House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Raymond Lavigne Liberal Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-209.

I am listening to members of the Bloc Quebecois, who want tax deductions for public transportation. They talk of greenhouse gases and pollution. When people drive behind a bus and it sends a blast of air into their car, that is not very healthy.

My riding of Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles is located near the Champlain bridge. While it takes the member for Laval 45 minutes on the autoroute to reach Laval, it takes an hour and a half to cross the Champlain bridge. Members can imagine how much greenhouse gas a body takes in there.

Before a tax credit is given, a proper public transportation system is needed. The member for Jonquière wants a tax credit, but I think we need light, rapid and pollution free, meaning electric, public transit to eliminate the greenhouse gases we get daily.

We have a light train project that starts at autoroute 30 and goes downtown; it will eliminate the greenhouse gases the buses emit. We have Mr. Chevrette's bill to restructure public transit. The member for Jonquière must have heard Mr. Chevrette say light trains were needed throughout Quebec.

Monorails, light, quiet and pollution free trains, exist throughout the world. We in Quebec are 20 years behind in public transit. It is therefore time to do something. It is time for new projects that will eliminate greenhouse gases.

Before tax credits are given, we must set up modern public transit, which the public will want to use, as is the case around the world.

When the Deux-Montagnes trains were put on the rail again, the number of cars had to be doubled. Imagine, twice as many cars had to be put on the commuter trains to Montreal. Let us not forget that there is still the problem of greenhouse gases.

Imagine if tomorrow we could have a public, electric, light rail transit system which could move about Quebec without noise and without pollution, like the one that is going to be put in using the Champlain bridge structure to carry commuters downtown. There ought to be another one, which would go east-west under boulevard Métropolitain, taking in Pie-IX, Henri-Bourassa, Avenue du Parc, joining Mirabel and Dorval, Dorval and downtown. Can we imagine what the Quebec of the future would be like?

In my opinion, before we start thinking about tax credits it is very important to invest in public transit in Quebec. In this connection, Mr. Chevrette has undertaken a magnificent initiative for improving mass transit, and I congratulate him on it. He did not increase the number of buses and cars by putting in more bridges. The commission looking into public transit said no to the construction of new bridges, and thus yes to modern noise and pollution free, mass transit, electric transportation with no greenhouse gas emissions.

A bill such as the one we have before us today ought to focus more on a mass transit system that would be free of greenhouse gas emissions.

I heard the hon. member for Surrey Centre say earlier that the Liberals had no project. I regret to inform him that had he looked at our red book, if he had read it, he would know that it contains a paragraph referring to the need to encourage public transportation and those who are interested in creating modern noise free and pollution free transportation so that greenhouse gas emissions may be eliminated.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-209. I congratulate the hon. member for Jonquière for her consistent and strong commitment to environmental policy in the House.

I heard the Liberal member opposite boast of his government's commitment to public transit. The party that he represents actually committed a paragraph of verbiage to the public transit issue. I am certain that paragraph committed by the Liberals to the public transit system of Canada probably has not had the extraordinary level of impact on encouraging Canadians to take public transit that he may have expected. It is not the first time members opposite have been delusional about their party's red book commitments.

I commend our party's critic, the hon. member for Fundy—Royal, who has been so effective and instrumental in the development of our party's policies on environmental issues. In the last election our platform was highly rated by groups, including the Sierra Club, for its commitment to environmental policies.

On the specific issue at hand, that of incentivizing public transit through the tax system, my first gut reaction from the perspective purely of a tax system is that I do not like to see a tax code complicated through this type of Pavlovian tax policy where we encourage one kind of behaviour with one sort of tax policy and discourage another with a different sort of tax policy.

That being the case and given the overwhelming evidence that public transit is far less deleterious to the environment than individual automobile transit, the member's proposal is quite innovative and should be seriously considered.

I also see the potential for a tax break. Whether or not it complicates the tax code, we should always try to look for any tax break we might eke out of the Liberals. They are not biologically predisposed to lowering taxes by and large, so we should be supportive if they are embracing a tax reduction in any area.

I did hear the Liberal member opposite speak a few minutes ago of the emissions from public transit vehicles. He was disputing the information we heard earlier today relative to the overwhelming positive impact of public transit versus individual automobiles. He should remember that the emissions produced by a bus for the number of people in that bus on a comparative level have about 40 to 50 times less impact on the environment than individual automobile traffic.

While it addresses a very important environmental issue in urban centres, we also need a greater commitment to public transit in terms of a national infrastructure. It is a great notion to create incentives to encourage public transit, but we need a greater commitment on a national level to our public transit infrastructure.

This is becoming an increasingly important issue in smaller or growing cities and municipalities such as the greater Halifax area in Nova Scotia. From a fiscal perspective, if we look at the degree to which the federal government has cut back in recent years from transfers to the provinces, we see that the provinces have been forced into a position of cutting back transfers to cities. We as a country must take a serious look at a federal and provincial strategy to improve public transit infrastructure not just in the large urban centres but in cities such as St. John's and Halifax to serve a wider cross-section of Canadians.

This brings into play the whole issue of how the federal government will deal with the growth or the emergence of city states in Canada, the consolidation of municipalities and the commensurate increases in responsibilities. Some would say that due to the commensurate increase in responsibilities there needs to be an increase in the level of power of some of the consolidated cities that have emerged.

That debate is fraught with all kinds of constitutional landmines. We should not allow the fear of constitutional difficulties to prevent us from looking at real solutions. We should work with our provinces, not ram solutions down their throats, to develop joint strategies to address infrastructure issues, in this case public transit.

All of us who have experienced increased traffic levels and environmental damage by growth in our cities realize that the hon. member's initiative could go a long way to improve the situation in terms of attracting more people to public transit. However we must make sure that we do not ignore the greater issue of ensuring through federal and provincial co-operation that the moneys are there for better public transit infrastructure across Canada.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, the question we are to debate this evening is one I asked of the Minister of Finance about the equalization process, especially as it affects the Atlantic provinces and in my particular my province of Newfoundland.

When I raised the question it was shortly after the Minister of Finance had met with the provincial ministers of finance in Halifax. The indication given by the press was that he had said he would not look at the equalization process.

The minister in responding said that was not the case, that he was always ready and willing to keep looking at the equalization process and that there was more money going into equalization today than ever before. To that I say whoop-de-do because as our budgets increase undoubtedly more money will go into the various programs.

The minister failed to mention the $10 billion capped equalization fund. This past year the cap has been taken off and hopefully taken off for good. It is like a baseball cap in the wind: throw it away and let it blow away and go from there. It will give the provinces at least some extra funding at a time when funding was reduced significantly percentage-wise in relation to their total budget over the years.

The main part of the question I was asking in relation to equalization was that the clawback provisions be disregarded completely for provinces that were developing new resources. The provinces could hold on to the new royalties from these resources to build up infrastructure so that they could get on their feet economically and start being contributing partners in Confederation.

What happens right now in places like Newfoundland and Nova Scotia where they are developing the rich oilfields off their coasts? From every dollar they make Ottawa takes back 75 cents or 80 cents. In some cases as they develop new, rich mineral finds Ottawa claws back up to 90%.

If a person works and makes $100 and on the way home someone takes $90 away, it will be difficult for the person to step up in society, to be a contributing partner. We see examples of that with people who receive social assistance from governments. They try to find employment and when they do they make a few dollars, only to find that whatever they make on the one hand is taken off their cheque on the other. They are no further ahead and they give up in despair. That does not help them financially, socially, emotionally or in any other way.

It is the same way with the provinces. Our poor provinces will always be poor unless Ottawa plays a part in letting them use their own money and not Ottawa money to get on their feet.

I said to the minister that a precedent had already been set. When Alberta came under the equalization program for a period of approximately eight years it received equalization as well as held on to its full royalties. The minister said that Alberta was subjected to the clawback and that I was wrong. I was not wrong. For a period of eight years Alberta received equalization payments while holding on to its royalties.

Basically the point the minister did not address was how we were to make the country better. We could make it a better country by making all provinces contributing partners. We could do that if the government changed the financial arrangements under which we now operate.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies Québec


Yvon Charbonneau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, we have to get the facts straight. Alberta received equalization for a short period of time prior to 1962 when resource revenues were not included in the calculation of equalization.

In 1962, when resources were brought into the formula, Alberta's equalization entitlements were clawed back. Accordingly, after 1964-65 Alberta no longer received equalization.

In 1967 equalization became a comprehensive program and virtually all revenue sources were included in the calculation of equalization entitlements.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia want to be less dependent on transfers. It is a laudable goal, but these two provinces also want to keep all their revenues from natural resources, as do Alberta and other provinces. That is the situation at the present time.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia want equalization payments to be maintained at the same level despite the fact that they are getting richer. That is a problem.

The equalization formula is applied in a fair and equitable manner to all the provinces. As fiscal capacity varies from province to province, so do equalization payments. These variations reflect each province's capacity to raise revenues.

Furthermore, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia resource revenues already receive special treatment: equalization payments are not reduced dollar for dollar but only by 70 cents.

In conclusion, to provide more generous treatment to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia would be patently unfair to other equalization receiving provinces which do not have the benefit of rich natural resource sectors.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

(The House adjourned at 6.37 p.m.)