Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to discuss the motion calling on the government to “initiate immediate discussions with the provinces and territories to provide municipalities with a portion of the federal gas tax”.
Every summer I get calls to my office about the price of gasoline. As everyone knows, more Canadians drive in summer than at any other time, and with the increase in demand comes an increase in the price. Gas is not cheap in any part of the world. At times this summer in Victoria, where I live, it was over 90¢ a litre.
Many people claim collusion: How could these prices be so high and someone not be to blame? Some Liberal members, like the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge, are known for their conspiracy theories, this despite the fact that review after review consistently finds no evidence of price fixing. If the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge wants to point the finger, he should be pointing it at his own side of the House. But to do that, he would have to admit some pretty unpleasant facts. Maybe I could try to help that member. I will point out some of these facts.
These are numbers that are in the public domain and of which everybody is fully aware. Right now the federal government collects over $7 billion a year in gasoline taxes; let me repeat, $7 billion a year. Only 4% of this $7 billion is actually invested in transportation. This money does not go to make our roads safer. It does not go to make them more efficient. The money does not go to help with environmental problems or to combat pollution caused by vehicle traffic. Where does the $7 billion go? It goes straight to general revenue and it is used by the government in any way it sees fit.
In contrast, the total amount spent by provinces on transportation is roughly $12 billion, despite the fact that they only bring in about $10 billion in direct revenue. In short, the provinces are subsidizing the federal government's spending and picking up the tab from their own scarce revenues.
My home province of British Columbia, I would submit, is probably one of the worst treated. B.C. collects about 12% of the total gasoline tax revenue nationally and sends it down to Ottawa. Twelve per cent of all the national gasoline tax collected is collected by British Columbia, yet as I have already indicated, only 4% of this amount will ever be used on roads. Even more startling, of that 4%, almost all of it is spent in the province of Ontario. Virtually none of it ever sees the province of British Columbia. Not only is B.C. subsidizing the feds, but it is not even getting its share of the measly, pitiful 4% the feds actually spend on roads with the gasoline tax they collect. We do not even get our share of that.
Taxes should be transparent. A much greater portion of our road taxes should actually be used in maintaining our roads.
I would also like to touch on one more important aspect of this debate: the double taxation. As the member for Athabasca just pointed out, we are charging a tax on a tax. This is incredible. Can members imagine taxing a tax? It is a seriously and fundamentally flawed practice. Although our motion today does not specifically address this issue, I think it is important that it be raised.
Charging GST on gasoline is questionable, but then charging GST on the excise tax is unbelievable. It is absolutely incomprehensible that the government would actually start taxing Canadians on taxes. We repeatedly have called upon the government to eliminate this practice. The former finance minister, the member for LaSalle--Émard, has had 10 years in this place to fix that, to stop taxing on tax, but he has failed to do it.
The Canadian Alliance solution proposed today shows there is a better, more honest approach to gasoline taxation. We are saying that if the federal government collects money for transportation, that is where it should be spent. The feds could free up at least a portion of the gas tax and provide it to the provinces for infrastructure. In this way we could provide the provinces with a reliable and stable source of funding for the roads, for our infrastructure and for our transportation system. Just as important, the funding would be transparent and directly linked to the users who benefit from such infrastructure.
Provinces and municipalities could then distribute the funding in the best way, as they are closest to the people and to the areas that need the most work. They know where the problems are, where the hot spots are, where fatalities happen on various highways and which roads need work. They should be the ones directing where these improvements are made and what the priorities are.
We have deliberately kept this motion non-confrontational, although I think a 3¢ to 5¢ a litre, as suggested by our leader, is reasonable. We have left these amounts for the federal government to negotiate. We have created this motion so the government can support it. We are here to provide a genuine, real alternative to the problem that the government has caused to ensure that our roads are safe, efficient and environmentally friendly.
There is some talk that the government may support the motion, and I hope it does. I hope the members opposite will support the motion.
However on a factual basis, I go back to the record. The member for LaSalle—Émard has been in the House for 10 years, and was finance minister for the majority of those years. He has had ample opportunity to correct this practice. Motions have been before the House in the past. I look at the record and there are lots of examples.
On March 13, 2001 the Liberals supported a motion to establish a sex offender registry. February 5, 2002, less than a year later, they voted against a motion to establish a sex offender registry. In 1993 the Liberals made the following promise in their red book:
A Liberal Government will appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor to advise both public officials and lobbyists in the day-to-day application of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The Ethics Counsellor will be appointed after consultation with the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons and will report directly to Parliament.
On February 8, 2001, that same motion, word for word, was put forward by the Canadian Alliance. It was the identical phrase that was in print in the their red book. Nobody can argue that. There was no interpretation. There was no misleading information. This was their promise. When we put their promise to them for a vote in the House of Commons, what did the Liberals do? They voted no. That is where the credibility comes in.
I genuinely think it is a serious issue. It is the backbone of our transportation across the country. We should be putting the funds there so the infrastructure can be kept up. My province of British Columbia, as I said, does not even get its mere pittance of the 4%.
I have talked with the member for LaSalle—Émard who has refused to deal with this. One of the members opposite talked about how the Liberals eliminated the $42 billion deficit between 1993 and 1999. They did that through 69 different tax increases in various forms. They did not eliminate the deficit. The Canadian taxpayer did. These guys are addicted to taxes. They raise them day after day.
I would argue that we should not have the mentality of punishing people who are successful. That is the philosophy of the government and nothing will ever change. Its philosophy is to punish people who are successful, these people who are creating jobs for people, these entrepreneurs, these small businesses. The more successful a person is, the more the government wants to punish them. The fundamentals are all wrong.
Let me conclude by saying that the Liberals, as hon. members know, cannot keep their hands out of the cookie jar. They can talk a good fight before the writ is dropped, but if Canadians look for tax fairness, I can only say look at the record of the member for LaSalle—Émard. He had nine years as finance minister to be fair with them in their taxes, to be honest in how they were collected and to rein in the government spending. He failed on every count. The only thing that has happened with gasoline taxes is they have gone up 17% during his watch.
Liberals do not care from where the funding comes, whether it is income tax, gas tax or even if it is a tax on a tax as long as it feeds the beast. They are general revenue junkies. They change their tune once every four years, but for 35 days. Then later it is the same old song and dance. I remind all Canadians to look at the record and the facts, they speak for themselves.