Debates of Dec. 10th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegation
- Committees Of The House
- Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1997
- First Nations Land Management Act
- People's Tax Form Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Excise Tax Act
- Jason Brown And Darren Vickers
- Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
- Drunk Drivers
- Softwood Lumber
- Bell Canada
- The Economy
- Quebec Premier
- Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
- Softwood Lumber
- The Environment
- Housing Construction
- Research And Development
- Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
- Town Hall Meeting
- Research And Development
- Science And Technology
- National Defence
- Distinct Society
- Radio Canada International
- Distinct Society
- Radio Canada International
- Canadian Flag
- Nuclear Energy
- Somalia Inquiry
- Canadian Space Agency
- Regional Development
- Excise Tax Act
- Points Of Order
- An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David Riel
- United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
Oral Question Period
John Manley Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, the matter of the co-ordination of the regional development agencies with Industry Canada and the various agencies that are part of the industry portfolio both in respect of science and technology as well as small business and the information highway has been a matter of the utmost importance to me.
In western Canada we have seen the delivery of a variety of services related to each of those areas through the 91 western economic diversification offices that are available in western Canada in part through the Community Futures Development Corporation. We have seen contributions through western economic diversification to research and development projects such as that by TR labs based in Calgary for wireless telecommunications and through Paprican and Ballard Technologies, both based in Vancouver, from Technology Partnerships Canada.
These efforts at co-operation and co-ordination will not only provide diversification of the economy of western Canada but will build a science and technology base that will enable the Canadian economy to grow into the 21st century.
Oral Question Period
Chris Axworthy Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.
Yesterday a government study showed the huge cost of unemployment of up to $91 billion. The IMF has pointed to the high rate of unemployment in Canada as a cause for concern. Even the private sector seems to have lost faith in being able to create the jobs Canada needs. Indeed it is cutting jobs.
Since the Minister of Finance has no vision for dealing with unemployment, will he pull together the stakeholders in this economy so we can build a vision for the future to deal with unemployment? Or, does he not care about all the unemployed people in the country?
Oral Question Period
Paul Martin Minister of Finance
Mr. Speaker, we as a government did not adopt the scorched earth policy of either the Reform Party or the Conservative Party in our approach to the deficit. We simply wanted to deal with the question of growth in the economy and the consequent employment that would flow therefrom.
As a result we have put enormous amounts of money into technology partnerships, as stated by my colleague the Minister of Industry. As my colleague the Minister of Human Resources Development has said, we have put enormous sums of money into youth employment. The Prime Minister's Team Canada approach has paid tremendous dividends to the country.
The hon. member may have learned something from that report, but because of the devastating effects of unemployment the government has taken the decisive action it has taken. As a result we will continue to do so.
The hon. member talked about having stakeholder meetings. We have done that with the business community. We have done that with the Canadian Labour Congress. We have done that with virtually every stakeholder. We will continue to meet with Canadians to create employment in Canada.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Excise Tax Act
December 10th, 1996 / 3:05 p.m.
Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will use my time in this debate to talk about two specific aspects of the bill. One is the use of time allocation, and I will speak specifically about the blended sales tax.
It is important that we have the facts on the record. As of December 10, 1996 the government has placed before the House of Commons a total of 162 bills. Time allocation has been used on 20 of these bills or 12.3 per cent of government legislation that has been presented.
On four of the bills, however, either the Bloc Quebecois or the Reform Party gave procedural assistance for the implementation of time allocation, which in fact means that less than 10 per cent of the bills introduced by the government since the last election have been subjected to time allocation unilaterally applied by the government.
Perhaps more relevant are the statistics on time allocation concerning the actual number of times that time allocation motions have been moved.
Excise Tax Act
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC
Are you proud of this or what?
Excise Tax Act
Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON
Actually, yes, I am.
Since time allocation motions may be moved only at one or two stages of a bill, no bill may pass the House without opposition co-operation unless the government has applied time allocation two or three times to that one bill.
A quick calculation of these facts shows that government bills in the House of Commons have been considered at 429 separate stages at which time allocation could have been applied. On only 27 of these occasions has time allocation been applied, which is only 6.3 per cent of the time. On five of these occasions, however, at least one opposition party gave procedural assistance to the implementation of time allocation, leaving only 22 occasions on which the government unilaterally implemented time allocation. That is only 5.1 per cent of all possible occasions.
Another important issue about time allocation is that Canadian citizens expect us to get on with the business of governing. They request that we move forward. We hear all the time about how slow government is and how much it needs to move forward. I would suggest, as those of us who came from the world of business know, that the time the discussion is called to an end we can agree to disagree, vote and move forward. I have absolutely no problem with our record.
With regard to the blended sales tax I understand in this morning's debate there were some particularly outrageous comments on the concept of the blended sales tax.
It seems the Bloc Quebecois has spent its time for debate on this important issue telling Atlantic Canadians that their elected officials, the bureaucrats and the people of Atlantic Canada themselves do not know what they want and that the BQ knows what
Atlantic Canadians want. It is a pretty curious situation. They are trying to deny the Atlantic provinces the blended sales tax when they have had that system since the GST was implemented.
The second component of their time was used to talk about the adjustment assistance package when that is not even being considered today. In fact it has already been dealt with in a previous bill.
What do members of the House of Commons do? They are supposed to be debating the issue at hand. They are supposed to be getting on with the business of the day. They are supposed to be implementing legislation that Canadians want. Instead the opposition parties are getting into a silly game of trying to oppose the business we are trying to accomplish, to debate other issues that are not on the table and, in the case of the BQ, to use the time to tell people who actually elected them to make the decision for them that they are wrong and the BQ knows better.
I suggest they run federal candidates in all the provinces in the next election and we will see where the chips will fall.
I am particularly disturbed that my province does not have the opportunity to have a blended sales tax, even though we hear from Canadians and business people all the time about the complicated procedure of two sales taxes on two different bases, with two different collection times.
In the last provincial election our premier advanced to the Canadian Manufacturers' Association the reasons we in Ontario need a blended sales tax. I will quote the premier of the province:
I want something that works. And I'll tell you this: that if we had one VAT (value-added tax), one base, one bureaucracy to collect it, the manufacturers and the businesses in Ontario would save over a billion dollars by being able to deduct those costs that you cannot deduct today on the sales tax.
Mike Harris went on to say:
It has been one of the areas of major competitive disadvantage that Ontario manufacturers have had and Ontario businesses have had and I say, stop the rhetoric, stop the politics, stop the finger-pointing. Get on with harmonization and simplification of the GST-or whatever the new initials are-and the PST.
Mr. Harris underestimated the savings to provincial businesses and manufacturers by some $6 billion. The savings to the provinces and their businesses would be $7.8 billion with a blended tax system. So I say to Mr. Harris to stop the rhetoric, stop the finger pointing. Let us get on and make a better system for those provinces and businesses.
Why are we giving a competitive advantage to the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec? Why do our business people have to struggle with complicated paperwork many times during the 12 months of the year on two different bases. Why can they not deduct what they should be able to deduct for their input costs?
Now is the time for action. Now is the time to end this debate and to move on to a vote on this issue. Let us go to the electorate with our platforms in place.
Excise Tax Act
Allan Kerpan Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK
Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate on Bill C-70 since question period and before. It occurs to me it has been a very interesting day in the House of Commons. We are faced with what I considered to be a double Liberal whammy. First, for the umpteenth time we are faced with time allocation or closure invoked by the government.
The second whammy is the HST, the BST, the GST or whatever. I will speak for a second about the speech of the member for Burlington. She had some interesting statistics I would like to discuss.
She spoke about using time allocation or closure for 12.3 per cent of the times that it could have been used. I would hardly be proud of that record. It amazes me. If the bar is set low enough it is easy to jump over it.
To talk about the debt and the deficit, the Liberal government is now claiming what a wonderful job it has done with the economy and the finances of the country. The deficit is still well over $20 billion a year. They are proud of using closure 12 per cent of the time. It blows my mind. It amazes me that anybody from any party, including my own, would ever have the gall to stand up and be proud of records like that. It just shocks me.
Let us talk for just a second about the idea of closure. After we were elected in 1993, we came to Ottawa and heard all the media stories. The Prime Minister and members of the government would stand up and say: "We are going to be different. This is going to be a new Parliament. The 35th Parliament is going to be something of which we, as parliamentarians, can be proud".
I am afraid that I have been seriously disappointed in that aspect. Yes, the first couple of months of January 1994 started with some level of decorum that probably has not been seen in this House for many years. It deteriorated rapidly.
We are seeing again on a regular basis things like closure being used in the most undemocratic fashion anyone could ever imagine. We live in Canada. I am proud to be a Canadian. I am proud to live in our democracy. By the same token, I am deeply ashamed to be part of a system at times uses the most undemocratic tactics. I
would expect to see those kinds of tactics in many other countries but those are countries that I would prefer not to live in.
To stand up in the House today and talk about using closure12 per cent of the time is something that I find unbelievable. The member for Burlington said: "Let's have an election. Let's find out what the people want". That is good. Let us have an election. I am prepared to do that. When Canadians see and understand what kind of undemocratic government we have at this point in time, they will say: "Thank you very much. We will try somebody else". I am looking forward to that day with great interest.
The member for Burlington seemed disappointed and was complaining that perhaps the opposition parties, including our party, wanted to stall the debate further. Some of these bills have great importance. She implied in her speech that it is fine to speak in debate as long as we agree with the government.
I think back to three bills in particular, Bill C-68, Bill C-33 and this bill, where the government used closure to ram the bills through as fast as it possibly could. Why did it do that?
It is because Canadians are not in favour of these types of bills. I believe that the opposition has a duty to convey in the House the thoughts of the people of Canada. That is why we did it. We do not do it to stand up here and waste time. We are very busy people. We do not need to listen to ourselves speak.
They are important bills. Bill C-68, Bill C-33 and now Bill C-70 have tremendous impact on the future of this country. It is our right and our duty to speak. That is why I was elected and why everybody else in this House was elected, to truly debate those very critical issues.
Just recently we supported the government on the Tobacco Act. We wanted to see it go through as quickly as possible. We felt that Canadians were in favour of it. We agreed with the government. We said: "Let's do this. Let's get it through". We did. It is done.
I do not think it is fair for any government member to stand up and criticize us for asking for more open, honest, democratic debate. I know I do not have much time left but for the minutes that I have left, I want to talk about the GST or the HST or the BST. I do not care what it is called. They are all one and the same.
The member for Kindersley-Lloydminster talked a few minutes ago, before question period, about the BST. He is from Saskatchewan where we all know what BS stands for. I am from Saskatchewan as well. I also know what HS could stand for. It is all one and the same, it is still a tax. I have horses on my farm and therefore I do know what HS could stand for.
A tax is a tax is a tax. One cannot get around it and it cannot be hidden. People are not stupid and they realize exactly what is going on. To call it the HST or the BST or the GST or the ABC, it is still a tax. Canadians are tired of taxes. We are taxed to death.
In question period we talked of jobs and what the high unemployment rate costs in dollars. It is difficult to put an number on it but we do know that high taxation causes unemployment. That is just a plain and simple fact of life and there is no getting around it.
I have two friends in my riding, Elwood Nelson and Keith Talbot, who are both auctioneers. Recently I was talking to them about the problems the GST causes in their business. It causes tremendous trouble. These two gentlemen generally hold farm sales where they sell pieces of equipment, tools and so on. There would be hundreds and hundreds of items at any one auction sale on a farm.
Their difficulty is determining for what each individual item has been used and whether it is a personal item or a business use item. There are hundreds of items at one auction sale and these auctioneers hold sometimes 60, 80 or 100 auction sales a year. It is impossible to determine whether that piece of equipment or that tool has been used as a personal item or for business purposes. There is a difference in how they collect the GST and submit it.
They do not have a clue and they have been led down the garden path by Revenue Canada on the GST for six years. The rules change every six months. Somebody comes in with a new idea and they change it all over again. The same thing is going to happen when the tax is harmonized. They are going to have to go back and start all over again just has they have done so many times in the past.
I think of people who run stores. Recently I asked a woman: "What do you think of the GST?" She said: "I hate it, Allan, but at least it is in. It is in my computers, in my cash register and it is done. I don't like it but I have to live with it". What is going to happen when the HST comes in, or the BST, or whatever it is called? They are going to have to change again.
Mr. Speaker, do you know who they are going to remember? They will not think about Brian Mulroney. They are going to think about the Liberal government. They are going to think about this finance minister and they are going to say: "That's the guy that did it to me this time. First it was Mulroney, now it is the finance minister". The same thing, it makes no difference.
My colleague for Prince George-Peace River gave a very fine speech in the House just before question period and he said: "Liberal, Tory, same old story". They are going to remember the people who made them change and cost them a tremendous amount of money once again.
I cannot believe this is going on. If I were a Liberal member of Parliament who is seeking re-election I would be embarrassed to go out back on the campaign trail to be asked: "What about that GST
thing"? and have to say: "Oh, we are sorry, we made a mistake". I am ready. Let us try it.
Excise Tax Act
Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is really quite an occasion to be able to stand up and speak one more time on the GST. In fact, if we could go over a little of the history of it, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will remember all too well back to 1990-91. Many of the people who are in the Chamber today cannot remember the experience but you and I certainly do, sir. You will remember the vitriolic attacks that came from this side of the House. I could point out the seat that you sat in when you criticized the GST. It was really something. Of course, we were in agreement. This member looks so young he was hardly born at that time, but in fact he was around somewhere, but not in the Chamber. I remember all too well the attacks that came from the Liberal opposition about the GST and how terrible it was.
Of course when the Liberals came into power-you remember this, Mr. Speaker, because you campaigned in 1993 just as I did-and it was going to be gone. I am sure the people in the Niagara Falls area as well as the people in northern Alberta thought: "Oh, finally, if the Liberals come into power, then we are going to see an end to this dreaded GST".
For heaven's sake, what do you think happened next? Page 22 of the red book became absolutely famous. I would quote from it now, Mr. Speaker, but you know I do not have my copy any longer, but I certainly know what page 22 said. It said that the federal government was going to do away with the GST. What do we have? It is a kind of symphony really. It is a harmonization. The GST is still here. It is alive and well. Now it is going to be the HST, the BST or whatever it is. It is not a good thing.
It is easy for members to put on a brave face now that the Liberals are in government and say: "What we are doing is the very best thing for you". We hear time and time again about people who have retail businesses. In my area we have a lot of farmers. The horror stories that they are phoning my office with are hard to believe.
Here is a good one, or a bad one, depending on which way one wants to look at it. A farmer phoned my office not too long ago and said that because farm equipment is exempt he is allowed to receive a GST rebate or exemption on it. It was okay if he bought a half-ton truck. He would be able to get the GST back.
However, one farmer bought an extended cab half-ton truck. A regular truck with no extended cab was fine but he bought an extended cab truck because he kept his saddles and bailer twine and so on in the back seat. Do you know what happened? The GST department said: "No, no. This becomes a luxury vehicle and so you have to pay GST on it".
Then I would get another call from somebody else who would say: "I have a suburban, an entirely closed in vehicle, and I can claim exemption on that".
It just shows what a disastrous nightmare this whole thing has been. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have had the odd call in your office as well. I do not think our regions of Canada are that much apart on these issues that you have not had a call or two in your own constituency office saying: "What in heaven's name is going on here".
I would like to go back to when the GST initially came in. It was going to be revenue neutral. I am sure if I jog your memory,Mr. Speaker, you will remember it was Bill C-21, the deficit and debt reduction account, that was passed in the 34th Parliament. All excess revenue was to go to pay down the deficit and then the debt. Guess what. That did not happen.
I put several dollars into that because I believe that if we are going to put our money where our mouth is then we had better contribute to that. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have put my 10 per cent pay deduction into the deficit and debt reduction account for some time.
The question is far bigger than that. Is this tax a good tax or not. The answer across the country has to be no. Some points of it were good in terms of making it visible. Canadians are not the type of people who are going to remember something for five years generally. We complain about something for 20 minutes and then we get out our cheque book, write a cheque and say: "That is the government for you" and we carry on.
Yet five years later there is a vehemence, a vitriolic spirit across the country about the GST and now the heat is being raised one more level with the BST in Atlantic Canada. If you look at the specifics of that, the Atlantic premiers were bribed into signing this $1 billion deal. It was borrowed taxpayers' money. They were Liberal governments. They were tempted, if you will. They were bamboozled. It was hogwash. The point is it was $1 billion of borrowed money.
It is as if the government said: "We are doing a great thing here. We are going to pay off our Visa but we are using our Mastercard to do it". That simply cannot happen. The federal government took this $1 billion of borrowed money to their political friends in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals, and said: "Come on guys. We have to live up to page 22 here. We have to have harmony here in the symphony, so please help us out any way you can". It cost a billion dollars of taxpayers' money borrowed on MasterCard. There is something dreadfully wrong with that because we cannot live beyond our means. I suppose the Canadian taxpayers, those from Atlantic Canada who have signed on to this deal and those of us who live in other parts of the country can literally say thanks a billion.
Where is this cash coming from? The money does not just bubble up from under the surface. These are real cheques which are being sent to the government at income tax time from real people working in real jobs. A billion dollars to kick this thing into motion and people on the other side of the House say it is a really great deal. They say: "We are are from the government and we are here to help you". No wonder people get nervous when they see people from the government here.
Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia are not even willing to discuss the federal proposal. Support for it is weak in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island. When the government talks about full harmonization and how well everything is going to blend together and that it will be happy times for us in Canada as we move toward the next century, it simply is not true.
People from my constituency, not just farmers but business people also, continually phone my office saying: "Deb, you just cannot imagine how much manpower it takes to fill all of this out". Sadly enough, one more level of it is being added at the Atlantic Canada level. The rest of Canada is saying absolutely not.
It makes me think of my colleague next door in Edmonton Northwest who said that in Alberta it would be really great to blend or harmonize the sales tax. Mr. Speaker, I am not good at math and you know that. You have known that for years. However, if we have zero provincial sales tax in Alberta then what can we harmonize the GST with in order to make it 15 per cent? Any person in their right mind would say: "Wait a minute, I am not sure we can blend this because there is nothing to blend it with". We had enough of a hard time in Alberta going to any tax system. We have been blessed out there and we appreciate it is because of our natural resources.
When I hear the Minister of Natural Resources say that in Alberta it would be a really good thing to blend it, she has to give her head a shake. If she thinks she is going to go door knocking in the next election saying: "Harmony, ebony and ivory, let us live together in harmony", it simply is not going to happen. They are going to laugh her right off the block.
As my friend said earlier, I suspect that whether it was the Tories who brought in the GST or the Liberals who have pushed up the heat one notch on it to the BST, people really do not know the difference. All they know is they have been stuck with this tax and every time they buy two newspapers, let us say the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun , which equals a dollar, they also have to find a nickel and two pennies some place in their pocket to pay for them. I know that because every week when I go to the airport I run into the store to buy two newspapers. I cannot just flip a loonie out. I have to find the pennies and a nickel. It is a pain. Not a day goes by that a consumer does not say that they hate this tax.
What is amazing about this tax is that Canadians are still angry about it this many years later. Whether it is the Conservative government that brought in the GST or whether it is the Liberal government that brought in the BST, which it is in the process of doing by ramming it through with time allocation, when Canadians go to the polls next time they are not really going to remember the difference. As far as it goes, with the old line federal parties, they say that whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives, it means higher taxes, bigger government and more money in debt. Whether it is the Conservatives or Liberals, they are the two sides of the same loonie.
One has to ask how Atlantic Canadians are feeling about this. Let us look at a couple of examples. Let us remember of course that all these people are represented in name by Liberal members of Parliament.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce predicts that the harmonized sales tax will push up new house prices by 5.5 per cent as well as force municipalities to raise property taxes. Does this make any sense? I would not think so. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce should be able to go to its MP's office and say: "Okay girl, you go on up to Ottawa and tell them just exactly how we feel about it". I am not sure she has been able to do that.
The Canadian Real Estate Association says that harmonization will increase the costs of a new house by $4,000 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and by $3,374 in New Brunswick. Nobody has that kind of cash to pay out.
The GST was wrong. The GST was bad. The BST is wrong. The BST is bad. I know that Canadians are still going to be angry about this in the next election campaign. They will say: "Wait a minute. Liberal, Tory: one gave us one, one gave us the other. They are the same thing. They are the two sides of the same loonie". The Liberals may meet the same fate that the Conservatives did in 1993.
Excise Tax Act
Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, just to reiterate, we are talking about Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act and other acts so as to accommodate the GST and make it into the BST or blend it or harmonize it or otherwise.
My question to the House and the people of Canada is: What is the impact of the GST? Is this a good thing or is it dividing us?
It has been a very unsettling thing from its inception. The way the government is carrying on at the moment, trying to get different regions to buy into it, is once again pitting Canadians against Canadians. It is characteristic of the government to do just that. It will confer special privileges on some groups of people and say: "If you are in this group, then you have these privileges. If you are not, then you do not have them".
What we need in Canada is equality. We need equality between all Canadians and we need equality between all of the provinces. My suggestion is that the GST and any of its offshoots are tearing the country apart and that is not good.
The other aspect which I would like to address concerns integrity. I will keep using the word integrity to show in what way the GST is reflective of integrity in government. Let us start with the GST as an election promise.
Canadians are probably tired of hearing all of this, but this has caused us to say: Why did the Liberals as a party make a bunch of promises and put them in the red book? Was it to get themselves elected or was it to better govern the country? The answer is obvious. It was a book of promises cobbled together to win an election. Never mind the results. As long as they could promise enough and get the message out, people would vote for them and then they could do whatever they wanted.
We have used the GST as an example of a Liberal broken promise time after time in the House. Perhaps it is the prime example, but it certainly is not the only one. We did a study of the red book promises. We calculated that 30-odd per cent of the promises in the red book have been kept by the Liberal government. The government's estimate is that 70-odd per cent of the promises have been kept. Canadians can make up their own minds by looking at the red book, if they want to take the trouble to find out who is speaking the truth.
In any event the GST is typical of an integrity issue. Before the government was elected it said: "We must form the government. It does not matter what we say, we have to get the votes".
The red book is also typical of the difference between the Liberals and their way of doing things and Reform and its ways. The Liberals in cobbling together the red book, started from the top. It is a backroom document, with input of course from other areas. They said: "What is it that we need to really convince the public?"
On the other hand, Reformers get together and say: "Here are the principles and policies. We need to make positive changes in the country". Those policies and principles come from the bottom up. They are grassroots stimulated and they are ordinary people who say: "These are the changes that we need". Our fresh start document is a reflection of that, from the ground up rather than from the top down.
I am using the GST as an example, but let us look at integrity as reflected by the current government. There was talk about an ethics counsellor. Again it was a red book promise that there would be an ethics counsellor. Not only would the Liberals deal with the GST but they would do all these other things.
The ethics counsellor has turned out to be a will-o'-the-wisp. What are the terms of reference for the ethics counsellor? Some of them have been published, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they are concealed. It is a matter between the Prime Minister and that counsellor and not open for the rest of us to see. That is not integrity.
Look at party discipline across the way. The member for York South-Weston is a prime example. Here is a man who stood on his honour and said: "I as a member of the Liberal Party took part in the decision to eliminate the GST. We have reneged on that decision. As a matter of honour, I will opt out". He is being severely punished and will continue to be for being an honourable man. That is not a good example of integrity on the part of the Liberals or the Liberal government, however one would choose to put it.
What else is this negative GST tearing apart? What else is it doing to the country? We hear examples from across Canada about the negative effects of it.
One of my constituents felt strongly enough about the GST that he said he believed the government was doing something illegal with this tax so he refused to pay it. He ran a shop called the Sandwich Tree in Nanaimo. He was prosecuted by Revenue Canada for not collecting the GST, but he held his ground. So far he has won two court decisions on this but of course he is not finished with it. Through Revenue Canada the government is saying: "Get him". Whether the government has good legal background to say this, I do not know. But the evidence I see is that this man is not just being prosecuted, rather I think he is being persecuted. His wife's salary has been garnisheed as has his own. He is not a free many any more, I can assure the House of that, whether or not he has won the first two rounds of this case.
Integrity. There are examples of integrity or its opposite in this House every single day, whether it is talking about the GST or about other subjects. I hear the Minister of Finance every day saying things that are patently not correct about the Reform Party. He puts our policies in a way which is totally twisted, and this is wrong. If that is an example of integrity as with the GST, I am not with it.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage today in exactly the same way did the same thing when talking with one of our members, supposedly answering a question on what our policy is with regard to the CBC. She deliberately chose to say things that are not Reform policy. She absolutely, deliberately said: "No, this is what you guys are advocating", and it was patently wrong.
The GST is not doing good things for the country. It is not doing anything for individuals, for groups or for regions. It is certainly
not doing anything for our economy except driving it underground. That makes the situation even worse. We do not need the GST.
Excise Tax Act
Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB
Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of debate on the issue. Some tremendous speeches have been made today. They have been entertaining and nice to listen to.
I was reminded of a farmer who got shafted on a horse he did not really want. He went to an auction sale. He needed a good work horse. The auctioneer asked his helper to bring out one of the horses. The helper led it around. It pranced. It was a big, heavy set horse. He felt this was exactly what he needed. He got it at a pretty fair price and went home very happy. He took it off his buggy to take into the barn and found out that it was stone blind. It could not see the barn door.
What does someone do with a blind horse? It is not a very good work horse unless it is led back and forth down the field. He said: "What am I going to do? I got shafted. I have to get rid of this horse. I have to get some money out of it".
This is what this tax reminds me of. He advertised it. He said: "I am going to advertise this huge, heavy set horse as a real good, powerful beast. I will advertise it at a bargain. I will get my money back somehow".
Another farmer read about it in the papers. He came over and said: "Could I have a look at the horse you have for sale? It sounds like a fairly good bargain". He went into the barn and led the horse out. He pranced it around in his yard. He showed the other farmer how big it was, how capable it was and how flexible it was.
The other farmer said: "It looks like a good horse to me". He said: "It is a good horse". He spoke with a bit of an accent. He said: "It is a good horse but it don't look so good". It is not really what you see". He said: "I don't care about looks. It is a big horse. I am going to buy it. I think it will do the job for me".
He took it home and when he went to put it in the barn he found out it was blind. He got shafted. He went back to the first farmer and he was mad. He said: "Look here, you sold me a horse that was a real heavy horse, a good work horse that could pull a big load and it is blind". He said: "I tried to tell you it don't look so good".
That is what I hear with this GST today. He told them that it was blind, that it just did not look so good. That is probably what we heard from the Liberals when they were in opposition: "This GST is terrible. We will have nothing to do with that animal".
What did those terrible Tories do? They brought in eight other people to fill the other place a little more to get it passed. When the Liberals ran for government they said: "These terrible Tories don't look so good. They have this terrible tax. They are ripping off farmers. They are ripping off taxpayers and consumers. If we get elected we will kill that tax. We will bury it. We will tramp on it. We will hang it".
I do not know all that they said. I heard a lot of different comments that they would get rid of it just like the farmer did with his horse.
Today some lofty Liberals are saying it is a pretty good tax. They ask why we are complaining. It is a good horse. To whom will they sell it next? Could they sell it another time? I do not think they could sell it to farmers. It does not look so good to them.
The other day we talked about a businessman who was dealing with the GST issue. An inspector from the GST department came out to do his audit. He said: "I see you have a truck sitting in the yard. You have not claimed all the GST on it. What is the reason?" He said: "The truck is taxable. The hoist is not taxable. The box is taxable. I have a terrible problem figuring it out". He said: "What do you mean the hoist is not taxable?" "It is a separate entity and it is not taxable. It is for a different use". He said: "I don't believe you".
The inspector wanted to find out if it was true. He phoned his superior but the superior was not in the office. He had gone away on a three-day educational trip or something. The inspector sat in this businessman's office for three days. Finally the superior phoned back and tried to give him a ruling. He said: "I don't know. You will have to ask somebody else". For three days he waited. Imagine how much GST it took to pay his wages.
These are the problems. Not everything is taxable. Some things are taxable. Some of the horses are blind. Some can see.
How will we sell this sucker in the next election? We will have to dress it up some. The horse that does not look so good will not sell again. Let us dress it up and say that we will harmonize it. Maybe we can give it a little better colour. It might just look a little better in the dark even if the horse cannot see. This is the way taxpayers and voters get shafted during elections.
We must start being honest and accountable. We must show the integrity we promised during the election campaign. I guarantee the House that when we sit on that side there will not be any GST. At the least it would be called something else. It will not be a GST. That tax has hurt business and jobs. Why would we keep the sucker? That is why I am saying it will not be there.
I am sure they will all vote for me now. They did in the last election. They put 177 Liberals over on that side when previously there were a few Liberals here and 212 Conservatives on that side. Somehow we have to sell the stuff.
I hope consumers, farmers and electors get what politicians promised them. When the previous government had 10 per cent unemployment nobody thought it was acceptable. We still have
10 per cent unemployment and we have $100 billion more in debt. Something has to change or the country will not survive.
Promises do not get us anywhere. If all the promises made in this House had been kept I am sure there would not be $600 billion of debt.
Who will look after those promises in the future? Will it be our children or our grandchildren? Let us show some integrity. Let us call a blind horse a blind horse if it is one. Let us call a Holstein cow a milk cow and not a beef cow. That way we will probably get something done in the House.
It concerns me when I hear a dozen good speeches that will probably have very little effect outside the House. The country is a lot bigger than the inside of the House. Approximately 30 million Canadians depend on the House to set down regulations and taxes so Canada can survive and operate efficiently. They expect us somehow to take care of the $600 billion that have been put on the shoulders of future generations. If we do not start addressing that issue I am afraid politicians will not be rated second from the bottom as they were in the last CTV integrity poll. They will be rated at the bottom, right below lawyers and other legal people.
We must ensure that politicians begin to climb in the ratings of integrity and honesty. We must try to get politicians back up to the top where former prime ministers, former oppositions and former members of the House once were. We must realize the country was built on broken promises. The promises that were kept built the country. If we do not return to the old system where taxpayers or the electorate hold us accountable for the promises made, I do not think the country will survive.
I reiterate. Let us not sell a blind horse to the electorate in the next election. Let us give them one that really pulls the country out of the mess it is in. Then we will have accomplished something.
Excise Tax Act
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Lisgar-Marquette on his very colourful, heartfelt and passionate speech. I certainly do not think I have his experience to be able to provide that kind of wonderful analogy on the serious topic we are speaking about today.
The government is very happy in trundling out many statistics. It is very happy in saying what a good job it has done economically. It is very happy in saying it has kept over 80 per cent of its red book promises. That is simply not true.
Before the last election one of the primary planks in the platform the government ran on was that it would scrap the GST. The GST was to go. If the GST was not scrapped some of its members said the would resign. The GST has not been scrapped. It is firmly entrenched into our tax structure.
This is very important for a number of reasons. First, it is disingenuous. Second, it shows the government has not kept its promises. Third and most important, it crushes the economy, affecting the livelihood of every Canadian.
Instead of trying to scrap this hated tax, instead of trying to remove a tax that impedes the ability of companies to get on their feet, to hire people and become more aggressive competitively, the government is trying to harmonize this tax, bury it. This will not help people. Rather it will cost the taxpayer, the consumer and the producer hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Producers and consumers in the maritimes have been saying that harmonizing the GST will cost millions of dollars. It will not only compromise those who are rich. By harmonizing the tax people in the lower socioeconomic groups are impeded and compromised. It impedes and compromises people on fixed incomes. Those are the people who get it in the neck much more so than anyone else. Harmonizing the tax in the way the government suggests will compromise and impede the poorest individuals living in the maritimes.
Furthermore the tax is being sponsored by British Columbia and Alberta. They have paid over $1 billion. Those are the facts. It does not bring the country together if one segment of society has to offset another segment of society in this manner.
Certainly the maritimes need money but they need effective investment, infrastructure and skills training to maximize the possibilities and potential which exist on the east coast.
For all it wishes to do the government fails in bringing out its statistics to mention that it has increased taxes over 22 times. It stands there and spouts off about how well we are doing economically. It fails to mention the unemployment rate in Canada is over 10 per cent. In fact the underemployment rate, along with our unemployment rate, approaches 20 per cent.
Sooke in the western part of my riding has over a 20 per cent unemployment rate. This is an area of immense diversity and immense potential. Yet it has a 20 per cent unemployment rate. When I go to the people who work in my riding, the producers, the consumers and the people who hire, the primary obstacle to getting back on their feet is the high taxes they labour under.
There are some possibilities and solutions which I will present today to the House. The first thing we have to do is get the deficit down to zero. We have proposed through the fresh start platform a plan to get our deficit down to zero by 1999. After that we propose to eliminate the GST.
We also propose to lower the tax burden on individuals. That basically comes down to the fact that our philosophy is very different from that of liberalism. The Liberal philosophy is that the government will take care of society. We agree that society has to be taken care of. We agree that those who are disadvantaged in our society must be provided for if they cannot help themselves. However, it is not the government's position to always do that.
We also feel that people who can take care of themselves have the responsibility to do just that. It is the role of the government to provide people opportunities and skills training in order to maximize their potential.
We have often been accused of being a slash and burn party because of our fiscal conservatism. I would argue that if we profess to have a social conscience, we cannot have a social conscience unless we are fiscally conservative. If we are fiscally irresponsible we compromise social programs and the very people we wish to help. We compromise those who are poorest in our society and the social programs which have defined Canada as a caring society.
Our program of fiscal conservatism would provide people the tools to take care of themselves. It would strengthen our social programs. It would provide health care to individuals.
Our deficit reduction platform will put more money into the hands of Canadian taxpayers. For example, everyone will have an increase in their basic personal exemption. It will go from $6,456 to $7,900. That will provide tax relief to every taxpayer in the country.
We would also increase the spousal allowance from $5,308 to $7,900.
We would cut unemployment insurance premiums by 28 per cent and eliminate the 5 per cent surtax on high income earners.
These measures are important. They would provide money to consumers. They would enable taxpayers to better care for themselves and their families. That is a significant departure from the Liberal view, which is that the government can better take care of the people than the people can do themselves.
There are other possibilities for solutions which are available to us that would stimulate the economy and decrease the tax burden, which would create jobs for unemployed Canadians.
The International Monetary Fund has recently made some excellent presentations. It said that the government should tighten up the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance to improve labour market flexibility.
The government has been increasing payroll taxes since it came to power in order to increase government revenues. We do not think that is fair. By increasing payroll taxes the government is directly taxing producers and employers. When it increases payroll taxes it impedes the ability of employers to hire more people. We do not thing that is fair. The government should admit that it is increasing the tax burden on producers and employers. It should lower the payroll taxes. That would provide an incentive for employers to hire more people, invest in their companies and create infrastructure development. That would provide employment opportunities for Canadians.
At the end of the day, the single most important concern which affects Canadians from coast to coast is job security.
In closing, I implore the government to look at what the Reform Party is putting out in its fresh start platform, look at the solutions we have for decreasing the taxes, revamping the economy, getting our deficit down to zero and saving our social programs.
Together we can work to make Canada a stronger place. I again implore the government to do just that.
Excise Tax Act
Daphne Jennings Mission—Coquitlam, BC
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have been in the House since your appointment. I would like to congratulate you. I wonder if I may say that there but for the grace of God go I.
I feel I must speak in today's debate on this legislation to harmonize and streamline the GST because this government does not support the people of Canada. This government does not keep its promises to the people of Canada. This government is cheating the people of Canada by making promises not once but over and over again and then breaking those promises.
Election promises made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the finance minister and scores of Liberal cabinet and caucus members to eliminate, not harmonize, the GST have not been kept. For example, the Deputy Prime Minister on October 19, 1993, as we are all familiar with, said: "Food is not subject to GST because it is a necessity. So are books. They are needed for young minds to grow".
The past Liberal whip, who is now the Minister of International Co-operation, said: "GST on reading material is bad policy and undemocratic. It creates more unemployment". Both these members were speaking against the GST.
The defence minister, who was the finance critic in 1990, said: "The Liberal Party would scrap the GST". He pledged in a nationally televised debate with finance minister Michael Wilson: "The goods and services tax is a regressive tax. It has to be scrapped. We will scrap it". That was in 1990.
The solicitor general said: "Not only do the Liberals oppose the GST now, but opposition will continue even if the bill is passed. We are not interested in tinkering with the GST. We don't want it at all".
The industry minister said: "Our credibility will be in shreds if we do not come up with a thoughtful alternative to tax reform that stands up to scrutiny".
The Prime Minister said: "The Liberals will scrap the goods and services tax if they win the next general election. I am opposed to the GST. I have always been opposed to it. I will be opposed to it always". This was in 1990.
Those were the statements made and we know where we are now. None of them has been kept.
Atlantic premiers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland were bribed into signing the bill with $1 billion of borrowed taxpayer money. The finance minister is crowing like a rooster saying "aren't I great, look what I have accomplished". Is this not a bribe? Is this not a one time payment?
Sales tax will go up for the money lost when the $1 billion runs out because the $1 billion is paid over three or four years. Atlantic Canadians are going to have to make up for it when the money is gone. The GST may remain the same at 7 per cent but there is nothing to prevent the province from hiking up the sales tax to make up for the lost revenues. I believe at that time it is going to be need that determines the amount.
Instead of trying to help the hard hit Atlantic provinces whose demise of the cod fishery and low economy have made it difficult enough for them, the premiers of these three provinces have fallen into bed with the senior Liberal government and are hitting their people with a 15 per cent GST. We all know that HST is just another name for GST. The new tax is even worse because now Atlantic Canadians will be paying tax on everything, books, auto repairs, funeral services, haircuts, electricity, gasoline and home heating fuel-literally everything. The finance minister has tried to claim victory and a pat on the back for this?
Let us take a look at literacy. On October 23, 1996 the finance minister gave a news conference in which he stated that the Commons would implement a 100 per cent GST rebate on all books purchased by public libraries, schools, universities, et cetera. In the first case, those students, those people, members of our society who are furthering their education, not always school children, are going to need textbooks that they cannot get at libraries. They are going to have to buy textbooks they cannot get at libraries. This is literacy and this is a definite detriment to them.
I noticed that on the notice of ways and means sheet under the explanation of this new program it says under "the printed book" what is not included. In (f) it says "a book designed primarily for writing on". I imagine a scribbler might fall into that category and students need scribblers in day schools. (g) says "a colouring book or a book designed primarily for drawing on". What about art books?
On page 4 of the explanatory notes it says "also excluded are books designed primarily for writing on or drawing on or affixing thereon items, etc., clippings and pictures". Students use these all the time in their everyday work.
In reality we are not helping these particular students as far as literacy is concerned. We are hitting them in the school room as well.
What about books in the home, what about home libraries? How many people like to keep books in their homes that they can read? They do not want to always have to go to the library and return them every week. There are a lot of good books people like to keep just because they enjoy reading. There again these people are going to be penalized.
I have often said in this House that literacy begins at birth. That means we all should have in our home a good stock of books that are going to help us increase our education and help our children to develop a love of reading.
Workshops, scribblers, mothers going back to school to continue in their education, what if they need a science text that they have to buy for $100? There is $15 extra on that. What if they are going into medicine or anybody going to continue their schooling? This HST or GST is not helping literacy. It is making it difficult for Canadians to improve their literacy.
What about businesses and the retail stores? The change over is going to cost a fortune for them to adjust to. We are hitting small business right where it hurts. This is another major tax grab.
The three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have stated that their net annual retail deficit will total $27 million once the harmonization is implemented. The Retail Council of Canada has said that by forcing stores to bury the new tax in prices the harmonized tax regime will cost retailers at least $100 million a year more.
Most Canadians, I believe, do not want to see the tax buried. A lot of people would prefer to know what they are going to pay in tax before they go to the cash register. Tax included pricing that hits retailers hits them in these four areas: duplication of information systems and rewriting of software, repricing of prepriced goods, books, greeting cards and so on, duplication of advertising costs, flyers, catalogues, and warehousing and distribution costs. It is really going to hit our small business retail stores.
What about consumers? For Atlantic Canadians it is going to hit them with a double whammy. They will pay more for funeral services, children's clothing, books, auto repairs, all the things I previously said. The Investment Property Owners Association is concerned about renters. There are going to be higher operating costs for the landlords, so who is going to feel those higher operating costs? The renter. It will be passed on to them. Because renters usually have less income than homeowners the tax increase is really going to hurt those who can least afford it.
How does the rest of Canada feel? How do Canadian consumers feel all across this country? They are footing the bill. I do not imagine they are too happy about it.
On integrity this government, I feel, ranks very low on integrity. Recently I had an opportunity to write an article in my home newspaper. I wrote about integrity. I wrote about the end justifying the means. As a matter of fact, I spoke first about our provincial government. The reason is I had to explain to some of my constituents that we have to look more closely at integrity. "Our provincial government seems to believe the end justifies the means", I wrote, "but I say if the means involves deliberate lies about the budget to mislead the people during an election campaign, if it involves misappropriation of money from charity bingos, if it involves mismanagement of a huge crown corporation like B.C. Hydro, and ministers not reporting their departments' true financial condition just prior to an election, then the end cannot justify the means. British Columbians should be shouting for recall. If we do nothing about the lack of integrity in our provincial government, then we deserve the results".
What about integrity on the federal level? "On the federal level the Prime Minister's office recently sent a memo to Liberal Party officers across this country instructing party officials and media representatives to lie about the Reform Party. Here is another case of the end justifying the means but the media seem to have decided they will just ignore this one. Given this evidence of astonishing dishonesty in the Prime Minister's office, what if the federal Liberals' balanced budget projections are no more honest than the provincial NDP's?"
Excise Tax Act
Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Maybe the member inadvertently used an unparliamentary word when referring to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office. I would ask that she withdraw that word.
Excise Tax Act
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)
The Chair was listening to the words that the hon. member used. She may have used an unparliamentary word in relation to the Prime Minister's office. Of course, it is unparliamentary when used in relation to members of Parliament. She was prudent not to have done that. Accordingly I am not sure there is a point of order here, although certainly the words are getting borderline. The hon. member's point is made. The hon. member may resume her remarks.