Ontario Construction News staff writer
Two NDP Members of Parliament, backed by Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), have tabled a private member’s bill to allow tax deductions for skilled workers who need to move more than 80 km. to accept new employment.
MPs Scott Duvall (Hamilton Mountain) and Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie) tabled Bill C-275 An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act last Friday..
While private members’ bills rarely pass into legislation, they can set the stage for future government-backed changes.
In a statement, CBTU says “flexibility and mobility are common requirements of the construction workforce; employment ends when projects are complete, and construction workers often find the next available job is in another region or even another province.”
“Workers often leave their homes and families to take on temporary contracts elsewhere,” the CBTU statement said. “However, if their employer is not covering the costs of travel or accommodations, the financial burden on an employee may deter them from taking that job and potentially leave them reliant on government supports like Employment Insurance.”
CBTU says it recently commissioned a report estimating the financial projections of implementing a Skilled Trades Workforce Mobility Tax Deduction. The report, conducted by Hendry Warren, indicated that on average, it costs a construction worker over $4,000 to temporarily relocate for work.
“This is one of the largest barriers to construction worker mobility. It found the federal government will save $347 million per year by implementing such a tax deduction, putting more Canadians to work, reducing EI payments, and increased tax revenues. Additionally, the average worker will save $2,532 a year in temporary relocation efforts.” The full report, including regional breakdowns, is available here.
Bill C-275 An Act to Amend the Income Tax would allow tradespeople and indentured apprentices to deduct from their income any travel expenses they have incurred in order to secure and maintain employment in a construction activity at a job site that is located at least 80 kilometres away from their ordinary place of residence.
“Canada needs a Skilled Trades Workforce Mobility program incorporated into our tax system,” said CBTU executive director Sean Strickland. “Salespeople, professionals and others in the construction and maintenance industries can deduct from income the cost of their travel, meals, accommodations, while the same option is denied to skilled workers. This is an unfair tax consequence.
“Today, we were proud to join Members of Parliament, Scott Duvall and Alexandre Boulerice to stand up for fairness for Canadian skilled trades workers,” Strickland said. “Passage of the provisions of this bill will allow construction workers to travel to where the work is, increasing job opportunities and meeting labour market demands – putting Canadians to work.”
“I thank CBTU not only for their support for my bill, but for their tireless efforts and advocacy on this important matter over several decades,” said the sponsoring MP Scott Duvall. “I am hopeful that with the tabling of my bill, the promotion by CBTU with the hundreds of thousands of workers they represent; and given that all voting members of the NDP, Liberal, Bloc, Green and Independents voted in favour of this legislation in a prior Parliament, that we will finally see this solution adopted by government. Achieving tax fairness to those working hard in the construction and building trades and improved labour mobility in the industry is long overdue. It’s time to get this done.”
“This inequity needs to be corrected now. It’s been going on for far too long,” said Alexandre Boulerice, Member of Parliament for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie and Deputy Leader of the NDP. “It is unacceptable that these people be penalized by the nature of their work that forces them to move constantly. Our fiscal policy must take this particular situation into account and it is all the more urgent to do so in a context of economic and health crisis.”
CBTU said in its statement that it recognizes that MP Duvall’s placement in the Order of Precedence in having this bill debated Bill C-275 is unlikely to come to a vote in this session of Parliament. “Therefore, CBTU are asking the Government of Canada to undertake implementation of the provisions of this private member’s bill.”
“COVID-19 has increased the strain on the economy including decreasing work opportunities for skilled trades workers in many areas,” Strickland said. “The Government of Canada has a responsibility to ensure a system of tax fairness is in place for Canadians who belong to a mobile workforce and who may work for more than one employer during a tax year. Passing this private Member’s bill will accomplish this, and level the playing field for all skilled trades workers.”