November 6, 1997

NDP

Angela Vautour

New Democratic Party

Ms. Angela Vautour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his kind words. It is true that respect is sorely lacking in the House. It is something that can be felt by outsiders. I hope it will get better over time. This House is not necessarily known for its respect for people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the opposition motion sponsored by the Bloc concerning the GST and the harmonized sales tax. I understand its reasons for putting forward this motion and the kinds of concerns that have been raised.

It is putting us all in an interesting position to debate the unfairness of some changes to a measure that is inherently unfair to begin with. As my colleague indicated in her comments, we are really discussing how two wrongs can make a right. It is important for us to deliberate on the very question of the need to introduce the GST by first the Conservatives and then the Liberals.

I will raise a couple of points in this discussion. The GST is a very regressive tax measure. That has been enunciated by a number of other speakers. It is in fact a good tax, but it is a good tax for business. It is a very bad tax for individuals. As we all know, unlike all other sales taxes, corporations do not pay the GST.

We are widening the gap between the haves and the have nots, creating an ever-widening gap between those who are struggling day by day to make ends meet and those who are enjoying an incredible amount of profits, dividends and luxury.

The people in our society today who need a break, some real tax relief, are the hard working women and men who have been trying desperately to make ends meet as real wages keep falling. What we are dealing with, and we have all experienced this for a number of years, is a tax measure that makes it even harder for those ordinary working women and men to make ends meet, who are forever left asking the question “Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”

It was an inherently unfair tax to begin with, brought to us by the Conservatives and harmonized by the Liberals, a harmonization that heaps an even greater burden on individuals, hard working women and men, and gives an even greater break to the big corporations who are already enjoying incredible profits like we have not seen in recent times.

We are not only dealing with an inherently unfair tax, whether we are talking about the GST, or the BST or any other terminology that describes this harmonized sales tax, but we are also talking about a tax measure that was introduced in a most dishonest way. We know the idea originated with the Conservatives. Canadians will never forget that it was the Conservative government that forced the GST through even though at that time fewer than 10% of Canadians supported it.

At that time it was the Liberals who strongly opposed the GST. They made very strong public statements about that opposition. I want to quote the Prime Minister who said on October 29, 1990, “I an opposed to the GST. I've always been opposed to it and I will be opposed to it always”.

I want to quote the Minister of Finance who said on April 4, 1990, “I would abolish the GST. The manufacturers' sales tax which the GST replaced was a bad tax but there is no excuse to repeal one bad tax by bringing in another one”.

What did the Liberals do after making those strong statements? They did a double take. They practised deceit and dishonesty when it came to the Canadian public and at the earliest opportunity in government supported the GST. It went further and moved to harmonize the GST and increased the burden on working Canadians everywhere.

That whole move to harmonize, to blend, the GST with provincial sale taxes, if applied across this country, represents a shift of another $6 billion to $7 billion of the tax burden from corporations to people. As we know from the debate today, families in Atlantic Canada and Quebec are suffering very much from this policy.

By breaking their commitment, by breaking their word, the Prime Minister and other Liberals in this Parliament abandoned an opportunity to make Canadian families better off.

Speaking of inconsistencies and shifting positions, let us not forget to mention the position of the Reform Party. Reform members are standing in this House today expressing concern about the GST, raising concerns about the whole debate we are having today with respect to the blending of sales taxes.

It was the Reform Party that said in this House in 1994 in a report on the GST that the Liberal Party was to be congratulated on its attempts to harmonize the GST with provincial sales taxes.

It was the Reform Party at that time that recommended that consumption taxes should be levied on the broadest possible base. This of course would mean extending the GST to food, to medication and nursing home charges.

Canadians were hoodwinked on this issue. They did not support the GST. They believed the Liberals prior to 1993 when they said they would not move forward on the GST. Instead, they got hit with a double whammy, support for the GST and now a move to ensure a blending of the GST with provincial sales taxes across the country.

Our opportunity today is to suggest to the Liberal government particularly that there is an alternative to this kind of regressive tax policy. There are alternatives available to this government for both collecting necessary revenues and ensuring a measure of fairness in our tax collection system.

I raise in particular one such proposal since it is very much in the news currently and very much represents the unfairness in our system today. In about a month's time a group entitled Project Loophole will bring a matter to the courts pertaining to the fact that in 1991 Revenue Canada ruled that one family trust could transfer $2.2 billion in assets to the United States without paying taxes.

That raised a whole lot of questions about how many other family trusts are being provided this option. How much money earned here as a result of hardworking Canadians is being moved out of the country without taxes being paid? How much profit is being earned by corporations and wealthy individuals without contributing to the tax base of this country? That is but one example of the unfairness in our tax system and the need for this government to look seriously at alternatives to the GST and the BST.

We are talking about people under financial stress searching for meaningful work, trying to combine two and three part time jobs just to make ends meet everywhere in this country, being faced ever and ever with a burden that is just beyond their reach and beyond human capacity for responding to.

I urge today that in this debate we come to some consensus around the need to look at a fair taxation system and with real determination to actually end this harmonized sales tax and phase out the GST.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
LIB

Marlene Jennings

Liberal

Ms. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting listening to the hon. member opposite discussing the motion, but it does not sound like she was discussing the motion.

I would like to know if she supports the merits by the Bloc's contention. The Bloc contends that Quebec is owed $2 billion from the harmonization of the Quebec sales tax with the GST. Members have heard over and over again that Quebec has actually benefited by its harmonization to the tune of $700 million extra per year.

Does the member agree with the Bloc motion that Quebec is owed $2 billion as a result of having harmonized Quebec sales tax with the goods and services tax. That is the motion. I would like to hear from the member on that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the Liberal member opposite, I believe I have answered the question.

I indicated from the outset that two wrongs do not make a right. We are dealing with an unfair regressive tax measure to begin with. The blending of the GST with provincial tax does not make it any better.

Our position has always been and will continue to be to reverse the Liberal government's decision to harmonize the GST and the PST in Atlantic Canada and in the province of Quebec. We believe we must stop any further negotiations for harmonization in other parts of Canada. We would work to immediately to remove GST from books, magazines and family essentials like children's clothing. We would phase out the GST in the context of comprehensive tax reform.

That kind of package is workable. It provides a real alternative to the Liberal government. I would heartily ask for their support for this kind of alternative.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Mr. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I always have a little trouble following the NDP's arguments. I understand that they are bleeding hearts and they are all for motherhood and apple pie.

I would like to mention two facts, however. The first is that we have seen the results of the NDP government in Ontario. It was an expensive lesson to the people of Ontario. The NDP supposedly represented social justice, but we saw what it cost.

Second, we can see what is happening in Saskatchewan. I would like her to explain to me, because I am sure she has very close ties with the premier of Saskatchewan—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
REF
LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Mr. Denis Coderre

British Columbia, as well. Does she share the views of the premiers of British Columbia and Saskatchewan on harmonization? And, if they are not in touch, they should pick up the telephone a little more often.

What is happening, Mr. Speaker?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Mr. Speaker, I think the member does a great disservice to the vast majority of Canadians who share our concerns when it comes to the government's very regressive tax policies.

I remind the Liberal member that at the time the government was promising to abolish the GST after having seen the effects of it under the Conservatives, only 10% of Canadians thought it had any possibility of benefiting the economy. Ninety per cent of Canadians knew at the time how harmful such a tax would be on ordinary working men and women. Those are the people already feeling tremendous unfairness in our tax system, where the burden has shifted so much from corporations and individuals to the shoulders of low and middle income Canadians.

The comments I made today dealt specifically with the needs of children who may not have mothers or fathers. Of course we support them. We will stand up any day to support the needs of survivors and the needs of children without parents. I hope the member opposite would share in standing up for such individuals.

I end by saying this issue is not narrowly defined and it does not affect a few people. It affects the vast majority of Canadians who want to see change.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I sat through this debate today as did the other members in the House.

Quite frankly I am a little exhausted, extremely exhausted, with the partisan rhetoric and the comments from the government side and the opposition side. Perhaps if we could have a bit of attention we can set the record straight. The comments of the Reform Party leave me perplexed. The member for Portage—Lisgar and the member for Calgary Southeast have both stated that the Reform Party would get rid of the GST. That is shocking. It is amazing. This is the tax critic. I want the explanation. I would like to see the numbers.

Let us go back to this little history lesson. The history lesson is very simple. We were in a situation in this country where we were looking at having free trade with the Americans. In order to have free trade with the Americans the Parliament of Canada, the government of the day, had to face the fact that Canadian businesses were faced with an extremely harmful and punishing tax called the manufacturers sales tax. It was 13%. Our companies which exported to the U.S. were penalized 13% on everything they sent across the border.

The only way we could have growth in this country, the only way we could have any possibility of a fair and level playing field to bring in free trade was to get rid of the manufacturers sales tax.

This is a simple lesson in economics. If you have this much money in one hand and you have this much money in the other hand and you are willing to throw that away, you have to replace it. You just cannot draw it out of thin air.

Therefore the GST was brought in to replace the manufacturers sales tax. We could continue to gather revenue. We could continue to pay down the deficit. Some day we could even think about tackling the debt.

Now we are in the situation of listening to a bunch of overblown rhetoric about getting rid of the GST. I am wondering if we are going to get rid of free trade too. Is that the way we are headed? I question the wisdom.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
?

An hon. member

No partisan stuff coming from over there.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

What I am saying is very partisan and I am not a bit ashamed that it is partisan. Of course it is partisan. I will tell you what else, it makes sense. You cannot go out there and tell Canadians you are going to get rid of the GST and not think you are going to replace it with something. You are not going to pay down the debt overnight by snapping your fingers. It takes a plan and it takes action. You have to have both.

We have seen the Liberals flip-flop on the GST. We have seen Reform flip-flop on the GST. They were going to get rid of it. They loved it. They thought it was a good idea. We had to have free trade. Now they want to get rid of it.

Let us be practical. There has not been any thought provoking, innovative ideas on how to replace the GST. It is just plain rhetoric. There has been enough time wasted on rhetoric here today.

We have listened to the NDP, we have listened to all the parties, and there is no replacement here. There is no magic here. There are a lot of hard decisions to be made and that is all. Part of it is that this country has to continue to move forward, and moving backward is not moving forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
REF

Jake Hoeppner

Reform

Mr. Jake E. Hoeppner (Portage—Lisgar, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed those comments and I would like to be educated a little further.

I know the Conservatives really believe in cost cutting. They paid for 212 Conservative members for two terms and then they only paid for two members. What kind of a plan do you have to follow to do that? That really helped us here in the House. That relieved the debtload quite a bit.

What do we have to do to follow that plan? I would like the formula.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

Madam Speaker, unfortunately there was quality and substance and it did not get replaced with quality and substance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
REF

Grant McNally

Reform

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I appreciated listening to the comments from the hon. member to the right. I know he was not here from 1984 to 1993, but his former colleagues were given a strong mandate by the people of Canada to get the House in order and to take some fiscal responsibility with the country. However they continued in the same vein as the previous government they replaced. In fact they went from such large numbers to two, as my hon. colleague mentioned, because of that.

My hon. colleague mentioned a plan of action. His former colleagues were given a plan of action and they did not follow through on it and were reduced to two members.

I just have to ask my hon. colleague how it is that he can talk about the policy of our party when in fact they are not willing to even look at the information and see what it is. To hear half truths and to say something does not mean that it is going to become true.

I would just ask my hon. colleague to take a look at the information and make an informed decision because that is what Canadians across the country are doing. They are taking a look at the facts and past performances and asking for a plan of action and some vision and people are coming to Reform. That is what is happening.

Take a look at the numbers in the House, my hon. colleague, in your caucus and in this caucus. Then we will see what will happen in the next four years.

I will just wrap up my comments and question by asking the regional party to the right what it is that it would propose to do to alleviate taxation in this country and to stimulate the economy. What is its plan because it did not do anything in the nine years it was here previously.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

Madam Speaker, the answer is very quick, very simple and to the point. Where is the plan? We are living the plan today. The success of this country today is directly from free trade. That is why we are cutting our deficit. That is why the government that happens to sit on the benches today can bask in the glory. However, it is not their policy, it is Tory policy that is already in place and here.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
REF

Randy White

Reform

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, am I to understand, and I am sure I did not just hear this, that we are all benefiting in this country and basking in the glory of parties past because of all of the good things they have done for us? I know it is hard for people watching this to understand, but I just wanted to get a clarification from this party from Jurassic Park over here. Does the hon. member truly believe that we are basking in the sunshine of the Tories and Liberals past? Is the sunshine in the order of $600 billion worth of debt?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

Madam Speaker, repetition becomes boring after a while. Obviously the member did not listen to the answer the last time. The success of the country today is based 100% on the fact that the Conservatives brought in free trade. We had to bring in free trade. It is the policies that were put in place that allowed the deficit to be cut. That is why the economy is on an upswing. It will continue to do that. That is not a tough equation. Take a look at it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Mr. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, if it is Jurassic Park it is not for me. We already have a Star Wars trilogy because it is from another planet too.

When someone tries to take credit, and we know that there was a deficit of $42 billion when we came to office, and that their economic policy was to bump up the deficit by $10 or $12 billion annually, I think he should watch those films. There will have to be another sequel.

What does the member want to do with the GST? Does he think the GST is good and does he think we should give the $2 billion to Quebec? That is what I would like to know.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

Madam Speaker, I am not sure but I think I may have just heard the member refer to the economic upswing the country is in, to low inflation and low interest rates. I think he was obliquely taking credit for it.

I think he had better back up a little bit and look at who put those policies in place and understand why he is able to take credit for them today. The Prime Minister may take credit for free trade and the GST, but low inflation, a better economy and low interest rates did not happen overnight. And they did not happen from policies which have come in since 1993 either.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink
REF

Lee Morrison

Reform

Mr. Lee Morrison (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I am hearing this litany of all the wonderful things we have to be thankful for in this country. I wonder, do these include in the hon. member's opinion an unemployment rate above 9% for the past eight years, a $600 billion debt and record bankruptcies. Is this, in his opinion, the glory, the success of the two old parties?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
Permalink

November 6, 1997