moved that Bill C-241, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I will start by saying what an absolute honour this is. I am feeling completely privileged beyond belief. This is kind of mind-boggling, because while it is one thing to get to the House, it is another thing to be fortunate enough to be so early in Private Members' Business. It really, truly, is quite a remarkable day, and not just a remarkable day for me, but perhaps for close to a million trade workers across Canada.
I would like to first say thanks to the folks of Essex, who elected me to represent them. Without their support, I certainly would not be in this place today bringing forward this private member's bill.
Secondly, I would be very remiss if I did not say thank you to Tomi Hulkkonen. He is from UBC Local 494 from Windsor. When I ran for the very first time to represent Essex, he asked me to bring this private member's bill forward. Apparently, he has been working on this for some 11 or 13 years.
I gave him my word that, if indeed I was elected, and if indeed I was up early enough in the PMB process, I would bring forward this bill, so I am proud to bring it forward. I am proud that I could actually keep my word to Tomi.
My bill, the people's bill, the trade worker's bill, Bill C-241, is an act to amend the Income Tax Act, specifically to add a deduction. This would not be tax credit but a deduction of travel expenses for tradespersons. I also like to call it the “fair travelling tradesperson's bill”.
It is a very, very simple bill. It really is. It talks about three things. The bill reads:
where the taxpayer was employed as a duly qualified tradesperson or an indentured apprentice in a construction activity at a job site that was located at least 120 km away from their ordinary place of residence, amounts expended by the taxpayer in the year for travelling to and from the job site, if the taxpayer
(i) was required under the contract of employment to pay those expenses,
(ii) did not receive an allowance in respect of those expenses that is not included in computing the taxpayer’s income for the year, and
(iii) does not claim those expenses as an income deduction or a tax credit for the year under any other provision of this Act
Throughout this process, I have spoken to a number of trade associations, a number of trade unions, the managers and the leaders of such, and I have yet to find one that does not completely endorse this bill, which tells me that there is a huge void that needs to be filled. It also tells me that we have been walking by an opportunity to support trades and tradesfolks.
By 2025, Ontario alone will need an additional 350,000 tradespeople to fill the current need. As is often the case, tradespersons can be expected to travel long distances from one job to the next, far from home. With inflation at a 30-year high and during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, this bill is a common-sense proposal for hard-working Canadians.
When it comes down to it, this legislation is basic fairness for tradespeople. I made a commitment to the tradespeople in my riding to bring it forward, and that is exactly what I am doing.
In my opinion, this bill is, quite frankly, so simple. I want to tell a few stories of the folks that I have been speaking to along the way, because I really believe that their stories bring out the magic of what this bill will do for everyday Canadians and their families.
First and foremost, I want to speak to Canada's building trade unions. They have been very good in helping me navigate through, or stick-handle through, if one is a Canadian hockey player, I suppose, what exactly was needed.
CBTU represents members who work in more than 60 different trades and occupations and generate 6% of Canada's GDP. Their industry maintains and repairs more than $2.2 trillion in assets. Their work is not just done on site, but in facilities that provide modules or other components that are incorporated into the larger structures they work on. Once those structures are built, they are employed in renovation, maintenance and repurposing.
It goes on to say, under “Getting People to Work”, and this is a really neat one. This is really an important point:
Depending on private and public investments, at different times certain regions will have more employment opportunities than others. These conditions lead to a necessity for skilled trades workers to temporarily relocate or travel long distances for projects to meet the needs of the market. As projects are completed, workers will then return to their permanent residence....
...With families to support, temporary relocation costs can prove too burdensome for workers, contributing to increased reliance on programs like Employment Insurance and exacerbating labour shortages in certain regions.
As the Canadian economy transitions to net zero, the federal government needs to implement travel supports for workers in the traditional oil and gas sector.
It goes on to talk about addressing inequality in the Income Tax Act. It says, “In its current form, the Income Tax Act is an inequitable tax policy.” This is a very important point:
Today salespeople, professionals and Canadians in other industries can receive a tax deduction for the cost of their travel, meals and accommodations when traveling for work. The same option is denied to skilled trades workers who work on jobsites that are in different regions or provinces from their primary residence.
I have a few stories, and these are real stories, that I received in emails.
The following is an example of an apprentice. His name is Theo. He states, “As a carpenter apprentice, I travelled from Windsor to Timmins, Ontario, for several months in order to work at construction projects in remote parts of northern Ontario. I spent thousands of dollars of my money on gas, food and hotels, and I was not able to get any assistance for it. I also put a lot of kilometres on my car in this time and it wore out and depreciated a lot, which affected my ability to get ahead. I gave up a lot of time from family and friends in order to work. There is a lot of work opportunities in remote parts of Canada and a tax deduction on travel expenses would help apprentices like myself to travel to better work opportunities.” I love the word “opportunities”. He continues, “I hope that this bill passes and that all members of this Parliament support Bill C-241.”
Another email states, “Canada provides excellent opportunities for construction workers on projects that are often far away from places they call home. Canada has been built by skilled trades people that have left families and communities to travel to opportunities to work on projects that may not be available close to home. Canada is experiencing record labour shortages and it is crucial that Canada's assets with the workforce mobility removes the barriers to travel that currently exist.” That was from Tomi Hulkkonen, president of the Essex and Kent Building Trades Council. He went on to say, “Please note that the Carpenter's Union, Local 494, fully endorses this bill, as well as is willing and able to speak on this bill if asked if it goes to committee.”
This was a cool one. It says, “So, do we have a labour shortage in this country?” This was sent by another gentleman whose name is Russ. He writes, “I say we currently have a shortage of political will for fairness and mobility for the Canadian skilled worker. Today all of this can change if you vote yes to support the Canadian skilled worker in this non-partisan bill, which I fully stand behind and support. Your constituents have elected you to do the right thing for this country and contribute to our society, both ethically and morally. We are not asking for a payday or a handout. All we are asking for is fairness. Our country can have the skilled workers needed if the shackles regarding mobility can be released for the Canadian skilled worker.”
I have just a couple more.
Jaret is an electrician from Windsor with two young boys. He has been forced to travel across Canada, leaving his home province of Ontario, in order to provide for his family. If the stress of being away from home is not enough to deal with, imagine not being around to guide one's children while they are growing up. With all that added outside pressure, it would only be sensible to allow construction workers dealing with the same issues to be able to write off their travel expenses.
Peter, the executive director of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Manitoba, says, “You well know all major infrastructure construction projects in Manitoba's history have always relied on workers travelling from another province to supplement Manitoba's skilled tradespersons labour supply. The same can be said for every province across Canada. Promoting mobility by eliminating the current travel expenses for our construction trade workers is simply sound economic policy with a strong sprinkling of common sense. On behalf of the many construction contractor employers who I represent, I am dedicated to working with you and Russ and others who will support this critical and timely national incentive.”
I could continue with more testimonials, but I know my time is running short.
As we heard today in the House, the price of fuel, the price of hotels, the price of food and inflation all lie on the backs of the very tradesfolks who are building and have built this country, and they will continue to be the builders of this country in the future. To put that extra burden on them is absolutely unfair.
This is a fair bill that would leave money in the pockets of tradespeople and give back to the skilled trades, which have been walked past for many years and ignored. These workers are expected to travel across Canada to build our bridges, to build our roads, to build the homes that we all know we have a major shortage of in this country, and to keep our electric system moving. It really should be a no-brainer to, at the very least, send this bill to committee to be studied.
The neat thing about this bill is that it covers tradesfolks from coast to coast to coast, from St. John's, Newfoundland, to across Canada. It would not just help one area. It would help the entire country. If it looks like I am smiling a little today, it is because I am kind of excited to introduce a PMB, but the second reason I am smiling is that we have a major opportunity to do something huge for Canadians and for our skilled trades workforce. We can truly give them the support they not only deserve but need going forward.
As my time comes to an end, there are two last things I would leave members with. I suppose if there was ever a time for all parties to come together, become completely bipartisan and know what we are doing is right, it is now. Yes it can be studied, but knowing that what we are doing is right kind of puts a smile on my face.
I will leave one last thought. I do not know of any member in this place who does not get reimbursed for or write off their travel expenses. If that is good enough for members of Parliament, then it should darn well be good enough for the tradesfolks.