December 19, 1989

PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Employment; the hon. member for Ottawa West-Pay Equity; the hon. member for Edmonton East-Indian Affairs.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   SUBJECT MATTER OF QUESTIONS TO BE DEBATED
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GOVERNMENT ORDERS

INCOME TAX ACT


The House resumed consideration of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Income Ihx Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements and Federal Post-Secondary Education and Health Contributions Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and a related Act, as reported (without amendment) from a legislative committee, and Motions Nos. 4, 6 and 7.


NDP

Ron Fisher

New Democratic Party

Mr. Ron Fisher (Saskatoon-Dundurn):

Madam Speaker, my first inclination, as is befitting what one would call an expression of mourning, would be to stand here for my 10 minutes in absolute silence. I would do that not out of respect for the other members of the House, but as a sincere gesture toward those people who are having their family allowances and their pensions clawed back.

I am not too sure where the best place is to start my remarks, but since we are talking about the clawback, maybe that would be the place to do it. I cannot imagine a more fitting term for this government to originate for what it is doing. There is an element of the scavenger. There is an element of the vicious claw. What a descriptive term. Claw back. Let us take away from those people the little money that we are giving them. What a descriptive term for a despicable government.

I experienced seven months of what this government did to the people with unemployment insurance and this clawback is is absolutely in character for the government. I do not know whether it is the result of lack of imagination or the result of too much imagination.

When dealing with cheaters on unemployment insurance, they are absolutely efficient in tracking down some poor person on unemployment insurance, some single mother with a couple of kids trying to put a little bit of food on her table or maybe shoelaces on the kids' shoes. They can track her down when she earns a penny more

December 19, 1989

than she is allowed under the unemployment insurance regulations.

How do they do it? They do it with computers. They simply cross-match the reports of the employers with the computers that they have in the unemployment insurance commission office. They can find those people.

I think that what they are doing here is the result of lack of imagination. If nothing else, it certainly is sloth. It is inconceivable to me that in this technological age we live in, this government cannot tax people based on how much money they make in relation to how much they ought to be taxed under the Income Tax Act. It is terrible to even suggest that there are some people who are getting money from the government which they ought not to get, to suggest that it is impossible for the government to tax back, not claw back the amount of money in excess of what we as taxpayers ordinarily pay.

There are not very many taxpayers in this country who do not realize that you have to pay taxes. Something that we absolutely object to is this erosion, it is worse than erosion, of the universality which has become such a part of the fabric of Canadian society. It is far more than an erosion. It is a devastation. The words escape me right now but it is an absolutely horrendous thing that this slothful, mean-spirited government would bring in.

It suggests that indeed, as with everything else they seem to put their hands to, government members are incompetent, so incompetent that as we take part in this debate, we find ourselves under closure again. Wonder of wonders.

This is about the tenth or twelfth time since I came to Parliament, I was going to say a year ago, and it is true, that we have been under closure. We were under closure on free trade but that was only one or two instances. Since April when we came back and started Parliament in earnest, this is the tenth or twelfth time I have risen to speak under closure.

What an unimaginative group we have over there. What a mean-spirited, unimaginative group who seem not to be able to do anything constructive, who seem not to be able to come up with imaginative programs for the creation of jobs, for the creation of well-paying quality jobs so people can have some kind of a satisfaction with what they do within society rather than flipping ham-

Govemment Orders

burgers and going to work for welfare as they seem to have done so well and have bragged about in connection with some programs they have in my native province of Saskatchewan. Work for welfare, can you imagine anything so obscene? I suspect that "obscene" was the word I was trying to find earlier.

One of the best examples of the incompetence of this government is the bill itself. It was so flawed by their own admission that government members had to bring in 125 amendments to their own legislation, only to withdraw them.

I suppose if you look at flawed legislation and if you look at having to withdraw amendments you make to it, you would have to conclude that what you have there is a couple of negatives. I am sure the chairperson of the finance committee can tell me-the great mathematician that he is-that two negatives make a positive.

I fail to understand how something as broad as the bill originally was without the withdrawn 125 amendments can possibly, except perhaps in the eyes of the government opposite, add up to a positive. I suspect that it may possibly be that when you are talking mathematics, two negatives do make a positive. When you are talking in terms of social programs and social legislation, when you are talking in terms of pensions for our seniors, when you are talking in terms of family allowances, I suggest that these two wrongs certainly do not make a right. It is rather obvious that the exact opposite is true.

How can anyone say that these people, defenseless like most wage earners are, ought to have a certain amount of their rightful earnings taken away? One of the previous speakers pointed out and, it is entirely true, that Canadians have had their taxes deducted in the past for the right to receive old age assistance when they reach the age of retirement. This government is saying no.

I suppose they have lost their computers. I suspect they are not going to be taking into account how much those people contributed, how much they ought to receive as a result of those contributions. They have thrown the computers out and they are going to be clawing back from that old age security. That is, by any definition, theft.

December 19, 1989

Government Orders

How can this government possibly exonerate itself from taking back money from people who have paid into a program in order that they will receive some kind of benefits when they retire? I do not suppose the government thought of that. I will not just have made government members aware of that. It has been referred to before. Perhaps there will be one or two more amendments they would like to withdraw from the legislation, and I would suspect that the only one they have left to withdraw is the legislation itself. I would suggest that that is precisely the motion which this government ought to withdraw and it ought to withdraw it now.

This is one of the most horrendous things that has happened to the Canadian public, and to do it on the backs of people who have contributed as much as they have to this society and our children who will be contributing is unconscionable.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Ron J. Duhamel

Liberal

Mr. Ronald J. Duhamel (St. Boniface):

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here in the House today to address this question that is particularly important to Canadian seniors and Canadian families. I want us to remember that we are not talking just about the clawback. We need to look at it in the economic and social context within which we are currently living.

You know very well that there is much less money for education, now. Transfers of funds have been cut not only for education, but also for health. Education is taxed, no matter what the government says, as are some health services. Therefore, when we speak of the famous "clawback" and of its impact on families, we must not consider it as a single occurence. It is there, and it is all the worse because there are other tax measures which impact in a negative way on families.

For instance, there is the goods and services tax. Now, hockey, ball games and other sports will be taxed. Parents pay much more tax than they did five years ago. There have been, I believe, 31 tax increases, and there will be 32, with the goods and services tax. And yet, we know that there is not enough room in day care centres for children, nowadays.

There is simply insufficient daycare space for children whose parents need to go out and work in order to earn a decent living and to provide them with the basic necessities of life. There is, as well, no tax fairness for those parents who choose to stay at home or are able to do so. That is an unfortunate reality.

The basic question that we have to ask ourselves is not only the one that I have raised already, that is, the clawback in itself being a repressive, regressive measure. I will not go through the numbers but it is also quite clear as to what will happen to well over one million Canadian families within the next decade. They will be caught within that net.

We have to ask that other question. If you look at the massive tax increases, the reduction of transfer payments and all of that within the total context of Canadian society, what message is this government sending to Canadian families? What message is it sending out about children, about our children's future?

It seems to me that we need to invest in families and in children. Clearly this clawback, in addition to many of the other regressive measures taken by government, is not going to contribute to that in any way, shape or form.

Let us now talk about seniors and the impact of the famous clawback on them.

I think that most of us would recognize that seniors have built this country and we owe them because of what they contributed to the nation. Seniors have invested in this country and they, rightfully so, expect a return on that investment. They have invested not only their talents and their labour, but they have also invested dollars because hon. members are not without knowing that there was, at one time in the not too distant past, a particular provision whereby people who were paying taxes at the time were paying for their senior years so that they could collect a reasonable return upon retirement. They expect a return on that dollar investment.

It is rather interesting, as some of my colleagues have mentioned, that if they had taken those dollars and invested them in a private company and 20, 30 or 40 years

December 19, 1989

later that private company were to say: "Look, we are sorry, your investment is too high in terms of what we can afford", you and I both know what would happen. They would be pursuing that company in a court of law and they in fact would be remunerated appropriately.

The other thing that I think we need to point out is that the clawback and the deindexation are really the same. Government members lost the first round when they tried to deindex and so they are trying again and it looks very much as if they are going to be successful. Let us not kid ourselves. Let us not permit us to be sidetracked. Deindexation and clawback in the final analysis are basically the same issue. They remove what is rightfully that of others from them.

The partial deindexation, as has been mentioned on a number of occasions, is something that a lot of people have difficulty in understanding. Clearly, if it is in fact looked at in terms of $50,000 a year revenue, these seem like large numbers. Today the concept might be somewhat appealing because most people do not earn $50,000 a year, but let us project to the next decade. Let us remember that those people who may be wondering if this is a good idea because they have not had the time to study it as much as they might have will be the victims of this particular initiative of government within the next decade or so. In 10 years, in 15 years, they will be the clawed backs of this country.

The seniors in this country are frightened. I speak to seniors every single week. They do not know whether or not they will be able to continue to pay their bills, whether or not they will be able to continue to have the basic necessities of life, and they feel as if they have been cheated. I sympathize and empathize with them. I think it is a shame that this government should have created that sense of fear, that sense of fright, that sense of real deep concern among those who can very often less easily defend themselves.

Let us look at the kind of country that has been created which has in fact engendered this kind of fear. We have a government whose policies have pitted one region against another. We have seen that with the CF-18 contract about which Manitoba felt grieved and, therefore, felt badly toward Quebec, and I could cite a whole lot of other examples.

The government has pitted one group against another. Other people feel if seniors are earning $50,000 a year, they should in fact not be complaining if there is a

Government Orders

clawback. That is what I mean by pitting one group against another rather than taking the time to explain the reality of what is going to happen.

This is a government that is pitting one individual against another. We now have people who are concerned about what their neighbours are doing, whether or not their neighbours will survive, who become jealous of certain tax conditions that some enjoy while they do not.

This is in fact a government that has created a nation in which we are starting increasingly to doubt each other, to be less caring, to be reaching out less than we have in the past.

Quite apart from this context, if you wish, this fear that I have been describing, we know that the government has doubled the debt, in spite of the fact that revenues have increased by well over 50 per cent over the last five years. I have mentioned the 30-plus tax increases. I have mentioned the reduction of the established programs funding that will impact upon health and education.

We also have hidden taxes. The government tries to make us believe, for example, that education is exempt and that health is exempt. Well, let us look at some of those.

Let us take books, for example. Books will be taxed. Take some services. For example, if you take non-credit courses, they will be taxed. And the tax will apply in many other situations.

This is a country in which there are 3.5 to 5 million poor. Among those are one million children. There are over 150 soup kitchens. The government has just chopped one half of VIA Rail and there are going to be 2,700-plus unemployed. The unemployment figures are really very misleading, because many Canadians do not know that there are Canadians who live on reservations who are not a part of those figures, and that the youth unemployment rate in Newfoundland is close to 25 per cent.

This is a government that has decimated the Atlantic fisheries and has frightened farmers throughout the whole nation. Let us remember, as I complete my remarks, that this is not just a clawback. This is, in fact, a clawback that is regressive and that is frightening, one which is concerning people. We need to look at it within

December 19, 1989

Government Orders

the context of all of the other measures that have been taken and that has added to that fear.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West):

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place in the House of Commons this afternoon on behalf of thousands of senior citizens in the great riding of Hamilton West.

For the record, the Conservative agenda could not be more clear. With a cruel, shocking, uncaring attitude, the government has intentionally embarked on a destructive course to dismantle the entire system of old age security in this country. It is an entitlement which Canadians long struggled for, a sacred trust-there are those words again, Mr. Speaker, a sacred trust-honoured by governments over the years.

You will notice that I used the word "entitlement". That is because the old age security is not some kind of a welfare handout, or a government payout, or, as the finance minister once called it, a benefit. It is an entitlement that seniors have paid into since 1952.

Yes, this government is clawing back. There is the image, clawing back, like some big bear, some big, ugly, hungry, wants-to-feed-his-stomach bear with a giant claw. Out it reaches to rip back, and, in essence, confiscating money that belongs to seniors.

Just a little earlier here in this Chamber this afternoon we had a member from Ontario rise in his place and say: "Hey, I haven't heard any complaints. I haven't had any calls on this proposed legislation". I invite that member to hold a town hall meeting in his riding, invite the senior citizens to come and have tea with him in the afternoon so that he can hear and be in tune to what the seniors in his riding are saying. If he does not, I will shortly be having a town hall meeting in my riding of Hamilton West. If he would like to come to my riding and hear directly from seniors, I invite him to that meeting.

Time allocation and closure, for what, the tenth or eleventh time since we began sitting in April. It is the government's way of saying let us get this unpopular measure through Parliament in a hurry because the less Canadians know the better. This government has chosen to ram Bill C-28 down our throats without full and honest discussion but, most important, without a popular mandate.

I remind those members opposite and to my right of the words uttered by their leader, the Prime Minister, on November 8 in Nova Scotia:

As long as I am Prime Minister, social programs, especially those

for the elderly, will be improved, not diminished.

Will this clawback receive full debate? No. Will Canadians across this great land be given the opportunity to consider, be given the right to have some say, some input into this clawback legislation? No. Does this government show any commitment to the social needs of this great country? No. The government has failed to understand. We can go even further and say that this government has chosen, if you can believe it, to tear down the social programs, the social obligations which have made Canada the envy of the world.

It is that principle of universality, that concept of social justice, the very idea that says no matter where you live, no matter what youf religious belief, no matter what your income, whether you are rich or poor, no matter what your age, you as a Canadian are entitled to that common threshold of social programs to be found in Canada. There must be one fair Canada for all. This is not the view of the Conservative government, however. Universality is not a philosophy acceptable to a true blue Tory.

There is another image: blue, cold, harsh, unforgiving. To the old age pensioner who has worked hard to scrimp and save and sock away a little in investments for the so-called golden years, the government says: "Just gimme that back and you've got nothing to say about it". That is what they are saying. Closure, right?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

William James Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Kempling:

Bullshit.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Keyes:

The hon. member for Burlington is using foul language to explain my point of view.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

William James Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Kempling:

You're sick.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Keyes:

Have you been hearing this, Mr. Speaker? I think other members in the House have been hearing some of the remarks being made and I think it would be only honourable if that member apologized and withdrew those remarks.

In the end, this government then turns its back on the pensioner and says: "That will teach them for being thrifty, for being responsible, for investing in this coun-

December 19, 1989

try. Those old fools." That is what this government is saying.

This is not the Canada that I grew up in. Bill C-28 is a heartless, callous, cunning piece of legislation, sloppy in its creation, devious in its presentation, unacceptable to the parliamentary system, intolerable in its standards. Senior citizens beware. For all of you who are under 65 who have been counting on receiving old age security payments as part of your retirement income, the rules are about to change.

The government's own consultation paper on child and elderly benefits released in January 1985 had this to say about the idea of a surtax, another word for clawback, on old age pensions:

A special surtax on old age security payments to return more of the benefit paid to upper income pensioners would seriously disrupt our retirement income system, both for current pensioners and those now planning for retirement, and would unduly penalize those most affected by reason of retirement income resulting from private savings in earlier years.

That is what the government paper had to say. What has changed? Is this a new dawn? The clawback takes money that rightfully belongs to Canada's seniors.

In summary, the Minister of Finance must withdraw the bill and for good measure throw in an apology to seniors.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

William James Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Kempling:

Bullshit. You're sick.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Keyes:

You have been here too many years. You forget what kind of place this is.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

William James Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Immigration)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Kempling:

You're sick.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Keyes:

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the course of my remarks on this important bill, a bill under closure on which we will be voting in exactly half an hour, I wanted to state my concerns. During the course of my remarks there were remarks made-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Oh, come on.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

Order, please. If the hon. member has a point of order I wish he would come to it at this point.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Stan Kazmierczak Keyes

Liberal

Mr. Keyes:

I was about to make it, Madam Speaker. The hon. member on the other side of the House made very callous and in fact rude, vulgar remarks heard by

Government Orders

other colleagues on my side of the House. I would think it appropriate that he apologize.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

The Chair has not heard the remarks to which the hon. member for Hamilton West is referring. I am sure that if any hon. member feels that he or she should apologize, he or she will do the honourable thing.

In the meantime we will resume debate with the hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Rodney Edward Laporte

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rod Laporte (Moose Jaw-Lake Centre):

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill, a bill that is going to put an end to universality in this country. This government has attempted to change the issue. It has been telling Canadians and telling us in the House today and for some period of time that it is simply taxing wealthy Canadians and that there is nothing wrong with that. Government members say that they are simply taking back what wealthy Canadians do not really need.

That is not the issue and that is not why we have been opposing this bill. In fact, as far as taxing wealthy Canadians or reducing the deficit is concerned, this bill brings in only something like $300 million to $500 million, which is relatively insignificant with respect to lowering the deficit.

We in the New Democratic Party believe in fair taxation and would certainly support real measures of reform that would bring about some real fair taxation.

The issue is universality. This issue is important because it attacks the very credibility of the government. In 1984 the Prime Minister talked about sacred trusts and approximately a year later he tried to deindex the old age pension. That was an assault on one of the most sacred trusts in this country. It was only because seniors rose up in huge numbers and opposed the measure that the government backed off. Now it is doing the same thing, except it is coming in from the back door.

The government promised before the last election that it would introduce an extensive child care program for this nation. The government made $25 billion worth of commitments that it said would be put in place after the election, but they have not been put in place. There is no child care program and most of the other $25 billion of commitments promised by this government have not been met.

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Why should Canadians believe the government when it says: "Don't worry, we will take care of you"? What is going to happen down the road? In a few months or next year the government could reduce the figure for a clawback on the old age pension from $50,000 to perhaps $40,000. Or, if it is $40,000, why not $35,000?

The important fact is that we must maintain the universality of the program to guarantee that the programs will be there when Canadians need them.

The government wants to reduce the deficit. It says that it is important to have these changes made because it is spending too much money and it is having problems with the deficit. There are some very simple solutions. Three to five hundred million dollars is not a lot of money. One simple solution would be to put a fair tax on the $27 billion dollars corporations make in this country which are not taxed at all. Even in the United States under Ronald Reagan they introduced a minimum 10 per cent corporation tax.

If we introduced a 10 per cent tax in this country it would bring in $2.7 billion. That would be enough not only to pay for this this program, the $300 to $500 million, but it would certainly help pay for a proper child care program.

If this government would impose fair taxes on all Canadians, certainly on those who are making over $100,000, it would go a long way to reducing the deficit and to providing some encouragement and some incentive for Canadians to want to try and to want to work. Unfortunately, the way it stands now, middle income Canadians and small business people who are trying to get ahead are paying an unfair share of taxes.

Through the bill before the House today the government wants to change the idea of universality. It is an insidious attack on the whole concept of universality that has been so long accepted by this Parliament and certainly by this country.

The government has imposed time allocation on this bill. It has been imposing time allocation and closure ever since the thirty-fourth Parliament convened. This government has imposed more time allocation and closure in one year than virtually all governments in the history of this country. This government says that it is considerate of the people, that it listens to the people,

that it wants to consult with Canadians, but its actions are totally different from its words.

It muzzles Canadians. It muzzles members of Parliament who wanted to speak on behalf of their constituents. That is simply not fair, it is not just, and it is not right. This is not a government that listens. This is not a government that is caring. This is not a government that is compassionate.

The CCF and the NDP were the parties in this country that were responsible for much of the social legislation, the social system that existed in this country before the Tories took power. Our party fought for 50 years in this House and throughout this country for this type of program.

This government, the Progressive Conservative party, has dismantled much of it in five years. It is a tragedy. This government has undone many of the achievements the NDP has contributed to this country.

We have very recently elected a new leader of our party. I know that our leader and the rest of our party certainly have our work cut out for us just to put back in place or just to regain the achievements that we fought so hard and so long to gain for the people of Canada.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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December 19, 1989