Mr. Speaker, I promise I will not use the word you and I debated in the House a little while ago or refer to the definitions the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance was so worried about.
I will call it an inducement. I will call it a payment to another province that tried to make up for a shortfall in revenue in terms of the provincial sales tax it was charging. They have now converted it to a broader base of goods and services which in effect has the final impact of raising the GST in the three Atlantic provinces from7 per cent to 15 per cent.
After two or three months consumers will realize that they have to pay more for goods and services in the three provinces thanks to the Liberal government and thanks to Atlantic MPs. During the
election campaign I hope they remember that and vote for the people who will represent their region.
I find it interesting that two groups are responsible for having the bill come back to the House. It passed third reading; it was pushed through. The Liberal government was praising its merits and the value of a harmonized sales tax. One of the two groups is the provincial government of New Brunswick and Premier Frank McKenna.
He is no longer a Liberal in the true tradition in that he has broken with the rank and file Liberal philosophy. He has chosen to do something the Reform Party prides itself in doing. He has chosen to represent the people who voted him into power. He listened to the people in his region and argued their position so that they got a chance to have an impact on a collective group like the House of Commons.
The second group that had influence was the Senate banking committee. If it were not for its members taking the time to go to the Atlantic provinces, the government would have been able to force, pressure, foist, push, cajole or put it on to the people of Atlantic Canada and then brag about how good the harmonized sales tax was for the rest of the country.
The Senate committee listened to the people of the Atlantic region. As a matter of fact the master of myth, the Minister of Finance, even felt it was so important that he should show the courage to show up at the committee to tell Atlantic Canada why he felt he had to have tax inclusive pricing.
Having done so it all came out: all the things Reform Party members said in the House of Commons and all the things committee members said in the Standing Committee on Finance on what was wrong with harmonized sales tax: that it was ad hoc, that it was partial, that it was confusing, that it was coercion.
Yes, that payment of $961 million to the Atlantic provinces was definitely an influencing factor for those three provinces. Not that it was better for business or for anybody, because at the end of the day everybody in the Atlantic provinces who made representation to the Senate committee complained. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Retail Council of Canada complained that the Liberals were not listening. However, the finance minister said that consumers wanted this and the government was going to give it to them. That is why we have tax inclusive pricing.
The minister was not listening to the people. This was strictly a poorly concocted, politically motivated effort so that in the next election the Liberals can stand up and say they kept their promise to replace the GST.
Because the deputy leader quit, we all know the Liberals did not keep the promise they made door to door to get elected which was that they would kill the GST. They said they hated it, they would kill it, they would abolish it and they would scrap it. They know they did not keep that promise, so they want to shift the debate on to another level, another plane which is to read the red book which said "replace". They wanted to put this in there. They wanted to change the name. They wanted tax inclusive pricing so they could call it the harmonized sales tax and nobody would be referring to the GST.
They did not get their way. The GST is still there. I am very disappointed that at the end of the day we have a bunch of politicians who end up lacking integrity and losing their principles. How can a person as knowledgeable and as competent as the Minister of Finance lose his principles? How can a person like that, who sat in opposition dreaming of being in government and who finally is in government, entrench the GST in people's lives forever when he said that if one ever combines a provincial sales tax with the goods and services tax we would have the net result of entrenching the GST? Is this his legacy to the people of Canada? Is this his idea of representation and doing what is in the best interest of all Canadians or is this just an example of partisan politics at its worst?
Another gentleman, one I respect an awful lot and one I think is a Reformer in Liberal clothing, is the current Minister of National Defence. I remember when he was minister of transport, the job he did there, the way he did it and how he took that department and downsized it. He did not fire 44,000 employees like the secretary of Treasury Board has. He had all those people relocated. He privatized some aspects of the service of that department that should be in the private sector and retained those aspects of the department that should be in the public sector. He then went to the area of unemployment insurance and was on his way of doing a good job there and then the rug got pulled from underneath him because they needed help in defence. Now he is there.
However, as much as I respect him I will criticize him. I criticize him for a lack of integrity and for changing his principles. Is it not important to stand on principles? He is one of the Atlantic MPs. When he was on this side of the House he said there was no way a government should ever impose a hidden tax. He said that the tax must be open and visible because that was the only way to hold the government accountable. Both the finance minister and the defence minister were right then. What has happened? Why have they changed their minds? It is not wrong. It is right. That is the right attitude and the right philosophy.
I sadly conclude that the only reason they have done this is strictly for politically motivated purposes. Where are the Liberals today? They are sheepishly talking about how they are going to meet the deadline of April 1. They are going to go ahead with this
bill because harmonization is important. They have backed off on the tax inclusive pricing because the Senate has forced them to do it.
Why are they not standing up and condemning the senators? Why are they not condemning all those people in front of the hearings who said they did not like this tax and the government knows better than the people do on what is good for them?
Why are they not praising today tax inclusive pricing? Where are all those advantages that they talked about before, how the harmonization would blend in nicely with the consumer and the retailer, and that the price the consumer sees on the item is the price they pay at the till, everybody will just spend more money, everybody will be happy, the whole economy will grow and everything will be wonderful?
Why are they not talking about that today? They are not hammering on all those advantages any more. Where did they go? This was so important. What about the consumers, Mr. Finance Minister? Mr. Finance Minister, you said that you will give the Canadian public what it wants, and what it wants is tax inclusive pricing and this government gives the people what they want. Where is he today? Where is he on this issue?
I am proud of the fact that Canadians and especially those Canadians in Atlantic Canada took the time to go to those hearings and made themselves heard. I am proud of what the senators did. I will give them a lot of credit too. They have some power.
We as members of the third party here have no power. It shows the dangers of a democratic dictatorship that does not listen. All the things that we pointed out have come to pass. They are true. The Senate has done its job. That is why I am always in favour of a Senate; the type of Senate is another story and another debate. At least it is a check and control. It is a chamber of sober second thought.
The government and the cabinet need a lot of second sober thoughts. They are ramming some of the worst legislation in the history of this country on Canadians. From gun control to endangered species to financial institutions, the government is wreaking havoc on the whole economy and the rights and freedoms of Canadians and corporations across the country.
This harmonized sales tax is another example of that. The government is setting bad precedents. We have a finance minister who has been criticized by the auditor general and who made this $961 million payment to the Atlantic provinces one year ago. He charged it off to the year ending 1996.
I will read from the public accounts how we are supposed to do our accounting and how we are fairly supposed to represent the finances of the nation. This finance minister who has been getting all the credit and all the praise from the left wing leaning Liberal press in this city has gone against generally accepted accounting principles. The auditor general says so, most CAs, most CGA, CMAs, RIAs and MPs would say so who have an accounting background.
In the public accounts of 1996 the auditor general said: "The inclusion of the transitional assistance of $961 million in the 1996 deficit and accumulated deficit represents a departure from both sound accounting practice and the government's own accounting rules".
Second, so that people who are listening understand what we are to do when we charge something into a current year's budget, we have to have an agreement in place on how the money is going to be spent and who the two parties are that are involved, not a letter of intent, which is what the finance minister argues on this or, as it says here, the financial obligations are reported as liabilities if the underlying event occurred prior to or at year end.
We are speaking of March 1996. This deal takes effect April 1, 1997. We still do not have a harmonized sales tax in place. Why did Atlantic Canada get $961 million, if not as an inducement to procure these signed agreements? Even today the agreement is not in place and the money has been put out.
We are talking about integrity. These are the finances of the nation and we have a finance minister who is so cocky, so overconfident that he feels he can do anything with any piece of legislation, that he can ram it down the throats of Canadians and nobody will question him on it.
Thank God there is a Senate, especially with this kind of House where we are fractured, where we cannot hold the government accountable because we do not have enough manpower to do it.
I think the Liberals are very lucky to have a free thinking, open minded Liberal premier in the province of New Brunswick. I predicted that those three premiers in the Atlantic provinces would lose their jobs if they went ahead with the harmonized sales tax, the tax inclusive pricing. At least somebody was listening.
Frank McKenna, in a newspaper article written by April Lindgren of the Ottawa Citizen , said he is unapologetic for doing what he did even though he is a Liberal premier: ``When you are a provincial government and the federal government is of the same persuasion, there is no law requiring that you park your brains and your opinions at the door''. That is what the backbenchers from Atlantic Canada have done on the issue. They parked their brains and their opinions at the door. They are like trained seals. They just follow the pack, do what the cabinet says must be done and what the finance minister says should be done because they are high in the polls. Everything here is related to polls. They are trying to get
themselves re-elected. Liberal members support what is in their own self-serving best interests and not the interests of Canadians.
I commend the premier of New Brunswick for having the courage to tell the truth. The truth is that the consumers will have to pay the tax.