Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I am pleased to be able to speak to the report stage of Bill C-70.
I would also like to inform my colleagues from the Reform Party, notably the member for Prince George-Bulkley Valley and the member for Medicine Hat, that the member for Saint John has spoken out against the HST on a number of occasions. I also brought the Retail Council of Canada to my riding of Saint John, New Brunswick for a luncheon with the board of trade and the business community. I have spoken in this House several times and have written several articles for the paper as well. I just wanted to clarify a couple of statements that were made in this House.
The concept of harmonization is worthwhile, however not this government's version. I cannot support a bill which will hide taxes, shut down stores in Atlantic Canada and kill jobs for our people. This bill is nothing more than a political solution to cover up the Liberal failure to scrap the GST. Who is going to pay the price for a promise made during the heat of an election? The people of Atlantic Canada.
The amendments made in committee and the amendments we are debating today do not address the problems because the bill is fundamentally flawed. This comes as no surprise when we have a government rushing to live up to a poorly thought out campaign promise before the election rolls around.
But it is more than just that. There were hearings up here on the Hill and no one informed our people back home in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland that if they wanted to come and make a presentation, the government would pay their way. No one mentioned it to them. They did not know this because no one told them. Is that because the government did not want to hear from them?
It is ironic that the majority of those affected by the HST have not had their say about this legislation. I am sure many Atlantic Canadians would have been delighted to come here to make it clear how much they oppose the legislation on this harmonized tax with tax in pricing. One also has to question why hearings were not held, as I have stated, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
One of the biggest problems with this legislation is the tax included pricing component. Retailers, businesses and restaurant owners to name just a few have explained what it will cost in dollars to switch to a tax in pricing system. More important, they have also explained the cost in real terms, in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs. Twelve stores have already stated that they will be closing down because of the harmonized tax and the tax in pricing.
It is also ironic that while the government is trying to make Canadians believe it has lived up to one campaign promise, it is reneging on the other promise of jobs. A representative from K Mart Canada said that the company will face an inevitable loss of jobs as marginally profitable locations become unprofitable due to increased costs.
One only has to look at the population of the area of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Take a look. As the Retail Council of Canada stated, it is a much smaller population than central Canada, Quebec, or out west. It said that the profit there is very marginal and asked: "What would you do if you were us? Would you stay there or would you just stop? Would you pull out?"
This is a very serious situation. Those who have come to see me up on the Hill are: the Hudson's Bay Company, Canadian Tire, Sears, Eaton's, Shoppers Drug Mart. The list is long and they are all saying that they may pull out of Atlantic Canada.
When the Liberal MPs from our area vote for this, they will be going against the wishes of their people. How can they possibly do that? How can any of the MPs from these provinces possibly vote for this when, as the hon. member from the Reform Party just quoted, they stated when in opposition that it was no good? They said that this was wrong and that if they formed the government, they would never do it.
The hon. member for Acadie-Bathurst, who is now Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, said: "The sign of the times is that so long as we have a tax that is hidden from the consumer, we are going to have problems that are a lot more serious than we understand". He also stated: "The whole idea of visibility was seen by many Canadians as being a deterrent to free-spending governments which would just raise the tax, get the money it needs at election time for promises and spend it foolishly". These were statements in Hansard in 1990.
How are Canadians to hold this government accountable when they do not know which position to believe because it changes from year to year? Perhaps the government members opposite could clarify their position and explain why it has changed so drastically now that they are the government.
It has just been brought to our attention that Assumption Life in New Brunswick must now charge HST on its management fees for segregated funds. However companies headquartered outside the harmonized zone do not have to charge the HST. If you were someone in New Brunswick, would you go to Assumption Life now knowing this? Any company selling mutual funds will choose not to locate in our area of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Companies already in the harmonized zone would be better off relocating to a non-harmonized province which is what they are telling us every day.
This legislation will drive business away from the Atlantic region. We do not want to be have not provinces. We want to contribute to our country, but we cannot do this if this government continues to cut off our legs from underneath us when it brings in a tax such as this.
Representatives from One Voice, The Canadian Seniors Network came to see me. They explained that seniors will be paying more. One little senior called me and said: "I have very little money but when this new tax comes in, I must pay it on my heating bill, I must pay it on my hydro bill". She said further: "I do not believe that I will be able to go to the hair stylist any more to get my haircut. I cannot afford any more, Elsie. I can barely meet the needs that I have today with the money and income that I have. In addition, some groceries and children's clothing will cost more". This legislation is not good for the people of Saint John, my riding. It is not good for the people in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
One must ask oneself why only New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland agreed to the HST. Would it be because these three provinces are the only provinces left in Canada with Liberal premiers? Would it be because all three provincial governments received a substantial monetary gift from the federal government on agreeing to implement the HST? Did they have any choice, because of politics? Why would all other premiers across the nation
say no and only the three Liberal premiers say yes? The answer is quite obvious to all Canadians.
I will conclude by urging the government to rethink the legislation. Please do not make Atlantic Canadians pay the price for ill-conceived campaign promises and hasty attempts to live up to them.