moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I must say I am proud to rise in the House today to introduce the bill on a single tax return administered by Quebec. I see this bill as a test for the federal Parliament. Is Ottawa capable of giving Quebec some freedom? Is Ottawa capable of being open to Quebec? Is Ottawa capable of offering Quebec reasonable accommodation? These are the questions this bill asks the House.
As this Parliament has recognized, Quebec is a nation with its own language, culture, values and way of doing things. The problem with the Quebec-Ottawa relationship is that every time Quebec asks Ottawa to accommodate its way of doing things, Ottawa gets irritated, leading to a lengthy tug-of-war. Ottawa generally wins, because otherwise it drags on even longer, since Ottawa is mad.
This Parliament's vision is that of the English Canadian nation. Its government is the one in Ottawa. Its philosophy is to have unilateral policies across the country. When Quebec asks to opt out of a program with compensation, it shatters the English Canadian dream, and that irritates Ottawa because, as a nation, Quebec wants to be able to create and administer its own policies and programs in its own way. The government of my nation is the one that sits in the National Assembly in Quebec City.
Here are some examples from the past and present to illustrate my point.
When we think about this tug-of-war, we think about things like infrastructure, social housing, health care funding with federal standards, the fiscal imbalance, the aerospace industry, the manufacturing industry in international treaties, and the petro-currency. We think about artificial intelligence and our agriculture, particularly supply management. We think about the forestry industry, our forestry regime, language, and the defence of the French language, particularly the application of Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses. We think about Quebec's pharmaceutical industry, Ottawa's philosophy of giving everything to oil, and our rail industry, which was abandoned in favour of Siemens and jobs in California. We think about funding for Muskrat Falls and our exclusion from shipbuilding contracts and from the last three trade agreements, which were signed at the expense of critical sectors of Quebec's economy. We think about Ottawa's complacency toward web giants and the use of tax havens. We think about all of the problems with the CRTC, the Internet and cell networks, and the culture and media file.
Frankly, we are not masters in our own house here.
Since the 1980s, we have had the unilateral repatriation of the Constitution, which took place without Quebec and against its will. After that, we had Meech and Charlottetown, which were again a tug-of-war. We can go back even further in time, from the conquest to the occupation of Quebec by the Canadian army in peacetime, to Confederation, the Act of Union, and the merger of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, with its representational bias towards Upper Canada. The Quebec nation, which was called “Canadian” and then “French Canadian” at a given point, was systematically subjected to the will of the English Canadian nation at the expense of sovereignty.
Those were a few examples of the Quebec-Ottawa relationship drama. I will repeat that, in general, Ottawa refuses to let Quebec make or tailor its own policies in its own way. The result is that Ottawa rejects the sovereignty of the Quebec people within the federation. With the Clarity Act, Ottawa outright rejected sovereignty for the people of Quebec. That is a denial of the right of a people to its sovereignty and self-determination in 2020. Welcome to Canada.
This is the context for the bill on a single tax return, to be administered by Quebec. We are not talking about a revolution. It is a simple accommodation that will make life easier for the people and businesses of Quebec. Quite simply, filing one return rather than two eliminates the duplication of effort.
This bill has been universally acclaimed in Quebec and received unanimous support at the Quebec National Assembly. It was backed by all parties: Coalition Avenir Québec, the Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire. Premier François Legault at the Quebec National Assembly then made an official request to the current Prime Minister here in the House.
The polls show the same thing. An overwhelming majority of Quebeckers support this bill. All of corporate Quebec Inc. supports it, including chambers of commerce, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, independent business owners and the Quebec CPA Order, just to name a few. The same is true on the union side. The Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec has been calling for this for many years, with the support of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec. That is a big deal. The bill is good for Quebeckers.
The Research Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence has conducted studies on the subject and concluded that having one tax return instead of two would save $425 million a year. Individuals would save $39 million, businesses would save $99 million, and $287 million would be saved by eliminating bureaucratic duplication. We are not saying that federal public servants do not do as good a job as Quebec public servants, but they are doing the same thing twice. Our taxes are paying for the same thing to be done twice. Come on.
One extremely important part of this bill as introduced and worded is that it would enable Quebec to crack down on tax havens on its own, rather than be limited by what Ottawa is doing, which is, to all appearances, nothing. This is a pretty simple bill. There is nothing revolutionary about it. It respects the Quebec nation and saves everyone time and money.
When we suggested this idea to the Liberals, they said, why not just let Ottawa handle it? Here was more evidence of the English Canadian nation's desire to unilaterally impose its way of doing things and reject any kind of accommodation for Quebec. Quite simply, taxation is not even a federal jurisdiction; it is Quebec's responsibility. However, the point here is efficiency.
After years of negotiation, Quebec managed to come to an agreement with Ottawa regarding the collection of sales tax from businesses. That was about 30 years ago. Before that, Ottawa collected its GST, and Quebec collected its QST. For the past 30 years, Revenu Québec has been collecting the GST and the QST at the same time. It makes for a lot less paperwork for businesses and generates significant savings. The advantage is that Revenu Québec is present in every region of Quebec, and the system works well. It is a success, and nobody has any complaints.
The preposterous idea presented to us, that is, to have Ottawa collect income tax and have Quebec collect sales tax, makes no sense at all. That would do absolutely nothing to resolve the issue of administrative duplication. If we want to be efficient, everything should be collected by the same body, namely Revenu Québec. Corporate taxes, as well as their employees' taxes, should all be administered in one place. Otherwise, Quebec City and Ottawa would have to communicate to determine who took what amount. This means more duplication, when the whole point is to get away from such duplication.
The idea of a single tax return administered by Quebec is not a new one. For example, 16 years ago, in 2004, Quebec's Liberal finance minister, Yves Séguin, said, “There is no reason to maintain two competing tax collection systems.” That was from a Liberal finance minister in Quebec, who was a federalist. He also said, “The real, most well-established tax administration in Quebec is Revenu Québec.” The logic is impeccable.
As I was saying earlier, on January 17, 2019, the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, acted on the unanimous resolution of the Quebec National Assembly and, for the first time ever, made a formal request from the Government of Quebec to Ottawa. This bill is an opportunity to finally say yes to Quebec. This is a momentous occasion.
I would like to digress for a moment to reassure Canada Revenue Agency employees who work in Quebec. We drafted the bill in such a way as to ensure that all jobs in Quebec would be protected. That is the spirit of the bill, and that is what we want. I went to Jonquière to meet with CRA employees. I have been in contact with employees in Shawinigan. That is really our intention.
Quebec does not have its fair share of federal public servants in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois will continue to call for fairness in this regard.
Clearly, the bill seeks to prevent useless duplication. Why pay two people who do the same job instead of paying just one? We propose to reassign jobs and keep positions in the region.
I would also like to remind members that a single tax return will not lead to the Canada Revenue Agency disappearing from Quebec. For example, the 1,300 CRA employees in Shawinigan do not process tax returns. They are responsible for various administrative tasks related to the department's operations. There is nothing preventing the employees from continuing to do the same work.
Even when Revenu Québec becomes responsible for processing tax returns and collecting taxes, the federal government will continue to maintain the registry of the seven million Quebec taxpayers and their tax information. The agency will have to assign more employees to deal with Revenu Québec so as to ensure that the amounts transferred correspond to the taxes collected for every taxpayer. The agency will continue to pay Quebec taxpayers the tax credits to which they are entitled, such as the child tax benefit or the electric vehicle purchase credit. This is the kind of work that can be done from the Jonquière centre.
To be clear, the idea is to avoid duplication. There are so many needs in the public service, and it is so concentrated in Ottawa, that there is room to protect every job. Jobs are important in the regions.
We anticipate that Revenu Québec will hire more people to administer the new tax return, but also, and this is interesting, that it will create a new international tax unit, an area of jurisdiction that is largely missing in Quebec right now and that would help it fight tax havens. That is an extremely important component.
We will see a significantly closer relationship between Revenu Québec and the federal government for sending the taxation data and taxes collected to Ottawa.
As I was saying, the federal administration is highly concentrated. For example, Ottawa has 50% more federal public servants than the entire province of Quebec, and that includes the public servants in Gatineau. It makes no sense for it to be concentrated like that. It is not surprising that the federal programs are so ill suited to regional realities. These programs are disconnected from the rest of the world.
To summarize, we are debating a simple bill. There are two tax returns, and we want to have just one. This will make things easier for people and businesses. It will save us $425 million a year because individuals, businesses and governments will not have to do everything twice.
This bill has unanimous support in Quebec and in the Quebec National Assembly. This bill will allow Quebec to combat the use of tax havens more effectively. This bill will protect CRA employees. We drafted it in such a way as to make sure that happens. The question is whether the Canadian government will once again vote against my nation's legitimate desire. Let the debate begin.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill , a private member's bill.
This bill was introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for , after the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously adopted a motion on May 15, 2018, calling on the federal government to allow the province of Quebec to administer a single tax return.
The purpose of the bill is to authorize the to enter into an agreement with the government of a province so that it can collect the federal personal and corporation income taxes on behalf of the Government of Canada.
At first glance, the bill's intent is appealing. Not only is the idea of a single tax return appealing to those who have to file two returns, but a single tax return could also be more efficient for governments to administer and more cost-effective for taxpayers.
That is why we have tax collection agreements, or TCAs, between the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments. Under these agreements, the federal government collects and manages income taxes for all provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec's personal and corporate taxes and Alberta's corporate taxes. Only affected taxpayers in these two provinces have to deal with two tax administrators.
As I mentioned, these taxpayers would find the idea of dealing with a single tax administrator appealing. The question is how we can deliver this in a way that results in a single administrator and administrative efficiencies like those provided by existing TCAs.
Canadians expect their government to administer programs in a fair, efficient and cost-effective manner. To that end, Bill C-224 deserves to be carefully considered.
One consideration is the fact that Bill C-224 would likely result in higher total costs for Canadian taxpayers. Existing TCAs produce cost savings for taxpayers because transferring the administration of several provinces and territories to a single tax administrator, namely the federal government, creates economies of scale and reduces the administrative cost to each taxpayer.
Going in the wrong direction, as proposed in Bill C-224, would have the opposite effect. The structure of tax administration costs is mainly dominated by investments in fixed costs for technology infrastructure. Having Quebec administer the federal income tax would not help reduce those fixed costs in the province, because they would still have to be covered by both the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenu Québec.
As the Premier of Quebec clearly indicated, his government would seek to be reimbursed for the cost of administering the federal income tax. However, at this point, it is difficult to estimate the overall cost impact on the federal government, because it would depend on the scope of the tax programs transferred to the provincial government and the outcome of negotiations on various issues.
Bill C-224 would also make tax administration less consistent across the country, which would reduce the CRA's ability to respond quickly and effectively to major logistical challenges at the national level, such as rolling out the emergency measures needed to support Canadians during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill would also be detrimental to Canada Revenue Agency employees who work in and outside Quebec. In Quebec, the 14 provincial CRA offices employ from 4,800 to 5,500 people, depending on the time of year, for example during the busy tax season, and about 60% of these employees are women. Changing their employment status, which would be inevitable with Bill C-224, would have consequences for them personally and for their communities.
Furthermore, this bill would require mitigation measures for employment taxes, and those costs could be quite high.
Bill could also impact Canada's ability to fulfill its obligations under existing international tax agreements and conventions that identify the Minister of National Revenue as Canada's competent authority. Our international partners may not be willing to modify those agreements or mesh their operations with two or more distinct tax authorities.
Canada has over 100 such tax agreements, and renegotiating them could take years and require considerable resources. In addition, if Canada no longer had access to provincial citizens' tax information, that would hinder its ability to fight international tax fraud, which is an important priority for our government and for Canadians.
The bill could also open the door to similar action on the part of other provinces, which might be quite interested in the proposed model if the federal government had to cover the provincial costs of administering federal taxes. That would result in similar challenges on a larger scale and increase the administrative cost per taxpayer.
In conclusion, Canadians expect us to take into account all these important considerations. Our government is open to improving tax administration in Quebec to ensure the best possible results for Canadians in terms of fairness, efficiency and value for taxpayers and governments, including those of Quebec.
We will continue to work with Revenu Québec, with which we have collaborated for a long time, to find ways to simplify tax returns and reduce the compliance burden on Quebec taxpayers. This will ensure a better harmonization of our respective tax administrations and will make it easier to complete Quebec taxpayers' tax returns. We are always willing to improve the situation.
Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to rise and speak to Bill .
I would like to start with a summary of what we are trying to achieve for Quebeckers in the House today. The goal is simple.
Quebeckers have to send in two tax returns. Both businesses and individuals have to submit one tax return for Quebec and another for Ottawa. The only people happy about that are the accountants, because they are the only ones making money off the situation.
Before hearing my colleague's speech, I was planning to fully support Bill . However, some of my colleague's remarks were a letdown. He seems to see “Ottawa” and “Liberals” as synonymous. He says that Ottawa does this and that, Ottawa is centralist, Ottawa is this or that, but, actually, that is how the Liberals are.
Mr. Harper's government recognized the Quebec nation. We gave Quebec a UNESCO seat. We are willing to recognize provincial jurisdiction. We are willing to give Quebec the means to do more within the existing system, but the Liberals, which my colleague conflates with Ottawa, patently are not.
I think it is important to make the distinction for me to be able to support Bill . I do not want to appear argumentative or nitpicky, and I do not want to pick fight. We must not do that today. We are working for Quebeckers, to simplify their lives and reduce paperwork.
A few moments ago, the Liberals said that the Canada Revenue Agency could not have responded to citizens as it did during the pandemic if it were not administering Quebec's tax returns. That struck me.
Two weeks ago, the Canada Revenue Agency sent a letter to some of our constituents, telling them that they may have been the victims of fraud and they needed to call a certain number. However, when people call that CRA number, there is no answer. The CRA advises citizens that they may have been a victim of fraud, asks them to call to reassure them, but then does not answer. If that is their only argument for not having a single tax return in Quebec, they will need to work on that.
My colleague's bill is simple and has two major elements. First, it seeks to amend current legislation in order to authorize Quebec to provide Quebeckers the possibility of filing a single tax return. Second, and this is very important, it calls for negotiations to begin between the two levels of government so that we can achieve that goal. It is simple.
We just need to negotiate. If the Liberals are not happy after the negotiations, we will stop there. However, why not go further? Why not just start the negotiations with this bill? That is how I see this bill. It is a first step that would allow the Government of Quebec and the federal government to work together to achieve the goal of having a single tax return for Quebeckers.
I am in favour of it. Many Quebeckers are in favour of it. The Conservatives have long been in favour of it. This is not the first time that the House has debated a single tax return for Quebeckers.
The Conservative Party's position is very clear, and especially so since the first meeting of our national caucus in Saint-Hyacinthe in May 2018. All Quebec members of the caucus voted in favour of creating a single tax return. On May 15, 2018, the National Assembly of Quebec voted unanimously in favour of a single tax return for Quebeckers. In August 2018, when we held our national convention in Halifax, all Canadian Conservatives said that Quebec should be allowed to have a single tax return. There was near unanimity, with 90% of party members—almost 3,000—agreeing that we initiate negotiations between the federal government and the Quebec government to create a single tax return.
This led my colleague and the member for , whom I hold in high regard, to table a motion in the House on February 5, 2019, which is somewhat similar to what we have before us today. The motion was as follows:
(a) the House has great respect for provincial jurisdiction and trust in provincial institutions;
(b) the people of Quebec are burdened with completing and submitting two tax returns, one federal and one provincial;
(c) the House believes in cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary paperwork to improve the everyday lives of families; therefore,
That was the ultimate goal. I will continue:
the House call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec to implement a single tax return in Quebec, as adopted unanimously in the motion of the National Assembly of Quebec on May 15, 2018.
We lost the vote on that motion, but it is interesting to see how MPs voted, especially Quebec MPs: 19 MPs voted for the motion and 45 voted against it. The 19 were Conservative MPs from Quebec and Bloc Québécois MPs. The NDP voted against the motion even though it had said in its much-touted Sherbrooke declaration that it would give Quebeckers a single tax return.
Once a new leader was elected, it was over. There was no more talk of a single tax return for Quebeckers, and the NDP moved on to other things. That is where it ended. Today, the NDP representative hesitated once again, saying that it was because of jobs and all that. It was in the Sherbrooke declaration though. It was clear that the NDP wanted a single tax return.
However, what worries me are the Liberal MPs from Quebec. Why did they vote against the motion and why are they once again, from what I can tell, planning to vote against my colleague's Bill for a single tax return for Quebec? Do they not want to cut red tape? Do they not want to make Quebeckers' lives easier? What is the problem?
The bill is very simple. We are getting the discussion going. I think this is something that needs to be done. We need an opportunity to discuss. I find it hard to believe that in 2020, two governments cannot find a way to consolidate everything into one document. I think that is very easy to do, and Quebec is asking we do so. This negotiation needs to happen. Quebec is big enough and mature enough to do it.
Ironically, I was a bit surprised to see the results of the vote. The only members from other provinces who voted in support of our motion for a single tax return in Quebec were from Alberta and Saskatchewan. I thank my colleagues who voted in favour. That was very kind. The votes from the NDP and the Liberals defeated the motion to create a single tax return in Quebec.
Business representatives in Quebec and Quebeckers all agree on this, and that was made clear on our tour. We want to make things easier for Quebeckers.
Today, I think the two levels of government are able to agree. The GST collection issue proved that it is possible to have administrative agreements between the two levels of government to make it work. There is no need to worry that Quebec will not send the money to Ottawa. The GST money has always made it to Ottawa. All it takes is an administrative agreement.
When we talk about international treaties, everything depends on the type of agreement that is made with Quebec. We are not trying to give Ottawa's taxation power to Quebec. We just want to allow Quebec to tell Ottawa that it has sent the document to Quebeckers on its behalf and that it is forwarding what they said, along with a cheque. That is what we mean by a single tax return for Quebeckers. It is as simple as that.
I hope that this time, the people across the way and the NDP will abide by the Sherbrooke declaration for once, because this bill states that it will preserve jobs. They told us that if we had agreed to amend the motion to say that jobs would be protected, they would have voted in favour of it. Now it is in Bill C-224. They have no choice.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that clarification at the end of his speech. At the time, in 2019, the NDP voted against the motion because the Conservatives had rejected the amendment proposed by our former NDP colleague from Sherbrooke, aimed at including some very clear language about maintaining and guaranteeing jobs. I think that is an important thing to mention. I will talk more about jobs later.
I would like to provide some background on the tax system within the federal system. Apart from 1917-18, when taxes went to support the war effort, taxation was historically under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government took control in 1942. It was supposed to be a temporary measure to fund another war effort. Twice, world wars led to the central government and the provinces switching roles on taxation and collecting income tax, including individual income tax.
What happened next will of course come as no surprise. After the Second World War, Ottawa did not hand taxation back over the provinces. It held on to it until a deal was reached between St-Laurent and Duplessis, in 1955. They agreed that Quebec could collect taxes from its own citizens and ensure that Quebec taxpayers did not pay more taxes than other Canadians. At the time, there was a negotiation, and a balance was struck.
After that, many people started asking for a single tax return, because Quebeckers are being penalized to some degree. They are the only taxpayers in the federation who have to fill out two tax returns when all of this could be simplified. I will come back to the real effect of this simplification at the end of my speech.
Recognizing this demand, the NDP passed a resolution at our 2018 national convention here in Ottawa. Similar to our Conservative friends, this motion was supported by a majority, who were in favour of a single tax return for Quebeckers, administered by the Government of Quebec. It is important to note that it would be administered by the Government of Quebec.
Yes, we adopted the Sherbrooke declaration, which recognized that Quebec is a nation, that things are done differently in Quebec because of its history, language and culture, that Quebec is capable of doing things differently, and that what is offered to Quebec is not necessarily offered to the other provinces. That is important.
According to the NDP, the concept of asymmetrical federalism is based on the recognition of Quebec as a nation. It is unique and special. That is also why the Sherbrooke declaration contains the principle of opting out of new federal programs with full compensation, which is important to Quebec. The ability to opt out with full compensation is something that is offered to Quebec alone, not to all the provinces.
For example, if a new universal public pharmacare program is introduced, Quebec would be able to opt out with full compensation. It could keep its hybrid regime, even though I think it needs improvement. The NDP was the first pan-Canadian party to endorse the idea of a single tax return. I think that is an important aspect of the work that was begun by Jack Layton and continued first by Thomas Mulcair and then by the current NDP leader, the member for .
For those who are interested, the resolution that was adopted included two “resolved” statements, and the second is just as important. It states that the transfer, this jurisdiction that would be given exclusively to the Government of Quebec, must not be done on the backs of workers and employees in the public service. That is when we initiated a consultation, reached out and had a dialogue with the people represented by the Quebec chapter of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. They had concerns. During our meetings, they told us that they were worried about possible job losses in Mauricie and in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. They also did not know how these reassignments and transfers would be made without job losses. That spoke volumes to us.
The NDP is a party that was basically originally established by co-operatives, agricultural co-operatives and the labour movement. Our primary concern is still workers, their families and their communities. We do not want to make any commitments or decisions that would compromise their working or living conditions, their careers, or their future in their workplaces.
We have left no stone unturned. We looked at the options and what other duties could be assigned. Earlier, I heard the suggestion, which was also the first thing that came to mind for us, that there is so much work to be done to fight tax evasion and tax havens that these employees could be assigned to do that work and sent to conduct international investigations.
However, it is much more complicated than that. The employees handling people's tax returns do not have the training to quickly turn into investigators and conduct in-depth investigations into major international tax cheats. If it were possible, or if I were to find a magic wand tomorrow morning, I would be happy to reassure these people and tell them not to worry because everything will be all right. That is not reality. This is one of our concerns.
Do we agree with the principle of the bill? Of course we do. It is in keeping with Quebec's autonomy, the recognition of Quebec as a nation, and asymmetrical federalism.
However, do we have the guarantees we need with regard to protecting jobs in the region? All that is still an open question. We have doubts and concerns in that regard. I think it would be a good idea to call witnesses and examine this issue in committee so that we can get to the truth of the matter about whether this would be possible. Of course, as a party of labour, socialism and social democracy, we have concerns about the jobs of people in the regions. We care a lot about that, and we would not want to take any action that would hurt those people.
We have often heard the superficially valid argument that filling out one tax return is bad enough, but that it is twice as bad for Quebeckers, who have to fill out two, and that it is unfair to boot. It is more onerous and takes a lot of time. No one likes that.
However, that argument is becoming less and less relevant. It was true back when everyone would go to a credit union in February or March to grab a tax return kit from the pile by the widow next to the teller, bring it home, look through the guide, turn the pages and fill in the numbers using their T-4 and RL-1 slips. This is much less common now.
The idea of not filling out two tax returns sounds nice and appealing because everyone wants to make things easier. However, the latest figures I have seen on this subject show that these days 91% of Quebec taxpayers file their tax returns online. It is no longer the case that people head to a credit union to pick up the forms and sit down, surrounded by papers, to fill in each box.
Now, people buy software, which usually lasts a few years, and they only have to fill in the numbers once. They can then send an email to the Canada Revenue Agency and another to Revenu Québec. This means that the vast majority of people are already filling out just one tax return.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if you have ever sat in front of one of these software programs. You do not have to click twice. You fill in the boxes once, and the software automatically fills in the rest. The argument I just made loses value over time. There may be just 9% or 10% of the population left who actually fill out two tax returns. That is the reality, and I think we have to tell it like it is.
Do we want to run the risk of losing hundreds of jobs in Quebec's regions, in Mauricie or in Jonquière? I have not seen any evidence about reassignments. I have talked about this several times with people on the ground, and it is not clear. Are we going to run this risk for something that will not have any real impact on the public or on the well-being of Quebec's taxpayers?
Mr. Speaker, when the Constitution was created in 1867, fiscal responsibilities were assigned to each government. Oddly enough, the provinces and Quebec got income tax. One might reasonably think that the Fathers of Confederation were good to Quebec and the other provinces, but no, because income tax did not exist at the time. Neither the provinces nor the federal government collected income tax. That was given to the provinces and they were told to figure it out. The first province to start working on that was British Columbia. It started taxing income, and that worked.
When the First World War broke out, the federal government decided it was time it took charge of that, because it was working. The provinces argued that it was written in the Constitution that it was a provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. It is also written in the Constitution that the federal government can take public money, regardless of how it is taxed. It was written at the bottom of one page, so the government decided to use it.
The First World War ended, the provinces asked that that responsibility be returned to them and they were told “no”. The Second World War arrived. The government said that it would finance the war effort with taxes. After that, we had the difficult coexistence of the provincial and Quebec governments and the federal government, which did not want to give up this responsibility. The provinces and Quebec found the idea to be appealing. The coexistence led to agreements being signed with all provinces except Quebec and Ontario. Then Ontario gave in and Quebec was the only province to stand its ground and say that it would retain control over this money.
In 1953, Maurice Duplessis launched the Tremblay Commission. He said that he would look at the issue and see what came of it. The Tremblay Commission submitted its report in 1956. It found that having the province retain control of taxes was such a good idea that Quebec established and retained control of Quebec income taxes. It was a victory for Quebec. The other provinces were quite disappointed that they did not do the same thing. Quebeckers were rather wily and it served them well.
There are currently two tax returns and two tax systems. People started to question why there was not a single tax collector even if there were two tax systems. We all realized that that was not a crazy idea. We knew that there would be a battle between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada. We wondered who would be the one tax collector, if there was one. Quebeckers had the answer.
On May 15, 2018, a motion was tabled in the Quebec National Assembly. I know, because I was the one who tabled it. I am the poor guy who tabled it. At the time, there was a Liberal government facing me. No one would call Philippe Couillard a modern-day patriot. I was sure that his government would buckle and refuse to support us. However, I could see it in his eyes that Carlos Leitão was on board. They said yes. It passed unanimously in the Quebec National Assembly. We then did a survey, and 65% of Quebeckers said that Quebec should collect the taxes, while 22% said that that responsibility should fall to Canada.
We are listening to the majority of Quebeckers who are saying that Quebec should be the one collecting taxes. We know that started with the GST and the QST and it worked. It was great. The federal government did not really talk about collecting GST in Quebec. It wants nothing to do with it. Quebec does a great job of that. It is more efficient than the federal government.
When it comes to economies of scale, my colleague from is off the mark. It has been proven that the QST is more effective when it is collected with the GST, regardless of what my colleague said.
Why have a single income tax return? My colleague from was saying that we no longer have to use papyrus, quills and ink to fill out our tax return. That is obvious.
Were he more curious, he would know that there is in fact a literature review. Economists such as François Vaillancourt did thorough research to find out how much more time it took to fill out two tax returns. Mr. Vaillancourt conducted studies. It is not complicated. It is 10% more work for individuals and 15% more work for businesses. That is all in the report by IRAI, the Research Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence, which, last year, conducted the only empirical study on the benefits of filling in a single tax return. It is worth reading. It points to savings of $39 million for individuals who have someone else fill out their tax forms. Those who fill out their own spend 10% less time.
For businesses, this will reduce their costs by 15%, or $99 million.
Let's now talk about duplication. There are people in Quebec City and Ottawa who do the same thing, which is perfectly normal because that is how it is done. Now, someone in Ottawa is tapped on the shoulder and told to stop because there is already a guy in Quebec City doing that job. This will save $287 million. Everyone should read the IRAI report, which is comprehensive, explicit and scientific and explains it all. A single tax return will result in $425 million in savings.
We have heard that if this responsibility is handed over to Quebec City, other countries that have signed tax collection agreements with Ottawa will say they do not want to do business with Quebec. Come on. Those countries sign agreements with the federal government in order to obtain tax information that will help them combat tax evasion. The United States will not turn around and say it wants nothing to do with the Quebec government, because it will not want to have a tax haven just north of the border. It will seek to share that information, which I applaud, and all of those agreements will be confirmed in that manner, one after the other. That will not be a problem.
The said that the Canada Revenue Agency employs 5,300 people in Quebec to handle tax returns. In order to collect and manage the federal government's taxes, Quebec will need 2,332 new employees. This is not rocket science, and it does not take an honorary degree to understand that compared with the 5,300 federal employees, 2,332 will be needed to do roughly the same work, but on behalf of the Government of Quebec.
What about the remaining 2,000 or 3,000 jobs? Canada's public service is aging and losing 3% to 4% of its employees every year through attrition as people retire. This public service claims to have a shortage of workers. I assume the remaining CRA workers will find jobs elsewhere in the public service.
Let us talk about tax evasion. Obviously, analyzing tax evasion by major corporations is not a simple task. It almost needs to be done by tax experts. However, there are many different types of tax evasion and jobs that can be done in this area. Furthermore, this work pays for itself. In fact, the best investment that the government can make is to assign an employee to combatting tax evasion. This employee will bring in much more money than the government spends on their salary. Once again, it does not take an honorary degree to understand this.
The member for said that tax administration would be less consistent across Canada and that that would be terrible. Well, we do not want that anyway. We are a nation separate from the Canadian nation, and we do not want to be consistent. Our needs, our language, our culture and our economy are all different. We do not want to be consistent with all of the Canadian provinces. That is not our goal. I would tell the member for Orléans that there is no point forcing us to be consistent, because that will not work for us. We do not want to be consistent. That is not hard to understand.
The federal government's next argument is that it will not have the information it needs and that it will not be able to operate without this information. However, Revenu Québec collects much more information than the Canada Revenue Agency. Quebec has more programs, not because it is better, but because it is different and therefore needs more information. Furthermore, Revenu Québec records are used to calculate child support, so if the information had to go to Ottawa, there would be no more child support.
It is not hard to tell the federal government that we will give it all the information we have, and we have more than it has, so it can continue to work the way it wants. It is win-win.
If having one entity collect taxes on behalf of two tax systems can save $425 million, imagine if we had just one tax system. If that were the case, the savings would not be in the millions of dollars, it would be in the billions. However, for that to happen, we would have to achieve independence.