House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was culture.


First Nations Land Management ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House will now resume consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's order paper.

First Nations Land Management ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, for my information, I wonder if you could advise me where we are in Private Members' Business. How many minutes are left in the debate, please?

First Nations Land Management ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There are 53 minutes left in debate on Private Members' Business.

After Private Members' Business the House will go to the Adjournment Proceedings. After the Adjournment Proceedings the House will adjourn, as it would ordinarily have done.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-502, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of expenses incurred by a mechanic for tools required in employment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am actually embarrassed to be a member of the House today because of what has just happened. It is completely unacceptable for the government House leader and those opposite to pull these kinds of shenanigans and interrupt Private Members' Business, which is important business.

This bill would allow a tax deduction for mechanics' tools for the 90,000 mechanics across this country who want to be treated fairly under our tax laws. When this issue was debated last year it was under my bill, Bill C-366. The bill which we are debating tonight is exactly the same bill, except that one number has changed, the value of the tools. When it was debated, every party in the House, except the governing party, supported that bill.

I even received letters and confirmation from many members of the governing party who supported the bill. Tonight, what do we have? We have the government House leader trying to interrupt a debate on this important bill so the government can bring forward a bill which it has had months and months to deal with. Actually, it is years. I apologize for my underestimation.

Why now is it so willing, without thought it seems, to interrupt this important private member's bill? I do not know, but it is wrong and I am embarrassed to be in the same House as these members who would try to pull that stunt. It is shocking and completely unacceptable.

Bill C-502, as I have said, is identical to Bill C-366 which was debated last year. This bill is asking for a tax deduction for mechanics' tools where it is a requirement of employment that they purchase their own tools.

Currently, mechanics, who are generally low wage earners, most of whom earn $20,000 to $25,000, and there are 90,000 of them across the country, are forced to pay thousands of dollars for tools with after tax dollars. It is double taxation.

When people in small businesses buy tools, for example farmers, they are allowed to deduct the full purchase price of any tools under $200. The value of tools over $200 can be written off and claimed under the capital cost allowance. They can write them off very quickly.

This bill would put mechanics on the same footing as small business people, musicians and several other groups which can claim and deduct, for the purposes of taxation, the cost of their tools. There are several groups who are already allowed to do that.

Why is the government speaking out against this piece of legislation? It is really hard to understand. It seems that whenever the Liberal Party or the finance minister talk about tax fairness it really means one thing. The government is very willing to look at tax fairness and implement what it calls tax fairness when it means more tax. However, in this case, if this bill were to pass, it would mean that less taxes would be taken out of the pockets of mechanics.

The House leader was willing to throw all of that aside, to interrupt the debate and to kill the debate. We will not get another chance to debate this bill before the House breaks for the summer. He was willing to just throw these 90,000 mechanics aside and say to heck with them, they are not important. It does not matter to the government if mechanics have to spend $15,000 on tools, out of their own pockets, when they cannot write off the expense. It does not seem to matter at all.

It matters to the other parties. The other parties have come out as being clearly in favour of this bill. They did when it was my bill, Bill C-366, and they have tonight. The finance committee, on at least two occasions since 1993, has clearly been in favour of this change, which would make the tax system far more fair. It would allow a deduction for mechanics who purchase tools when it is a requirement of employment that they own their own tools.

This issue came before the House last year. It came in the form of a very broad motion once or twice before. It is time we dealt with this because it is important to those 90,000 mechanics, and it is important to me. I believe that everyone should be treated fairly. Clearly, fairness in this case means that mechanics and others in similar situations should be allowed to claim this deduction.

It will amount to something like $60 million a year which the the government will not be able to grab from these people. That is why it is not supporting it, because it will lose $60 million a year in tax revenue. We know that it just cannot get enough. There have been dozens and dozens of tax increases since the government came to power in 1993. We know very well that it has increased the tax take by over $30 billion a year since 1993. It is completely unacceptable that it would try to throw this all aside and snub mechanics once again as it has done several times in the House and as it has done twice in the last year.

When I brought this bill forward the last time, I received 7,000 letters from mechanics across Canada in two months. Copies were sent to the finance minister. He knows that these letters have been received.

What kind of sincerity does the government show in debating this bill? Under access to information I received a copy of the speech that the parliamentary secretary gave when he spoke to my bill. That access to information request showed that he did not even write the speech. He did not even show the courtesy to mechanics to write his speech. The access to information request showed that a departmental official from inside the finance department wrote his speech, and he delivered the speech. He delivered it just like a good little boy should. That is the lack of respect that the parliamentary secretary has for those mechanics, who are only asking for what is fair. Government members do not even have the courtesy to write their own speeches. They get departmental officials to do that. It is disgusting.

It is time this bill passed. I am going to support this bill. We are going to support this bill. The Bloc is going to support this bill. I believe the Conservatives will. They did the last time. The NDP will support it. NDP members have received letters. There should be a lot of Liberal MPs who support this bill as well. If they do not, I can guarantee that they are going to get letters from their constituents. They will have to explain to their constituents that they would not even support this issue, which is a clear issue of tax fairness. That is all it is.

I recently came back from Prince Edward Island. I was amazed by the number of times I heard those people say that this House is no longer a democratic institution. They have seen their members vote on issues which they know they do not support. They have seen them vote in favour because their whip has told them that they are going to support the bill. They pointed to several bills, one being the old Bill C-68, the gun registration bill. They are still upset about that. They are going to continue to be upset about that until we get into power and throw that legislation out.

They are upset for several reasons. They are upset with the legislation, but they are also upset with the process. The process is no better tonight. We see tonight, again, government members opposite showing a total lack of caring, a lack of respect. The Liberals are showing arrogance, arrogance which we know comes before the fall. We are seeing a level of arrogance on that side of the House that I have never seen in this place before. I believe it will not be too far down the road when that fall comes. The Liberals have come to think that they have all the answers. They have come to think that the people they are supposed to be governing for do not matter any more.

In this case, they have sent the message very clearly to 90,000 mechanics who only want what is fair. The House of Commons finance committee has said it is fair on two occasions. Just to point out to government members, as if they do not know it, the House of Commons finance committee is controlled by a majority of government members.

It was a committee controlled by a majority of government members which said, “Yes, let's do this. Let's give these mechanics their tax deduction”. Now is the time to do it. Let us just do it, with no more stalling. Let us do it now.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the hon. member about the way the government continues to utilize the House as a tool for its own short term purposes. It refuses to treat the House of Commons with the respect that it clearly deserves and treat Canadians with the respect that they clearly deserve.

I will speak on Bill C-502, an act to amend the Tax Act. I will then discuss some of the types of tax reforms in a more holistic since that I believe is necessary in Canada.

We are supportive of this private member's bill, which deals with an amendment to the Income Tax Act, to allow the deduction of expenses for mechanic tools required in employment. This is not the first time this important issue has been raised in the House. It is not the first time that the government has not dealt with this issue, despite the fact that the finance committee has recommended that there be changes to the Income Tax Act to reflect the intent of the legislation. Beyond the fact that there is widespread support for this issue, there is multi-partisan support, including the Reform Party, the New Democratic Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

The bill, if implemented, will have a positive impact on one of the most important industries in Canada, the automobile industry. There are over 115,000 mechanics working and paying taxes in Canada. Mechanics have a very significant initial cost to enter the trade. Effectively, some initially invest an average of $15,000 in tools. Some initially invest as much as $40,000 in tools. They will have to replace this worn out equipment and buy newer equipment every year. It is like members of parliament. We have a very short shelf life. Sometimes we only last four years. Our depreciation rate is very rapid. However, these expenses are very difficult to justify when we consider that the average income for a mechanic is about $29,000 per year.

This is a very important piece of legislation. It is difficult for mechanics and people in this industry.

I hear the phone going off. It is probably the results of the vote. It reminds me of the song by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash “We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout” and we have been looking for Preston ever since the fire went out. That is another story.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If I heard right, the hon. member used an hon. member's name in the House.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

How could that happen? If it did, would the hon. member for Kings—Hants do what is necessary to correct it.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I may have been mistaken. I believe they may have thought I said Preston, but I in fact said that we need to press on. If we are going to provide a national alternative to this government, we need to press on and work co-operatively to ensure that happens.

Back to private member's Bill C-502, which is of course the important piece of legislation that we are discussing at this time. It is very important that we encourage those people who are inclined to study and educate themselves to become mechanics and pursue this line of work. We have a shortage of skilled mechanics right now across Canada. From a labour market flexibility perspective, there are not enough people doing this work at this time which creates significant problems for the Canadian automobile industry.

As I mentioned earlier, the finance committee has been consistent in recommending in both the 1996 and 1997 prebudget reports that we allow the tax deductibility of tools and amend the Income Tax Act to facilitate that. The finance committee makes a lot of recommendations, some of which the government takes seriously and some of which it does not. It treats recommendations from the finance committee or from any other agency or committee like a buffet. It chooses from the buffet and consumes, in terms of public policy, what it deems to be politically palatable and leaves the rest. The unfortunate thing is that Canadians are not getting the issues dealt with in the serious visionary way they need.

When I first looked at the legislation, my initial concern was that it would further complicate the tax code. I am really concerned that the Canadian tax code is far too complicated and too complex. It encourages one type of behaviour and discourages another. I call it a Pavlovian tax code. There is a bit of Pavlovian psychology in trying to encourage Canadians to do some things and the government trying to discourage other types of behaviours.

Governments are very poor at picking winners and losers in terms of tax policy and incentives. I am typically very much adverse to an amendment that would further complicate the tax code. I then thought about it and asked myself what the chances were that we would get any serious tax reform out of the government opposite or any significant broad based tax relief. I thought that the chances were probably fairly low.

If we could get some type of tax relief for hard-working mechanics across Canada, even if it would further complicate the tax code—and that is not something we want to see—and even if it only came in bit by bit, that would be a positive step.

What we would really like to see is the Canadian government actually dealing with the tax issue and the systemic flaws in the tax code in a more holistic manner. The most important purpose of taxation is obviously to raise revenue. Another purpose, to a certain extent, is the redistribution of income. However, our tax code is trying to do too many things within the Canadian structure. We need to adapt our tax structure and our transfer structure. We need to take a serious look at changing and updating our equalization system.

There has recently been a trend among provinces to adopt a predatory tax policy to reduce taxes in order to attract businesses and people to the provinces. I think that is actually very sound. It has been done in Alberta with Premier Klein and in Ontario with Premier Harris. We have seen it more recently in New Brunswick with the new Premier Bernard Lord. Tax reduction and significant tax cuts resonate significantly with Canadians as do messages from governments that keep their word. Mike Harris and Ralph Klein have remained consistent in keeping their word and providing meaningful tax relief to Canadians.

With provinces pursuing predatory tax policy, the perverse impact would ultimately be that the provinces that can least afford to have an aggressive tax policy, the provinces that need economic growth the most, like in Atlantic Canada, will actually have the highest tax rates because their fiscal situations do not allow them to reduce taxes.

I would suggest that one of the issues the Canadian government should be looking at is a change to the equalization system and to the tax and transfer system such that over a 10 year period governments, like the one of Bernard Lord in New Brunswick or the future government of John Hamm, the future Progressive Conservative premier of Nova Scotia, could see, over a period of time, incentives to the equalization system to reduce their provincial taxes. Over a period of time, the equalization system would be phased into a system that would actually encourage provinces to reduce taxes. Currently the opposite is the case.

This is just one of the issues that needs to be dealt with. There are literally hundreds of issues within the tax system that need to be addressed. Canadians need a significant overhaul of the tax code in Canada. We have not had serious tax reform since the early 1990s, some in the late 1980s, both of which were under the previous Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, which had the vision to do what was right but not always what was popular. Prior to that, the last serious tax code reform was back in 1971 with the Carter commission.

The fact is that now more than ever, with a globally competitive environment, we need to move forward and address the single biggest impediment to growth, jobs and prosperity in Canada: a Canadian taxation system and tax code that is archaic and is not working. We want to get Canadians working.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again we have heckling coming from the Reform Party. I must apologize to you for having to sit through that speech with all the rhetoric.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

It hurts, does it not?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

The hon. member says it hurts. If the hon. member had any sense at all, he would perhaps deal with some of the facts rather than deal with this kind of back and forth taunting that he is so accustomed to. It is too bad he had to bring it to the House as well. I unfortunately cannot apologize to his constituents. Hopefully when he goes back he will do that himself.

What I would like to do is basically deal with this particular matter. As members have indicated in the House, this issue has come before the House and members have commented on this. The finance committee has looked at it, has listened to witnesses and has included this particular measure in its report as part of a prebudget consultation.

I just want to go back to some of the comments made by the Reform Party member earlier and restate the state of confusion that he is in. He seems to be confused about the types of employment that people are involved in. He confuses self-employment with working for an employer. He talked about the ability of farmers to deduct versus the ability of individuals who are employees of a particular corporation to not be able to deduct certain expenses.

There is no question that work related employees' expense deductions are not available because employers normally provide items required for employees to perform their duties. It is true in large part, but the hon. member across the way, the mover of this particular motion, is also correct that in some occupations it is not true. In fact, automobile mechanics do incur substantial expenses as a condition of employment.

We also know from the hon. members who spoke on this issue earlier, that it is also a complex issue. I would therefore like to frame the issue with respect to a number of tax policy principles. I think all members would agree that any change in tax policy needs to be fair and that the changes would also need to be relatively simple to administer and easy to comply with for the taxpayers. They should also be consistent with respect to the government's overall fiscal situation.

The task of finding appropriate tax treatment for mechanics' tools is difficult. I often welcome this type of debate because it gives members on both sides of the House the opportunity to put forward their perspectives on certain issues. I do want to highlight some of the challenges that we would face as a government with respect to this particular issue.

I meet with mechanics in my riding and I often look forward to that opportunity. We do engage in an exchange that is usually a healthy exchange, unlike the exchange that takes place between the Reform Party and ourselves.

Given that mechanics are not the only occupation in which employees incur substantial expenses as a requirement of employment, it would difficult to justify providing tax relief solely to mechanics to the exclusion of all others, which is in fact what this private member's bill proposes.

Tax relief has been requested for work related expenses and it has been sought to include individual personal computers purchased by employees, reading materials or professional journals, other general costs associated with skills upgrading, as well as tools for employee tradespersons, which is essentially another very important aspect to look at.

In extending tax relief to many equally deserving taxpayers, or as the hon. members across the way would say, just extend it to everyone, it is also important to recognize that it would certainly incur substantial expenses. We would need to look at it.

The hon. member for Kings—Hants talks about looking at this issue and says that we are not really in agreement with it because it would complicate the tax system even further. I am in agreement with that. We need to provide some greater reduction in taxes and to ensure that tax reduction simplifies the tax system and does not in any way complicate it.

We need to ensure that when any tax relief is provided it is only for items required as a condition of employment and not for personal use. I mentioned earlier in my speech that there are other areas for which people have requested tax relief which would involve personal use.

It is fair to say that the provisions we need to address with respect to these issues would inevitably be complex since they would need to account for a large variety of items for which tax recognition may be claimed.

I point to one and how difficult it often is to audit this type of expense. Let us consider the extensive provisions needed just to ensure the equitable recognition of automobile expenses. This type of tax relief would complicate the tax system even further and involve a whole bunch of regulatory burden and other measures which would not in any way simplify the system but rather complicate it.

In light of what I have mentioned, I think hon. members would agree that the bill does not properly take into account issues which need to be considered before tax recognition could be provided for employee expenses, and in particular mechanics' tools.

The complexities associated with the proposed measure and the small size of the fiscal surplus lead us to a point where we feel that tax relief—and I know all members are in agreement with tax relief—should be directed toward broad tax relief to all Canadians. We have a challenge with our personal income tax system. We recognize that it is the highest in terms of the G-7 countries. We recognize that. We have begun to reduce personal income taxes. Obviously members opposite do not think it is enough. They do not mind going back into a deficit position.

Most Canadians insist that governments maintain balanced books and demand that governments provide priority spending, provide tax relief and ensure that the debt continues to be paid down. That is the program we have embarked upon and one that we will continue to put forward.

When we talk about tax relief, certainly I would not be an advocate of tax relief which would complicate the tax system even further. I would advocate tax relief for Canadians at all levels of income.

This is why we started to provide tax relief by increasing the basic exemption, ensuring that all Canadians would benefit from it. We have eliminated the 3% surtax for those Canadians who were paying it, because that surtax was directed specifically to paying down the deficit. Since we have eliminated the deficit the 3% surtax has now been eliminated.

We need to go further. We also have to look at employment insurance. Most members opposite complain that employment insurance premiums are too high, but they very rarely mention that employment insurance premiums have been reduced by billions of dollars since we have come to office and will continue to be reduced. I find it quite ironic that often members opposite—

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

Obviously members opposite are now listening for the first time. I find it ironic that they continue to advocate tax relief and at the same time come forward on a specific measure which would complicate the tax system.

The same mechanics who are paying taxes which members opposite feel are too high would be robbed of any further broad based tax relief. As all Canadians realize, there is not a big black hole full of Canadian taxpayer dollars. We have to make choices and the choice of the government is to continue to provide broad based tax relief to ensure that we can stay in balance, to ensure that there is priority spending in health care and education, and to ensure that we continue to pay down the national debt.

Every Canadian now realizes that we pay some $40-odd billion in interest on the national debt. They are not about to sit by and tell us to give it to certain measures which might be the pet projects of members opposite and rob us of the tax relief we are looking for.

This is not something that I will support. I say to my constituents back home that we will continue to support broad based tax relief. We will continue to support a broad based program which meets the needs and priorities of Canadians.

I understand, appreciate and empathize with the positions of members opposite that a deduction with respect to mechanics' tools is something that governments need to take into account. It is not just mechanics' tools, as I mentioned. There are a number of other occupations where the relationship is not one of self-employed or contract but of employees that are required to make substantial investments.

We realize that it is a challenge, but when the trade-offs are put on the table I would submit most Canadians would agree that what is required is to continue to provide the greatest simplicity in the tax system, to continue to ensure that we pay down the debt, and to continue to ensure that we provide broad based tax relief, even if members opposite would disagree.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8:05 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-502, the purpose of which is to permit mechanics to deduct from their taxable income the cost of tools they are required to buy to practice their trade.

In visiting my constituents in the riding of Lotbinière, I often hear from mechanics and employees in car dealerships about how it is unfair that they are not entitled to this deduction.

Earlier, the hon. member opposite told us that the Standing Committee on Finance had looked at this matter and immediately acknowledged the problem. This is what the committee had to say:

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

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

This was the December 1997 prebudget tour report, which the Liberals contributed to. However, they have a lot of ideas and consider many subjects. They analyze, but action must wait.

I would like to give some statistics on the automotive industry. Independent business alone employs over 150,000 professionals to maintain and repair automobiles, including some 25% in Quebec, representing some 40,000 individuals, who are affected by this problem.

The media often debate important issues involving automotive manufacturers but short shrift is given vehicle maintenance and repair professionals who, unfortunately, are forced as a condition of employment to buy their own tools and to maintain them in perfect working order, and to pay insurance costs on top of the cost of buying and maintaining them.

This is a heavy financial burden because, in addition to normal wear on tools, technological advances require these technicians to constantly invest in new equipment.

Here are few statistics. An apprentice automobile mechanic must spend between $2,000 and $5,000 to buy the tools necessary to his trade. This same mechanic, who cannot work without a set of functional and modern tools, will have to spend in the first 5 to 10 years over $15,000 on tools. If he specializes, he will have to spend between $30,000 and $40,000. This is a far from negligible expenditure, justifying in our opinion the request we are making today that this be tax deductible.

Let us look at this a little more closely. Mechanics in Quebec and Canada live in an unfair situation and it is high time that the parliamentarians in this House do something about it.

The bill being debated this evening is intended to enable people employed as mechanics to deduct the cost of the tools they provide if they have to do so as part of the conditions of their employment. More precisely, the deduction could cover the cost of renting these tools; costs related to their maintenance; related insurance; the full purchase price of tools under $250; and, subject to regulatory adjustment of this amount reflecting inflation and the capital allowance cost, tools of more than $250.

I am convinced that this measure would make tax equity possible for these people, who richly deserve it.

Another problem raised, which we should also look at in relation to this highly unfair situation, is the matter of the next generation of mechanics. This is food for thought for our Minister of Finance and our Minister of Revenue. Here we have a sector of employment not to be overlooked as an opportunity for young workers, particularly when there is so much youth unemployment.

The government has a duty therefore to look seriously at this matter. It must not use the excuse that if it allows this deduction for mechanics other trade groups will be calling for something similar. That is the usual evasive tactic used by the Liberals across the way.

They hide. They are frightened. They sidestep out of fear of creating a precedent but precedent has been set long ago with this government. We need only think of the Employment Insurance Act and, more recently, the legislation that is going to allow the government to get its hands on $30 billion from the pension funds of public servants, RCMP employees and Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

Getting back to the mechanics' demands, as I have demonstrated, the cost of their tools is astronomical. I would remind hon. members that a tool of the trade is a tool of the trade, whether it is the virtuoso's violin, the logger's chainsaw, or the various tools used by a mechanic.

I will review the precise objectives of this bill. First, the bill's purpose is to ensure that mechanics receive equitable tax treatment that is identical to that received by farmers and commensurate with that received by chain saw operators, artists and musicians.

Second, the bill is intended to alleviate the financial burden imposed on mechanics, whose terms of employment require them to buy their own tools.

Third, the bill would offer a solution to the serious shortage of manpower in the automotive trades. Enrolment in apprentice programs would go up and more mechanics would be able to continue in this line of work.

Fourth, the bill seeks to create jobs for young unemployed Canadians and Quebecers, because talented young people are beginning to realize that a career in the automotive industry is increasingly within their reach.

Fifth, the bill would permit mechanics to continue providing the public with the customary level and quality of vehicle repair and maintenance services, which will be to the benefit of all car owners.

For all these reasons, I feel that the bill would be good for the economy and job creation. The Bloc Quebecois and I are in favour of the measures I have just outlined.

It seems that the majority of members on this side of the House are aware of this completely unfair situation, which is penalizing people who do a lot for our society. Is there anyone nowadays that does not need a mechanic? People pay a lot for a car and want good service for it. This takes skilled people who do a good job, but these people need help with their tax load.

In my view, a tax break for those working in this sector is essential. It is something parliament should address. It is a situation that is hard to understand because other sectors have already been given a tax break.

In fact, it is typical of this government to have a double standard. It is always difficult to clarify matters.

The member opposite said earlier that what we are asking for will complicate the system, but I say that it will clarify it. It will give hard-working, honourable people the deductions that will allow them to do a better job, provide better service and be happier in their work.

That is what I wish for them.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8:15 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, after this evening's shenanigans or Shawinigans, whatever it is, both words are synonymous, pulled by this arrogant, weak, lazy Liberal government with no vision, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to Private Members' Bill C-502.

Bill C-502 seeks to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of tools from their income tax. It will allow them to write off the costs of a set of tools which they need to work.

This bill is virtually the same bill as one previously submitted by a Reform Party member, the hon. member for Lakeland, in the previous session. The hon. member for Elk Island spoke to that bill. Unfortunately that bill was deemed non-votable despite receiving the broad support of all opposition parties, but not the support of the arrogant, weak, lazy Liberal government with no vision.

Many mechanics, perhaps around 100,000 in Canada, are expected by their employers to provide their own tools. In fact mechanics, including auto body mechanics, cannot even apply for certain jobs unless they have their own tools. If their tools are not good tools, it may affect them in terms of their job performance. It may affect them in terms of being able to keep their job. If they do not have good tools, they may not be working under safe conditions. If their tools are not good enough or are limited in quantity, they try not to let anyone find out about it because they are afraid of losing their job.

Mr. Richard Denniston, a constituent of mine in Surrey Central, told me that auto technicians have to spend at least $20,000 on tools and upgrading their tools.

Mechanics are not like many other workers who simply show up for work with the appropriate clothing. Mechanics are special. They need to show up for work with the tools they can use and trust.

The purpose of Bill C-502 is to offer an incentive for mechanics that will encourage growth and job creation in this sector of our economy. “Give us the tools so we can do the job” is all the mechanics are saying. The bill will treat mechanics in a similar fashion, in a fair manner, as other professionals and tradespeople.

Many self-employed people are allowed to claim as deductions the items they require to provide a particular service. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, real estate agents and small business people can write off the tools of their trades, whatever they may be. They are deductible. If doctors hire additional staff, they can deduct it from their taxes. If dentists buy new equipment, they can deduct it from their taxes. It is only mechanics who cannot.

Mechanics have to use their tools to keep their jobs. Others can claim these expenses on their income tax returns, but mechanics cannot. Why would we deny mechanics the ability to obtain the proper tools, the tools they say they need to earn a living?

This is consistent with the Reform Party's tax relief policy for individuals, families and businesses. This bill would give tax relief to young people entering the job market or those making a career change for securing potential employment. The Reform Party has always supported measures that lower the tax burden of Canadians. This includes virtually any measure anytime that would force this arrogant lazy Liberal government to lower taxes instead of raising them.

Taxes have been raised by the government 37 times, to the tune of about a $42 billion increase in revenue since 1993. That comes to $2,020 per taxpayer or $1,123 per Canadian. It is a huge amount of money to those people who are working harder and harder to pay taxes to the government.

The government raised the CPP premium, the largest tax increase in Canadian history.

We also know the effect of bracket creep. It is sending tax dollars to the government's coffers when Canadians are paying taxes. High taxes kill jobs. The government balanced the budget on the backs of the taxpayers.

The government is so pleased to give subsidies to businesses. Now it is going to give subsidies to American businesses through Bill C-55 which was voted on.

I will not take much time of the House because outside the House something very important is happening. Democracy is speaking. Grassroots reformers are speaking out. They will show Canadians what grassroots democracy means. No other party in the House practises democracy.

The Reform Party supports this important noble idea as a temporary measure until the entire Income Tax Act can be reformed into a flattened and lower tax regime without exemptions.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8:20 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to begin by congratulating the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans on Bill C-502. I would, however, respectfully submit that this bill does not provide all that is needed.

I know the member opposite when he proposed this bill was concerned about the working people. I would offer the suggestion that if he has the interests of the workers at heart, he should be looking for more broadly based policies that would accomplish the same objectives.

One of these that I am pleased to point out is in the finance committee report that was tabled yesterday or the day before. It talks about the need for tax provisions such as employee stock option plans that enhance productivity by encouraging employees to share in the risks and profits of firms.

If we moved in that direction we would provide workers, employees, with a greater stake in the work they do. They would have a greater sense of participation and job satisfaction. At the same time the productivity of firms would be increased. This has been shown by studies in the United States and Canada. Productivity would be increased 20% to 32%. We would have an environment where a source of retirement income would be made available to employees because they had built up an equity in the firm.

While I respect what the member has proposed in a sense, I think what we need is a broader strategy, more broadly based answers and solutions to these sorts of problems. Deductions for tools for mechanics is not really ambitious enough. While I do respect the member for proposing it, we need much more broadly based solutions to deal with the questions of productivity, incentives, employee participation and employee job satisfaction.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8:20 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening on Bill C-502.

I will make it clear that the subject here is automobile mechanics and not the far broader matter of automobiles in general. Otherwise I would have needed several hours to address the harmful effects Quebec has experienced since the inauguration of the auto pact.

No, here we are dealing with mechanics, the men and women who toil away day after day under the hoods of our cars, their hands covered in grease and grime, repairing what we consider a very precious possession.

These are possessions we are still making monthly bank loan payments on and we want to keep them running as long as possible. At the present time it is very difficult for mechanics to work under ideal conditions because of the high cost of the tools they need to do their jobs.

In fact mechanics usually have to provide many, if not all, of the tools required for their work. In addition to being very expensive, some of these represent more than a one-time expense.

Technological change quickly puts some tools out of date, new ones have to be bought.

In short, it costs a mechanic several thousand dollars in order to be able to perform his job because there are exceptions as my colleague for Lotbinière has just mentioned.

Mechanics in Quebec and Canada are in an unfair situation. It is high time that parliament remedy this. This is why the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans introduced this bill, which is intended to help these thousands of workers who make our life easier and who are at a huge disadvantage compared to other workers.

I am sure that this measure will permit fair taxation for our fellow citizens who deserve it amply.

There is an injustice. And we know what corrective action must be taken. I ask my colleagues opposite to be tricked into inaction until a global solution is found to the problem of federal taxes in Canada. After all, if anyone deserves a review of current federal taxes in their favour, it is the Canadian and Quebec middle class.

This bill is therefore vital because it allows us to correct an unfair situation that affects many young people who lack money as they come out to school. Without these—

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

8:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I apologize for interrupting the hon. member.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteePrivate Members' Business

8:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is my duty to lay upon the table the report of the United Nations human rights committee concerning Robert W. Gauthier.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few minutes to raise an issue that I presented to the House on April 22. It concerns a very critical health care issue, that of organ donations and transplantation.

One thing I am sure we in the House all agree on is that we have a serious problem in terms of the number of organ donors in Canada. There is no question that Canada has one of the worst rates of organ donors anywhere in the western world. That is a critical situation which all of us need to work at addressing.

The health committee spent a good period of time hearing from witnesses, receiving evidence, getting advice and presenting a report about how to address this very serious matter. I regret though that on a couple of very important issues in my opinion the committee's recommendations were weak and less than helpful.

I want to raise two specific points and ask the government to give serious consideration to these recommendations.

The first has to do with respect to a national donor registry system. The government has refused to commit to a registry that would encourage Canadians to think seriously about demonstrating their commitment to donate an organ if they should be faced with death. I want the government to look at a model that has been tried in other jurisdictions.

The Government of British Columbia has a donor registry system that allows every individual to look at the situation. They can make the serious decision that yes they want to donate, or no they do not want to donate, or that they are undecided.

We think that would have been a very important system to encourage Canadians to make commitments around organ donations. The government and the health committee of parliament have refused to make that specific recommendation.

Second, I want to raise the issue of safety and the whole area of health protection when it comes to organ donations. In our view, organs are no different than blood. We know we should have learned from our sorry history on the question of blood and taken very seriously the recommendations of Justice Krever when he said that this government must pursue a proactive regulatory approach when it comes to blood. I would suggest he would also say that applies to organs, to tissues and to everything that is important in terms of the health and well-being of Canadians.

On this particular issue the government continues to reject the recommendations of Justice Krever and is bent on pursuing what it would call a risk management approach, which is basically a hands off, buyer beware kind of mentality, and that is not at all appropriate to the kind of issues we are dealing with.

Time and time again, whether we talk about blood, medical devices, food, genetically modified products, children's toys, breast implants or drugs, this government continues to reject its responsibility around absolute safety for Canadians. I urge the government to take seriously the need to protect all Canadians when it comes to—

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but her time has expired.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:30 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member.

Let me state that in November 1998 the Minister of Health asked the Standing Committee on Health to consult broadly, analyze and provide advice regarding the state of organ donations in Canada. He also asked that during the course of their deliberations committee members consider the appropriate federal government role in the development of the national safety, outcome and process standards to improve Canada's organ donation situation and save lives.

The committee consulted broadly with Canadians and has released a report suggesting a Canadian approach that will improve donation rates. This initiative is viewed as a strong regulatory approach and may well be used by other countries in developing their own risk management framework.

Organ and tissue donation is a critical and ongoing issue. We have heard witness after witness before the Standing Committee on Health state that what is needed for transplantation is not another committee report with a list of recommendations, but action.

Health Canada is committed to providing the leadership that is required and delivering to Canadians the action that is desired. Health Canada has demonstrated a leadership role in addressing the many issues surrounding transplantation and will continue to do so in its response to the standing committee's recommendations.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:30 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question that comes from question period about 10 days ago. At that time I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development about a situation with respect to the Nisga'a agreement.

Essentially, there are several questions that we think need to be addressed in advance of Nisga'a ratification legislation. One of the very serious issues that needs to be addressed is the whole issue of overlap.

As the parliamentary secretary is aware, the Gitanyow and the Gitksan bands—the Gitanyow is actually a part of the Gitksan—are claiming that about 84% of the land that the Nisga'a will control after the ratification of the Nisga'a agreement is actually their traditional land.

They have written a book about it. They advance a very strong case. As to whether it is accurate or not is a matter of some debate, but the fact remains that they have advanced a very strong case.

Subsequent to that and subsequent to me asking the minister, they travelled to Ottawa to meet with various members of parliament from different parties to talk about their concerns. Essentially, they are saying that they do not want the ratification of this agreement to proceed until such time as this overlap issue is dealt with.

I cannot understand for the life of me why the minister responded to my question by saying that negotiations are ongoing and they are confident that they are going to have an agreement when the Gitanyow and the Gitksan people are telling us that nothing could be further from the truth. They are not even talking at this point in time. There are no negotiations going on. There is nobody listening to their side of the story. They feel very much like the minister and the department are taking one side on this issue, and they feel that is very unfair.

They have intimated to us that if ratification proceeds in advance of this very serious question being addressed, then the result likely will be a great deal of uncertainty and chaos in the future because they will be proceeding with a court case, challenging the Nisga'a agreement and challenging the federal government in its breach of fiduciary obligation if in fact this agreement is ratified. If they are successful in their court challenge, who knows what the landscape might look like down the road.

I again ask the parliamentary secretary to explain, not only to this side of the House, but also to the Gitksan and the Gitanyow people, who are watching this on their televisions at home, why it is that the federal government appears to be taking a side in this dispute and why it is prepared to proceed with ratification of this very precedent setting, groundbreaking treaty in British Columbia without first resolving these disputes. I might add that it is not a matter of a small overlap because 84% of the land that the Nisga'a will end up controlling after the agreement is ratified is claimed by the Gitksan.

Maybe the parliamentary secretary could answer those questions for the people in my riding who are very concerned about this issue and who would like to have the answer.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:35 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba


David Iftody LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, unlike the member, I wish that I had two hours today to respond to his question because I would love to take it.

Let me say that the hon. member is absolutely wrong again on his premise, as he has been wrong so many times throughout the year in his questions relating to this important file.

To begin with, I met last night for two hours over a working dinner with the Nisga'a, their lawyers and their negotiators. Again this afternoon, for an hour in my office, I met with the Gitanyow nation's representative, Bob Epstein, whom I have known for almost 10 years. We have talked about a mediation process and I am pleased to announce to the House that the process is moving along quite well. I believe that over the summer, while this legal argument is in abeyance, we will have an opportunity to debate that with him.

I would ask the hon. member a simple question and point out in my one minute and 11 seconds now remaining that it strikes me as passing strange that a member would take sides with some of his constituents against others. This is unusual, indeed. I do not think that anyone in the House has ever seen that kind of practice before. There have been a number of practices used, I believe, by the member, including the issue today on Bill C-49, to break the deal.

We had a deal on Bill C-49 with all of the House leaders this morning which was broken, much to the dismay of the people involved, which involved of course the member standing here for two hours, saying many things that are so inaccurate I want to spend the rest of the summer going over them to come back here in the fall and talk to him about them.

I have many friends in British Columbia. I have travelled there many times over the past 10 years. I would like to say to the good people of British Columbia, because I think it is worth repeating in these final hours before we break for the summer, that the member voted for Bill C-49 almost in its current form at second reading in the committee and then came back to the House and changed his mind. I hope we have a different member from Skeena when we return in October.