This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was war.

Topics

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is certainly now on the record, although I am not sure just what we can do. The member has it now on the record so that in any event her position is settled.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the wonderful people of the riding of Elk Island in the debate on a motion put forward by the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

The motion is very interesting. The hon. member is proposing that some people in the country who are not making enough money to make a decent living should have a tax break. I have to say that I very much agree with that part of the motion.

The hon. member is talking about people in the arts and entertainment industry. People are working full time trying to make a living and sometimes their income level is really challenged. It is very tough for them to make ends meet, yet the Liberals are still quite content to reach into those people's pockets and take some of their meagre earnings and use them to build fountains in Shawinigan and other projects of their liking.

I find this really passing strange. It is an interesting comment on the Prime Minister and on Liberal thinking when we contemplate what the Prime Minister said in Europe just a few days ago. He said something about people who want to keep more of their own earnings being greedy. That was the word he used.

An artist who makes $13,000 or $15,000 a year has to pay several hundred dollars in income tax so that the Prime Minister can take the money to spend in his riding. He attributes the word greed to the artist who would like to keep some of his or her own earnings, but he somehow does not see that there is any element of greed in his own wanting to use that very same money for his nefarious purposes.

I also think of single moms. There are many single parents and most of them are single moms. Many of them make less than $20,000 yet the Liberal government with its so-called social conscience is quite content to lift from the pockets of those people who make less than $20,000 a year some $6 billion or $7 billion a year in income tax. How shameful.

An NDP member is saying that we need to be less greedy and let artists keep more of their earnings. I simply say it is time we replaced the Liberal government which cannot see past anything that moves without wanting to regulate it and tax it. In principle I agree with what the NDP member is proposing in the motion, which is is to reduce taxes, particularly for those people who have a very limited income.

I could hardly let this moment pass by without mentioning our solution 17. For all intents and purposes it would take almost two million taxpayers off the tax rolls completely, giving them a 100% reduction in taxes. When the Liberals knock our solution 17 plan, they are trying to get a message to Canadians to be suspicious of our plan, to not accept it and to not trust us to form the government. I really wonder about the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister who will not openly and honestly deal with the facts and let the people of Canada decide. Instead they paint a bunch of pictures of our plan which are quite different from what the plan actually is.

There is no doubt that low income Canadians, among them artists, need a substantial tax break. The member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys has suggested that the tax break should be 100% up to $30,000 of earnings. I have a bit of a problem with that. As much as I agree with the concept of reducing the taxes, I am not in favour of saying let us find which groups we should give this benefit to.

The Liberals like to line up different groups based on their race. They say that one race will have a better advantage over another one when it comes to hiring or benefits and other things with respect to the government. The NDP would probably look at people in terms of need, but it is only prepared to look at some individuals who have needs. In this case it is looking at people in the artistic community.

Let us not hesitate to say it does not matter whether the person is an artist, a mechanic, an unemployed nurse or a part time worker at a fast food place. If the person does not make enough money to adequately provide for his or her family, then there is still something fundamentally wrong with the government taking a certain portion of the earnings and saying that it wants it anyway.

The concept of increasing the basic exemption is very good. This is where solution 17 shines. For an individual, we would take that basic exemption right up to $10,000. Many students, artists and other people who have a small income would be totally exempt from paying federal income tax, which is as it should be. The remainder would pay the lowest rate. We are currently proposing 17% for that rate. That is why we have named it solution 17.

Artists of course have other things that affect them. Depending on the area where their work takes place, many of them incur expenses while they are producing their art. Whether one is a writer or a painter, it sometimes takes a year or two or three to earn an income. Producing the work takes that much time and it is only when the work is sold that there is income.

Perhaps we would be much wiser if we looked not only at artists, but at people whose income falls into the category of a large income over longer intervals of time and no income for a long time and then a spurt of larger income and then again a time of limited or no income.

Perhaps we should re-design our income tax system so there can be some long term averaging of both income and expenses. The annual exemption of our proposed $10,000 per year would in effect give the artist a $30,000 exemption over three years, the time that it takes to produce the work.

Obviously we need to deal with this issue not only for artists but for all Canadians. Although I agree in principle with what the hon. member is trying to do, I am going to have to vote against the motion. The simple reason is that I do not think it is right to single out one occupational group as a favoured group who can earn up to $30,000 without paying income tax, but everyone else regardless of how poor they are or what their obligations are to their children and families have to pay taxes on an amount of money after whatever the basic exemption is.

The basic exemption is around $8,000 under the Liberals. It would be $10,000 per adult under our plan. A family, a mom and a dad and two kids, under our plan would have a tax free income up to $26,000. That is very close to what the hon. member is proposing for artists. The difference is that our plan would apply to everyone in that income category. That would be a much more fair way of dealing with it.

I regret that my time is up. I would like to talk a bit more about some of the supports that are available to artists but I will have to leave that for other members.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Progressive Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, New Brunswick, it gives me great pleasure to speak in favour of Motion No. 259, a votable motion put forward by the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

It is very important to recognize that civilized societies have always supported the arts and culture. It is a tradition that has been valued throughout history. We should seek to maintain and improve this with policies, not specifically tax policies, but policies that support and encourage culture and the development of the arts in Canada, which has had a long and diverse history.

As an Atlantic Canadian from New Brunswick, one of the most culturally diverse and productive regions in Canada, we value a tradition of excellence. There are economic opportunities for all Canadians in recognizing and harnessing the power of the arts and cultural community, whether it is the Lion King in Toronto, or musicians like the Rankin Family and Natasha St-Pierre in Atlantic Canada who started from very humble means and have done extremely well, or artists who have reached international acclaim, like Roch Voisine who was born in my riding in New Brunswick. These types of success stories are worthy of recognition. However, we must do more to help artists when they are starting off.

The motion is very sound from the perspective of the hon. member's desire to help. However, there are some difficulties in its implementation and I would like to point out a couple of them.

It is very nebulous in terms of describing who qualifies and how the term artist fits a specific individual and whether or not that can be defined and the definition defended effectively.

The hon. member also pointed out the financial roller coaster artists are on. An artist may go on for several years without payment and then receive a lump sum payment recognizing contributions made over a period of time. The best way to address that would be through income averaging. This would also address other people who are similarly predisposed through the nature of their business to receive lump sum payments in recognition of work completed over a period of several years. Income averaging would be the best way to address it.

The average income of an artist in Canada is currently estimated at about $13,000. The issue raised by the hon. member can be addressed in a more broadly based way by significantly raising the basic personal exemption for all Canadians. The Progressive Conservative Party's task force which reported in January recommended an increase to $12,000. This would help significantly. That being the case, we should move over a period of time to raise the basic personal exemption.

The hon. member also recognized that tax relief could play an important role in helping artists pursue their chosen field of culture and art and in keeping them in Canada. It indicates that he recognizes the importance of lowering taxes for all Canadians to ensure that Canadians, regardless of career or life pursuit, can choose to stay and prosper in Canada. Whether it is a dot com, e-commerce, biotech or traditional industry, Canadians could have a future in Canada.

The hon. member demonstrated clearly that he recognizes the important role that tax policy plays in encouraging and discouraging pursuit of particular activities. In that vein I think he would agree that we should continue to be vigilant in ensuring that the tax burdens of Canadians are not excessive when compared to those of other countries.

Whether Canadians wish to pursue careers in the arts or the traditional economy we want them to be free to do so in Canada. I am sure he would share with me the need to reduce taxes for all Canadians based on his basic premise that decreasing taxes could help to encourage people, in this case artists, to pursue and maintain a certain level of activity.

The issue of capital gains tax needs to be addressed as well. In Canada we currently tax at 50% of the regular inclusion rate for the donation of publicly traded or listed securities to charitable foundations or institutions. Whether it is a hospital, a university, an endowment fund or a cultural activity, we tax 50% of capital gains.

Inclusion rates are taxed in Canada for donation of publicly traded or listed securities. In the U.S. there is absolutely no capital gains taxes on contributions of listed securities. This has led over the years to a significant disadvantage for Canadian universities, Canadian hospitals and the Canadian arts community. It has created a disincentive for high net worth Canadians to contribute listed shares of publicly traded companies to the cultural sector, health foundations and universities.

At the time of the prebudget report the Progressive Conservative dissenting report recommended the elimination of capital gains tax on gifts of listed securities. That would go a long way toward encouraging high net worth individuals in Canada and Canadians of relatively modest means who may have done very well in equity investing in recent years to help foster a greater environment for cultural activity in Canada. That is one way this could be addressed.

I would also be interested in exploring the examples of other countries relative to special tax exemptions for those engaged in the arts. By and large there is only one party in the House of Commons which consistently opposes any support for the Canadian arts. I expect it would probably kick a member out of its caucus if it were discovered that he or she had gone to live theatre.

It is important that there be almost an all-party commitment to the arts and cultural community in the House of Commons. While I may disagree with the particular vehicle set forth by the hon. member to help create a better environment for cultural and artistic diversity in Canada, I assure him that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada remains committed to work with altruistically oriented parties in the House.

We must seek better ways to support and encourage the arts and all types of creative endeavours for Canadians, whether they be involved in graphic arts, the dot com universe, weaving, painting, dancing or playwriting.

One of the things that defines us as Canadians is our unique culture and vibrancy from coast to coast to coast, which we shall continue to have with the proper support and encouragement of all Canadians.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my support to Motion No. 259 of my hon. colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys. I will state it clearly for the record:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should give consideration to exempting up to $30,000 of income from income tax as a gesture of support for those artists, writers and performers who work in Canada's cultural industry.

My reason for speaking today is to show a gesture of support for our artists, writers and performers. Not enough can be said for the artistic and gifted people in Canada who are continually contributing to an industry that is growing in leaps and bounds with the new media, the Internet and the information age interconnection. There is a new aspect of visual, artistic, audio and video presentations, real time, and an international sharing of information.

If language is a barrier among our communities and our youth, the whole aspect of graphics, pictures, audio visual presentations and music provides an international language which breaks the boundaries. A flourishing industry starts with the planting of a seed in the form of the God-given talents of young people who find their calling, their true gifts and their strength. Maybe it is a gift they have been given in the artistic field.

Our society is on an income base. It is a state of dependency. In any city transactions involving milk, water, clothes, housing or electricity are dependent on money. To live in a city one needs money. Whether it be Paris, New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Lethbridge or Hull, young people are trying to find their calling. This is an opportunity for Canada to give a gesture of support to artists. They may find they have to scrape their elbows and their knees to provide food and shelter for themselves, their immediate families, their communities or their extended families such as their elderly parents or grandparents. Artists are probably the most generous in terms of charities. Artists donate their works of art as a gesture of charity to local events such as silent auctions. The government should show a gesture of support by assisting them in finding their calling.

For example, an artist working in oils may find that those techniques are the best templates for the colours on a modem to be transferred internationally on a desk top computer in multi-media. Colours and hues can be controlled by technology as opposed to mixing oil paints on a palette.

Some may have to go for some upgrading in new styles or techniques. They may have to broaden their horizons by going to a big city or venturing into a new part of Canada. It would take considerable expense to make this happen. As a nation we could make a gesture of freedom to our artists. Basically it would allow them the freedom of expression and the freedom to try new ways.

I would like to cast a good light on our artists and their gifts. At a younger age when choosing my career path and realizing my aspirations for the gifts I was given I was told that an artist is a conceptualizer. For example, someone dreamt up the architectural concept of the parliament buildings. Somebody expressed it on paper or in words. That gesture was supported and it grew into the buildings on Parliament Hill. The architecture of these buildings are of artistic value. They also have a purpose.

Our artists may have artistic talents but they also have integrity and serve a purpose in terms of the nation and the new technologies. There has to be a purpose. It is not for mere entertainment or mere entrepreneurial skills that our artists work on their concepts.

I come from a region of Canada which is known for its beadwork, crafts, clothing such as moccasins and dream catchers, where people consider their talents to be a gift and have included purpose in their art such as dream catchers trapping the good dreams and screening out the bad ones in a child's room or the parents' room. The dream catcher is an artistic form but also has a spiritual purpose in making our lives better.

The government has an opportunity to make a gesture of support for our artisans, our playwrights, our singers and our poets. I also think of our recently lost colleague and brother, the late Mr. Maurice Richard.

Performers in television and movies are growing in numbers and attracting the motion picture industry here. Let us support them. They are seasonal jobs. Some people might find summer work in shooting locations throughout the country but may fall short trying to make ends meet.

The exemption of $30,000 worth of income could be our gesture to encourage artists, writers and performers to say they have a rightful place and that we count on them to conceptualize our future and make out lives better in the country we call home, Canada.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Motion No. 259 in the name of the member for Kamloops—Thompson and Highland Valleys is a votable item. We are in the second hour of debate. A request has been made by the member in question and has been respected by all the parties of the House to preserve the last hour of debate which of course would only occur I suspect some time in the fall.

I believe you would find unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as being 2.30 p.m.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

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.

This House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11.00 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.15 p.m.)