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.