Mr. Speaker, today it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
First, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois and I will support Bill C-40, which amends various acts and breathes a little life into a number of industrial sectors and charitable organizations and lends a hand to some of society's more vulnerable members, including children and seniors.
Bill C-40 includes three parts that amend three or four important acts. It will make a number of products and services tax exempt for some people and some industrial sectors, such as Quebec's wine industry, which is growing fast. This bill will offer some administrative and tax relief to these sectors.
The first part of Bill C-40 concerns measures relating to the GST. The second proposes amendments to legislation in order to lift the tax on certain goods and services. Third, Bill C-40 sets out various measures pertaining to the excise tax on wine, beer and other spirits. Lastly, the bill contains amendments to the air travellers security charge rules.
The measures in the first part of Bill C-40 that relate to the GST fall into five main categories, the first being the exemption of certain health services. The second category consists of exemptions of certain services for charities, which I will talk about a bit later. The third category comprises measures pertaining to business arrangements, including arrangements for banking institutions and foreign banks that want to invest to restructure their Canadian branches or subsidiaries. The fourth category includes governmental and administrative amendments. Lastly, the process of applying the GST would not change a great deal, but significant changes would be made so as to streamline the administration of our taxation system, which is often a barrier to expansion and growth of some sectors.
The first area that is affected is health. The bill proposes to lift the tax on speech-pathology services.
My colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain touched on this yesterday, sharing his expertise in child psychiatry with the House of Commons. He explained that some children and groups in our society are more vulnerable than others. I am thinking about children who have serious language disorders and whose parents cannot use public services. To address their child's essential needs, they must use services other than public services. Often, GST is charged on these services, but we believe that they should be tax exempt. Such services are often expensive for needy families, but they are services the parents expect to receive. Consequently, this bill will lift the tax on speech-pathology services, which are essential to children's development.
Second, services for seniors with cardiovascular disease will be tax exempt. We know that cardiovascular disease is on the rise in Quebec, contrary to what we might have expected, because consumption of products that contribute to cardiovascular disease has decreased considerably. I am referring to smoking and drug use, among other things.
Nonetheless, we feel something needs to be done to alleviate the burden on seniors who are in precarious financial situations. Removing the tax from such services is as important as what is being presented in Bill C-40.
Another exemption in Bill C-40 has to do with social work services. Currently tax is applied directly to social work services. These services are particularly essential in areas of growing poverty.
In Montreal, there are so-called high-risk neighbourhoods that need essential resources and services. Unfortunately, for people in need of direct assistance—as it was called—and social support, believe it or not, these services are still being taxed. This bill proposes an exemption for these social services.
Nonetheless, the government could have gone further. Why stop at these exemptions? Why apply tax exemption only to speech therapy services, social work services, health services for our seniors who are experiencing cardiovascular problems? Why not extend this measure to other equally essential services? I am referring to services provided by certain health practitioners such as psychologists. If a child needs to consult a psychologist, his or her parents should not have to be taxed to use such a service.
We know that in our school boards there is currently a serious shortage of professionals. I am not talking about teachers, but professionals who are essential to the development of our children in our ever changing society. We must ensure that our children and youth in our schools can get the support they need. Unfortunately, limited financial resources often prevent these children from getting these services and force parents to use external services to meet essential needs. In my opinion, these services should also be tax exempt.
Another aspect has to do with the tax free status of certain products, specifically, the sale and imports of a product that can replace blood. Lastly, certain anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Ativan are also being given tax free status.
Basically, this bill makes certain essential services exempt from the GST, specifically in health care. However, the government could have made an even bolder move by expanding the types of services covered by Bill C-40.
Bill C-40 also covers another aspect, namely, the GST rebate for motor vehicles that are specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities. In my view, in our so-called just society that aims to give everyone equal opportunity—and Quebec society has already asserted this equal opportunity approach—people with disabilities must be given everything they need to fully integrate into Quebec society, into our society.
This mobility is crucial for people who are losing their functional independence and people with disabilities, so they may access public services. Some Canadians are confined to their homes—for all kinds of reasons, including disabilities—which limits their integration into our society. We therefore welcome this GST rebate for motor vehicles that are specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities.
Bill C-40 covers another aspect, namely, another GST measure, this time concerning charitable organizations. As we all know, these organizations are in precarious financial situations and are often forced to organize fundraising initiatives to survive or just to maintain administrative services. This is a common problem. Lack of funding is clearly a problem for charitable organizations. Yet, they provide a great deal of support to groups that, once again, are often very vulnerable. We see these well-established charities at work in our ridings, as they solicit us every year for a little help. Unfortunately, we have no programs or financial means available to be able to help them.
Examining a bill like Bill C-40 is a perfect opportunity for us to say yes, we can help them when it comes to taxes. We will support a bill that will exempt goods supplied with a property under short-term leases. What does that mean? It means that if a charity decides to acquire a good supplied by a property lessor in a short-term lease, this product would be exempt from GST.
To repeat, this helps out these charities and lightens their financial load. At the end of the day, we are not only helping charities, but also the individuals and groups who benefit from the services offered by the non-profit organizations. We commend the measure in Bill C-40 which aims to make goods supplied with a property for non-profit organizations GST-exempt.
The second GST measure is the transitional GST relief for a foreign bank that decides to restructure its Canadian subsidiary into a Canadian branch. We must have a better harmonized tax system. There is currently competition, which must be harmonized, particularly in terms of existing taxation in the United States. Transitional GST reliefs for the foreign banks that decide to restructure and set up shop here, in Canada, will only strengthen our financial market, our banking system, and the economies of Quebec and Canada.
The third measure is the exclusion from the GST/HST base of beverage container deposits that are refundable to the consumer. This is an interesting measure because our society has decided that sustainable development will serve as the cornerstone for its development. Such a society must encourage recycling initiatives. This is an unequivocal fact. However, although Quebeckers and Canadians have clearly affirmed their desire to focus on and accelerate the implementation of a beverage container recycling system—particularly in Quebec—there are still tax irritants, elements that prevent us from doing more in the areas of deposit-refund systems and recycling.
We must therefore make it easier to manage recycling and to exclude beverage container deposits from GST/HST. I believe that is a step in the right direction. Naturally it is not a panacea. It not enough to ensure that there will be a Quebec or Canada-wide recycling system based on a deposit refund system. However, it does remove a tax constraint and lessens the administrative burden on the application of a deposit refund system and recycling. In this regard, it is definitely a step in the right direction. It certainly will help organizations such as Recyc-Québec, which has carried out several studies and promoted this vital debate about the importance of implementing a deposit refund system.
There are other measures pertaining to the excise tax. I am thinking of, among others, part 2 of the bill, which amends the Excise Tax Act, 2001. Two significant changes are made by Bill C-40. First, the bill seeks to improve the operation of the excise tax and then to adjust administrative practices in order to develop and promote the growth of a certain number of industries, particularly measures pertaining to alcohol and specifically wine.
The objective of Bill C-40 is to encourage the growth of the wine industry in Canada. It is not a measure that benefits only the rest of Canada; it is a measure that will also benefit Quebec. We know that there are currently 42 vineyards in Quebec. More than 1,000 hectares of vines are now under development and 300,000 bottles of wine are produced each year. That shows that there is a vibrant wine sector at work in Quebec.
The latest competitions held in Quebec and in Canada have demonstrated the strength of this sector. Last month, from April 20 to 22, an important competition known as the Coupe des Nations was held as part of the Festival de la gastronomie de Québec. Believe it or not, Quebec was one of the standouts. The Quebec vineyards really stood out. They won 34 new medals for Quebec wines. Quebec vineyards won almost 35% of the medals awarded during this festival, at which many vineyards were represented. What does that prove? It proves that there is energy at work that we must maintain and that we must strengthen in the future to ensure that these vineyards can benefit from tax breaks.
What is there in Bill C-40 that will provide major benefits to this industry? It provides for deferral of tax by small vintners selling wine on consignment. They will not have to pay the GST until the product is sold. That is significant because it means that the vintners, who are very often small businesses—not even medium-sized businesses, except in very rare cases—with very limited resources at their disposal, will be able to put off an expense until the product has been sold.
Small producers will make their tax payments once the product has been sold. This will provide much more breathing room to the small vintners. In addition, our homegrown products in all regions of Quebec will certainly benefit from such a measure.
I will close by saying that we are in favour of Bill C-40, because it gives hope to the people who are most vulnerable in our society, it ensures increased growth in some essential sectors of Quebec economic activity, and it lightens the tax burden on certain groups in our society. All of this promotes a more sustainable society that favours fairness and economic growth.