If he has nothing against that, why does he not stop saying it?
Bill C-14 is now being discussed in committee, and the adverse impact of that bill will fall heavier on women than it will on men. We have had group after group come before us who have made that point. We have seen this kind of legislation recently with the changes to the spouse's allowance and in the niggardly approach the minister took toward elderly women.
As I say, this seems to be a pattern that is emerging, and it is seen more clearly than ever as set out in this particular clause. Embodied in this clause is the principle of family income. It is a new principle as far as the Income Tax Act is concerned. The principle of family income has not been written into the Income Tax Act before. It is the first time a provision is being put into the Income Tax Act based on the joint income of spouses.
The minister refuses to acknowledge any connection between the joint income provision in this bill and the principle of joint filing. She has discounted it on a number of occasions. Whether there is a single sheet of paper on which both incomes are added together or whether there is a joint, complex tax form is quite beside the point. It is important to point out that the filing unit for the purpose of the child tax credit is the husband and wife, if both are working. This is very clearly stated in this clause.
I refer the minister to a document that was put out by the Minister of Finance on November 16, the night of the budget. This is a document which dealt with filing units. The document is called "Integration of Social Program Payments into the Income Tax System". In this booklet the Minister of Finance deals with four options of filing units for the purposes
of the income-tested refundable tax credits. The four options include (1) the individual; (2) the primary earner-this is the spouse with the higher income; (3) the primary earner plus spouse; and (4) the family, including children. This clause that the minister has before us clearly uses the third option that the Minister of Finance presented in his integration of social program payments into the income tax system. In this document the minister speaks about this particular option; that is, the primary earner plus spouse; the husband plus the secondary earner, which is the wife. At page 14 of this document he says;
However, a move to any type of "joint filing" for purposes of the Income Tax Act would be very significant, both conceptually and in terms of administrative complexity.
The Minister of Finance recognizes that there is a connection between the two. He considers it very significant. At page 19 of this document, under the heading "Family-Based Benefit and Income-Testing", the statement appears:
Since supplementation is intended to assist low-income families, it would be appropriate to adopt a fding unit which included both spouses.... As noted under general features, any move to "joint" or "family" filing for purposes of calculating a tax credit would involve major changes to the present tax system.
That is the point I want to underline, that the Minister of Finance said it would involve major changes to the present tax system. However, the Minister of National Health and Welfare when she was responding to me earlier in this debate passed it off as having very little meaning whatsoever. I was glad to read that the Minister of Finance recognized that the introduction of the concept of family income into the Income Tax Act is a very major step. On the other hand, the Minister of National Health and Welfare denies there is anything new in the family income provision. It is just the same old thing, she said; all the other programs are based on it.
This is the first time it is built into the income tax provisions. That is what is new. That is what is different, and that is what is major about it. I ask the minister, does she disagree with the Minister of Finance on the significance of this step that is being taken in introducing the family income provision into the Income Tax Act? Does she agree with him that it is a major step or doesn't she? The other night she dismissed it and said that it was already in practice. I would like to ask her as well if she disagrees-and I quote the Minister of Finance-if this step comes under any move to joint or family filing for purposes of calculating a tax credit. The other night the minister dismissed that as well. I hope that she will not answer as she did the other night, when she said that the income tax form used is "just a slip of paper".
I have attempted previously to express to the minister my concern about the concept of family income based, as it is in this bill, on marital status. I have expressed my concern that it is a regressive step to put such a principle in the Income Tax Act at a time when the human rights commissioner is looking into all legislation, but especially if he is looking into the Income Tax Act for discriminatory clauses. This is also a time when society is in transition, a time when a more complex analysis of household units and income would make much better sense.
November 30, 1978
I have raised this matter, as the minister knows, on several occasions. The family income provision in this bill is discriminatory since it is based on the marital status of the individuals concerned. I have read the particular portion of this clause which sets this out clearly. The commissioner of human rights has written to the Minister of Finance expressing his concern about assessing family income as a basis for taxation and social policy. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance could tell me whether the Minister of Finance has responded to the concern shown by the human rights commissioner. The commissioner wrote:
We would like to be assured that the government does not intend to base its future taxation and social policies on the joint income of two spouses, which is not an adequate definition of family income.
That is the definition we find in the bill. The commissioner goes on to state in his letter of November 2, 1978:
The basic principle of using the income of the total family or living group will require extensive examination before its implications are fully appreciated.
I should like to know what views the Minister of Finance expressed in response to his letter.
Aside from the fact that the family income provision discriminates against couples who are married, the principle falls back on the notion of dependency against which women have been fighting for many years. I would have expected the minister to have recognized this. The assumption inherent in the bill is that a man who earns $5,000 or $20,000 or $50,000 shares that income equitably with his family. We all know that in law a wife has no claim on her husband's salary. She may be entitled to half the house should the marriage dissolve, but she is not entitled to half the monthly pay cheque as long as the marriage holds together. The family income provision in this bill presumes that married people pool their income and share it. I hope that is true in many cases but I am sure that in many other cases it is not. Large numbers of married women go out to work to improve their economic status and that of their children. They may need an individual income because they do not get a fair share of the husband's income.
That is the reality of the world we live in, yet this clause proposes to lock into legislation a presumption that the husband automatically shares his income with the wife. The wife becomes a dependant who is looked after by the husband at all times. The family income provision lumps the income of the wife with that of the husband and assumes it to be one income. As a result, many thousands of married working women will be deprived of the child tax credit. As long as women on the whole make significantly less money than men, and as long as they have no claim in law to their husband's income, the family income provision as set out in this clause will hurt them. As long as married working women are looked upon as an excuse for high unemployment figures, as long as their income is regarded as secondary income, any kind of family income provisions will work against their attempt at equality in the work force and in the home.
I should also like to ask the minister what kind of study went into the family income provision as set out in this clause.
I would like to ask her how much consideration was given to the other options listed in the background paper put out by the Department of Finance. Did she, for example, consider option number four which talks of taking total family income into account rather than just the income of the spouses? Did she consider a total "household income" option? Did she give consideration to any options dealing with individual income? Or did she choose the joint income route just because it was easiest from an administrative point of view? Is that the real reason we find this proposal before us today, one which will, indeed, hurt women?
I should like the minister to tell us as well whether she intends to have those sexist clauses redrafted-
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: INCOME TAX ACT