Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this private member's bill. I commend my colleague from the Bloc for bringing it forward.
The bill was introduced in the last session by the member for Lakeland. He did a lot of work on the background of this and I am glad to see that it has been carried forward. The last time it was debated it was a non-votable. This time it is votable.
I believe this is an issue of which everyone in the House is aware. It has been brought to their attention that this is an inequity in our tax laws that needs to be addressed. At a time when we are seeing surpluses in our revenues, the government needs to take a look at our tax laws and change the areas that need to be changed, address the inequities and recognize a trade that has been singled out to not receive the same treatment as others.
I am glad the bill is before the House and that it is votable. I hope all members in the House will support it.
The message is clear. The member for Lakeland has received 7,000 letters from mechanics from across the country who have pointed out the shortcomings of this part of the tax laws and that in this day of changing technologies it is becoming more and more onerous, because of the amount of money it takes to buy the tools, to get into the trade.
The trade is changing rapidly. The technology and equipment these people have to repair, whether it is heavy-duty tractors, large machinery, automobiles or whatever, is changing. It is computerized now. There are fewer people who can even look under the hood of a vehicle and do anything with it. It takes specialized people and specialized equipment.
Some mechanics estimate they need to invest $20,000 to $30,000 into equipment just to do their jobs. Having their own tools is one of the conditions of employment.
As recently as two weeks ago, I visited a young man in a shop in my riding. He informed me that it was necessary for him to supply $5,000 to $10,000 worth of tools to move into a journeyman position. He told me that was a big hurdle to overcome and that he may not be able to do that. This is an example of a trained and eager young man who is interested in getting into the workforce but because of the amount of money it will take for him to invest he may not be able to do that.
The government needs to look at the fact that this is happening. It needs to offer these people a tax credit for the tools they have to purchase as a condition of employment.
The last time this bill was brought forward there were a number of issues raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Finance Minister and some of the statements need to be clarified or argued with. One statement that he made was that:
—mechanics are not the only occupation that incurs substantial expenses as a requirement of employment.
Of course not. There are many. However they are the ones who cannot use this purchase of equipment as a deduction in their business. What we are saying is that farmers and other businessmen, as well as artists, musicians and chainsaw operators, incur substantial expenses as a requirement of employment but they are able to deduct these costs. Why can mechanics not also be added to this group? The government could then ensure that other groups that incur expenses as a requirement of employment will be treated fairly by the tax system.
We are now in a position where we can step back and have a look at our tax system to see where we could improve it. There are many ways to improve our tax system and mechanics' tools is one area that needs to be looked at.
The policy is supported by the all party House of Commons finance committee. In its last report it stated:
The committee recommends that the government provide targeted tax relief for all those who must bear large expenses as a condition of employment, such as is the case with mechanics' tools.
All opposition parties are supportive, and I hope members of the government, when it comes time to stand to vote on this issue, will support it as well. I am sure they are aware that this situation exists and that it needs to be changed.
The parliamentary secretary also stated that:
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.
That is a pretty poor statement. As we know, businessmen, farmers, all people who are involved in a business, are able to deduct their expenditures so why should mechanics be treated differently? Not being compensated for small expenditures, whatever the level, is a matter for regulation that could be sorted out rather easily.
He also stated that:
—provisions would need to be developed to ensure that tax relief is provided only for those items genuinely required as a condition of employment and not for those purchased for personal use.
That applies everywhere. If we are buying something to carry on our business, that is separate from our personal lives. That is minute nitpicking. The true issue is that we have people who are putting out tens of thousands of dollars to get started and then supplementing that every year by $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 per year in purchases of specialized equipment to keep their jobs and they are not able to deduct that expense. That is totally unfair.
When the bill was brought forward in 1998 by the member for Lakeland it received overwhelming support from people in the industry. I have quotes from mechanics, people who hire mechanics and general managers of automotive dealerships who say that this is something that would go a long way in helping to improve the ability of their people to do a decent job.
The minor change in Bill C-205 from the previous bill is that the amount of the deduction be changed to $250 from $200. It is just a minor tweaking to bring it back. This time it was brought back as a votable bill which will give it more debate in the House and more time for people to put their ideas forward.
I had a private member's bill drawn last week, thank goodness. It is like winning a lottery. The whole scheme of things here is to get a private member's bill drawn and to have it made votable. To bring it to the House to make members stand on the issue is important. This bill has made that one hurdle and has gone that one step further.
We will be supporting this initiative by the member. We believe it is an inequity that needs to be addressed. The overwhelming positive response by people in the industry to this bill is a clear indication that it is needed. I hope that government members of the House, when the bill comes to a vote, will realize that, will listen to the people and will support the bill.