IN THE HOUSE ~ on the Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus) Bill C-51, on the HST..

40th Parliament, 2nd Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):

Madam Speaker, there is not a lot left to say after hearing my colleagues from London—Fanshawe and Timmins—James Bay speak to this issue, but I would like to add a few notes.

I do not think the Conservatives are going to like my presentation as much as they liked some of the others about the lack of action and erratic nature of the Liberal Party. That is a matter of public record. Certainly the byelection results last Monday show that most Canadians agree. We saw a collapse of the Liberal vote across the country. In New Westminster—Coquitlam, as everyone well knows, the Liberals did not even get their deposit back. That is a seat they used to hold. Now, west of Toronto they have a handful of seats and east of the West Island of Montreal they have a handful of seats. Basically, they have been reduced to two areas of the country. I do not doubt they will be competitive in those two areas, but generally speaking, the Liberal Party simply does not reflect Canadian values and where Canadians want to go.

On the harmonized sales tax which is gouging Canadians in Ontario and British Columbia, the Liberals simply say that they are supporting it. Sure, they support it; it is a great idea to rip $500 out of the pockets of each and every person in Ontario and British Columbia.

Enough about the Liberals. I think the verdict from the electorate in four parts of the country was very clear. The verdict also was very clear in New Westminster—Coquitlam. The issue of the harmonized sales tax was front and centre in that campaign.

The Conservative Party dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of partisan Conservative material into the riding. It spared no expense. It simply flooded the riding with partisan political advertising. The Conservative Party sent in its members of Parliament and ministers. It had a good local candidate. What the government was saying was that British Columbians should not be concerned about the HST.

The verdict from British Columbians was clear. In what was a very competitive riding, there was a landslide for the NDP. Fifty per cent of the vote went to the NDP. A split that was only 3% went to 15%.

If we apply the results of the byelection in New Westminster—Coquitlam across British Columbia, there are a dozen Conservative MPs in B.C. that would lose their seats. There is also a handful of Liberals left in B.C. and they would lose their seats.

My point is this. For the Conservatives to say that somehow the HST is not an issue and that British Columbians should just forget about it as it will be imposed come hell or high water would be a serious mistake, because British Columbians said no to the HST last Monday. That is something that will have an impact whether we talk about Abbotsford, Kamloops or any other riding in British Columbia.

The Conservatives, working with Gordon Campbell, trying to force the HST on people is simply not going to wash. I hope they will heed the very clear message from the byelection in B.C. and that they will step back from the brink on this because British Columbians do not want the HST.

I need to mention that the reason the NDP is supporting Bill C-51 is to try to save the government from itself. With a great deal of pomp and circumstance last spring, the government announced the home renovation tax credit and the first time homebuyers tax credit.

Particularly with regard to the home renovation tax credit, the Conservatives went out and picked up buckets of money from the Canadian taxpayers, ran off to build their signs and put up their Internet ads and all their partisan ads that are paid for by taxpayers, but they forgot one thing. They forgot the paperwork. They were telling Canadians to use the home renovation tax credit, that they would actually get their money back, but the Conservatives did not do their paperwork. They did not actually introduce the legislation for the tax credit. Can anyone believe that? Can anyone believe how irresponsible a government would be to tell Canadians to do their renovations and then the government does not do the paperwork to put the tax credit in place?

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All of those Canadians who in good faith saw the buckets of money the Conservatives put into those huge signs that they love to put up everywhere, the Internet ads and all the other ads that they put in with taxpayers' money, thought that meant the Conservatives had done their paperwork, but they had not. If this bill does not pass, people will be left high and dry, having budgeted for the home renovation tax credit, having budgeted to make those renovations. Because the Conservatives did not do their paperwork, we would essentially be having people go even further into debt.

The average Canadian family over the past 20 years of Liberal and Conservative financial mismanagement has seen the family debt load double. That is a crisis. Many of the families who sorely needed renovations to their homes got them on credit. The NDP, because we are the conscience of this Parliament and often the only party that actually reads the legislation being brought forward, realized that if we did not adopt the bill, Canadians who in good faith went through the process would be stuck with the bill, and that is simply unacceptable.

On the home renovation tax credit, on the first time homebuyers tax credit, on the income deferral for farmers, on the working income tax benefit and on all those measures announced in pomp and circumstance, we are voting yes because we simply believe that Canadians need to see government keep its commitment.

We are appalled that the Conservatives did not do their paperwork, that they just ran off with their partisan advertising rather than do the first step, which most responsible Canadians would do, which is after they promised something they should introduce the legislation to make it real, but no, they did not do that. They spent all their time running off with buckets of money and putting up signs to advertise themselves. They got those big cheques with the big Conservative “C” logo on them and they ran around the country showing them, but they did not do step one, which was to introduce the legislation.

Of course, we will be voting for this in an effort to save the government from itself, but does that mean it has a blank cheque, as the Liberals have done 80 times? Does it simply mean we will let the Conservatives do anything they want? Certainly not. We have been very, very clear.

For example, the harmonized sales tax will have a profound negative impact on Canadians living in British Columbia and Ontario. The governments are in damage control. We saw the Conservatives and Liberals in Ontario announce that they are giving Timbits that are HST-free, but it is absurd to give back a few pennies when they are ripping $500 off the average individual, and $2,000 off the average family of four.

When they take all that money in a tax shift to appease the biggest companies in the country, the companies that love to offload their money and their jobs into the Caribbean, or Houston if it is an energy company, they are essentially saying to ordinary Canadians that they have to pay for this massive tax largesse that they are giving out for free. There is no performance required. The companies do not have to keep jobs. They can shed jobs; they can cut jobs; it does not matter. They will give those companies a gift in Ontario and British Columbia. It is a gift from the Conservative government to the biggest companies and there is a shift in the tax burden, because we always have to balance our books. As a financial administrator in the past, I know that well. The money has to come from somewhere. The Conservatives said that they would give all this largesse and ordinary British Columbians and Ontarians will have to pay for it.

It does not only impact the families. Two thousand dollars for an average family is a horrible impact. That is why the results in New Westminster—Coquitlam were so clear. Any time there is a byelection, or if there is an election in the spring, it will be the same verdict coming back to the Conservatives, unless they reverse engines and pull back from this phenomenal unjust tax imposition, this tax shift on the backs of ordinary Canadians.

We have said we will not support the HST. We will vote against it. Unlike the Liberals and the Conservatives who are working together on this, we will simply fight the penalty of the HST because of what it does to ordinary families, and also for what it does to community businesses.

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In my prior life before coming here, I was very fortunate to be honoured with two business excellence awards. I have worked with the local Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade, and I have worked in the business community with social enterprise. I believe profoundly that community businesses need to have the tools for growth. The NDP's approach has always been to provide an educated population that provides that additional level of productivity to ensure that community businesses prosper, because when families prosper, community businesses do. We do not believe, unlike the Conservatives and the Liberals, that we offload money to Houston and the Caribbean and that somehow magically creates a strong economic development initiative here at home.

What we are saying is when there is more support for health care services, more support for social services, when people in the community have a higher quality of life, that has a positive impact on community businesses.

The HST does exactly the opposite. By ripping off ordinary British Columbians and ordinary Ontarians, there are people in the community who have less money to spend. I have not talked to a single small business owner in Burnaby or in New Westminster who supports the HST. I have talked with the hairdressers and barbers who are really concerned because, of course, there will be an increased tax on their products. I have talked to people who are involved in restaurants, not just in the Lower Mainland but also in places like Kamloops and Calgary. They are concerned that when we have an HST increase like that, essentially their clientele has less money to spend and it affects the community business and starts a vicious spiral downward.

For those reasons, this is not a blank cheque for the Conservative government. We are saving the government from itself on Bill C-51, but we are going to be fighting in this House to ensure that the HST is not brought in. British Columbians have very clearly told the Conservatives to stop the HST. British Columbians have told them to roll back this misguided, irresponsible attempt to give even more big business largesse and tax credits to the largest companies and to put the focus where it needs to be, on a better quality of life for Canadians and on more supports for community businesses. That is where we want to see this government going. We are going to vote yes on this bill, but the Conservatives are on notice that they have to start acting responsibly.

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Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, number one, the NDP always believes that the strength that this Parliament has comes from actually listening to the public, a bizarre concept for Conservatives and Liberals to swallow, I think.

What we have heard from British Columbians overwhelmingly was that they simply do not buy the argument that more handouts to corporate CEOs, more handouts to the energy sector in Houston, and more handouts to the banks in the Bahamas is some intelligent attempt at economic strategy. Taking $500 out of the pockets of an individual, whether a pensioner or a student, or taking $2,000 from a family of four so that they can pay for this incredible largesse to the biggest and most profitable companies in Canada is simply irresponsible.

The public spoke last Monday. Liberals lost their deposit. Conservatives were blown out. They were simply flooded right out of New Westminster--Coquitlam. They can heed that call or they can keep going the way they are going, but if they keep going the way they are going, there will be a lot fewer Conservatives from British Columbia and Ontario, and there will be a lot fewer Liberals from Ontario in this next Parliament.

They better heed what Canadians are telling them.

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Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member for Elmwood—Transcona asking this question because that is the perversity of what the Conservatives are trying to impose on Ontarians and British Columbians, with the complacence of the Liberal Party.

Essentially, all of these little tax credits that they have been doling out while they shovel money off the back of a truck to the most profitable banks and energy companies in Canada, in the guise of this somehow being some sort of economic strategy, in the end, with the HST, they end up taking more than they have given over the past couple of years.

They give out these little tax credits to ordinary families who are struggling with lower incomes over the last 20 years. Two-thirds of Canadian families are actually earning less now than they were 20 years ago. Their tax load has been doubled. Liberal and Conservative economics is really an oxymoron. Essentially what they have done is produce permanent poverty for the middle class in this country. Instead of addressing those overall economic fundamentals, they impose the HST, so community businesses have less and will have to cut back on their staff and employees. Ordinary Canadian families have less to spend and less to clothe their kids, less to pay for their housing, less to pay for their meals and all of those things. It is absurd.

That is why, in this corner of the House, we are saying to Conservatives that they have received a very deep warning from New Westminster--Coquitlam and they better heed it.

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Mr. Peter Julian:
Madam Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt is a terrific member of Parliament who stands up for northern Ontario. We need more of that in the House. We need people to stand up willingly for ordinary Ontarians and ordinary British Columbians.

The public was very clear. What was a competitive seat is no longer. The Conservatives were simply blown out of the water in the lower mainland of B.C. on the HST. The public clearly understands what the member for Nickel Belt is saying.

The question is: Are the Conservatives going to get the message? There are a dozen British Columbia Conservative MPs who will not be in the next House unless they listen very carefully to the verdict and the message that was given last Monday. I hope for their sake they are willing to listen to the public. It is a bit different listening and taking a message from British Columbia to Ottawa rather than what we see from Conservatives who generally bring their message from Ottawa to B.C., and they try to ram it down the throats of British Columbians.

One of their messages was that the HST has nothing to do with them despite the $2 billion in bribe money. They claim they have nothing to do with the HST. People in New Westminster--Coquitlam heard the debate. They heard the comments of the Prime Minister and the finance minister. They saw the budget. They have seen everything the Conservatives have done to force this on British Columbians. British Columbians have said they do not want it. The Conservatives should understand the message. Conservatives have to heed what B.C. has told them.