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House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It being 6:00 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 30 consideration of the motion.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this motion was last before the House the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville had the floor. There are seven minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to resume my support for enshrining property rights in the Constitution.

Property rights are essential for our well-being, our economy and our way of life. Why then do we afford them so little protection? Our most important rights and freedoms belong in our Constitution.

The common law statutes and the Bill of Rights are second best. Only a constitutional amendment can put property rights where they belong, in the supreme law of Canada.

Canada is the only modern industrialized country that does not protect property rights adequately. The right to own land and other materials is not included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and this is a glaring omission. Property rights have been at the centre of the human rights movement from the beginning.

Since 1912 and Magna Carta people have understood that the right to own and use property is necessary for political freedom.

After the English Civil Wars, John Locke famously argued that the right to life, liberty and property were natural inalienable rights and if the state was to have legitimacy in the eyes of its people it had to secure these rights. We are making the same argument today in this House.

Small wonder that many people are disillusioned by big government tactics that trample on the rights of the individual. It is astounding that property rights were not written into the charter when it was tabled to much fanfare 25 years ago.

As recently as last December our Prime Minister supported putting property rights into the charter, but he will wait until the provinces and public are ready to agree on the amendments.

Private members' bills and motions to enshrine property rights have been debated in the House of Commons 10 times since 1983 and 5 of those debates were bills or motions that I introduced. Members can see that it is very important to me as it should be to the House and it is to most Canadians.

Property rights are included in the Bill of Rights, but they need to be written into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to have the protection of the courts. The right to own property, enjoy one's property, and not risk being unfairly deprived of one's property is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society.

It should have been unlawful for the government to ban and devalue legally registered firearms with Bill C-68 in 1995 without compensation. The law-abiding firearms owners did nothing wrong, yet big government simply waved its hand and rendered their property worthless overnight. Many of the firearms collections that suddenly became taboo were family legacies passed from generation to generation as heirlooms.

There is also the case of the mentally challenged veterans who were denied payment of millions of dollars of interest on their pension benefits by the federal government when they lost their case before the Supreme Court in July 2003. Big government should not be allowed to take away what is rightfully ours.

Many farmers across the land are not allowed to sell some of their own crops when and where they want because the government continues to control the flow of certain agricultural products.

Canada is being left behind. Today we find property rights protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the American Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and in the constitutions of several nations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for example states:

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Who would deny this? Who would deny that these rights are fundamental in a free and democratic society? It is clearly a basic right to own property and not to be unfairly deprived of one's property. Basic rights belong in the Constitution.

Against this background the charter appears to be an anomaly and as a document that guarantees rights and freedoms in a free and democratic society, its silence about property rights is clearly an omission that must be corrected.

Canadians expect to see property rights in their supreme law. They want to know that they will be treated with fairness and respect. In fact, an SES Research national survey showed that a strong majority of Canadians support adding property rights to the charter.

A recent Globe and Mail-CTV poll found that 73% of respondents support the notion of having the right to own and protect property enshrined in the charter. Let us listen to those Canadians and support this motion. For all these reasons, I support this motion today.

I would appeal to all members in the House to look carefully at the issue. Many have simply dismissed it as not important. It is one of the important fundamental rights that we should be debating fully in the House and will, hopefully, approve. I look forward to this debate and a positive outcome to this motion.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this particular motion. The motion is simple. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should amend Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to extend property rights to Canadians.

Let me say at the outset that it is the opinion of this member that all members in the House should vote against this particular motion.

I will make a number of points to develop this argument. First, I want to point out that this motion, although short and brief, introduces what I consider to be a significant change in the Constitution of this country in that section 7 would be amended to extend to property rights.

In the early 1980s we went through a very complex set of negotiations between the Government of Canada and the 10 provincial governments to repatriate our Constitution and at the same time adopted as part of our constitutional law the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This was a major event. It was done after much debate and comment, and the authors at that time felt, and I submit correctly, that property rights should not be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The document has a history now of some 25 years. The previous speaker was talking about polls, but it has generally been accepted by all Canadians that we are dealing basically with personal rights.

Section 2 of the charter talks about fundamental freedoms, such as religion, thought, opinion, speech, and freedom of assembly. Section 3 deals with democratic rights, such as the right to vote. Section 7 outlines the legal rights, which is the section that the hon. member wants to introduce this provision into. Section 8 talks about arrest. Section 9 is detention. Section 15 talks about equality and then there are language rights.

These are personal rights and this concept would introduce an entirely new concept. Basically, we are talking about economic rights versus personal rights. It is not within what I consider to be the pith and substance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The second point I want to bring to the House's attention is that this is basically provincial jurisdiction and has been since 1867. In this there has been no change. If we go back to the debates that took place in 1981-82, I stand to be corrected, but I believe each and every province lobbied and argued very strongly that property rights not be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The authors of the final document agreed with that concept and Quebec had its own points.

At the time, the authors of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms introduced an amending formula which requires seven provinces including at least 50% of the population of the country. If those provinces have the same view as they did in 1982, certainly this amendment would not receive approval under the amending formula of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The fourth point is that the House should consider all the unintended consequences of this particular motion. Municipal zoning, aboriginal rights of property, provincial land use property, environmental protection legislation, and property rights of spouses upon the dissolution of marriage, these are all property rights.

We all come from individual provinces that have their own very unique histories. I come from the province of Prince Edward Island. When the province was being created as a colony, the government of Great Britain gave the province to 67 individuals in England. This was an earlier form of patronage. We lived for approximately 100 years under a system of absentee landlords. This was a very important issue that has not been forgotten.

My province has legislation which has been on the books for some 25 or 30 years now. It is called the Prince Edward Island Lands Protection Act. I will be quite honest in saying that many people in Canada will be quite surprised what I am about to read.

That act states:

2.(a) no person shall have an aggregate land holding in excess of 1000 acres; (b) no corporation shall have an aggregate land holding in excess of 3000 acres.

4. A person who is not a resident person shall not have an aggregate land holding in excess of five acres or having a shore frontage in excess of one hundred and sixty-five feet--

This legislation, I would submit, may seem draconian to certain people in other areas of the country where there is more land and the population is not as dense. Given the history of the province, I am going to quote from the preamble to the legislation. Paragraph 1.1(a) states:

--historical difficulties with absentee land owners, and the consequent problems faced by the inhabitants of Prince Edward Island in governing their own affairs, both public and private;

If this motion were to pass and if the motion were to receive the consent of seven provinces having at least 50% of the population of Canada, if the Charter of Rights were amended and it became law, then that particular legislation would be struck down.

Again, I also submit, there would be a lot of other legislation dealing with family law, aboriginal law, environmental law, municipal law, provincial land use law, that would be struck down and would not receive the support of any province let alone one province, and certainly not the province that I come from.

I realize that there have been some issues that have developed over the years. One I can think of right now is the whole issue of expropriation. Certainly, I think the opinion of Canadians and, more important, the way that legislation is implemented by federal, municipal and provincial governments has changed and that has led to some problems.

The previous speaker spoke of gun control. That is another issue. There are people in Canada who think that a Canadian has the right to own a gun without regulation and without any training whatever. That is certainly not my opinion, but I do not have the time to get into that whole issue right now. However, that is a policy issue for governments of the future.

In summary, I made my points to the House. This is a motion that in my respectful opinion should be dead on arrival. I do not believe any province will support this motion. I do not believe it has any possibility of receiving any support for an amendment under our Constitution. For those reasons, it is my submission that each member of this House has an obligation to vote against this particular motion.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, my first reaction on reading this motion is that it seems to be a solution looking for a problem to solve. One section of the Canadian Bill of Rights reads as follows:

It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;—

I believe there are slight differences between property rights and enjoyment of property. However, when we look at these differences, I believe that we have to conclude that it is preferable to use this quasi-constitutional wording—the Canadian Bill of Rights falls somewhere between the constitution and ordinary rights—for reasons that we could examine a bit later.

Article 953 of the Civil Code of Québec reads as follows:

No owner may be compelled to transfer his ownership except by expropriation according to law for public utility and in consideration of a just and prior indemnity.

In my opinion, this right is recognized subject to the fact that land can be expropriated for public utility. However, I think that all provinces have an expropriation commission. Quebec's administrative tribunal, which replaced the expropriation commission, hears appeals from people whose property has been expropriated and who are not pleased with how much they have been paid for it.

I would add that there is more to the Constitution than the charter. Section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 is very clear:

In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say, ... 13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

These matters are therefore not under federal jurisdiction. However, given how this motion was introduced—and this is not the first time that it has been introduced in this House because it was under consideration in 1998 and in 2005—the arguments used to defend it inspire concern rather than support.

I would like to quote the Reform Party member who represented Yorkton—Melville at the time. He said:

I have only time to cover one arbitrary taking of property by the federal government. I will use the example I know best. ...chapter 39 of the Statutes of Canada arbitrarily prohibited an estimated 553,000 registered handguns: 339,000 handguns that have a barrel equal to or less than 104 millimetres in length, about 4.14 inches, and 214,000 handguns that discharge 25 and 32 calibre bullets.

Back then, they did not want to abolish long gun registration. They were attacking the legislation that said that some firearms were dangerous and should no longer be used. These firearms were supposed to remain in collections only if they had been completely disabled. Given the choice between property rights and something that can endanger people's lives, I think that the government certainly had the right to prioritize whatever was putting people's lives at risk.

The same member also said:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

In my view, it is inevitable that, at some point in community life, there is the need for development, and also the need to restore justice and equality of opportunity within the public. This requires us to challenge property rights to a certain extent, with compensation.

I also think that placing property rights on the same level as the most fundamental rights, such as the right to life and security of the person, in a way undermines the value of the basic protections set out in section 7.

Furthermore, it is strange to hear the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville talk to us again about the attitude of the government, which failed to pay some interest on money owing. It is even more strange that he is now part of a government that refuses to pay the guaranteed income supplement that was supposed to go to seniors, although they could not apply for it at the time, since the government did everything it could to ensure that most seniors who were entitled could not submit an application.

Although it now admits that it made a mistake, the government refuses to pay these people, not only the interest on the money they should have received, but also the capital itself. This attitude is really very telling. On the one hand, they refuse to compensate poor people; on the other hand, they are defending the rights of wealthy people.

To come back to property rights, it is inevitable that at a given moment, in many systems—we have seen this elsewhere—the rich become richer. Therefore, we must intervene to ensure social justice, to re-establish the conditions for peace with respect to property rights.

This is not the case in Canada. Nevertheless, in many countries, a few families own immense tracts of land. The poor people who work the land must endure a system that forces them to live in poverty forever. I cannot say that the governments that attempt to reform this type of ownership do not respect human rights. This practice became more widespread in the 20th century and continues today. In general, it is done with a view to providing equal opportunity.

I recognize that in our societies, ownership may be concentrated, primarily the ownership of the means of production. This is no longer individual ownership but corporate ownership. In fact, major companies always own the means of production.

On that topic, too, we could have debates that, in certain circumstances, are completely justifiable. We could ask ourselves, as we have, if the means of production belong equally to the workers who help create them, as well as to those who risk their capital.

I know that General de Gaulle, who was hardly a capitalist or a socialist—he used to say that he was neither on the left nor on the right, but above—did seek to reconcile the modern trends of the 20th century, even though he lost in that last referendum, and recognized that it was important for the workers in a company to be viewed as owners as well, just like the people who risked their capital.

I recognize that some land allocation may become necessary at times in some societies. I would hate to see the right to property be so inaccessible that this kind of social justice measure could not be taken.

Aboriginal rights are also an issue. We are told regularly by aboriginal people that we are in fact living on their land, land that was ceded in part to them under agreements and treaties that we are failing to abide by. This brings us to another aspect of this debate.

I also think that, generally speaking and unlike the right to life and security of the person and other fundamental rights, the right to property is unfortunately all too often the prerogative of the wealthy in our societies, the prerogative of those who can afford to build capital, buy when people have to divest themselves of assets and, thus, accumulate more and more wealth. Those are the ones who enjoy a high level of protection under existing laws.

As I indicated earlier, I believe that recognizing the right of the individual to the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law, instead of simply establishing a right to property, is very important. I much prefer that concept, which is both broader and narrower. It is broader in the sense that it clearly defines the importance of property, making it a fundamental issue, but narrow enough to cover the enjoyment of one's property, but not the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Kelowna--Lake Country, it is a privilege and an honour to stand today in support of Motion No. 315, a motion to express this House's desire to add property rights to the Canadian Constitution, to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is an important issue and one that affects the lives of all Canadians. Therefore, I thank the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook for presenting this motion before the House.

This motion is about much more than expressing the need to entrench the rights of property in our Constitution. It is about securing our liberty and freedom as Canadians. As the great Nobel prizewinning economist, Friedrich von Hayek, once said that the system of private property “is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not”.

Together as Canadians, we have created a great and proud society through our hard work and, with this government's sound economic management, we have built a society that is the envy of the world.

Despite these efforts, we must always be vigilant to protect our hard-earned freedoms and prosperity. That is what this motion is about, the right to one's property is a fundamental right in guaranteeing our liberties and freedoms.

As early as the 18th century, Adam Smith, the founder of economics, observed the connection between secure property rights and economic wealth. As he noted, it is only when individuals can expect their property rights can be protected and enforced that societies can generate wealth and higher standards of living for everyone.

The eminent philosopher, John Locke, echoed this sentiment by proclaiming that societies are founded on the need to protect property rights. As he wrote, “Property rights are among the highest values that governments should respect”.

It is time for Canadians to follow this sound advice.

Too often these days, we read about governments around the world that arbitrarily seize the property of those who would otherwise invest in their countries, undermining individual freedoms. This drives away investment and weakens international confidence in those societies. It happens there because governments are not restrained by laws restricting the arbitrary exercise of their power.

We in Canada are different. By protecting property rights once and for all in our Constitution, we will demonstrate to everyone that Canada is a country that values the rule of law and the sanctity of property.

By expressing the support of this House for entrenching property rights in the Constitution, we will join a community of nations that protect property as a fundamental right. This began in the United Kingdom through the Magna Carta of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights in 1689.

Our neighbours to the south do this through the fifth and the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States. Our allies in Europe have also guaranteed property rights in the European Convention for the Protection Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The right to property is supported by international law through article 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These highly respected instruments all protect the rights of property. It is now time to add Canada to this impressive list.

For these reasons, on behalf of my constituents of Kelowna--Lake Country, I will be supporting this motion, and I urge all members of this great House to stand up and be counted in favour of Motion No. 315. Together we can support hard-working Canadians by demonstrating the importance of protecting the fruits of their labour in our Constitution. It is time we as Canadians demonstrate our desire to guarantee the fundamental right of property in the supreme law of our land.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak in favour of Motion No. 315, an important motion expressing the support of the House of Commons to entrench property rights in the Canadian Constitution. This is a motion concerning our supreme and fundamental rights as Canadians and as such, I proudly rise to support it.

Canada was founded on the principle of the rule of law, and as Canadians, we respect fundamental rights and express those values in our Constitution. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in our land, has stated that one of the fundamental principles animating the whole of the Canadian Constitution is constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Our Constitution reflects the highest values of our society. Today it includes important guarantees such as the freedom of religion, expression, assembly and association. It protects our democracy through the right to vote and the right to equality before the law. We have included these and other rights in our Constitution because they express the basic rights of all Canadians. As such, Canadians can be confident that these rights and freedoms will be respected by government.

It is with this in mind that we turn our attention today to a motion concerning the importance of entrenching property rights in the Canadian Constitution. This motion is part of a broader movement to guarantee property rights as a fundamental right in Canadian law.

Throughout the long sweep of Canadian history, many have expressed the need to protect property rights as one of our basic rights. The deep appeal of this principle continues to resonate with the majority of Canadians today. In fact, a recent Globe and Mail/CTV poll found that 73% of Canadians support having the right to own and protect property included in our Constitution through the charter. Clearly, Canadians have said to us that they want property rights protected and as parliamentarians, we would be wise to listen.

The House of Commons has already expressed the importance of property rights in the past. In 1960 this House passed the Canadian Bill of Rights, following the lead of the great Progressive Conservative prime minister, the Right Hon. John George Diefenbaker. Indeed, many of the rights guaranteed in the Canadian Bill of Rights were later included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. However, the right to property remains absent.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker emphasized the underlying importance of the Canadian Bill of Rights as a first step in guaranteeing the rights of Canadians. In an address to our nation prior to the introduction of the Canadian Bill of Rights, he said:

...few Canadians will deny that this is not only a first step in the right direction, but a very important first step and one that will take its place among the outstanding achievements for the maintenance and preservation of human liberty in Canada.

Protecting property rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights was only the first step. Motion No. 315 is another important step. By voting in favour of this motion, all of us in this House will heed the call of many Canadians who ask us to stand up and support the rights of Canadians to their hard-earned property. We will demonstrate to Canadians that we in Parliament are attuned to the values of the majority of the citizens of this country and that we will work as hard as they do to ensure that their rights are protected.

I urge all members of this House to stand up for Canada and stand up in support of Motion No. 315.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as this is my five minute wrap up I will keep it to under five minutes.

I thank all my colleagues for speaking to the motion. This is a very important issue for the member for Yorkton—Melville and over the years he has been an outspoken advocate on this particular subject.

I also want to thank my other two colleagues in the House today for speaking to this very important issue.

Protecting property rights in Canada's Constitution is an issue that has been highlighted during previous federal election campaigns. I believe it is an important issue, not only for many residents of my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook, but particularly for anyone who owns land in this country.

The member for Yorkton—Melville talked about the issue of guns, family heirlooms, and the fact that when legislation changed these family treasures were taken and there was no compensation whatsoever. It was a fait accompli. The government had the guns destroyed even though they were family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. It would not only apply to people who owned land in this country, but also any type of physical property.

That is why in April of this year I introduced a private member's motion calling on members of the House of Commons to recognize the need to entrench property rights in the Charter of Rights of Freedoms. Motion No. 315 reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should amend Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to extend property rights to Canadians.

As a member of Parliament, I am convinced that the entrenchment of property rights in the charter would benefit every Canadian. Protecting property rights in the charter would ensure that Canadians enjoy the fruits of their labour. The goal of standing up for the fundamental rights of every Canadian crosses party lines. At least I think it should cross all party lines. I am not sure why it does not but it should cross all party lines.

Currently there is no constitutional provision protecting the property rights of citizens in Canada's Constitution. This is truly ironic considering property rights were included in the charter's predecessor, the federal legislation known as the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.

I believe that section 7 of the charter could be amended to extend property rights to all Canadians.

Every Canadian has the right to the enjoyment of their property. Every Canadian has the right not to be deprived of their property, unless the property owner is provided either a fair hearing or is paid fair and impartially fixed compensation within a reasonable amount of time. Once again, with certain issues of the gun registry, this would be applicable to those family heirlooms.

One of the main benefits of such an amendment to the charter would be to give individual property owners the right to fair compensation, particularly in cases of government expropriation for major projects.

Fair compensation recognizes the pride that Canadians take in land ownership and recognizes that property ownership is often the main way that Canadians plan for their future and for their retirement. Fair compensation would establish the balance necessary to ensure that all levels of government respect property ownership.

Property rights are arguably the most fundamental freedom and deserve to be constitutionally protected. They are at the very core of the political debate in a democratic society, especially in Canada.

Protecting Canadians' property is both a value and an initiative that every party in the House of Commons could support. With the motion, I am very pleased to be helping our government take a bold first step in addressing an issue that is important to the residents of not only in my riding, but Canadians from coast to coast.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 5, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe there would be unanimous consent to see the clock at 7 p.m.

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to see the clock at 7 p.m.?

Charter of Rights and FreedomsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to point out that my constituency includes Nunavik, not Nunavut. Nunavut is a territory, while Nunavik is a region of the province of Quebec.

On November 22, I put a question to the Minister of National Revenue. For the benefit of this debate, I will repeat that question:

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Revenue Agency has audited many restaurants in Quebec and sent out notices of assessment based on an average tipping rate of 16% of the bill. That rate was set arbitrarily on the basis of incomplete information.

How can the minister let the agency take such inaccurate shortcuts when setting assessment rates, knowing full well that such methods produce imaginary rates that are completely out of touch with these workers' reality?

Now, here are the words used by the minister to avoid answering my question:

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the House that each tax case is assessed against the particular conditions that apply to it.

However, I cannot talk about a particular tax case in the House because of the Income Tax Act.

The minister ignored the matter by hiding behind the appearance of confidentiality. Nevertheless, it was evident in the question I asked that the method used by the Canada Revenue Agency was the issue. To our knowledge, this practice is applied in a few dozen establishments and definitely affects more than one hundred employees. Therefore, we are not dealing with a specific tax case, as the minister would like to believe, but rather with many similar cases.

I am not questioning the minister about a specific case, but about the legitimacy of the Canada Revenue Agency's use of a particular calculation method. The Agency uses a mathematical formula to prepare notices of assessment based on partial records and established solely with credit card payments, without taking into account bills paid in cash. I would remind you that these records are incomplete and only partial. In addition, they do not reflect the reality.

The House should know that not only does this broadly used mathematical formula produce inaccurate notices of assessment, but it is also violating the spirit of the law, as the Income Tax Act applies to individuals for the purpose of calculating personal income tax. Its title is self-explanatory. In this case, however, the Canada Revenue Agency not only fabricates artificially inflated notices of assessment, but it also applies average tipping per restaurant figures to an entire class of workers. An employee's income should not be calculated based on an average, because we are no longer talking about personal income tax then, but rather about a base tax which, incidentally, has not been changed, which makes this whole approach illegal under the current Income Tax Act.

I want to point out to the House that the only province with taxation legislation concerning tip workers is Quebec. The only province where minimum wage for tip workers is lower than for other workers is Quebec.

Could the minister tell us whether he plans, as a first step, to stay any proceedings underway against all the tip workers who have been issued notices of assessment calculated using incomplete procedures, on the basis of incomplete information, and based on illegal methods?

As a second step, and before moving to ensure fair treatment for vulnerable employees, does the minister intend to legislate to put in place a fair and just taxation system while at the same time taking into account the reality that these workers are facing?

6:40 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his question and the concerns he is presenting here in the House on behalf of his constituents.

Canada's income tax laws are based on the principle that each individual will calculate and remit the tax as they owe based on the income they received during the taxation year.

The Income Tax Act is very clear. It states that tips and gratuities are in fact income. If the employer does not record and report tip income on the taxpayer's T4 slip, the individual is responsible for keeping track of his or her income and remitting the taxes that are owed.

The Canada Revenue Agency provides information assistance through various channels such as the Internet, publication and by telephone to assist individuals in calculating their income for tax purposes.

Let me quote directly from the agency's publication on the topic of tips. It says:

If you do not get a T4 slip to show your income from tips, you are required to report all tips received in the course of your work and report the amount on line 104 of your return. It is your responsibility to keep track of all amounts received in the course of your employment.

When the taxpayer reports tips, gratuities or other occasional income, or should have reported tips but did not, the agency may ask for records or other reporting materials to determine whether the correct amounts have been reported. The CRA raises assessments on tips income based on the particulars of individual cases, the available information and in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Act.

As with any assessment, the taxpayer has a right to object and to have the assessment reviewed. They can present their case to the Tax Court of Canada and this can be done informally, without incurring any costs associated with acquiring legal counsel.

Agency officials administer tax laws for us and for the provincial and territorial legislatures. The government has confidence in the Canada Revenue Agency and its ability to effectively and efficiently serve Canadians.

There is not time now to even mention many complex programs and processes that the agency uses to administer our tax laws. I can assure all Canadians that the government continues to examine other ways to promote and encourage compliance with our existing tax laws.