Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity. I thank my colleagues for allowing me to respond on behalf of the New Democratic Party.
The Minister of Finance and many members of this House know that Canadians want a society in which the costs of maintaining a stronger community are distributed fairly with those who have gained the most from the community paying their fair share of taxes.
Instead, Canadians are getting a society in which rich and powerful individuals and corporations get away with paying less than their fair share, leaving the rest of us to pay the freight on reduced public services.
With respect to harmonization, it is the New Democratic Party's position that harmonization is not a fair way to deal with some of the tax situations in this country.
Members will recall that in the 1950s federal government revenues were shared 50 per cent by individuals and 50 per cent by corporations.
By 1996 those shares have changed from 50 per cent by corporations down to 6 per cent by corporations, with individuals paying about 94 per cent of the tax revenues in this country.
Corporate tax revenues in Canada, combined federal and provincial, right now are the lowest of all the G-7 nations. In fact, corporate taxes amount to 6 per cent of the gross domestic product in Canada, with the G-7 average being around 10 per cent.
The Liberals in opposition promised to abolish the GST. In fact, the GST is not only remaining, but they have expanded it to include harmonization.
Members will recall that when the federal sales tax was in place, corporations paid about half the federal sales tax and individuals paid for about half the federal sales tax. When the GST was incorporated, we saw with respect to the harmonization of the GST corporations paying zero GST and individuals paying 100 per cent of the federal sales tax, which is now the GST.
It amounted in very simple terms to about a $7 billion or $8 billion tax increase under the former Conservative government, which is now not only embraced by the Minister of Finance and by the Liberal government but supported and expanded to include harmonization of this tax.
We are very concerned about this effort because the harmonization, if taken across this country, would be yet a further tax increase. This is not a very fair way to deal with Canadians who are in many ways either underemployed, unemployed or facing significant personal challenges when it comes to personal financial conditions.
To expand the GST and the PST into a harmonized program really is a shortsighted effort by the government to give corporations a very significant tax cut.
In summary, I just want to say that New Democrats and many Canadians whom we have talked to across the country believe in fair tax reforms based on the two fundamental principles of fairness: fairness to those who are participating in our economy, and also on the ability to pay.
Those who can pay their fair share should be paying their fair share. We have seen 35 tax increases under the Minister of Finance. We have also seen Bill S-9 being passed which contained significant tax cuts for corporations and significant tax breaks for very wealthy Canadians which the Minister of Finance agrees is really an unfair tax but he embraces it and supports it.
What the minister is doing here is really unfair to Canadians. It is something I think his party and his government will have to account for once an election is called.