Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to Bill C-70, the Senate amendment and the government's response to this Senate amendment, on which we are being asked to vote.
At this stage of the game regarding Bill C-70, the GST bill, it may be useful to review a bit of the history of the bill, so that our listeners know exactly where things stand.
First of all, one must realize that Bill C-70, together with the Senate amendment and the positive response from the government, is the result of an election promise. That is how the GST bill got its start.
In the March 11, 1996 edition of the Globe and Mail , the Deputy Prime Minister was quoted as saying:
"I have already said personally and very directly that if the GST is not abolished I will resign".
We will recall that the Deputy Prime Minister made that commitment precisely because a promise had been made to kill the GST. The cost of this empty promise, at least inasmuch as it relates to the Deputy Prime Minister's decision: $500,000. That is how much the byelection in the riding of Hamilton East cost. Strangely enough, although the Deputy Prime Minister had made a promise to all Canadians and Quebecers, she let the people of Hamilton East settle the issue on behalf of all Canadians.
During the 1993 election campaign, the current Prime Minister said, and I quote: "We will scrap the GST". To scrap means to kill, to eliminate, not replace the tax with more of the same, just by changing the name of the tax, to make it look like the election promise was kept.
On May 2, 1994, the Prime Minister made the following statement about the GST: "We hate it and we will kill it". On the basis of this election promise, as we know, the Deputy Prime Minister was later forced to resign and run in a byelection.
The Minister of Finance has said openly both in this House and outside: "We should never have made such a promise. It was a mistake".
As for the Prime Minister, he maintains he never promised any such thing. We have the videos, and the press clippings, in French and in English, to prove he did, but he still maintains he never said it. We now know what people think of this unfulfilled promise about the GST. In fact, there are many unfulfilled commitments made by the Liberals, including: tearing up the free trade agreement that was signed; recognizing Quebec as a distinct society and giving it a veto, something that was never done, as Quebecers know; deprivatizing Pearson airport, and we are all aware that this issue has become a real mess; creating jobs, but the number of unemployed is just as high as it was when the Liberals took office, while there are an additional 500,000 children living in poverty.
These were promises made during the election campaign. I remember taking part in a debate, in my riding of Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies, with my opponents of the time. People asked each and everyone of us what we would do with the GST.
I remember that the Liberal candidate of the time, Normand Biron, said the GST would be abolished, which was his party's official position.
I have no grudge against Mr. Biron, who is an excellent person. He is also a good, intelligent and strong candidate, who is familiar with the issues and who is very involved in the local community. Strangely enough though, the Liberals are trying to get rid of him. They have chosen someone from Quebec City to run againstMr. Biron for the Liberal nomination. That person will have to resign in Quebec City to run against Mr. Biron. I find it sad that the higher ups in the Liberal Party are trying to get rid of one of their best people.
What did the Liberals have to say about the GST when the Conservatives were trying to put it in place, and when they formed the opposition? Here are some excerpts from the November 1989 Liberal minority report on the GST. These comments were made when the Liberals formed the opposition. On page 283, and again these remarks are from Liberal members, we find the following: "The Liberal members of the finance committee maintain that the goods and services tax proposed by the Tory government is bad and that no 'repair job' of any kind will make it fair for taxpayers".
What are the Liberals doing with Bill C-70, if not a repair job? The GST remains the same and its rate remains the same. In fact, it is the provincial tax that is being harmonized. The Liberals are only doing a repair job on the Conservatives' GST and, if we are to believe their own words, given that only the name of that tax was changed, this new HST is as bad and unfair for taxpayers as the old GST.
Here is another excerpt from the Liberal minority report of the time. This one is from page 300, and I quote: "Sales tax reform cannot be undertaken independent from income tax reform, corpo-
rate tax reform, social welfare reform or independently of the other levels of government. Canada is in need of an overall tax reform that encompasses all forms of taxation and all levels of government".
The fact is that no tax reform took place. The Bloc Quebecois is the only party that tabled a comprehensive study on tax reform, for both corporations and individuals, which is a first in Canadian history. The fact is that on certain occasions governments have proposed tax reforms, but it has never happened, in the whole history of Canada, that an official opposition party has proposed these reforms to the government, after studying them with the resources available to the opposition for research, resources that are meagre compared to the absolutely enormous resources available to governments.
After these broken election promises, Bill C-70 was introduced in the House, went to second reading, to committee, and then to third reading, as a cover-up for the unkept promises. We know that in many other cases, cover-ups have been the standard procedure.
There is the tainted blood inquiry, the Krever inquiry. There is the Airbus affair, where top-ranking government officials sent letters incriminating Mr. Mulroney, treating him like a criminal, to Europe, when it is common knowledge that Canada has a very strict law known as the presumption of innocence. This law says that people are officially innocent-in the best sense of the word of course-until proven guilty.
But these laws were ignored. In official letters from the government, outside Canada, Mr. Mulroney was called a criminal. There was the Somalia inquiry, which they are now gagging, while the judge in charge of the inquiry says himself that they will never get to the bottom of things if they are prevented from investigating further.
The minister tells us that this inquiry has already been granted two extensions and that they want to wrap things up. They were nice, they allowed more time. But let it not be forgotten that the reason a little more time was needed for this inquiry, or for those conducting it, was precisely because for months and months and months the army concealed documents that were being looked for everywhere. If extra time was needed at one point, it was not because the government was being nice, but because the documents were not available because the army had hidden them.
Bill C-70 contains the amendments allowing harmonization of the GST with three maritime provinces, and of course this is a cover-up to help the pill go down more easily. They are sending a billion dollars to the maritimes.
What is the government's motivation in doing so? We know very well. The Liberal government is, of course, embarrassed that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Canadian Heritage broke their promise to scrap the GST, the tax they claim to hate.
So, in order to have more than just excuses when questioned on this broken promise when the election comes, the Liberals want at all costs to reach an agreement with the maritimes, in order to give the impression that they have tried to do something about keeping that promise. Even if this bad promise will cost Quebecers and Canadians close to $1 billion, what counts for the Liberals is to get the fat out of the fire, and to do so as promptly as possible.
This new harmonized sales tax, the HST, will be included in the price, or at least that is what the government was proposing before the Senate returned the bill with an amendment that states otherwise.
To return to the 1989 Liberal minority report, what did the Liberals have to say about this suggestion to include the GST in the price? On page 298 they state as follows: "If the GST is camouflaged in the price, it will be far easier for the government to raise it later on". They put a serious damper on the idea of including the tax in the price. Until just recently, they wanted to do exactly the opposite of what they claimed in 1989 was not a good idea.
What is more, some years ago the Minister of Finance was saying the exact opposite of what he has done in his bill. The new GST is hypocritical, because it is camouflaged in the price of goods and services. On this subject, the 1994 Liberal majority report stated, and I quote: "It would simply be improper to "hide" from Canadians the amount of tax they pay to their governments, and hiding the tax interferes with the ability of taxpayers to make government accountable for the taxes it levies and, to a lesser degree, for how it spends the revenues". That is what the latest Liberal report said, yet they are about to do just the opposite.
In 1994, the Chamber of Commerce of Canada surveyed its members, 70 per cent of whom were opposed to the idea of hiding the tax in the sales price. This survey is still valid today. In February 1996, the Chamber of Commerce conducted the same survey again, just to realize that 76 per cent of its members now held that opinion.
Through all the stages-second reading, committee study, third reading-the Bloc Quebecois expressed a number of concerns about this bill. We suggested the government should meet with the people of the maritimes before imposing a harmonization they clearly did not want. In spite of the work done in committee, and repeated requests from the Bloc Quebecois, all our arguments fell on deaf ears.
The Bloc also recommended that the HST not be included in the sales price. This is another point made by the Bloc that the government ignored until the Senate came up with this proposal to
delay tax included pricing until 51 per cent of Canada's population agrees to include the GST in pricing.
The changes proposed by the Senate are identical to those previously proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and rejected by the government. How will the government respond to the Senate? This is what the motion before us today is all about. It reads as follows:
That this House, while disapproving of any infraction of its privileges or rights by the other House, in this case waives its claim to insist upon such rights and privileges, but the waiver of said rights and privileges is not to be drawn into a precedent-
They disapprove, but agree just the same.
So, the government made sure to tell the senators: "We accept your amendment, even though we rejected the same amendment when it was proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. We accept it, provided you will not see this as a precedent". But, as was pointed out by my colleagues, it is very disturbing to see the government accept a legislative amendment from a House whose members were not elected, after rejecting the same amendment when it was proposed by elected members of this House.
Unfortunately, the senators did not do as we did in this matter. We in the Bloc Quebecois also demanded that the government pay-and yesterday again we asked questions on this issue to the Minister of Finance and to the Prime Minister-$2 billion in compensation to Quebec for having harmonized its own tax with the GST, long before any other province. In so doing, Quebec showed that it was perfectly able to get along with the federal government, in fact more so than the other provinces. Yet, the maritimes received $1 billion, while Quebec got nothing at all. We are owed $2 billion, and the hon. member for Chambly clearly explained why Quebec is justified in making that claim.
In the end, what was the cost, to Quebecers, of this whole operation to cover up unfulfilled promises? Again, let us look only at the costs which can actually be estimated. First, the re-election of the Deputy Prime Minister cost $500,000. As you know, Madam Speaker, 25 per cent of Canada's revenues come from Quebec, which means that 25 per cent of federal spending in Canada is paid by Quebecers. Therefore, the re-election of the Deputy Prime Minister, who was forced to resign as a result of an unfulfilled promise, cost Quebecers $125,000.
Let me explain, for those who are listening to us. We understand what $25 represents. Billions of dollars is a lot of money: one billion dollars is equal to 1,000 million dollars. So, 2,000 million dollars is owed to Quebec for having harmonized its tax with the GST, but it will not get one penny. So, $125,000 to elect the Deputy Prime Minister, 2,000 million dollars that should come our way for the GST, plus the $1 billion they are giving to the maritimes. Once again, I repeat that 25 per cent of everything Canada pays out comes from Quebec; of the $1 billion going to the maritimes, $250 million comes from Quebec.
This is common knowledge. It has come up in oral question period. It is still getting a lot of coverage in the newspapers. What is Mr. McKenna doing in Quebec? He is wooing away our own businesses with money we provided that was transferred to New Brunswick.
So, the total cost of this operation, of this broken promise to scrap the GST, leaving us with a botched Bill C-70, is $125,000 to elect the Deputy Prime Minister; 2,000 million dollars due Quebec that it will probably not receive; and $250 million of Quebecers' money going to the maritimes. All so that the maritimes can conduct their corporate raiding in Quebec.
In the case of all bills tabled in the House, the Bloc Quebecois has done the work it was elected to do, which was to defend Quebec's interests ahead of all else.
It is extremely tiring in the long run to defend oneself daily, to go after dribs and drabs of rights and powers, or to try to hang on to dribs and drabs of rights and powers, when the only way out, for Quebecers, is to have full rights and powers. For this to be possible, we must become a country.
Each of the bills introduced here in the House-