Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight in adjournment proceedings to talk about the answers that I received to a couple of questions back in October. For those who do not recall the events then, there was quite a bit of confusion over Thanksgiving weekend and the days that followed, when it was reported by The Globe and Mail that it was the intention of the Canada Revenue Agency to begin taxing the benefits of retail employees.
This was reported and people thought this seemed unusual and probably thought this was not something the Liberals were doing, yet on the following business day on Tuesday, that was when initially the government confirmed that this was what it was going to do, that a folio had been changed several months earlier to state that indeed it was going to tax the benefits of retail workers. This would include those who work in restaurants and shops, low-wage earners for the most part.
This was initially confirmed by the government and I seem to recall it was the President of the Treasury Board who went on a television program and confirmed that this was what they were doing. After a confused day, eventually the minister said, no, this was not their intention at all. She said at that time that this was not an intention of the government and that they were going to reverse that decision and change the folio to not tax retail workers.
I raised the question in question period. In the answer I received, as one can read in the Hansard, the parliamentary secretary talked about the middle class and other things and stated, “The document from the agency did not reflect the intentions of our government.”
I do not find the answer that I received satisfactory and we are here tonight to discuss that further. If this were not government policy, how did it come to be published in its folio? This was not something that some bureaucrat somehow did without anyone knowing. This is a publicly available document.
The Retail Council raised the prospect of the taxation of retail employee benefits at the finance committee, so this was out there in the public as a concern that some had, yet it took until The Globe and Mail had reported this for it to really get the public's attention. In answer to the question, the Liberals denied that this was government policy. They said this public folio, which gives guidance to tax preparers, did not represent government policy.
If it was not government policy, where was the minister to prevent this from happening? We have seen a number of things that have come about, such as the denial of a disability tax credit to disabled Canadians, to autistic Canadians, the troubles that have been experienced by single parents who have struggled with the agency in not being able to receive their benefits.
If this was not government policy, if this was just the bureaucrats running amok, why was the minister not taking responsibility and ensuring that her bureaucrats did not attack or target vulnerable Canadians?