Mr. Speaker, I hope I will not lose my temper like the previous speaker. I am pleased to speak to Bill C-70 concerning the GST. This bill proposes a so-called replacement of the GST by the HST, or harmonized sales tax.
This is basically the same tax, in the same amount. Nothing is changed, really. I would like to draw your attention, however, to the attitude of this government that does not fulfil its promises.
We have here a glaring example of a promise unfulfilled by this government. They had made an election commitment to eliminate, kill, abolish the GST. "We will scrap the GST", said the current Prime Minister on television when he was running in the election. "We hate this tax and we will kill it".
In a minority report dated November 1989, the Liberals, then in opposition, stated: "It is the position of the Liberal members of the finance committee that the Conservative goods and services tax
proposal is flawed and cannot be `patched up' in a way that would it fair for Canadian taxpayers".
The Prime Minister has tried to make the public believe that he had never made any promise of the sort. But the evidence is there, television was there. He was forced to recognize it, after a waitress questioned him about this toward the end of last year and after being taken to task in an editorial published in the Globe and Mail .
The Minister of Canadian Heritage was forced to resign her position as a member of Parliament over this, and this has cost the taxpayers $500,000. The hon. member for York South-Weston, who is an honest man, left the Liberal Party of Canada, accusing it, that is the government, of not having fulfilled its commitments. Indeed, it is the members opposite, government members, particularly those who hold ministerial responsibilities, including the Solicitor General, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Works, who fought this tax when it was introduced in Parliament by the Mulroney government.
Voters will not forget what this government did. They will not forget that it has not kept its word in this case, but also regarding other issues, including job creation. This is one of the most negative things about this government, which was elected under the slogan "jobs, jobs, jobs". There is also another issue concerning which the government did not keep its word: the funding of the CBC.
Today, with Bill C-70, the government is seeking to harmonize the GST with provincial taxes. However, it is already costing the federal government $1 billion to harmonize the GST in the Atlantic provinces. The government refuses to provide the same financial assistance to the Government of Quebec, which is in the process of spending $1.9 billion to harmonize its tax with the federal one.
Like others in the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to say and to repeat this: there can be no sales tax reform without an in depth review of personal and corporate income tax, and without the participation of the other levels of government.
It is imperative that Canada undertake a tax reform that will include all forms of taxation, at all levels of government. For three years now, the Bloc Quebecois has constantly been raising the issue of taxation. Two reports proposing excellent recommendations were tabled.
The first, which was tabled last November, examines corporate taxes. The second looks at individual taxes and was tabled in this House a few days ago.
The Bloc Quebecois firmly opposes family trusts and tax havens. We also defend the interests of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers. We proposed an overhaul of the corporate tax system. The federal government could recover up to $3 billion annually by eliminating certain outmoded, ineffective and unfair tax expenditures. This money could then be used to help businesses create jobs.
Tax expenditures allow businesses, particularly large ones, to reduce the taxes they pay to Revenue Canada by quite a bit, sometimes to eliminate them entirely. The cost of these tax expenditures is estimated at over $9 billion annually, according to the latest figures from the finance department.
These billions of dollars in uncollected taxes represent an additional tax burden for taxpayers and other businesses that do not benefit from these tax deductions.
It is useful to point out that the percentage of federal tax revenue from corporate income tax has fallen considerably over the last 30 years. It dropped from 23 per cent in 1961 to 9 per cent in 1995. Canada is one of the G-7 countries with the lowest corporate taxes. It has also ranked well below the average for OECD countries consistently since 1965.
Given the current job market difficulties, the goal of corporate taxation should be to maximize the creation of sustainable and meaningful employment, while ensuring that financing of public services is shared equitably by corporations and individuals.
The tax system must encourage businesses, particularly SMBs, to create jobs. It is important to emphasize at this point that it would still take over 800,000 more jobs in Canada to match the situation in 1989, before the recession.
Official unemployment rates are still scandalously high, 9.7 per cent in Canada and 12.2 per cent in Quebec, according to Statistics Canada figures released a few days ago. Why is Canada unable to lower its unemployment to 5.4 per cent, as the U.S. has done? It must be pointed out that, in the public sector alone, 200,000 federal and provincial public servants have lost their jobs in the past two years. This is unbelievable.
The government lacks control over intercorporate dividends, which means that some companies with branches in tax havens such as Barbados are able to minimize the tax they have to pay by doing some tax planning. They maximize their profits via means that are unproductive to both the government and society.
According to the auditor general, this tax loophole appears to have cost the taxpayers the modest sum of $240 million in 1992 alone. The Bloc Quebecois recently tabled its second report on personal income tax, a system which currently favours the most advantaged people in the country.
The federal government currently pays out $77 billion in tax expenditures to individuals annually. By introducing greater progressivity, the Bloc Quebecois has identified $2.5 billion that could be recovered by doing away with, or tightening up, tax expenditures that are deemed unfair. Obviously, it would be the low and middle income taxpayers who would benefit from this revision.
The federal government has been in power for over three years. The actions it has taken to make the taxation system fairer and more progressive are lamentable. The Minister of Finance is holding up corporate tax reform unduly. What is more, he is refusing to undertake any serious study of the personal income tax system. He does not dare attack tax advantages which run the risk of upsetting the friends of the Liberal Party.
The Bloc Quebecois is addressing the federal tax system in a concrete manner in order to make it more equitable, more progressive and more focussed on job creation.
For instance, one concrete measure would be to abolish outright a privilege that is now obsolete: the tax free salary and other remuneration paid to the Governor General by the federal government. This is an anachronism, because today, even the Queen of England has to pay income tax.
The Bloc Quebecois suggested that part of the resources in RRSPs be spent on fighting unemployment. An RRSP-employment program would allow a person who is unemployed to withdraw part of his RRSP without penalty for the purpose of starting up a business. Now that is a great suggestion by the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, that would create jobs. The Minister of Finance should include it in the budget he will bring down in this House on February 18.
We also suggest raising the maximum for investments in a labour sponsored fund. The Liberals reduced this maximum from $5,000 to $3,500 in the 1996 budget. However, these funds have had a positive impact on economic development and job creation. The maximum should therefore be raised to $5,000.
Last October, I attended a meeting of the finance committee which heard submissions from representatives of venture capital corporations. These included Fernand Daoust and Pierre Laflamme, for the Fonds de solidarité de la FTQ; Jim Cambly for Working Ventures Canadian Fund; Earl Storie, for Vengrowth Investment Fund; David Levi, for Working Opportunity Fund of British Columbia, and Jim Delaney for First Ontario Labour Sponsored Investment Fund.
Labour sponsored venture capital corporations administer a total of $3 billion. They exist in practically every region in Canada.
These investment funds are sponsored by the labour movement. Capitalization is provided by a vast number of shareholders, mostly workers. The federal and provincial governments give tax credits. The purpose is to protect and create jobs, stimulate regional economic development, and provide training for workers and shares in the company supported by their money. We all know that unemployment and job insecurity have become a fact of life in our economy.
The Fonds de solidarité of the FTQ is the oldest labour sponsored investment fund in Canada. It was set up in 1983 and for 14 years injected one billion dollars into small businesses in Quebec, thus helping to save or create about 45,000 jobs. These funds warded off a final shutdown at the Kenworth company in Ste. Thérèse, Quebec, and protected hundreds of jobs held by members of the CAW.
I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the FTQ, the labour organization where I worked for 19 years, on this its 40th anniversary. In fact, it was on February 16, 1957, in Quebec City, that delegates of the Fédération provinciale du travail du Québec and the Fédération des unions industrielles du Québec founded the FTQ. This merger brought together trade unions and industrial unions.
At the time, the labour movement was very active and fought the Duplessis government which since 1944 had been actively anti-union.
It must be pointed out that, in actual fact, the FTQ is far more than 40 years old. Its origins go back to the end of the nineteenth century. It builds on the old traditions of a combination of European and North American trade unionism, and is the heir of the rich history of the international labour movement.
Today, the FTQ represents 480,000 people working in all sectors and all regions of Quebec. In addition to doggedly defending the interests of wage-earners of all backgrounds, the FTQ also battles for the sovereignty of Quebec and for its membership's right to work and to live in French. On behalf of the House of Commons, I wish the FTQ, my labour congress, all the best on its 40th anniversary.
My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot was saying just now that the government is ramming this bill through and taking an undemocratic attitude by preventing discussion on this highly complex bill. It is close to 300 pages in length, and thrown together any old way.
He also referred to the pre-election fever the government is trying to turn to its advantage, particularly in Quebec. According to the latest surveys, the Bloc Quebecois has 49 per cent of public support, and the Liberal Party of Canada only 39 per cent.
I would like to touch on the meeting held in my riding of Bourassa this past Sunday. It confirmed the nomination of my long time opponent Denis Coderre as the next candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in my riding. I defeated him in 1993, and will have no trouble doing so again in the next federal election.
The riding's provincial representative, Yvon Charbonneau, was present at this meeting. I would remind you that he used to be a trade unionist like myself, but he renounced those convictions somewhat by joining the Quebec Liberal Party, which had imprisoned him and other union leaders in 1972. Mr. Charbonneau was quoted as saying: "In this riding, we have a Bloc Quebecois member, Osvaldo Nunez, and we want to get him out of here". Such arrogance!
With all due respect to my provincial counterpart, I wish to tell him that it is neither he nor his party who will push me out of my riding. These words do not scare me, nor do the racist attacks against me by my former and current Liberal opponent in Bourassa, Mr. Coderre, and by the former federal Minister of Human Resources Development, now the Minister of National Defence.
The three provincial Liberals supporting the Liberal candidate on Sunday were called to order by Jonathan Sauvé, president of the Quebec young Liberals. He wanted to remind them that the Liberal Party of Quebec had to remain neutral in the next federal election campaign. Mr. Sauvé also said that the provincial Liberals must not team up with any federal political party.
The Quebec Liberal Party youth commission revealed its intention not to campaign for the Liberal Party of Canada. Mr. Charbonneau thus appears at odds with the calls for neutrality issued by his leader, Daniel Johnson.
Jonathan Sauvé added yesterday that they had spent much of the past year explaining to Quebecers that the QLP was not a branch office of any other political party.
Bill C-70 is not acceptable to the people of Canada, to the people of Quebec and, especially, to the people of Bourassa. It is unfair. It is a bad bill. It is a half baked bill, and I will vote against it.