Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents in my area of the country on the GST issue. It was a very profound issue in the last election campaign.
It is interesting and maybe not surprising that nary a Liberal will stand to try to explain, defend or otherwise obfuscate what they are doing about the blended GST, BST, HST or whatever they want to call it. Liberals today are hiding. They are laying low, hoping this will blow over. Of course it will blow over. It will blow over because the government forced closure again, for a record number of times. It is almost an admission of the incompetence of House management. They say "we just cannot manage our affairs well enough to get this stuff through the House and what we have to do is force closure so there will not be any debate on these subjects". We have seen that happen on routine bills, on very divisive bills and on very controversial bills. It does not seem to matter.
It seems to be that the routine now is bring in a bill. If they cannot manage their House time properly, they can cancel the debate. They do not let democracy interfere with the workings and machinations of the government. They just tell them how to vote in the backbench, cancel the debate and see if they can get away with it.
So far if I could chastise for a moment the national media on this for letting them get away with this, it is beyond me. We stand up here and repeatedly say that this is not right, it is not fair, it is not due process. It is not a chance for Canadians to debate something as significant as the GST.
Think back to when the GST was brought in. The bells rang for two weeks in this place. Things here were held up for two weeks. The Liberals were all in favour of that. Yet here today we are not allowed to debate for two days changes to the GST.
It is a shame. It is a shame on the media, too, for not reporting it. It should be on the Liberals' case saying that democracy is not of interest to these people. It should be broadcasting that from coast to coast. It probably will not. I will leave it to the readers and the media watchers of the world to figure out why that is.
I would like to talk today for just a couple of minutes about the politics of division that are being practised on that side of the House.
My colleagues have gone through what is wrong with this tax per se, about the increased costs to the consumers, about how it is driving business out of Atlantic Canada, there very place where they are trying to draw business in, how it is a half baked scheme that does not have the support of the chambers of commerce and other business groups in Atlantic Canada.
That is already in Hansard . That is in the record but if I could talk a little today about why this bill is symbolic of the type of politics that seems to be acceptable to the Liberals.
What they have done here, of course, is pit one region of the country against the other. It is not a new idea for a Liberal. It is not new at all. They practice that pretty well constantly. "Let us play Atlantic Canada against the rest of the country. Then we will go back to Atlantic Canada and try to buy its votes somehow. We will try to buy it off somehow and promise it something in the next election campaign. In the meantime, play one part of the country against the other".
We stand in the House and ask the Minister of Finance to explain himself when it is going to cost so many thousand jobs. He stands up and says "the Reform Party hates Atlantic Canada". The proof is in the pudding. This harmonized sales tax is going to hurt Atlantic Canada.
In turn, the Liberals blame it somehow on the Reform Party. Who do they think brought in this tax, but the finance minister himself? Who thumbed their noses at the businesses in Atlantic Canada? The finance minister and the whole front bench.
They do not mind, play one area against the rest. What about last year in my own province of British Columbia. British Columbia was trying to control its welfare costs. It brought in a residency requirement. The federal government said "no way, if there is federal money involved, you have to have access for all Canadians through this federal program". It fined British Columbia some $30 some million for bringing in the residency requirement.
It is interesting in Quebec now the fees for universities subsidized by the federal government are twice as high for non-Quebecers as they are for Quebecers. In other words, if someone from my province wants to go to la belle province and get their university education, their tuition fees are twice as high.
Just to rub salt in their wounds, there are 50 countries of the world that can get cheaper rates at their universities than one can if from British Columbia. An argument on both sides of that equation can be made but the issue is why is it okay to punish British Columbia for having a made in B.C. policy. Maybe they should have. It is okay to punish there but do not say a word over here.
When it comes to another province or another region, we will not say it. We will just let British Columbia take it in the ear.
For that matter on the distinct society question itself, again symbolic of this government it says: "We are going to push through the distinct society clause and it does not matter who protests. It does not matter whether British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, the three largest provinces outside of Quebec are dead set against it, we are going to push it through".
The Liberals pushed the veto through the House of Commons, which makes it virtually impossible to ever change the Constitution. I do not know what kind of idea that was from the Prime Minister. It was made on a napkin at the parliamentary restaurant during lunch break, I guess.
The minister brought in these proposals and said that they are going to be pushed through. The Quebec Liberal Party endorsed by the federal Liberal Party says: "We have to have distinct society and we have to push it through". What has that accomplished? The Bloc Quebecois, the Parti Quebecois and Mr. Bouchard all say it is nonsense anyway, that it is not going to solve anything, that it is not going to bring us together and that they are not going to believe in Canada more with this.
They took it out west where I live and asked: "Will you guys accept this in full?" Eighty per cent of Canadians in my area of the country said: "No way. We are not going to discuss this. We will discuss devolution of powers to all provinces, certainly. We will talk about a smaller role for the federal government, certainly. We will talk about areas of jurisdiction where there is overlap and we should get rid of that, certainly. But writing distinct society in our Constitution is just not going to happen".
The Liberals over there seem to think that by bringing in this controversial idea and by pushing it on the west and on Ontario it will somehow bring us all together, that somehow we are going to sing solidarity forever in 10 part harmony. It is not going to happen but the Liberals continue to do it.
It is the same thing with the harmonized sales tax. The Liberals bring it in and what happens? Right away the premier of Alberta asked: "What is going on? You gave a billion dollars to Atlantic Canada in order to harmonize the tax? What about Alberta which is paying the bills to harmonize this, in order to buy the favour from the Quebec premier?"
The people in British Columbia rightly said: "Wait a minute. You are saying a separate program for a separate region of the country with a separate pay off, a buy out and a Liberal handout is going to be paid for by people in our province in part?" The people of Quebec would rightly say: "Wait a minute. You have a sales tax over there and we have to pay the bills when right across the border is a province which is getting a pay out in order to blend its sales tax and enhance the reputation of the finance minister?"
This government practices the politics of division. Time and again, whether it is distinct society, whether it is different rules for different regions of the country, whether it is the harmonized sales tax, whether it is the UI system, whether it is how to get a government grant, which region of the country one lives in plays a big part. Probably the icing on the cake is that those who are
heavily connected with the Liberal Party, either a company, a government or their contacts, have a licence into the hallowed halls of power that sit in the throne room.
I hope Canadians will take the government to task over the Christmas break and tell it that special deals for special regions are off and that they should not happen. The national media should be the first to report that.