Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about how the government has turned advantage Canada into disadvantage Canada. There are three policies that are so plainly wrong-headed and stupid as to make us wonder whether there is any adult supervision in the government.
The first one is the GST reduction. The Conservatives raised the taxes in order to be able to make the GST reduction. Is there anything more plainly stupid that one could think of? The second is the income trust policy. First of all, the Conservatives did not tell the truth about it during the election and then they went about it in such an incompetent manner as to blow away $35 billion of Canadians' savings. That is both stupid and dishonest. The third policy is the issue of interest deductibility for foreign acquisitions by Canadian companies. That is a stupid and deceitful policy. These three policies taken by themselves turn advantage Canada into disadvantage Canada.
Much has been said about the advisability of emphasizing consumption taxes in preference to income or capital taxes. Taxes are a fact of life. If we want the services we had better be prepared to be taxed; that is just the way it is and Canadians understand that. What they do not or cannot understand is why one would reduce a tax that does not improve productivity and increase living standards while simultaneously raising income tax which kills improvements in productivity and living standards.
The nation seems to understand this, but the government does not. The rationale is simple. When Canadians get income or tax reductions and capital, they invest or pay down debt. That in turn leads to reduced borrowing costs, which goes directly to the purchase of machinery and equipment, which enhances productivity and improves living standards. It is not much more complicated than that.
A consumption tax reduction, however, does none of that. It is just plain stupid. It is wrong-headed and it is against all the advice of all the best economists in the world, with one exception, the third rate economist who currently sits in the Prime Minister's chair. So much for advantage Canada.
It gets worse. Advantage Canada gets whacked again. The income trust deceit perpetrated upon thousands of Canadian investors was generating good returns for Canadians, huge revenues for the government and repatriating economic sovereignty. Millions of Canadians saw this as a good investment vehicle, until the sector was destroyed by the finance minister and the Prime Minister.
Not only were Canadians' savings destroyed, as predicted, these trusts became takeover targets. Sixteen have left the country already, representing $9 billion in capitalization since October 31, and more are under review. In fact in today's Globe and Mail there is an article which reads:
Foreign money snags three more trusts
Pace of deals unlikely to ease
Three more income trusts were thrust onto Canada's endangered list in less than three hours yesterday, raising to 16 the total number of trusts set to disappear with a value of more than $9 billion since Oct. 31.... Analysts and investors believe the furious pace of takeover activity is not about to ease. And the blame, they insist, rests with Ottawa's decision to clamp down on trusts.
Tell me how that is good for Canada. The minister argues, somewhat naively, that Canadians are acquiring assets at an equivalent pace while selling off Canadian assets, but this is where he is just so naive as to be almost dangerous. Having put a huge for sale sign on Canadian assets at bargain prices, he turns around and handicaps Canadians acquiring foreign assets. He must have been joking when he said advantage Canada. This is disadvantage Canada.
Now the minister prevents Canadians from deducting the interest costs of foreign acquisitions. Is this just plain lunacy? Canadian company X wishes to acquire foreign company Y and so also do a number of other foreign companies. The only company that is handicapped is the Canadian one, which effectively means the Canadian company is out of the running.
How do financial service companies acquire abroad any more? Why try to become an international company with a head office in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary? All the good jobs and all that go with it and all the collateral services in law, finance, accounting and technology services will no longer be needed. Either they acquire or they are acquired. Either they buy or they are bought. Either they eat or they will be eaten.
No other country in the world hobbles its business community the way the Conservative government does. Whenever the finance minister starts talking about tax fairness, it is advisable to head for the hills, especially if he is saying it during a budget speech or making an election promise.
The folks from the income trust debacle have learned to their great chagrin to never trust Conservatives during an election. After specifically and repeatedly saying they would not tax trusts, they shocked Canadians by imposing a draconian tax on trusts and destroying $25 billion to $35 billion worth of value.
People were so staggered by this betrayal that they have been putting full page ads in national newspapers saying that the Prime Minister's word is worthless. Now he is talking tax fairness again on interest deductibility. Fair share is code language. He used it with income trusts, he did it to the premiers and now he wants to destroy businesses in Canada who want to invest abroad.
Listen to what others say. Ernst & Young retired chairman Allan Lanthier said that this is “the single most misguided policy I've seen out of Ottawa in 35 years”. Claude Lamoureux said, “This is unbelievable. I don't know who in finance looked at this. I can't believe any sensible person would do this”.
Tom d'Aquino, hardly a friend of the Liberal Party, wrote:
--we are worried that the change announced in the budget may seriously undermine the competitiveness of Canada's homegrown champions -- the companies that are most active and most successful in building global businesses from head offices in Canadian communities. It may also damage Canada's--