Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, the House will consider three bills, including one which concerns the Department of National Revenue and, more specifically, the merger of customs and excise. The other two bills deal, respectively, with legislative provisions concerning the GST, Bill C-13 and Bill C-15 which deal with certain Income Tax amendments.
The Official Opposition will support the government on the adoption of Bill C-13. As the hon. member for Vancouver South just pointed out, this bill, whose purpose is to revise or adjust certain provisions of the GST legislation, will affect small and seasonal businesses, charities, health care services, agriculture, financial institutions and other exempt suppliers, and also sets requirements for payments and remittances of $50,000 or more.
I would like to take this opportunity to discuss why the government has to revise these bills from time to time. In the case of Bill C-13, the bill before the House today, I must admit this is an admirable attempt by the government to make our taxation system more straightforward and more equitable.
The Official Opposition certainly welcomes this initiative, especially since it also aims to correct some technical deficiencies in legislation adopted previously. However, I think this would be a good time to explain how important it is for us, as legislators, to produce legislation that is clear, concise and consistent. The trouble with most of the legislation being passed today, especially when the government is trying to move a large number of bills through Parliament, is that the implementation of all this legislation often creates problems that are even worse than those it was supposed to resolve, which are often quite simple. The result is that today, we have hundreds of laws that merely complicate the lives of most citizens.
I think we should realize, as legislators, that there is the federal government, the House of Commons, which passes bill after bill, and the provincial legislatures which also produce a considerable number of bills and regulations every year. There are also municipal governments across Canada and Quebec which adopt by-laws to be observed by all members of the community. There are also school boards, each with their own by-laws.
My point is that the well-known principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse is often difficult to maintain in the maze of legislation we find at all levels of government. Often the only people who can be sure of enjoying the benefits of these laws are the experts in the field, including lawyers, notaries and accountants, for whom I have tremendous respect; but the fact remains that more often than not, they are the real beneficiaries of this maze of legislation at all levels of government.
How do you expect ordinary people whom we are supposed to represent in this House to find their way through the incredible labyrinth of legislation in this country? A law is never perfect, but we should at least ensure it is worded as simply as possible. Legislation that is not clear will inevitably be misinterpreted or misused, sooner or later. As I said before, there are hundreds of laws in Canada that would gain by being simplified or at least clarified.
Bill C-13 fills that need to some extent, and that is why the members of the Bloc Quebecois support it. We, on this side, are able to recognize it when the government does it right and we will never hesitate to support any measure or bill such as Bill C-13 that makes it possible to simplify the Canadian legislative system. Unfortunately, such is not the case with all Canadian legislation. In some cases, it is almost ridiculous and Canadians get the impression, in fact the conviction, that the legislator does not know where he is going, that he has no vision and that all we are asking of our fellow citizens is that they trust their government and obey the many laws passed just about everywhere.
Survey after survey shows that current Canadian public opinion on the confidence of the people in their governments and elected representatives in general -and Quebecers agree with their fellow citizens in English Canada on that- is lower than the interest rates set by the Bank of Canada, although these are relatively low.
All this to say that neither increasing the number of laws nor enforcing them will improve the public's perception.
I will come back to that later, but we will also be debating Bill C-15, which is a good example of the kind of legislation that should be put before this House to make some sense of the legislative and administrative jumble created by previous legislation.
Bill C-13 clarifies the legislation that governs us. While a step in the right direction, such efforts remain very modest in the face of the masses of legislation which continues to make the lives of people and corporations miserable in this country because of their lack of clarity and transparency.
Let us not forget that each time a flawed piece of legislation is passed in this chamber, that a statutory regulation providing for the execution of a law is misinterpreted or applied incorrectly, and that this has an impact on the everyday lives of our fellow citizens. As legislators, we often acquire the annoying habit of forgetting that the various bills we pass impact on the daily lives of our fellow citizens.
Those were the main comments I wanted to make as the Official Opposition critic concerning Bill C-13. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the opposition will support this bill because, as I pointed out, it improves several legislative provisions on the GST. We hope that, under the GST review initiative referred to by the hon. member for Vancouver South-we know that public hearings and consultations are being held on a new
act, perhaps, or an in-depth review of the GST-the government will take the time needed to table before Parliament a bill that will make sense to Canadians, that will be equitable and that will, in the end, benefit our society.