Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was women.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Lost her last election, in 1997, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Tobacco Act March 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is with great amazement and chagrin that I rise to take part in the debate today.

When I was 13 years old I took up smoking. Yes, both my parents smoked, as did most adults I knew. It was 1961 and in spite of the U.S. surgeon general's report some eight years earlier, smoking was still the norm.

Five years ago, after numerous tries, I finally managed to quit. I thank God daily that I did so. During those pretty awful weeks that followed my last cigarette, I brooded considerably about why I had taken that first step as a teenager. The answer, actually, was fairly easy. It was considered grown up. It was considered sophisticated. It was considered cool, an adjective or attribute as desirable in 1961 as it is in 1997.

I do not know why we have not succeeded in killing this image of smoking for our young. I suspect the reasons are complex and manifold, but I do know that the advertising of cigarettes is part of the problem.

I truly cannot believe the commentators, the pundits and the Bloc Quebecois who somehow pretend to believe that the advertising of tobacco is unrelated to increased smoking by young people. I actually heard one person, no doubt just off the shuttle from Mars, say that young people's smoking was unrelated to advertising, but particularly unrelated to arts advertising. That makes me sick.

Smoking cigarettes kills people. It is not a theory, it is a fact. Smoking is a cause of lung cancer. It is a cause of emphysema. It exacerbates asthma. It is a cause of heart disease and it is a cause of strokes. Recent research has made strong links to the incidence of breast cancer being caused by smoking or exacerbated by smoking.

Smoking is dangerous. It is deadly. Take any smoker in the country and beleaguered as he or she may be by being forced to congregate in the cold or in small ghettoizing rooms, lectured constantly by the medical profession and by the converted like me, I will bet that the most militant smoker does not want his or her child to take up this habit. It is not because of any social stigma. It is not because of the cold porches. It is not even because your clothes and your hair stink. It is because no loving parent wants a child to place his life in jeopardy.

Let us look at the issue of advertising and consumption-the consumption of any good-and let us make it really simple.

Companies that want to sell their goods spend massive dollars on advertising. Why do companies spend massive dollars on advertising? To sell their product and to make a profit.

We all know that is true, but for some reason, as I noted with surprise yesterday, the editorial writers of the Globe and Mail were having a problem with this. I hope what I have said today may be of some help to them.

Just in case there is any further doubt, people do not buy cigarettes for decoration or bookends or ballast. They buy cigarettes to smoke them and smoking them makes them sick. The difficulty here of course-I do not minimize it-is the question of arts funding. Let me state, unequivocally, my long time devotion to the enhancement of Canadian cultural endeavours.

In my previous life I was an actor, first in amateur and later in professional productions. I have served on the boards of theatres, dance, music and other arts organizations. I have maintained an active interest in the visual and performing arts in my city, my province, my region and my country. This is something that is very close to my heart.

I want more and better funding for artists and artistic endeavours, from Halifax's wonderful Shakespeare in the Park to CBC Radio and I will work my fingers to the bone to help find it. But I will not, I cannot, say that money earned from a dangerous product is okay.

Tobacco must not be the saviour of the arts in Canada. There are other sources and we must each work together, all of us on all sides of this House, and with the people in our constituencies to find them.

I know from personal experience what it is like to sit around a board room table late at night in the face of government cuts, in the face of private sector cuts, desperately searching with other devotees and volunteers for alternative sources of funding; scrambling, scrimping and scraping to maintain this festival or this theatre company. I know.

I also know what it is like to watch a friend walk around carrying a portable oxygen tent, unable to walk up stairs, unable to pick up a grandchild because of the emphysema that is choking off his life.

I have spoken many times to hard pressed artists, producers and artistic directors about this terrible dichotomy that we face, but not one of them suggested that tobacco was benign. The artistic community is in a terrible position. I understand the position of the people in Quebec and across the country who are terrified for their jobs. However, this issue goes beyond that. It is a question of right and wrong.

I do not blame people for fighting but I say to them that while we do not have all or even some of the answers with regard to funding in these days of financial restraint and cutback, the answer is not to turn a blind eye to a hazardous, dangerous product.

The legislation gives us and them two years. I pledge my strongest efforts, and I know millions of other Canadians will as well. We cannot afford the status quo. I cannot in all conscience indulge my passion for the theatre, for the ballet, for the music I love, if always in the back of my mind I see teenagers trying to be cool, trying to be grown up in a corner of the schoolyard, beginning an addiction that will lead them ultimately to an early grave.

International Women's Day March 5th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as we approach International Women's Day I look around and see many women who are practising as physicians when in the past many said that women could not do that.

I see women who are legislators when in the past many said that women should not vote. I see women who have become engineers when the world said that only men were allowed to build bridges. Indeed, the minister of public works is building the biggest bridge in the world. I am proud of these women for taking the challenge, for following their dreams and listening to their hearts.

More than 40 per cent of Canada's small businesses are operated by women and the number of women entrepreneurs is growing at a rate far greater than any forecaster had ever dreamed. Women have raised their voices because of the serious lack of research on women's health issues and they have been heard. The government established five centres of excellence for women's health, one in Halifax at Dalhousie, to address the lack of research on women's health in Canada.

Film Industry February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House today to speak of this government's commitment to the film industry in Halifax.

Yesterday the member for Dartmouth and I were proud to announce the construction of three sound stages in the Halifax metropolitan area. The new production capability will help to meet the demand of Nova Scotia's growing film industry or as we call it at home, Hollywood North.

We have highly skilled trained professionals in the television and film industry both behind and in front of the camera. They love their craft, they are dedicated and they are successful. However, their success stems from the combined efforts of this government through ACOA in partnership with the provincial government and the private sector working together to turn a vision for the Halifax film industry into reality.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

Here they go again attempting to correct my usage in the House and suggesting that I use a term that is both agricultural and faintly scatological.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

I have to respond to my colleague. I am still waiting to hear if a Reformer is going to run in my riding. Apparently not.

Tax inclusive pricing will be confusing for consumers. That is a myth. There is nothing confusing about tax inclusive pricing. Tax inclusive price is what is paid at the cash register. Indeed, the research that many of us have dealt with, those of us who understand it, shows that consumers will not be confused. They support tax in pricing and they support the options available to retailers.

Some of those options are to post the tax inclusive price only, to post the tax in and the tax out prices alongside each other, to use shelf or bin pricing so they do not have to resticker prepriced goods from the manufacturer, or use conversion charts so consumers can look at the tax included price for prepriced magazines, greeting cards, et cetera.

Many retailers already use these methods, particularly bin or shelf pricing. All they have to do is apply this common practice to tax inclusive pricing.

For goods priced individually by retailers business supply companies are producing stickers with the words tax inclusive price or tax exclusive price embossed right on the sticker. This will make it clear which price includes tax and which does not.

The thing I think most consumer realize is that prices change all the time in our retail establishments in this country. In fact, the idea that confusion will result is not true. Indeed, it will make life less confusing for those shoppers and consumers.

The second myth is that it will be difficult for consumer to comparison shop given that retailers may follow different pricing practices. I think with the greatest respect again there is a theory here that the Canadian consumer is somehow less willing and able to know what this is about. Most of these things are fairly easy to handle. My personal belief, in spite of what our friends on the other side will have us believe, is that the Canadian consumer is capable of handling this. It may well be that our friends on the other side are not capable of handling it. That I certainly believe. Again, I trust none of them will start taking off their coats.

The reality on this supposed myth of difficulty is that what matters to consumers is what they pay at the cash and not how retailers display tax in prices. Consumers will know the difference between a price that includes the tax and one that does not. They will compare total prices and make their purchases accordingly. That is effectively what I was talking about when I said that consumers do not want surprises when they go to the cash register.

Harmonization is something that will benefit both retailers and consumers. Another myth is that tax inclusive pricing will be costly for businesses that will pass on the increased costs to consumers in the form of higher prices. In reality governments have developed a flexible and simple set of options to ensure that businesses can implement tax inclusive pricing at a minimum expense.

For example, the need to reticket inventory will be limited and the need to reprogram cash registers will be minimal. Many of the costs associated with implementing tax in pricing are one time costs. Other expenses will be absorbed into the ongoing cost of doing business.

Harmonization will also benefit retailers in several important ways. It will permanently reduce their costs because they will no longer have to pay sales tax on their business inputs. This will save retailers in the participating provinces $30 million.

Harmonization will mean a substantial reduction in sales tax rates, about 5 percentage points lower in Newfoundland and Labrador and 4 points lower in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Both these factors will mean lower prices for consumers, between 3.5 per cent and 5 per cent lower which will translate in higher sales for retailers.

Another myth is tax inclusive pricing will result in a hidden tax. With the tax clearly shown on the receipts the sales tax cannot be hidden. Consumers believe that showing the tax on the sales receipt is sufficient to ensure that they know how much tax they are paying. Indeed, in polling done, 71 per cent agreed in a survey in the participating provinces that this was both comprehensible and an acceptable way to do it.

The harmonized sales tax is something that-

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

I am glad the hon. member for B.C. brought that up.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

I am really concerned about the outgoing member for Calgary whatever over there. I am afraid that there may be a problem and I wonder if we could ask the page to bring him a glass of water. What he proceeds to do with the glass of water, of course, will be his own decision. Pouring it over his head would have to be a decision he took for himself.

His incredible response to the debate earlier today when I was in the Chamber, all he could talk about was how glad he was that he

would be out of here in a couple of months. I can only say that, collegiality notwithstanding, we too on this side will be glad to hasten his departure.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

The hon. gentleman appears to be making an untoward amount of noise. I must say that I am a little leery of making any comments that might in any way stir the beans on the other side for fear someone might start to undress in the House of Commons, which of course I would consider to be most distressing, not to mention unsightly. But of course unsightly premises are municipal law, not federal law.

At any rate, with regard to tax inclusive pricing, the participating governments developed guidelines based on extensive consultations with businesses and business associations.

In Halifax there have been long consultations with ever more increasing consumers, retailers, the Chamber of Commerce in Halifax. My colleague, the member for Halifax West, and I had a long and most productive meeting with the Chamber of Commerce in Halifax recently. As a result the word we heard most has become a hallmark of this legislation. That is guidelines that provide flexibility to ensure that businesses can comply without undue cost. That, of course, is of paramount importance.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

Actually it is 19 per cent, to the hon. member from Kicking Horse Pass over there. I understand that he has always had a little difficulty with arithmetic, which does not surprise me.

Excise Tax Act February 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate today. I want to speak a little about some of the benefits that harmonizing the sales tax will bring, in particular to consumers in Atlantic Canada.

It is very interesting to know that in polling and in otherwise questioning consumers in the Atlantic provinces that have agreed to harmonize the sales tax with the federal government, over 79 per cent of persons polled-and I am happy to say that the major poll was taken in the city of Halifax in my riding-were in favour of tax inclusive pricing.

It is very important for people to realize, even some of the people on the other side, and really understand what is happening and what tax inclusive pricing means for consumers. It is something all of us as legislators have heard of since the first time the GST was brought in. The bottom line is that consumers want to know how much they have to pay before they get to the cash register.

Every single one of us has had the experience while shopping of seeing something that we want to buy for ourselves, a family member or whatever and thinking the price is reasonable and within the realm of what we have decided we want to pay. We go to the cash register only to discover that the tax bite has put it over the top of where we want to be. That of course is something that distresses consumers every day.