House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.


The House resumed from November 25, 2020, consideration of the motion that Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of small business or family farm or fishing corporation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, for those who may not know, the city of Joliette, for which my riding is named, was established after Barthélemy Joliette built a mill on the bank of the L'Assomption River. At that time, the city was named L'industrie, which cleary shows the importance of entrepreneurship for our regional county municipality and for the northern Lanaudière region.

I already knew that before I was elected in 2015, when my riding was booming both socially and economically. However, I have heard from many entrepreneurs about how difficult it is to transfer their business to their children, since it is less profitable than selling it to a stranger. That is unbelievable. The Bloc Québécois and I are obviously in favour of Bill C-208. We have been working on this issue for many years. In fact, my colleague from Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères introduced a similar bill in the previous Parliament.

If this bill were to pass, it would have a very significant impact on Quebec. Nearly one-third of Quebec's SMEs were buy-outs, whereas that number is one-quarter for Canadian businesses. According to Marc Duhamel, a professor at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, the rate of business buy-outs in rural areas is around 45%. Helping the next generation of business owners would be good for Quebec, and when something is good for Quebec, the Bloc Québécois votes in favour of it.

I also know that these changes will be good for my region. My riding has numerous farms in practically every one of its municipalities, including places like Saint-Thomas, Rawdon and Saint-Ambroise. We all know a farmer, and we are proud to support our local producers in our farmers' markets, grocery stores and even the little stands we see on pretty much every major roadway.

Right now, the crux of the issue is that a business transferred to a family member is treated as a dividend, not a capital gain, unlike a business sold to someone at arm's length. People who want to sell their small or medium-sized business or their farm or fishing operation to their children are not entitled to the lifetime capital gains exemption, but if they sell to a third party, they are.

I get that the government wants to prevent potential fraud and tax avoidance, but this situation complicates the lives of everyone who genuinely wants to take over the family business. This is like asking people to slow down to 80 kilometres per hour because some people are speeding along at over 130 kilometres per hour. The government should fix this situation by allowing transfers to family members. If a transaction is fraudulent, the government can investigate it, kind of like how a police officer would ticket someone speeding on Highway 50, but would let everyone who obeys the speed limit carry on.

Speaking of tax avoidance, there are other much more concerning cases. Here are three examples the government should tackle. First, the government should immediately start taxing web giants doing business in Quebec and Canada. Second, web giants' digital services should be subject to GST. Quebec already collects QST from them. These two measures have been announced, but they should be implemented right away. Third, the government should shut down the tax haven loophole. That was my goal in 2016 with Motion No. 42.

This is a serious problem, and many people in my riding are suffering as a result. Year after year, I meet entrepreneurs who are looking for someone, the next generation, a young person, to take over the family business. Rather than taking examples from my own family, among my uncles, aunts and cousins, let me give an example that illustrates how ridiculous this situation is. I will tell you about Charles, who went to high school with my assistant.

I have met Charles a number of times since my first election campaign in 2015. Ever since he was old enough to work, Charles has been toiling in his family business, a great sound, multimedia and lighting services company, the kind you often see at festivals, fundraisers and community events in the Lanaudière region and beyond. Not too long ago, Charles and his business partner bought the company. However, the family member who owned the business would have been better off selling it only to the partner, who was already working for the business, rather than including his own son in the transaction. How is that right?

Another incongruity has to do with selling to a competitor, which would actually be more profitable than selling to the next generation, the ones who know the distributors, the customers, the activities and the local reality. This would reduce competition in the sector, possibly increase the price of services and cause the loss of local expertise.

Unlike many other businesses that have no choice but to close up shop because of tax regulations, that SME was able to keep running back home in Joliette. If I open my curtains, I can see it from my window. I could talk at length about the problems facing this industry and even more so now because of the wide-scale cancellation of activities. However, that is not what this bill is about.

I would point out that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB, would like to see this bill pass, which is only natural.

There are many reasons we need to keep these SMEs in the hands of the next generation. First, this would allow several regions to develop their industry. We need to fix this problem for all SMEs, but even more so for businesses in the fisheries and agricultural sectors. In Quebec and in the regions, fisheries and agriculture are among our biggest industries.

Things are looking rather bleak when it comes to the next generation taking the reins of SMEs in the future. Statistics show that in 2016, fewer than 25% of farms had secured a successor and that rate has remained the same since 2011.

Between 500 and 800 young farmers are taking over a farm each year, when in fact 1,000 are required to maintain the number of farms in Quebec. Roughly one farm a day is disappearing back home.

In the fisheries sector, there are three major obstacles to the acquisition of a business. Léa Richard, of the Comité sectoriel de main-d'œuvre des pêches maritimes, said the following:

...what is truly difficult for this next generation is access to financing, the transfer of licences and the administrative complexity. These are the three elements that make it difficult for the next generation to acquire a fishing business.

We know that it is already difficult to take over a business. It is that much more difficult in sectors that require a sizeable capital investment. For these people who have poured their heart and soul into their business, which most of the time represents their retirement nest egg, it seems unfair that it costs them an arm and a leg to sell their business to their children.

It is difficult for people to go into business and later to let go of what they have spent most of their life building. If we could at least make it easier for them to sell their business to a family member, that would be a good thing.

The government will probably remind us that we need to make choices and that this measure comes at a significant cost. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reviewed a similar bill in 2017 and estimated the cost at about $376 million. To put that in terms the Liberals will understand, that is equivalent to a little more than one-third of a contribution agreement with WE Charity, or about 40% more than the sole-source contract awarded to Frank Baylis.

This measure may be costly, but it is nothing considering how much the next generation could help business owners. Losing a business is hard on the owners, but the impact of that loss ripples beyond the owner and their loved ones. Suppliers, creditors, employees and customers lose an important partner. We often think about how the closure of a large company can have repercussions on a region, as was the case with Electrolux a few years ago in Assomption, near my riding. However, we rarely consider that the loss of multiple small businesses can have a less immediate but equally serious impact on the socio-economic fabric.

Ensuring the succession and continuity of SMEs is not only good for our economy and governments' fiscal capacity, but it is necessary for efficient land occupancy. From the North Shore to Abitibi, from Gaspé to Nunavik, Quebec has chosen to have vibrant regions, each with its own strengths, growth sectors and educational institutions, such as CEGEPs. According to Maripier Tremblay, an associate professor in the department of management in Université Laval's faculty of business administration, “Quebec's economy depends on its SMEs, but also on its regions. It is very important for businesses in the regions to retain their pools of workers.”

I will close by saying that to have strong regions, we need to have people living there. For the period from 2014 to 2023, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal estimates that between 79,000 and 140,000 jobs in our SMEs could be lost due to the entrepreneurial deficit. That is a gigantic number.

That is like one or two whole ridings of workers disappearing in 10 years. When many families leave a region, it has significant consequences for the entire ecosystem.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, many in this country are away from their loved ones, so before I get started, I note that today is my oldest daughter's 21st birthday. She is on the other side of the country, but I wish Maddie a happy 21st birthday and give her lots of love from everyone here at home.

It is always an honour to rise on behalf of the federal NDP to fight for small business. We know that small business owners are the job creators. Right now they are are creating 80% of all new jobs in our country. Bill C-208 is very important for supporting small businesses and local communities and for stopping the economic leakages from small communities in our country. These leakages often end up in the hands of large corporations because of flawed and broken tax rules that create a benefit for selling a business to those at arm's length versus a family member.

I want to thank the member for Brandon—Souris for reintroducing the bill, which shows that there is non-partisanship when it comes to supporting it. As members are well aware, the bill was first tabled as Bill C-274 by the former NDP finance critic and former member from Rimouski, Guy Caron. He fought hard, as the New Democrats continue to do, for small business.

I want to talk about what Bill C-208 would mean for small communities. We know that owners of small businesses, such as family farms and fishing businesses, as in the communities around where I live in coastal Canada, are often selling their businesses to family members. Specifically, the bill would give business owners the same rights they would normally get if they were selling to someone at arm's length. This is important, because nobody should be penalized for selling a family business to a family member, but it is happening now with the current taxation system. The bill is very important to us, and we are excited to be speaking in support of it given what it would mean to rural communities.

I cited the importance of small business for job creation. If people see a barrier to selling to someone at arm's length and will pay more tax, they will do everything they can to pay less tax. With the current structure, for example, if a person sold a family business worth $1 million to a family member, they would end up paying a dividend tax rate of about $350,000. However, if a person were to sell that same million-dollar business to a stranger, someone at arm's-length, they would end up saving $306,000 of the tax they would have paid otherwise. It makes absolutely no sense.

We want to encourage people to keep businesses in the hands of family members and encourage intergenerational business ownership, because we know that it keeps money and profits in our communities. For example, in fishing, if a person were to sell a family fishing operation to someone in their family, they would keep the quota and the jobs in the family. However, if a family member had to pay more tax, they would be more likely to sell to an international company or large conglomerate, which would hoard fishing licences and then lease them out to fishers. The same applies to farmers. Profits then leave the community at the end of the day, which is a huge economic leakage. The money is leaving the community and leaving our country in many cases, and this needs to stop.

Mr. Caron's bill tabled in the last Parliament would have supported small businesses, farmers and fishers, but it was defeated by a margin of only 12 votes. It was voted on after the government misled Parliament. The government cited that the fiscal losses would be up to $1.2 billion, but the PBO put the fiscal revenue shortfall between $126 million and $249 million. That is quite a gap. The Liberal government could have stated what it would have cost Canadians taxpayers to do the right thing to help support the sale of intergenerational businesses by not making them pay more, but instead it said the loss would be an astronomical amount of money. In fact, the PBO's numbers were somewhere between 10% and 18% of what the government had initially cited, which is a big gap.

The cost of the economic leakage and its impact on small communities across our country, and on family members, is worth the price of what we are going to lose in the long run, as we see those profits leave our communities.

We are heading into a huge period of succession in our country. A lot of small business owners belong to an aging demographic. People want to sell their businesses to their family members and keep the ownership in the community, which I assume we want to encourage. We expect over $50 billion in farm assets alone to change hands over the next 10 years, so we are heading into a huge period of succession. For farming alone it is critical that we fix this now, because we have lost 8,000 family farms in the last decade. We need to do everything we can to curb that trend because it is obviously not working for Canadians. Only half of those small business owners actually have a succession plan, while 76% of them are planning to retire over the next decade.

That is important for a lot of people who have developed and built businesses in their families. I had a business for many years. When I started it, I was not informed that if I were to sell my business to one of my three children I would be penalized with a heavy tax bill. If I sold it to someone at arm's length, I would not have incurred that same tax. It makes absolutely no sense, but most Canadians do not know that this is the current situation.

This is something we need to remedy. I hope that the government will talk about the real numbers that the PBO shared. We saw some Liberal members support the opposition in the last Parliament, so I am hoping those Liberals who decided to vote with their government's misleading information will actually support the PBO and do the right thing to support their communities and small business owners, especially those family businesses that want to maintain intergenerational ownership. In rural communities such as Courtenay—Alberni, where a large part of our main street is made up of local or small businesses, this is a really important piece to our long-term survival. We want to encourage local ownership.

Again, this bill did not pass based on misinformation in the last Parliament. The Liberals continue to make excuses on this bill. They say they will relax the rule for tax avoidance, but we want it to be done carefully to avoid these difficulties and challenges of people avoiding tax rules. If the purchaser or family member retains the shares for five years, the Canada Revenue Agency's concern is that, in the absence of a specific provision, the shares would pass from one family to another. If that five-year provision were in place, it would make that impossible. We want to make sure that we take all the excuses away from the government and alleviate the concerns of taxpayers, so that there are provisions and a system in place to protect against flipping these businesses to avoid paying taxes. This is to keep them in the hands of small business owners.

According to a 2012 CIBC study, close to 30%, or 310,000, business owners were planning to exit ownership or transfer control of their businesses by 2017, in one year alone. We do not have the recent figures. That means that a lot of businesses are changing hands right now.

I want to talk about economic leakages, because we are seeing more businesses being sold and ending up in the hands of large conglomerates. We constantly see local ownership being reduced. This kind of taxation creates a threat to local communities. We want to invest in small communities, and this is a very good way to invest in families and small communities.

Returning to closing economic leakages, we need to do everything we can. This legislation is important, but we also need to make sure that the big banks pay their share, that we cap merchant fees and that we continue to take a holistic approach to supporting small businesses. This is a good bill and I hope the government will support it as well.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-208 introduced by my hon. colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, to amend the Income Tax Act to facilitate the transfer of small businesses or family farms or fishing corporations.

We already knew how important this issue was when this bill was introduced for first reading in February 2020. Who would have thought that, barely a month later, COVID-19 would come along and drastically change the landscape for Canada's SMEs?

As an entrepreneur and representative of a region that consistently ranks as one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the country, I was very sad to see the latest survey that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, or CFIB, released last week, warning that 181,000 small business owners in Canada were considering closing their businesses. That means one in five businesses could close down, despite all the programs and billions of dollars spent by different levels of government and the support services we have provided in our respective ridings.

This is a frightening prospect, since 2.4 milion jobs are at risk if the pandemic continues, which is why I want to reiterate how important it is that the government do whatever it takes to fix the vaccine supply problem. We cannot sit back and wait until 2022. After all, we are barely into 2021.

Workers in the tourism and cultural sector are very much on my mind. Last year was devastating for them. The federal government really needs to get creative with its vaccine strategy, and it needs to do it fast so we can at least hope for some degree of recovery for the sector this summer.

September is too late, and 2022 is even worse. Until very recently, small and medium-sized businesses were the backbone of our economy. They created more than 77% of all new jobs between 2002 and 2012. As a Conservative, I am very proud of the Harper government for creating an environment that helped SMEs grow by reducing the corporate tax rate from 22% to 15%, lowering the small business tax rate to 11%, and increasing the income limit for applying this tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000.

As a business owner who created nearly 30 printing and communications jobs in my region, I understand the importance of ensuring our tax system encourages entrepreneurship.

It is important to understand what motivates entrepreneurs to risk all of their savings and their financial security to set up or buy a new business. People go into business for a variety of reasons. Some are motivated by their passion, while others see a service gap in their community that needs to be filled. However, most people go into business to provide for their family, with the hope that, one day, their children will be able to take over the business and build a better future.

In my case, I intend to one day transfer my family business to my daughter, of whom I am obviously very proud. However, I was very surprised to learn that, under the existing Income Tax Act of Canada, it would be better for me to sell my business to a stranger than to a member of my own family. When a business is sold to a family member, the difference between the sale price and the original price of the business is considered a dividend and is taxable at 100%. However, if the sale is between two strangers, the difference is considered a capital gain, only half of which is taxed. What is more, in Canada, the lifetime capital gains exemption that normally applies to small and medium-sized businesses does not apply when the business is sold to a family member.

What message are we sending? Are we trying to discourage people from going to business? I am not the only one asking these questions. According to a 2012 CFIB study, approximately 310,000 business owners, or around 30%, planned to sell or transfer their business within five years. That figure jumped to around 550,000 within 10 years. The figure may have changed during the COVID-19 crisis, which makes passing Bill C-208 all the more urgent for the many family businesses whose future is at stake. It is already bad enough that so many businesses plan to hand their keys over to creditors during this economic crisis.

We must not allow the unfairness in the Income Tax Act to force so many small businesses to hand their keys over to the government. According to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, “Over $50 billion in farm assets are set to change hands over the next 10 years”. That does not even include the more than 8,000 family farms that have already folded in the past 10 years. Just half of them had a succession plan. As the population ages, three in four farmers plan to retire in the next decade. We need to act quickly to fix this anomaly in the Income Tax Act to prepare for the demographic reality we are facing, in the agricultural sector especially.

That is why I support Bill C-208, introduced by my colleague from Brandon—Souris, and I urge the Liberals to do the same. I remind my colleagues that during the 42nd Parliament, we debated a similar bill that had been introduced by Guy Caron, the former member of Parliament for a riding next to mine. This is a unifying bill. This is not a left or right issue; it unites us all.

I would like to remind members that Bill C-274 received the support of the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, but was defeated by the Liberals, who had a majority at the time, because they heeded the advice of public servants rather than that of the people who elected them. Many organizations across Quebec support the bill. The Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec has spoken out against the current situation, and the Union des producteurs agricoles and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal both indicated that they supported the bill.

This issue was also brought to my attention during the last campaign, in 2019, when I met with UPA producers in Cap-Saint-Ignace, which is in my riding. Last Friday, I received an email from Andre Harpe of Grain Growers of Canada asking us to support Bill C-208.

I want to point out that the agriculture sector is following the debate very closely today. As the saying goes, better late than never. If the Liberal Party really wants to back SMEs, it must support this bill and pass it quickly because Bill C-208 will ensure that all these family businesses will continue to operate and remain intact by facilitating their intergenerational transfer. If this does not happen, a Conservative government will have no problem ensuring that it does.

I would add that with the speeches my colleagues made ahead of me, I think it is clear that the Liberals have no choice but to move forward and support this bill. In any event, they are in a minority. We will move forward with this bill. Whatever it may cost to implement it, not doing so would cost even more, because the value and pride that comes from handing down a family business is priceless. Considering that for the most part, all Canadian businesses started as family businesses, that they represent 90% of the Canadian economy, and that they are the backbone of Canadian entrepreneurship and businesses with fewer than 10 employees, it is essential that people be able to transfer these businesses to members of their own family without being penalized.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing forward this bill. I know that private members' business can generate some good bills from throughout the House. A lot of people do not fully appreciate the amount of work that goes into private members' business, which one only knows if one has gone down that road. Just for taking the time to go through the process to bring this piece of legislation forward, and all the work that went into it, the member deserve a lot of credit.

I am pleased to take part in the debate today over this private member's bill, Bill C-208, which aims to facilitate the transfer of family businesses between family members. This is an admirable goal. Indeed, our government recognizes this important issue, as evidenced by the mandate given by the Prime Minister to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to work together on tax measures to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of farms.

Ensuring the sustainability of small businesses, family farms and fishing corporations is essential to our economy and to the communities these businesses serve. This has been underscored by their crucial role in supporting families and communities as we continue to fight against COVID-19.

Our government understands that this is a fact. From the onset of the pandemic, through Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan, we have introduced a range of supports for small business owners to help bridge them to the other side. Simply put, we have their backs, and this extends to helping family businesses thrive for generations to come.

Encouraging the sale of businesses to family members often means those businesses will remain in and continue to benefit their communities, as well as their families, who have fought hard, sacrificed and, through pure determination and entrepreneurial spirit, succeeded. It is with this spirit in mind that Bill C-208 is to bear full and careful consideration.

Bill C-208 seeks to amend two of the Income Tax Act's most important and complex anti-avoidance rules. These rules deal with intercorporate dividends, share sales and circumstances in which the lifetime capital gains exemption is claimed. Any relieving changes to these sections of the act must be done cautiously and follow rigorous study and debate to avoid the unintentional creation of loopholes that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, instead of protecting the middle class and those who are struggling to join it.

Section 84.1 of the act, in particular, is in place to apply anti-avoidance rules when, as appropriate, an individual sells shares of one corporation to another corporation that is linked to the individual, such as one of a family member. When the individual sells shares of a Canadian corporation to a linked corporation, section 84.1 of the act deems, in certain circumstances, that the individual has received a taxable dividend from the linked corporation rather than the capital gain.

This prevents the individual from realizing the proceeds from the sale on the tax-free basis using the lifetime capital gains exemption. This rule is meant to ensure that taxpayers cannot use linked corporations to, in effect, remove earnings from their corporations using a contract sale. Without this rule, such sales between related parties could be used to convert what should be dividends of an individual shareholder into capital gains that are tax-free under the lifetime capital gains exemption.

Bill C-208 proposes narrowing the scope of section 84.1 by removing the sale of certain shares of small businesses, family farms or fishing corporations from its application when being sold by an individual to another corporation that is owned by their adult child or grandchild. This change would allow the owner-operator of a family business to convert the dividends of the corporation into tax-free capital gains.

In order to better illustrate how this would work, I will use an example. Let us say Darryl and Emily own a potato farm in P.E.I., which has grown to be a major regional supplier. After decades of hard work, they are now planning their retirement and want to pass down their business to their two adult children, both of whom already own successful small businesses in the community.

By applying the proposed amendments in Bill C-208, Darryl and Emily would sell non-voting preferred shares from their farm corporation to the two corporations controlled by their children. In doing this, they could claim tax-free treatment of the resulting capital gain from the sale under the lifetime capital gains exemption in a manner that allows the sale to be financed by the sold corporation's own assets without relinquishing control of the farm corporation.

Darryl and Emily could then use this planning to convert their annual dividend income into tax-free capital gains as often as they want, up to an amount equal to their lifetime capital gains limit. In this case, each parent could reduce his or her income tax by up to about $45,000 for each $100,000 of business profits distributed.

It is important to note that there is currently nothing in the act to stop a parent from selling their shares of their family business directly to their child or grandchild on a tax-free basis by using the lifetime capital gains exemption, which currently shelters up to $1 million in capital gains on qualified farm and fishing properties.

The issues sought to be addressed by Bill C-208 arise only in multi-tier corporate structures in which one corporation owns a second corporation. Adopting the proposed changes to section 84.1 could open the door to new tax avoidance opportunities. This would unfairly benefit wealthy individuals instead of the middle class.

Bill C-208 also proposes amendments to section 55 of the act, which generally applies to corporations that are seeking to inappropriately reduce their capital gains by paying excessive tax-free dividends between corporations, which the act considers to be a capital gain.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou on a point of order.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 1st, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.


Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can no longer hear any interpretation.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is working now. I thank the hon. member for her patience.

The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Bloc member for raising that point of order.

Bill C-208 also proposes amendments to section 55 of the act, which generally applies to corporations that seek to inappropriately reduce capital gains by paying excessive tax-free dividends between corporations, which the act considers to be a capital gain.

Two exemptions to these anti-avoidance rules authorize businesses that are restructuring to allow company shareholders to split company shares between them while deferring taxes. The first exemption applies to the restructuring of related corporations, and the second applies to all corporate restructurings. Bill C-208 would broaden the first exemption so that it applies to brothers and sisters, despite a standing long-term tax policy that considers brothers and sisters to have separate and independent economic interests for these purposes. Any changes to this exemption could risk eroding the tax base.

Spouses, as well as parents and their children, are already eligible for this exemption because it is presumed they have shared economic interests. Although brothers and sisters cannot restructure their participation in a corporation on a tax-deferred basis under the related corporation's exemption, they can do it under the second exemption of section 55, which applies to all corporate restructurings. This is called the butterfly exemption, and there are fewer tax avoidance opportunities under it.

If the proposed amendments of section 55 included in Bill C-208 were passed, siblings could undertake business restructurings in which otherwise taxable capital gains realized between corporations would be converted into tax-free intercorporate dividends. This would create new opportunities for tax avoidance.

In conclusion, these are important considerations to take into account when reviewing the merits of Bill C-208. Our government remains committed to working with family businesses, including farming and fishing businesses, to make it more efficient, or less difficult, to hand down their businesses to the next generation. However, we must exercise caution to not create loopholes and opportunities for the wealthy to use private corporations for tax avoidance purposes. This would dilute our base protection of anti-avoidance tax rules. Moreover, this would create a tax system that caters to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is about Bill C-208, an act to amend the Income Tax Act with respect to the transfer of small business or family farm or fishing corporation. This is a very important issue, and I am concerned about the government's ongoing failure to take action on it. This problem comes back year after year, and it has still not been resolved.

In Quebec, one in three SMEs is a buy-out. That means that one-third of Quebec's small businesses were existing businesses bought by someone else. That is a big deal, yet the government penalizes people who want to transfer their business to a family member. In 2018, it was estimated that 30,000 to 60,000 Quebec businesses would not find a buyer in the years to come, yet the government is actively penalizing people who want to buy out the family business. It would rather those businesses disappear or be sold to strangers. That is just great.

In the agricultural sector, Quebec is losing one farm a day. We know this, we talk about it and we speak out against it. The fishing sector is no different. Fifty years ago, fisheries were flourishing in the regions, but today, fishing villages are disappearing one after the other. This is sad, but it is partly due to inaction by this government and, obviously, governments before it.

During my previous term, from 2015 to 2019, I introduced Bill C-275 to address this issue by allowing family businesses to be transferred to members of the same family. I was made aware of this issue by some of my constituents, including Mr. Tremblay, from Armoires Tremblay in Saint-Mathieu-de-Belœil. Mr. Tremblay was in his 30s and his father owned a small, family-owned cabinetmaking business. His father wanted to retire and was waiting to sell his business to his children, in the hopes that one day the act would be amended and allow him to do so without being penalized.

Right now, the government assumes that people who sell their business to their children are fraudsters. It thinks that they will not set the price at fair market value, so it decided to tax the entire profit generated by the transaction. The problem is that a small company can quickly grow to be worth one, two or three million dollars, even if it does not employ a million people, but rather three, four, five, six or 20.

We cannot ask young people who want to take over from their parents to withdraw two million dollars from their bank account. Very few people in their twenties and thirties can withdraw one million dollars from their bank account. That is the problem. The government thinks that people who sell their business to their children are fraudsters because they will give them a better price.

That means that they will not be able to sell unless they sell to strangers. Businesses will have to close because there will be no one to take the reins. It is really frustrating to see how the government refuses to recognize and resolve this problem year after year.

Not so long ago, I was discussing this with an old school friend, Marc-André Daigneault. His parents have a company called Revêtement RJ. The same thing happened to him. His parents wanted to wait to sell their company in the hope that the rules would one day change. He is saddened by the fact that young people cannot take over their parents’ companies because the government does not want to modernize and change the legislation.

At the time, I had tabled a bill that was similar to Bill C-208. The NDP found the bill so appealing that it decided to copy it, and the former NDP member for Rimouski, Guy Caron, tabled it himself. I would not want to take all the credit for the bill, because this is something the Bloc Québécois has been fighting for for 15 years. As early as 2005, a Bloc Québécois member introduced a bill seeking to address the problem of passing down family businesses from one generation to the next.

I am an accountant by training. In my university years, when I learned the tax rules and understood that people could not pass a business down to their children—well, it is possible but very disadvantageous from a tax perspective—I was really frustrated and could not get over it. All of my classmates and professors agreed with me. If we visited a tax school, an accounting office, a lawyer’s office or any university and asked an accounting or tax professor what they thought of this, they would tell us that it makes absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the government is digging in its heels and preventing family businesses from being passed down to the next generation.

In June 2015, however, the Liberal member for Bourassa introduced a bill concerning the passing down of family businesses. He said that it was his first bill and that it was extremely important. That was in June 2015. When the Liberals came to power in October 2015, just a few months later, they were suddenly against it. It seems that the Liberals promise all sorts of things when they are in the opposition but do not follow through when they get to power .

As my colleague from Rivière-du-Loup pointed out earlier, this is not a partisan approach. My Conservative colleague said he thinks transferring family businesses is important. I mentioned my NDP colleague earlier. I do not know the Green Party's position, but I know a lot of Liberals are not happy with their party's position and agree that it is ridiculous, so much so that the government now finds itself in an awkward position.

We have seen several economic updates and budgets since 2015. The government said it would tackle the problem and try to fix it. Now here we are in 2021, and it is still not fixed. The Bloc has been fighting for this since 2005. This is unacceptable.

There are solutions, however. The government is going to tell us that we would be opening up loopholes, but our tax law is full of loopholes. People use tax havens, and the government does not go after them, but it prevents the transfer of family businesses. How does that make any sense?

The government says that it is impossible, but we have tabled a number of bills to resolve the problem. In 2016, Quebec's Minister of Finance announced a solution to the problem in his budget. Since January 1, 2017, four years ago, Quebeckers have been able to pass down their business to their children without a tax penalty, but the federal government is unable to do the same. We do not know why, but it cannot do it. I think that the problem is stubbornness more than anything else.

Let us examine this question more in depth. The capital gains deduction in 2021 is $892,000. That means that you can sell a business you spent your entire life building without paying income tax on the first $892,000. It is similar to the sale of a tax-exempt home.

We also know that people with small businesses often do not have an RRSP. They pay themselves dividends or a small salary, and they have just as much as they need to get by. I am thinking about the neighbourhood mechanic or your local farmer. Often, they do not have any money put aside because they put everything back into the business. When they come to retire, they are very happy to have the $892,000, because retirement is expensive, and they need enough money to last the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, the government does not allow them this $892,000 if they sell their business to their children. Selling their business to a stranger gets them an $892,000 deduction, but they have to pay tax on that amount if they sell to their children. Even worse, the tax payable on capital gains is normally half the amount. If they sell the business to their children, they have to pay income tax on the profit as if it were ordinary income or a dividend.

It boggles the mind that the government insists on voting against the bill when it is well aware of the problem, when we have been telling it for years, and when a number of bills have been tabled to resolve the situation. I try to understand, but I cannot. That is why I am very pleased that we have a minority government today and that, with the three opposition parties, we will be able to pass the bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We have a few minutes left in Private Members' Business, which still leaves time for the hon. sponsor of the bill.

Resuming debate. Seeing none, I will now invite the hon. member for Brandon—Souris for his right of reply for up to five minutes.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to be here in the House today. As I said on November 25, “it truly is a humbling moment to stand in this chamber and put one's name to legislation and ask one's colleagues to support it.” That is an extremely important part of private members' bills and it has been recognized by my Liberal colleague today, and I thank him for his comments as well. I will refer to that in a moment.

I want to thank my colleagues in the House for supporting this bill on small businesses and the idea making it fairer for people to sell their business to their own family members directly, as opposed to selling it to a complete stranger or a third party that they may not have any connection with.

The bill and the bipartisan support I have seen in the House are tremendously important. Here I want to congratulate my former colleague, the interim leader of the NDP, Mr. Guy Caron, for bringing this bill forward to start with and for the support of the Bloc, which a couple of speakers have pointed out here today, as well as in the first hour of the second reading of the bill on November 25.

This legislation impacts every corner of Canada. It impacts every one of us in the House, all 338 of us. We all have small businesses in our ridings and I want to refer to the words “small businesses”, as some of my colleagues who have spoken today have addressed the fact that this is for small businesses, not big businesses. There is a huge difference that I want to point out to my colleagues in the House, and they know that.

The bill refers to family operations in fishing, farming and other small businesses in Canada that have been built on the pride of ownership and the hard work that their families have done throughout Canada, and it in no way is trying to provide any kind of loopholes. In fact, the bill is very clear and has gone to great lengths, which Mr. Caron and I have studied, to make sure that its wording will not allow those types of situations. As I said, it would be pride of ownership for people to be able to build a small business into a larger business, but once they do that, the things we are talking about in this bill are not relevant to those businesses.

The outcome of bill will have very little impact on the government, as my colleagues have pointed out today. It will have very little financial impact on the federal government, but a huge impact on the currency that is available through small businesses to every region of this country, particularly during this pandemic. All small businesses are struggling. It is not their fault, but they are struggling right now and the bill would go a long way toward helping all of them alleviate some of the stress and strain of being able to hand their business directly down to their own son, daughter, granddaughter or grandson. That is whom this applies to. It is very narrow in its scope in that way.

It is inherently unfair for small business persons to pay disproportionately higher taxes if they sell their operation to their own children than if they did to a complete and absolute stranger. We have referred to the difference between selling to their family as a dividend, or to a stranger as a capital gains exemption, which amounts to a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars to small businesses.

In making this change, it will allow the next generation to become business owners and to be able to carry on those businesses and to keep jobs in their local areas. Moreover, the funds the younger generation provide to the older generation are generally used for retirement, because a lot of funds that are earned during the small business development are going into the business to keep it afloat and expanding so that they can have that pride of ownership for their families in the future.

I want to close by asking all members to support Bill C-208 to encourage small business development in our country.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. As is customary in our hybrid sitting, if a member of a recognized party who is present in the chamber wishes to request either a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I now ask them to rise and indicate so to the Chair.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business



Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I ask for a recorded vote on my private member's bill, Bill C-208.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, pursuant to an order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 3, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 51(1), the following motion is now deemed to have been proposed:

That this House take note of the Standing Orders and procedure of the House and its committees.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day


Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to approach this debate by clearly indicating that these are my personal opinions as a parliamentarian, someone who has sat for many hours in the chamber, both on opposition and government benches. I would like to share three points in particular.

First, we should never ever take our democracy for granted and that our Standing Orders, albeit boring to most, are our pillar to our democratic system. I truly believe this. However, the rules that we have today need to be modernized. For political entities, far too often rule changes are more about strategy. I want to bring forward some thoughts as a parliamentarian and highlight three changes I would like to see take place.

The first issue is on votes. Our current system of voting is insane and needs to be modernized. Rule changes should not be used to take away from what is perceived as or are real tools that opposition parties use in order to hold government accountable. However, nor should they be abused. My suggestions on this issue would for PROC to come up with a path that would see the issue dealt with respectfully, but should incorporate a few points. Examples of that would be to include no votes on Fridays or Monday mornings; consecutive voting without breaks is not healthy; electronic voting should be allowed; and there should be a provisions that allows for stand-up votes. These are the issues on which PROC needs to come back to the House with some tangible recommendations.

My second issue is one that I really do take personally. I love debate in the chamber. It is important that as parliamentarians we feel comfortable in expressing what we would like to say on everything that comes to a vote in the House of Commons. It is one of the reasons I believe in a dual debating chamber. I am not 100% convinced that we need to have a dual chamber; I want to propose something that would not require a dual chamber, and it is very different. I would call them MP debate days. This would eliminate the need for a dual debating chamber. The purpose of these days would be to ensure that members of Parliament would have the ability to voice their opinions on all legislative matters, including private member legislation, where a vote is expected on the said bill. It would ensure that the right of a member of Parliament to be heard in the chamber is there and is very real.

These days should be considered as MP days for debate on any bill before the House that has been given second or third reading and not voted on yet. There would be no quorum or votes as it would be treated in the same fashion as adjournment debates. Members would decide what legislation they would like to debate, but they would need to inform the Speaker in advance.

For example, members would be able to speak on only one piece of legislation on any given MP debate day, unless no other MPs requested to speak and there still would be 10-minute speech slots available. These debates would take place twice a week. We need to understand they would be meant to ensure that members would be afforded the opportunity to address the legislation they want to address. Even though I suspect both days not to be fully utilized every week, the fact that they would be there would support the importance of the right of members to speak in the House of Commons on important issues to them and what they believe are important for their constituents.

The two days would be slots.

On Wednesdays, there is debate from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. I realize that is the day caucuses meet, but if members really feel passionate about speaking to specific legislation, they can excuse themselves from caucus or have independent members speak. It does not have to be on the Wednesday.

This is the way it would work on a Wednesday.

Members would notify the Speaker's office on Monday prior to speaking. There would be 10-minute speeches, with a five-minute question and answer period, as long as there are no more than 19 speakers. If 20 or more register to speak, then the speeches would be five minutes in duration, with no questions or comments. The Speaker can recognize up to 110 members. Rotations of speakers would be at the call of the Speaker, with an expectation that government caucus members would be recognized at a minimum of one per hour. That gives us a sense of how many members would be able to speak on any legislation, private members' bills or government bills, it does not matter, on a Wednesday. As has been pointed out, caucuses meet on Wednesdays.

As for Fridays, many of my colleagues would argue that we should take Fridays off. When I say “colleagues”, I am talking about members on both sides of the House. I would like the House to sit from nine o'clock in the morning until 6 p.m. every Friday. I do not have any problem with that. Again, members would have to notify the Speaker's office on the Wednesday prior to speaking that they have 10-minute speeches, with five-minutes of questions and comments, as long as there were no more than 35 speakers. If 36 or more members register to speak, then the speeches would automatically be five minutes in duration, with no question or comment session.

The Speaker could then recognize up to 175 members. That is a majority of the House. Rotations of speakers would be at the call of the Speaker, again, with an expectation that a member of the government caucus would be recognized at a minimum of one per hour. All the legislation and budget documents must be afforded the opportunity to be before an MP on the day of debate, unless, of course, unanimous consent is given for it to pass through the House.

If we believe in the importance of debate and enabling members of Parliament to exercise their thoughts and opinions on anything before the House at second or third reading, this is the optimum way to do just that. As I said, on a Friday, 170-plus members could speak. Those in opposition or in favour of legislation could get their messages across in five minutes. Given how frequently I speak in the House, every speech I have given, some more challenging than others, could be said in five minutes by focusing on the important points in bills. I am hopeful that members will see the true value in ensuring that this is about members.

The third issue I want to highlight is legislative programming. The legislative program is already in place, and we need to recognize that, for such things as Private Members' Business. When a member puts forward a private member's bill, we know that after two hours of debate there will be a vote. What about opposition days? We know after one day of debate, there will be a vote. With respect to emergency and take-note debates, the legislative programming is already there, but we have not modernized it to incorporate government legislation also.

I am sure if all of us were honest with each other, we would recognize that at times private members' bills are more substantive than government bills from the past. Programming of legislation really needs to take place. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs should look at ways to enable government legislation to be programmed, rules that would automatically apply to legislation in order for it to be qualified and placed in a program of eventual passage.

Opposition parties could be given the ability to take a limited number of those out of the program for a period of time. I know it works because this is something we put in place in the Manitoba legislature many years ago when I was in the House leadership in the Province of Manitoba. It can work, but we need to modernize.

I see my time has expired, so I leave my two pet peeves regarding unanimous consent and points of order for another day.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:10 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the member said, I do not think this is a partisan issue; it is just ideas being laid before the House for the procedure and House affairs committee to consider.

One of the things he said is that the way we vote right now, and I think I am quoting him correctly, is “insane”. What about considering things like moving from having five members stand in order to cause a vote to 12 members, which is the minimum number of members required to be recognized as a party in this House? It would reduce the number of votes when we agree, and we could carry more things by voice vote, which is something I have tried to convince members would be a better way of doing things. We could just carry on with the business of the House without having to force every issue as a vote. There are many private members' bills, and even government bills, for which a voice vote would be sufficient.

What does the member think of that idea?

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one has to understand why we want to see those votes occur, and that is what the procedure and House affairs committee, PROC, really needs to assess. For example, there is a lot of validity for someone to say they want a recorded vote on X, such as wanting to see the MP or party members literally stand in their place and vote. There is a lot of merit in retaining that, because it does have a great deal of value.

What does not have a lot of value is having 500 votes on the same bill and all the vote results are identical. Why do both occur? One is easily justified and another one might be a bit more challenged, but if we put the politics to the side and give a different lever, we might be able to overcome it. That is something PROC needs to figure out.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke briefly about electronic voting. I personally find the way we vote to be rather absurd, especially how long it takes. Electronic voting would be just as secure and would save so much time. Perhaps this would allow for more debate in the House. Economically speaking, the three-or-so hours it takes 338 MPs to vote are extremely costly.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, when I think of electronic voting, it is not necessarily what we have today. It is more that we would have technology such that if a vote were called, a button right in front of members at their seats could be pushed. Then numbers would be instantly portrayed on a screen, or whatever it might be. Other jurisdictions have it. It is something we can do.

I also believe there is merit in looking at possible applications. I am thinking about MPs who come from areas of the country that make it very difficult to be in Ottawa. This type of voting might assist them, I would not rule that out.

It is really important, in terms of my thoughts on voting, that we not vote on Fridays, nor on Monday mornings. That will help individual MPs from all political parties.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the public tuning in, we are debating Standing Orders today, during a pandemic, because there is an obligation in the Standing Orders to have this debate within a short time period from the beginning of a new Parliament.

I want to come back to the member's identifying a number of issues that the procedure and House affairs committee would have to look at. Would the member agree with me that the procedure and House affairs committee should also look at the question of confidence?

In this minority Parliament, it has gone far beyond the normal practice of confidence being budgetary matters and a very clearly worded confidence motion. The government has given “confidence” a very fluid definition. It seems to have applied it in a number of different ways that I do not believe are appropriate.

Would the member agree with me that the procedure and House affairs committee should be looking into this question as well?

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do believe there would be value in doing that.

However, the real value would be saying to the standing committee that perhaps when they examine the Standing Orders, there is an argument to be made that it be done in camera. The member has been around for many years, as I have, and it is a question of how we achieve these rule changes and modernize.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:15 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be joining this debate. Just like the previous member, none of what I am about to say is my party's position, because we do not have one here. It is important that backbenchers be heard whether they are in the opposition parties or the government caucus. That is an important part of what we do.

I also believe all Standing Order changes should be agreed to unanimously. They should never be rammed through by either side. This has been done in past decades by both the Liberals and the Conservatives, but it does not breed harmony in the chamber. We should agree on the basics of the rules at least.

I think we can all agree that the rules exist to protect backbenchers especially. My first job as the caucus chair for my recognized party in the chamber is to represent the backbench when it comes to speaking with the leadership.

I have eight points I am going to make. I know the previous member from Winnipeg had three, but with a lot of sub-points. I am going to try to keep it brief and maybe get into it more in questions and answers.

We need to change debate in this chamber so it looks more like the United Kingdom, our mother Parliament, where members can cede their time to other members without having to include the Speaker in the debate. Members can cede their time to entertain a comment or question and then take the time back when they feel they have given sufficient time to another person.

Debate in this chamber has become stultified. I think that is the nicest term I can use with respect to what I see going on. Members come in and read their speeches, whether or not they have written them themselves. I know the Standing Orders say we should not be doing that, but I will be the first one to admit that in my first year here I did the same thing. I would write out my speech because I felt more comfortable. It was a crutch. One of the members from Saskatchewan who has been here much longer than I have said it is a crutch that we have to get rid of to really get into the debate. It forces us to read the legislation, understand the positions of other members and really engage in the debate. That was the original purpose of a chamber like this: to have meaningful debate.

If we solve that problem, then I believe Private Members' Business should be done the same way as government business is done. We should have a thorough debate instead of the mover of the motion having the first and last opportunities to speak to the bill and in between the other parties laying out their positions, if there are any, without a question-and-answer period. It has happened a few times that an assistant deputy speaker has forgotten about that rule and then there has been a bit of confusion in the House. It would just be easier if all debate were treated the same way.

Also, the time provided in the House for Private Members' Business should be doubled. It should not be limited to what it is now. The previous member mentioned that we should dedicate a day to it when members could speak to a private member's bill or a motion of their choice and contribute to the debate on it.

On our side, Private Members' Business is an opportunity for free votes. It always has been and always will be. That is the great part, because all of us have ideas that we work on that come from our constituents. That was the case with the disability tax credit and Rare Disease Day, which were both private members' bills I tabled in the last Parliament. Those ideas came from my constituents. They are not really partisan issues; rather, they allow for legislative cleanups or are in commemoration of a special day, so I think we should have more time for private member's bills.

Continuing on the subject of debate times, I think podiums should be removed from this chamber, except for leaders of the recognized parties and for the finance minister. Podiums allow us to use a crutch. I use them very briefly. I do not think they should be in the chamber. I understand the original purpose was for finance ministers to give their budget speech, which I admit is very important, and I fully accept that they have to go through their notes.

I used to work for the Alberta finance minister. It feels like many eons ago; I was counting, and it was about 13 years ago now. He had to use a podium because his speech was too big and he had notes he wanted to refer to and it was just impossible otherwise. I will admit to that. However, other members should not have that crutch given to them.

I also believe Adjournment Proceedings should be renamed and moved to the end of Question Period. All it has really become is an opportunity to dive deeper into the questions asked in question period. I know we have changed the way we do it now, since it is a bit more fluid and it is easier to get that opportunity to have a one-on-one, but it would be much better if we did it after question period and the turnaround time was faster. It would not take up a lot of time. It might be 10 minutes. That would provide an opportunity for members to do a follow-up on what was said in question period.

To be kind, today there are countless points of order and people trying to correct each other when engaging in debate. Sometimes there are good points of order with respect to tabling documents. It would be much better if we shortened it to an in-depth debate of 10 minutes between two members. Applications could be submitted through the Speaker or the clerks at the desk for a random draw. I do not know what the system should be; I leave it to PROC to decide the details.

As I mentioned, with regard to doubling the time for private member's bills, Monday or Friday would be the best days to get this done. We could adopt some of the process in the other place. That is another archaic tradition of this place: We do not mention the Senate literally. It is that “other place”. There, the senators have an opportunity to legislate much faster than we do as representatives from our ridings. The best senators are the elected ones. I know it is very controversial, but my province elects its senators. Whether they are Conservatives, ISG members or members of the western Canadian Senators Group, that is really important. It gives them a mandate. They can legislate in about two to three weeks and bring a private bill before this chamber for debate, whereas the rest of us, whether we are government caucus members or in one of the opposition caucuses, have a random draw and some of us will never get an opportunity to debate.

My former leader's first opportunity to present a private member's bill happened in her very last term in the House, and she had been here over a decade. There should be a greater opportunity for members to legislate from the back benches. It forces us to do good work and to understand legislation, including the downsides and the pitfalls, and really engage with legislative counsel to write good private member's bills that meet the needs of our constituents. That is important.

I also think question period should be moved to an earlier time on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For the government caucus and for cabinet ministers, having worked for one about 14 years ago, question period is currently in the middle of what I would consider the workday. If we were to move it to the morning, it would give sufficient time for cabinet ministers to prepare, for their staff to brief them and provide them with whatever information they need. For the rest of the day they could carry on with government business or private members' business. I do not think there is a great reason for us to keep it at 2:15 every single day.

Routine proceedings should be moved to earlier in the day on Mondays and Fridays, the way it is done on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That should be the first thing that we do.

Also, Standing Order 31 statements should be moved to Routine Proceedings, either at the front end or the back end. A similar process already exists in the United States Congress, where statements are made very early in the day during their routine proceedings. I do not see why S. O. 31s, as we call them here, have to be done right before question period, outside of giving everybody an opportunity to have lots of people in the background, which I do not think is the purpose. It should be about making a statement on behalf of our constituents, celebrating an anniversary or a great success somebody had, or giving condolences on behalf of our community when a prominent community member passes away.

The last point I want to make is about the family-friendly nature of the chamber. This has to do with electronic voting and other things. A member on the government caucus side also lost a child in the sitting of the last Parliament. I know the issue has been raised before that this place is not very family-friendly. The times are not, as we vote late into the evenings. During the last Parliament, I sent a letter to PROC with regard to pairing votes. I had asked my whip, and realized that there was an important vote coming up that my constituents really cared about. At the time, I was still in the process of grieving my daughter. It would be far better if members could decide for themselves whom to pair their votes with.

I see the member for Kingston and the Islands is here. I know he is a gentleman. I am sure that, if I paired a vote with him on a handshake, we would agree that we could pair our votes so that neither of us had to be in the chamber, knowing that we were voting in opposite ways. That is a practice in the United Kingdom chamber. I know there have been problems with broken pairs in the past, but the rule now is that the whips fill out one of the binders at the desk to count the paired votes.

Pairing votes would let us get around the issues of a family-friendly environment when a member has to be away from their community. It would also force us to get to know members on the opposite side. That is not done enough, let alone in our own caucuses, to build trust with another member and have a paired vote. That would obviate the need for things like electronic voting, distance voting and proxy voting and the times of the day when voting is held. Pairing of votes is a long-time tradition in the Westminster parliaments. It needs to be revived and hopefully we can build that trust.

I will yield the rest of my time. I appreciate this opportunity.

Standing Orders and ProcedureOrders of the Day

12:25 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Calgary Shepard for his intervention. I always enjoy his thoughtfulness and the approach he takes to try to identify the problems we have.

His particular mention of the U.K. Parliament really caught my attention. The U.K. has a debating chamber separate from its main chamber. When we moved from the old Centre Block into the current debate chamber, the thought was that at some point we might have another debate chamber in the House. Now that we are going virtual, we have an opportunity to have virtual debate chambers created and give us more time for debate in the House on particular issues.

Would the hon. member comment on that? The PROC committee could look at having virtual debate chambers not constrained by needing physical seats in the House.