Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood, for his first private member's bill. It is an excellent bill. It is very fortunate to be picked early in the list of precedence for these bills. He has taken the opportunity to show us how the GST treatment is so unfair and illogical in many ways. What he has suggested is that we move from 68% to 100% on the GST rebate. In the province of British Columbia, which I represent, that would mean an additional $17 million that schools could put toward supplies.
Right now, the Liberals are against the bill. They recognize that there is an issue because they are bringing forward the school teachers' tax credit. On the one hand, they say there is no problem, but on the other hand, they feel they have to bring forward a tax credit for school teachers. It would make a whole lot more sense to me that if they want to support teachers and the school system, instead of bringing in a “boutique” tax credit—as they like to call them—for teachers, they should do something that would be eminently more logical and sensible and allow the schools to have additional resources. That could provide support for what has been identified as a problem.
I find it strange for them to argue against the bill. I find it foolhardy that they are going to vote against it. They should at least be taking the opportunity to send this piece of legislation to committee so that members could really look at it and we could hear how important it would be to the school boards across the country.
One of the first things I will talk about is whether it is interfering with provincial jurisdiction. Currently, the rebate is 68%, so if the government is giving a 68% rebate, moving it to 79%, 83%, or 100% would be part of the business of the federal government, namely, to determine what an appropriate rebate of the GST should be for our different organizations and sectors. To be frank, we have heard this from a number of different people who have stood up and said there is just one taxpayer. It just does not make a lot of sense for the federal government to collect tax that the provincial governments or municipalities are then just going to have to tax back to the same person.
I was responsible for a small rural community health care centre when the original GST came in. It really did have a profound affect on the budget and the budgetary process that I was involved with. We should not think that the GST and the GST rebate are insignificant. Certainly, the piece that many of us have not even talked about is the paperwork associated with applying for the rebate. They pay the GST, then I do not know how many people we have working in the Canada Revenue Agency crunching the numbers and then cutting the cheques. We have a pretty expensive system that has been established to deal with the GST and the GST rebates.
Mostly, what we have is a system that does not make a lot of sense. In 2004, it was a Liberal federal government that said it would go from 57% to 100% for municipalities. I would really like it if one of the Liberals would stand up and talk about the logic. Municipalities are at 100%. We have our health care organizations, which I believe are at 83%. We have our school system at 68%, and I believe there is a 1% difference between what our universities and colleges get.
Not only should we be supporting this private member's bill, but if it went to committee it would be an opportunity to hear more broadly from witnesses. The government might actually be able to use the information it gets at committee to rethink this whole policy around the rebate.
What we have here is an eminently logical, sensible private member's bill. We have one Canadian taxpayer and a government that, from all the debate I am hearing today, will be voting against it for no coherent reason. It's important to note that there is no coherence in its argument against at least sending this to second reading.
Our schools are under pressure. Obviously the Liberals do recognize that, because of their decision around the tax credit they are going to be giving to school teachers. What better way to support our school system. This is not about interfering in provincial jurisdiction. It is just about doing what they have done for municipalities. If I were going to do a private member's bill, I would suggest that the government do the same for our hospitals and our health care facilities.
I will make one final plea to my Liberal colleagues on the other side and say that when we have an opportunity to vote, I think their constituents would be very proud if they stood and supported this particular measure. Let us see what we can do to support our school system and look at creating some coherence around the GST rebate.
Again, I thank my colleague. We look forward to the vote. I will remain optimistic about seeing this move at least to the next step.