House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard for the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to introduce second reading of Bill C-13.

Bill C-13 reaffirms the government's commitment to making our tax system simpler and fairer, not only for individual Canadians but for Canadian businesses as well.

Before I begin setting out the measures in the bill, I would like to mention that the consultative process leading to its introduction is an excellent example of co-operation between the government and the business and tax communities to achieve the shared objective of improving our tax system.

On behalf of the government, allow me to take this opportunity to thank those interested parties that brought forward their views on the many issues addressed in the legislation.

Bill C-13 implements measures relating to the goods and services tax, the GST, and harmonized sales tax, HST, that were proposed in budget 2000, as well as additional sales tax measures proposed in a notice of ways and means motion tabled in parliament on October 4, 2000. These measures are aimed at improving the operation of the GST-HST in the affected areas and ensuring that the legislation accords with the policy intent.

The bill also implements two amendments to the excise tax provisions of the Excise Tax Act.

The first clarifies provisions relating to the deferral of excise taxes on automobile air conditioners installed in new automobiles and on heavy automobiles at the time of importation by or sale to a licensed manufacturer.

The second provides discretion for the Minister of National Revenue to waive or cancel interest, or a penalty calculated in the same manner as interest, under the excise tax system.

First, I will set out the proposals of the bill as contained in the 2000 budget.

The GST-HST is designed to ensure Canadian businesses and goods are competitive in the export markets. Some of the measures proposed in the 2000 budget and contained in C-13 are intended to achieve these objectives. These measures concern, more particularly, the following:

The GST-HST treatment of export distribution activities; the provision of warranty services by Canadian businesses to non-resident companies; the provision of storage and distribution services by Canadian service providers in relation to goods imported on behalf of non-residents; and finally, sales of railway rolling stock to non-residents.

Let me take a few moments to briefly summarize each of these measures.

Registrants engaged in export distribution activities involving the limited processing of goods for export face a cashflow cost that may be significant in relation to the level of value added to the goods. This can be the case where goods are imported for minor processing and subsequent export.

The cashflow issue arises because tax is paid on the importation of the goods but no offsetting tax is collected on their export. As a result, the business must finance the tax until the receipt of a refund from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

The proposal for an export distribution centre program contained in the bill addresses the cashflow issue faced by low value added export oriented businesses by allowing them an export distribution centre certificate to purchase or import inventory, or to import customers' goods on a tax-free basis.

This measure will help ensure that the GST-HST does not present an impediment to the establishment of North American distribution centres in Canada.

I would note that a national consultative process took place on this issue that involved many interested parties from all regions of the country, including constituents in my area near Pearson airport. We think the prospects for this are very exciting.

With respect to Canadian businesses supplying warranty repair or replacement services, Bill C-13 contains a measure that would help protect the competitive position of these Canadian businesses relative to their foreign, particularly U.S., counterparts.

At the moment, import duty relief is accorded in the case of goods imported into Canada for repairs under guarantee, provided the goods are exported once the work is done. However, when the good imported is replaced rather than repaired, the import duty relief does not apply.

The bill proposes to extend the relieving rules to cover situations where a replacement good is provided under warranty and is exported in place of the original imported defective good, for example, where the original good is destroyed.

This proposal would ensure that the GST-HST does not make Canadian suppliers of warranty repair or replacement services less competitive relative to foreign suppliers when these services are provided to non-residents.

Bill C-13 also expands on a program known as the exporters of processing services program. This program allows the tax-free importation of goods by a Canadian processor for the purpose of processing the goods in Canada and subsequent export.

The program ensures that the GST-HST does not impose prohibitive cashflow costs on Canadian service providers by their having to pay tax on their customers' goods at the time of importation.

However, the program does not apply where a Canadian processor only provides storage or distribution services.

The bill proposes to expand the program to allow access to businesses that provide only storage or distribution services for non-residents.

Another proposal relating to cross border transactions contained in the bill concerns sales of goods delivered in Canada to non-residents who intend to export the goods.

Special rules under the GST-HST system allow an unregistered non-resident person to acquire goods, and most services in respect of goods, in Canada without paying GST-HST, where the goods are bound for export and remain in the possession of registered Canadian service providers before being exported.

Bill C-13 proposes amendments in order to ensure that this objective is met.

Specifically, an amendment is proposed relating to the sale of railway rolling stock to non-resident businesses. The current rules do not permit the sale of the rolling stock to be tax free if there is to be any use in Canada of the rolling stock prior to its export. This restriction does not reflect current industry practice because rolling stock is rarely shipped empty to its U.S. destinations.

The bill proposes an amendment so that the use of railway rolling stock to move goods outside the country in the context of the exported rolling stock does not of itself result in the stock not being exempt.

Consultations on the proposed amendments I have just mentioned were conducted with a number of businesses operating in the transportation of goods from and to Canada.

The fruit of these discussions is in the proposals contained in the bill which will improve the operation of the tax system in these important export sectors.

I would like to turn to an important sales tax initiative that budget 2000 proposed for the rental housing sector which is likewise contained in Bill C-13. The bill contains a measure of significant benefit to builders and purchasers of new residential rental accommodation.

Under the existing sales tax system, tax applies to new residential rental property when the property is acquired by a landlord from a builder or on a self assessed basis when the builder is the landlord. For purchaser landlords, the tax becomes payable upon purchase of the residential complex. For builder landlords, the tax becomes payable as soon as the first unit in the residential complex is rented. As a result, both purchaser landlords and builder landlords finance the tax liability up front and recover the tax over time.

The bill implements the new residential rental property rebate which is a partial rebate of the GST paid in respect of newly constructed substantially renovated or converted long term residential rental accommodation. The rebate is payable to the builder landlord or purchaser landlord who paid the tax. This will help increase the stock of rental accommodation in Canada.

In fact, the new rebate will reduce by 2.5 percentage points the effective rate of tax on new residential rental property, which is the same as the federal tax reduction that applies to new owner occupied homes under the existing new home rebate program.

I mentioned earlier that in addition to the measures proposed in the 2000 budget, Bill C-13 contains other sales tax measures designed to improve the operation of the GST-HST. Three of these measures are also in the area of real property.

First, the bill proposes a refinement to the existing new housing rebate program which reduces the cost to consumers of building or purchasing a mew home. Refinements are proposed to allow new homes to qualify where they are used primarily as a place of residence, as well as to provide short term accommodation to the public in certain circumstances as the case is with many bed and breakfast establishments.

Second, Bill C-13 would address a problem that arises when a consumer who has purchased real property from a vendor and has paid GST or HST subsequently returns the property to the original vendor without having used it. Currently there is no mechanism by which the consumer can recover the tax paid on the initial purchase.

The proposed amendment contained in the bill would allow a consumer in this circumstance to recover the tax paid on the purchase of the property if it is returned to the original vendor within one year and pursuant to the original contract. This would place a consumer returning real property in a similar position to a person who returns new goods to a vendor and receives a credit or refund for the GST or HST that was originally paid on the goods.

The third real property measure contained in the bill relates to the sale of land by individuals. Hon. members may know that sales of real property by individuals or personal trusts are generally exempt from the GST-HST, provided the individual or trust has not used the property in a taxable business. The bill proposes to ensure that a sale of real property cannot be treated as exempt from sales tax if the seller was previously leasing it to other persons on a taxable basis.

All of these amendments relating to real property transactions reflect the government's commitment to ensure that our tax system is fair and efficient.

As members will recall, last year's budget contained proposals that reflect the government's commitment to continue to work toward improving the quality of life for all Canadians. Quality of life has many dimensions, including access to quality health care and education. Bill C-13 builds on the spirit of that commitment.

In the area of health care, the bill proposes an amendment to continue in force an existing GST-HST exemption for speech therapy services that are billed by individual practitioners and that are not covered by the applicable provincial health care plan.

With respect to education, Bill C-13 contains a measure that will extend the sales tax exemption for vocational training to more situations, including cases where the training is supplied by a government department or agency rather than a vocational school. Specially, the amendment will do away with existing conditions on the exemption that required that the training or the resulting certifications be subject to certain government regulation or that the school be run on a non-profit basis.

The proposed change will ensure that vocational training provided in different provinces receives the same GST-HST treatment regardless of the regulatory regime that exists in each province with respect to vocational schools.

A further amendment would add the flexibility for providers of vocational training to elect to treat their services as taxable where their clients are commercial businesses that would prefer to pay the tax and recover it by way of input tax credits.

As for charities, our government is also taking into account the major role played by these agencies, which Canadians by enriching the lives of our communities.

This bill proposes amendments so that the GST-HST legislation accurately reflects the government's intention to generally exempt charities from having to pay tax on rent and related goods.

As I stated at the outset, Bill C-13 also contains amendments relating to the non-GST-HST parts of the Excise Tax Act which deal with excise taxes on specific products. Among those specific taxes are excise taxes on automobile air conditioners and on heavy automobiles which have been imposed since the mid-1970s.

Since 1984, these taxes have been payable by the manufacturer at the time of delivery to an automobile dealer. Payment of the tax is effectively deferred at the time of importation and on immediate transactions between licensees until the sale to an automobile dealer in Canada.

Several manufacturers have recently challenged the longstanding interpretation and application of these provisions with respect to automobile air conditioners installed in imported new motor vehicles and are seeking substantial refunds of tax. They argue that the relief provided on importations by licensed manufacturers does not simply defer payment of the tax but permanently exempts these goods from tax.

This is clearly contrary to the well understood policy intent and longstanding interpretation and administration of these legislative provisions. Bill C-13 therefore proposes clarifying amendments to ensure that there could be no misinterpretation of these provisions with respect to importations as well as intermediate transactions.

The retroactive application of these amendments is consistent with the criteria that were laid out by the government in 1995 in the response to the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. For nearly 20 years these provisions have been interpreted and administered by both Revenue Canada, now the CCRA, and manufacturers and importers in a manner consistent with the underlying policy intent. The tax charged on automobile air conditioners has routinely been included in the price charged to consumers.

Finally, the amount of government revenue at risk is substantial.

Practical measures must therefore be taken so that there can be no doubt as to the application of these provisions to both future and past operations.

Bill C-13 contains one other amendment relating to the excise tax system. The bill provides authority for the Minister of National Revenue to waive interest otherwise payable under the non-GST-HST parts of the Excise Tax Act. This amendment will achieve greater harmonization of the administrative rules under the excise tax system with those under the income tax and sales tax systems which already provide for this waiver.

The amendment will further help ensure fair administration of the excise tax system.

Consistent with the manner in which this discretionary power has been used under the income tax and sales tax system, the Minister of National Revenue would have the ability to waive interest in circumstances such as where, despite a taxpayer's very best efforts and as a result of extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, the taxpayer has been prevented from meeting certain deadlines and thus has incurred the interest.

Bill C-13 contains another improvement regarding the application of the tax system. Hon. members may remember that the Prime Minister recently announced a federal on-line initiative, which is a key component of the government strategy called Connecting Canadians, which is designed to make Canada the most connected nation in the world.

This initiative provides Canadians with another way to access the information and services they receive in person and by telephone. Members may know that businesses can now file GST-HST returns and remittance information electronically. However, under the existing legislation a person who wishes to do so is required to apply to the Minister of National Revenue for authorization. This procedure is cumbersome and more onerous than the procedure for filing income tax returns electronically.

Bill C-13 proposes amendments to streamline the administrative procedures and harmonize them with those under the Income Tax Act, thereby facilitating the electronic filing of GST-HST returns.

In closing, the measures contained in Bill C-13 that I have outlined here today propose to refine, streamline and clarify the application of the tax system.

They also reflect the commitment made by our government to ensure that our tax system is fair.

I therefore urge hon. members to support the bill. I know it is complex and technical but I would hope the members here would support it.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would seek consent of the House to split the balance of my time with my colleague, the member for Elk Island.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Calgary Southeast have the consent of the House to split his time?

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill C-13, amendments to the Excise Tax Act which is, as the hon. the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has indicated, essentially a series of technical amendments to the GST, its collection and its administration.

At the outset I would like to set down some principles from which the official opposition judges all tax related legislation. First, we believe that government should take not one penny more in taxes from Canadians through any source than is absolutely and strictly necessary for the efficient operation of necessary programs. That is to say, programs that are necessary to provide core services which are the exclusive jurisdictional responsibility of the federal government and, in a sense, to help those who cannot help themselves.

From that basic point, the one test with which I approach all fiscal matters is this: I ask myself if an extra dollar spent, collected by us through parliament and spent by politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa, will do more good than that dollar left in the hand of a resident of my constituency who owns and operates a small business.

Generally, the answer to that question is a resounding no. The dollars we collect, including the approximately $20 billion net which we collect through the goods and services tax, is money which would be more powerfully used for social good if left in the hands of the creative men and women who earn that money and create that wealth in the first place. That is the first premise by which we judge all of these matters.

We then ask ourselves, if we are going to have taxes to finance necessary limited government programs within federal jurisdiction, how can we raise those taxes in a manner which is least destructive to the economy and which has a minimal distortional effect on the choices made by people freely in our economy every day.

I remind the House of the dictum that the power to tax is the power to destroy. All through history we see this lesson. There is a brilliant book about the history of taxation and its destructive power called For Good and Evil by Canadian author Charles Adams. In the book he relates through the centuries, beginning in ancient Egypt, how governments, monarchs, parliaments, congresses have imposed taxes which have had enormous unintended consequences, and how governments frequently do not understand that the power to tax will distort human behaviour, often for the worse.

Let me provide one interesting and humorous example. In the 16th century the British crown decided to bring forward something called the window tax. This was during the Tudor era of architecture. All of a sudden, one of the new luxuries which indicated social status was the capacity to install glass windows in one's residence.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Windows 98.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Yes, 1598. The government was looking for another way to collect more money for the crown or for the treasury, because even in 1601 it had the same insatiable appetite for revenue as it does in 2001. It imposed a window tax. It had assessors go across the land to count the number of windows people had in their domiciles.

Lo and behold, if we go to small English towns today and look at some of the Tudor homes, we will see over and over again these very clear window shaped spaces that have been plastered over and filled in or bricked in. Why? It was because 500 years ago people understood that they could protect their economic best interest by avoiding taxes legally and so they bricked in those beautiful glass windows all across England.

It is just one example which demonstrates how the unintended consequences of bad tax policy can shut out the light and leave people in darkness. That is the kind of tax policy we too frequently see from the Liberal government. We look from a historical perspective at trying to construct a minimal tax regime which allows for maximum human freedom and creativity and does not distort the marketplace.

In that respect we, like many Canadians, have many grave concerns about the whole range of taxes imposed by this place, in particular today with respect to the goods and services tax. We all recall back in 1990-91 when the then Progressive Conservative government imposed what at that time was, and probably still is, the most despised tax in Canadian history. It did so over the overwhelming opposition of the majority of Canadians.

I know you will remember this, Mr. Speaker, because I believe you were a member of this place. If so, you were certainly sitting in these benches vigorously opposing the tax. You ran in the election campaign in 1993 where the central promise was not just to amend the tax through technical amendments such as those before this place today, not just to tinker with its administration and collection, but to kill, eliminate, abolish, get rid of and scrap the GST.

However here I am in the House in the year 2001, eight years after those solemn promises were made and those undertakings were given, and I have in my hand a bill to continue and amend the goods and services tax. It is like Alice in Wonderland. The bill comes forward from the same government which said that the tax, which it is now amending, would no longer exist.

At the outset I will put on the record the dismay of so many Canadians that the government thinks it can get away with, and continues to get away with, perpetuating a tax which it promised to kill, slash, abolish and eliminate.

The third point I will make with respect to constructing taxes of maximum efficiency is that we must have a tax system which allows for accountability on the part of government because, as I said, the taxing power is such an awesome destructive power. Arguably, next to the criminal law power exercised by parliament, the taxing power is the single most weighty and onerous power that it wields. It really can destroy people's economic well-being.

Often that power can be wielded in a reckless fashion by tax collection bureaucrats. I have in my files literally hundreds of cases where law-abiding, well meaning, well intentioned citizens have acted in good faith to try to comply with tax laws like the one before us today and have found themselves harassed, audited, chased down, investigated, abused, and have had their assets frozen by the agents of revenue Canada, now the revenue agency.

That is why my colleagues and I have brought forward a taxpayer bill of rights that would seek to enshrine in legislation, in a very clear way, definitive rights of recourse and appeal and protection for taxpayers in the assessment and collection process.

The parliamentary secretary says that it is already there but it is not. There is a preambular statement with no sanction and no statutory power which is a goodwill statement. We propose to legislate specific standards of performance on the part of the CCRA and its employees and clear items of recourse so that people do not need to go to court to enforce their common law rights for fair consideration under the application of the tax laws.

I will turn to the specifics of the bill. We strenuously object to the fact that the government continues to reject its 1993 election promise. We believe the GST itself collects too much revenue as the government does overall. In fact, we are now looking at very substantial taxpayer overpayments.

The government likes to call them surpluses and pat itself on the back. The only people who deserve credit for these surpluses are hardworking men and women. Notwithstanding the highest personal income tax burden in the G-7; notwithstanding that we have the highest corporate tax burden in the G-7, according to a recent study by KPMG; notwithstanding the fact that the government and its predecessor have burdened them with the second highest level of public indebtedness in the OECD; notwithstanding that we have seen our standard of living, our per capita GDP, fall relative to our major competitors for the past two decades; and notwithstanding the enormous burden of red tape and all of the anti-growth policies of the government; notwithstanding those substantial facts, hardworking men and women of Canada have managed to produce growth. The government by raising taxes has benefited from that hard work, wealth creation and growth, and of course it shamelessly takes credit for it.

That constitutes a huge amount of overtaxation, well over $120 billion of overtaxation, that should be refunded to the people who earned it and overpaid it.

While we recognize that the government has failed to accept its commitment with respect to the GST, that it continues to overtax and that it still fails to bring in something like a taxpayer bill of rights which enumerates taxpayer rights in the assessment and collection procedures, nevertheless there are some technical improvements to the GST in the bill, to which I now turn my attention.

On the first point, the bill's primary goal is to correct some administrative oversights in the February 2000 budget. With the thousands of bureaucrats in the Department of Finance and the 40,000-some in the Department of National Revenue, why do we have significant administrative “oversights” in key tax legislation? That is part of the problem.

When we speak about administrative oversights, I want to comment on the manner by which the bill comes to us. We in the official opposition got notice of the bill about 48 hours ago. It is a detailed technical bill. We have very limited resources at our disposal. It is absurd for the government to expect the opposition properly to execute its oversight function of legislation with 48 hours notice on a major technical bill.

That is one of the reasons we end up with administrative oversights. It is one of the reasons the government always brings in legislation like this one to correct the mistakes it made. It does not give parliamentarians the benefit of time to become properly acquainted with the legislation it proposes.

If we had more time to analyze this, and if the government were more generous in accepting and considering opposition amendments, we would not find ourselves again and again wasting parliamentary time correcting mistakes the government has already made.

Some of the mistakes the Liberals have made, which they now propose to correct, consist of, among other things, implementing new rules to ensure the GST does not impede North American distribution centres in Canada. When businesses import goods from the United States or from any other country, rather than taxing the goods when they are imported and then applying for a GST rebate, they can go through tax free. That is sensible. It should have happened a long time ago. It is something industries have been asking for many years.

Second, the bill ensures that no tax is payable on the importation of defective goods imported solely to be replaced under warranty. If somebody here buys an alarm clock from a Japanese manufacturer and it does not work and they return it, the new clock can be shipped back into Canada without GST applying on it again. That is a sensible administrative efficiency which should have been in the act a long time ago. I see the secretary of state is once again congratulating himself. I am not surprised.

It also seeks to implement the new residential rental property rebate, which is a partial rebate of GST paid in respect of newly constructed or substantially renovated long term residential rental accommodation. This is a measure, which my hon. colleague, the learned and distinguished member for Wild Rose, has long sought to obtain in the legislation. He has fought for it on behalf of constituents for some time, so this section we can call the Myron section. This is a victory for the constituents of the member of parliament for Wild Rose. Let the record show that he is getting spontaneous applause even in his absence.

The bill also continues to enforce the existing GST exemption for speech therapy services that are billed by individual practitioners and not covered by the applicable provincial health care plan. This is also a sensible improvement which should have happened a long time ago under the minister's watch.

The secretary of state who applauds sat without acting for I do not know how many years while this measure was not in place. He should not applaud his tardiness.

The bill also seeks, with respect to education, to ensure that vocational training across the country is provided the same exempt treatment regardless of how vocational schools are regulated in each province. This is an incremental improvement in the tax treatment of vocational schools. I hope the government will also use its authority to bring the provinces to the table to ensure that credentials provided by such schools are recognized from coast to coast. That is one useful role the federal government could play.

With respect to electronic filing, the bill removes the requirement to apply to the Minister of National Revenue for permission to file GST returns electronically and therefore allows anyone to do so provided they meet the criteria set out by the minister. This would streamline the ability of people to file electronically. That again is something that should have happened long ago. There are also miscellaneous administrative amendments clarifying interpretations of the act.

Let me say on that point that far too often the government makes tax policy by news release. The primary power of this place, based on the long history of parliamentary government, is to approve the taxation, the ways and means of the crown. However, over and over again very significant amendments are made to tax law by news releases coming out from either the Department of Finance or the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

For instance, we will see in this section a number of administrative interpretations being clarified but which were given the effective force of law by mandate of news releases from bureaucrats months if not years ago.

I want to say on the record that it is time we ended this usurpation of parliamentary authority and brought it back to this place through those kinds of amendments. All in all, we in the opposition have a tendency to be opposed to any amendments to the GST on the clear premise that the government promised to abolish it, not tinker with it.

Having said that, we do support some of the incremental improvements in the bill but we believe it could go a lot further in improving the administration of the GST.

On behalf of the opposition I want to say that until the government finally begins to truly understand—and not just mouth platitudes about it—the negative impact that its tax policies have on our economy, our families and our small businesses, this opposition will continue to be a clarion voice for tax relief and tax reform. While we support elements of legislation like this, we will not support the continuation of an overly onerous, burdensome and destructive tax regime which the government uses to finance its overspending and its wasteful and inefficient practices.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House on a Friday morning and enter into this debate on the GST.

It was the GST that brought me here. I do not know whether that is widely known. The most common statement I heard while knocking on doors in 1993 was “we are going to get rid of those Conservatives who brought us the GST”. A bunch of people asked me why they should vote for Brian O'Kurley when he did not vote for them. Brian O'Kurley was the Conservative predecessor in my riding. It was Brian Mulroney and Brian O'Kurley who campaigned for me in 1993 and undoubtedly delivered more votes for me than I could possibly have got by myself. The GST has a history.

I had a very interesting experience the other day. I was preparing to speak on the fact that the government was invoking closure in its motion in order to reduce the ability of the opposition parties to do their work in the House. My staff and I did a bit of research at the Library of Parliament. Among other things, we looked at some of the newspapers circa 1989 and 1990, in that era when the GST was being debated. It was absolutely incredible to read some of the newspaper reports of the day. I was amazed by the outrage expressed by the present Minister of Industry at that time. He was on this side of the House then. The outrage he expressed toward the Conservative government that was proposing the GST was absolutely amazing. Also, the present Prime Minister was then travelling around the country telling people that his government would kill the GST.

Just as I got here because of the GST, I wonder how many Liberals got elected on that same hatred of the goods and services tax, sometimes called, in our part of the world—I am going to say this real quickly, Mr. Speaker, and then you can stop me afterwards—the gouge and screw tax. That is what it was called out west. The amount of animosity generated by that particular tax was absolutely incredible.

I was not aware until last week that the finance critic from this side of the House took a number of Liberal MPs with petitions out to the Sparks Street mall. It was recorded in the newspapers in 1990. Those MPs asked citizens to sign a petition to stop the GST. The newspapers had huge headlines about all of the overt opposition to the GST.

We know the history of it. The Conservatives finally were persuaded to reduce the rate from 9% to 7%. That, they claimed, was a victory for the people because they listened to the people. I guess they listened like these Liberals listen when it comes to tax policy and other issues. They reduced the rate and then proceeded to put it through the House.

At that time I was researching the use of tactics to prolong debate in the House. Members would not believe what the Liberals did on that side of the House in order to try to stop that legislation. They did not introduce 4,000 amendments—I guess they were not bright enough to think of that as a tactic—but they did all sorts of other things. Finally it was pushed through in a whipped vote.

By the way, our own member of parliament for Elk Island at that time, my predecessor for whom I have a great deal of respect, was a real gentleman in the campaign. I have talked to him several times since then. He is a nice guy, but sitting on the government side he had no choice about representing the wishes of his constituents in that vote, because it was a whipped vote just like pretty well every vote on the government side of the House is a whipped vote. That does not give members of parliament the opportunity to represent their constituents. He was an honourable guy, but he was pushed into the system and I suppose had no choice.

What happened in 1993? I told my friend—and I will call him my friend—Brian O'Kurley that he went down with the ship but that he as an individual did not take down the ship. It was the whole crew that took down the ship. Ten years later we now have a group of Progressive Conservatives represented over on that side of the House in a double file along the wall, five deep on two sides. People just did not ever come back to the PCs. In the last election, the PCs lost some 86% of their vote in Quebec. They have very little market share, whereas there is a great attraction to formerly the Reform and now the Canadian Alliance because we have explicitly as one of our policies that it is our primary duty to represent our constituents.

I like to think that had we had a Canadian Alliance type of government in 1989 and 1990, that tax either would not have been implemented or would have been greatly improved before it was implemented. It would not have been implemented until we had the consent of the people. As it was, the tax was jammed through by an arrogant government, with 85% of Canadians opposed to it. That was an error.

I really commend my hon. colleague from Calgary for his speech. We must be geniuses who think alike because I was going to use the Tudor example as well. The only difference in the story that I remember was that they did not count the windows, they measured the windows. They measured the area. That was why the windows were so small.

If I had a dream that could be fulfilled, because we know there are some private members' bills that commemorate this day or that day, I would like to have a private member's bill passed in the House such that every time people saw a Tudor style small window they would be encouraged, not forced, to incant these words “I hate huge taxes”. If every time we saw one of those buildings we were to say “that is the result of an arrogant government that overtaxes the people”, then perhaps we would start putting pressure on the government to reduce taxes.

Since we are talking about the GST and taxes in general, I should also say that I have little doubt in my mind that it is the presence of the Canadian Alliance on this side that has actually made reduction of taxes an issue of debate and has made it respectable to talk about.

Until we came along, it seemed to make no difference whether it was the Liberals or the Conservatives on whatever side of the House. Each of those governments increased records of the number of times they increased taxes and the amounts by which they increased taxes.

I like to think that we on this side had some considerable influence on the direction the government is now taking in gingerly starting to reduce tax rates. The government knows that the public is starting to hear our message and it knows that the public will vote for us if the government does not do what we are promising to do.

I look at some of the issues the federal government has approached, especially in the major campaign document it introduced four days before the election was called, namely the Minister of Finance's mini statement, and I note that the reason those issues were in there was that the Liberals realized without them we would make huge gains, and so we would have if they would not have stolen from us. I suppose I should commend them for stealing our ideas and tell them to steal more because that is the way to go.

There is another example of how taxation policy affects human behaviour. One of my favourite stories is that of my own father who is now in his 90th year. My dad was a hard-working farmer. He taught us to work hard when we were kids growing up on the farm in Saskatchewan. These days he sees that farmers are farming so well and so efficiently, including my brother, who has taken over the family farm and expanded it.

My dad is deeply distressed and concerned about the fact that these farmers farming so well with big equipment on a large scale and getting good crops, basically four times as much per acre as he was able to raise with his boys when he was a farmer, are now struggling for their very existence, with many losing their farms. It is absolutely despicable. My father has been a farmer all his life and still loves to get out there at harvest time and watch that grain come roaring out of the chute on the combine. He is one who is very practically minded, I can assure members.

I remember the GST coming in and my dad breaking the pattern he had had for a number of years. After I left home, my Dad's financial situation somehow seemed to improve. I wonder whether there was a correlation there. We were very poor when I was young growing up on the farm in Saskatchewan, exceptionally poor. When I graduated from high school, went on to university, got my own job and ceased being dependent on him, somehow at that stage my father's financial fortunes seemed to take a little turn for the better and on more occasions he would buy a new car.

For many years he bought a car every three or four years. In 1991 when the tax came in, my dad had a car that was four years old and was ready to be traded. He went to look at the new ones and the dealer hit him with the GST. He walked away from the dealership. He said to my mom “we are going to keep the car”.

Mr. Speaker, if you are going to interrupt me may I continue later?

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 2001
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I want to assure the hon. member for Elk Island and all his colleagues on either side of the House that in fact he will be able to continue after question period. He has approximately eight minutes remaining.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, March 8 is International Women's Day and the theme for this year's celebrations is “Canadian Women: Raising our Diverse Voices for Positive Change”.

To commemorate the day next Thursday I will be hosting my annual breakfast to acknowledge the accomplishments of six outstanding women in my riding.

My special guests will include: Allison Bain, associate managing director of the Toronto International Film Festival; Pia Bouman, of the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement; Marilyn Bruner, president of St. Joseph's Health Centre; Diane Jermyn, entrepreneur, owner of Blues on Bellair; Linda Leblanc, volunteer and community activist; and Olha Zawerucha-Swyntuch, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services.

This is an occasion to reflect on the progress made to advance women's equality, to assess the challenges facing women in the new millennium, to consider future steps to enhance women's quality of life and of course to celebrate their achievements. More important, it is a day to celebrate the lives of ordinary women as makers of history.

Criminal Code
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, on June 29, in the second session of the 36th parliament, the House passed Bill C-18, which provides for a sentence of life imprisonment for the crime of impaired driving causing death where aggravating factors are present.

Yet today, over seven months later, the bill has still not been put into force by the Liberal government.

Bill C-18 is a very important step in the fight against impaired driving.

I speak not only for the victims of this senseless crime but for all Canadians in demanding that the Minister of Justice get this bill into law to help deter impaired driving, to ensure that the penalty fits the crime where death is a result, and to help save the lives of thousands of innocent Canadians.

Guy Régimbald
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 2001 edition of the Canadian National Division of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition took place from February 15 to 17 at the University of New Brunswick's Faculty of Law.

Some sixty entrants representing the elite of Canadian law faculties took part in this prestigious event. Today, I would like to pay tribute to the performance of Guy Régimbald, an Aylmer resident, who represented the University of Ottawa and who won the title of best French language litigator.

This is a fine reward for Mr. Régimbald, who put in long hours of preparation, doing research into this year's theme “The Seabed Mining Facility”.

Once again, congratulations to Mr. Régimbald. I hope that this honour will be the first of many in a successful law career.

Francophone Communities
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than 400 movers and shakers from various francophone communities in Canada are now in Ottawa taking part in “Live Dialogue”, an event organized by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes.

This meeting is a follow up to the “Parlons-nous/Let's Talk” report, which was the result of cross Canada consultations. Members of francophone, anglophone, native and ethnocultural communities are meeting this weekend in order to discuss their vision of intercultural relations and also to strengthen the links between the various components of the francophonie in Canada.

I am sure that their discussions will help increase the numbers of francophiles in Canada.

National Defence
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in parliament the defence minister suggested that if there were an earthquake in the lower mainland of B.C. the Canadian military would be able to respond just as it did during the ice storm in Quebec or during the Saguenay or Red River floods. What nonsense.

The defence minister should talk to the Prime Minister who knows from his many overflights of B.C. on his way to China that much of the province is mountainous. There is only one highway into the lower mainland. It and the two rail lines are vulnerable to slides and slumping, which could close them indefinitely during a major quake.

The lower Fraser valley and the Fraser delta are dissected not only by the Fraser River and its many arms but by several other rivers as well, giving rise to a large number of bridges, all of which would be at risk during a quake.

We needed the special skills of the army engineers who were based in Chilliwack. Now that they are gone we can only thank God for our generous American neighbours and give the infamous Trudeau finger to Liberals everywhere.