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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

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare Motion No. 14 lost.

(Motion No. 14 negatived)

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Canadian Heritage

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with a further amendment.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare the motion carried on division.

(Motion agreed to)

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between the parties and there is agreement for the following. I move, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to further defer the recorded divisions scheduled for Monday, June 12, 2000 on Motion No. 237 and Bill C-214 until the end of Government Orders on Tuesday, June 13, 2000.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as being 1.30 p.m.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock as 1.30 p.m.?

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will now proceed to Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from May 1 consideration of the motion.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2000 / 1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 259 which states that 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. The motion has been brought forward by the member for Kamloops—Thompson and Highland Valleys.

On the surface it seems to be a proposal which is very much in harmony with the government's stand on the arts. The government recognizes the importance of providing continued support to individuals engaged in the arts. However, this is not the way to do it.

The government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have Canadian choices and that they are connected to other Canadians and to the very diverse Canadian culture. This means focusing on the creation of Canadian content and supporting creators, artists and innovators. It means enhancing the capacity of cultural organizations, cultural industries and cultural institutions to build and retain audiences and to seize both the opportunities and the challenges created by the globalization and new technologies which are unfolding. It means finding ways to build connections among Canadians across communities, to connect Canadians to the world, and to engage young Canadians in all that we do.

Our government's commitment also means taking into account the uniqueness and the distinct character of Quebec culture and the needs and circumstances of French language communities in other parts of Canada as well.

Taken at a glance, the proposed tax exemption for artists, writers and performers could be seen to be very consistent with these stated objectives. However on closer inspection, it becomes less clear that such a tax exemption is warranted.

Since 1997 I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. It is interesting that this motion has come forward for consideration by the government, yet creators have come to the finance committee and asked us to look at initiatives such as income averaging or indeed some of the aspects of the Irish model.

Income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from tax in Ireland only under certain circumstances. In Ireland, section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, empowers revenue to determine that artistic works which are original and creative are recognized as having cultural or artistic merit and may have an exemption from tax within the year in which the claim is made.

It is done through the minister of finance. It is determined in consultation with a board or body of persons that are knowledgeable in this area of art. It looks at the sale of artistic endeavours such as a book or other writing, a play, a musical composition, a painting or other like picture, and a sculpture. It also has a proviso that claimants for artists exemption must be resident or ordinarily reside and be domiciled in Ireland.

These are initiatives the government has been encouraged to look at and I believe there is merit in doing so. However the motion before us is simply a tax exemption of up to $30,000 for artists who reside in Canada. I would emphasize that the tax system already has features, several unique measures as a matter of fact, that support our artistic and cultural sectors.

Certified Canadian film productions produced by qualified corporations have a special refundable tax credit which covers up to 12% of the cost of the eligible production. It replaces a previous system of capital cost allowance deductions for certain investors that was in place until 1995 and it maximises a benefit for the eligible productions.

As well, Canadian art objects purchased by businesses for display purposes are eligible for a generous depreciation allowance, notwithstanding the fact that such art objects may retain their value or indeed appreciate in value over time. This provision enhances the exposure given to Canadian art.

The designation of the national arts service organization provides national not for profit art groups with the same tax treatment as charities. This has done much to enhance that sector. Artists may deduct the cost of creating a work of art in the year incurred even though the work may not be sold until a later date. This provision recognizes the difficulty that many artists face when attributing costs to a particular work and carrying inventory over long periods of time.

Employed artists and musicians may deduct certain expenses against income from that employment notwithstanding that most employment expenses are non-deductible. Specifically, employed artists may deduct expenses related to their artistic endeavours up to an annual limit.

Employed musicians are able to claim the cost of maintenance, rental, insurance and capital cost allowance on musical instruments. The special deductions recognize that these expenses are required in order to carry on employment in these fields.

Artists may also elect to value charitable gifts from their inventory at any amount up to their fair market value. This provision removes an obstacle for artists donating their works to charities, museums and other public institutions.

Certain objects certified to be of cultural importance to Canada are exempt from capital gains tax if donated to a designated museum or art gallery. This provision helps to ensure that artistic works of cultural significance are retained in Canada.

These are important provisions. They demonstrate that the government has taken steps to ensure that the tax system does not form a barrier to engaging in artistic endeavours. However the proposal before us today does not seek to address a specified problem faced by artists. Rather, the proposal is for a substantial tax exemption for all individuals recognized as artists. Such a tax exemption would raise significant concerns in the context of the income tax policy and administration.

From the perspective of equity I am sure we would all agree that the tax system should as much as possible treat individuals in similar circumstances in a similar manner. This means that individuals with comparable incomes and needs should pay comparable amounts of tax. However under the proposed exemption an eligible artist would pay substantially less tax than another individual in a comparable position who is not an artist. This would seem to me to be highly unfair.

I am certain that other taxpayers would also see this issue in the same light. It would be very difficult to explain to a hard working taxpayer why she should be faced with a tax liability while another individual at the same income did not pay any tax whatsoever simply because she was an artist. For this reason alone I find the proposal before us today to be flawed.

Moreover, the proposal is overly vague in several crucial aspects. First, the proposed exemption would require that some definition of eligible artists be developed. However the motion makes no reference to this definition.

It is true that some definitions already exist. For example, in the Status of the Artist Act and in the guidelines used by the Canada Council for the Arts there are definitions, but these definitions were not created with the income tax system in mind and would likely have to be revised.

It is difficult to imagine that any definition could be developed that would satisfactorily address all needs of interested parties. Without a doubt any definition that excluded a given group or artistic activity would be subject to dispute and would be very difficult both to administer and to control.

The motion before us does not specify whether the proposed exemption is to apply to the income from the artists' endeavours only or to all income earned by eligible individuals no matter how they are defined.

Limiting the exemption to artistic income would seem to be too restrictive, especially by part time artists and performers. However extending the exemption to all sources of income seems to be overly generous and would encapture people that perhaps do art as a hobby or simply as a sideline. These are just a few of the things that make the motion before us so problematic.

In conclusion, while encouraging our arts and cultural industries has been and will continue to be an important priority for Canadians, I do not believe the proposed tax exemption would be an appropriate policy tool and I do not support it.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to enter the debate and to speak in favour of Motion No. 259 as put forward by the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys. I know the hon. member spent a great deal of time speaking to arts and cultural groups across the country. In fact it was at their request that the member put the idea forward for debate in the House of Commons.

Motion No. 259 has the endorsation of 30 arts and cultural groups across the country such as the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the Writer's Union of Canada, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, and the Canada Council for the Arts, just to name a few of the many groups that have come forward asking parliament to recognize in a meaningful way through our tax system the contribution arts and cultural communities make not only to the Canadian cultural fabric but to the Canadian economy.

Motion No. 259 seeks to amend the tax system to introduce tax fairness for our working creators. It would encourage an income tax reduction that would be similar to that already offered in the province of Quebec for working artists. Once again the province of Quebec seems to be leading the way in this type of issue. At least it has recognized the value of the cultural industry in that province and has made meaningful changes to that effect.

Motion No. 259 would benefit those artists and creators who earn very little income. We are only aware of the artists who have reached celebrity status. Granted, there are some musicians and artists who become famous and earn a good deal of money, but the incomes of most creators are over 50% below the national average.

Just by way of an example, the Writer's Union of Canada states that the average annual income of writers is less than $12,000 a year. According to Statistics Canada visual artists earned on average $12,633 in 1995. The Crafts Association of British Columbia states that 50% of its members reported earnings of less than $5,000 per year from their craft and 31% reported earnings of between $5,000 and $20,000 a year. That is the reality of most people working in the arts and cultural communities. Whether one is a writer, a visual artist, a filmmaker, a musician or a dancer, that is the reality.

If we want people to be in those positions and if we value the cultural institutions by which Canada identifies itself and in which Canada takes great pride, we need to support those individuals in a meaningful way.

Motion No. 259 recommends that up to $30,000 of income be exempt. This would change the basic personal exemption to up to $30,000 of income earned from the activity for which the person is registered, not of their total overall earnings. If they are earning supplementary income from another type of work obviously they would be subject to the same tax as everyone else. This is the actual copyrighted work that they are producing as an aspect of the art in which they are involved. I think it is very realistic. Other countries have undertaken it and we have some evidence to draw from as to what it would actually cost or what the pick-up would be were this offered to the artistic community.

One of the most famous examples is Ireland. Ireland, as everyone knows, is well known for its arts, culture, music, great writers and great poets. People in its cultural sector are valued, treasured, appreciated and accurately reflected in the income tax system. I have some examples of how the Irish system works, but it would be safe to say that we could look to this model.

The motion put forward by the member from Kamloops is vague for a purpose. The member genuinely wanted to stimulate this debate. He did not want to say what we should be doing or how it must be done. He wanted us to speak in the House openly and freely about whether or not we value our creators in the cultural sector.

People working in the arts and cultural sectors make up 8% of our total labour force. It is actually larger than forestry, mining and agriculture combined. I do not believe we recognize them and the contribution they make not just to our quality of life, which is important, but to our economy.

It would be a very small cost factor. I believe there is no ceiling in Ireland on its tax break for income earned from artistic endeavours, as we are recommending. Even there where they have many people involved in the arts and cultural sector and with no ceiling it only costs about $12 million Canadian per year. Frankly that is not a great deal of money when we consider the contribution it makes to the economy of Ireland. Perhaps we could view the impact of the program being recommended by the member from Kamloops in a comparable light. That would be the approximate price tag we would be contemplating.

We believe that our arts and cultural community has been underrecognized. We expect artists to be there when we want to be entertained. We assume they will always be there because for the love of their craft they are willing to starve and live in some garret, the stereotype of the starving artist. That is not necessary. If we value the product we should be demonstrating that realistically with a tax exemption.

Other industries receive exemptions because we value them. There are capital gains exemptions for businesses and so on. People in other occupations enjoy that type of tax credit. It is a recognition of the way we value them in our community, but we do not do the same with artists, musicians, dancers and so on.

Some artists face real costs to carry on their craft. Musicians these days, whether violinists or pianists, may have $100,000 invested in their instruments. They are paid abysmally because I do not think there is a symphony orchestra that is adequately funded. After studying all their lives and investing an absolute fortune in a quality instrument they are virtually paid peanuts.

The motion put forward by the member from Kamloops in some way takes some steps toward recognizing the hardship faced by those who create in our arts and cultural sector. We value them. The NDP caucus is quite interested in this motion. I was very pleased to be able to speak to it today. We are disappointed that the first member who spoke from the Liberal side dismissed the idea without a great deal of thought or getting into it in any detail.

The only way we could investigate this fully is to deal with it at the finance committee. If the motion were allowed to pass at second reading we could do that. I point out that parliament has dealt with the issue in the past. In 1982 we all remember the Applebaum-Hébert commission on Canadian cultural life. It pointed out that the largest subsidy to the cultural life in Canada came not from governments, corporations or other patrons, but from the artists themselves through their unpaid and underpaid labour. As early as 1982 we were seized of this issue.

In 1999 the heritage committee's report stated:

From the Committee's standpoint, investing in the arts is no less important than investing in the social sciences humanities, the purer sciences or medicines. The Committee is also aware of the long term commitment made to the researchers and scholars by other federal government agencies and looks for a similar level of commitment to Canadian artists.

As recently as 1999 the heritage committee recommended this in its report, so I was very surprised and disappointed when the first speaker on this motion today simply said that it was not meant to be. Maybe she has not researched the recent comments of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

I have pointed out how much I admire the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys for bringing the motion forward. It is an important debate. Other countries do it. The province of Quebec does it. I believe that the Government of Canada should show support for those involved in the arts and cultural industries.

Official ReportPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the speech I made last night around 5.30 p.m. concerning the opposition motion is reported in today's Hansard .

I said “Economic Development Bank” but meant “Federal Development Bank”. I would like to have this correction made to Hansard if possible. The blues were not in when we left yesterday, at 7 p.m., and this morning, Hansard had already been printed. For posterity I would like this change to be made.