Mr. Speaker, it is really quite an occasion to be able to stand up and speak one more time on the GST. In fact, if we could go over a little of the history of it, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will remember all too well back to 1990-91. Many of the people who are in the Chamber today cannot remember the experience but you and I certainly do, sir. You will remember the vitriolic attacks that came from this side of the House. I could point out the seat that you sat in when you criticized the GST. It was really something. Of course, we were in agreement. This member looks so young he was hardly born at that time, but in fact he was around somewhere, but not in the Chamber. I remember all too well the attacks that came from the Liberal opposition about the GST and how terrible it was.
Of course when the Liberals came into power-you remember this, Mr. Speaker, because you campaigned in 1993 just as I did-and it was going to be gone. I am sure the people in the Niagara Falls area as well as the people in northern Alberta thought: "Oh, finally, if the Liberals come into power, then we are going to see an end to this dreaded GST".
For heaven's sake, what do you think happened next? Page 22 of the red book became absolutely famous. I would quote from it now, Mr. Speaker, but you know I do not have my copy any longer, but I certainly know what page 22 said. It said that the federal government was going to do away with the GST. What do we have? It is a kind of symphony really. It is a harmonization. The GST is still here. It is alive and well. Now it is going to be the HST, the BST or whatever it is. It is not a good thing.
It is easy for members to put on a brave face now that the Liberals are in government and say: "What we are doing is the very best thing for you". We hear time and time again about people who have retail businesses. In my area we have a lot of farmers. The horror stories that they are phoning my office with are hard to believe.
Here is a good one, or a bad one, depending on which way one wants to look at it. A farmer phoned my office not too long ago and said that because farm equipment is exempt he is allowed to receive a GST rebate or exemption on it. It was okay if he bought a half-ton truck. He would be able to get the GST back.
However, one farmer bought an extended cab half-ton truck. A regular truck with no extended cab was fine but he bought an extended cab truck because he kept his saddles and bailer twine and so on in the back seat. Do you know what happened? The GST department said: "No, no. This becomes a luxury vehicle and so you have to pay GST on it".
Then I would get another call from somebody else who would say: "I have a suburban, an entirely closed in vehicle, and I can claim exemption on that".
It just shows what a disastrous nightmare this whole thing has been. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have had the odd call in your office as well. I do not think our regions of Canada are that much apart on these issues that you have not had a call or two in your own constituency office saying: "What in heaven's name is going on here".
I would like to go back to when the GST initially came in. It was going to be revenue neutral. I am sure if I jog your memory,Mr. Speaker, you will remember it was Bill C-21, the deficit and debt reduction account, that was passed in the 34th Parliament. All excess revenue was to go to pay down the deficit and then the debt. Guess what. That did not happen.
I put several dollars into that because I believe that if we are going to put our money where our mouth is then we had better contribute to that. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have put my 10 per cent pay deduction into the deficit and debt reduction account for some time.
The question is far bigger than that. Is this tax a good tax or not. The answer across the country has to be no. Some points of it were good in terms of making it visible. Canadians are not the type of people who are going to remember something for five years generally. We complain about something for 20 minutes and then we get out our cheque book, write a cheque and say: "That is the government for you" and we carry on.
Yet five years later there is a vehemence, a vitriolic spirit across the country about the GST and now the heat is being raised one more level with the BST in Atlantic Canada. If you look at the specifics of that, the Atlantic premiers were bribed into signing this $1 billion deal. It was borrowed taxpayers' money. They were Liberal governments. They were tempted, if you will. They were bamboozled. It was hogwash. The point is it was $1 billion of borrowed money.
It is as if the government said: "We are doing a great thing here. We are going to pay off our Visa but we are using our Mastercard to do it". That simply cannot happen. The federal government took this $1 billion of borrowed money to their political friends in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals, and said: "Come on guys. We have to live up to page 22 here. We have to have harmony here in the symphony, so please help us out any way you can". It cost a billion dollars of taxpayers' money borrowed on MasterCard. There is something dreadfully wrong with that because we cannot live beyond our means. I suppose the Canadian taxpayers, those from Atlantic Canada who have signed on to this deal and those of us who live in other parts of the country can literally say thanks a billion.
Where is this cash coming from? The money does not just bubble up from under the surface. These are real cheques which are being sent to the government at income tax time from real people working in real jobs. A billion dollars to kick this thing into motion and people on the other side of the House say it is a really great deal. They say: "We are are from the government and we are here to help you". No wonder people get nervous when they see people from the government here.
Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia are not even willing to discuss the federal proposal. Support for it is weak in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island. When the government talks about full harmonization and how well everything is going to blend together and that it will be happy times for us in Canada as we move toward the next century, it simply is not true.
People from my constituency, not just farmers but business people also, continually phone my office saying: "Deb, you just cannot imagine how much manpower it takes to fill all of this out". Sadly enough, one more level of it is being added at the Atlantic Canada level. The rest of Canada is saying absolutely not.
It makes me think of my colleague next door in Edmonton Northwest who said that in Alberta it would be really great to blend or harmonize the sales tax. Mr. Speaker, I am not good at math and you know that. You have known that for years. However, if we have zero provincial sales tax in Alberta then what can we harmonize the GST with in order to make it 15 per cent? Any person in their right mind would say: "Wait a minute, I am not sure we can blend this because there is nothing to blend it with". We had enough of a hard time in Alberta going to any tax system. We have been blessed out there and we appreciate it is because of our natural resources.
When I hear the Minister of Natural Resources say that in Alberta it would be a really good thing to blend it, she has to give her head a shake. If she thinks she is going to go door knocking in the next election saying: "Harmony, ebony and ivory, let us live together in harmony", it simply is not going to happen. They are going to laugh her right off the block.
As my friend said earlier, I suspect that whether it was the Tories who brought in the GST or the Liberals who have pushed up the heat one notch on it to the BST, people really do not know the difference. All they know is they have been stuck with this tax and every time they buy two newspapers, let us say the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun , which equals a dollar, they also have to find a nickel and two pennies some place in their pocket to pay for them. I know that because every week when I go to the airport I run into the store to buy two newspapers. I cannot just flip a loonie out. I have to find the pennies and a nickel. It is a pain. Not a day goes by that a consumer does not say that they hate this tax.
What is amazing about this tax is that Canadians are still angry about it this many years later. Whether it is the Conservative government that brought in the GST or whether it is the Liberal government that brought in the BST, which it is in the process of doing by ramming it through with time allocation, when Canadians go to the polls next time they are not really going to remember the difference. As far as it goes, with the old line federal parties, they say that whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives, it means higher taxes, bigger government and more money in debt. Whether it is the Conservatives or Liberals, they are the two sides of the same loonie.
One has to ask how Atlantic Canadians are feeling about this. Let us look at a couple of examples. Let us remember of course that all these people are represented in name by Liberal members of Parliament.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce predicts that the harmonized sales tax will push up new house prices by 5.5 per cent as well as force municipalities to raise property taxes. Does this make any sense? I would not think so. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce should be able to go to its MP's office and say: "Okay girl, you go on up to Ottawa and tell them just exactly how we feel about it". I am not sure she has been able to do that.
The Canadian Real Estate Association says that harmonization will increase the costs of a new house by $4,000 in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and by $3,374 in New Brunswick. Nobody has that kind of cash to pay out.
The GST was wrong. The GST was bad. The BST is wrong. The BST is bad. I know that Canadians are still going to be angry about this in the next election campaign. They will say: "Wait a minute. Liberal, Tory: one gave us one, one gave us the other. They are the same thing. They are the two sides of the same loonie". The Liberals may meet the same fate that the Conservatives did in 1993.