House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was area.


Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor—St. Clair for a very enjoyable speech. I certainly learned a lot, as I am sure all of us did, about what is good and bad in the bill.

It was interesting and kind of shocking to learn more about what is not in the bill than what is in it. The hon. member itemized some things he thought were glaringly absent. One was the bill's complete silence on aquaculture, a booming new industry which is regulated but is nonetheless a source of apprehension.

I wonder if the hon. member would expand a little on the growing industry of aquaculture and how it could affect the ecological integrity of marine parks.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been several instances where fish that were modified, either through breeding or genetic means, have escaped from pens into the general environment. I believe there have been three such instances around the globe. In each instance the modified fish have been more aggressive and more capable of dominating the ecosystem than naturally occurring species. The modified fish tend to reproduce very quickly and are aggressive toward other species. The end result is that they wipe out other species. This has occurred.

Imagine what would happen if a modified species got into a marine park. Destroying or damaging part of an ecosystem has a cumulative impact on the rest of the ecosystem. More than just one species of fish would be affected. A cumulative effect could spread through the ecological chain and devastate the entire park. This is a glaring omission in the bill that must be addressed.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his comments. I hope we can continue to work with his party and get its support at final reading.

The member expressed concerns about consultations with provinces and aboriginal peoples. We assure Canadians and all members in the House that without a federal-provincial agreement we will not proceed. The Saguenay—St. Lawrence is a special exception because the sea bed is clearly within provincial jurisdiction. Of Canada's 29 designated marine conservation areas 11 have uncontested federal title.

Does the member not see the benefit of the federal government having clear title? We will not proceed unless everyone is in accord. A non-derogation clause has been included in the legislation with respect to aboriginal rights. Does the member not see the benefit of uniformity? Does he not feel it would ensure accountability and preserve something for all Canadians in the years to come? Does the hon. member not see the benefit of proceeding only where we have clear title?

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, five first nations communities addressed the environment committee over the last two days. They expressed grave concern that they had not been consulted about the species at risk legislation. To focus only on federal title is simplistic and ignores the reality of where these marine parks are. Fishing goes on in a number of these parks, by both first nations and commercial fishermen, which impacts on provincial economies. That must be taken into account.

There must be consultation. Oil and gas leases need to be negotiated with private owners. There is interest at the provincial government level in those areas. Given the size of marine parks, the importance of preserving them and their importance to the adjoining land mass, it is impossible not to consult with provincial governments and first nations.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I would also like to come back to some of the things that are not in the bill, which were itemized in the original speech by the member for Windsor—St. Clair. He had quite a list of things that he thought would have to go into the bill through amendment and I hope the government will be amenable to those changes.

He mentioned that the bill is completely silent on the issue of deep water bottom trawling. This is a practice that is heavily criticized by environmentalists wherever it occurs. Surely in a marine park or in a marine preserve, we are going to have to take active steps with strong language in this bill to preclude that from ever happening. The same goes with dredging.

Could the hon. member perhaps outline what sort of amendment he would contemplate to ensure that neither of these practices are tolerated in a marine park?

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to deal with dredging first. One of the first cases I was involved in as a lawyer involved the dredging of sand off Point Pelee National Park, just near my riding. I remember fighting that case along with a half a dozen other lawyers and law students representing various groups. Fishers were involved and local cottagers were being impacted by the dredging.

I always have a particular interest whenever we talk about dredging because I have a very real sense and knowledge of the impact it can have on the ecosystem, and that was relatively modest dredging.

The importance I want to raise about dredging is, that I am aware, especially in my province, that we are becoming more and more in need of aggregate. We are losing some of our traditional sources because of the environmental movement and conservation of terrestrial lands. There is more and more pressure to look to the oceans for dredging. There is some risk coming further down the road and that is a potential problem for us. That is a bit of a personal concern for me.

On trawling, I do not think there is any environmental group that is not opposed. The answer to it is that it would have to be banned. There is just no way deep sea trawling should be permitted in a marine park. It is devastating to a fish stock. Literally it goes in and wipes it out. It is a reflection of the quality of the technology we have at this time of just how effective deep sea trawling is, but it literally goes in and wipes out all species of fish in the area. The ships are so large, the nets are so powerful, the technology is so developed, it just simply would have to be banned. It could not be allowed.

If we are going to allow it, we might as well forget about designating the marine park.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I also want to express concerns about the bill, perhaps not the same concerns expressed by my colleague on the right, who is probably not on my right but on my left.

However we have a number of concerns. In order to get them on the record clearly, it will be necessary to read and comment directly on pertinent parts of the bill. Before I do I want to mention a couple of things that my hon. colleague referred to.

He talked about dredging and dragging. I agree to the extent that there are areas which can be damaged by boat practices. However I would hope that if we are going to establish a marine conservation area we are certainly not going to do it in areas where fishers try to make a living through procedures that would include dragging. That would drive a nail into the coffin right off the bat.

In relation to dredging, when one lives in the marine environment, one realizes that there is a constant flow of material due to waves and sometimes river mouth action. Many of the harbours in which fishermen live and constantly fish occasionally start to fill up with silt, sand and the beach moving back and forward because of tide action or river action. The only way that these people can get into their own home ports and the wharves where they tie up their boats is to occasionally have that area dredged so that they do not go aground on the material that consistently moves.

Again, I hope this will be taken into consideration before any marine conservation area is designated. I do not think I can give the government that much credit to think that it would be that far-reaching in its looking ahead process. Consequently, I would be concerned about these two processes.

However, the purpose of the bill as outlined, says that the proposed legislation requires that national marine conservation areas be established for two reasons: first, for the protection and conservation of representative marine areas, and second, for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and the world.

It is pretty hard to argue against either one of those because they are both laudable ideals. However, if we follow through on the process, the question we have to ask is in order to achieve what the bill wants to do, who is going to be rewarded and who is going to suffer because of the way that the suggested conservation areas will be implemented?

We have been provided with basically a map of Canada. On this list are national marine conservation areas, the natural regions. There are 29 natural regions. Collectively they take in practically every inch of coastland around Canada. We have the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Arctic Ocean, the Great Lakes and also the Bay of Fundy as part of the Atlantic Ocean. If all these areas are considered, it means there are intentions to perhaps set up sample national marine conservation areas in every nook and cranny of the Canadian marine environment. Again, that may not be an impractical or impossible thing to do provided it is done properly and with full consultation and involvement of all agencies, particularly the people who live in these areas.

I will throw out a word that we have used fairly often when talking about the fishery and the word adjacency. The prime concern of the government should be the people in the adjacent areas. The government should consult with those people to make sure that they fully understand what is proposed and that they are in full agreement with it before any such marine conservation area is established.

I have major concerns with perhaps not what is in the legislation but how it could be interpreted and the omissions. An area that bothers me is where it says that “subject to section 7 for the purpose of establishing or enlarging” a reserve, et cetera, that within Canada, the Government of Canada may by order in council amend the schedule. That is if we wanted to increase the size of the reserve. Then it goes on to say in another subsection:

Except as provided by subsection (2), no amendment may be made by the Governor in Council to Schedule 2 for the purpose of removing any portion of a reserve.

What that says to me, and maybe I will be educated otherwise, is that the government can at its own whim change, enlarge or add to the reserve at any time by order in council but it cannot take away. If for some reason the people in the affected area, whether it be for fishing rights, exploratory rights or whatever, had good reason to reduce the size of the reserve, it could not be done by order in council.

Another clause that bothers me states:

The Minister is responsible for the administration, management and control of marine conservation areas in relation to matters not assigned by law to any other Minister of the Crown.

The minister referred to is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

I would think that in selective marine environments the prime minister would be the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. By prime minister, I mean the minister in charge and not the Prime Minister. However, if we are to expect either the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or the Minister of Canadian Heritage to be responsible for the management and enforcement of these zones, I have major concerns with that.

Let me just mention a few areas where these people are already involved. Let me talk about the management of the fisheries and the protection of the people who procure the fishery.

We have talked about the coast guard. Just a while ago in this honourable House, I expressed concerns about cutbacks in the coast guard. Instead of being there to solidly look after the concerns and the needs of the people who ply the oceans around the coasts of our country, particularly Atlantic Canada, instead of enhancing the infrastructure that is needed to ensure safety and also to ensure proper environment and harvesting standards, the coast guard, under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is being cut back.

The department is taking boats out of the fleet, cutting the helicopter fleet in half and automating 11 lighthouses. More lighthouses were automated in the past. Now 11 more are being automated, taking the manned operation away and using strict automation in lighthouses that are located in unique and barren areas of the province of Newfoundland.

In this case of the remote areas, boats plying the area and fishermen fishing from the surrounding communities rely strictly on the lighthouse, the lighthouse keeper and his or her family to provide the type of information, assurance and safety precautions that they want as they venture to sea. They rely on the lighthouse operation more so than they do on the weatherman, or the coast guard or anybody else.

I can list dozens of examples where the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper and family members prevented wrecks from occurring, prevented other types of marine disasters, effected rescues, helped people who had been wrecked by keeping them at the lighthouse location until they could be picked up, et cetera. I can go on and on. There are numerous daily occasions when they relate to marine travellers, particularly fishermen, the weather conditions, ice conditions and ice flows, which have stranded many people fishing in rural areas, and other concerns that these people would have.

Lighthouses are also a major part of our culture and heritage. Many of them have been designated national historical sites. What are we doing? We are downplaying them to save money. We do not seem to concern ourselves with saving lives. We are more concerned with saving money.

Are those the types of protective services that we would see in relation to marine conservation areas? Would we be creating all of them as if the coastline of Canada were something that we could put in a front room and monitor from our chesterfield? It is not that easy. Canada is a big and wild country. To dream is tremendous but to dream the impossible dream is something else. This is perhaps what the minister is doing. He does not know what he is getting into.

I will give a couple of other examples. What about fisheries management generally? Fisheries would now get involved in managing marine conservation areas. It cannot even manage its present job. If there ever were a completely and more poorly managed industry it is the fishery in every respect. We are asking for trouble if we add anything to the duties of the minister.

Let me zero in on the Minister of Canadian Heritage and talk about wildlife protection. The first people the committee should talk to are the wildlife enforcement officers, as they used to be called. They do not know what to be called now because they have a mixture of wildlife and forestry officials who have been given the same duties. They now look after our forests and wildlife. They do not have a clue what they are doing or what they are being ordered to do.

The problem is the extremely poor management of our parks and wildlife areas. With the legislation today, we would create a whole new environment by bringing in people to manage in a marine environment. Perhaps we should talk to the park wardens who have expressed concern about how well the department understands their duties and responsibilities and how well they are supported by the department.

The track record of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is not one that we would like to use as an example of how to properly manage marine conservation areas. They do not seem to give the necessary assurance to people in the conservation areas, particularly the people in rural parts of Canada and Atlantic Canada where the fishery is so important. They are telling them not to worry about the marine conservation areas as they will not affect them. The legislation says otherwise.

There are a number of other issues. I talked about the minister's administrative capabilities. Subclause 9(1) of the bill says:

The Minister shall, within five years after a marine conservation area is established, in consultation with relevant federal and provincial ministers and agencies and affected coastal communities, aboriginal organizations and bodies established under land claims agreements, and with any other persons and bodies that the Minister considers appropriate, prepare a management plan for the marine conservation area including provision for ecosystem protection, human use and zoning, which shall be tabled in each House of Parliament.

It would be done in consultation with everyone who should be consulted, but the operable words are “five years after the establishment”.

I do not know whether that makes sense to anybody else but it certainly does not make any sense to me. My hon. colleague says it is a postdated cheque, which is exactly what it is. Subclause 9(2) states:

The Minister shall review the management plan of a marine conservation area at least every five years—

What it is saying is that if a mistake is made we should not worry because every five years the minister would review it.

—and any amendments to the plan shall be tabled with the plan in each House of Parliament.

Who decides what changes and amendments would be made? Subclause 9(4) states:

Provisions of a management plan respecting fishing, aquaculture, fisheries management, marine navigation and marine safety are subject to agreement between the Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The people who would decide how the affected people in the rural communities would live through all this are the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

With the examples that I gave earlier, I do not think too many fisherpersons in Port de Grave, St. Barbe or St. Mary's are wondering tonight when those ministers will go there and establish a marine conservation area.

As we know, attempts were made to establish a marine conservation area in Newfoundland a few years ago but the people and the agencies involved were not convinced that it would be a good thing for them.

We have absolutely no problem with the word conservation. If we had been conscious of conservation years ago we would have been better off today, and Newfoundland certainly would have been a lot better off.

We have no problems with management. In fact, we wish the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would manage the fishery much better than he does. Let me give an example. People watching CPAC tonight may be thinking that the government probably would not interfere. When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans walks into the House, snaps his fingers and gives quotas for shrimp, crab or anything else—and I am thinking particularly of last year's shrimp—to anybody without any consultation with the players involved, what does it say about the government?

If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, along with the Minister of Canadian Heritage who is responsible for the management of our parks and wildlife, are the two people who would secure our heritage, our culture, our fisheries and our marine environment, then I am extremely concerned.

The bill goes on to state a number of other things of concern to individuals, especially in marine environments. Clause 13 states:

No person shall explore for or exploit hydrocarbons, minerals, aggregates or any other inorganic matter within a marine conservation area.

I have no problem with the marine conservation areas being established beforehand with an agreement, but in many of our coastal environments we are only now beginning to understand the potential that we have.

It is too bad that my time is up because there are still a number of issues that I would like to talk about, but perhaps on another day.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member for St. John's West for his speech, because I think he did well in stating the problem of achieving the balance between conservation and economic activity in the surrounding areas. I think he probably knows what he is talking about, because he was talking about his own area.

I just wanted to say briefly that the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park that was created in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is indeed a world class tourist attraction, but it has its problems. Now that the park will be established, it is important that the government allocate adequate resources.

Earlier the member talked about coastal surveillance, about the monitoring of fish species and all marine species. The need to ensure a balance is also true for this type of environment.

Based on his speech, could the member tell us the major elements that he thinks are problematic in this bill?

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I agree with members of the Canadian Alliance who suggested earlier that the bill as it exists should be dropped. It should be sent back to the drawing board for proper consultation.

We have to be very conscious about marine conservation and our heritage. I have no problem with that. We also have to remember that the money generated in the country that pays for everything else that we need to do and the money that pays our social costs comes from the development of our resources.

We must do that in harmony with the environment. We cannot do it despite it. Half the bill talks about enforcement, offences and punishment rather than the real issues. Let us get back to the drawing board and let us do it right.

Message From The SenateGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed a bill, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

It being 5.57 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved that Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses), be read the second time and referred to committee.

Madam Speaker, as I understand the process, it being deemed a non-votable bill I have 15 minutes at the outset of the debate tonight and then a 5 minute wrap-up at the end.

I will start by thanking my hon. colleague from Calgary Southwest for seconding my bill tonight. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act with respect to child adoption expenses.

Unfortunately one of the sad realities of the Income Tax Act, aside from the fact that it has become a tool of oppression in the country and should be reformed, is the fact that the act in its present form does not contain any provisions relating to child adoption expenses.

I have presented the bill in an attempt to correct this injustice and with the hope of making the Income Tax Act more equitable to all parents, in this case to those who have adopted a child.

Adoptive parents have unique challenges when they adopt children, all of which are not experienced by families that are fortunate enough to conceive their own children. These challenges and the expenses associated with them arise from the arduous steeplechase that has become the adoption process in our country.

Those who are involved in the administration of the adoption process would likely argue that the process exists for the protection of the children and is necessary to ensure that children are placed in the best possible homes. I cannot disagree. I concur with that wholeheartedly.

I would argue that we have a duty to ensure that all children are placed with responsible and caring adults who will raise them in a loving family environment. While I agree that we need to conduct evaluations and studies to ensure that the adoptive parents are suitable, I do not agree with placing the financial burden for this process solely on the backs of the adoptive parents.

With the addition of each new adoption requirement or assessment, we increase the overall cost of the adoption and, as a consequence, decrease the number of families who can seriously consider adoption. These requirements have compounded in recent years to the point where, in the case of a private or international adoption, couples may face costs in the thousands of dollars for legal fees, travel expenses, home studies and a number of other assessments.

Some of the letters I have received in recent months say that these expenses can exceed $20,000. The magnitude of such upfront costs often results in discouraging couples from even thinking of adoption.

As a government and as a society we should be searching for ways to reward those couples who make the courageous decision to adopt a child. That is the inspiration behind Bill C-272.

The bill would amend the Income Tax Act to allow adoptive parents to deduct expenses arising from the adoption of a child, subject to a maximum of $7,000. The deduction is on a per child basis and the expenses must have been incurred in that taxation year or in the previous two years.

The introduction of the bill follows consultation with a number of adoption agencies as well as individuals who have personally adopted children. Statistics Canada's national longitudinal survey of children and youth has clearly shown us, in empirical terms, that an environment where there is a mother and a father is an environment in which children thrive.

In essence the bill is very straightforward but we all know from experience that nothing relating to the Income Tax Act is ever straightforward, especially if any Canadian might actually derive some benefit from it. For the amendment to have any success it must therefore follow the format of all other approved deductions and clearly set out who may benefit and to what extent. The bill was drafted to do exactly that.

For the benefit of those who are following the broadcast of the debate tonight, I would like to take a moment to highlight the exact provisions of the bill. First, the bill would apply to Canadian and international adoption expenses. Second, the maximum deductions, as I have already said, per eligible child shall not exceed $7,000. Third, it defines a child as any person under the age of 17.

As with all income tax deductions, the claim for the deduction must be substantiated by filing the following with the minister: receipts issued by the payee and containing the appropriate reference information and, second, a Canadian adoption order or a recognition order with respect to a foreign adoption.

Acceptable adoption expenses under the legislation would include: legal fees; home study or psychological study expenses; expenses related to the child's immigration to Canada; travel expenses related to the adoption of the child; and agency fees. Expenses that would not be eligible are any expenses incurred during the adoption in contravention of any law and any expenses incurred in carrying out any surrogate parenting arrangement.

When one considers how well structured the bill is, one can appreciate how I felt so confident when I submitted the bill to the private members committee for consideration. The bill met all of the criteria to make the bill votable. In addition, since its introduction I have been receiving letters of support, which continue today, from all across the country. The letters of support were from parents who have adopted, from couples who are wading through the adoption process and from the adoption agencies themselves.

I would like to read to the hon. members present each of these letters so that they could appreciate the impact the legislation would have on future Canadian families, but in the interests of time, I have selected but a few of the responses received which I feel reflect the sentiments of all of those I received.

The first letter states:

I am writing in support of the adoption tax credit. My husband and myself are in the process of an adoption from Vietnam. The fees are over $21,000. Both of us work in social services and needless to say, do not have a sufficient collective income to support such a process. We are doing our best to provide a home for an orphaned child and would greatly appreciate the support of a tax credit to increase the feasibility of this endeavour.

The second letter states:

My husband and I recently adopted from Russia a 9 month old little girl and the overall costs were $40,000 so any amount of a deduction would certainly go a long way to encourage others to adopt since there are so many children that need homes and we are trying to increase immigration and what better way than this. Thank you for introducing this bill.

The third letter states:

My husband and I adopted a little boy from Russia 1.5 years ago and have recently noticed in our local paper an article on the needs in a Russian Orphanage and how we here in Canada can be more aware of the needs to adopt. I think more people would help these children who are in desperate need if the government would be more encouraging to those who wish to adopt. Thank you for introducing this bill. The need is definitely there.

The fourth letter states:

My husband and I after 7 years of trying to have our own family are embarking on international adoption. This will take an additional 2 or 3 years because of the substantial cost involved. A tax deduction would shave a year off the start of our family.

The fifth letter states:

Adoption, for some people, is the only way that they can achieve their dream of creating a family. Adoption, however, is also a very costly way. The passage of a bill, such as the one you are proposing, would assist couples like ourselves in making our dream come true. We wish you much success in establishing this bill as law.

The sixth letter states:

My wife and I are presently adopting a child in Ontario and we are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the seemingly endless expenses. We know that other families who adopt privately must be facing considerably larger costs than us, so we wish to offer you our support for this excellent piece of legislation that you are presenting.

The seventh letter states:

Many Canadians would like to be able to adopt from overseas, but due to the prohibitive cost (up to $20,000 to $30,000), many are unable to consider this option. Child poverty is a huge problem of immense proportions around the world. Adoption is one way Canadians can make a direct personal contribution by giving a child from a poorer country a head start within a Canadian home, while enriching their own lives with the blessing of a child. Canadians have a reputation for being humanitarians...your bill is one very practical, inexpensive way the Canadian Government can make this a possibility for more Canadian families.

The eighth letter states:

As a parent who had adopted a child in 1999 I understand the financial burden that is endured by the expense of the adoption process. Our son's adoption was a very simple and straightforward adoption; local, Canadian, birth parents (and their families) in agreement and supportive, and no legal, medical or procedural problems, but still the final cost of the adoption was $9,400 by the time the adoption was finalized by a judge. In B.C. the fee schedule for adoption has risen since we adopted our son. It has now gone up by approximately $3,000, therefore I am expecting that the adoption of a second child will cost approximately $13,000 in adoption agency fees, legal fees, court costs, medical exams, background checks and government form processing. I cannot speak for all adopting parents, but I know that we will have to borrow the money to finance the adoption of a second child. I have talked to a couple through our adoption experience that could not afford the expense of adoption and therefore will not have a family.

I could go on indefinitely but I think I have made the point. Better yet, in writing to me the people themselves have made the point.

This was a soundly drafted bill aimed at benefiting children and adoptive parents and it had national support. Who would not have felt confident? I certainly did and perhaps that was my mistake. Members can imagine my disappointment when I learned that the private members; busines subcommittee did not share my confidence in the bill and it was not deemed votable.

For the benefit of those watching the broadcast tonight, they should understand how the process works for all private members of all five parties on both sides of the House. First there has to be an idea. In this case it was tax deductions for adoption expenses. Members get help from legal counsel at the House of Commons to draft the bill. It is then introduced in the House. After that the member has to be lucky enough to have his or her name drawn in a lottery. There are 300 members and 15 bills are drawn so the odds are not that great. When it is drawn the member has to go before an all party subcommittee and try to persuade the members to make the item votable. Up to 5 of the 15 can be made votable.

There are a lot of hurdles, no matter well intentioned the bill, no matter how great the cause. Unfortunately this bill did not make that hurdle to become votable so that all members could vote on it. Hopefully it would have gone to the finance committee to at some time in the future become law.

We are only a few months into this session and this is the second time that I have tried to bring forward legislation to benefit families in this country. This is the second time the private members committee has voted not to make my bill votable.

There is a growing concern, on the part of all members. I am appreciative of the fact that the government House leader struck a committee to look at changes that might include making votable all private members' bills fortunate enough to be drawn. I certainly support that and I hope we go on with it.

I would also like to say tonight, not just in regard to the two bills of mine that we have debated, that I speak for myself and other members who have had their bills drawn but not made votable. If we do make a change in this parliament, I hope we will make it soon and make it retroactive so that every bill that was drawn in this parliament would go to a vote, including this legislation.

It is well past time that instead of making adoption a very difficult alternative we provide encouragement to families who have the desire to adopt children.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, the private member's bill proposed by the member for Prince George—Peace River proposes to allow taxpayers to deduct expenses related to the adoption of a child, to a maximum of $7,000.

Let me first explain that a basic principle of our income tax system is that tax relief is not generally provided for personal expenses such as adoption costs.

The government is aware that parents adopting a child incur relatively high costs, but these and other personal expenses do not qualify for tax assistance because they are incurred at an individual's discretion in widely varying amounts and types depending on the individual's tastes, lifestyle and economic status.

In fact, the better a taxpayer's socioeconomic situation, the more likely he is to incur greater and more varied personal expenses. If these expenses were deductible, a fraction of the personal expenses incurred by certain taxpayers would be paid for by all taxpayers.

Where tax relief is provided for personal expenses, it applies either to expenses incurred to earn income, such as child care expenses, union dues and moving expenses incurred to take employment at a new location, or to largely non-discretionary expenses such as above average medical expenses.

Let us take the example of child care expenses. As hon. members know, eligible child care expenses are deductible in computing income. The purpose of the child care expense deduction is to recognize that taxpayers who need to incur child care expenses to earn employment or business income, to attend a recognized educational institution or to take an eligible vocational training course have a lower ability to pay taxes than taxpayers with the same income who do not need to incur such expenses.

Up to $7,000 annually can be deducted for expenses incurred for the care of a child under the age of seven, and $4,000 for a child between the ages of seven and fifteen. The ceiling for children who qualify for the disability deduction is $10,000.

Because it would be very difficult to separate the personal and non-discretionary elements of the costs associated to children, tax assistance is provided to families with children through a predetermined benefit rather than through tax credits or deductions for specific expenses.

The government provides considerable financial support to families with children through the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB. More specifically, the Canada child tax benefit has two components: the base benefit for low and middle income families and a national child benefit supplement for low income families.

As of July 1, 2001, families will receive up to $1,117 per child under the base benefit. In addition, supplements of $221 for each child under the age of seven where no child care expenses are claimed and of $78 for the third and each subsequent child are added to the base benefit.

The maximum national child benefit supplement as of July 2001 will be $1,255 for the first child, $1,055 for the second and $980 for the third and each subsequent child. Therefore, the maximum Canada child tax benefit will be $2,372 for the first child, $2,172 for the second child and $2,097 for each subsequent child.

Our government has proven that it is committed to investing in the future of our children. In fact, even before the budget was balanced the government committed $850 million to the Canada child tax benefit to start building the NCB in 1997. In the 1998 budget, the federal government enriched the national child benefit by an additional $850 million. The design of this enrichment was set out in the 1999 budget, which also proposed an additional investment of $300 million to extend benefit enhancements to modest and middle income families. The 2000 budget and the 2000 economic statement and budget update enriched benefits by an additional $2.6 billion.

As a result of these actions, maximum Canada child tax benefits will rise to more than $2,500 for the first child by the year 2004. By 2004 this will bring the federal government's commitment to the Canada child tax benefit to $9 billion per year.

As members know, improvements to the CCTB were an important part of the general tax cuts for individuals proposed in the 2000 budget and in the economic statement and budget update for 2000.

Families will also benefit from the following measures: the reduction in tax rates for all income levels; the elimination of the deficit reduction surtax; the increases in the amount they can earn tax free and the amounts at which higher tax rates apply; the restoration of the full indexation of the personal income tax system, which will protect families against automatic tax increases and the erosion of benefits, including the Canada child tax benefit, caused by inflation.

In total the 2000 budget and the 2000 economic statement and budget update will provide $100 billion in cumulative tax relief for Canadians by the year 2004-05.

I would like to emphasize that these cuts were especially beneficial to families with children. By the year 2004-05 these measures will translate into a 27% reduction in the tax burden for families with children, compared to 21% on average for all taxpayers.

Before concluding, I would like to add that measures were announced in the 2000 budget to improve the parental leave provisions under the EI plan.

The budget proposed to increase the number of weeks of parental leave from 10 to 35. It also proposed changes to make benefits more flexible and accessible. These improved benefits are also available to parents who adopt a child effective December 31, 2000.

In conclusion, the government recognizes that parents should receive financial assistance to help ensure that their children's needs are met. I believe I have clearly demonstrated that the government places a very high priority on investing in children and is providing the assistance they need.

However, it would not be appropriate to ask taxpayers at large to subsidize adoption expenses through the tax system because of the largely discretionary nature of these personal expenses.

For these reasons I would ask hon. members not to support the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak on Bill C-272, a private member's bill from my colleague from Prince George—Peace River.

The bill addresses a very important issue and a very personal issue, that of adoption, and the inordinately high costs associated with it for Canadian families and parents who choose to adopt children. A tax deduction of up to $7,000 for expenses would go a long way in helping Canadians to deal with costs that can run as high as or even greater than $20,000 per child in the adoption process.

Clearly in an egalitarian society and a society where we speak of the importance of equality of opportunity, the choice for families to adopt children should not be available only to the rich. Effectively under the current system the only people who can make this decision are higher income individuals or those Canadians who can make the tremendous financial sacrifice to make this important choice.

It is not just a choice on behalf of their own families, on behalf of these couples. There is a societal benefit to augmenting the ability of Canadian families and parents to adopt children. Society benefits by children living in supportive environments, whether they be their biological families or adoptive families. It should not make a difference.

The comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, which obviously represent the views of the government, clearly miss the point being made in this bill by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River. The fact is that all society would benefit if we were to somehow ease the lives of families that choose to adopt children, in this case through financial means through the tax system.

Ironically the Liberals have no difficulty in using the tax system for all kinds of Pavlovian policies to encourage one sort of behaviour and to discourage another kind of behaviour.

Typically I am opposed to measures that complicate the tax code further in order to encourage one type of behaviour or discourage another. However, I believe that in this case the fundamental benefit to society outweighs the negative of complicating the tax code a little bit to implement this measure.

We in our party are supportive of this measure. It is terribly unfortunate that this has not been deemed votable. If Liberal members opposite had the opportunity to vote individually on this measure, I think we would find that there would be a strong level of support among private members opposite for this forward thinking and important piece of legislation.

It is unfortunate, as the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River said earlier, that this piece of legislation was not deemed votable. In fact the process by which private member's legislation in the House becomes votable or non-votable is Byzantine and circuitous and certainly not constructive or encouraging to private members who are trying to make a difference.

We should be encouraging private members' business as a legitimate vehicle through which members of the House can express not only the views of their constituents but also the types of forward thinking public policy measures that can change the lives of Canadians.

It is unfortunate that the government has not been more open to the rights of private members in this regard. As parliamentary reform gains some steam we are still optimistic we will see some significant changes in the future. One of those very important changes is to make mechanisms available to private members to present legislation and have it deemed votable without having to jump through the hoops and go through the current discouraging process in that it does not provide private members with the ability to have their legislation deemed votable.

I think the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River mentioned that this was his second piece of legislation recently that was not deemed votable. That is discouraging for private members who are trying to advance important issues and policies.

In closing, we are supportive of the legislation. We wish we could express our support quantitatively through a vote. However we have once again been denied that opportunity through the government's closed door process. It is not an open door process.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

It is an all party committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

The hon. member opposite just said that it is an all party committee. All of our committees are all party, but the fact is that one party has the majority on those committees. Quite frequently it is difficult, if not impossible, for an opposition member to effect change in the committee process. It is unfortunate that case exists. It discourages forward thinking members of parliament who sit on the opposition benches. It discourages principled decisions from having an impact on the future of Canada.

If we are to see some changes in our ability to effect change and to make a difference in the lives of Canadians, it has to start through significant parliamentary reform and not just through tinkering.

We are supportive of the legislation and hope to see it come back in the future to a parliament that respects the views of private members enough to ensure that this type of legislation comes to the House in a votable form. That would enable every member of the House, whether on the government side or on the opposition benches, to vote on issues of importance. I know there is a significant level of support for this initiative on the government benches that will not be quantified by a vote. That is highly unfortunate.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 2nd, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity tonight to speak to Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses).

The purpose of this bill is to allow a taxpayer a deduction for expenses of up to $7,000 related to the adoption of a child when computing his or her income for a taxation year.

I remind the House that my colleague from the Bloc, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, introduced a bill almost identical to this one in 1998.

Another bill, Bill C-289, was introduced in September 2000 by the same Alliance member, but it died on the order paper when the election was called.

It is therefore a bill my party the Bloc Quebecois and I support.

As we know, adoption is a provincial responsibility. However, the lack of participation on the part of the federal government creates a grey area for adoptive parents.

Indeed, why would the federal government, which has no qualms about interfering in many areas under provincial jurisdiction, not intervene efficiently in the area of adoption?

A federal tax deduction would not only be a welcome incentive for adoptive parents, but would also make the tax system fairer.

Biological parents are covered under the health insurance plan for prenatal and postnatal care whereas adoptive parents must pay out of their own pocket the full cost of an adoption.

It is odd that the costs of in vitro fertilization are deductible when the costs of adopting a child are not. This is neither fair nor wise on the part of the federal government.

The Quebec government estimates that an international adoption costs the adoptive parents an average of $20,000. Children of the World, one of the largest Canadian adoption agencies, estimates the cost of adopting a child in China at $17,000 per couple. These figures include expenses in Quebec and in China.

The bill should allow taxpayers to deduct from their income the child adoption expenses, not by an amount not exceeding $7,000, but by double that amount.

The federal government should recognize, as Quebec does, the important social contribution of adoptive parents to our society. It has been observed that half of Canadian adoptions are to Quebec families. This is in part due to the fact that Quebec's family policy is far more progressive than that of the federal government.

Adoptive parents face special expenses, particularly in the case of private and international adoptions. I know whereof I speak. Thirty-two years ago, my wife and I adopted a child.

Many couples who want to adopt a child think about it twice because of all the expenses it entails, which is where this bill comes in.

For almost nine years now, Quebec has undergone a change quite unique in the western world. Every year, between 700 and 800 children from all over the world finally find in Quebec a family to adopt them. It obviously would have made adoption easier if the adoptive parents had been able to deduct from their income, at the federal level, the child adoption expenses.

We cannot talk about adoption without talking about family. In Quebec, we are proud to have an integrated and comprehensive family policy. This policy includes among other things a tax credit for adoption expenses, family allowance benefits and the development of educational services and day care for young children, what is commonly known as the $5 a day day care. Quebec is also developing a parental insurance program based on the needs of families in Quebec.

In short, it is obvious that the federal government is 20 years behind in this area. By quickly passing this bill, it would at least be taking a step in the right direction.

In closing, I deplore the fact that this bill is not votable.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, which deals with child adoption expenses.

Every once in a while a bill comes up in the House that grabs someone's attention. Bill C-272 provides fairness and equity in circumstances where there is perhaps great need. I applaud the hon. member in the Alliance for bringing forward this private member's bill.

The purpose of the enactment of the bill is to allow taxpayers a deduction that does not exceed $7,000 for expenses related to the adoption of a child. The bill says that a limit of $7,000 can be used as a deduction when they compute their income tax returns for the tax year.

We have already heard this afternoon that a great number of the adoptions taking place in Canada at this time cost far in excess of $7,000. The cost of adoptions from overseas, adoptions from Haiti, adoptions from China and adoptions from Vietnam can exceed $20,000. The bill says that a cap of $7,000 could be used as a deduction, not all the expenses but a certain percentage of them, so that young people in some instances could afford to have a family.

Expenses must have been incurred in the taxation year or in the previous two years. A great deal of the expenses incurred in adoption are over many years. Young couples sometimes wait seven, eight, nine or ten years to adopt.

Adoption expenses mean any expense incurred on account of adopting a child. Many individuals who go overseas have a huge output of dollars so that they can stay in a country for a set period of time. Another part of the bill says that it applies to both children adopted within this country and those from without.

I want to relate to the House the emotional turmoil, the feelings of young people when they realize that perhaps they will be unable to raise a family. It puts a huge emotional burden on them. It is an emotional roller coaster in locating a baby for adoption. In many situations finally approved for adoption, the birth mother changes her mind. Then again the couple is thrown into a turbulent, emotional scene. All this emotional stress is compounded by the financial burden, particularly for those in lower income brackets.

I should like to explain a bit about the situation my wife and I found ourselves in. In 1986 we were married. We decided before we got married that we would like to have four children. After three or four years of trying to have a baby and going through all the tests to check out medical reasons why we could not, we applied for adoption when it was obvious we would be unable to conceive.

We were told at that time that it would be a seven year wait. We left that province and moved back to Alberta and applied for the adoption process there. We went through the open adoption route and within a year or two our names had been chosen as prospective adoptive parents.

I remember with great clarity the thrill we had when all of a sudden the phone call came that told us a birth mother had chosen us to raise the child she was still carrying. The birth mother showed a great deal of love in saying she realized that her child needed to be put into a home with parents who could look after her.

The cost was close to $7,000. We were young. We were both right out of school. I had been working for some time and we were able to come up with the $7,000. When I came into the network of the adoption agency I met all those other young people who were waiting. I met young people who were 21 or 22 years old who had been slaving away. When they were hit with the fact that it would be $7,000, they realized they had very little chance of ever having a family. I saw young people break down when they were told that the costs could be $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 or $10,000. I saw wives weep in realization that they would never be able to raise a family.

I have friends who have stood beside us and said how they rejoice in the fact that we were able to adopt not just one but two children, because financially they would never be able to afford it.

The tax deduction will not perhaps change all of that, but it does give a little more hope to those wanting to raise a family. I applaud again the hon. member for bringing the bill forward.

On our first adoption we adopted a beautiful little girl straight from the hospital, Kristen Nicole. She is now eight, going on nine years old. On our second adoption it was a very similar situation. The list was long. The list was huge. The people who were applying for adoptions were begging for children. Many were being turned away because of the financial restraints. Many people were hurting.

I think back to the time of the adoptions and I remember being with my wife when one of our friends made the announcement that they were pregnant. I remember the evenings where my wife would literally cry on the pillow all night, and I would feel like it as well, because we did not think we would ever be able to have a family.

The second adoption was another gift of God and one that we are very thankful for. I am particularly concerned, as I have already mentioned, for those who cannot have children and who realize that they will never be able to afford adoption.

Adoption, as we have already spoken about, is under provincial jurisdiction. There are a number of other things that perhaps the federal government could do. I should research it a little more, but at the time that we adopted the adoptive mother was not allowed as much maternity leave.

We were all of a sudden going to have a baby. If we would have conceived the child ourselves she would have been able to have three months longer of maternity leave than what an adoptive mother was allowed. That amount of time is another area the federal government could look at because that extra time is needed to bond.

This is a good bill. I wish the Liberal government would have made it votable. It could have shown that it has a commitment to families and a commitment to doing what is right.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is unfortunate that some other hon. members did not elect to participate in the debate tonight. I do not want to sound too condemning of my colleagues in other parties or perhaps even my own. What we see unfortunately is indicative of the need for the process to change, as I indicated earlier.

I have not crunched the numbers to see the statistics, but I sense there is a lower and lower priority on private members' legislation in this place. Members on both sides, be they government backbenchers or members of the other four parties, are disconnecting from the process because they do not see often enough that all their hard work getting a bill ready to be presented in the Chamber is worthwhile. It just seems hopeless. I think tonight is a reflection of that in that there are not more members here to speak to such an important issue.

It is not just that I think it is an important issue because it happens to be my bill, but it is an important issue because it affects the lives and futures of thousands upon thousands of Canadians.

It is a sad moment. Hon. members are increasingly non-participatory in formulating private members' legislation to begin with and non-participatory in the debate as well. When they see that a piece of legislation has been deemed non-votable anyway, what is the point?

It is only going to receive the one hour, as in the case of Bill C-272 today, and then it is dropped. Obviously from the remarks of the parliamentary secretary there is not even a willingness on the government's part to look at this particular issue with an open mind.

In my brief closing comments I will say that I at least appreciate the fact that other members participated in the debate tonight, and I thank the parliamentary secretary for his comments. I do not agree with them.

I certainly appreciate the fact that the parliamentary secretary got all dressed up in a tux tonight just to come and talk to this bill. I am sure adoptive parents, who have incurred these huge costs and who are perhaps sitting at home in blue jeans with the knees out of them watching the debate tonight, can appreciate the fact that he got up and completely shot down the whole idea that they deserved perhaps a small tax deduction.

The parliamentary secretary said something along the lines that tax relief was not generally allowed for personal costs because these types of expenses were incurred according to an individual's choice. As we laid out, and as my colleague from Crowfoot spoke so well about his personal experience, this is not a matter of choice. In many cases this is the only choice for a couple who cannot conceive a child of their own. It is not a matter of choice. There is no choice.

I would argue that the government should consider looking at something like this. If it does not like the exact way the bill is drafted and the $7,000 cap or whatever, it should at least look at the possibility of doing something about this and the costs that are being incurred. It should realize that in many cases the state would have to incur a huge cost anyway. A child who was not adopted, because there were not sufficient numbers of people out there who could afford it, would have to be raised by the state, the taxpayers.

I thank the member for Etobicoke North for his support. I thank the member for Kings—Hants and my colleague from Crowfoot for his personal story. My cousin went through all the hoops and expenses of adoption. They adopted two wonderful children, who are both teenagers now. They are very grateful for the opportunity to have provided those two children with a loving family environment and for all the joy they have brought and continue to bring to Dale's and Darlene's lives.

I think all of us know someone, maybe a relative, a friend or a friend of a friend, who has gone through this. This is one piece of legislation and one debate tonight that we can personally relate to. It is a shame that the all party committee, like all committees in this place that are controlled by Liberals because they have the majority, did not deem this votable.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

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

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise to follow up on my question on Thursday, February 15, regarding a bizarre hiring practice that the federal government has, whereby many jobs in the Ottawa area are only available and open to people in Ontario and Quebec. It is offensive that people in my riding in Nova Scotia or other ridings in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick or other provinces cannot even apply for jobs with the federal government, the national government. The government is discriminating against people by virtue of where they live.

I would like to quote a couple of examples. There is a job advertised in Ottawa for a paralegal in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It pays $38,000 a year. Who can apply? Only those who live in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. I find it incredible that people in Nova Scotia, British Columbia or New Brunswick cannot apply for these jobs.

Another example is a secretary in Ontario in the Department of Industry. It pays up to $35,000 a year. Who can apply? Only those people who live in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. The Government of Canada will not even hire Canadians unless they live in a very small area.

Since I brought this up in the House, I received a copy of a letter which the Alberta minister of international and intergovernmental affairs sent to the government. It said:

We...have had discussions with the federal government about eliminating the discriminatory process used by the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC). Alberta believes the PSC practices are contrary to the Operating Principles and the Labour Mobility Chapter in the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT).

I have a copy of another letter, this one addressed to the Prime Minister from the premier of the province of Nova Scotia. He said:

I fail to see any justification for the restriction of applications for positions in the National Capital Region which have a national impact.

Nova Scotia constituents or residents cannot even apply.

He went on to say:

May I point out that Article 706 of the Agreement on Internal Trade specifically forbids any Party to “require a worker of any other Party to be resident in its territory as a condition of...access to employment opportunities.”

Governments are...committed to ensure, by July 1, 2001, full compliance with these mobility provisions—

This goes on and on. The hiring practice has to stop because the Government of Canada needs input from the east coast. It needs input from the west coast. It needs input from the north. If the Government of Canada in Ottawa just focuses on Quebec and Ontario from which to draw all its employees, we will not have a proper government nor will we reflect the needs of New Brunswick, Alberta and British Columbia.

I ask the minister to clarify this position, to rectify it now and tell the people in the other provinces outside of Ontario and Quebec that all jobs in the Government of Canada in Ottawa will be open to all people in the nation.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for his intervention in this area. I can understand to some extent his frustration.

The Public Service of Canada is indeed one of our greatest assets and the government strives very hard to ensure that the public service in reflects the diversity of the country. I can assure the member that there are employees across the country who are resident in his province, in my province, in British Columbia and in the Northwest Territories. The reality is the public service does reflect residency across the country.

He talked very specifically about the mobility provisions. I believe the President of the Treasury Board answered his question to some extent when he first raised it back on February 15.

However the other issue that is important is the cost to the public service in providing employment applications across the country. It is the policy of the public service to only impose this restriction on certain types of job classifications. I know for a fact that today we are trying to acquire a new auditor general and that is a skill set that goes across the country and is irrelevant as to residency. It is based to some extent on the skill set.

The thought process that is in the Public Service Employment Act is basically to provide, for the Public Service Commission to restrict the hiring practices for one main reason. That is to restrict the number of applicants. Clearly, if the jobs were advertised across the country in certain designated fields, the feeling is that there would be a significant number of applicants and that the public service would have to process those applications. That would be a significant cost to the government. In other words, it is conceptually possible that they would have 30,000 or 40,000 applications for one job and the cost of processing and responding to those applications would be substantial.

I will quickly mention the charter provisions. The Public Service Employment Act has borne the scrutiny of the justice department. It conforms with our charter requirements.

I thank the member for his intervention on this and I look forward to his ideas on how we could change this in the future.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I am on my feet regarding a question that I put to the Minister of National Defence regarding the sale of 40 helicopters and 8 Challenger jets by a company called Lancaster Aviation Inc. based in Milton, Ontario.

Something is patently wrong with that deal. I have suggested to the minister that the crown has lost a lot of money on the deal. In fact, it sold 8 Challenger jets for $30 million Canadian and the market value on those jets was somewhere in the order of $50 million U.S.

I have asked the minister how Lancaster Aviation got the contract because it was a sole source contract. Nobody else was invited to bid on the contract. Lancaster Aviation Inc. was awarded a contract in 1997 to sell spare parts. The contract was then altered and a special amendment was put through without tender to allow them to sell Bell helicopters and Challenger jets. The results of both these sales have brought in about $70 million Canadian.

I also put a question to the minister in the form of a question on the order paper. I asked him what commission Lancaster Aviation Inc. received on this deal. However, the government will not answer. What is it trying to hide?

The truth is that the Lancaster deal will make Shawinigate look second rate. We will blow the lid off this deal because it is a behind the scenes sort of a deal cooked up between the government and Lancaster Aviation Inc., and we want to know for what purpose.

We can always sense when the government is trying to hide something. I put those questions on the floor of the House of Commons one year ago and the government has failed to answer them. I believe Canadians have a right to know what their government is doing and who it is doing business with.

How could one company be given the sole contract to sell Challenger aircraft and Bell helicopters without going through a tendering process? Why should that be allowed to happen? We want to know why the government has yet to come up with the answers.

How much did Lancaster Aviation Inc. get paid to sell this surplus material? We are talking about millions of dollars. Was there a commission of $1 million, $2 million, $5 million or $10 million? Nobody knows. Why will the minister not stand up and tell us what went on to allow a deal like this to happen?

We have had those questions out there for one solid year. We will continue asking those questions until the minister stands up in the House and tells us clearly what happened. I believe Canadian taxpayers have a right to know how the Government of Canada is disposing of surplus materials, if indeed they are surplus.

In the aviation advertisement that I read, placed in an aviation magazine by Lancaster Aviation Inc., the eight jets it sold out of the ten it had for sale were classified as being in superior condition and well maintained. Everyone in the aviation industry will tell us that those jets, per unit, are worth somewhere between $5 million and $6 million a piece. Lancaster Aviation Inc. sold them for exactly half of what their worth would be on the open market. Why would the Minister of National Defence allow that to happen?

Why would the minister of public works allow that to happen, for example, reported kickback schemes within public works and defence? Is that the case? Madam Speaker, in your limited role as Speaker, I ask you to force the minister to answer those questions. The Canadian public has a right to know.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario


John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, the government is committed to obtaining fair market value for surplus government assets in a manner that respects taxpayer dollars and the laws of our nation.

Treasury Board disposal policy calls for the utilization of private sector disposal specialists when it is cost effective to do so. To this end, in June 1997 a competitive contract was awarded to Lancaster Aviation Inc. for surplus aerospace assets disposal. Lancaster's bid met the mandatory experience, resource and financial requirements, and it submitted the lowest responsive bid. It won the contract fair and square.

The government held this competition because it wanted a centre of expertise capable of marketing and selling a wide range of surplus DND aviation assets. It was always intended that the surplus aerospace assets disposal contract include the disposal of surplus aviation assets such as aircraft.

The contract specifically included, under the provisions of special project sales, unique project sales which may include high dollar value items. It was under this provision that surplus Challengers were reported to Lancaster Aviation, the winner of the surplus aerospace disposal contract, as available for sale.

The sale of this surplus equipment was completed to the letter of Canadian law and with the interests of Canadian taxpayers in mind, meeting both treasury board and Canadian export control regulations.

In accordance with the surplus aerospace assets disposal contract, commission rates were negotiated for the disposal of the surplus Challenger fleet. The commission paid to Lancaster Aviation for its marketing efforts was reasonable. This was the sole manner by which Lancaster was compensated for its services.

The government received fair market value for the Challenger aircraft. The eight aircraft were sold as a lot for a selling price of $30 million U.S. to DDH Aviation of Fort Worth, Texas. The sale price reflected the fact that the Challengers were not certified for civilian use and would require modifications to make them suitable for civilian use.

The government has conducted the sales of the Challenger aircraft in accordance with treasury board and Canadian export regulations. Furthermore, the commissions paid to Lancaster Aviation for its marketing efforts were reasonable and the sale price represented good value to the crown.

If the member opposite has information to the contrary I invite him to table it in the House. Otherwise I fear he is wasting the time of the House, much like the leader of his party, trying to find a scandal where none exists.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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 7.03 p.m.)