Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak this legislation. First, I congratulate a couple of my colleagues who have helped push this matter. One of course is the member for Calgary Southeast. In the previous Parliament he brought this to the attention of the House and asked a very reasonable request of the government and the House to make changes on this. That was not forthcoming. Therefore, I congratulate my colleague, the member for Essex who has been an outstanding representative in this chamber. He has been a very effective member of Parliament. I told him immediately, when he was putting the legislation together, how pleased I was and how important it was.
Bill C-265 is an act to amend the Income Tax Act to reduce from 85% to 50% the inclusion rate on United States social security benefits paid to Canadian residents. How did this come about? In the late nineties, the inclusion rate for Canadian citizens who were in receipt of United States social security meant that 85% of it was exempt. If a person earned social security or received a social security pension, 15% was included that person's income.
We could ask why is that fair? Why would it be the case or why would it be treated that way? If we go back to the reason why Canadians are getting United States social security, we would know that they did not get any deductions as we do on the Canada pension plan. All Canadians who are required to pay the Canada pension premium have weekly deductions on their pay for that pension. At the end of the year when filing their income taxes, they are able to deduct it.
Therefore, it is only reasonable that the amount of money they get from Canada pension would be included as part of their income, and that is only fair. However, that is not the case with respect to United States social security. We are talking about Canadians who worked in the United States. They paid into the United States social security, but when they paid their income tax, they did not get a deduction for it. I should add a little known fact. Those Canadians who worked in the United States were always taxed at the highest rate.
The United States, unlike Canada, has basically one rate as one moves through the system. There are several rates depending on, among other things, one's family or marital status or whether one has children. What the American taxation system did for individuals working there was to assume they would have no deductions whatsoever and they would tax them at the very highest possible rate.
There could be an individual who worked in the United States and might have supported three, four, five or six children in Canada and a spouse, but they were taxed at the highest rate. There was some rationale to this. I suppose from the point of view of the Americans, they can say that they do not know how many dependants a person has. A person could tell them that he or she had six or ten dependants, but how would they police that? Therefore, they taxed everybody at the highest rate.
Canadians who were paying into the United States social security system paid at the very highest rate in the United States and then were given a credit when they filed Canadian income tax. At the same time they did not get a deduction.
Is it reasonable at this point, when they finally get a pension from the United States, to have favourable tax treatment? Of course it is. It is only fair. That is the way it was in this country for a long time.
I mentioned the member for Calgary Southeast and his work on it. He saw the injustice as soon as it took place and tried to convince the government to do something about it because it was only fair. We could say we are only talking about a few people, but that is not the case.
About 80,000 residents in Canada are recipients of the United States social security. For those individuals, all of them seniors, this is a big deal for them. In my riding of Niagara Falls, I have hundreds of people who are in receipt of United States social security. It was a rude awakening for them when they found out that instead of getting an 85% deduction on their inclusion rates, it became only 50%. This is a huge increase.
If people are dependent on United States social security, it is highly unlikely they will get a pension from Canada. They can only work in one place at one time. They are dependent upon that and all of a sudden they are getting a 70% tax increase. This is a huge burden that was placed on those individuals who found themselves now the victims of this new treaty.
How did it come about? This was negotiated between this government and the government of the United States through a series of protocols and acts. They went in with their eyes wide open. Why sell out these 80,000 Canadians? I have no idea why they would want to do that.