Out of respect to you and the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw the word bribe.
With respect to harmonization, businesses located outside the harmonized provinces will also be required to collect both the federal and provincial portions of the blended sales tax on purchases made by residents of the harmonized provinces. That means businesses in seven other provinces will have to act as tax collection agents for the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
and Newfoundland and they will have to carry the associated costs. That is another reason the bill is not well thought out and should not be proceeded with.
The Reform Party opposes tax inclusive pricing. This practice violates the principle of open taxation which is essential to the efficient functioning of open democracies. Disclosures of taxes paid on cash register receipts preserves an element of openness in taxation but as the experience in Europe has shown, it eventually results in strongly diminished public awareness of the tax. Eventually governments simply increase the rate when they need more money.
We are heading toward a $700 billion debt. We are going to crack $600 billion sometime this year. Our interest costs are rising notwithstanding the lower interest rate. The economy always goes in cycles. Economists tell us that. The government continues to add to the debt. It is doing so less than the previous government, but it is still adding to it. It added $17 billion or $18 billion last year. That is a lot of money. It is a deficit. It is adding to the problem. As those interest costs go up, the government will have no other choice but to raise taxes. It will raise the HST/BST from 15 per cent to 20 per cent to 25 per cent. It will raise personal taxes and corporate taxes. It will be forced to raise taxes in order to make the payments on the debt.
The standing committee listened to a lot of complaints from a lot of people who came to the hearings and it claims to have solved them. I am not sure that it has. Some of the issues were highlighted in a story by John Geddes of the Financial Post . He used Carlton Card's representation which was made by Shannon Hallett, who expressed her firm's frustration with the Liberal members of the Commons finance committee. She warned that a policy the government plans to impose will force Carlton to close 19 of its 37 shops in the economically fragile Atlantic provinces. Is that not of concern to a party which ran on jobs, jobs, jobs?
At issue is the proposal to force retailers to bury the new 15 per cent harmonized sales tax in prices rather than adding on the HST at the cash register. To retain that support, why not just drop the tax inclusive pricing?
Tax in pricing would cost Carlton $84,000 in one-time expenses such as programming computer inventory systems. It would add $63,000 a year in continuing costs such as putting new prices on cars bound for the east coast. Furthermore, tax in pricing would cost stores in the three provinces about $90 million. Winsbys Shoes told the committee how hard it would be to sell a $99 pair of pumps if it had to put a $115 tax in price tag on them.
Shoppers Drug Mart vented annoyance at the prospect of having to comply by putting up tax in price conversion charts beside racks of magazines which come printed with the tax out price. Re-ticketing thousands of items in a store and trying to cram the tax in price
and tax out price along with the bar code on small labels will be a problem.
These are all problems that the bill has not solved, even though the Standing Committee on Finance said it would look after all of them.
Why is Ottawa so determined to keep this contentious tax included pricing rule when the rest of the harmonization of two taxes into one could be sold much better and could be accepted by Canadians all across Canada?