Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the throne speech today and to be back with colleagues on this side of the House.
In response to the hon. member who just spoke, it is contrary to what most Canadians believe when she suggests that they should have their tax money forcibly taken from them and given to projects which are completely contrary to their values, the things they believe in.
Some people have very strong religious beliefs, for instance. It is completely wrong and I believe most Canadians think it is completely wrong when their tax dollars are forcibly taken to devote to things those people would consider to be blasphemous. That is exactly what the Liberal government does, and I cannot believe it sits there and defends it.
At the beginning of a year most people sit down to make some new year resolutions. One point that is always universal about people is that they are always trying to improve their own situation. They are trying to improve the situation of their families. When they have the resources to do that, that is exactly what they do.
As the government moves into not only a new year but a new decade, a new century, and a new millennium, I would think it would want to do that too. It should want to make a special effort to set about reforming how it does things. I would argue, and I think most Canadians would agree with me when I say it, there are many areas where the government is simply not doing a good job.
It is not doing a good job in providing national defence. It is not doing a good job in our justice system. There is lots of room for improvement in the delivery of health care and social services. It is not doing a good job in ensuring that government is accountable. I would have thought the throne speech would be full of fundamental reforms to address those kinds of issues. However it was not. It was a lot of tinkering, and that certainly characterizes this administration.
I want to talk specifically about an area I am responsible for critiquing as the official opposition finance critic, the pathetic attempt the government made to convince people it really cared about the staggering tax burden. There was barely mention in the throne speech of why we need dramatic tax relief in Canada today.
When we wipe away all the rhetoric in the 24 page throne speech, what are we left with? We are left with an announcement that the government will make an announcement about tax relief at some point in the future. We are also left with a whole slew of tax increases which are coming our way very soon.
On January 1 we will see a payroll tax hike because Canada pension plan taxes are going up once again. We will see personal income taxes going up because of bracket creep. Some 85,000 people will be dragged on the tax rolls for the first time and hundreds of thousands of others will be pushed up into new tax brackets. We will see small business face a tax increase because their small business exemption will be eroded by inflation. They will pay more in taxes. It will be the same for the small business capital gains exemption and for farmers and their capital gains exemption. That will mean a tax increase for all those people. That is the reality.
All this talk that we hear on the other side about how much the government cares about taxes really does not amount to a whole lot when we look at what it will actually do. It will raise taxes.
The government talks about its plan to cut taxes. We will hear about that in the next few days. It is to reduce taxes by $16.5 billion, but it does not say at the same time that it is raising taxes by over $18 billion. The net result is that Canadians who now face the highest taxes in Canadian history will face even higher taxes thanks to the finance minister and the Liberal government. That is wrong. It is wrong for a couple of reasons.
First and probably most important, it is wrong because it hurts people. If the government really were compassionate and wanted to be fair and provide people with options and opportunities, it would have devoted the first 12 pages of the throne speech to explaining how it would deliver tax relief to help hard-pressed Canadians. It is unbelievable that we stagger under this tremendous tax burden today where families who earn less than $20,000 a year are paying $6 billion a year in taxes.
My friend from Crowfoot told me not long ago about a woman and in fact I saw her income tax return. She made $11,000 and paid $600 in federal income tax. That is shameful and that party claims to be compassionate. We have raised many examples in this place of people who make extraordinarily low incomes and pay extraordinarily high taxes.
I could go through some examples but I want to talk for a moment about an example presented to me yesterday by my friend from North Vancouver. He gave me a letter from a woman whose husband makes $65,000 a year, which is a pretty good salary in most people's minds. However, they have the misfortune of living in socialist British Columbia and on top of the high tax burden the Liberal government imposes upon them, they have an effective tax rate of 52%. Even at that, they had to pay $800 extra in taxes over and above the 52% of their paycheque they have to give to government every year.
The result is the family has to take one car off the road. They cannot live in Vancouver with the high cost of living and pay all the taxes this government and the British Columbia government demand. Believe it or not, because of the jeopardy the man's job is in, they are talking about resorting to welfare. They simply cannot put aside enough money to help them get through what will be a layoff period for this man. It is very disturbing when a person makes $65,000 and he can barely make it because of the tax burden imposed by the government.
I happened to be looking through some documents which were confidential until we received them through access to information a little while ago. Even the minister's own briefing notes acknowledge that Canada has by far the highest tax burden in the entire G-7. Out of all of our trading partners, out of all of the most prosperous nations in the world, we have by far the highest personal income taxes.
I always find it amazing that in Canada today people pay more in taxes than they spend on food, shelter and clothing combined. When we add all of that up, it does not leave much left over. When all those taxes are paid and money is spent on the bare necessities of life, there is very little left over. That is why we are in a position in Canada today where we have seen disposable incomes mired at 1980 levels. For 20 years we have had our disposable incomes mired at that 1980 level.
What did the government do about it in the throne speech? It devoted one line to the issue. There was much airy talk in the throne speech about Internet programs and acting as a big travel agency for young people and sending them around. That is really nice but it is not a luxury we can afford today, not when Canadians are staggering under that level of taxation. It is ridiculous. If the government were really fair, it would acknowledge that it was Canadians who balanced that budget for it.
Does the House realize that the average family today is paying taxes 30% higher than it was six years ago? That is $4,300, a staggering number. It is not the finance minister nor the government that balanced the budget; it was balanced on the backs of taxpayers. Fairness decrees that they should now get some tax relief.
The Reform Party has been arguing since it came into being 12 years ago that we need to give Canadians a tax break. We want to see that happen.
I want to speak just a little bit about the situation on the farm today. I come from a farm riding. I want to talk about how taxes hurt farmers. Do hon. members realize that taxes are embedded in just about every input they can think of? Fuel taxes take up about 50% of the price of fuel. On fertilizer and chemicals and machinery, taxes take up 15%, 20% to 30% of the price of those things. If we could lower taxes we could help people in a direct way on the farm, but we do not see that coming from this government.
In conclusion, I simply want to say that the fairest way to treat Canadians as we go into the next millennium is to lower their tax burden. They will take those resources and use them to help their families and to help children, which is something that the government claims it is concerned about. Canadians will use those resources to help their friends and their neighbours and to strengthen their own situation. Ultimately, I think most Canadians would agree that a dollar left in the hands of the taxpayer will be a lot better utilized than a dollar left in the hands of a politician or a bureaucrat.