November 27, 1979

LIB

Peter A. Stollery

Liberal

Mr. Stollery:

A bad copy. I know that other members have brought up the question of fairness and the fact that this scheme is inequitable. I just want to go over it very briefly once more. This scheme will not create one job. It is probably inflationary. This scheme is a fine, a penalty against people who have paid for their homes and who will pay for the scheme. It is a penalty, a fine, against older people who have for some reason sold their homes because they were too large to keep. It is a penalty against widows in large centres many of whom, if not most, decided at some point to sell their houses because they were too much trouble to keep up and who then moved into apartments. These people are going to be penalized and fined by the government. This is a fine against anyone who happens to like living in an apartment. It is a fine against anyone who wants to live, as has become fashionable, in the downtown areas of our large and great Canadian cities.

The minister in his remarks on Monday of last week spoke about this being a measure to help urban people. He said that for the first time this was a measure not meant for suburban people or people in developments, it was meant for urban people.

I represent an urban constituency. The minister also pointed out that members of his party from urban communities supported this measure. There are not too many members of his party from the central parts of Canadian cities. We all know what happened to "de Cutback'' after his six months. We all

know what happened to the sixth-month member from Eglin-ton and the six-month member from Parkdale. Those are parts of urban centres whose residents do not think the scheme was so hot. In any of those ridings you will find thousands of homes paid for by the owners, and in many cases these owners have lived in them for many years. These people saw through the scheme. They knew they were going to get penalized. They knew this during the election campaign. They knew that they were the group that had been identified by these characters over here, and by "plasticman", the convoluted, slipping-through-the-keyhole character that we now have for our Prime Minister. They knew that this group has identified sectors in the community to be penalized, sectors where, if you put a little group together, you would squeeze through even though half a million less voted for them. They knew that and they know it still.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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LIB

Peter A. Stollery

Liberal

Mr. Stollery:

This gentleman over here-I do not know his name or where he comes from-certainly has a loud mouth. He will not be here long. I ask him to keep it down while I finish my remarks.

I can only say that those of us on this side of the House who try to keep abreast of what this government is not doing are waiting. We are waiting for a decision on energy policy. We are waiting for a budget. We are waiting for the conditions to be evolved that will finally bring down interest rates which the Minister of Finance insists are so temporary.

We read articles in economic journals about interest rates. I quote from such an article the following:

Mr. Peter Sternlight, the man in charge of open market operations at the New York Fed, met dealers in government paper who trooped to Liberty Street for enlightenment with the honest but unnerving reply that "we are in the midst of a learning process ourselves."

This is the attitude that has given us the highest interest rate in the shortest time in Canadian history. We would like the Minister of Finance who is, after all, in charge of the sixth largest economy in the western world to expose us to just some of his original thoughts, to some idea of what kind of economic program he is going to give us. Would he please stop his colleagues in cabinet from giving us one more of these totally irrelevant buy-off-the-voter programs'? Though one question the need for increased deficits at this time in our economic history, one certainly wonders about the $3 billion expense here, and one certainly knows full well that the $3 billion is going to come from people in the lower income groups in this country. One wonders about that. On the other hand, if a tax cut was proposed in the context of a larger economic picture where we could see some benefit-not just giving people money, not just running the printing presses but as part of an economic program, which the current government said it would bring in, if we could see something like that, then there are those of us who might consider voting for it.

I cannot in all honesty tell my constituents that I support the government in proposing a scheme which very few in my area can possibly benefit from, but which nearly all of them will be

November 27, 1979

paying for until the government comes forward with proposals based on more sound principles. I can assure hon. gentlemen opposite that there will definitely be an election sooner than later. I can tell them now that the Canadian people will not stand for a government that lets weeks go by and proposes nothing, except trying to buy-off sectors of the community. I can assure hon. gentlemen and ladies opposite that that cannot be allowed to continue. Those of us on this side will do our best vigorously to ensure that the Canadian electorate, and people who cannot see through these schemes as quickly as they should at times, are kept well informed. It all bodes very ill for the government, but sadly for the Canadian people.

We are now in the opposition. Some of us like myself were quite a few years over on the other side, longer than will be some members there now.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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?

An hon. Member:

That is what you think.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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LIB

Peter A. Stollery

Liberal

Mr. Stollery:

We think that Canada is a great country that requires coherent government. Just because we are not in government does not mean that we do not want to see Canada governed well. We want to see Canada have a government that has some ideas and things to offer the Canadian people. This is the great tragedy that we are living through. I can only hope that this tragedy does not continue any longer.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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NDP

Robert Joseph Ogle

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bob Ogle (Saskatoon East):

Mr. Speaker, I hope that I will be able to put into concrete terms many of the suggestions that were made in the last speech and use another style to present them.

We are in a very serious situation. I wish to begin my remarks on Bill C-22 by situating the debate on this legislation within the broader issue of providing decent housing and adequate living standards for all Canadians. Surely everyone here agrees that shelter is a fundamental human need, and therefore in a society as blessed with material resources as ours it should be a fundamental social right of all our citizens. It is incumbent upon governments at all levels to see that this human right of Canadians is respected and acted upon. That that has not been the case in the past is all too apparent to anyone who opens his or her eyes and ears. 1 hope that we can discuss these problems and their solution with open minds and hearts.

We do not need a recital of statistics to know that there are still many Canadians who do not enjoy the quality of housing to which those of us more fortunate are accustomed. We need only visit and talk to people in the north, on Indian reservations, in our inner cities and depressed regions to know that this is so. In Canada right now there are millions of people living in substandard housing, millions who are having great difficulty bearing the carrying of operating costs on their homes, and still millions of others who are having to give up their dream of owning their own home.

1 am not saying there has been no progress in housing production in recent decades. It is certainly true that Canada

Mortgage Tax Credit

comes off very well when compared to conditions in countries in the Third World, conditions with which I am personally familiar. I would like to speak for a moment to the type of housing in which most of the world now lives.

In the area of South America where I spent a number of years of my life, northeast Brazil, the standard house was the kind of house that most people now on this planet have as their house. It is literally made out of sticks and mud with a thatched, palm leaf roof, lacking what we call the basic necessities of what makes it possible to live a human life. It is a dwelling with a mud floor, without furniture, bedding, water or sanitation, and by its very nature is a trap for disease. It is a dwelling with rats, lizards and insects.

I wish to give a case in point to illustrate this reality. For many of the people in that area their house was literally a death trap. When the mud dries on the walls, there is a little insect called the barbeiro which crawls into the cracks in the mud walls. At night it comes out and bites those who are there. The next day these people do not know they have been bitten. However, the insect has deposited in their very bodies the seeds of death. It is a kind of fluke, a little bug that travels through the bloodstream and finally ends up in the heart. It eats out the interior of the heart and ten to 12 years after the person has been bitten, he withers away and dies.

I make this point now not because there is this type of bug in Canada but because one of my colleagues who now works in the inner section of Montreal told me that, on returning to Canada after working with me for six or seven years in northeast Brazil, he was surprised there was such a similarity between the housing for the poor in Montreal and the housing for the poor in northeast Brazil. Canadians must remember that these kinds of miseries exist in our midst.

It is true that in Canada we have succeeded in building a large housing industry, but we have done much less in seeing to it that the benefits from this increase in enterprise and production are available to everyone at a reasonable and affordable cost as a matter of social right. Moreover, while governments, federal and provincial, have sought to assist and stimulate this industry through various tax and fiscal measures, through programs and agencies bearing a plethora of acronyms such as HUDAC, AHOP, MURB, CHIP, GPM, NIP, RRAP-so many words have been put together to disguise some mode of acting that it is almost like having to learn a new language-these programs have done much less well at ensuring that these budgetary measures, programs and agencies were in fact meeting the real housing needs of people, in particular the needs of low income earners or those who are, through no fault of their own, unable to support themselves and are those with special needs. Here I would mention the handicapped, students, pensioners, new immigrants, native people, people in the far-flung communities of the north and in remote, outlying areas. Let us take to heart that these are Canadians, people who live among us, our brothers and sisters who live in a situation that should not be tolerated in our country.

November 27, 1979

Mortgage Tax Credit

So far in this debate our Liberal and Tory friends, those representatives of the centre right parties of this country, have been more interested in scoring political points than in addressing the real housing needs of our people. That sort of partisan pettiness is not what motivates those of us who speak on behalf of our constituents through the New Democratic Party. It is not what motivates those who, with us, make common cause for a socially just housing policy for Canadians.

Earlier in the debate the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) honoured us on this side of the House by referring to the opponents of his regressive and insensitive policies as an unholy coalition of baneful bureaucrats, raving radicals and "middle class trendies". In view of the minister's eloquent description of our social justice and equity-in a word, fairness-in Canadian public policy, I would like to quote, for the edification and enlightenment of members opposite, several sections from the pastoral message of the Canadian Catholic Bishops on the occasion of the Habitat 1976 conference in Vancouver. The bishops' pastoral message, entitled simply "Decent Housing for all", reads in part as follows:

Canada, despite its abundant wealth, has not yet managed to provide all of its population with a decent shelter. Here and there we have our own grey areas of substandard dwellings that call to mind conditions in developing countries. Particularly in large cities, behind a screen of skyscrapers, wide avenues sometimes conceal blighted areas teeming with newcomers, unemployed workers, low wage-earners or members of ethnic minorities. The development of suburbia has given rise to similar results. Alongside well appointed and serviced new residential areas are clusters of huts or shacks without essential services such as running water, adequate heating, transportation and sewers. In such marginal communities, the infant death rate is twice as high as the Canadian average. And that rate is higher still among Indians and the Inuit; strange contrasts between two worlds that face each other from afar and do not meet.

The bishops went on to say in the same pastoral letter:

To avoid swelling the ranks of the needy it will not be enough to build thousands and thousands of houses. We will first need to know where to build them, where to find the required capital, and what types of dwellings are necessary for human community. That is why Canada must urgently adopt policies calculated to protect its citizens, especially its low wage earners, against galloping inflation of house building costs.

Remember, this was written almost four years ago.

It must protect citizens against rising mortgage rates, real estate speculation, increased costs of building materials, higher rents, etc.

We all know these are the things we were warned about five years ago. They have become the reality of today because we let them get out of hand. I think I share with many members of this House and with the Canadian public at large an interest not only in the future of our country but in the future in general. We are only some 30 days or so away from the 1980s and in a few years we shall be face to face with the year which has been set before us as a kind of symbol of the future-1984. It is in this light that I should like to read one more section from the pastoral letter I have been quoting:

Of course, Canada in the year 2000 will be quite different from what it is now. What is really important is that it become the country Canadians want it to be. This all depends on our common dream and our collective ability to make that dream come true. Do we want a society whose over-all priorities will be determined solely on the basis of economic principles? Do we want a society which perpetuates social differences, discrimination between the affluent and the

destitute, between posh areas and slum-dwellings? Or would we rather have a society in which people are foremost? Our task, therefore, is to define clearly the links we wish between profit, consumption and the quality of life for us all: housing for people or housing for profits? Food for the hungry, or food as a market commodity? Thus, it is not that economic means are lacking: the problem is to find the will to restructure our society and reorder its priorities.

That is the end of the passage I have selected to read from that document because I believe it touches at the very base of the question.

We must have the will to do these things because it would seem we have the ability and the material. In addition to the document I have quoted I might have mentioned Peter Spurr's excellent study on land and urban development, the incisive review of Canadian social housing policy put out by the Canadian Council for Social Development, or the many recommendations of Canadian non-governmental organizations, a number of which were accepted but never acted upon by the Liberal government of the day, that decent housing be treated as a priority social utility and not as just another market commodity. Does the Minister of Finance really believe that all these distinguished individuals and organizations are just a bunch of extremists or misguided "middle-class trendies"? If he does, I would warn him that the language of petty insult is a very slim foundation on which to rest a government.

We in the New Democratic Party are not afraid of the verdict of the Canadian people on this issue. The Minister of Finance thinks he has a Christmas goody in his tax credits, but as long as this ill-starred government lasts we will credit the people of Canada with enough sense to see through his arrogance and bankrupt arguments.

Surely, the test of any government is how well it attempts to meet the needs of all the citizens it was elected to represent. And, surely, the measure of any single piece of legislation is how well it contributes to that noble goal of government. By that standard, Bill C-20 is a meagre and cynical effort indeed. The Minister of Finance has at least recognized the inequity of a tax deduction and changed it to a tax credit. As my hon. friend from Regina East (Mr. de Jong) has stated, we shall be moving amendments in committee to try to salvage something for the millions of ordinary Canadians who have been forgotten by this bill. We want a comprehensive social housing policy which will provide a mix of good, affordable accommodation capable of meeting the needs of all Canadians.

The minister has given us only a piecemeal sop to work with. His statement that our party does not want Canadians to own their own homes is patent nonsense and unworthy of a minister of the Crown. The fact is that his bill assists those who already have large mortgages, regardless of income, far more than it assists renters of modest means to enter today's prohibitive mortgage market. Coupled with the hon. gentleman's disastrous high interest rate policy, the net effect of this government's program will be a decrease in housing starts, not an increase as they pretend. All this for the sake of a foolhardy election promise, and all this without once addressing the real issues of affordability and equity.

November 27, 1979

I shall not repeat the excellent arguments of previous speakers from my party with regard to the many specific weaknesses of this bill, but I should like to call attention to several of the most glaring ironies that surround this ill-considered piece of legislation. Ever since taking power the government has been wringing its hands about the size of the federal deficit, which it blames on Liberal mismanagement. But after six months on the job what is the sum total of Tory brilliance as reflected in this paltry proposal before us? It is a tax welfare scheme which will do nothing for renters, the poor and the many older Canadians who have paid off their mortgages through years of hard work. It is a welfare scheme which will get us nowhere in terms of a fair social housing policy for people of all ages and means in every part of Canada, though it will commit the federal government to successively greater cash outlays amounting to billions of dollars in a few years.

The government is asking us to support a welfare band-aid which will not only be discriminatory, regressive and ineffectual but will be inflationary and a growing burden on the federal treasury to boot-the wrong kind of burden, I might add, because it is the kind of government spending which divides Canadians and which economists have shown to be a dismal failure from a cost-benefit standpoint. This sorry piece of legislation will not achieve its stated objectives but will be an albatross around the necks of governments to come, an albatross which will weigh heavily in future years, an albatross which we might classify as a Clark-Crosbie albatross, a "C-C" albatross, though not the kind of "CC" most Canadians would look for.

However, the government persists as though it is doing the voters a great favour. The government obviously thinks it is doing itself a great favour. In reality it is doing neither. Within the context of the government's total economic policy only marginal net benefits, if even that, will accrue to eligible voters who need assistance. On the other hand, all voters will have to pick up the tab for an increasingly wasteful and inefficient program. Furthermore, the government will have to find ways to get this money from those unfortunate voters who will not benefit at all from the program.

This bill is nothing more than a hidden tax expenditure which itself is a camouflage for what my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg-Birds Hill (Mr. Blaikie), has called the Tory "hidden agenda". We now see that the principle of universality in our social programs is being threatened. The Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie) claims magnanimously that this would only be in order to have more money, better to meet the needs of low income Canadians. However, the Tories have next to nothing in concrete terms to offer low income voters except more of the same, more restraint and more hardship.

We are left with the concrete reality that the Minister of National Health and Welfare is not in the inner cabinet, but the Minister of Finance and the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Stevens) are. Do they share their colleague's good

Mortgage Tax Credit

intentions, or are they, as is much more likely, already laying claim to the savings from cutbacks in social spending and in services to people? With this ill-conceived bill we can look forward to welfare redistribution all right, from progressive social policies to regressive fiscal ones, and this in the name of giving Canadians the forward looking change they voted for and deserve. It is time this strategy of the Tory party was exposed for what it is, a desperate attempt to win support by means of shoddy, half-baked measures without regard to their elemental unfairness or negative consequences.

We have been speaking about housing, and I appreciate that there is a great difference between a house and a home. Nevertheless, let us bear in mind that without adequate individual housing for families there cannot be homes. Our country and all countries are based on the principle that we live in homes and that we have a place in which there is not only shelter from the elements but also love, care and shelter from the problems of the world.

This bill, which will help a small number of Canadians, leaves out the majority who need to have homes. I would like to bring to mind once more the fact that in our country we have a "third world" in which many Canadians live and which could become a greater part of our country unless a far greater effort is made toward creating situations and building dwellings in which we can have homes.

As a last thought I would like to leave this House with the idea once more that the albatross of the ancient mariner was what followed his doomed ship and finally brought about its destruction. The albatross we have spoken about, the albatross of Bill C-20, could certainly do the same to our land.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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SC

Eudore Allard

Social Credit

Mr. Eudore Allard (Rimouski):

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my view on Bill C-20. At first thought, this legislative measure seems very sensible. Its objectives are acknowledged by everybody. Every Canadian should have the possibility to take steps to own a home in his lifetime. The high cost of housing has taken away the hope of many ever to acquire a house.

This bill, however interesting it may be, is not without any flaws. The bill favours those who are in a financial position which allows them to own homes; that is to say, the better off. The bigger the mortgage you can afford, the bigger the discount from your tax bill. Half of the householders in the country are not home owners. They will not be helped in any way to buy homes. They will get nothing from the bill. There are also in this country a million home owners who are too poor to pay the bulk of their taxes. Some people of 60 years of age and over still live in their homes, and it is their right to do so. They will get nothing from the bill.

In short, what I want to say here is that the poor are left behind by the government. The poor will stay poor. And what about young families? They have little hope of acquiring homes in a short period of time. Interest rates are almost out of control and have reached a point which is not acceptable. Young families also get nothing from the bill.

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November 27, 1979

Mortgage Tax Credit

This bill, then, is a measure which can be criticized for numerous aspects. It helps middle income families a lot but does very little for low income families who will probably never have the chance to own homes.

Mr. Speaker, as a Quebec representative, I must say that I am deeply concerned about this bill. Indeed, as everybody knows, the largest number of tenants are found in Quebec. Thus, a survey conducted by Statistics Canada last spring has shown that fewer than half of Quebec households lived in their own homes, while in Ontario that percentage is 62 per cent. This means therefore, Mr. Speaker, that the bill is not only to the disadvantage of the less privileged owners who do not pay income tax but also of tenants.

Indeed, Statistics Canada figures show that 200,000 low-income owners do not pay any federal tax. On the other hand, 2 million households will only get small amounts because their income is low and they pay very little tax. All things considered, according to those statistics, about 3 million households will benefit from those political measures. Let us not hide the fact that Bill C-20 is a political bill resulting from many Conservative election promises.

The government forgot to say during the election campaign that 200,000 low-income families that own their homes, some of which are mortgaged, will not be entitled to any tax credit, because they do not pay enough tax in other words, because they are not rich enough to pay tax. The Progressive Conservative scheme provides that the tax credit obtained by an individual may not exceed the amount of federal tax he would normally pay. In other words, a small wage earner who only pays $200 in federal taxes will only be allowed a maximum $200 tax credit, even if he is burdened with a huge mortgage.

Generally speaking, Mr. Speaker, I think it is sad that these measures were not also intended for tenants who are among the victims of high interest mortgages. Everybody knows that these costs as well as property taxes are reflected in the rent tenants pay. On December 17, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) said he had not promised anything to tenants, which clearly shows that this is a political measure that has not been thoroughly considered since Bill C-20 contains no improvement when compared with the rather vague promise made during the campaign.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in Montreal, among other cities, 80 per cent of the population lives in rental accommodation. It is therefore certain that the effects of this bill will not be felt very deeply in the largest city in the country. In the last few months, very relevant studies which would have been worth studying have been made by various interest groups. I think it is deplorable that none of these suggestions was retained. So I can hardly see how the minister can claim that an indirect consequence of these measures will be an increase in the

construction of homes. If that is the case, it will happen in some privileged city and not in Montreal island or in the remote areas of Quebec like my riding, the lower St. Lawrence River area and Gaspe where average earnings are nowhere near those of Rosedale or Westmount.

As for the owners, who are among the lucky ones and who will benefit from these measures, of course the tax credits will be welcome. As for those who can now afford to buy a house and face the highest rates of interest on record, the measures introduced by the Minister of Finance will only compensate them for the cost of high interest which has reached an unacceptable level. In that regard, Mr. Speaker, I should like to quote an editorial published in the paper La Presse, written by Mr. Yvan Guay on September 19 last, in which he very ably describes the dilemma I spoke of in dealing with the successive increases in interest rates these last few months. The writer says, and I quote:

Current tax credits will do much less to stimulate construction than to increase the profits of banks and lending institutions. Though no home owner will complain about lighter taxes, the majority of the people will feel frustrated, because the stated purpose of those tax credits proves to be nothing but a pretext. Mr. Clark and his team, in order to get into power, produced a fireworks of promises without ensuring that they were economically realistic.

It is absolutely mind-boggling, Mr. Speaker, when one realizes that once again big financial institutions will make the profits. Personally, I feel this bill will make more malcontents than happy people.

Quebeckers, the majority of whom are tenants, are therefore losers in this bill and, as 1 have already said, the latter will have no special effects on the Quebec housing industry. To illustrate how precarious its position is, let me quote a few figures on the Quebec Housing Corporation. In 1978, the corporation granted $3,409,000 in loans for 152 housing units, which represented investments of $4,042,000. For 1979, that is January to October, corresponding figures were 15 housing units and loans of over half a million dollars, for a total investment of $2,789,000. However, lending institutions took on the major part of that financial activity. In 1978, they granted loans amounting to $260,636,000 for 7,969 housing units. To this day, that means loans totalling $170,284,000 for 4,676 housing units.

Therefore, banks and financial institutions pervade this market. They take advantage of high interest rates to make huge profits at the expense of small and medium wage earners. As a measure of justice, we propose therefore that a home ownership savings plan be set up to make it possible for the medium wage earner to buy his own home. Such a measure would alleviate the negative effects of this bill on tenants and medium wage earners who want to buy a house but are prevented from doing so by economic conditions. The existing home ownership savings plan has been greatly appreciated in the past by the Canadian people and has enabled young couples to save enough money to buy a home.

November 27, 1979

From a strictly social and human point of view, it is important that every family should look forward to owning its own home. Unfortunately, this objective is becoming increasingly elusive because of worsening economic conditions. It is therefore important that the government help young couples to buy a home, and it will not do so with this bill. That is why we feel the government should seriously consider amending the present home ownership savings plan. Such changes could result in raising the present ceiling according to a given income scale in order to favour lower income families.

A national housing policy which does not give people the means of buying a home makes no sense and is ineffective. We of the Social Credit party of Canada have always said that the present system does not promote human dignity nor afford families the opportunity of having their own home. Present high interest rates prevent many low-income families from pursuing their dream. Those who, at the cost of great financial sacrifice, do get into debt to achieve their legitimate goal of owning their own home have no idea of the tremendous profits financial institutions are making at their expense.

Last year, chartered banks saw their profits go up by 58 per cent in some cases. At that time, I asked the then Minister of Finance to look into the matter. Shortly after, he told us that the superintendent of banks, after considering the matter, had found nothing unusual. Today, the new Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie) is telling us that the rise in interest rates will have positive effects in the long term. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, am I to infer that succeeding governments in Ottawa are powerless or rather that they are resigned to a situation which undermines the initiative of the average Canadian and of low-income families which have the legitimate right at some point in their lives to own their own home?

I find it sad that the bill will favour those who need it the least. I should like to hear government spokesmen comment upon possible amendments to the home ownership savings plan or make new proposals for low-income families that wish to buy a house, that are prepared to sacrifice something else for it but need only a little help from the government which once had the monopoly of election promises.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat that we are not against the fact that 3.8 million Canadian taxpayers will benefit from this program, but we are particularly concerned about the fact that, for all practical purposes, almost one million Canadians will be excluded from the housing market because unprecedented interest rates push the purchase of a house beyond their means. To take advantage of the Progressive Conservative program, one must already own a home, hold a mortgage and pay taxes. Therefore, there is no social justification for this bill, since the 200,000 people who own a home, perhaps have a mortgage, and do not earn enough to get the tax credits, will be left out of the provisions of this bill.

Mortgage Tax Credit

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recall that it is the duty of a government to protect minorities and the poor. In my opinion any government failing to do that is remiss in its responsibilities. Bill C-20 is entirely defensible in its substance but particularly incomplete and unfair in its form.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
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LIB

André Ouellet

Liberal

Hon. Andre Ouellet (Papineau):

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate at this time and to say to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie), who introduced Bill C-20, that I am not at all happy with his proposal, that I cannot agree with the ways he wants to use to promote home ownership in Canada. It is a good principle, of course, a noble principle, a noble purpose to want to encourage Canadians to become home owners, and I think governments-federal as well as provincial and municipal-should adopt measures to facilitate access to ownership and encourage Canadians who want to become home owners. But the means being sought by the new Progressive Conservative government to reach that goal are wrong. Obviously Bill C-20 offers a mortgage interest and property tax credit and is going to relieve and help some Canadian owners. That mortgage interest tax credit, of course, is going to help those who already own their homes and already have a mortgage on them. Unfortunately, the nonowner will not get any direct benefit, and the pious wish of the Minister of Finance that this measure will urge Canadians to rush over to the real estate agent to buy a home is entirely without foundation.

I do not see how any individual, on the basis of this bill which is going to allow him to deduct a few dollars from his taxes this year, could decide to buy a home today. We know that since the Progressive Conservative party took over, interest rates in Canada have shot up at an unbelievable and unacceptable rate. And the same Minister of Finance pushes Bill C-20 and tries to make hon. members and all Canadians believe that his measure, which does nothing more than extend a tax credit to a few Canadians who already own a home, is going to put the residential construction industry back on its feet. That does not make sense, and the Minister of Finance knows it very well. His proposal is not going to inject new life into the construction industry. Nobody faced with 14 per cent, 15 per cent or 16 per cent interest rates now being sanctioned by this Minister of Finance is going to rush over to his real estate agent to buy a new property because, although he may get some $300 from the Minister of Finance, he will have to pay twice or three times as much in outrageously high interest rates approved by the Progressive Conservative government.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the proposal of the Clark government is unacceptable. If, for the noble purpose of encouraging Canadians to become home owners, we use the means suggested by the Minister of Finance, I believe that we will be making a mistake because this measure is completely wrong and unacceptable and should be rejected by the House of Commons. The Minister of Finance even had the

November 27, 1979

Mortgage Tax Credit

audacity to threaten the members of this Elouse with the idea of an early election if the House of Commons does not pass this bill before Christmas. In my opinion, this is despicable behaviour on the part of someone who should have some authority and be a bit more serious about his duties as Minister of Finance.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

It is arrogance!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
Permalink
LIB

André Ouellet

Liberal

Mr. Ouellet:

One of my colleagues says that it is arrogance. It certainly shows arrogance on the part of a government which has just received a mandate from the Canadian voters and which is now threatening to hold another election if the members of Parliament who were democratically elected go on too long or take too much time to express their views on this bill. Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that this government did not receive an absolute majority at the last election and has no right to treat us in so cavalier a manner by threatening us and the Canadian population with the idea of holding another election if this badly designed, badly planned and useless little bill is not accepted by the Liberal opposition, the New Democratic opposition, and even the Social Credit opposition, since a few of its members have rightly noted the serious weaknesses of this bill.

I would therefore say to the Minister of Finance that he would be much better to review his position and recognize that the plan announced by his leader shortly before the election was not a good idea. Of course, the promises by the Prime Minister before the election have been abandoned and this plan has been considerably amended, but even though it has been amended, Bill C-20 is still extremely shaky and unfair to too many Canadians for us to accept it, as the official opposition in this House, without pointing out its weaknesses and especially without asking this government to make many other amendments. In fact, we believe that this bill does not meet the objective, perhaps quite legitimate, of the government to promote home ownership. On the contrary, because of the means suggested by the government, it only creates more difficulties and more distortions in the Canadian housing market and considerably hinders the freedom of action of the Minister of Finance for preparing the next budget he is expected to table in December.

It is evident to me that this legislation is quite incomplete. Indeed, it is aimed at the privileged few, those who are rich enough to own property, the last ones who should be helped under these circumstances.

I see it is five o'clock. I shall resume my comments at the next opportunity because I would like to put forward a much better alternative to this government measure.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO PROVIDE TAX CREDIT IN RESPECT OF MORTGAGE INTEREST AND PROPERTY TAX
Permalink

PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION

SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED

LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

It being five o'clock, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 40, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for York South-Weston (Mrs. Appolloni)-Health and Welfare-Vivisection of human foetuses; the hon. member for Bellechasse (Mr. Lambert)- Agriculture-Inquiry whether minister received representations from Quebec for reduction in poultry imports; the hon. member for Shefford (Mr. Lapierre)-External Affairs-Aid in construction of frozen fish plants in Senegal-Government position.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper, namely notices of motions (papers), private bills and public bills.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED
Permalink
PC

David Kilgour (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. David Kilgour (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Privy Council):

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could have unanimous consent to proceed with Bill C-202, in the name of the hon. member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Wenman).

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Is there unanimous consent to proceed with Bill C-202, in the name of the hon. member for Fraser Valley West, and that order No. 1, Bill C-201, be allowed to stand?

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED
Permalink

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS

STATISTICS ACT

PC

Robert Lloyd Wenman

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bob Wenman (Fraser Valley West) moved

that Bill C-202, to amend the Statistics Act, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs.

He said: Mr. Speaker, in the struggle to create more open government which recognizes that public information belongs to the public, it is also important to limit public information gathering that employs compulsive and coercive methods in acquiring non-criminal information from private citizens. Surely an open society also implies voluntarism. Surely a free society neither implies, nor practices, compulsion and coercion toward its individual parts.

November 27, 1979

I can appreciate the desire of the government to have all possible information at its disposal in order to ensure that its decisions are empirically grounded. However, when you weigh that limitless knowledge against the equally total destruction of an individual's personal privacy and integrity, the price becomes too high.

I agree with the view that a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also a government that is big enough to take everything you have.

Section 29 of the Statistics Act provides for criminal prosecution of those individuals who refuse to answer StatsCan survey questions. The penalties are up to $500 in fines, three months in jail, or both.

Why are these legal sanctions so onerous and how do they make StatsCan surveys ultimately counterproductive? Section 29 of the Statistics Act provides a legal justification for a blatant invasion of personal privacy.

The family expenditures survey, which we nearly moved toward last March, is typical of the excessive demands made upon the time and the privacy of the individual. Let me give a few examples. The question on family expenditure on home repairs and maintenance alone was broken down into 21 subsections. These dealt with wallpapering, painting, gutters, etc., down to the smallest detail. Small electrical appliances required more than 17 subsections. Clothing expenses were dealt with in a mere six pages. Not only that, other questions asked about things like how much money each householder lost in wages, payment of fines, deposits, thefts in a year, how much money was held in savings, what the value of insurance policies and real estate holdings was. These questions certainly are not in the realm of "trivial". They are, indeed, highly personal in nature. Moreover, the interviewee is bound by law to answer them as accurately as he or she can.

Lest some of us believe that these fines lack teeth, that no one is ever prosecuted so we should just go ahead with this, I would like to draw attention to a problem encountered by one of my constituents, Mrs. Angela Sheremata. Mrs. Sheremata objected to certain questions on the seemingly innoncent 1976 population census form. For example, she saw no reason why she should have to indicate through what kind of entrance she went into her private living quarters. Because she received the more detailed form which is sent to part of the population each census, she was also requested to indicate, among other things, what her level of education was, how many hours she had worked for pay on her own farm, business or professional practice, which visitors had stayed overnight on May 31, and what was her telephone number. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that if a person had been involved in a divorce case and required that information to be kept private, he or she would not have been able to do so.

In addition she was asked, should she have a privately listed telephone number-the reason for which in the beginning was to maintain privacy-to give the number, as a result of which that right of privacy would be lost. The government in fact requires you to reveal that telephone number and where you live.

Statistics Act Amendment

At any rate, she was asked to answer these questions, the answers to which she felt it was none of the government's business to know. What did she get for her belief in the sanctity of human privacy? She started out first by getting several letters from StatsCan threatening her with legal action, and finally the reality of court itself. It is amusing to realize that the case against Mrs. Sheremata was thrown out of court. The reason it was thrown out of court was that StatsCan had lost her file. That was amusing, yes, but the gravity of the situation should not be overlooked.

People have been prosecuted for refusing to answer Statistics Canada questions. Statistics Canada is in fact appealing the decision of the court in Mrs. Sheremata's case. It is not good enough to say that legal sanctions can be retained because they are hardly ever invoked. They are invoked in fact and in practice and they remain a threat to the fundamental human right to privacy of Canadians.

These kinds of questions become particularly onerous for rural respondents. Residents of rural areas often find that those conducting the interviews are their neighbours or close associates. It is understandable that a person would be reluctant to surrender information of a personal nature to someone the interviewee knew, yet this is what happens with StatsCan, and it happens across the country.

I have met interviewers who say that it is very interesting to get to know about your neighbours or about the neighbourhood community and about how people are living. While that information may be claimed to be private, I think practice has shown that leaks and so forth make this information readily available in many cases to many parts of our society.

Rural citizens are not the only ones who have cause for concern about the increasing detail of Statistics Canada surveys. Canadians in general are concerned about other ways by which the government is gathering information about them. Take, for example, the issue of social insurance numbers. Some feel that just having these numbers is an indication of the increasing depersonalization of our society. Others are concerned that social insurance numbers could be used for a more sinister purpose, that of contributing to a central file on each and every Canadian citizen. This central file has the potential to be comprehensive indeed. It would include personal economic information from income tax forms, information on activities for which social insurance numbers were necessary, and then, with StatsCan data, a wide variety of personal details on the citizen's lifestyle. It is no wonder that we are witnessing widespread opposition to the concept of social insurance numbers. It is easy to see that this opposition is a manifestation of a deeper distrust for government intrusion into the private lives of Canadians.

O)

We are now in a position which no government which aspires to democratic principles should find itself, that of defending itself against charges of intruding into the bedrooms, and indeed the bathrooms, of society. The government must attempt to justify that this is not simply an embarrass-

November 27, 1979

Statistics Act Amendment

ment. That people are led to question the integrity of government, to suspect the motives behind information gathering, suggests to me that government is viewed not as a benevolent administrator but as a "big brother". As the government passes a freedom of information act we should also have concerns regarding the protection of an individual's privacy and certainly of involuntary personal information gathered under protest and interconnected to computer systems. A freedom of information act needs a companion freedom of privacy act.

The argument we hear in justification of StatsCan surveys is that they provide us with the basic information necessary for public and private decision making, and for informed discussion of the public issues that concern Canadians. But how does Statistics Canada go about getting this basic information? The family expenditures survey, as 1 already mentioned, asked a multitude of questions about the various items and services Canadians spend their money on in a year.

Let us assume for the moment that such a detailed examination of the spending habits of Canadians is absolutely necessary for shaping economic policy. That is a big assumption, but let us for the moment accept it. Then, Mr. Speaker, we must ask ourselves who could accurately recall the amount of money spent on a particular item over a year? None the less, under section 29 of the present Statistics Act, they are compelled by law to give an answer. Somehow I doubt if this method encourages accurate or even honest answers. Yet the answers given are supposedly those which are used to chart Canada's economic future.

I think what I have just described provides a partial answer to another question: Just how valid are these detailed examinations of Canadians' spending habits for shaping economic policy? We have it on the authority of the former finance minister, while he held the post, that StatsCan could not be depended upon to provide a reliable estimate of Canada's economic growth. And the respected C. D. Howe Institute has also questioned the reliability of Statistics Canada figures. Inaccurate growth figures projected by Statistics Canada in the early 1970s formed the basis for government budget assumptions, which in turn led to government policy which actually created inflationary pressures. I think we are all aware of the consequences of that earlier government policy.

Many of these assumptions were based upon business statistics and not detailed household expenditures that I described earlier. However, if information from business sources poses such a problem for Statistics Canada, how can that organization be expected to cope with myriad details of personal family expenditures? My own feeling is that in the hands of government, to paraphrase Lord Acton, information corrupts and absolute information corrupts absolutely.

1 do not wish to give the impression that 1 am against the job for which Statistics Canada was created. We do indeed have a vital need for Statistics Canada. But it is also vitally important that those statistics, and the projections which are based upon them, be accurate ones. I do not believe that Statistics Canada can be expected effectively to fulfil its

mandate as long as its questions are so broad ranging and are backed by compulsive and coercive legal sanctions. How far will the details go and remain accurate and relevant? I am sure that most of the reports that were made from those very statistics are lying on shelves gathering dust somewhere and have not provided any real assistance to economic growth in Canada.

It is obvious that Statistics Canada and, by association, the government must regain the trust of the people. It is perfectly apparent to me that it cannot be done until we convince Canadians that the information we seek from them will be treated with respect and not abused. Statistics Canada guarantees that all information given by an individual will remain confidential. That guarantee, however, looks less impressive when information files are subsequently lost, and it looks almost useless when information files are sold by Statistics Canada employees. A citizen has enough cause to suspect the motives of government in asking personal questions without dishonest methods making him even more doubtful.

It seems to me that we should be seeking to inspire confidence in StatsCan so that Canadians will not be reluctant to respond voluntarily to survey questions. We already have cause to doubt whether StatsCan can even answer many of the questions it sets for itself. Perhaps it sets its goals too high, or perhaps we ask too much of it; but we must not expect that the situation will improve by compelling people to answer even more and more personal questions. StatsCan would be faced with a flood of details, and the citizen would wonder why the government wants personal information so badly that it will resort to legal sanction to back its demands. Whatever we hold the role of government to be, surely we do not give it the right to impinge upon the personal rights of citizens.

I would ask the House to consider my bill, which would remove the penalty on individuals for refusing to answer questions other than those pertaining to basic population census information. I feel that only from this first step can we as government re-establish the public's faith in StatsCan and in government itself. I ask also that we amend section 29 as it pertains to individuals, and in so doing remove an impediment to accurate and reliable statistical information. Let us begin to move toward renewed confidence by removing the threat and by taking the first step by voluntary response.

We are one of the fortunate few countries in the world to enjoy the luxury of a democratic system. Implicit in the notion of democracy is the faith of the people to know what is good for them. We trust the people to elect us and we abide by their choice. What we are doing in section 29 of the current Statistics Act is the equivalent of penalizing people for not voting. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when people cannot indicate their objection to an all-knowing central government agency for fear of prosecution. Are we really drawing so near to 1984?

By all means, encourage compliance with statistical surveys. But let us take a more positive approach than fining people for refusing to respond. Let us demonstrate the need for Statistics Canada and the benefit we can derive from an effective

November 27, 1979

statistical agency. We can only inspire confidence if we do not appear to be resorting to compulsion. Let us not insult the intelligence of Canadians. In the end we are only undermining the foundations of the parliamentary system if we deny the responsibility, right and privilege of privacy to the people.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out a change in wording which 1 intend to introduce into my bill when it is in committee. As the wording currently reads, an individual is not required to answer even those questions pertaining to the topics 1 specified on page 2 of my bill. My intention is to make it compulsory to answer those questions specified, and I will suggest the amended wording in committee.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   STATISTICS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REMOVE PENALTY FOR REFUSAL TO PROVIDE INFORMATION
Permalink
LIB

Donald James Johnston

Liberal

Mr. Donald J. Johnston (Saint-Henri-Westmount):

Mr. Speaker, at the outset let me say that I appreciate the comments of the hon. member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Wenman). In addition, 1 would like to offer my personal congratulations to him for taking the initiative in bringing this private member's bill before the House for discussion and consideration on a matter which, I think we will all agree, is of paramount importance.

He has expressed a fear of the "big brother" complex which he believes the existing legislation may help create here in Canada among Canadians; the invasion of privacy which he feels is inherent in the current state of the law. He raises a number of problems which I would like to touch upon, because 1 think they are real, not perceived. I will subsequently deal with whether the amendment which the hon. member proposes to the Statistics Act is the right way to go at this stage. I would like to re-emphasize that I believe the matter is important, and the member indeed deserves to be congratulated for taking this initiative.

First of all, the issue of personal information is a very real one. 1 think all of us are concerned that some of the surveys may be requesting information which is not really required for the objects of the act or for what the act should really deal with. That raises a variety of considerations, one of which is whether the Statistics Act in terms of its objects, in terms of its purpose, in terms of where it is supposed to take us, should not be amended in a more meaningful way to further define those objects, rather than unnecessarily changing the nature of the sanction imposed upon people to whom surveys are addressed. In other words, we have to examine the issue as to whether or not we are requesting information under that act which should not be requested at all.

Another point though which was quite striking in the member's comments has to do with the extent of the burden which apparently is being imposed on Canadians in responding to these extremely complicated, complex forms. I believe the hon. member mentioned that with respect to family expenditure information there were something like 21 subdivisions on house improvements alone, on which the act as it presently stands would appear to permit a questionnaire. Not only that, it requires the citizen to respond under pain of criminal prosecution.

Statistics Act Amendment

All of us would have to ask, is that not too much of a burden to impose upon our citizens? Going even further than that, I would guess that many Canadians today suspect that much of the information sought by Statistics Canada is probably irrelevant and much of it is probably never used for any useful purpose in any event. In other words, there may be drawersful of statistics and information located in Statistics Canada which is of no effective benefit and that maybe it is a make-work program within that department. We do not know, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to cast aspersions on Statistics Canada; all I am saying is that that is a question which I am sure comes to the minds of many Canadians as they are required to fill out these various surveys.

I might also say that I, like many other people in this House being a practising lawyer in the commercial area, have been appalled at the burden historically placed on many of our own clients with respect to information required from commercial operating firms. One does suspect that this information, while being put necessarily to a bad purpose, may not be put to any purpose at all. Hence, is this an expense, quite apart from the fact that it is a burden on the people, which the Canadian people should be expected to incur? Is there a risk in terms of invasion of privacy?

As I understand the proposed amendment, the hon. member for Fraser Valley West has sought to eliminate the punitive provisions of the act in so far as they apply to individual Canadians, except in the case of a very limited amount of information, being information pertaining to name, sex, marital status, mother tongue, birth or family relationship of members of the household.

In other words, as I understand the amendment, if a person gives false information or refuses to respond in those areas, and in those areas alone, then the law will apply as it did apply and the usual criminal proceedings or whatever can be levied against that individual.

On the other hand, he is amending section 29, which states that:

Every firm or corporation, and every person acting for or interested in a firm or corporation-

Which I presume would include a shareholder of the corporation, for example.

-without lawful excuse, (a) refuses or neglects to answer-

And so on. In that event, as I understand the amendment, the provisions of the law would continue to apply and criminal prosecution could ensue against such an individual in the event that he did not respond to a questionnaire. Of course, there we are dealing with persons interested in the firm or acting for the firm or corporation. In addition, as I understand it, we are talking about the firm or corporation itself to the extent that it can be fined and it will remain subject to the act. Corporations do not enjoy any further protection under this amendment nor do firms, which I also would presume would be what we in the province of Quebec regard as a sole proprietorship operating under a raison sociale. So that effectively in those instances those individuals could still be prosecuted. But with respect to

November 27, 1979

Statistics Act Amendment

the activities carried on by the firm or corporation, I again presume the intention of this amendment is that those areas will be commercial areas, areas which may have a more direct bearing upon the economy and upon the statistics which Statistics Canada requires with respect to the economy than would be the case with individuals. Those are the assumptions that I am making.

In itself it seems like a worthy objective that we should say to Canadians, "Look, we will encourage you to respond to surveys on a wide variety of issues, but in the event that you do not do so, you will not be subject to prosecution under the Statistics Act unless you give false information with respect to these very specified limited areas," and I enumerated these areas just a few moments ago. That indeed might be a satisfactory approach to this problem. But immediately questions come to my mind, being someone basically quite unfamiliar with the internal operations of Statistics Canada, when I see this kind of provision in this context. Would there not be other information which Canada and the government requires from individuals, information which individuals should be required to respond to but which is not included in this very narrow list set forth in the bill of the hon. member for Fraser Valley West?

I say that I really do not know but I raise the issue, might there be? Let me give an example of what I mean. When one looks a Statistics Canada, one finds a wide range of areas where information can be sought; there is no doubt about that. Under section 21, general statistics, there is an enumeration of items (a) through (u). In fact, (u) is a basket clause which says "any other matters prescribed by the minister or governor in council" where the chief statistician is entitled essentially, I presume, to order these surveys and require information to be furnished by Canadian individuals, hence falling under all the penal provisions of the act in the event someone does not respond or gives false information.

But as I look at these items I see, for example, something like agriculture. Does this mean that a farmer in Canada would not be required to respond with respect to information bearing upon his crop production, his crops or diseases, or any other area that might affect agricultural production in this country? Does that mean that Statistics Canada would be shackled in so far as individual farmers are concerned and not be able to obtain this kind of information which they would in turn be able to obtain, I would submit under the amendment, from an incorporated farmer of which 1 imagine there are many in this country? I know that there are many in my province and I suspect the same is true across Canada.

I raise that as an example of the kind of problem I see in a very restricted amendment of this kind. Again, it may not be a problem, but I say that this bill brought before us may very well have the effect of undermining this very important role of Statistics Canada. I say this recognizing the validity of a number of points which the hon. member has made and which I think will cause us all alarming concern if the situation is not corrected. The issue is: are we to solve the problem of Statistics Canada in any meaningful way in this area of what might

[Mr. Johnston.)

be described as an invasion of privacy, with this amendment? This amendment still permits, and I emphasize this, the prosecution of individuals who are associated with firms or corporations, but does not permit the prosecution of individuals per se except with respect to this very narrow list of items.

I raised just one example with respect to agriculture. As I say, since the list goes from (a) to (u), it would seem quite possible that there are a number of areas which we might regard as being information which should be at the disposal of the Canadian government. It should be at the disposal of the policy makers of this country, but will become unavailable from individuals because of this proposed amendment to the act.

There is another route which I think should be followed at this stage. Undoubtedly, you, Mr. Speaker, have been in this House when questions have been raised during question period over the past several weeks with regard to the operations and methodology of Statistics Canada and whether we can rely upon some of the economic material or documents coming out of Statistics Canada. Today our entire forecasting apparatus, our reporting to the OECD, our international position, and everything else are determined by information gathered by Statistics Canada. One wonders whether the time has come for us to conduct a serious examination of the affairs of Statistics Canada, as has been suggested. This was in fact raised in a question on November 23 by the hon. member for Thunder Bay-Nipigon (Mr. Andras). The President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Stevens) indicated a consultant firm would be established to look at Statistics Canada and its methodology.

It might be more appropriate at this stage to suggest an in-depth examination to determine whether many of the problems raised by the hon. member with regard to simplifying the volume and complexity of surveys that have not been made public cannot be avoided, and to determine whether it is possible to attack this problem which he so eloquently outlined today, namely, is there a way we can prevent Big Brother from carrying on into the lives of individual Canadians under the auspices of this act, with the possibility of criminal prosecution in the event that the person does not comply or respond?

An hon. member on the other side, who is a practising lawyer, told me how distasteful it is as an attorney to take actions based on this provision of the law, namely, to prosecute Canadians for failing to respond to these surveys. Like everything else, these issues are seldom black and white. It would appear there is room for great abuse, as outlined by the hon. member.

I would find it absolutely repulsive to consider that if someone gives false information with respect to wallpaper used in his house, its cost, application or anything else, that person theoretically could become subject to prosecution under an act of this country. A law of that kind in this country must be examined and modified.

I commend the hon. member for taking these initiatives. However, I suggest that the proper forum for this is a greater

November 27, 1979

context with a complete, in-depth review of Statistics Canada, particularly since questions as to its credibility have been raised in other forums, in fact by questions in this House and in the media.

The time has come to get at the job and encourage the President of the Treasury Board to act quickly to have these consultants appointed, and hopefully to bring these matters before a committee. I dearly hope that takes place and that the evil which this bill is intended to correct will be addressed by such a committee. It is clearly an important issue.

I congratulate the hon. member for bringing this before us. It gives us an opportunity to talk about it. This has been a useful exercise. I hope the initiative he has taken will result in the law being approved.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic:   STATISTICS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REMOVE PENALTY FOR REFUSAL TO PROVIDE INFORMATION
Permalink

November 27, 1979