Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to address Bill C-28 which, as you know, seeks to amend numerous acts. Obviously, in order to speak on this complex issue, one has to be a tax expert or else have some common sense. Since I feel I do have some common sense, I will make my comments along those lines.
On Monday, journalist Claude Picher from the daily La Presse made a very sensible observation during the television program Salut Bonjour . He said “The Minister of Finance should use the expected surpluses to try to reduce the debt and individual income tax, and not pour money in new or existing programs”. This is a statement that makes a lot of sense and it is also sound advice to the Minister of Finance.
Like me, Mr. Picher could have pointed out that the GST was set up to take money from the taxpayers' pockets and use it to reduce the huge deficits of the central government. Since there is no longer a deficit, common sense should tell the government to reduce, if not abolish, the GST, and thus fulfil one of the promises made in the infamous red book of 1993.
Like me, he could also have talked about the transfers to the provinces. Everyone knows that the government, in an effort to reach a zero deficit and even generate surpluses, shamelessly cut billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces. These cuts hurt the provinces, which have had to deal with crises in the sectors of education, health and social programs.
So, common sense would dictate that this government restore transfer payments to their original level instead of talking about implementing new programs that would allow them once again to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.
What is the logic in this government implementing new postsecondary education programs when, as we know, the cream of our young achievers university-trained at public expense are leaving for the United States or other countries because the Canadian tax system is inadequate? What would common sense dictate, given that this drain of scientists, computer specialists and other professionals leads to the drain of a large part of our capacity to innovate and, ultimately, our capacity to create jobs in the future?
This is a worrisome situation on which no one, not even the Minister of Revenue, the Minister of Finance or the Prime Minister of Canada, can put an exact figure. In economic terms, the loss of the most dynamic, the most talented future members of our society is a disaster, an impoverishment of our society. Where is the sense in that?
This brain drain makes taxation reform all the more important. It is high time our governments seriously addressed an in-depth reform of personal and small business income tax.
According to Canada's taxation statistics, in the 1950s, individuals and corporations accounted for the same percentage of federal income tax revenues. In the decades since, fiscal policy has changed increasingly in favour of big business, so much so that in recent years individuals' contributions have increased eightfold. Where is the sense in that?
It is worthwhile pointing out that the corporate share of federal tax revenues dropped from about 43% in 1961 to a meagre 10% in 1995. The main explanation for this is the proliferation of tax expenditures available to business, the major corporations in particular. Where is the sense in that?
Is the Minister of Revenue in agreement with the Minister of Finance, his colleague, who claims to be able to solve the deficit without increasing corporate income tax? Why do the corporations manage to shelter income from tax by influencing taxation legislation? Why are they allowed this legal strategy, while the strategy of individuals who decide to do work under the table without paying tax is deemed illegal? This situation represents a serious threat to social equilibrium, Where is the sense in that?
It is easy to understand why the disadvantaged, the people with little or no income, try to get out of paying taxes by every imaginable means. The Bloc Quebecois has long been calling for a job-oriented Canadian corporate tax reform. The Bloc Quebecois has long been after the federal government about its taxation policy, and will continue to do so, particularly where family trusts, the GST, tax havens etc. are concerned, so that this taxation system becomes fair and equitable for all.
Let us speak of family trusts. This is a shortcoming in the federal legislation.
The auditor general's report and pressure from the Bloc Quebecois have only partly succeeded in eliciting a reaction from the Minister of Finance on the subject. It is still possible to leave the country without paying taxes owing to Revenue Canada, since an acceptable financial guarantee is sufficient. Furthermore, no reporting limit nor method of interest collection is provided for this guarantee.
Since the October 2 amendment to the Income Tax Act, the minister has been unable to report the tax plans this change has occasioned. Where is good old common sense?
The Liberal government should use the grab bag that is Bill C-28 to make the necessary changes to employment insurance contributions. It is vital the government reform the current employment insurance system in order to put an end to the inequities it gives rise to and to better protect workers, including seasonal workers.
The Bloc Quebecois also wants the Minister of Finance to substantially reduce the levels of contribution to the employment insurance plan, conditional on the job creation performance of business. The reduction in contributions could be 40 cents per $100 of insurable payroll.
The Minister of Finance must also create an employment insurance fund separate from the federal government's consolidated fund, as the Auditor General of Canada proposed, to prevent money belonging to workers and employers being used as a discretionary fund by the federal government. It would make sense for the government to move quickly to pass an anti-deficit law like the one passed by the Quebec National Assembly.
Instead of digging into the public's pockets, the government should cut all unnecessary spending and programs in its own departments. As an example, I could mention the many millions of dollars spent to change Canada Post's logo. That was the government's most recent stunt.
Other examples include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent rerouting international flights from Mirabel to Dorval, the purchase of helicopters deemed unacceptable by these same Liberals when the Conservatives were in office, the many millions spent by the Department of Canadian Heritage to brainwash the Canadian public, along with the millions of dollars spent on Option Canada, a bogus corporation, during the last referendum.
I will stop here, because the examples go on and on. I hope that the auditor general's recommendations will finally be implemented and a stop put to this scandalous spending. We are entitled to ask whether this government is acting wisely, whether the way it manages makes sense.
No, it does not make sense, because this government's policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. A tax system that drives a nation to poverty definitely makes no sense. For this reason, and in solidarity with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I will energetically oppose passage of this bill.
My common sense tells me that it is urgent that the people of Quebec stick together as they move towards sovereignty. That is what really makes sense.