadership which the country so desperately needs.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was most interested in the member's comments, in particular with regard to the movement of our talent south.

I am not sure whether he saw the article in the Citizen last weekend about Nortel's CEO. It was a very interesting article about the amount of brain power that is moving south of the border and the inability of our system to replace that talent.

It is interesting that we also have a Prime Minister who says there is not a brain drain in this country, that it is just a myth. Yet, these high tech firms categorically state that they cannot compete with the U.S., in particular because of the tax structure. I certainly concur with the member's comments that we are taxed out of our socks in this country.

How are we going to stop this brain drain? It fits with the space station and it fits with the high technology arena that we are in. Where does the hon. member see the solutions to stopping the brain drain and getting the country on its feet again?

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent question. It is not a simple one to answer, but basically we are beside the greatest economy in the world. I do not know why we are trying to forge a different economy of high taxes when the United States encourages innovation and free enterprise.

We have to get our taxes, both corporate and personal, more in line. There is a whole new revolution going on, for example, with Dell Computer and the e-commerce world. Ninety per cent of Canadians today, when they are buying products on e-commerce, buy them from the United States. They are not buying in Canada. Dell is doing $30 million a day, every day of the year, and it has just started.

We also have to encourage people that if they work hard they will enjoy the fruits of their labour. For example, in Santa Clara, 64 millionaires are created each day. I bet those people for a year or so had the dream of becoming rich and knew that if they worked hard, once they realized their aspirations they would get to keep their money.

We seem to tax it away, do some sort of income averaging and give the money to everyone. We have to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit at the school level, and when people work hard they should be able to keep their money. We have to reduce taxes both at the corporate and personal levels.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from November 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Municipal Grants Act, be read the second time and referred to a standing committee.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, any time I have the opportunity, I will stand up in defence of Canadian taxpayers.

Those poor, beleaguered people are attacked at every turn by government after government after government. It boggles the mind to think that Canadian taxpayers give up over half of their earnings just to fund their levels of government.

I have often said that if someone came into my house and took half of everything I owned, I would probably phone the RCMP. I would tell them to come and get this guy, take him away and lock him up. Let us have some justice here. Probably most Canadians would say, “Yes, you are entitled to do that. That is fair. That is in defence of your property. That is stuff that you bought with money you worked for and earned. The guy who went in at night has no right to take it”.

The taxman comes in the daytime. He comes and takes everything I earn. If I do not help him load the truck, I am the one that goes to jail. If I do not co-operate with him loading up and taking my stuff, I am considered to be some sort of a lesser citizen because I will not take part in the scheme.

I guess should put this into balance. I suppose I should not always talk about taxes like that, because it is a privilege to pay taxes. I concur with what many people say, this is a wonderful country. It is a privilege to live in Canada. I believe it is a privilege to be a member of parliament in the country. It is a privilege and an honour to stand in this place in defence of the people who elected me and who are paying the bill.

I hear from a lot of people in my riding and across the country who say, “You know, I would not mind paying a fair amount of taxes, but the taxes we pay are too much. We keep on paying taxes on taxes”.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are aware that we pay a lot of taxes on taxes literally. For example, if we go to the gas station to buy $10 worth of fuel for our cars, in the end that $10 actually includes a portion of the federal gasoline tax and the provincial gasoline tax. That price of $10, although I cannot remember the last time I only bought $10 worth of gas at one stop, but that $10 already contains a bunch of taxes.

What do we then get here? The government says that it wants to charge GST on it. The GST is our famous gouge and screw tax. It is added to everything, even to the tax portion of that gasoline. Here we have money that we have earned and on which we have paid income tax. We then take the part that is left and pay the gasoline taxes. On those taxes, GST is added. When I say taxes on taxes on taxes, it is literally true that we end up paying taxes on taxes.

I am getting very close now to talking about municipal grants because we want to talk about taxation collected by municipalities. It is also true that when we pay our municipal property taxes, in most instances the money we use to pay that tax we have already paid income tax on.

We work like slaves, get some money and the federal and provincial taxman keeps about half of it, on incremental income for most Canadians these days. With the half that we have left over we have to pay our municipal taxes. This is the reason I introduced my private member's bill that says that people who pay property taxes should be able to deduct that amount from their taxable income. I do not think it is right for Canadians to have to pay taxes on money they earn for the sole purpose of paying taxes. It is enough already, as my grandmother would say. It is just too much.

Today we are talking about Bill C-10. Bill C-10 is also a bill which has to do with how to distribute and move around money that has been collected from taxpayers. It also has to do with municipal taxes and other fees and charges that are paid by different levels of government, in this case, the federal government. I find it absolutely incredible that the money that the taxpayer sends to Ottawa is used for all sorts of different things.

Among other things, the Canadian government operates a number of vehicles. We have thousands of dollars of real property. I suppose that is a necessity, although sometimes I wonder whether we have allowed that to get out of hand as well. It seems to me that our government is larger than it ought to be because there has not been any real accountability on the part of government on how it spends money.

Obviously, when the federal government uses part of the facility in a municipality to operate its buildings, it should also pay a fair share of the municipal taxes. One could argue that there is only one taxpayer. However, the fact of the matter is that this is a way of relieving, at least partially, the burden of property taxes on people in the municipalities. That is, in order to provide the services and the infrastructure which also supports the government facility, as it supports other businesses and homes and apartments, this money is also used for these government buildings and government services.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is fair that the Canadian taxpayer should pay a fair share of the municipal taxes because there is an increasing burden on municipalities to pay for all of the things that are being downloaded by the government.

This is a bill that will amend the Municipal Grants Act. It has to do with how the federal government makes grants to municipalities directly in lieu of taxes that it should be paying.

Mr. Speaker, I know you had some anxiety as to whether or not I was on topic, but I was indeed giving my preliminary lead-up to the topic at hand today. I think I can probably promise you, Mr. Speaker, that at least 95% of the time I will open my speech with some sort of a statement that says it is time to cut taxes in the country, so my preamble was most appropriate.

In this particular bill, there are a number of things which are needed and are justified. It is a case where we have a number of items that are probably worth supporting. We know, and this has been the case for quite some time, that supplementary payments can be made to municipalities in lieu of taxes. In other words, in this country we do not permit one level of government to tax another.

There are some exceptions to this. I have noticed lately that federal government vehicles carry provincial licence plates. Agreements have been reached on that, which is fair since those vehicles utilize the roads of the province in which they are stationed, for the most part.

There are other things that have been permitted for quite some time. The federal government, however, cannot be levied a tax. If a municipality says that we have a federal court, a federal taxation building or an EI office that is owned and operated or leased by the federal government, normally if that were any other lessee it would assess property taxes against that property. The federal government, in order to be fair, has for a number of years voluntarily paid a fair assessment to the different municipalities. By doing this, it gets around that little rule that one level of government may not tax another level of government.

This particular bill has a couple of good features in it. It will extend the ability of the federal government to make these voluntary payments in other areas. For example, it would extend it to making payments of interest in the event that the payment was late.

I do not know if members have heard this rumour, but there are some government departments that are continually late in their payments. The Minister of Defence is here and maybe he can give me a wave if I am wrong, but I have heard rumours that the Department of National Defence spends millions of dollars every year on late payments through the normal billing of expenses. It is late in paying, so the supplier of the commodity that the defence department has purchased just adds the usual carrying charge to the late payment and the government pays it because it is a legitimate payment. If it would be on the bit and pay its bills promptly it would not have those interest payments.

In the case of municipalities, they also assess charges for late payments, whether it is late payments for municipally owned utilities or whether it is late payments on property taxes.

This particular bill would extend the ability of the government to make voluntary payments in lieu of interest on payments which are late. Again, I cannot really be against that. I think it is fair to the municipalities, the ratepayers and the property taxpayers in those particular municipalities where this applies.

There is another thing that happens. Sometimes the federal government owns a property but does not use it all. Even though it is owned by the government, it leases that same property out to another third party. Almost always, those particular contracts for lease include a clause that says that the lessee must pay the property tax on that property. Sometimes these people who lease the property are not diligent in their payments. As a result, they go late. This particular bill will now, I guess, stiff the taxpayer for the inability of the government at whatever level to collect the rent and tax payments from the individual or business that is leasing the property.

At any rate, it is a transfer of tax dollars from one location to another. In this case, it is from the federal government to the municipality. If the taxes are delinquent, this bill will allow the federal government to voluntarily make that payment.

There are some kinds of structures that have been added to the list. I would not disagree with that. Also, we now have a committee of appeal.

However, I would like to bring to the attention of the House that the Reform Party has a very good policy with respect to this type of thing. I would like to read a page from the book. It states:

The Reform Party will insist that all laws pertaining to individuals and the private sector apply equally to the Government of Canada, its personnel, its agencies and Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, you will be totally amazed at how I am going to weave the MP pension plan into this story. That principle applying to the fairness of municipal taxation is a principle that extends right across the board.

I draw to the attention of members and anyone else who is hearing or reading these words that in the pension plan for members of parliament and senators, legislation is in place which specifically exempts members of parliament from certain provisions of the Income Tax Act. I meet many people who would love to defer an additional 2% or 5% of their income for taxation in some future years.

This is a violation of the Reform principle which says that all laws which pertain to individuals and the private sector will apply equally to individuals as well as to governments, as well as to members of the government, including the employees, members of parliament and senators. We have here a violation of that principle. The MP pension plan is one of the most blatant violations. Specific legislation was passed in this place to exempt members from a law that applies to every other Canadian.

How could the Liberals have the gall to do that? I cannot believe Canadian voters continue to send members to this place who would do that type of thing. It boggles my mind.

The government is maintaining a special position in this bill. Even though the Government of Canada will voluntarily pay taxes to some municipalities on behalf of its buildings and structures, it will not necessarily do it all the time.

One objection we have to the bill is that Canada Post is not included. It is very much an arm of the government. The Canadian mint, a crown corporation, is not included as having to participate in this program. We think that is wrong. It should apply to everyone equally.

The payment of grants in lieu of taxes is a very good program but every once in a while a dispute arises. How would we solve a dispute? There are a number of ways to resolve a dispute when two people disagree. The best way is to sit down, talk about it, negotiate it, figure out who is willing to bend which way and come together on it. Every once in a while disputes become serious and the federal or provincial courts become involved. We try to resolve our differences at the court level by having a judge and in some cases a jury look at the situation to try to bring about justice.

There is a serious flaw in this bill. Even though when there is a dispute there is a mechanism to solve it, lo and behold we find that the board that is supposed to do this is appointed by the minister. It is like getting into a boxing ring and finding out that the opponent is also the referee. It does not bring a great deal of fairness to the situation. This flaw should be corrected before the bill is passed.

A second flaw is that board members make recommendations to the minister. Is that not a surprise. First the minister appoints the board members and then they make a recommendation to him. The bill is clear. The minister may or may not accept their recommendation.

If a municipality disagrees with the payment level or the promptness of the payment being made by the federal government and challenges it, the matter goes to the the board which hears the case. The board may give some very good advice or it may given rotten advice, we do not know which, but we hope the board would try to be fair.

I suppose the Prime Minister would hasten to tell us that just because they were Liberals who were appointed to the board does not mean that they will always make a wrong judgment, and I suppose that would be a fair statement. They probably would not always make a wrong judgment. In any case they make a recommendation to the minister and then the minister has the choice to take the recommendation or not.

In all fairness the minister and his officials would probably read and study the recommendation. I would hope they would. I hope the decision would not be arbitrary and capricious, but there is nothing in the bill or the act that would prevent that from happening. The minister could take their advice or he could decline their advice and do whatever he wants. He would then unilaterally say, “Sorry, we are not paying” and that would be the end of the matter. There is no further appeal.

Those are some of the very serious flaws in the bill that should be corrected. There should be some fairness built into this. Arranging the affairs so that the person one is fighting with in the boxing ring is also the referee is just not a very good way to plan success.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the bedrock principles of our system is that there is to be no taxation without representation.

At the municipal level, in my lifetime, that has been expanded so that there is no residency without the right to representation. Renters who pay their taxes indirectly are allowed, just as landowners are, to have a vote on the activities of their local government.

We have before the House a bill that flies squarely in the face of that principle. It is called the ratification of the Nisga'a treaty which will make it quite possible for a group of municipal councillors, band councillors if you will, since the government keeps telling us that what it is setting up is a form of municipal government, to levy taxes. This group will be able to levy taxes on any and all residents on the reserve irrespective of what the persons being taxed may think or what they may want to do. They will not have a voice in it because voting and the choice of councillors will be limited only to people who have the correct skin pigmentation. The fact that one may be living, doing business or providing a service on the reserve will be totally irrelevant.

We already have an example of this sort of thing on the Musqueam reserve where in addition to the massive rent increases that we hear so much about, there is also a silent and somewhat unreported problem of taxation. The band is levying taxes to the tune of about $6,000 per residence on the people who will ultimately be dispossessed of their homes. They are doing this without any recourse to democratic action. These people cannot vote in any way on what their local government is doing with respect to taxes.

Does my hon. colleague have any thoughts or suggestions on this subject as to what might be done to ameliorate the problem?

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question because it has to do with how Bill C-10 impacts on the life and times of municipal taxpayers. We are talking about municipal taxpayers paying their bills to the municipality in which they live or in which they own property.

The member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has made an excellent point. We have long held the principle that there cannot be taxation without representation. There cannot be a body for which we have no opportunity to vote and which can levy taxation against us, make rules that actually part us from some of our income. It is unconscionable.

He made mention of the fact that this is what is happening in the treaty agreements in British Columbia. I would take the point a little further than he did. There is certainly an immediate and serious problem that needs to be addressed.

The government members, all those green foreheads as I refer to them, are just not listening. They are not paying attention to the genuine concerns we are bringing forward on behalf of the people of British Columbia on this issue. I wish they would listen because not only is there an immediate concern, but there is the immediate huge injustice of people losing their own property through a process over which they have no control and no recourse. There is also a long term repercussion which I think our children and our grandchildren are going to rue for years and years to come.

To divide our population based on genetic make-up and to say that different rules apply to different people because of their particular genetic make-up, history teaches us that that is dangerous. Common sense makes us aware that that is dangerous.

It is unfortunate with legislation like that which we have before us today and legislation such as my colleague mentioned that the government is totally blind and deaf. It will not see the problem and it will not hear from the people. I find it unconscionable that the government is actually contemplating not even permitting the people of British Columbia to have a referendum on what is going to make a tremendous difference to their lives and their society, not only now but for years to come.

I thank my colleague for an excellent question. That is the type of thing I wish we could debate clearly and openly in the House with a genuine willingness to listen and to make changes when it becomes clear that there is inadequacy in the legislation before us.

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit disappointed in the comments by my hon. colleague.

I do not know if other members of the House get lists of the new citizens of Canada. We get a list of the new citizens in our ridings. I am always pleased when there is someone on it who I have known for a number of years. I have a couple of friends who have lived in Canada for 25 and 30 years. The other day I was going through my list while I was sitting here listening to the really important debates we have. I noticed that a couple of my friends were on that list and I automatically thought great, two more votes next election.

In spite of the fact that these friends had lived and worked in Canada for 25 or 30 years and had paid taxes, they were not able to vote on electing federal members. Why is that? Because we recognize that until people become citizens of our country, we do not allow them to vote for the governments.

Does he think it is fair that people move to Canada and are not able to vote for a federal member of parliament unless they become citizens? I think it is reasonable. Does he not think it is reasonable as well, or does he think people should not have to become citizens and be part of a community before they vote?

Municipal Grants ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with what the member has said. I notice she did not in any way indicate that we would first of all test the pigmentation of people's skin or genes before we allow them to take up citizenship. It is totally irrelevant to this situation.

I would add a further caution to what she has said. I will put it in the form of a rhetorical question. Do we really want to within the boundaries of our country have little countries all over the place, here a country, there a country, here a country, so that when we walk into those boundaries we cannot be a citizen of that country unless we pass a racial test? I need to ask, is that really where we want to take our country? I say as emphatically as I can, no.