|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:|
|Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm||4105|
|Health - Children's Dental Program: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm||4106|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 1248, Health - Aberdeen Hospital: Samantha|
Champagne-Elmo Doll Donation - Commend, Dr. J. Hamm
|Vote - Affirmative||4107|
|Res. 1249, House of Assembly: Peace on Earth - Adopt,|
Ms. E. O'Connell
|Vote - Affirmative||4107|
|Res. 1250, Health - Care: Professionals Allied - Include,|
Mr. R. Chisholm
|Res. 1251, Culture - Pictou County Christmas: Musical Performers (CD) -|
Congrats., Mr. D. McInnes
|Vote - Affirmative||4109|
|Res. 1252, Youth - New Glasgow Crime Prevention Assoc.:|
Youth Centre Project - Commend, Dr. J. Hamm
|Vote - Affirmative||4109|
|Res. 1253, Environ. - Glace Bay: Subsidence - Address,|
Mr. J. Holm
|Res. 1254, Devco - Comm. (Senate) Report: Min. (Can. [Nat. Res.]) -|
Action Request, Mr. A. MacLeod
|Res. 1255, Health - C.B.: Psychiatric Serv. Inquiry -|
Res. 904 Implement, Mr. R. Chisholm
|Res. 1256, Nat. Res. - Endangered Species: Legislation - Enact,|
Mr. J. Holm
|Res. 1257, Commun. Serv. - Small Options Home (Dart.):|
Sheppard Investigation - Complete, Ms. E. O'Connell
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:|
|No. 48, Sales Tax Act||4113|
|Hon. W. Gillis||4113|
|Mr. R. Russell||4119|
|Mr. J. Holm||4123|
|Mr. D. McInnes||4131|
|Mr. G. Moody||4133|
|Mr. A. MacLeod||4137|
|Dr. J. Hamm||4141|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||4152|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||4156|
|Mr. G. Archibald||4163|
|Mr. J. Leefe||4169|
|Mr. R. Chisholm||4173|
|Mr. B. Taylor||4182|
|Hon. W. Gillis||4183|
|Vote - Affirmative||4187|
|No. 50, Registered Nurses Act||4187|
|Hon. B. Boudreau||4187|
|Mr. G. Moody||4188|
|Mr. R. Chisholm||4188|
|Hon. B. Boudreau||4189|
|Vote - Affirmative||4189|
|PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:|
|Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm||4190|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 1258, Commun. Serv. - Small Options Home (Dart.):|
Sheppard Investigation - Public Inquiry Hold, Mr. T. Donahoe
|Res. 1259, DND: Halifax Rifles - Re-establish, Mr. T. Donahoe||4191|
|Vote - Affirmative||4192|
|ARRIVAL OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR||4192|
|BILLS GIVEN ROYAL ASSENT:|
|Nos. 2, 6, 8, 10, 14, 28, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42||4193|
|Nos. 43, 44, 46, 48, 50, 47||4194|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again at the call of the Speaker||4194|
|NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER:|
|No. 34, Acadian Affs. - Newspaper (Acadian [N.S.]):|
|Financial Difficulties - Action, Mr. T. Donahoe||4195|
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now commence with the daily sitting of the House.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition which has 246 names and I will affix my name to the top copy. It is that familiar petition that the operative clause concludes with, "We hereby call upon the Liberal government to scrap the BST and live up to their commitment to bring in fair tax reform.".
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition which has 22 names affixed to it. The operative clause reads as follows, "We, the undersigned oppose the recent cuts to the Nova Scotia Children's Dental Program. The two-tier system is a personal affront, and changes within the program are not based on sound clinical experience. We the voters and tax payers of this province insist that the Government not make any more cuts to this extremely cost efficient program.".
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas some adults have shown this season that they have no concept of the true meaning of Christmas since the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze began; and
Whereas the obsession with the Sesame Street character doll has turned otherwise sensible individuals into Scrooges, concerned only with what they can get if they sell the toy; and
Whereas a five year old girl named Samantha Champagne has put to shame all of those individuals by giving up her Elmo doll to the paediatric unit of the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow to, as she said to her parents, help the sick children;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the selfless gesture of this young but wise little girl who has shown to us all that the true meaning of the season is about giving.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried. (Applause)
The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the levels of hostility in this House have been somewhat excessive of late; and
Whereas threats, finger-pointing, challenges and invitations to step outside suggest a certain lack of respect for this historic place of assembly and for each other; and
Whereas fatigue is no excuse for unbecoming conduct;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House adopt as their motto, peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women, and have a truly peaceful holiday season.
Mr. Speaker I would request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas this government is once again locked in negotiations with Nova Scotia doctors, many of whom feel overworked and underpaid; and
Whereas it has long been recognized that an expanded use of allied health care professionals like nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and midwives can both save money in the health care system and reduce physician burn-out; and
Whereas after more than three years in power, the Liberal Government has done nothing to live up to its campaign promise to make nurses, midwives and all other health care professionals an integral part of the health care team;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Liberal Government to begin immediately to implement its promises regarding allied health care professionals.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Dwight Mallory of Eagle-Thrush Studios in New Glasgow produced 2,500 copies of A Pictou County Christmas, a compact disc featuring various Maritime artists; and
Whereas proceeds from sales of the CD will go to the Pictou County Christmas Fund to benefit needy children in Pictou County; and
Whereas talented musical performers who donated their time and energy to the recording of the CD included: Art Fitt, Don Haggert, Marla James, Henry Lewis, Danny MacDonald, Greg MacDonald, John "Spider" MacDonald, Ron MacDonald, Claire Mason, Doris Mason, Jackie Rogue, and Jonathan Visser;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate producer Dwight Mallory and the artists who contributed to a project that captures the true spirit of a Pictou County Christmas.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please Say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the former Salvation Army hall on Forbes Street in New Glasgow will become home to a youth centre in early January; and
Whereas the New Glasgow Crime Prevention Association initiated the youth centre project, forming a subcommittee of 10 people to operate the facility; and
Whereas the centre will be available for youths between the ages of 13 and 17;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature extend our sincere and best wishes to the New Glasgow Crime Prevention Association; Community Relations Officer, Howie Dunbar; and Chair of the Subcommittee, New Glasgow Town Councillor Ken Langille, for their dedication and hard work on behalf of youth in the Town of New Glasgow.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas two families in Glace Bay lost their homes earlier this year as a result of subsidence; and
Whereas the Minister of the Environment, on behalf of the Liberal Government, has turned down the families' requests for compensation; and
Whereas the Minister of the Environment has suggested responsibility lies with the municipality, an entity that is already facing a huge deficit as a result of downloading by this Liberal Government;
Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the Liberal Government for the callous way in which it is trying to duck any responsibility for the subsidence problem in Glace Bay.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas earlier this year a Special Senate Committee reviewed the situation at the Cape Breton Development Corporation; and
Whereas the committee made several recommendations, including that the committee be reconstituted in the fall to examine and report on Devco progress reports; and
Whereas Cape Breton's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country and every attempt must be made to prevent further job losses in Cape Breton;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier write to the federal Minister of Natural Resources and request immediate action on the recommendations of the report, to give Devco every opportunity to remain an economical and viable employer in Cape Breton.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on November 29, 1996, this House approved Resolution No. 904, which called for a public inquiry into psychiatric services at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and
Whereas the Minister of Health has provided no reasonable argument for his failure to follow the wishes of this House and call a public inquiry into the suicide deaths of three individuals who had been treated at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and
Whereas the minister's failure to call a public inquiry not only affects the families of suicide victims but undermines the public's faith in the mental health system in Cape Breton;
Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the Minister of Health to act upon Resolution No. 904 and call a public inquiry into psychiatric services in the Cape Breton region.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources has initiated a process of public consultation which will lead to legislation designating animals, insects and plants as endangered species; and
Whereas a similar process involving widespread public consultation resulted in the designation of 31 protected sites; and
Whereas the government has failed to take legislative action to ensure that those protected sites will, in fact, be protected;
Therefore be it resolved that the House urge the Minister of Natural Resources to carry through with the Endangered Species Act and avoid a replay of the problems caused by its failure to implement the protected sites plan.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas it has been nearly 10 months since the tragic death of Warren Edward Sheppard in a Dartmouth small options home; and
Whereas the former Minister of Community Services promised prompt action both to investigate Eddie Sheppard's death and address the very serious defects in the regulation of small options homes; and
Whereas the investigation continues to drag on and regulation to this point consists of an inadequate set of minimum standards;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Minister of Community Services to complete the Sheppard investigation without delay, report its findings to the Sheppard family and proceed with the implementation of appropriate regulations for small options homes.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 48.
Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to speak on third reading of Bill No. 48, a balanced and fair approach to tax reform in Nova Scotia. (Applause) In so doing, I move that this bill be now read a third time.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is about stimulating the Nova Scotia economy. This bill is about modernizing the provincial economy. This bill is about making our businesses more competitive. Add those up and you will see why this bill is about jobs. Why does harmonization add up that way? The answer is simple. Harmonization lowers the cost of doing business in Nova Scotia. The HST lowers the cost of doing business; that, simply, is what it does. On balance, there is no dispute. What happens when the cost of doing business is less? I want to go through this briefly.
First of all, business with a lower cost now has an advantage over those with higher costs. This gives our businesses a choice: they can either retain the increased profits in order to modernize or expand, or they can reward their owners and staff, or they can lower their price. Now many would say, why would a business lower its price? The answer is so they can sell more of their products and make even more profit. This is not a policy that depends on the benevolence of free enterprise, this is not a policy that depends on charitable fellows who say, hey, let's give the customer a break, this is a policy that says we have a free market place and we have businesses who know if they can sell for less they will sell more. Selling more for less means profits, and it is as simple as that. This is not economic theory; this is everyday economic practice.
The market for Nova Scotia business is not just Nova Scotia; it is not just the Maritimes or Atlantic Canada, for that matter. It is not just Canada either. The market for Nova Scotia products and services is the world. Mr. Speaker, many of our businesses are ready to broaden their horizons. They are prepared to take on the competition around the world. They are prepared to expand their businesses in order to sell more for less. This is the way they will grow and, as they grow, so will the jobs here in Nova Scotia. In fact, this is the only way we are going to be able to offer our children a secure future.
To take on the task, they must become more competitive. That means they must find ways to lower their costs. Harmonization helps them to do that. Harmonization gives Nova Scotia a competitive boost. Harmonization gives our businesses the opportunity to grow even faster, to add more jobs and to provide economic benefits for all.
Mr. Speaker, there is no magic to job creation. It will come as businesses feel confident they have a good future, a reason to invest and to grow. What this government has done is lay the foundation for that confidence. We have offered everyone the commitment that we
will not drown in a sea of debt. We have tried to correct the sins of the 15 years of the Buchanan-Cameron Governments. Our balanced budget legislation means we will have a future. Building on that foundation, we offer lower taxes and lower business costs. From this we will get a more competitive economy and an economy with a future.
I challenge the Opposition to state on the record their belief that taxes on businesses help create jobs. They should put it on the record now so that all may see. The Opposition seems to believe that higher taxes on business will encourage business to create jobs. The Opposition believes that even more taxes on business would be a good way to encourage modernization and expansion. I just don't understand.
AN HON. MEMBER: None of us said that.
MR. GILLIS: Yes, you have said that. It has been said across the floor, Mr. Speaker.
They are not in favour of decreasing taxes on business so it can be more competitive in the world and in the country. That is the fact, Mr. Speaker.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to another part of the tax policy. They seem to be squeaking and squawking so you know they are hurting. (Interruptions)
I want to touch on another part of the tax policy and that is the challenge to make sure the benefits spread to all parts of our society. After all, we believe there must be a balance. Job growth must be coupled with tax fairness. This has been part of our negotiations since the beginning. Our government believes there is tax fairness. A capital tax on large corporations, balanced by input tax credits for businesses, that seems fair. A broader base of services taxed, balanced by a lower rate on goods. A broader base, also balanced by income tax cuts and direct assistance. A general income tax cut of 3.4 per cent, the first one in the history of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, balanced by an even greater tax cut for low income Nova Scotians and the Direct Assistance Program to send help to those who do not benefit from tax cuts at all.
I want to say a few words about each of these measures in turn. Mr. Speaker, we estimate business savings through the input tax credits of approximately $170 million. This is what drives the job creation process I described earlier but this benefit is blunted for the big corporations because they face a new tax, a tax on their capital. As all honourable members would know from the budget, the annual yield on the capital tax will be approximately $45 million.
Mr. Speaker, the tax on the capital of large corporations puts to rest any notion that this is just a big break for business. The major financial benefits of harmonization will, in fact, flow to small and medium sized businesses. Those companies which have capital of less than $5 million will escape the capital tax entirely, the small businesses which are so important to the
Premier of Nova Scotia and the Government of Nova Scotia. (Applause) Those with capital between $5 million and $10 million will have the tax phased in. Those with capital in excess of $5 million will pay the full rate. All together, $45 million will be raised in taxes from our largest corporations. That is the total. Mr. Speaker, $170 million for all businesses, by lowering of taxes, less $45 million from our largest businesses. That is balanced, that is fair.
At this time I want to turn to the issue of a broader base, Mr. Speaker. Although we readily admit that the tax rate on some things will be going up - and that is a fact - we wish the Opposition was as quick to acknowledge that the tax rate on many items will be going down. In fact, between no change and going down, I think it is two-thirds or three-quarters of items that are not going up. Most important of all, we wish everyone would understand that there is nothing that will be taxed on April 1st that is not being taxed now, that is a fact, either through the PST or the GST. That's a fact. (Interruption) Every single item or service that is provided, maybe the Opposition and both segments of the House don't like to hear this, but every single item or service that is provided tax free now will be tax free after April 1, 1997.
Moreover, within the spending by an average consumer, there is a fairness and there is a balance. Mr. Speaker, because I do not have the time to review everything and I don't want to bore the House in doing it, I would just look at a couple of key areas.
First of all, let us look at utilities. Almost everyone in Nova Scotia has an electric bill and a telephone bill. A fair number, (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville-Cobequid seems to want to get in on the act. I am not going to take up much of the time of the House, I wish he would just relax, he has had a pretty fair go at this in second reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills, so why doesn't he just relax and hear the truth and stop squawking, just give me a chance. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.
MR. GILLIS: I will wait until the squawking stops. I think I am entitled to 10 minutes or so just to put a few facts on the record.
Moreover, Mr. Speaker, I was talking about utilities; people have, as everybody knows, almost everybody, a light bill, a power bill and a telephone bill and a fair number, as I was saying, have cable television. Now, there are some who do not have cable, obviously, a few who don't have a phone and a handful with no electricity, but we all know that most families have some combination of these and a lot of people regard them as basic. So let's look at that as an example. What happens to the tax next April, just to break it down into segments we can understand: power, telephone and cable.
Well, the family with an electric bill for their lights, washer, dryer, TV, stove and microwave, probably averages around $100 to $130 every two months depending on the time of year. Of course, as we all know, the power bill in the summer is less than in the winter, so we want to look at what it is on an annual basis. I am going to estimate $600 or $700 a year; a lot less if they are in a small apartment with no dryer and few lights. But let's just say, $700 for an example. What will be the increased tax of that household? (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to present a case, the other members will have their chance and they will have a chance in debate on third reading. I am putting this forward and I am sure they would want to respect a member's right to put that case forward.
I am going to ask, what will be the increased tax for that particular household that I outlined. Well, the $700 a year for electricity already includes, Mr. Speaker, the tax of 10.2 per cent, so remember the tax on electricity is not going from 7 per cent to 15 per cent, it is going, in fact, from 10.2 per cent to 15 per cent. So we have to take that out before we add in the new amount of the HST. What is the result? The result on the $700 electricity cost is an additional $30.42. Now, I acknowledge that does not include heat and I will touch on that later. I am, of course, assuming that we are not heating by electricity here, I gave the example earlier. But that is $32 approximately on the debt side of the ledger that will cost our family more.
I want to look at the other utilities. What about the phone bill and the cable bill? It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the average tax saving on the phone bill will be $25. (Interruption) The saving will be $25 on the phone bill, a saving. The average family probably saves another $8.00 to $10 on the cable bill on an annual basis. That is a $35 saving compared to a $30 cost; not bad, no disaster there, and so it goes through each category when people take the time to analyze the different parts. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is extremely difficult to hear the honourable minister. I would ask that if there are members who wish to carry on discussions, to please leave the Chamber.
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure all members of the House that I will try not to bore them and I am not going to go on very long, so I can move third reading and other members can have their chance. I would really appreciate it if they would just give me the opportunity for another five to eight minutes and I will take my place.
I want to move on and talk about the case of operating a motor vehicle. Over time, Mr. Speaker, we believe most people will be slightly ahead. The saving - and you have to look at the whole picture - on a car purchase or lease, combined with the savings on car repairs, over time will offset the increase in the cost of gasoline, which will go up 8 per cent. Using the figures of the Canadian Automobile Association, we have calculated a slight positive saving
for the average car driver. Individual cases, of course, may vary, depending on fuel economy, the type of vehicle one drives and how much driving the person does. But, on average, there will be a saving, if you count in the lower tax rate on the car - the purchase or the lease, whatever the case may be - spread out over the average life of the car. You talk, also, about the lower tax rate on repairs carried out at a garage.
Some people say, well, what about clothes? What about heating fuel? Mr. Speaker, there is a balance here, too. We believe that people will have savings in the daily operation of their homes. Although they may pay more for a plumber's visit to fix a pipe, for example, they will save when they go out to buy a weatherstripping kit to seal off some of the drafts in the house. Well, the members can laugh. If they are not for energy efficiency and savings, that is fine. That is their choice. They may be rich and famous and they don't need that, but the ordinary people think that is important. People will pay more for fuel oil and that is true. There is no doubt about that. There is an 8 per cent increase there, but somebody who happens to rent a water heater will pay less because the rate will go down almost 4 per cent.
A lot of people, especially in rural Nova Scotia, in fact, most people in Nova Scotia, have pride of home ownership. That is the thing they worked on, they invested in and it is something they are proud of. In case the members opposite do not know, there are costs that relate to maintaining a house. The cost of paint will be less, as well as the cost of a storm door or other insulation products - I mentioned one earlier - the cost of bedding plants for around your property, the cost of various items that you use in the house - detergents, toilet paper, shampoo, paper towels - and you can go on with the list. If you happen to have a pet, pet food, and even pop for those who indulge in soft drinks rather than hard liquor, those costs will go down as well.
Mr. Speaker, we are aware of people whose heat is included in their rent. We know that. There are people like that. These people may - and I stress may - not face an increase, or will face a small increase. I think this is important to note, harmonization does not come into effect until April 1997. Separate and apart from harmonization in the future, we all know that this year, earlier in 1996, the cost of home heating fuel has gone up about 20 per cent. Don't blame that on harmonization. It has nothing to do with it.
Again, Mr. Speaker, there are many variables, the amount of home heating oil that is used. Up until today, we have had a very mild fall. I am sure that the oil consumption in the average home or the average apartment certainly is down. In any case, it has not had an impact on rents because each landlord must look at their own situation and judge what they should do. Of course, we know that there are various impacts. Financing is coming due. The rates today are vastly different than 2, 3, 5 or 10 years ago. In any event, we know some landlords who say we will wait and see what happens. There may be pressures, I am not denying that there might not be pressures on some landlords but don't assume that there will be a massive impact because of this particular matter.
I want to touch on low cost clothing. I acknowledge that this is an issue but once again there is a balance here that is not acknowledged by members on the other side of the House, especially the two segments to my far right. For instance, much of the children's clothing we know is under $94 and hence will go up. However, as members would know, as young people grow older the winter coats of under $94 are not that easy to find so they, at the moment, attract the full tax, in fact, they would have a lower rate because they have the full tax rate now. There is household spending in both categories.
The member from Gabarus is not content to have his say as he has had it three or four times in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and second reading, I just ask him, I plead with him just to give me a few more minutes to hear me out, he doesn't have to agree with me but I am entitled to my say too. Maybe he should just button up and give me a chance to finish my remarks. (Applause)
I think it is important to remember that there is spending on children in more areas than just clothing and not all the clothing that is purchased is essential. I realize that for low income families there are not many luxuries, not many low income families buy luxurious items but we all know there are pressures on children at all levels to have the designer type clothes that sometimes cost more than the $94 that exempts them from the tax and some of them right now are paying the full tax on them. In any event, I want to continue on.
We all know that across all income groups there is tremendous pressure to treat children well. We want, as a society, children to have more than the bare necessities. We buy them the clothes they need, we buy them the clothes they want, we also buy them pizza at one of my favourite places, Pizza Hut and hamburgers at Harvey's or McDonalds or A&W or what have you. We buy children shoes but we also rent them movies, we buy them treats, some chocolate bars, bottles of pop and yes, we buy them toys. (Interruptions) The members opposite can list their items later but they remind me of Tickle Me Elmo which some people seem to be after these days, that is what these people remind me of, the jokes.
When we look at a full basket of spending, we discover something that the opposition refuses to admit, a balance, a series of ups and downs, a fairness in this tax legislation that is enhanced by the issues covered in my next topic which will bring me close to my conclusion. The next topic is the income tax cuts and the direct assistance. I have covered this before but I want to repeat it before I take my place.
I think the people of Nova Scotia are badly served by the Opposition when they refuse to acknowledge our balanced series of income tax cuts and other assistance. Most Nova Scotia families will be getting at least $100 more in their pockets and purses because of this part of tax reform. For example, the single person living on $9,000 with a low income job, a seasonal worker with $9,000 of net income will get a one time cheque which will help with some of their bills of $90. The family comprised of two seniors, for example, living on maximum GIS will get $125 and don't tell me that that will not help in the spring or early
summer when people's bills are coming due whether they be taxes or late winter oil bills or whatever. The couple with two children and a net income of $26,000 will have $320 more because of the income tax changes. A single women, for example, making $35,000 in net income will have about $100 more, Mr. Speaker.
Almost everyone will get a tax break and the benefits are significant. I think all honourable members should keep that in mind.
We are living up to the challenges of government in the 1990's. We are offering Nova Scotians a future where the budget is balanced, the tax changes are balanced and the services offered to our citizens are balanced by affordability and need. This approach is a refreshing change from the early 1980's and 1990's when we saw the debt go from $0.5 billion to about $6 billion, and commitments made have forced it up even higher since. Then we have the Third Party with pie in the sky type promises that they will never be able to deliver on because nobody could ever afford them.
I just want to say that I think the approach we are taking is one that will serve us well into the next century. We are offering a balance in terms of taxes and services and trying to help those in need, especially those least able to help themselves. I think this will serve us well as we enter the new millennium. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I have listened to a lot of speeches in this House and I've listened to a lot of ministers give an introduction to their bill on third reading, but I have never heard such a lot of drivel in my life as we got from the Minister of Finance in introducing Bill No. 48 for third reading.
I do not know where the minister got his numbers from. In fact, I heard some numbers at the beginning - which I wish he would table some time later today - about input tax credits. These numbers, I do not know where they came from or how they were derived or anything else, but if they match some of the numbers he has brought forward - for instance, how well off senior citizens are going to be, how well off those who have children are going to be - then I do not have much faith in the earlier numbers.
The minister is talking about a family paying their telephone accounts, their hydro bills, their cable bills, et cetera, and he came out with a surprising result that people are going to be better off when they have paid for those three accounts. We had a visit to the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, earlier this week from the Sir Charles Tupper School and they delivered to the minister and to the members of the House a report on a shopping trip they had made.
AN HON. MEMBER: At the challenge of the Minister of Community Services.
MR. RUSSELL: At the challenge of the Minister of Community Services, right on. These young people went out into the real world, where the minister obviously has not been, and made some purchases. Then they compared the price of those purchases with what those same purchases would cost post-April 1, 1997. The items that they looked at were school supplies, clothing, electricity, heating oil, gasoline, haircuts; they looked at groceries, cable TV, telephone and a new car. The cost of school supplies - I think it is no great revelation - has increased to the tune of $11.08. The reason is, of course, that school supplies are no longer exempt.
Most children's clothing, in spite of what the Minister of Finance has to say, is less than $100, and they wear out a lot of clothes, kids' jeans and T-shirts. I know that the minister has had children, he must know how often children wear out their sneakers. Children's clothing will cost $176 more than it would in the past, with the advent of the BST. Electricity bills up by $48 per annum, which I think is rather low, however, that is what these children came forward with. Heating oil, up by $144 per annum; gasoline up by $76.80; haircuts increase in cost by $19.20, for an increased total cost on those particular items of $475.08.
Now they did find some tax decreases. They found that within the grocery store those items that presently carry both GST and the provincial sales tax would add up to $7.80 per annum in savings. The cable TV billing would come down by $11.40 per annum; telephone bills would decrease by $25.08. What they did - smart kids, actually - they said that the average family would buy a new car every five years so they took one-fifth of that and they came up with a saving of $150 per annum on the price of a car. The decreased tax costs amounted to $195. You will remember that a moment ago, though, I said that the increased costs amounted to $475.08. So according to these young people, Mr. Speaker, in their particular families they estimate that the annual costs will increase by $280 per family.
Now, Mr. Speaker, as I say, I think these young people did a very good job. When I listened to the minister talking about the average family spending something in the order of $50 per month for hydro, I don't know if I live in an average house or not but I think I probably do, I don't know of ever getting a bill as low as $100 for two months. In fact, my average bill over the year, I would say, would come to something more like $100 per month. I think that is the average across the province, $1,200 a year. So the increased costs for electricity alone is going to amount to something in the order of $60 per year.
The cost of heating fuel, as you are probably well aware, heating fuel of its own volition has gone up considerably over the past approximately three or four months, by almost 9 cents a litre, I believe, from what it was last winter. Now I think heating oil is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45 cents to 50 cents per litre. I would think that at the present time, to heat the average house, you are looking at something like, again, $1,200 per annum, at least. Now
heating fuel is going to go up by something in the order of 8 per cent, so you are looking at something like a $100 increase in your heating fuel each month.
Mr. Speaker, clothing, if you buy a suit you will probably pay over $100; if you buy an overcoat, you may well pay over $100 but the average person who is buying clothing on a fairly regular basis is buying shirts and socks and shoes and those kinds of things. Those costs are under $100. Heretofore they have been free of tax.
Mr. Speaker, I don't have much faith in the numbers that the Minister of Finance has brought forward this morning. I think the argument can readily be made that this tax is going to impact on those who are of middle income and low income. We are told by the minister's own figures that the cost of heating fuel for Nova Scotians is going to increase by $14.9 million, $15 million on electricity and $54 million in gasoline and that adds up to something in the order of about $75 million. We know that virtually every family earning less than $80,000 per year will pay more and that is including the reductions in income tax that the minister is so proud of.
The minister also talks about the low interest rates that we have at the present time. Well, low interest rates have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this blended sales tax.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Or with this government.
MR. RUSSELL: Or with this government, yes. We all know interest rates come down, interest rates go up, they fluctuate over the years. At the present time we are very fortunate in that we have low interest rates. In fact, it is very fortunate for the government because that does indeed aid them in the cost of debt servicing and thus is a bonus to them at budget time. However, this tax will still be here if this government still remains in power four or five years from now when interest rates could be much higher than they are today.
You have to go back as to why the government is doing this. Why are they hell-bent to bring in a brand new tax? Is it because the people want to have a new tax? Is it because the people were clamouring for the government to bring the GST and the health services tax together? I notice the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is nodding his head. Obviously, he thinks people have been clamouring for this tax. If that minister thinks that people were clamouring for the tax, he must know then that the people right now are clamouring to the government to get off the harmonized tax gravy train and to leave us with the present status quo.
The government is reluctant to listen to the people, it is reluctant to take this proposal to the people and ask them whether or not they agree with the proposal to blend the tax. The minister would have the opportunity if, indeed, we were out on the road with this deal in public meetings, to make that splendid speech that he made this morning to audiences across this province and to have people have the opportunity to ask him questions with regard to the
numbers that he brought forward in that speech. But no, this government is not listening to the people and is not prepared to even listen to those who are basically in favour of the tax but want changes to some aspects of the tax. They are determined that the bill is going to go through the way it is. They are determined that indeed, the harmonized sales tax is going to be in effect on April 1, 1997.
I would suggest to you and through you to the government that they are going to rue the day that this tax comes into place. Just as people never forgave the government that instituted the goods and services tax, the GST, I would suggest the BST will become a word that will be on many people's lips when the next election rolls around and people are knocking on doors.
The municipalities, the retail sector, the tourism sector, the service sector are all against this tax, and rightfully so. We are told by the retail sector, Mr. Speaker, that rather than being a boon to business, this tax is going to be an impediment to business. It is going to impose upon those in the retail business a tremendous cost to implement and a tremendous cost to maintain. I know that the minister has told some retailers not to worry because once you are into this regime of a single tax that your expenses for that kind of changeover is all that is required. However, retailers that I have spoken to have said that there is an ongoing cost to the retail industry to maintain a system to accommodate the BST.
Mr. Speaker, the minister, in his opening remarks this morning, spoke about businesses using their money obtained from tax inputs to do one of three things: one, to retain the profits and increase salaries and benefits for their employees; two, to expand their businesses; or three, to pass through the savings to the consumers. Well, there was one other item that he missed, I think, and that would be for the businesses to retain the profits to indeed maintain their profitability because many businesses today are in the unfortunate circumstances of just being able to keep their heads above water. If there are any advantages to business to be gained from the implementation of the health services tax and indeed it does create additional profits for a company, in many cases, those profits will be retained by the companies simply, as I say, in order for them to remain as a viable, prosperous business.
Mr. Speaker, the minister also made the statement that the Opposition, in their cases that they brought forward in opposition to the blended sales tax, have said that in some way that we are - that is the Opposition - in favour of increased taxes on business or else not in favour of tax decreases. That is not so. What we are simply saying to the minister is, this is a massive tax grab and you cannot create jobs and you cannot create prosperity by taxing the devil out of people. The prime mover of small business is the ability to be able to operate in a market place that is as free and open and as free of regulations as possible where they can maximize their profits, maximize their turnover and, indeed, in such a way as to create a healthy and viable business climate. I don't think that anybody would agree that this government has done those things to make a viable business climate in this province.
Mr. Speaker, this government has been a failure in every reform it has carried out, whether it be education, whether it be in amalgamation of municipal governments or whether it be in education and now in taxation. Indeed, I suppose, when you examine this whole deal, one of the things that we have not spoken a great deal about but I think is one of the more important aspects of Bill No. 48, is that we give away to the federal government our right that we have in this province to maintain our own taxation system. That is important. That is a very important right that we, as a province have at the present time. We can either increase or decrease our taxes as we see fit.
We have now abdicated that right and transferred it not only to the federal government but also to our neighbouring provinces because, for instance, under the BST agreement, in this province, if we wish to raise our share of the blended sales tax, we must get the approval of our neighbouring province plus the approval of the federal government. If we wish to lower our share of the blended sales tax, we have to get the approval not only of the federal government but all of the other provinces that have signed the blended sales tax scheme. But the federal government has no such impediment. If the federal government wants to increase their share of the blended sales tax, they can do so. If they want to decrease their share of the blended sales tax, they can do so and they can do it unilaterally.
Mr. Speaker, I think that this is a bad tax. I think it is going to be one that people are going to suffer under for a short period of time, but I would suggest that some time in the future they will have the opportunity at the polls to tell this government exactly what they think of this tax and, hopefully, we will have a new regime which will do away with this blended sales tax. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity - although I can't say that I welcome it - to stand and speak on third reading on the bill. I say that I appreciate the opportunity because I am glad that I have the opportunity and am grateful to be able to stand in my place in this House and to say what many Nova Scotians are thinking and feeling, but I can't say that I welcome it, because I wish that this government had done the honourable thing and had the courage to go to the people before imposing something for which it has no mandate and which, overall, I firmly believe is going to have a negative impact upon the lives of countless tens of thousands of people in this province and also on hundreds and hundreds of businesses in the province as well.
Also I can't help but think, Mr. Speaker, that the minister in his opening remarks was being a loyal Party member, a loyal government member. I really have some difficulty believing that this minister, himself, totally believes all of that which he is saying when he moved the bill, because it seems to be at such variance with the philosophy that he espoused
and espoused so eloquently when he was on the other side of the House. At that time, when the current Minister of Finance was the Finance Critic of the former government which had been talking about harmonizing the taxes, this minister said to the former Premier of the day, "As the Premier, of course, well knows, sales taxes are regressive. These taxes do not recognize a person's ability to pay.". At that time the current minister called upon the Premier of the day to have the intestinal fortitude to go out to the people before he would try to impose such a regime as is now being imposed by the red team of which he is part.
I have difficulty believing that the minister's philosophy and principles have changed so greatly that he has put behind him those beliefs that he had at that time, because, Mr. Speaker, when that former Finance Critic for the Liberal Party was speaking and talking about the plans of the former government, I found that quite honestly, philosophically and on principles, in terms of what he was saying, we were in agreement. I haven't changed my beliefs, I still believe that consumption taxes are regressive, that they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay and I believe this government is lacking in the intestinal fortitude, as the current Minister of Finance was accusing the other government of doing by its failure to take this, what it describes, most significant tax change to the people before it imposes it upon them.
Mr. Speaker, another former Finance Critic for the Liberal Party, and actually the author of this deal, now the Minister of Health, when he was Finance Critic - it is amazing how the Savage Liberals have become Cameron Toryized since they crossed over. It is as if the presence of the Cameron Tories was left on the benches, left on the seats opposite, because ever since the Savage Liberal team assumed those seats, they have been following diligently the plans that were started by that former government.
The former Finance Critic, the one who followed the current Liberal Finance Minister in that critic portfolio, said back in 1992 that he urged the government to canvass public opinion before making any move to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal tax, Mr. Speaker. He criticized the government of the day for contradicting positions it had held just a year earlier. It is amazing how they have fallen into exactly the same mould and are doing exactly as the Tories had done before or proposed. One would almost think that Mr. Cameron has returned from Boston and is occupying the Premier's seat and is directing the activities of the Liberal Government today.
Mr. Speaker, the government, the Premier have spoken in this House and they have told us, they have told Nova Scotians, that all of their concerns are fringe issues. They have told them, and if anybody dares to question or criticize the wisdom and the flip-flop of this government, it accuses them all of being naysayers, people without any vision, people who are afraid to grab the opportunity. He accuses all who question what this government is doing of being political, and they belittle, they put down the concerns that are raised. They demean them.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a few things. I am not going to have enough time today to get into everything, but I want to pick on a number of points. First of all, the current Minister of Finance is trying to sell and put the best face on the bad deal that was negotiated by his predecessor, the current Minister of Health, who negotiated this deal behind closed doors, not in open public consultation process but in secret. He has to try to put on the best face because Cabinet solidarity is required. The current minister says that this is going to stimulate the economy here in Nova Scotia. He said it is going to modernize our taxation system and make it more progressive.
It reminds me of an old advertising tactic that has been used. It has been in practice for many years. What you do is you go out and you look and you conduct public surveys and you find out why people do not like particular products. Then what you do is you build your advertising campaign around the exact opposite, the flip side. So if there is a particular reason why somebody does not like a product, you say more people buy or shop at a particular place because of that product.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is called bandwagoning.
MR. HOLM: It is called bandwagoning. I am just told the technical term for it, Mr. Speaker, but it is an old practice. That is what this government is doing. They have obviously looked at what is going on; they have obviously tried to get the pulse of what the people are saying, although they don't want to let on that they have, and they found out what people are objecting to so they are trying to do the flip side. They are trying to tell people what they know isn't so.
We are being told that this is going to reduce the cost of doing business in this province, and for some that is true; for some businesses, yes, indeed, that is true. I freely acknowledge that. Also the government says that that is going to result in lower prices and that those price savings are going to be flowing through at the rate of 50 per cent to the consumers, creating massive new employment in this province. For some that is true, I don't deny that, that is a fact. Some may actually be more than that but I would suggest that the vast majority will be less.
There are a number of things that the government has not talked about. We have all heard a great deal about the pricing-in structure and how the price-in factor is going to lead to tremendous costs, not only in the short-term startup costs of changing over your computer programs or buying new software or having new software designed, buying new hardware that is able to do that. Estimates from those who made presentations before us at the Law Amendments Committee and in other presentations, those initial startup costs just for those items alone can range, depending upon the size of the business, from the tens of thousands of dollars into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there are countless other businesses where the products that come in are already pre-priced, so each and every one of those items are going to have to be re-stickered in the local businesses, ongoing costs that are going to very directly eat away from this so-called input saving that they are going to receive. So there is not going to be that to be flowing through.
I can just picture the ads that appear on radio and television, these national ads in future, you know how you turn on the television and you see advertisements for times that programs are going to appear. They will say watch such-and-such a program at nine o'clock, Eastern Standard Time, except in Newfoundland, where it is going to be a half an hour later. You can just see these national ads being put out advertising, buy this product for so much, except in Atlantic Canada.
We are, and we cannot expect, given that we are only 10 per cent of the market, that these national magazines, national catalogues that are being provided across the country and which provide products for sale in so many of our retail outlets are going to have those all switched.
Let's take a look at another aspect, let's take a look at inventory. Businesses large and small have to carry often millions of dollars worth of inventory, so that they will have the product to service their customers or to sell when it is needed. Businesses all across our region, all across Nova Scotia, have warehouses filled with inventory. Right now, Mr. Speaker, they charge provincial sales tax when that product is sold but they are not paying provincial sales tax upfront for that product, as it is sitting in the warehouse.
What they are going to have to do now, and we had examples of this brought to us in Law Amendments Committee, these companies, these businesses, when they obtain those products, they are going to have to pay the blended sales tax and then supposedly be getting the input tax credit back when they sell it. As it was pointed out to us, many businesses have some inventory, stock that they have to enable them to service, whether it be heavy equipment, whether it be to service computers, you name it, have to carry in their inventory hundreds of thousands, in fact millions of dollars.
Before I got up to speak I did a very quick calculation. If a business is carrying $1 million of inventory and they have to carry the financing charges on that $1 million worth of inventory and as I pointed out, many carry a lot more than this, at 9 per cent and they are going to have to be paying the 15 per cent on that in terms of the BST, just figure it out how much more that is adding. Even if they get the input tax credit back, it is going to cost businesses in this province tens of thousands of dollars more in carrying costs even before they can start to get any input tax credits back. That is going to be another volume that is
going to be removed even if they want to, their inability to pass on to the consumers this so-called cost-savings.
We heard about those involved in the investment community. This government is setting it up in such a way that those businesses involved in security funds, if you are headquartered, centred in Nova Scotia, those funds that accept monies, for example, mutual funds, whether that be an insurance company, if it is located here in Nova Scotia or credit unions with their headquarters here in Nova Scotia, they are going to be placed at a disadvantage to the national banks that have their headquarters located somewhere else. Quite simply what it means is if the money is being invested here in Nova Scotia, those businesses, if their headquarters is in Nova Scotia have to charge 15 per cent of the administrative fee. If their headquarters is located outside of Nova Scotia or outside of this BST zone, they don't have to charge you. If you go and take your dollars and you want to invest in a mutual fund and you go down to your local bank after April 1st and that local bank's headquarters is in Toronto, that bank has a competitive advantage over a credit union in this province if their headquarters is in this province, that is what we are doing.
In his comments earlier today, the minister suggested, in fact, told us that all of these businesses are going to be passing these savings on and it is going to be placing us with a competitive advantage in the international world. Do you know, government doesn't have to do what it is doing in order to do that. Right now we have control over our tax system in this province, we have that control, it is our legislation.
If the Government of Nova Scotia wants, it can increase provincial sales tax or it can decrease provincial sales tax. It has already shown that it knows that it has that power because one of the first things that it did was increase the provincial sales tax by 1 per cent, going from 10 per cent to 11 per cent. They also know that you can have different rates on different items. They know that because, for example, when they imposed for the first time provincial sales tax on electricity that Nova Scotians used, they imposed not the full 11 per cent but they imposed a 3 per cent rate, a different rate.
The Government of Nova Scotia right now, the former Minister of Finance and now Minister of Health who is the author of this deal but he is not the sole signature, he is the one who wrote the document along with his federal colleagues but all of the other 39 members are all signatories and they sign it each and every time there is a recorded vote in here that says that they support it. That is why it is important that we have recorded votes because then you know exactly where people stand so that every time the member for Cape Breton Centre stands up and votes in favour of this bill he is saying that he is also a joint author of this legislation. They all know that if they wanted to make changes to our provincial tax system to give particular tax advantage to those businesses that are specifically involved or even if they are not totally involved with but where they are aiming at certain products being exported, they could change the tax system to zero rate for them, to make it a 50 per cent raise in terms of the provincial sales tax. They can do all that now, but they would not have
to give up, as we are doing by this legislation - excuse me, I want to change my phraseology there a little bit - I do not want to say what we are doing, because I do not consider that I am part of what is being done in here. I want to point out that in each of those recorded votes I am proud to say that I have voted against what this government is doing. So, I am going to say it is what they on the other side, on the red benches, are doing, not what we over here in the New Democratic caucus are doing.
This government is giving up control again, at a time when provinces are talking about greater control over their own economies, having increased power. Of course, the federal government is offloading a lot of responsibilities to the province without the money. Here the province is willingly giving back to the federal government and to our neighbouring provinces control over our tax system. They are saying that the Provinces of Newfoundland and New Brunswick, for example, if they want to increase the provincial sales tax, Nova Scotia has no choice but to go along. We are giving up that authority. If the tax rate is to go, because the other provinces decide we want more money from regressive consumption taxes, they can increase it to 16 per cent, to 17 per cent, to 18 per cent, you name it, and Nova Scotia has to go along. At the same time, if we want to reduce it, we have to get the unanimous consent of all signatories. We are giving up control. That is something that this government is prepared to lock not only themselves into but future governments.
If this government does not feel they are competent enough to be able to be in charge of the tax system in this province, step aside. Resign and let somebody else do the job. Others are quite prepared to honour their responsibilities and live up to the responsibilities that are being assigned by the people to this Legislature. If you do not feel competent enough to do that, if you do not have enough faith in yourselves, step aside. Somebody else will be happy to do that job. It would be pretty hard to do it in a less competent fashion, I might add.
The minister, in his comments, talked about how this is going to be a benefit to all. He gave certain examples. He stood up and he used a phone bill. I do not know whose phone bill he was talking about. I do not know whose electric bill he was talking about, but he was saying how the savings are going to be there for the average consumers. We had before us, appearing at the Law Amendments Committee, dozens and dozens of people who dispute the minister's math; people who, to the best of my knowledge, for example in the Homeowners Association of the metro municipality, are not affixed or associated directly with any one Party. The majority of people who were there, some may have belonged to one or the other political Party, including the Liberals, or I would guess the majority are not affiliated with any. They also have done their calculations and it is amazing how their calculations differ from those of the Minister of Finance as presented here today.
They pointed out that what is actually happening and using their own real life examples, after looking at their own bills, they have pointed out that in reality, Mr. Speaker, the cost to them and their families is going to increase dramatically, dramatically; pyramid taxing, gasoline, 8 per cent. Just look at it this way, too, we know that every cent increase in gasoline
price means $11 million more out of the pockets of the taxpayers in this province, $11 million more. Here, the government is going to impose 8 per cent more on top of the taxes they are already collecting. So if the average cost of a litre of gasoline is about 60 cents, or about $2.40 a gallon, 8 per cent more would be another 4.8 cents, which would mean, Mr. Speaker, an increase of about $52 million. If the price of gasoline goes up because this government is unprepared to do anything to stop the gouging that is done by many of the larger oil companies in this province, if the price of gasoline goes up by another one cent, because the oil companies are successful in driving the independents out of business, as they are trying to do, so that their monopoly situation has increased, if it goes up by one cent, that is another $11 million more in cost and that, for the province, would mean another $880,000 in provincial sales tax.
There will be absolutely no motivation, in fact, the incentive will be there for the government to encourage the oil companies to increase their gasoline prices, because it means every cent close to $1 million more in the Treasury of the province and $1 million less in the pockets of consumers.
The Minister of Finance talks about how people are going to be saving and he spent a great deal of time talking about how children's clothing really is going to cost less because, you know, you cannot, obviously, buy clothing for children under $100 nowadays. Well, I invite the minister and I will take the minister, if he wants to come with me, I will be quite happy to take the minister around to the kinds of stores in which the majority of Nova Scotians shop.
AN HON. MEMBER: Frenchy's.
MR. HOLM: We can even go to the second-hand clothing stores. But we can go to the mainstream shop and I want to assure the minister that I can find him all kinds of designer clothing, sneakers, footwear, boots, et cetera, that come in well under the price of $100 per item which are now going to be, for the first time, subject to provincial sales tax. I don't know when the last time was that the minister went looking for clothing for children, but I assure him that it is readily available, not only for children, but also for adults.
The minister talked about Twinkies and Mars Bars and pop as going down in price. Well, Mr. Speaker, some of those items, yes, will drop in price, but the essentials that families have to buy are going to go up; they will definitely increase. We know even that certain medical costs, home care costs, those that are being provided to family members by other family members where they have gone out and had to procure the services of private home care providers because the level of service, which is being cut by the government, is not adequate, for the first time, they are now going to have to pay provincial sales tax on those kinds of services. Shameful.
Municipalities, school boards, hospital boards are going to now be paying provincial sales tax for the first time. That is going to mean that property taxes will go up, will increase and those costs will be passed on to all Nova Scotians. Rents can now go up yet again, courtesy of this Liberal Government. There is no rent control, Mr. Speaker, so tenants don't even have the right to challenge those landlords to ensure that those rents are justified. Hospital boards, school boards, already reeling from cuts by this government, are now going to have to pay provincial sales tax. What does that mean, other than again reduced services that they can provide?
Mr. Speaker, the government says this will create jobs. We have had example after example of presenters before the Law Amendments Committee who told us how jobs will actually be lost in their particular businesses, some even brought with them several employees whom they pointed out will end up having to be laid off because of this action.
We heard from those in the Home Builders Association who showed us and explained how, in fact, there could very easily be more people losing their jobs in the construction and renovation business than the government is predicting will be employed or new jobs created as a result of this whole deal. In that one sector alone they are talking about the potential loss of more jobs than will be created, according to the government's fanciful projections.
Mr. Speaker, it boggles my mind how this government has done such a major flip-flop. One can only conclude that they are in the strong grasps of some very strong particular interest who have a great deal to benefit from this and that they are prepared to go to any length to try to cover the backside of the Prime Minister, in pretending that the GST that the Liberals promised to get rid of has, in fact, changed. By calling it the BST or the HST or whatever, is not getting rid of the GST. What we are really talking about in this whole debate is expanding the Mulroney GST to a whole host of new products and services that have not had the provincial sales tax applied to them before. So now the provincial sales tax and the federal sales tax are now a much broader-based GST. That is what we have here in Nova Scotia, courtesy of the Liberal Government, the clones of the Mulroney Tories.
The government said, when they were in Opposition, consumption taxes are regressive. They were right. The paultry measures, despite the spin that the government members and their spin doctors try to put on them, that they have announced, in terms of income tax reductions and other assistance, will not come close to offsetting the increased costs that families will face.
There is certainly no doubt about it, those who are in the most upper economic incomes, those in the highest income tax brackets, yes, indeed, they will benefit the most. They will find that their income taxes will drop more than sufficient to pay for the increased costs of the essentials that are going to go up as a result of the BST.
For the average family in this province, the middle income earners and certainly the lower income earners, the cost-benefits being promised to the people, in terms of those very modest income tax breaks, if they get it at all, they will not cover the increased costs. So once more this government is telling those middle income earners, middle income taxpayers, to once more subsidize the very wealthy and the most powerful. The Tory trends of the past are, yet again, being continued by the Liberal branch of the Tory Party in power today. It is clear and it is evident, and that will not be lost on the people of this province.
Mr. Speaker, as I draw my comments to a close, the Premier said to have faith in the province. I say to the Premier, have faith in the people. I say to the Premier and I say to the Liberals on the front benches and backbenches, if you truly believe in what you are doing, if you have confidence that what you are doing can stand the test of close analysis, then take it on the road - whether that be in the form of an election, to get a mandate to do it, or have at least a committee, public hearings, or a fair tax commission to look at the tax structure - before you impose the Mulroney style expanded goods and services tax upon all of the businesses here in Nova Scotia and all of the consumers here in Nova Scotia.
I didn't know that the Liberals, when they ran for office, were saying, we are running as clones of Brian Mulroney; we support his policies and we want to expand them here in Nova Scotia. I thought the Liberals were opposed to those; I thought they had principles. So did Nova Scotians who were opposed to those that were being imposed by the former Tories. Yet, obviously, I was mistaken, as were the vast majority of people, because you want to continue to be their clones and to impose that style of government upon the people here.
I say to the Premier, have faith in the people. If your deal is saleable, they will adopt it. If you don't have any confidence in it, as is being shown by your actions railroading this through, then instead of putting your faith in the people, I suggest that the people will demonstrate their faith in you by giving it to you on the chin and give you what you deserve in the next election, whenever you have the courage to call that.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: I want to speak again on Bill No. 48, particularly in third reading. Why is this bill being done? I have asked myself that question on many occasions and I have asked you, Mr. Speaker, why are we doing this bill. The way I see it, the Prime Minister called all the Ministers of Finance to Ottawa and suggested to them that they try harmonization. If the harmonization was being done on a national level, I think we could live with it and if it wasn't on the backs of the average consumer of this province, I think we could all live with that.
Three of the Atlantic Provinces, in their wisdom, decided to go with this tax and Prince Edward Island decided not to go. Why did Prince Edward Island decide not go? They went to the people by having a committee go around and the people spoke. As a matter of fact, I
have done some checking with P.E.I. and they are certainly not going to join in the harmonization. I have been hearing that rumour and I made a couple of calls last night; there is no intention of them doing it.
The former Conservative Government in Ottawa put in the GST and the people of Canada told them what they thought of that. They came back with two seats. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, and to my colleagues across the way and to my right, that you have to listen to the people. If you do not listen to the people, you will not be over there.
Last night or the night before last, I guess - I get confused on the nights - the Premier spoke on the bill in Committee of the Whole House and the Minister of Finance also spoke on the bill. They talked about the jobs that were going to be created.
AN HON. MEMBER: In dreamland, eh? Isn't that crazy?
MR. MCINNES: Well, if it will create jobs, that is fine. That is wonderful. I think every one of us in the House would be pleased if, because of this harmonization of taxes, it is going to create jobs. I would be very disappointed if everybody was not happy about that, but I have yet to see where those jobs are and nobody has explained to me where they are. The honourable Minister of Finance said the other night, show me one economist who will not say that this is good and will create jobs. Of course, the next day in the paper we had one economist who said it is all a crock, that it will not create jobs.
The Minister of Community Services challenged Sir Charles Tupper School to go and do a survey and they reported back to us yesterday. I will not read it, because you all saw it; it has been on everybody's desk. It certainly showed that the overall tax increase, on their piece of paper, was $280 on an average family of four. The Minister of Finance this morning talked about an average increase in the power rates. He used a figure, and I do not have a copy of his figures, but I think it was in the vicinity of $650, or whatever. I just want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, my condo which I have in Halifax, a one-bedroom condo, costs me over $650 a year and I am not there a lot of the time. In the summertime there is no heat or anything. I think the figure should be higher, to the Minister of Finance, that the average cost would probably be more than $1,200.
I know there are a lot of members who want to speak on this bill this morning and I do not want to delay it, but the Law Amendments Committee did have over 85 presenters. Again, I am not going to go through all that. We had the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. We had a number of municipal units. We had the two large municipal units, Halifax and Cape Breton, that were there and were very upset and wanted the bill changed or amended so that they would be exempt from this tax. We had all kinds of pensioners' groups. We had all kinds of individuals who were very much against this tax grab. We also had Clearwater and Jacques Whitford and the other fish plants saying that it would be helpful
to them. That is fine. It's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good. Maybe it will be helpful.
In 1993 this government promised jobs, jobs, and promised no increase in taxes. What did it do? It came in and cut the health care. It forced amalgamation on Cape Breton County. It forced amalgamation on Halifax. Has that been shown to save us money? No. What did they do with the school boards? Down to seven. Is that saving money? I do not think so, Mr. Speaker. Did they listen to the people? No. We suggested that the Public Accounts Committee go out across this province and meet the people and hear what they wanted to say about this tax. We suggested that the Law Amendments Committee go out across the province. Would they agree to that? No.
The other reason they are doing this now is because they have to have an election prior to May 1998, it has to happen, that is the law of the land and we all know that, now whether it will be next fall or the spring, who knows. I am telling you right now, you didn't listen to the people and if you don't listen to the people you have got to mend your ways quite a bit and you don't have much time to do it.
This bill will pass and it will be law sometime this afternoon or whenever it is proclaimed and it is going to hurt the average taxpayer of this province. It affects their gas, their lights, their fuel, their children's clothing and the people in the $30,000 income bracket cannot afford it. I say to you if it was a national program, if it wasn't on some of those consumer goods that hurt the average person, it might be all right but it is not that way and I will be voting against it. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, listening to my colleague for Pictou West and I think he said this about each time he has spoken on the bill, why are we doing this bill. I have been listening and trying to figure out if there was an answer to why and he honestly wants to know why we are doing this. I haven't heard an answer yet that would tell me why we are doing this. I would think we would be trying to do something for the people of the province.
Maybe the reason we are doing this, my colleague for Pictou West, is because Chretien and the federal Liberals promised to do away with the GST, I think this is why we are doing it. They tried to make a deal and this Premier was sucked in to protect the feds. It is strange, he was sucked in but it is going to have an effect on the outcome of the next general election. I can't figure out why this government could be sucked into a tax deal that raised home heating fuel. How could it be sucked in on a deal that raised electricity? How could it be sucked in on a deal that raises gasoline? How could it be sucked in that there are many
essentials that people have to have that now are going to cost the taxpayer more money? How could a government, led by John Savage, be sucked into something that has a negative effect?
No matter what industry you talk to and I know that we finally had someone, the Minister of Health get up and say yes, there were pluses and minuses, yes, we are at risk as a government in making this kind of deal.The Premier hasn't said that they were at risk, he hasn't said that yes, there are all of these things to consider. The one who struck the deal said yes, there is a lot of risk and we knew that as a government. The risk is what are the people's reaction going to be when they find out that this kind of tax really hits those on fixed incomes, really hits those that are on low income.
The government has tried to say well look, this is going to create jobs and the economy is going to boom and so that will make up for any increased taxes those people will have to pay. We have already had an economist come out and say there is nothing in this that will create jobs, nothing in this that looks like this province is going to move ahead in job creation because of a blended sales tax. I have spoken to individuals in my constituency, one individual is going to lay off people because of the blended sales tax. I have talked to other people who say that it is not a job creator, as a matter of fact, it could have a very negative effect.
There are issues that come before the Legislature that are sort of like what you call a 24-hour wonder. You get up and you speak and people get all worked up and then the government feel - and time is a great healer, Mr. Speaker - that the people will forget and they will move on to other issues. The one thing about taxation issues is that people do not forget, because every day they pay their electric bill, every day they pay their fuel bill, every day they buy gasoline and every day they pay this tax, they are going to remember. They are going to say, who did that to us? They will remember the government that put this sales tax in.
It does not matter, even when they pay their municipal taxes, because I am sure municipal governments around the province, who have said that this will cost them millions of dollars, who said that the tax rate on property tax will go up because of the BST, are going to remind people that you are paying more because of the provincial government. Driving schools, safety supplies, fitness clubs, all of those will now have a 15 per cent tax after April 1st.
This government says, we want people to be fit, we want people not to be a drain on the health care system and part of that, Mr. Speaker, is living a healthy lifestyle and part of that is being fit. Now we are going to tax those people more money to be fit. If you want to join the YMCA, you are not going to pay 7 per cent after April 1st, you are going to pay 15 per cent after April 1st. Imagine, to join the YMCA you are going to have to, to be fit, pay more taxes. It is bad because not only is it hitting those who want to try to live a healthier life style, it is, on the other end, hitting those who end up being sick that have to hire private home care. They are going to pay more after April 1st.
What the government did, was take a tax base and broaden the tax base. They brag about coming down from 18 per cent to 15 per cent. (Interruption) Yes, they brag about that, but what they do not tell, in all honesty, is that that is spread wider so that there are more tax dollars than we would be led to believe on the issues that it is going to hit. Before this government had the opportunity, as a government, they had the opportunity to decide what the provincial tax, the PST covered, and, wisely, they did not cover fitness clubs, if you wanted to join the YMCA. Wisely, they did not cover private home care and, wisely, they did not cover school supplies. There were a lot of areas that the government, in its wisdom, said - they didn't put the PST on toothpaste - that kind of a tax would be unfair and they had control over that. Now they have lost that autonomy. They have gone in with the feds and the other provinces help control the agenda. So no longer can this Cabinet, in their wisdom, decide what it is we want to drop out/put on this list.
They also lost the opportunity to have the autonomy to make sure that the rate does not go up. If two other provinces want it to go up and the majority in the agreement want it to go up, it automatically goes up and Nova Scotians pay more and they cannot even get back at the people who raised it because it is the politicians in other provinces who have made it happen. When people find out that they have lost that autonomy, I know they will be very upset. As we go down the road in the new year, because, you know, we will have the Christmas season and people are busy and people get to think about this and, yes, they may, between now and April 1st, some of this will not be in the forefront, after April 1st, obviously, people will start to remember what it is this government has done to them.
As a retailer, they are still trying to figure out how this is going to work and trying to figure out how the paperwork is going to flow. So what this government has done by broadening the base, they know that this will bring more money out of the consumers' pockets, $84 million, the Minister of Health said about $80 million, so he is not arguing that it is not more money out of the consumers' pockets. When they say that just maybe the businesses will pass on some of that savings - they acknowledge, they started out at 50 per cent, they are down to 25 per cent and it may not even be 5 per cent. As a matter of fact, with the price included, there may not be any saving, Mr. Speaker, there may be an increase in the cost to the consumer. So not only is the consumer paying $80 million or $84 million more in direct taxes, they could be paying more for the goods and services that they have to buy.
You would have thought that a government that cared about its people would have allowed some input by the people of this province, they would have done the kinds of economic studies to see, in actual fact, how this is going to affect, instead of guessing if there is going to be 50 per cent of the saving passed on to consumers. They should have done a study. Did they do a study on the price-included? No. When they asked the people, do you want prince-included, the people said well sure, it is more convenient. They didn't tell them that the price-included will mean higher prices for the consumer when he goes to buy that product.
No matter where you are, whether you are in a taxi or using whatever kind of services. The one issue that really bothered me was with seniors. I know this happens and maybe it is because Kings County is unique but I doubt that it is unique, a lot of seniors in our province don't drive long distances any more. A lot of seniors in Kings County find it very difficult to come to metro to do their shopping or to come here to events. So they arrange and hire, through their seniors' organizations, and I want to make sure that I give a lot of credit to the seniors and the organizations of seniors groups around the province, they do a great service for themselves and others. So by organizing the seniors, they take a bus into Halifax or to wherever, for a trip, a few times a year. Now the government is going to make they pay more because the tax is going to be 15 per cent. There was no PST on that trip. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, why we should say to seniors, look, you can only get one or two trips into Halifax a year, why should we ram them with an extra tax to those seniors on fixed incomes?
Does this government have the opportunity now to say listen, we are not going to tax those seniors? No, they don't. Apparently they are tied-in with Ottawa and the other provinces, so they don't have the power to say to our seniors in Nova Scotia anymore that we really care enough about you not to charge you that tax on that bus trip that you get only once or twice a year, into Halifax or some other area. So transportation is going to be hurt. Those who are driving their cars but those who have to go by other means, and a lot of seniors that I know, as I say, don't want to drive long distances, some of them cannot even afford a vehicle, are now going to be hit by a higher tax.
Another area is children's clothing. We may all take it for granted that clothing under $94 maybe is not what we see as being the majority of clothing that is bought. If you ever go into Byway or those kinds of stores where clothing is under $94, Mr. Speaker, you will find that a lot of people go there to buy their clothing. Part of the reason is that they don't have the money to buy the more expensive clothing but part of the reason is they know there was no PST under $94. The government recognized, prior to this, that it was very important for fixed income and low income and for children's clothing that there not be a large tax on that.
What does this government do? After April 1st, they slam them with a 15 per cent tax and that is going to hurt many of those people who, in the past, had to go that route, shopping under $94. So it means that they will have less and it also means more for shoe repairs. A lot of people have to get as many days, weeks and months out of a pair of shoes as they can because they can't just afford to run off and buy a new pair. What they could do before was go and have them repaired and there was no PST, but after April 1st there is now a 15 per cent tax on those people having to have their shoes repaired.
I hear this government talk about the tourist industry, about how this is going to have a great, positive impact on the tourist industry. Whether it is the Unique Country Inns or other groups that I have talked to, they say by price-included - and I understand they can put
two prices in their book now, price-included and price without tax where other areas like P.E.I. don't have to put in price-included - those people in the industry, not government politicians, say this will have a negative effect. When people look at these books to promote your province for travel destination, they will not see that there is a price-included and when they see the larger price they think, lost in the fine print, that potential business to our province may choose another destination due to the higher comparative cost in Nova Scotia. In other words, when we are doing our advertising, it looks very much like when people from out of province read that, they obviously may not come here.
One of the other areas are our children's school supplies that are exempt, the PST now and will be charged the 15 per cent. It is bad enough to hit our adults, but this is going to have an effect on young people, whether it is their private dance or music lessons, whether it is minor hockey because the rinks now charge minor hockey 7 per cent GST on ice rentals and we are now into the 15 per cent on ice rentals. So it is going to affect figure skating, minor hockey, and it is going to affect those who want to take ballet, those who take music lessons and these are all things that are essential for our young people.
I know people who can barely find the money, they have a young daughter or son who wants to take piano lessons or join in another activity and they have to work very hard to scrape up the money so that their son or daughter can take those lessons. Now they are going to have scrape up even more and maybe some of those people will not be able to take those lessons. I think it is so important that when young people have talents that they be given the opportunity, whether it is through dance, music or sporting activities, that they be allowed those opportunities and have equal opportunities. We all know the richer one is, the more opportunity that young people have. Now what this government is saying to those who are struggling as a family unit, we are going to make it more difficult for you to struggle as a family unit and we are going to make it more difficult to send your son or daughter for those things that are precious, especially later on in life.
Mr. Speaker, there is not one thing that I can think of that would change my mind, to even come close to supporting the unfair tax that this government is levying on this province. This tax is unfair. It is unfair for so many people, whether you are young people, children, whether you are on low income, whether you are a senior, it is very unfair. I admit, if you are wealthy and you buy the luxuries of life like fur coats, it is cheaper. But for most Nova Scotians, this tax will hurt and that is why I have to vote against this bill in third reading and urge all other members to say no to a tax that is going to hurt this province and hurt the people that live in it.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure now to get up and try one more time to convince this government that Bill No. 48 is certainly a bad tax for this province and it is a bad bill for this province. There are a few things that happened this morning that
the Minister of Finance mentioned in his speech. I found them quite interesting and I thought that maybe I would remark on a few of the items and the things that he brought up in his speech.
The minister mentioned that the average power bill would be between $600 and $700 a year for a home. The minister said, to be reasonable, he would go along and say that it would be about $700 a year, and I thank him for being respectful in that matter. That works out to about $50 a month, or if we take the $700 figure, it is about $58.34 a month. If we go a little further, that is $117 every two months, roughly. I found it so interesting, Mr. Speaker, that I called Nova Scotia Power and asked them a few questions. They told me that if I spent and used absolutely no power, none, my bill for a two month period, a billing period between 58 and 64 days, would be somewhere between $23 and $24. That is not using any power, that is just having the privilege of having it hooked up to my home. So that means that the minister is telling us that the average home in Nova Scotia, without electric heat and he was very specific, it was without electric heat, he says that they are burning about $90 worth of power in a two month period, in a period somewhere between 58 and 64 days, because that is what the billing period is.
Well, I stay in an apartment, Mr. Speaker, here, when I am in Halifax. The power bill for that apartment is higher than that. I just wonder what a normal home, with four people in it, two adults and two children, and they are using TV and they are using computers and their microwaves and all the items that the minister mentioned when he was making his speech, people are using all those items in their house, and he still expects the average power bill will only be about $90. In my home, I have three children, we do have electric heat and I will be the first one to admit that, but our bill, in the winter, runs somewhere between $600 and $700 every two months. In the summer, when there is no electric heat being used, we still use somewhere between $150 and $250 worth of power every two months. I think that we are a pretty average family. I think that somebody who researched the information for the minister made a mistake because there will be a bigger increase in the cost for people than what the minister said.
We move on and he mentioned phone bills and we will talk about phone bills. The member for Cape Breton Nova had an ad here from Maritime Tel & Tel telling us the other day about the $25 savings that would be there for long distance calls. When the seniors were in and made their presentations to the Law Amendments Committee, they brought it to everybody's attention that, indeed, local service was going up by $2.00 a month, so there would be an increase of $24 a year. That almost wipes out that so-called saving.
The minister also mentioned about cable. Well, I can't really speak on cable because where I live - and the minister referred to me as the member from Gabarus - well, in Gabarus we don't have cable so I can't really make an honest statement about what it does. Then we went on and the minister said in his statement that it would be very hard to find a winter coat for an older child under $94. That is what is in his speech, that much of children's clothing
is, indeed, under $94. However, when they get a bit older, winter coats under $94 are not easy to find.
Mr. Speaker, I am a pretty ordinary shopper. Page 12, in the Kmart flyer - I will table it; that is not a problem - shows winter clothing for young men. It shows that the regular price for this clothing - and this is the more expensive of the two jackets that are shown, by the way - is $69.93 to $79.93 but they are on sale for $59. That is a long way from $94; that is a long way from where tax now kicks in. But with our new blended sales tax, this same coat, if my math is correct, would be about $8.85 more in taxes. So the $59 coat on sale now costs me $67.85. This flyer is jammed full of children's clothing. I glanced through it quickly - and I will say that it was quickly - but I couldn't find an article of children's clothing that was over $94.
I used this flyer as an example because that is where most Nova Scotians shop, at the chains and the big stores and those kinds of stores. Yet the minister and this government will try to tell us that this is saving money.
If that wasn't enough to sort of make you wonder what is going on with this tax, let's think about what happened when we had a group of school children come in and talk to us. They presented a report at the challenge of the Minister of Community Services. Now even children, Mr. Speaker, young people who are attending school, can see that this tax is flawed and not good for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, yet this government refuses to say and, indeed, identify the fact that this is going to hurt consumers. They won't live up to that.
These young people, Mr. Speaker, came in and said, in a little report that they delivered and that each member of this House received, that it will cause commonly used items to increase in cost and less commonly used items to decrease in cost; with tax-included pricing, it will make items look more expensive; items that are increasing will more than double in tax while items that are decreasing will go down by only 3.8 per cent; the tax may discourage people from moving to Nova Scotia; the tax may encourage people and businesses to move out of Nova Scotia; and increased tax on services such as home care could make life very difficult for groups such as the elderly.
These are young people, they are our future and these are the problems they see with this tax. They are the ones who are identifying these problems. They did it at the request of one of the government ministers.
We had the elderly, the seniors' group come in and make representations to the Law Amendments Committee. They told us the problems it was going to cause for them. We have heard this government say time and time again that we are going to have 3,000 jobs created. I would love to see 3,000 jobs created, and I would love to see this government show the proof that that was going to happen.
This very morning we had an opportunity to pass a resolution to encourage the federal government to implement a plan on the Cape Breton Development Corporation that was delivered by the Senate and the Premier said no to that resolution. He said we have already written that letter. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the people of Cape Breton would be not a bit insulted if another letter was written and certainly would have appreciated this House sending that kind of a message this close to the Christmas season. We know that unemployment on Cape Breton Island, the unofficial rate, is somewhere between 40 per cent and 50 per cent. The Premier is shaking his head no. I only quote numbers that his own Minister of Community Services, the member for Cape Breton East, has gone around and publicly stated in his own constituency, but the Premier is over there shaking his head no. That is what his minister is saying and if he does not agree with it, he should be talking to his minister, not shaking his head and letting it rattle over there.
This is not a good bill for the ordinary consumer in the Province of Nova Scotia. We still have an opportunity, however, to go out and hear from more people. We do not have to pass this bill today. We can take the opportunity to stand the bill and go out and have public hearings and hear from Nova Scotians and get their opinions. The bill is not going to be implemented until April 1st. That still gives us time, three months. I do not understand, Mr. Speaker, why we do not want to hear from people in this province.
This bill is going to have an effect, a long-lasting effect. This bill has more ramifications than any bill that I have had the privilege to deal with since I have come to this House. This bill's implications will long be here. Long after any one of us who is sitting here will be here, this bill will still be here. People in this province will know the negative effects. If there are positive effects, they will see them, but the ordinary consumer does not believe that there are. There have been thousands upon thousands of people who have set forward their concerns, signed petitions, phoned people, written people. They are scared. They are worried. All that seems to be on the minds of the government benches is push this through. It does not seem to matter what any member of the Opposition has to say. It does not seem to matter that we are representing Nova Scotians and not just our own opinions. There is an agenda here and that agenda apparently does not have anything to do with the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia.
The Premier has said that the agenda is jobs, and I hope he is right. I would hope that if he is that convinced that that is what it is, he would produce the papers, he would produce the studies that show this is going to create 3,000 jobs. We had person after person come to the Law Amendments Committee and say they did not think it was a good thing. We had some, admittedly, who thought it was a good tax. Those who thought it was a bad tax far outweighed those who thought it was a good tax. We even had some who showed up with people they were going to have to lay off because of this tax. The Premier says it is going to
create jobs. There is nobody in this House who hopes it will create jobs more than I. I would really like to see the proof.
The Minister of Finance also mentioned about the $90 rebate to families under certain incomes and that will be welcomed by those families. The one thing that was not mentioned was the fact that somebody who is receiving benefits from Community Services will not qualify for those. Those people's expenses will be going up. Their costs will be going up. Will that be allowed for in the Community Services budget? How are those people going to be addressed and how are we going to help them? Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on, why this bill is not good for the consumers of Nova Scotia.
We will be voting on this bill sometime today, probably, if the government does not take the initiative to stand it and let us go around the province and talk to people. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, what we should have is a secret ballot so that people can vote with their heart and not with their Party lines, so the people can actually vote the way their constituents want them to vote, but whether we have a secret ballot or a recorded vote, I can guarantee you that I, for one, will be voting against this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I hope and I pray that each of the other members of this House, regardless of their political affiliations, will vote the way their constituents want them to and not the way their House Leader wants them to. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in the debate on third reading on Bill No. 48. We have had a lot of opportunity over the last few days to analyze the blended sales tax and the intention of the government, despite a mounting body of information that indicates that this is a very harmful piece of legislation for Nova Scotians, the government has given every indication that it is going to plod on and do what it has been told it should do by the federal government in Ottawa.
Now, it has been, I think, for many who have sat through the long hours of the House a somewhat tiresome time. One could, perhaps, make the comment that what the speeches lacked in depth, they made up for in length, and never has that been any more true than in the debate in recent days.
I was looking forward, really, to the Minister of Finance, his introductory speech to third reading today. I felt it was an opportunity for the government, finally, to come forward with the kind of information that we had been asking for, for days, to provide the kind of information that would give a little confidence to those of us in Opposition and confidence to those in the province that, in fact, this tax reform is really what the province needs.
I am reminded of a saying - and this is not original with me, but I think it is, perhaps, appropriate - a politician is one who shakes your hand before an election and your confidence after it. (Laughter) Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the confidence of Nova Scotians is truly shaken with the introduction of this bill. There are so few Nova Scotians who will benefit and so many who will be injured by this particular piece of legislation.
Abraham Lincoln said, "You do not help the poor by destroying the rich." Abraham Lincoln was silent on the issue of destroying the poor and that is what this piece of legislation does; it is going to destroy the poor, the low-income Nova Scotians.
I was not in the least bit impressed or persuaded by the arguments that were brought forward by the Minister of Finance this morning who was trying to indicate that, on balance, this is a good piece of legislation. In fact, it is the balance that makes it all wrong. The balance is simply not there. The whole bill is out of kilter.
We do need tax reform, but we need a sensible tax reform and we do not need a tax increase disguised as tax reform because, for the majority of Nova Scotians, this is a tax increase and the magnitude of that increase is greater than the projections that are being given to us by this government.
Now I look at the remarks of the minister this morning and I made considerable comment the other day in speaking to the bill when I was questioning the fact that the minister had taken the lost revenue projection of last May of $120 million and he has now downsized it to $100 million. In other words, somewhere along the line, $20 million has appeared despite the fact that after the $120 million projection, he added $13 million in offsets which should have actually increased the lost revenue to the province. In other words, the province has provided an additional $13 million to offset some of the negatives that were being created by the legislation. Despite that $120 million, instead of going up to $133 million with $13 million in offsets, it is somehow suddenly reduced to $100 million.
Well, the argument I put forward on that day, if that figure is wrong, then why should we have any confidence in the other projections that are given in the same document? To this point I have not received a satisfactory answer from the Minister of Finance. But you know it is interesting because another new figure appeared in debate today. I did get a copy of the minister's speech this morning. I want to make a short quotation from that speech, "I want to say a few words about each of these measures in turn. Mr. Speaker, we estimate business savings through the input tax credits of approximately $170 million. This is what drives the job creation process I described earlier . . .". We have debated this for days and why is it, on the last day of debate, a figure that was presented last May of $240 million of input tax credits is suddenly given to us this morning by the Minister of Finance at $170 million?
I would hope that the minister would clarify that because, again, he reaches into his hat and he pulls out a new number to throw before the members and before Nova Scotians, a new number at this stage of the game. Is it any wonder we have no confidence in what the government is telling us about the effects of this bill and what it will do to Nova Scotians and what it will do for our business climate and what it will do for the average consumer. The numbers keep changing. We ask for them to provide some substantiation for the numbers and it simply does not come forward.
Mr. Speaker, again, a politician is one who shakes your hand before an election and your confidence after it. My confidence is shaken and the confidence of Nova Scotians is shaken in this government because of the way they have introduced this bill, the way they keep juggling the numbers, the way they don't listen to anyone.
Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter. This place isn't always a serious place and there are many who will attest to that, but there are times - and this is one of those times - when we are dealing with the future of Nova Scotia in a very major, in a very important way. If we make a mistake, if this government makes a mistake with this legislation, then we will suffer for perhaps no less than a decade in getting it straightened out. Well, why is it with something so important that we have had so little opportunity for input, so little input from anyone other than those in government and that close circle of people who give them their advice? Do they not think that there are good ideas beyond their close circle of advisors? Are there not those in Nova Scotia who understand this perhaps equally as well or perhaps even better than they and better than their advisors? Because this is another example of a government that excludes the majority of Nova Scotians from the decision-making process.
I believe that it is the government's prerogative to make decisions for that is why they were elected and that is why in 1993 the people of Nova Scotia made the decision that they wanted this government to handle the affairs of the province. That mandate did not include a commitment by Nova Scotians that the government would no longer seek advice of Nova Scotians on issues, particularly issues that were not part of a mandate. Not only was tax reform not part of a mandate delivered to this government; as a matter of fact, prior to May 1993, the Premier said there would be no new taxes, said there would be no tax reform. Clearly, on province-wide television, this was a commitment made by the then campaigning Leader of the Opposition seeking the office of Premier, seeking the opportunity to lead this province perhaps even into the next millennium. It well may be that this particular piece of legislation and other mistakes that the government has made may preclude his opportunity to lead us into the next millennium.
I made reference to the fact that all of a sudden we have the minister getting up today and saying that the input tax credits will benefit business to the tune of $170 million, a number that appeared in debate here for the first time on the last day when there is no opportunity
now for us to determine exactly what it is that that new figure represents. Why was $240 million which was used every day since last May as the input tax credit available to business, suddenly changed today, the last day, almost like what happened in the spring sitting when finally the information came out, on the last day, what was believed to be the correct information on the tax reform document? Not much wonder that no one has any confidence in what this government is doing and why they are so suspicious of what this all means.
I had every expectation that the Minister of Finance, probably in order to come to us this morning in debate and to crystallize for members of the House and for all Nova Scotians the essence of what this bill is all about and to give us all a confidence that he and his Cabinet colleagues and his close circle of advisors would provide the information that would perhaps gel what it is the government is trying to do - well, did the minister stay up all night preparing his speech, working and coming to grips with the essence of the arguments that have been presented against the bill for days? I suggest that the Minister of Finance must have retired rather early last night because after he had finished speaking I was more convinced than ever that they do not have a solid grip on what this all means.
The minister started to talk about utilities. It was funny and I will make my point a little bit later, but it suddenly just struck me that great speeches are often referred to by a specific item in the speech or where it was given and so on, like the Gettysburg Address. Of course, we refer to that because it was given there and it has nothing to do with the content. I think that in times to come the minister's speech today will be referred to as the weather-stripping speech. I will go on and explain what I mean by that in a few minutes. He started to go through a rationalization that, in fact, the consumer was not going to be hurt by the legislation. As he went through his arguments he would almost lead you to believe that the $84 million of increased consumer taxes really don't exist. He tried to rationalize all those areas in which the consumer will be hard hit. He started to talk about heating oil. Heating oil or furnace oil is a major purchase for most Nova Scotians because the majority of Nova Scotians, in fact, heat their homes with furnace oil.
As an MLA, one of the difficulties that faces me almost invariably on a Friday afternoon, late in the afternoon, particularly in the winter months, is when a constituent comes in and says, I have no money to buy oil, we are out of oil. It is late in the day and, as you know, Community Services does not have the discretionary funding that it once had to jump in and solve the problem. Invariably they come, it is late on a Friday afternoon and they need a tankful of oil; there are children in the home and it is very difficult.
We are all aware that after April 1st, $100 worth of heating oil will be $108. But the minister says that is really not going to be a hardship, because you are going to save if you buy paint for your house because it will be 3.7 per cent cheaper, or if you buy a new storm door or bedding plants or paper towels. Then he said you are going to save money on weatherstripping. Now I don't know how often you buy weatherstripping, Mr. Speaker, but through the winter months I have to purchase furnace oil every two weeks. I think it has
probably been four or five years since I had to put weatherstripping around the doors of my home. My recollection is that I did a number of doors and windows and I think the total cost of weatherstripping was something like $7.00 You buy it in big rolls and it is very inexpensive.
As a matter of fact, the comment by the minister was so humorous that I was beginning to think that if I bought enough weather stripping to offset the increased cost of my heating oil, I would have to add a new room onto the house to store the weather stripping, but it well may work.
Then we went onto gasoline. Many Nova Scotians, of course, end up going once or twice a week to the gas pump. Certainly in the political life you end up going about twice a week if you do a lot of driving. The increased cost to the consumer in Nova Scotia per year with the blended sales tax, with another 8 per cent on our gasoline and diesel fuel, will be $54 million. So Nova Scotians will reach in every year at the gas pump and will pull out $54 million to buy the same amount of motor fuel that they are buying today.
So the minister said well, that is not going to be a problem because your car purchase and your repairs will offset that. Well, I don't know, many Nova Scotians never had the opportunity to buy a new car so they are not going to get that maximum saving and many Nova Scotians, in reality, repair their own cars. That is a very common pursuit for many Nova Scotians today, they will fix their own cars, but they still have to buy the gas so they are going to pay the 8 per cent, they are going to pay that $54 million. I, for one, don't feel that balances out at all, it just simply doesn't wash.
Perhaps the single biggest hit on the consumer, of course, is the hit at the gas pump, that $54 million. I don't think even the wealthiest of Nova Scotians who purchase very expensive cars will, if they do any amount of driving at all, unless they buy the car and park it, save enough on that purchase to offset the increase in the cost of gasoline. There is no balance to that argument whatsoever.
The minister went on and he talked about utilities. He said you are going to save $8.00 to $10 a year on your cable bill. You are going to save $25 a year on your telephone bill because those two utility costs will go down. They will go down 3.7 per cent. But then, he started and he said that would be offset because the $25 on the telephone and the $10 on the cable are going to save $35. He said you are only going to pay $30.42 more for your electricity, but he did say that your electricity cost would be $130 every two months which is $65 a month. Well, I have an opportunity on occasion - I look at my own electrical bill, it is considerably more than that every two months, more than $130. I find that even those with a very small, modest apartment will have an electrical bill in that range. The minister really is not providing a balance in his argument because the majority of Nova Scotians have an electrical bill in excess of $130 every two months.
If I can quickly find it, the minister's clinching argument after he decided that we would say enough on buying weatherstripping to purchase our heating oil, he said that in reality it has been a warm fall. He said people are not buying a lot of heating oil. I would suggest very strongly to the minister that unless our climate approaches that perhaps something very similar to the climate in either South Carolina or Florida, we are not going to save enough on weatherstripping to look after the increased cost of our furnace oil here in Nova Scotia. He did make a small concession. He said there may be a pressure for rents to go up. There certainly will be a pressure for rents to go up because it has been well established and, I think, even accepted by the minister that the increased costs of services to the landlord will, in fact, be passed along to the tenant. There is no question in my mind. This was very well documented and many speakers indicated to the members of the House the calculation of just what that meant in dollars for renters. It is not only going to cost more in apartments. It is going to cost more in condominiums.
It is going to cost more living in an older home because your renovations will be increased in cost. Of course we are all aware that despite the offset in building costs for new homes, the costs of a new home will be increased some 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent. So on and on it goes. The logic in the argument that is brought forward simply does not hold water.
Then we got on to clothing. The minister - and I believe his words, I did not write it down, but I will paraphrase what he said - said that clothing is a problem because low-priced clothing, clothing $94 and below, will now bear an additional 8 per cent tax that is not there today. That is in contrast to the fact that more expensive clothing, in fact, has a lowering of its tax. The tax on it will go from 18.77 per cent down to 15 per cent. Many speakers made reference to the fact that a very expensive leather coat or a fur coat actually goes down in price at the same time a child's jacket or a child's sneakers will, in fact, go up in price.
What did the minister try to say about that? He said, you know, many young people like expensive clothing and they like designer jeans and so on. It well might be that a lot of their clothing items will be over $94. That may be true in a small percentage of Nova Scotia homes, but very small.
I was pleased to hear my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, get up and make reference to that when he said, in his area, the young people, largely, do not wear designer clothing. They are, like the majority of young Nova Scotians, wearing low-cost clothing, clothing that costs under $94, and that clothing is up in price. Balance and fairness, well, where is the balance and fairness when expensive clothing comes down in price and inexpensive clothing goes up in price? Where is the balance? Where is the fairness? That was a term that was used by the minister, himself.
The government likes to refer to the APEC study. Well, it is interesting. What will happen to clothing expenditures under the new blended sales tax? Well, according to APEC, there will be a decrease in spending for clothing of $8.3 million. In other words, Nova Scotians have no more money to spend on clothing, the tax is going up, and they are going to buy less clothing. That is what APEC said. That is why, for example, a firm like MMG Management, on hearing about what this was all about and saying about the increased costs of doing business here in Nova Scotia with tax-included pricing and the fact that it is obvious even APEC are saying that there will be a decrease in spending of $8.3 million in clothing, that 11 of their 19 stores are going to go out of business and over 300 Nova Scotians are going to be without a job. What a job creating tax innovation this is.
Perhaps, while I have the APEC study in front of me, APEC also said energy and fuel, decrease in spending, $17 million. Even APEC recognizes the fact that the increase of the taxation on motor fuels and furnace oil and so on is going to result in people spending less. So we are going to have less heating oil, it says here, less clothing, it says here. It is going to be hard to keep warm in Nova Scotia with this new tax.
It is funny, we in Nova Scotia like to heat our homes, perhaps, to a warmer temperature than those in other countries. Those who have had the opportunity to visit Europe are always, perhaps, impressed - if that is the word - that they keep their dwellings a lot cooler than we do; perhaps 60 degrees when here in Nova Scotia, 68 or 70 degrees is perhaps the norm. What they do, they wear sweaters around the house. The difficulty here, of course, is that we put the thermostat down so we don't purchase as much heating oil, which APEC says we will not be purchasing as much, and we put on a sweater, but that sweater is more expensive, as well. So you know, they are getting us coming and they are getting us going.
As I say, the information coming forward this morning from the minister really was not all that helpful at all. What is going to happen in the future? This particular piece of legislation will go through the House today and, between now and April 1st, what are the opportunities to effect the legislation. In reality, we can effect the regulations if, in fact, we can get the government to listen. What are the kinds of things that could be handled in regulation? Well, for starters, they could revisit tax-included pricing. Tax-included pricing will put the retail business in this province to its knees. It is almost there now, Mr. Speaker.
I have taken the opportunity to talk to any number of retailers. It was funny, we finished early yesterday, as you know, and I decided I would take a walk through one of the local shopping malls up on Spring Garden Road and started to think about my Christmas shopping. I didn't actually do anything more than window shopping. I was going through the mall and a voice called out my name. Not too many people know me here in Halifax, but anyway, it was a former patient who I had not seen in over 10 years. He had lived in Pictou County where he was a clothing retailer, approximately 10 years or 11 years ago. He moved into the city and now has three retail clothing stores here in metro. He understands the business very well.
I spoke to him and I said, well, how is it going? How is the pre-Christmas rush? Well, he said, it is perhaps a little better than last year but it is not really what I need. He said, the only time a retailer really makes money in Nova Scotia in clothing is in the pre-Christmas season. The rest of the time, you hope it is a break-even situation, leading up until the next Christmas rush. He said, it has not been strong and it has not been what I expected.
I said, what is the new tax going to do? Oh, he said, I am not sure that I am going to survive the new tax. He said, it will, perhaps, make me not a marginal operation but it will make me an operation that is no longer viable. I will no longer be viable.
Now, in the last four years in retailing, I think it has been, simply, a hold-on situation and retailing has not been strong. If it is not strong here in metro, just go around to rural Nova Scotia, anywhere outside of the metro area. When you go into a shopping mall or you go down the main street, you see so many empty storefronts that, if you are familiar with the area, you realize, perhaps, housed a business that had been there in many instances for decades. They have gone out of business. Retailing is weak in Nova Scotia and this will absolutely cripple it.
The Retail Council of Canada says that, the major retailers here say it. I have had calls from the owner managers of Canadian Tire. We have had presentations from the major department store retailers in Nova Scotia. There will be a massive loss of jobs in the retail sector if this tax-included pricing goes forward.
I hope that sometime between now and April 1st that the Minister of Finance comes to grips with this and he can provide through regulation a change that will make this tax-including pricing a system that will not result in higher prices for Nova Scotians.
For example, many goods on our shelves in our stores come from out of the province. A high percentage of those have pre-marked pricing. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is, we are guaranteed that right across the country, we all pay the same price for the commodity. Let's say it is a pair of socks and it is $5.95 marked on the sticker. Right across Canada, you will go into any store that has that pair of socks and it has got a price on it for $5.95. That guarantees that if I buy it in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Stellarton, Sydney or Yarmouth, it is $5.95. In other words, we pay the same price. Whether it is the right price or the wrong price, at least we are paying the same price.
Now what is going to happen? We are going to insist that when that commodity comes to Nova Scotia, that they have to put a new price on it. Now, every presentation from the retail sector has indicated that this kind of merchandising in marketing will cost more. In other words, there will now be an additional cost to market here in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland because everything will have to be re-ticketed and we are going to have to include the increased costs of separation of the warehouses, increased costs of cataloguing, increased costs of flyers, increased costs of changes to the cash register and so on. That is a
real cost. The seven major retailers actually made a presentation to government and indicated what those costs would be. They said there would be $28 million in start-up costs for the three provinces and an annual ongoing cost of $28 million.
Do you know who is going to pay that, Mr. Speaker? We are going to pay it when we buy those socks. How are we going to pay it? There will be increased costs; when they re-mark that they are not going to re-mark it $5.95 and add 15 per cent tax. They are going to say, ah ha, it is costing us perhaps 15 cents or 20 cents more to do all of this nonsense to comply with government regulation, we are going to increase the cost of that perhaps to $6.10 or $6.15 and then add the 15 per cent on, because we have to do a re-ticketing anyway. That is what is going to happen because you are insisting they are going to re-ticket.
Now the effect on consumers, and I did go into some detail as to the arguments put forward by the minister today. Let's look at what the government said. Now back in May, with its tax reform document, it provided an estimation of the increase in consumer prices at various income levels. Those numbers are suspect, they are as suspect as the $120 million of revenue loss, they are as suspect as the input tax credits that the minister today said, and I quoted him, at $170 million, which prior to were $140 million.
I see the minister is paying attention and I hope he will explain what it is he meant today when he said that the advantage to business, through the input tax credits, would be $170 million because I have not heard that figure before. I have no explanation as to why he didn't say $240 million, today he said $170 and I look for his explanation as soon as the minister has an opportunity to address the House.
Let's look at the consumer, Mr. Speaker. Well, when we look at what the government projected to be the average increase in consumer tax load for all families, they came up with a figure of $84 million. I am suggesting very strongly that that $84 million will be revised upwards. In other words, the consumer won't be hit with $84 million in new taxes, they will be hit with considerably more than $84 million in new taxes.
If the Minister of Finance wishes to debate that, then I would hope he would come forward with some convincing documents that would indicate that this is so because every group that has gone to the trouble of doing some comparative analysis of budgeting has come up with some different numbers. For example, the group from Sir Charles Tupper School went out and did some purchasing. They started to do some estimations of the increase in consumer tax load. They were impressed with the magnitude of the increase.
Now if you look at some figures we did, we did an analysis of the kinds of costs that families are involved in here in Nova Scotia. We looked at groceries, weekly gas, newspapers, a book of 10 stamps, a haircut, detergents, sandwich bags, diapers, dry cleaning, toothpaste, birthday card, clothing, movies, take-out chicken, yearly oil bill, yearly electricity, car insurance, life insurance. For those items alone the total cost was $16,034.
Now if you added on some additional costs, you would come up with a family - and these were family expenditures, by the way, not individual - increase in consumer costs for those $16,034 of items, the increase in the tax load was $634.64 with the new blended sales tax, $634. Now if you go back to the government's figures, and I don't have them right here in front of me but at no income level did they estimate that the increase in a consumer tax load for a family would be as high as $600, at no level, and they went up to a level of $80,000 of family income and above. The only reason for bringing this argument up, if their figures are wrong then my statement is true that the increase in the consumer tax load will be somewhat in excess of $84 million and, I am very much afraid, very much in excess of $84 million.
The government has provided no convincing argument that even the business sector with the inclusion of input tax credits will be a net contributor to new jobs. If they could even provide definitive proof that that was the case, at least they would have something on their side and they have not even been able to provide that. I look back at the recent analysis by an independent economist who said that the argument of the government that 3,000 jobs would be created by blending this sales tax, that that argument is complete nonsense, the word he used was nonsense and if it is not nonsense, give us the proof that suggests it is not.
In concluding, I have discussed the effects on the business sector and the effects on the average consumer. Let's look at what this does to us in the long term. The government has been paid off by the federal government to provide a political escape from their commitment to abolish the GST. What happens at the end of four years when the federal government will no longer be obliged to provide additional funding for us to participate in this plan? How then do we accommodate as a province this huge increase in consumer tax load? Does the government then say, we have to make it up somewhere so we will get together with New Brunswick and Newfoundland and we will jack the tax up because we will say, don't you remember the tax used to be 18.77 per cent, it went to 15 per cent, you won't mind 16 per cent because we have to get the income from somewhere because now the federal government are no longer providing additional funding, they have washed their hands of this whole deal.
The part I don't like is, regardless of what we have to do, we cannot do it by ourselves. If, in fact, Newfoundland - and Newfoundland has a struggling economy and our economy more closely approximates that of New Brunswick although it used to be stronger than New Brunswick - and New Brunswick decide they want to put the tax up, they can go to Ottawa and say to the Prime Minister of the day, we want to put the tax up to 15.5 per cent and the Prime Minister of Canada says, I had better check with the Premier of Nova Scotia and then he gets on the phone and says, hello Premier of Nova Scotia, your fellow Atlantic Premiers from Newfoundland and New Brunswick want to put the tax up, what do you think? Well, the Premier of Nova Scotia says, no, I want to leave it at 15 per cent and the Prime Minister will say I am sorry but you signed an agreement back in 1996 and we are putting it up to 15.5
per cent; you signed the agreement and it is going up to 15.5 per cent whether you say so or not.
That is the kind of agreement that we have signed, taxation without representation. That is what Joseph Howe was all about, remember? The government of the day, the Governor in Council, when we were effectively governed by the Council of Twelve, prior to 1748, they would just say to the people of Nova Scotia, the government which was most often appointed overseas would say, well, we are putting up the taxes and the people had no say. Therein perhaps was the greatest incentive to the people of Nova Scotia to militate for representative government.
If I can drag this back, I am going a long way back but to the four cornerstones of representative government. The first is that the government is elected by the people. The second is that the government must have the competence of the majority of those sitting in the House. The third is that the government has the ability to raise money by taxation and to spend the public purse. Fourth, the government has the right to appoint the officers and the employees of the province. I wasn't quite sure I could remember the fourth one but it did come back to me.
Those are the cornerstones. The one that really was the rub was the business about taxation without representation. Well, that is what we have signed. We now have taxation without representation, because we now are in an agreement that the federal government, along with our fellow Atlantic Provinces of Newfoundland and New Brunswick have, in fact, control over our taxation system. That is wrong. It is a backward step, and it will eventually hurt us. We are no longer the masters of our own destiny.
Mr. Speaker, this will be my last opportunity to speak on this bill, at least prior to its passage through this House. It has been a long and, perhaps, some might say, arduous procedure. But it has not been difficult because I find myself on the right side of the issue; I find myself on the side of the issue that is shared by a large, a very high percentage, a very big majority of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians, despite what the government may think, can understand what this is all about, once they get the information. Give them the information; let them decide. Let us not buy into the federal government's timetable. They created their own problem; let them solve their own problem. Let us not become a creature of the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting against this legislation.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, it may go without saying that I rise to speak against this bill, but a lot of things that go without saying get said around here. So I would like to say that I rise to oppose this bill on behalf of my constituents in Halifax Fairview, who have spoken very clearly back in the spring about what they think of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I came into this House on November 18th with my caucus colleagues and I want to talk about what I saw and what happened and how we got where we are now, in my own view. We came in here and we wanted this bill here. We wanted this bill in here for a good reason, not for the reason that this government brought it in. We wanted this bill in this House now so that we could take it back to our constituents, so the people of Nova Scotia would have the time to explore its ramifications and would have time to speak to their representatives and come back to their government with some kind of a position on it.
Well, the government said, no, Mr. Speaker. They said no, no, we are not going to bring it in, that is why we are coming in so late in the season. Then they switched no to yes, and yes, we are going to bring it in now, now that things are getting closer and closer to the end of the year and people are feeling the urge to get on with other parts of their lives, yes, we will bring this bill in. So they did, but before they did that, they changed the Rules of this House. I was just getting the hang of the Rules of this House and they changed them. So there we are. The rule changes seem to be somewhat bizarre to me. What this government did was say, let's not come here until almost the end of November and then let's stay up half the night and wear everybody out and get what we want done, done.
Mr. Speaker, I think they changed the rules to jam it up. They changed the rules to prevent public input and I don't say that lightly. Then they sat there like the Cheshire cats, 15 at a time (Interruption)
We talked, the Opposition - all 12 of us, three of my colleagues and the Official Opposition - and we talked and we talked like the bunny with the battery and we did it for a reason. The government got a little tired of it but there was a good reason for it. We did it because we wanted to give what precious time there could possibly be, whatever time there was, to Nova Scotians to round up their forces, marshal their views and let the government hear those views. Mr. Speaker, whether they were for or against it, that was not the issue. So we talked on and on and we tried to do our best to give some time to Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, I said that the government just sat there. That is not entirely true. Every once in a while, somebody popped up, like a jack-in-the-box, and said something because they could not bear to listen anymore. Then they sat down again and we went on. But then we had two very interesting government speeches on this bill and one of them was the Premier. The Premier got up in this House and talked down to us and to the people of Nova Scotia. He said we were pitiable. He said we were uninformed. He said we had poor research and then he said
that the people of Nova Scotia shouldn't listen to any of us because politicians always, he said, have axes to grind. Don't trust any of us, he said, trust the experts. Don't trust the politicians. Then he proceeded to trot out the economic experts available to the government in an attempt to demonstrate the wonderful attributes of Bill No. 48.
Mr. Speaker, he said something else that I thought was really significant. In his remarks to us he said, life unfortunately is not fair. Well, there you have it in a nutshell. The Premier of this province has thrown in the towel on fairness. Life is not fair. If you were to say to this Premier, well, maybe the job of the government - and maybe that is government's job - is to make life more fair, I don't know what he would say to that, but he is on the record as having given up the game. So, clearly this government does not see as part of its responsibility to the people, the responsibility to make life a little less unfair. So he has given it up and he said so publicly and everyone should know that.
The Premier said, don't listen to us, don't trust us, but then the Minister of Health gets up and he turns around and he says we were right. He confirms everything we were saying all along while the government members were over there waiting to pass the time. He contradicts the Premier, in my view, Mr. Speaker, and I am reminded of the member for Kings West's remark about Harry Truman and the one-armed economist. He said that Harry Truman went around looking for a one-armed economist because economists always said on the one hand and then again on the other hand. Well, there is a right hand and a left hand problem here too. The right hand of this government may not indeed know what the left hand is indicating.
Here are some things that the Minister of Health said. He said, yes, this tax shifts taxes from the corporate sector to the consumer sector. He admitted it. He said it is going to cost consumers more and corporations less. We have been saying that all along, much to their boredom. Then he said, yes, this tax will cost consumers $80 million to $84 million a year. We knew that and we said that. In fact, Mr. Speaker, on May 17th of this year the people of Halifax Fairview knew it from 2:00 o'clock on when people read the government's own document saying that it would cost people more. They have confirmed that for us.
The third thing that the government said is, yes, the province will lose money. In a grand gesture they are going to lose money. I do not know about their economists, Mr. Speaker. They are going to lose money and it is going to shift to the consumer sector.
Then the Minister of Health goes through a set of calculations. He talks about rebates and he talks about tax breaks. The bottom line on several paragraphs of this million and that million and the other million is that he says they are putting $63 million of that $80 million to $84 million back into the hands of consumers to compensate. He says there is $17 million left. I do not know if this is supposed to be the net effect on consumers.
He also says that if the pass-through is only 10 per cent - and I took these words and wrote them down right from his speech, Mr. Speaker - no consumer group will lose. Well, this is false. This is false. This government has evaded it in here. They have evaded it in Question Period. They have evaded it in the speeches from the ministers who are trying to promote this tax. It is a fact that the very poorest sectors of this economy, the very poorest people on government assistance, the very poor, the disabled and students will pay more and get nothing. This government has evaded saying so insofar as it has been able to. I am here to say it for them, Mr. Speaker. They will get nothing and life will cost them more.
You might say, if you are a cynical person, this is good politics. We did not see too many poor people at Law Amendments Committee. We did not see too many social assistance recipients. The question arises, who cares about them? Who listens to them? They frequently do not have the means or the wherewithal to come before government and state their case. If you are really cynical, you might say this is good politics. You just eliminate the people who are the most aggravation and you listen to the people who have the most power in this society and in the province.
There has been a lot of talk about economics. It is bad economics. It is really bad economics. The very people who are going to be ground down into the dirt by this bill when it becomes law are the very people who depend most on money from the government in order to live a subsistence level of survival.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I really want to know, when someone comes into the family benefits office or the social assistance office and says, I can't pay my rent, or, I can't buy any food, or, I can't pay my very low phone bill because I don't have any money, do you seriously think, does anybody in this place seriously think that those workers are going to say, okay, but aren't you really excited about the competitiveness of our exports? Does anybody seriously think that this will do one scrap, iota or good for the most disenfranchised in this society?
Mr. Speaker, we say that those people can't take it; we say that the taxpayers who earn income can't take it. The minister says in this same speech, it is not the same taxpayer. He said that. He said it is not the Nova Scotian taxpayer who is going to pay for this, it is the Canadian taxpayer. Well, that was news to me. I mean have we hacked ourselves off at the isthmus up there, right beside the piper, on the way to New Brunswick, and are we floating out to sea? Are we some kind of seaborne principality and have seceded from the country?
I understand equalization payments but I also understand that I am a Canadian taxpayer as well as a Nova Scotian taxpayer. If, in fact, I am not, I would really like to know if I can stop paying my federal taxes now because that would be - well, it might be a good idea although to be totally in the hands of this government is a rather unnerving proposition.
Now the other thing the minister did, and I don't have much more to say about this because I think that the government is quite right, a great many things have been said and said again, but the government did say something else interesting, the government said give the NDP credit, give the Third Party credit. They knew a clear position when they saw one, Mr. Speaker, and that is to their credit. They say that the NDP is against consumption taxes and they are right. They say the NDP goes on and on about a fair tax commission, and they are right. They say that the NDP is in favour of progressive income taxes instead of this dumping and dumping of consumer taxes, and they are right.
Do you know what they are doing, Mr. Speaker? It is cynical politics all over again. They think it is safe to give the NDP credit because they think the NDP is not a threat to them. That is what is so interesting in this whole thing. They sat over there and they focused much of their attack on the Official Opposition Party and they played: when you were in government you did it and the Official Opposition answered back, yeah, yeah, when you were in government you did it. They played back and forth, a bit like a badminton game.
We sat here with a very clear position, Mr. Speaker. If there is one thing that the people of Nova Scotia want right now it is clear positions. If there is one thing that the people of Nova Scotia don't want right now, it is schoolyard games of yeah, yeah, you did it first, no I didn't. They are far more interested in the serious problems of surviving in this world, in this economy and how government can possibly, at the very least, not make their lives worse than they are.
Mr. Speaker, I am here to tell the government and the Official Opposition, if they need to hear it, that it is not safe to give us any credit at all because when the ship goes down, in a matter of months or whenever, when the plug comes out and when this government finds itself between a rock and a hard place of going to the end of its mandate and looking like losers or pulling the plug sooner, in a bold act of desperation, it is on the record, we have a clear position, Mr. Speaker. That clear position will be out there. People will disagree with it, some of them. They will debate us on it; they will listen to us. We will listen to them and we will come to some kind of an understanding with those voters, and that understanding will be either we agree or we agree to disagree, but that we all have the best interests of the people of this province at heart.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am not afraid to stand here and to say, clearly, our position. We are against this tax. We are against yet another increase in consumption tax, no matter what the government says about economics. There are different theories of economics. There are people who say, more and more, and whose voices are coming to be heard, even in places like The Globe and Mail, there are voices there that are beginning to be heard who are saying a great deal about what has been done over the last eight to ten years and how some of this misery could have been averted if governments had done things differently. People understand that when we get there and we talk to them, they may think we are misguided, but I don't
think so. I think a great many of them will not, but they will come to respect the novel notion in an election campaign of what it means to have a clear position. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and offer what I guess will be my final remarks in relation to Bill No. 48, the harmonization of the PST and the GST, euphemistically known, in most households of the province, as the BST.
Mr. Speaker, it is really with rather a heavy heart that I rise and I make remarks here this morning relative to this piece of legislation, because I really believe that the legislation is so fundamentally flawed that the assumptions upon which the government has based the legislation are unfounded. There is little or no evidence offered by the Minister of Finance or the Premier or other members of the Treasury bench as to how or why they believe that the BST will do the things which they say it will do. The first thing that comes to my mind, of course, is the assumption made so blithely by members on the government benches that the BST is going to generate something in the order of 3,000 jobs.
I cannot help but go back - as I did in comments I made on an earlier occasion in relation to this debate - to a presentation made to the Law Amendments Committee by the Maritime Life Assurance Company. Maritime Life Assurance Company, unless this Minister of Finance responds to their very real concern, is saying, in their presentation, and saying in black and white, they are forced, as a consequence of the impact of certain elements of the BST, to contemplate the removal out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, of what they refer to as the segregated funds, a portion of their business. Segregated funds are the equivalent, they are mutual funds by another name. I find it amazing that we have not yet heard the Minister of Finance or the Premier or anybody else on the government benches stand up and say, we will make sure that that will not happen. We will make sure that one of the most significant, corporate citizens, one of the most significant contributors to the economic welfare and integrity of the Province of Nova Scotia, namely Maritime Life, will not be forced to emasculate a significant portion of its business and move it out of the jurisdiction in order to fight and fend off the adverse consequences of the BST.
I suppose I could, as we close debate here, rant, rave and rail about what I consider to be the most excessive liberties taken by any government that I can recall with the rules of this place resulting in the opportunity for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia who have not yet had the implications of the BST fully or adequately explained to them, not being afforded an opportunity to make their views known to the government. I sincerely believe that this government will feel the impact of that activity, that conduct and that arrogant approach not to the members of the Opposition but to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
I said before and I want to say it again as I have my last opportunity to address this bill that as I listened to the Premier the other day he said straight and it is absolutely truthful and factual that the effect of the BST will be to eliminate the 11 per cent PST and the 7 per cent GST when applied to the purchase of a whole range of consumer items requiring all of Nova Scotian consumers to pay a tax that compounds to something like 18.8 per cent or 18.87 per cent and he pats himself and his government on the back by suggesting that the BST is so much to be applauded because it will reduce, as of April 1, 1997, that tax with a 15 per cent tax. So hooray for me, hooray for Premier Savage, hooray for the government say they, we are reducing this tax by 3-plus percentage points.
The problem is that as I watched and listened to the Premier on that occasion the other night not once did he come within miles of acknowledging that the base upon which the new 15 per cent BST is to be charged will be very greatly expanded. I will make a few references in a moment to a few items to which the new tax will be expanded and I believe, frankly, that it is clear now as analysis after analysis is done, that the expansion of the 15 per cent BST to the consumers of Nova Scotia on an expanded base is going to result in most Nova Scotian families being required to expend more of their money in tax than is the case at the present time.
One of the fundamental elements of this whole debate from the minute it started was the whole question as to whether or not the cost of doing business for the business incorporate and industrial sector of the province would drop but more important or as important as to whether or not the corporate sector of the Province of Nova Scotia would pass through those tax savings to us as consumers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Reference has been made here this morning and on other occasions, it is but one opinion, I acknowledge that, but it is an opinion from a man who has had an extensive and noteworthy and celebrated career in academia in the Province of Nova Scotia and more to the point, in the field of economics and I refer to Professor Ralph Winter and he writes recently that the suggestion by the Savage Government that there will be all these pass-throughs is nonsense and the suggestion that the impact of the BST will be the creation of 3,000 new jobs is equal nonsense.
I know that when I say things like that members on the government benches want to counter back to me and say, what about APEC? Well, I went to the APEC session as I said to this House before and quite candidly, I think that an honest and fair assessment of the presentation made by APEC on the particular occasion to which I refer, namely their presentation at St. Mary's University some many weeks ago, which I did attend - I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that a fair reading of the text and the transcript and the presentations made by APEC at that time and the economist of APEC who was there making the principal presentation - the distinct impression was left with me and I think with most who were in attendance that APEC is not at all sure that the assumptions are as valid as members opposite would have us believe.
When asked specifically about what happens in the event that the assumptions made by the government relative to the savings to business - the pass-through to the consumer and so on - what happens if they do not quite reach the levels anticipated and advertised by the provincial government, what happens then, the comment from the APEC economist, Mr. Speaker, you will be aware, was in the case of a shortfall of governmental revenues, then of course the government is going to be faced with the very difficult and unpleasant task of having to consider further tax increases. Further tax increases are being discussed by knowledgeable economists in the course of the debate about the wonderful tax savings which are supposed to be the result of this BST regime.
I planned to be brief this morning, but I was tempted as I rose to reference a number of observations made the other night by the Premier in his remarks. You will recall that I took considerable exception, not so much personally because I know the Premier thinks that I am pretty much a fringe player here in this whole matter, but I took offence that the Premier suggested in his remarks that the issues and the concerns and the examples and indications of the fact that the implementation of the BST was going to result in greater consumer cost and obligation by way of new tax, that the Premier characterized our contribution to the debate along those lines in this way. He said that the Opposition is really just into what he referred to as fringe issues.
Fringe issues in this instance are going to result in the taxpayers and the less well to do and the modest income taxpayers of Nova Scotia having to pay something in the range of - and, God knows, perhaps in excess of - $80-some million in new tax. If the Premier considers the obligation on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that they will face some $84 million in new tax as a fringe issue, I simply have a fundamental difference of view with him. That is not a fringe issue at all. That is a fundamental problem for tens of thousands of consumers in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Is it a fringe issue to the Premier of Nova Scotia that we have IPOANS, the individuals and corporations who own the bulk of the rental accommodation in the Province of Nova Scotia, saying in black and white that their costs are going to rise substantially? Their costs are going to rise substantially and they say that they are going to be compelled to pass those costs on to the renters of the Province of Nova Scotia. I ask every single member in this place to find a couple of apartment buildings in his or her riding and go into those apartment buildings and take the report from the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia, and go door to door in the apartment buildings in our respective constituencies and have a little chat with the men and women, some living on very modest incomes, and say, now tenant, the men and women who own this building have said that the BST is going to cost them a lot of money and IPOANS, the men and women who own this building, have said in the Law Amendments Committee, they are going to pass that on to you in increased rents. Then let's have all members of this House come back and say that they think this is a real great piece of business as far as the tens of thousands of men and women who rent accommodations in this province.
I know the reaction that all of us will get when we undertake that exercise, on those occasions when we are not thrown off the doorstep by the renter in disgust, we will get and deserve the wrath of the renter because I honestly believe that the renters of Nova Scotia don't, at this point, understand the net effect that is going to befall them as a result of that pass-through by increased expense from the owners of rental accommodation in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Is this a win-win situation when the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the governments who have the right to levy taxes on the same taxpayers from whom we have the right to extract tax, have come to us and said that the impact of the BST is that it will cost the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia something in the order of $10 million? In the case of the municipal unit in which I happen to reside and many of my colleague members here reside, they have said to us that the impact of the BST here in the Halifax Regional Municipality will be in the range of between $5 million and $6 million. The representatives of the Halifax Regional Municipality who came to the Law Amendments Committee, to talk about that concern have told the Law Amendments Committee, and through that committee have told all of us, that that $5 million to $6 million is going to be passed on to the residential and commercial taxpayers of the Halifax Regional Municipality.
All members know Lunenburg County was in and Cumberland County was in and - I was about to say virtually every municipal unit - 8 or 10 or a dozen municipal units came to the Law Amendments Committee and indicated that in their specific instances, there would be increases in costs to them as municipal units as a result of the BST and those costs, they said to us loud and clear, would be passed on to the municipal taxpayer. So we have a double whammy here going; rather than a win-win we get a double whammy-double whammy. The double whammy is that some $84 million or thereabouts is coming out of the provincial municipal taxpayer by way of increased consumer cost and the second of the double whammies is that something like $10 million more dollars is coming out of the municipal taxpayer, the same taxpayers with whom we deal, by way of increased costs to the municipalities in which each of those taxpayers are residents. So how does that get to be a win-win situation?
I have said a couple of times in the course of this debate that this government, particularly in its early stages, through the Minister of Education, the Honourable John MacEachern, he travelled this province talking about his amalgamation process which I say - and that is for debate on another day - was done in such an ill-conceived, ham-handed way, we are seeing in all of the regions of the Province of Nova Scotia that there is real difficulty not only administratively but there is real difficulty financially, and most important there is real difficulty being experienced by the classroom teacher, the men and women whom we ask to nurture, support, excite and animate our young people to develop an interest in learning; indeed, develop a lifelong interest in learning.
I don't know how many members of this place take any time to talk to the school teachers of Nova Scotia but I had almost eight years as Minister of Education and I made a tremendous number of friendships in the Education Ministry and across the teaching profession of this province over that eight years and I speak regularly and frequently with many of those men and women who are in front of our young people in our classrooms and they are discouraged. They are dismayed. They are under the gun. They are being asked, with reduced resources, to deal with young people who, in far too great a number, are coming to those classrooms in the mornings without any food in their stomachs, are coming to those classrooms out of, unfortunately, family environments where there is violence and abuse. They are coming to those classrooms where they are experiencing addictions and, in some cases, cross-addictions and we are asking the men and women who are our classroom teachers of the Province of Nova Scotia to go handle all of that.
In the last not so many years, you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that we have lost here in the Province of Nova Scotia, as a result of reductions and cutbacks, something like almost 1,450 teachers out of the public school system. That is a decrease of something like about 12 per cent of the teaching profession in the Province of Nova Scotia. At the same time, the reduction in the number of young people, whom we are asking that reduced number of teachers to serve, has dropped by about 1.3 per cent or 1.4 per cent. The public school system in this province is in great trouble. It is in great jeopardy. As a result of the way in which we have pressed down on the classroom teacher, we are, in my opinion, asking too much of them in circumstances which cry out for them to have greater help.
So why do I reference teachers in the context of the BST? Well, I do that because I know you know that the Nova Scotia School Boards Association came to the Law Amendments Committee and it made a presentation to the Law Amendments Committee. The effect of the BST, Mr. Speaker, is, in the face of that tremendous reduction in the number of professionals, the relatively small reduction in the number of student population, the effect of the BST is to rip $1.4 million more out of the public school enterprise. So I ask you and I ask all fair-minded and thoughtful members of this place to try to imagine, what does that do? What does that do to the capacity of the classroom teacher to be able to serve effectively, as effectively as all of us in this place would want if they were our sons and daughters in those classrooms and, in some cases, they are.
Do we honestly believe that the conduct of this government over the last three-plus years and the adverse impact now of the BST is going to enable those teachers who have the care and responsibility for our children and for thousands and thousands, I think about 160,000 to 170,000 young people in our public school system, do we really believe that ripping out another $1.4 million out of the public school enterprises, compliments of the BST, is in the best interests of those teachers, but, more important, in the bests interests of those children? I believe not.
I have not heard any comment from a Premier, a Minister of Finance, a Minister of Education, anybody on the Treasury benches, or anybody in the government caucus tell me that I am wrong that BST rips $1.4 million out of the public school system and, certainly, I have not heard any member of the government benches say that even if that might be the case, we have strategies which will relieve the adverse consequences of the elimination of that amount of money from the public school system.
I find it passing strange that when we hear government members and we hear the Premier come in and lecture us and talk about his assumptions and, dare I say, pipe dreams, as to what might happen as this BST unfolds, the Premier talks in euphemisms and he talks in the realm of speculation and he talks in the realm of assumption and conjecture. That is the approach that this Premier has taken to the BST.
One of the things in that context, which this government has attempted to have the people of Nova Scotia believe, is that Nova Scotians are getting good service by reason of the fact that the Minister of Health repeatedly loves to stand up and tell us that there is something in the order of $80 million of taxpayers' money now being expended in the home care field. Well he knows, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell you that I know from a tremendous number of contacts made with me, that the level and the quality and the range of service offered for that $80 million worth of home care to the men and women in this province who need it, most of them aged and elderly and senior and infirm, is not of a quality standard at all. That reality is driving more and more families into having to provide or secure private home care service for their mothers and fathers, for their grandparents, for their ill aunts and uncles, for any in their families who are sick and ill and infirm and disabled.
Isn't it an interesting irony, and if it were not so debilitating for those who will experience it, it might almost be humorous, but it is far from humorous, it is very, very sad in the extreme. The men and women who are in publicly funded nursing homes and homes for special care are provided the service that is able to be provided there. Those who are provided home care out of the Minister of Health's $80 million program are getting less and less service, but those who are forced, by reason of those shortcomings and deficiencies, to turn to the private home care industry, are going to have to pay 15 per cent BS Tax on that home care service. That, as I know you know, Mr. Speaker, is going to drive many families even deeper into financial difficulty as that new 15 per cent applies to private home care service.
Mr. Speaker, the BST, I believe, has not been well thought through. The details have not been made available to those who will be affected by it, namely the poor, beleaguered taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia. We have repeatedly called for public consultation and the public consultation has been minimal, if not dismal, to say the least.
I just simply will close by indicating that perhaps one of the most fundamental flaws, and I said this the other day and I believe it to be true - I have had 18 plus years in this place and I haven't always perhaps been as successful as I might like to have been in regard to my
responsibilities here - I will tell you that there is one thing I never did do, I never did participate in the development of a legislative regime which gave away to people, outside of Nova Scotia, the power and the authority and the right of this Legislature to decide what the tax regime for Nova Scotians should and will be.
I say, and I say seriously, because I think it has long-term, serious, adverse, potential consequences, this government has signed an agreement which allows now the governments and the people of New Brunswick and Newfoundland to decide, with or without consultation with the people of Nova Scotia or, indeed, the Government of Nova Scotia, that they, the people and the Government of New Brunswick and the Government of Newfoundland are going to change the tax regime and the amount of tax that all Nova Scotian taxpayers are required to pay. That is the kind of document that this government has signed.
I simply await the explanation, from the Premier or from the Minister of Finance, the rationale as to why they could abrogate their right, how could they simply walk away from their - perhaps I shouldn't say right - in my opinion their obligation to hold and cleave fervently to the principle that we should be masters in our own house, and we are not any longer masters in our own house in terms of taxation policy in this province as a result of the ill-conceived give-away by the Premier and the Minister of Finance, previous and present.
Mr. Speaker, I think that - along with the very serious damage which I believe this BST project will do to thousands of Nova Scotian families - is one of the things, when the political historians take a look at this many years from now, they will scratch their heads and will say that the stupidest thing that this government has done and the most dangerous thing which this government has done in this bill in relation to this BST is to give away, to abrogate, to turn its back on its right, and I say its obligation, to maintain to the men and women who are the legislators in the Province of Nova Scotia on any given day and in the interests of those who are the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia on any given day, the right for us to make, here in Nova Scotia, our own tax policy.
This government, Mr. Speaker, as I know you know, has simply given that away to the governments and the people of two other provinces. I say in that regard, shame, shame, shame on this government and this government will rue the day that they did that and I only pray that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will not, on a future day, have reason to rue the day that this government did that. This bill is ill conceived. It is being rushed with unseemly haste. It is being proceeded with in a fashion where whatever any government member says, I say that the people of Nova Scotia have not had it outlined to them properly or adequately. They have not had an opportunity to understand the consequences and the implications. It is designed in such a way that it will be sort of a moveable feast because we will find, the Nova Scotia taxpayers will find over the coming months that the legislation and the agreement that we debate here really isn't where the action is at all. The action is, the bureaucrats in the provincial Department of Finance and the Departments of Finance in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and in Ottawa because the regulatory regime, which we have not yet seen,
which no Nova Scotian taxpayer has seen, is really what will dictate the impact of this BST upon all Nova Scotian taxpayers.
So, Mr. Speaker, I thank you and all members for your indulgence in listening to my remarks. I have so many other things which I could say and would like to say but I will close at this point and simply express the hope - I will put it this way, I will express the hope that the government is right on all counts. I don't think they will be. I am disappointed or fearful that that will be the case but that is my hope because the only reason that I have spent the time I have spent in this place, despite some glitches along the way and some occasions when people might have had occasion to wonder about my competence or my ability, I don't think that there have been too many times when I conducted myself in such a way as to enable people to believe that I didn't have the interest of the Nova Scotian taxpayer at heart. I think that the interest of the Nova Scotia taxpayers are not well served by this legislation.
I repeat, I hope every single assumption made by the government is right and comes to pass. I am fearful they will not. If they do not, I trust and I hope that this government will, before too much damage is done to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and to the integrity of the tax regime itself in the Province of Nova Scotia, that the government will make those changes which are available to it and I sincerely hope that there will be an opportunity in the coming months before the legislative regime is final, that the Minister of Finance will make good on earlier promises that it will be widely disseminated to the Nova Scotian taxpayers so that there will be some modicum, at least, of understanding by the men and women running the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia and the hundreds of thousands of consumers affected by the running of that economy, that they will have an opportunity to understand the implications and an opportunity to offer their views and advice so that the regulatory regime will not be as hurtful as I am afraid that it will be.
I thank you again for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I am disappointed. I think the legislation is flawed and I will, unfortunately, vote against it when I have the opportunity at third reading. Thank you. (Standing Ovation).
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the speaker who was speaking immediately before I. I have not seen very many standing ovations from all corners of this Assembly. In fact, I don't remember the last time I saw one, so that certainly indicates to me the very high esteem that all of the colleagues in this House have in regard to the member for Halifax Citadel that just finished speaking. (Applause)
Now, with a standing ovation from all members like that, I mean, you are a tough act to follow, fellow. (Laughter) I'm a mere pretender in this business, I assure you.
MR. DONAHOE: George's standing ovation will follow shortly. (Laughter).
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, thank you. You have been very helpful. (Applause) Let's stop right now.
Mr. Speaker, after all of the speakers and standing ovations, I feel like Elizabeth Taylor's last husband. I know what I'm supposed to do but I have no idea in the world how to make it interesting. (Laughter)
There isn't very much, Mr. Speaker, that is left to be said on this bill.
It was interesting, the arrival to this Chamber of this bill over the last few months. It started in 1993 when we had a Liberal running to become Prime Minister of the country and he said, I'm going to rip up the GST; I'm going to rip up the free trade; I'm going to do this. I guess it said it very clearly the other day in the media print, radio, television, e-mail and everywhere else, public opinion polls, what people in this country think about politicians who say one thing and do something else.
I guess that is where we got into this mix-up because the Prime Minister made a commitment that he did not need to make but he felt he had to. He said, I will rip up the GST, I will rip up free trade within weeks. He had signed a new free trade agreement. Members of this House - one in particular - campaigned vigorously to get into this Legislature against free trade and we have not heard anything about it since from him.
The Prime Minister signed a free trade agreement with Mexico and now he is heading off to Chile, so those are pretty hollow words from him regarding free trade. Now we are into this GST business and the Prime Minister said, I will scrap it; I will change it; I will do something with it, dear knows what.
So that is how we happen to get here. In order for the Prime Minister to keep a commitment, he thought this would fix it up. This would mean it was not a GST anymore, it is the BST. Then they decided they did not want to call it the BST, they wanted to call it the HST. I can't imagine the members of this Legislature being led like such sheep by a government in Ottawa - and in Halifax, I am afraid - that really does not have any conviction and really does not know where it wants to go. We can say that unequivocally and without hesitation because of the remarks made by our Premier a couple of nights ago in this Chamber. We finally got the Premier; we smoked him out. He spoke out of his turn and so on but anyway it was time and he wanted to speak and try to get on the news broadcast, I guess.
Anyway, the Premier said that we were going to have this new blended sales tax because it was going to create jobs. It is the greatest economic boost since Confederation. It will mean a fairer and simpler tax system. Well, Madam Speaker, I have to tell you, is he that
far out of touch? Is he that far removed from reality that he thinks a tax increase of $84 million is an economic boon to this province? What is it with this government? Where do they get their advice? Is it all coming from the 1970's, from the advisors that used to help Gerald Regan? It appears that way because it is not in touch with the 1990's.
Then we had the real author of this bill; the Minister of Health spoke. He seemed to have a better handle on it than the Premier. In fact, I think the Minister of Health should have a briefing so he could brief the Premier and the current Minister of Finance so they would have the same knowledge and understanding of this bill that he does, because it is pretty darn obvious that the Minister of Health is the brains behind this tax, if you can indicate that there is anybody thinking about it because no thinking person would support this bill.
Now the political truth from the Minister of Health was - and it really must be quite thrilling for the Minister of Finance to have the Minister of Health stand up and defend and define the legislation that he is supposed to be the person in charge of. Anyway, the Minister of Health certainly indicated that any tax measure is harmful to government. Before the tax measures meant you were hard done by and the Opposition knows this and they are trying to take advantage. You know, the Opposition is not trying to take advantage of the government on this harmful BST. The government is doing it all by themselves. I didn't tell the Minister of Health to introduce this last year, I didn't tell him I would support it. Nova Scotians didn't. In fact, this government is known by the polls it keeps and it keeps polling non-stop, day after day, week after week, as you perhaps know, Madam Speaker. I don't know whether you know about your polling that you are doing or not. Anybody who does any polling must suspect that there has been some polling done on this PST/GST combination. Is there anybody in this Chamber who thinks Nova Scotians are in favour of it? I guarantee you, they are not. You know and I know that this is a harmful tax.
This morning we had the Minister of Finance stand in his place and try to talk about this bill and it is obvious that the Minister of Finance had a very short course on this bill because he was very limited in his descriptions and even provided less information than the Minister of Health did. He indicated that he is on the same track as the Premier. They must go to the same economist. "This bill is about stimulating the Nova Scotia economy. This bill is about making our businesses more competitive and you will see this bill is about jobs.". No, Mr. Speaker, this bill is not about jobs, this bill is about raising the taxes for your oil, your electricity and your gasoline and your clothing. That is what this is a tax about and if they want to try to disguise it as a tax to create jobs, I don't think they have even fooled most of their colleagues, because many of their colleagues and, in fact, some of the front bench Treasury people have indicated that they are not quite as hot and hairy about this bill as the Minister of Health is.
The premise the Minister of Health put forward the other day, and the Minister of Finance reinforced what the Minister of Health has been saying, that there is the flow-through taxes that are going to be so good for business. In theory, that is great. But, you know, I have
talked to business people and the business people tell me that they have been kind of short lately. There has been what you call a recession. The Americans got over it, the Canadians didn't. They are wondering why the devil aren't we getting over the recession, but, anyway, we are not, very quickly. They said, look, if I can get any extra money, it has got to go to pay down my bills. It has got to go somewhere. The last place it is going is lower taxes.
You look at the agriculture industry, beef prices are lower now than they were in 1970. You look at the food and beverage industry. Prices are lower now than they were in the 1970's and profit margins are 50 per cent of what they were then. Madam Speaker, this government indicates very clearly that they do not have any understanding of the business world today when they are indicating that all these companies and small businesses are just sitting there waiting to pass on some added profits. There aren't any.
Children's clothing, the Minister of Finance made light this morning of the fact, gracious, you know, you can't find a kids parka for under $100 anyway, so what are you crowing about. There are people that do find children's clothing for a good deal less than $94, Mr. Minister of Finance. Perhaps if we spent a little more time in the real world, we would have a better understanding of the lives of people.
I think people of Nova Scotia are badly served by the Opposition when they refuse to acknowledge the balanced series of income tax cuts and other assistance, according to the Minister of Finance. Most Nova Scotia families will be getting $100 more in their pockets and purses because of the tax reform. As the youngsters say so aptly, are you for real? Is the Minister of Finance for real when he comes in this Chamber and delivers a speech like that. He better go back and take more economics courses from the Premier and the Minister of Health and then at least they will all be singing from the same song sheet.
Any government that brings in a tax increase the way this government is trying to do it now, the methods, Mann hammers his thumb. The Chronicle-Herald said it so well in their editorial, that the Government House Leader was in error when he threatened to use his hammer on us, because he is a big tough guy from Cape Breton and nobody has the guts to go near him because he will hit them with the hammer. Is he a politician or is he just a thug? These are not words that are very parliamentary, Madam Speaker, but those are the words of the Government House Leader.
The Minister of Finance was on the radio defending this bill, at one point. The most frequently quoted thing he said was, I don't remember. I am comfortable, but you have to take a broader view. So if you look at the broad picture and if we and if they and if and if. Mr. Speaker, is there anybody home? Is there any study that shows there are going to be 3,000 new jobs? I can show you the brief from the Nova Scotia Home Builders Association. They said they are going to lose 3,800 employment jobs in this province for skilled and unskilled craftsman in the home construction renovation business.
The cartoon showed it so well the other morning, it showed a picture of the Liberal sitting there saying nice things to people and as soon as the people left the earplugs came out. That is so true. We have seen it time and time again in health care, education, economic development; time and time again this government pretends they listen but they don't and they are not fooling anybody. The construction association indicated very clearly they weren't fooled anymore by this government and its letting on they were listening but in the end it is obvious they didn't.
The tax break on books is going to backfire. The Premier, remember, he got the big press, I won't let them tax books. That was just as hollow as most of the other things this government stands for. The approach the government is taking is actually going to cost more than the tax.
Madam Speaker, I want you to know that I would like to support the government on some of their initiatives. If I thought the government had a plan of where we are headed, if I thought the government knew where they were trying to take the province, but I am not sure the Premier or any of his Cabinet know where they are going to have lunch today or breakfast tomorrow morning. I don't think they plan for more than 30 seconds in advance. I think they plan from crisis to crisis and I think they were sold a bill of goods from a Prime Minister in Ottawa that was trying to get out of a jam.
It was so obvious last spring when the Minister of Finance tabled the booklet and it was pointed out that there is an $84 million tax grab, and the most surprised person in this Legislature was the Minister of Finance. I don't believe the federal Department of Finance had told him all of the ramifications of this tax. They told him the good points, the points that he is trying to persuade Nova Scotians are valid and reasonable, and they didn't give him the bad news. The bad news is out there and the bad news tells us that this is an $84 million tax grab that is not being supported by municipalities, not being supported by store owners. The harmonization is not even being supported by the metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, because they don't like this tax-included pricing and it goes on and on.
The Premier in one of his questions was bragging that the Premier, Mr. Harris, was jealous of Nova Scotia because the Premier said that Ontario felt that they would be uncompetitive with regard to Nova Scotia due to this tax. I looked and looked, I read and followed and asked researchers to find somewhere that the Premier of Ontario said the words that were attributed to him by the Premier of Nova Scotia. The Premier of Ontario never said he was offended because this blended sales tax was coming down here and it was going to put him in a disadvantaged position, he didn't say those words. The Premier said he did but he didn't (Interruptions) Oh, he did? Well, then, I would like to see that recorded on record. We have three members here in this House, three Liberals, who say, he did so, he did so. Well, please table the document.
The Premier knows he didn't say it because he didn't say it. What he said was he did not like Ontario taxpayers' money being sent to Nova Scotia as a bribe to get this government to sign onto this blended sales tax, that is what he said. He is annoyed that this blended sales tax is going to cost Ontario taxpayers money because of the billion dollar bribe the federal government sent down here. When they were doing the bribe, our Premier couldn't even send a negotiator who knew how to add. They gave little Newfoundland $100 million more than Nova Scotia; they gave New Brunswick $100 million more than Nova Scotia.
I have to tell you, I have absolutely no confidence in the leadership of this government. Day after day they give us more and more reasons why 75 per cent of Nova Scotians are unsatisfied with the leadership provided by the government.
We had individuals appear before the Law Amendments Committee. A single mother who arrived to tell her tale of woe was not even listened to by this government. We have the travel industry very concerned, we have the property owners very concerned. You know we even had a challenge, and I think this is one of my favourites, the Minister of Community Services, that great brain trust of this government, indicated to all and sundry that the youngsters at Sir Charles Tupper School could prove the wisdom of this tax, he challenged them. You know the funny thing is they took the challenge and they showed him for exactly what this tax is, a grab, unfair, not thought out clearly, and then this great Minister of the Crown paid no attention to them and said, go check your parents' income taxes.
It is little wonder that Nova Scotians have had enough because, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians deserve better than this government is providing. This government stands for healthy people, they say; eat apples. Scotian Gold sent a box of apples in here for the members this week and everybody enjoyed them. The minister provided some more apples from Stirlings later on this week. One of the craziest notions I ever saw is the tax on health clubs. We are telling everybody to get out and participate and get healthy, we are going to charge you extra now, though, for your helmet for your bicycle, we are going to charge you extra to join the health clubs. This is the great old saying, do as we say, not as we do. You get the idea that the government does not follow what it expects Nova Scotians to follow.
I cannot support this tax increase, and it is a tax increase. Do not make Nova Scotians out to be simpletons, they are not. They can see this bill for exactly what it is, a tax grab by this government. When you raise electricity rates by 5 per cent, can you imagine, a 5 per cent increase in electricity rates. How many MLAs in this Chamber would allow Nova Scotia Power the freedom to go down and apply for increases like that in power rates? They would be raising a ruckus like you wouldn't believe but it is all right for them to do it because they are government.
An 8 per cent increase in gasoline; every time you fill your car it is going to cost you more to help these Liberals in Ottawa live up to their GST dreams. Every time you turn on your thermostat to keep Jack Frost out of your house, it is going to cost you more. Madam
Speaker, this is not a job creation program, this is a tax and I will not vote to support the raising of $84 million of taxes on the backs of Nova Scotians. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, now we are drawing very close to the end of debate on this legislation which has been touted by the government as the most significant, I think in one case, since Confederation and in another case in the past 40 years. There certainly is no doubt that it is hugely significant, because of the impact it will have on the men, women and children of Nova Scotia, as consumers. Also, I think from what I have been able to discern through various submissions, reading the Law Amendments Committee submissions on many businesses, particularly retail businesses here in Nova Scotia.
We have done a little bit of math in our caucus office, to try to determine how this BS Tax is going to impact on you and me and our constituents, those of us who live in rural areas and are dependent on our own transportation have to do a fair amount of driving each week. I would say that on the average my constituents probably fuel up at least once a week, so presumably they spend about $30 each week of the year on gasoline. Each time they fill up after April 1st, it is going to cost them $2.40 more on the basis of the price of gasoline today, and that translates into $124.80 annually. That is a lot of money. As I pointed out the other day in committee, and it bears repeating here on second reading in the House, the people who are going to be hurt most by this legislation are those who are not well-to-do, those who are on modest and fixed incomes, senior citizens, those who are on social assistance, family benefits and Canada Pension benefits. The people who will be hit hardest are also the people who are not driving the most modern of cars and, therefore, they are driving vehicles which will be more what we would call gas guzzlers than those who are well-to-do will be driving, so the cost to them will be even greater.
Good heavens, even the cost of a haircut is going to go up; looking neat and clean and tidy is going to cost more. The cost of toothpaste, I had noted previously, is going up. Curious, isn't it, that this government which has cut back on the dental program for Nova Scotia young people is at the very same time increasing the cost of the most obvious front-line weapon to fight tooth decay, and that of course is toothpaste.
The cost of clothing is going to go up significantly, particularly for people who buy articles of clothing that are valued under $100. The people who shop wisely and do not have a lot of income and who find that they can get better bargains at places like Frenchy's are now going to be charged more for buying clothes that are already used and have already had taxes paid on them, thank you very much. This is going to have a very negative impact on those who are less well-to-do.
One of the things that I have not heard anybody in the government tell us how they are going to resolve is the increased cost for the price of a stamp. Now here we have tax-inclusive pricing. How are we going to modify postage stamps in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland so that tax-inclusive pricing is shown on the stamp, as is required by law? Nobody has figured that out yet. Is the government going to employ thousands of persons with little black markers to work away in the basements of various Liberal campaign headquarters to cross out the amount that is shown on the stamp and put in the new amount that includes the 8 per cent inclusive pricing? One wonders just exactly how that is going to be done.
The yearly fuel bill is going to be significantly greater and of course the yearly electricity bill will be as well. I know that this government, as always, treats any information that either of the Opposition caucuses put forward derisively. This is a government which has absolutely assured that everything it is doing is right and just and in the best interests of Nova Scotia, and that anybody who dares to be critical is therefore inherently wrong and no information they bring forward could possibly be correct and therefore is not worth listening to.
We do not have to restrict ourselves to Nova Scotia. In New Brunswick, the Saint John Board of Trade provided a very lengthy press release. I think this may already have been tabled but, in the event it has not, I will table it now because I am going to quote from it a bit.
The Saint John Board of Trade opposes the tax-included pricing and GST - PST harmonization. November 12th. "The Saint John Board of Trade says that tax-included pricing will lead to higher consumer prices, poorer merchandise selection, fewer job opportunities, will deter retail businesses from setting up in the region, and may drive consumers back across the U.S. border.".
They go on to say, "This appears to be largely politically-motivated . . .", as a means of trying to bail out their friend, Jean Chretien who now has admitted that he did not tell the truth with respect to what he was going to do with the GST when he became Prime Minister.
Finally, the Board of Trade says that, ". . . cash register and computer inventory systems will cost them more than the savings they will get from any input tax credits.". Well, not my words. Not the words of any organization that insofar as I know has any political bias, but an organization that does have some idea of what business is all about in our neighbouring province, the Saint John Board of Trade.
My colleague, the member for Kings North, made reference to the challenge that was so quickly taken up by the Sir Charles Tupper students when they were here approximately a week ago, a challenge put to them by the Minister of Community Services who baldly stated to them that they could go out and they would come back and that they would then be able
to demonstrate as a consequence of their researches that the BS tax was good for Nova Scotians and was going to cost less.
When these young people went out to undertake this survey, they found, to the surprise of the Minister of Community Services, that the overall tax difference was an increase. In fact, when one added in a new car every five years, the annual tax increase that they computed was $280.
What did these young Nova Scotians, who are consumers just like any other Nova Scotians, have to say about the blended sales tax? They said it would cause commonly used items to increase in price. It will make items look more expensive because of tax-inclusive ticketing. The increased cost of electricity alone will wipe out 25 per cent of the savings from any decreased tax costs. Finally, they note, that families of four making under $19,000 a year are unlikely to be able to afford the items that the tax offers the savings on.
Those are not my words. Those are not the words of a political Party. Those are not the words of people who are politically active. Those are the words of a class of students from Sir Charles Tupper School who were challenged by the Minister of Community Services, who took up that challenge, came back here and gave the Minister of Community Services a great big, full, three-course dinner of his own words.
Well, I have discovered, as a consequence of watching what our friends in the government benches have been saying around the province, that there is even some doubt in some of their minds with respect to the positive impact of the BS Tax on Nova Scotians. I will table this in the event that it has not been tabled.
This is from the Lighthouse Log, a Bridgewater newspaper. The headline says, "Downe defends new tax". I notice that in the article, the Minister of Transportation & Public Works who is named here and who is quoted here, is rather faint in his praise of this tax. Here we have a minister who, indeed, did say after a trip to Ottawa that the people of western Nova Scotia were being devastated as a consequence of policies that the federal Liberal Government has in place. This is when he was up begging for more money for our highways which this government is letting fall apart. Here, right in his home turf, I think this bears being read into the record.
"Provincial Transportation Minister Don Downe said Tuesday night, November 26, that 'on balance' the government's Harmonized Sales Tax . . . should be either revenue neutral or of 'some benefit' to Nova Scotians.". Well, that has to be about the weakest defence of this BS Tax that I have heard from any government minister in this place. It will, ". . . be either revenue neutral or of 'some benefit' to Nova Scotians.".
Well, Bridgewater is often spoken of as the Main Street of the South Shore, a great commercial centre. Many of my constituents will shop there from time to time. I came across a copy of a letter from Gow's Hardware Limited, Eastside Plaza, 450 LaHave Street, Bridgewater. It is a letter which is signed by Lorraine F. O'Dell, the Accounting Manager. It is sent on behalf of Gow's. Permission has been given for this letter to be used here on the floor of the Legislature, so we will table this, too, just in the event that it has not yet been tabled.
This is from the same constituency that Mr. Downe, who is referred to in the Lighthouse Log, represents. Now let's just see how his constituents feel about this tax and how it will impact on their businesses. "Re: Harmonized Sales Tax . . . we operate a Home Hardware store with a retail space of 26,500 sq. Ft. in Bridgewater . . . and employ 58 people (47 full-time) . . . We face within the next few months a need to replace our information system. This was planned for 1997 before the HST announcement . . . Given the change in tax, we should ideally wait until after April 1, 1997 for installation. Ironically however, we cannot do this because our current information system's software is incapable of handling this change in the tax system . . . Has the government considered a relief of the PST for such expenditures prior to April 1, 1997 . . . We could have conceivably waited until April 1, 1997 had the government not chosen a tax inclusive pricing policy. By waiting we would have reaped the benefit of the tax change on business expenditures."
Again, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works' constituents go on to provide comments on the harmonized sales tax and, to be fair, there are some positive ones here. "No exempting of customers at time of sale . . . reduced onus and liability placed on us to enforce the tax policies . . . The elimination of one tax filing and administration . . .", et cetera.
This letter also lists a number of negative points that the people who live in Bridgewater are going to face when they shop at Gow's Home Hardware. "Tax-inclusive pricing. This is undoubtably the largest and most difficult part of all for us to deal with . . . Will customers not suffer some confusion with an item they looked at before March 31st at $9.99 and after April 1st, it's now $11.49? We in retail refer to this as 'sticker shock'. . . Obviously foods, . . .", and this is an error because foods will not be affected but, " . . . clothing, electricity, gas, etc. are a priority in the spending of earnings, how will this impact our operations as consumers cope with the increased cost of essentials. With the HST estimated to yield more tax revenue, for those on the lower income scale, less money will be available to purchase non-essential items. This could very well have an impact on our operation. (e ) Cost of the change to a tax-inclusive price.". The cost to this one business alone is estimated at $12,225 and Gow's Hardware in Bridgewater asks, "Who will help us with this cost?", I wonder if their member has written back to answer that question. "We believe the HST will have a negative impact on our operation's cash flow." Finally, "We would also like to comment as to the government's claim that the cost of business operations will fall once the HST is introduced. From our standpoint, the amount of money that will be saved by our operational expenses by the HST input tax credit is estimated at less than 0.5 % of our revenue. That will
not allow us to reduce our before tax retails to the consumer. The money saved by this will be needed to assist in the negative impact on our cash flow . . . Perhaps when the rest of Canada is harmonized, costs will fall which can be passed onto the consumer. However, at this point, the retailer and therefore the consumer will pay for all the costs involved of implementing the HST.".
That is from one of the major retail operators in the Town of Bridgewater, a store that from time to time I have had the opportunity to shop in. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, Brian Mulroney his GST and John Savage may profit by their example. More likely, with his Liberal henchmen suffer their fate, beaten, broken, bruised and buried in the democratic casket of the ballot box.
This legislation is a bad piece of business. If death and taxes are indeed the only two things of which we can be sure of in life, this Liberal Government has caught them both up in this BS Tax net which they are casting so broadly to catch so many Nova Scotians in. It is a bad piece of business for Nova Scotians no matter what their circumstances, no matter where their dwelling place. It is a bad piece of business because the government in its haste to waste our pocketbooks has abused and abridged the democratic process in this Legislature. It is a bad piece of business which should have died aborning. It is a bad piece of business which allowed life of the Savage Government which is now short, it must, as quickly as possible, suffer quick demise. It is a bad piece of business which, if not cast out of this place, will result in the casting out from this place of those who are its creators, its sponsors and its supporters. It is a bad piece of business which will be exercised by the people of Nova Scotia as soon as they are given the opportunity to beat a path to the polls. It is a bad piece of business because it may breach the very constitution of this province and therefore of this country. It is a bad piece of business for my constituents, the men and women who have sent me here to speak on their behalf. They have given me my instruction, it is clear and unequivocal and that instruction is to militate against, to vote against this BST tax and as their servant, I am pleased to meet that responsibility which they have entrusted to me. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I guess I am pleased to have the opportunity, I have mixed feelings about standing up and speaking at third reading on Bill No. 48. As I have tried to collect my thoughts today and think about what needs to be said in third reading on this bill from my perspective and from my caucus' perspective, I have taken the opportunity to reflect a bit on what has been going on over the past number of weeks and months.
It was a little over a month ago that this sitting of the House first came in, November 18th. When I first heard that, November 18th, I was shocked because believe me, for me anyway, it feels like it has been at least two months if not more. It was about four days after
the Premier indicated very clearly to reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the piece of legislation relative to the blended sales tax, the BST, would not be introduced this fall session but would be introduced in the spring. You will recall perhaps that many of us were literally begging the government to come forward with information on the BST, something we found out about that was in existence back in the spring but the government were reluctant to do that. Anyway, contrary to that commitment by the Premier on December 3, 1996, 18 days ago, the government introduced for first reading Bill No. 48 in the Legislature. Here we are again, 18 days later, wrapping up what has been estimated at close to 80 hours of debate on what the government itself has labelled as one of the most significant tax changes this province has seen in many, many years. I agree with them and I think in part that is why I have been as upset and concerned by this legislation and by the agreement which the legislation brings forward.
Again, I have had lots of say on this bill and I am not going to spend a whole lot of time on the details. I have been working out of a binder of material like this and a binder full of submissions to Law Amendments Committee, so if I tried to go back through those details, believe me, I would be more than an hour speaking at third reading. I think that we have had an opportunity to make those points and what I want to try to do today is to sum up a bit on what the main concerns are that I have and my caucus has and my Party has relative to this bill and relative to the process.
What I am going to do is frame this discussion in three parts. One, I am going to talk a bit about the process. Second, I am going to talk about what this tax actually does, the impact that it has on the economy and on individuals and small businesses. Third, I am going to make some suggestions as to what I think this government should do.
First of all, let me start by saying that as far as I am concerned, I think as far as most Nova Scotians are concerned, the BST has come about as a result of the federal Liberal Government's pledge to get rid of the GST and their inability to do that. They have begged and pleaded with their Liberal counterparts in the provinces to work with them to try to come up with a deal that will help them save some face. We found out back in the spring, back in April of this year, that the then Minister of Finance was in secret negotiations with the federal government and the Provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador in order to deal with the whole question of harmonization. This is how the government, the province and the feds, decided to come up with dealing with the GST pledge. They could not get rid of it as they promised in 1993. The best they could do was to try to hide it in some way, shape, or form.
Let's not forget that the whole question of harmonizing the GST and the PST is not a new concept. When this ugly consumer tax, the GST, was first applied the government of the day, the Mulroney Government and the government of this province under Don Cameron
tried to find a way to combine the provincial sales tax with the GST to try to simplify the whole tax process and most of all to try to hide the GST to get it out of people's minds because even two or three years after it had been implemented, people were still extraordinarily upset, agitated and angry about the GST. Harmonization is a concept that has been floated before. This government and its federal cousins are the first ones to carry forward with it.
The concerns initially with the process were the fact that it was done in secret, that the deal that was committing us to come up with a framework was done in secrecy. The then Minister of Finance was extremely reluctant to come forward with details on what the deal was like. It was like pulling hen's teeth to try to get a handle on exactly what this commitment was all about. We then began to get bits and pieces of the BST throughout the summer. The government still failed to consult widely with Nova Scotians, but on October 23rd they finally inked a deal committing the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government to what we know as the BST deal.
Even then, details were slow to come out. Debate was limited until, of course, we got the bill, Bill No. 48, here in the Legislature. On December 3rd the government tabled a seven page bill, a seven page piece of legislation which would authorize and implement a very significant tax change in the Province of Nova Scotia, a tax change that would give to the federal government control over much of our authority relative to the provincial sales tax, which would allow other provinces, in this case, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, to have a direct say in whether we are able to lower or raise our provincial sales tax, Madam Speaker, or what exemptions we are allowed to agree to relative to our own tax regime here in the Province of Nova Scotia; extremely significant.
It was a few days later that the federal government actually released the meat of this deal, Madam Speaker. We talked about it, a 354 page bill was introduced into the House of Commons in Ottawa, which actually gave some substance to this whole BST plan, 354 pages as opposed to 7 pages. Nova Scotians, from the beginning, have been concerned about the fact that this government has been reluctant to release details about the blended sales tax and what kind of impact it was going to have on them and it was going to have on this economy. Then they see the federal government in Ottawa releasing a bill on the same issue, which is huge and extremely complex.
Madam Speaker, you will know that as we peppered the Minister of Finance with questions on some of this substance, on some of this detail, on some of the complexities within the tax changes that would impact on us, he could not even come clean with the answers. In fact, in response to that lack of understanding, that lack of knowledge about that implication, the Minister of Finance told us that that, in fact, is why our bill is so vague, because there are a lot of unanswered questions, and so they are going to be able to deal with it. Imagine, here we are, dealing with a major tax change and we are going to pass a piece of
legislation within 18 days and the Minister of Finance cannot even give us the answers on the impact of all of the changes.
Clearly, as far as we are concerned, the process has been flawed from the beginning. There has been a dearth of public discussion and public consultation by this government, and while they stand here and they proclaim the great benefits that are going to flow directly from the BST, Madam Speaker, they run ads propagating some of those claims without any details. They have been reluctant to go to the people, to go out and talk to ordinary, hard-working Nova Scotians about what this bill is actually going to do them and, for that, this government cannot be forgiven.
We have seen, as well, in the process of debating this bill, the government with a 39 seat majority versus a 12 seat Opposition, unilaterally impose rule changes, Madam Speaker, to allow them to speed up debate, to allow them to exercise - as the Government House Leader said when he introduced the resolution - the hammer. He challenged Opposition members, as he challenged all Nova Scotians. He told them, we are the majority - even though they were elected by less than 50 per cent of the population back in 1993, without a mandate to carry forward this tax change - he said we are the majority in here and we are going to do what we bloody well feel like regardless of what you say, regardless of what the Opposition says. We are going to do it on our timetable, regardless of the Rules of this House, rules which an all-Party Committee had finally applied some reason and some rationale to back in 1990.
This government imposed changes to the rules and carried out those changes so that we sat for 16 hour days and debated this legislation, a process called legislation by exhaustion, Madam Speaker.
Then, of course, we had the Law Amendments Committee that sat for two days and a bit, where the bill went through second reading here on a Thursday afternoon and hearings were immediately called for 8:30 a.m. on Friday and then on the following Monday. Presenter after presenter told us when they came to Law Amendments that that was not enough time. The government did not give them enough notice and they did not have enough detail on the bill to be able to properly prepare a presentation. Each one of them said that they knew of other Nova Scotians who did not have the opportunity because of the limit on time and because of the cost of travel to come here from other parts of the province to participate in debate and raise their concerns, Madam Speaker. Needless to say, Nova Scotians were not happy and are not happy about the way this government has handled debate and how they have handled the process of ramming this legislation through the House, through the Legislature of Nova Scotia.
That is the process that this government has employed in order to bring about the blended sales tax, the harmonized sales tax, or whatever you want to call it. The federal government calls it - I can't even find the name on that one - comprehensive integrated tax
agreement, whatever, what people of Nova Scotia know it as is the BS Tax, Madam Speaker, because the government has imposed it without sufficient discussion and done it in secrecy, they have done it by bullying the Opposition, by bullying Nova Scotians and they have not come clean and they have not been fair.
Let's move then to what this tax does. Why is it that we in the Opposition have fought as hard as we have? Why is it that so many thousands of Nova Scotians are opposed to this tax, Madam Speaker? What does this tax do? This tax gives corporations in the Province of Nova Scotia a $240 million tax break. It shifts a large portion of that burden onto ordinary, hard-working Nova Scotians who are now going to be asked to pay in excess of $80 million extra on consumer goods, many of them the necessities of life that you have heard about in the past number of hours and days: home heating fuel, electricity, clothes under $100, children's clothes, school supplies, and gasoline.
Madam Speaker, it is clearly a case of Robin Hood in reverse. This government, through the BS Tax is imposing a tax change which taxes the poor to give money to the rich. This is the most unfair tax change I have ever seen, certainly since the GST was imposed on Canadians and on Nova Scotians.
It is imposing an inordinate burden on low- and middle-income earners, on the working poor, on seniors, on people on social assistance, on people on fixed incomes, Madam Speaker, those people who pay such a large proportion of their income on those family necessities. Those are the people who are going to pay for the tax breaks for that small group, that small category of corporations that are going to benefit from this tax.
You know, even though I say that it is a $240 million shift or tax break to corporations - which it is - there is only going to be a certain category of businesses that are actually going to benefit from this, manufacturers and exporters primarily, and middle- and large-sized businesses at that.
They are the same category of businesses that benefited from the GST. It is the same category of businesses that were going to release us from the depression of the late 1980's and early 1990's. When we release the burden from those major corporations of paying taxes in this country, they were going to pass on those considerable savings to consumers who were going to then spend more money, were going to then generate more economic activity and we were going to grow ourselves into the remainder of the 1990's and the 20th Century, Madam Speaker.
What have we seen happen in reality as a result of the GST? Corporations did realize major savings. Corporate profits in the past few years, Madam Speaker, have been at record levels. Also at record levels have been the number of lay-offs from those very same
corporations that enjoy such considerable benefit as a result of that tax change, as a result of that shifting of burden from manufacturers and exporters on to consumers, a change that represented in the order of $6 billion of extra taxes that had to be paid by consumers in Atlantic Canada. We have not seen the jobs, we have not seen the economic prosperity in Atlantic Canada or, I would say, anywhere in this country as a result of the GST. The promises and the pronouncements by this government that we are going to realize economic prosperity and growth and job creation as a result of the BST are at the same time hollow, just like they were for the GST.
Do you know what we heard over here, hour after hour, presenter after presenter, in the Law Amendments Committee, Madam Speaker, last Friday and this Monday? We heard from small business people who said that this tax change, the imposition of the BST in this province, was going to kill them and it was going to be a job destroyer, not a job creator. Those are the very businesses in this province that are generating the little job growth that we have actually been seeing over the past few years. What this legislative change, this tax change, is going to do, is drive many of those small businesses completely out of business.
I talked to some small business people in the Mayflower Mall in Sydney a couple of weeks ago and they are extremely upset about the BST and about the costs that they are going to bear as a result. As they said, there are not going to be any savings and the costs are going to have to be passed on to the consumer because they cannot absorb them anymore. They absorbed the cost of the GST, they cannot absorb the cost of the BST too. They said, if we increase our costs, as we are going to have to, it is going to result in a further dampening of consumer demand and it is going to be extremely hard on us.
I talked to a businessman out of Sydney yesterday, Madam Speaker, and he said that by all indications, things are going to look really ugly for business in industrial Cape Breton following Christmas. I talked to an accountant the other day who is very successful in this city, provides a lot of assistance to businesses small, medium and large in terms of investments, in terms of how to manage themselves. I just said, very simply, what does the BST mean to you? He said, it means that all my clients are going to have to pay 8 per cent more, it is as simple as that.
So small businesses are going to be driven under. Whether that is in the retail sector, in the tourist and restaurant and accommodation sectors, Madam Speaker, so many of those small businesses are going to be destroyed as a result of this in order to bring tax breaks to large corporations. The projection of 3,000 jobs is absolute fantasy. You know what we have to recognize and this government seems to forget is that that projection is just that, a projection, it is a guess that is based on more guesses. It is a guess that is based on an economic model that says if our Gross Domestic Product increases by, in this case 0.8 per cent, then we are going to see so many jobs created.
Well, Madam Speaker, it is a guess based on a model that is full of guesses. So, when the minister responsible for the BST, the now Minister of Health, says that this government has taken a risk, he ain't kidding. When he tells you and me and when he tells Nova Scotians that 3,000 jobs are going to be created and he can't explain how, you know why he can't explain how? Because he doesn't know, nor does the now Minister of Finance, nor does the Premier, nor does any member of government.
Let me say in concluding the point on what this tax does that surely to Heaven we recognize after 20 years of reducing the tax burden on corporations in this country, under the guise of generating economic activity and creating jobs, that it doesn't work, Madam Speaker, it does not work. The Province of Nova Scotia has the lowest corporate tax rate in this country. Have we seen economic activity in this province that has surpassed the rest of the provinces? No, we have not. It is time that the Government of Nova Scotia stood up and said to its corporate citizens that if you want to be part of this province, if you want to enjoy the benefits of this province, if you want to be able to make a profit in this province then, by God, you are going to have to pay your fair share. That is what we have to start saying, instead of letting these corporate citizens get away with a free ride.
Madam Speaker, let me finish up my intervention this afternoon by sharing with you what I think this government should do. This government has said, it was articulated well, I think, by the minister responsible for the BST, the former Minister of Finance, the now Minister of Health, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, that the government was taking a significant risk in coming forward with the BST. They understood that. He said that because a lot of the support, a lot of the arguments for the BST are on shifting ground, they are on mounds of sand. The conditions keep shifting. If it doesn't work and if they don't work, and they very well may not work, I would suggest, in fact, that the damage that is going to be caused by the BST is going to be, as it has been for the GST, extremely damaging to this province and to this economy and to jobs.
Madam Speaker, the Minister of Health, the minister responsible for the BST, when he said that this was a risk the government was taking, also meant that it was a risk because they were doing it in the face of overwhelming public opposition to the BST, opposition that has been reflected as early as people began to find out about the HST, the BST, the same kind of opposition people had back in 1990, when the Tories were talking about it under Donald Cameron. We talked about harmonization in the by-election where I was first elected in 1991, when Donald Cameron first started talking about it. People in Halifax Atlantic were so upset that in order to give the Tory candidate half a chance, Mr. Cameron, the Premier of the day, finally backed off and said no, we are not going to harmonize the taxes.
Then in the spring, in May, after the initial details of the BST were released, there was a poll taken by Corporate Research Associates in metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth which showed that over 70 per cent of residents, of respondents, were opposed to harmonizing the sales taxes, Madam Speaker. They were opposed not only because they knew that they were
going to pay the burden, were going to pay the price, were going to pay the piper, but they were angry at this government because when they were in Opposition and when they were running for election back in 1993, they promised Nova Scotians, number one, that they were opposed to harmonizing the sales taxes and, number two, they would not make any kind of tax change like that until they established a fair tax commission and consulted with Nova Scotians. They did not do that.
Following that survey in May, there was a by-election held on June 4th in Halifax Fairview where the issue of the BST played an important role. Even though the government of the day went across the riding with a flashy little brochure that said, "One tax - many advantages", that was being pumped by their Cabinet Ministers, at the same time our candidate, the candidate for the New Democratic Party, the now MLA for Halifax Fairview, Eileen O'Connell, was stating our position, which was clearly opposed to the harmonized sales tax, to the BST. The voters in Halifax Fairview sent a message to this government by electing Eileen O'Connell with 65 per cent of the vote, by electing a candidate who represents a Party that is committed, clearly, in opposition to the blended sales tax, Madam Speaker.
So that minister and this government know that they are taking a risk because they are flying in the face of those messages and the indications of opposition that have been sent by the nearly 25,000 people who have signed petitions, either ours or the Official Opposition, the phone calls, the letters, the presentations at the Law Amendments Committee, Madam Speaker. By all of those thousands of Nova Scotians who are opposed, this government knows that they are taking a risk. I say to them that above all else, above all the criticism for the process that has been employed in ramming this bill through the Legislature of Nova Scotia, above the way that this bill is such a bad bill, this tax is such a bad tax for Nova Scotians, this government does not have the authority, it does not have the legitimacy, moral at the very least, to carry forward and to carry through with such a significant tax change in the final months of their mandate. They were not elected in 1993 to do this and they have an obligation, given all that has happened, to go to Nova Scotians before they finalize this deal.
As I have made clear on behalf of the New Democratic Party, if after the next election we are in any position to affect this legislation, we will have that opting out clause initiated immediately, that 18 month opting out clause. Madam Speaker, I said it once, twice, three times, I have said it again and again because I want it to be very clear that we are opposed philosophically to this tax. We believe it is wrong in the way it is being implemented but philosophically we are opposed to it and, given the opportunity, we will scrap it.
When we initiate that opting out clause, we will at the same time ensure that Nova Scotians have an opportunity to examine the options that are available to make our tax system more fair and more equitable so that people pay their fair share based on their ability to pay, not paying on the basis that they have less input or they are less likely to get the ear of this
government than are the people who are favoured by these tax changes. That is what I have said.
For this government to go ahead with this deal which will take effect on April 1, 1996, when they may well hold an election in the next six months after that, is irresponsible in the extreme as far as I am concerned. They should have the decency and respect for Nova Scotians and respect at the very least for some semblance of democracy and accountability to go to the people and let them decide whether or not they want the BST in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is what this government should do.
Do you know what I am concerned about, Madam Speaker, and why I am not particularly optimistic, is because this government has shown time and time again, month after month, year after year since first elected, that increasingly they have become completely out of touch with what Nova Scotians are thinking, completely out of touch with what is happening out there in their communities. One wonders if it is not arrogance, if it is not a sense of divine right, the divine right of kings, almost, that has caught hold of the Treasury benches in this government. Whatever it is, this government is increasingly out of touch with the realities of so many thousands of Nova Scotians.
As I wrap up debate on third reading of Bill No. 48, I urge this government to reflect on what has happened in the past number of weeks, to understand that the federal government at the very least is conducting hearings with their committee. The impact of this legislation and this tax change is going to be so significant, so significant that even if all of the positive proclamations come true, that this government should go to the people and let them decide. What is being proposed in this bill is not unlike the announcements, the bumph that the Premier is distributing outside this House, has been this morning and is at this very minute.
Economic forecasts for the Province of Nova Scotia show, number one, that the province has fallen behind in economic growth, behind what was forecast in the budget. It has fallen behind in terms of job creation. Our unemployment rate is higher than what was predicted by that budget. It is very much on the theme of what this bill is and what the benefits that are predicted by this government are. It very much has to do with next year country. It has to do with that mindset that says somewhere over the rainbow things are going to get better. Nova Scotians have seen what has already come in the past three and a half years and, as far as we are concerned and as far as Nova Scotians are concerned, it has not been pretty.
I urge you, Madam Speaker, I urge all members of this House to think seriously about what they are doing when they vote for Bill No. 48 and at the very least I ask government members to show some respect once and for all for the people of Nova Scotia and to realize you do not have a mandate. This is too big a change, this is too big a policy to do without a mandate. Go to the people of Nova Scotia. Let them decide. If they agree, we will put through the BST. If they do not, let's not create the kind of chaos and havoc that may result.
If you implement it in April and Nova Scotians throw you out in May or June and then the New Democratic Party, under my leadership, comes in and scraps that tax, Madam Speaker. I ask this government to consider the damage that will be caused if they carry forward in that direction.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
I'm sorry, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I certainly could understand you wanting the honourable member for Cape Breton West to speak again on third reading but I guess that at this time he probably is not going to.
Madam Speaker, I want to say at the outset that I have difficulty understanding why the Savage Government will not listen, has no intention, has no desire to listen to the Opposition and everyday Nova Scotians who are opposed to this legislation but I do fully discern that this government is going to railroad this legislation through.
The Opposition has raised concerns on behalf of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and we all know that UNSM speaks on behalf of municipalities all across Nova Scotia and the municipalities, of course, represent the property taxpayer. The property taxpayer is going to be negatively impacted as a direct result of this legislation.
We have raised concerns on behalf of seniors, particularly those seniors who are on fixed incomes. Nova Scotians on fixed incomes, Nova Scotians on social programs, Nova Scotians on minimum wage are going to be negatively impacted by this legislation. Much to the chagrin of several government members, I have continually referred to the Prince Edward Island study. Some government members have said that study really is not the way to do things; you don't go to the people first, you go to the people a little bit afterwards, just to provide some type of symbolic consultation. That is exactly what this government did.
The Prince Edward Island study very candidly stated that the low- to middle-income wage earner will suffer disproportionately. That is something we all should remember, as Members of this Legislative Assembly, that the low to middle wage income earners are going to suffer disproportionately.
The majority of presenters at the Law Amendments Committee were in opposition to Bill No. 48. However, the bill came back from the Law Amendments Committee to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills without any amendments. In fact, during Committee of the Whole House, Madam Speaker, I want to tell you, through you, that we even had a chairman in the Committee of the Whole House who didn't like to hear the truth. I say that to you with all sincerity, he didn't like to hear the truth. In spite of all this and more the
Savage Government and the Finance Minister have out and out refused to budge on their position relative to this legislation.
Yes, Madam Speaker, during the last couple of weeks fuses have been a bit short, some nerves have been frayed and some tempers have been tested, but I say, is it any wonder, with legislation like this. In Opposition we were required to debate legislation that is going to impact Nova Scotians from one end of this province right to the other. I realize that it is hard for the Savage Government to defend legislation which is truly indefensible. When the Savage Government's only response to the Opposition's legitimate arguments is to say, we know what is best, is it any wonder that sometimes fuses are a little short and tempers do get tested. With an attitude like that, it is small wonder that Nova Scotians are frustrated. I would suggest that some of their fuses are becoming a little bit short too.
In this 39 part harmony that we hear time and time again, we know what is best for you, well, it gets a little sickening after awhile when the only response is, we know what is best for you. In fact, what it does is confirm that this government is confirming that this legislation is clearly a failure. When you cannot defend legislation that you introduced, obviously, it is seriously flawed.
As a responsible member of the Legislature and as all honourable members I am sure are, what we have to do now is look beyond today and be prepared for the challenges that this legislation is going to present to all Nova Scotians. I don't see a whole lot of opportunities in this legislation, I see a lot of challenges for everyday Nova Scotians because the basic essential of life are going up, essentials like gasoline, home heating oil, clothes, the necessities of life are going up. Even young couples in the pursuit of providing for water are going to be taxed because of this legislation. I think it goes without saying that I will not be supporting this poorly-crafted economic policy, a policy which is clearly not in the publics best interests but I will never admit defeat.
By way of final comment on this bill let me say and I have said it a couple of times in this House that public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency. When this government calls the next provincial election, the will of the people will be represented by their own very expression. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate on third reading.
The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I want to make some brief comments, I don't want to detain the House but I thought there were just a few things that I would like to say in closing.
I would like to put the debate into perspective. There has been a lot of discussion and a lot of comments. I think it is important to remember that there has been two full weeks of debate and also it should be very clear that there was no closure, no-cut off in debate. It is true, we sat long hours, not unprecedentedly long hours but long hours nonetheless. I also want to point out that there was normal access to the Law Amendments Committee and I understand there was more than 20 hours of testimony chaired by the very capable Chairman, the Minister of Justice, three days. I want to commend the chairman and committee members for the hearings spread out over three days, principally last Friday and Monday but also on Saturday of last week. The process has been fair and the debate has been full. Moreover, in a few minutes, in a democratic way we will arrive at a decision.
This bill is part of the government's package, as I and others on this side of the House have said before, for tax change in Nova Scotia. Let's not forget that there is an income tax cut for all taxpayers. There is a 3.4 per cent reduction in provincial income taxes effective July 1, 1997. That will mean that a person's pay cheque will have the amount of income tax deducted decreased which means the take-home pay will go up. I know it is not a huge amount but I think every little bit helps.
We also have an improved low-income tax reduction program for those eligible, this is on top of what was introduced in the last two years. It is an additional $100 a year of relief for taxpayers, $100 less for an adult and $60 a year for children. Finally, for many of those not able to benefit from income tax cuts, we have the direct assistance program. It is not, of course, a prince's or princess' ransom but yet there is a $90 cheque available for a single person and $125 for a family. These are the facts.
I just want to say, not just on these matters but on other matters, it seems that some facts have been questioned. I just want briefly to mention that I am able to provide references for some honourable members so that they can check the authenticity of what we were saying. There is some question about the average annual electric bill in the province for a household not using electricity to heat the home or using electricity for hot water heating. According to Nova Scotia Power the average electric bill is $685 on an annual basis. Those are the facts. They can dispute it if they want to. We all know that there are some which are much higher and no doubt some lower, but that is the average annual bill for non-electrically heated homes not using electrically heated water.
Also, Madam Speaker, I am going to table a page from the tax reform document that was made available to the House last spring. The value of the input tax credits to businesses was questioned by the Leader of the Opposition and I want to help the Leader of the Opposition out. I used the figure, as others have, that the value of input tax credits to business was $170 million. This is not a new figure. In our analysis released last May, it is on Page 16.
I want to table for all honourable members a copy of that table. It shows what the value is. It is there for all to see.
The $240 million figure, the larger figure, is the gross figure of HST paid by businesses, but anybody who studied the document would know not all businesses get their tax back. Hence, adjustments must be made. For example, banks do not charge GST on transactions. They do not get the input tax credits back. There are a number of others in the same category. So, the net figure is the $170 million that we have been using consistently.
It is important to clear up this number because it is an important number. It is the number that shows the benefit to our economy. It is the number that shows how much of an economic boost there will be. This is the number used from day one by my predecessor and now myself. This is the extra $170 million that will be pumped into the economy. It is also one of the numbers that APEC used when it looked at the economic projections once HST comes into effect. APEC has supported our numbers, as have others. We stand by our belief that this bill will create jobs because of the lower business costs by $170 million. Lower business costs mean more competitive businesses and hence more opportunities for job creation. We hope that over the next year or two we will see an additional 3,000 jobs. I am not a supreme being to make sure that that is definite, but that is the way it looks based on the economic models. We certainly hope for the young people and all the people of Nova Scotia that there are more jobs created because it is important to Nova Scotia and this government.
The members on this side of the House understand the people of Nova Scotia will see the results and all of us in the province will benefit from a private sector better able to compete, to create wealth and to create a good economic future for all of us. Those are goals that we all share, no matter in which segment of the House we sit.
Before I close, I want to assure all honourable members that great care will be taken in drafting the regulations. These are important. They are important to consumers, to see that there is tax-included pricing so that the consumer will know what they pay. When they go into a shop, into a store, what they see on the shelf at $9.99, when they get to the cash register with a $10 bill, they will get a penny back and not have to add some 20 per cent almost, such as we do now. That is part of it. We want to be fair to consumers. We want to be fair to businesses and not to make the requirement any more onerous than it must be, just to meet the requirements, to be fair to businesses. We have been consulting with businesses and consumer groups and talking to these groups and, hopefully, for like magazines and greeting cards, some of these things can be overcome. We hope there will be some achievements on television advertisements. We hope reasonable compromises can be arrived at that will be fair both to consumers and business.
Madam Speaker, in closing, as I promised, I will be brief, I remind all honourable members that this bill is only part of the government's commitment to tax reform. Bill No. 48
is an important part, but in understanding the full benefits to Nova Scotia, members must take into account the income tax cuts and the direct assistance. It is all part of a package. It is a package, it is a package our side strongly supports and we now put it forward for House approval on this vote. I ask all honourable members to support the bill. (Applause)
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 48. We have a request for a recorded vote. Have the Whips conferred on a time? Are you suggesting any time for the bells to ring? Five minutes? Thank you.
A recorded vote is being called for.
Ring the bells. Call in the members.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mrs. Norrie Mr. Donahoe
Mr. Downe Dr. Hamm
Mr. Boudreau Mr. Russell
Dr. Savage Mr. Moody
Mr. Gillis Mr. Chisholm
Ms. Jolly Mr. Holm
Mr. MacEachern Ms. O'Connell
Mr. Mann Mr. Archibald
Mr. Harrison Mr. Leefe
Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes
Mr. O'Malley Mr. Taylor
Mr. Surette Mr. MacLeod
THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 12.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 50
Bill No. 50 - Registered Nurses Act.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Madam Speaker, I am not going to spend much time with my remarks on this bill. I think all honourable members are very familiar with it. I just want to update the members of the House. As this bill has worked its way through the process and the various stages, there were some representations which came forward from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union with respect to certain provisions in the bill. They were able to meet with the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia, who are, obviously, the interested parties and the sponsors of the bill, and also with personnel from the Department of Health. The meetings were lengthy but they turned out to be very productive. The result you have before you now, the amended bill as it has come back from the Law Amendments Committee, reflects the unanimous opinion of those parties after they had the opportunity to work in concert on the legislation.
So I would recommend this piece of legislation to all members of the House. It is a step forward. It will deliver all of the benefits that we discussed at earlier stages of the legislation
and I would commend it to the members for their favourable consideration and, with that, move third reading.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I just want to rise and speak in favour of Bill No. 50, as amended. I want to commend RNANS, the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, the NSGEU and the Department of Health, in working together to make amendments that I think improve the bill. I think in its initial stage the bill - obviously I believe in the principle of the bill - at that time there were some areas where both the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the NSGEU felt that there could be improvements in such areas as spelling out how those board members are elected, even though it was done in by-law. I think that even in Law Amendments Committee, in saying that some of the things could have been spelled out in regulation or in by-laws that we now have in legislation and no, it can't be changed, unless it is brought back to the Legislature.
So, Mr. Speaker, I commend the minister for his intervening in negotiations between all the parties and being able to bring this bill back in such a short time, in a form now that all parties agree to. I am pleased, on third reading, to support Bill No. 50 and I look forward to it going on to pass today.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak for just a few moments on Bill No. 50 on third reading. My intervention on second reading made the point that this is another piece of legislation with respect to the governance of health professionals in the Province of Nova Scotia. When the Blueprint Committee made their recommendations and when it came down in April 1994, one of the recommendations they made in their report was that the Department of Health, that the government should set up a Human Resources Committee which would have, as one subcommittee, a committee responsible for coming up with legislation affecting the governance of all health professionals in the Province of Nova Scotia, in order to ensure that there is a standardization from one practice and from one discipline to the other.
That has not been done, I think to the disadvantage of the medical profession, Mr. Speaker. I urge this minister and his department to move on that, along with other legislation regulating allied health professionals.
That having been said, Bill No. 50, An Act Respecting the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia, I have supported this bill and I continue to support the bill. It has come about as a result of some considerable effort by the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia and I commend them for their determination to get the department to table it and to have it go through this House.
They met with us, as I know they met with the Tory caucus back a few months ago. There were some discussions with other organizations, in particular the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Nurses' Union. As the minister said when he was introducing the bill at third reading, there has been a fair bit of cooperation amongst those groups, in order to try to make changes to this bill, to deal with some concerns, especially in the area of professional conduct. There were a number of changes that had been recommended primarily by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, in order to, I think, ensure fair and due justice and processes that were for the protection not only of the nurses, but also of the associations and other employment relationships that they may have with their employer. I too want to commend the Registered Nurses Association and the other organizations that represent nurses, perhaps in a different way, but nonetheless represent their interests at the workplace, that they have come together and hammered out this agreement in order to make this a better piece of legislation, perhaps, than it was when it was first introduced. That could not have been done without the agreement and co-operation of the Minister of Health.
Let it be noted that this may in fact be the first time that I have given such kudos to the Minister of Health. I hope it is not the last. I hope I see the minister follow some of my other recommendations but I will not hold my breath. I am sure that that is not what is going to motivate his actions. Nonetheless, let me say that Bill No. 50 as it goes through with the changes is a better bill because of co-operation among the organizations involved and the Department of Health. I will indicate my willingness to support the bill and vote in favour of it and urge my colleagues to do the same.
MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the honourable Minister of Health to close the debate on this bill, are there any further speakers?
The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: I would like first of all to thank all members for their interventions and their support in all stages of consideration of this legislation. I would like to thank personnel from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union for the very positive way they approached this process and the spirit of co-operation which they demonstrated in reaching the amended bill as we now see it and especially I would like to thank the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia who deserve the lion's share of credit for this piece of legislation. (Applause) So with thanks to all of those people I would commend this bill to the consideration of the House and move third reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 50. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say I thank the Government House Leader for reverting to this order of business. As I have indicated at various times during the session, ever since we initiated this anti-BST campaign, petitions have been coming in fast and furious. Today in fact I have two packages, one with 136 names and another with 322 names which I will be tabling. Let me just for the record indicate the final operative clause, as I have said before, "We call upon the Liberal government to scrap the BST and live up to their commitment to bring in fair tax reform." As I do table these, a grand total now of 8,857 names, I say that undoubtedly there will be many more and we will continue on behalf of those Nova Scotians opposed to the BST to bring these to the attention of the government, whether we are sitting in this House or not.
MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Notices of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the kindness of the Government House Leader for allowing me . . .
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye. (Applause)
MR. DONAHOE: My goodness, they are not even in tune, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to thank the Government House Leader for reverting to this order of business. These notices of motion were on my desk at the beginning of business at 8:00 o'clock and I was unavoidably detained and late for the House this morning. I appreciate his kindness to me.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the family of Warren Edward Sheppard held an information picket at Province House yesterday asking for answers from the Community Services Minister on the internal review of Mr. Sheppard's murder on March 13, 1996; and
Whereas the overall question posed to the minister is, "Do we need another tragedy to get action on small options homes."; and
Whereas while the family feels a review is warranted, they are asking the minister to make the results of the internal review to date public; keep the family informed and involve interested parties in the review; hold a full public inquiry; put in place comprehensive provincial regulations and standards with penalties, and introduce legislation to back the regulations;
Therefore be it resolved that the minister listen to the family and help find the answers which they are seeking in the murder of Mr. Sheppard by calling a full public inquiry, an exercise which may help prevent a similar incident in the future.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the restructuring of Canada's militia is still in the planning stages; and
Whereas armoured units are a mandatory part of any modern military and are required to train other combat arms units and guard strategic lines of communications in times of crisis; and
Whereas Nova Scotia's militia has been without an armoured regiment since the venerable and much honoured Halifax Rifles were transferred to the Supplementary Order of Battle at no strength and ceased to be in 1965;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier call upon the Minister of National Defence and the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on National Defence to re-establish the Halifax Rifles as an armoured unit within the City of Halifax for the training and safety of all Nova Scotian citizen soldiers.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that the notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government's business.
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour the Lieutenant Governor is without.
MR. SPEAKER: Let His Honour be admitted.
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.]
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable John James Kinley, preceded by his escort, and by Mr. Douglas Giles, Acting Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took his seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Wayne Gaudet; Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur; and Acting Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C. They took up their positions at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
MR. SPEAKER: May it please Your Honour, the General Assembly of the Province has, in its present session, passed certain bills to which in the name and on behalf of the General Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's Assent.
Bill No. 2 - Securities Act.
Bill No. 6 - Animal Cruelty Prevention Act.
Bill No. 8 - Court and Administrative Reform Act.
Bill No. 10 - Regional Community Development Act.
Bill No. 14 - Occupiers' Liability Act.
Bill No. 28 - Motor Vehicle Act.
Bill No. 30 - Motor Vehicle Act.
Bill No. 31 - Real Estate Trading Act.
Bill No. 34 - Izaak Walton Killam-Grace Health Centre Act.
Bill No. 35 - Université Sainte-Anne Act/Loi de l'Université Sainte-Anne.
Bill No. 37 - River John Voluntary Fire Department Dissolution Act.
Bill No. 38 - Lunenburg Street Closing and Location Act, 1996.
Bill No. 39 - Bridgewater Curling Club (1996) Act.
Bill No. 40 - Yarmouth County Historical Society Financial Assistance Act.
Bill No. 41 - Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act.
Bill No. 42 - Victorian Order of Nurses Act.
Bill No. 43 - Condominium Act.
Bill No. 44 - Dalhousie-Technical University Amalgamation Act.
Bill No. 46 - Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Corporation Act.
Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act.
Bill No. 50 - Registered Nurses Act.
Bill No. 47 - Revenue Act.
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:
In Her Majesty's name, I Assent to these Bills.
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.]
[The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour, the Speaker.
[The Speaker took the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, and members of the House of Assembly, I move that this General Assembly be now adjourned, to meet again at the call of the Speaker. I wish all members a happy holiday season. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: May I take this opportunity on behalf of myself and from all of us here at Province House to wish warmest greetings and best wishes for this festive season to each and every one of you and to your families. Joyeux Noë1 à tous.
The House is adjourned.
[The House rose at 2:05 p.m.]
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Given on December 20, 1996
(Pursuant to Rule 30)
QUESTION NO. 34
By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)
To: Hon. Allister Surette (Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs)
(1) Has the minister looked into the financial difficulties faced by the only Acadian paper in the province, Le Courrier de la Nouvelle Ecosse?
(2) If so, what has been the government's actions to date on the issue?