House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.


PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, as you know I have been one of the people driving the issue of making the wheat board accountable. When we were interviewing witnesses before the standing committee on Bill C-4 they tried to rule me in conflict of interest because I was part of a group of farmers holding the wheat board accountable before the courts in Manitoba.

There was no court action at that time. I removed myself and asked them to get a ruling whether I would be in conflict because my lawyers had said that I was not in conflict. I was never given a ruling on that and I did not mind that too much. I will accept mistakes and things said in the heat of debate.

Shortly after I picked up the Western Producer and I was astounded that the member for Simcoe—Grey at that time indicated outside the House that “if he tries to get involved in a debate when this bill is brought back before the full House this week, I will demand that the Speaker remove him from that debate”.

I was elected to uphold the laws of the country. I had to take the action of a civil route in the courts to try to get the wheat board accountable. When as a member of Parliament I am not allowed or threatened not to be allowed to participate in the debate of something that is important to every resident of my constituency, there is something wrong.

When the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River raises this question of privilege I think he is dead right. You should be looking into this matter, Mr. Speaker. I would appreciate that.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to those parliamentarians who feel their job here has been jeopardized by the minister of agriculture presupposing that the legislation would pass.

There are 40 some amendments to Bill C-4, all of which have not had the opportunity of debate in the House of Commons at report stage. I represent an agricultural riding. There is significant resistance to the whole move to change the Canadian Wheat Board under Bill C-4. Many of the amendments proposed are a direct result of farmers in my riding asking that these changes not be made.

I submit that I have been unable to do my job as a result of the minister publicly stating that he wants the board of directors in place before the legislation has been debated properly on the floor of the House of Commons and passed.

Therefore it makes a mockery of our system. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that you should investigate this matter because I think there is still ample opportunity to defeat the legislation or have amendments made that would significantly change the legislation. What the minister is doing presupposes what the House will do.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

It is important that I know if members either support or do not support, but it is more important for me to have additional information if it is at all possible about the particular case. I would ask hon. members—I presume if you stand that you are in support—after we are past that to offer me some concrete evidence which will help in my decision.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, you asked for some concrete evidence. I will be very brief. The day after this meeting was held in Regina on January 21, I held a meeting in Yorkton with 300 farmers present.

Some of those farmers came up to me afterward and asked me this direct question: “In light of what the minister is doing, he has already assumed that the bill is passed. Why are we even discussing these amendments?”

I will give a little background information. The 300 farmers who assembled in Yorkton on January 22, the day after that, came there with the intent of discussing three major amendments that I had proposed. They asked me what the point was of even discussing them if the minister had already assumed that the legislation passed.

That shows the seriousness of this discussion. They see parliament as being a useless exercise because of what the minister has done. The amendments I put forward were viewed with disdain, with being a useless exercise because they said that he was already talking about putting in place the board of directors as if the bill were passed.

As a member of Parliament I am wasting my time. That is how serious the matter is. We really have been undermined by the actions of the minister because they see us as not having any effect in this place. I think it is very serious and I offer that concrete evidence to you, Mr. Speaker.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

I want to make a correction.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I will allow a correction.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my question of privilege I referred to the minister as the minister of agriculture. It is not the minister of agriculture but the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board to whom I refer. He was formerly the minister of agriculture.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Again I thank members for bringing up this question of privilege as fair minded people, all of you. We have heard from five interveners. I for one would like to get more information if we could.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board was named by all five interveners. I would like to hear from him, if it is at all possible, just what transpired on the other side. In fairness, I am sure the House would agree that the least we will do is hear from the minister.

He is the one who was directly named. I will withhold a decision on this matter until I get more information from the minister, at which time I will make my decision.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree you are limited in your ability to make a decision until the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board reports to you. Would the Speaker ask the minister to make that report in parliament so that we could hear it as well? It would be nice to hear his side of the story in a public forum.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

It would be my intention to ask the minister to speak here. This is our forum. I will ask the minister or his representative. I would hope we would have a response at the earliest possible time. I will make that request, yes.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Children's Special Allowances Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Employment Insurance Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act, the Tax Rebate Discounting Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Western Grain Transition Payments Act and certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

February 3rd, 1998 / 3:35 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-28 today. It is a rather lengthy bill as are a lot of finance bills. Its intent is to amend the Income Tax Act and other acts. It goes on for some 400 pages to explain why that will be done.

I am sure we will hear from the government side that it will encourage charitable donations, that it will help people put a little more money away or get some more money out of registered retirement, and that some tax shelter abuses might be shut down.

This reminds me a little bit of when British Columbia had a long serving premier by the name of W. A. C. Bennett. What was said of Mr. Bennett during his heyday was that he would fill your shoes full of rocks. Then every once in a while he would take one of the rocks out and expect you to say “Thank you for the relief. Thank you for taking away all the pain”. In many cases he had shoved the rocks in the shoes to begin with. I see exactly the same thing happening with the Income Tax Act.

We have a glossing over of the political and economic reality of the country. We are the most highly taxed group of people in the industrialized world. Tax freedom day comes later and later each year. Now we work a full six months of the year to pay our different taxes.

It reminds me again of another famous quote. I wish the Liberals would read it. It is from Winston Churchill who said that the idea a nation could tax itself into prosperity was one of the cruelest delusions which had ever befuddled the human mind. That is exactly what has happened with the bill.

The government has filled our boots full of rocks. It is going to take out a couple of little pebbles and say “Now don't you feel better for this?” I do not feel any better for this, not a bit better. The idea that all these taxes will make me a prosperous person and that the constituents I represent will suddenly be rolling in the dough is one of the cruelest delusions that has ever befuddled the human mind.

Let us just think of a few of these facts. The Liberal tax policies mean that a single mother with one child and an income of 15,000 lousy dollars will pay $1,364 in income tax. The bill reinforces that by stating it is a good idea.

This lady is trying to raise a child on $15,000 a year. Imagine trying to live on $15,000. I cannot even imagine it. Imagine a single mom being forced to live on this amount. She has pressures and stress, and the government comes along and says “You know you were going to buy some winter coats for your kids. I will take that $1,364 right off the top”. That is cruel.

What about those who are almost middle class, not quite but almost? What if they make $30,000 a year? The bill states that it is a good idea to take $11.2 billion from people who make $30,000 a year and less. Indications in Bill C-28 are that this is a good idea and people should be grateful.

As a matter of fact they will probably stand in their place over there and say that the bill allows people to give more to charity. People making $15,000 a year are charity cases themselves. They do not have any money to give to charity. Any money they might have had has been taken off the top by the finance minister who slurped the top off this bit of money the woman in my example has and said “If you had ever thought of giving to charity I am going to make sure you cannot. Thank you very much, that is mine”.

Churchill was right. It is a cruel delusion Liberals seem to hold to that high taxes will bring prosperity for all. I do not know why they do not just get right at it. Why do they not just make the tax 100%? We would all be so fabulously wealthy we would not know what to do with all the extra money. They could just take it all.

Everyone knows the old story. I am surprised it is not in here. The new income tax form would a very short form. On one line it would say: “How much money did you make?” On the second line: “Just send it all to me”. It would be signed by the Minister of Finance. It would be much simpler and maybe we would be all richer.

Imagine the gall over there with them saying that the Income Tax Act and the tax system in Canada are for the benefit of all Canadians. The Liberals have raised taxes 37 times since they took office. I would be happy to table the list, but what is the point? I do not imagine Liberals would read it. Every time we turn around in income taxes they have failed to index basic deductions. Imagine what that means.

It means that the average family in Canada has seen its income drop by $3,000 since the Liberals took office. Real spending money has dropped by $3,000. We now spend more to service the debt which the Liberals seem happy with than we spend on food, clothing and shelter.

Why do they not take it all? We can all go over to the finance minister's house and enjoy the wealth together, except those who are rich enough to divert the funds somewhere where they do not have to pay the taxes. The lady who is making $15,000 is not one of those people, but there are plenty over there. That is a shame.

What should be done? To begin with, there should not be 450 some pages of gobbledegook in Bill C-28 that we have to try to wade through to find some meat and potatoes for the average family. We should be saying to these people, the single mother trying to raise a child, a family trying to make $30,000, hardly wealthy, we can offer you some help and here is how we are going to do it.

If I could only get the government to listen I would read it something like this. Why not reduce the GST when it gets a chance to help the family that has to pay GST on every little thing it buys for its home? Why not increase the basic personal amount?

In question period today the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that in Canada we start paying taxes at $6,500 a year. Unbelievable. The government asks people who make $6,500 to support the national debt that it has run up. That is less than $600 a month. I do not say I am going to emulate the United States, but imagine if we could have $9,500 before the tax rate cut in. What would you do with the extra $3,000 that is untaxed? You might be able to buy shoes for your kids. That would be the basics. You might be able to start to invest. You might be able save for the future. You might do all kinds of good things.

What would happen if you raised the spousal amount equivalent to the basic personal amount? What about the family making $30,000 who says just let me take home a little more of my money and I will look after my kids. If you would just leave me some money, I will look after quite a bit. But if you are going to take it away you will have to replace it with massive national government programs, where they take all your money, you send it to Ottawa, they deduct 50% for handling and they send it back to you in services you never asked for. They deduct a chunk all along the way. Why not just leave the money with the people? What an advantage that would be.

What if you eliminated the surtax the Tories brought in? What if you said to somebody if you do manage to make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, although that is not exactly rolling in the Cayman Islands, we will not surtax you anymore? We will let you invest in businesses. We will let you invest in your pension plan. We will let you invest in your children's education and their future. We will let you build prosperity in your home town. Instead, if you happen to be a farmer, you happen to have a good year, you make $60,000, you pay a surtax because you are considered a bad asset for Canada and they take the money the money away. That is a shame.

What if you reduced capital gains taxes? Capital gains taxes kill initiative. What if they allowed students, people who we saw protesting in the streets the other day, to claim a tax deduction for interest payments on student loans? What if they reduced job killing payroll taxes like CPP and EI? What if they passed a taxpayer bill of rights so they could not hog the money to finance the future and borrow on our children's future?

If they did all of that they would have adopted the Reform Party's plan “Securing Your Future”. That is what they would have done. Instead of a hopeless 455 page document that says the future is ours because we are the government, it would have been the future is yours and we are going to help you secure it. What a difference if securing future were the aim of this document instead of lining the bank vaults in Ottawa.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-28. As we come back from our break newly minted, rested and enthusiastic, what red meat does the government throw in front of Parliament to really do something on behalf of the Canadian people?

It throws in front of us a 464 page bill that was introduced just before Parliament broke last time. To help us understand this bill there are 578 pages of explanation that say things like the individual is not entitled to deduct any amount under division c, computation of taxable income over the year except under section 111 of the act, lost carryovers. You get the picture, Madam Speaker.

Here we are with the country facing some pretty major problems: a falling dollar, unemployment, low incomes for Canadians, problems with education, declining health care services. What do we discuss here? Our first few days back with all the energy and enthusiasm that we brought from meeting with our constituents and talking to the people of Canada, we talk about changes to the Income Tax Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canada pension plan, Children's Special Allowances Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act and at least 12 other acts and sets of regulations.

I challenge the government to get real about what is important to Canadians. As many of my colleagues have said, it is not housekeeping that we should be dealing with, it is the real meat of Canadian life, and that is what this government is trying to avoid.

Canadians care deeply about taxes because that is what eats in to the resources they have available to build a life for themselves and their families, to meet their needs and those of their children and seniors in their families, and yet those resources are being depleted.

What this act really says to Canadians is that the government can decide how you should spend your money better than you can. It gives a little here, it takes a little here, it adjusts a little there, it nudges there, it puts up a carrot here, it puts up a stick over there and whacks us and says do this, do that. We will support this with your money. That is what this government has done for so many years. It knows better. It can tell the rest of us peasants who just earn the money how it should be spent.

I was just astounded with the government speakers, as this bill was introduced into second reading, just praising this bill, saying things like it is going to encourage charitable donations. Out of what? We have families in this country whose income has been steadily decreased because of Liberal taxes and bracket creep and hidden tax measures. What are they going to do to have charitable donations?

Yet here is the government saying it is going to encourage charitable donations. It is the same government that cut back on transfers to the provinces by 40% for social services to help the needy and vulnerable in our society. Now it says it will encourage charitable donations. Perhaps it does not know the meaning of the word hypocrisy but it sure does demonstrate it in its legislation.

Then the speakers opposite said we are going to increase the contribution limit for registered education savings plans. Aren't we wonderful? You can save more for your children's education. Feel good about this.

The same government has cut funding for post-secondary education by billions of dollars and now says but feel good, you can now save a little more for your children's education. They are going to have to because this government has cut funding for that important resource, the training and education of our children in the future workforce.

What are Canadians going to save with when family incomes are declining and being eroded not only by taxes but by increased service charges and every aspect of government is costing us more and more?

Then speakers opposite said we are going to get rid of tax shelter abuse. Goodness sake, it would be terrible if Canadians tried to shelter some of their income from the tax man or the finance minister, who of course knows nothing about sheltering income.

Again, here we have a government just intent on getting every single nickel out of Canadians possible, taxing everything that moves through the grass. Do members know why? So the finance minister can get up in three weeks and say aren't I great? We are now living within our means. We don't have to borrow money. I guess not, because he has gouged every nickel possible out of hardworking Canadians.

Their taxes have gone up billions and billions of dollars under this finance minister's administration, $24 billion over the last three years. That is why he does not have to borrow so much money. He has taken it out of the pockets of Canadians rather than getting his own house in order, cutting spending and having program after program designed to tweak this, give a little extra to this and encourage that and support this politically good cause that the Liberals think is so important.

That is exactly why he is able to have some bragging rights. It is on the backs of hardworking Canadians. We need to know that. We do not need to let him get away with it.

We talk about promoting film video production in Canada. We do not have health care. Our young people carry massive debt just from trying to get training so that they can have a decent living, if they can find a job in this country. Yet the government has nothing better to do than to just continue to tinker in industry when study after study has shown these tax measures have unintended consequences that very often have exactly the opposite effect and the government brags.

The last one is so amusing. We are going to make it easier to facilitate transfers from registered retirement income funds.

We just had an Industry Canada study that showed that Canadian saving rates have fallen from 12% to 2%. People are collapsing their funds because they simply do not have enough to live on by the time the finance minister's tax man gets off their doorstep.

We have retirement security in this country being cut time after time by this government, yet here we have members opposite saying they are going to do this little thing that will make it easier for them.

It is hypocritical. It is contemptible to treat Canadian people that way. That is just a sample of the kind of tinkering that this bill does instead of really giving some meat and some real substance and some real vision to the Canadian people.

I was struck in question period by the same kind of rhetoric and hypocrisy that we had before where a question was asked to the defence minister about the shabby treatment of our armed forces and the low pay, where people at the lowest levels of our armed forces actually are on welfare in many cases to support their families. They live in substandard housing and have second jobs delivering pizzas to meet the bills.

What did the minister do? He got up and said we really have to support our armed forces who stand on the front lines and protect us and who are there to help us in times of emergency. Rah, rah, flying the flag.

He knows the actions of his government lead to the poverty and to the strained circumstances in family after family in the armed forced. Yet he has the nerve to stand up and say boy, these guys deserve our support, and then not give it.

There is a saying that in America politicians can say whatever they want as long as they do the right thing. In Canada they can do whatever they want as long as they say the right thing. That is exactly how the Liberals operate.

They always say the right thing. Everyone says boy, these guys really have our interests at heart. They feel our pain. What do they do? They continue to inflict the pain on us while saying nice things.

It is time that we woke up and started doing what was right for Canadians instead of just saying nice things, giving reassuring words with no substance behind them. That is just another example of what we have to fight here.

If we really want to help people in our country, if we really want to give relief and a good living and bright futures to our citizens, then we have to recognize that we cannot spend their money better than they can.

We should take the minimum out of their pockets to give them good services where it is important for them to do so and let them decide how to spend the rest, what causes to support, how to help others and how to care for their families' futures.

These made in Ottawa government managed programs are destroying our future, our hope and our standard of living. I appeal to this government to start recognizing that.

The government is like a running cafeteria. It has different dishes laid out for people to choose from. Then it finally decides that the people who are eating at the cafeteria are malnourished. They are not getting good nourishment. What do they do? They decide well, instead of having so much spaghetti we will have more beans. Instead of having lasagna maybe we will have bacon and eggs. Instead of making a wholesale change in the way nourishment is provided they are just changing the dishes around a bit.

The Reform Party has a new and vibrant approach to giving real hope to Canadians by getting rid of the mortgage on their future and by letting them keep their own money to meet their own needs. It is time we moved in a new direction for the country and that is what we will be working toward.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, if I had closed my eyes for a moment I would have sworn that was an NDP member of Parliament talking about education, health care and workers. My God, something is happening to the Reform Party.

I rise in opposition to Bill C-28. I find it rather amusing when my Reform colleagues talk about people making $15,000 a year and how difficult that would be. Yes, I agree. It is very difficult for any worker who is looking after children and making $15,000 a year to get by.

I also remind the House and all those who are listening that under the Reform agenda every worker in the country would probably make $15,000 or $20,000 a year. With its anti-union and anti-worker bias everybody would be making that. The Reform Party loves this global competition we are in.

Ever since free trade, the NAFTA and now that the MAI, which I call NAFTA on steroids, have come into effect all that has happened is that Canadian working standards have dropped and dropped. They tell us that Mexican and third world standards are supposed to rise, which we know is simply false.

I would like to talk about the taxation problems of a couple in my riding, Mr. and Mrs. Fleming, who live in Grand Lake, Nova Scotia. She has a plastic hip, plastic ankles and plastic knuckles. She is severely arthritic and requires oxygen cylinders to survive on a daily basis. She and her husband wanted to look after themselves in their own home.

The government has suggested that because of her needs she should be in a rehabilitation centre. That would cost the average Nova Scotian or Canadian taxpayer anywhere from $150 to $250 a day. All they are asking for from the government and from Revenue Canada is to be able to write off the equipment she requires so they can stay at home and look after themselves. I find it disturbing that the government, through our correspondence with Revenue Canada, will not even answer our letters or respond in kind to that type of situation.

The government is saying that it will spend thousands and thousands of dollars to look after them but these people want to stay at home and look after themselves, which would only cost a couple of thousand dollars. I find it absurd that the government would try to pass the comprehensive bill before us without thinking about the effect it will have on people.

Not once have I heard the Reform Party today speak about the GST or the HST. It would be a real pleasure if a Reformer stood in the House, especially for Atlantic Canadians, to say “If the government really wanted to do something about tax relief it would reduce the GST on essential home heating oils, electricity, children's clothing and reading materials”. That would mean broad tax relief for every Canadian, especially those in Atlantic Canada, and not just for the very wealthy.

The Liberals talked about the RESP educational funds. I should remind them that people need a job that pays well before they can save any money to put away for their children's future. I should remind them of what happened today in Goose Bay, Labrador. The defence minister stood in the House today to talk about how great the military is. I agree with him that we have one of the finest military organizations in the world. Unfortunately a lot of the civilian people who work in the military are being asked to make major sacrifices in their pay and benefits. Some of them will go from $13 an hour to $6.50 an hour. They will certainly not have enough money left in their pockets to get RESPs to look after their children's future education.

I have a question for Liberals and the Reformers especially. They talked about more money for charities and bigger tax deductions. My question is quite simple. Who is responsible for the welfare of those less fortunate in society?

I am speaking of the disabled, the infirm, people with no jobs, students and so on. Should it be government that looks after the welfare of those people, or should it be the responsibility of charities? I will let the House ponder that question for a while.

I also have a letter that a constituent in Nova Scotia wrote which shows the complexity of the tax system. If it is this complex how can we even trust the government to come up with something that is new? It brings to my attention an article on page 2 of Revenue Canada's winter 1997 GST-HST News, No. 27, entitled “Tax Status on Salads'.

Each year the tangle of absurdity of Revenue Canada seems to get worse and worse, but this surely is a masterpiece even by its sorry standards. Let me offer a portion. Food containing ingredients, whether mixed or not, such as chopped, shredded, diced, sliced or pureed vegetables, meat, fish, eggs or other food when supplied with a dressing and/or seasonings, whether or not the dressing is mixed with other ingredients, is considered to be a salad for the purposes of determining its GST-HST status. A combination of one ingredient and a dressing of seasonings which is sold or represented as a salad is also considered to be a salad. All supplies of salads, except those that are canned or vacuum sealed, are taxable at 7%, 15% in the participating provinces. Generally if there is no dressing or seasoning applied to the ingredients and no dressing or seasoning is packaged separately with the ingredients, the package is not considered to be a salad and is zero rated.

How many hours were spent trying to figure that one out? If this were not happening in my own country I would be mildly entertained. Sadly it is sand in the gears of commerce and enterprise.

I could not agree more that the bill the government is presenting is so complicated that even highly trained tax experts are having difficulty trying to get through it all. I ask members of the Liberal Party to send the bill back, to rethink their options and to simplify it so that ordinary Canadians and even many politicians here today could understand the complexities of the bill.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:05 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Madam Speaker, yesterday morning, Bill C-28 was introduced in this House. This is a rather bulky document and it is clear from reading these 461 pages that much of it is meaningless.

I would like to come back to the financial administration of this country. Before the 1970s, at the end of every year, the Canadian finance minister would report either a surplus or a small deficit and, as a result, there was no Canadian debt.

Then, 1968 saw the election of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Thanks to his delusions of grandeur and his lack of talent for public administration, we started accumulating one deficit after the other. During the Trudeau years, from 1968 to 1984, not counting of course the nine-month Conservative interlude under Joe Clark, Trudeau and his cabinet, in which, we will recall, the current Prime Minister served as Minister of Finance for several years, managed to build a monstrous $250-billion accumulated debt.

In 1984, we changed our red car for a blue one. The ideas put forward then were those of the Conservatives, who reminded me at the time of calves stampeding out of the barn for the first time in the spring. Stir-crazy. You will no doubt recall that there was one spending scandal a month and, in nine years, the accumulated deficit grew from $250 billion to $500 billion.

In 1993, we traded cars again and went back to a red one. Of course, the deficits continued to rise, to the point where we now collectively owe some $570 billion, with a zero deficit being anticipated this year. We even expect a surplus, and the Liberals are beginning to wheel and deal on how surpluses should be shared out.

Let me remind you that, year in year out, we currently pay $44 billion—and this will please former Social Credit members—in interest alone. The Minister of Finance, who is very astute, says “We will avoid having to pay interest; we will reduce transfers to the provinces by the same amount”. The same minister managed, over a three-year period, to reduce by $42 billion the transfers to the provinces for hospitals, post-secondary education and social assistance, so that it is not uncommon to see a student saddled with a debt of $25,000 to $30,000 by the time he or she gets his or her B.A.. Your child, and mine, has incurred that kind of debt to get his or her B.A.. Again, the current Minister of Finance is largely responsible for this situation.

The minister has some nerve. He is said to be a multimillionaire and he owns Canada Steamship Lines. And he is very very familiar with Canada's financial rules and also the rules of Revenue Canada. Do you know what he does in order to avoid paying taxes, or in order to pay as little as possible, in the country whose fiances he directs? He registers his ships in tax havens, Barbados, Bermuda. That is our Minister of Finance. We are sunk.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

That sure looks bad.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

That sure look bad, as the hon. member for Longueuil so aptly puts it.

As the agriculture critic for my party, I would like to call to mind a problem we are all facing at the moment with the importing of butter oil, mainly from New Zealand and Australia, by the big and well-known multinational, Unilever.

In late 1993, when we negotiated the GATT, later to become the WTO, agreements, it was agreed that agriculture on which there were quotas in Canada would be protected: dairy, eggs and poultry production. In order to protect those quotas, we set a very high duty, which to all intents and purposes made it virtually impossible to import dairy products, butter, poultry products and eggs.

This 461 page tome we are presented with here is full of loopholes. When it has been weeded through, when experts like the Minister of Finance have weeded through it, it will be found to be full of loopholes. Some companies have discovered the trick of importing butter oil at nearly zero duty, a mere 7% or 8%, so the amount of butter oil has doubled year after year for the past five years here in Canada, and you and I are now being served up second class ice cream at the same price as before. Thus the dairy farmers of Canada have had a 3% drop in quotas, which represents close to $2,000 per dairy farm in Canada.

Since 47% of industrial milk produced in Canada is produced in Quebec, the dairy farmers of Quebec are being penalized nearly 50%.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food insisted on resolving the impasse. It involved dealing with the departments of finance, revenue, agriculture, foreign trade and, of course, the new food inspection agency because butter oil, which arrives by ship, must be checked to ensure it does not contain BST. It also must be checked to see that it is of good quality and edible.

So there is a loophole, an error. It can be imported under a different tariff schedule, a number that was changed so that 49% butter mixed with 51% sugar creates a mixture that, once in Canada, can be processed to make ice cream. Worse yet, the mixture can be put in a separator, the butter and sugar switched around and butter made. So what cannot be done legally can be done illegally.

Time is passing, and I wanted to speak to you of a loophole. One of my constituents called me last week to tell me that she and her husband had started a company to operate their farm at Saint-Ludger, near Beauce. They have farmed for 30 years.

The Conservatives and not the Liberals were originally responsible, but the Liberals have not corrected the injustice. I was informed that there was an accounting void between November 21, 1985 and January 1, 1988 for farmers setting up a company within that time period. Before and after this period, the value of the milk quota can be included in the company and when the company is sold, no tax is paid on the value of this quota.

My constituent in Saint-Ludger is therefore penalized, but she is not the only one. It is not encouraging, to be sure, but it is estimated that there are 300 producers in Quebec and over 1,200 altogether in Canada penalized by this administrative oversight.

I asked the Minister of Finance to rectify this situation, but it is taking a long time to get an answer. For the ships flying the flag of Barbados, there is no problem. These matters are quickly sorted out.

I would like to speak about employment insurance. The Minister of Finance will soon achieve budget surpluses, but unfortunately it will be at the expense of the most disadvantaged. As we know, the gap between the rich and the poor is not getting any smaller. On the contrary, it is growing much wider. The proof is that the government overtaxes workers on their EI premiums and has reduced the size of the cheque they receive to 55%, with the result that surpluses are accumulating that are expected to exceed $13 billion this year.

In closing, I must say that I am going to vote with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois against Bill C-28, which leaves much to be desired.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, it has been an interesting afternoon. One would wonder sometimes on which side of the fence one should really sit. When I hear some of the hon. colleagues getting up and accusing the Reform for all the problems that we have in this country, I wonder whether I ran for the wrong party. Then after I listen to that side, and those comments that well it is really the Conservatives that were ahead of the Liberals and they are to blame for all these bad policies.

One day somebody said to me “You know, governments have blamed everybody for the problems, even God”. Then the gentleman pointed out that it was all due to Christopher Columbus. He said that Christopher Columbus was the first Liberal to come to North America. I asked him how he knew that Christopher Columbus was the first Liberal and he said that when Christopher Columbus left Spain for the new world he did not know where he was going and when he arrived in North America he did not know where he was and he did it all on borrowed money. Does that not sound about right for our country?

Maybe if we keep on looking for excuses we will eventually find somebody who will take the blame. However, it is going to be a long time before that man arrives and does so.

I was astounded today to hear the government side say how good things are here in Canada. It is refunding all these tax credits. I was beginning to wonder where these credits came from. As a farmer, before I go to the hen house to gather eggs I have to put some work into getting the chickens to eat the grain and produce the eggs. There had to be a source where the eggs came from.

I am wondering where the Liberal government got all these funds for refunds, tax credits and benefits as it claims to be doing under Bill C-28. It seems to me that it had to come from some borrowed money that it had in the past. When I look at the ledger I think there is $600 billion of debt somewhere that future generations owe. It also seems to me that there is a Canada pension plan that has about a $560 billion unfunded liability. That makes a trillion dollars plus of money that has come into source somehow and has been distributed. We are now redistributing and redistributing and things just do not add up.

When I heard the prime minister in question period say that his government would pay back a billion dollars of debt or liability, I quickly figured that out and found that on $600 billion and $560 billion it would take about 1,100 years which will be the next millennium. There is not much chance for me or my children or my grandchildren to have any of those benefits.

What these people in government do not realize—and it does not matter whether it is Liberal, Conservative or NDP as we have had all three in provincial and federal governments—is that when cuts are made in one place, it affects everybody right down the line.

During the election in the fall of 1993 we heard that Reform was the party that would slash, burn and destroy everything while every day of that campaign we said that education and health care would not be cut. We now know that the Liberals had a different agenda. They were really the ones who cut, burned and slashed as far as education and health care are concerned. If I am right, about 40% of the funding has been cut back. Now they are slowly starting to give a little bit of that back in order to get the whole system back on track.

Farmers probably felt it more than anybody else. Not only did we pay income tax on the farm, we also had to pay property taxes. There were a lot of years where farmers had poor crops or prices were poor and there was no taxable income. However, because governments cut back on transfer payments for education and health, the municipal governments still had to raise those funds which came back on the property taxes. In order to make up for those cutbacks and taxes, I would have to borrow from the banks or the credit unions or privately the funds needed to pay my property taxes or I would not be able to stay in production.

This is something that our governments do not seem to realize. We have to create wealth before we can tax. We do not tax and then create wealth. It does not work. It does not work in the production of grain. It does not work in the production of livestock. It does not work in the production of machinery or manufacturing of any sort. We have to have inputs. We have to create wealth before we can tax that.

What we have been doing is we have been borrowing money to more or less give tax credits that should not have been given because there was no wealth to counter balance that.

How long will it take governments to realize that this is the way the system works. Whether we call it an NDP government, Liberal or Conservative, the mathematics are there and they function only in one direction. We can say one and one is three but it does not matter how often we say it, we will only have two.

That is exactly the way it works in farming. I could say to those chickens, “I pay 25% more tax and now you have to lay 25% more eggs”. It does not work that way. I have to either get more chickens or I have to somehow manage them better so they can produce more. That is what governments fail to realize. I do not know when they will finally learn and change the system.

In the 1988 election when the GST was brought in we heard that it was the vehicle that would finally get hold of the debt, that the GST would be a fair tax. They called it the goods and services tax so that if one had wealth to buy the goods and services one could help to pay down the debt. We have never seen a figure or an account where any of that debt has been paid back by the GST. We can say that was the Conservatives and we have it in black and white.

Then in the last election the Liberals all of sudden realized that it was a bad tax and it could buy votes if they did away with it. They came out strong and heavy saying “We will kill the GST. We will eliminate it”, or something else. I forget what it all was but we still have it. When I go home I have to fill out the GST forms for a three month period. They are always there waiting for me no matter whether I have anything to pay or not. But it is still in the system.

This is the sad part. Once we have a tax in the system, to get rid of that sucker is practically impossible no matter what government takes over. It will have to be a government that does not care about buying votes. That is the only way I can look at it. By buying votes they do not get rid of taxes. They make promises that do not have to be kept. That is the idea of politics.

I was interested in the comment made by my colleague from Calgary—Nose Hill about the difference between American politics and Canadian politics. It makes sense that is probably what is happening. When we look at the U.S. tax system it is about 30% less than ours. It is not perfect but at least it is less. Its production is more efficient. When we look at the value of the American dollar today and the value of our dollar, we almost need two of those little suckers that we call Canadian loonies compared to the American buck. Why is it?

In 1976 I took my family on a little trip across the midwest. I got $1.10 for that Canadian loonie. That is how we were running our country at that time. Our farmers and businessmen were producing well, but we have thrown so many taxes on these people that we have finally bled them to death and we are all suffering for it.

I hope that changes some day because, Madam Speaker, both you and I will be better off.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to address Bill C-28 which, as you know, seeks to amend numerous acts. Obviously, in order to speak on this complex issue, one has to be a tax expert or else have some common sense. Since I feel I do have some common sense, I will make my comments along those lines.

On Monday, journalist Claude Picher from the daily La Presse made a very sensible observation during the television program Salut Bonjour . He said “The Minister of Finance should use the expected surpluses to try to reduce the debt and individual income tax, and not pour money in new or existing programs”. This is a statement that makes a lot of sense and it is also sound advice to the Minister of Finance.

Like me, Mr. Picher could have pointed out that the GST was set up to take money from the taxpayers' pockets and use it to reduce the huge deficits of the central government. Since there is no longer a deficit, common sense should tell the government to reduce, if not abolish, the GST, and thus fulfil one of the promises made in the infamous red book of 1993.

Like me, he could also have talked about the transfers to the provinces. Everyone knows that the government, in an effort to reach a zero deficit and even generate surpluses, shamelessly cut billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces. These cuts hurt the provinces, which have had to deal with crises in the sectors of education, health and social programs.

So, common sense would dictate that this government restore transfer payments to their original level instead of talking about implementing new programs that would allow them once again to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

What is the logic in this government implementing new postsecondary education programs when, as we know, the cream of our young achievers university-trained at public expense are leaving for the United States or other countries because the Canadian tax system is inadequate? What would common sense dictate, given that this drain of scientists, computer specialists and other professionals leads to the drain of a large part of our capacity to innovate and, ultimately, our capacity to create jobs in the future?

This is a worrisome situation on which no one, not even the Minister of Revenue, the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister of Canada, can put an exact figure. In economic terms, the loss of the most dynamic, the most talented future members of our society is a disaster, an impoverishment of our society. Where is the sense in that?

This brain drain makes taxation reform all the more important. It is high time our governments seriously addressed an in-depth reform of personal and small business income tax.

According to Canada's taxation statistics, in the 1950s, individuals and corporations accounted for the same percentage of federal income tax revenues. In the decades since, fiscal policy has changed increasingly in favour of big business, so much so that in recent years individuals' contributions have increased eightfold. Where is the sense in that?

It is worthwhile pointing out that the corporate share of federal tax revenues dropped from about 43% in 1961 to a meagre 10% in 1995. The main explanation for this is the proliferation of tax expenditures available to business, the major corporations in particular. Where is the sense in that?

Is the Minister of Revenue in agreement with the Minister of Finance, his colleague, who claims to be able to solve the deficit without increasing corporate income tax? Why do the corporations manage to shelter income from tax by influencing taxation legislation? Why are they allowed this legal strategy, while the strategy of individuals who decide to do work under the table without paying tax is deemed illegal? This situation represents a serious threat to social equilibrium, Where is the sense in that?

It is easy to understand why the disadvantaged, the people with little or no income, try to get out of paying taxes by every imaginable means. The Bloc Quebecois has long been calling for a job-oriented Canadian corporate tax reform. The Bloc Quebecois has long been after the federal government about its taxation policy, and will continue to do so, particularly where family trusts, the GST, tax havens etc. are concerned, so that this taxation system becomes fair and equitable for all.

Let us speak of family trusts. This is a shortcoming in the federal legislation.

The auditor general's report and pressure from the Bloc Quebecois have only partly succeeded in eliciting a reaction from the Minister of Finance on the subject. It is still possible to leave the country without paying taxes owing to Revenue Canada, since an acceptable financial guarantee is sufficient. Furthermore, no reporting limit nor method of interest collection is provided for this guarantee.

Since the October 2 amendment to the Income Tax Act, the minister has been unable to report the tax plans this change has occasioned. Where is good old common sense?

The Liberal government should use the grab bag that is Bill C-28 to make the necessary changes to employment insurance contributions. It is vital the government reform the current employment insurance system in order to put an end to the inequities it gives rise to and to better protect workers, including seasonal workers.

The Bloc Quebecois also wants the Minister of Finance to substantially reduce the levels of contribution to the employment insurance plan, conditional on the job creation performance of business. The reduction in contributions could be 40 cents per $100 of insurable payroll.

The Minister of Finance must also create an employment insurance fund separate from the federal government's consolidated fund, as the Auditor General of Canada proposed, to prevent money belonging to workers and employers being used as a discretionary fund by the federal government. It would make sense for the government to move quickly to pass an anti-deficit law like the one passed by the Quebec National Assembly.

Instead of digging into the public's pockets, the government should cut all unnecessary spending and programs in its own departments. As an example, I could mention the many millions of dollars spent to change Canada Post's logo. That was the government's most recent stunt.

Other examples include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent rerouting international flights from Mirabel to Dorval, the purchase of helicopters deemed unacceptable by these same Liberals when the Conservatives were in office, the many millions spent by the Department of Canadian Heritage to brainwash the Canadian public, along with the millions of dollars spent on Option Canada, a bogus corporation, during the last referendum.

I will stop here, because the examples go on and on. I hope that the auditor general's recommendations will finally be implemented and a stop put to this scandalous spending. We are entitled to ask whether this government is acting wisely, whether the way it manages makes sense.

No, it does not make sense, because this government's policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. A tax system that drives a nation to poverty definitely makes no sense. For this reason, and in solidarity with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I will energetically oppose passage of this bill.

My common sense tells me that it is urgent that the people of Quebec stick together as they move towards sovereignty. That is what really makes sense.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Mississauga West, Youth Employment; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Airport Safety; the hon. member for Wetaskiwin, Aboriginal Affairs.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to talk about a subject that is rather dear to my heart. Probably one of the reasons I got involved in politics was a total disgust and disdain for governments over the last 30 or 40 years. They have increased taxes time and time again and have totally mismanaged the way they have run the affairs of this country.

To remind everyone, we stand up and give all kinds of reasons why we got in but most of us are here because we want this country to succeed. We want this country to stay as a number one country.

We have to work hard to do that. While we hear the Liberals stand up and talk about how great we are and we are number one, we are falling back. We do have to work hard. One of the reasons is our tax system.

Our kids are going to be faced with a tax system that is even worse than the one we are faced with if the government keeps going the way it is. I also mention, before I get into some details, the mismanagement.

In 1969 we had a zero debt. Then all of a sudden we decided that we better start spending. By 1972 we were at $18 billion in debt. From there we started that downhill slide. By 1984 we were up to about $180 billion in debt. At that time most of us said that is enough. A prime minister was elected who said we will not let that grow one more dollar, a $180 billion is a disgrace for a country like Canada to have as a debt. The rest is history.

In 1988 we found that the figure was about $300 billion, from a guy who said he would not let it grow another dollar. By 1993, $489 billion and of course today, close to $600. That is total mismanagement. That is government out of control. That is irresponsibility. That is saddling our children with something terrible over their head that they are going to pay for.

People out there say they cannot trust government. Government says it is going to get rid of the GST and it does not do it. Government says it is not going to let the debt grow and it doubles and it triples. In the meantime government brags about what a wonderful job it is doing. Government says that it was fixing the tax system. What is it doing? It is tinkering with the tax system. It changes a little bit here, it changes a little bit there, but all of it adds up to increased dollars off that pay cheque.

Whether we are talking about chickens or whether we are talking about businesses or whatever we are talking about, there is always a little more taken away. Whether it is one and a half cents on a litre of gas that affects all of us, or whether it is changing the RRSP from age 71 to age 69, every time we do something like that the government squeezes a bit more out of the people.

When the GST was there, the Liberals screamed and shouted they will get rid of it. It is terrible. In 1991, wow, this is the worst thing this government has ever done. The government did pay the price. We see what the Liberals have done in turn and we see what the people have done. The people have gone underground because of that. There is that much less tax being collected simply because that has happened.

Most recently we can talk about the CPP. That is one that is really dear to my heart. We had a promise from government that we would never let CPP premiums go beyond 5.5%. In 1966 when the plan was designed, as early as 1967 bureaucrats were saying it was not going to work and we will never be able to maintain this with the demographics of this country. We will never maintain it at 5.5% So why does the government fess up, fix the plan now? Of course we waited 30 more years. We now are tinkering again. We have now decided to raise the premiums 73%.

Now we are telling a young person who earns $38,000 as the maximum instead of contributing $945 a year, you get to contribute $1,635 a year and your employer matches it. What a great deal that is, $3,300 a year. If it is paid for 30, 35 or 40 years, $8,800 will be guaranteed at the end of that time. What a wonderful investment that is. How can we build confidence in government with that kind of an investment? If that same amount of money were invested at 6% for 30 years there would $275,000 in capital and principal alone. What kind of annuity could be bought with that?

Since I believe in young people and in giving a country worth having to my kids I conducted a lot of research. Last Christmas I visited two countries that also have pension plans. Last year I visited New Zealand which changed its pension plan and Australia which changed its pension plan. Then I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Chile and Argentina to see what kind of pension plans they had.

Fifteen years ago Chile realized it had a problem with its pension plan. It had an unfunded liability and it was going to reach a point where the plan would be bankrupt and would not be able to pay out people when they turned 65 years of age. Fifteen years ago the Chileans decided to fix that problem. They designed a private plan to replace the original plan.

Argentina followed the same principle four years ago. I thought it would be interesting to talk to businessmen and to government and opposition politicians. Then I tried a really interesting thing and went door to door in Santiago, Chile, with an interpreter. I said “I am a Canadian politician, a member of Parliament. I would like to know what you think of your pension plan because we have a pension plan that is in trouble”. What I heard was fantastic.

They said they had a pension plan. They get a stub every three months that listed the companies their pension was invested in. They bought their groceries from the company they had a stake in. There is pride in that system. Twenty-three per cent of the people had savings accounts big enough to handle their retirements, and that is only after 15 years. There is a psychological pride among the people that they are taking care of themselves which we do not have here.

We should ask our young people what they think of the CPP or what kind of confidence they have that they will get anything when they are 65 years of age. I know what the answer is. I know what my kids tell me. They will certainly take care of themselves and are not counting on anything from the government.

That is exactly what government is failing to do. When people are disgusted with government, when people do not trust government, it is because of that sort of mismanagement.

We have to simplify the tax system. We have to make it easier for people to handle. We have to flatten it out. We have to get government out of our lives. All these countries have downsized to the point where they can now manage themselves. If it is good enough for Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Britain, it has to be good enough for Canada. Certainly the way we are going will not be good enough.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, Shuswap is actually a great place to live other than that we are being taxed to death out there, and I can say that with confidence. That is one thing. No matter where we go across Canada one of the main problems we are faced with in any meeting is overtaxation to fill the appetite of this government and previous governments for taxation.

I get a kick out of the concern I hear from the Liberals and the Conservatives. All of a sudden they are concerned about the people and taxation. We should never forget that there have only basically been two parties in power, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Party. Who is responsible for the mess we are in today? It has to be the Liberals and the Conservatives. Nobody else has been in power.

That is reality, no matter what people hear from them when they knock on doors in upcoming elections. They get down on their knees, they raise their hands and they swear that they have learned their lessons. They have never learned their lessons. They have never in the history of Canadian politics learned their lessons.

They have learned how to expand on one and the other's failures. That is what they have learned. That is what we are paying for today. Unfortunately that is what our children will be paying for in the future. The question today is what are we willing to leave our children in future. With Bill C-28 we will not be leaving them very much. The Liberals could go a long way toward helping our people. They could give them a break so the people could stand on their own.

I had the opportunity in my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap to send out a householder. I asked the voters questions. I know that the Liberals, the Conservatives and the New Democrats laugh at us when we send out householders to get input from the public. I can hear them heckling me. That is the problem with the old line politicians. They are afraid to put questions to the people who pay their wages. That is a shame.

I would like to read a response which I received. It comes from a woman named Debby Cook. She has given me permission to read her letter today. Mrs. Cook wrote:

My husband and I supported you in the last election and so far we are not disappointed.

Your questionnaire doesn't really let us voters define exactly our opinions. Therefore I included this letter in hopes you will read it, and maybe get a better understanding of how the average income family feels.

To clarify average income, that's about $30,000 to $40,000 a year. It may sound like a lot, but look at the figures. Our income is already taxed to the max.

My husband has to work like a dog just to keep our heads above water, and that's without children or anything for entertainment.

Even if I was working, the burden would be more. Sure during the year it would work a little better, but without having me as a tax write-off—

It is a shame when we have to start looking at ourselves as tax write-offs. She continued:

—the beginning of the year would look pretty grim.

We would wind up paying every year, and still have to have my husband's cheques docked, with almost half of it going to a government that I'm not sure I believe in any more.

We may have a democracy, but because of high taxes, and lavish government spending, the government does indeed dictate the outcome of every year.

There was a time that a person could plan for vacations every year, which are so greatly needed, so you don't lose your mind.

My husband and I can't afford to go on vacations, so he works and works and works, just so the government can live lavishly, while we peons, at the bottom, go without any satisfaction or restitution.

So, you may ask if we think taxes should be increased for the pension?

No, absolutely not!

Instead, why not cut MPs large pensions and the gross amount of their salaries?

Our forefathers did not create a working government so they could line their pockets, but only so there was some form of representation in a united Canada.

These values have long since been forgotten, or upheld since Trudeau. He started it, and the rest followed. Now look what we've become. Split and divided in every direction.

In the next part I asked my constituents if they thought their family could afford to pay more taxes. One of the examples I gave was in order to cut emissions from burning fossil fuels. Mrs. Cook also had some ideas on that kind of tax. She wrote:

You ask if there should be a tax added or an increase on our gasoline to help cutting emissions. Okay, there is a problem here but not one that can be rectified by raising costs.

More and more families are having to buy second hand cars that are in the 1970s and 1980s. These cars are not as well protected against these problems.

If the taxes on gas are driven even higher there will be no help, only hindrance. We need taxes lowered so that we can afford to buy new vehicles. What doesn't the government get? Wake up and smell the coffee.

I then asked the voters in my riding how they thought the government should spend the so-called fiscal dividend, presuming there will be some money left from today's high taxes after the books are balanced. Mrs. Cook wrote on that topic as follows:

You ask if Ottawa should use fiscal dividends. Why not spread it out and treat people with some respect? Give back to the people that which they have given for so long. Then maybe the question on whether our government is out to screw us would be answered. Show us how hard work and patience can pay off. Give us a break.

Mrs. Cook ended her letter as follows:

Thank you for reading this letter. I am sure you will make good use of our taxpayers dollars.

It was signed:

Just one of your concerned citizens,

Debby Cook.

That is one of hundreds of letters that I received as a result of the questionnaire. This lady is not alone. Her concerns are the concerns of average people, hard working people and honest people across this land. They are fed up with governments telling them to tighten their belts while governments seem to increase three or four sizes every year.

When they work like they do they learn that they have very little say in a country that is supposed to be run democratically. We know that is no longer so. It may sound cynical to the people out there when I say this, but I say in all honesty that I have not seen the country run democratically for a long time.

Let us look at the Income Tax Act. When it was introduced it was a one time act. “Come to us. Believe in us”, said the government of the day. It was only to enact it once but it forget to say that it would be once a year. On and on it goes.

The government wonders why the people out there are so cynical about politicians today. That is one of the main reasons. It is time the government wakes up to that fact before it is too late.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate today on Bill C-28. Essentially Bill C-28 is an act implementing sections of the 1997-98 budget.

In fact the bill is before me here. I see it is 464 pages long. It is a very legal document. Section 1 of the act is probably the easiest part of the whole document. Section 1 might be cited as the Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997, but for the average laymen trying to work their way through the act it would only add to the difficulty that we already have with some 1,500 pages of Income Tax Act.

There was a time when average Canadians could do their own taxes. We have a farm in the Peace River country of Alberta and for a number of years we did our own income taxes. However over the years it became more and more difficult and we found that it was important to hire an accountant.

The accountants I know tell me that it is becoming more and more difficult even for them. They tell me that one accountant in a firm can phone for a ruling on a certain section of the act on a Monday and get one answer from the department of revenue. Another partner might phone on a Friday and get an entirely different interpretation. We have 1,563 pages of income tax which is added to every year by things like these amendments. In addition to that, we have thousands of pages of precedents and rulings.

I would like the prime minister, who says he can write zero with his famous pen, to make an act that is very easy to understand and easy for people to do their own tax. In fact we have talked about the idea of introducing a flat tax. It makes a lot of sense to me. Take the income of an average family, use whatever the tax rate is, 20%, and send that in. The difficulty I guess would be what to do with all the unemployed accountants. That is what I tell my accounting friends. However, even they are having difficulty these days fathoming these kinds of amendments that are coming forward every year.

Today in the House the prime minister said that he is going to start paying down the debt. At the rate that he has suggested it is going to be a very long process. I think he said a billion dollars a year. With a $583 billion debt it is going to be a very long process.

This is a government that has an insatiable appetite for taxpayers' money. Part of the reason why is that we have this massive federal debt that takes debt servicing in the form of interest. The interest on this debt last year was $46 billion. Almost one-third of the taxes that the average family sends to Ottawa every year goes to debt servicing retirement. It simply is not good enough.

I heard a number of people on the other side of the House today say that one of the things that is going to be changed as a result of Bill C-28 is that it is going to allow for transfers to the provinces through the CHST to be increased from $11.5 billion to $12.5 billion. I would ask the question: When will this Liberal government be ready to return the amount of money to the Canadian health and social transfers that it took away in the last Parliament? The funding was $18.5 billion a year. This is the government that reduced it to $11.5 billion and then tells us that by returning $1 billion it is doing a great service to the country.

My home province of Alberta has gone through sizeable downsizing in terms of government operations, including health care. We have all faced it. The local attitude seems to be to blame the provincial governments. What we have to remember is that a sizeable part of the reason that downsizing was necessary was the 35% in cuts in transfers from the federal government to the provinces. Now the government is telling us that it is going to return $1 billion a year. I do not think it is good enough. It has to share in the blame for some of the things that have happened in that area.

We have seen some demonstrations by students in the last few weeks in terms of tuition fees and the high cost of education in this country. That was part of the $7 billion in cuts by this government. I think the government has to do the honourable thing and return this funding to the levels prior to the cuts during the last Parliament.

Yes, we need to get government right in this country but it is all about priorities. We have to get our priorities right.

What do we have in this country? We have the highest rate of income tax among our industrial trading partners in the whole world. We have Canada pension plan rates rising by 73% over the next six years. We have unemployment figures that still hover in the 9% range when our major trading partner just south of the border, which we export some 80% of our product to, is almost half of that.

That has been consistent for 30 years. We could put it on a graph and chart it and that is the way it would go. Good times and bad times, there is a 4% to 5% spread between Canada and the United States in terms of unemployment rates. Why is that?

I suggest it has quite a bit to do with the poor performance of our currency. We are at a 35 year low for the Canadian dollar. We have a third world currency in this country. People looking to invest in Canada have to look at that. Canadians wanting to invest in countries like Chile, how much can they buy with this low Canadian dollar? It simply is not good enough.

What else is happening? Our debt in this country as I mentioned earlier is $583 billion. It is 73% of our total gross domestic product per year. It simply is not good enough.

The foreign affairs and international trade committee in the last Parliament did a study asking small and medium size businesses why they were not in the export market. What they told us was rather startling. There were a number of factors. Too high a cost of doing business in Canada. Too high a cost in payroll taxes and business taxes. They also told us that the amount of regulation was hurting them greatly.

One company from Ontario even suggested that after moving to Michigan it had a much better chance of doing business back in Canada across provincial borders than it did working in Ontario. We have more barriers to trade between our provinces in Canada than all of the European Union combined. That is absolutely absurd.

One of the things I noticed in this bill is that there are amendments made to the act which would allow some provision for a change of status for family farms in terms of income tax. I want to take the opportunity to mention the amount of duress that Canadian farmers are under these days. I know about it personally. My riding is largely agricultural and people are hurting greatly. What can we do about it? First we can get our cost of business down and cost of inputs down, but we can do more than that.

This government has an obligation to go to the next round of the World Trade Organization talks on agriculture and make the case that domestic subsidies in Europe are hurting us greatly. They are hurting us although we are all on a phase down through the last round of the GATT. The starting point for the phase down was 1986, the highest levels of subsidies in the European Union and the United States in the history of the world. When we get a 15% phase down from up here, we still have substantial subsidies that are hurting our Canadian farmers.

People are hurting. They are hurting greatly. This government has an obligation to go to those talks and make that case. Our Canadian farmers in grains, oilseeds and beef are subsidy and tariff free. We are leading the way. That is not the case among our major trading partners. I suspect that this government will not have the courage to do that.

On the other hand we have a supply managed farm industry that has tariffs of over 300% in many areas. Three hundred per cent on one side with a protectionist policy and an absolutely subsidy free, tariff free side on the grains, oilseeds and beef sector that I suggest is going to be traded off in the next trade rounds by our own government.

We might do some tinkering with this bill to make it a little easier to write off something on the farm. The big issue affecting Canadian farmers is low prices that can be greatly enhanced and improved if this government had the courage to go to those trade talks and be honest with the public and say “We have a sector that is subsidy free. We need some help in convincing other countries to do the same”.

In conclusion, there is a lot of tinkering going on with this bill. It is going to add a lot of pages to our Income Tax Act. the real issue is getting the government debt down, getting our businesses competitive and allowing Canadians to keep more money in their pockets.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, if I should look happy, I am happy for the simple reason I am very pleased to get into something which is bothering Canadians, it is bothering me, and it is the future of this country.

I would like to refer to hon. members of the Conservative Party. One of them when speaking the other day referred to the lack of funding for provincial health care and that Nova Scotia was being forced into closing three hospitals. Members should fasten their seatbelts to listen to this record.

The premier of Saskatchewan knew what was coming in this transfer. We were forced to close 52 hospitals in one day. That is what happened. In my province because of the slashing of the federal grants to health care, people like myself—and I figure I am lucky—have to go 100 miles before they can get to emergency care. This is the worst we have had since the province was settled in 1905. That is what has happened.

This government has been riding on the backs of the people all over North America. It should not take pride and it should not brag about not being in a deficit position. It has done it on the backs of ordinary people.

I will refer to what may be the worst tax grab for the people in western Canada. We go to the gas pumps all across Canada and we fill up our tanks. Let us say that we put in 50 litres of gas. Bang, the federal government has got $5. Just like that, it has $5. Page 100 of the October Reader's Digest lists how much the federal government has put back into the highways of Canada. On average it is a little more than 21 cents. That is why we have toll roads in Nova Scotia. That is why in Saskatchewan we do not have any roads left.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Tell that to Young.