Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the charming member for Québec.
I am delighted to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about the motion that we have put forward on this opposition day. I will take the time to read it so that all of the men and women listening understand:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should negotiate in good faith with the Government of Quebec to resolve the dispute dating back over ten years regarding the harmonization of the QST with the GST in the early 1990s and agree to provide $2.6 billion in compensation to Quebec for this harmonization, and that Quebec continue to administer these harmonized taxes.
I think that the motion is clear. Since the early 1990s, the Government of Quebec has been collecting the GST on behalf of the federal government. Since the early 1990s, Quebec has said that the sales taxes are harmonized. The federal government has never entered into discussions or negotiations regarding a harmonized sales tax. Since Quebec took charge of the GST for the federal government, other provinces, including the Atlantic provinces, have received compensation for harmonizing their sales taxes. Recently, Ontario received over $4 billion for harmonizing its tax.
Given that, it should come as no surprise that Quebec's National Assembly passed the motion I am about to read. It appears in the National Assembly's Journal des Débats for March 31, 2009. It was passed unanimously by all parties in the National Assembly, including the Parti Québécois, the Liberal Party and the Action démocratique du Québec. I will read it now:
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.
The Bloc Québécois did not pick the amount of $2.6 billion out of a hat. That was the amount requested in the motion passed unanimously by Quebec's National Assembly. Every party in this House, Liberal, NDP and Conservative, if they wanted to, could have read this unanimous motion from Quebec's National Assembly. That is why I am somewhat baffled to hear Conservative members ask, “Do we have $2.6 billion? That was not part of our budget plan.”
Ontario decided to harmonize its tax in 2010, and instantly, the Conservatives went running to negotiate with Ontario so they could set these funds aside. Yet I see no one running to negotiate this future agreement with Quebec. It is the same thing with the other parties. The NDP as well as the Liberal Party could have quickly contacted members of Quebec's National Assembly and the leaders of each provincial party to tell them they were willing to stand up for this.
The only party that has stood up day after day in the House of Commons is the Bloc Québécois and its leader. We have asked questions practically every day since the National Assembly of Quebec made its decision. Why? Because we represent and defend the interests of Quebeckers.
Yes, we are glad that the Liberals and the NDP have decided to support our motion today, but those parties never would have introduced such a motion in the House of Commons. That is a fact. They are supporting the motion because, once again, the Bloc Québécois stood up for Quebec's interests and introduced this motion calling on the government to finally compensate Quebec. For political reasons, the Liberals and the NDP have no choice but to follow suit. When we introduced the motion, we knew these parties had to support us. That is a fact.
Once again, for the Quebeckers who are watching, it is always a battle. It is a battle every time. When we defend a unanimous motion of the National Assembly of Quebec, we are not being partisan because we are supporting our sister party, the Parti Québécois. We are defending the interests of Quebeckers. All the members from Quebec in this House should have stood up, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois and my fellow Bloc members have done since the National Assembly motion was adopted, to make the government understand that we must adopt this motion. Quebec must get $2.6 billion in compensation, because it was the first province that decided to harmonize the tax.
The reason why the federal government is not compensating Quebec is that the Conservatives decided that, in keeping with their position and the proposal they had made to Quebec, the tax would have to be collected by Ottawa. All the parties in Quebec feel strongly about this. Even the federalist parties in Quebec do not want Ottawa to collect the QST. Quebec has collected this tax since 1992 and will keep on collecting it. That is a fact. This is a shared jurisdiction, and Quebec decided to take on this responsibility.
Although the Conservatives have gone to great lengths to reach out to Quebec, they have also appropriated powers from Quebec and transferred them to Ottawa at every opportunity. That is the position the Conservatives are defending today. It is rather disappointing that the Conservative members from Quebec do not support the unanimous motion of the National Assembly. It is disappointing. For those of us who strategically decided to ask questions day after day and to present this motion today on an opposition day, we are very aware that both the NDP and the Liberal Party had to support this motion for purely political reasons.
Once again, we thank them. They have woken up. It is always too late when it comes to Quebec but, fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is here to enlighten them and wake them up when it comes to Quebec. It is with pride that we hope that tomorrow's vote will result in the motion being adopted by a majority. The position defended by the Conservatives leads us to believe that they will vote against the motion once again, because of money according to what we are told.
Earlier I was listening to my Conservative colleague who asked where they were going to find the $2.6 billion. Where did they find the $4.3 billion to compensate Ontario? The compensation will come from the same envelope. It is not true that they had planned to provide compensation. It was Ontario who decided to harmonize its tax. The Premier of Ontario announced it in his budget and he negotiated with Ottawa. The federal government ran to negotiate with the Premier of Ontario and to give him what he wanted.
All we are asking is that, when this motion is adopted by a majority in the House of Commons tomorrow, the Conservative Party proceeds with haste to negotiate with Quebec, that it announces the good news and that it finds the $2.6 million to give to Quebec. We are in an economic downturn. This crisis has affected Quebec as severely as Ontario and, once again, Quebeckers deserve as much attention as the citizens of Ontario and of the Maritimes, who were fully compensated for this harmonization.