Mr. Speaker, for a while I thought the NDP was going to claim authorship of the Constitution and one of the books of the Bible.
I am pleased to continue the debate on Bill C-40. It is a tax amendment bill. Many have called it a technical amendment bill and it certainly is that.
One of the points I would like to make is that it is never possible to make tax policy changes in a vacuum. Even though this bill may be regarded as technical, Parliament must always be vigilant, as should taxpayers, to make sure that tax changes, however small they are said to be, do not radically change the strategic direction of tax policy unless it is the will of Parliament to do so.
On at least three occasions not involving this bill, the government appears to have made three separate policy moves to alter tax policy, I feel, in a vacuum, in a way that has had negative impacts.
One of them was the possibility of revoking the GST rebate for visitors. Reference has already been made to this. The government appears to have walked from that, but the very fact that the statement was made may have altered the perception of visitors to Canada and travel agents who organize visits to Canada. That was a mistake, frankly. The amount collected in that tax is relatively small.
I realize one of the reasons for considering the revocation was the extent to which fraud had taken up some of those resources, but again, it is a small amount of money and it is probably worth the enforcement costs to make sure our visitors feel they are welcome in Canada and welcome to spend here in Canada. That was a mistake.
Another mistake, as my friend from the NDP discussed at some length, was the 1% reduction in the GST. That reduction is small to many Canadians. One could class that GST 1% reduction as regressive because it is the big spenders who will get the biggest tax reduction. If one lives hand to mouth in Canada, if one is not spending big bucks, if almost all of one's money goes out for rent and food, then 1% of nothing is nothing. There is no tax rebate available to those people. Maybe the government would rather have the photo op and the glamour tax reduction statement instead of really considering the tax impact on individual Canadians.
The third mistake had to do with the taxation of unit trusts. In a flagrant, obvious, blatant reversal of an election promise, one Friday afternoon the finance minister announced that the government would terminate the tax vehicle known as the unit trusts. This had huge downside financial implications for thousands of Canadians who had put their savings into unit trusts relying on that commitment and the existence of the tax interpretations. This issue is being canvassed at this time by the finance committee.
These are all examples of why Parliament cannot let a government make tax policy decisions in a vacuum. One has to look at the entire picture.
Mr. Speaker, I realize we are getting close to members' statements. Perhaps this might be a point when we could pause and I will resume my remarks later.