House of Commons Hansard #257 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.


Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker,when I started as a young tax specialist, I was told—funnily enough—to interpret the law my way, namely in the manner most favourable to my client. I was told I should then contact various Revenue officials and send the file to the one who was most likely to agree with me. That is how it was, and how it still is, unfortunately.

The law is so complex that if you talk to different officials, you will get different answers. Will this bill change that?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe it will change anything because the necessary investments are not being made.

I do not know how many times I have seen a minister rise in the House and deny that there is a problem. They say that they invested a little money and that the problem will work itself out. I am sorry, but that is not the case. That is not how it works.

I do not know a lot about taxation, but I know enough to say that investing a little money will not make the system work. It takes competent people, such as legal and tax experts, people who specialize in their field. We have to trust them and believe in the work they do, not eliminate their jobs. It is important to understand that. It is fundamental.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to this very important discussion on Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, and on our government's low-tax plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Our government, through Canada's economic action plan, is creating the winning conditions for all businesses, and the people they employ, to compete in the global economy and to continue to create jobs. We are always looking to improve on this record while, at the same time, controlling spending by federal bureaucrats and maintaining the government's commitment not to raise taxes or cut transfers to Canadians and other levels of government.

Canadians understand the importance of living within their means, and taxpayers expect the government to do the same. That is why our Conservative government is committed to managing public finances in a sustainable and responsible manner, a commitment that underpins our plan to return to budgetary balance by 2015. It is this responsible financial management that put Canada in a position of strength when it came time to combat the global recession.

From 2006 to 2008, our government paid down over $37 billion in debt, thus enabling our government to implement the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan without leaving our country, like many other countries, in a vulnerable fiscal position. As a result, Canada weathered the global economic and financial crisis well, particularly when compared to all other G7 countries. In the words of the noted economist Don Drummond, there is not a single developed country in the world that would not kill to have our position.

To this day, the global economic environment remains fragile. The euro area is still in recession, and uncertainty regarding U.S. fiscal policy continues to weigh on growth prospects.

While Canada's economy is expected to continue growing at a modest pace, we are not immune to external developments. In these uncertain times, we all know that the absolutely most important thing any government could do is bolster confidence and growth and maintain a strong fiscal position.

This brings me to the subject of my address today, Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act. This is a broad and complex topic, so I will keep my remarks focused on three basic points.

I will begin by describing the highlights of Bill C-48. I will explain how it bolsters tax fairness for Canadian taxpayers. Finally, I will discuss how it maintains the competitive nature of the Canadian legal jurisdiction.

We have legislation before us today that takes further action to strengthen Canada's tax system. We must ensure its swift passage. I urge all my colleagues on the other side of the House to get on board and help us ensure tax fairness for all Canadians, just as members of the finance committee did earlier this year.

As Mr. Lorne Shillinger of KPMG said, “Whatever the process is of getting this bill enacted, stick to it, full speed ahead”.

I could not agree more. Let us pass this legislation so that all Canadians benefit.

As an overview, let me note that this bill will amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and related legislation to close tax loopholes and create a stronger and fairer tax system for all Canadians. The bill contains proposals that have been public for many years and was the subject of numerous, wide public consultations. Therefore, the bill is not new to the House. I want to note that the proposals in the bill represent the feedback from those numerous public consultations. Even better, they all aim to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax and is treated equitably under our tax laws.

As the legislation is quite technical in nature, I will be brief in my summary of its highlights.

In part 1 of Bill C-48, our government proposes enhancements to the Income Tax Act to better target and simplify those rules relating to non-resident trusts, taking into account comments received during those public consultations I was speaking of.

Parts 2 and 3 relate to the taxation of Canadian multinational corporations in respect of their foreign affiliates. Once again, our government consulted extensively with the public and stakeholders on these proposals with the objective being the creation of a fair and more equitable international tax system.

Part 4 of Bill C-48 would ensure that the tax rules work well under both common and civil law.

Part 5 of the bill would close tax loopholes and create greater fairness for taxpayers. Indeed, this portion of the bill would implement a number of integrity tax measures from 2010, on which we have consulted widely, to address any issues that may exist.

These particular measures would, first of all, close tax loopholes relating to a specified leasing property. We have heard that before in this House. Second, they would ensure that conversion of specified investment flow-through trusts and partnerships into corporations would be subject to rules similar to those for transactions between corporations. Third, they would prevent schemes designed to artificially increase foreign tax credits in order to reduce tax. Finally, they would implement a regime for information reporting of tax avoidance transactions. These are very important. Taken together, these measures would help crack down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax.

Part 5 also includes a number of technical changes that are designed to ensure that the income tax system functions in accordance with its underlying policy intent. Many of these changes would address issues identified by taxpayers themselves in the course of working through the application of the income tax rules to their own situations.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that this legislation be passed. Implementing these technical changes responds to both the 2009 Auditor General's report and the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The Auditor General's report highlighted the importance of implementing technical amendments to give certainty to taxpayers and to the Canada Revenue Agency. The report recommended that technical measures be released on a regular basis. Indeed, Ms. Vicky Plant, Principal in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, said this to the finance committee: “Mr. Chair, when the Department of Finance determines that some changes have to be made to the Income Tax Act, it is important that legislative changes be tabled in the House of Commons promptly”.

With this legislation, our government had done so. The report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts I just mentioned that once technical bills have been tabled, it is up to Parliament to ensure that they are passed.

It is not only the standing committee that feels that it is important for Parliament to pass this legislation. I will read a few quotes from tax experts who appeared at the finance committee earlier this year and pleaded for the swift passage of Bill C-48.

Kim Moody, of Moodys LLP Tax Advisors, said: “[O]ur firm supports the passage of Bill C-48.... [I]t is important to get it passed”.

Greg Boehmer, of Ernst and Young, said: “[W]e greet Bill C-48 with a sense of relief and hope to see its speedy passage”.

Andrew Kingissepp, of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP, said: “I would encourage all parties to enact this proposed legislation into law at the earlier opportunity”.

I again implore my colleagues across the way to ensure that Bill C-48 passes swiftly. It is critical to the integrity of the tax system that we do just that as parliamentarians in this House.

Not only does Bill C-48 respond to the above-mentioned reports, but it achieves other goals as well. Part 5 implements an income tax amendment relating to the enactment of the fairness for the self-employed act. It provides a tax credit in respect of employment insurance premiums paid by self-employed individuals. Part 6 of Bill C-48 implements technical amendments to the GST-HST, including relieving the GST-HST on the administrative service of collecting and distributing the levy on blank media imposed under the Copyright Act. This is very important.

Part 7 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act to provide for technical changes concerning tax administration agreements. Finally, part 8 coordinates amendments that ensure that the tax amendments in Bill C-48 interact properly with all other legislation. As all of the measures in the legislation have been examined in greater detail by the finance committee, I wish to emphasize that the underlying goal of this legislation is to simplify the tax system, make it easier to comply and administer, and create more fairness for all Canadian taxpayers.

Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share helps to keep taxes low for everyone and it improves incentives to work, save and invest. It attracts companies to our country. It attracts business in Canada. This is very important. Allow me to quote Mr. Larry F. Chapman, executive director and chief executive officer of the Canadian Tax Foundation, who stated to the Standing Committee on Finance earlier this year:

Bill C-48, the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, the so-called tech bill, is a massive piece of legislation....but it represents 10 years of repairs and maintenance in updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act.

When members opposite stood in the House and showed the massive tax act bill, this is what this gentleman was referring to. It is a massive piece of legislation and represents 10 years of repairs and maintenance in updating the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act.

He further stated:

Its passage is important to all Canadians... I want to emphasize it again. Its passage is very important to all Canadians.

They are awaiting its passage in Parliament, waiting for parliamentarians to do the right thing.

All of us as taxpayers are obligated to provide a portion of our hard-earned incomes to fund health care, social programs and other vital services to Canadians. We do so willingly and honestly, asking only in return that governments both manage our tax dollars wisely and ask no more from us than our fair share. Canadians can count on our government to do both.

I hope all members in the House who were elected would commit to that basic fundamental principle of paying their fair share of taxes. It is troublesome when we hear of members who have not done that. Broadening and protecting the tax base supports the government's efforts to return to balanced budgets, responds to provincial governments' concerns about protecting provincial revenues on a shared tax basis and helps give Canadians confidence that our tax system is fair.

As part of the government's continuing commitment to keep taxes low for Canadian families and to ensure the integrity of the tax system, I am happy to report that economic action plan 2013 proposes a number of measures to close tax loopholes, address aggressive tax planning, clarify tax rules and reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. Members on all sides of the House have mentioned this. The government is committed to closing tax loopholes that allow a select few businesses and individuals to avoid paying their fair share. Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share also helps to keep taxes low for Canadian families and businesses, thereby improving incentives to work, save and invest in Canada.

Since 2006, including measures proposed in economic action plan 2013, the government has introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of the tax system. The government is taking steps in economic action plan 2013 to improve the integrity of the tax system in several ways, such as further extending the application of Canada's thin capitalization rules to Canadian resident trusts and non-resident entities; ensuring that the lost pools of trust cannot be inappropriately traded among arm's-length persons; enhancing corporate anti-loss trading rules to address planning that avoids these rules; ensuring that derivative transactions cannot be used to convert fully taxable ordinary income into capital gains taxed at a lower rate; eliminating unintended tax benefits relating to leveraged, insured annuities; and eliminating unintended tax benefits relating to leveraged life insurance arrangements, commonly known as the 10/8 arrangements.

These are but a few of the improvements that are being proposed here today. In addition, economic action plan 2013 will provide the Canada Revenue Agency with new tools to enforce the tax rules to reduce international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance such as extending the normal reassessment period by three years for taxpayers who have failed to report income from a specified foreign property on their annual income tax return and failed to properly file the foreign income verification statement known as form T1135. This does happen quite legitimately sometimes, but it has to be addressed. Other tools include revising of form T1135 to require reporting of more detailed information; streamlining the process for the CRA to obtain information containing unnamed persons from third parties such as banks; requiring certain financial intermediaries, including banks, to report to the CRA their clients' international electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more; and announcing the CRA's new stop international tax evasion program that will pay rewards to individuals with knowledge of major international tax non-compliance.

While ensuring its integrity and fairness, our government continues to work hard to ensure that the tax system remains competitive so that we attract new business investment in the Canadian economy that creates jobs that Canadian families depend on. Lower taxes play a particularly important role in supporting economic growth by enabling businesses to invest more of their revenues back into their operations. These business investments in machinery, equipment, information technology and other physical capital will boost Canada's productivity and help Canadian businesses grow and create more jobs.

As we all know, our government's tax changes have greatly improved Canada's business environment and tax competitiveness. Canada now has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment in the G7. Our government recognizes that low taxes increase the productive capacity of the Canada economy as well as Canadian living standards. It is this productivity growth that allows businesses to hire additional workers or offer higher wages to expand production and earn more profits.

Our government is committed to lower taxes for all Canadians. That is why, since coming to office in 2006, we have introduced broad-based tax relief such as lowering the GST rate from 7% to 5% and introducing the tax-free savings account. In total, we have introduced more than 150 tax relief measures. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from tax relief introduced by our government, with low-income and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionately greater relief. Indeed, more than one million low-income Canadians have been removed from the tax rolls. Our strong record of tax relief is saving the typical Canadian family of four more than $3,200 a year.

The legislation before us today takes us even further toward this tax fairness objective. Once again, I encourage the NDP and Liberals to support this important legislation and to help create greater tax fairness for all Canadians.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about how having the lowest business taxes in the G7 allows businesses to hire. Could she explain this to all the young people in Toronto and across the country who cannot find any kind of permanent job? In fact they are relegated to an endless cycle of unpaid internships and short-term contract employment. In Toronto right now the official unemployment rate for young people is above 15%, but we know that the unofficial rate is well above that. It is over 20%. What can the member say to young people about the government's abysmal record on job creation for young people? It is in the statistics. It is not in the speaking notes, but the stats are there.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is obviously very concerned about his riding. Therefore, I would hope that he would give new hope to those young people who are looking for jobs and tell them that now, in spite of the economic climate globally, our country is the most sought after country in terms of economic climate in the world. There are 900,000 net new jobs that have been created.

I think it is a really good idea not to say to our youth that our country is no good and nothing is going right in our country when actually it is the envy of the world. Those 900,000 new jobs are very important for these young people and they can get out and get them.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is going to be supporting the passage of this bill, and we indicated that at second reading.

Average Canadians look at tax avoidance or tax evasion as a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The bill, in principle, by its passage would go a long way in dealing with that issue. Our constituents want to ensure that there is a sense of fairness to our taxation policy and it is one of the reasons that we feel it is important to pass the bill in a timely fashion.

My question to the member is regarding the frequency of having legislation of this nature come before the House. There is concern about the length of time since it was amended in the past. We would like to think that we would not see that kind of gap in the future. Does she have some thoughts about what would be an appropriate time for passage of future changes to legislation of this nature?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this started in 2001 when the tax fairness plan and loopholes were first looked at. As I said in my speech earlier, the fact of the matter is it has taken years to work with this. We were not actually in government in 2001. There was another government here. It takes a long time for governments to close all these loopholes that have been long-standing.

When we do a piece of legislation like this we want to do broad consultation. Broad consultation was done on this and there were things found that had to be addressed that no one had ever thought of. Therefore, with the finance committee and others culminating with this examination, this big bill has arrived now in Parliament, and it is very important that we get it passed very quickly.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that if anyone is watching, they are wondering why it has taken so long for this to happen. The fact that this bill is 1,000 pages long proves just how negligent this government is and how negligent previous governments were.

That brings me to two other questions. Who benefits from this being so complicated and that we need experts to figure it out? Who would benefit from it being simple and clear? Obviously, their negligence was not an accident.

This government, and perhaps the one before it, wanted this to remain complex and wanted to foster confusion for as long as possible, so that those who can afford to make use of tax experts would have an advantage.

What does my colleague think?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada said, as they welcomed the passage of Bill C-48:

As the last technical income tax bill was passed by Parliament in 2001, a significant backlog has accumulated that must be addressed. The Government has consulted on the majority of these measures in recent years and now is the time for action.

The fact of the matter is that our government has consulted widely. It did start in 2001 before we were in government, but the ball was picked up because it had to be picked up. These tax loopholes had to be addressed.

As the member says, the bill is 1,000 pages long and it has now taken 200 days in this Parliament to pass it. When members opposite are talking about the speedy passage of this bill, one way that would be helpful is for all members opposite to support this bill and get it passed.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on Bill C-48 which, as she said, is quite long.

I would like to know if, as a parliamentarian, she thinks it is a good idea to have a bill that is about 1,000 pages. I would also like to know if she has read it. If she has, that means that when she votes on it, she will be voting with a full understanding of the situation, and she will know what she is voting on.

If she has actually read it and fully understands the content, I would like to know which measure in this bill she prefers.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, to be perfectly honest, I will not begin to say that I have read the 1,000 pages thoroughly, but I can say that I have gone through it and studied the parts that are very relevant to me.

I know I have been kept abreast of the consultations that have been going on. I have also been kept abreast of the issues that have popped up when companies and individuals have not paid their fair share of Canadian taxes.

I also know how important this bill is. Simply because we are coming out of a recession is one very important aspect. Every single honest Canadian is paying taxes, as we all are in this Parliament. Everybody, whether they are very wealthy or very poor, must be honest Canadians as well, or honest people who pay Canadian taxes.

Having said this, it has been a long consultation, a long process. It has been 200 days in this Parliament. I think as parliamentarians we can sit back and say it is a big thick book and we cannot get into it until sometime next year, but Canada is waiting. Canadians are waiting for the results. Canadian taxpayers are waiting to ensure everybody is paying their fair share of taxes. We need to do that.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, if any of my law faculty colleagues from long ago are watching right now, they will probably be sniggering because they will remember that tax law was not my favourite field. I would add that it was not the favourite field of many law students.

However, it is probably the subject that affects people's everyday lives the most. People always talk about the long arm of the government and how it finds all kinds of ways, each more imaginative than the next, to reach in and take what we earn with the sweat of our brow. Sometimes it does that under what is called the Income Tax Act. At other times it does so by means of hidden taxes, which are highly valued by the Conservatives, with charges levied on all kinds of things.

We pay our share every day and our money flows in many ways into the government's coffers. Many people will obviously wonder why I am rising to discuss Bill C-48. I am doing so because it has an impact on everyone's life. It has an impact on the lives of the people in my riding, Gatineau. That is as true for small businesses as it is for big businesses, but it is also true for individuals. They pay every day through the GST, and barely a month ago they did through their income tax returns, so this is not the easiest subject.

Earlier I flipped through the act and thought back on marvellous memories of my time at the law faculty and on the Income Tax Act, just from looking at a few sections of the act. I wondered why legislators were incapable of coming up with anything simpler.

I was listening to the member on the other side of the House who spoke before me. Several questions were put to her, all asking the same thing: why are we making technical amendments in 2013 that should have been in place since 2001? Let us get something straight. This is technical, but Bill C-48 is already in force by means of comfort letters.

People must understand that, from the moment the mean taxman decides that something must be done, it is done, even if it is not yet included in the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act or related legislation. From the moment a comfort letter is signed, the government takes that money from our pockets. This will therefore make little change to people's lives, but it will be much easier to access because it will finally be in the act. Comfort letters are all well and good, and they say what they say, but they are not always clear.

For individuals, our tax system is based on voluntary assessment. In other words, we rely on average Canadians to file their tax return by April 30. If they are lucky, and Revenue Canada does not ask them to produce various documents, they can use the short form. In fact, it is not over yet. Even for people with some training in taxation, it is not very straightforward.

As the Auditor General said, this is not like other bills, where we have seen three versions die on the order paper as a result of an election or prorogation forced by the Conservative government, whose agenda disappeared as if by magic. In this case, the work just was not done. The work was also not done by the Liberals, since the previous legislation dates back to 2001. Auditors general have been calling on the legislators of the House for ages to do something about this more quickly.

In this way, the public could immediately see the changes to the legislation.

In my opinion, the Conservative response to this matter does not stand up. The legislation has not had previous incarnations, nor has it taken a great deal of time, nor is it the opposition’s fault. That is absolutely not the case.

It has taken them this long to produce Bill C-48 and finally listen to what the Auditor General was telling them. What she was telling them was rather serious and blunt. She noted that there were more than 400 technical amendments, and there are barely 200 in Bill C-48.

In her fall 2009 report she said:

No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001. Although the government has said [as quick as the devil] that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable, this has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted, including 250 “comfort letters” dating back to 1998, recommending changes that have not been legislated.

If proposed technical changes are not tabled regularly, the volume of amendments becomes difficult for taxpayers, tax practitioners, and parliamentarians to absorb when they are grouped into a large package.

This is true, whether you are a New Democrat, a Liberal, the sole member of the Green Party or one of the few from the Bloc Québécois. This is true for everyone, including the Conservatives.

In the 1991 Report of the Auditor General, chapter 2, the Auditor General expressed some concerns that income tax comfort letters were not announced publicly. We are talking about chapter 2 of the Auditor General's report from 1991. In response, the Department of Finance Canada stated that:

…the government intends to release a package of income tax technical amendments on an annual basis, so that taxpayers will not be subject to more lengthy waiting periods as in the past before amendments are released to the public.

Comfort letters have since been regularly released to the public. However, in the past 18 years, very few technical bills have been introduced and passed. Only four of the bills relating to income tax have been passed.

A few sentences in my colleague's speech caught my attention. I found them surprising because it seemed to me that I had heard them yesterday as well. It is important to understand that all these bills are subject to a time allocation motion, be it Bill C-48 today, Bill C-54 last night or Bill C-49, which is to come and will not be spared either.

Introducing a time allocation motion for Bill C-48 seems particularly outrageous, especially when the members opposite do it ad nauseam, parroting the lines written and produced for them by the office on the third floor.

They are trying to tell us that this has been before the House for 200 days. Yet, Bill C-54 was also in the House for 200 days, as was Bill C-48, and Bill C-49 probably will be, as well.

With its majority, the government can advance its agenda as it pleases. Perhaps we are moving at a snail's pace because the government does not really know where it is going. It improvises a little and all of a sudden it realizes that the session may end and that it will leave a lot of things unfinished. That is why it is speeding everything up.

I hear people say we are repeating ourselves, but that is not the case. The message the people of Gatineau want me to send the Conservative government, particularly on Bill C-48, is that they are fed up with provisions so inaccessible and incomprehensible to the average person that everyone would like us to change those aspects.

When I got to page 13 of the Income Tax Act, I had covered only three sections, and I was already getting fed up.

Yet I was a lawyer for 30 years. I studied tax law. I was elected as a member in 2004. I have analyzed many budgets, and I have seen the Income Tax Act in all its forms, as a member of both the government and the official opposition. I was not born yesterday, but this can be hard to grasp even for someone like me.

Small businesses also point out a problem I regularly hear about in my riding of Gatineau. For a small business required to complete all the forms, the disproportionate amount of red tape is good only for the numbers expert industry.

When members of the middle class or less privileged individuals want to do the right thing and pay their taxes, but do not really know how the system works, they have to go see an expert to be sure they make no mistakes. Few people like to make mistakes when it comes to taxes. However, some people manage to divert a large portion of what they owe in taxes even though they make millions of dollars. Authorities often go after lower-income individuals and treat them like criminals even though some people are forced to make arrangements with the Canada Revenue Agency, Revenu Québec or other organizations simply because everyday life is hard for them.

We get these kinds of messages in our ridings. True, we will vote for the bill, but the Conservatives tell us to shut our traps the moment we agree with them. We are no longer entitled to speak. I do not have the right to tell the House what the people of my riding would like to get from their politicians, and I was elected by 62% of the electorate, not 39% like the Conservative government. There are lessons to be learned from each of our ridings. That is what democracy means. It means electing 308 members of different political philosophies. Gatineau may not have the same problem as certain ridings in Alberta, British Columbia or the Atlantic provinces. That is what makes it possible for us to improve the situation together.

Voting in favour of a bill is not necessarily the same thing as giving the government carte blanche or saying that overall the bill is amazing. Sometimes, the government would do well to listen to us and follow the interpretation, which it does not often do. This is unfortunate, but there is a reason why it sticks to the script, like a racehorse running straight for the finish line. The Conservatives’ problem is that they often hit a wall because they fail to listen to what people were saying along the way. That is regrettable, but the message they are sending to all of our constituents is that their opinion does not matter in the least.

Yet if there is one issue that affects all Canadians, regardless of where they live, surely it is taxation. My grandmother always said that in certain areas of life, things should be the same for everyone. I am sure that she would qualify that statement, since some people are good at avoiding certain things. She used to say that some things were unavoidable, like death and taxes. She was right up to a point, although she would surely be turning in her grave at all of the tax avoidance measures that abound today.

While I am very pleased to see that Bill C-48 attempts to address certain problems, I am not fooled either. The Minister of Justice argues that by amending and toughening up certain laws, the problems of all crime victims will be resolved. That is not true. If the government fails to put more police officers on the highways and to increase funding for psychological support services, then it will not accomplish anything. The same holds true for tax avoidance.

If there are not enough agents to properly investigate cases of tax avoidance, or better still, of tax evasion, we will hit another wall.

Again, this is a problem that the Conservatives have. They have an extremely narrow vision of how to get from point A to point B. They are incapable of appreciating that in order to get to point B and the desired outcome, they might have to make a small detour. But the Conservatives just do not do certain things, like admitting they were wrong or that they made a mistake. According to an old saying, a fault confessed is half redressed. They have a hard time with that and again, that is unfortunate.

Bill C-48 is a sound piece of legislation, but it does resolve everything. Had we not had to contend with this time allocation motion, we would have been able to hear a lot more from my colleagues, and maybe even from the Conservatives.

I listened to some of the speeches, and it was interesting to see what it is about this bill that makes some Conservatives react. Once they had dispensed with “we are the best, the nicest, the cleverest” or what have you, in the final 30 seconds, they tied it to what was happening in their riding. It was beneficial for all members of the House.

We can all learn from one another. I learn something from my colleagues who represent more rural regions. They in turn learn about what makes people in urban areas tick. Of course, there are different kinds of urban areas. There are large cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and cities like Gatineau, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Quebec. Gatineau’s problems are different because it is located right on the Ontario border. By talking to one another, it is possible to find real solutions.

When I served in Parliament from 2004 to 2006, I chaired the women’s caucus. Back then, my favourite expression was gender-based analysis, or GBA.

I would tell my male colleagues that GBA stood for gender-based analysis, not Game Boy Advance. When a bill was being drafted, we ensured that all of the facts were taken into account. We were not just concerned about women.

The best example I can give you is young people who drop out of school. If the facts show that young boys are the ones who drop out of school and a policy is needed to address that situation, then young boys will be the focus of that policy. That logic will dictate our actions.

We accomplish things by talking to one another, by discussing matters and especially by listening and by being willing to admit that sometimes ours is not the absolute truth. However, this government is absolutely incapable of understanding that someone other than the PMO may have some sound ideas or be right. Just imagine having to admit that the NDP had a sound idea. The government thinks the sky would fall and something terrible would happen if it admitted that. How utterly ridiculous and how out of touch with the public.

When I weigh everything, I tell myself that maybe this is what the Conservatives really want in the final analysis. All this really does is leave the public fed up. And what happens when people are fed up? The Conservatives are gambling on two possible outcomes: either that people will come out in force and vote them out of office, which I am hoping will be the case because people no longer want to have anything to do with them, or that people will stay home because they are sick and tired of the whole process. The Conservatives are gambling that the second scenario will play out.

I think people have to realize that while they may not be interested in politics, something like Bill C-48 affects their day-to-day lives, starting with taxation.

Just think about the tax people pay every day on all kinds of things. If they were to calculate how much tax they pay throughout the year, not just income tax, but tax on items purchased at the corner store, at the grocery store, at the drugstore or elsewhere, they would realize that the government is truly omnipresent and that perhaps they should pay attention to politics.

I will be voting in favour of the bill, but it is not an end in itself.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, a number of New Democrats referred to the time and said that 2001 was the last time that technical changes were made. One can imagine that changes are not made on an annual basis per se, but depend on the changes that are required.

My question is related to just that. How often does the member believe it is necessary to make changes? Would she not agree that bringing out a new piece of legislation would depend on the nature and the number of changes that are being requested?

For example, 2002 would not have been a good year to bring additional legislation forward, given that changes were made in 2001. Would the member suggest that we go on an annual basis with legislation?

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question.

I think that the Auditor General has actually provided part of the answer. In my view, once there are comfort letters, a corresponding bill should be drafted to make adjustments immediately.

From 2001 to 2006, there was no temporary gap in tax rules because there were comfort letters. The Conservatives came to power afterwards.

The Auditor General told us to stop using comfort letters for the sake of those reading the legislation. Luckily, I was able to do my 20 minutes without reading part of the Income Tax Act. That would have been a real treat. Sections 1 to 5 alone take the reader through subparagraph after subparagraph. Do you think that the individuals concerned can make sense of this? No way. This is why the Auditor General wants us to put an end to comfort letters and amend legislation quickly.

Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012Government Orders

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Gatineau will have eight minutes remaining in questions and comments when this matter returns before the House.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Vision Health MonthStatements by Members

May 28th, 2013 / 2 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, May is Vision Health Month in Canada. This is a nationwide awareness campaign, designed to educate Canadians across the country about their vision health and to help eliminate avoidable sight loss.

Recently I spent some time without sight at CNIB Edmonton, trying to cope with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted: walking down the hall or up and down stairs, making and serving lunch, crossing busy streets, and using communications technology.

The experience brought home to me just how challenging life could be for those with impaired or no vision. It also made me appreciate the determination and inner strength of those who have overcome such challenges, as well as the great work being done by CNIB staff and volunteers in helping people cope and adapt.

Vision loss does not have to mean the loss of independence or quality of life. With the right support, people who are blind or partially sighted can do almost anything.

Throughout the month of May, CNIB and its partner, Doctors of Optometry Canada, are calling on all Canadians to do one simple thing that could save their sight, and that is get an eye exam from a doctor of optometry and do it today.

Research and DevelopmentStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative Party wages its war on science, the NDP continues to champion research and growing Canada's knowledge economy.

Conservative cuts to basic research, muzzling scientists and dismantling the National Research Council shows that Conservatives do not understand how science works.

Under the Conservative government, Canadian R and D investment has dropped from 16th to 23rd in the world.

The NDP unanimously passed a motion at our 2013 policy convention to continue to develop our made in Canada national science strategy, which includes moving to match the percentage of GDP invested by the public and private sectors in R and D as found in other global leading countries, such as the United States.

The Conservatives have no such policy goals or targets and only offer vacuous statements based upon dubious financial figures, while attacking the core of our knowledge economy.

The NDP has a clear and positive vision, which we will implement when we form government in 2015.

Brooks BanditsStatements by Members

2 p.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour that I stand in this place to congratulate the Brooks Bandits, a team from a community that it has been my privilege to represent here since 2008, on having won the RBC Cup, Canada's junior A hockey championship.

The Bandits worked so hard all season, as they always do, and it paid huge dividends. I have no doubt that many of these players will go on to play in the NHL. They have made their communities and families very proud, with the resounding 3-1 victory over the Summerside Western Capitals.

The Brooks Bandits won the RBC Cup and, believe it or not, it was their very first time participating in this tournament.

The Brooks Bandits ranked number one in the Canadian Junior Hockey League for the final 22 weeks of the season and won their second consecutive AJHL title as well.

I am with the Bandits in spirit, as they parade triumphantly through Brooks today.

I would like to congratulate team captain Cam Maclise, as well as coach Ryan Papaioannou, assistant coach Brent Gunnlaughson, and the entire team for a job well done. They have done us all very proud. Go Bandits, go.

Foreign AffairsStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Prabh Srawn is a young Canadian studying law in Australia. He has been a Canadian Forces reservist for six years. I know many members of the House will know the story that Prabh went missing in Kosciuszko National Park in Australia on May 13, and he has not yet been found.

The family has been asking for an enhanced effort by Australian officials to find Prabh. I am sure all members of the House would join with me in seeking every possible avenue to find him. The news that the rescue effort is being scaled back is especially troubling. We would hope that in fact additional steps could be taken.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Prabh and his family.

We continue to urge the Canadian and Australian governments to do whatever they can to find this exemplary young Canadian.

JusticeStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, far too often the scales of justice were tipped away from the rights of law-abiding citizens in favour of the rights of criminals, while the interests of victims were ignored altogether.

Our government has taken action to right this wrong. We have put forward a strong tough on crime agenda by establishing tougher penalties for a wide range of crimes. We have introduced and passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act, which raised the age of protection and made it easier to keep dangerous, violent and repeat offenders behind bars. We passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which eliminated house arrest for serious and violent crime and toughened sentences for drug dealers. We passed the Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act, which clarified the rules related to citizen's arrest and defence of property and persons.

Canadians can count on our government to continue to protect victims of crime by holding criminals accountable for the crimes they commit.

Relay for LifeStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to highlight an important event being held across Canada, namely the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite my constituents to sign up for this one-of-a-kind event. This year, in Drummond and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, people may join the Relay for Life in Acton Vale on May 31, in Drummondville on June 1, and in St-Hyacinthe on June 7.

Walking 12 hours overnight may seem quite a challenge. However, the people facing the real challenge are those living with cancer and their loved ones.

Civil society must engage in raising funds to support cancer research. The federal government should follow the NDP's health-related recommendations for a public and accessible Canadian health care system.

Solidarity is also essential both for motivation and to keep hope alive. That is why I warmly invite my constituents in Drummond and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to join in an enriching human experience by participating in the Relay for Life. Together, we can create hope, the hope to eradicate cancer, to live healthy lives and to embrace a dignified life—hope for tomorrow.

Colon CancerStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to share an inspirational story from the great Kenora riding. On May 10, Dryden's own Mardi Plomp and her Dream Believers team held the “Shake Your Booty for Colon Cancer” gala to help raise money for colon cancer screening equipment for the Dryden Regional Health Centre.

Mardi started her annual cancer fundraiser in 2008 with small garden parties in her home. This year, Mardi's fundraiser went big time, requiring the local arena to accommodate more than 700 folks from across northwestern Ontario who came out to shake their booty.

Mardi and her team set a goal to raise $85,000 dollars in one night. In fact, they raised $106,844, which will be used to purchase a colonoscope and gastroscope for the Dryden Regional Health Centre.

I am proud to stand in my place today and congratulate Mardi Plomp, the Dream Believers and all those booty shaking folks for their success and support to ensure that people in our region have access to the cancer screening tools they need to help prevent and detect cancer early.

Mardi Plomp and the Dream Believers are just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Wine IndustryStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the many Canadian vintners who are here today, and those across the country, on the recent results of the largest and most in-depth Canadian wine and grape economic impact study ever conducted.

This third party report found that the industry generates more than $6.8 billion annually for the Canadian economy, including $1.2 billion in government-related revenue.

With more than 500 wineries and 1,300 grape growers in Canada, this industry proudly supports 31,000 Canadian jobs in agriculture, processing and support services.

It is also important to note that more than three million tourists are welcomed to Canadian wineries each year, which is four times the number of visitors to the Vancouver Olympics.

I cannot overstate the importance of the Canadian wine industry to the people of my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook and the greater Canadian economy.

Mr. Speaker, I invite you and all hon. members to the Government of Canada Conference Centre tonight for the Canadian wine reception to fully experience the excellence of Canadian wines and winemakers.

Contribution of Women to SocietyStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us take a moment to celebrate the contributions of women to our society. Whether in urban or rural areas, in business or community organizations, in politics or the service industry, we need women—strong, engaged, influential women.

I am thinking of women like Micheline Anctil, the mayor of Forestville and reeve of Haute-Côte-Nord; Line Sirois, who has been a volunteer advocate for the unemployed for over 10 years; Danie Harvey, who has remained dedicated to defending those less fortunate for the past 25 years. I am also thinking of women like Chantale Cormier, director of the CLD de l'Île-d'Orléans; Isabelle Lusignan, director of the Chambre de commerce de Charlevoix; Chantal Lachance, who, with her colleagues, has made a name for herself in business; and Ginette Faucher, who runs an organization that makes the Montmorency area a better place to live.

I am especially proud to be part of a caucus that has a record number of women. Municipal elections will be held in Quebec this November. I congratulate organizations like Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale, which encourages women to enter politics and promotes women candidates. I say hats off to you all, ladies.

New Democratic Party of CanadaStatements by Members

2:10 p.m.


Joan Crockatt Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, day after day the NDP members stand in the House and claim to be defenders of Canadian taxpayers. Then we find out that two members of the NDP cannot be bothered to pay the tens of thousands of dollars they owe in back taxes. What is more, these members cannot be bothered to properly report this to the ethics commissioner.

The NDP admitted that it knew the member for Brossard—La Prairie owed back taxes “from the beginning”. Not only did it not disclose this to Canadians, it decided to make him the national revenue critic.

Paying taxes is a responsibility shouldered by all Canadians. Not paying our taxes is irresponsible, inconsiderate and un-Canadian.

The NDP cannot claim to have any respect for Canadian taxpayers while allowing those members to remain in its caucus.