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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, you are exactly correct as usual. I am tying together all the examples I have presented in the House and I could present more. In deference to the member opposite who is concerned that I may be straying, I will limit myself and not go on with the many examples that I could show of the anti-family approach of the Liberal government.

Consistent with what Mr. Speaker said, I am trying to get through to the member opposite that his party has an approach in taxation, in protecting children, in law reform and in family law that consistently undermines the strength of the Canadian family. I am asking the member to consider that these policies need to be reversed.

The Government of Canada should promote policies that send a message of the important work that parents do. They are raising the next generation. They are instilling values, character and integrity in the lives of the future citizens of this country, the next generation. Public policy must send them a message that they are doing the most important work in the nation. The most important work in the nation is parenting the next generation. Unfortunately the anti-family approach of the Liberal government is undermining that. The official opposition repeatedly has brought forward policy initiatives that are intended exactly to reverse that approach.

That is one of the reasons we are concerned about Bill C-23. Apparently the number one priority of the Liberal government is to extend benefits to same sex couples, even in light of the concern about fair family taxation that has been presented to the House. We have received petition after petition not just with Bill C-23, but prior to Bill C-23. For years people across Canada have been asking the government and the House to define marriage in legal statute, not leave it subject to the common law whims of the courts, but to define it clearly in statute, not like it has done in Bill C-23 as a ghost law, but right in the actual statutes.

Canadians have petitioned the House about child pornography, family law reform and so on. The official opposition has asked for a shared parenting approach in custody and access. We have asked for the use of the notwithstanding clause of the charter to protect children. We even brought forward improvements to the Young Offenders Act to protect children from violent young offenders and to put the non-violent offenders into good remedial treatment, to get them back on the street with appropriate reforms put in place.

We have consistently said to leave the dollars and the choices in the pockets of the parents when it comes to child rearing instead of taking them away. I sit on another committee of the House that deals with children and youth at risk. That committee is proposing a $7.8 billion national daycare program. Whose money is funding that national daycare program? It is the dollars earned by mothers and fathers trying to rear their families. They may not want to have access to a national daycare program, but they are going to pay for it anyway with the Liberal government.

Why not just leave that money with the parents? If they choose to use daycare for their situation, fine. If they choose to have a loving relation, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, that is their option. If they choose to stay at home and make do with perhaps a little less income, that is okay too.

Right now the Liberal government says it is going to tax a single income family making $50,000 a year 100% more than a dual income family, 100% more. It is forcing families for financial need to spend less time with their children.

Bill C-23 does deal with marriage. The union of a man and a woman is the foundation for the family. There are six million marriages in Canada today. We talk about the high divorce rate. Of the six million marriages, every year only about 2% of them divorce and 98% say it is working pretty well for them and they are going to stay together for another year. Seventy-five per cent of all children are currently being raised in Canada within those marriages. It is an institution that works and it is an institution that Canadians do not really want to see changed.

Our concern with the bill as I said at the beginning is that number one, marriage should be defined clearly in the statutes. The government refuses to do that. It has put it in a ghost location in the bill where it really will not have any effect even in spite of all the petitions. Number two, the government has set it up with a definition of conjugal that is undefined in the legislation and fundamentally will drive people into the courts to have the state intrude into assessing whether a private relationship qualifies or not.

Those are two big flaws in the bill. There are others but those are the key ones that have us concerned that it will not work. Ultimately this will not work. It will be a windfall for lawyers and judges in driving people into the courts, but it is not really going to achieve the government's objective.

Beyond all that, those people who may have an economic dependency or may be caring for one another in some way but would never dream of having a conjugal relationship, if that means some sort of physical intimacy or a sexual relationship, are excluded. There is all this rhetoric about addressing discrimination, yet the government excludes people who have all kinds of dependencies and close personal but not physical relations. They are excluded. If that is not discriminatory, I do not know what is. We play word games sometimes in the House. We all know it. That is one of the big problems we have with Bill C-23.

There are some other things I need to bring forward on Bill C-23. Of all the concerns I have presented about the litany of anti-family policies that have been brought forward by the Liberal government on all fronts including Bill C-23, and in all the pro-family initiatives we have brought forward on taxation and protecting children and so on, this is what is troubling most of all.

Some members opposite are aware that we have brought forward legitimate concerns. They agree with some of the things we have brought forward. They have told me privately, “I agree with you, but what can I do?” They know that some of the things they are being told they must vote for are wrong. I see them working hard to rationalize and find some to appease their conscience and say that what they are voting for is actually okay. They twist and turn and look for any kind of rhetoric from the legal bureaucracy to give them reasons for taking the position they do. Ultimately they know what they are voting for is wrong. They know it does not work for families. They know it will not strengthen the Canadian family. A lot of these initiatives and policies will actually work against the Canadian family in the long run. What troubles me is that they know it but they will not stand up and do the right thing.

It also troubles a lot of Canadians right across the country. This is the reason why Canadians are frustrated with politicians. I have seen surveys that have asked Canadians which profession they trust the most. These professions included lawyers, doctors and other types of professions. Do members know which profession has the lowest rating of public trust? Politicians are down near the bottom.

We can joke and laugh about that and say it is funny but what is this all about? We are here to serve the Canadian people. We should be the people exhibiting integrity and character as an example to our children. We should exemplify the values that inspire the youth of our nation but that is not what is happening.

When we make fun of or mock the role of elected office, whether it is the prime minister's office or the leader of the opposition's office, it is like tearing down our own house. It does not strengthen our nation. It actually undermines the respect that we have for the institutions that are in place across the country.

I encourage the members opposite to think about all the anti-family policies they have brought forward and the message they are sending with these policies that work against the strengthening of the Canadian family. They have an obligation to send a message to Canadians that certain things are important. There are verifiable facts and empirical data that show that marriage works for kids. It is not too much more complicated than that.

The Liberal government has forced closure on this bill. I think this is the 62nd time that closure has been invoked by the Liberals to limit debate. Tragically, 68 statutes will be affected by this bill and we will only have one day of debate at third reading. When they vote on this bill tonight, which gives every benefit and obligation to same sex partners, which is currently reserved for marriage and family, I hope they think about whether this is a number one priority and whether this is the message they want to send to the young people of Canada, the next generation.

In surveys and studies that I have seen reported in the press, 90% of young people say that their number one priority is family and the development of family relationships. When members opposite vote tonight will they be sending the right message? Are we sending them the message that we agree with them when we vote on the bill tonight?

I do not think that voting for Bill C-23 sends the right message at all. It sends a very confusing message. I invite every member of the House to think about the obligations they have taken on and the commitments they have made to their constituents who put them here. I invite them to think about the bill and the message they will send to Canadian youth.

In light of what I have said here today, I feel compelled to close my talk this morning by moving an amendment to give all members of the House another chance. I move, seconded by the hon. member for Elk Island, the following amendment:

That Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the purpose of examining the feasibility of adding a definition of marriage to all relevant clauses of the bill so as to have the effect of adding the definition to each act being amended by the bill such that the definition will carry significant legal force and effect.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join in the debate on third reading of Bill C-23.

I have had the opportunity, as the bill has moved through the House and through committee, to speak to the bill four times. I do not think it would serve the House or yourself, Mr. Speaker, to go over too much of the ground that has already been covered at some length.

Yesterday's Hansard shows in some detail the 10 very strong reasons why the official opposition felt, and made strong arguments in fact, that Bill C-23 should be withdrawn. We laid that out for the House and we put forward amendments to improve the bill. Unfortunately last night, with the exception of a few on the other side, those amendments to improve the bill were jettisoned.

I noticed that the member opposite talked about the definition of marriage that is in Bill C-23 which has been added due to public pressure by the justice minister. Yes, we are thankful that that amendment was put in there.

What troubles us is that the definition of common law partners, which this bill now defines as any two people, same sex or otherwise, who live together for one year in a conjugal relationship, is continually defined in every statute throughout Bill C-23 repeatedly. Yet, to place a definition of marriage and spouse in those same statutes is something the Liberals have refused to do. They put it at the front end of a bill where it will not appear in any statute anywhere. When someone pulls the Income Tax Act off the shelf or the Pension Beneficiaries Act or any of these acts, there is no definition of marriage there, but there definitely is a definition of common law partners.

In our amendments we asked that the government actually make this definition of marriage substantive and have legal effect because there are court cases coming that will challenge the definition of marriage. It is our position that if we are going to put it in law, let us put it in law. That was our argument, to put it right in the statutes.

Unfortunately, the Liberals have elected to leave it out of the statutes and put it in a place whereby, in the expert legal opinion of Mr. David Brown, a lawyer from Toronto with the firm of Stikeman Elliott who reviewed legal precedents and textbooks on this very matter, the way the government did it would have little to no legal effect when these cases come forward as opposed to the approach that the Canadian Alliance put forward, which would substantively place the definition of marriage in Canadian law.

Why is that so important? It is important because it would send a clear signal to the courts on behalf of the Canadian people that marriage should remain the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all other definitions.

It is troubling that the government would put forward an amendment to appease the concerns of Canadians. We have heard here in this House from the petitions, thousands of them now, probably over the 10,000 mark that have come forward in a short period of time on this bill. It is of concern to us that the government would attempt to appease those concerned Canadians with an amendment to Bill C-23 that really is for show only. As the member for Scarborough East referred to it, the Liberal member in fact, it is a ghost amendment, a ghost bill which is going to float out there but will not have any real effect. Canadians are thinking that it will, but they have been misled by this Liberal government.

It would have been more sincere for the government to actually have adopted the amendments that the Canadian Alliance put forward to have the definition of marriage put in the statutes. It is troubling that it has misled the Canadian people and those petitioners to think that something substantive has been done when in fact it has not.

There is a number of significant problems with this bill that are going to cause it to be very troublesome in its implementation and to which I have made reference before. One of the key areas is this term that the government has added in the definition of common law partners. In fact, it is the criterion for qualifying for all these benefits that we currently apply to marriage and family. The single criterion for same sex couples now is that they live in a conjugal relationship.

Well, it is a term. There are all kinds of terms in legislation but, normally, when that occurs, there is some definition of the term so that it is made clear to those looking at the statutes or the legislation passed by this House who qualifies or who does not.

We have repeatedly asked for a definition to be included in Bill C-23. The government has refused to do that. In committee and otherwise, it has answered by saying the courts know what a conjugal relationship is. What kind of answer is that? That answer says that the courtroom is going to be the determining place for people to to get a ruling whether or not they actually are in a relationship that qualifies for all these benefits.

Just think how inappropriate that is. Here we have two individuals who are living together, assuming they are in a conjugal relationship and later finding out that they are not or vice versa, assuming they are not and later finding out that they are. The confusion, the court cases, the challenges, what happens to the benefits, the obligations upon death, all these questions are left unclear by this piece of legislation.

What troubles me the most is that members opposite, good members, members that have children of their own and families, or that are married, know that this is a fundamental flaw in this bill. They know it. Yet, last night we saw that on the report stage amendments, in spite of knowing that there are these fundamental weaknesses with this bill, the members are going to follow the edict of the Prime Minister and the cabinet and vote for a bill that is so tragically flawed. That is what troubles me more, that good men and women would not stand up for what they know is right, stand against what they know is wrong and fulfill the obligations they made to their constituents a few years ago when they were elected to this House.

It is not the first time we have seen the Liberal government move in a direction that is directed to them by either the courts or lobby groups. There has been a litany of decisions that have been made by this Liberal government that have impacted the Canadian family in a detrimental way. I cannot use any other word, except that the policies of the Liberal government are actually working against the Canadian family.

Let me review some of those. I think it is in keeping with Bill C-23 because it points out that there is a trend here that is consistent in this current Liberal government.

Let us take, for example, a statement made in the House a year or so ago by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance that parents who stay at home do not work as hard as those in the workplace. That caused a big kerfuffle across the nation. Families from across the nation and those who care for children at home spoke out. There were retractions resulting in all kinds of activity, and then questions about that.

In fact, because of the public pressure and because of motions that were brought forward by the Canadian Alliance that addressed the inequity and the tax treatment of stay at home parents or single income families, the finance minister was forced to launch a special committee to look at tax fairness.

The special committee sat for a number of months, had witnesses appear, as is the normal committee process, and produced a report that said there were some fundamental inequities in the way that tax treatment is applied to families that actually made it more difficult for parents to spend time with their children. It actually provided incentives for just the opposite, for parents to put their children in institutionalized care and enter into the workplace. It made recommendations that that should change.

A few weeks ago we saw the budget. The recommendations in that report were not included. We went through the whole report process. We went through recommendations from the special committee to address the anti-family tax policies of the Liberals. There were some good recommendations, but nothing was implemented.

Let us talk about another situation. This issue is by far the number one issue for petitions that the House has seen in the whole 36th Parliament, far greater than any other issue that has hit the floor of the House. Many people who have never been involved in the political process were motivated to get involved on the one issue. We are approaching over half a million signatures. I think we may see one million on this before it is over. Petitions are still coming in to my office in stacks. People listening may recognize the fact that this was the grievous ruling of a court in B.C. that struck down the illegality of possession of child pornography. Just the term turns your stomach. Petitioners across the country are crying out to have this reversed and the law upheld to make it illegal to possess this material.

The Canadian Alliance brought a motion to the floor of the House which was initially supported by some 70 members opposite. It asked the government to use the notwithstanding clause to uphold the law and not let the court strike down a law that protected children and made this kind of grievous material illegal. Unfortunately, only four of the members opposite stuck to their convictions. The rest reneged on their commitment and voted with the whip vote pressured on them by the Prime Minister. The motion we put forward to uphold the law to protect children was struck down again by the Liberals. They deferred it and said “Let us leave this to the courts. We will appeal it. It will all be solved in a month or two”.

Do members know how long ago that was? It is almost a year and a half since the court struck down the law that made the possession of child pornography illegal in B.C. What has happened in that time? Cases have been delayed. Prosecutions have not proceeded. The B.C. case is being referenced in other provinces and has impacted prosecutions on this issue. It is a year and a half later and still nothing has been resolved.

We had the tool in the House to resolve that. We had the tool in the notwithstanding clause. It is part of the charter, not separate. It is there to be used. But, rather than use a tool that they had, a legal, legislative, charter tool, they chose not to do it, to defer to the courts, to put children at risk and make this grievous material legal.

That is not the end. Bill C-23 is part of a consistent trend we see from the Liberal government. Here is another one.

I sat on a joint Senate and Commons committee that was struck after great public pressure and concern about the issue of family law, the divorce act and custody and access because the approach taken by the courts and the guidelines put in place by the Liberal government are not working. They are not working for people when it comes to issues of custody, access and support when there is marital breakdown.

Largely through the pressure of one senator in particular the committee was launched and I had the privilege of sitting on it. The government spent about $600,000 to finance the committee.

We travelled the country and heard from Canadians from coast to coast. They shared painful stories about how their relationships had broken down and they had been driven into the courtrooms. Sometimes it seemed as if the legal profession had actually made the situation worse. Both sides in some disputes were spending all their money and going into debt trying to resolve their family conflicts. Children were caught in the middle. Sometimes the testimony was painful. A couple of times the interpreters who travelled with us had to leave the interpretation booth because they were in tears. They could not interpret any more.

Lots of money was spent and lots of testimony was heard. It was a year of hard work by a large committee. The final result was a report with some good and implementable recommendations, many with which the official opposition agreed. Our dissenting report was very short.

What was the response of the Liberal government when it got the report? Was it going to implement the report? Was it a priority for the government? The response of the justice minister of the day was to say the government wanted to look at it further and it would probably take another three years before any action was taken. That tells Canadians it is not a priority to solve that issue.

With Bill C-23 what is the government communicating to Canadians as its number one priority? Bill C-23 has seen closure at second reading after four hours of debate. It had three and a half days in committee and many people who wanted to appear before the committee were excluded. There is closure at third reading now. The bill is being been rushed through the House and it affects 68 statutes and fundamentally changes some of our social norms and structures.

The government did not act on the custody and access report and it still has not. I still get letters from people who are concerned about when they will see family law reform that was recommended in the report generated by the joint Senate and Commons committee on custody and access. What can I tell them? I tell them to continue to write to the justice minister and let her know their concerns.

Ultimately I do not hold out much hope because the party opposite gives lip service to children. Once in a while it mentions the word family. There was a lot of reference to family and children in the throne speech but when it comes to implementing things that help families retain the money they earn, to protect children, that help marriages succeed, the government is not there. It does not deliver.

On justice issues, there is the Young Offenders Act. Who has been the voice pressuring for changes to the YOA? The official opposition. A member of our party from B.C. brought forward a number of significant amendments and pressured the government to move. Finally we see some movement although there is some concern that again a lot of it is window dressing and substantive changes are not there.

We see cases where the government allows parole to be given to known sex offenders. They are being released into our communities. Families and communities are not aware of the potential danger on their streets.

I can continue with more items from my list but the message I want to get across to the House is that there is a litany of—

Petitions April 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to present a petition. These petitioners are joining with about 4,000 petitioners as of a week ago. We have had petitions every day on this particular topic.

They call upon parliament to withdraw Bill C-23 to affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and to ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations Act April 10th, 2000

moved:

Motion No. 117

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 193.

Motion No. 118

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 194.

Motion No. 119

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 195.

Motion No. 120

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 196.

Motion No. 121

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 197.

Motion No. 122

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 198.

Motion No. 123

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 199.

Motion No. 124

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 200.

Motion No. 125

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 201.

Motion No. 126

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 202.

Motion No. 127

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 203.

Motion No. 128

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 204.

Motion No. 129

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 205.

Motion No. 130

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 206.

Motion No. 131

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 207.

Motion No. 132

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 208.

Motion No. 133

That Bill C-23 be amended by deleting Clause 209.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present to the House the 10 top reasons Bill C-23 should be withdrawn.

The tenth reason is that the government has ignored the Egan decision of the Supreme Court which ruled that the government is not constitutionally required to extend publicly funded old age security benefits to same sex couples. The Egan decision dealt with the question of federal spousal benefits which are linked to the public purse. Clauses 192 to 209 of Bill C-23 amend the Old Age Security Act so it seems the Liberals are directly contradicting the court's decision in Egan. The Liberals are using muddy logic again and they are subjectively adhering to court decisions; some they choose and some they do not choose.

The ninth reason is that according to recent reports the Prime Minister has decreed that Liberal members will not be able to represent constituents with their voices on Bill C-23. He has insisted that this vote will be a whip vote and require that each member of the Liberal caucus votes for the bill. It has long been the position of the Canadian Alliance that the first responsibility of members of parliament is to represent the will of their constituents. Without this basic principle at work, democracy is an illusion and Canadians are in fact electing a four to five year dictatorship.

In spite of this edict from the Prime Minister, 14 Liberals had the courage to vote against the bill at second reading. Some others who had less courage hid behind the curtains and chose not to vote. If a whip vote on the bill will not work for the Prime Minister, he should see the writing on the wall and withdraw Bill C-23.

The eighth reason to rethink the bill and withdraw it is the fact that the Naskapi nation of Quebec points out that Bill C-23 overrides its treaty rights. The Cree Naskapi, whose treaty agreement is referred to in the bill, came before the committee to share its concerns about the imposition of common law, same sex partners in its cultural definition of family and what it would do to treaty rights and obligations. Members of the Cree Naskapi made a strong case that the approach the government should take was to come and talk with them and negotiate first. Let them inform the people and then perhaps have a referendum on the issue. I think the Cree Naskapi are right and I think a whole bunch of other Canadians would appreciate the same respect from the federal government on the issue.

The seventh reason to withdraw the bill is the public's reaction to it. In spite of very little media attention and that the Liberal government is trying to sneak it through under the cover of other issues, the public outpouring of concern against the bill from coast to coast has been nothing short of miraculous.

Members of parliament from all parties admit to getting large volumes of faxes, e-mails, phone calls and letters concerning Bill C-23. Most say they have received more on this issue than any other issue this session. Without exception the very great majority of citizens are calling for Bill C-23 to be withdrawn. The justice minister knows this. We cannot even get through on her fax line. The petitions against Bill C-23 are coming in like rain every day in the House. We hear them one after another.

The sixth reason to withdraw the bill is that there must be something wrong with it if when after only four hours into debate at second reading the Liberal government moved closure to stop debate in the House. At report stage and third reading it has moved closure again after one day of debate. This is an omnibus bill. It affects almost every statute, 68 in all. It will impact on 20 different departments. The bill extends all public benefits to people who were not eligible before. It has sweeping implications for our social structures.

Why will the Liberals not allow debate? Why do we have closure again, for the 67th time by the Liberal government? Is it afraid more people will find out what it is up to with the bill and hold them accountable for it come the next election? If that is not what it is, why is it being rushed through? If that is why it is pushing Bill C-23 through it is another good reason to withdraw it.

The fifth reason to withdraw the bill is the treatment it got in committee after second reading. The sweeping omnibus bill which affects 68 statutes in total got a short three and a half days to hear from witnesses in committee. Many individuals and groups with important perspectives were not allowed to present to the justice committee examining the bill. No provincial voices were heard. No travel was allowed in order to get broader public input. Witness lists were shortened.

My motion to televise the proceedings and to get broader public input were voted down by the Liberal dominated committee. The majority of witnesses that appeared before the committee were heavily weighted in favour of Bill C-23. In short, the committee process was abused to give the false impression of fair public consultation.

I know the Chair is getting excited as we get close to number one, but the fourth reason Bill C-23 should be withdrawn is that the Income Tax Act which contains a definition of family has been totally changed. It has been changed from the commonly understood definition to a new definition that will include any two people of the same sex who share accommodation for a year and have what they think is a conjugal relationship.

It is true that the section of the Income Tax Act which defines family was primarily intended for application of tax policies toward Hutterite colonies, but we can be sure that the Hutterites were not consulted to see if they felt there was any need to accommodate same sex relationships as a family. Very likely they would strongly object to that inclusion. Bill C-23 is an unwarranted redefinition of family and that is another reason it should be withdrawn.

The third reason to withdraw the bill is that prior to the bill there was a definition in law which stated what it took to be considered related to another person. This definition stated that family relations were those related by blood, marriage or adoption. This definition is also generally consistent with the Canadian Alliance policy. Bill C-23 strikes down that definition of family and redefines it to include any two people of the same sex who live together for a year in a conjugal relationship or a sexual relationship.

The intent to redefine long held understandings of what it takes to be related to someone in order to give public benefits to two men or two women who have a sexual relationship is at the very least unnecessary. This is the third reason.

The second reason to withdraw Bill C-23 is that even though it proposes to extend all the benefits and obligations that were previously reserved for marriage, it is impossible from the bill to be sure who those others are that qualify. To qualify for public marriage benefits the bill proposed that two men who live together for a year in a conjugal relationship would be included, but nowhere in the bill is the term conjugal relationship defined. Yet it is the primary qualifying criterion.

The dictionary says that a conjugal relationship is one that has sexual activity as in marriage, but when asked if sexual activity is a requirement for these benefits the government says no, maybe and probably. Sometimes it says yes. It tells us that the courts know what is a conjugal relationship. This is the second reason to withdraw Bill C-23, because it refuses to define who qualifies and drives people into the courtroom instead.

The first reason is that although the justice minister tells us repeatedly the bill has nothing to do with marriage, it in fact gives every benefit and obligation in federal public policy to same sex relationships that were previously reserved for marriage, with the exception that if one is married one must go through a divorce to formally discontinue the relationship.

The terms marriage and spouse are taken out of several of the statutes affected by Bill C-23. Bill C-23 sets the perfect legal stage for a court ruling to force same sex marriage on Canadians, and they know it. They voiced their concerns and forced the justice minister to put forward an amendment to define marriage, but she did it in such a way that expert legal opinion said the amendment would have no legal effect. Only the Canadian Alliance amendments clearly set down the definitions of marriage and spouse in every statute.

If the Liberals vote against defining marriage in an effective way in legislation, that would be the number one reason why Bill C-23 should be withdrawn.

The Senate April 10th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister and his government mismanages the tax dollars of Albertans, he also ignores their democratic choices.

In 1998 Bert Brown won Alberta's Senate election with more votes than all the Liberal candidates combined. The fact is that the Prime Minister only appoints those who will play along with his song and dance, so to speak.

Alberta's first elected senator was appointed 10 years ago. Why has the Prime Minister broken another election promise and given Albertans the Trudeau salute one more time?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad the hon. member is taking an interest in the Canadian Alliance policy. He would be wise to study the policy of the Canadian Alliance because like many other Canadians the lights may come on for the member. Who knows. Let us not give up hope.

The member will not find the statements to which he is referring in the Canadian Alliance policy. Why did that person make those statements? Let us think about it. He is the treasurer of one of the brightest lights in the country, Alberta. He is so frustrated because he could do so much within the province of Alberta but it is the weight of the federal government that limits the success of that province, the same problem that Ontario is having. I would suggest if the hon. member asked that same question of the Treasurer of Ontario, he would probably share some of the same sentiments as Mr. Day because he is so frustrated that the problem is here, across the way. He is so frustrated that he is willing to lay down his high position in Alberta to run for the head of the Canadian Alliance to see if something can be done.

I would suggest that the hon. member study that policy and maybe some day the lights will come on for him as well.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

I appreciate that ruling. I offer to the member opposite that I would table the facts that I presented in the House and he could review them at his leisure because I am confident of what I have presented.

In his second point he was singing the praises of the Canada child tax benefit. Our budget solution 17, our proposed solution to the burden the government has put on taxpayers, is not to cut it or remove it in any way. Our proposals are consistent with what the finance committee has heard from Canadians from coast to coast, to give a universal tax deduction for children to every parent for which they do not need to keep receipts and all the rest.

The government approach is to take the money away from poor families, funnel it into the bureaucracy and a year later send cheques to the families after they have had to pay for groceries, shoes, clothes and everything else. A year later here comes the cheque from the big state.

C.D. Howe pointed out that of $1.40 that goes into the bureaucracy, a dollar in benefit comes out. Continuing to pour money into the child tax benefit program on and on has become a bureaucracy benefit more than it has become a child benefit. Why does the government not just do what Canadians have been saying to do: leave the money in the pockets of taxpayers by giving a basic tax deduction. If families need help beyond that, the child benefit can be there for that purpose. But why does the government not just stop taking it away so people will have it in their cheques in the month they earn it.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, we have just seen a demonstration of the Liberal approach to dealing with facts. They throw up a smokescreen and try to undermine the facts I presented to the House. The member opposite accused me of misrepresenting the information in the marginal tax rates between Canada and the U.S.

I draw the member's attention to the fact that I was quoting from a CIBC-Wood Gundy report which very clearly stated a comparison of marginal tax rates of federal and provincial and states in the U.S. It has combined both the federal and the state tax rates. He stated that it did not do that, but it is exactly what the chart shows. If CIBC and Wood Gundy are misrepresenting the facts then maybe he would like to take it up with them. It clearly shows that the marginal tax rate between $30,000 and $60,000 for a Canadian is 40% and in the U.S. it is 26%.

This report accurately represents the state and the situation between Canada and the U.S. He has accused me that it has not. He should apologize. When we bring facts to the House, they try to undermine the facts—

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the interest of the hon. member for Calgary East. He is a very honourable member. I want to drive home a point that I did not quite finish.

How in the world can we be giving another $1 billion and more to the HRDC department that has been clearly shown by an audit funded by public money is totally out of control? For example, McGill University submitted a proposal for $60,000 to HRDC. It received $160,000. When the the audit examined the claims it should have received only $30,000.

A litany of these kinds of stories have been exposed by the audits. Did that stop the Minister of Finance from giving more money to that department? No, it did not. Yes, I will pay my taxes, but please do not send them to Ottawa to flush it away in a vote buying program.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-25 which is intended by the Minister of Finance to implement some of the changes in the most recent budget that have been spoken of in the House and reported in the press.

This most recent budget by the finance minister has received all kinds of accolades, pumped from the finance minister's office primarily. We have heard rhetoric about this budget and the changes that are going to be implemented giving Canadian taxpayers a break of about $58.4 billion.

We want to do a reality check on that. As is so often the case Canadians are presented with certain optics from the Liberal government that sound right but when we start to analyze them and break them down to what they really mean, they do not not affect the daily lives of Canadians who so desperately desire some relief from the burden of taxes the federal government continues to put on their backs. Let us break down this $58.4 billion claim of tax relief.

About $7.5 billion in the most recent budget is really a new social spending program. It is not tax relief at all. It is albeit increasing some of the child tax benefit but it does not impact the paycheque of a parent who has children at home. It is a spending program. It is not a tax relief program.

In addition there is a $29.5 billion increase over the next five years, almost $30 billion which will be taken out of the pockets of Canadians to increase the CPP premiums over the next five years. They are payroll taxes. Take that off the claim of $58.4 billion.

Even more grievous and in a sense more deceiving to the Canadian public is that $13.5 billion in scheduled tax hikes that have now been cancelled are included in the claims of tax relief. That is unbelievable. Is cancelling $13.5 billion in scheduled tax hikes really a tax cut? The government says that it will tax us and then it tells us it will not and calls it a tax cut. That is nothing but a tax cut for suckers. Canadians are not going to fall for it.

When we net all this out, it leaves us with about $7.9 billion in net tax relief spread over five years, which is about $1.5 billion a year. What does that mean for us and families across this nation? For a taxpayer, that works out to about $107 a year, $8.97 a month or $2 a week. That is the great lauded tax relief the finance minister delivered to Canadians in the last budget, which he wants us to implement with Bill C-25.

If $2 a week is not a fake tax break, I do not know what is. Canadians are not being fooled by that. It is not the first time we have seen this kind of approach to tax relief. We have seen a litany of it year after year from the Liberal government and it is affecting Canada's international competitiveness.

More and more voices are saying that we are getting deeper and deeper into trouble and that it will be very difficult to catch up. This is not just my opinion. This is the opinion of financial experts working in the finance industry in Canada and abroad. CIBC Wood Gundy produced a report which said “From a tax competitiveness standpoint, Canada ranks dead last in the G-7. While virtually every other G-7 economy lowered its personal tax burden over the last 15 years, Canada's rose sharply, both as a percentage of GDP and household income”.

We are moving in the wrong direction. The Liberal government does not seem to get that through to the finance minister and the cabinet. It is so reluctant to let go of the tax dollars that it has grabbed onto over the last number of years since it was elected that we are having to pry the dollars loose through constant public pressure.

It is not just our party, the Canadian Alliance, although we have been leaders in this since we came into the House. The reason Canadians put us here was to voice their concerns and frustrations over the weight of a central government that is a tax and spend fanatic, a taxaholic.

Listen to the voice of one of the CEO's of a leading company right here in Ottawa, Nortel, which employs 12,000 employees. Its chief executive officer is Mr. John Roth. He had some interesting things to say about the Liberal government's approach. He said that the Liberal government was moving “way too slow” when it came to promises of lower taxes. He said that Canada still trails far behind the U.S. in providing an environment where companies can recruit and retain highly sought after talent, which is the most important aspect of companies in the Internet age. This man heads up a company that employs 12,000 people and he has said that the government is moving way too slow. We agree with him.

I hear some of the members opposite saying “Well, what about the lower and middle income Canadians who are under the tax burden of the government?”. The differential between the Canadian marginal tax rate and the tax rate in the United States and in other countries is really highest at those low and middle income brackets.

This is what the CIBC study says, “Contrary to what most Canadians believe, the largest difference in tax burden in the two countries, Canada and the United States, is not at the top end of the income spectrum but in the middle band where most of the country's tax burden is carried. It is not that the rich do not pay enough, it is that the low and particularly the middle income earners pay far too much”.

I have a chart in my hand that was prepared by this company. It clearly illustrates that if people are in an income bracket between $30,000 and $60,000 in Canada, they will pay a marginal rate of 40%. In the U.S. it is 26%. That is a difference of 14%. If they are in a higher income bracket in the United States, as opposed to Canada, the marginal difference is actually smaller. The Liberal government is hammering lower and middle income families with a high marginal tax rate. If Canadians are in a $7,000 to $30,000 income, the marginal tax rate is 25%. It is only 17% south of the line. This is an 8% difference. Poor Canadian families pay more in Canada.

I am afraid that some of the members opposite have not really heard about what would bring about the revival we need in the corporate sector and the relief that low income and the working poor need from the high tax burden the government imposes on them. I will share with them the overall tax relief proposals that the Canadian Alliance has brought forward which has been endorsed by people right across the country.

What we are getting from the Liberal government is tinkering, tokenism, empty promises, window dressing and photo-ops of false, fake tax breaks that are making us nauseous on this side and frustrating Canadians. When are we going to stop and realize that taxing ourselves into oblivion and borrowing to a point where a third of every tax dollar goes to pay interest on the debt cannot continue? It has to stop. We have to turn it around. Alberta and Ontario have realized this. The two brightest lights on the economic stage in Canada right now are moving in a totally opposite direction to this Liberal government and it is working.

Prying those dollars from the hands of the tax and spendaholics across the way is a persistent challenge and one that the Canadian Alliance, and Reform Party before it, has championed on behalf of Canadians and will continue to do so.

I have some concerns with the amendments to Bill C-25 that the finance minister wants to put into the Income Tax Act. One of my frustrations is how complex the whole Income Tax Act, and all the things that go with it, is becoming. That is why we put forward a simplified tax plan that gives real tax relief.

The current federal tax code has grown from a simple 47 page document, at the end of World War II, to thousands of pages of special instructions, schedules and interpretations. The Canadian Income Tax Act fills more than 1,400 pages with another 700 pages of rules and regulations. The bureaucracy to collect taxes has grown to the point where almost 45,000 people are now employed by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, formerly Revenue Canada. It is the only federal department that continues to add people to its staff. The whole armed forces, the navy, the air force and the army, only has 60,000 people. We literally have an army of tax collectors and bureaucrats in the country just to administer the taxes. It is getting way to big.

The C.D. Howe did a study on this and said:

Canada's Income Tax Act is no longer only about tax policy. Social policy has become an increasing integral part. Whatever the merits of that side of the Act, social policy considerations have crowded out legitimate tax policy objectives.

It costs a lot of money to collect the taxes in this country. Today we are talking about Bill C-25 which will add more tinkering and tokenism and new layers of complexity to an act that is already too complex. That is why we have come forward with a simple, fair, single rate taxation solution.

It is time to significantly lower taxes for all Canadians and to reduce the cost of collecting those taxes. Our solution 17, as it has come to be known, has been endorsed by experts in the field. Some experts have said that it is a very good plan and that it is an approach to taxation that is easy to understand, fair and costs less to administer. Would that not be a breath of fresh air in a country that is so laden with tax complexity that more and more people have to take their taxes to a tax accountant and pay money to do that? I once read that it costs upwards of $12 billion in overall human cost just to prepare the taxes. If we were to put a dollar figure on all the hours that Canadians put into filing their income tax and paying chartered accountants and others to do the work, it becomes very expensive to complete our taxes in this country.

Let me quote from the WEFA Inc. Group, which does economic forecasting. The finance minister even consulted with this group and prior to his budget. In talking about the tax reduction proposals that the Canadian Alliance put forward, the WEFA group says “They are well focused on the needs of Canadians today. They expand the economy and, most powerfully, personal disposable income, consumption and our standards of living”. It also says that our tax proposals create jobs by lowering the marginal tax rates that are particularly effective in stimulating work effort and stemming the brain drain and other productivity enhancing features by powerfully reducing the level of personal income tax, particularly for Canadians of average and above average income, and are well directed at providing a more competitive tax environment in Canada relative to the U.S.

If I go back, that sounds a lot like what Mr. Roth, the chief of Nortel, said. He said that these are the kinds of changes we need, not at a snail's pace and not for photo-ops, but before we are so far behind that we cannot catch up.

The other aspect of solution 17, our simple and fair proposal that has been endorsed by the WEFA group and others, is that it addresses the need to take the working poor off the tax rolls. Why are we taking money away from working poor families in the form of taxes and then having them apply for some government program and go through whatever hoops are put in place and hopefully, some day after the kids have had to go through whatever stress the family has had, there might be a cheque that will trickle down from the big mother Liberal government to the family? That is the wrong way to go. The working poor should not be required to pay taxes. The federal government currently takes $6 billion in taxes from people who make less than $20,000 a year. It is shameful. It is picking the pockets of the poor.

Why do we tax people with low incomes? The government should not be taking the limited resources of the working poor. Some of the key aspects of our package are that we would increase the basic deduction from what it is now, which is around $6,000 or $7,000, up to a clear $10,000 basic deduction. People would not pay any tax on the first $10,000 earned. That seems abundantly reasonable.

In addition, instead of saying to the stay at home spouse or the spouse who is not working in the workforce that they are somehow of less value when they contribute by caring for the family, we would give them an equal deduction, the same deduction as someone who is employed in the workforce. That is a $10,000 deduction for the spouse. In addition, many working poor families have children. They are contributing greatly to the long term health of our nation by rearing the next generation, imparting character and caring for them.

That is why the Canadian Alliance has approved a plan that gives a straight basic $3,000 deduction for every child in a family. They do not have to keep receipts. We do not care how they choose to rear them, whether they use a relative, a friend, an institutional day care, or whatever their need may be. Because they are rearing children we recognize that they are making a social contribution and therefore a basic $3,000 universal deduction for every child would be extended to the parents.

We suggest a simple 17% marginal federal tax rate. The lowest rate that is available today would be available to all. In that way we would increase the deductions and exemptions so that lower income families and individuals are moved from the tax rolls. Some 1.9 million Canadians who are currently paying taxes would no longer have to pay tax. When they do pay tax they would pay at the lowest possible rate.

It is simple, straightforward and beneficial to families, yet the Liberal government cannot see it. According to the C.D. Howe Institute, current Canadian tax policy affords no universal recognition of children. In effect, it treats children in middle income or high income families like consumer spending, as if parents have no legal or moral obligation to spend money on their care. Those are not my words. Those are the words of the C.D. Howe Institute.

There is much that is grievous about the budget. In closing I point out that Canadians are willing to pay a certain portion of their taxes. They understand that they have to contribute to government for the benefit of our country. I do not think they mind doing it, but when taxes get so high that they can hardly breathe from the weight of it they get concerned.

Another concern is that in the budget the finance minister is proposing to give another $1.9 billion for grants and contributions administered by HRDC. Billions of dollars will go to HRDC, the same department which an audit has shown that for 15% of the grant applications there was nothing on file. There was no description of the activities. There were no results described as to the outcome. There is a lot of waste in that department. It is a tragedy.