The house resumed consideration in committee of Bill No. 232, to amend the Income Tax Act-Mr. Fleming-Mr. Courtemanche in the chair.
At six o'clock the committee took recess.
The committee resumed at eight o'clock.
Stanley Howard Knowles
(Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)
view of the fact that we were denied the opportunity to test the committee by a vote
Income Tax Act
on our contention as to what should be done with regard to these exemption levels, may I ask the minister if he will make a statement as to the consideration given to this matter by the government? Does he think that $250 is a sufficient exemption level for a child of school age in this day? Does he think that $500 is a sufficient exemption level for children 16 years and over, particularly when they are attending college or university? Is he prepared even now to suggest to the committee that these figures might be raised? After all, by the provision of the last subsection in this clause these changes do not become effective until the calendar year 1958. If that is the case, that they are put off until next year, would it not be possible to raise these figures to higher levels than those suggested in clause 2?
in respect of the income tax we have concentrated the benefit on persons in the low income groups.
In the light of the amendment that was introduced by the official opposition to the last budget last March, this is in keeping with the position that we took at that time and the position that we have for years taken that there should be reductions in the income tax and that principally the benefit of those reductions should be concentrated in favour of persons in the low income bracket. That is what this proposal and the others contained in the present bill accomplish. I trust that the committee will see fit to give enthusiastic endorsement to the clause.
I do not think the Minister of Finance should be allowed to get away with the statement he has just made, namely that the government came into office in the middle of the year with everything set. Only three months of the fiscal year had gone by on June 21. A government with any real energy could have brought in new proposals if they had wanted to do so.
There may very well be something in what has just been said by the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate. In the reply he has just given to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre the minister spoke about having to deal with existing conditions and said that this proposed amount was all that he felt those conditions warranted. A good many times in these discussions about financial proposals the minister has sought refuge in the fact that he was working within the framework of a budgetary pattern that was set by the previous administration. He has just done so. That contention might or might not have validity in respect of certain matters. But what the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre has pointed out is that this is a proposal that comes into effect in the next taxation year when we assume the minister, if he is still in office, will be giving us something in the nature of a real budget which will represent entirely his own thinking and the government's own thinking on this question. In view of that fact it seems to me that the argument he has been using in connection with the suggestion of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre hardly applies in connection with this question. I think that
is particularly true when we consider that we had no indication whatsoever from the government since it took office that it had intentions to increase the basic exemption of married and single persons without dependents with respect to the application of income tax.
That is to say, raising from $250 to $500 the exemption in respect of each child eligible for family allowance and raising from $500 to $1,000 the exemption in respect of each dependent not eligible for family allowance?
I will have an answer in a moment. According to the best estimate we can make in reply to my hon. friend's question, it would probably cost in addition to the present increase between $200 million and $225 million per annum.
Mr. Chairman, I wish to express my disappointment with clause 2 of this bill whereby the government proposes to increase the dependant's exemption by only $100 which, moreover, will apply only to the taxation year 1958.
In the light of the Conservatives' glowing campaign promises, we are inevitably led to the conclusion that their Niagara of promises is being doled out through a medicine dropper.
What the people of Canada were expecting was a complete review of exemptions, one which would have meant substantial exemptions for the ordinary wage earner, for instance a basic exemption of $1,250 for single people and $2,500 or $3,000 for married people, over and above the normal exemptions for dependants, whether or not family allowances are received.
The best way to help large families share in the wealth of this country is to raise the rate of family allowances, as was done by the Liberal government but which the present Conservative administration, so far, has failed to do in its unawareness that human values are still our greatest asset.
A student of dentistry, whose parents live in my constituency, was telling me recently how hard it is for him to get by financially because of the income tax. It's all he can do to earn a wage which does not even cover his tuition fees, food and board, and though he passes up well-deserved holidays so as to keep his job, he has to pay out $200.00 a year in income tax. His parents, in poor circumstances, are unable to help put him through dental school. It seems to me it is high time that generous exemptions be allowed to students who find it so hard to pay for their tuition and where parents pay for a son or daughter's college education, special exemptions like these should be allowed so that children of parents of modest means will not be debarred from higher learning because of financial difficulties.
I know of this through personal experience of financial instability during my own university years, and you may rest assured, Mr. Chairman, that this group of students in modest circumstances, caught between a legitimate ideal and the dictates of primo viver, have my fullest sympathy.
I am making this suggestion while the bill is being introduced, hoping that the legislators may soon give consideration to students who are bleeding themselves white to pursue an ideal which will soon benefit society as a whole. It is therefore a duty for society to make it as easy as possible for these young people to reach their goal. There is no better way of brightening the future than by lessening today's burden.