Abram Ernest Epp
New Democratic Party
Mr. Epp (Thunder Bay-Nipigon):
For a visit. Well, there may be something to extract from that a little later. The Hon. Member for Halton also had some fascinating observations to make:
At the outset, I would like to say that this sports pool is nothing more than an indirect taxation by devious ways and means. It is an underhanded way of collecting money from the Canadian public because the Government has failed in its responsibility time and time again to collect it by normal means.
That is a splendid statement, one which I do not intend to allow the Hon. Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport to forget in this Parliament. It is one we might inscribe in an appropriate place and keep constantly spotlighted, as is done in a stadium when the great athletes are performing, in order to be sure we do not forget it.
He went on to comment on the proposal before the House on this day in late June of 1983 by saying the following:
As a former athlete I support anything which can be done to help amateur athletes in this country. But certainly not by establishing the phony, sleazy programs the Government is talking about which would be taking advantage primarily of the poor people of this nation, and then misleading them with false and misleading advertising.
That was splendidly spoken. With those comments on the record from both of the Opposition Parties in preceding Parliaments, I regretted this morning that the Minister's observations did not in fact extend to these considerations. I was disappointed to see him focusing particularly on the federal-provincial ramifications of all of this. He is concerned about the pursuit of the policy which the government of 1979
November 8, 1984
followed in turning the field over to the provinces. That is virtuous at the federal level presumably, a vice lift to the provinces. We might remind ourselves immediately, of course, that the Parliament of Canada declares what is illegal in this country, if it does not in fact define all the vice that exists. To leave our provincial colleagues in their governments responsible for this behaviour if in fact it is immoral, if it has vicious consequences and if the social ends are as evil as the Member for Provencher and the Member for Halton suggested in 1982 and 1983, seems to me highly regrettable. We should in fact be giving the sort of consideration to this whole question which the then opposition member for Provencher did in fact propose.
If I might take one more selection from the parliamentary record of years past, I find on November 18, 1982 the then representative from Provencher declared, in words which I convey to him strongly and powerfully this afternoon:
I suggest to the Minister that he seriously consider setting up an all-party committee to study the subject of lotteries and what they mean to the Canadian public, both in the immediate and long term, before this Bill is passed.
I daresay it is not appropriate to propose a motion in that direction. As a new Member I am open to instruction on these matters. I see that the opposition member in that Parliament did not in fact move a motion either, but he proferred advice to the Minister as I now do. I think this is really quite a serious matter. Both of us have provincial colleagues who have taken action which we must regret. I am candid in recognizing that the New Democratic Government of Manitoba was into the field very early, about 1970. I regret that. I think it was a wrong action. I regret equally that the Government of Ontario has been in the lottery field so largely with the Wintario program in particular. It has in fact used that extensively for the very purposes for which the late Government planned to use the sports pool.
Surely, given more than a decade of experience with gaming it would be appropriate at this point to take a good look at it. While as a new Member I may hesitate to add to the number of committees we will have in the House, this is one of the important moral and social matters which certainly deserves consideration and I commend it to the Minister.
In connection with the Wintario grants, the impression I have in northern Ontario is that the largesse which comes from Queen's Park and makes possible the establishment of sports facilities of various sorts can be the sort of gift which some of us occasionally experience. Initially everything seems splendid. In this case with the capital grants fully in the ground and above it with buildings erected, local communities find themselves suddenly having to support the operation of facilities they did not have before. The consequence can be a heavier burden of taxation than those people have known before. That surely is another of the consequences of gambling revenue because it seems to be such cheap money. There is no reason why a small community should not have facilities given that this money is in provincial hands ready to be disbursed wherever it may be.
Sports Pool Corporation
There is, of course, concern about the financing of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and other activities in fitness and amateur sports. I share the concern of the Member for York West (Mr. Marchi) to know how the Government plans to do this. I took care to obtain the governing Party's campaign handbook last night and also to get some sense of what the policy might be in order to have marks by which we might judge at an early point.
I note in the campaign handbook a statement that the PC Government would explore tax incentives for corporate support for sports and fitness programs. I note that the policy statement given to sports organizations saying that the PCs are committed to maintaining the highest level of federal support for amateur sport in Canada is very likely to be contradicted beginning this evening. We have had an indication in one area and another that all Canadians are going to have to suffer cuts in the expenditures of the Government, so it seems highly unlikely that that particular statement given to sports groups across the country during the last election will in fact be maintained and that they will in fact maintain the highest level of federal support. It looks as if some trimming in the funding made available in that area is inevitable. We will be watching with great concern.
This same section goes on to comment on a commitment to develop a charitable donations tax credit. That brings me to my concluding observations and expression of concern about the way in which all of this may unfold. The Canadian fiscal structure is presently shot full of one tax break and another, whether for individuals or for corporations. I found it very interesting when talking to a Thunder Bay accountant a few weeks ago to hear him say: "When you get to the House of Commons, do your best to simplify that tax structure. Stop trying to achieve social aims through the fiscal system because it becomes more and more complex as each of these is carried through".
My personal opinion about the tax breaks is that we ought to be really rigorous in reviewing all of them. I am intensely suspicious about the use of every one of these. Perhaps the greatest concern I feel about the proposal that there be more such incentives is the concern that all Members of Parliament share, I am sure. That is a concern that we have genuine responsible government in this country. The great problem with using arrangements of this sort is that they inevitably become veiled in the confidentiality which applies to fiscal dealings of government with individuals and corporations. When they are so veiled it becomes quite impossible for Parliament to have any close contact with what is happening. We need a rigorous reconsideration of all of them.
On this day on which the Government plans to put forward an economic statement we need a recognition that one of the factors in the deficit that bothers the Government so deeply is in fact an incredible level of tax expenditures of one break and another. In fact, I suspect that the deficit is largely matched by the breaks to individuals and corporations. It would be good to have all the detail we can possibly have on that. The proposal that we have in addition to it as a means of financing
November 8, 1984
fitness and amateur sport, Mr. Speaker, seems to me not much less dubious for other reasons than was the proposal to establish the sports pool in 1982-1983.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, let me applaud the measure which was put forward by the Minister of National Health and Welfare, subject only to my concern about a proper provision for the employees of the sports pool. I would like to call on the Government to be principled in its entire rejection of gambling in Canada. An all-Party committee to review this seems to me quite essential. We ought to think about the possibility of amending the Criminal Code.
Finally, I would like to say that I await with concern the statement on funding for amateur sport, whenever it is made, and question the intention to use more tax incentives in this area. Thank you for your patience, Mr. Speaker.
Subtopic: SPORTS POOL AND LOTO CANADA WINDING-UP ACT MEASURE TO ESTABLISH