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House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was icsid.

Topics

Official LanguagesRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to section 66 of the Official Languages Act, I have the honour to table the annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for the period April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(f) this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Health.

Your committee has considered votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 under Health in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008 and reports the same less the amount granted in interim supply.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the premature release or leaking of reports of the Auditor General to the media before their presentation in the House of Commons.

In addition, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Your committee has considered vote 1 under Governor General, vote 1 under Parliament, votes 1, 5, 10 and 25 under Privy Council, votes 1 and 5 under Public Works and Government Services, as well as votes 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 30 and 35 under Treasury Board for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008, and reports the same less the amounts voted in interim supply.

Competition ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-441, An Act to amend the Competition Act (protection of purchasers from vertically integrated suppliers).

Mr. Speaker, this bill amends the Competition Act to provide for the enforcement of fair pricing by a supplier who sells a product at retail either directly or through an affiliate and also supplies the product to a purchaser who competes with the supplier at the retail level so as to give the purchaser a fair opportunity to make a similar profit.

The bill also provides that a supplier who coerces or attempts to coerce a customer in relation to the establishment of a retail price or pricing policy may be dealt with as having committed an anti-competitive act.

This bill seeks to address concerns raised by my constituents about unfair gas pricing.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Oil and Gas Ombudsman ActRoutine Proceedings

May 15th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-442, An Act to establish the Office of the Oil and Gas Ombudsman to investigate complaints relating to the business practices of suppliers of oil or gas.

Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege today to introduce this bill on behalf of irate consumers who are tired of getting hosed at the pumps.

My bill creates an office of the oil and gas ombudsman that would be charged with providing strong and effective consumer protection to make sure that no big business could swindle, cheat or rip off hard-working Canadians. I am pleased to report that the bill has been endorsed by the Consumers' Association of Canada.

We all learned last week that gas companies have been overcharging consumers between 15¢ and 27¢ per litre. It is not fair and it is not right. It just does not pass the nod test that on long weekends prices go through the roof, or that companies' prices climb in the same direction at the same speed on the same day.

Currently, people can only complain to each other about being gouged at the pumps. My bill creates a meaningful vehicle for having those complaints taken seriously with mechanisms for investigation and remediation to help consumers fight the squeeze.

Since this is not just an issue in my riding of Hamilton Mountain, I am pleased to have my bill seconded by the member for Windsor West. I am hopeful that members from all regions of this country and indeed from all political parties will endorse my efforts to put an end to highway robbery.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between all parties. I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding the Special Order of Thursday, May 10, 2007, the deferred division on the motion to concur in the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts be held at the end of Government Orders today, Tuesday, May 15, 2007.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. Chief Government Whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Visitor VisasPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, it is my privilege to present a petition signed by over 200 concerned Canadians that was collected by the Alberta branch of the Canadian Polish Congress.

The petitioners demand that Parliament pass and the government adopt private member's Motion No. 19 calling for the lifting of visitor visas for the following EU member states: Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Hungary. These countries are European Union members and the same visa regime should apply to them as to the other EU member states.

Canada's burdensome visa regime is a throwback to the days of the cold war and should be modernized to reflect new geopolitical realities. The iron curtain has come down. It is time for Canada's visa curtain to come down as well.

SentencingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, my constituents and others are upset with the sentence given in the Shane Rolston murder case and believe that in the case of other crimes, sentences simply do not match the crime committed.

The petitioners go on to say that the Young Offenders Act is not effective in deterring criminal activities in youths.

The petitioners call on Parliament to re-evaluate the sentences handed down to criminals to ensure that sentences are adequate in comparison to the crime, regardless of age, class or race.

Federal Minimum WagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from the good citizens of London—Fanshawe who are concerned because the federal minimum wage was eliminated in 1996 by the Liberals. A $10 an hour minimum wage just approaches the poverty level for a single worker. A federal minimum wage would establish best practice for labour standards across the country.

The petitioners request that their government ensure that the workers in the federal jurisdiction are paid a fair minimum wage by passing the NDP bill sponsored by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I am pleased to present this petition.

SentencingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House to table a petition on behalf of the constituents of Wetaskiwin, many from Breton, Warburg, Alix, Winfield in my riding.

The petitioners say that due to the inadequate sentences passed in Shane Rolston's murder and other crimes, sentences placed on criminals are lacking when compared to the crimes committed. The Young Offenders Act is not effective in deterring criminal activities in youth. Plea bargaining and minimizing sentences are not dissuading criminals of any age, race or class.

The petitioners call on the government to re-evaluate the sentences handed to criminals and ensure that the sentences are adequate in comparison to the crime, regardless of age, class or race.

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that 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, be read the third time and passed.

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

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.

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech on Bill C-40.

At the very beginning of his address, he mentioned the tax relief for speech language pathology services in order to help our young people and seniors, for example.

He drew the quite obvious connection between increasing poverty in certain areas and the use of various services, especially social services, speech language pathology services, and certain other ones. He also said that Bill C-40 would correct certain deficiencies in these regards because the poorest people often cannot pay for these services. That is what I understood him to say, and I would appreciate it if he could explain a bit more for us. What would he think of exempting even more services or professions?

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain for his question and comments. This is a good example of the kind of social democracy we want to have in Quebec. We are a progressive political party. We on this side of the House do not think that essential services should be taxable. It is fine to tax luxury goods, but things as essential as speech language pathology services are currently subject to tax and this is contrary to the equal opportunity principles that the Government of Canada is supposed to stand for. This is why Bill C-40 is helping to shed light on the situation. I was surprised to learn a few years ago—and am still surprised—that diapers for babies are taxable.

Why must we tax essential goods and thereby impose an additional burden on the poorest people in society? Some industrial sectors—and I would point again to the oil, gas and hydrocarbon industry in Canada—are making fabulous profits and still get tax breaks. We pass bills here in the House to reduce the fees and taxes paid by corporations that rake in $250 million a year.

It is time to exempt essential services for our children and for everyone. If we can expand the range of exempted services, that is all to the good. We will have made progress towards equal opportunity.

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Sales Tax Amendments Act, 2006Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.