Mr. Ghislain Lebel (Chambly, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to this private member's bill from the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.
The purpose of the bill is to make the cost of tools deductible from a mechanic's or auto worker's income. I approve of it 100% for this is a matter of fairness, in my opinion.
All professionals, for example health professionals such as dentists and physicians, like the hon. colleague over there, who is a well-known West Island doctor, have always been able to deduct every year from their income, or depreciate to some extent, their equipment and everything used in their practice. The expenses incurred for this equipment or these tools may therefore be deducted from the income derived from their professional practice.
Unfortunately, that possibility is not available to professionals in the automotive field, those whose livelihood depends on their practising their trade.
In a former life I spent a good 15 years as a mechanic for a mining company on the North Shore, at Sept-Îles. Although that was as long ago as 1972 or 1973, I remember a simple pound and a half hammer, about 1,600 grams in today's metric terms, cost about $24 or $25 each at the time, and that was nearly 30 years ago.
Anyone working as a mechanic knows how easy it is to lose or damage a tool or even break it and have to replace it. None of this can be deducted from the worker's income, and I find that terribly unfair.
There is another aspect to the bill that I question. This would be an incentive to young people graduating from technical schools, from motor mechanics' training, for example. This would be an incentive to entering the trade.
Whether young people are studying philosophy or motor mechanics, they run into unavoidable costs such the costs of food and housing for the period they are taking their training and all of that.
While the profession may be less noble than that of law or medicine or some other career, these people need to eat. They generally run up a debt like all the other students in the various professions. They come out of technical school or Cegep vocational training with just as much debt as those graduating from the same level in the academic course and heading toward the priesthood or some other field.
These people have a lot of debts. Unfortunately, auto mechanics do not earn as much as my colleague opposite, to whom I referred earlier, as an eminent medical practitioner. These workers face major expenses when they buy their professional material, yet they cannot deduct these costs.
Finally, this deduction would be an incentive in that it would encourage young people to become automotive mechanics.
In the early sixties, with the quiet revolution in Quebec—but the same is also true for the other provinces—education became free under the social programs that were put in place. People used terms such as “universal” and “free” anyway. Education was for everyone. Anyone who wanted to get an education could have access to training, right up to and including the university level.
The result was that we ended up with large numbers of philosophers, lawyers, notaries, medical doctors and geologists. People shifted away from traditional occupations. Now, after 30 or 40 years of this somewhat easier access to higher education, we realize that we have moved away significantly from traditional occupations. There are shortages in certain trades, including plumbing, worksite mechanics and automotive mechanics where, unfortunately, salaries are not very high.
In the case of automotive mechanics, a lot of additional training is required outside working hours and is not paid. This includes all the new car models and all the electronic systems that are now an integral part of automotive mechanics. Generally speaking, those who want to do well, who want to take a step further and upgrade their skills must do so during their spare time, in the evening or on weekends, at a college or even a university, without being paid for their efforts.
They may also have to learn things in the electrical field, since this is now a major component of automotive mechanics. Indeed, the mechanical and electrical fields often complement each other for the greater benefit of automobile owners.
These people make a huge personal contribution and they take their own work performance very seriously. In my opinion, the least we could do would be to make the costs of providing tools required to pursue such of a career—often a lifelong one—deductible or depreciable under a provision that it will be up to Revenue Canada to establish. At the very least, there should be a kind of yearly tax depreciation which could be scaled over not too long a period, perhaps two or three years, in order to reduce the fiscal cost of providing the tools required for employment.
In my opinion, given his good nature, if the minister feels able to do it and if he is committed to make these professions or trades accessible, he could not only apply that new provision to auto mechanics but extend it also to worksite mechanics or electricians.
A Snap-On tool like an 8-inch screwdriver costs $20. When it touches a contact a spark can result. That will wreck the tip of the screwdriver and there goes $20, perhaps one-quarter of the electrician's or mechanic's daily pay. If he touches two wires with the tip of the screwdriver, his salary for a quarter of his day's work is already gone. This is if he did not get a ticket for parking on the street in front of his employer's building. At that point, he would have nothing left.
I believe this is a tax equity concern. A credible government must respond to the expectations of all its citizens, of all those who ply a trade, often much more to the benefit of the government than their own. These people pay taxes. We know our tax system. It is not on a straight line but on a rising curve.
There is reason for concern. This should have been done a long time ago. Under the bill of the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, we must at all costs allow these mechanics to deduct from their income the amounts required to buy a tool kit that is essential for their trade.
I implore the Minister of Finance to agree to the request of my colleague from Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans and to have a little compassion for those who, unfortunately, were not lucky enough to become a finance minister.
Subtopic: Income Tax Act