Mr. Elmer M. MacKay (Central Nova):
Mr. Speaker, on June 26 I addressed a question to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Turner). I asked whether he was aware that selfemployed Canadians were obliged to pay the entire amount of their Canada Pension Plan contributions as opposed to Canadians who were not self-employed and who are only required to pay half. I asked whether the minister had given any thought to giving tax relief to this particular group. I received no answer to this question, and since I thought it was a matter of some interest I am taking the liberty of making some further remarks on the subject tonight.
It seems to me, generally speaking, that the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Munro) opened the lid of a veritable Pandora's box of complaints when he made his now famous statement that the extra revenue to help pay increased welfare costs in this country would have to come from the middle-income class. Middle-income Canadians, though their needs are admittedly less than those of many minority groups and disadvantaged, poverty-stricken Canadians, are being neglected by this administration. One segment of this group, the selfemployed, is being discriminated against in a fundamental way. Those who belong to it are in effect being penalized to the extent that they are obliged to contribute to their own retirement benefit through the Canada Pension Plan.
July 4, 1972
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion
While there may be some advantages left in being selfemployed, they are becoming increasingly few. In many instances they are illusory. Constantly badgered by bureaucrats for statistics, caught in arbitrary decisions as to taxation policy, victims of conflicts between federal and provincial administrations, the self-employed Canadian, as things now stand, cannot claim in respect of contributions toward the Canada Pension Plan and in this respect he would be far better off working for someone else. For example, according to the information supplied to me, the average self-employed Canadian makes $6,000 a year, less in many instances, than his key employees. Yet if he pays half of that employee's pension plan contributions of, say, $160, if that is the bracket in which the employee happens to be, he is able to deduct approximately $80 as a business expense. On the other hand, his own personal contribution, if it should also be $160, must be entirely paid by himself and he cannot deduct any part of it.
In my view, this is a type of discrimination which is totally unjustifiable. The government is exploiting a particular group of Canadians. "Exploiting" may be an unfair term, on reflection, but I suggest the government is not treating fairly the average, hardworking middle-income Canadian who is in many instances doing more than his share of keeping this country's economy going.
The Minister of National Health and Welfare, in a moment of candour said, as I mentioned earlier, that it is this group of Canadians who must shoulder an increasing amount of the load to pay for social benefits-in effect, that big business must be given no more responsibility in this regard because any such action would dull the incentive to expand under present budgetary policy.
Somewhere or other the minister and the government have got their priorities confused. As far as cost is concerned, I am not suggesting that it would be proper for the government to contribute directly, as does an employer, to self-employed Canadians' Canada Pension Plan contributions, except I suppose in cases where the government is the actual employer.
While on this subject, it is interesting to look at the revenue that is involved. Assuming that there are approximately 400,000 self-employed Canadians, and that for the sake of statistics their average contribution is $160 a year, if you take half of that sum as the revenue figure, theoretically the contributions would amount to about $32 million. This is about three times the budget of Information Canada, a singularly useless administrative monster, or whatever you want to call it, indeed perhaps the most useless creation of any government.
I am suggesting that the government give equity to self-employed Canadians by allowing them tax credits or deductions for part or all of their Canada Pension Plan contribution. I feel very strongly that every Canadian should have an equal opportunity to contribute toward his or her retirement. I think this is a bad area in which to discriminate.
I am aware that it is possible to take advantage of the retirement contribution plan and that people are sufficiently well informed about it. I am also well aware that,
despite my rather partisan remarks, the government is also not unaware of the problems facing middle-income Canadians. But this is an area in which the government should show some concern. When a self-employed person is trying to keep his business going and is facing the many demands that are made for statistics, and so on, by government, surely the very least that this administration can do is to explore ways and means of letting that person have the same opportunity to contribute to a national pension plan for his retirement as people who happen to be working for someone else.