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Track Bernard

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is chair.

Conservative MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget April 4th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Liberals decided to invest a lot of money or rather increase the investment in innovation and research and development. My colleague really emphasized the word “increase”.

In my riding, there is a company that is preparing to launch a multimillion dollar agricultural project. I look forward to seeing whether the money that will be invested in innovation will also be spent outside the major centres. I hope it will. We know that it is always a little more difficult for those in the regions to obtain funding, particularly large amounts of funding.

I would therefore like to ask my colleague whether he can confirm today that this money will be spent not only in the major centres but also in the regions.

The Budget April 4th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

He raised an obvious and very important issue, namely the deficit. When the Liberals tell us they are handing out money left and right, to the rich and the poor, they fail to mention that they are doing so at the expense of future generations. They are putting us into an incredible amount of debt. They have lost complete control of spending. That is the Liberal reality.

During the election campaign, the Liberals clearly stated that they would run two small deficits of $10 billion each. The deficit has already reached $60 billion and will reach between $100 billion and $125 billion by the next election. As my colleague said, it is a complete sham.

I would like my colleague to take this opportunity and continue talking about this issue, because it is important.

Business of Supply March 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to ask my colleague, whom I very much appreciate by the way, if she agrees with the fact that in the years including last year and the next four years her government will have created a deficit of about $100 billion.

How can she be okay with that? I would like her to explain why she supports creating a $100-billion deficit in four years.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and especially for giving me the opportunity to respond because this is really important.

The Conservative government made some very difficult decisions in the past. We had no choice to make them because we had to balance the budget after the worst economic crisis we had ever known. That is the reality. We made choices and we stood by them.

The reality is that all the policies we implemented made it possible to balance the budget, despite the fact that we cut jobs in all departments. Today, let me repeat that the minister boasts about having been able to recover $13 billion last year. That is certainly not because of the Liberals' policies. They just came to power a year and a half ago. They did not put those practices in place in six months.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Madam Speaker, of course no government would set out to completely eliminate the taxes people pay for the services they receive. I think we need to strike a balance. Balance is the key word here. What I said in my speech is that tax avoidance is a problem in Canada.

All of the members here want to find ways to prevent that as much as possible. The member talked about my record and said I was attacking him, but he attacked us just before that. Turnabout is fair play.

All those years, the NDP voted against Conservative measures. All we did was ensure that the minister could stand up in the House today and proudly announce that her department recovered $13 billion, but she is not the one who made that possible; it was the Conservative government.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, for his speech on the NDP motion on tax evasion that is before us today.

Like all Canadians, we are concerned about the individuals and companies that try to dodge their obligations to our country and pay as little as possible in taxes. Everyone is affected by this. Like my colleague just told the House, clearly, all 338 members condemn this practice and are outraged that some individuals take steps to avoid paying taxes or to pay as little as possible.

That is why, from 2006 to 2015, the Conservative Harper government took concrete action to deal with the problem. I am talking about initiatives such as the requirement for financial institutions to report funds transfers of $10,000 or more to the Canada Revenue Agency, and the extension of the reassessment period so that the CRA has more time to reassess when certain provisions were not respected, for example, the mandatory reporting of foreign assets. We also implemented the stop international tax evasion program, which encourages Canadians to report fraudsters and even offers incentives when the information provided leads to the recovery of unpaid tax dollars in Canada.

Those are all measures that we brought in, not to mention the legislation to close 85 tax loopholes between 2006 and 2015. This allowed the previous government to recover billions of dollars, and therefore, it also allowed the minster to stand up in the House today to proudly say that she recovered $13 billion last year. The Liberals were elected a year ago, so it is not thanks to any policies they have put in place that the minister can say such a thing; it is thanks to policies that we put in place to combat tax evasion. It also allowed the previous government to recover billions of dollars and to balance the budget without increasing the tax burden on ordinary Canadians. We cannot say the same thing about the current government, which is taxing us more and more.

The Canada Revenue Agency, which receives notices regarding transfers of large sums of money from other countries, can verify whether a taxpayer has properly declared all income earned abroad, and if he has not, the agency can knock on his door and ask him to explain where the money came from.

By encouraging people to report fraudsters, the CRA can now target its investigations thanks to information that would otherwise not have been found. People boast about earning money under the table or hiding money in tax havens all the time. Such individuals say their illegal acts are okay because they already pay enough tax. Well, as they say, loose lips sink ships, and it is now easier for ordinary citizens to report fraudsters thanks to the former Conservative government.

I encourage Canadians who have relevant information to call the investigators using the tip line we set up a few years ago at 1-855-345-9042. Ordinary Canadians who witness things they want to report because they feel they are being robbed when others do not pay their taxes can call that number.

Tax evasion costs us all dearly, and we can all do our part to discourage and report it. That said, we have to understand that it is human nature to want to hold on to what we have and try to pay as little tax as possible. Like all Canadians, we always look for the best price on the things we buy. Our initiatives over the past 10 years have borne fruit, but they are just part of the solution.

We need to combat not only tax evasion, but also its root cause. Why do people want to pay less taxes? It is because they pay too much or feel as thought they are paying too much. The goal should be to make it useless and redundant to seek out ways to avoid paying taxes. Just look at the new carbon tax, which has just been introduced by the Liberal government. This tax will be applied to all products, because it basically applies to energy and shipping. It will therefore inevitably have an impact on the products and services ordinary Canadians buy every day.

I am talking about the issue of economic competitiveness, which was one of the previous Conservative government's focal points and the key to Canada's success before the Liberals came along.

Under our leadership, the corporate tax rate dropped to 15%, one of the lowest in the G7, making Canada one of the best countries in the world in which to do business in the G20, according to Forbes magazine.

Under those conditions, companies were discouraged from going elsewhere to pay less taxes. At the same time, this also encouraged foreign companies to come and set up shop here.

One of the last, but certainly not the least, examples is Burger King Corporation, which announced in 2014 that it was merging with Tim Hortons and moving its head office to Canada. It would therefore pay taxes here. Why did it decide to put the head office of this new merged firm here in Canada? Because we have competitive tax rates.

This money serves to provide benefits and social programs to all Canadians, as my colleague put it so well earlier. This means more revenue for the state in order to meet the needs of the people, as well as more job opportunities for all Canadians.

I find it a bit ironic to see the NDP, through the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, move a motion to denounce tax evasion when its policies would do the opposite. The NDP has always said that it would increase taxes in order to be able to provide more services to all Canadians. That would inevitably make businesses flee.

While our government constantly tried to make businesses more competitive, the NDP kept voting against these tax cuts over the past 10 years. In its electoral platform, the NDP even wanted to increase the corporate tax rate from 15% to 17%, and more one day.

Does the hon. member not believe that businesses would want to leave if the NDP formed the government? I have little doubt about it, myself.

The Conservative Party absolutely agrees that we must ensure that Canadians pay their fair share of taxes and that the law is upheld. Everyone agrees with that.

What does the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie hope to accomplish with a motion that is purely symbolic? A motion is a good thing. It allows us to have a discussion and share our points of view with the House. However, the reality is that a motion does not change much in the House of Commons. If there are tax loopholes that need to be closed, will the hon. member introduce a private member's bill that identifies precisely which section of the Income Tax Act needs to be amended, repealed, or added? Is he going to propose amendments to the Criminal Code in order to eliminate the practice of penalty-free amnesty?

These are all things that the member could do by introducing a bill in the House. I understand that the member has good intentions, but he is not a journalist at TVA whose job is to criticize without providing solutions.

With all due respect, that is the basic difference between two parties that have the opportunity to form a government and lead a country, and a third party that is relegated to being the opposition that criticizes instead of providing real solutions by introducing new legislation.

If a bill with concrete measures were introduced, as good legislators we would definitely take the time to carefully read it and to evaluate its merits.

I find it difficult to support a symbolic and nebulous motion, which makes reference to loopholes and tax deductions and exemptions without identifying them, and which seems to confuse tax avoidance and tax evasion, which are two completely different things.

The Environment February 17th, 2017

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government remains out of touch with the realities of the forestry industry and the regions of Quebec.

It is urgent that the government negotiate a softwood lumber agreement and put an end to the uncertainty surrounding the woodland caribou. Unfortunately, the government does not have enough information to make informed decisions on this issue.

The Minister of Environment likes to claim that her decisions are based on science. Will she make sure that her department learns more about the woodland caribou so that an informed decision can be made without giving in to the blackmail of activists?

Regional Economic Development February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the 2016 census figures show a worrisome trend in eastern Quebec. While the population of Canada increased by 5% over the past five years, the population of the Lower St. Lawrence region and the Gaspé dropped by 1.3% and 4%, respectively. Will the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development commit to scrapping the disastrous policies that prevent our businesses from keeping jobs in the region, or would he rather see our young people continue to move to large urban centres?

Employment in Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, in 2016, I embarked on a tour focusing on the tourism industry. It was such a success that, this year, from March 25 to 31, I will be going on a business tour. I will visit businesses in my riding that are looking for workers.

I will put myself in the shoes of a worker expected to take on duties related to the 1,500 vacant jobs in my riding. I want to talk about how we can better match workers to available jobs in the Lower St. Lawrence and the Chaudières-Appalaches region in order to curb the unfortunate demographic decline those regions have experienced in the past few years.

My tour will be chronicled on social media with video montages of my visits, interviews with passionate business people, and, of course, information to help job seekers apply for jobs.

Since today is Valentine's Day, and since I love my part of the country, I invite all Canadians who are looking for work to come to Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, where they will be given a warm welcome.

Income Tax Act February 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today as the MP for a rural riding with an abundance of small and medium-sized businesses and plenty of family farms that go back more than 10 generations.

The work they do contributes to Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup's prosperity and entrepreneurial culture. I want to inform my colleagues that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently named Rivière-du-Loup the top entrepreneurial city in Canada in its fall 2016 ranking, this just a year after it was recognized as the most entrepreneurial city in Quebec.

There is no doubt that my riding and Rivière-du-Loup in particular are going full entrepreneurial speed ahead.

As a Conservative, I am proud of the previous government's record with respect to job creators. Our government reduced the corporate tax rate from 22% to 15% and the small business rate to 11%. It also increased the maximum revenue threshold for small business tax rate eligibility from $300,000 to $500,000.

As an entrepreneur myself who has created 20 or so jobs over the past 25 years in the printing industry in my region, I understand the importance of maintaining a tax system that favours entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They created over 77% of all new jobs from 2002 to 2012.

People go into business for a variety of reasons. Some people are motivated by their passion, while others see a service gap that needs to be filled in their respective communities. For the most part, people go into business in order to meet their needs and those of their family. That is what I did myself in 1993 when I started my business.

We do so with the fervent hope that, one day, our children will take over our businesses, and we are eager to see them make our businesses flourish and build an even better future for our regions.

In my case, I fully intend to transfer some or all of my family business to my daughter at some point. I am extremely proud of my daughter, who has been working with me in my business for the past three years now.

I was very surprised to learn that, under Canada's current tax laws, it would be better for me to sell my business to an outside third party rather than to a member of my own family.

Essentially, when a business is sold to a family member, the difference between the sale price and the original price of the business is considered a dividend and is taxable as regular income at 100%. However, if the sale is between two strangers, the difference is considered a capital gain, only half of which is taxed.

What is more, in Canada, the lifetime capital gains exemption that normally applies to small and medium-sized businesses does not apply in this case.

What type of message does that send? Does this not discourage people from starting a business?

What we want is to ensure that our country's economic growth continues to expand. For that we need to encourage people to get into business. When people who have been in business for 25, 30, or 40 years are ready to hand over their shares to their children, it is not right to put them at a disadvantage. The same advantages should apply whether the business is sold to a third party or a family member.

An estimated 550,000 business owners are going to want to sell or transfer ownership of their business over the next decade.

According to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, over $500 billion in farm assets are set to change hands over the next 10 years. That is not to mention the over 8,000 family farms that ceased operations in the past decade. The population is aging, yet only 50% of these farm owners have a succession plan.

I would like to remind members that the Lower St. Lawrence region has one of the largest aging populations in Canada, which means that there are fewer opportunities to sell our businesses to future generations.

Given the aging population, three out of four farmers intend to retire in the next 10 years. It is therefore urgent that we correct the discrepancy in the Income Tax Act so that we are prepared for the upcoming demographic reality. That is why I support Bill C-274, which was introduced by my riding neighbour, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

This bill caught the attention of the Rivière-du-Loup RCM in the Lower St. Lawrence region, which wrote a letter in the fall indicating its support for Bill C-274. The Rivière-du-Loup RCM's chamber of commerce did the same. Support is growing across Quebec. The Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec has spoken out against the existing situation, and the Union des producteurs agricoles and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal have both indicated that they are in favour of this bill. All of the major opposition parties support this bill. It remains to be seen whether the Liberal government will also support it.

I think this is a good opportunity for the Liberals to redeem themselves after breaking their election promise to cut corporate taxes from 11% to 9%, voting for an increase in CPP contributions, and imposing a carbon tax on a still fragile economy.

Bill C-274 is an opportunity for the NDP, the Conservatives, and the Liberals to join forces and quickly pass a bill that would recognize that small businesses and family farms are important to Canadian society. I encourage each one of my colleagues to say yes to Bill C-274.

In closing, I would like to add that there is widespread support for this bill across Canada and especially in rural areas, where families create small businesses and support them from one generation to the next. I sincerely believe that these families must have this opportunity. Just imagine that I were to sell my business to my daughter. I would have to pay 100% of the tax instead of 50%. If I only had to pay 50% of the tax, I could continue to help my daughter grow her business. That money would certainly go back into the economy.

Once again, I invite all my colleagues to support Bill C-274.