Mr. Speaker, like other members of the House, I am in a rather difficult position to address this issue without a determination from the Chair as to whether the amendment, which has been presented at literally the very last minute, is going to be admissible and we are going to send this issue back to the committee.
I am going to give my speech based on the fact that it is not going to be admissible. I came prepared to do that. My speech is going to be highly critical of both the government and the official opposition party. It is going to be critical of the member for Essex and of the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. Both of those members, in previous parliaments, have had this same private member's bill before the House.
The secretary of state had it before the House on two different occasions when he was in opposition. The member for Essex has had it here on two occasions, in the last Parliament and again in this Parliament.
It is a highly emotional issue for me personally, I have to say, but also for a large number of my constituents. The greatest number of individuals in Canada who are Canadian citizens or Canadian residents receiving social security in Canada live in the Windsor-Essex County area. This has been a very difficult issue for a large number of them.
When I hear the member from the Liberal Party stand in the House and talk about justice and being fair, he obviously does not understand the issue at all. As for what happened here, the Conservatives recognized this, as did a number of members from the Liberal Party historically, including the former prime minister, who was in the riding in Windsor and said he would take care of this. Like so many other Liberal promises, it got broken because they did not carry through.
The current Prime Minister was in the riding and promised to take care of it. He said that it would be taken care of if the Conservatives got into government. We have had three budgets from them now. They have not done it either.
When we hear the member from the Liberal Party stand up and talk about justice, he just misses the point entirely. The issue of justice that is involved here is that the Canadian government, by way of a international treaty with the United States, agreed that it would tax social security benefits received in Canada in the same manner as the United States had been doing it up to that point.
That was the deal we made. In the same treaty, the U.S. agreed to treat Canada pension benefits received in the United States and tax them in the same way they had been traditionally taxed in Canada. That was the essence of the deal. It is as simple as that.
The United States lived up to that agreement. It continues to tax the Canada pension benefits received in the United States the same as if they had been taxed in Canada up to that point.
Canada has repeatedly refused to abide by that treaty. What it has done to a large number of residents in the country, most of whom are Canadian citizens, is that it has refused to abide by the treaty and it has taxed them excessively, above what was originally agreed to.
I always tell this one story about the woman who lived in my riding and went to my church. She and her husband both did. They had lived in Chicago for a good number of years, had built up their social security benefits, were Canadian citizens, and had returned to Windsor to live in retirement.
They were receiving their benefits under social security. They had bought a house and still were paying a mortgage. They both were receiving social security benefits from the United States. They both got hit with substantial increases in taxes because the then Liberal administration did not honour the treaty.
They already had their situation. That is what justice is about. They built their lives in Canada based on what they had been told would happen. They bought the house knowing that they could afford to do it and then they got hit with these additional taxes from the Canadian government.
They proceeded to lose the house. To this day, that woman still curses our former prime minister, sometimes even in church, because she remembers him coming into Windsor. She remembers a number of his candidates, members of this House historically, who came into the city and said they would take care of this. They said they would see that there was justice on this file. They did not do it.
Now we have the same repeat. We hear the member for Essex and the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism both making those pledges in a very concrete form in this House in the form of private members' bills, and then nothing. With two budgets, they do not go through.
Then this got to the finance committee. I was there on the final day and said to the members of the committee from both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party that they were breaking their promise to the recipients of these benefits and their promise to the United States, and that they were illegally breaking their treaty obligations. Every single member from the Conservative Party and every single member of the Liberal Party voted in committee to strip the bill, so that we have this motion before us now to concur in doing away with any further work on this issue.
It is obvious from my comments that I would be very happy to support the amendment that has been put forward. I do not know if it is in order. I hope it is so that we can keep this issue alive.
This goes back to 1996. I remember that in the very first speech I gave in this House after I was elected in 2000, the very first one, I raised this issue. At that time, I thanked the members of my riding who had voted for me on this issue, because I also pledged at that time that we would deal with this.
I intend to continue to fight for that justice for them, but we are now 12 years from the time they first saw this miscarriage perpetrated on them. What has happened in that time, of course, is that a great number of them have passed away, because they were all at retirement age at that time.
We are faced today with both the Liberals and the Conservatives. There may be some last minute change of heart on the part of the Conservatives if the motion for amendment is admissible, but if it is not, then they have done just exactly what the Liberals did. They went out to the country and led people to believe, in various parts of the country where there are good numbers of these residents and citizens, that they would take care of this miscarriage of justice, and they did not do it.
It is quite obvious that if the results of what happened in the finance committee continue, this Conservative government, like the previous Liberal government, has no intention of keeping its promise to the Canadian people, and that is just an absolute shame.
I will conclude with this. I am desperately hoping the Chair will rule that this proposed amendment is admissible and that we can send this back to the finance committee. Hopefully, as opposed to what we hear from the Liberals, we in fact will look at this from the perspective of where justice really lies on this issue, not being worried about whether we are treating some retirees differently than others. That is not what the issue is.
The issue is that we told these retirees this is the way we would treat them. We told the United States that this is the way we would treat them. We have broken those promises and it is time for some justice to come into play.
Again, we heard from one of the speakers who was concerned about being prudent here. We have heard both the Conservatives and the Liberals advocate strongly for billions of dollars in tax cuts to the oil and gas industry and the banking industry in this country. By comparison, the money we are talking about here, which should be fairly granted by way of a tax break to the retirees, is minuscule. It is in the millions of dollars, but it is minuscule. It is nothing like the billions of dollars that both major parties have agreed to give away and have already given away. We need that justice.
Again, I hope very much that the Chair will see his way through to finding that proposed amendment in order and that in fact we can send it back to committee and keep the issue alive.