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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-27.

Topics

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

moved that Bill C-397, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (support payments), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be allowed to speak to this bill. I want to take a few moments to thank my colleague from Sherbrooke who agreed to support this bill.

Unfortunately, it is with a lot of bitterness that I rise to speak to Bill C-397, an act to amend the Income Tax Act. In fact, my bill is aimed at amending only one section, section 118 of the Income Tax Act dealing with child deductions.

I am disappointed because I believe that this bill should have been votable. I believe so, since the required tests for making a bill votable are, first, that the bill be written clearly and effectively. My bill and I am convinced that you have read it entirely, is very clear and effective.

The second test is that the bill must be under federal jurisdiction. This is just common sense. If it were not under federal jurisdiction, I would not be here today discussing it.

The third test is that the bill should deal with a matter that is clearly in the public interest. That will be my main point in my remarks and, naturally I will emphasize the merits of my bill.

There should be a clear interest. In this case, it is more than clear because, after I introduced my bill, the justice minister sent to all members and senators a summary of the report of the federal, provincial, territorial family law committee. This report mentioned child custody, access and support for Canadian children. I will refer to this report several times in my remarks.

I am sorry that this bill is not votable. I have hundreds of cases of Canadian and Quebec citizens, mothers and fathers, who asked me to correct certain injustices in the present legislation. I am all the more sorry because my bill, as I indicated, does exactly what is being requested in the report: parents who share parental responsibility—we no longer say shared custody—should have a tax deduction that is proportional to the number of days they have custody of the child.

For a parent to be considered to have parental responsibility, he or she must have custody during at least 100 days in a year before he or she can claim a certain percentage of child care expenses for the days he or she has custody, and benefit from tax deductions in his or her income tax return.

Let us take, for example, my own situation. I have joint custody of my children during weekends. On the basis of 52 weekends, I have custody of my children during 104 days. Therefore, I could deduct 104/365ths of the costs incurred for the custody of my children.

Unfortunately, divorce and separation occur much too frequently these days. We are living in the year 2001. It is a fact that divorce and separation are commonplace occurrences. Frequently when parents divorce or separate they try to avoid litigation, to not traumatize their children and make them suffer.

Unfortunately, money matters are always the most contentious issues between parents and are often the cause of disputes. This is why I think the Income Tax Act as it now stands is unfair. Why could we not allow a parent who has joint custody of a child or who shares parental responsibility to deduct a portion of the costs incurred for the custody of the children?

Unfortunately, since this bill has not been declared votable, my remarks are only idle chatter. I most sincerely hope that the finance minister, and I intend to pressure him on this, will in the name of equity and parental responsibility take my bill under his wing and amend section 118 of the present legislation.

I will stop here. I know that my 15 minute period is not over, but I nevertheless will stop here because I am very disappointed, of course, that this bill has not been declared votable. Most of all, I am very sad for all the parents who thought that I could succeed in pushing forward this issue and convince the government to forward to the present as in the year 2001 unfortunately divorce and separation occur too frequently.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having listened so carefully to my speech. I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family as well as the people of my riding a happy holiday season, much happiness and, most of all, peace.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I thank the hon. member for his good wishes.

Since no one else seems to want to rise on the bill, the period set aside for private members' business has now expired. Since the motion has not been declared votable, the item is dropped from the order paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With the unexpected termination of the debate, I wonder if the House might suspend for a few minutes to allow the members who are involved in the late show to arrive in the Chamber.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it agreed that we suspend until 5.50 p.m. to give those members who want to be here for the adjournment debate a chance to be present in the House?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 5.40 p.m.)

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

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, some time ago in the House the Prime Minister, while speaking to the downturn in the economy and the need to stimulate some employment, mentioned that perhaps the minister responsible for ACOA would advance some infrastructure funding. I asked a question a few days later whether or not any determination had been made as to when and how much. The answer I was given related to the amount that was already in the mill, $6 million in the case of Newfoundland, some of which has not been taken up to date.

The needs are severe not only in my province but I am sure across the country as well. The more infrastructure funding we can put into the mix during this present downturn in particular, the better it will be for many reasons.

There is a severe need to address critical freshwater supplies in certain areas. There is a need to address environmental concerns in relation to taking care of sewage disposal. There is also a need to stimulate the economy by getting people back to work. The construction field offers tremendous opportunities for employment. By putting more money into our infrastructure programs we can get people working and solve the problems of fresh water and environmental concerns at the same time.

In the St. John's region there are a number of major problems in relation to these issues. I will mention a couple to illustrate why it is so important to get money flowing through the infrastructure program.

One is the lack of fresh water in the part of the city called Goulds which is now part of the city of St. John's. Many residents in that area do not have access to good clean drinking water. There are also parts of that same section of the city that do not have sewer services. This causes a major health problem in that immediate area.

Despite the pressure from the people concerned, the city puts the blame on the provincial government. The provincial government puts the blame on the feds. It is everybody's fault and nobody is focusing on the problems, bringing the agencies together and addressing the overall problems. The one factor that quite often prevents addressing the problem is sufficient funding.

The other major problem in St. John's is the harbour itself. We have to stop talking about addressing the harbour cleanup and do something, whether it be St. John's, Halifax, Vancouver or any other harbour, in the same terms as we do general infrastructure funding. These programs to address harbour cleanup have to be separate and specific.

I hope that the parliamentary secretary can tell us there will be more money for infrastructure and that we will focus on priorities. Perhaps he could give us an idea of the route that is taken in order to get such funding flowing.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly happy to respond to the member for St. John's West who quite frankly has been a vociferous candidate for his riding in the House.

I am pleased today to speak about the infrastructure Canada program, a Government of Canada initiative that will improve the quality of life for Canadians in rural and urban communities.

When I gave the answer originally to the member, I talked about the $6 billion which is across the country. I am happy to note that $153 million of that has been directed toward the province of Newfoundland.

The member himself was concerned about drinking water in that area. A good portion of the infrastructure program was earmarked for environmental and green infrastructure.

Infrastructure Canada makes green municipal infrastructure a priority. Why? Because nothing is more fundamental to communities than clean drinking water, clean air and a healthy environment. These areas are very fundamental to the vibrant communities. Without them, Canadians cannot enjoy the high quality of life they have every right to expect in this country. There are many other important areas in municipal infrastructure but we believe that investment in green infrastructure comes first.

We did not reach this conclusion alone. Partnership with other levels of government is one of infrastructure Canada's unique strengths. When we designed the program, we consulted broadly with municipalities. Indeed, I believe that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities originally was the impetus and the driving force in getting the government way back in 1993 to start the very first infrastructure program. It told us quite clearly that green infrastructure was an immediate priority. The member is drawing that to our attention once again. We consulted with the provinces and the territories and they too identified this area as one of urgent need.

We listened and we have responded. In each infrastructure Canada agreement we took steps to stipulate a minimum level of green municipal infrastructure investment in each jurisdiction. Newfoundland has agreed with that. I have noticed that many of its projects have zeroed in on green infrastructure.

I think the member's real question was that he wanted to know if we were going to accelerate the program. The $6 billion is over a five or six year period. I think a number of our own ministers have mentioned the possibility of accelerating that program, in other words, moving the funding from year three or four into year two and so forth. The answer is that it requires agreement among three levels of government. I think those negotiations are in progress but I cannot actually say where they stand at this time. It is a difficult commitment for some of the provinces and municipalities because they are one-third partners and they have to come up with the money as well.

In conclusion I would say that we have a litany of projects in Newfoundland. There is a $1.1 million investment in the Placentia water treatment plant and a $45,000 upgrade to the Trepassey chlorination system. I think those are in the member's own riding. There is a $3.8 million investment in the Shoal Harbour treatment plant, a $1 million upgrade of the Victoria sewage system, and $647,000 toward the Lourdes water system. We have been committed to solving the member's problem.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me thank the parliamentary secretary for his concise answer. I guess he answered my question to the best of the government's ability because if negotiations are under way with the other parties, I understand fully that all three must come to the table. I appreciate that and his frankness.

I would ask if he would clearly outline the process. My understanding is the cities or towns outline their priorities and submit their list to the province which in turn will select its priorities, the priorities of the government members. They are then submitted to the committee representing the feds and the provinces to decide how much funding is available and where it will go. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could clarify if that is the process.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has got it fairly close. Actually in Canada it is handled differently depending on the province. In my own province of Ontario it is handled quite differently because the province of Ontario has its own infrastructure apparatus. What we are trying to do is work through that apparatus. I think it is similar in Quebec. It has its own apparatus for infrastructure funding. What we are trying to do is not duplicate that structure.

In others areas, like Newfoundland, I believe, the province would apply directly to a body administered by the treasury board. The member is quite right that the municipalities move forward with, if I can say it, their wish lists. I know that there are more projects than there is money available and that is unfortunate, but it seems to be the nature of government. There are always more ways to spend money. Then the province goes through a process of approving those it thinks are priorities to try to put them in some kind of prioritization sequence. The province then sends that to us.

All we are trying to do is not pick and choose. We are trying to ask if it fits within the original concept of green infrastructure. In other words, if it is a swimming pool and we thought we would improve the water quality of St. John's West, it probably would be rejected.

If what the member is orienting himself to, if it is a water treatment facility--

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt, but I gave the hon. member almost an extra minute.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is in relation to a question I put to the Minister of Human Resources Development about a week ago regarding EI benefits.

We have been down this road before in question period in the House. In fact it has been a national case, if you will. It is basically about abuse of EI recipients by the department itself.

I take exception to some of the questions and techniques used by the department to determine whether or not individual clam diggers are eligible for EI benefits. What I contend, and I stand by it, is that their right to privacy has been violated on the basis of 42 questions on a questionnaire they are forced to answer. These claimants are forced to answer these questions without any thought to legal counsel or help within the room to do so, which they are entitled to.

Then, when they are through answering those 42 questions, some of them very personal and having nothing to do with clam digging, they are forced to sign a statement attesting that everything they have said is true.

There is a place on that form for a witness signature. It is not interesting that a witness signature never appears on those forms?

The question is, why clam diggers? Why the lowly clam digger? Why do they have to be interrogated in this fashion?

The example I used, and members are familiar with this, is the billion dollar boondoggle in HRDC a couple of years ago. We raged about that in the House. The question would be how many chief executive officers in companies that were not entitled to benefits from or contributions by the Government of Canada were subjected to that type of interrogation. The answer would be none. Not one of them was interrogated in that way. If they were, they would have legal counsel with them, which they are entitled to, as the clam diggers are.

It is the same situation with the bureaucrats. Not one single bureaucrat was questioned by the department without legal counsel. How many of them lost their paycheques? Not one of them.

There is only one reason for this. It is that these people are poor and they are not quite as articulate as some of the smart, and I wanted to say smartass, bureaucrats. That is simply the case. They are an easy target for this type of interrogation and it has happened time and time again.

When I showed this 42 part questionnaire to the minister what she told me was “I agree with you, Mr. Thompson, that it is wrong and we should not be asking those types of personal questions”. Yet when it goes back to the bureaucrats, what do they do? They convince the minister that it is right, that there is nothing wrong with it and that they will continue to do it.

There is something about this country of ours. When we get up and want to rage about the indignities that are passed on and pushed on to the poor people of this country, nobody wants to talk about it. I guess it is not exciting. They simply are an easy target for a big government. That is exactly what the government has been doing. It has been consistent. Even some of the tax court judges on P.E.I. agree with my position.

It is wrong and it has to stop. I think it has to stop right here on the floor of the House of Commons by the minister standing up on her feet and saying that is enough.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Laval West Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for the question. It is a very important question for us in government because we want citizens, no matter what level of literacy they are at, to have the same rights as every other citizen. This is an important position that we have relayed.

I certainly do not disagree at all with the remarks of my hon. colleague from New Brunswick Southwest. Let me add that the large majority of individuals requesting EI benefits are honest. We know that. They are hardworking Canadians who need temporary income support while they are unemployed.

The department is responsible for ensuring that those who apply for employment insurance are eligible to receive benefits. I think everyone can understand that. Unfortunately, there are instances where some people wrongfully claim EI. That is why HRDC has the mandate to protect the integrity of the EI program by conducting investigations into all allegations of abuse. When the department receives allegations of abuse, it must investigate.

HRDC investigations play a key role in safeguarding the integrity of the EI program by detecting, preventing and deterring abuse. We have several investigation programs that allow us to protect the integrity of the EI program. In 2000-01 for example, investigation and control activities resulted in total savings of $573 million to the EI fund. This means that for every dollar spent on investigations, $9.23 is returned.

However, in light of the details raised by the hon. member opposite, and I want to underline they are important details that we take seriously, the minister has asked her officials to review the way investigations are conducted to ensure that employees are working within the code of conduct that is respectful of individuals and the Privacy Act. All of our investigations are conducted within the authorities legislated by us in the EI Act. Employees are provided with ongoing training and refresher courses to ensure investigations are carried out in a responsible, lawful manner.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that HRDC investigators must adhere to a very strict code of professional conduct and carry out their duties in a professional manner. Investigators routinely inform individuals of their rights and obligations. They also inform claimants of their right to legal counsel in cases that are being considered for prosecution. When administrative penalties are considered, clients are advised of their right to appeal.

I will repeat how important this is to us. We are committed to protecting the integrity of the employment insurance program so that it continues to be there to support Canadians.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the department is sincere in a follow-up to this. The parliamentary secretary tells me that it is.

This is a pattern of abuse that has occurred over and over again. I have to emphasize that the people I am talking about are poor. They are not empowered as you and I are, Mr. Speaker. We have a place here. We can stand up and rant and take the government to task on these issues. They only have people like you and me and the other members in the House to defend them. That is what we are trying to do.

I think there should be a sense of fairness within the department. There has to be. I am encouraged by what the parliamentary secretary said this evening, but what we want are results.

This has occurred over and over again. We are looking for real results. I do not think we want a meanspirited government out on a witch hunt prosecuting or persecuting people who really need the help and incidentally, who paid into the plan that they now are attempting to get some benefit from.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could not be more in accord with what my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest has said. It is the government's role to make sure that whatever EI benefits are provided to citizens are done according to their rights and within the Privacy Act as well.

We are looking into this affair. If what my parliamentary colleague has said is true, it is totally unacceptable to us. I can assure my colleague and the House that we will continue to investigate the matter. As soon as the investigation is completed, we will report to him and the House as to what the conditions exactly are.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question this evening arises from a question I raised in the House on September 21 regarding the issue of a gentleman named Mr. Nabil Al-Marabh, who had been arrested on stabbing charges in Boston, had attempted to illegally enter the United States from Canada, had illegally re-entered Canada and was finally found to be carrying a forged passport, a forged citizenship card and a forged social insurance number and who may have been connected with terrorist organizations.

In raising this question, I was informed by the minister, who responded:

It is wrong to equate all failed refugee claimants with terrorism. That is clearly wrong.

We could all have figured that one out. She then went on to say:

We do not detain people on mere whispers. We do not detain on suspicion

In light of Bill C-36, that seems a bit ironic. Of course, the government can now detain without either whisper or suspicion, and moreover has the ability to arrest people who have the misfortune to simply have the same name as someone who is suspected of terrorism. They can find their assets seized, taken away permanently and find no compensation, even if they were completely innocent. That of course just puts the lie to everything she said.

The problem we face with Mr. Al-Marabh is that he is part of an enormous problem in which we do not have control of our borders. Having failed to assert control of our borders for a number of years, we now find a situation in which we are flooded with a large number of refugee claimants, many of whom are bogus and a small number of whom may potentially be terrorists.

If I can refer to reports of October 30, 2001, it was reported that confidential immigration documents stated that the number of foreigners claiming refugee status in Canada was expected to reach 41,250 by the end of this year. That represented a 37% increase over last year and was the biggest 12 month leap ever. That is the kind of problem we face.

I note that in the face of this the government has no adequate response. I would like to quote from the auditor general's report to make this point. The auditor general writes:

In our 1997 chapter, we concluded that a thorough review of the refugee determination process was needed. The process did not quickly grant Canada's protection to claimants who genuinely needed it, and it did not discourage those who did not need or deserve Canada's protection from claiming refugee status.

The report, which came out a few days ago, further states:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada could not provide information on removals of failed refugee claimants from the country that would indicate whether (the department's) processes were more effective.

More effective meaning more effective than they had been four years ago.

My question for the minister is simply this. Is the minister prepared today in the House to provide the information the auditor general has been seeking with regard to the effectiveness of determining whether or not people are genuine refugees, deserving of our protection, or not?

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Gatineau Québec

Liberal

Mark Assad LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that Canada's privacy legislation prohibits the government from discussing details of specific cases like the one he raised. The government would not jeopardize the integrity of its own intelligence or that of our neighbour, the United States.

What I can tell the member is that the existing act already contains some of the toughest provisions to deny admission to or deport terrorists regardless of the accusations we have heard in the House. At present we can and do detain whenever we believe someone is a flight risk or a threat to Canadians. If anyone poses a security risk to Canada we detain and argue for continued detention.

Front end security screening coupled with the new enforcement measures of Bill C-11 which was recently passed by parliament would provide immigration officers the tools they need to do their job. They are powerful tools compared to those of the past. They would automatically deny access to our refugee determination system to anyone found to be a security threat. Bill C-11 gave us the tools to deal with security threats more quickly.

We will not let terrorists strike at our core values. These values include a commitment to the charter, which we must always keep in mind; due process, in which we take great pride in the House; tolerance, which I hope is in the heart of every member of the House; and diversity in our immigration and refugee protection program which is seen as a model everywhere in the world.

We will not allow terrorists to push us off course. Canadians want security but they want us to respect our values and traditions. We are committed to the rule of law. This is why we cannot remove persons from Canada after due process has been served. Our system works on the basis of evidence. It consists of checks and balances and due process.

The Government of Canada will not allow persons to take advantage of our generosity by engaging in any kind of terrorism. We are acting to ensure Canada will never be a safe haven for terrorists. We are doing this in ways that are grounded in the rule of law which is the basis of our democracy.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary was reading from prepared notes. This is unfortunate because he wound up answering a question I did not ask.

I asked him a question specifically in regard to a point the auditor general had raised. She said Citizenship and Immigration Canada had failed to provide information about the removal of failed refugee claimants, not about the process for admitting people to the country in the first place.

There were serious inaccuracies in the parliamentary secretary's commentary. First, he said Canada is a model admired by the rest of the world. That is not so. I used to live in Australia. I was an immigrant in Australia. They laugh at our system as well they should.

Second, with regard to implementing and following through on laws, the auditor general says we have failed to follow through on the provisions of existing laws. When the government does not follow through on existing laws how can we trust it when it says it will implement new laws? The problem is the government's failure to implement and act on existing laws.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have prepared notes and we have checked anything we raise in the House. I wish the opposition would do the same. What we have seen here are bogus charges and all kinds of statements that do not stand up to the test of the facts.

If the hon. member has any information he should give it to us. He obviously does not. He must remember we are in a democratic system where we believe in the rule of law. Regardless of all his statements they will not stand up to the test of the facts.

The hon. member mentioned the auditor general's report. Obviously with the new bills we have brought before the House we will improve in this regard. Nonetheless Canada has a great reputation as a doorway for immigrants from all over the world. We do not want to lose that great advantage.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

(The House adjourned at 6.22 p.m.)