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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-6, an act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier this day the question to dispose of the Senate amendments to Bill C-6 is deemed put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, April 4, 2000, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

It being 5.20 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-205, 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

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-205 introduced by my colleague, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

When my colleague introduced his bill last February, we were a few weeks away from the day the Minister of Finance was scheduled to bring down his budget. At that time my colleague was hoping the minister would respond to his concerns, but he did not make the commitment to amend the Income Tax Act to allow auto mechanics to deduct from their taxable income the cost of the tools they have to buy, update and maintain as a condition of their employment.

I must emphasize the fact that auto mechanics are the victims of an unfair situation that has been going on for too long. In that context, on February 17 of this year, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada sent to the 301 members of this House a letter asking the government to correct this injustice done to Canadian mechanics.

Since the finance minister failed to deal with this issue in his last budget, I doubt very much whether he took the trouble to read this group's recommendations. For his information, I will read some very interesting quotes from their letter which I hope will enlighten the finance minister, and I quote:.

—the automobile aftermarket industry is very concerned because we might not be able to meet our future labour needs. Indeed, the tax system is hampering our efforts to convince young people to consider the excellent job of automotive service technician.

I am not saying this; a Canadian association representing 140,000 mechanics across Canada is saying this. According to the association, young people are shunning this trade because the job conditions are not attractive.

Indeed a basic set of tools costs at least $4,000, while an apprentice makes less than $25,000 a year. During their first four years at work technicians will invest around 15% of their net income, in tools.

I would like the finance minister, but I believe it is asking too much of him, to put himself in their shoes. I believe he is above all that, but I appeal to his nobler sentiments, and I hope he will listen carefully to what I have to say.

An apprentice earns only $25,000 gross. Gross means before taxes, before paying for his rent, his food, his student loan if he has one. Once all this has been deducted, he has very little money left. And on top of that, he has to find $4,000 to pay for his tools.

Members can see how unjust and unacceptable it is for this category of workers. I believe it is a question of common sense, and I appeal to the common sense of all members. The minister should look at this issue with an open mind, especially since he has known about this injustice for several years. These people have been the victims of this injustice for a long time, and the finance minister, who has been in that portfolio for seven years, is familiar with the problem, but he has not done anything yet.

Could anybody give me another profession where workers have similar problems? I would like to know. But there is none, of course. Chainsaw operators, musicians and artists may claim a deduction for the cost of their tools or instruments.

Let me quote the same letter again:

Year in and year out, the demand for automotive technicians goes up, as consumers keep their cars longer because of increased durability and other factors. Modern vehicles are also more complex than ever, and their maintenance requires qualified technicians.

We should realize that these technicians do not need just a couple of screwdrivers. As I said earlier, those who want to specialize could spend between $4,000 and $30,000 on their tools.

This is the second hour of debate on this bill. I have been listening intently to the objections of members opposite. Objections have only been raised on the government side. There is a consensus on this bill on opposition benches. Four parties out of five support my hon. colleague's bill, a support that translates into a 60% support in the population, if we refer to the 1997 election results.

In our system, a party can win a majority of seats without getting the plurality of votes. The government should be sensitive to this, but when we look at how it rammed Bill C-20 through, its sense of democracy is all too apparent. The rules of the House were stretched to the limit to get this bill tabled in December. The work of the legislative committee studying the bill was abruptly curtailed and a gag was imposed to speed the bill through. Democratic this government is not.

But I am straying from today's topic. I was saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance had said that the bill could not be passed because allowing mechanics such a deduction would be unfair, since other workers would not receive the same treatment.

At the risk of repeating myself, I wish to remind him that the situation of mechanics is completely different, given the huge amounts they must spend compared to what they earn. Furthermore, I find this argument completely unfounded because musicians, chain saw operators and some office workers are allowed certain tax deductions. The government should realize that it is contradicting itself on this issue.

In addition, I know that one of the government's big fears is that mechanics will put some of their tools to personal use. This is naturally something that deserves our attention. All the same, I would like to point out that even though musicians are entitled to deductions for the purchase of their musical instruments, I would be very surprised if they did not use them outside the work context, just like chain saw operators, or office workers who must do the odd bit of personal business on their laptop.

There is no way to guarantee that mechanics will limit use of their tools to job-related work. This is perfectly normal. I still think that hiding behind this sort of argument to reject the bill is sticking one's head in the sand.

In conclusion, I wish to mention that over 35,000 post cards have been sent to the Minister of Finance. Since there are 140,000 mechanics in Canada, I think the message is clear. They want action. I hope that the government will listen to reason on this issue and I really hope the government will support the bill introduced by the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Îles-d'Orléans.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Limoges Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to have any opportunity to discuss tax relief. It is a subject that is very important to me and tax relief for all Canadians is a cause that I care passionately about.

The proposed legislation must not be considered in isolation since it will no doubt set a precedent for other groups that follow. When we discuss tax relief, we must ensure that it is tax relief that is practical and that will benefit all Canadians, particularly low and middle income Canadians and those raising families. To suggest anything else would be less effective and lack any sense of priority.

Even if we now have balanced budgets or surpluses and a strong economy, our financial resources are not unlimited. This government is committed to ensuring a rational and conscientious use of these resources, in the interests of the greatest number of Canadians possible.

That is why in last fall's fiscal and economic update the Minister of Finance set out clear and concrete principles that set the priorities for federal tax relief.

First, tax reductions must be fair and give priority to those who need them most, middle and low income Canadians, especially families with children.

Second, broad based tax relief should focus first on personal income taxes.

Third, the business tax system must be internationally competitive.

Finally, broad based relief should not be funded with borrowed money.

In other words, the type and size of any tax action we take must be managed so as to never endanger our continuing commitments to balanced budgets. These are the principles that have governed our actions.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With great respect to you, as a very knowledgeable Speaker, there is an old and ancient rule in the House of Commons, of which I am sure you are fully aware, that when an hon. member is speaking he or she is not supposed to read a speech but to only refer to notes from time to time. I wonder if you could inform the hon. member of that ancient practice. I know you have a lot of experience and can cite the particular rule.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marceau)

I thank the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for what he said, but I believe the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair is referring to his notes in a proper manner. I think he deserves to continue his speech, and I hope the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle will listen to him very attentively.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Limoges Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

These are principles that have governed our actions, highlighted by the multi-year tax cutting plan announced in the February budget.

However, even before that, in the update itself, we announced steps that provide concrete benefits to every Canadian employee, not just a single group like mechanics. We announced that for the sixth year in a row employment insurance premiums would be reduced from $2.55 to $2.40 for the year 2000. This means that employees and employers will save an additional $1.2 billion this year, bringing total annual savings relative to the rate that prevailed in 1994 to $5.2 billion.

We then followed up with budget 2000 and its proposed five year tax reduction plan. This is a plan to provide real and lasting tax relief for all Canadians, providing accumulative savings of at least $58 billion over the next five years with a particular emphasis on families with children.

The plan is based on two measures that break with the past to implement the two most important structural changes made to the tax system in more than 10 years.

First, the plan provides for full re-indexation of personal income tax, retroactive to January 1, 2000. This measure will benefit all Canadians, particularly low and middle income earners.

Second, the plan will reduce the middle income tax rate to 23% from 26%, beginning with a two point drop to 24% on July 1, 2000. This will cut taxes for nine million Canadians. I would expect that many mechanics would fall into this category.

These changes anchor a range of other actions to help reduce working Canadians' tax burden.

Personal income taxes will be further reduced within five years by increasing to at least $8,000 the amount Canadians can earn tax free and by raising the income amounts at which the middle and upper tax rates begin to apply to at least $35,000 and $75,000 respectively, again, to the lasting benefits of all Canadians.

To assist families with children, the Canada child tax benefit, CCTB, will be enriched by $2.5 million a year by 2004 to more than $9 billion annually. Maximum benefits will reach $2,400 for the first child and $2,200 for the second child.

Personal tax cuts alone will not deliver new jobs and growing incomes over the long term. A growing economy centred on innovation is an important part of the equation. That is why budget 2000's five year tax plan takes additional measures to help Canadian businesses become more competitive internationally by making the tax system more conducive to investment and innovation. This will help to ensure continued growth and job creation in a global economy that is increasingly knowledge based.

To that end, the plan proposes to reduce the corporate tax rate to 21% from 28% within five years for the highest taxed businesses, such as high technology, with a one point drop to 27% effective January 1, 2001.

To assist small businesses the corporate tax rate will be reduced to 21% from 28% on small business income between $200,000 and $300,000 effective January 1, 2001.

The net effect of these measures will be to create jobs and improve the lives of Canadians from coast to coast.

As members can see, the goal of the five year tax reduction plan is clear and concrete: more money in the pockets of Canadians, stronger economic growth and enhanced job creation.

Taxes will be reduced by a cumulative amount of at least $58 billion, with personal income taxes being reduced by an average of 15% by 2004.

While all Canadians will benefit from the tax plan, it recognizes the needs of low and middle income Canadians who will see their personal income taxes reduced by an average of at least 18%. In particular, relief will be provided to families with children. Including the enriched benefits under the CCTB, families with children will see their personal income taxes reduced by an average of 21%.

Accordingly, the immediate tax relief under the plan will grow over time. Consider, for example, that in 2001 a typical one earner family of four with about $32,000 in income will receive more benefits from government, thanks to the CCTB and the GST tax credit, than they will pay in personal income taxes. What this really means is that this family will pay no net tax. By 2004, that family could earn up to $35,000, or $3,000 more, and still pay no net tax.

Here are two more examples of the tax plan at work. In the first full year of the plan, a typical one earner family of four with $40,000 in income will see its net federal income taxes reduced by at least 17%. In 2004 their taxes will be cut by at least 48%, a savings of over $1,600 compared to what they would pay without the plan.

A typical two earner family of four with an income of $60,000 will see their taxes reduced by almost 9% in 2001, and by $1,546 in 2004. That is a 27% savings relative to what they would have paid had the plan never been established.

Full indexation of personal income tax will put an end to automatic and hidden tax increases that result from what is called bracket creep and to the erosion of tax benefits that has characterized Canada's tax system since the middle of the 1980s.

This means that salary increases that simply correspond to the inflation rate will no longer automatically put many taxpayers in a higher tax bracket. In other words, taxpayers will no longer see their taxes raise when their real buying power has not increased.

Moreover, benefits, such as the Canada child tax benefit and the GST credit, will automatically increase to offset inflation.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like a ruling from the Chair on the relevance of talking about the child tax benefit when we are talking about a tax break for mechanic's tools. Could the member possibly be a little more relevant to the topic at hand?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marceau)

I think the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair was making an analogy. Given the time allocated to the member, I believe this is a totally acceptable analogy.

The hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair. He has 45 seconds to finish his speech.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Limoges Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Under the leadership of this Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, we have a fiscal situation in this country today that allows this government to build on the foundation secured by the many sacrifices of Canadians in my riding and across the country. We must avoid the temptation, no matter how well-intentioned, to advocate tax cuts that depart from the plan which set out principles for tax action, principles that were acted on in budget 2000.

I recommend to all hon. members that we vote against any proposed legislation that is not based on these principles.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to this bill on mechanics tools. I do appreciate the Bloc member bringing this forward.

Bill C-205 is a carbon copy of the private member's bill that I put forth in the last parliament, Bill C-366. During that process, I received over 7,000 letters from mechanics across the country on that bill. I am sure the Bloc member has no doubt received thousands of letters from people across the country in response to his bill.

The only difference in the Bloc bill from the bill that I presented in the last parliament is the price for individual tools that are purchased by the mechanic. The amount has been increased from the $200 that I had recommended. If the mechanic's tool is below $200 the full cost can be deducted. If it is above $200 it will be depreciated and a capital cost allowance will be deducted for income taxes purposes. That is the only change. It is an excellent bill and I sincerely thank the Bloc member for bringing it forward again.

I was very pleased that this time the bill has been made votable. When I presented the same bill to the committee, it unfortunately did not allow the bill to be voted on in the House. I believe that every private member's bill that comes before the House should be votable, particularly a practical bill like this.

The purpose of this bill is to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of their tools on the condition that the tools are a requirement of their employment.

The mechanic has to buy his own tools and then bring them to his place of employment. If tools are lost or damaged, he has to replace them from his own pocketbook.

At the present time mechanics have an incredibly large cost, often $15,000 to $30,000 in tools, which they have to pay for with after tax dollars, and yet it is a requirement of employment that the mechanics have those tools to use them on the job.

It is very important that this issue be dealt with. I would assume that this time it will have the full support of every party in the House.

The costs I am talking about are the costs of maintaining the tools, renting the tools, in cases where the mechanic chooses to rent, and insurance costs, because of course with the high value involved the loss of the tools would be devastating. It would be quite devastating to lose $30,000 worth of tools.

The mechanic could also deduct the cost of the insurance. The mechanic would be allowed to claim capital cost allowance on tools over $250 and, therefore, over time deduct the full cost of the tools for income tax purposes. That is the purpose of the bill.

When I introduced Bill C-366 I received over 7,000 letters from mechanics across the country. On this bill, in spite of the fact that it is not my bill, I have received hundreds and hundreds more letters. We have not even counted them yet, although I do appreciate the mechanics and the owners of the businesses for sending the letters to me. I know that copies of the letters have been sent to the finance minister. The finance minister has to understand how important it is that he deal with the situation.

During the debate on Bill C-366 members of all political parties supported the bill except the Liberals. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance at that time came up with a whole list of excuses for not supporting the bill. I would suggest that they were excuses.

I will go through what the parliamentary secretary said and I will respond to what I consider to be excuses in most cases. First, I want to say a little about what some MPs from all of the political parties said about this bill and what they are saying about the Bloc member's bill which is now before the House.

A Bloc MP said “I think this bill is good for the economy and for the creation of jobs. The Bloc Quebecois and myself support the measures proposed in this bill”.

A member of the NDP from Saskatchewan said “I want to congratulate the member for Lakeland for bringing this legislation forward and tell him and members of the House that the New Democratic Party fully supports this concept and we will be supporting this bill”.

A member of the Progressive Conservative Party from Manitoba said “I would like to pass my thanks on to the member for Lakeland who has once again brought forward a private member's bill to deal with what I consider to be an injustice and an inequality that has been around for too long”. I think it is a fair comment that this injustice has been around for too long.

Reform MPs fully supported the bill. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster and the member for Elk Island indicated that the bill was long overdue.

Then we come to the government side, the Liberals. The parliamentary secretary came up with numerous excuses, and I want to go through some of the key ones. He said “Mechanics are not the only occupation that incur substantial expenses as a requirement of employment”. I agree with that. That statement is correct. Farmers and other businessmen, as well as artists, musicians and chainsaw operators incur substantial expenses as a requirement of employment.

Farmers, of course, are business people and they are handled differently, but artists, musicians, chainsaw operators and others are employees in many cases who are allowed to deduct the cost of the tools of their trade. I believe that is a bogus issue which the parliamentary secretary brought forward.

The parliamentary secretary also said “This private member's bill would also provide tax relief to all mechanics, irrespective of the size of their expenditures, instead of targeting relief to those incurring extraordinary expenses”.

I would suggest that, indeed, that is an odd statement. Farmers and other business people, as well as the others I have mentioned, can claim their expenses no matter how large they are. That is not a criterion that is used to judge whether any of these other people can write something off for tax purposes. That was a very odd statement.

He also said “Provisions would need to be developed to ensure that tax relief was provided only for those items genuinely required as a condition of employment and not for those purchased for personal use”. That is true. That is a fair enough statement, but throughout all our tax system, for anyone claiming, the same is true. In other words, the onus is on the person making the claim to ensure that he or she is only claiming expenses which are allowed under the act. Taxpayers are trusted to do that. We have routine audits and we have special audits to check to ensure that people are being honest. Again, this was another bogus excuse.

The parliamentary secretary made several other, what I would consider to be, excuses and I do not believe that any one of them could not be dealt with by the government if it believed it was something that should be done.

The parliamentary secretary at the time, and I hear the same thing again from across the floor, said that somehow, and for different reasons, the deduction of the cost of purchasing, owning and maintaining a line of tools could not be done for several reasons. It is interesting that this government, which has raised taxes every year over the past seven years, since 1993—

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

It never raised them once.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, maybe not this year. That is a close call. But every year up until this year the government has raised taxes, and always it declares that the reason is tax fairness. Often we hear the Liberals say “We are increasing taxes to this group of people by $1 billion because it makes it fair”. Why is it that tax fairness cannot also lead to a lowering of taxes? In this case, that is exactly what would be done. We would lower taxes, allowing mechanics to deduct the cost of tools used for business in the name of tax fairness. Why is it that the government cannot understand the concept that tax fairness can also mean lowering taxes to a particular group of people?

I would encourage the government to understand that that is exactly what would happen. This is a fair measure. In the information I have received under access to information as to why the finance department will not go along with this, it indicated that it would cost the department somewhere around $60 million a year. In the name of tax fairness, why can we not have this reduction of $60 million a year? It is money that really should be left in the pockets of mechanics. This is long overdue.

The member across the floor may think it is funny, but with more than 7,000 letters from mechanics saying “We want tax fairness”, the government should listen. I would encourage the government to support the bill, as it is a votable bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words in support of Bill C-205.

I would say at the outset that I have put a very similar motion on the order paper which would allow mechanics who are working on their own to deduct their tools as a legitimate expense.

I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance across the way and I am sure he will be in agreement with the bill before the House because I see him nodding his head.

Under the present income tax law there is a fair amount of discrimination. Mechanics, tradespeople, technicians, automotive technicians and carpenters who are in business for themselves can deduct their tools, but those same people who are working for someone else cannot deduct their tools.

There is a considerable expense to becoming a carpenter or a mechanic. Buying a whole set of tools is a very expensive proposition.

For almost any other business endeavour in the country one can deduct legitimate expenses. Whether people are consultants in a small business or in a larger business, they can deduct the expenses which are incurred in running the business. The mechanics and carpenters are saying that they should have the same right as anyone else. They are buying tool kits and tools in order to be involved in a business, in order to be an employee at a garage, a carpenter or whatever.

A lot of us do not realize how expensive it is for someone to get the basic tool kit. One often has to pay a minimum of $5,000 to $10,000. They tell me it can even be as high as $50,000 or $60,000 for a complete tool kit in some of the occupations which many people are going into today.

The Ottawa Citizen did a survey of the costs of getting into business. The reporter talked to Gene Myers, who is an Algonquin College student and an apprentice. He was asked how much it would cost to get the basic start-up kit to be a mechanic. He had spent $17,000 and he said that was the bare minimum for tools an apprentice would require when starting full time work.

These prices are approximate, but I thought I should read some of them into the record to give members an idea of what some young people are required to pay in order to get into business.

For wrenches, the cost was $2,020. I notice, Mr. Speaker, that even you are startled by that number. It is a shocking number and it is a very difficult expense for people getting into business. The wrenches are categorized in this way. Two standard size sets cost $405 each, amounting to $810. Two metric size sets are $405 each, for a total cost of $810.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Who gave us the metric system?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

The metric system came into being in this country because of pressure from some conservative-minded people who sat in the Trudeau cabinet a number of years ago. That is why we have the metric system response from the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance. At least I think it is the Canadian Alliance and not the conservative alliance. In any event, that is how the metric system arrived.

Two minimum specialized wrench sets cost $200 each, totalling $400. Torque wrenches are $885. A 3/8 inch wrench costs $295; a 1/4 inch wrench, $295; and a 1/2 inch wrench, $295. Sockets cost $2,000 in total. He said there is a minimum of ten sets of different sized sockets at $200 each. Socket extension sets cost $450; 3/8 inch sets, $150; 1/4 inch, $150; 1/2 inch, $150; wheel nut sockets, $420; five sizes of sockets at $60 each, another $300; four sizes at $30 each, $120; and six ratchets at $125 each, totalling $750.

He went on and on with the list that he gave in terms of the start-up costs of getting a decent tool kit.

When an auto mechanic or a carpenter spends that kind of money to get into business we can make a fair argument for deducting the cost of these tools of trade from income tax. I think that is only fair treatment. It is only just treatment. I hope members of the government would agree with this perfectly reasonable proposal that is before the House today.

Many mechanics and carpenters have lobbied me over the years on this kind of proposal. About two years ago I circulated a petition among a number of the garages in and around the city of Regina. I got many hundreds of signatures on petitions calling upon the federal government to make such a move in terms of amending the Income Tax Act.

The time is long overdue for the House of Commons to listen to the people. They are saying that this is only a fair move and a just move that we should be making as the House of Commons. I am glad to see that we have some solidarity here among all political parties that this is the right thing to do.

I assume the Progressive Conservative Party will also be supporting this. We will be hearing from its distinguished House leader in a few minutes. I am not 100% sure he will be doing that but I think he will. His former hero, Brian Mulroney, did not do this when he was prime minister of the country, despite all kinds of lobbying that was done. I hope the Progressive Conservative Party has now seen the light and will support this private member's bill before the House today.

I commend the member for introducing the private member's bill. Let us get on with this. Let us hear from the Progressive Conservative Party. Let us make this a five party effort and change the law, which will make it a more fair and just system for a lot of people right across the country.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important private member's bill.

I appreciate the introduction by the illustrious member from the New Democratic Party. He has been a long time member of the House and has been around for many, many years. He is a very useful tool in reminding us of things that have taken place in the past. Certainly the sins of the father are sometimes revisited on the son.

This is a very important piece of legislation because it brings about a very positive change in an industry that is very much in need of attention at this time. That is not unlike other industries and other Canadians generally who are suffering from the high cost of tax that is taken from their income. Mechanics are no exception.

This bill, which has garnered a great deal of support, in a very non-partisan way I hasten to add, has also gathered a great deal of support around the country. I commend the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans for the work he has done, and the member for Lakeland who brought forward a similar private member's bill. There is a sense that the government may in fact be listening but that remains to be seen.

This legislation is very much a common sense approach to a problem that has existed for a long time, namely that mechanics are faced with an incredible startup cost when it comes to beginning in their profession. As has been alluded to, indications are that the average startup cost is anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 to break into an industry that, like other industries, is moving toward a more technological and highly advanced profession. The tools themselves, the power tools and the basic tools, are extremely costly and often the power tools are in need of a great deal of ongoing maintenance.

The bill is aimed at giving an industry in need tax relief that is brought about in a very straightforward way and, I would suggest, in a common sense fashion. This is uncommon in this place when it comes to legislation.

In many ways my initial reaction when we started talking about amending the Income Tax Act was to be a little concerned that once again we would be making a more convoluted attempt than was necessary. Short of the Revenue Canada Act or perhaps the new youth criminal justice act, the bill is aimed at streamlining as opposed to adding layers of legislation and layers of bureaucracy on top of one another, as is far too often the case.

The government members who have spoken to the bill would lead Canadians to believe that significant tax relief has already been brought about by this administration. We know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the most recent budget is rear end loaded; that is to say, much of the benefits of the budget will not be felt for a number of years, in fact years that go far beyond the government's current mandate.

This bill is aimed at assisting mechanics in a very real and tangible fashion. There is a great deal of need in this area. There is a great deal of need when it comes to the tools themselves being considered very much a part of the profession, which they are. They are an integral part of any mechanic's existence and profession. The proportionate investment that is made by mechanics and the reliance on their tools highlights that very fact.

The cost as I alluded to is extremely high. Sometimes that cost, being as high as $40,000, may be more than the annual income of a mechanic who is starting up in that profession.

There is a need for standardization across the board. For example, chainsaw operators and musicians are permitted to deduct the cost of their chainsaws and musical instruments. Why then should there not be a similar tax deductible mechanism in place for mechanics? There has to be some uniformity and fairness with respect to industries and eligibility for tax deductions. Not unlike other industries such as fishing and farming, there is an intrinsic connection between the individual and the tools and machinery that are required to provide the service in the profession.

The other important issue with respect to this bill is that there is a labour aspect, an element of employment, attached. Currently with such high initial costs, many young Canadians who have the possibility to get work after receiving training, be it at a community college or through a mentoring program, are faced with a monumental startup cost that they simply cannot afford. Therefore it continues this trend that we have seen in other professions which has become colloquially known as the brain drain.

Mechanics are no exception. Indications are that many mechanics are facing the very gut wrenching decision of whether to stay in their hometown, their community, their country or to go to the United States or other countries where they are given greater tax relief and perhaps a better life by virtue of being able to keep what they earn.

An element of this bill talks about maximizing job potential which we in the Progressive Conservative Party are very supportive of to say the least. Studies have shown that the mechanics industry has experienced a serious decline with respect to enrolment in technical institutions. I think this good faith initiative that has been brought forward addresses in some measure that exact problem.

The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association and other national organizations have embraced this legislation as a good idea. They have lobbied not only opposition members but presumably government members. They have reminded them that this is something that has been in the works, has been in the hopper, for some time. There is a great deal of support and demand that the government adopt such an initiative.

Time and time again the government has demonstrated that it is quite devoid of new ideas and this is quite sad. It trundles along in mediocrity. We are seeing more and more that the real initiatives are coming from the opposition benches. Therefore, we are faced with the difficulty of it becoming a partisan effort which is unfortunate because this does not benefit Canadians. I see that Mr. Speaker is nodding in agreement with that suggestion. The government is not listening to Canadians and is not responding with the initiatives and the legislative change that is required.

With regard to tax deductibility for technicians, this idea was established in response to the industry itself and the growing concerns over the unfair treatment of automobile technicians. Working groups consisting of automobile industry associations from across the country have all banded together and spoken in support of this type of initiative.

The mechanics, like other Canadians, cannot be denied access to some form of tax relief. This is a very straightforward and common sense approach. Mechanics singularly are hardworking Canadians who want to take part in the new economy and be able to keep their hard earned working dollars. There is no reason whatsoever that they should not be afforded access to the same types of tax breaks that are prevalent in other industries.

Competition, increasing attention to detail, and the increasing bureaucracy that small businesses are faced with are other drags on the economy and on the mechanics industry itself. Insurance and the cost of maintenance when it comes to maintaining a garage and the tools of the trade are burdens for which mechanics, like others, are looking for some form of assistance. That could be brought about through the adoption of this type of legislation.

In November 1998 the Canadian automobile industry appeared before the finance committee in various capacities and organizations and made specific recommendations very much akin to this legislation. Since 1992 all of these groups representing mechanics and organizations across the country have been urging the government to move in this direction.

I have met personally with individuals like Brad Smith of Westville's Radco Enterprises and Dan McDonald of Scotia Diesel in Antigonish. Both of them were very open and frank in their support for this type of legislation which would allow them to keep their hard earned tax dollars. That we know will generate further growth through spinoffs in the economy.

Allowing mechanics to write off their expenses in relation to the cost and maintenance of their tools and their workshops is something that the Progressive Conservative Party very much embraces and supports.

We support the hon. member who has moved this bill through the Commons. We are hoping that the government members will try to break away from the tired and arrogant approach that we have become far too accustomed to, with no ideas coming forward, no innovation and no constructive moves. We on the opposition side are urging the government to support this legislation.

Again I congratulate all previous speakers who have brought forward their support. I encourage other members to do likewise.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, this situation that exists throughout Quebec is of great concern to me. I hear about it particularly in my riding, because I often come across mechanics in restaurants or garages and they tell me about this injustice done to them. They are not allowed any deductions from their taxable income for the tools they are required to buy to practice their trade.

Knowing that other tradesmen have access to such a deduction, we can see that the government encourages inequities and has tremendous difficulty taking action to contribute to the advancement of Quebec society.

In the report that was prepared following the December 1997 prebudget consultations in which I took part, it was recognized that the need was there. The public was asking that legislation be passed quickly to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of the tools they are required to buy.

Today is March 30, 2000, almost three years later, and yet nothing has been done. This goes to show once again that this government waits and then waits some more, and drags its feet on issues that penalize people. In this case, it is mechanics.

I am very pleased to support the bill introduced by my colleague, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans. I also thank all the members of the opposition who listened carefully to the demands of the Bloc Quebecois and who support this bill, which will hopefully find some support among federal Liberals.

This is the second time that I speak to this important bill. When we made similar demands in June 1999, there was talk about a government surplus of several billion dollars. That was what the Minister of Finance was hinting at.

Now that the Minister of Finance has a budget surplus of tens of thousands of dollars, although it is still hard to find out the real figures, hard to be really informed about the Canadian economic reality, he ought to accede to what is being called for in Bill C-205.

This bill defends principles in which I believe strongly. I will tell hon. members what the objectives and principles are that must be obtained in this legislation.

First of all, mechanics must be given fair treatment as far as taxation is concerned, on an equal footing with farmers, and in harmony with that already afforded to chain saw operators, artists and musicians.

Secondly, this bill is aimed at lessening the financial burden on mechanics imposed by the requirement to purchase their own tools, and very costly ones.

Just think of the young mechanic, fresh out of school, and often with a student loan, having to purchase thousands of dollars worth of tools in order to get a job. After working for a year, he is not even entitled to a tax deduction for the new tools he has acquired. As far as I am concerned, this is social injustice.

Now, moving on to another of the objectives I support. This bill offers a remedy for the serious shortage of workers in automobile-related fields. We know that it is getting harder and harder to recruit mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and the like.

In my region, in the RCM de l'Érable, the LDB is doing a lot of promotion to try to find 300 people who could immediately get work in business in Plessisville, Princeville and Lyster.

I also learned that the same situation prevails at the other end of my riding, namely in Laurier-Station and Saint-Apollinaire, where plants are also looking for people who are able to work.

If the government does not make the necessary efforts to prepare for the future, to help our young people, how can we ensure the viability of a region such as Lotbinière and that of all the regions of Quebec?

The problem described in Bill C-205 is one of a number of factors which, year after year, significantly affect our regions. Unfortunately, people are constantly leaving the regions. Think of all the efforts made by our ancestors, by the pioneers, all their collective achievements, all their hard work. Because of actions such as those of the federal government, the foundations that helped build the Quebec society are being eroded.

It is time to wake up and take charge. Each of Quebec's region has its own wealth, its own beauty, its own features. In each of these regions, there are motorists, people who use their cars or their trucks. There is pride in having local mechanics in each municipality.

I do not want to wax nostalgic, but 25 years ago, in rural villages, there were essential elements that promoted mutual support and supported the local economy. There was the general store, the local mechanic, a small restaurant, the caisse populaire, the elementary and secondary schools and the church.

Today we realize that most of the small garages in each of the towns have disappeared. Why? Because no measures or laws have been established to ensure some sort of continuity. What does this situation lead to? Gradually, people leave these villages to go and live in larger centres and must give up the heritage that is important to them.

It is high time that the federal government, through its rural and regional development policies, paid attention to this ever more desperate situation throughout Quebec. Today, it is the mechanics. Tomorrow it will be the electricians. Unfortunately, unless something is done, we will see that the major centres in each region and riding will be only ones to have survived.

I encourage all federal Liberals in Quebec and across Canada to join with my colleague, to be part of the support given us by the opposition parties—the Progressive Conservatives, the Canadian Alliance and the NDP—in recognizing that there is a desperate need.

It is urgent that the situation be resolved, in order to correct once and for all this injustice, which is befalling important people, the mechanics. We are proud of them and must keep them. We must support their efforts to work and continue to build with us the rural and regional communities of Quebec.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this short speech comes as a result of a question I posed several weeks ago to the Minister of Justice. The question revolved around whether it was the intent of the 1997 child support guidelines to create a class of adult students who are supported, by court order, as children of the marriage.

In her response, the minister stated that such orders are not automatic. I am certain that the parliamentary secretary, who is here this evening to speak for her, will echo the idea that it is all about judicial discretion and that under the 1997 guidelines an order is not automatic when one goes to the court seeking support for an adult. Although the adult is called a child there is no right to this support.

If that is correct then I am inviting the parliamentary secretary, the Department of Justice or anybody watching this show to produce or to offer just one example of a case where a judge exercised that discretion and said “No, you are applying for support for a child at university and I am not going to give it to you. You are applying for tuition expenses and I am not going to give it to you”. I am looking for one case.

I can tell the members that there are some very basic and fundamental questions surrounding these orders and this law which concern a broad cross-section of Canadians. First, when is a child no longer a child, or when does a child become an adult?

As we know, generally in this country the age of majority is 19, and in some provinces 18, but it is in that range. We know that a 19 year old can marry without a parent's permission. We know that a 19 year old can enter into contracts and be bound by them. They can buy real estate and all sorts of things. They are adults and anything an adult can do they can do.

However, here we have, in a 1997 law passed in this place, the federal support guidelines which state that a child of divorce is entitled to support under circumstances which are widely applied to be post-secondary education.

Three years later what do we see? First, we see that an order is automatic. That is, if the custodial parent applies to the court and says that this child is in university, then the non-custodial parent must pay for those expenses. More importantly, we are seeing many recorded cases of so-called children who are 30 years of age whose non-custodial parent is in fact paying for their post-secondary education. We have Ph.D. students and MA students, some approaching middle age, who are still children as declared by a judge exercising his so-called discretion.

I have to ask how this can be. If we look at the law in this country we want it both ways. We know that under the Young Offenders Act a 14 year old can be declared to be an adult for the purposes of the law. We also know that for the purposes of the Divorce Act a 30 year old can be a child for the purposes of the law. How can this possibly be?

Second, I want to talk about fairness and equality because that is a big topic around this place. How can it be fair for a divorced parent to be compelled to pay but parents who are still married do not have to do anything? Even if the parents are millionaires, as long as their marriage is intact when the child is 19 they can say that they are not paying, and parents do that. However, a divorced parent does not have this choice. The court orders that parent to pay for the child up to age 30. We are waiting to hear whether the age will up any further.

I have one final point. Is the Divorce Act a law that is applied to create a social policy? That is exactly what is happening in this circumstance.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, while there are a number of elements to the member's question, I think it is useful to review what the government has done, which started his question in the first place.

In 1997 the government introduced child support guidelines to make the calculation of child support fair, predictable and consistent in the best interest of children. The Divorce Act does not automatically require parents to continue to support a child who has reached the age of majority but rather enables the courts to make an order for support if it is reasonable, given the circumstances of that family.

It needs to be said that this is not new policy. The courts have been ordering support for children over the age of majority well before the child support reforms of 1997.

The department is monitoring the federal child support guidelines closely and research to date indicates the guidelines are meeting their objectives.

The minister will be reporting to parliament on the guidelines by May 2002, and perhaps that is the time to have a more fulsome review of this to see whether in fact some of the issues that the member has raised are continuing to be an issue.

It is also important to note that most provinces and territories have legislation enabling the courts to make such orders where parents are separated. In fact some allow it where the families are intact.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.28 p.m.)