Eric C. Lowther
- On the Parliament site
- His favourite word was children.
Last in Parliament October 2000, as Reform MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)
Won his last election, in 1997, with 40% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Employment Insurance Act October 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In reference to the House leader's recent pronouncement to the House, we are pleased to hear that the other place is predisposed to acting quickly on the bill that he mentioned. We are glad to hear that. We do not have an official call yet of any election. If this was to follow its normal course of business, the House would be able to deal with it normally and it would proceed into the other place. It is reassuring to hear that they would deal with it quickly.
On that point, we are quite open to dealing with that bill in the normal fashion next week if he should wish to do so.
Human Resources Development October 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the minister has not even read the AG's report because here is what he did say. He said that problems in managing grants and contributions worsened in the nineties, and then he said that audits later in the 1990s showed persistent problems identified previously. In this current report, he said that there were breaches in authority, payments made improperly, very limited monitoring of finances and activities and approvals not based on established processes.
Is it not time after almost a decade that the government admits that it has no respect for taxpayer dollars?
Human Resources Development October 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, early in the 1990s the auditor general told the government that there were major mismanagement problems with HRDC grants and contributions. Later in the 1990s, the auditor general told the government again but we had the same problems and no solutions in sight.
What do we see in in this new century? We see a mismanagement meltdown reported by the auditor general.
If financial mismanagement has not been fixed in seven years, is it not true that the true legacy of the Liberal government is that it has no respect for taxpayer dollars?
Questions Passed As Orders For Returns October 16th, 2000
Could the government provide a complete accounting of all Canadian taxpayer dollars transferred to, or in any way spent on, international organizations and agencies (including United Nations agencies and all other multilateral institutions) by any channel during the fiscal year 1998-99, listing clearly each item of expenditure by both the disbursing department and by the recipient organization or agency?
Question No. 78—
Criminal Code September 22nd, 2000
Madam Speaker, I know my time is short this afternoon but I think we have heard some excellent commentary on the bill on this side.
I was somewhat troubled, though, to hear the comments from the Liberal member opposite reflecting the government's position on the bill. Primarily, it seems the one concern that the government has about the bill is the fact that someone may use someone else's equipment in purveying or getting hold of this grievous material and therefore the person who owns the equipment would be held criminally responsible.
If that is the only reason the government is considering not moving ahead on this important initiative, it is a very weak one. In Canada today we have laws in place that allow for the forfeiture of equipment and all that went into propagating hate propaganda. If we can do it for hate propaganda, why can we not do it for child pornography?
We have examples in other parts of the world. The United States has very significant forfeiture legislation which has been used to forfeit property, houses and things with relation to this kind of crime. Therefore it can be done and it has been done in other types of legislation.
To say we cannot move ahead on this because we have some confusion about who might be held responsible because of who owns the equipment is a complete sham, I would suggest, and a real disappointment.
There are many issues that come to the House that we have different positions or, but I do not think we have on the issue of child pornography. We owe it to the Canadian people, those who are watching and those who are concerned about this issue, to show some unity on this, move quickly and make Canada a place in the world where there is a zero tolerance policy for child pornography. This is one incremental step to move us that much closer to it.
It is disappointing to hear the government say that it wants to put up some little roadblock to stall this when it could move ahead, particularly when we had the minister say that she wanted to move ahead with legislation to tighten up the whole cyber-stalker situation whereby people are luring children into this on the Internet. It is an excellent initiative. What an excellent time to integrate this improvement, plug the loop-hole that was missed and solve both problems at the same time. I encourage cabinet and members opposite to rethink their position and integrate this as quickly as possible.
I had that experience myself when I brought forward a private member's bill to the House. It allowed children's organizations to have access to the pardoned records of convicted pedophiles. We had unanimous agreement on this side of the House. The cabinet voted against it, but the majority of backbench Liberals voted with the bill. Eventually it went to committee and we had everybody onside. Then the government brought forward a bill much like mine, we made improvements to it, it went through the Senate and has now become law.
In the House there is agreement on this issue that in Canada we should have a zero tolerance policy. This bill is timely and is the kind of thing we can all agree on.
I remember that in the committee meeting, and I believe the hon. member opposite also remembers, we all decided to integrate my bill into the government bill, make improvements and send it back to the House with a recommendation that it go forward and become law. It was one of the few times that everyone around that table gave a round of applause and a cheer went up because we knew that we had done the right thing.
I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, to the House and to all who are listening that we quickly move on this bill. Let us do the right thing. Let us get it done and move ahead for all those people who have been concerned about the Sharpe case, which is still pending after almost two years, and who have been waiting to hear that possession of child pornography remains illegal in this country. It has been a shame for so long. Then all those people, almost 500,000 of them who signed those petitions that I delivered to the House, will start to see the House move on this issue and move quickly.
Hopefully the Sharpe decision will come down in the next few days. We have had enough doors being opened for child pornography in Canada. There is agreement in the House. There is clearly agreement across the land that we do not want it in Canada. Let us work together to make sure that we see that agreement acted upon and the doors closed as quickly as possible.
Income Tax Act September 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the debate today. I thought there were some good points made, in particular on this side of the House. I hope they registered with the government.
I am struck by the fact that in the House we hear a lot about a children's agenda. We hear a lot about “the best interests of children”. The bill we are debating talks about children in need of adoption. Some 70,000 children are wards of the government and 20,000 of them are ready for adoption today.
We talk about the best interests of children, yet we have a government that will not entertain incentives or recognize legislation that shows appreciation for the contribution adoptive parents make.
We have a government that talks about $2.2 billion for school programs and for children to be cared for in state run institutions. We talk about the child tax credit. There is lots of money through the child tax credit. I am not knocking that. We talk about child tax recognition for infertility treatments. We talk about child tax credits and recognition for child care expense deductions for those parents who choose to go out and work.
However, we will not consider tax recognition for parents who probably make one of the largest social contributions possible by adopting children who otherwise would never have the benefit of a mother and a father. They are stuck as wards of the state and shifted from one foster home to another. Many of us know that the social costs of that kind of damage to a child go on and on. We could do something about it with a piece of legislation like this one.
I encourage making it easier for loving parents who want to adopt but are faced with financial burdens and financial hardships to do it. We could do something about it in the House today if we were to embrace legislation of this type.
That is what the House should be about. I am tired of the rhetoric about best interests of children and a children's agenda, yet we ignore something as simple and as straightforward as this legislation. It is an absolute no brainer.
I heard a consensus on moving in this direction from colleagues in the NDP. I heard it from the hon. member of the Bloc. I heard it from members of my own party. Without too much hard work we might even get the PCs on side.
I ask members of the government to think about the opportunity they are missing. We have had enough of their rhetoric about the best interests of children and a children's agenda. Let us see them demonstrate it in something as straightforward as this piece of legislation which would give a child a mother and a father to love them in a family environment.
In that light I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House to refer the subject matter of the bill to the HRDC subcommittee on children and youth at risk. There could not be a more appropriate place for this item to be discussed.
Income Tax Act September 19th, 2000
moved that Bill C-289, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is good to see you back after the summer. I know you had a busy one. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-289, my bill that was drawn not long ago. I appreciate it being before the House. Unfortunately, although we made a very heavily supported recommendation to the committee from people right across the country, the bill was not deemed votable. However I appreciate this hour of debate in the House. I know many who are interested in this topic are watching today on the network.
The bill states in its own summary that its purpose to enact an allowance for taxpayers, a deduction for expenses related to the adoption of a child that does not exceed $7,000 when computing his or her income for a taxation year. The expenses must have been incurred in that taxation year or in the previous two years. That is the summary of the bill.
Essentially the bill would recognize that adoptive parents make a significant social contribution to our society by adopting children that have a need for parenting, and that this activity should be encouraged and supported for the good of children and for the good of society as a whole.
I submit that this is a very important bill and worthy of being deemed votable. Unfortunately we did not get that, but I would hope that in the future parliament would entertain doing more for adoptive parents. I think we can all agree that adoption is a gentle option to ensure that a child can be placed with loving and generous parents.
However adoptive parents often face significant upfront costs when they embark on adoption, and out of pocket adoption expenses are not tax deductible. This bill would be a first step toward addressing some of the concerns of adoptive parents.
Adoptive parents have unique challenges and expenses when they adopt a child. Even in public adoptions where provinces have traditionally covered the related adoption expenses, we are now starting to see adoptive parents faced with new fees and ever increasing costs such as $1,200 for home studies, et cetera.
In the case of a private or international adoption, couples may face costs in the thousands of dollars in legal fees, home studies and a number of other studies that they must cover off. Such upfront costs may result in the discouragement of couples even thinking of adoption. It would thus serve a larger public interest to allow adoptive parents to deduct expenses related to the adoption of a child to better facilitate and better encourage this act of generosity and love that serves us all so well.
Bill C-289 is essentially an adoption expense deduction bill which proposes to allow a taxpayer a deduction of up to $7,000 for expenses related to adoption.
The introduction of the bill follows consultation with a number of adoption organizations as well as individuals who have personally adopted children. Statistics Canada's national longitudinal survey of children and youth has clearly shown us, in empirical terms, clear measurables, that an environment where there is a mother and a father is an environment where children thrive. Children without parents are at a disadvantage. I believe we should do all we can to encourage families who have the desire to adopt children instead of making adoption a difficult alternative.
We need to send a message of appreciation for the social contribution that adoptive parents make and recognize the inequities that adoptive parents face.
Adoption is under the control of the provinces, but Bill C-289 is a means by which this important institution could be encouraged and supported at a federal level through the means of a federal tax deduction format. Bill C-289 therefore is constitutional and fulfils another of the guidelines that the subcommittee required for a bill to be deemed votable.
Here are some details of the bill. As I said, it would cover off the legal expenses related to adoption. Any kind of illegal adoption or surrogate parenting arrangements would not be covered, but the legal adoption expenses that relate to adoption would be tax deductible up to a maximum of $7,000. The $7,000 figure was used so that it would be the same as the maximum amount deductible for the child care expense deduction currently in the tax code, the CCED, which is essentially a deduction that recognizes the costs of third party care.
If the state can recognize these costs, I believe it is appropriate to recognize that there are costs specifically related to adoption which adoptive parents face. The adoption expense deduction would be available for both domestic and foreign adoption. It would include expenses for pre-adoption home study as well as birth parent counselling and travel expenses related to the adoption of the child. All these are incurred regularly by adoptive parents today with no recognition.
It would be available for the adoption of any child under 17 years old, again matching the CCED provisions. If any expenses are to reimbursed by an employer or by the government, they would not be eligible for this tax deduction. We thought out those aspects of the bill.
The numbers of adoptions are difficult to attain but the Library of Parliament indicates that the total number of domestic adoptions in 1990 was about 2,800. The most recent figures available indicate that some 1,800 international adoptions occurred in 1997. The province of Quebec estimates that the average cost of an international adoption for adoptive parents is $20,000.
The paper that the Library of Parliament prepared for my office used the assumption that Bill C-289 would not come at a high cost to the treasury. The estimated cost to federal tax revenues for this bill, using a $7,000 adoption expense deduction, is approximately $5 million at the current estimated adoption levels.
In addition to sending a message of appreciation and encouragement that parliament could send to adoptive parents through the bill, allowing adoption expenses to be tax deductible would make the tax system more equitable for adoptive parents for two reasons.
First, biological parents have the pre-natal and post-natal costs of having children covered under medicare, but adoptive parents have to pay out of pocket expenses related to adoption costs directly out of after tax income.
Second, currently fertility treatments are tax deductible. According to the Library of Parliament fertility treatment expenses are eligible for the existing 17% federal tax credit for medical expenses provided for in section 118.2 of the Income Tax Act. Thus it could be argued, and this is straight from the document prepared by the Library of Parliament for my office, that among those taxpayers who are unable to have children naturally the current tax law favours those who seek fertility treatment over those who adopt. Yet it could be said that adoption is more socially beneficial since it aims to provide a family for children who already exist.
It is inherently unfair and poor public policy for expenses related to in vitro fertilization to be tax deductible while adoption expenses, which by definition relate to a case where a child has already been born and is in need of parents, are not tax deductible.
In the end I also submit to the House that adoption saves the taxpayer money as many children in need of parents would no longer be under the care of the state with the related expenses that are all paid by the state. It would result in a permanency for the child, which would also result in a stronger society and as a whole more healthy child development with a two parent family.
This topic has been in the media. I just make reference to some of the statements that have been captured in the media concerning this issue. The Winnipeg Free Press on January 4, 2000, in an article by Leah Janzen indicated:
Faced with a critical shortage of loving homes for older children and those with special needs, Child and Family Services is offering paycheques to adoptive parents.
It is not something we are advocating here, but we are advocating through the tax system the recognition of the social contribution made by adoptive parents. Ms. Janzen went on to say:
But so far, with about 700 needy children on their waiting list and only 125 prospective parents in sight, the gap is still heartbreakingly wide.
In the Ottawa Citizen on April 3, 1999, Derek McNaughton wrote:
Between 1997 and 1998, the adoption rate for children from overseas countries jumped by at least 30 per cent. For China, the number of adopted children has rocketed upward by 73 per cent.
He went on to say:
Currently, Quebec is the only province providing tax relief for adoptive parents. And in its recent budget, the Quebec government raised the allowable tax deduction for adoptive parents from a ceiling of $2,000 to $3,000.
A lady whom I have had some contact with on this topic, Judy Grove, executive director of the Adoption Council of Canada, says that the issue of tax relief is rooted in how this country values children. She says that politicians from both federal and provincial governments are long on rhetoric about the needs of children but short on action. She states:
It's very shortsighted, adoption, from the view of the state, is a cost effective process because kids that are adopted are not on the child welfare budget. If you look at the effect of allowing tax breaks, it makes adoption easier and therefore it saves the state money.
She makes a very valuable and valid point. The Adoption Council of Canada has also sent a number of letters to my office. In one of those letters on this private member's bill it points out that there are more than 70,000 children in foster care in Canada. More than 20,000 of these children are available for adoption. One of the main barriers, they pointed out to me, to the adoption of these children is the financial burden adoptive parents face.
Most adoptions of Canadian newborns and infants are facilitated through private adoption agencies which have fees that range anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000, and in some cases even more than that.
This proposed tax deduction will make it more feasible for lower income families or those concerned about the costs to adopt and care for children. That just makes sense. This bill would be a public recognition or a statement on the value of the contribution those parents are making.
What about public support? Do Canadians want Bill C-289 to pass? I would submit that public opinion is very supportive. Since I first introduced the bill in the first session of the 36th parliament petitions of support have steadily been coming into the House of Commons. I have received many e-mails and many letters of support with really no media play or public promotion on my part at all. I was actually surprised by the overwhelming support I have had on the bill without really publicizing it or promoting it in the least.
In parliament there have been about 4,000 signatures on petitions in support of the bill already presented to the House of Commons. I have another 1,000 signatures waiting. I have some petitions that I wanted to present here today but I plan to do that tomorrow, all in support of the bill.
I thank the many Canadians who supported my office and supported me in the endeavour of bringing this bill forward to the floor of the House of Commons. I thank the Adoption Council of Canada, Judith Grove and Connie Premont who created an e-mail list and communicated the intent of this bill to many supporters right across the country. I would also like to thank the many adoptive parents who sent me pictures and letters and encouraged me to contact other members of parliament to support this initiative.
This is good legislation. I urge all members to strongly consider making a bill of this kind something the government would develop legislation for and that we move to recognize the contribution of adoptive parents, especially when we so regularly say how important children are and how legislation needs to be in the best interests of children. Recognizing the contribution of adoptive parents would go a long way to us taking a step in that direction.
Human Resources Development June 15th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, we all know that last August, HRDC officials were in full damage control mode over a billion dollar boondoggle audit. Their communications department had prepared an action plan to handle the crisis and officials were hunkering down for the coming storm. The minister was obviously terrified of the consequences of this audit becoming public.
Was it that fear of the public finding out that prevented the minister from telling Canadians about the audit for a full six months after it was completed?
Petitions June 14th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present more petitions containing 32,000 more names of people from all across Canada who are dissatisfied with the government's inaction in protecting our most vulnerable from child pornography.
It has been almost a year and a half since the original Sharpe decision in B.C. which struck down the law against child pornography.
These petitions tabled today are added to the hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions already tabled. By a large margin it is the single largest petition tabled in the House of Commons in this parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I concur with these petitions.
High Tech Brain Drain June 7th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are so busy giving out public money for fountains and golf courses that they cannot find the plug for the brain drain.
The U.S. Congress recently introduced legislation to increase the number of foreign high tech workers fast tracked into the U.S., which means we will lose more of our brightest.
There is global competition for high tech workers, and the Liberal tax and spend policies keep us out of the game.
We can be the most connected nation in the world, but if we cannot keep our skilled workers or encourage entrepreneurs, Canada will never reach its potential.
The Canadian Alliance's solution 17 is a uniquely competitive tax structure, which experts say would make us a magnet for the new economy jobs.
The Liberal refusal to accept that high taxes hurt high tech is a demonstration of their brain drain.
With the Canadian Alliance solution 17 tax plan, brain drain will turn into brain gain.
We have the potential in Canada and there is a growing alliance of Canadians who are determined to capture it.