House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.


Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about costing things out. In the prebudget submission by the Conservative Party it did everything except cost out what the measures cost.

Let me help the hon. member. He referred to a whole bunch of tax initiatives. What did they cost? They cost the treasury $17 billion. If the government were to adopt what that party would like, we would be back in deficit. I am sure it would be way above the $42 billion where it left us.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess the parliamentary secretary decided not to read the costing at the back of our budget plan “Unlocking Canada's Potential”. Over three years we would have liked to have provided Canadians with $18 billion of tax savings. In the first year we would be looking at about $8 billion.

The hon. member is using Liberal math in this regard. That is typical of a member and a government that utilize Liberal focus group economics. I would gladly send the hon. member a calculator and a copy of “Unlocking Canada's Potential”. In the future for the next budget I suggest that he and his government take our plan very seriously because we want to unlock Canada's future for the 21st century. I hope his party starts sharing that value.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, just past noon on the day after celebrating St. Patrick's Day I want to say that I made several contributions last night to the tax system along with my colleagues. I will temper my remarks with the realization that that occurred.

I say to the member opposite that it is really quite mind boggling to sit here and listen to a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus spend almost his entire time defending the Brian Mulroney government. I really would have thought it would be in his best interest to distance himself from that memory.

The Canadian people passed judgment and reduced that caucus in 1993 to a group large enough to fit into a phone booth. There were a few more elected in the last election, primarily from eastern Canada, and one from Ontario. Anyone would have thought that those members really would not want to revisit what happened during the Mulroney years.

Let us realize something. The 1980s were absolutely the best 10 years this country has enjoyed in terms of revenue, and yet that government managed to run overdrafts every year during times of tremendous prosperity. It is only since 1993 that the country has been put back on track. I do not know that we will see the kinds of increases in real estate values that local communities enjoyed in the 1980s, but we certainly have a much stronger economy today.

It is very hard to understand why a government would intentionally, at times of high revenue, spend its revenue to the point of running a $42 billion deficit.

Let us be clear. A deficit is an overdraft. What the member neglected to mention is that the $42 billion was not a one time thing. It was every year. That government intentionally, every year, during times of high revenue, overspent when it should not have.

During those times municipalities across Canada realized what was happening. Municipalities put their houses in order. Municipalities paid down their debt. My own city of Mississauga is debt free. Municipalities across the country realized that they had an opportunity during times of high revenue to put some money away, to pay down debt, to not run deficits.

We hear about the cuts which this government has made. What choice was there? Do we continue to spend into oblivion? Do we continue to run up the overdraft and increase the debt?

Madam Speaker, I should mention that I am splitting my time with the member for Mississauga South.

The way a government deals with its finances is to run that overdraft or deficit until it gets to the end of the budget year. Then it takes that deficit and piles it on top of the debt. That, in essence, is how we have arrived at such a large debt.

This government has made commitments. We have reduced the debt by $20 billion. In two successive budgets we have reduced taxes. Is it enough of a reduction? Of course not. I would like to see more. My constituents would like to see more in the way of tax reductions. I believe they will. That is a commitment that our finance minister has made.

To stand and simply, in many instances, mislead people with some of these statements and accusations about our tax system does an injustice to the Canadian people. We should tell them the facts. Is our tax system complicated? You bet it is. Should we review it to see if we can smooth it out? I think we should. In fact the federal government has negotiated harmonization agreements with some provinces and attempted to do it with others.

Would harmonization mean that since there is only one taxpayer that maybe we should have one tax collector instead of the very complicated system that we have in this country?

This government would not be afraid to admit that the tax system is complicated. It has been built, layer upon layer, over the years, which makes it extremely difficult for the average Canadian to understand or for the average member of parliament to understand.

I want to pay tribute to a group which I think is doing some very good work to help particularly low income Canadians understand the tax system. It is a group made up of volunteer chartered accountants and CA students, sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, which runs free tax clinics to help thousands of low income Canadians fill out their tax forms and pay their taxes.

Just by way of a little commercial to the taxpayers, since we are coming up to that time, the Institute of Chartered Accountants can be reached at 1-800-387-0735, extension 462. People can call them and get free advice on dealing with the very complicated matter of filing their income tax.

I want to congratulate the institute. I think it is a very positive thing and something from which the taxpayers will clearly benefit.

I want to return to the issue of harmonization. I have said in this place before that this country has a large number of taxes, and people do pay a fair amount of money, so it seems to me that there should be a way to streamline and reduce the collection process.

We have done that in some parts of the country. I think we need to continue talking about it, but the provinces tend not to want to do that. They do not want to give up their fiefdoms. I guess that is understandable, except that they know as well as we do that there is only one taxpayer.

The bill that we are dealing with will amend the Income Tax Act. Instead of talking about somebody's poor memory as to what went on in the Mulroney years and the size of the deficit, I have not heard anybody talking about the specific amendments, so I researched some of them and I want to share them. I think they are pretty good and Canadians should know about them.

This bill will introduce a new non-refundable tax credit for individuals to an annual maximum of $500. Canadians need to know that when they are filling out their tax forms. They should ask their accountants about it. Or if they are going to the clinic sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, they should ask about it. It reduces the surtax, which is something we heard many people calling for. This bill does that.

This measure I think is very important. The homebuyers plan will be modified to allow for tax free withdrawals from RRSPs to acquire homes for disabled individuals, whether or not they are first time homebuyers. That is a very significant issue. It shows that we recognize that the disabled community needs some assistance in buying homes. Obviously, if their disability inhibits their ability to earn income, they need help. Therefore, not only first time homebuyers, but people who are disabled will actually be able to draw from an RRSP to buy a home. I think it is a terrific idea.

There is a tax credit for interest on student loans. We hear about the debt burden of students. The one thing that we should recognize when we do an analysis is that, if the taxes are high, what is the other side of it? We have heard Reform members say they would bring in user fees. The cost of university in this country is substantially lower, probably four times lower than the cost of a similar university program in the United States.

We know that the Reform Party believes in two tier health care. We do not. We believe that should be funded through the tax system. We are absolutely opposed to the two tier health system that these folks talk about.

I have run out of time, but there are a lot of other areas which I would like to mention. There is a tax credit for caregivers. There is recognition of part time education and single moms. There are all kinds of serious benefits for the taxpayer in this bill. It is beyond me why everybody in the House would not support it so that we could get the message out and concentrate on communicating the facts instead of misleading the Canadian public.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, as usual I found the emissions from this member to be rather interesting, particularly the commercial for the CA group, when he himself, this Liberal of great high esteem, admitted very freely that to file one's income tax is a complicated matter.

He knows full well that this government has had opportunities to simplify the tax system since 1993 and prior to the nine-year sabbatical given to the Liberals by Brian Mulroney. Yet his government has done nothing to simplify the tax system.

I found it very gratifying to hear this member freely admit that the income tax system is so complicated that he was happy to give out the 1-800 number to give people a hand. It would be nice if he were to do his work and if the members of his party were to do their work to simplify the tax system so that people would not have to make that phone call.

I draw the attention of the House to the issue of the two tier health care system which was created by the Liberals. People who are desperate or people who have money can go to the United States, thanks to this government, thanks to its $16.5 billion gutting of the transfer payments to the provinces.

The hon. member and his Liberal colleagues are very proud of the fact that supposedly we have a balanced budget. He fails to take into account the rip-off of working people through the so-called employment insurance fund. That is not a premium; it is a tax. It is a tax because far more money goes into general revenue than ever goes out in benefits. It is this government that has cut back on the benefits, cut back on the benefit periods and cut back on the benefit program so that it would end up with a surplus. On the backs of employers and employees it has managed to come up with this myth of having a balanced budget.

I know the hon. member comes from Ontario, which has the excellent government of Mike Harris. That Conservative government has decreased taxes, which is something the finance minister and the Liberals do not understand. That has resulted in the most vibrant economy in the entire Dominion of Canada.

Is it not about time for us to have some truth, some truth about the fact that there is far more going into the employment insurance fund than is coming out because of the cutting, hacking and slashing of the Liberals? The fact is that they are managing to talk about a balanced budget because they are ripping off the employers and employees who are forced to pay into the employment insurance system.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:40 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, the member of the Reform Party typically talks about cuts to the provinces for health care of $16 billion over the mandate. He does not talk about the $11.5 billion in one budget, in one fell swoop, that was put back into the system.

Reformers have actually said that they would take 50% of the surplus to pay down the debt and 50% to reduce taxes. Then they say that they will take another 50% to put into health care and maybe another 50% for something else. Come on. Do they think the Canadian people are stupid? They know the cuts the Reform Party has proposed in its campaign documentation. It would slash anything to do with heritage. It would cut the military. It would introduce two tier health care. It would destroy the relationships between the federal government and the provinces.

With regard to the EI fund, this government has balanced the books of this country and the EI surplus exists because the economy is strong, because we have created jobs. There are 1.6 million more Canadians working since this government took office.

Our facts are very clear. The Reform is just blowing smoke.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, today the House is debating the implementation of the 1998 budget; not the budget that was just delivered by the finance minister, but matters relating to the budget of the prior year.

The parliamentary secretary has reviewed very well the many important initiatives that were included in that budget. I will spend my time replying to some of the comments made by hon. members in this debate because I believe there is some clarification necessary.

The member from the Conservative Party talked about personal income tax revenue to the federal government. He pointed out that in 1993, when the government took office, personal income tax revenue amounted to some $112 billion. He also said that in 1998 the amount of personal income tax revenue collected by the federal government was some $150 billion. It is a $38 billion increase in personal income tax revenue.

He went on to suggest that this represents a 25% increase in the personal income tax burden of Canadians. To leave it like that is not correct. It is an error to leave the impression that somehow the personal income tax burden of Canadians actually increased some 25%.

The truth is that in 1993 the unemployment rate in Canada was 11.2%. In 1998 the unemployment rate dropped to 8%. If the unemployment rate goes down that must mean more people are working in Canada, and indeed 1.6 million more Canadians are working and they are paying their fair share of income taxes. It adds to the personal tax revenue of the Government of Canada.

The increase does not have to do with rising rates of income taxation or some sort of penalty by eliminating deductions that were otherwise available to Canadians back in 1993. It has exclusively to do with the fact that there are more Canadians working.

I point that out because Canadians should understand that in this place sometimes there is the tendency to provide a little information but not all of it and it would tend to lead to one conclusion when in fact the full story would lead to quite another. That is part of the caution that anybody watching the debates in the House of Commons should take. It comes to an issue of credibility.

If in this place members debate and present information principally by providing selective information rather than full information, they put the credibility of themselves as well as the credibility of this place on the line when they do not tell the whole story.

The principal spokesman for the Reform Party, the member for Lakeland, spoke for some 40 minutes and talked about income taxes again. I wrote some notes from his comments about the level of taxation. Certainly there is a lot of interest in Canada to have lower income tax levels so that we can have more disposable income. There is a ripple effect in terms of jobs creation, et cetera.

The principal spokesman, the lead spokesman for the Reform Party of Canada, spoke for 40 minutes. He was not subject to questions and comments. He provided certain information to the House which again was grossly in error and totally incomplete as far as what the true facts are.

I have to put on the record what in fact the issue is with regard to the taxation rates of Canadians. I sat down and in a very general way and calculated the income tax burden of someone who is making $60,000 a year in Canada. I used no general deductions such as RRSPs or any other. It was simply done as an employee who makes $60,000. We know they get a basic non-refundable tax credit of $6,542.

There are also tax credits for any amount they paid for EI premiums and CPP premiums. When they deduct that approximate $7,000 they get an amount of income of some $53,000. On $53,000 the taxpayer would pay 17% on the first $30,000, which is $5,100. They would pay 26% on the remaining $23,000, which is $5,980. The approximate federal tax burden is $11,000. Provinces have different rates. For discussion purposes, if we assume a provincial income tax rate of 50% of the federal taxes payable that means that the total federal-provincial tax bill to a Canadian making $60,000 a year is $16,600. As a per cent of the gross income of $60,000 that is 27.7%. A single person making $60,000 pays an income tax rate of 27.7%.

I went further and looked at what the tax burden was for someone who was making $35,000 a year. Similarly they get the basic non-refundable tax credit and a couple of notional tax credits for CPP and EI premiums paid. When we take that roughly $7,000 off the $35,000, it means that the first amount of $30,000 at a rate of 17% is $5,100 and the balance of the $5,000 is taxed at 26%. If we do a quick calculation, including the gross up for the provincial tax payable, we will find that the effective tax rate for someone making about $30,000 is a little over 20%.

I went even further. I looked at somebody making $20,000 a year. With the notional reductions, et cetera, their tax rate is less than that still. We go from 27% to 20%.

When I looked at these things I understood the actual burden of taxes. I have seen articles in newspapers where parliamentary journalists who have been here a long time continue to talk about Canadians paying a 50% tax rate, which is the highest marginal rate they would pay on taxable income over $59,180. Ninety per cent of all Canadians pay a rate of taxation somewhere between 20% and 30%.

Here is the point. The principal spokesman for the Reform Party on this said we need tax relief in Canada. What we need to do is bring down the income tax burden on Canadians to between 20% and 30%. If we look at what I just laid out in terms of the tax burden on Canadians, it ranges from 20% to 30% for those who are making $60,000 or less. The only conclusion I can reach is that the Reform Party is calling for lowering the income tax burden for Canadians who are making more than $60,000 a year. That represents about 10% of all income tax payers. It is effectively a call based on the true reported results of Revenue Canada on who pays how much taxes and at what rates. It is actually a dedicated policy of the Reform Party to reduce taxes for the highest 10% income earners.

This shows precisely why Canadians have to look very carefully when people make representations such as the Reform Party and the Conservative Party have made. They have provided very little factual information. It has been more rhetoric than accuracy.

I hope all members will take to heart that in our income tax system only 10% of Canadians make more than $60,000 a year. Across the board tax increases, particularly those that affect those at the highest marginal bracket, are not in the best interests of all Canadians. That is why this government has provided tax relief targeted directly and more specifically at low and middle income Canadians.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the participation of the member opposite who is a member of the finance committee. I believe he is a very astute member of that committee and mostly does his math right.

I was very interested in his presentation of the facts. I believe his characterization of our members is not accurately portraying the facts and is probably a bit of stretch, if I can be kind. We do have a deep desire on this side of the House to deal with the facts, to debate the issues and to avoid personal attacks such as we get from the member who spoke before him over and over again to the point where it really does decrease the respect people have for members of parliament.

He thought Reform's agenda was just to reduce the taxes for those who make over $60,000. We know there are marginal tax rates which are so very important to many Canadians, in particular to poor Canadians. If we take into account moving out of the income bracket where one is eligible for some of these so-called benefits the Liberal government and the Conservative government before it arranged in the tax system for people, when we think of the loss of eligibility for those programs, as one's income goes up the effective tax clawback or tax rate on that marginal income is extremely high.

Unfortunately I do not have the numbers with me but one the calculations I saw put that number at around 60%. I think the income level was around $25,000 a year for a family. If it earned more money because of the total impact not just in the tax scheme but on the family budget, it meant that basically some 60% of its additional earnings was lost. It was not effective to give it more income.

With respect to the so-called rich, we know that many families earning $60,000 and more are just ordinary families nowadays trying to make ends meet. Both people are working because they cannot live on one income. Many of them are forced into that. We know that the marginal tax rate is around 50% when one combines federal and the provincial taxes. I do not think that I have ever heard of a person whose annual income is $1 million a year paying anywhere near $500,000 in taxes. For the hon. member to accuse us of wanting to give a tax break to the very wealthy is perhaps empty because it seems to me that the very wealthy already do avoid those taxes.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, again, these are two very good examples of how the presentation of information would tend to lead to one conclusion because it is explained in a very selective way.

If someone has worked for some time during the year and would be off due to layoff or for whatever reason and qualify for benefits and receive those during the same taxation year, under our system of employment insurance now Canadians who make over $48,000 and also have received employment insurance benefits would be required to repay a portion of that based on how much income they earned over $48,000.

The Reform Party has just described a situation and talked about 60% tax rates and so on. Reformers are basically saying if someone made $60,000 and part of that was employment insurance benefits and they had to give it back to the government because they made too much money, that would be effectively a 100% tax rate. That is how they get these high numbers because they assume if one has to give back what they should not have received in the first place, it is equivalent to a 100% tax rate. It is the exact argument that was used with regard to the proposed seniors benefit.

The member raised a second item with regard to whether a million dollar taxpayer pays $500,000. He pays a 17% federal rate on the first $30,000, 26% on the next $30,000 and 29% on anything in excess of that plus 50% federal. If it is an employee with a T4 slip he or she will pay very close to $500,000 on a million dollars of taxable income.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to debate this issue today. I remind all members present, at least those who are awake and paying attention, that we are debating Bill C-72, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and to implement some of the measures announced in the budget not this year but last year. I took note of the fact that it was on February 24, 1998 that the budget speech was given which promoted and put into effect the issues we are now debating.

I need to take the first few minutes of my speech to talk about that process. I have high respect for the Government of Canada, not necessarily the government that is currently in power but for the concept of government in Canada. I have a high respect for democracy and it is appropriate for us to be aware that there is a serious flaw.

Traditionally budget measures are kept secret. There are some valid reasons for that. It is possible that if people know in advance of substantial changes in tax structures or government benefits or programs they could either buy low and sell high or make some other financial decisions that could benefit them at lot personally. It has been a tradition that budget matters have been confidential.

However, we have noticed in the last three or four years that the budget is not confidential at all. I think the Liberals are trying to deal with one of the problems arising from this fact. They are getting a smaller and smaller kick from the budget speech since most of the details are announced on Monday and the speech is given on Tuesday. They selectively and incorrectly leak information to the press.

Another thing that is rather inappropriate—and it is not that people have a chance to talk about it before the budget is announced, though that is a violation of a principle of parliament—is that we have no way of influencing the budget. There is no mechanism in Canada's parliament to actually change these things because of the way it happens.

The finance minister, probably the Prime Minister and several other bureaucrats sit in a small room somewhere and come up with these schemes. It is no secret that a lot of these schemes are based on political considerations in the hope of getting re-elected. Besides that a great deal of attention is paid to messaging and communicating.

I am in favour of good communication. Let us communicate the truth to the people. The way they communicate is very important because they want people to believe certain things about what they are doing to maximize their chances of re-election. If I can put it bluntly, they just want to look good. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. My colleague from Crowfoot and I like to look good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good but we need to be realistic.

Some 387 days after that budget was presented by the finance minister we are now debating it. It is a farce because at the end of this debate there will be a vote and there is no way we will be able to reverse what the finance minister announced on February 24, 1998. We know that, because government members are forced to vote for these measures. It has to do with the ridiculous notion that if we ever vote against a government money measure it somehow shows lack of confidence in the government and we therefore need to have an election.

While members stand to vote, presumably on Bill C-72, they will actually be standing to declare their desire not to have an election. That is totally absurd. One should not have to answer one question when the result applies to something totally different.

We in the House need the ability as individual members of parliament to speak and to vote against measures that are to the detriment of Canadian taxpayers. We need a way of amending and actually altering legislation in a meaningful way so that the Canadian citizen, the Canadian taxpayer, is represented in a tangible way that protects his or her interests.

The NDP member from Kamloops actually stole part of my speech. In preparation for speaking today I obtained a copy of Bill C-72. I know, probably more than anyone in the House, that I cannot use props. This is not a prop. It is just a copy of a 157 page bill.

As an opposition member of parliament whose job it is to find ways in which legislation can be improved and to give alternatives to the Canadian people, I find it distressing that the things announced by the Minister of Finance over a year ago could be brought before the House in a bill that was tabled on March 16, 1999. Today is March 18. The bill was first introduced a scant two days ago. As I have said it is 157 pages long in both official languages. We could cut it in half in terms of functional reading in either one of the languages.

The member from Kamloops read a part of the Income Tax Act and we all just about broke up. It was a comedy act. It was an endless stream of incomprehensible gibberish. I did not even look at the Income Tax Act. I looked at the bill which amends the act and other acts. The bill amends the Canada-U.S. Tax Convention Act, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the War Veterans Allowances Act and certain acts related to the Income Tax Act.

I did the same as the member. I opened Bill C-72 and began to read it. I will not perform the same act he did because it would look as if I were copying him. However, when preparing for my speech I thought I should just read some of the bill so Canadians would know how convoluted it is. Let me read from page 104:

—if the completion date in respect of an eligible amount received by the individual was in the preceding tax year, the total of all amounts each of which is designated under subsection (3) by the individual for the particular year or any preceding taxation year included in the particular period, and

(b) in any other case, the amount designated under subsection (3) by the individual for the particular year.

That is only one of the sections. I suppose if we really worked we could understand it, but it is very complicated. There are also formulas that apply in the Income Tax Act. It goes on and on. It is totally convoluted.

We need a debate on the issue before us which gives us the ability to look at the bill in detail and to propose amendments. We need a mechanism in parliament whereby we could say that an amendment was necessary. If we are able by debate to persuade the majority of members in the House, regardless of what their whips tell them, that collectively in our wisdom something should be changed, then it should be changed. It should not involve a vote of confidence in the government. It should not involve the question of having another election. It should be that we are making a law for the people and should do it better. There is no mechanism to improve anything.

We are debating a bill over a year after the budget was presented. In the end we will go through a robot-like vote and it will be passed. It will go to the Senate and will be passed. Everything is done in lock-step. It is just absolutely ridiculous.

I have a quote which I have used in the House before. It will read it again because it is appropriate. There are endless convoluted rules. We need tax lawyers to compute one page of it. I suppose one could say it is a classic. It is by Alexis de Tocqueville, a very famous historian and politician who visited America and wrote a four volume book called Democracy in America . He observed how democracy works. I am a defender of democracy, but I am also not so naive as to think we have reached the apex of what it can be. There are a lot of areas to improve. It reads:

—after having thus successfully taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot perpetrate to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrial animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.

I believe that is what is happening here. I am amazed at the amendments in the bill with respect to deducting RRSP money from tax when used to educate children. On the surface it looks like a wonderful idea because one can avoid paying taxes on some income. I ask a fundamental question. What business is it of any government to so minutely control all my financial decisions by having such a high tax rate that the most important decision I can make is how to avoid paying taxes?

The government, through pages and pages and pages of Income Tax Act and amendments thereto, controls every minutia of my life and the life of taxpayers out there. They have to decide to do one thing instead of another. If they do not they cannot survive because the government confiscates the money. That is a wrong basis on which to govern.

It is time that we got some economic freedom. We always talk about freedom. We are economic slaves to the government. Half or more of our income is confiscated by the different levels of government which totally takes our freedom away from us.

It is to the point where families have to make decisions against their initial will that both parents will enter the workplace to provide for their own needs of life and for their family. People are crunched into the corner. Who looks after the children while both parents are working? The government imposes so many high taxes on them that it is a necessity to go to work. Meanwhile they are taxed to death. Half of what they earn goes to taxes.

I mentioned the example before. We have municipal taxes. We have provincial taxes. We have income taxes. We have excise taxes. We have import taxes. We have sin taxes. GST, HST. It goes on and on and on. Every penny of GST we pay we have already paid income tax on and the government takes more of the money that has already been taxed and taxes it some more.

The same thing is true for my property tax. In Canada, I cannot reduce my taxable income by the amount I use to pay my property tax. I can if I am in business. Then there is a different rule, another minute rule that controls our lives.

I am a husband with my wife trying to provide a place for my family and I have to pay taxes to provide the basic services in my community. I would venture to say I get a much more substantial tax kick out of my municipal taxes than I do out of my federal taxes in the amount paid and in what I personally receive in benefits for myself and my family in terms of services.

Every time I pay those taxes, say they are $2,400 a year, I have to earn $4,000. I earn $4,000. The federal and provincial governments take 40% of it. I am left with $2,400. I write a cheque to the county where I reside and my $4,000 of earnings is gone. Bingo, just like that. Zip. There is not a thing I can do about it.

Meanwhile, we have all the minute details in this budget that say “We want you to do this and we want you to do that”. The tax code is arranged so that the government controls to the smallest detail how a person spends the money they earn. I do not believe it is entitled to do that to the degree it is done in this country. It has gone completely overboard, totally.

I do not know if we will ever be able to achieve the system we had when I was a student. This bill has some new rules on interest payments on student loans. The Liberals in this government and the Conservatives before them, have arranged for the financing of students by putting a burden of debt on their backs that crushes them.

They not only have their share of the federal debt and the respective provincial debts which is $20,000 or $25,000 per person. Students, our pages here, each one of them without having lifted a finger already probably owes $20,000 of federal debt and at least another $10,000 of provincial debt. There they are with a $30,000 debt on their backs and they have not graduated from school yet.

What does this government and the government before it do? They arrange for these students to be able to get student loans while the costs of education are rising exponentially. As a result, we are told that many students now have student loans of $50,000 or $60,000 when they graduate.

It sounds so wonderful. Bill C-72 says “We are going to make it nicer for these students. We are going to allow them maybe even to get forgiveness for part of their loan. We are going to allow them to reduce their taxable income by the amount of their loan”. That sounds wonderful, but it is a crock. It is a shame. It is a crime that they have that debt load in the first place. Why are citizens of this country. Why can we not provide a means of education that students can afford?

I am almost embarrassed about the fact that when I was a student I earned more money in the summer than what I needed to live all year. That included my housing, my food—I did not eat much, one can tell—my tuition, my books, everything, and I had money left over.

Students nowadays are lucky if they get a job and they are burdened with debt. That has to end. Bill C-72 is more of this nitpicking changing of little rules to control our lives. It does not address the big problem at all.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague about one of the saddest things I have seen since being elected to the House of Commons.

Mr. Unger, a constituent of mine, came into my office. He had trouble with regard to a disability payment. He was having some clawback with regard to his CPP and OAS. We looked into Mr. Unger's case to see if we could help him out.

It was one of the saddest things. This man had been married to his wife for over 30 years. He came in with his wife, they sat down and told me that they had divorced because there were tax advantages in their being two separate entities. They had ended over 30 years of wedded bliss just so they could take advantage of those tax incentives by being separate on their tax forms.

My hon. colleague has referred to some of these rules and regulations. I would like him to speak on the matter of rules, regulations, clauses and all the rest of these little details in the tax act.

The Ungers are not the only ones to have come into my office. The saddest thing about the Unger case and the reason it stands out in my mind is that Mr. Unger died before we could rectify his case. It was a crying shame. I have had several people come into my office who have divorced after tens of years of marriage to take advantage of those tax loopholes.

I would like the hon. member to comment on tax rules that advocate and force people into those types of situations.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, it is really sad. If we stop to think about it, this is incredibly sad. I used the quotation from Alexis de Tocqueville. One of the words is “tyranny”. We can use these tax rules to tyrannize our population, our citizens.

The member has obviously brought forward an example that all of us have encountered as members of parliament. People say “If I did this or if I did that, if I got divorced instead of staying together with my wife or my husband, I would actually gain in the tax code”. If we in this place cannot arrange for a tax code to be neutral on those decisions, then we are not doing our jobs here.

I would like to see the government resign over this and call an election. I know that might hit the news tonight but it is so serious and that is what should happen. We should have an opportunity as Canadian citizens to say to our government, “You do not have the right to put that kind of minute rule into the tax code that will affect that very important decision”. We are living in an age when so many decisions are made based on tax rules.

I remember not long ago I went to a one day seminar on retirement planning. I came out shaking my head. About 85% or 90% of the time was spent on how to avoid and defer taxes. Only about 10% was spent on how to make wise decisions and how to set up plans, what is the best vehicle to provide for a retirement.

Of course, I am interested in this because having opted out of the MP pension plan I am looking after myself and my wife. There again, I cannot use the RRSP deduction for my wife who is dependent on me. We made that choice. She does not directly earn my income. She definitely shares in the work of earning the money we have as a family but I cannot use it. If we were to make another decision on how we run our lifestyle, then this would be available. The tax code ought to stay out of my life.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, it is always interesting to hear the Reform Party. It is the opposition party so its job is to oppose regardless of what provisions come before it.

The Reform Party did provide a prebudget submission. It called for some $25 billion in cuts which essentially would have to be paid for through program and service cuts. We already know the Reform Party would cut $3.5 billion out of the CHST. The hon. member talks about a concern for health care. The CHST goes to support provincial governments in their pursuit of funding post-secondary education. Would he cut research and development or is it the child tax benefit?

It is easy to stand up in this House and say everything the government is doing is wrong and that they can do it better. The challenge comes—

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

That is what you used to do.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

The hon. member across the way said that is what we used to do. Canadians expect something more than that kind of heckling from the member opposite. Canadians are looking for progress and the ability to enter the next millennium on a solid basis.

We have balanced the budget. I only point to the member for Medicine Hat, the Reform Party's finance critic, who commented on the 1998 budget which is the bill we are discussing. Perhaps the member opposite could stand up and comment on the comment made by the member for Medicine Hat who said “It does make it hard to criticize. It is a significant financial accomplishment”. That was said by the member for Medicine Hat, the finance critic for the Reform Party.

At least the members opposite could stand up and say although they may not agree with every measure, there are measures in the bill which they feel they can support, and that they can support the general direction of the government which is to ensure that Canadians have a better future.

The member cannot question the ability or the intentions that we as a government and as members on this side of the House will continue to represent constituents in the best possible manner we can. There are elements in this bill that support where Canadians want to go and we will make sure they get there.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Certainly, Madam Speaker, all my life I have been a positive person. I have always said there is a little bad in the best of us and a lot of good in the worst of us.

Yes, there are some things in this bill which are good and which are commendable. If the hon. member opposite requires the ego trip of having a Reformer commend him, I would say I commend him. I commend him for making some of these changes because they are in the right direction but fundamentally the whole philosophy is still wrong.

If $1,000 has been taken away from a family every year, why should the government be patted on the back because now only $500 will be taken? I know it is taxation and it is legitimate. It is legitimate to have a level of taxation but what we have here is the government intruding into the minute details of our lives and I would like to just get the government out of my face.

In terms of financial positions, our overall philosophy is very clear. We believe in leaving more of the money that individual taxpayers have earned in their own hands. That is the overriding philosophy. I believe in that very strongly.

I do not believe we should coerce Canadian citizens into an act of submission and say to the government that they will give it half of their earnings.

Members may want to check Hansard for one of my previous member's statements where I talked about a theft. A guy came into my house and took half of everything I had. I phoned the police but they would not help me because the guy who took half of everything I had was the taxman. I would be the one who would get into trouble if I did not help him load. That is what is happening here.

The taxation levels are way too high. That is why families are in financial distress. Their total family income is adequate but the total tax bite is so large that they cannot make ends meet. That is a reality. I think it is time that this government woke up to it. At the same time there are some measures here which will slightly lessen that onerous load. For that I guess we ought to get down on our knees and say we are grateful.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate at second reading of Bill C-72, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and to implement various measures announced in the 1998 Liberal budget.

Members will remember—and I will be pleased to remind it to those who do not—that, in 1998, when the Minister of Finance tabled his budget, we strongly criticized it. We particularly condemned the unfairness and the injustices contained in that budget, such as the fact that the Liberal government was using funds—and I am referring to the employment insurance fund—that belonged to workers and employers to finance inadequate measures, given what the Minister of Finance could do, in 1998 and this year, to help improve the well-being of Quebec and Canadian taxpayers.

That basic criticism still applies. What we had against the 1998 budget still holds true today.

At the same time, the Bloc Quebecois said there were certain measures in the budget that represented an improvement, given the unfairness and flaws of the tax system. Some of the measures announced in the 1998 budget had been promoted by the Bloc Quebecois since the 1993 election.

The bill to implement the 1998 budget, namely Bill C-72, which is before us today, does provide measures that are improvements. Take for example the $500 increase for the personal tax credit, the reduction in the personal income surtax, the home buyers plan, the RRAP for the disabled, and the tax credit for interest on student loans.

This was one of the first measures the Bloc Quebecois proposed to the government as a way to help students in a general reform of personal income tax. It has taken some time coming, but at least the government is vindicating the Bloc Quebecois.

There are also measures such as the educational tax credit and the child care deductions available to eligible part time students. We also encouraged this sort of measure, and it appeared in the 1998 budget.

The Bloc Quebecois also advocated deductions for child care costs in general terms. Although in Quebec, with its government's excellent policy on $5 daycare, the importance of the deduction will decrease. But Quebeckers and Canadians still currently benefit from this measure.

On the maximum $1,000 deduction for volunteer firefighters, we supported this measure following representations by volunteer fire brigades.

On the subject of raising the ceiling on investment in labour sponsored venture capital firms from $3,500 to $5,000, we would have had a hard time opposing it.

Let us render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. The Bloc Quebecois had proposed these measures as a step in the right direction. In general terms, however, and I will provide reasons later in my remarks, we found that the Minister of Finance did not do his job well and could have done a lot better had he not so brazenly hidden since 1994 the true picture of public finances and especially the operations surplus he could have used on measures much more consistent than these.

Nevertheless, these little measures following one after the other were positive and, in our opinion, remain so and therefore we are a little hard pressed to reject the whole thing saying it is a matter of the past, should be set aside, with the result that taxpayers who should be benefiting cannot.

We are not completely comfortable with the amendment moved by the Reform Party, which reads as follows:

this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-72... since the principle of the bill fails to address the federal tax system to end discrimination against single income families with children.

We agree with the Reform Party with respect to the content, but not with respect to the political approach they wish to take.

Just because one fundamental unfairness in the tax system has not been eliminated does not mean we should toss the whole bill out, that we should decline to go to second reading, even though the bill contains certain amendments.

If we were to support the Reform Party amendment, we would find ourselves in the situation of creating more unfairness than the Reform Party claims to be eliminating. This makes no sense.

If, for instance, we rejected the $500 increase in the basic personal tax credit, if we rejected the elimination of the surtax for individuals, if we rejected the tax credit for interest on student loans, would we be helping people in any way? Would we be helping single income or other families?

As to the content, an overhaul of the tax system is clearly in order. The Bloc Quebecois was among those who supported the Reform Party in its efforts to eliminate the astonishing spread between the amount of tax paid by a single income family with children and the amount paid by a two income family with children whose total income was the same.

There are also other inequities in the tax system. We will do what we can, as we have since 1993, to improve the situation.

But we cannot approve of the Reform Party amendment. We would be shooting ourselves in the foot, and only increasing tax inequities by rejecting Bill C-72.

That said, if this might have seemed to be bouquets for the government, now I would like to add some brickbats. Exactly like the 1999 budget, the 1998 one contained precisely the same fundamental defects for which we criticized the Minister of Finance when he brought down his latest budget.

The minister has hidden the true face of public finances. In so doing, he is not presenting the real possibilities there might have been for righting the injustices in the taxation system, for example by ensuring that the employment insurance surplus remains in the hands of employers and workers and goes to benefit the unemployed.

He could have done far more for students, for the disabled. Where the fault lies with this Minister of Finance, the same one we have had since 1994, is that he presents budgets to us that contain unreliable figures. He tells us that he done all he can do within the opportunities and the leeway available to him. The problem is that the leeway he refers to is false. He does not give us all the possibilities.

I would remind the hon. members of what we in the Bloc Quebecois said in 1998, before the 1998 budget, and again in 1999. We said it in 1997 and 1996 as well. Every year, the minister was out by about 60% in his predictions, between 60 and 150% in his predictions of the deficit and surplus, within six to eight months.

We gave him the right figures. As far back as 1998, we told him this, a number of months before the budget “You have the opportunity, all throughout fiscal year 1998-99, to solve a lot of problems, if you just tell us the truth, if you give us the right figures, if you give us the true range of possibilities offered by the actual surplus”.

At that point, members no doubt recall, barely a few months previously, we had tabled an analysis by the Bloc Quebecois, well received by the Minister of Finance, of ways to reform the personal and corporate tax system.

We had told him that he could as of that point—in 1998—start changing personal taxes over a 12 month fiscal year by fully indexing tax tables. He could have done so.

In 1998-99, we had set the surplus he would realize in the fiscal year at a minimum of $10 billion. Here we are in March 1999 and we see that the surplus for this fiscal year will indeed surpass $10 billion.

He could have corrected these basic injustices, but he did not, and this is what we are criticizing today.

The measures set out in Bill C-72 represent some improvement, but it is minimal compared with what the Minister of Finance could have done, this minister who is too lazy and who lacks imagination and transparency when he reveals the true picture of public finances.

I will simply give the House an example of the unfairness of the tax system at the moment because it is not indexed. Let us take, for example, the basic personal exemption in federal income tax.

In the 1998 budget, the minister proposed the figure of $6,706. The amount that he proposed in 1999, in the last budget, is $7,131. If the minister had fully indexed that basic personal exemption, it would not be $7,131 but close to $8,100 per taxpayer. This is not negligible. The total figure for all taxpayers represents a significant shortfall for Quebec and Canadian families.

The same goes for the spousal amount. Given the proposed amount in the 1998 and 1999 budgets, there is a shortfall of about $700 in the basic personal exemption. Seven hundred dollars helps make ends meet, particularly if you are in the middle or lower income category and have made the greatest contribution to help this government puts its fiscal house in order. That money would be helpful.

But there is worse. The Bloc Quebecois condemned the unfairness resulting from having two different tax treatments, depending on whether there is one or two incomes in a family, and the amendment proposed by the Reform Party seeks to correct that situation. However, that unfairness is exacerbated and made worse by the fact that tax brackets are not fully indexed.

Take the case of single income family, which pays more taxes than a two income family with the same total income.

Let us assume that a single income family makes $36,500. That family pays $1,118 more in taxes than it would if tax brackets were fully indexed.

If we take a two income family earning the same total amount, $36,500, but with both spouses paying taxes, this family pays $272 more in taxes than it would if there were full indexing.

There is a terrible imbalance here. Whether we are dealing with a single income family or a two income family, the difference in the taxes paid for an equivalent income no longer make any sense.

If only the tax brackets were fully indexed, as we have been proposing since 1994, since we first set foot in the House. We went further still in our comprehensive review of personal and corporate taxes, but indexing has always been a sort of mantra for the Bloc Quebecois.

An examination of the tax rates for the various brackets shows how ridiculous this is. For instance, taxes are 17% on the first $29,590. With full indexing, and not just on the basic exemptions, the rate would have been 17% on the first $36,918.

Up to $36,918, the rate would be 17%, while right now, without indexing, it is 17% only up to $29,590.

It is the same for everything up to $29,591, and then up to $59,180. This second bracket is taxed at 26%. If there had been full indexation on this income level, the 26% tax rate would have kicked in at between $36,919 and $73,838, before going up another 3% to 29%.

It makes no sense that, even today, with the means available to the Minister of Finance and the government, we are still at the stage of not having given a minute's thought to satisfying the bulk of Canadian taxpayers by fully indexing income tax brackets.

Merely by fully indexing the $29,590 tax bracket at the 17% tax rate, taking it up to $36,918, 70% of Canadian taxpayers would be affected. This general measure would have beneficial results. All taxpayers would benefit, yet the Minister of Finance has not responded to our invitation to correct such an injustice, despite our telling him in 1998 that the surplus for the 1998-99 fiscal year offered him real possibilities for doing so.

Later this week we will be addressing 1999, and again he has not responded. He has preferred a few little measures relating to taxation rather than any overhaul, any overall planning.

I am beginning to agree with an editorialist at the Globe and Mail , who said the other day that the Minister of Finance was perhaps what it took to bring the deficit to zero with measures that were and are totally questionable. However, he may not be the right person to manage growth and surpluses.

When we see over the past two years what this man has done, when there are huge needs and wide open possibilities, I start agreeing with the editorialist at the Globe and Mail .

Let us talk about the unemployed. We were saying the same thing in 1998. Things are worse for the unemployed in 1999. In 1998, we rejected the budget of the Minister of Finance for one of the basic reasons we gave for the 1999 budget as well, which is that the unemployed are the real losers. Bill C-72 does not resolve this issue. The unemployed should benefit from the huge surpluses accumulating since 1996 in the employment insurance fund. They will total over $25 billion at the end of this fiscal year.

Every year, the minister takes $6 billion that should go to help those hit by the scourge of unemployment. As they are hit by this scourge it is not the time to make them poorer than they are.

Despite what the government said and the figures of the Department of Human Resources Development, only 43% of the unemployed benefit from the employment assistance plan. The CLC cites 36%. He preferred to keep these surpluses, set them aside, make himself look good, prepare his run for the leadership rather than help the unemployed.

Our basic criticisms remain. The basic criticisms of the Reform Party remain as well.

Unfortunately, the amendment is drafted in such a say that, if we agreed to it, we would be creating an even greater injustice for people with a disability and for students, among others, and we are not prepared to do that.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell my hon. colleague about a situation that happened in my riding. I held a town hall meeting recently. A fellow who is a long time resident fought for Canada during the second world war and, if I remember correctly, Korea. He showed up in my town hall meeting. He waited around until 9 p.m. and stayed after just so he could get some of my time. His name is Bob McPherson. Bob bought Canada savings bonds for each of his grandchildren. He put them in a trust. He said “I don't trust government. I have been around long enough and I have seen all the problems, complications and everything else. I will get you these bonds and that way you will have something for yourselves when you get older, go to school and you will have a way to be able to pay for it”.

I notice that Bill C-72 talks about the registered education savings plans and lifelong learning plans. Bob as a dutiful taxpayer filled out his tax returns and sent them off. As it turns out he expected to get a refund. Lo and behold he did not. It turns out the government said that he owed money.

Bob came to my town hall meeting and he was livid. He said “I do not want to send them a single penny”. I had to tell Bob that is not worth fighting RevCan for the amount of money it was. It was about $47. I said “Go ahead and pay the $47 and do what you can to fight them because they will hold it against you and charge interest”. It was really sad. This man who bought bonds for his grandchildren for their education was being taxed on that even though it was held in trust. The money would never be touched by him or his wife or anyone else.

It was an absolute shame that Bob McPherson was put in a situation where he had to pay more tax to the government because he was trying to help out his grandchildren. At the end of it all when it was all said and done, Bob McPherson pulled the bonds because he thought it was better to give the money to his grandchildren directly than to let the government dig into his pockets and eat into their education fund.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the hon. member asked a question, but he provided good topics for discussion.

I do not know Bob McPherson's particular situation, what his taxable income or his assets were. There are many circumstances that may explain why, even while trying to help his grandchildren, he ended up having to pay taxes.

What I do know is that, generally speaking, the Canadian tax system is characterized by obvious unfairness and injustices. The hon. member and his party pointed out some of them, and so have we. We expect that, some day, the government will take action because, since 1994, the Minister of Finance has tabled many omnibus bills that were supposed to correct a number of tax provisions. But when we look at the overall picture, we realize that not much has changed.

In fact, I intend to soon ask a question on this issue. Members will recall the family trusts scandal, where $2 billion were transferred to the United States without any taxes being paid. At that time, the Minister of Finance promised to table a bill in 1999, to eliminate this tax loophole. We are still waiting. We do not remember him talking about that issue this year, and nor do members from the Reform Party.

So, there is a lot to do. The government could do a lot more about education savings plans, so that middle income earners could benefit from them. Right now, these plans benefit first and foremost the privileged in our society, not the middle class, as should be the case, since the objective is to improve access to education.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous questioner raised an issue about someone contributing moneys to a trust and why should they be taxed.

The member should be aware that under the Income Tax Act we have income attribution rules where, if a parent gives money to children under 21, the income from that transfer of asset must be attributed to the parent. If that were not the case, they would be splitting their total investment income with their children. It is only to ensure that people with children do not get a better tax advantage than those without children.

The member raised two issues I wanted to deal with. The last point he made was with regard to RESPs. He stated very clearly that RESPs benefit the more affluent. This is absolutely incorrect. The current grant formula says that every Canadian, regardless of income, who contributes to an RESP is eligible for 20% government grant on the first $2,000. This is not a deduction on the tax return. It happens to be outside the tax system. The member is absolutely wrong.

I know this member. He is a member of the finance committee. He is an economist by profession and I have heard him speak very well on a number of very complicated issues with regard to the economic condition in Canada. He talked about bracket creep and he laid out that if we had a situation where the income tax brackets had been indexed over the period he was talking about, the first bracket would rise from $29,590 up to, I believe, $36,000, the member said.

The member is absolutely right. He should recognize that people who make under $30,000 a year would not benefit from the bracket creep adjustment. Also, the federal government itself is subject to purchasing power erosion by inflation because we pay salaries to our employees and we pay increased prices due to inflation for our goods and services.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, briefly, what I said was that one had to have money to be able to put any in a registered education savings plan. The present ceilings are perhaps too high for middle income earners, with the result that they are not contributing as much as they should to these plans.

As for the other question, the point here is not to worry about every little comma and period. The point is to recognize that there are things that need changing in the current tax system.

My eminent colleague admits that there are inequities in the federal tax system. What he should be doing is bringing all his energy and intelligence to bear on eliminating these inequities.

As for taxpayers earning less than $30,000, there is certainly work to do here in all categories. I gave the example of people earning around $30,000, between $30,000 and $40,000, which is the bracket into which 70% of Canadian taxpayers fall. That was the example I gave, and it is quite a striking one.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1998Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

We will take up the debate after question period.

Request For Emergency DebateGovernment Orders

March 18th, 1999 / 1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Before we get to Statements by Members I would like to address myself to a letter submitted to me under Standing Order 52 for an emergency debate this evening. This was submitted by the member for Selkirk—Interlake. It was a request for an emergency debate and I have given it very serious consideration. It is with regard to the situation of grain movement due to work stoppages in Vancouver.

I find that it meets the requirements of Standing Order 52 and therefore an emergency debate will be held at 8 o'clock tonight.

YouthStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was my pleasure recently to visit high school students in my riding. I had the opportunity to speak to students at Charles Tupper Secondary School with the Deputy Speaker.

We discussed the policy making process and the role of parliamentarians in Ottawa. I believe it is important to encourage young people to participate in public affairs.

I thank the Deputy Speaker for taking the time to meet with those bright young citizens.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. A person cannot help but wonder what he would say to the minister of Indian affairs as she sets out to create a new reserve for the Caldwell band in southwestern Ontario.

For over 130 years Canadian aboriginals have been segregated physically through the creation of reserves and legally through the Indian Act.

Legislated segregation has been practised in a number of countries around the world, always with disastrous results.

In Canada, the people who pay the biggest price for the folly of segregationist thinking are the 400,000 aboriginal people living on reserve, where residents often live far below the poverty line, in substandard housing; where teen suicide is five times higher than the national average; where infant mortality is twice as high; and where youth are more likely to go to jail than to university.

Two giants of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, devoted their entire lives to the abolition of segregation in their countries. How long will Canadians have to wait before our federal government will abandon its segregationist policies?

Canadian Francophone CommunityStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, on March 16, as part of the celebrations marking the importance of the Canadian francophone community, the Government of Alberta announced the creation of a secretariat of francophone affairs, which will put it in touch with its 60,000 francophones and promote their interests.

Eight provinces and the two territories today recognize the contribution of their francophone population and are making it one of their priorities.

We may be confident that the example of Alberta will inspire British Columbia to do the same and to take a more active part in the development of the Canadian francophone community.