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.


Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform 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 ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform 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 ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 1996 / 4:05 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform 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 ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

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.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of the member opposite, I will say mislead instead. The newspapers were very clear and they have already stated it.

Given this evidence, we do have an enormous burden of federal debt, now $600 billion, which the government has decided to stop mentioning. The Liberals' deficit reduction plans are based on continued strong economic growth but where will that growth come from? Retail sales remain down. Bankruptcies are up 23 per cent. Consumers are not spending. Financial experts warn of the danger of overextended credit cards. We are not looking at a good picture in the future.

Integrity. The HST is not what Canadians were promised by the Liberals in the last election when they went door to door looking for votes. We should have them honour their words. I would like to point out on integrity that when the heritage minister gave up her seat to seek re-election in the byelection she once again mentioned in her propaganda material in her campaign that she gave up her pension which we know was temporary, again misleading the people.

I would like to wrap up. Unfortunately, we did not get the postponement and I am sorry that that did not occur. I sincerely hope and implore this government to rethink the GST and HST.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we have to rise in the House today to address this bill. It is a bill that in reality should not have come before this House. It is an issue we should not have had to talk to. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the finance minister and scores of cabinet and caucus members all made election pledges to eliminate, not to harmonize the GST. The issue that should be before us is the elimination and not the harmonization of this tax.

As members know full well, the heritage minister was forced to resign and seek re-election at a cost of over $500,000 to Canadian taxpayers because she was unable to fulfil a commitment that was made during the election campaign. The finance minister publicly begged for forgiveness. "We have made a mistake", he said for his complicity in misleading Canadians on this Liberal GST policy.

The member for York South-Weston was banished from the Liberal caucus by the Prime Minister for insisting that the government keep its word on the GST. The member for Broadview-Greenwood went into a self-imposed exile in a rare show of solidarity with the member for York South-Weston.

What is the issue here? The issue is a matter of keeping one's word. Let us think of it in personal terms. If any member in this House or any person in my circle of acquaintances made a specific commitment to me that they intended to do something and then reneged on that deal, somehow tried to back away from it by saying

that they did not really mean what they said, my toleration for that individual would be surely tested.

It goes without saying that individuals who continually make promises they cannot keep really are not held in high regard by the people who have to deal with them. If they are in business, in short order they will be out of business. If it is a matter of friendship, friends are gone and friends are lost.

The question which comes to mind is, if this is the way we respond on a personal level to people who do not keep their word, what should be the reaction of Canadians to a government, members of which made a commitment in the heat of an election campaign and then are unable to maintain the commitment? The patience of the voters with the government would be sorely tested because of its inability to keep its word.

We have in this harmonization a situation where the Atlantic provinces were bribed into signing the deal with a billion dollars of borrowed taxpayers' money. All Canadians are aware that these kinds of expenditures are only possible because of the ability of the government to borrow money. It is not because there is a pocketful of money which could be doled out to try to get people on side. The fact is that the government is short well over $100 billion in its term of office and to finance this little escapade it will have to borrow even more.

There are three provinces, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia that are not even willing to discuss the federal proposal. Support for the harmonization proposal is weak in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and P.E.I. It just goes to show that this is going to be piecemeal legislation.

It will be restricted to one area of the country where in some respects the governments were unable to turn down the federal government because they just did not have the fiscal strength to do so. On the other hand, it is a part of the country which will suffer the most because it entered into this agreement. In essence, if we are going to help the governments in the maritime provinces, in Newfoundland, we should be looking at trying to determine ways to reduce the tax rate to make that area of the country more attractive to industry rather than simply showing them how to hide taxes which they certainly do not need.

Another issue is the impact this bill will have on business. As has been stated in the House today, and which I think is worth repeating, three major retailers in Atlantic Canada have stated that their net annual retail deficit will total $27 million once harmonization is implemented. Now $27 million may not be much money to the heritage minister because she certainly knows how to throw around the tens of millions of dollars to back up policies which have little real effect, but for business it is a big wad of money.

One private retailer in the Atlantic region was contemplating opening two stores in 1997 and now has decided against it. That is the danger of this high taxation. That is the danger which is posed to the economy in the rest of the country if we allow the government to lead us into a harmonization program that will only result in higher taxes and which will hide a tax that Canadians are so against.

A study by the accounting firm of Ernst and Young estimated that a midsized national chain with 50 stores in the Atlantic provinces would pay up to $3 million in one-time costs and up to $1.1 million a year to comply with a regional tax in price sales system. That is a lot of money: $1.1 million for 50 stores. It is a huge overload on any one store in that chain. It is only reasonable to assume, given taxation levels of that magnitude, that the chain will be closing stores.

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce predicts that the harmonized sales tax will push up new house prices by 5.5 per cent and will force municipalities to raise property taxes. An increase of 5.5 per cent in housing costs is an unquestionably bad move. Canadians are hard pressed to pay housing costs. Any increase will be felt by the people who can least afford it: the low income earners and first time home buyers.

In essence this tax is making it even more difficult for our children to start the process of putting their own roofs over their heads. We are making it difficult for them to get out of the rental market. There will also be a great impact on the rental market. It is anticipated that rental costs will increase due to the imposition of this tax.

Consumers will pay through the nose. They will pay more for funeral services, children's clothing, books, auto repairs, electricity, gasoline, home heating fuel and haircuts among other things.

As I mentioned, the Investment Property Owners Association tabled a report in the Nova Scotia legislature. It says that renters can expect to shoulder some of the higher operating costs that will hit landlords with the harmonized GST. Because renters have less income than homeowners, the tax increases due to the blended GST will hurt those who can least afford it.

The federal government's proposal will hurt low income Canadians the most. Therefore I move:

That all the words after the word "That" be deleted and the following substituted therefor:

this House declines to give second reading to 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, since the principle of the bill does not seek to abolish the goods and services tax.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The Chair has received the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Delta. Before putting it to the House, it would be appropriate to consult. I will consider the matter and get back to the House in a few minutes.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt to oppose the government's use of closure in its attempt to ram through the House the hated GST harmonization scheme. This debate-

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not questioning your ruling but I would like some clarification on it. The motion was very straightforward. In our opinion it was in order. Could the Speaker enlighten me as to why he wanted to consult on this motion so I will have that for future reference?

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I can give the hon. member the benefit of the doubt. I assume he thought the motion was in order since he seconded it. I am sure that is his view. The Chair simply wants an opportunity to review the motion in relation to the authorities on the subject to ensure that it is in order. If that assurance is one that I can give the House I will then put the motion to the House. I hope to have it very shortly and I will be back to the House as soon as I possibly can in respect of the motion. Resuming debate.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, your chance to review the Reform Party amendment is most appropriate and in order, as is the concept of having an open and true debate in the House of Commons on the GST. Canadians are sick and tired of the attempt by the Liberal government to shut down open and honest debate. It is very unfortunate.

The debate gives me an opportunity to remind the constituents of the Liberals sitting in the House of what was said on the campaign trail about the GST.

We are going to play a little game called recall for a few moments. First let us recall the words of the Prime Minister when he was a candidate for the Liberal Party. He said: "We hate it and we will kill it". He did not say: "We hate it and we will harmonize it".

When the Minister of Finance was campaigning as a Liberal candidate he said: "I would abolish the GST". Pay careful attention to the word "abolish". According to my reference material it means get rid of, to lose sight of, to bury. That does not sound anything like "I would harmonize the GST".

The Minister of National Defence said when he was a candidate: "The GST is a regressive tax. It has to be scrapped and by golly, if we are elected to government we will do just that. We will scrap it".

All across the country as the campaign went on Liberal candidate after Liberal candidate knocked on doors, spoke at public meetings and said in unison: "We will kill the GST. The Liberal Party will kill the GST if we become government after the next election". Everyone heard it. We heard it on talk radio shows, we heard it on platforms at all-candidates meetings, we heard it at the doorstep, we heard it from coast to coast.

It is sort of fun to go back in time and reminisce about what happened in the 1993 election but there is a very serious part to all of this. The bottom line is that the Liberal candidates prior to the 1993 election deliberately misled the Canadian people about what they were going to do with the GST. They deliberately misled the Canadian public.

In venue after venue in the 1993 election, Liberal candidates across the country told the Canadian voters that they would scrap, that they would kill, that would abolish the GST. Those are the facts we are presented with today. Taxpayers are going to remember because we are going to keep reminding them that they are going to pay for this Liberal promise. This is yet another Liberal broken promise to the taxpayers of Canada.

The taxpayers are going to pay for this harmonization scam of the Liberals. It will hurt every Canadian taxpayer because to get the Atlantic premiers, the ones who agreed to the harmonization, the Liberals will have to give the Atlantic provinces a cash payment to induce them to come on board this scheme. This payment to the Atlantic provinces, the ones that have joined on, that have been duped into it by the Liberal Party, is going to amount to about $1 billion a year just to satisfy the whims of this government to make it look not quite so bad.

They can once again try to fool the Canadian people, but they will not get away with it. Canadians in certain regions of the country and reasonable people do not think they should be asked to subsidize a tax cut for the maritime provinces that came in on this plan because of the Liberal harmonization scam. The Liberals are using $1 billion of taxpayers' money to sell the GST to Atlantic Canada so that they can keep an election promise. That simply is not going to sell to the rest of the country.

This Liberal bribe of the Liberal Atlantic premiers is truly despicable. Canadians will not be hoodwinked by Liberal trickery and sleight of hand. Atlantic Canadians will also suffer because while they may pay a lower tax rate in this harmonized taxation scam, they will pay taxes on a greater range of goods and services.

I was told as a youngster that there is no such thing as a free lunch. No one gets something for nothing, particularly when a Liberal government is running the country. If people think they are

actually getting something from the government, they should keep their hands on their wallets in their back pockets. The government will not give what it has first not taken away.

It has become abundantly clear that the government was very opportunistic in discussing the GST and suggesting to Canadians that when it came into power somehow the GST would magically and mysteriously disappear. Just to remind hon. members across the way exactly what their record is on this, let me refer to some quotes that came from government members over the last several years with respect to the GST. I want to remind them how far they have gone astray from their original promise.

Let us go back to the government members when they were in opposition in the wake of the GST coming into this place under the Conservative government. I begin by quoting some members who now hold prominent positions in the cabinet of the Liberal government.

First let me quote the current House leader back in the days following the GST coming into place under the Conservative government. He said: "Not only do the Liberals oppose the GST now, that opposition will continue even when the bill is passed. We are not interested in tinkering with the GST. We do not want it at all".

Meanwhile, the current finance minister said: "I would abolish the GST". The Prime Minister said: "I want the tax dead". One of the quotes that came from the Toronto Star back then was: `The Liberals will scrap the goods and services tax if they win the next general election. The leader of the party said that he was opposed to the GST.I have always been opposed to it and I will be opposed to it always'''.

We saw the climax of the quotes that came from all the various members in October 1993 of the eve of the election when the current Deputy Prime Minister on national television-that image will be frozen in my mind forever, and I am sure in the memories of many in this House as well-when she said: "If the GST is not abolished under the Liberal government I will resign".

The hypocrisy of the Liberal government is astounding. Members say one thing and they do another thing. If it is not the GST, it is the CF-18 contracts. I could go on for hours and hours about the flip-flops of this Liberal government in the past three years. There are so many flip-flops it is hard to keep track of them all.

What about the flip-flop on limiting debate and using closure? In opposition, the Liberals railed against closure. Democracy, it appears now, is irrelevant to our Liberal colleagues across the way. All they care about is lining their pockets and rewarding their friends like Bombardier. When it comes to politics they ram things through the House, forget about the people of Canada, forget about democratic principles and forget about returning integrity to this place. It is a shame that they do this.

They all care about pretending to keep promises. They do not care that their public relations campaign comes at the expense of taxpayers outside Atlantic Canada and at the expense of democracy and free speech in this place where free speech is held so dearly.

Canadians should know that this bill should be opposed. Limiting debate should be opposed. This Liberal government should be opposed and will be opposed by the people in the next general federal election.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I should inform the House that the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Delta is, in the view of the Chair, in order.

The House will now resume debate on the amendment.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With all due respect, we would assert that it is not a reasoned amendment opposing the principle of the bill, but rather that it raises extraneous issues that go to the motive behind the bill and that it is not a properly receivable amendment.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, just to assist the Chair, that sounded to me like a challenge of the Chair's ruling. The Chair has ruled that the amendment is in order. It would seem to me that the appropriate time for the member for St. Paul's to have raised that objection would have been at the time the amendment was moved by the hon. member for Delta. However, that was not done and you have ruled. We would appreciate resuming debate on the amendment.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The hon. member for Calgary West is correct. If the parliamentary secretary had an objection to the amendment he should have raised it at the time the amendment was moved. No objection was raised at that time. The Chair has made a ruling. The amendment, in the view of the Chair, is in order. Therefore, we will be resuming debate on the amendment at this point in time.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I might apologize to you, there was never any intent whatsoever to question your ruling. I was on my feet as you stood to make your ruling. I was not recognized. I stayed on my feet and I stated my position for the record.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I want to assure the parliamentary secretary that the Chair did not think there was any challenge to the ruling. I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for that explanation.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to state that the official opposition will support the amendment presented by the Reform Party. It does not happen

often, but since this amendment is in line with our thinking, we shall be very pleased to support it.

The amendment asks the House to decline to give second reading to the bill, since the principle of the bill does not seek to abolish the GST, and the Reform Party members are right. We have been discussing this bill for a number of days, and we pointed out that when the Liberals were in the opposition and also when they were on the campaign trail, their platform included a promise to abolish what they referred to as the bloody GST.

Three years after the Liberals came to power, we hear that the Minister of Finance has just signed an agreement with the maritime provinces to harmonize the GST and provincial sales taxes and that, in a generous gesture, the Minister of Finance will take nearly $1 billion out of the pockets of Canadian taxpayers outside the maritimes to compensate the maritime provinces for caving in and accepting this political agreement with the Minister of Finance, just to give Canadians the impression the federal government was doing something about the GST and that there have been improvements.

They would have us forget that the Liberals led a heroic struggle against the previous government to abolish the goods and services tax. We on this side of the House are getting used to a situation where the government rises every day to renege on its promises. Other promises were broken by the government as well.

For instance, the government spent part of its election campaign shouting: "Jobs, jobs, jobs. We are going to create jobs". That promise was broken. It will take another 900,000 jobs to get back to the labour market conditions that existed before the last recession. When they said jobs, jobs, jobs, it was just window dressing. They never made any formal commitment to the public to create the jobs that are so badly needed by Quebecers and Canadians.

The unemployment rate is at 10 per cent, and they shout: "Jobs, jobs, jobs". Some campaign promise. A promise that was trashed. A promise to restore a healthy labour market was not kept.

During the election campaign, they also said that poverty must be eliminated, and so forth. Since they came to power, the situation has gotten worse. The latest statistics on child poverty are outrageous. Child poverty is worse in Canada than in any other industrialized country. One more commitment that bit the dust.

The same goes for the GST. In this case, no problem, they are going to harmonize it. They are going to hide it in the price, in the maritimes. It will cost taxpayers outside the maritimes $1 billion. The government acts as if it had always promised an agreement with the maritimes, plus political compensation, compensation it will take out of our pockets to put a good face on the way this government is handling the GST.

The Deputy Prime Minister put on a show of her own not long ago. She resigned on a matter of principle, because she had promised the public that if her government did not abolish the GST, she would resign. So she resigned. Her show cost taxpayers a half a million dollars, so she could be reelected in the same riding.

When you have principles, when you have certain beliefs, and you stake these during an election campaign and even before, when you are in the opposition, and when you come to power, you do the exact opposite, you resign outright. You do not run again in the same riding, for the same party and come back to the same position three months later. That is cynical and arrogant in the extreme.

However, the Deputy Prime Minister has broken more promises. Radio Canada International is about to disappear. The decision has been made. During the election campaign and quite recently, she promised to maintain Radio Canada International. She even put her seat on the line with her commitment to the survival of Radio Canada International. Today, it is as though it never happened. The government lacks credibility, and the Deputy Prime Minister lacks twice as much credibility. It is time this government cynicism stopped.

That is why we support this motion for the bill not to proceed to second reading, because it does not contain any clause on abolishing the GST. That is what the government had promised. When we say promises, we do not mean idle promises, but promises that have been written down, recorded on video, like the events involving National Defence.

During the 1993 election campaign, the present Prime Minister was saying: "We will scrap the GST". The Prime Minister also said on May 2: "We hate this tax and we are going to get rid of it". What good is the Prime Minister's word? The Deputy Prime Minister's? What is this government's word worth?

Perhaps it is high time for the public to wake up, for them to realize that this government is thumbing its nose at them, that this government has no respect for the people, that this government is elected only to serve rich Canadian taxpayers, the very rich who transfer family trusts worth $2 billion out of the country tax-free. It is time for people to realize that, with this agreement on the GST, they are thumbing their noses at all Canadians.

It is not, moreover, only in Quebec that people are voicing opposition to this agreement. Everywhere else, in Ontario, the Prairie provinces, British Columbia, people feel that this agreement is absurd. Moreover, the Minister of Finance has been asked many times to produce the formula used to calculate his billion dollar figure, with no response. The minister refuses to make this formula public.

Questions arise about the government's honesty and its ability to really carry out the commitments it made during the election campaign. I am not talking about shows where they over inflate promises kept, as the Prime Minister did at the last Liberal Party congress, but actual accomplishments. The GST was one of this government's main promises, and look what they did with it.

Jobs were one of the government's main promises, and the government has fallen some one million jobs short.

The government can boast about the interest rates being very low. Do you know why the interest rates dropped, basically? The first reason is the American economy; the second, the Canadian economy and the third, the fact that people are not working. When they no longer have a job, they no longer spend and there is no more inflationary pressure. At this point, there is no need for the Bank of Canada to strike at non existent inflation by increasing the interest rate. These are the basic reasons for the lower interest rates, and not good management by this government. This government manages nothing.

This government has managed nothing since taking office. It allowed itself to be swept along by the wave. Things went well, they drifted along and forgot the commitments they had made with respect to jobs and the fight against poverty. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance's gang preferred to make a show of it and look after the interests of rich taxpayers. This is the reality of this government.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I wonder to myself what Canadians might think watching this debate on television. It is quite a spectacle sometimes, especially when members of the opposition stray from discussing and debating the issues before us and launch into a litany of complaints, frustrations and concerns which have nothing to do with those matters.

I will speak to the issue before us and point out what viewers, Canadians observing this spectacle from the opposition, will easily conclude. It is incredible. From members of the Reform Party we have incredible paternalism. Who would expect otherwise? Let me put in a nutshell what they have been saying for hours and hours: "We know better than Atlantic Canada. Don't do this to yourselves because we know better".

One colleague suggested today that perhaps the best response would be for the Reform Party to run candidates in Atlantic Canada and teach the people there what they do not seem to understand themselves. The people of Atlantic Canada have elected governments that know what they are doing and have decided it is in the interest-

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must have struck a chord. The people of Atlantic Canada clearly know what is in their interest and are prepared to rise or fall as governments on that. Unfortunately the Reform Party does not represent that area of the country but thinks it knows best, knows better and knows what would help them. Reformers are prepared to stand here for two days to tell Atlantic Canada just what is good for it. That is some indication of the incredible arrogance and paternalism of the Reform Party with respect to other regions of the country.

With regard to the Bloc let us point out something else that is quite incredible about the spectacle of its interventions in the debate. Let us understand this clearly. Bloc members want to deny harmonization to Atlantic Canada, but they forgot to say in a single speech over two days that the Quebec sales tax is harmonized with the GST. They tell Atlantic Canada not to do it, that it is outrageous. By the way, they go on to say: "You are buying them off. You are doing this adjustment assistance".

I did not hear in one speech any rejection of the adjustment assistance for farmers when agricultural subsidies were removed. I did not hear a word from Reformers on the Crow rate subsidy of $1 billion plus. No one stood and said at that time: "Don't give this to us". They said: "Don't help us with an adjustment to this structural change. No, don't do that". They were silent, struck dumb.

When it comes to assistance to Atlantic Canada there is not a word from the Reform Party about the Crow rate subsidy of $1 billion plus. However it is no to Atlantic Canada, no adjustment assistance for them. From the Bloc there is no adjustment assistance for structural change but on agricultural subsidies the cheque can be written. It is really quite incredible and I do not think anybody will be fooled.

The hon. member opposite stands and says: "We are still waiting for the formula". Nonsense. The formula has been well known. It is compensation for a loss of revenue greater than 5 per cent of the sales tax base. He knows it. Hon. members know it. Anybody who has been unfortunate enough to watch the debate for two days knows it because we have said it several times. Quebec does not qualify. Nor would other provinces qualify that have not yet joined but will in due course.

The Atlantic provinces qualify. They are losing that revenue. What did Quebec do when it harmonized? It wanted to keep it secret but did not want the Atlantic provinces to have it. It ran two systems side by side and had an increase in revenue. There was not a decrease when Quebec harmonized. It did not qualify then and it does not qualify now.

I go back to the history of the last couple of years. I participated in the finance committee when it travelled across the country asking Canadians about the GST. Members opposite can invent what took place but I was there and so were some of their colleagues.

Canadians told us there was an incredible anomaly with two sales taxes in most provinces, some 10 sales taxes in total. Whatever else we do, they told us to harmonize. The following sounds like a quote from the Reform Party, but there is only one taxpayer so there should be only one tax administration, one tax. Canadians asked for simplification over and over again.

To listen to the parties opposite one would think they were not sitting at the table with us. They asked for tax inclusive pricing. They wanted the option of knowing what the tax was. That is why it is provided on the receipt as it is in most of the world. Canadians told us they wanted no more sticker shock, no more counter shock.

In closing, I will make another point about the incredible spectacle we heard from the Bloc. I wonder if the reason its members have not reminded Canadian people about harmonization in Quebec is that it is a competitive advantage vis-à-vis Atlantic Canada. They know that. They do not want Atlantic businesses and consumers to have the advantage available to Quebec businesses and consumers.

This change will result in input tax credits in Atlantic Canada, tremendous savings passed on to consumers, cheaper prices and no net increase in tax revenue. It is good for Atlantic Canada. That is why their governments want to do it, no matter what the Reform or the Bloc may have to say about it.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to follow the previous rant from the member for St. Paul's. It is the first we heard from the Liberals today on the issue and gives me an opportunity to address some of his comments.

It was interesting when he said this move was in the interest of Atlantic Canada. Yet few members on the government side from Atlantic Canada are willing to speak to the issue. Very few members are willing to speak to the issue of GST harmonization. Almost none from Atlantic Canada. One spoke earlier today, the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls. We can check the blues, but I do not think he mentioned GST anywhere in his speech. He obviously was not too thrilled about the initiative.

The government makes the point that it must be governing for the benefit of the people of Atlantic Canada because the Liberal government in Atlantic Canada likes this initiative. The role of the Parliament of Canada, I would remind the parliamentary secretary, is to govern for the benefit of the people of Canada; not just the people of Atlantic Canada but all Canadians.

Interestingly enough we did not hear mention of the people of Atlantic Canada. Where are the petitions to Parliament demanding this harmonized GST? Where are the letters of endorsement from the business community and from consumers groups? We are not getting them in our offices. We are getting precisely the opposite.

The federal government should have a broader view of what is in the interest of the people of any region of the country than just what the party of the government thinks in a particular region.

We get the same line every time the Reform, the Bloc or any other party criticizes a Liberal government initiative directed at a specific region. Its members always say they are the guardians of the region. They ask where we were when they were giving something to our region or to somebody else. The great tragedy of the country is governments that do not govern for the entire country. Historically governments, particularly Liberal governments, have used policies to divide, conquer and pit one against another so they can act as the defender of one region at any point in history, depending on where they need to pick up some votes.

It is a terrible way of approaching government, but that is the history. I am addressing second reading of Bill C-70 on GST harmonization which, as has been pointed out by many speakers, is being implemented with time allocation.

It is important to point out that this bill was read for the first time in this House only on December 2, just over a week ago. This is only the third day we have had any debate at all on this piece of legislation.

The hon. member for Burlington, a Liberal member, had a tremendous argument. This one we need to get bronzed over here. It was that they would not need to move time allocation if the opposition would just support their bills. That would make it much easier.

There is a pattern here. We saw this pattern not just in this fall sitting but in previous sittings in the last three years. That has been that we have had a very slow legislative agenda for several months.

Just as the House is about to rise for a break, important legislation appears which must be passed immediately. In this sitting, the fall sitting, we passed only nine pieces of legislation, including some supply bills and housekeeping measures that were of fairly minor significance.

Last week three pieces of legislation were introduced which most analysts of Parliament would argue are the three most important bills introduced in the fall sitting, the harmonization of the GST, amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board, and the tobacco legislation. These are three of the most important bills.

Now they must all be passed according to some rushed schedule. I should add, just a couple of weeks before that, changes to the rules for the next election campaign. That is probably the fourth most important. It came in only three weeks before the end of the session.

Why does the government do it this way? I have tried to figure that out. Why are we rushing, for instance, an important debate on a GST package in order to have a prebudget debate, which the government will have no intention of listening to whatsoever? It is not on a substantive piece of legislation. Why are we doing this?

Some of it may be disorganization. Some of it may be unclear priorities. I fear the longer I am here the reason it does some of this is it really ultimately wants to rush committee stage of these bills.

Committee stage is where the public and affected interests get to express their views on the bill to indicate where amendments should be made and where parliamentarians and other expert witnesses are able to go over the clause by clause of a bill to suggest technical amendments.

That is the stage the government wants to rush. It has been increasingly rushing it, even on important legislation. The consequences of that have been very obvious in this Parliament to observers. Often we are passing legislation that is not well thought out, that is poorly drafted technically and that ends up being amended or delayed in the Senate.

I suspect we will see that happen again, if not on this bill at least on one of these three bills we are now rushing.

We have today the Liberal Party bringing in a bill to support and enhance the position of the GST across the country. I will not dwell too much on that. It is tremendously humourous to see the Liberal Party now being the one enacting the new version of the GST.

Perhaps even funnier than that was the appearance of the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party to vote against the GST. Of course, just his mere appearance in the House of Commons is funny enough, seeing how infrequently it seems to occur.

Let us go back to the original GST. The original GST was discussed in a white paper presented by the previous government in 1987 and implemented in the 1990-91 period. It is important for me to acknowledge, as I want to address a serious issue here, that many conservative people in the country, many business people, very conservatively oriented people, were very supportive of the thrust of the GST, at least initially. Some still are.

Why was this? It is important to understand why some supported it and why they do not today and why it is an error to support this tax.

They supported it because of the deficiencies of the existing manufacturer's sales tax. They supported it because it was a value added tax implemented in a multi-level way that ideally would not distort prices. On top of that it was a consumption based tax which therefore would not have strong incentives against investment.

However, these were very short term reasons for anybody to support this tax. They were very short term reasons because the real issue this country has been facing for the last 10 years and will face for the next few at least is the deficit and whether we will end the enormous deficits of this federal government by increasing taxes or whether we will end them by cutting spending; in other words, whether we will ultimately balance the budget in this country by having very big government or by having much smaller government. Of course, big government got us into this economic situation in the first place and we favour a solution that will bring us back to smaller government.

If we take a big picture look at the GST, the big problem with it is not the specifics of its construction. It is in the end a powerful revenue generator, one that works best if hidden. It makes it easy to raise rates, easy to broaden the base, and it brings the federal government into an area that is traditionally provincial authority. It leads to tax collusion rather than the phrase harmonization or rather than competition between governments.

That is what we see happening with this GST harmonization today. We see a deal that buys off the Liberal Party in the Atlantic provinces, that uses the term harmonization for essentially arranging a collusion scheme between governments to make it easier for them in the future to raise taxes. They can do it with a majority vote. But it makes it virtually impossible for them to ever lower the rates of taxation. It takes another step toward hiding and burying taxes in prices and it broadens the base of existing provincial sales taxes on Atlantic consumers.

The real agenda of the Liberal Party is to make sure the fiscal actions it takes, both on the spending and taxation sides, ultimately secure big government and high taxes in this country. I believe that in the end this is what has caused the slow economic growth in the past generation. This will ensure the country continues to slip.

We need another way. This harmonization of the GST, this tax collusion between provincial and federal Liberal governments, is not the way to reverse the economic decline of this country.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to add to the debate today because of the implications for Canadians, the people from coast to coast we represent.

I reject the statement of the member opposite who said that we have not heard what the people of Atlantic Canada have said. We have indeed. We have heard of those business that are shutting down and laying off staff because they cannot compete under the rules being imposed on them by this new legislation.

I have something to say about the GST in a broad sense. We greatly underestimate the impact it has on our economy. There is a simple rule that if you want people to do something you make it easy for them. If you want people to stop doing something, then you make it more difficult. The taxation of cigarettes is an example. When taxes were reduced, consumption went up. When taxes were increased, consumption and the purchase of cigarettes went down. That is true in every sector.

I will use the example of my father. He is a senior citizen now, well on in years. He is one of those pioneers who helped to build this country out in the west. My dad purchased a new car every four to six years. That became a regular pattern for him. But in 1990 when they brought in the GST and he was ready for a new car he did not buy a new one. So his old car turned four years old and then five and then six.

One day I asked him if was going to buy a new car because he usually did. He said: "No. Between the provincial sales tax and the new federal sales tax, the GST, I am not going to buy a car because that is one tax which I can avoid paying just by making the choice not to purchase a new vehicle". As a result, my dad to this day is still driving his 1985 Oldsmobile. He says it will be his last car because he will not pay tax on a new one. We could multiply that situation over and over again. The people in the car business in Ontario have lost many important sales. If we multiplied it by the number of people who have responded in that manner, we would probably be surprised by the huge economic impact the GST has had right across the country.

As a member of Parliament I have the duty to represent my constituents and also to represent what is good for the country. It seems that in this Parliament the opposition parties are better able to do that than the governing party. I bring to the attention of the House evidence to support that statement.

I believe that the opposition has a very important role to play, so I went back to when the Liberals were in opposition. I read Hansard from that time. I went to the PubNet system and said let us see what the Liberals said about the GST when they were in opposition. I have quotes from several Liberal members who were in opposition who I think correctly represented Canadian thinking.

First I would like to cite quotes from the hon. member for Burin-St. George's. He is an eloquent speaker. He frequently speaks on these subjects. This is what he said on March 12, 1993. He was deriding the government's jamming through the GST at that time. This was on the debate when it was simplifying it. The Conservative government brought in 350 pages of simplification for the GST procedures and that is what the House was debating on this occasion. He said: "The government used every rule in the book and every perversion of most of the rules to get the GST-and that is what I am talking about in case my friends on the other side have forgotten so soon, the goods and services tax. It is called many other names by those 85 per cent of Canadians who vehemently and strongly oppose that tax measure". I believe that member when on this side of the House was correct. As far as we know, about 85 per cent of Canadians were opposed to the tax.

It is a violation of our trust if we bring into this place legislation and we jam it through, as this government is now doing, against the will of the people. How can we expect to have respect as parliamentarians if we go against the will of the people and impose on them what we know best, as opposed to what they are demanding from their government? How can we expect respect for our laws if the people of the country lose their willingness to be so governed?

Let me go back to the member for Burin-St. George's. He said: "I am talking of the bankruptcy of ideas and about the pain that has been inflicted on individuals, families and corporations out there, on people trying to do business, trying to run their homes and trying to maintain and manage their family budgets. I am talking about that kind of bankruptcy, that kind of pain". He was accurately expressing the huge pain of excessive taxation on our citizens.

I quote again: "Go out there and ask almost any Canadian how fair the GST has been for him or for her. Ask a person who is in university and who must buy some books how fair the goods and services tax is. Then remember that the goods and services tax was going to lower prices". Here we are in 1996 hearing exactly the same thing. Those same members, now on that side of the House, with the ability because of their numbers to do something about it, are refusing. When they were on this side of the House they represented the people. They said we should not tax books. What are they doing now? They are increasing the tax on books, effectively, for university students.

I quote again: "We have to understand the double talk of this government on many matters. When it says it is going to do something, then that is code for saying that it is really going to do the opposite. But for the record it has said it will do something else". That is a quotation from a Liberal member talking about the Conservatives and we know where they went.

Unfortunately my time is up. In conclusion, let me say this one sentence. I am here to do everything that I can to fulfil the Reform plan to reduce the GST in stages to zero until it is gone as we bring government spending under control and stop that excessive taxation demand on the taxpayers.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Order. Pursuant to order made earlier this day it being 5.15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the amendment.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?