Mr. Speaker, I have just listened to two members from across the way who have told us about all sorts of things that do not, or will not, exist with respect to this bill.
I will naturally take a moment to try to place the effects of Bill C-70 in perspective. Everything we have heard during the last two speeches has been nonsense. Things must therefore be put in perspective.
First of all, Bill C-70 is a collection of amendments that are going to complicate even further what Canadians had to contend with in the previous legislation. Just now, they were trying to tell us that this would make it easier for businesses to collect the GST, but this is not so.
Bill C-70, introduced by the Minister of Finance, is a striking example of what this government can do to make a mockery of democracy.
First, there is the manner in which this voluminous bill was tabled, without allowing time for the official opposition to examine
its contents. The official opposition had less than 24 hours to read and examine the complete bill. That is a mockery of democracy.
The Minister of Finance would do well to change his ways, for the benefit of Canadians. A bill as technical as this, with so many amendments, deserves to be examined in greater detail.
This is not the first example of the contempt in which democracy is held by members across the way, nor, I am sure, is it the last we shall see before the coming election. They will be trying to pull some fast ones on Canadians.
This bill is proof of the failure to keep the election promises made in the famous red book by the Prime Minister himself, by the Minister of Finance, by the Liberal government, which has forgotten, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is governing on behalf of the public.
How many times did they promise during the 1993 election campaign to scrap the GST outright? The present Prime Minister said that he was going to scrap it. In 1994, he also said that the Liberals, i.e. his own government, detested this tax and that they were going to get rid of it.
Today, with the tabling of this bill, we have come to the moment of truth. The worst part of all this, however, is that the Liberals used the taxpayers' money, yes the taxpayers' money, to pay for a byelection on this matter. The Deputy Prime Minister treated us to an appalling demonstration of how not to keep one's promise. Yet making the GST disappear was an election promise.
The only disappearance in this bill is that the GST has been made to disappear from view, has been camouflaged. It will be camouflaged, it will be hidden from view. The government ought to know that the people are not fools. The public knows very well that this government does not keep its promises.
In Quebec we have a motto, one which the people of Quebec will put into application when the time is ripe. That motto is "Je me souviens", and yes, we will remember. I shall speak shortly on what Quebec has done to harmonize its sales tax.
This brings us to Bill C-70, where the Liberals end up doing exactly what they themselves have criticized. The new GST is a hypocritical tax, and that makes a lot of people's hair stand on end. It is a hypocritical tax, that is true. From now on, it will be hidden within the cost of goods and services.
However, in a report of the Standing Committee on Finance which dates back, not to 1990 but to 1994, the Liberal majority, these people sitting in front of us, took a position that was clear and to the point on what the GST should be. They said in the report that it would be improper to hide from Canadians the amounts they paid in taxes to their governments and that making it a hidden tax undermined their ability to make the government accountable for the way these taxes were collected and, to a lesser extent, for the way moneys were spent. This is straight from the report of the Standing Committee on Finance. I repeat, the date is very important. This was in 1994.
What happened since that time? Today, we are hearing a very different message. I think the Liberals, the members of this government, are suffering from amnesia. What does this mean? It means saying one thing today and saying the opposite tomorrow.
Personally, this is an attitude I could not tolerate. We cannot change our minds overnight, just like that, especially when everything we buy nowadays costs Canadians an awful lot of money. Has power made members opposite deaf? Being in power means being hard of hearing, speechless and asleep. That is what is happening now.
Here is another example of the amnesia of members opposite. In 1989, they were in opposition. The position of the Liberals on hiding the GST in the sales price was that if the GST was hidden in the sales price, it would be much easier for the government to increase it later on. That is what they were saying in 1989. Today, they dismiss this out of hand. They have reversed their position. So they say one thing when they are in opposition and something else entirely when they are in power.
Is that what Bill C-70 is all about? Is the Liberal government proposing to hide the tax to make it easier to increase later on? Later on meaning a few months from now, after the election, for instance? Considering the selective memory of members of the current government, we have every right to ask these questions. And there is one I would like to ask especially: What can the public expect now? The Liberals, the people opposite, talked about doing away with the GST, but now they want to hide it. Can we expect any increases in the GST in the months to come?
We also know that 76 per cent of Canadian businesses are against hiding the GST in the price of goods and services, although the opposite was implied just now. Personally, when I pay my bills, I want to know where my money is going. I want to know the price of the product or service. I also want to know how much I will be sending the government and what it will do with it. I want the government to be accountable. I am sure that my constituents agree with me. Some members would do well to return to their riding and talk to those who elected them to see whether they approve of this bill.
Rest assured of one thing. I am going back to my riding to talk to the people. Every time I have the opportunity, I tell them that the government reneges on its promises, that the GST will be hidden
and that this government can do what it likes with it. It can do with it what it likes.
I would also like to look at another aspect of this bill, the most undemocratic element and one that, yet again, tramples the rights of Quebecers. We heard endlessly during the referendum campaign, and even afterward, that all Canadians were equal. This bill provides a fine lesson in equality. Just a fine lesson.
Quebecers are denied the compensation paid the maritime provinces. Is this the government's idea of equality among Canadians? Is this what it is? One law for the maritimes, one for Quebec. The Minister of Finance's election promise costs $1 billion. On top of it, they are calling this harmonization. I find this very confusing.
Naturally, someone is going to have to come up with this $1 billion. Although Quebec harmonized the sales tax with the federal government, it is going to have to pay $250 million. All the other Canadians are going to have to make up the difference. Is it in the public's interest to have double standards in government policies? I think not.
When will the Minister of Finance inform us of the criteria applying to his compensation package? This is very important. When will the Minister of Finance show us that Quebec is not entitled to this compensation? There must be a debate on this question. Quebecers are entitled to this debate, because they will be footing the bill.
I am telling you nothing new when I say that Quebec harmonized its tax with that of the federal government. Quebec administers the tax. Quebec acted very responsibly. Why then are Quebecers not entitled to the compensation the federal government is giving to the maritime provinces? I am wondering. The people opposite are hiding behind power.
Some day, the government will need to come up with an answer, in terms of equality and not of campaign promises. We have proof that this government's campaign promises are not being kept. They did not keep their promise with this bill, where harmonization of taxes was concerned, just as they did not keep their main promise regarding job creation.
It is all very fine to pitch all sorts of figures at us, but when everything is weighed out, it can be seen that job creation in this country is stalled.
If the maritime provinces have additional costs to pay in harmonizing their sales tax with the federal one, so does Quebec. If the maritimes are entitled to compensation, to the tune of $1 billion, then Quebec too is entitled to compensation. Once again, the Minister of Finance must show some fairness. Good for the maritimes and their co-operation with the federal government, but what about the other provinces?
The maritimes represent 15 per cent of the Canadian population. We cannot, therefore, say that harmonization is in place from sea to sea. The Minister of Finance is proposing a single tax to be administered by a national revenue commission. This commission would, for want of a better word, simply squeeze out the provinces. Once again, and every time a bill is tabled here, provincial rights are getting it in the neck. Here again, provincial autonomy is at stake. As we well know, the people on the other side do not give a hoot about provincial autonomy.
Since I have only a minute left, I would like to talk about the famous tax on books. People will remember the Bloc Quebecois debate here on the book tax. In Quebec, there is no provincial tax on books, whether they are bought by students, self-employed workers or anyone else. The sales tax does not apply to books in Quebec, but here, with this bill, sales tax will apply. There are, however, exceptions for certain institutions.
It is not true that the tax is 100 per cent abolished. Only clearly designated institutions, such as municipalities and libraries, will be entitled to deduct this tax. Canadians must not be taken for people who will swallow just anything. They will not. This bill does not eliminate the sales tax on books; only certain institutions will be exempted. In my opinion, the mere fact of taxing books promotes ignorance.