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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Nepean (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 1993, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Reform Party May 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party has chosen in the 11th hour to discipline the member for Athabasca for his bigoted comments against gays. Unfortunately, for the people of Canada who have been hurt by the continuous stream of harmful and discriminatory comments made by Reform MPs, the action is too little and much too late.

Why has he not asked for the resignation of those three MPs making discriminatory comments: the members for Nanaimo-Cowichan, Athabasca and Wild Rose?

Further, why did he not take action against the member for New Westminster-Burnaby in December 1994, who offended all Canadians when he blamed women for domestic violence? What does the leader of the third party have to say to the member for Macleod who says that unwanted sexual touching is not an act of violence?

The leader of the third party dismisses his members' comments as politically incorrect. He has never apologized. I say shame, shame, shame.

Supply April 29th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the opposition motion put forward by the member for Fraser Valley West, the victims' bill of rights.

Crime and victimization are complex and challenging social problems. The government believes dealing with these issues requires a thoughtful, informed and long term approach, one that deals with the early causes of crime.

A two-month old baby is left to cry when he needs comfort so that he will not be spoiled. A three-year old girl hears her dad abuse her mom one more time. A pregnant woman has another drink. What do these situations have to do with crime prevention and community safety? As isolated incidents maybe not a lot, but when they represent patterns for these children, the outcome may have an impact on crime and victimization.

Under the safe homes, safe streets initiative, the government formed the Canadian National Crime Prevention Council, an independent council of 25 volunteers from across the country. Its main focus is on the needs of children and youth and its commitment is to crime prevention through social development.

Thanks to the council's work we are discovering some of the links, links between what happens to children from the prenatal stage to six years old and what becomes of them as adolescents and later as adults in our communities. The child victim often becomes the criminal offender. The reasons for this are varied and complex.

We know quite a bit about the childhood experiences of persistent offenders. We want to apply this knowledge to help children and families when they need it most. Poverty can bring with it a host of threats to children, including poor health, high family stress and difficulty forming warm, secure attachments to caregivers.

Risks to a fetus, including fetal alcohol syndrome and low birth weight, may affect a baby's brain development which can lead to hyperactivity, emotional problems and then to school failure, a risk factor in itself of delinquent behaviour. When parents do not get along and are unresponsive or overly authoritarian, children are also at risk. Socially competent children need emotionally available parents.

The community and the broader society in which our children grow can make a tremendous difference, not only in terms of financial support but also by encouraging resilience in high risk children. Resilient children who succeed despite having the odds stacked against them share certain traits. Many of these protective traits result from family and social influences.

Optimism for example has its roots in infancy, in a child being able to count on life feeling good. Competence, another such trait, depends on the support, encouragement and opportunities provided by interested adults. If a parent cannot provide the support, then another relative, a family friend or member of the community can step in and fill the gap.

Although much of this knowledge may seem like common sense, it must not be ignored when we develop policies and programs in response to crime and victimization. The lessons of early prevention are often pushed aside in the rush for harsher penalties for young offenders. There is even a demand by some for more of those charged with non-violent crimes to be imprisoned. This response may reflect our empathy for victims but it does not get at the underlying factors which lead to crime.

What do parents, families and communities need to nurture children in loving, supportive environments? If a child or teen breaks the law, what is the best way to intervene, to repair the harm done to the victim and to prevent a second crime? A victims bill of rights would not protect a child from abuse, provide him with a hot breakfast or a sympathetic ear. The way to prevent Canadians from becoming victims in the first place is to nurture, value and protect our children. For it is the neglected, abused and mistreated child who is most likely to find himself or herself involved in criminal activity later in life, a pattern that can be broken before it is too late.

The National Crime Prevention Council has been working in this vein on a prevention guide book for Canadians. The guide book will explain how crime and victimization can be traced back to childhood and how we can prevent crime from happening in the first place. I am sure that members of the House join me in looking forward to the launch of the guide book at the June Atlantic crime prevention conference in P.E.I. Early prevention is the key.

I am pleased to advise the House and the member for Fraser Valley West that I will support this motion. It is a step in the right direction. However, we must focus on the formative years of our children to ensure they do not reach a state where they are heavily involved in crime.

Drunk Driving April 29th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, recently in my riding of Nepean three tragic deaths have been the result of drinking drivers. I refer to the loss of life of Dr. Michael Agapitos, Linda LeBreton Holmes and her son Brian.

Despite proclaimed amendments to the Criminal Code, cases before the courts are consistently being stayed, unnecessarily delayed or even dismissed. Grieving families, like the Agapitos and Holmes families, experience prolonged and unnecessary suffering due to court delays.

The Canadian justice system and the provincial court system must bring their full weight to bear on these criminals. The laws are there. They are in place. The courts and all Canadians must demonstrate zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act March 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, had I been here for the vote I would have voted with my party.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Racism March 19th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians we cherish the values of dignity and decency. We believe in fairness and freedom. We honour our reputation for generosity and

compassion. We know of the importance of respecting differences. We realize that citizenship brings obligations as well as opportunities. As Canadians we have achieved great things together.

The Prime Minister said in his address to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations:

The highest hope of the global community is to achieve what we in Canada have achieved for ourselves. A means of living together in peace and understanding. Not an answer to every problem, but a means to pursue those answers together-with respect, tolerance, accommodation and compromise.

This is the message to be given of March 21, the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination.

Child Support March 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is very appropriate during International Women's Week that the finance minister as part of his annual budget would include changes affecting child support. These changes affect the most needy in our society, namely women and children. It is primarily the children of Canada who are experiencing hardship as a result of marriage breakdown and subsequent divorce.

Few Canadians think it is right to tax child support as income to one parent while giving a tax break to another. These changes to child support will ensure that the benefits will reach the children it is targeted for and will update a law designed over 50 years ago.

I say bravo to the finance minister, justice minister and the revenue minister.

Child Tax Benefit Program December 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Revenue. Under the child tax benefit program Revenue Canada's responsibilities are to calculate the amount of each benefit, maintain each account and respond to inquiries.

Revenue Canada now has the added responsibility of determining who is entitled to the benefit. Can the minister explain to the House how this change has improved the child tax benefit program?

Income Tax Act December 1st, 1995

moved that Bill C-241, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child support payments), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House today to speak to my private member's Bill C-241, an act to amend the Income Tax Act so that child support payments are not taxable as income for the recipient. As well, it includes child support payments within the meaning of earned income for the purposes of child support deductions.

It is important to ensure that a tax free child support payment to the custodial parent is initiated and that a more appropriate and limited tax credit is equitably distributed to child support payers. I do not suggest what the specific credit should be. I believe it more appropriately falls within the purview of the Minister of Finance.

Bill C-241 is an issue which is very important to me and one with which I have been associated for a number of years. It became clear to me that the taxation of child support payments was a significant concern to many people in the riding of Nepean and to individuals across the country. I continue to receive letters from many people who are experiencing great difficulty as a result of the existing tax laws.

On February 23, 1994 my Motion No. 14 was placed on the Order Paper, deemed votable, debated and adopted on May 30, 1994. The motion at that time read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the Income Tax Act so that child support payments are no longer considered taxable income for recipients.

However, the government of the day has still not responded to the motion.

The 1994 budget recognized perceived inequalities in the tax treatment of child support and committed itself to exploring ways to improve the system to ensure, first and foremost, that the needs of children are met. However, as of this date, as I said, the government has still not moved on it.

The Minister of Justice indicated his intention to address the issue of child support guidelines and enforcement. I will be looking forward to hearing from him. Bill C-241 only asks for changes to the treatment of income tax for child support which falls under the purview of the Minister of Finance.

The current tax treatment of child support payments makes a very complicated issue out of one that should be as straightforward and as simple as possible. It is most important that it is children who now bear the immediate consequence because the current system is not providing the effect it was designed to produce. If the current policy is not changed it is the children who will go on paying the consequences every day, not just in some cases and not by accident but deliberately because of our failure to redesign an outdated tax mechanism.

This is not just a tax issue but one of wider social justice that affects the well-being of Canada's children and of Canada's future.

The tax treatment of child support payments allows a payer to deduct the full amount of the payment from his income while the recipient must include the full amount in hers. The policy has been criticized as discriminatory to women because it places an unfair tax burden on the custodial parent, and the custodial parent is usually the woman and the one who is responsible for the children.

How this situation evolved can be partially explained by historical changes in the patterns of the lives of men and women in Canada over the past half century. The current tax treatment of child support was initiated in the 1940s, probably just after World War II, and reflects the social realities of that time.

There are historical reasons for the bill. From 1940 to 1992 there have been significant changes in society and government policy which lead to the question of whether or not this tax policy also requires revision.

When the current policy was developed it was designed to provide relief to the taxpayer burdened with both a post-war increase in taxes and the obligation of spousal and child support. The father was typically the sole wage earner and the primary taxpayer in the separated family. It was logical at that time that tax relief be targeted to him.

In the current reality both parents are considered individual within our tax structure today. Even those who do not pay taxes file their own tax returns to have access to benefits delivered through the income tax system. Most lone parents also have paid work and pay taxes on their own earned income whether or not they receive support.

The labour force participation of all women has been steadily increasing, including women with children. In 1988, 62.2 per cent of women with partners and a child under five years of age were in the labour force and 73 per cent for those with children aged six to fifteen years. With lower fertility rates and a later age of first birth, women are spending more time in the paid labour force. This allows women to establish some earning power before interruption for child birth and care.

The labour force participation of women who are lone parents is also increasing. In 1988 the rate was 51 per cent for those with children under five and 72.3 per cent for those with children six to fifteen.

While women are increasingly participating in the labour force they are still concentrated in lower paying and less secure forms of employment. The wage gap is narrowing extremely slowly. Canada is not narrowing the gap as quickly as many other industrialized nations. For example, women's relative wage in Canada in 1990 was 67.6 per cent of men's, compared with Australia at 87.9 per cent and France at 81.8 per cent.

Due to changing economic conditions most families now require the labour force participation of women. Even for two-parent families two incomes are needed to maintain a single household. Upon divorce family resources are often inadequate to continue to meet children's needs as two households must be maintained.

Most lone parents continue to be solely or primarily responsible for the financial needs of children. One of the key reasons for this phenomenon is the high rate of default on child support awards, estimated in the province of Ontario to be disgracefully around the 75 per cent level.

There have been numerous policy changes since 1940 which have had a significant impact on the situation of women, families with children and lone parent families in particular. In 1970 the report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women documented women's economic and social disadvantage in Canada for the first time. Since 1976 there has been a federal policy commitment to examine the impact of programs and policies on women. This was reinforced when the charter of rights and freedoms came into force.

Better research and data collection as a result of this work continues to identify and describe the feminization of poverty and its direct relation to the unpaid work involved in raising children and other tasks related to human maintenance.

There has been decreasing support for families with children through the tax transfer system over the past two decades. For example, the value of deductions and credits for children as a proportion of income has been steadily reduced. The reduction of the number of tax brackets to three and other changes to deduction and credits have all had an impact on families and on the tax treatment of child support.

Divorce law has evolved from a system based on fault to a no-fault system. Under the no-fault system there is an increasing tendency for support orders to focus on the children with the expectation that women, even those who are not in the labour force, will become self-supporting in an unreasonably short period of time.

There is growing political support for the plight of lone parents. Provincial governments are trying to crack down on non-custodial parents, usually fathers, who are not making their support payments to their children. Growing welfare rolls have spurred the search for alternatives and particularly the need to make fathers responsible for their children.

The women's movement, in combination with economic and policy changes, has reinforced women's need for and right to both paid work and a sharing of family responsibilities. My previous comments highlighted several significant changes in Canadian society from the forties to the nineties. Individuals and families are in very different situations today than in the forties. Given these changes it is timely to ask whether our tax policy on child support is still meeting the original goals of providing tax relief to the tax burdened and encouraging the payment of child support.

My bill is intended to bring the tax treatment of child support payments into the context of the world we live in today. I am cognizant of the increasing levels of child poverty. Any and all changes considered must focus on this fact as the guiding principle.

The general consensus is that the non-custodial parent benefits from the current tax policy, not the children. Presently the total child support award rarely specifies the total needs of the child and the specific amounts needed to compensate for the tax owing on this amount.

Actual evidence on the current levels of child support demonstrates that average support payments are low and would rise considerably with the introduction of guidelines based on actual expenditures on children. If the support award is not high enough to meet the children's needs, it cannot compensate for the tax owing. In practice the tax system further reduces the already inadequate amount available for the children.

Even if a support award is adequate to meet the children's needs calculating the gross up, which is the amount set aside for tax purposes, and deciding how to split any tax saving are extraordinarily complex.

In the Thibaudeau case the Federal Court of Appeal ruled invalid under the charter of rights and freedoms the requirement that the parent who has custody of a child include child support payments as income. Since the decision did not deal with the deductibility of child support by the payer, it left in question how the tax will be

paid on income directed to child support. Following the finding of a Federal Court of Appeal, the attorney general asked that the Thibaudeau decision be suspended while an expedited appeal was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada. On May 25, the supreme court handed down its decision and supported the existing provisions.

The result of the appeal, the court ruled five to two, was that it is not unconstitutional to require the custodial parent who receives child support payments to pay the taxes on that money. However the question of taxation of child support was not totally resolved by the supreme court decision.

Madam Justice Beverly McLachlin of the supreme court was one of the two dissenting judges in that decision. She wrote in her dissenting opinion:

The impugned taxation scheme imposes a burden on separated or divorced custodial parents which it does not impose on separated or divorced non-custodial parents.

The custodial parent must include child support payments from which she gains no personal benefit. The non-custodial parent may deduct support payments from his taxable revenue.

The inequality between the custodial and non-custodial spouse is exacerbated by the fact that the latter enjoys an automatic and absolute right of deduction of support payments from personal income, while the former's ability to offset the increase in her taxes by obtaining an adjustment of support is unpredictable.

Not only must the custodial parent request any adjustment from the court but it is not always certain that the court will correctly assess the tax impact or will award a sufficient amount to enable the recipient to discharge her additional burden.

The logic of a deduction inclusion scheme is further called into question by the fact that our society strongly encourages women to obtain financial self-sufficiency and, in pursuit of that essential objective, to increase their income. The higher the income of the custodial parent, the greater will be her tax rate and the more she will be penalized by the requirement of including the amount of child support in computing her own taxable income.

One of the premises on which the logic of the deduction inclusion scheme rests, that custodial parents are generally subject to a lower tax rate than those who pay the child support, is less and less in accord with present reality and undermines the importance our society places on women attaining financial self-sufficiency.

I might add that if we take families where the husband, the wife and the children remain as the family unit, when the husband gives money to the wife to support the children she is not taxed on it. Nor is he given a deduction. The way it is set up is unfair to the whole family unit.

Following the Thibaudeau decision the government stated its intention to announce a comprehensive approach to reforming the child support system including guidelines to determine the amounts, the tax treatment of payments and the enforcement of child support orders.

Let me refer to why the current system is not working. According to research done by Karen Cooper and Ellen Zweibel on the current system of deduction inclusion, there is a gap between tax theory and family experience. The deduction inclusion as designed is expected to produce an overall tax savings for the ultimate benefit of the children in divorced and separated families. Custodial mothers have made it clear the current system undermines their ability to support their children and increases their vulnerability to poverty.

Fathers from the highest income group obtain the most tax savings when paying support to custodial mothers who have not yet fully entered the job market. Little or no overall tax savings accrue when separated parents are either both low income earners or are both moderate income earners. In a minority of cases, the provisions can even have an opposite effect.

SCOPE, which is an Ottawa based support group for custodial mothers, in its report to the parliamentary task force examining the current system of taxation of child support payments, described how the current system is impacting on the lives of custodial parents. I will quote from the submission:

How they have had to apply for bank loans, borrow money from friends and family, cash in RRSPs, or have been subject to collection proceedings from unpaid taxes.

However, if the non-custodial parent doesn't make full child support payments, the custodial mother must still pay a portion of the partial payment in income tax-Although she cannot meet all the children's budgeted-for expenses from the partial support payment, what she does receive shrinks even further because of the income tax burden. How, after struggling for months and years to get by without full support payments, when they do manage to collect the support arrears, the tax owed on those arrears is often greater than they would have been if the amount had been paid on time.

The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in its submission to the same task force stated:

In summary, the government's main policy justification fails custodial mothers and their children. Rather than providing greater resources for children, the current tax policy puts greater pressure on the custodial mother. First, she must bargain with the non-custodial father and/or his lawyer for an income tax "gross-up". There is no guarantee the income tax "gross-up" will be included: in some cases he does not have enough tax savings to pay a "gross-up"; in other cases, he may not agree to it or the judge may order a lower amount.

Whenever the custodial mother is unsuccessful in getting a fully tax-augmented child support award, she must stretch her already limited budget to cover the income taxes. When the non-custodial father makes only a partial payment, the custodial mother is left without enough funds to meet the children's budgeted needs and yet the already insufficient amount she received is still further reduced by income taxes. For those important reasons, the Canadian Advisory

Council on the Status of Women strongly recommends repeal of the current inclusion/deduction provisions.

In summary, the movement to reform the income tax treatment of child support has been ongoing since the 1970s. It received significant attention in the 1990s for a number of reasons. The work of the federal-provincial-territorial family law committee which over a period of almost four years oversaw original research on child support in Canada, reviewed the research results and consulted widely with Canadians representing custodial and non-custodial parents and with experts in the child support area.

My previous motion that I mentioned earlier in the House of Commons has essentially raised the visibility of the issue. The Thibaudeau case has further brought attention to this matter.

The parliamentary task force was headed by the Secretary of State for the Status of Women who is in the House today. I wish to comment on the good work that she and two of our colleagues on the task force did in their travels across the country, holding round table discussions. The input they received was heart rending, emotional and traumatic. This has further raised the profile and the importance of the need for change.

It is my hope that the debate in the House of Commons today will once again move this issue to the forefront. To quote C. Brock Chisholm from a speech in Washington, C.D. in 1945:

The most important thing in the world today is the bringing up of children.

Designing fairer, simpler systems of providing tax relief is essential in order to respond to the needs of children whose parents live apart. We must remember this as we draft the laws which impact on our children. Their welfare must determine our priorities.

Auditor General Act November 28th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, had I been here for the last vote I would have voted with the government on the last bill and I will so vote with the government on this bill.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Hans Daigeler November 24th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to Mr. Hans Daigeler, who tragically died on November 9, 1995, at the young age of 50 years.

Hans represented the provincial riding of Nepean from 1987 to 1995. He was a very special man, whose basic goodness impacted on all of us who knew him. His loyalty to the riding of Nepean and its people was legion. This commitment permeated his community, his province, and his country through all his interventions in the Ontario provincial legislature.

I knew Hans well. He was both my friend and my provincial Liberal colleague. His memory will live on through the dignity, compassion and justice that he so personified. To his wife Beverly, his son Christopher, and daughters Elyssa and Amanda, I offer my heartfelt sympathy.

We will miss you, my friend.