November 6, 1997

BQ

Odina Desrochers

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I do not know what to say about this confused, distorted and erroneous lesson in history. You know, I really wondered where the hon. member for Abitibi was living today. Was he living in the past, in the present or in the future? Was he talking like a Conservative or a Liberal? At times, I could picture him here, or in his riding, even at the National Assembly. Figures were quoted to us, right and left. Everything is so confused.

It only goes to reinforce our request. All these figures, all the unclear statements like the ones we just heard, led us to submit a legitimate request to have an independent expert panel that would finally shed the light on this issue. I do not think arguments like those we have heard since the beginning of today's debate will convince us to back down. On the contrary, we will fight and we will get our $2 billion in GST.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy Saint-Julien

Madam Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the hon. member. I know that the hon. member for Lotbinière has a lot of respect for Quebec, but I hope he has some respect for the National Assembly. What I have received today is the truth; it does not contain any error. The figures I quoted came for the province of Quebec and contain no mistake. Based on the assumption that the taxes would have been fully harmonized by 1990, and according to the formula applied to all of the provinces, Quebec, just like Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, would not be entitled to any adjustment assistance.

Throughout the process, the Canadian government was very transparent. Civil servants had a lot of discussions to clarify some data. The latest figures I quoted today, that take into account the comments made by Quebec, were submitted in February 1997. I think it is important to point that out. The hon. member talked about errors being made and said that we received this information back in February. The rules are the same for everyone and the results are fair to all the provinces, in this area as on all the other issues where, very often, Quebec is a big winner, just like Jacques Villeneuve.

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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question to the hon. member for Abitibi. He just told us that there were figures transmitted between Quebec and Ottawa officials, that everybody was getting along fine and that there was no problem. Where did he get that? The last figures laid on the table deal with a $2 billion claim from the Quebec government stating that the federal government has shown blatant unfairness to Quebec in the matter of GST harmonization.

He can quote any old figures he wants—and he did come up with just about any old figures—the fact remains that, when looking at the tax structure before and after harmonization, when taking into account the need for Quebec to increase corporation taxes because the federal government did not give it any compensation, one can see there has been a cost, and this cost has been assessed and duly, seriously, calculated by the Quebec government and by the officials, and also endorsed by a consensus arrived at by every Quebec participant in the economic summit of last year. It has been endorsed also by the Canadian premiers at the St. Andrews conference.

There comes a time when we have to stop talking nonsense here. There is a $2 billion claim on the table, there are formulas, there are cost assessments that have been made, and now we are asking that an objective panel review our figures and those of the finance minister. He should understand that. That is not hard to understand. If there is something simple for him to understand, it is that an objective, non partisan panel can make a serious analysis whereas he says just about anything. He should understand that.

Topic:   Government Orders
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LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy Saint-Julien (Abitibi, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am trying to be fair. I received these figures today.

We never know when the opposition will present a motion. We learn about it in the morning when we get up with the chickens, at 5.30 a.m. The member said: “I do not understand the member across the way”.

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BQ
LIB

Guy St-Julien

Liberal

Mr. Guy Saint-Julien

In 1990—I am giving you the background, it is important—on December 14, 1990, people accepted the GST in the National Assembly. A former member said “We will abolish the GST”. Premier Lucien Bouchard should go to the National Assembly, instead of visiting other countries, and say to Quebeckers “We will immediately abolish the GST”. The Party Quebecois members could vote on that. They can do it. They have a majority.

The figures I mentioned today are real figures. I can tell you that when Quebec's needs or situation require it, the federal government is always there to give its financial support to our people, the people of Quebec, the people of Abitibi.

Topic:   Government Orders
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?

Some hon. members

Down with the GST.

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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing by time with my colleague for Winnipeg North Centre. I do not know if I will be using all of my 10 minutes.

What I have to say about the HST will not take ten minutes. We must look at what is going on in New Brunswick and in the other Atlantic provinces. It is interesting to hear the Reform members and the government members talk about hypocrisy. I would say that if you put two cats in the same bag, only one will come out.

Topic:   Government Orders
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Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour

The Liberals had promised to get rid of the GST. In my province, instead of getting rid of the GST, we ended up with a tax that makes no sense. We have low income families who now must pay 15% on diapers, 15% on electricity, and those people are not getting any compensation as was mentioned a few moments ago. We must look at how much these people are paying and how little they are getting in the end.

While a mother is paying 15% more for diapers, the person who has money and who wants to buy a $45,000 car is paying less. This is not my idea of justice. To me, this is just another tax on the poor, and the rich are paying less once again. That is the Liberal way. It is clear.

This morning, I was in the human resources development committee, and even senior officials in the department were saying that Atlantic Canada was affected the most by unemployment insurance reform, by the fact that no jobs are being created in our region. And we are hit by this tax on top of all that. We are the provinces who pay the most for a stamp in this country. In the regions, where there are no jobs, there are no longer any programs to help people. There are Liberals in this House who are really proud of what they are doing. I think they should be ashamed of themselves.

We have to look at what the tax really brings. There are people who have no more money to buy things and this affects our merchants. Our small and medium size businesses are really affected by the BST—and we have a good definition for this BST where I come from.

Topic:   Government Orders
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?

An hon. member

Could you tell me what it is?

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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour

We are not allowed to say such things in this place.

I think we really have to go see what happened. The Liberals criticized the Conservatives. They got elected on the GST, really. They came back and said “Yes, yes, the deficit was bigger”. First things first, the deficit—that has to be settled right away. Who has paid down the deficit? It is the unemployed, it is old people, it is students, people without jobs, people receiving social assistance. Those are the people who paid down the deficit.

I do not see any large corporations in this country that put a lot of money on the deficit. But nobody mentions that.

I congratulate these people. Each time I have the opportunity I congratulate them for having paid down the deficit because without the underprivileged in this country, it would have never been paid down. The government did not look elsewhere to pay for it.

So the people from the Atlantic region are very disappointed with the GST or the BST. It was just another tax. They say they are not increasing taxes, but people are paying 8% more for electricity and heating. It is not a tax. They did not increase taxes. I would not want them to admit that they increased them.

It is very sad, in our regions, when we see the rate of unemployment and the rate of poverty, and when on top of that, we have a government that imposes such a tax on us. This is unacceptable. Our businesses are being affected. The number of personal and commercial bankruptcies continues to rise, and this has to stop.

So I do not have to take 10 minutes to tell you that the GST stinks for me and its stinks for the majority of the people in New Brunswick and the Atlantic region. Only Prince Edward Island escaped from this.

It is true that there was a bribe. It is true that the former Premier of New Brunswick hurried to collect his $1 billion in taxes in an attempt to save the face of the Liberal government. They were trying to find a way to say that they had gotten rid of the GST. But who is paying for that today? It is us, the people from the Atlantic region. It is always the people who have a hard time making ends meet.

So I will end on that.

People in the three Atlantic provinces that have the BST are very upset. It is a very unfair tax. It is the people at the lowest scale of income who are paying the most. They are paying tax on electricity. They are paying 15% tax on children's clothing starting from the first dollar. However, if you buy an article that is over $93, you will pay less. There are not a lot of people down home who buy articles over $100. A lot of families cannot afford that. They buy just the necessities but they are the ones paying the most because of the blended sales tax.

On behalf of the people that I represent, I want it on the record that we are very disappointed in the Liberal government for their broken promises and a tax that is very unfair to the people of my riding and the Atlantic provinces.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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REF

Darrel Stinson

Reform

Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member and I sympathize with her.

When the tax was debated in the House I remember speaking against the BST being introduced in the Atlantic provinces. I did not call it the BST but I did use two of those initials. I may have dropped the t a few times.

Many things were said by the government. Actually, its members were the official opposition when the GST was brought in. At that time Liberals said that public and private libraries would have to reduce the purchase of books and newspapers by about 10% annually because of the GST. The present Prime Minister said that.

The minister of finance said at that time that the goods and services tax was a stupid, inept, incomplete and incompetent tax.

All through the debate today we have heard about hypocrisy. I would think that this is the height of it. Now we have the Prime Minister saying it is his personal tax and how much he loves it. When he leaves the country and talks to other leaders around the world, he brags about how he introduced it and not the Conservatives.

I know the hon. member was not in the House during the time of the BST and the debate in this House. I wish she had been here. Perhaps we would have had more help. I do not recall hearing from her party at that time. I would like to know if anybody from the east has put into dollars and cents how much the blended sales tax has really cost the people back home.

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NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour

Mr. Speaker, I do not have the figures with me but I can say, on a humane basis, that the figure is very high. That is the important part. It may be millions or billions. The important part is that the people from low income families are paying through the nose because of this tax. That is the only thing that is important. It is a very unfair tax that makes lower income people pay more again. That is what concerns me and my people.

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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac who, unlike Liberal members opposite, has impressed me a great deal with her respectful, intelligent and heartfelt remarks. She spoke with great humanity. She is bringing to this House an attitude of great respect and she raises the level of our debates, whereas Liberal members keep attacking and belittling Quebec. She speaks about citizens in general and she does it respectfully.

I congratulate her.

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Bourassa on a point of order.

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LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Mr. Denis Coderre

Mr. Speaker, the House should know that each time the Bloc speaks nonsense and accuses the government of belittling Quebec, well, it is not Quebec we belittle, but Bloc Quebecois members.

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That is not a point of order. It is a point of debate. The hon. member for Manicouagan.

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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite shows a lack of respect. He should know that we are legitimately elected representatives of Quebeckers. We have 60% of all members from Quebec. We represent a majority in Quebec.

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will give the hon. member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac a few minutes to wrap up before we proceed to the next speaker.

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Subtopic:   Supply
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November 6, 1997