Whereas on October 21, 1880, the Government of Canada entered into a contract with the Canadian Pacific Railway Syndicate for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway;
Whereas, by clause 16 of the 1880 Canadian Pacific Railway contract, the federal government agreed to give a tax exemption to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company;
Whereas, in 1905, the Parliament of Canada passed the Saskatchewan Act, which created the Province of Saskatchewan;
Whereas section 24 of the Saskatchewan Act refers to clause 16 of the 1880 Canadian Pacific Railway Contract;
Whereas the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed on November 6, 1885, with the Last Spike at Craigellachie, and has been operating as a going concern for 136 years;
Whereas, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company has paid applicable taxes to the Government of Saskatchewan since the Province was established in 1905;
Whereas it would be unfair to the residents of Saskatchewan if a major corporation were exempt from certain provincial taxes, casting that tax burden onto the residents of Saskatchewan;
Whereas it would be unfair to other businesses operating in Saskatchewan, including small businesses, if a major corporation were exempt from certain provincial taxes, giving that corporation a significant competitive advantage over those other businesses, to the detriment of farmers, consumers and producers in the Province;
Whereas it would not be consistent with Saskatchewan's position as an equal partner in Confederation if there were restrictions on its taxing powers that do not apply to other provinces;
Whereas on August 29, 1966, the then President of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Ian D. Sinclair, advised the then federal Minister of Transport, Jack Pickersgill, that the Board of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company had no objection to constitutional amendments to eliminate the tax exemption;
Whereas section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies;
Whereas the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, on November 29, 2021, adopted a resolution authorizing an amendment to the Constitution of Canada;
Now, therefore, the House of Commons resolves that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by Her Excellency the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the annexed schedule.
AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
1. Section 24 of the Saskatchewan Act is repealed.
2. The repeal of section 24 is deemed to have been made on August 29, 1966, and is retroactive to that date.
3. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, [year of proclamation] (Saskatchewan Act).
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand to present the motion today and lead off the debate.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek. I am happy to hear her comments put on the record as well. We will have a lot of Saskatchewan content in the chamber today. I feel that more common sense from Saskatchewan is always a good thing.
I want to talk to the members in the chamber today about why this motion is important. There are two defining reasons why we should be passing this unanimously. One is for tax fairness. I believe the taxpayers of Saskatchewan should not be forced to pay an additional dollars to a profitable corporation. Second, it is about respecting provincial jurisdiction. I believe all colleagues can appreciate that. I think we have a duty in this chamber to respect what has been done in provincial legislatures across the country. We know that this passed unanimously in the Saskatchewan legislature last fall.
I brought forward a unanimous consent motion, but I appreciate that the member for Winnipeg North and the justice minister wanted to have debate on the floor of the House of Commons about why this motion is important and why it should be passed. It is with respect to their wishes that we brought forward this motion today so we would have that conversation, have that debate and have comments put on the record as to why this is a necessary motion. Hopefully, after today there will be a vote on this motion and we can move it to the Senate. Then this could be passed in respect to the wishes of the people of Saskatchewan.
I have some thanks to give. My thanks to the minister of justice in Saskatchewan, Gordon Wyant, who put this motion forward in that legislative chamber. I have also talked with some of the NDP MLAs in Saskatchewan, my home province. I was a member of the legislative assembly there, and Trent Wotherspoon has said he has communicated with the NDP in the House of Commons. I believe they will be on board with this motion as well because they should respect what their provincial colleagues have done.
I hope this will be a good and thorough debate about why we, as legislators, should respect the provincial jurisdiction of what is going on. I want to put on the record that I think it is very important that we have the proper tone. Decorum in this House has left a little bit to be desired.
The motion today was put forward by the opposition so that we can all get together and have a good conversation to show the people of Canada that we can work together. We have done it in the past. We can work together and get things done more quickly and not see some of the holdups we have seen in the past with some of the bills put forward because of partisan politics.
These are the conversations we have been having over the last couple months. I put forward a unanimous consent motion that was denied, so hopefully that will not happen again with this motion before I back home to Saskatchewan.
Talking about the people of Saskatchewan, this is important to them because they think it is time that Ottawa listens to some of their concerns around tax fairness. Obviously, we have seen that the price of everything has been going up and inflation is increasing everywhere. They want to know that we are listening. My number one job when I stand in the House of Commons representing the people of Regina—Lewvan is to put forward their interests and make sure that I am a voice for them. This is something that I feel is very important. They feel, like I said previously, that they should not have to pay an extra dollar for a profitable corporation.
We went through the motion. For a little more background, this is a constitutional amendment. That is not unheard of, as B.C. has done this, as well as Alberta, and through this very process. We are not breaking new ground. We know this has been done before, amending provincial constitutions through motions and agreement with parties in the chamber and in the Senate. I believe this is something that can be done again.
We really want to make sure that people realize that this is an outdated exemption. It dates back to 1880. It was something where the government at the time made a deal with CP Rail. It is something where they were exempt from paying taxes. Going back to 1880 makes it 116 years old. CP and the Saskatchewan government have been engaged in a battle over this for the last 13 years.
For CP, that is something that will be ongoing. This will affect that going forward. That court case will be settled in the courts. It will not be settled here today, but we will make sure that we get this exemption done and off the books so that something like this does not come up again.
On November 29, the justice minister introduced the motion to repeal section 24 of the Saskatchewan Act in the legislature. Like I said, it has been a few months. I believe my colleagues across the way on the government side have had an opportunity to look at it and are in agreement with this motion going forward. The resolution will be passed by the government and the Senate.
I want to put on the record today a comment made by the minister of justice in Saskatchewan. He said, “We're going to vigorously defend the claim that's been brought by the railway to defend the interests of the people of Saskatchewan”. When it comes down to it, today we are trying to defend the interests of the people of Saskatchewan on the floor of the House of Commons. That is what I will always do.
When I talk to the people of Regina—Lewvan, I tell them that I will always be on Saskatchewan's side. This motion shows both that commitment to the people who have sent us to the legislature and that we have the ability to get things done. Sometimes I am asked in my hometown of Regina if I can move the yardstick being in opposition, if I can get things done. This is an example of how, working with all parties, we can get something done for the people of Saskatchewan and make sure they do not pay a cent in tax that should be paid by profitable corporations.
In a few conversations with people back home over Christmas, they were really interested in what the problem with this could be. I am hoping that, if the other parties, the Liberals, NDP or Bloc, do have concerns, they put them on floor of the House of Commons today. We can then answer those concerns, and we can work together to ensure this will be moved forward. It is very important that we make sure outdated legislation is changed.
I believe it was an oversight because in 1966, as it says in the motion, there was a handshake agreement between CP Rail and the government of the day to get this exemption off the books. Sometimes there are small oversights, so we are going to fix a past mistake that was overlooked and ensure that everyone knows what the rules are going forward. Canadians are really looking for some certainty and making sure we are doing what we can to make legislation clear. Passing this motion so that oversight is fixed and that exemption is taken off the books of CP Rail is what today is about.
This is about tax fairness for the people of my province, and I am looking forward to hearing the debates of my other colleagues from Saskatchewan. It is about respecting provincial jurisdiction. I think a lot of members in the chamber agree with this and will make sure we work together to get this motion passed. I believe everyone in this House thinks provincial jurisdiction should be respected, and when it comes to tax fairness, I think everyone in the House would agree that people in our home provinces should not be paying for profitable corporations. When I go home, I will be happy to have conversations with the people of Regina—Lewvan and tell them this is one thing we did together.
When they watch the news, sometimes all they see is the combativeness among opposition parties. They watch question period and think all we do is argue and not get answers from our colleagues across the way. Through this motion and the debates today, I want to show there is co-operation at times.
I am hoping my government and opposition colleagues will help us to make sure this is fair for Saskatchewan. I am proud to say that I will always be on Saskatchewan's side, and that is what this motion is about.