Mr. D. R. Gundlock (Lethbridge):
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to support this motion this afternoon and I do so having had a good deal of experience as reeve, councillor, and county chairman. In these roles, I have dealt with the matters that the hon. member who put forward the motion has mentioned. I am familiar, at first hand, with the small examples, if we want to use the word "small", to which the hon. member has referred.
I have heard the hon. parliamentary secretary put forth the government side, the rules and regulations. I have dealt with these personally. One of the reasons I should like to support the motion is an answer given by the former minister of finance to a brief submitted by the Saskatchewan Attorney General, Mr. D. V. Heald as reported in the Rural Councillor of September 1, 1970. The brief made certain recommendations but the minister's reply was simply that "no amendment to the act is proposed". The matter was raised later and the minister's response to the Provincial Attorney General was to the effect that restraint of inflation was a mojor consideration in forming the policies. Mr. Speaker, I find it very hard to relate "restraint of inflation" to this sort of thing.
The hon. member for Qu'Appelle-Moose Mountain (Mr. Southam) mentioned a case concerning the clearing of an airfield in the wintertime so that an air ambulance could land. The investigating inspector suggested that perhaps the sales tax on the snowplow would have to be refunded. This sort of thing is difficult for municipalities to accept in a practical way. I suppose the parliamentary secretary would quote the section of the act to me and say that piece of equipment was not used to build a road or to clean a road. I maintain that, in a practical way, the machine was most certainly cleaning a road, whether it was a roadway for an air ambulance or a roadway for a school bus or whatever.
I think the problem really lies in the interpretation of the act. We had a very strict interpretation of it a moment ago from the parliamentary secretary. In any interpretation, not only of legal words and acts, there must be flexibility. Some years ago when I was chairman of the county of Warner in southern Alberta, we sent a snowplow 80 miles into another municipality with a bottle of medicine because it was the only machine that could be found to deliver it. The machine went through the border town of Sweet Grass where the customs and excise men were located. They heard about this grader going into another municipality and we were told we had better be more careful.
If the government is not willing to amend the act, the minister should talk to his inspectors and ask them at least to be reasonable and use some flexibility in interpreting these words. We run across this all the time. A month or two ago when we were debating the tax reform bill, I recall asking the parliamentary secretary to consider including in the list of exemptions, rock picking. I know this does not have much to do with the present motion, but the point I am trying to make is that there should be flexibility in interpreting certain laws and regulations. I mentioned rock picking because I am a farmer. It is not an expense of farming to contract rock picking simply
March 20, 1972
Sales Tax on Equipment
because it is not listed as a deductible item. Land clearing and clearing bush is listed, but certainly rock picking is just as expensive a job as any other land clearing operation, but because it is not mentioned it is not allowed. The effect of the many of the provisions in the act before us depend on their interpretation.
I am not a lawyer but I have heard many times that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. The hon. member for Qu'Appelle-Moose Mountain mentioned the municipality that plows a north-south road which is a boundary road. I ask the parliamentary secretary, Mr. Speaker, can he imagine such a machine being exempt from this tax simply because it did not put the snowplow down when it may have travelled 20 miles over a road or entryway that needed cleaning? Can he imagine that sort of interpretation? I am quite sure the experts would be happy if the minister or his officials would explain these laws so that justice may appear to be done.
I mentioned the case of the airfield, and the snowplow that travelled 80 miles with a little bottle of medicine. According to law, these machines are excluded from sales tax exemption. I realize that no matter what law we have, there are ways around it. I will give an example of this. A municipal machine cannot build a ditch but the municipality has complete responsibility and control over safety on the waterways. I think we need a broader interpretation in this regard and I support the motion of the hon. member. I hope members opposite will consider this matter and accept this motion calling for an amendment to the law, and I trust the ministers concerned will accept the advice given during this private members' hour.
There are always ways to avoid taxation. I do not think municipalities are trying to avoid taxation, but they become frustrated when an inspector tells them they cannot build a driveway or diversion road because it is not on their land. We know there is an easy way around this. If it is for the benefit of the community, the owner could donate or sell the land to the municipality. Instead of nitpicking we should look at this matter closely. Any flagrant misuse of taxation policy is very noticeable. I do not think there will be any question of municipalities doing that. Taxpayers are the most important people to them and they will not let private contractors suffer at their expense. Our budget and the budgets of municipalities simply do not allow that sort of thing.
I strongly support this motion. If the House will not accept this amendment I strongly urge that the interpretation of the relevant laws be made more flexible.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS