I call this meeting to order.
I see Monsieur Ste-Marie's hand up.
Monsieur Ste-Marie, I will recognize you after my opening remarks.
Welcome to meeting number 52 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Pursuant to the order of reference of May 10, 2022, the committee is meeting on Bill , an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 7, 2022, and other measures.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. Per the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask except for members who are in their place during proceedings.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. Interpretation for those on Zoom is available for this meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of the floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
This is a reminder that all comments should be addressed through the chair. For members in the room, if you wish to speak, please raise your hand. For members on Zoom, please use the “raise hand” function. The clerk and I will manage the speaking order as best we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.
Pursuant to the motion adopted in committee on Monday, May 9, the committee will proceed today with the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill . We have witnesses from various departments here with us who will be able to answer questions as we move through the clauses of the bill.
I'm recognizing Monsieur Ste-Marie, who has his hand up.
Yes, this amendment is important. It would basically have individuals with type 1 diabetes automatically qualify for the disability tax credit by removing the 14 hours a week for life-sustaining therapy. This is a no-brainer. This reduces the administrative burden on Canadians and allows their doctors to focus on their treatment, rather than completing confusing and arbitrary forms. This amendment is endorsed by both Diabetes Canada and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Further, the intent for the amendment is based on a recommendation by Canada Revenue Agency's own disability advisory committee, which the government rejected.
By moving this amendment, we ensure fairness not only for Canadians with type 1 diabetes in my province of New Brunswick, but from coast to coast to coast. This is a rare opportunity for us in this committee to immediately improve the lives of 300,000 Canadians on a bipartisan basis.
Colleagues, it is the right thing to do, and I welcome your support.
I also wanted to read something. I had support from the JDRF, as well as Diabetes Canada. I'll quote from Diabetes Canada and Mr. Andrew Jones, executive director, government affairs, policy and advocacy. He said:
We find that the process for eligibility is full of administrative burdens. Patients are required to fill out lengthy, lengthy forms and communicate with their health care professional. Our major concern is around the [14-hour threshold] per week. [That's arbitrary] what counts towards this 14-hour threshold.... As I said in my opening statement, we maintain that individuals who are on insulin therapy—life-saving insulin therapy—ought to just simply qualify for the disability tax credit.
I have another quote here from JDRF Canada. We were fortunate enough to have them appear before the committee on two occasions. Dr. Alanna Weisman, endocrinologist, speaking about those suffering with type 1 diabetes, had this to say:
...If they were to not administer insulin, after a very short period of time they would be at risk of having dangerously high blood sugars, potentially leading to avoidable hospitalizations, coma or even death.
Our standard of care is to deliver insulin, as we call it, “intensively”, which means either through multiple injections per day with each of those injections needing to be thought about and calculated, or through an insulin pump, which again is still being delivered on a 24-hour basis, still with multiple calculations and adjustments that need to be made each day. Insulin is absolutely a 24-hour, life-sustaining therapy.
Also note that in type 1 diabetes, there are no other medications approved for treatment. We have one medication, and that is insulin.
I move this amendment in clause-by-clause, and I hope that all members of the committee will support it.
Hello, colleagues. I wanted to wish everybody a happy Monday. Thanks for all the work the members and their teams have done over the weekend after receiving the amendments on Friday. I'm looking forward to a thorough, thoughtful analysis of the BIA by all parties, and I would also like to start my initial remarks on this particular amendment by saying I really appreciated what Jake just had to say.
I would also like to salute the advocacy of Mr. Blaikie on this issue, as well as other opposition members, and especially many of my Liberal caucus colleagues, both on this committee and in caucus generally, who have been passionately supporting this type of amendment on behalf of the diabetes community. I have had meetings over the years with children and their families affected by type 1 diabetes, but we have to make sure that we follow the proper processes and not just good intentions, so I want to ask the legislative clerk and the officials present for clarification on this with regard to a procedural matter.
I understand that the proposed amendment would be to the eligibility criteria for a non-refundable tax credit, but I'm also concerned that it would have the direct effect of automatically increasing spending on certain spending measures that base their eligibility on the criteria established for the disability tax credit. Programs such as the Canada workers benefit disability supplement and Canada disability savings grants and bonds pay into registered disability savings plans, which would create a new draw on the consolidated revenue fund that Parliament has not approved. I believe in light of this, NDP-1 and CPC-1—this amendment—require a royal recommendation.
Could we ask officials to confirm if my understanding is correct? Could they provide their analysis on the admissibility of the amendment as it is currently drafted and presented?
I do want to speak to the substance of the amendment, but I'm intrigued a little bit by some of the procedural questions.
Currently, the chair hasn't ruled that this is out of order, so I'm just wondering about the appropriateness of having a debate on the substance of a motion if its validity has been called into question and we don't have a ruling on whether it is, in fact, in order.
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that advice on whether a royal recommendation is required would normally come from House of Commons officials, not departmental officials. Until we hear it from House of Commons officials and there is.... I'm happy to get the opinion of a departmental official on the weather, too, but I don't think that what departmental officials think is really germane to our procedural conversations, as the House of Commons, with all due respect to them. I think they have indicated as much.
I'm looking for a little direction from you, Mr. Chair, as to whether a ruling is pending or if you haven't ruled because you're satisfied it's in order and we can move on to the substantive debate.
I might take the opportunity, then, to speak to the substance of the amendment and await your ruling on whether it'll be in order or not.
I do think it's an important amendment that has surfaced in a couple of different ways so far. When I had inquired about a similar intent, the legislative drafters produced an identical amendment. It's something I'm very happy to support here at this table. It's something that I think is worth doing, and I think it is a down payment on some larger reform to the disability tax credit eligibility, which has by no means been a problem for only people with type 1 diabetes. It has been problematic in a number of different ways. As Mr. Beech has highlighted, it matters for all sorts of reasons, including people's eligibility for other programs.
On the question of whether it's in order or not, I think it's important to note that if legislators can't have input on the eligibility criteria for a program, then I really don't know what we can do or what purpose we serve. It seems to me that it makes a lot of sense that legislators would be able to weigh in on the program criteria or the eligibility criteria for something like a disability tax credit.
I also note that, typically, private members are only prevented from being able to have a direct spend or a direct appropriation of funds. I think this is one step removed from something that we wouldn't be able to touch.
Here you have the disability tax credit—its own program. It operates by actually forgoing taxes. As a private member, I can't impose a new tax. I can't try to appropriate specific funding, but I should be able to weigh in on the eligibility for a tax deduction, and that's really what we're talking about.
If other programs choose to tie their eligibility to this eligibility, then that's a decision that's been made either by legislators or by government itself, and is incidental to the subject matter we're dealing with now, which is what you have to do in order to get access to the disability tax credit.
Those other programs have said that whatever the eligibility criteria are, that's what we're hitching our wagon to. I don't think the fact that government has decided elsewhere to proxy in eligibility for the disability tax credit should mean that legislators no longer have any right to weigh in on the eligibility for the disability tax credit. I think that would be a strange and perverse outcome that governments could certainly abuse in order to lock in eligibility criteria for all sorts of things.
There's a private member's motion that has actually been incorporated in this bill to establish a new tax credit for tradespeople who are moving around for work. You could argue in a similar way, as has been argued here today, that it's a government expenditure in the sense that the government will now be forgoing tax revenue, but in fact, those kinds of expenditures—tax expenditures—are something that private members are clearly able to establish. All you have to do is survey the private member bill landscape over the last number of Parliaments to see how many members of Parliament bring forward tax deduction schemes as part of their private member's business.
There isn't usually a ruling that says that those would require a royal recommendation, so the fact of government having tied access to other programs to this, I don't think should stand as an argument for legislators not to be able to weigh in on the eligibility for the program overall.
That's what I have to say on the procedural matter, but on the substance of the matter, I don't think there's any doubt. There has been a lot of good work from members across party lines, and my impression, anyway, is that certainly at some tables.... I believe HUMA had this discussion, and there was support from all parties to try to do this.
I've heard positive expressions of support from members of all parties at various times for this proposal, I believe, at this committee. If I'm misspeaking, anyone can jump in to correct me that this isn't something they support. I've seen what I would call an emerging consensus on this, so I think it would be unfortunate if a procedural ruling, which I'm not sure holds up, were to interfere with a cross-party emerging consensus that this is something that's important to do, that would be, as I say—and members can agree or disagree with this part of it—a down payment on larger DTC reforms that are very much needed in a case where it's very clear that people have a condition that requires time, energy and resources to monitor it. That should, in my view, obviously be part of the disability tax credit universe.
Let's please allow us to proceed with making this change, both on the procedural side and on the substantive side.
I'll separate my argument into two fronts, again procedural, and then to the substance of the motion itself that my colleague MP Stewart has put forward.
First of all, on the process, when a member connects with the law clerk, it's been my experience that if there are any conditions about inadmissibility, usually the law clerk flags that to the member. The member then takes the risk of presenting to you, Mr. Chair, through the clerk, but then that is usually ruled inadmissible right off the bat, before there can be any discussion.
I understand that you are on the fence on this one, but usually those things get flagged first and then, to be fair, members should be able to put forward motions and hear from their colleagues as to whether they are inadmissible or not. It does highlight the issue, and it is something that I would fight for any member of any party, or an independent, to have, because it is our job to be able to present ideas to other members and to have them at least discussed at that point. If they are ruled inadmissible, then, Mr. Chair, it would be ruled out of order, and then someone could challenge the chair if they so chose.
I really hope we don't take that particular option, Mr. Chair, but I would simply say that this subject came up a number of years ago. Mr. McGowan gave a very similar...when it came to CPP pension changes that we had suggested, despite there being no taxpayer money involved. I'm not picking on him. He's an honourable public servant. CPP, as you know, Mr. Chair, is administered at arm's length and comes from contributions from employers and employees. It isn't tax dollars.
This is a bit of a different matter, but quite honestly I wonder why the government would need to have Parliament if parliamentarians can't say, “These are the terms and conditions for being able to apply, the eligibility for a program.” This is the reason we have Parliament.
Sometimes this government believes, somehow, that it is the decision-maker and that we simply approve everything. We are the ones who represent our constituents. We are the ones, as Parliament, together, the government is tethered to and has to continue to maintain the confidence of.
I would strongly suggest that you allow the amendment to come forward. It is clearly admissible. It should be debated. I find it unfortunate that the government seeks $750 million in this budget bill to give to municipalities on transit before the Province of Quebec goes to an election. I think it's kind of shocking that they say, “It's okay for us to give them very little eligibility criteria for who can apply for that,” and now when we're saying, “Help children with type 1 diabetes to be able to get the disability tax credit,” it's.... I'm a bit aghast.
I will leave it to my colleague MP Stewart to get deeper in on the process, because it is his amendment and he is more than prepared to do that. However, on the motion itself, Mr. Chair, I will say something similar to what MP Blaikie suggested.
We've all talked to young people, through Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Diabetes Canada. We've heard from people who are suffering from it, the families, and how they deal with it. I just want people to be mindful that CRA has, in the past, held up the admissibility of eligibility for someone when they receive the disability tax credit as a minor. They turn 18, and suddenly they aren't eligible anymore.
I've heard from my constituents, for example, the Findlater family in West Kelowna. Their daughter has diabetes. It is indicated to me that they want their parliamentarians to work together because, Mr. Chair, across this country.... There are a lot of great things in this country, but different provinces have different programs when it comes to assisting people with diabetes. Some are more generous, and some are, frankly, less than generous.
One of the most frustrating parts is when you see good people from provinces that do not get the same level of support from their provincial government. It appears to be unfair to many of these children who say, “Do you know what? It shouldn't matter.” Wherever someone is, they should be able to receive the same kind of support.
What we're debating here today, Mr. Chair, is to make a program, a federal program, that applies to everyone who is eligible for it and to make that process fair and accessible with some constraints. The 14 hours, it's been pointed out, has some challenges for people. What we're trying to do is make it easier at the federal level. Someone gave me some wise advice. They said, “Dan, you can't always make life easy, but you can always try to make things easier.” This is a small, tangible way.
Lastly, Mr. Chair, I'm going to remind members that the disability tax credit is one thing. As my colleague said, it's a non-refundable tax credit, but what is also so vital about this program is that it is the gateway to a disability retirement savings plan. It allows for children and adults to put money away and to have that money grow tax-free until they grow old. Oftentimes they may not get the same opportunities to work and to save for their own pension, and they can then supplement their income in their old age.
The challenge we have is that many young people with diabetes are eligible for the DTC until they turn 18. Then under this rule the CRA rules them as being inadmissible. The problem with that is that the disability retirement savings plan that was set up in their name now becomes forfeited. They have to close the account, the government takes the moneys that were put into it as grants, and then they have to pay tax on any interest earned on the investment or savings in that.
Mr. Chair, I'm pointing out that this is not just about saving more of people's money. This gives Canadians, especially those young people, the ability to save for their retirement. They are ineligible for that retirement savings plan if they do not have access to the DTC.
To all honourable members, we may not be able to make everything easy for people who have type 1 diabetes, but across this country, with this amendment, we can start to make it a little bit easier and allow people to focus on their health and on saving for their retirement.
Obviously this is a very important amendment to a lot of Canadian citizens that have type 1 diabetes. As parliamentarians we come here and a lot of the time we debate finances and money. This is actually something we can do that's really good and will help a large group of people across the nation. I think that goes without saying, and this is the type of amendment that should have all-party support.
I want to talk a little bit about the fact that I submitted this 12 days ago. Constitutional lawyers were sought in the preparation for it. As national revenue shadow critic, I had to get support from my party. I achieved that as well as the members of the committee—
A voice: I don't have anything to say on the policy side of things, I just wanted—
Mr. Jake Stewart: What is this?
A voice: He doesn't know he is on. It was an accident.
Mr. Jake Stewart: Mr. Chair, I'm going to read to you a couple of really important facts about the fact that this went in 12 days ago. It went through the shadow ministers' channels, the opposition channels—with my party, of course—with the members of the finance committee, with the clerk's office, with the lawyers who are already on hand and, as I mentioned earlier, constitutional lawyers who were acquired to draft this. Now I'm going to read you some very important points that will cover all of the questions we've been hearing.
Number one, the disability tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit. It does not require either a royal recommendation under section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which authorizes new spending. That's a very important fact right there.
Number two, because the disability tax credit lowers taxes payable to persons with disabilities, it does not infringe on a financial initiative of the Crown and does not require a ways and means motion to authorize the imposition of new taxes.
Number three, although there may be certain programs that use the disability tax credit for their eligibility, this is a separate matter that is covered by a different royal recommendation.
If this amendment were even remotely inadmissible or somehow out of order, with all of the expertise we have in the House of Commons and with the members of the committee and everyone that's employed on this Hill, it would not take 12 days to tell me that. Believe me. We have a lot of highly intelligent people around here, and we want to keep that good name for the people of this country who are watching at home and expect the business of government to run in a proficient and intellectual manner.
We know that I've answered every question that was asked beforehand. We need to support this to help people with type 1 diabetes.
Thank you, MP Ste-Marie.
Again, we also want to thank MP Blaikie, MP Stewart and really all MPs that have come before this committee to speak to this very important measure and how the disease affects so many people, especially our young people with type 1 diabetes.
Members, after my discussions with the legislative clerk, I'm ready to give my ruling on the procedural admissibility of amendment CPC‑1. As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states on page 772:
Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.
Based on the information provided by the officials, the chair is of the opinion that the amendment could impose a change on the public treasury. Therefore, I rule the amendment inadmissible.
Amendment NDP-1 is also inadmissible since it is identical.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank all members for their constructive comments.
We have had a number of lawyers, experts and constitutional lawyers review this amendment, and they are of the firm belief that this actually instills sufficient controls, transparency and accountability, and actually enhances the ability of the CRA to take corrective action where necessary. Also, it outlines a number of key important issues.
Since the parties—I think rightfully so—have brought up the other related amendments.... I'll just use ours for ease of numbering. We basically have three amendments here—CPC-2, CPC-3 and CPC-4—and I think the numbers for the NDP amendments are similar. Parliamentary Secretary Beech said that he couldn't take CPC-3 if he didn't accept CPC-2. I don't think that's necessarily true because CPC-3 is completely unrelated to CPC-2. If he were to look positively on CPC-3, perhaps we could get some agreement on CPC-2 as well.
I would just put it over to Parliamentary Secretary Beech to see if he would be willing to comment on that. This CPC-3 is absolutely critical as well, Mr. Chair, because it allows for directed giving. Right now, the way the legislation is drafted, you could potentially be offside if you went to the United Way and said to the United Way—or the United Way said to you—we want to give this to the Ukraine fund within the United Way.
If we do not accept amendment CPC-3, we will have significant issues for the charitable sector. There's no partisan angle to this whatsoever. It's just legislation that makes sense, so we would very much like agreement to.... I understand we would all agree to amendment CPC-4, but if we agreed to CPC-3 as well, perhaps we could make a move on the second amendment.
I think one of the big challenges we have here is that, again, the government has moved first with its own bill without properly consulting on and trying to really capture the spirit of the senator's bill. That's the challenge here.
The government is again trying to look like it is doing something in alignment with a very popular initiative, and the reason why it's popular is that charities want to do good work. They want to be able to deliver services in a more efficient and accountable manner, but the problem is that, if you're spending all your time dealing with red tape and doing it in a prescriptive approach, you aren't able to help people who are in need, when they need it.
I would encourage all members to support this particular change. MP Lawrence, to his credit, has met with the charitable sector multiple times outside of the committee and did an admirable job of raising some of the concerns of the charitable sector in regard to the original drafting of Bill . It did not capture the spirit of the senator's bill.
I'd suggest that rather than playing catch-up, we instead just deliver exactly what the charitable sector is wanting, which is the senator's bill in this BIA.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to move my amendment.
By way of explanation, this will ensure that the Income Tax Act does not prohibit donors from giving to support programs of registered charities where the registered charity satisfies the “own activity” test or makes a qualifying disbursement. In other words, where a gift is made within a subset of charitable activities, that won't be prohibited by the BIA.
As I said earlier, this could cause substantial issues and challenges for individuals and charities that want to give money within a charitable purpose. With this legislation, you couldn't direct it to non-charitable purposes, so it will stay within the mandate. But, for example, as I said, if in fact you wanted to donate to, within a subset, say, something benefiting Ukrainian orphans, this legislation could arguably put that offside, which would create challenges. It's a relatively simple, minor amendment that will clarify the legislation and make life easier for charities.
Members, there are no amendments submitted for clauses 41 to 51. Clauses 41 to 51 are all in part 1 of the bill. Again, do we have unanimous consent to group them for a vote?
(Clauses 41 to 51 inclusive agreed to on division)
The Chair: Members, there are no amendments submitted to clauses 52 and 53. Clauses 52 and 53 are the only two clauses in part 2 of the bill. Do we have unanimous consent to group them for a vote?
(Clauses 52 and 53 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Members, there are no amendments submitted to clauses 54 to 130. Clauses 54 to 130 are all in part 3 of the bill. Do we have unanimous consent to group them for a vote?
(Clauses 54 to 130 inclusive agreed to on division)
(On clause 131)
The Chair: This brings us to clause 131. There is an amendment from the Bloc. We have Bloc‑4.
I see that Monsieur Ste-Marie's hand is up.
Go ahead, Monsieur Ste-Marie.
As I mentioned at the top of the meeting when I was speaking to my point of order, instead of moving BQ‑4 as originally written, I will be proposing a modified version. The new amendment was sent out earlier today.
I will take a few moments to read it, and then, I will say a few words about both the form and the substance of the amendment.
I move that Bill , in clause 131, be amended by replacing lines 15 to 19 on page 106 with the following:
(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to wine
(a) that is produced by an individual for their personal use and that is consumed in the course of that use; or
(b) that is produced from honey, apples or any other prescribed agricultural or plant product.
(2) Subsection (1) applies after June 29, 2022.
Clearly, this provision could change given the amendments that may follow.
Australia took legal action against Canada regarding the excise tax on wine, wine made from grapes, to be precise. The dispute did not relate to mead or cider.
The committee heard from industry representatives about their high production costs. They said that the excise tax could limit the growth and development of their fledgling industry in the country.
The least we can do is adopt this amendment, which is in line with the settlement regarding the dispute between Canadian and Australian wine producers. It only makes sense.
As for whether the amendment is admissible, I would say that this does not create a new tax. This does not broaden the legislation's reach. It simply amends an existing measure, so I am asking the committee members to support this amendment.
Mead producers and cider makers explained to the committee the impact this legislation could have on their industry.
The problem lies in the fact that the federal government is conflating wine, cider and mead, and this amendment would fix that. As I see it, the amendment is entirely admissible.
Once again, I urge my fellow members to vote in favour of this amendment to support our cider and mead producers.
I appreciate your giving clarity on that. I would hate to have gone through a procedural rabbit hole to discuss the admissibility rather than actually talking about the substance of the motion.
I'd like to thank MP Ste-Marie for bringing this forward.
Look, I'm no fan of how the government absolutely botched the WTO challenge and capitulated to Australia, but they did. The only thing is that they didn't properly look at the law, and now it's the members of Parliament who have to hear from witnesses on the cider industry. The association for Canada, the provincial one for Quebec, the honey mead producers—all of them came in and said they are stuck under the same banner as wine.
I will tell you, Mr. Chair, that the economics of the cider industry and the mead industry, as was put out by those associations, are incredibly different. Unfortunately, by lumping them into the same regime as wine, the government has set up those respective industries for failure, much as they have with the Canadian wine sector. The wine sector has challenges with it. They understand what the government gave up. They are still hoping that the government will be good on its word to make it whole. It's something that is yet to be seen.
Let's stop damaging our growing industries. The cider industry utilizes local product. The same goes for the mead producers. Let's allow them to grow. Those mead producers, as you might remember—we had the mead association from Quebec—said they are not at the same scale as a brewery or a winery. They are very small-scale productions. Costs are high. Adding excise would be extremely damaging. Ditto for the cider industry, one that has been showing some promise. Again, I would just hate to see us starting to rely on American product to make up for the fact that the Canadian tax regime, the excise tax increases here, would force them to use cheaper products that often are not from this country.
If we really want to support farmers, if we really want to support the value-added sector, whether it be mead or cideries, let's support this amendment. Let's try to undo some of the potential damage that could and most likely will happen if this amendment does not pass. I would ask all honourable members to just vote in favour of this. It's not going to be a tremendous amount on the government. When that industry is maybe a little bit bigger, the government should probably start paying attention to them, but at this point, let's just do no harm.
Regarding the World Trade Organization, or WTO, challenge, I would note that the dispute between Australia and Canada over wine actually pertained to wine made from grapes. In fact, the Quebec government pointed out to the Australian government the distinction between wine made from grapes and cider or mead. An agreement with Quebec was reached, and the legislation reflects that distinction. We are calling on Ottawa to do the same thing Quebec did, in other words, not to lump cider and mead in the same category as wine, which is made from grapes.
There was no dispute between Australia and Canada over cider or mead. What we are asking the government to do is, number one, draw the distinction between cider or mead and wine, which is made from grapes and which was the focus of a dispute, and number two, support two very important industries, as Mr. Albas highlighted.
Supporting this amendment, and by extension cider and mead producers, does not give rise to any issues whatsoever. It would not go against the WTO decision because Australia already came to an agreement with Quebec on the very same thing.
If the committee votes against this amendment, it will be forcing cider and mead producers to pay a tax because we are cutting corners and not doing our duty. We must support them; that is our job.
I would like to move CPC-5. This particular amendment is to delay the implementation of the excise regime for wine, for example, to push it back until January 1, 2023.
As we know, COVID-19 has been extremely difficult for many businesses, but imagine you are a vintner. You have waited five years for your grapes to grow. You have been able to cultivate them, to bottle them, to do all the labelling and market the product, and then you find out that your most profitable area, your cellar door, has been slammed shut because of COVID.
Many small and medium-sized wineries have taken such tremendous damage because tourism, as you know, Mr. Chair, has dried up, and many people were loath to go out even if wineries were able to be open.
This is a sector that has also been hit especially hard by supply shortages. The supply chain, particularly for bottles, has been a huge challenge.
The government in capitulating to the Australians would say, “We said we would have it done by July 1.” Well, COVID has happened. The supply chains have happened, and if you don't bottle by the end of June, essentially you have to pay excise on the existing inventory in your wine barrels. Because it's not bottled, they will have to pay, and they will take a major hit.
The government is already reining in all sorts of revenue due to higher oil prices and higher inflation. Its user fees, which are also linked to inflation, are bringing in more revenue than they ever have. Quite honestly, I know that some Liberals might say, “Wait a second. We agreed to do this.” Well, you agreed to do this first of all without talking to the industry. You made the decision. Second of all, the Australians challenged the WTO because they were standing up for their industry.
Now this is the opportunity for us all to stand up for ours, to give them a little more time so that they can get their bottles and bottle their wine. This is not a huge ask. If members want to say that it's all about following through with our word, do you know what? I would simply suggest that if you say to the Australians that we are deferring this to give the industry a little bit of breathing room, they would understand.
Why? Let me explain one thing, just so members can understand. There is one vintage of one particular company in Australia the scale of which is larger than the entire wine industry put together, big and small—one vintage from Australia. They are major international players.
When Bill Morneau, the former finance minister, came to this committee, and I asked him if he had done any economic assessment on the excise escalator, he said no. When we asked about the trade implications, he said they hadn't considered them.
All of this has stemmed from the government continuing to mismanage this file. All we are asking for here in this amendment is simply to give a little breathing room to the industry to allow them to bottle so that these small and medium-sized wineries are not hit with a CRA excise bill, something that many of them have never had to pay in their existence. While the government gives them that time, it can also then introduce its replacement program, which it has been talking about for two years and has yet to unveil to industry.
This is a win-win for our industry. The Australians will just be satisfied because they are ultimately getting what they want. Canadian premium product is on the same level playing field as Australians'. I was actually fighting to say that because the Australians have huge support, as do the Americans, as do the French, as do the Spanish, for their wine industry, which pales in comparison to what we do for the Canadian wine industry.
That's what my intervention is. While I have the floor, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the officials a question pertaining to this section if that's all right.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
For the officials, in 2017, as I mentioned, the federal government introduced legislation basically to automatically increase beer, wine and spirits excise duty rates on April 1 of every year. Obviously, that was with an index to the CPI.
Now, with monthly CPI inflation exceeding 6%, these same brewers, wineries and distilleries are looking at an excise duty rate increase next April that could be in the 6% to 7% range at a time when production costs are already soaring. That obviously is leading to higher prices, which means less pickup.
My question for the officials is this. Are you rethinking the automatic CPI approach to taxation given that the environment has completely changed? If so, will you be recommending to the 's office for next year's increase to be deferred to provide Canadian consumers and also our beverage and alcohol producers some much-needed relief from these annual increases?