Yes, exactly. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot is right.
This goes to show the Liberals have reneged on their promises and the public knows it.
Just one week before the 1993 election, the Deputy Prime Minister stated on the CBC, and I quote:
"I have already said personally and very directly that if the GST is not abolished I will resign".
The Prime Minister himself said, and I quote:
"We will scrap the GST".
In May 1994, he added: "We hate this tax and we will make it disappear".
It is quite something when a Prime Minister says that he hates a tax. Did the Prime Minister suddenly fall in love with the GST? Or is he the victim of a love-hate affair? I personally think that the Prime Minister is a great comedian who uses all means available to him.
There is no harmonization. The provincial sales tax will disappear. It will become part of the GST. The GST will literally absorb the provincial tax and its management will be the exclusive responsibility of the federal government, which will thus increase its control over indirect taxation in this country.
By including the tax in the price of goods, the government shows it could not care less about consumers and is making it easier to increase the tax later on. Several associations, including the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Association des manufacturiers du Québec, opposed including the tax in the price of goods.
The federal government is making all Quebecers and Canadians pay for the harmonization of sale taxes in the maritime provinces. Given the amount of money to be paid by the federal government to these provinces, Quebec will have to contribute close to $250 million but will get nothing in return. The government's goal is still to integrate the GST to sale taxes everywhere in Canada. If it must compensate every time an agreement is reached, how much will it cost in the end?
The government itself says that compensation will also be necessary in the case of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. Quebec has already harmonized its sales tax and no adjustment is anticipated in the future. This means that there is no possibility for compensation in the case of Quebec. Such is the price that Quebecers must pay when their province co-operates with the federal government.
Provinces joining the national tax system will lose their autonomy, because they will no longer have full control over their taxation rate and their tax base. "The federal government will assume responsibility for all aspects of administering the provincial value added tax". This is what it says in the memorandum of agreement on the harmonization of sales taxes, an indication of the extent to which the provinces that sign will give up their fiscal autonomy to the federal government.
The Bloc Quebecois is offering the government an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The first step would be to abolish the GST, to turn the whole field of indirect taxation over to the provinces and to offset federal losses resulting from the abolition of the GST with an equivalent reduction in cash transfers to the provinces. In this manner, the federal government hangs on to its financial equilibrium, the Government of Quebec controls all indirect taxation within its borders, and the result is less federal interference in the health, education and social assistance sectors.
This approach, the one the government is suggesting, is completely out of date. The savings generated by all the sales and cuts resulting from bill C-31 will be spent on paying the provinces to accept a national sales tax.
Financial management under the Liberals is a bottomless pit. They do not realize the efforts they are asking of everyone: public servants, taxpayers, the unemployed, seniors, the provinces. They are asking all these groups to make significant spending cuts, and then, at the end of the bill, in clause 64, they wipe out, in one fell swoop, close to a billion dollars in efforts so that they can bring three provinces on side with their national sales tax.
Why pass this Bill C-31 if, once again, they go back on election promises and eliminate with one hand all the efforts made by the other hand. The Bloc Quebecois cannot in all decency support this bill. This bill the government is rushing through contains major amendments to at least ten statutes that have a very large impact on government management. I will summarize them here to show you the importance of all these legislative amendments that will flow from Bill C-31.
The following statutes are amended: the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Canada assistance plan, the Radiocommunication Act, and the Canada Student Loans Act.
The common denominator in all these amendments is the withdrawal of the federal government from its responsibilities as an employer and from its historic commitments to the unemployed, seniors and the provinces.
The Liberal government is abdicating its responsibilities. Bill C-31 is admission that it is abdicating before the voters send it packing for good. This morning's La Presse described the plan proposed yesterday by Ottawa as "somewhat frantic".
In closing, I would like to draw the hon. members' attention to the fact that the Liberals have a worse record than the Conservatives as far as the Constitution and taxation are concerned. In the first instance, by reducing Quebec to the "principal homeland of French language in North America", and in the second, far from eliminating the GST as it had shouted from the rooftops that it was going to do in 1993, by reinforcing it, trying to bury it in the price.
So what about the transparency this government was promising? Through this double failure, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance are once again demonstrating their incompetency, which far exceeds that of their predecessors.