House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.


Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for a speech rivalling that of the parliamentary secretary in both length and relevance.

He basically misses the point when he talks about what a Liberal member would do. It is not what a Liberal member would do. It is what a federal member should do, a member of the federal Parliament.

He has not addressed the core issue, and I repeated it at least six times in the hope that NDP members might understand the point. The point is not so much whether or not one likes this tax. The point is whether we think that we as federal parliamentarians have the right to ride roughshod over the desires of duly elected governments in the provinces.

If a province decides to enact a tax that is in its own jurisdiction, the province has the right to enact that tax. I would hope that one of the NDP members, when one of them no doubt stands up again with questions, will address that central issue.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member and actually agreed with much of what he had to say. I did note, however, that he continues to try to dupe Canadians into believing that Canada is the only country facing a recession at this time.

I note the stark contrast in what he said compared with what media commentators and experts around the world have had to say about this. For example, the New York Times said, “Why not emulate the best in the world, which happens to be right next door?”

Newsweek said, “If President Obama is looking for smart government, there is much he, and all of us, could learn from our...neighbour to the north”.

The London Telegraph said that the Canadian Tories were a model of how to behave during a downturn.

The French finance minister, just a couple of months ago came out of the G20 finance ministers meeting saying, “I think we can be inspired by the Canadian situation. There were some people who said, 'I want to be Canadian'”. We do not even know where the Liberal leader stands on that issue.

I would like to know what the hon. member's comments are in regard to those comments, noting of course that he always tries to take credit for things that he did 13 years ago when he was in charge of the finances of the country.

The quote said that the Canadian Tories were a model of how to behave during a downturn. I would like the hon. member's comments on what the world has to say about Canada's leadership at this time.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not think I criticized the Conservatives about the recession, had I? Therefore, I do not know quite what the member is talking about.

However, I would point out that while I appreciate the compliment of leading the nation's finances 13 years ago, I was not even elected to this Parliament 13 years ago, but I thank the member anyway.

I will take this opportunity very briefly to correct the typical propaganda and weasel words coming from the government. Every economist on the planet measures a country's growth by gross domestic product, GDP. It is a fact that in the last six months Canada's growth measured by GDP did worse than every other country in the G7 except one, the UK, the second worst.

The government did not like to sell that picture to Canadians so it invented some other measure called domestic demand, some arcane thing that no one else uses. Lo and behold, Canada looked better when measured by domestic demand, whatever that is, over the past six months. The government is trying to fool Canadians because the only measure is GDP on which we are second to last. Therefore, it picked some garbage arcane measure instead on which we do better, but nobody will believe this nonsense.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, since the previous questioner talked about the economy and the GDP of this country I just want to get a comment from the member.

It just seems that we are in a time warp here. I know when the Conservatives were in power before, when they left power, the annual deficit was $43 billion, interest rates were 12%, and unemployment was 11%.

The member for Markham—Unionville, as the previous speaker indicated, helped straighten those things out and we had 10 years of surpluses. Interest rates were lowered. The member came in 2000 and did a lot since then. We had 10 years of surpluses, low interest rates, and high employment. Now it just seems we are right back to where we were: deficit at $56 billion, interest rates are increasing, and unemployment is double digit.

I will put the question to the member. Just what went wrong? Why are we right back to where we were in 1993?

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Charlottetown very much for that insightful question. It happens the two of us were both elected in the year 2000 and have been good colleagues and friends since then, but it does seem to be the fate of the Liberals that every once in a while we are called upon to inherit a big, fat, juicy, ugly Conservative deficit, and Canadians ask us to clean up the mess.

I would agree with my colleague that that is indeed what happened in 1993. There was a record $42 billion fat Conservative deficit which we inherited. At that time we were the laughing stock of the G7. We were the worst. We were about to become a third world country and have the IMF come in.

However, what did we do? We cleaned it up and we brought that debt down from the worst to the best. Then these Conservatives came in and they inherited the best debt situation in the whole of the G7 by a country mile. They squandered that surplus before the recession hit. They turned it into a deficit. Now once again, we have a record Canadian, ugly, Conservative deficit, this time of $56 billion. I suspect we, at some point, will be called in to clean up this second Conservative mess.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Resuming debate. The hon. government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 8, at the next sitting, a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members know, we are now debating a time allocation motion moved by the government regarding the bill on harmonizing the PST in British Columbia and Ontario with the federal sales tax, that is, the GST.

We will oppose this time allocation motion, because we feel it would be irresponsible on our part to grant this time allocation without knowing the contents of the bill to be introduced by the government.

I think it is important that all members of this House clearly understand the Bloc Québécois' position on this whole issue. As we have seen, when the ways and means notice was tabled and voted on, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of that notice, which prepares the way for the introduction of the bill on the framework for harmonizing Ontario's and British Columbia's sales taxes with the federal GST.

We voted in favour of that notice because we wanted to see the much talked about bill to find out whether, within this framework, justice would finally be done for Quebec, which was the first jurisdiction to harmonize its sales tax with the GST way back in 1992.

We had no problem voting for this ways and means motion. But the bill still has not been introduced, and that is why we cannot support a motion for time allocation that would have us dispose of this bill we have not even seen in the space of two days. I repeat that this is an extremely important bill, because, from what I understand, it is designed to modernize the framework governing the agreement between the Atlantic provinces and the federal government on harmonizing the GST.

The Bloc Québécois is not about to hand a blank cheque to the federal government, especially the Conservative government, as hon. members know.

We intend to thoroughly examine this bill on harmonizing the GST with the provincial sales taxes of Ontario and British Columbia, because we want to ensure that, as I said, there will be room for the Government of Quebec and the federal government to negotiate a solution that is fair to Quebec. This is not the case at present.

Hon. members know that the Bloc Québécois is here to defend Quebec's interests and the unanimous positions of the National Assembly. Consequently, we are going to want to ensure that this fair solution—which will be extremely important to us—includes a framework that is flexible enough so that Quebec's choices, Quebeckers' choices in terms of taxation, are possible. Flexibility is key. As we have said repeatedly in previous debates, the harmonization proposed by Ontario and British Columbia is not a perfect harmonization, which is what the Minister of Finance demanded a few months ago in order to compensate Quebec properly for its own harmonization. There needs to flexibility, which was not the case in the agreement with the Atlantic provinces.

Second, this framework must allow Quebec to keep collecting its own sales tax, the QST, but also the federal GST, which it has been collecting since the mid-1990s. Allowing the Government of Quebec to keep collecting taxes will be a second key element, after flexibility.

Compensation is the third aspect that is extremely important to us. We want to ensure that, with this bill we have not yet seen, compensation for Quebec will be equivalent to what Ontario and British Columbia will receive as well as what has already been paid to the Atlantic provinces.

We expect that the government's proposal will be fair to Quebec.

The fact remains that we do not have this much talked about bill before us. Therefore, it would be totally irresponsible for the Bloc Québécois, the defender of Quebec's interests in this House, to give a blank cheque to the Conservative government. As we know, in the past it has introduced bills that at first seemed reasonable. However, after a few hours of debate, we unfortunately discovered that they contained poison pills. We are being asked to adopt this bill with less than two days' debate. Therefore, as I mentioned, we cannot agree to the proposal in the time requested.

Having said that, if the Liberals decide to support the government, the Bloc Québécois at any event will definitely ensure that the bill is studied at length with the specific goal of identifying any possible Conservative poison pill in the framework to harmonize provincial and federal sales taxes.

I brought this up and I think it is very important for everyone to keep this fact in mind. The Government of Quebec was the first to harmonize its sales tax with the new GST—the goods and services tax that replaced the former manufacturers' sales tax— in the early 1990s. At the same time, as part of an administrative agreement with the federal government, Quebec was responsible for collecting the federal tax within its jurisdiction, and that is something we want to maintain.

In 1997, the federal government offered three Atlantic provinces compensation to encourage them to harmonize their provincial sales taxes with the federal GST. An agreement was reached with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which harmonized their taxes. This agreement was reached, and the three Atlantic provinces received the equivalent of about $1 billion in compensation for harmonizing with the GST.

In light of this, it is completely natural that the Government of Quebec asked the federal government for compensation, since it had harmonized before the Atlantic provinces. I am sure that some members were in the House when Paul Martin, the finance minister at the time, answered a question that had been asked by our finance critic, Yvan Loubier. He very clearly said that there was no way that Quebec would be compensated. I am looking for the quote I found to read it to you. He said:

Mr. Speaker, there is a formula to compensate provinces that will lose more than 5 per cent of their sales tax revenues. This is not the case for Ontario, British Columbia, or Alberta. It is not currently the case for Quebec either, and it was not in 1990 when it signed the harmonization agreement.

First of all, I must point out that the finance minister at the time, Paul Martin, acknowledged that the Quebec sales tax had been harmonized with the GST. At the time, he said that the Atlantic provinces were compensated because they would lose more than 5% of their tax base after harmonization.

Clearly, the rule invented by the Liberal finance minister at the time, Paul Martin, is no longer valid. It is abundantly clear that Ontario and British Columbia will lose much less than 5% of their revenue once they harmonize their sales tax with the GST. As such, it is only right that Quebec should receive adequate compensation. Under the agreements signed with Ontario in March, if I remember correctly, and British Columbia in June, Ontario stands to collect $4.3 billion in compensation and British Columbia $1.6 billion.

I would like to point out that, on page 68 of Budget 2006, the following appears under the heading Competitiveness and Efficiency of the Canadian Economic Union: Furthering Provincial Sales Tax Harmonization.

Harmonized sales taxes are now in place in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Quebec administers a provincial value-added tax, as well as collecting the GST on behalf of the federal government. However, separate provincial retail sales taxes continue to be collected in five provinces. The existence of provincial retail sales taxes substantially increases the effective tax rate on investment by taxing business capital goods and intermediate materials, thereby impairing the competitiveness of our tax system. Having to comply with different sales tax systems also greatly increases the complexity and the cost of doing business. The government invites all provinces that have not yet done so to engage in discussions on the harmonization of their provincial retail sales taxes with the federal GST.

In this excerpt from the 2006 budget, the Minister of Finance acknowledges that Quebec's sales tax is harmonized with the GST and he opens the door to compensation for every province that agrees to harmonize its retail sales tax with the goods and services tax. However, he never mentions anything about retroactive compensation for Quebec. This is extremely worrisome and unfair.

That means that any province that chooses to harmonize its sales tax with the GST will receive compensation. The three Atlantic provinces have already received compensation. The agreements signed with Ontario and British Columbia include compensation. The other provinces that have not yet indicated their intention to harmonize their sales tax with the GST could possibly be compensated if they decide to do so. Only Quebec, the first province to harmonize its sales tax with the GST, will never be compensated.

This is classic unfairness by the Conservative government. It will be extremely important to do a very careful review of the bill when it is introduced. Since we still have not seen it, we cannot agree on the approach the Conservative government intends to use.

We have to address this issue very seriously, but for now we cannot give the government carte blanche.

I would also like to remind hon. members that the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a motion on this issue on March 31, 2009. It reads:

WHEREAS Québec was the first province to harmonize with the Federal goods and services tax (GST) in the early 1990s;

WHEREAS since then, three Atlantic provinces have harmonized with the GST in 1997 and have received compensation for this from the Federal Government totalling close to 1 billion dollars;

WHEREAS the Government of Ontario announced that it would harmonize its sales tax with the GST beginning on 1 July 2010;

WHEREAS the Federal Government will grant a 4.3 billion dollar compensation to Ontario for this harmonization, an amount that is justified in the Canada-Ontario memorandum of understanding particularly owing to the desire to stimulate economic growth and job creation, and the Federal Government will administer this new provincial tax free of charge on behalf of Ontario;

WHEREAS the Ontario sales tax will be very similar to the Québec sales tax (QST) since certain goods, such as books, will not be subject to the provincial tax and that input tax refunds in Ontario may be identical to those agreed to by Québec for an 8-year period;

WHEREAS Ontario is the fourth province to receive compensation from the Federal Government as part of the harmonization of the provincial and federal sales taxes, while Québec has not received any compensation to this day even though it was the first province to harmonize its sales tax;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the National Assembly ask the Federal Government to treat Québec justly and equitably, by granting compensation that is comparable to that offered to Ontario for the harmonization of its sales tax with the GST, which would represent an amount of 2.6 billion dollars for Québec.

That motion was unanimously passed by the National Assembly and, as everyone knows, the Bloc Québécois has always defended Quebec's interests and every consensus reached in Quebec.

We will keep this motion in mind as we continue with the debates around the motion and the bill, which, I would remind the House, we still have not seen.

Because I have time, I would also like to read the letter that Monique Jérôme-Forget wrote to our colleague, the Conservative Minister of Finance, on April 1, 2009, when she was the Quebec minister of finance.

When she says “Dear colleague”, she is obviously not referring to me, but to the Conservative Minister of Finance. The letter reads as follows:

Dear colleague,

I wrote to you on Friday, March 27 to request fair compensation for Quebec in connection with the harmonization of the Quebec sales tax (QST) with the federal goods and services tax (GST). This request was prompted by the recent announcement that Ontario would receive $4.3 billion in federal compensation.

Since I wrote you that letter [we are talking about Friday, March 27], the National Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to treat Quebec fairly and equitably on the issue of sales tax harmonization. On an equal per capita basis, the compensation paid to Ontario would represent $2.6 billion for Quebec.

Even though the QST is already substantially harmonized with the GST, as all the budget documents your government has tabled since 2006 attest, you seem to believe that the QST is not sufficiently harmonized with the GST to justify paying Quebec compensation similar to what Ontario received. However, you opened the door to such compensation if Quebec agreed to further harmonize the QST with the GST.

The principal difference between the QST and the GST concerns tax rebates on the inputs of large businesses for certain goods, a measure that would cost Quebec approximately $500 million annually, or a little less than 5% of the revenue generated by the QST.

I hereby wish to inform you that the Government of Quebec would agree to make the necessary adjustments to its QST in order to respond to your concerns about more complete harmonization, in exchange for fair and equitable compensation of $2.6 billion.

Specifically, Quebec would agree to allow all QST corporate input tax rebates for a period of up to eight years, which is what the federal government agreed to for Ontario.

In the next few days, my officials will be forwarding to your officials a draft memorandum of agreement to manifest this commitment. You will note that, with respect to all the pertinent clauses, the agreement will be modelled for the most part on the Canada-Ontario agreement signed last March.

The Quebec government seems to be open to further harmonization while maintaining the flexibility to which I referred. There is a certain flexibility mentioned in the letter from the former Quebec finance minister, who has now returned to private life. In her letter, she expressed the Quebec government's viewpoint. This has been reiterated by the current finance minister, Mr. Bachand. Thus, there is an openness to harmonization like that offered to Ontario. For example, with regard to inputs, Quebec should be allowed a certain period of time to eliminate the taxes. The minister's letter refers to eight years. We expect that Quebec will receive the same treatment.

From 2006 onwards, with Paul Martin as well as in the documents of the current Minister of Finance, the federal government has stated that Quebec's sales tax is harmonized with the GST. In Quebec, we are prepared to take action. The government has stated this again and so has the National Assembly, but the harmonization has to be fair and just. This is what we will be thinking about in the next few days of debate, whether it concerns the motion before us or the bill that we have not yet seen.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will vote against the time allocation motion.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, paragraph 2 in Motion No. 8 lays out the proceedings that we would be required to follow with regard to what would happen after second reading of the bill. After second reading, the bill would be referred to finance committee. In the worst possible case that would be at 5:30 p.m. one day and the committee would have to report it back to the House by 11:00 that night. Report stage motions would have to be put in and notice given out by 3 a.m. the following morning.

When we consider the possibilities and the fact that we cannot submit a report stage motion that has already been dealt with in committee, this means any members who are not on committee will to have to attend committee to see what was dealt with there so they can determine what report stage motions might be eligible for notice. It would appear to me that the intent of this is simply to technically touch the bases, but does not respect the rights of members of Parliament to do their job.

Would the member care to comment on that?

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with the hon. member. I am a bit surprised because, as far as I know, his party is going to support the motion. I think, though, that the motion ensures that the Standing Committee on Finance will be confined to a rather cosmetic role.

In our view, Quebec harmonized its sales tax with the GST in 1992. There were some very lively debates at the time. I can recall, for example, that Mr. Séguin, who was the minister of revenue, resigned as a result of Robert Bourassa’s decision to harmonize the QST with the GST. It was not easy, but a decision was made, and we have had a harmonized tax ever since 1992, or for nearly 18 years.

We do not have anything against Ontario and British Columbia deciding to harmonize their sales taxes with the GST, but we would like to have a much more serious study of it than what the government is proposing. The impression I have is that the finance committee’s role will simply be window-dressing and the government has already decided to proceed.

As I said, the best way to handle this would have been to allow the bill to take the usual route through the House, especially as it seems that at least three parties—the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois—agree with it in principle. Our primary concern is to ensure that there are no poison pills in the bill that is going to be introduced, which we have not yet seen, and that it includes the items which will enable Quebec to reach an agreement with the federal government, whether this is done by correcting the situation or by not standing in the way of negotiations between Quebec and the federal government.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the process the government is following regarding this HST issue is a travesty on Canadians. The government has had weeks to bring in the motion in a normal fashion, but it has simply dumped Motion No. 8 on us essentially at the last minute, in the last week before the recess.

Does the member not find it suspicious that the government waited until the last week before the Christmas break to introduce a time allocation motion before we had even seen the bill? Is that not part of a plan on the part of the government to ram this through in the middle of the night, in the last minutes before Parliament recesses for Christmas?

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with the hon. member. It is very hard to understand why the government delayed so long in introducing the bill. We asked about it, but never got an answer. The government could have introduced the bill a few weeks ago, or even today, which would have left us a few more weeks to pass it.

So far as I know, Ontario will not harmonize its sales tax with the GST until July 1, 2010. We should certainly give merchants and companies a bit of time to adjust to the new taxation system. There is a lot of informatics work to be done.

That being said, though, the Conservative government is being irresponsible or is manoeuvring to force the opposition parties to pass or defeat in hurry-up fashion the bill that is going to be introduced.

I heard that the government would not introduce the bill unless it was guaranteed the support of a least one opposition party.

We know now that the Liberals have lent their support without even having seen the bill—unless they have seen it and have not told us. There has apparently been quite an airing of views within their caucus. We, for our part, will announce our position on the bill after we see it.

Our preference would certainly have been for a real debate. Quebec has been waiting for 18 years and could have waited a few more weeks, although we do want this issue settled in 2010 at the latest.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member has raised the issue around jurisdictional issues. What seems to be getting left out of this discussion is the fact there is another jurisdiction to consider, and that is the first nations jurisdiction. In Ontario and in British Columbia first nations have been completely left out of the discussion.

In Ontario there are treaty rights around point of sale tax exemptions, which are completely being disregarded by the federal government. The Conservatives can talk all they want about discussions at the provincial government level, but I need to remind those that the federal government has the fiduciary responsibility and honour of the Crown to deal with first nations.

In British Columbia the first nations leadership has demanded that they be consulted in this process.

Could the member talk about the fact that we will have four hours in the middle of the night at the finance committee, in which we will be unable to call witnesses to talk about these very important issues? Could he talk about that democratic process of effectively shutting out another level of government that should have a say on whether this unfair, aggressive tax is applied to it?

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we do not know what will be in the bill that has yet to be introduced. There are two levels here. There is the part within the jurisdiction of Ontario and British Columbia. I agree with the hon. member that the first nations in Ontario and British Columbia seem very critical of the harmonization of their provincial sales taxes with the GST. So far as we are concerned, though, that debate should be held in Ontario and British Columbia.

The first nations in Quebec do not have any problem with this. We have not heard any first nations at all in Quebec talking about it because the taxes were harmonized in 1992 and people in Quebec accept this reality.

We will not engage in debates on the federal level that should be held by the provincial authorities. By the same token, we do not want the federal government or federal Parliament to involve themselves in debates within Quebec society on the pretext that they are more magnanimous than the provinces or Quebec. I have always been very concerned about the paternalistic attitude that this conveys.

That being said, I was in full agreement with the hon. member when she said there would be serious consequences if the Standing Committee on Finance has only four hours to study the bill.

We already had a very stormy debate in Quebec. One of the reasons why the Liberal government lost power to the Parti Québécois in 1994 may well have been the grudging acceptance given to harmonization. In any case, there was a debate. Now, though, the debate in Quebec is all about whether the federal government will compensate Quebec, as it is compensating the other provinces, or whether Quebec will be left out in the cold, as it has been for 18 years.

I completely agree with the hon. member that the Standing Committee on Finance cannot do a serious job in four hours. That is a fact. On the other hand, we have no intention of interfering in Ontario’s and British Columbia’s debates.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was only three days ago that I spoke in the House on the labour dispute between striking members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and the Canadian National Railway. At that time, we were being asked to pass a motion that would expedite the passage of back-to-work legislation, legislation that at the time, we had not even seen yet. How can we do that? How can the House vote on something it has not seen, something it has not been able to analyze, something it has not been able to discuss in our party caucuses.

I suppose coming from the Conservatives, the party where independent political thinking is rarely apparent and never encouraged, that should not be surprising. The Prime Minister muzzles MPs in his own caucus and tells them what they can say, when and where.

In our caucus, though, we actually want to see the bills we will be voting on before we come into the House to debate them. All too often with the government, they contain poison pills that are not apparent from a cursory review. I do not need to remind members in the House about the purported economic recovery bill that included sections gutting pay equity, killing the court challenges program and other provisions that had nothing to do with helping us get out of the current recession.

Asking us to vote on something before we have even seen it is simply not on. In fact, it is contempt of our rights as members of Parliament, it is contempt of Parliament and it is contempt of the citizens of Canada who sent us here to give voice to their concerns and aspirations.

Here we are in a different context being asked to do the same thing again. Again we are in the situation where we have not had a chance to review the legislation or analyze it in detail, but we certainly know what is at stake. We may not know the details of the legislation, but we are fully aware of the devastating impact that the HST will have on hard-working families and seniors in our country. This is the wrong tax in the wrong hands at the wrong time.

The HST continues the pattern under successive federal Conservative and Liberal governments of pursuing policies that boost returns to a privileged corporate elite on the flimsy excuse that they will use those returns to benefit the rest of them. Three decades of growing income inequality in the country prove those premises false. Every person I have talked to in my riding of Hamilton Mountain understands that reality.

I have asked what they would say if I told them that the federal Conservative government was bribing the provincial Liberal government to raise their taxes by 8%. It sounds crazy does it not? That is exactly what is happening with the introduction of the new harmonized sales tax.

In the 2009-10 provincial budget, the McGuinty Liberals announced that they would be harmonizing the provincial sales tax with the federal government's goods and services tax, effective July 1, 2010. This change will hurt Ontario families because many items that we need and use every day, from gas and electricity, to cellphones and the Internet, will now be subject to a full 8% tax increase at the point of purchase.

Let me list some of the items that will now cost 8% more because of the imposition of the HST: gasoline, utilities such as heating, hydro and natural gas, vitamins, Internet bills, cellphone bills, snow removal, magazines, adult footwear under $30, camping fees, admissions to things like pools, taking pets to the vet, personal services like hair stylists, professional services like lawyers and accountants, membership fees for things like the gym, green fees, commercial property rentals, landscaping, postal stamps and courier fees, taxi fares, drycleaning, carpet cleaning, funeral costs, labour costs related to home renovations, motor vehicle services like towing or car washing, ice rink rentals and domestic air, rail and commercial bus tickets. All those things will now cost Ontarians 8% more.

As if this blatant tax grab were not bad enough, it may never have happened had the federal Conservative government not bribed its provincial Liberal counterparts to introduce it in the first place. Apparently, Dalton McGuinty was reluctant to introduce such an unfair tax during the recession, so the federal finance minister urged him along by offering the Ontario government an additional $4.3 billion of federal tax money to introduce the new tax increase.

That is right. The federal tax dollars from seniors and hard-working families are hard at work buying them a big, fat provincial tax increase. If the federal government thinks that it can do this with impunity and that the victims of its tax policies will not notice if it does it quickly, it is dead wrong. I have never had as much feedback on a proposed piece of legislation as I have on the HST.

I want to share some of those responses with members here today.

First, let me make one other point absolutely clear. This is not an issue where business is on one side and Canadian citizens are on the other. Thousands of business are also profoundly worried about the impact of this tax.

I had the privilege of being invited to an annual get-together by the Concession Street Business Improvement Association in my riding of Hamilton Mountain. This association represents small businesses on the oldest commercial street in my riding. I had barely been there five minutes when the president of the BIA made it absolutely clear that he is 100% opposed to this tax.

The additional cost imposed on his operations, on everything from heat and electricity to the cost of transportation, will make it increasingly difficult for his family-run business to survive. That sentiment was echoed by dozens of other businesses represented at that event. This tax spells trouble for small businesses.

It is not just on Concession Street that businesses are concerned. Let me share with the House just some of the emails I have received.

One says the following:

I am writing to you to raise concerns about the Ontario government's new harmonized sales tax that will be applied to savings.

I have been running a financial advisory business in your riding for over 10 years, serving more than 200 households in our community. My business not only contributes directly to the economy, but also helps local residents plan for and achieve their financial goals.

I'm very concerned about the HST because it is essentially a new tax on savings. The combined 13% tax will directly impact the savings of all Canadians who own investment funds. It will cost Ontario residents hundreds of million of dollars every year in extra taxes that otherwise could be put into their retirement savings.

I find it difficult to understand why this tax is being introduced when there is growing recognition that most Canadians will retire with inadequate incomes. With government looking to deal with this very serious issue, it makes no sense to be raising taxes for people who have taken the initiative to provide for their future. As a financial advisor, I know how hard it is for the average family to save, and they should not be penalized for it.

The GST should never have been applied to investment funds and the HST will significantly expand its harmful impact on Ontario citizens. I urge you to discuss this with the Finance Minister...and to support a fair solution.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

That is from Daniel, who works for L&A Financial Group FundEX Investments in Hamilton.

Here is another email. It says:

As a REALTOR in your riding, I'm writing today to express my concern about the possible implementation of a harmonized sales tax in the province of Ontario.

If that happens, it will have a devastating effect on the housing market, both new and resale.

I'm sure you've seen recent studies done by the Building Industry and Land Development Association indicating that harmonization would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of new housing in Ontario.

But harmonization would also have a dramatic negative effect on the resale housing market as well.

For example, harmonization would result in provincial sales tax being applied to legal fees, appraisal fees, real estate commissions, moving expenses, home staging services, landscaping and more services usually associated with real estate transactions. In addition, harmonization would result in the goods and services tax being applied to items such as mortgage insurance premiums and title insurance fees.

As you know, the real estate market has been hit hard by the current recession, with unit sales dropping 25-50% in many parts of the province. Now is surely not the time to impose new taxes on the real estate sector when we need economic stimulus to grow the Ontario economy.

As an educated professional in the Hamilton area, I feel that it is my social responsibility to voice my opinion on matters that will have a strongly negative impact on our community! I do NOT understand how our government can pose such an unresponsible taxation policy like this one at such a critical time. As you know, housing plays a vital role in stimulating our is a major role in creating and maintaining employment. This harmonizing tax will continue to decrease consumer spending....AND THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR SUCH A STUPID AND IRRESPONSIBLE TAXATION POLICY...let's encourage spending in our economy!!!

...[H]armonization is bad for the housing market, bad for the Ontario economy and bad for consumers wishing to buy and sell homes in Ontario. If we continue to drive housing prices down through irresponsible and greedy policies we may soon find ourselves in the housing and financial CRISIS that our troubled American neighbours are in!

That is from Mike, who is a sales representative in the real estate industry.

Here is a third one:

My husband and I have fractional ownership in a resort in Muskoka.... We have found out that if the HST legislation is passed that the Provincial government is looking to collect taxes retroactive for the past 7 years, resulting in an additional $750. For those looking to purchase an interval, the HST will add an additional $10,000 to the cost of purchasing. This is totally unfair! For the current shareholders trying to sell these intervals and continue the expansion...the HST will slow or stop sales thereby potentially deterring the future development and putting the tax burden on a few.This tax will cause undue hardship on our desire to have a vacation retreat and a place for our children to use. The HST will also increase our maintenance fees by approximately $250+ a year.

...we are requesting that when the vote comes up in Parliment this week that you will vote No on behalf of the owners...and the people of Ontario.

We appreciate all you are doing for us in Parliament. Thanks for your attention to this issue and we look forward to a strong 'No' vote.

That is from Paul and Mary, also in my riding.

Echoing the concerns of small businesses are the voices of Ontario seniors. I quote:

We keep hearing that the present party in power of the Federal Government thinks that the H.S.T. for Ontario is a good idea. However we don't hear much from them on this subject only from McGuinty and his party, can you enlighten me on this subject.

If this is in fact the truth what are these politicians thinking at a time when the economy is basically in the toilet for a lot of people?

Adding this extra tax burden on necessities of life ie: heating, hydro etc. is a disgrace. I would like to know how they expect people on fixed incomes, low incomes or welfare are expected to come up with the extra money for this tax, some of these people are barely getting by now?

That is from Yvonne.

Here is another one:

I am a senior that must work part-time to be able to maintain my home and sustain a reasonable level of daily living and I am very concerned with regard to the blending of the two taxes.

Every day we are hearing that this utility, (hydro, water, sewer rates, bus fares, garbage collection, etc.) or real estate taxes are going up and we are just expected to be able to find the money from our megre income to meet these new obligations. If we are able to drive a car the ever increasing cost of gasoline with the government taxes makes it almost impossible to utilize the vehicle without being required to sacrifice somewhere else in the household budget. With the cost of heating fuels going through the roof it is becoming almost impossible to heat your quarters without being deprived of some other part of your budget. Now !! the government proposes to blend these two taxes that will further increase the tax on heating fuels. Do these people have any idea what the average senior lives through each month just to get by. Where in God's name do they expect seniors to get the extra costs from - when the well is dry—the well is dry!! The government suggests the blending will make it easier and cheaper for industry to buy equipment, manufacture, operate, etc. In other words—seniors may not be able to make it through the month but, industry will—God help us all!! Oh!! but, in some instances we get a tax benefit at the end of the year to make up for the cost through the year. I would like one—just one—member of any government to tell me how this year end benefit helps any senior make it to the end of the year to get the damn benefit.

That is from Ms. Pattinson, also in my riding.

I have yet another email:

I would like you to add our objections to any petition or other document you may have in your possession in connection with the proposed harmonization of the GST AND PST. We are seniors and have seen our RRIF PORTFOLIO, as has everyone else I know, drop so that we are not sure it will be sufficient to cover our needs in the future.

From information I have been reading it seems to be that this proposed harmonization of taxes could affect our mutual funds inside of our RIFF Portfolio, but then again we are not sure if our understanding is correct or not. Also believe the intention may apply to home heating fuel or low cost meals.

Being a member of Carp we are kept pretty well up-to-date on the proposals being sought by the governments.

Thank you for your support to seniors in the past.

That is from Mr. and Mrs. Drumm in my riding.

It is not just seniors. The outrage goes to every part of my community. Here is another one:

This is no time to raise taxes when families are barely making ends now as it is! Shame on you!

That was from Rosa and Ken.

Clementina says:

Please tell the Members of Parliament that the government already takes too much of our money they don't need this extra tax! Thank you.

Claire and Marion add:

This is just another tax grab. Leave the taxation system as it is now. We already pay too much.

Diane and Mike comment:

Here we have a situation whith many Canadians losing their homes and government's not taking a sympathetic action to help. All they want it to rip us off, yet again! Disgraceful!

Cyril mentions that:

Taxpayers were robbed to bail out the rich and corrupt. Now it seems we must give up our cash in case they want more. Call it what they like, HST or BST only changes the name of the animal not the odor.

Jutta implores:

Do not raise taxes on items every low income family with children needs. Raise the taxes on properties and other things that people spend money on when they have extra. We owe in Ontario approximately 24.5 billion—it has to be reduced and slowly paid back.

Tom, Betty and Bob believe that:

With Liberals supporting Tories on this tax, I hope more people will realize that Liberals are just small 't' Tories! They don't support average people!

Walter Young adds that:

I think or I know it is disgusting that the Conservative government and the Ontario Liberal government have lied and taxed people to the hilt and expect to get blood out of a stone with the Harmonized Sales Tax.

The quotes go on and on.

Someone else mentions:

We are taxed to death now. How can we buy anything new to help the economy along when this taxing never ends?

Finally, a family states:

Things are already too high. People are already finding it hard to make ends meet. This is a ridiculous and uncaring action towards the people of Ontario. What happened to helping and working for the people?

Madam Speaker, I see you signalling that my time is up. In essence, you are making the point for me. I said at the outset that Canadians are outraged by this new tax and that they must be heard. Yet sufficient time to do that in this House does not exist.

It does not exist because the government refuses to allow the normal parliamentary process to govern this debate. It refuses to allow a fulsome debate of the issues raised by taxpayers through us, their elected representatives, in the House of Commons. It refuses to allow taxpayers to speak for themselves by allowing for full public hearings on this important matter.

The government can muzzle their voices in this House, but the Conservatives will not be able to muzzle them at the ballot box. I can say with certainty that my constituents on Hamilton Mountain will not be silenced. They were the innocent victims in this recession. Their government promised them help. Now they are being played for fools by both the Liberal and Conservatives Parties in this House. It is outrageous, wrong-headed and unforgiveable.

As Dan and Judy wrote to me:

Just another perk for big business. Two less votes for the Liberals and Conservatives.

It is not too late for members to start listening to their constituents. There is still time for all members to ask themselves, which side am I on?

If we really represent the best interests of our constituents, we will be voting no on this regressive tax.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, with respect to the first opening question, this is a motion, of course. When the bill is put on the floor, the member will see the bill and be able to discuss it.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance made the connection between this motion and the billions of dollars in reduced taxes the government has provided for Canadian families and businesses and the hypocrisy of the position of the NDP on this issue.

I have never seen the NDP not like any particular tax or not want to hike any particular tax it has seen.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I am not sure that they are known as income tax busters or income tax fighters. In fact, I will answer the question that the member had about voting on something that she has not seen. The budget contained billions of dollars of tax reductions for families, small businesses and all those who would be affected. The leader of the NDP and that member and members of her party voted against the budget with billions of dollars of income tax reductions without even reading it or seeing it. Perhaps she could address that point.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I would be delighted to respond to the question about why we are opposed to this motion, why I am talking about the substance of the bill. The reason I am talking about the substance of the proposed HST legislation is that none of us in this House will have ample time to do it when the bill actually hits the House. That is the entire point of this motion.

I am sorry, but I do not need any lectures from that member about positions on taxes. Let me read to him a quote from the Prime Minister:

We need another way. This harmonization of the GST, this tax collusion between provincial and federal Liberal governments, is not the way to reverse the economic decline of this country.

That was said by the now Prime Minister on December 10, 1996. In case members think it was only the Prime Minister, this is what the minister of aboriginal affairs said:

The proof is in the pudding. This harmonized sales tax is going to hurt Atlantic Canada.

In the new Liberal-Conservative coalition that we now have to raise taxes on hard-working families and seniors, let me also tell the House what the member for Vancouver South, a Liberal member, said:

It is absolutely horrendous and criminal on the part of the Conservative government to be pushing this policy in a time of deep economic recession.

Yet the Liberals are joining with the Conservatives to hurt families and communities such as my riding of Hamilton Mountain.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, rather than get into the merits of the debate, I would like the hon. member to address one point. She did mention that taxpayers should be allowed to speak for themselves. This is a provincial issue. We are talking in this case about the governments of Ontario and British Columbia. They are democratically elected governments. They did have elections. They did debate, discuss and vote on this issue. Each province came forward with the decision to implement the HST.

I find it difficult that the federal government should say no, when it already said yes to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Quebec to a certain extent--

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret I will have to interrupt the hon. member because the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain will have less than a minute to answer.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, how can we force our will on Ontario and British Columbia when we did not--

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain has less than a minute to answer.

Disposition of an Act to amend the Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I can be very, very brief.

I appreciate that it is difficult for the Liberals to now accept responsibility for imposing higher taxes and that the member would try to weasel out of that. The reality is that it is beyond belief for people who are watching this debate to suggest that this is a provincial issue and not a federal issue when we are debating this issue in this House.

I hope that is brief enough, Madam Speaker, although I would be pleased to go on. This is not a provincial issue. The federal government is a key partner in this. That is why we are debating it. We need to give people an opportunity to appear before the committee. Let us have public hearings. Let us make sure people's voices are heard.