As the tool tax issue continues to frustrate the repair industry across the country, statements and press releases have appeared in a broad range of industry publications. Ironically, perhaps the most eloquent argument for fair tool tax treatment comes from a politician. Take a look at the following excerpt from Hansard from June 5th of this year by Michel Guimond, federal Member for Beauport--Montmorency--C
A second aspect I would like to cover, which advanced somewhat last week, is Bill C-205, which I introduced in order to enable mechanics to deduct the cost of their tools. The debate has gone on in this House for some ten years. It involves a job category, a category of employees, vehicle technicians, who earn on average $29,000 a year.
No doubt, Mr. Speaker, you have a car as I do and when you go to a service station or to a dealer’s you can see how vehicle technicians, more commonly known as mechanics, are members of a category of employees that work very hard. Sometimes they have to work in very difficult conditions. Their work is very physically demanding. Most of the time they work on concrete floors, in high humidity areas, under vehicles from which water, oil and slush drip in their faces in the middle of winter. These people work in areas where oil, dust, noise and toxic fumes are the norm.
I tabled Bill C-205 because some people told me about this issue. Let me say from the outset that I am not an expert on automobiles. I am not a car buff. I have a hard time just putting oil in my car engine, but luckily I have a good mechanic who does it for me. Some colleagues have asked me “Why are you tabling this bill? Is your father or your brother a mechanic?” Not at all. It is simply a matter of common sense.
During an election campaign, or whenever we try to be receptive to people’s concerns, we talk to ordinary people, to workers. We do not only talk to millionaires. On a typical day, a member of parliament is likely to meet many more hard-working, low-income people than he or she will meet millionaires or billionaires.
It is through these encounters that I was made aware of this issue. Workers in the automobile industry told me “It does not make sense; other categories of workers, including musicians, chainsaw operators and dentists, can deduct the cost of the tools required in their employment”.
This is why I tabled Bill C-205 which, incidentally, was voted on on Tuesday. I want to take this opportunity to thank Honourable members and to congratulate them for doing so. There were 229 members in the House and 218 of them, from all parties, voted in favour of a bill introduced by a Bloc Quebecois member. I said from the outset that this was a bill that transcended party lines. This was not a debate between federalists and sovereignists; it was not a debate about Quebec versus the rest of Canada. It was simply a matter of common sense and fairness with respect to people whose work is physically very demanding.
I thank the 217 colleagues who voted with me to get this bill through second reading stage.
Mr. Speaker, you are a seasoned parliamentarian, as well as an expert in constitutional law. You know that a bill from a private member, an opposition member to boot, rarely makes it past second reading.
I deplore that 11 Liberal members voted against the bill, but they will have to live with their decision. Votes on private members’ bills are free votes, with members voting according to their conscience.
When these 11 Liberal members are visiting service stations and automobile concessions during the next election campaign, I hope that they are given a polite reception by the mechanics, who work very hard in these establishments, but they will have to explain to these mechanics in person why they voted against my Bill C-205. They will have to live with their decision. That is not my problem.
This bill will have to be considered in the Standing Committee on Finance before it can come back to the House at third reading. I hope that the next election, which is expected this fall, will not kill this bill on the order paper. I hope that the government will give the bill top priority so that it can be passed before the next election.
The four-year legal mandate is up on June 2, 2001. Last Friday it had only been three years since we were elected. Let us keep in mind that, in Canada, the legal, normal and usual mandate is four years and that, under the Canadian Constitution, up to five years are allowed before an election is called.
It is true that there is a tax cost related to this bill to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of their tools. It is true that this is going to cost the government money, but the Minister of Finance is bragging of having a $95 billion surplus over the next five years. I believe he has the financial and budgetary possibilities of accepting this bill, which would enable automobile mechanics to finally be recognized for their true value and to be allowed to deduct the cost of the tools required for their work.
Let us not forget that my purpose in tabling this bill was to help young men and women who are just finishing school. There are, unfortunately, not many young women working as mechanics but I believe that, as our society changes, it will be less and less a male-only trade, and we will see more and more girls choosing this profession.
Another purpose of this bill was to give young people the chance of getting a job. When a young person finishes school, he usual has debts because of his studies. He then goes to a car dealer or a garage looking for work and the boss is going to ask him, for a certainty, “Do you have your tools?”
We know that the most basic tool set runs between $3,000 and $5,000. There is no certainty that a young person just finishing school, with debts to begin with, is going to have that kind of money, and there is also no certainty that his parents will be in a position to help him either. Any set of tools that are the least bit specialized can run up to $30,000, $35,000 or $40,000.
The possibility of deducting the cost of tools would also be a recognition by this government of its desire to really give young people a chance and the opportunity to find work. I think the Minister of Finance ought to give some thought to this. SSGM