Mr. Speaker, I think you look very good in the chair. Perhaps you aspire to making that a permanent position down the road. Learn your French and you will be okay.
I would like to address Bill C-47, an act which has to do with taxation. If members ever listen to any of my speeches they would know that taxes and I do not mix. I recognize and acknowledge that for our different levels of government to do their work a certain amount of taxation is required.
However, let us stop to think about how heavily we are taxed, whether we purchase gasoline, wine and spirits, cigarettes or food in the form of restaurant meals, vehicles, furniture, clothing or even when we give money away.
As a leader in my community, I get, as I am sure all members of parliament do, a fair number of solicitations to contribute to fundraisers. I was solicited not long ago by a group trying to get hockey tickets for a number of young people who did not have both parents. It asked me to contribute to some hockey tickets so that these young people could enjoy the Edmonton Oilers beating someone else hockey game.
I told the group I would contribute and I pledged $50 which I think provided two tickets for these young people. Members can imagine my surprise when I received a statement from the group showing the $50 I had pledged but also showing a charge of $3.50 for GST. I was being billed a tax on my charitable donation.
The federal government, even when its citizens are giving their money away to help others, wants a cut of it. It seems to have an insatiable appetite to take away the earnings of Canadians.
Over and over again we see taxes increase. Once in a while we get a little announcement of a temporary decrease. Even now we hear much crowing from the Liberal side about the reduction in taxes. However when I spoke to people who had received their cheques in January and February, they said that their take home pay did not seem to be that much different. They wanted to know what happened to all the tax cuts they were supposed to get?
We also must remember that our taxes, when it comes to the kind of taxes we are talking about in Bill C-47, the excise taxes and the GST, those taxes are all being paid with money that has already been taxed.
I was thinking about something the other day. Given that governments need some money to run their operations, where can they get the money from? First, they can do something to earn it and, in some cases, they do that.
I worked in the mathematics department at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The institute had three major divisions: the technology division where I worked as a mathematics instructor, the business division and the so-called industrial division. The industrial division, among other things, trained mechanics, carpenters and many others in the hand skill trades which are so necessary in our society.
One of the things the institute did in order for their students to have hands on experience was invite citizens to bring in their vehicles. They would only be charged for the parts because the labour was provided by the students under the supervision of their instructors. I used to bring my own vehicles in there from time to time, although in those years I did most of the mechanical work on my vehicles myself.
I remember going to the institute's barber school which trained people to be hair dressers and barbers. One could go there and get a haircut for 50¢. It was a nominal charge but at least they got some revenue and the students learned how to cut hair.
Governments could raise revenues by doing things that would actually bring in money. Occasionally governments will build roads and then charge tolls on them. In a sense that is also a way of bringing in revenue. There are many other ways but I will not give an exhaustive list of how it can actually earn money directly.
The other way governments could earn money would be through taxation, that is, by separating the citizens from part of their earnings. As I see it there are basically three main classifications. They can tax people as a proportion of what they own. The municipalities do that with property tax. If one owns a house worth $100,000 the tax assessment every year would be $2,000 to $3,000.
I have not done my calculations recently but, having lived in the same house for over 25 years, I think I have paid more in property taxes than I paid for the house. In other words, the money I paid the government in property tax is greater than the money I paid to the guys who built the house. It is absolutely crazy.
Meanwhile I paid all those taxes with money on which I had already paid income tax. Most of that money was at the marginal rate of around 50%. I earned $6,000 of which $3,000 went to the province and feds and $3,000 went to the municipal government. That means that every year when I write my local municipality a cheque for my property taxes, if I write the cheque for $3,000, there goes $6,000 of my earnings. It was $6,000 of my earnings in taxes and yet all it shows is that I paid $3,000 in municipal taxes.
All hon. members here will be very pleased to know that I have introduced a private member's bill that would at least take the first step toward providing an exemption from taxable income for money that people earn to pay their property taxes. My principle is that Canadians should not have to pay taxes on money they earn for the sole purpose of paying taxes.
I am very unlucky because my private member's bill has never been drawn. My bill has been languishing in the bottom of the barrel. I would just love to have it debated and made votable. I would love to hear the members on the other side say that was a huge injustice.
If I included the amount of money I paid in property taxes with the amount of income tax I paid in order to make the money to pay those property taxes, I would have paid twice as much in taxes as I paid for the house. Of course we still have the house but it is very decrepit because I cannot afford to do upkeep due to all the taxes I have paid.
I am talking about Bill C-47, a bill that would change some tax rules. What the parliamentary secretary was very careful to keep a secret was that it would also increase taxes. I listened carefully to his entire speech and I do not remember hearing him say that as a result of these changes we will be able to suck out of Canadian taxpayers another quarter of a billion dollars, because that is what it is.
Our estimate is that this measure will result in increased tax revenues to the federal government of around $250 million. That is $250 million that will not be available to homeowners. It will not be available to moms and dads who are trying to provide for their families. It will not be available to good Canadian citizens who would love to give to charity but cannot because after they their tax bills most families hardly have enough money left to allow them to be truly charitable.
As an aside, the Liberals have a flawed reasoning when it comes to their taxation system. They claim they are justified in taxing people and then giving back to others who need it, people who make films, people who build airplanes, people who hire factory workers in Mexico to build buses that go to Kentucky and things like that. Liberals think they are justified in taking money away from all of us because we are inherently a generous people. There is a flaw in that argument.
I grew up in a family where that was practised. I have tried to be generous myself and I have tried to teach my children to be generous and charitable. If the Liberals really believed it and if the socialists really believed it, then they would not need to tax the dickens out of us because as generous people we would in fact help those people in need. We always did that.
I grew up in Saskatchewan in the rough years. Neighbours were always helping one another. It did not matter if it meant half a day of one's time. Sometimes someone would give a neighbour a ride to visit somebody who was ill in the hospital because that neighbour's vehicle did not work. My dad would pick people up and take them to the hospital. Things like that were always done.
Lo and behold, along come the socialists, the Liberals, who do not really think Canadians are generous. They take our money, whether we want to give it or not, and redistribute it. Meanwhile, they manage it in such a way so as to provide enough good slush funds in different areas to get re-elected in those ridings. I find that very offensive and so do most Canadians when they stop to think about it.
One form of taxation is property taxes. This involves taking every year from citizens a portion of what they own. In the business field there is the capital tax. That tax affects businesses, corporations and banks. Every year they have to pay into the public coffers a proportion of their capital inventory. No wonder businesses want to move to Mexico to build buses. No wonder they want to move to Ireland to invest there.
In Canada, businesses pay like crazy through the nose. Even when they buy equipment and once it is owned, they still have to pay the federal government an annual capital tax on it. That tax is in addition to any machinery tax that the provincial government may want. It is in addition to any tax that a municipality may level based on property value.
We have all these taxes that very frankly are a tremendous drain on our economy. They are a tremendous disincentive both to individuals and to businesses. We should be looking at ways to reduce that tax burden. Would it not be wonderful if Canadians could keep 90% of their earnings. If they earned $1 they would get to keep 90¢ of it. That would be great.
Before I got into politics, I was an ordinary person on a professional income. With my two degrees, I worked as an instructor. My wife and I made the decision that she would be a full time mom when our kids were small. We were struggling continuously to balance the budget.
I found it very distressing that I could not make ends meet. One day I figured out why. I earned $10,000 approximately five or six years into my career. The federal and provincial governments took about half of it, which left me with $5,000. We were told that we should put approximately 10% of our earnings away for future retirement.
My wife was not gainfully employed. She did not get paid for her labour although she worked in many instances as hard or harder than I did. She was not able to contribute to any pension plans or anything like that so I put some money away for our retirement. If we take the 10% away it reduces the $5,000 to $4,000.
I have always believed in charitable organizations and charitable contributions. For many years I used the rule of thumb of donating at least 10%. I would do that as an obligation.
It struck me one day that the reason we were having trouble making ends meet was that we were trying to live on 30% of my income. Some 50% was taken by different levels of government and the remaining part was taken through choice. We need to ease the tax burden on Canadians.
I have made allusion to other ways in which governments separate taxpayers from their money. Either they are taxed on a proportion of what they own, taxed on their income, or taxed on what they spend. Incredibly the federal, provincial and municipal governments are in collusion to make sure that all of us are burdened, stooped under a load of excessive taxes. We are taxed at all three locations. They tax us when we earn our money. They make us pay taxes on our properties. Business owners pay capital taxes. Then when we spend money to buy our kids some new clothes, we pay the GST and in most cases a provincial sales tax.
No wonder our families have problems. I read in a book that the greatest stress on marriage is inevitably financial. That is most often what leads to conflict and stress among married couples. With our taxation level and regime it is amazing that any of our families are surviving.
I was elected in 1993. Among other things my mandate was to work for lower taxes, and it still is. I believe very strongly that as individual members of parliament we need to do everything we can to reduce the tax load to leave more of the earnings in the pockets of the people who earned it so they can provide for themselves and their families. That is very important.
I want to say something specifically about the measures before us. I appreciated the speech given by the parliamentary secretary. He did a reasonably good job of going through the details of the bill and outlining its various measures. I will not bother repeating the details but I would like to bring a few issues to our attention.
It is interesting that work is being done to streamline the production of wines and spirits, the work of the vintners and distillers who produce alcoholic beverages. They want to make it more efficient. I have to applaud that. We know that our standard of living is inextricably linked to productivity in our country. Our productivity is greatly held down by all the administrative and regulatory regimes and taxes of the governments. I used the word in plural there because it is true at all three levels.
It is an admirable goal to streamline all these measures and bring them together. Presently there is an Excise Act and the Excise Tax Act. This is the first step, as I understand it, to bring those measures into one act which will be called the Excise Act, 2001. It happens to be 2002 but so be it. That will be its label.
I agree with some of the regulatory measures that are being taken. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the need for distillers to have at their expense government inspectors on site all the time. That is a regulatory expense which possibly should be changed to make us all more efficient.
As for colouring pipes certain colours I think they do this in most chemical operations. In a way producing alcoholic beverages is a chemical operation. I think it is a biochemical operation. We should let them do it if they want to do it, but we should not require by government that their pipes have to be a certain colour. That needs to be fixed. It needs to be modernized by all means.
When it comes to these taxes on alcoholic beverages, wines and tobacco I follow my father's footsteps in one regard. When a tax is levied we have a choice. We can choose not to pay it.
My father and mother taught us that drinking alcoholic beverages was not necessary and had inherent dangers if taken to excess. Neither of my parents ever drank or smoked and for some reason I picked that up as being a pretty smart thing to do.
I sometimes look back now still amazed at how insightful I was as a teenager when many of my friends were succumbing to group pressure. Some of them have since died because of either their addiction to alcohol, in some cases due to accidents caused by alcohol, or due to cancer caused by smoking cigarettes.
I have other problems. However my parents said this was a tax they would not have to pay so they did not bother buying that stuff. They not only saved the expense of the original purchase but also the taxes on it.
My dad did the same when the Mulroney government brought in the much hated GST. It is remarkable that sales tax, the GST, still resonates with people. A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad in the newspaper indicating no GST. The ad could just as easily have said 7% off everything, but they get way more attention because people say they hate the GST and will go to that store on the weekend to buy something if they do not have to pay the GST. I could use a word that would be unparliamentary which I normally do not use anyway, but other people sometimes use it when they talk about the GST.
When the GST came into effect my dad who used to trade in his car every three or four years said that was one tax he would not have to pay. He kept his car. I wonder how much that was replicated across the country when people made a decision not to make a purchase because the tax was a disincentive. We need to recognize that those taxes are a great disincentive.
Throughout our lives my family and I have not really become directly involved in the taxes we are talking about today because we buy neither alcoholic beverages nor cigarettes. However it does apply to many Canadians.
We should be aware of the fact that in this case the government will be increasing the taxes on cigarettes. As I mentioned earlier, the tax measures in the bill are to provide the government with an additional $240 million to $250 million.
Cigarette taxes in Quebec are to go up by $2 per carton, $1.60 in Ontario and $1.50 in the rest of the rest of the country. One may say that it does not seem to be fair and that the government is picking on Quebec. Why is it increasing the taxes in Quebec so much more? It is simply bringing Quebec into line because members will recall that back in 1994 or 1995 there was a big push to try to reduce smuggling. The government of the day decided it would reduce the smuggling of cigarettes by reducing taxes. If it reduced the taxes it would be able to--