Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see progress being made in the relationship between municipalities and senior levels of both the provincial and federal governments. The debate today concerns Bill C-10 and the Group No. 1 motions.
Before I continue I would like to commend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and the individual municipalities in my riding that have contributed to and worked on the legislation to enable the rules to be more clearly defined and set out, in effect making the federal government responsible on paper and accountable for the grants it will be giving to the municipalities in lieu of taxes. Legislation is never perfect. As a result several motions and amendments are being submitted to try to improve the legislation. I will touch on those later in my speech.
I will now touch on the purposes of this act. Not everyone in my riding is fully clear on what Bill C-10 is doing. It essentially addresses the issue of compensation for untimely payments. It deals with the fair and equitable administration of payments in lieu of taxes, setting out clearly the responsibilities of the senior level of government. It also establishes an advisory panel to advise the minister on disputes concerning payment amounts.
The interaction between government levels is of utmost importance. We have another level of government in the area of the aboriginal reserves which is getting into the situation of acquiring additional lands by removing lands from the local municipalities in given areas. In the riding of Selkirk—Interlake the area of the Regional Municipality of Grahamdale is running across this problem. It does not seem the government has dealt fully with setting out the guidelines and the terms for grants in lieu of taxes on behalf of Indian reserves that should be made payable to local municipalities when they lose their taxes.
That is an issue for another day and another debate, but it is an issue that should be addressed. I am taking this opportunity in the debate on Bill C-10 to raise it so clarity can be brought to the relationship between Indian reserves and local municipalities in how they deal with taxes between each other and providing services to the citizens of those communities.
The history of concern over the levels of responsibility among the different governments goes back to 1950 when the government initially started making payments in lieu of taxes. It has taken some time, but we now see that it is being codified in legislation to remove a lot of the ambiguity.
The committee set up in 1995 was the joint technical committee on these payments. It was formed to examine issues associated with federal payments in lieu of taxes. Its findings addressed some of the issues through non-legislative means, which is fine and dandy when there is good co-operation between the federal and provincial levels of government. As we are seeing in agriculture today, that co-operation is not always there. The agriculture issues I talk about are the safety net ones where the provincial governments and the federal government are not working co-operatively. That relates directly to the necessity for bills like Bill C-10 to clearly establish this relationship.
One of the legislative changes that is primarily in place deals with interest on payments made after an agreed upon date when the taxes or grants in lieu of taxes should have been paid. The legislation states that it is in the opinion of the minister and at the minister's discretion.
With something as straightforward as the payment of taxes or the payment of a grant in lieu of taxes which has a set and agreed upon date, the minister does not need any leeway in compensating municipalities for money they lose because the federal government has failed to live up to its agreement to pay its taxes on time. The average Canadian property owner who must pay his taxes would quickly find out if he were late by one day that interest begins to be applied. I think that discretionary aspect of the legislation could certainly be removed.
With regard to third party leases there is some question in my mind as to whether or not the people who lease government property or a portion of a government property are paying their full share of business taxes.
The Canadian coast guard building in Selkirk—Interlake has been partially leased out to a private business entity. I have tried to find out some information on it, but the coast guard is kind of like HRDC. It does not want to give out any information. It really drives us nuts, but we will keep trying. Is this business entity paying its full and fair share of taxes, the same as any other business located in the city of Selkirk? I raise that question so that the government will hear it and address it if in fact there is a problem in that area.
The amendments put forward by the official opposition and the other parties should be seriously considered by the government. Where they are actually improvements to the bill, I would like to think that the government will support those amendments.
The Reform Party and I as the member of parliament for Selkirk—Interlake support the legislation. As I have said, we recognize that a lot of work by the municipalities and their associations has gone into this issue. The most redeeming feature of the whole legislation is the level of co-operation that has been shown and the recognition that the federal government should not be telling the provinces how they will negotiate and imposing rules on local municipalities.
As I said, I am in favour of the legislation. It will be an improvement to the relationship between the municipalities and the federal government.