February 19, 2004

?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Points of Order
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The House resumed consideration of the motion


?

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.15 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier today, every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply is deemed to have been put, and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Tuesday, February 24 at the end of government orders.

It being 5:15 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

moved that Bill C-246, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great pleasure for me to rise tonight to debate private member's Bill C-246, in my name.

The legislation, if passed by the House, will allow parents adopting a child a federal tax deduction of up to $7,000 for the expenses they incur throughout the adoption process.

Each year approximately 2,000 children are adopted within Canada and another 2,000 Canadian parents adopt children from other countries around the world. Adopting a child is not quite a selfless, act but it is very close to it.

Selfless indicates that a parent gains nothing from adopting a child, but any adoptive parent will say that the love and joy an adopted child brings into his or her life is a tremendous reward. Many children and all of society benefit from the act of adoption, and I believe that our tax system should acknowledge this contribution made by adoptive parents.

There are so many circumstances under which a child is adopted, but in numerous cases these children have been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, emotionally or physically abused, starved or are in fear of their very lives. Sadly, there are children living like this in Canada, as well as around the world.

Sometimes they are so young that they are unaware of their incredible fortune at being adopted into a caring environment. If they are old enough to be even somewhat aware of their circumstances, we can imagine their joy at being welcomed into a warm and caring family committed to supporting them emotionally and financially. It is the best gift these children could ever receive.

It is a gift also to society. We have a collective responsibility to provide the best opportunities possible for homeless, neglected, abused and orphaned children. In many countries almost nothing is done to help these children. In Canada, although there are various government funded programs and services that attempt to provide for these children, it simply is not enough.

Children need to be loved and know that they are wanted. Study after study has concluded that children raised in such an environment are more likely to become happy, productive members of society, contributing to the future, well-being and prosperity of their communities and their country.

As for adoptive parents, I have received so many letters from parents attempting to convey their unspeakable joy that an adoptive child has brought into their lives. Some of these parents deliberately chose adoption to build or expand their families. Some have chosen to reach out to special needs children who require more than what is offered under public care.

For other parents, adoption is their only alternative if they are unable to have children of their own. Often they have endured many years of unsuccessful attempts to have a child through such methods as in vitro fertilization. Incidentally, in vitro fertilization is a very expensive procedure, but fortunately couples who undergo this process are allowed a financial reprieve under medical expenses claimed on their income tax.

However, there is no such accommodation for couples seeking to add to their family through adoption. Adoption is a very expensive process. It can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to adopt a child, even within Canada. For international adoptions, parents can pay $20,000, $30,000 or more.

The adoption process requires parents to pay for legal fees, psychological studies, travel expenses, if the child is not located in the parents' region, agency fees and, for international adoptions, expenses related to the child's immigration to Canada.

These are the adoption expenses that I propose should be eligible for a federal tax deduction. The maximum deduction under my bill would not exceed $7,000. Although that figure may not cover the entire cost of an adoption, it would help relieve some of the financial burden of adoptive parents.

The $7,000 is also a reflection of precedence set in tax deductions and credits offered in North America. The Province of Quebec, I am pleased to note, offers a tax credit equal to 30% of the total adoption expenses, with a maximum credit of $6,000. The U.S. government recently expanded its adoption tax credit to a maximum of $10,000 U.S.

In Alberta in 1999-2000, the average cost to couples adopting through private agencies was roughly $7,000. I believe this amount to be a fair start in acknowledging the contribution of adoptive parents.

Since I first tabled this legislation in 2001, parents, social workers and adoption agencies from across the country have written, e-mailed and telephoned to voice their support and stress the importance of this legislation. I would like to read some excerpts from letters I have received from adoptive parents. I believe it will help to convey in words better than my own what is at stake in this debate tonight.

From a couple in Orangeville, Ontario, who will soon welcome a child from China into their lives, came the following heartfelt comment:

The burden of costs associated with international adoption are so very high, and as a couple who have had no luck in conceiving, we feel this is our last option in being able to have the privilege of raising a family. Let's allow other families to adopt as well, giving the children a chance at a wonderful family life.

Another parent e-mailed me to pose the following question:

How many people are out there that want to do the right thing in providing a loving home to an orphan but can't risk financial ruin doing it?

A mother of two girls wrote to say that although she was able to adopt through the public system, she believed that Canada must do all it could to encourage adoption by deferring some expenses. She views an adoption tax deduction as part of:

--overall strategy to find more permanent homes for the waiting children in our country, and for foreign adoptions. It is very expensive to adopt, but I think that as Canadian families, where we can, we need to reach out a hand to the children. It sure isn't their fault that there is a war going on, or that their parents are dead.

Another mother of five children, one of whom was adopted last January from Russia, wrote that a tax deduction would:

--not only help Canadians in deciding to pursue their dreams of adoption, it will save lives. There is little or no hope for these children and I am confident in saying each child that is adopted is new hope for the future.

When this mother's 12-year-old son wrote to the former Prime Minister, he stated, “Children are our future and Canada depends upon them”. I certainly hope that this is the position of the government and if so, tonight I am giving it an opportunity to make good on that commitment to children.

This is far from the first time that this legislation or similar legislation has been introduced in the House. My former colleague in that last Parliament from Calgary Centre, Mr. Eric Lowther, introduced the bill in 1999. It was virtually the same. A Bloc Quebecois member also introduced adoption expenses legislation that year in an effort to ensure the federal tax system acknowledged adoptive parents, just as they were under Quebec's tax system.

As I am saying, this is not new. This is not a new concept. Other members have suggested it before. I have put it forward a number of times in the past. Unfortunately, with our system for private members' legislation it has not been debated a lot in the past, but I am pleased that I and members of the House have the opportunity to debate it this evening.

As I have said in my remarks, I have been overwhelmed at the support this has out in the real world among people who have to incur these growing costs of adopting children. I do not understand why we have not had something in place even before this to assist these parents with that financial burden.

I hope all parties in the House will take a close look at this legislation and recognize that our tax system's failure to alleviate the financial burden of adoptive parents is an oversight and that we have the ability here and now to correct. Let us put some of the money used to pay for adoption back in the pockets of parents so they can better afford to care for and raise their young children.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

Paddy Torsney

Liberal

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask a question. Certainly some of my friends, some of constituents especially, have found themselves in the situation where they are paying very high adoption fees. I know this relief would be important to them, in spite of what the finance department probably will tell us why it cannot be done.

How does the member reconcile this with the people who are paying exorbitant fees to produce a child through reproductive technologies? How would all those deductions, which are quite beyond the medical expenses that people can claim, be reconciled?

Many of the constituents first go through all the expenses for reproductive technologies. Then they go through private or public adoptions. Many public adoptions now are not that inexpensive. However, it is the same group of people who are sometimes spending $40,000 and $50,000 to try to have a family. I know many of my constituents have been in this situation and, given my age bracket, many of my friends are as well.

Could the member suggest how we reconcile that with this issue?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Liberal colleague from across the way for the question. It is well thought out and it is a good question.

Ultimately, it cannot be reconciled. We have to start somewhere. What I am doing, by putting forward this bill, is recognizing what I believe is a very real need out there. Adoptive parents provide a service, as I have tried to lay out in my remarks, not only obviously to that child or children who they adopt, but to society in general because, as all of us recognize, children are the future of our country.

I also noted in my remarks that some of the expenses attached to procedures like in vitro fertilization are tax deductible, but I readily recognize that the hon. member's comments are accurate and that not all are. In some cases, where people are repeatedly trying every conceivable scientific method to conceive, to have a child naturally, it gets very expensive. I would certainly be willing, as a private member, to look at ways in which we could address that further than the existing tax deductions that are available for those procedures.

As so often is the case in this chamber, I do not want to see the government use things like that, and I am sure the member would not either, as an excuse not to do anything.

I have been here 10 years, a decade. If I say it quickly, it does not seem like a long time, but I have been very frustrated a lot of the times in that 10 years. I have felt that different initiatives, regardless of party or partisan backing, which have come forward should have been supported, and they made good common sense. Too often I have heard the government say that it could not do it because it would open a Pandora's box and others would be lining up with their hands out wanting help.

I do not know what arguments will be used by the government member who will speak tonight against doing this, but if I hear that again tonight, that is sad. To me it is a weak argument to say to all adoptive parents across Canada who are incurring ever increasing costs that we cannot help them out because, if we do we, will have to address some other issue. Let us address each one individually. If the need is there, it is warranted and it makes sense, then let us do it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Andy Burton

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Andy Burton (Skeena, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, just very quickly because the member for Prince George--Peace River almost answered my question. As somebody who was adopted as a very young child, I can really empathize with this type of legislation. It was a long time ago, obviously, and in a different world really. It was during World War II in England. Times change, but times also tend to remain the same, as we have problems around the world.

I currently have a couple in my riding who are looking at adopting from Russia. It will cost them probably in excess of $40,000. It is a lot of money. They obviously really want to have a family, and that is why I was adopted. My parents really wanted to have a family. In fact they adopted a sister for me as well.

People who adopt really want to have these families and are willing to go to any lengths. Therefore, any legislation that would assist them financially, because of that financial burden, would be very useful.

The only question for the member is this. What reasonable rationale could be put forward, any kind of reasonable rationale, not to support this legislation?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill

Mr. Speaker, we will be hearing from the government side shortly and I am sure the hon. member who will speaking will feel that he is being reasonable.

The only excuse I have ever heard in the past is that we cannot set up individual exemptions, and yet we have seen it done for other expenses that are tax deductible. I therefore do not think that is a rational or reasonable excuse for not addressing this very real issue.

The research I have done has shown that there are roughly 20,000 children in Canada today growing up in permanent government care. They are either bouncing in and out of foster homes or they are in some form of government care. If we could somehow, through adopting this measure, have it assist other parents who might be deterred from adopting one of those children because of the huge financial cost, then why would we not do it? It is not difficult to make this tax deductible.

The other thing I learned, which is sort of the human side of the whole issue, is that foster children who are waiting for adoption are, in many cases, bouncing in and out of foster homes on short term stays and then go back into government care and institutions. This is not always the best scenario.

I thank God that I was raised in a good, solid Canadian farm home environment. I am not saying that I was not disciplined from time to time when I got out of line but I had a very loving home. I had four siblings. It was a great environment being raised on a farm in the Peace River country of northeastern British Columbia. I was very fortunate but these other children are not.

When foster children talk about the chance of being adopted, they refer to it as a forever family. That is how they differentiate between a foster home or staying in an institution and having the chance to belong to a permanent family.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for his efforts in presenting Bill C-246. It puts us all in a bit of a conflict as a result of a natural response to this deduction. What the bill actually asks for is $7,000 for child adoption expenses.

I must confess to a personal conflict here. I am the father of five children. My oldest child is adopted. I have two stepchildren and two children by other means shall we say. I am kind of the quintessential Canadian family of hers, mine and ours. This goes in part to my argument here. I am not sure how I would preference one child over the other.

Clearly, the day that my wife and I adopted our oldest son, who is now 23, when he was three or four days old, was easily one of the high days of my life. I am extraordinarily proud of him. In fact, he was here with me on break week. He is a student at the University of Toronto and this is study week. I cannot imagine loving him more. I am extraordinarily proud of my adopted son.

However I do have some difficulties with the bill. I want to share those difficulties with members and open up the debate a little bit more.

I want to commend adoptive parents generally for their willingness to take children in and raise them as their own. It is truly an extraordinary experience. I would heartily recommend it to people who are thinking along those lines. However I also know there is travail and there are expenses associated with adoption.

I am absolutely convinced of the hon. member's best intentions in bringing the bill forward but I think I have the unhappy task of raising some of the concerns that would normally arise when we are considering a proposal such as this, which is $7,000 for expenses specifically related to adoption.

I know members will recall the happy day on which the House passed the Canada child tax benefit, which was a landmark bill for Canadian families. It was one of the first post-deficit initiatives of the government and one that has almost taken on a life of its own. At this point, 3.2 million families benefit from the program, representing something in the order of about 5.7 million children, which, by anyone's standards, is a significant number of people affected by the initiative of the House and the government.

Initially it started out as a $9 billion program and then, with the enhancements in the last budget of about $150 per child starting in July 2003 and further increases in July 2005 and 2006, the government will have enriched the program to the tune of almost an additional billion dollars by 2007.

Members will also recall that these changes, along with the five year tax reduction plan, effectively mean that there will be an annual benefit for the first child in July 2004 of $2,719, and is projected to reach $3,243 by 2007. Again, that is a substantial benefit to Canadian families. I would emphasize the point that it is all Canadian families, whether their children arrive by means of adoption, by birth or simply arrive in the home by other means.

To be sure, total support for families will have more than doubled between 1996 and 2007. As I said earlier, this program is projected to reach $10 billion.

I know hon. members will appreciate that educating children is extraordinarily expensive these days. I have one child at the University of Toronto studying philosophy and physics and I have another child at the University of Windsor studying arts. I am anticipating another child will be going to a private school. I have more than a personal experience with trying to find post-tax dollars for the expenses that are involved in raising children.

I take advantage of the registered education savings plan, and I encourage others to do so. I suggest to those who are listening to look that up on the website. It is a pretty significant initiative on the part of the government.

I will now turn to Bill C-246. The problem with C-246 is that it kind of runs into a public policy wall of the government trying to not make preferences among classes of families.

As I indicated, I appreciate that there are various personal expenses incurred when one adopts. I have incurred those expenses myself. There are fees for agencies, sometimes for lawyers, travel expenses, home visits, et cetera. All of those are significant expenses. Equally though, a family that births a child has a unique set of expenses as well, not necessarily shared by an adoptive family. Again, I have been on that side of the equation.

It would not be fair to ask taxpayers at large to pay for the tax relief for a specific set of personal expenses of others. The Government of Canada should not be in the business of making distinctions among families and the choices that they make. A child is a child is a child.

At issue here is that some adoption expenses are in fact discretionary expenses, just as other child expenses are discretionary. If the bill were to go through, an adoptive parent would have possible discretionary expenses that would not necessarily be available to parents who acquire their children by means other than adoption.

It is true that adoptive parents do sometimes incur significant costs. I have heard the stories, much like the hon. member opposite, of trips to China and various other places, which are particularly expensive, but so also do other parents incur significant costs. The example of in vitro fertilization was raised and we do recognize a particular medical expense for that procedure. There are other examples of expenses in reproductive technologies that, frankly, are not recognized. Again, how does the Government of Canada preference one family over another?

Quite simply, some adoptions are quite expensive while others are not. Similarly, some family pregnancies are quite expensive while others are not. The Government of Canada, again, should not be in the business of giving preference to one family over another.

Indeed, other children arrive in families by various means, whether they are adopted or they are birthed, and they become children in the family, yet their expenses are not necessarily recognized. It follows then that we should not expect or ask Canadians to finance these types of personal and discretionary expenses through their tax dollars.

It is virtually impossible to separate discretionary and non-discretionary elements of the costs associated with raising children. There is also considerable variation in the amount that different families devote to their children, even at similar income levels.

In consideration of these variations and the amounts devoted to children, support for children is generally provided as a pre-determined benefit. In other words, the way the Government of Canada approaches children, generally, is that a child is a child is a child, a family is a family is a family, and the Canadian child tax benefit is available to all. Therefore, whether it is at the $2,000 level or the $3,000 level, it is available to all, but we do not, as a matter of policy, make distinctions whether a child is adopted or whether a child is acquired by other means.

The government recognizes that parents should receive financial assistance to help ensure that their needs are met. I believe and I hope I have at least demonstrated that the government places a high priority on investing in children. However it would not be appropriate to ask taxpayers at large to subsidize adoption expenses through the tax system in preference to others.

Regrettably, I must urge hon. members not to support this initiative. Nevertheless, I want to commend the hon. member for bringing forward this bill because it does face us squarely with some difficulties that are in the system.

However, as I said, a child is a child is a child. From the government's standpoint, we must treat all families equally.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill brought forward by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River.

This subject is of particular concern to me. I have had the opportunity to introduce a bill along the same lines, but with different amounts.

I was concerned with this situation because two good friends of mine went through an international adoption process. I have helped them in their efforts. I can tell you that this is a difficult process, particularly with certain countries.

I would like to say a few words about my good friend Linda Picard from Chateau-Richer who adopted a Russian boy. His name is Kyril and he is now about 7 years old. He was one and a half when he arrived here. He adapted very well to the Quebec culture. I met him recently and he was telling me that he was at the top of his class in French. He still has relations with people of the Russian community in Quebec. He is seven years old and he is fluent in Russian and in French. This is quite an achievement.

I am also thinking of a good friend of mine who lives on my street, France Vézina and her spouse, Patrick Boilay.

International adoption often comes to mind following television reports that show human dramas. A human drama, whether it is a famine or a civil war that affects adults, is always hard to witness, it is a terrible situation. However, when young children are also suffering, it affects us even more, particularly when we ourselves have children.

In the case that I was referring to, that of France and Patrick, they had seen a documentary on the television program Le Point , which showed orphanages in China where young girls would literally die. As we know, generally speaking, women and girls in China do not enjoy the same social status as men. This is a country where a lot remains to be done in terms of gender equality. The girls were left in orphanages that more or less became the places where they would die.

Following this documentary, France came to see me. She said that she had seen it on Le Point and that it made her cry. She and her spouse already had two children born in Quebec. They followed the procedures and, several months later, they went and adopted another child.

Our heart and our feelings often take precedence over monetary considerations. In this area, one may well say: “It will cost whatever it will cost, but I want to go oversea and bring back a child, regardless of the costs involved”. The purpose of the bill is not to fully compensate those who make that decision.

I thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, who pointed out that the Quebec government is a leader and provides some tax incentives. This shows that we do not only do bad things in Quebec. The minister responsible for northern Ontario, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, said that this was ingrained in Quebec politics. He seemed to be implying that in Quebec we are a bunch of crooks, and that the sponsorship scandal that is tarnishing the government is par for the course.

That statement is utterly false. The hon. member even had to retract his remarks and apologize.

This is proof that, in the case of a number of social and fiscal laws in Quebec, we are at the forefront of several provinces of Canada. This is what makes Quebeckers different, and this is what makes us different as a people and as a nation. I am pleased to hear this from my colleague of British Columbia.

We know that this bill is to amend the tax act to allow for the deduction of expenses of up to $7,000 relating to international adoption. I want to reassure my colleague by telling him that we will be in favour of his bill. We agree with it, although it is a private member's bill, and all members should be able to vote with their conscience. I can tell you that I cannot speak for all my colleagues, but we already had the opportunity to debate this issue. I believe this bill will easily be supported by my colleagues, the Bloc Quebecois members.

However, if I may make a suggestion, perhaps it would have been worthwhile to raise the $7,000 limit to replace it instead with the real costs. It is true that financial data vary. However, the number of children adopted through international adoption is still minimal or not significant in Canada. Considering the fact that costs may easily reach $20,000 or $30,000, perhaps it would have been worthwhile to raise the amount. This is not a criticism that I want to make about my colleague's bill, but simply a constructive suggestion.

Even if I tell you that this phenomenon is still not yet widespread, it is growing. I had the opportunity to examine the statistics when I introduced my own bill. We realized that the phenomenon has been growing in the last 10 years in Quebec and Canada.

I was glad to see that 40% of all international adoptions in Canada are made in Quebec. There are statistics on this. What I am telling the House is based on the figures I have. Between 1993 and 2002, out of the 19,600 international adoptions in Canada, 8,100 were made in Quebec alone, that is, 41% of the 19,600 adoptions made between 1993 and 2002. A little over half of the children adopted by Quebeckers come from Asia, 59,5% to be exact, and they come mainly from China.

I forgot to mention one thing. We may have colleagues in this House who have made an international adoption. I remember that one of our colleagues in the Bloc, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, adopted a girl named Rosalie from Thailand. This beautiful and adorable little girl does not seem to have any trouble getting used to the Quebec culture. I think she is giving a lot of satisfaction to her father, our hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who is well known for his fiery temper. Sometimes we ask him to think about Rosalie and it usually calms him down.

But who am I to talk about people with a fiery temper, I know I am not always easy to deal with. Since I have to drive back to Quebec City at the end of day, the House will understand why I want to tone it down a bit and not get so worked up.

As I was saying, 59.5% of these children came from Asia, and mainly from China, and were adopted by Quebeckers.

Another 18.8% come from the Americas, and in particular Haiti. About the same proportion come from East Bloc countries, like Russia, Belarus and Romania.

I see that my time is almost up. I just want to add that probably all the members of the Bloc Québécois will wholeheartedly support this bill, as long as it is a free vote, especially since it was part of our platform in 2000.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-246. It takes me back to my earlier period as a lawyer when I practised family law almost exclusively and handled a fair number of private adoptions during that period of time.

The NDP supports the bill that has been put forward. It is a further attempt by this legislature to acknowledge the role that adoption plays in Canada.

Adoption is a relatively new phenomena in the last 40 to 50 years. It is interesting to note when we look at the opinion polls that adoption has become highly accepted and has moved up toward the 80 percentile. We would not have found that 50 years ago. Adoption has become an accepted form of developing families in Canadian society.

Bill C-246 attempts to treat, in a tax advantage aspect, biological parents and adoptive parents in an equal fashion. It would recognize that there are different expenses and that society should subsidize those expenses, depending on how a child is brought into the family, whether biologically or by adoption. We provide medical benefits for mothers who are pregnant and we do not expect them to pay for those medicare services. Society subsidizes that family. Bill C-246 would do the same thing for adoptive parents.

I heard the comment from one of our Liberal colleagues about the number of adoptive parents who are adopting babies as opposed to adopting older children. They cannot have children biologically, but may have gone through great expense in their attempts to have biological children. They have already incurred a substantial amount of expense. The bill would assist them to start a family by providing them with some tax relief.

It is worth nothing that this tax relief is not only for those parents who are adopting babies. It would also extend to parents who are adopting family members such as nephews and nieces or maybe children of close friends who have died in some tragedy.

I am thinking of a case that came through my office recently involving friends of mine. There was an earthquake in Egypt and both parents were killed. There were three children in the family who were in their mid and late adolescence. The children happened to be visiting their grandmother in Egypt that day. Both parents were in the house when it collapsed. The grandmother was not capable of taking care of the children. The remaining family members living in Canada who were Canadian citizens were kind enough and responsible enough to take on that responsibility. However, this was a financial burden for them. They had three children of their own and instantly doubled their family in a very traumatic.

The type of tax relief provided in Bill C-246 would have certainly helped this family. It would not have resolved all of their financial difficulties, but it would have helped. I can repeat these kinds of stories.

These families reached out, oftentimes in a traumatic situation, and took on additional responsibility. That is something society should applaud. We should see what we can do to help them. This bill would go some distance to accomplishing that assistance.

I want to make another point. Speaking from my own experience, I can attest to how expensive adoption is, whether it is done inside Canada or outside Canada. I know how much the legal fees are; I know how much the legal process costs. I know what the home studies cost. Psychologists or social workers are brought in to assess the family in a home situation to determine whether it would be appropriate for the family to adopt a child. All of that costs money.

In addition, if the child is being adopted from outside the country, the adoptive parents will have expenses in the other country. Oftentimes they have very substantial travel and accommodation expenses when they move into the other country to pick up the child and bring the child back to Canada.

The $7,000 deduction proposed under Bill C-246 is a very modest amount compared to what it costs most families, particularly for adoptions that take place outside Canada, especially overseas. The $7,000 is a very small proportion, and is probably in the range of 25% to 35% of what it would actually cost a family to adopt a child.

I congratulate the member from the Conservative Party who has brought the bill forward at this time. It has been brought forward on other occasions and the legislature has not seen fit to adopt it into law. We hope we will see a different pattern as a result of his ongoing encouragement to the legislature to pass it into law.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Charlie Penson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise on Bill C-246, proposed by my colleague from my part of the world, the hon. member for Prince George--Peace River.

I certainly share his sentiment. He wants a tax policy that would help Canadian families adopt children and which would recognize some of the big expenses incurred.

I come from a family of 12 children. We get together quite often. Every five years we have a huge reunion of several hundred people. It is a great time. My wife and I have four children and nine grandchildren. We have family events which we enjoy. In fact we were skiing last weekend at our little cabin. Something like 30 people were there and it was wonderful.

Some people cannot have a family because they have difficulty conceiving. The extra expenses involved in adopting children should be recognized. We want people to share the same joy in having a family that the rest of us do.

Many people adopt children even if they have their own. People do it for all kinds of reasons, for example, to help a child from a third world country who would not have the opportunity that the child would have here in Canada. I know couples who have gone to Russia and Kazakhstan to do exactly that and have incurred significant expenses.

We have to recognize that we want to share the joy of families with other members of society who are unable to have children. Because of the huge expenses involved in adoption, the bill put forward by my colleague today is an excellent piece of legislation. It recognizes that the family is the cornerstone of society, whether the children have come into the family through adoption or real birth. We need to encourage people to have children and to adopt them if necessary.

Canada's demographics are changing, which is something that no one has talked about yet. With our aging population, 20 years from now there will be a huge problem. There will not be very many people to pay the bills. A lot of people will be retired. People are living longer and the birth rate is continuing to decline. The replacement for a couple right now is 1.2.

If it were not for immigration right now, Canada would be sliding backward. Unfortunately it will only get worse according to the projections for the next 20 years. Immigration will play a bigger part, which we welcome, but we will be competing for immigration. In western Europe the birth rate is even lower than it is in Canada. Countries there will be competing as well.

Why would we want restrictive policies that would discourage people from adopting, especially adopting outside the country where the expenses are the highest? I simply do not see it.

The parliamentary secretary said that we should not discriminate but in fact we discriminate already. The government's policies on taxation for families does exactly that. Single income families have an advantage over dual income families. In many cases one parent would like to stay at home and raise the children but the family may not have that option because both parents need to work. However, if two people are working in the family, they pay higher taxes than a single income earner. That should be corrected. It is a serious error which discourages families.

I am very much in support of my hon. friend's bill. He is suggesting that we recognize this important principle in law and give fair tax treatment to what people can write off for these adoption costs.

I know of one family where the parents have one child of their own and they recently adopted a child in Ukraine. They had to make a couple of trips to Ukraine. They had to stay there for quite a while as things do not work quite the same way that they do in Canada where procedures can be followed very carefully. When they went to Ukraine, they found that a lot of what they thought was in place in terms of rules and regulations were off the rails, so they had to start all over again. They had to incur extra expenses. The expenses can easily be in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. It finally resulted in their getting clearance to bring their daughter home.

Their daughter is a wonderful little child. She has been given an opportunity that she certainly would not have had otherwise. Some of the orphanages in the eastern bloc countries are in a deplorable condition. It has taken this poor little girl quite a while to adjust. I can just imagine what she went through in her life until she was two years old. Whether it will be a proven impact or not, I do not know, but I do know that she has loving parents who want her. They are giving her an opportunity that she probably would not have had otherwise.

My colleague also talked about foster parents and the fact that there are a lot of children that do not get the opportunity to be adopted even here in Canada. I think he talked about 20,000 people or so that go through the foster parent system. I have a serious problem with that in that if there are people who would like to adopt those children but feel that they cannot because of the economics of it, the deduction would really help. Again it would provide a badly needed opportunity to children in the foster care system.

In many cases the children that go through foster parent homes end up in institutions like our jails. It is really sad. They feel unwanted and that becomes part of the reason that they rebel. I suggest there are a lot higher costs involved with that result than there would be with the $7,000 deduction my friend is talking about in order to write off adoption expenses.

Let us adopt a family friendly policy. After all, the family is the cornerstone of our society.

My sister and her husband adopted a child many years ago and that child now has children of his own. They celebrate together. They are all one family. I know the rewards that they have reaped. My sister and her husband had three children afterward, but I have seen the rewards that they have reaped from having adopted their child.

The children are all the same. In fact, my children went to the same high school as my sister's and her husband's children, but they had not gone to the same school before that. We were in a parent-teacher interview one day when our oldest child was in high school and one of the teachers said, “Can I ever see that your daughter is Stephen's cousin. They are exactly the same”. This was the adopted son of my sister.

Maybe it does work out that we become what our families are in mannerisms and many other ways, but that is the kind of fit we see in families with adopted children. In many cases they fit in perfectly and are wanted. This makes perfect sense.

The government and the parliamentary secretary talk about the need to make sure that we do not discriminate. We could start, as my colleague from Prince George—Peace River said, with this family friendly policy and see where it leads from there. I suggest that it also needs to pertain to the dual income family versus the single income family. That would be a big help as well. There are policies that are needed. Let us start with this one and see where it goes.

I am in full support of Bill C-246 and I hope it comes to fruition.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I realize there are only a couple of minutes left and I want to make a few comments.

First, I want to make it quite clear that I agree with a number of things the previous speaker said. I personally believe that the family is the foundation of our society. People in all levels of their lives need help from their families. They need the spiritual and physical help and that support. That is the glue that binds us together in a caring society. Therefore, we have to very carefully think about the best way to help strengthen the family in our society with our limited resources.

I congratulate the member for bringing this bill forward for people who are somehow abandoned in society, who do not have homes and would have a better chance of finding a home through this method, a home through a cross-section of anyone in society, where it may be prohibitively expensive for some people to achieve this.

I would have to do more research on this because there are a number of things I do not know. I am sure the member who is proposing the bill will give me some facts. One area I am interested in is how many children in Canada who wish to be adopted are not adopted. My understanding is there is a lineup, and they all pretty well do find families.

Another benefit of this bill is that it helps support families with adoption in general. It helps Canada play an important role in the world. As members know, Canada is very well recognized in the world for many reasons and we are trying to enhance that even more. Of course we are much wealthier in a number of ways and are able to raise children. There are a number of children around the world who do not have the benefits that we have in place at this time.

If this method would make it more possible for a family in Canada to adopt a child from overseas, a child who has been abandoned, a child who would be raised without a health system, without proper nourishment, without proper clothes, without an education, then who could be against that under normal circumstances?

I may have missed this today, but one thing I am also interested in is the difference in expenses as compared to a natural-born child and an adoption, and the rationale in that respect. I am sure the member could help me privately.

The last area that I would also like to look at, as I research this bill further before making my final decision, is how our limited resources could to go to the most needy. I am not sure if this bill is revenue-sensitive to the salaries of the families. If this is concentrated solely on less advantaged or disadvantaged families and kids, it would be more preferable. Therefore, our limited resources would go to those who needed it the most, not to families who could easily afford it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Cheryl Gallant

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is with deep disappointment that I find it necessary to question the response from the former president of the Treasury Board in the Chrétien cabinet, now the Minister of Industry, for the lack of accountability through the misuse of foundations.

As the opposition critic for science, research and technology, I share the deep disappointment that the research community has over the decision of the Prime Minister to eliminate the minister of science, research and development from his cabinet.

A science adviser who reports to the Prime Minister is not the same as a cabinet minister who reports to Parliament. It has to make one wonder why the Governor General dropped any references to science, research and development in the throne speech, and whether that dropping was deliberate.

In the section of the throne speech, which the Governor General refused to read, the government claimed that $13 billion had gone into basic research since 1997. That is very misleading because much of these funds has flowed to non-accountable foundations. In fact the Auditor General testified to the public accounts committee that $7.4 billion had flowed to foundations since 1997, as at March 31, 2002. Almost all those funds were sitting somewhere in bank accounts and investments of some sort.

The policy of the government to recognize transfers as expenditures, when money flows to foundations, misrepresents what is actually being spent. It is not actually being paid to researchers and scientists who are counting on these funds to do the basic science. It could be years before these scientists see any funds at all, if any money is left, and not in the pocket of some Liberal-friendly ad agency.

The decision to park billions of dollars beyond the reach of Parliament in non-accountable foundations and then have cabinet approve in principle, without the money, for things like the $500 million proposal for the Canadian neutron facility is an example of our scientists having to spend their time chasing money rather than doing the science.

Parliament has a primary responsibility to scrutinize public spending. While the Prime Minister has recently stated publicly that parliamentarians should have the ability to question every line of spending, as finance minister in the Chrétien cabinet, the Prime Minister created a series of foundations. They were created in such a way as to avoid the scrutiny of Parliament and the Auditor General.

We are talking about mountains of taxpayer dollars. Since 1997 the finance minister, now Prime Minister, transferred more than $7.4 billion to 10 foundations, and this money came directly from the $20 billion that was slashed from health care back when he was trying to balance the budget.

It is interesting to note that these foundations were created at the same time the government was setting up its $250 million slush fund, which we now know as the federal government sponsorship program. They were also created at the same time the deputy prime minister was funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars into the thoroughly discredited gun registry.

Concerns about the continuing use of foundations by the federal government as a means to avoid the effective ministerial oversight and parliamentary scrutiny have been continually raised by the Auditor General, and she has even put out a report entitled: “Placing the Public's Money beyond Parliament's Reach”.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I can say from my time in policy meetings with the Prime Minister that the exact opposite is the case. He is very interested in emphasizing science and technology and in fact it is a central theme of the throne speech.

The hon. member has missed the point of the reorganization of the science responsibilities for the government. We made it abundantly clear in the announcement of the new ministry and in the Speech from the Throne that we place a strong value on science and technology as foundations for the 21st century economy.

The Minister of Industry has the mandate and responsibility for science in Canada. This responsibility has clearly been vested in the Minister of Industry since the passage of the Department of Industry Act in 1995. The function has neither been eliminated nor downgraded.

Yes, the position of Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development has been eliminated in the new government structure. However, we will be able to draw on not one but two new sources of support and advice. The hon. member for London North Centre has been appointed to the new position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on Science and Small Business. Dr. Arthur Carty, currently President of the National Research Council and a distinguished chemist in his own right, has been appointed national science adviser.

The Prime Minister's creation of a parliamentary secretary to advise him directly on science and small business issues shows clearly that these issues will be held in high regard at the highest levels of this government. In his new position, the parliamentary secretary will not only be able to support the Prime Minister directly on science and technology issues but will provide his perspectives to cabinet, as appropriate.

The Prime Minister's personal interest in this area is further emphasized by the appointment of Dr. Carty. In creating this position we have provided ourselves with the opportunity to harness the great science and technology potential in Canada and help build a stronger science culture in this country. The national science adviser will provide sound expert advice on a full range of issues related to research and the impact of science considerations on public policy.

He will work closely with the Advisory Council on Science and Technology and others to help our government identify science and technology priorities and directions. The national science adviser will also work with Canada's research community to apply the benefits of our research and development to the challenges faced by the developing world.

It is clear that the national science adviser will play an important role for our government. He could serve as a champion to help build and enhance science and technology collaboration across government, industry and academia and to access knowledge resulting from the global science and technology capacity. He could also harness a collective knowledge in this country to identify and assess future science based opportunities and risks that Canada may face in the coming years.

The national science adviser will undoubtedly play a key role, too, in mapping out a plan to deliver on one of our government's key science and technology priorities: ensuring that our knowledge investment is converted to commercial success and growing small and medium-sized firms that can benefit from science and research. In this regard, he will work closely with the parliamentary secretary for science and small business.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Cheryl Gallant

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant

Mr. Speaker, after the public accounts committee issued its report calling on the government to clean up its act, Canadians are still waiting for the changes as recommended by the Auditor General and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The public is in no mood for another gun registry or sponsorship boondoggle.

It stretches the credibility of the former finance minister and now Prime Minister to claim ignorance about the problems with the sponsorship program when my parliamentary colleague more than a year ago in the public accounts committee drew the connection between the unaccounted funds with the Liberal ad firm Groupaction and foundations. As the member pointed out, we have no way of knowing who benefits from these foundations, whether they are friends of the Prime Minister or former party members.

It would appear that Parliament and the Auditor General were purposely excluded from holding these foundations accountable. The sponsorship scandal has put an entire cloud over government programs and it is up to the government to remove that cloud by bringing accountability to these foundations.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what that has to do with science and technology.

It is interesting how the members opposite spend half the day going after us for having too much control over programs. Then, when we set them apart from government, so that we are not in control, they complain about that too.

I wish to reiterate that our government views science and technology as critical foundations for Canada's future.

Since 1997, we have invested over $13 billion on research and innovation. The Minister of Industry has responsibility, and I am quoting the Act establishing the Department, for science and technology in Canada, to encourage the fullest and most efficient and effective development and use of science and technology and for fostering and promoting science and technology in Canada and is keenly involved in ensuring that these monies are well spent.

This government remains deeply committed to science and technology issues. They form a key part of our mandate. Working closely with the Prime Minister, members of this House, the Parliamentary Secretary and the National Science Advisor, we will continue to work to ensure that Canada's science and technology efforts benefit all Canadians and provide a strong foundation for the economy of the future.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, February 9, 2004, I asked the government, for the 22nd time, “How much is the gun registry going to fully cost to implement and how much will it cost to maintain?”

For the 22nd time, the minister in charge of the firearms fiasco failed to answer the question.

I specifically asked, “The Firearms Act has already cost taxpayers $1 billion. Taxpayers want to know, when will it become $2 billion?”

Instead of answering the question, the Deputy Prime Minister defied the conclusions reached by the Auditor General in her December 2002 report and the financial reports released by the minister's own department. The minister said that she had been absolutely clear year after year about the cost of the firearms program.

That is simply not true. If she was being absolutely clear, why did the Auditor General make the following statement in paragraph 10.1 and 10.3 in her December 2002 report on the firearms fiasco? It says:

10.1 The Department of Justice Canada did not provide Parliament with sufficient information to allow it to effectively scrutinize the Canadian Firearms Program and ensure accountability. It provided insufficient financial information and explanations for the dramatic increase in the cost of the Program.

10.3 In 2000, the Department of Justice estimated that by 2004-05 it would spend at least $1 billion on the Program and collect $140 million in fees after refunds. This amount does not include all financial impacts on the government. The Department also did not report to Parliament on the wider costs of the Program as required by the government's regulatory policy.

That is what the Auditor General had to say. It is absolutely clear. Do we doubt her word?

Did the minister not remember that she was in charge of this firearms fiasco in 2000? Why did the minister force members of Parliament to wait two years before this information was provided to them? Why did we have to get it from the Auditor General and not from the minister?

The minister was the very person keeping Parliament in the dark then and she's doing it again now. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

Here are some additional gun costs that have been uncovered through 430 access to information requests that I have submitted and some excellent research done by the parliamentary research branch.

Here are some additional costs to the $1 billion already noted: enforcement costs, $1 billion; compliance costs could be anywhere from $367 million to $764 million; privatization costs, $371 million; and economic costs are still a cabinet secret we are told.

The cost benefit analysis is still a cabinet secret, hidden by the present Prime Minister. There are indirect costs still unknown for the following departments: Treasury Board, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Canadian Wildlife Service, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, National Defence, Parks Canada, Correctional Service Canada and the Canadian War Museum because this information was left out of the Liberal's performance report on the firearms program presented on October 31, 2003.

The government has failed to disclose these costs to Parliament or to the public. Consequently, the cover-up on the true costs of the gun registry continues.

For the 23rd time, I ask the Liberal government to tell us the truth. How much will the gun registry cost to fully implement and how much will it cost to maintain?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Hon. Hedy Fry (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the majority of Canadians support effective gun control, but more specifically to the hon. member's question, the firearms program has not cost $2 billion. In fact, it has not even cost $1 billion. The $1 billion figure is the projected cost of the program at the end of 2004-05.

As of March 31, 2003, the full cost of the program was $815 million as reported in the 2002-03 Department of Justice's performance report. This number includes the information technology costs and the reimbursements to the provinces and the federal partners, such as the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency. This total also includes all the supplementary estimates that were approved by Parliament.

The money that has been invested in the Canada Firearms Centre's information technology system, including its development and operation over the last seven years, has created a system that works. The information technology system has been operational since 1998, the date the law came into effect. The system has been used successfully to licence two million firearm owners and to register almost seven million firearms.

In spite of the hon. member's theories about cover up, let me be clear. The total projected expenditure relating to the program for the fiscal year 2003-04 is approximately $133 million. This amount represents $116 million for the Canada Firearms Centre and an estimated $17 million identified by our other federal partners. All these moneys were approved by Parliament. I can assure the member that the program continues to focus on efficient and cost effective operations.

Police across Canada are making daily use of the Canadian firearms information system for crime prevention and for investigating firearms related crime and smuggling. All illegal firearms begin as legal firearms. Canada cannot combat illegal firearms without an effective system to control legal firearms.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Income Tax Act
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February 19, 2004