Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and to note the good intentions and the gesture of the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
It is indeed very important to combat abuses by sleazy promoters who try to take advantage of vulnerable people in our society.
However, further to the question I asked the member, I must condemn in this House the radical measures the Conservative government has taken. Those measures strip vulnerable and disadvantaged people of all the resources that would enable them to do their duty as taxpayers. This is something quite basic.
As a member and a Canadian citizen, I believe that my duty as a taxpayer should be as easy to do as my duty as a voter. This is a civic action. It is an action that the Canadian government must actively support. In the case of our fiscal duty, it is also an action that is being impeded, denied and even flouted. In fact, it is being flouted and suppressed. This discourages a lot of people and leaves them at a loss with respect to the government and to their place in society and the contribution they can make to it.
I am going to talk about a personal case. In fact, I am going to recall a childhood memory. I am going to talk about my father, Étienne Côté, who was a carpenter and cabinetmaker and a union activist for more than 10 years. He also filed his tax returns and maintained his own car. He liked to do mechanical work and solve all kinds of problems.
I must say that I inherited some of my father's character traits. He taught me a lot of things. I started completing my own tax returns as a teenager, and I have continued to exercise that discipline. Somehow or other, I have always completed my own federal and provincial income tax returns—Quebec is a special case in that regard—despite the increasingly complex nature of the forms people have to fill out.
Consequently, for nearly 30 years, I have been a privileged witness to this growing complexity and the fact that people are increasingly at a loss with regard to it all. This year, I am completing income tax returns for other people who feel completely overwhelmed. That is not right.
I want to talk about what the bill does not address, without taking anything away from my colleague's very positive gesture.
Completely cutting all the services that the Canada Revenue Agency provides to taxpayers is a radical action.
This summer, while I was going door to door, I talked to some Canada Revenue Agency employees who told me that people are needlessly going to the federal building on Rue d'Estimauville, where they are told that there is no service counter on site. Then they have to go back home and surf the Internet or, at worst, try to reach a public servant by telephone, which is virtually impossible, from what they told me.
I do not use those services. I have the good fortune and great privilege to understand a number of the finer points of taxation, although I admit I have been stumped in the past by its absolutely incredible complexity, which is intolerable in our society.
This is a very serious problem. When we talk about the disability tax credit, we are talking about a tax credit that grants very large amounts of money every year.
Like my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster, who has been doing this for several years, I organized an information session on those credits.
Some people were able to collect thousands of dollars in arrears, going back as many as 10 years. Some of my colleagues told me there had been refunds of $13,000 to $14,000 going back 10 years, because people had unfortunately been unable to declare their own incomes and fully exercise a right granted by law. That right is being denied them because filing an income tax return has become a virtually impenetrable exercise.
We are not just talking about personal returns, but about corporate returns as well. Corporate taxation is also an enormous challenge because there are a lot of loopholes and vote-getting measures. Those measures add an incredible number of lines to the income tax return form, not to mention the additional pages needed so that you can use a specific line.
It is not surprising, after what I have recently learned, that fewer than 40% of Canadian taxpayers successfully navigate their income tax return, do their duty and get the credits to which they are entitled.
Let us imagine someone who is already debilitated by illness, by physical disability following an accident or by advanced age and who can benefit from this fabulous disability tax credit. Then let us imagine him trying to find information in that thick document that explains the multi-page return. You could very easily miss it, especially since people do not readily understand the scope and the limits of the tax credit, or which field covers the whole thing.
The tax credit is remarkable, as it affects a great number of people. However, many people simply do not know whether they qualify for it.
While I welcome my colleague’s attempt to curb the frankly criminal abuses of the situation by certain people in our society, the government is systematically refusing to deal with the growing complexity of the federal tax system and the basic need for simplification. In fact, the reverse is true; in the past eight years, the government has contributed significantly to this increased complexity by bringing in many different tax credits that are designed to win votes.
I am thinking for instance of the transit tax credit, which every week gives back less than a handful of quarters and makes absolutely no contribution to improving public transit in our cities and municipalities. I can attest to this myself, as a resident of Quebec City.
I am going to repeat what is probably the most shocking aspect of this debate: very quickly and very dramatically, the Canada Revenue Agency’s client services have been slashed. I will never be able to say often enough that these cuts are weakening the social fabric and impeding people’s right to do their duty in the right conditions, without making errors in good faith and possibly being criticized for it. We must continue paying particular attention to this.