The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Mon., Dec. 9, 1996

Fourth Session

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm 3167
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Private and Local Bills Committee, Mr. P. MacEwan 3168
Private and Local Bills Committee, Mr. P. MacEwan 3168
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1054, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Scrap, Dr. J. Hamm 3169
Res. 1055, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Dictatorial Treatment -
Condemn, Mr. R. Chisholm 3169
Res. 1056, House of Assembly - Rule Book: New - Print, Mr. R. Russell 3170
Res. 1057, Justice - Institutions: Abuse Compensation -
Fairness Show, Mr. T. Donahoe 3170
Res. 1058, Justice - Institutions: Abuse Compensation -
Methodology Condemn, Mr. J. Holm 3171
Res. 1059, Culture - Country Music: Wilf Carter, Death of -
Sincere Condolences Relay, Mr. G. Archibald 3172
Vote - Affirmative 3172
Res. 1060, Health - Hants Commun. Hosp.: Funding Adequate -
Provide, Mr. R. Russell 3172
Res. 1061, Food Banks (Constituencies) - MLAs: Generosity -
Extend, Mr. D. McInnes 3173
Vote - Affirmative 3173
Res. 1062, Justice - Maintenance Enforcement Program: Delays -
Sufferers Consult, Mr. T. Donahoe 3174
Res. 1063, Fin. - Economy (N.S.): Policy (Gov't. [N.S.]) Effect -
Recognition Urge, Mr. R. Chisholm 3174
Res. 1064, Premier - Concerns (N.S.): Consultation - Attempt,
Mr. D. McInnes 3175
Res. 1065, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Anna. Valley MLAs -
Oppose, Mr. G. Archibald 3175
Res. 1066, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization:
Principles (Min.) Abandoned - Condemn, Mr. J. Holm 3176
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 48, Sales Tax Act 3177
Amendment [Six months' hoist - debate resumed] 3177
Mr. R. Russell 3177
Mr. T. Donahoe 3191
Mr. J. Holm 3203
Mr. G. Moody 3216
Mr. B. Taylor 3230
Mr. D. McInnes 3247
Ms. E. O'Connell 3255
Mr. G. Archibald 3269
Mr. A. MacLeod 3284
Vote - Negative 3296
The Premier 3296
Mr. R. Chisholm 3299
Amendment [PAC] moved 3311
Dr. J. Hamm 3311
Mr. R. Russell 3324
Mr. T. Donahoe 3341
Adjournment moved 3353
Vote - Negative 3355
Mr. J. Holm 3355
Adjournment of House moved 3369
HOUSE RECESSED AT 11:50 P.M. 3371
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 11:55 P.M. 3371
Vote - Negative 3372
Mr. G. Moody 3372
Adjourned debate 3372
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Dec. 10th at 8:00 a.m. 3373
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Dec. 10th at 8:00 a.m.

Fourth Session

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1996

[Page 3167]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

8:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now begin with the daily proceedings of the House.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure this morning to table a petition representing another 689 signatures from Nova Scotians who are opposed to the BST. The operative clause asks the Liberal Government, ". . . to scrap the BST and live up to their commitment to bring in fair tax reform.". I will affix my signature to the top copy and so table.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

3167

[Page 3168]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

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 Act.

Bill No. 40 - Yarmouth County Historical Society Financial Assistance Act.

Bill No. 46 - Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Corporation Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 35 - Université Sainte-Anne Act / Loi de l'Université Sainte-Anne.

Bill No. 42 - Victorian Order of Nurses Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

[Page 3169]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition

RESOLUTION NO. 1054

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 Minister of Finance introduced then removed the business services tax because of its negative impact on the Nova Scotia economy; and

Whereas the former Minister of Finance stated upon withdrawing the tax that every measure is going to have "some negative impact . . . and that we underestimated the impact of that measure"; and

Whereas the former minister stood in this House on May 24, 1994 and stated very candidly that, "we . . .", his government, ". . . underestimated the impact of that measure.";

Therefore be it resolved that this government quit guessing and rolling the dice with the pocketbooks of Nova Scotia taxpayers and scrap this pernicious and punishing BS Tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1055

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas thousands of Nova Scotians have signed petitions opposing the Liberal Government's BS Tax;

Whereas the government's response to the outpouring of public opposition have been to raise the drawbridge, batten down the hatches, retreat behind the strength of their majority and prepare to ram the BS Tax through the Legislature with the help of 16 hour days; and

Whereas this action demonstrates complete and utter contempt for Nova Scotian voters who gave the Liberals no mandate to impose an unfair and regressive tax like the BST;

[Page 3170]

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Liberals for their dictatorial treatment of members of this House and their contemptuous attitude towards the voters of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1056

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the government has added more haphazard changes to the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly in its short three and one-half years of power than any other Nova Scotian Government in history; and

Whereas the government has made so many changes just recently that it is probably time for a new booklet outlining the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly; and

Whereas an updated reference, however short-lived it may be, would allow those on the Opposition benches to understand better what it is that they can and cannot do in the Legislature;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government announce forthwith a tender for the printing of a new book of Rules and Forms of Procedure with loose-leaf pages to accommodate the daily changes.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1057

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 3171]

Whereas 900 victims of abuse at government-run institutions have effectively had their lives suspended yet again as this government reworks its compensation process; and

Whereas the new rules this government has established have more to do with establishing stricter criteria that will lower the value of claims than justice and fairness; and

Whereas almost 40 per cent of this government's compensation fund has already been spent yet three-quarters of all victims' claims have not been settled;

Therefore be it resolved that this government's bottom line in dealing with the victims of abuse at government institutions be fairness and justice, rather than trying to get the lowest dollar settlement.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1058

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on May 3, 1996, the former Minister of Justice, on behalf of the government and the people of Nova Scotia, agreed on a process to compensate all victims of sexual and physical abuse at provincial youth institutions; and

Whereas the current Minister of Justice has broken faith with those victims and with all Nova Scotians by imposing a series of unilateral changes to the agreement that will inflict further suffering and pain upon those victims of abuse; and

Whereas the current Minister of Justice announced the changes from deep in his Terminal Road bunker, since he didn't have the courage to do so before the people of Nova Scotia and the members of this House;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the cowardly and scurrilous way in which the Minister of Justice has carried out his responsibility to the victims of abuse at provincial institutions.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 3172]

RESOLUTION NO. 1059

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Wilf Carter, a country music artist who last week passed away a the age of 91, was born in Port Hilford, Guysborough County but grew up in Canning, Kings County; and

Whereas Wilf Carter had developed a truly unique three-in-one or echo yodel which became a trademark of his performance; and

Whereas for over six decades he sang his songs which reflected a down-home, simple life, songs about cowboy life, fur trappers and other Canadiana;

Therefore be it resolved that the Speaker relay sincere condolences on behalf of the Members of the Legislature to the Carter family on the passing of Wilf Carter, a Nova Scotia country music legend.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the member requesting waiver of notice?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes.

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 Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1060

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Health is now more concerned about having his department become a lending institution, instead of providing the effective delivery of health care; and

Whereas the Minister of Health in this Legislature on Thursday of last week attempted to skate around the fundamental issue of financing for the Hants Community Hospital by going over the number of meetings he has had with hospital personnel; and

[Page 3173]

Whereas in order to maintain existing services, the people of Hants County are now evidently expected to hold bake and craft sales;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health stop patting himself on the back for attending a couple of meetings and face the real issue of providing a concrete level of health care for the citizens of Hants West, both today and in the future, by providing adequate funding for the operation of the Hants Community Hospital.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1061

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas December is considered by most people to be the month for displaying special generosity and kindness to friends, family and strangers; and

Whereas many Nova Scotians are worrying about job security and the ever-increasing cost of basic necessities; and

Whereas some Nova Scotians are having an especially difficult time this year and anticipate an even more difficult year in 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that each member of this House promise to make an extra special effort to be generous in their own constituency with a personal donation to a food bank or community service group which is so valiantly trying to help Nova Scotians cope.

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 Halifax Citadel.

[Page 3174]

RESOLUTION NO. 1062

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas complaints continue to mount respecting the chronic delays of payments through the Maintenance Enforcement Program; and

Whereas one female client of the program recently stated publicly that she did not have any serious problem receiving her support payments until she enrolled in the program; and

[8:15 a.m.]

Whereas the Minister of Justice refuses to make any changes until he has consulted with the Director of Maintenance Enforcement Program who has stated publicly that there are no major problems with the program;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice consult with those Nova Scotians who are suffering as a direct result of payment delays through the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1063

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey reveals that on an adjusted basis there were 53,000 Nova Scotians officially unemployed in November; and

Whereas this represents an increase of 6,000 jobless from November 1995 and an increase in the rate of unemployment over the past year from 10.7 per cent in November 1995 to 12.1 per cent in November 1996; and

Whereas these unemployment figures clearly show the policy failure of this government and its Ottawa counterpart;

[Page 3175]

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to recognize that Liberal low wage, cut and slash policies are creating an unhealthy economy in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1064

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Yarmouth Development Corporation has expressed in recent months their immense frustration with this Liberal Government's lack of tourism coverage for their area; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Development Corporation in an August letter to Premier Savage expressed concern over how Yarmouth County was being promoted by the province; and

Whereas the Premier failed to directly acknowledge the concerns of the Yarmouth Development Corporation; instead he had a letter sent from the executive director of the Nova Scotia Marketing Agency essentially refuting concerns expressed by the corporation;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier of this province attempt at least some small form of consultation with Nova Scotians instead of consistently taking the unrelenting attitude of, I am right and you are wrong, which only continues to build upon the growing distain the people of Nova Scotia have towards this Liberal Government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1065

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in the past 12 months the Annapolis Valley has lost 3,000 jobs according to the November figures of the provincial Department of Finance; and

[Page 3176]

Whereas the Annapolis Valley usually bustles with retail activity during the Christmas season, poor consumer confidence and little or no job security will mean a blue Christmas for too many Valley residents; and

Whereas on April 1st the BS Tax will be the final knockout against an already struggling economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal members of this Legislature from the Valley stand up on behalf of their jobless constituents to scrap the BST.

Mr. Speaker, I have had a request to tell the honourable minister across the floor what the farmer said over the weekend about this government. Could I have a few minutes to discuss what the agricultural community said about these rascals?

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1066

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on April 25, 1989, the present Minister of Finance said during questioning of the Premier of the day that sales taxes are regressive and do not recognize a person's ability to pay; and

Whereas the present Minister of Finance challenged the Premier of that day to have the intestinal fortitude to tell his Tory brother, Mr. Mulroney, that "Nova Scotians are vehemently opposed to a national sales tax"; and

Whereas the national sales tax the present Minister of Finance so opposed in 1989 at least had the redeeming feature of a rebate program for low income Canadians that reduced its regressive nature somewhat, while the BS Tax being pushed by the Minister of Finance does not;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the present Minister of Finance for leaving his principles behind when he crossed from Opposition to government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 3177]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 48.

Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, speaking on Bill No. 48 and the motion to hoist this bill for a period of six months. I would like to meet the Liberal morning shift, I presume, that we have with us at the moment. I don't know what time the shift changes, I presume it is around about noon and the second shift will come on.

AN HON. MEMBER: I wonder why they are not working 16 hours a day. They say Nova Scotians do it all the time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: I don't know, but it surprises me that there is such a large first shift. I thought the back shift would be the large one. But you have enough people here to maintain a quorum all by yourselves. So, I presume, as long as we keep a speaker up, Mr. Speaker, all that we have to do then is to leave them to have 14 people present. Anyway, I know that you are anxious for me to get on with the debate on the hoist of Bill No. 48.

I had a little bit of spare time over the weekend, Mr. Speaker, and I had the opportunity to not only read Bill No. 48 and to examine it in some detail, but I also had an opportunity to look at another bill, the bill it is replacing, called the Revenue Act. This bill is around about seven or eight pages, something like that. I don't know how many clauses, to be quite honest, around about 15 or 20, I guess. The bill that it is replacing has approximately 100 clauses on 50 pages, so we are talking about a very condensed bill that is going to describe this tax and that is the reason why this bill has to be given a six months' hoist. It is going to enable people to compare what this province is giving away with the advent of the blended sales tax.

[Page 3178]

Mr. Speaker, back on November 5th, which is Guy Fawkes Day, actually, we had, in Nova Scotia, the Revenue Minister, the Honourable Jane Stewart. She said, at least she was quoted as saying, if you do not like the proposed harmonized sales tax or the effect it will have on you, speak your mind. Well, that is the problem. This lady had the right idea. She said, people are going to have an opportunity to speak their mind. Even in the House that we are sitting in today, the members do not have the opportunity to speak their mind.

This bill should have come forward in draft form with more detail, mind you, than the present bill has gotten, presented to the members of the Legislature, presented to the public of Nova Scotia and that everybody take a careful look at what the impact of this legislation is going to be on their lives. Then it would be apparent to me that a committee of the House, perhaps the Law Amendments Committee or the Public Accounts Committee, tour the province and garner opinion from the public of Nova Scotia. I am sure that if that was done, the people would feel a little better about the HST.

There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that no matter where you travel in this province that people are telling us and, I am sure, telling the Liberal members as well, that they do not like this tax. They do not like the tax at all. Now, nobody likes taxes, but this one is disliked more, if you can believe it, than the GST and that is very hard to believe.

Mr. Speaker, it has taken a long time, I think, for the media in this province to come around to examine what the impact of this tax would be. In fact, it has taken an awfully long time because it is only very recently, for instance, the two daily newspapers that cover Nova Scotia have really come out with a solid position on the blended sales tax.

I would suggest that one of the reasons why we should have a six months' hoist is because of the fact that these newspapers create public opinion because they have the ability to distribute information. I guess that the Minister of Community Services can understand that because his government has been running full page advertisements of recent date. They paid $75,000 to publish a (Interruptions) It didn't cost $75,000. I haven't got the numbers. Mr. Speaker, I shouldn't be talking to him should I, no I should be talking to you. I don't know what that advertisement that we put in the paper (Interruptions) $4,000 to $5,000 was the cost of the advertisement we put in the paper. We were asking the public to tell us about the tax. The one that the government put in was there telling the people about the BST, not asking for their opinions on whether or not the tax was beneficial to them.

In Saturday's paper there was a great cartoon in the editorial section saying Bill No. 48, "You've been had.", I am sure everybody saw that. The column beside the cartoon is the one that I think is very much to the point. It starts off by saying the obvious, that, ". . . Ottawa and the three provincial governments which plan to merge their sales taxes . . .". Then it goes on to say that they, ". . . have a growing credibility problem on the benefits of the BST.". They go on to explain what the Minister of Finance has been telling businesses and the people around the Province of Nova Scotia that the main reason this tax will be of benefit to the

[Page 3179]

province, ". . . is that businesses will get tax credits for all purchases for their own use and will pass those savings on to consumers.". We in the Opposition have been hammering the point that it just isn't so.

Finally, we have made the point to the extent that now the newspaper is also agreeing with what we have been saying. Certainly, that is what the Retail Council of Atlantic Canada has also been telling the government over the past few months.

The day before this editorial that I just quoted in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald is a piece called, "No savings From BST, say biz reps.". The column, interestingly enough, starts off with, "Suspicions confirmed.". It goes on to say that, "Business representatives in Atlantic Canada made it crystal clear Thursday the new blended sales tax with tax-included pricing won't save consumers any money.". I don't think we have to go too far to find the proof of that.

By hoisting this bill we are going to give those groups around this province, both business and consumer, the opportunity to present to government their arguments why this tax should be scrapped. Mr. Speaker, this tax should be scrapped.

You will notice that initially the Retail Council of Atlantic Canada said that this tax, they thought, was going to be a good idea. Now that they have taken a look at it they have come to an entirely different conclusion.

I have a brief which was on the harmonized tax presented by a major retailer in the area. He has made a number of what I think are fairly significant reasons why this tax is not what it is made out to be. For instance he says that the first myth about this tax is that consumers want to see the tax buried in the price; in other words, so that it is invisible until you get to the cash register. This group agrees with that.

[8:30 a.m.]

However, that opinion of the consumer rapidly changes when you tell them that the sticker price is going to include the GST; in other words, Mr. Speaker, they will see the price that they are paying at the cash register but that won't be the same price that they saw on the item a week prior to the imposition of the harmonized sales tax. In other words, there is going to be quite a sticker shock for everybody, I would suggest, on April 1st when they go into a store, find an item that would normally be listed as, say, $1.00 and now it is listed at $1.15.

The surprising thing is that in response to a questionnaire sent out by the government people agreed they would like to see tax-included pricing, but when you ask the same question, would you agree that the present tax that you are paying at the cash register will be included in the price of the item on the shelves, they change their minds. What the government had created for the public was the impression that the goods and services tax was

[Page 3180]

being removed, and, of course, it wasn't; it was just being given a different name and up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent.

The Minister of Finance has told us over and over again that the cost of converting to this new system of pricing, that is tax-included pricing on the shelf and the breaking out of the tax at the cash register, was a simple matter. In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, it is a very complex matter. We are told, for instance, by a pharmacy in Saint John, New Brunswick, that the one-time cost for software changes is $600; the one-time cost for shelf label changes is almost $3,900; labour costs, and this is ongoing, will be $41,000 per anum; they estimate they will lose 5 per cent to 10 per cent of sales to sticker shock; with a total estimated cost of the BST of $51,000 per annum for this one store.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance will say, yes, but that is fine, there is a cost to implementation and the maintaining of a system to work the blended sales tax. However, think of the savings accrued by tax credits. In this actual case they did add up the tax credits that the pharmacy will receive and they amount to about $11,000 per year. So, all in all, for this pharmacy the BST is going to have a negative impact of approximately $40,000 per year on this one business.

That pharmacy isn't alone, Mr. Speaker. That is multiplied hundreds of times across the Atlantic Provinces, as stores have to accommodate the new system. So there is a cost to the system and, indeed, the cost of changing over cash register systems and software is not cheap. It costs money.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has told us about all the jobs that will be created with the advent of the harmonized tax. Well, I can't find any model that will demonstrate to me that that will actually happen. In fact, I think it is generally recognized by every economist, and every person who does a study of taxation and the impact of increases and decreases of certain tax elements will agree that if you add sales tax to the system, a larger percentage than heretofore, then actually the number of jobs decreases. (Interruption)

The Minister of Community Services says you are taking money out. Exactly, you are taking money out for the benefit of the government. The cost to the consumer in this province, Mr. Speaker, by the minister's own department, is $84 million. Well, I would suggest that that is going to be much higher than the $84 million that he was estimating a little while ago. In fact, I understand that his own department has now revised the figures to $100 million. (Interruption)

So there is $100 million extra cost to the consumers of this province. (Interruption) Well, $100 million, Mr. Speaker, is the additional cost. The actual cost that the minister told us was $84 million, but, however, as I say, that has changed now to $100 million. How much less is the province taking in? Well, that is a good question, too. If the province is taking in less income, and it well may, overall, that money is not going to go back into the economy.

[Page 3181]

It is going to go to support businesses at the present time that are having a very difficult time maintaining themselves in this province. Many businesses in this province, at the present time, are running along with a margin of 2 per cent or 3 per cent. That is not sufficient for viability. So that if, indeed, there are credit pass-throughs in the system, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are not going to get out to the consumer because they are needed by the business to sustain itself.

Mr. Speaker, the thing is that there will be no new jobs created. In fact, there will be a loss of jobs. In fact, this particular document that I have here is from a retailer with, I think, approximately 55 stores in the Atlantic Provinces and I forget the number of employees, I did have it in here somewhere, but it is well over 1,000 employees that they have in the Atlantic Provinces, of which a considerable number are in the Province of Nova Scotia. This retailer is saying to us that if, indeed, this government goes ahead with the blended sales tax, and they seem to be going hell bent for leather to do just that, then, indeed, there is a very good chance that this chain of stores will shut down and they will go out of business and a substantial number of people will lose their jobs. That is the negative side of it and, if that is just one chain of stores, I can see this being repeated all across this province. Because once you start taking money from people, $84 million to $100 million from their pockets, they are going to have less money to spend and they are going to, thus, not create jobs, they are going to be just spending to maintain themselves.

Mr. Speaker, the other day, I noticed that, I think it was the Premier, I believe, who said that he had received a few calls against the BST, but he had received a lot of calls in favour of the BST. Well, I don't doubt what the Premier is telling us, but, however, I am sure that whoever is answering his phone could probably tell him a different story because we have been inundated in our caucus office, and I think all our members have been inundated at home, with calls from people across this province who are adamantly opposed to the imposition of this tax, because people are now beginning to recognize exactly what it is going to do to them.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that when you start looking at the various sectors across this province that have advised at least our office and our members about the BST, it is easy to recognize why people are becoming not only upset, but really terrified of the impact of the HST.

I picked up a piece from the Canadian Automobile Association, Mr. Speaker, just three or four days ago, and I ripped it out and photocopied it. This is from Steve McCall, the President of CAA Maritimes, and he is talking about taxing travel, and he says, "What's more stereotypically Canadian than say the expression 'eh' or a Bloody Caesar or he 'shoots, he scores'? The answer, of course, is TAXES!", and how true that is. "When it comes to taxes, Canadians are world experts. We have them all. Excise tax, income tax, bridge tolls, tire taxes, airport taxes, value added taxes . . .", et cetera. Then he goes on to say later on, "Maritimers are about to clinch our position as the tax experts among Canadians. We will be

[Page 3182]

the first, it seems, to deal with the new Harmonized Sales Tax (officially known by the short form HST but widely known by a more disparaging phrase)".

Then he goes on about what the effect of this tax will be on travel, and it is very true. We will be able to travel from Halifax to Sydney by air and we will pay a 15 per cent tax on our tickets. Now, somebody travelling from Charlottetown to Sydney, of course, won't pay 15 per cent; they will pay 7 per cent. But the peculiar thing, Mr. Speaker, is if you are flying from here down to the U.S. or if you are flying across to China or going to Europe, you will not pay that tax. Isn't that strange that we are taxing travel in our own country and encouraging people to fly out of the country for their vacations.

Of course, we had a Department of Tourism back in the good old days and we had a Department of Tourism that was promoting tourism in the Province of Nova Scotia and doing a very fine job. In fact, every year the tourism sector showed an increase in traffic, showed an increase in dollars being spent on tourism. This year, strangely enough, we have gone down. Last year, we had the G-7 here and that boosted it up, but if it hadn't been for the G-7 I doubt if we would have had record numbers last year. So, I am not surprised that this government would think it would be a great idea to tax tourism within Nova Scotia, for all Nova Scotians to pay. That would seem to be the way they would tackle everything; if it isn't broke, they try to fix it. As I say, the tourism industry in this province certainly wasn't broken in this province; it was doing a find job under a minister and a department that was devoted to promoting tourism. But, however, now this government is devoted to promoting taxes and they are going to tax the tourists out of this province.

There is also a letter that I have, Mr. Speaker, along the same lines from Transport 2000. Transport 2000 is an organization, as you know, that runs an airline. They go on to say, "Amid much discussion of the new harmonized or Blended Sales Tax, it has been ERRONEOUSLY reported that public passenger transportation will NOT be taxed.". He goes on to say that, "This is true for urban transit where NO GST is now levied. However for inter-city bus, rail, or air tickets (i.e. any out of town travel) the tax will MORE THAN DOUBLE, from 7% to 15%.". So, they have made their views known.

I have another letter here, Mr. Speaker, and this is from a hardware store down in Bridgewater, down on the South Shore. It is a Home Hardware Store down there and the gentleman doesn't mind us using his letter. He, too, is upset about the tax and he goes on to say that he operates a Home Hardware Store, employing 58 people, 47 of them, by the way, full-time employees not just part-time. He goes on in his letter to state his dissatisfaction with the imposition of the health services tax.

[Page 3183]

[8:45 a.m.]

These are people who, quite obviously, that when the Minister of Finance was out supposedly meeting with these 80-odd groups that quite a few groups fell between the cracks. In fact, if you examine the list of the people and organizations that the Minister of Health met with, you will find in truth that there are a number of repeats in that 80 and that most of these groups are chambers of commerce, boards of trade, et cetera and most of those have now changed their mind but those were the groups he met with. The Minister of Finance did not meet with Mr. Joe Brown, or Mr. Joe Smith, or Mrs. Mary Smith.

This one, I thought, was rather interesting. Prince Edward Island, the cradle of Confederation, just across the water here now joined by a bridge, they now have a fixed link between the Mainland and the Island. The Government of Prince Edward Island, being very democratic said we are not going to push our people in the Province of Prince Edward Island into unchartered waters. We are going to go out and tell them what this harmonized sales tax is all about. We are going to ask for their opinions and we are going to take those opinions and based on that we will make a decision as to whether or not we will join our fellow Canadian provinces in the harmonized tax scheme, along with the federal government.

They put together a special committee, not a standing committee of the House and they gave them carte blanche to go on out and hold public meetings, by public meetings I am not just talking about something like what will occur on this bill in the Law Amendments Committee, a public meeting where anybody could come and listen, where anybody could come and present their views, where people would be on the platform who could answer their questions quite truthfully or if they didn't have the answers they had sufficient staff along with them to answer questions and to explain to people what it was all about. They held a large number of meetings but there were only eight actual public hearings. They were at various points around the Island. They met and they had 47 full-time presentations to that committee.

Their report said that a strong majority stated opposition to Prince Edward Island joining the federal government's sales tax harmonization plan. The most often cited reason centered on the belief that the consumer would end up paying more taxes and in particular low income families would suffer disproportionately under harmonization. It was also at those meetings the belief that businesses would pass on savings from tax credit to the consumers was debunked and nobody really believed that that was going to happen.

The committee reported back to the government and said that, "After considering the matter, the Committee has come to the conclusion that the Province of Prince Edward Island should not harmonize its sales tax with the federal GST. The Committee believes that the sales tax harmonization proposal would not be beneficial to the province and its people. As well, harmonization would result in diminished provincial control over a major revenue raising measure. The Committee recognizes that non-harmonization could potentially have a negative

[Page 3184]

impact on some sectors of the Island . . . down the road", but they suggested that the government could make adjustments in this regard.

So, Prince Edward Island did not join and why didn't they join? I don't think the people of Prince Edward Island are very different than the people of Nova Scotia. If the people of Prince Edward Island said so definitely that we don't want any part of this harmonized sales tax, I believe that if the question was put to the people of this province, Mr. Speaker, that they, too, would make the same determination.

AN HON. MEMBER: Given the chance, they'd say no.

MR. RUSSELL: If they had a chance, they would say no.

AN HON. MEMBER: I wonder if the government would like to take up a petition to see if they can get anybody to sign it . . .

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I just heard a comment to my left, Mr. Speaker, that it is very easy to put out a petition so that the government will tell us, and to get people signing it against anything that the government is doing, but I am wondering what, indeed, would happen if you put out a petition and say that I am in favour of the blended sales tax and I wish that the Opposition would stop criticizing the government about the blended sales tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: They could table it in the House . . .

MR. RUSSELL: Well, they could probably get 40 signatures, I guess, from among their own members. There would be a few, I think, who might not want to sign that petition, but they could probably get a few signatures from members of the Legislature and probably from some of the other people who have gotten jobs in the government as a result of . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Patronage.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, no . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They did away with that, didn't they?

MR. RUSSELL: They did away with patronage like they did away with tax increases.

Anyway, I don't think they would get very many signatures, Mr. Speaker, and I would guarantee that for every signature they got, we could get at least 100 that would say the opposite, that they want no part of the blended sales tax. That is what really astounds me; if, indeed, this tax is so good, if, indeed, there is going to be milk and honey from now on when the blended sales tax comes in, I wonder why it is that the government is so reluctant to go out and talk to the people, why it is so reluctant to say, well look, why don't we hold off until

[Page 3185]

we come to the next provincial election and we will state our platform - the government would say - and we are going to be for the health services tax, I wonder why they don't do that? Or why don't they go out with a referendum, at least give the people a chance.

No, they believe that they have the answer to every question, that their way is the right way. Well, Mr. Speaker, I just don't believe that a government could get that arrogant in three and one-half years. You might be able to do it if you stayed in power long enough, to think that you are pretty clever, but these birds have been around only three and one-half years and already they are on their way out, simply because of things like the health services tax which they are going to implement without talking to the people.

What is wrong with talking to the people? What is wrong with doing things in a slow and orderly fashion? Why do we have to reform everything and do it all today? Why can't we, first of all, plan where we want to go and then implement whatever it is we want to do along the way?

This government doesn't do things that way and this health services tax is the biggest blunder they have ever made. They are rushing, hell-bent for leather, into it and it sort of appals me that I am in the Opposition, against this government, yet I have to stand up and try and coax and cajole them into stopping them from cutting their own throats because that is exactly what they are going to do, Mr. Speaker. I am standing up here and saying to the government, don't do it, John, don't do it, but he is going to rush out and do it anyway. I sort of feel sorry because members of the Legislature are not covered by unemployment insurance - I don't know if you are aware of that or not - when you get turfed out of this place you don't get unemployment insurance; in fact, you don't even really get severance any more, so there is not much to look forward to when you step out of this House.

How much more time do I have, Mr. Speaker? Forty minutes, good Heavens. Twenty minutes, oh, I have lots of time.

So, Mr. Speaker, as I say, it is rather strange that the Opposition in this particular case is trying to save the government, trying to save them from the folly of their own ways. I think the Premier likes being Premier, I mean I think he sort of likes the title Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia and all the perks that go along with it, private airplane and all those kinds of things.

AN HON MEMBER: We sold that, remember?

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, you sold the airplane.

AN HON. MEMBER: Buchanan Air.

[Page 3186]

MR. RUSSELL: Anyway, I am sure the Premier likes being Premier so I am rather surprised that he has not finally seen the errors of the HST and said, tell you what we will do. We will put that on the back burner and we will leave it for another day, after we have been to the people and we have given them an opportunity to speak on it.

Mr. Speaker, I have a report here from the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Way back when - I think it was in July or August or September, sometime late in the summer - this organization along with a number of organizations were consulted by the government as to what they thought about the harmonization of the federal and provincial sales taxes. They listened to the ex-Minister of Finance, at that time Mr. Boudreau, who spoke to them a number of times about the tax. Generally speaking, the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce agreed with the government, but they said there are a number of changes you have to institute along the way to make it work, to make it acceptable. As I say, that was back in the late fall, and now we find that this same organization that the government met with and consulted with and supposedly listened to, find that the government has done nothing to alleviate their concerns. They too, one of the first organizations to agree to harmonization, are now opposed to it.

There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that chambers of commerce would be upset. Chambers of commerce as everybody knows are primarily made up of businesses. There are a few non-business representatives within the chambers, but primarily business. When you get businesses that are nationwide and very much in evidence in this city and in this province, such as the Canadian Tire Corporation, for instance. They are a pretty large organization. They are right across this country. I guess they have thousands and thousands and thousands of employees across Canada and probably 1,000 of those employees are probably in the Province of Nova Scotia, I would think. There are lots of Canadian Tire stores. Then there is the Hudson Bay Company. The Hudson Bay Company does not have too many stores in Nova Scotia, but they are very prominent retailers. We have Sears. At one time, of course, Sears used to be in every little town and village across Nova Scotia. They are not any more but they are still a dominant force within the retail market. The T. Eaton Company, Consumers Distributing, Shoppers Drug Mart - every town has a Shoppers Drug Mart - and Woolworth Canada. These are (Interruptions) I beg your pardon? They want it torn up. Exactly. Now. (Interruptions)

I know. The Minister of Community Services over there is always harping on things. This is the problem, Mr. Speaker, you stand up in this House and you have to guide the Minister of Community Services through a bill. I do not think he ever reads a piece of legislation that comes into this House. He just listens to what the Opposition has to say and then, based on that, he makes up his own mind whether he is going to support a bill or not. Of course, he is always very much in opposition to the Opposition. In other words, he is the opposition on the government side.

[Page 3187]

Anyway, what did these retailers - Canadian Tire, Consumers Distributing, T. Eaton Company, Hudson's Bay Company, Sears Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart and Woolworth have to say?

[9:00 a.m.]

They said that tax-inclusive pricing should not be introduced in the retail goods sector unless it is on a nationally uniform basis, one base, one rate, one administration, because it would be more complicated and significantly increase our costs, make us less efficient and has the potential to make us less competitive. They go on to explain why that is so. At the end, Mr. Speaker, they say, generally, they are opposed to the goods and services tax.

This one, of course, is from Ms. Diane J. Brisbois, and she is the President of the Retail Council of Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: She is against tax-inclusive pricing?

MR. RUSSELL: She is against all kinds of things, not just tax-inclusive pricing. She said when talking about the HST that again, we are dismayed that given all this complexity and serious cost burden, the government expects businesses to be physically able to adopt to the change. (Interruption) It is partially tax-inclusive pricing. We will come to some others in a few moments that are not that way. That was the opinion of the Retail Council of Canada.

Actually, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition across the way is talking about tax-inclusive pricing. You don't have to go to tax-inclusive pricing. I spoke to a chap on Saturday, I was in a Christmas parade, in fact, and he drew me to one side. He cuts wood for a living. He is out with a chainsaw cutting down trees. He was telling me about the impact of the harmonized sales tax on him. He is just a guy, as I say, that goes out and cuts down trees. Right now, he can buy his chainsaws, and he has the big chainsaws which cost around $1,000 each, without paying tax. He can get his gasoline without paying tax. He can, also, when he has to buy safety pants and boots and all those sort of things, he can get those without paying tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: GST?

MR. RUSSELL: No GST at the moment. (Interruption) There will be afterwards. That is the point. There will be afterwards and because he is not an employer, he cannot claim tax credits. Now, you might find that difficult to believe, but that is the ruling he received from the Department of Finance. He said, I might just as well go on welfare. This guy does not make a lot of money, as I say. He goes out and does contract cutting on other people's land and he is an individual contractor. It is going to cost him money. So I can tell you that there are others who are not in business who are not affected by tax and price-included stickers and they are opposed to this tax.

[Page 3188]

I also have a letter, Mr. Speaker, it is from, once again, one of my constituents and he runs minor hockey. This is not his letter, actually, but it is along the same lines. If you are running minor hockey, from now on you are going to have to pay tax on your fees, on your minor hockey registration rates and, also, you are going to have to pay tax on ice rentals. So people who are having a hard time getting their sons and daughters out either for figure skating or for hockey, are going to be stuck with higher fees. (Interruption)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Boy Scouts, Brownies and Guides.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, yes. The whole works. I am not surprised that they would tax the sale of chocolate bars.

AN HON. MEMBER: They would have to sell more to pay for the ice.

MR. RUSSELL: They would have to sell more, yes I agree, to pay for the ice.

Now the Minister of Health has his Department of Health organized so you have got to go out and have a cookie sale and sell chocolate bars. I guess they will be selling apples on corners to keep the hospital open. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous in your life? Asking a foundation which has been set up to provide equipment over and beyond what the Department of Health will supply, who have raised their money by knocking on doors or raised their money by bake sales, cookie sales, flea markets, et cetera, and say, take that money and put it into operating the hospital and then next year get out your tin cup again and raise some more money to keep your hospital going. What a way to run a Health Department.

I know I am getting off the subject. We are talking about a six months' hoist and why it is so important that we have this time so that these organizations that I am speaking about have an opportunity to come forward and tell their stories. For instance, one of the ones that came forward to tell their story was the Association of Unique Country Inns. This is an association of what you might call bed and breakfasts. These are vital to the tourism industry. In fact, it is truly amazing now that these historic inns are becoming the accommodation of choice for people who have to travel. For instance, people who are salespersons who travel the province selling their wares, et cetera, may have to spend a day or two on the road and they use the bed and breakfasts as a preferable accommodation overnight rather than a motel.

What do they have to say about this. "The Nova Scotia Association of Unique Country Inns has thirty-two (32) members offering their services as innkeepers to the travelling public within the province . . .". They go on to say once again - and this is toward the end, I am leaving out a lot more in between - "However we strongly oppose the proposed requirement for all prices to be shown with HST included.". I think it is very obvious why that would be. Can you imagine . . .

[Page 3189]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member quoted from that document. When he is finished referring to it would he be kind enough to table it please?

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, absolutely. Not this one, I will have a copy made for you. As a matter of fact, I think the letter actually went to . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It's his letter. He doesn't read his mail through.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, obviously.

Anyway what I am saying is this is the problem. As you know, if you are going to Florida and you write to the Florida Chamber of Commerce or the Tourism Department or what have you, you get back a great big sackful of brochures. The same thing applies if you are living in Florida and you want to come to Nova Scotia and you write to what used to be the Department of Tourism in this province. I don't know why anybody would think of writing to the Economic Renewal Agency for tourist information, but that is the way it is in Nova Scotia in 1996. They are writing to the Department of Tourism and we have people in the post office who are smart enough to recognize that we no longer have a Department of Tourism. This government put in a change of address form to the post office that says, all mail for the Department of Tourism or the Minister of Tourism, please redirect to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

The person in Florida who is coming to Nova Scotia gets a package in the mail and there are a whole bunch of brochures. He may also have written to the Province of Prince Edward Island because Prince Edward Island is where most of the tourists end up at least passing through. So you get these brochures and there is a hotel, same name hotel across in P.E.I., they both look the same. This one has got a rate of $125 a day (Interruption) $125 a day, that's the way they have to display it. The one from Prince Edward Island will show identical accommodation for perhaps $105 a day. They don't have to even show that as tax-inclusive. (Interruption) Go get it. Take your time. I just hope that the Minister of Community Services takes his time because it is always good to get the Minister of Community Services out of the House for a while.

Anyway, the thing is, Mr. Speaker, we are not alone, we are in competition with the rest of Canada for those who are going to visit this country. But we are going to place ourselves at a disadvantage because our prices are going to be that much more expensive than the prices shown in other provinces. You can show it as taxes included, people are not that knowledgeable about what the Canadian tax system is and when they see a price, to them that's the price and they see another price, that's the price. Whether one is tax included and the other one is not, they don't care, it is what that bottom line is, as printed in the brochure.

[Page 3190]

Don't forget, Mr. Speaker, that this tax will apply to car rentals, it will apply to bus transportation, it will apply to rail transportation, airline transportation, it will apply to all those services that a tourist will use. So it is not surprising, as I say, that the Unique Country Inns have come out strongly against the tax.

I have two minutes, okay. Well, let me just say a couple of words before I sit down about something that is, I think, very important, Mr. Speaker, insofar as people in Nova Scotia are concerned and that is house building. There is an organization in Nova Scotia called the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association. Now, the Ministers of Finance, past and present, both of them, have told us that we are going to have a boom in Nova Scotia. We are going to have people employed, we are going to have money coming out of our ears because of the HST. Well, the Home Builders' Association doesn't agree with him for some reason or other. In fact, they say, "It is the position of the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association that the resulting tax burden will increase the price of new home construction as well as renovation projects by 4.5%.".

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. RUSSELL: By 4.5 per cent. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what that is going to do. Now, the funny thing is the government says, yes, the price is going to increase but it is only going to increase by 1.5 per cent, because of the flow-through. The Home Builders' Association is just saying, it ain't so. They are quite honest about it, there isn't going to be any flow-through.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have lots more.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: On a point of order, the document that the member referred to five minutes ago on the Country Inns.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, give me a chance, I just sat down.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I didn't want it to be forgotten and I would think when he was finishing, in consideration of the member, I didn't want to take it away while he was speaking but I really would like to get it. So he is finished with that particular part of his talk, if he could give it to be copied, I would appreciate getting it. Thank you.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I realize I am out of time, so on a point of order. If I told the minister or anybody else in this House that when they asked to have something tabled and I said yes, it is going to be tabled.

MR. GILLIS: Do it.

[Page 3191]

MR. RUSSELL: Not like this bunch over here where you wait maybe for six months and you write about 20 letters and you still don't get the information.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to address this motion which relates to the future and the fate of Bill No. 48, the new BST tax regime here in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think what we are supposed to be addressing, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, is the question as to whether or not there are reasons or explanations or justifications to support the argument that this bill not now be read a second time and that it be put over.

[9:15 a.m.]

I think my starting point, to suggest that there is considerable justification for that view, is to go back, Mr. Speaker, to the fundamental and essential undertaking and commitment made by this current government to the people of Nova Scotia at the time they stood before them in April and May 1993, and what they promised they would do relative to their conduct and administration of public affairs generally, be it a tax matter, this tax matter or any other, or be it other pieces of legislation.

You will recall that the government produced a document back in the election campaign, Mr. Speaker, and they said some very important things. I don't know whether they meant them at the time, but they certainly offered them to the electorate of Nova Scotia as if they really, truly were fundamental principles by which this government, if elected, as it proved to be, would conduct itself and govern itself. One of things said by this government, and it relates directly, I suggest to you, to the motion which is before us now. This government said, in a document entitled Accountability and Accessibility in Government, the following: "Government in a democracy derives its powers through the consent of the governed. To honour the responsibility government has to the people, it must open its activities to scrutiny by the public and the opposition.". Later, in that same document, a few paragraphs down, the Liberal Party, now the Liberal Government, said to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, the electorate of Nova Scotia, "Accountability should not be left to the discretion of the government of the day, but should entrench the public interest in legislation.". Thirdly, a few paragraphs later in the same document, this Liberal Government, then Liberal Party aspiring to be government, said to the people of Nova Scotia, "Nova Scotians cannot afford to have important public issues lost in a welter of concentrated government activity, punctated by long periods without real, public accountability.".

[Page 3192]

I think, as I start to offer a few remarks relative to why I believe the motion before us, the six months' hoist, is reasonable and appropriate, is to ask you, Mr. Speaker, and ask all members and through any dissemination of the substance of the discussion and debate here in this place, which will make its way to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, ask those taxpayers to ask themselves a couple of questions. Has this government, to use its own words, in relation to this BST legislation, does it have, using the Liberal words, the consent of the government? Has this government opened its activity to scrutiny by the public and the Opposition? My assessment or my sense of things is that it surely has not. I think proof positive of the fact that this government has determined that the less scrutiny, the less consultation, the quicker the track on which the government can get this legislation, the better in the interest, as they see it, of this particular government.

It really escapes me and over this weekend I had occasion to be at a number of public functions and there were hundreds of people, or at least I was in the presence of hundreds of people and many - not all, obviously - spoke to me about the fact that we would be here, today and tomorrow at least, from 8:00 a.m. until midnight, addressing this BST. The overwhelming, almost universal opinion and comment made to me was, there seems to be, Mr. Donahoe, a very questionable and unseemly haste on the part of this government to ram this BST legislation through, in an environment where both the members of the Legislature - you, Mr. Donahoe, and your colleagues and other Opposition members - do not really have the kind of opportunity necessary or appropriate to outline what some of the difficulties with this document and this policy actually are.

I can't help but be struck, Mr. Speaker, by contrasting that with the position and the attitude and the approach taken by the Government of Prince Edward Island. I think it is clear that this government, while it produced a document which purports to suggest that there was some consultation with certain people, and I acknowledge that there was some and it was all pretty much, with very few exceptions, behind closed doors and it was this government responding a little bit to people, individuals and organizations which had made inquiries of the government.

I guess the frustration I have and that I think increasing numbers of Nova Scotians are feeling is that while we had Ministers of Finance, the present and the immediately predecessor minister, Mr. Boudreau, saying that there would be consultation documents and there would be working papers and there would be an opportunity for scrutiny and analysis by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to come to understand how this blended sales tax would impact them personally and impact their business, the truth of the matter is that little or none of that really did take place.

In Prince Edward Island, if I can find the document in my materials, Mr. Speaker, and I had an opportunity to look at it quickly last night, and I think there are a couple of lines which are worthy of mention in this regard; in the Province of Prince Edward Island that government, taking a more responsible approach to attempting to understand the implications

[Page 3193]

for business in Prince Edward Island and for the individual Prince Edward Island consumer, pursued a course which was exactly the course that those of us on the Opposition benches were attempting, were urging that this Premier and his Ministers of Finance would follow.

There was a special committee on the proposed harmonization of the goods and services tax and the provincial sales tax, established by a resolution of the Prince Edward Island Assembly. That was done in April 1996. I think the mandate is exactly the kind of mandate for such a committee which we urged upon the Premier and upon this government. The mandate of that Prince Edward Island committee was, ". . . to receive public opinion and make recommendations on the proposed harmonization of the federal Goods and Services Tax with the Provincial Sales Tax and to make a final report as soon as reasonably possible to Madam Speaker and through her to Members and the general public prior to introduction in this House'.". Five or six members of their Legislature were designated as part of that analysis.

The report from Prince Edward Island, following a course of action which we had been urging upon this government to undertake and embark upon a full-scale, legitimate, province-wide, extensive, and precise and clear public analysis, and review and information sessions relative to the impact of the BST here in the Province of Nova Scotia - which was not done here but was done in Prince Edward Island - if you will permit me to quote very briefly from a couple of sections of the Prince Edward Island document. Mr. Speaker, we read such things as the following in the P.E.I. document. Under a section of their report, entitled "Results from Public Consultation" the legislators there, who were the committee - and I might say that they had eight public hearing sessions: five of them in Charlottetown, one in Pooles Corner and then two in Summerside - and after all of that they produced a document offering an opinion as to whether or not, in their view, it was wise or desirable, or otherwise, for the Province of Prince Edward Island to commit itself to the BST, the blended sales tax.

They said in their document, in part, "The most often cited reason centered on the belief that the consumer would end up paying more taxes, and in particular, low income families would suffer disproportionately under harmonization. The fact the provincial tax would apply to such basics as electricity, heating fuel, clothing and reading materials . . .", and I know that there has been a refinement here in Nova Scotia, in relation to reading materials, ". . . was often cited as having a severe negative impact on consumers.". Here, Madam Speaker, is one of the most significant statements, I think, of this document, and it is one of the most fundamental issues which, quite candidly, I do not believe that this government really has a fix on at all.

When the previous Finance Minister in Nova Scotia provided us with the famous $84 million in new taxes for Nova Scotian consumers, the last day of the session in the spring, when we got that document we also got from that minister some rhetoric about the ability, and likely willingness, of Nova Scotia business - which was supposed to be the big winner in this BST arrangement - to pass on those savings, or some significant portion of those savings,

[Page 3194]

to the Nova Scotia consumer. In fact, Ministers of Finance here in our province, in recent months, have offered the opinion to us, and to Nova Scotian taxpayers and to Nova Scotia business, that certain of their financial analyses are predicated on an assumption that something in the range of 50 per cent of the alleged savings available, or to be available, to government would be passed on to the consumers.

What did they conclude in the Province of Prince Edward Island? Their document under the heading, "Results from Public Consultation", says - and I think this line applies with equal force here in Nova Scotia - "Serious doubt was also expressed that business would pass any tax savings resulting from harmonization to the end consumer. Interestingly, many business presenters confirmed that doubt by indicating that they would likely reinvest a portion of the savings or that they would use a portion of the savings to bolster their already weak profit margins.". Well, unless this government is even more out of touch with the reality in the Nova Scotia business community than I think it might be - and they might be more out of touch than I think they are - well, I haven't seen or heard from the Minister of Finance, from the predecessor Minister of Finance, from the Premier, from any member of the Treasury benches, any evidence at all that the Nova Scotia business community is able, interested or prepared to pass on any alleged saving to the consumers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The hard cold reality of running a business, and particularly a small business, in the Province of Nova Scotia - and I have some personal knowledge of the implications of doing just that - is that business in Nova Scotia has been pounded around these last few years by very, very difficult recessionary times. This Premier and this Minister of Finance and the predecessor Minister of Finance and others must, I think, Madam Speaker, be living in some form of dreamland to imagine that the men and women running businesses in Nova Scotia have the financial and fiscal capacity to pass on those savings, if indeed those savings are realized by those businesses, to their consumers.

[9:30 a.m.]

We know that in our own province there is a sector in our economic fabric which impacts upon tens and tens of thousands of people and I refer in that regard to those who rent accommodation in this province. I really find it very interesting, and if I may say so without being too provocative, Madam Speaker, the government has produced a document, the one I have has a date of April 23, 1996 - it is an interesting document and it is a government release - it is headed What Taxes Go Up - What Taxes Go Down for Consumer - Fact Sheet. They have a section called Items to Remain Tax Exempt. Taxes Going Down, items where GST and provincial HST are now applied. Durable Goods, and then they have a Semi-Durable Goods section; then they have Non-Durable Goods section. They then have a small section - and it is interesting that the section that is headed Taxes Increasing is, by design, in this government document, very much smaller in terms of the amount of paper and the number of items referenced than those which refer to items remaining tax exempt or taxes going down - in this document which, frankly, is a little bit deceptive in my opinion.

[Page 3195]

The government produces the document and talks under the heading Items to Remain Tax Exempt, and the second reference is rent. Well, it is absolutely clear that if I am a renter and my monthly rental for my apartment is $500 or $600, or pick a number, when I get my notice monthly from my landlord, it is absolutely truthful that under the new regime there will not be a tax component charged to me on top of the base rent figure that I pay for that rental accommodation. When the government on the one hand offers this list and says items to remain tax exempt and references rent, that from a curious, technical point of view is probably an accurate or at least a defensible statement, but what it does not say is what is of real concern to me - and, may I say, to an organization called the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia because this government knows they have this document, the Minister of Finance has this document and it is the document from the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia.

The document clearly says that because of the blending of the two taxes here, the owner or operator of the rental accommodation unit is going to experience very substantially increased expenses. The document says that the renters, the owners, the men and women who own the buildings which make available rental units to the people of Nova Scotia, the men and women and the corporations who own those buildings do not have the capacity to eat the additional expense which they are going to face as a consequence of running those rental units.

In fact, this document is a most interesting one and it provides some pretty precise numbers. It is not prepared by the Conservative Opposition Caucus or the New Democratic Party Opposition Caucus or anybody other than who it purports to be prepared by, the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia.

In the document they set out a couple of schedules and they talk about what is going to happen, as an example, when they do a tax comparison, GST, PST and harmonized tax in connection with a 200 unit apartment complex. In this case, they have picked one that is in the City of Dartmouth. They run through a whole range of costs of administration and costs of operations.

The interesting thing is that in this particular analysis, in this particular 200 unit apartment building, the owner, the landlord in this situation, with the new BST is going to face as a consequence of BST, an additional cost of $19,241 due to the harmonized tax. That is a 3.4 per cent increase over that apartment operator's gross. That equates to $96.21 per apartment annual loss to landlords. The document further goes on to say that because of the beating around that the rental markets have taken in the last few years, the likelihood of that additional per unit cost being passed on to the tenants in that building is about zero.

So, while the government says on the one hand that your rent will not attract the new tax and that when the tenant gets his or her bill for $500 a month or $800 a month or whatever the number of dollars a month, it is truthful to say there will not be a little notation

[Page 3196]

down at the bottom adding a tax component. That is only a part of the story and IPOANS has helped us come to understand some of the rest of the story and show it in this schedule.

The document further goes on to talk about a tax comparison, GST, PST and harmonized tax relative to a 48 unit condominium complex and in this case, in Halifax. Again, they do cost of administration, cost of operations with all of the things which they are required to handle in order to effectively, properly and professionally run a 48 unit condominium complex. They have appliance repairs, doors, locks, windows, electrical power and electrical repair and on and on it goes.

In this analysis, Madam Speaker, we find that in a 48 unit condominium apartment situation, an additional cost of $3,299, due to harmonized tax, is going to be a new expense to be faced by the landlord or the owner of the condominium complex and that works out to a $68.73 per condominium annual loss to the landlord. The condominium owner will likely face an 8 per cent increase in fuel oil. I repeat again, the document here makes it clear that the owners of these buildings simply do not have the financial wherewithal and deep enough pockets to be able to say to their tenants and to their condominium owners, oh, that is okay, we will eat all that additional cost and expense. So, again I repeat, it is not really 100 per cent accurate. It is not the full story for the government to suggest that rent is not going to be impacted by this BST, because I honestly believe that it will be.

This document - I will not go along further with it, Madam Speaker - goes on to talk about a 48 unit building, using CMHC data, in Nova Scotia. There will be an additional cost of $3,257 due to harmonized tax, a $67.85 per apartment annual loss to the landlord; in a 32 unit building, a $47.25 per apartment annual loss to the landlord and so on; in a 19 unit apartment complex in Halifax, a 4.5 per cent increase over the previous gross and an $84.16 per apartment annual loss to the landlord.

It occurs to me that if this government had been or, indeed, might even at this late point be prepared to engage in the kind of open dialogue which they promised the voters of the Province of Nova Scotia back in 1993 and was to conduct public hearings, I am absolutely satisfied that it would be possible for IPOANS and many who rent from members of IPOANS and many who own condominiums in all parts of the Province of Nova Scotia to be in a position to come to the Minister of Finance, to come to a public, open forum to describe in detail what the real threat to the renters in the Province of Nova Scotia actually is.

I will come to a mention of regulations in a moment, Madam Speaker, but unless this Minister of Finance says to the men and women, and there are tens of thousands of them, as he knows, in this province who are renters, that we are going to find some kind of a regulation to guarantee that the additional cost, which we acknowledge is going to be experienced by your landlord, will not or cannot be passed on to you, then I am going to make the prediction - and I will make it without too much fear of contradiction - that in a very short time, tens of thousands of people who rent apartments in this province are going to not

[Page 3197]

because they want to but because they are financially forced to, be visited by their landlords and the landlords are going to describe the new and rather extensive cost faced by those landlords and have a heart-to-heart with tenants explaining that the cost of the rent, while the rent itself does not legally attract a BS Tax, that a mechanism is going to be found, undoubtedly through rental increases, whereby the additional cost faced by the landlords will be passed on to them.

[9:45 a.m.]

I go back to the Prince Edward Island document, Madam Speaker, and there is a fundamental principle expressed by the business community in Prince Edward Island. I may be wrong and that wouldn't come as a shock to anybody in this place, but I really don't believe that the attitude and the sentiment and, more important, the capacity of the business community in Prince Edward Island to eat additional cost and expense, not pass it on to their consumers, is any different than is the case with Nova Scotian retailers. In the Prince Edward Island document we see the words, "Interestingly, many business presenters confirmed that doubt by indicating that they would likely reinvest a portion of the savings or that they would use a portion of the savings to bolster their already weak profit margins.".

I just simply don't believe that the reality facing the Nova Scotia business community is any different at all than that reality facing the Prince Edward Island business community and the result would be the same.

So when we see documents from the province suggesting that there will be pass-throughs and there will be all kinds of largesse showered upon the consumers by the retailers of the Province of Nova Scotia, I just simply don't believe that for a moment. I don't believe they will pass it on, Mr. Premer, no, I don't. The Premier is in his place reacting to me saying, I don't believe they will pass it on. Well, the truth is that I don't believe they will pass it on. (Interruptions) I don't think - well, he mentions an individual who is a very good friend of mine and runs one of the largest and most successful businesses around. There will be, perhaps, a few corporations that have such deep pockets, as does the business organization to which the Premier has just made reference, and the nature of that market, and he is talking about the automobile market, there are flexibilities and there are orders of quantity and scale that might make it possible, as a promotion here and a promotion there, for a business to offer, over a short time, some kind of a deal whereby on a certain number of items or a certain item itself that that business operator might advertise as a come-on, to have people come to his or her business, a situation where that particular business, as a part of a promotion, might pass on some of that saving.

The likelihood of that being able to happen with the overwhelming majority of businesses in Nova Scotia is so slim. The company to which the Premier makes reference, as he knows, is, in financial terms, one of the largest, strongest financial business entities in all of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) Pardon me?

[Page 3198]

AN HON. MEMBER: It is called competition.

MR. DONAHOE: It is called competition, yes. What the Premier doesn't understand, Madam Speaker, is, as we have just said to each other a couple of moments ago, this one example which the Premier draws out of the hat happens to be one of the most financially sound and secure and stable . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: That is irrelevant.

MR. DONAHOE: That is not irrelevant. The Minister of Health and the Premier say that is irrelevant. The problem is that it is only because that particular organization has such deep pockets and has the fiscal and financial capacity in an effort to sell more product to on occasion advertise to the buying public that that corporation will eat some of the tax. The problem that these distinguished gentlemen opposite do not seem to realize, Madam Speaker, is that by comparison to 80 per cent of the rest of business in Nova Scotia, the business to which they refer is so much bigger and so much more financially secure and so much better able to function in that capacity.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about their competitors?

MR. DONAHOE: Many of those competitors are not, and these ministers know it, Mr. Speaker, in a position to compete in the same way with the kind of company the Premier and the Minister of Health (Interruptions) You say of course they are. I say of course they are not. I have spoken to some of those businesses and they simply are not in a position to compete on that basis.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is having trouble with this.

MR. DONAHOE: I think those who will perhaps have some trouble with all of this, Madam Speaker, will be the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the government as a whole because it is just simply not going to be possible for the overwhelming majority of corporations and businesses in this province to pass on to the consumer or eat what would otherwise be an increased (Interruptions) They are just simply not going to pass it on.

Why? I suppose the question I might ask is why is it that the study done in the Province of Prince Edward Island concluded that very serious doubt was expressed that business would pass any tax savings resulting from tax harmonization to the end consumer? Many business presenters confirmed that doubt by indicating that they would most likely reinvest a portion of the savings or that they would use a portion of the savings to bolster their already weak profit margins. (Interruptions) The former Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health, is using words like - and these are a little scary - we hope they do. I guess that is really where . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You hope they don't.

[Page 3199]

MR. DONAHOE: I hope that we create more wealth and more employment in this province than any of us can imagine. That is what I hope. I do not believe that this ill-conceived BST process is the road to creating that new wealth and that new employment.

Madam Speaker, I referenced earlier the April 23rd document from government items to remain tax exempt and durable goods and taxes will go down and so on and so on. I mentioned and I was intrigued that this document, produced as part of the government propaganda on the BST, has a section called Taxes Increasing. I was really quite struck by the fact that it took almost two full pages for the government to outline items to remain tax exempt and tax going down and so on, and then a third of a page was devoted to referencing taxes increasing. Of course, we see in that section electricity, which affects virtually every home in the province; clothing and footwear under $100, which affects every family in this province; and fuel oil and other fuel, affects every home in this province, gasoline, household services and the like.

There is no mention and no description on that list of such things as accounting issues, legal issues, funeral-related issues, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, and stamps. Stamps and postage are pretty interesting because it doesn't only affect you and me when we send a few Christmas cards, but stamps and postage affects a tremendous number of businesses in this province and is a very significant expense for many. I think that is a problem.

There is concern in regard to where the so-called MUSH section ends up in this whole situation, and it is our understanding that the percentage of rebate available to those organizations in the MUSH section - the municipalities, the universities, the schools and the hospitals - will in large measure result in them facing any increased expense as a result of the imposition of the BST because the rebates will not be as large in percentage terms, relative to the total tax paid, as was the case previously.

School supplies are pretty important to virtually every family in this province and the government made a whole lot of thunder on the tax on books and they spoke eloquently about the negative impact that would have on literacy, and then they signed a deal which resulted in taxing school supplies. In other areas taxed, the government failed to note in its $75,000 public relations campaign, driving schools - so much for encouraging safe drivers - how is that going to impact on insurance premiums? There are some serious questions to be asked there. How will it impact on the health care budget resulting from driving accidents of people who decide they can't afford the increased cost of driver education, and some of that might well happen?

If it is legitimate to say people are going to buy more meals at restaurants because the tax is going down, common logic says it is just as legitimate to say that people are going to back away from buying services in relation to which the tax is increased. The government can't have it both ways and say, my goodness, our restauranteurs are going to sell all these new . . .

[Page 3200]

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . or do you want it both ways?

MR. DONAHOE: Oh, no, I agree that the restaurant meal is going to be less expensive.

AN HON. MEMBER: And will generate more business for them.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, what I said is . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You can't have it both ways.

MR. DONAHOE: No and neither can the government. There are two ways, all right. There are two ways: there is this government's way and the doorway. The point I am making about having it two ways is if the government wants to try to say what good boys and girls are we because we are reducing the tax on prepared foods that one would buy in a restaurant and that is going to result in larger numbers of people going out to buy restaurant food, therefore, there will be greater activity and economic activity in the restaurant sector, more employment, et cetera. I think there is probably some merit to that.

[10:00 a.m.]

The flip side is that the Minister of Health, if he believes that, and any other minister, also has to believe that in many of those areas where the taxes increased, the same, what was the positive with the restaurant becomes the negative with the increased tax service. I am referencing, as an example, such a thing as driving instruction. Some might say, well, big deal, what has driving instruction got to do with anything? Well, driving instruction has a great deal to do with a great deal; it has to do with making sure that as many of the people who are behind the wheel of a vehicle on the roads and highways of the Province of Nova Scotia are properly instructed. If there is more cost for people to have proper driver instruction, then just as lower taxes at the restaurant will have people go to the restaurants, I am suggesting that higher taxes on the driving lessons is going to drive people away from getting those driving lessons, but they will get their licenses without those lessons and perhaps be less effective and proficient behind the wheel.

I simply raise the question and the query as to whether or not or what, in the longer term, is going to be the impact not only on the health and safety of those who will not avail themselves of driving instruction, but how will that impact on our health care budget resulting from driving accidents of people who decide they simply can't afford the increased cost of driver education. Safety supplies, previously PST exempt, now attract a 15 per cent tax; helmets, life jackets, very important in occupational health and safety terms. I would expect that there will be, just as I have said, if the government wants to try to tell the people of Nova Scotia that more people are going to go into restaurants and buy meals because the tax is going down, I am standing here and saying to them that the same logic applies when we have a 15 per cent tax now, very much increased tax now on such things as helmets and life

[Page 3201]

jackets, that there will be fewer of those and that will result in accident and death, unfortunately, to many. Fitness clubs, amateur sport, ice time - my colleague, the member for Hants West referenced this before - now taxed at 15 per cent.

I can tell you from experience which I have gleaned through some of the activities of my own wife who, for 25 years, has been very much involved in amateur figure skating in the Province of Nova Scotia as a judge. She has travelled the province extensively and out of the province and over the country to engage in that activity. As a matter of fact, some will perhaps have had an opportunity already this morning, getting an early start as we did, to have had a look at the sports page this morning. Well, the sports page will tell us that there was an Atlantic section or division skating competition held at Dartmouth Sportsplex over the last three or four days. Dr. Smith, the minister, might well have been there to cut ribbon and open the thing or perhaps even do a couple of triple axels at centre ice as part of the parade of champions, I don't know. (Interruptions)

Well, the fact is, Madam Speaker, unfortunately this divisional skating championship brought together young skaters from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the eastern portion of Quebec. The unfortunate reality and result, after those three or four days of skating, is, sadly, there is not one Nova Scotia youngster going to the national championships, which take place, I am not sure, in another six or eight weeks. (Interruption)

The Minister of Community Services says, is that because of the HST? Well, the capacity and the likelihood, with our fragile economy in Nova Scotia, of skating organizations - to stay with that example for a few moments - to be able to provide sufficient ice time for our young athletes to have the opportunity to train in the future, once their ice time is even more expensive by reason of the BST than it is now, is probably going to go a long way to ensure that thousands of young people across this province do not enjoy the kind of success on the national skating scene as we would hope.

Private dance and music lessons, musical instruments will be taxed at 15 per cent. We heard a great deal of how we have a great, wonderful cultural policy and we are going to have an independent arts and culture council and so on. Those Nova Scotians who want to engage in private dance and music lessons and musical instruments, are now all going to be more expensive. You even have to pay more to die, Madam Speaker. Death and taxes are two of the things that none of us can escape, but taxing death more, as if we are not already taxed to death, so funerals and related services are going to be taxed, unfortunately.

The tax is going to require the ordinary everyday Nova Scotia family, or families, across the Province of Nova Scotia to spend not less than $84 million in consumer taxes that they would not have paid prior to the introduction of the BST, and they - the government - lose tax revenue. But not to worry. Their friend, Paul Martin, has very generously agreed that he is going to send down transition funds to soften the blow for the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3202]

The difficulty I have and the difficulty many Nova Scotians raise with me, Madam Speaker, is what happens when the lower income and more modest income families are faced with $84 million worth of new expense, new tax?

The Province of Nova Scotia claims that it is going to realize something like $120 million less in tax revenue. What happens when Paul Martin's cheque runs out? Where are we at that point? There are a lot of Nova Scotians who are uncertain as to where we are at that point. Because of the timing, we are, undoubtedly, in a situation where we have a new government, but the implications for the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia are very problematic.

I know that this government is all excited that those transitional funds are to make their way to Nova Scotia. It is probably about the cheapest and most transparent attempt by the Government of Canada - Prime Minister Chretien and Paul Martin, in concert with our Ministers of Finance in the Province of Nova Scotia - to make good on the Liberal red book promise back in the 1993 federal election. We heard all the rhetoric. (Interruptions) Many critical things have been said about the GST and I understand that. But what really grates the Nova Scotian taxpayer, in his or her capacity as both a Nova Scotian and a Canadian taxpayer, is to have two Liberal Governments try to make them believe that the promise of three years ago to do away with the GST is somehow (Interruptions) The Minister of Health says we never promised that. No, but he and his colleagues supported Paul Martin and Jean Chretien and all their colleagues in that election commitment in 1993.

Jean Chretien, supported by all the Liberals who hold a seat here in this place, Mr. Speaker, said yes, that red book commitment is wonderful. Vote for Jean Chretien and he is going to do away with that vile GST. Well, he has not. (Interruptions) He has not come within miles of doing anything of the kind. What they have done - Jean Chretien and Paul Martin - by putting out some sucker money in front of the Minister of Finance and the Premier of Nova Scotia is to talk them into an arrangement whereby they have harmonized these two taxes, resulting in $84 million or more - probably by the time we are finished, $100 million to $120 million more - of consumer costs.

Madam Speaker, I attempted, with the help of some people, to do a little table of weekly and yearly costs of goods and services expenditures for a frugal family of four - two parents and two children - before and after the BST. I realize and so does the government that if you try to do a demographic description of what a particular or a typical family of any configuration, two adults, two children; two adults, one child; two adults, no children; two adults, six children - do those configurations, find out what the normal basket of purchases of that family will be and make some judgments as to where they fit following the imposition of the BST. I can tell you that some very careful analysis of the yearly costs of goods and services expenditures for a frugal family of four - two parents and two children - before and after the BST results in one configuration of that family of four facing something like $744 of additional costs . . .

[Page 3203]

AN HON. MEMBER: Say that again. I cannot believe that.

MR. DONAHOE: It is absolutely true.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you serious?

MR. DONAHOE: It is absolutely true. A family of four - two adults, two children - modest income . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: How much is a modest income?

MR. DONAHOE: A modest income is something in the order of $30,000. They have two children and buying such things as groceries, weekly gas, car insurance, life insurance, a few hair cuts, some detergent, sandwich bags, diapers and so on.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. I have been trying to signal you but you were not looking up.

MR. DONAHOE: I apologize. My time has expired?

MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, it has.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I hope I do not run into the difficulty that the former speaker did. That is, that he found his time ran out. I know that he will have further opportunity to speak on the bill, unless, Madam Speaker, I actually do hope that he will not have that opportunity. I certainly do hope the government will see the wisdom in the motion that is before us and they will actually pretend that they believe and support the principles of openness and democracy that they once touted while they were in Opposition and they will agree to pass the amendment that is before the House, Madam Speaker.

When you are looking at the legislation and when you are looking at the record of the government, there used to be an old adage, the old adage was that Nova Scotians and people generally could be sure of two things and that there were only two things that you could take for granted and that you knew were inevitable; one was death, the second one was that taxes would not only be there but they would increase.

[10:15 a.m.]

I would suggest that it is now time to add a third item because more than death and taxes that are assured. The third thing that Nova Scotians need to know is that anytime that they shake hands with the Liberal Government that when they take their hand back they had

[Page 3204]

better count their fingers because they know any commitments, any promises that were made by the government are going to be broken, they know they are going to be taken back. So based on the three and one-half year record of this Liberal Government, Nova Scotians know that what they also have to do is count their fingers anytime they shake hands with this government.

The proposal that is before us is a very simple and straightforward one and it is one that I believe that the Premier, if he believed any of his rhetoric back in 1992 or 1993, would wholeheartedly support. It is a kind of motion that Liberal members when they sat on the Opposition benches, trumpeted on many occasions, they talked about the principles of openness, honesty and democracy, they talked about involving the citizens in decisions. It is one that certainly, based on their roots, if the rhetoric meant anything, that Liberal members, certainly the Minister of Finance would support as well so would his predecessor, the now Minister of Health because when the Minister of Health was Finance Critic for the Liberal Party he made motions similar to this and he made arguments like those that I am about to make.

The amendment that is before us is often referred to as a hoist but I would like to refer to it in its more accurate sense, more appropriate term, it is a time for sober second thought, it is time for reflection. It is not saying that this bill would never be read again, the motion that is before us doesn't say that we will not revisit this issue. It is saying that Nova Scotians would be afforded an opportunity to have their expressions, concerns and their interests heard and it would give the government members an opportunity to clean out their ears and to actually listen to what is being said. There is a difference between listening and hearing.

Government members go and pretend, they hold a telephone to their ear or they go to a meeting like the Minister of Justice did when he was supposedly consulting people before he brought down his very heavy-handed announcement while squirrelled away in his office last Friday, without having the courage to come before the House to make his announcement, they pretended to listen and to consult. What they didn't do is hear anything because as this government has already shown with the amendment that they brought in and railroaded through this House, they have absolutely no intent on changing at all one thing that they have decided that they are going to be dictating to the people of Nova Scotia. They aren't interested in hearing, they aren't interested in understanding, they aren't interested in putting into practice that which they espouse so eloquently when they were principled on the Opposition benches.

Madam Speaker, I hope that my harsh words - and those are harsh words - are unfounded. I hope that my words really are being overly unkind and that the government will, in fact, reverse their traditions, reverse their habits of the past and actually start to do some listening, hearing and take what the people are saying into consideration while they are moving forward. The motion that is before us, Bill No. 48, An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of

[Page 3205]

Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia, which is affectionately known by the people of this province as the Liberal BS Tax deal. This resolution would say that that BS Tax deal cooked up in the cozy backrooms between the Liberals in Ottawa and the Liberals in three provincial jurisdictions, not now be read for a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.

By my calculations, Madam Speaker, if that bill was to be read six months hence, that means it would be read again in May. Between now and May the government would have the opportunity to do those things that they said they were going to do.

Now I may be a little bit cynical (Interruptions) Oh, I have to thank the members opposite, they disagree with that, they say not me, I am not cynical. Obviously then, Madam Speaker, what they are saying is that I am bang on, that I am being accurate. (Interruptions) The Liberals over here, the red team, led by the front bench, have been trying to sucker Nova Scotians. People don't like a sucker punch but the sucker punch is what the Liberal red team has been trying to inflict on the people because they said this bill would not be introduced until the spring.

I am glad the bill is on the floor, I am glad the bill is here, Madam Speaker, so that Nova Scotians can see what a sham it is, so that Nova Scotians can see what flimsy details are being provided and the total autocratic power being given to this government.

You know, Madam Speaker, I was reading a joke the other night . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, no.

MR. HOLM: Oh no, but when I was reading this joke I thought of some similarities with the government. The line went; why did the skeleton refuse to cross the road? The answer was, because it had no guts, Madam Speaker. A rather weak joke.

The question is, why would the Liberals refuse to take their BS arrangement to the people of the province? Why would they refuse, if it was such a good deal, to have full, open, public debate, why would they refuse to go out and meet the public in their communities, if it was such a good deal, Madam Speaker? Quite honestly, the answer as to why the skeleton didn't cross the road seemed to be most appropriate.

Madam Speaker, back in 1993, the then Liberal Leader of the Opposition was speaking about the former Don Cameron Government. The Premier of today said of the Premier of yesterday and his government, that the government has failed to honour its cost-sharing arrangements with the municipalities. The Premier, our current Premier, should know. He used to be a mayor of what once was the City of Dartmouth in this province, it is now a community. It is one of those promises about something that wasn't going to happen that actually did happen, without any consultation. Anyway, the former mayor, now Premier, the

[Page 3206]

former head of the respected Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, was accusing the former Tory Government of having failed to honour its cost-sharing arrangements with the municipalities. He said that that failure to honour those arrangements, those commitments, were imposing another heavy burden on municipalities. The Premier was wise in those days and he understood what he was talking about and he was correct. He was, indeed, very correct. He also went on, our current Premier, then mayor, former head of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and Liberal Leader, to say that those failures to honour those commitments would have major impacts, either on the property taxes we all pay or on the levels of services we receive from our municipalities.

Madam Speaker, that same Premier, that same political Party that he was speaking on behalf of, is now intending to offload, yet again, more costs on to the municipalities in the way of charging new taxes, the full BS Tax. In other words, the provincial sales tax portion is now going to apply just the same as the GS Tax that the Mulroney company imposed, and increase the tax burden - and I may get to the arrangement if I have time - because this new BS Tax arrangement even removes some exemptions so that they will be paying higher taxes on a whole host of things. We have a Liberal Government that is made up of many members who used to be municipal councillors, who worked at that level of government that was closest to the people, except now in Halifax Regional Municipality where, because of the Liberal's amalgamation, they represent almost as many people as provincial, so the government has decided that it wants to distance them from the people. This Liberal Government, with a former mayor, President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and all kinds of former councillors, is playing the old Tory game and that is to impose more costs on the municipalities for the provincial government's benefit so that those municipalities will be the ones who will take it in the neck from their constituents when their tax rates are raised on the property taxes or their services are cut.

The Liberal Government will sit back and they will wash their hands, pretending they are Pontius Pilate and saying, well, we don't raise your property taxes, we have no control, that is your municipal councillors. We don't do that. If you don't like your taxes going up by 3 per cent, 5 per cent or whatever the case may be, don't blame us, blame your municipal councillors. Of course, as they are saying that, as they are washing their hands of any responsibilities, the Liberal red team knows that those taxes that senior citizens, those on fixed incomes, those who are in business, individual homeowners who are struggling to survive, they know that the property taxes are going up because, Madam Speaker, this government has decided to impose the BS Tax on their services, just as they should have known that the costs of the amalgamations that they imposed on the citizens, again without their consent, would result in increased costs.

Just think, Madam Speaker, if the government had taken good advice and said, let's wait for six months. Let's do something that is democratic. Let's involve the citizens whose structure of government we are trying to change. Let's involve the citizens and the businesses and the communities at large whom we are supposedly doing this for. Let's involve them in

[Page 3207]

the discussions. Let's actually not only go into a room and twist our ears in their direction, but let's also take our ear plugs out so that we can actually hear what people are saying and respond in an honest, open way to the issues that are being raised. That same Liberal saviour, before the last election, that same Liberal Party - of which all 39 members sitting on the red team's benches were part - made a commitment and Nova Scotians are still anxiously awaiting for it to be honoured. You know, when you shake hands with the government, the Liberal Government, obviously you have to count your fingers when you take your hand back, because this is one of those commitments that was made that was also taken back, that the government will establish - not may, not should, not will consider, but the mandatory term, obligatory - it said, the Premier said, the Liberals said, Liberals will establish a fair tax commission.

[10:30 a.m.]

Well, it is amazing what you can do in six months. This government can do all kinds of things in six months when it wants to be autocratic and dictatorial, heavy-handed. In six months, Madam Speaker, the government can actually set up a fair tax commission. They can go out and they can start through that fair tax commission to look at what can and can't be done, they can take a look at the tax structure in this province, who is and who isn't paying taxes and who is and who isn't paying their fair share. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: Now, there's a team for you, isn't it.

MR. HOLM: Well, here we have a team, Madam Speaker, the minister of comic relief and the wannabe frontbencher from Cape Breton Nova who is apparently moving in to take over as government front bench advisor - the former Speaker, representing the Party of the week - and they trying to be helpful in their comments across the way. I would suggest that these two members, if they had any commitment to what they stood for back in 1993, what they went out and told their constituents and Nova Scotians that they would do if the Liberals formed government, then I would expect that these two members would later on in this debate have the courage to stand on their feet - and it is easier, I know, sitting down and heckling - but stand on their feet and explain to Nova Scotians why a fair tax commission was not established, why they no longer believe that a fair tax commission is necessary, why it is that they don't think that Nova Scotians have a right to have an input and to take a look at what is and isn't a fair method of collecting taxes in this province.

I would also expect that our Minister of Health will take part in the debate and explain his position. As you know the Minister of Health sat right over here - he sat, in fact, where the member for Kings West now sits - and from that perch he made many, many, eloquent speeches and, when he was Finance Critic, one of the things that he was doing, he urged the former Cameron Government - revolutionary here - to canvass public opinion before making any move to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal GST. In other words, the member who went to Ottawa, behind closed doors, without any public input, and signed the

[Page 3208]

agreement that is binding on Nova Scotians, which has resulted in this 380-some page document that was tabled in the House of Commons but is represented by a scant 7 page bill here in this House, that same member on the same topic, the BS Tax, the harmonization, when it was being discussed by the former government, that same fearless leader said that the government should canvass opinion before making any moves to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal government.

He was also extremely critical of the Cameron Tories because he criticized them for flip-flopping. He was extremely critical of them because a year before the Cameron Tories began to talk about harmonizing to create a BS Tax, they had spoken out very strongly against it. They spoke out against it, of course, after they had lost a by-election where the people in Halifax Atlantic told the Tory Government of the day they wanted no part of the BS arrangement. The Finance Critic for the Liberal Party was extremely critical of the Cameron Tories for a year later revisiting that idea and talking about doing it without even beginning to canvass with the general public.

I expect the Minister of Finance will stand up and tell us why he has changed, Madam Speaker, or better still, stand up and explain either why he is or is not going to support this very responsible and reasonable suggestion which is exactly the kind of thing he had proposed before; that is, to delay this bill for a period of at least six months to allow for public input, meaningful public input.

The current Minister of Finance has also made some very profound statements. He is now the Minister of Finance, the member for Antigonish. He also used to be a Finance Critic for the Liberal Party before he became Minister of Finance. Back again, in an earlier period of time, another life, he told the Premier of the day that sales taxes are regressive. No disagreement here, Madam Speaker. They certainly are. Sales taxes do not take into account a person's ability to pay. Those individuals in this province living on fixed incomes, those who are living in poverty, and we know in this province we have had the dubious record of going from number 8 all the way up to number 4 in having the largest percentage of our children living in poverty in this country. We have also had the average wage in this province drop.

All of those individuals, those who are living on low and fixed incomes, disability pensions, unemployed and who are having their unemployment insurance benefits slashed by the Liberal red team in Ottawa, all of those people are going to have to pay BS Tax on the essentials that they have to buy for their families.

Those people, whether they live in Halifax Bedford Basin, whether they live in Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage or Yarmouth or Timberlea or Hubbards or Prospect, Chester, whether they live in Hammonds Plains, Upper Sackville, Beaverbank, Kinsac or in the great community of Lower Sackville or any other part of this province. They are going to have to pay a much higher price for the essentials that they have to buy. Those people who are on fixed incomes, low fixed incomes, disability pensions, the working poor and the vast majority

[Page 3209]

of those in Nova Scotia who are living below the poverty line, work, they do have jobs but at low wages which is what this government, of course, encourages through their economic policies, they don't go out and buy yachts, they don't go out and buy brand new Volvos or brand new Lincolns, expensive new cars. They probably can't even afford to lease them because of the lease payments. They are the people who are struggling day by day to make ends meet and hopefully being able to put aside a dollar or two for emergencies, for their children's education knowing that tuition fees in this province have skyrocketed.

Those people are going to be paying 8 per cent more for their gasoline, 8 per cent for their home heating fuel, 5 per cent more for the electricity, who knows how much more in the way of property taxes because of the increased taxes that this government is imposing. Those same people who the Premier says everything next year for Christmas is cheaper, courtesy of the BS Tax. Madam Speaker, that is a lot of BS because so many of those items that families are buying for their children and for others at Christmas will, in fact, see the prices go up.

Not everybody goes out and buys new television sets for their children at Christmas. A lot of them buy the basic essentials. They may buy them a new jacket, they may buy their children new sneakers, they may buy them school supplies, socks, underwear, ties, you name it, clothing, essentials. Thank you very much the people are saying to the government of the day, not only are we going to have to pay more for the log that we put in the fireplace, if we are fortunate enough to have one, for our Christmas celebration but we are also going to have to pay more for the essentials that we buy for our families at Christmas. That in a nutshell, more than almost anything else to me, summarizes, capsulizes the gross unfairness of what this government is doing.

The Minister of Finance was right when he was Finance Critic, sales taxes are regressive and the way to address the inequities, the unfairness in our tax system is not to go to Ottawa, not to go behind some closed doors behind a red curtain. The way to get at the inequities is to have that fair tax commission that the government promised.

The Minister of Finance - I will not talk about this too long but - also, even as a frontbencher recognized that you have to have openness and that information is important. "In order to operate responsibly a democracy must put as much information as possible in the hands of its citizens so that they can have the knowledge needed . . ."; words not of mine but of the Minister of Finance, those are his words directly and I quoted them.

"Availability of information determines whether we are governed by the will of the people or the whim of the people". Again, the Minister of Finance, his words most applicable here, Mr. Speaker, and welcome to the Chair.

[Page 3210]

[10:45 a.m.]

Six months will give time to digest, or at least to begin to digest, some of the hundreds of pages, double sided, of documents concerning this BS Tax as tabled in the House of Commons, which Nova Scotians have not had access to, but which, Mr. Speaker, will have major impact upon them.

"Accountability should not be left to the discretion of the government of the day . . .", John Savage, 1993. Let's, I urge, revisit some of your own words. If this is such a good deal, let's take the time to go out and sell it. What you are actually telling Nova Scotians, whether you realize it or not, by the antics that you are following, not only that you are afraid to go out to meet them to explain it, but you are also telling them that it is a bad deal. That is very clearly the message you are sending. You are afraid to go out there and tell them and talk about the deal because you know it is a bad deal.

Instead, that is why we have ads like the $39,000 a pop ad that appeared black and white, by the way, in the business section of the Globe and Mail, the one that appeared on November 12th. Three amigos, three friends, off to Toronto to sell the BS Tax arrangement, $39,000 a pop. I don't know how many ads they ran. I don't know how many other ads in other magazines and so on they ran, but if that amount of space cost $39,000, we can expect that the budget would probably be in the range of several hundred thousand dollars for the advertising campaign.

You know, while they are off peddling the BS Tax in Toronto, they have not got the courage to go out and meet with Nova Scotians over it. They have not the courage to go out. I invite you to set up public meetings, set up public forums on the BS Tax.

I understand there is one in the Premier's riding that someone is going to be sponsoring and I know that an invitation was extended already on the floor of this House for the Premier to attend. I hope that the Premier will agree to go to that public forum. I look forward to the Premier standing up. He is going to have so much respect when he is able to go there and say, look, not only have I come here tonight, but I understand and I support the principles of democracy and I believe strenuously that the public should have input and say in important decisions. That is why we have decided to support the Opposition's call and not impose this bill or to pass it for a period of six months, so that there will be time for that broad based consultation.

There are a number of things I may get back to, if I have time, Mr. Speaker. I may take a look at some of the regressive measures and how this is going to impact on new home construction, driving up the costs as much as 4.5 per cent, which, of course, will lead to increased unemployment in the building trades within the building sector because as the prices go up by 4 per cent, if on a $100,000 home it goes up by 4.5 per cent, because you have to charge the BS Tax on the land and all of the services and everything else that go into that,

[Page 3211]

taxes on labour, the building margins and so on, $4,500 on a $100,000 home, even at current rates of about 6 per cent, and actually they are higher than that - and the rates are expected to rise now - rates for a five year term are about 6.5 per cent or better, 6.5 per cent on $4,000, on $4,000, 6 per cent alone would be $240 more a year. So 6.5 per cent on $4,500 would add close to $300 more a month in long-term interest payments, to make up for the higher costs of financing that home, an extra $4,500.

Although I did the calculations quickly, just off the top of my head, I challenge members on the Government benches to work them out. I would be willing to bet you that I am within $20. That, on top of the extra 5 per cent they are going to have to pay for heating their home if they use electric heat, the 5 per cent they are going to have to pay for electricity in that home, including the Christmas lights, if they heat their home by oil it is going to be an extra 8 per cent, if they have to bring in people to do service and repairs on their home, whether that be landscaping, because people are physically unable to do it themselves, repairing or replacing a roof, those kinds of services, bang, an extra 8 per cent, which, of course, will be a tremendous boon to the underground economy.

The only way I can figure that the government can be sure that they will be creating employment is if they are going to be going out and hiring a lot more staff to be the watchdogs, to be the police, to ensure that people are not buying their services through the underground economy.

Let's take a look at the bill itself for a moment, and I am not going through it clause by clause in terms of that, I am looking at a principle in the bill. What I am looking at here, Mr. Speaker - so that you will understand where I am coming from in this and that I am not trying to trespass on the rules - I am trying to make a point, or I am going to try and make a point, that what we really have here is the skeleton and that all the guts, all the flesh, all the skin is to be in regulations and I want to talk about some of those areas.

We are talking about a six month period of time, and I am very mindful of the comments of the Minister of Finance when he said earlier that, in order for a government to operate responsibly, you must put as much information into the hands of people as possible; and I am also mindful of his comments when he said that people have to be well-informed if government is to govern or people are to be governed according to their wishes, not to the whim of the government. Also, Mr. Speaker, mindful of the basic principles of parliamentary democracy, which are to protect the minority and to restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority, to secure the transition of public business in an orderly manner which, also, if you take a look at the definition of proper parliamentary democracy, it goes on to say as well, to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse. So that is the context in which I am talking about and the importance of a six month period of time, just to put it in context.

[Page 3212]

The bill that we have before us, this little tiny seven page document contains within it Clause 5 which is about one-third of the bill. What it says is that the Governor in Council may make regulations and then we go on page after page with things that the government can make regulations on. You understand, Mr. Speaker, where and how regulations are made. They are not made in here, they are not made in the people's House, they are not made in a public forum, the elected representatives of the people of the province in this House do not get to vote on them, not even the backbenchers on the government benches get to vote on them. It is that select hand-picked group called the Cabinet, the frontbenchers for the red team, down in the bunker in the Cabinet Room.

The Minister of Health said, I knew we were getting to the bunker and I am not sure if he knew that I was going to use a reference to the bunker or if he is anticipating getting to the bunker so that they can make these regulations. Any regulations they make down there are confidential until they are released publicly. Any information, documents, reports or anything that they use to draft those regulations are generally classified, almost regularly classified, as confidential Cabinet documents and the general public is not deemed worthy to see those documents.

Any group, any friends of government who come along and lobby for special privileges, exemptions, whatever and anything that they give to Cabinet which persuades Cabinet to make its decision is kept from the public view. Any Cabinet Minister who might have qualms about that and who would release it would be breaking Cabinet confidentiality and you know if you disagree with the Liberal Government as we saw from the member for Cape Breton West once, he was turfed from the House.

Anybody, you can be darn sure, who breached their Cabinet confidentiality would be turfed from Cabinet although most Nova Scotians would stand and roundly applaud. I say that to any members on the government benches whether you are front or back, if you want to have the best chance of continuing your employment in here, stand up for your constituents, speak your mind. Don't be a lemming, don't just automatically recite and repeat that which you are told, stand in a public forum. Stand here in this House and speak on behalf of those constituents and the people in your constituency will applaud you even if some more regressive members on the front benches don't.

I digress slightly but I want to look at some of the things. The Governor in Council, in the process that I just described, behind the red curtain in the bunker, is being done for two reasons; one to satisfy Jean Chretien and to pretend that the Liberal team has honoured their red book promises about the GST which hurt Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians, disproportionately, by the way, as you all know on the government side, in order to satisfy them, to appease them so that Mary Clancy, Geoff Regan, Ron MacDonald, David Dingwall and others can stand up and say, we honoured our commitment on the GST. Yes, sure they did. That plus a loonie - pre-taxes, pre-BST - will get you a small cup of coffee. With BST

[Page 3213]

it won't, mind you, but without the tax it will get you a little cup of coffee. However, that is one of the reasons.

[11:00 a.m.]

Another reason is that they were coaxed, they were given a little incentive, and as the Liberal team here is heading towards the polls, they have to pretend we are good fiscal managers and that we have money in the bank. So they accepted $250 million that they can spend at any time they want, in any way they want, and they took $250 million and they tucked it into their bank account where it is drawing interest, and as the election rolls around and as they bring forward a budget - if we last that long - they will roll some of that money out, drop it in the coffers and pretend that we have this money and that we have a balance and a surplus. Of course, the following year, as we are losing over $100 million in revenue, as the full CHST cuts are taking effect, then we are going to be in even more desperate shape because this government, in an attempt to buy its way back into power, will be spending that BS Tax bribe to try to pretend that our situations are better than they really are.

Mr. Speaker, if that is not enough, they have the power to, in Clause 13(1), ". . . make regulations (a) respecting the comprehensive integrated sales tax; (b) suspending the application, in whole or in part . . . (c) suspending the imposition, in whole or in part, of the taxes imposed pursuant to the Theatres and Amusements Act; (d) providing for a payment to a purchaser of an amount equal to the tax, . . . (e) respecting the manner, form and circumstances in which the price of property or services is to be advertised, displayed, expressed or indicated and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, (i) respecting circumstances in which the tax shall be indicated as an amount in addition to the advertised, displayed, expressed or indicated price of the property or service, (ii) respecting the pricing of property and services by a supplier including pricing on price tags or stickers, packaging, bins, shelves, containers, displays and windows, . . .", and I haven't even gotten through the first page. It goes on.

If that isn't enough, then we jump down to Part IIA, Section 31C, where yet again, what does the government do? They give themselves even more powers. In other areas that aren't covered in those couple of pages, they give themselves more powers to make regulations. (Interruption) Yes, Mr. Minister of Health, you know where. Down in the bunker, without any public input. They can define any words; they can do anything they want, but not in a public forum. Mr. Speaker, I consider that to be a sham. Either the government doesn't have two clues - which may be correct - about what it intends to do, or else it knows very well what it intends to do.

I heard the Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat, when I said they may know what they intend to do, say, well, I would certainly hope so. Well, so would I. If they do know what they intend to do, then let's see it. Let's put the information out to the general public: what do you intend to do? I can't believe, if they were telling the truth before, that

[Page 3214]

they really know what they intend to do, because it was less than two weeks ago that they were saying that that bill won't be coming in in the spring; there is a lot more to be worked out. We won't be having that bill introduced in the Legislature until the spring.

The Minister of Agriculture was being very critical of the Opposition for complaining about the BS Tax situation, because we are going to have plenty of time to debate this bill as it will not be introduced until the spring. (Interruption)

The Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat, the man in charge of Nova Scotia's spider web, that minister is saying, say something meaningful. Well, I say back to you, through you, Mr. Speaker, because I am not allowed to talk directly across the floor, but to that minister who interjects his helpful comment, I suggest that he and his colleagues say something meaningful. I suggest that you say to Nova Scotians, what do you intend to do? How much more Draconian do you plan to be? What do you propose to do under all of your regulatory powers and have the intestinal fortitude to bring that in and put it in legislation? Because, as those who are knowledgeable about what the government has done and what it is doing, they know what it is going to mean, because of this legislation and the deal that is being cut, that it is going to be virtually impossible once you have done your deal to effect and to amend and to reduce the taxes.

We can never look forward to a reduction in the tax, says Agar Adamson, a political science professor at Acadia University in Wolfville. "I can't fathom how they (government) put us in this position - period." There is a gentleman who is a noted parliamentarian, a noted follower of the proceedings of this House and the history of this House and how democracy works. He is a gentleman who is often quoted by governments and who is looked to for advice and has, in fact, even been employed, brought into this House, to train new members on how the legislative process is supposed to work. Some of you may have attended it.

I say to the Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat, I went and I observed and I have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that the government, as soon as you came to power, you decided you did not like the way this House was going to work, the way that it is supposed to operate, because you decided, unilaterally, to scrap the rules. You might as well say that our rules can go into the garbage, because as long as you have the massive majority that you do have, you make rules to suit yourselves by suspending the democratic, historical practices in this House, and some of the decisions that are made in support of those are reprehensible to put it mildly.

If one takes a look, even at the summary that was put out with the bill, not here, but in Ottawa - of course, I must be fair to the government, Mr. Speaker - the government has said that even though they plan to be ripping tens of millions of dollars more out of the pockets of consumers, they say that, supposedly, we are going to be doing certain things to try to relieve that pain. We are going to impose, as we are adding 8 per cent to the essentials that families buy, we are going to add one-quarter of one per cent in the way of tax onto the

[Page 3215]

capital assets of corporations over $10 million so that we can raise some money. But you know, it does not come into effect yet. It is not part of this bill and that is one of those other promises that are supposedly being made that sometime down the road we may do this or we may do that, but which, of course, will probably never come to happen.

Under that summary - the Minister of Health, of course, will know because he signed the arrangement - under health services, the tax is going to be expanded on what many people consider to be important health services, they are revising the lists of those that are exempt and they are going to exclude psychoanalysts, osteopaths and speech therapy, for example. (Interruption) I understand that they are offering to make some exceptions to that rule and I want to say that there are many Nova Scotians who hope you will make exceptions, many exceptions. What better way to find out what exceptions need to be exempted than to actually go out and to meet with the people. Six months is a reasonable period of time.

Municipalities are going to be discouraged from cooperating with each other, because they share services now. If one municipality shares a service with another, and if you are sharing services, that means that there are going to be costs incurred by one that is providing the service to another. If, for example - and I just pulled two out of the top of my hat, Mr. Speaker - the Municipality of Lunenburg shares a service with the Municipality of Queens, they provide, let's say, a service. It is called cooperation. It is called efficiency. Now that service is going to be charged 15 per cent tax.

I have only two minutes left? I guess I am going to suffer the same fate as the former speaker and so I look forward to being able to come back and speak for another two or three hours later on.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Are you running federally, too?

MR. HOLM: The Minister of Health wants to know if I am running federally, too. I want to tell the Minister of Finance that you can only run at one level at a time. So I cannot run two of them at the same time - the Minister of Health, excuse me, the Minister of Health once removed from Finance, the author of this deal, the gentleman who met behind the closed doors to make this arrangement, the gentleman who had the principles who wanted a fair tax commission, who told the former government that you should be canvassing the people before you impose a BS Tax arrangement, Mr. Speaker.

Anyway, I think with that last helpful intervention, my time has pretty well expired. I just remind the government that it does not matter how much you spend in the way of ads, I know, Mr. Speaker, no matter how many tens of thousands of dollars you decide to rip away from the health care system, take away from children in the classroom, so that you can put it into high-glossy ads that you put in the newspapers in Toronto and Ottawa and everywhere else, how many tens of thousands of dollars you spend on high-class ads, slickly designed, to the people of this province, you have already told them that this deal is a bad deal

[Page 3216]

by the antics that you are following in this House and the only way that you can convince Nova Scotians that this is a good deal, is for you to respect Nova Scotians, listen to them, hear them and I urge the government to support this six months' hoist.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the amendment to hoist Bill No. 48 for six months. I cannot understand what the hurry is that the government is ramming this through as quickly as they are. They are certainly not giving the opportunity to the general public to have any input.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I got thinking last week. I heard the Minister of Finance in the House get up and tell me what a wonderful tax this was and I thought on the weekend, and it was a little bit shortened because I had to be back a little bit early like yourself, I came back last night so that we could be here for this morning, I thought now I will take part of the weekend to go talk to some business people and some accountants and some consumers to see if there is something in my calculation that I am missing.

[11:15 a.m.]

When I talked to some retailers, I quickly found out that they were not excited about this tax. They were not excited about the price being included. I said, what does that mean to the consumer? They said, absolutely the consumer is going to pay more. I said, how do you figure that? Well, they said, on an item that we would pay 83 cents or $83 and you can use the comparison, our markup is roughly 20 per cent; $16.60. So we would put the item for sale at $100 but most retailers would put it $99.99. They would all mark it just under the $100 mark to go into the store. After that you would put the tax on, the 15 per cent tax or the 18 per cent tax, whichever you want to calculate. You have the new tax at 15 per cent, then you assume you will pay $1.15 or, if it is the old structure, you will pay $1.18, whichever you figured out that the tax was. I said is that what you really sell it for? They said no. We will want $120 out of it once we figure in the cost. We are going to mark our 20 per cent on the cost of the tax, included in the price, the same as we did on the old price when we had the hidden manufacturing tax, before the federal government took it off and put on the GST. So this has nothing to do with input tax credits. We will get to that after a bit.

Let's just talk about the consumer for a moment. (Interruption) The government talks about business and I did not talk to anybody who owns the very large businesses, who are the wealthiest in this province, I talked to the small businessman who is struggling in this province, who is the backbone of the economy of this province. That is who I talked to. I said to them, and I talked to some accountants, and many of these people are struggling. If anyone in here has friends that are in small business or acquaintances who are in small business, they know that they are struggling. If you thought it was a way to make quick money, everybody would be in it. They are struggling.

[Page 3217]

They said we will sell that, instead of $120, we will sell it for $119.99. The consumer will actually pay more. I said but why would you do that? They tell me the cost of doing business is not going down, plus they are barely making it now. If you go to the banks and you go to accountants, they will show you the books of the small businessman in this province. It is not very great. They are struggling. We have had more bankruptcies in Nova Scotia in the past three years in the history, each year it gets higher. The statistics will prove that. There are a lot of people who are struggling. I thought, well, now, I was told the consumer on these things would actually pay less because of what the Minister of Finance said. Not one businessman said that they would not be charging their markup, tax-included the same as they did on the old manufacturing tax.

We had a federal government that changed that and said we are going to have a fairer tax, one that will stimulate the economy. That was the federal Tories when they bought in the GST and they took off the hidden manufacturing tax. Yes, consumers paid less for the soap products and all those, but I never heard a consumer say to me, my gosh, that GST saved me money on my soap products or other manufactured products.

What the consumer said was we do not like this government. It is taking more money out of our pockets. You remember what happened in the 1993 election. They turfed the government out of office. You know what? I am hearing the same thing and I predict this today, Mr. Speaker, it is going to happen to this government.

Do you know why? Because a lot of people do not believe for a minute that this is a better taxation structure for them than we previously had. When the GST went out there were some areas that came down in price, just like this government is showing us fur coats will come down in price, there is no question. If you want to buy a fur coat, you are going to pay less; if you want to buy a new automobile, you are going to pay less. There are areas that are going to come down in price, absolutely no question. I don't think that the average consumer out there associates this tax with less money for them, not one. When I talk to the business people whom I am told it is supposed to help - now if you are a large manufacturing company in this province, it might help you, it might on the input and the output tax credits. What do we have in this province? We have a lot of people who are going to vote next time who are connected to a small business.

A chap has a card business, all-occasion cards, and they are all pre-priced. I think it is somewhere over in the Dartmouth area. He employs a number of people and he distributes them through the Atlantic Provinces. He says he is going to be out of business. It is going to be awfully strange that you are going to have cards priced for three Atlantic Provinces and not P.E.I.

You know what the business people are saying. I don't even know what we are going to do with the Sears catalogue because the Sears catalogue in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will have price included and everywhere else it won't. So I don't think we

[Page 3218]

will get catalogues. I don't think it is economically feasible, with the input/output tax credits that companies are going to get, that they are going to produce this kind of material for three small Atlantic Provinces, absolutely not.

You know this government had to be in bed with the federal Liberals to say, you made a promise to do away with the GST, Sheila Copps and those people who made this stand. The Government of Nova Scotia said, look, we will help you, federal government. Well, in the meantime helping the federal Government, you could go down the tubes, you will go down the tubes. You may be doing them a favour but the general public doesn't believe you are doing them a favour.

I would be prepared today to go to the polls on this issue. I have been knocking on doors and I have got calls, like the rest of you have, and I am sure you have talked to individuals about this tax structure. I bet you know what they are saying as well as I know what they are saving. I would love to campaign door-to-door in my constituency on this tax issue. I know this tax issue could get me elected anywhere that I wanted to run because I believe the people have already made up their minds, at least the people that I talked to on the weekend had already made up their minds, about this very issue. So, no matter how you do the calculations, the people are convinced that at the end of the day they are going to be worse off, once April 1st starts, than they were prior.

That brings me to the point of why we should hoist this bill. If we have until April 1st, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why we have to pass this in December, we couldn't pass it in January. I mean, was it that they couldn't get the regulations ready in Cabinet in time? Well, they have all kinds of power in the legislation to draft regulations. They know they have the larger number of seats in this House, so they have lots of time. They are probably drafting the regulations now, Mr. Speaker.

I suspect part of the reason is that we are near Christmas time. I know a lot of people are preoccupied with the festival, Christmas festivities, including shopping. With these long hours, on Christmas Day some people are going to say, George, you didn't buy me much. Well, I am going to say I didn't have much time, I am in here. And I don't. Blame the government. People are kind of preoccupied with the season. You know they haven't heard or recognized that this is anything that is going to help them.

I think if you look at the history of the provinces and the federal government when new taxes of this sort come in, there is traditionally a vote against the government that introduces such wide-ranging taxes.

I feel particularly bad for the seniors of this province. One thing about seniors, they have given so much to this province and God love them, they have worked hard. Now they are finding it very difficult with the Pharmacare kick, with the rebate on the property tax for

[Page 3219]

those of low income; no matter what group of seniors you talk to, they have been kicked by this government.

There is a group of seniors in Kings County and they can't afford to privately come to Halifax, so they hire a bus. Once a year they might get a little trip to Halifax or a little trip to some part of the province and it is a great outing for them. They are on fixed incomes and they can't afford a world vacation or a vacation across the continent. Do you know what this government has done to them with this new tax? Right now they only pay 7 per cent on that bus trip - and I checked with the bus owner - and after April 1st they are going to pay 15 per cent, the seniors are, when they rent that bus to go on their little trip. You are hitting them again.

You say, my gosh, this is fair to everybody. But the poor seniors who go once a year on a trip are now going to have an increase on taxation. I say to myself, my oh my, what government in their right mind would say to these seniors who can't afford to go on worldly vacations but like a little trip out of Kings County once a year, and because they do, we are going to tax them more. It is just unbelievable how unfair this government is to those who are on fixed income and they expect those seniors to turn out next time and vote for them; it is just unreal. When I look at the people who are on fixed income, they are going to be devastated by this tax.

More and more people that I talk to in my community are having a struggle to make ends meet, those with families. I talked to somebody who has a steady job but doesn't make a lot of money: three small children, one just a new baby. What is going to happen after this tax comes in? Right now kids' clothing is tax exempt, except the PST. Well, they are going to hit them and I am telling you, they can barely now pay the rent, pay their light bill which is going to be more, pay their fuel bill which is going to be more, pay the gasoline to go to work which is going to be more.

They cannot afford the luxuries that the government holds up and says, my oh my, you are going to pay less. They can't even afford new furniture, for Heaven's sake. They can't afford those rugs, mats, fur coats, jewellery, watches, computer equipment, sport and athletic equipment or a new car. Those are the things that the government holds up and says look, my oh my, if you go with us these things are going to be less. Not one of those people I talked to are saying that they are going to be able to afford to make ends meet; they have almost thrown up their hands and said, the government is being unfair.

I can't understand if the government was so sincere about this, that if they were going to do any kind of blended sales tax, that they would have taken into consideration the seniors and said look, we shouldn't hit those seniors harder and harder. We shouldn't hit the low income people harder and harder and turn the screw in them. I would have thought they would have sat down and said look, even though our federal cousins want us to do this as a

[Page 3220]

favour to them, if we do it we are going to make sure we are fair to those who at least have an income, who are on a fixed income, the least-have in the province.

[11:30 a.m.]

Is that what this government did? Not at all, absolutely not. Yet they stand up time after time and try to convince us and the general public that after this tax goes in, Nova Scotia is going to boom. Well, I haven't talked to anybody, be it a businessman or a consumer who says that is correct, not one. Do you know what? They have not produced a piece of paper that can prove that is true, but they have produced a piece of paper that says the consumer is going to pay more. They did produce that piece of paper - I give them credit for that - reluctantly. But, you know, after April 1st do those seniors get a raise in anything? I don't think so, I don't think they are going to get a raise. They are on a fixed income now and I don't think they are going to get more money.

Is the guy who is working long hours for little more than minimum wage going to get a raise? No. So as things cost more when they start purchasing their goods and the necessities go up, you see what the government fails to understand is that if you want to help those, you would make fur coats cost more and you would make electricity cost less; you would make jewellery cost more and you would make home heating fuel cost less. If you were really sincere, you would make the rugs and the new cars, what if they cost a little more because they can't afford them anyway, and you would say that gasoline would cost less because most of those people I know are driving used cars because they can't afford a new one.

You know, Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to make the economy go and make it boom, you would allow those consumers who are on a fixed income and a modest salary, some breaks so they would have some hope that they could have the things in life that one should have. Then they would probably spend more money and make the economy grow.

I can't figure, is it that they don't understand that these people who are on fixed incomes, that more money is going to come out of their pockets, that they are going to have more difficulty making ends meet? I think if you look at the list that the government set out, they have their priorities totally backwards, if you want to help those who are on a low income or a fixed income, so they would have money to keep this whole economy going. What makes the economy work is people, the consumer having confidence and having money to spend for goods and services that generate activity that makes things flow. Who does better? Everybody does better; the consumer does better, the businessman does better and there become more job opportunities when that happens.

Mr. Speaker, one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who is going to be hit and how we could make it easier for those people and yet we could tax those things that I don't think are necessities of life, what I would call luxuries of life. We all in here support a higher tax on cigarettes because we say it is bad for your health and we say it is not a

[Page 3221]

necessity of life, although those who are addicted might argue. But we all stand up and we applaud the rise in the prices and I have done it and we will do it again for all the reasons we had described. In here we are asking to applaud the luxuries of life costing less and the necessities of life costing more.

That is what I would like all members to think about. Think, the kind of tax that you want to promote and want to be a part of is that you are going to lower the luxuries of life and raise the necessities of life? To me, that does not make sense. To me that is being unfair. I think that is what the consumers that I talked to are saying and I know that you talked to them and you probably have great discussions and tell them why this province is going to boom and why this is good for them. They have their opinion of why it is not and having a difference of opinion is healthy. I agree that debate is healthy and difference of opinion is healthy, but when you take all of the debate away and all of the opinions away and, at the end of the day, you rationalize what the facts are, then you understand. This piece of paper was a government release. So it is not something that I made up or anything else and it has on it, items to remain tax exempt, things that are going down and things that are going up. The government admits electricity, it admits it is going up on clothing and footwear under $100. It admits it is going up on textbooks and newspapers. It admits it is going up on fuel oil. It admits it is going up on gasoline and it admits it is going up on new homes. It admits all of those things are going up.

It also admits that fur coats, watches, jewellery, furniture, automobiles and new things like that, audio equipment, if you can afford new hi-fi sets and all of that, and recreation vehicles. All of those things that the government says are going down are not things that I consider a necessity of life. The seniors do not consider them a necessity of life. The working poor do not consider them necessities of life. As a matter of fact, it has gotten so bad that the middle income earners are saying, we can barely cope with the necessities of life and we cannot afford those things that are considered to be a luxury anymore.

Every family in Nova Scotia is going to be affected by this tax. Many governments bring in laws and regulations and change things in this province and sometimes it affects a small portion of the constituents you and I represent. People pay little or no attention. It is like raising the fee for your license or raising the fee for registration of a vehicle or raising whatever and you do not notice it until every two years when you go to do it. So nobody sort of, really, gets too excited or says too much. You know, people might say well, Nova Scotians are not down here beating up on us. They are not pounding the street. They are not doing that. Well, you know what? People do not do that anymore. They used to be able to get into this place. They cannot anymore. It is an armed fortress. But people do not do that anymore.

They make up their mind, as I talk to people, and their way to get at this government, they tell me, will be at the ballot box. That is what they tell me is how they are going to protest this tax. They are not going to march. They do call their MLAs. They do write letters.

[Page 3222]

They do sign petitions. But you know what they tell me, the real way to protest this tax is through the ballot box and that will be the way that, I think, they will do it. That is the way Nova Scotians did it. They have done it in the past. Canadians did it with the GST, Nova Scotians are going to do it with the BST. So it is going to happen.

I remember the people over there saying that when the federal government introduced the GST, that is wrong. They said the government will be voted out and, by gosh, they were voted out. So the same thing is going to happen this time. Just look in the mirror when you get up in the morning and you will see the same picture as you saw then, no different.

You know it is strange, Nova Scotians in the last number of years have worked hard to try to be a homeowner, many of them. They finally thought that interest rates are going down. It looks like interest rates worldwide obviously have gone down. It depends on who you talk to, some economists say the rates will stay down for a year or two. I heard from an individual on the weekend who says - he is in the money business - that economists say that interest rates will stay down to the year 2005 and probably beyond. So he is saying that it looks like and most economists agree - and you never can get two to exactly agree - that we are going to have low interest rates in this province, in this country and in the world for some time to come.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . by accident.

MR. MOODY: The Premier said by accident. I am sure little Nova Scotia set the world trends in interest rates. I am sure that they called up the Premier of Nova Scotia one day and the Premier said, look, this is what we are doing, and that is why worldwide interest rates are probably going to go down. Well, that is not true. Interest rates are not

AN HON. MEMBER: All the provincial governments did . . .

MR. MOODY: But it is worldwide, it is not just in Canada.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not worldwide, in Germany and France . . .

MR. MOODY: In the United States, where we are closely attached, the United States have low interest rates, go to the United States.

I am getting off track, Mr. Speaker, I am getting sidetracked and I shouldn't be.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rabbit tracks.

MR. MOODY: Rabbit tracks, right. You should never chase rabbits when you are after bigger game. A lot of people have said that, with the low interest rates, they are considering building a new home. I talked to a couple on the weekend and they are building a home,

[Page 3223]

probably a little over $100,000, probably $115,000, and they say it will mean $4,000 extra in their cost of building that home. Now $4,000 may not seem a lot to some people sitting in this Chamber, but for people trying to get their first home, it is a whole lot of money. It is a whole lot of money when you are trying for the first time to scrape money together for a down payment, scrape enough money together so that your mortgage payments won't be too high; so they say $4,000 is a lot.

I asked them if that will stop them from building and some of them say that they wished it wouldn't because they have had their hearts set on doing this for a couple of years and some of them will go ahead. They say it will mean an additional strain for them. There will be something that they won't be able to finish on the property, maybe it is their landscaping that will have to wait but there will be something that they won't be able to do. They say that that will obviously hurt them.

I know the government has had a rebate in 1996-97 until the end of March for new homeowners of a couple of thousand dollars or whatever it is, something like that. Whether that will continue to whether there will be a larger rebate, nobody knows. The thing is I did find out that people are buying land now if they can because if they are going to build a home, they obviously have to have a piece of land to build on, right now they just pay the 7 per cent GST on the purchase and they only pay the 7 per cent to the guy who comes and surveys it, but soon, after April 1, 1997, that all goes up to 15 per cent.

If the price of a land is $20,000 you will say that is not going up that much, well 8 per cent on $20,000 is a fair junk of money. It is obviously $1,600, a big chunk of money.

[11:45 a.m.]

For young people who say that they are just starting out what this government is doing is having a big effect on them making that big jump. It seems as if every time I talk to people, I hear, of course, they are going to have to hire a lawyer when they do up the business. As the Clerk knows, for part of the legal profession, land transactions are a big part of their business. (Interruptions) No, I don't think that they do. It is a way of making a living. Let me say this. Right now they charge that young couple whatever they charge them for doing the transaction and they charge them 7 per cent GST. Guess what? After April 1st they are charging 15 per cent tax for that young couple, that now has 15 per cent on the land compared to 7 per cent, 15 per cent on the surveyor compared to 7 per cent, 15 per cent on the lawyer doing the work compared to 7 per cent. The costs keep going. Never mind the building costs which are going to go up.

We are all of the age in this Legislature that obviously we are not thinking of buying our first new home. We do not think like a young couple would think who face those charges. If you remember back to your days, as I do, of doing my first house purchase, the budget was pretty darned tight to make ends meet, to pay all the bills and to get myself a first mortgage

[Page 3224]

and get going. It was not easy. If you had money given to you, it might be a different story. Most Nova Scotians do not. They have to start the way I started. Right now we are discouraging many of those young people with this tax. As I talk to them about how it is going to affect them, they say to me, George, it is not fair what this government is doing.

I know that there will be a jump on people buying land. If you have any land for sale, sell it prior to April 1st because people out there will buy it. They will save themselves 8 per cent.

One of the things this government has said is that it will not affect those living in apartments because seniors and others who rent will not pay any more. It is not taxable. Their rent is not taxable. I did spend some time with some landowners who have some pretty big apartments. I said that the government is saying it is not going to affect that. They said, George, do not listen to what they are telling you, because as a landowner these are the costs I am now going to face which are going to go up. My fuel is going to go up, for one thing, in the building. I am going to have other costs when I hire. He said, my property taxes are going to go up because the municipalities are saying the BST is going to cost the municipalities millions of dollars more. All the other costs associated with the building, he said, I eventually have to pass on to the seniors, to those who are renting from me. He did all the calculations. I did not do all the calculations, but he and the others I talked to assured me that those living in the apartment buildings that he owned will pay more because of the BST.

I am thinking this is starting to affect more and more people that I talk to. Initially when the government brought this in and made the pitch, I thought maybe this is not such a bad deal the way they are talking about it. I kept thinking that maybe some points they were making had merit. Then I kept talking to individuals who kept pointing out to me and saying George, you do not understand how this is going to affect me. As those people came forth and talked to me, I began to fully understand that this tax has a more wide-ranging effect on people and on business than this government is telling us and its own people that it is having. When I sit down with these people, every time, whether you are in business, whether you are an accountant or a landlord or a consumer or a new homeowner, they point out to me on a piece of paper how this tax is going to cost them more. I can't argue with them. I start to say that the government says you have this and this and they said, look, I am not going to get that credit. So they say that this tax is actually going to cost them more.

I remember the federal government saying very clearly that when we take off the manufacturing tax, you are going to pay less for all these items. Well, it didn't happen like they said, the consumer didn't understand it and the consumer said hey, it is not good for me. I don't see this being any different.

One of the things that kind of concerned me, Mr. Speaker, and I heard on the news today and I am sure that many of you have, we now have privatization in health care, home care in this province. You probably heard, as I did, that they formed an association, the

[Page 3225]

groups that are giving home care in this province on a private basis, those that can't get it through home care, the government's program, there are many out there who can't, so you have to go to a private home care company. We now have a lot more privatization of health care, home care than ever before. So they formed an association.

The reason they gave for forming the association was that this government has no regulations, no legislation that governs private companies and health care. In other words, there are no standards they have to meet, there are no qualifications they have to have so there is nobody out there governing or regulating the private industry in health care out there. That is why they formed an association, so they would set their own standards, so they could say to people, if you belong to the association we can assure you that there are some standards. So the government has allowed that to happen.

Now, how does that affect this tax? Well, right now they charge 7 per cent on the home care services they provide, as a private company, to the poor senior, the poor individual, and some of them who are very ill, probably some of them dying. Now, all of a sudden, the government is going to hit them with a 15 per cent tax for health care in this province that is done by private companies because the home care in this province doesn't cover many cases in this province.

I know from a personal view of where people are still waiting for a number of months for home care to kick in and private groups had to be hired in the interim, waiting. Obviously that price is going to go up 8 per cent, as of April 1st. I am saying to myself, why would a government that cared about people do that, really cared. You know, Mr. Speaker, home care is not one of the luxury items that the government talks about; fur coats, jewellery, watches, furniture, it is not a luxury item that the person can say I can buy or not buy, depending on whether I can afford it. When you need home care and it is not available through the government and the person absolutely has to have it, so you hire privately, you don't have a choice. Now the government is going to tax them 8 per cent more than they were taxed before. In many cases these are seniors because as you and I know, those who use the home care services or have to have home care, the majority of them are seniors. Again this government is attacking that particular group of individuals and saying to them, you must pay more.

So that is when I was listening this morning and thinking on the news that it was good that we had an association but it wasn't good that the government, if it is going to allow privatization of health care, it doesn't regulate it and it should not allow it to function on its own, but what hit me, and I knew this, was that a tax on health care, on privatized home care, as of April 1st, takes a big jump, from 7 per cent to 15 per cent.

The government is right today not to charge the PST on home care. I agree with that. The government is right not to do that but what makes it right after April 1st that the government is going to charge health care 15 per cent, that is privatized home care, instead

[Page 3226]

of 7 per cent. What makes it right that you don't have it on now that makes it right that you charge it as of April 1st?

I wonder how many of these issues have been discussed as a caucus and gone over item by item and the caucus said yes, it is fair to charge those seniors more for home care in the privatization. How many voted for that? How many voted to charge those people more? How many voted to charge those seniors on their little bus trip 15 per cent instead of 7 per cent? How many voted for that? Did the group go over it item by item? I don't know. They must have and so they said that that must be fair.

There are a lot of people in this province who have indicated that by the way of writing, thousands and thousands, that they do not agree with this tax. You know if the government is sure that charging those things that I pointed out is the right thing to do, I am wondering what is wrong with making sure that the general public understands because you know not only does the general public not understand, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that you are aware, that the new sales tax, what it means to retailers, the Nova Scotia Department of Finance sent this out to all the retailers in the province although as one retailer who brought this to me from the Village of Aylesford said to me, you know, George, it raises more questions than I have answers. Not only that, he said, there is a disclaimer on the brochure. Imagine, the government putting a disclaimer.

"This brochure is intended as a general outline of the new sales tax changes. If there is a conflict between the content of this brochure and the technical paper on the new harmonized tax system, the wording in the technical paper will prevail.". In other words, this may not be correct. We don't know if this is correct. I said to this individual, did you ever get any papers from the Finance Department in the past that had a disclaimer saying that the information you get may not be correct? He said, never, absolutely never, in the history that I have been in business, has the department sent out a piece of paper that says the paper you now have may not be the correct information.

Now, if the government is saying to retailers in this province, we don't know exactly what it is we are doing, or the Department of Finance doesn't know exactly what it is we are doing, so we are in here ramming through legislation and the government is telling the retailers they don't know, what is it we are to know, Mr. Speaker? Why is it that if the government doesn't know that we could not have waited for another month until the Department of Finance or the government got its act together so we would know exactly what it is we are debating and that the information we have before us is actually correct? That is what has a lot of people in this province upset with this government. This government has had a history of that, of sort of hiding and playing peekaboo and then all of sudden ramming something through and saying to the consumer, it doesn't matter what you think - or the retailers, what you think - we are going to do it this way.

[Page 3227]

You know they said, Mr. Speaker, that most Nova Scotians want the price included. Now it is how you ask the question because I asked some people on the weekend. I said, would you want the price included but I said you should know the facts because you have a vote. I talked to retailers about the 20 per cent markup and I said, if the tax is included, you are going to pay more than if the tax is not included. How would you like it to be? To a person they said they would not want the tax included, if you put it to me that way, knowing the facts. But if you put it to me that I am going to pay the same or less, I want the tax included. Can the government guarantee to the consumer that they will actually pay the same or less, with tax included? The answer is, absolutely not. History has demonstrated that when the tax was included in the manufacturing price, the retailer marked the price up the 20 per cent or the 10 per cent or the 15 per cent, after the tax was included. The same thing is going to happen here. I haven't talked to one retailer who says that they will not take the price that they pay for an item, they will put their 15 per cent onto that and then they will put their mark-up price on.

[12:00 p.m.]

If the consumer was asked the question in an honest way: do you want the price included and, if you do, you are going to pay more, there isn't one person whom I talked to who said the answer is yes. So I wonder if the government really went around and did their homework and explained to the consumers what it was that they were going to, how and why they were making this price-included and what it would affect. Look at the manufacturing tax, look at what went on in the past and know what has happened when the tax has been included because we at least have a history of a manufacturing tax that was hidden, that was included in the shelf price and people never knew what the tax was in that item and the people never knew they were paying the mark-up on the tax-included, like they are going to pay. When I am a wholesaler today and I buy an item, I pay the 15 per cent when I buy it from the wholesaler, so it is included in my price. When I put it on my shelf, obviously I am going to make the same kind of mark-up that I made before to keep my business going.

So, if they were honest with individuals, they would have explained to the individual, so I wonder if Nova Scotians really want the tax included in the price, if it was honestly explained to them and not glossed over like this government has done. There is a lot of information that I don't think people really understand about this tax, in the way it is actually going to affect them.

One of the things is the postage stamp. In Nova Scotia, it is now going to cost me more to mail a letter than it is in P.E.I. and all the rest of Canada, except for three provinces that joined. Now you know what I would like to know, Madam Speaker - and you are a fair person, I think you would consider this a fair assessment - if the government is prepared to make business do something, shouldn't they, as government, do it as well? I mean, to be fair to business, say business, your tax is going to be included. So I hope that this government insists that the federal government, that the price of stamps in this province reflects the true

[Page 3228]

price because the 45 cent stamp is 45 cents today, plus 7 per cent, and after April 1 is it going to be 45 cents plus 15 per cent? Well, that is not price-included. They are breaking the law; the federal government would be breaking the law.

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe the government will tender for stamps and buy them in Toronto.

MR. MOODY: One thing that the general public understands and are cynical about is that government can break all the rules they want and nobody takes them to task, but the poor little guy in the street breaks the law and the government's big hand comes down on them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Big hammer.

MR. MOODY: Madam Speaker, if this government is going to be fair, they will force the federal government to put price-included on the stamps; it will become a collector's item. It will be 50-some cents in this province and in the other provinces you will get a little stamp that says 45 cents, plus 7 per cent. I wonder if this government has been saying to the federal government we are going to force you to do what we are forcing the small businessman in this province to do, because I have heard a small businessman say to put all these pre-priced articles, to change the price, it is a massive job.

This government talks about the tax break on books. Why couldn't the government have made it simple? If you are not going to charge the tax on books, to have this not charged and rebated back, because when the owner of the bookstore - they have to pay the 15 per cent, then when they sell it to me, they charge me plus 7 per cent and the government after two or three months pays them back the 8 per cent. Why make them pay the 15 per cent on the front end? Is that so that they will have a lot more bookwork and a lot more costs to the running of their business? They will have to use their money to upfront the government's money for the two month period, whatever it takes, three month period.

Why in the world can't this government understand? As I talk to the owners of bookstores, why can't they make it as simplistic as possible so that they could be fair and not make it in some convoluted way so that the business guy takes the burden of the costs of the government's stupidity in making it complex and not simple? I fail to understand why government, if they are going to do it, do it in a simplistic way because I have had one of the booksellers in my area say to me, George, the government is doing it to me again. I am saying but they told me they were helping you. He said helping me? They are going to add to my costs and they are being unfair. So the government may have thought they won over these people but all they have done is antagonize them even more.

AN HON. MEMBER: The bill does not say that books are exempt they can bring it back at any time they want.

[Page 3229]

MR. MOODY: No, any time they want. If they were going to do it, why would they not in a way that is fair and not having the business carry the extra money and have to pay more for bookkeeping and more for accounting and then carry the government's money over a period of time? Why? Because if the government knows at the beginning, why not let them pay the 7 per cent when they buy them? Why not? Who are they going to cheat? They can't cheat anybody because all books are going to be treated the same, according to this government. Why not allow them to pay the 7 per cent and collect the 7 per cent at the cash register? Why pay all of the 15 per cent, then when they go to the cash register charge 7 per cent and then send in an invoice to the tax people at the end for the 8 per cent of what they sell? It is just crazy what this government is doing to these poor owners and operators trying to stay in business who are running a business at a very small percentage.

Another area is small craft-making in this province. I think, Madam Speaker, we have a lot of very talented people as you probably know. This will harm these people, especially if you catalogue your prices. I listened the other day when everybody got excited about the hotel business. Most of our people cannot afford the high-priced hotels, but they talked about how good that is for this province. When I go to P.E.I. or I am going to go on vacation to the States, I get a catalogue and it gives me all the prices. One thing Americans will not understand - they do not understand the Canadian tax system to begin with, they think we are all crazy. They do not understand it. They do not understand the GST. Now they will not understand the BST. They do not understand the PST. They do not understand all this.

P.E.I. will send their catalogue down and their rooms will be $75 and ours will be $75 plus 15 per cent or $83, I worked it out; $83 in P.E.I. is $100 in Nova Scotia. Is the guy from Pennsylvania or the guy from California or the guy from Los Angeles or Atlantic City going to understand that when he gets here in one he is going to pay the tax and in the other he is not? I doubt it very much. He is going to be confused by the time he even crosses the border. He does know one thing; if he fills up with gasoline in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick he is going to pay more. So once he gets here, you say, he will figure out that he's got a saving on that and he will stay on longer. When he figures out he is paying more for gasoline to drive around this province, he will then go off to P.E.I. where it is going to cost him less to drive around the province.

I don't think the government has done a thorough enough job to get too excited, that this is going to be the big boom for the tourist industry that they let on that it is going to be. They have not really thought through this deal that they signed some time ago. The former Minister of Health went off to Ottawa and signed a deal. I am not sure if anybody back home, including the MLAs, knew what it was, but he signed a deal, a deal to keep the fed's commitment and a deal that is going to have, obviously, an effect on Nova Scotians.

Madam Speaker, I was quite interested. I think it was December 3, 1996 - and that was not that long ago, I guess it was six days ago- that the Department of Transportation in this province sent out a memo to truckers to see what impact the BST would have on them. I

[Page 3230]

would have thought that before they were ramming something through the House, they would have asked the truckers to give them their assessment. I am thinking to myself, well, this government seems to know how it affects everybody else. They stand up in the House and boast how it affects everybody else. Now his own government is sending out a memo to truckers to say, what do you think as a trucker? How will this affect your business? I am thinking to myself, man oh man, this government sure has not got its act together, because on the one hand, in the Legislature they are telling us how it affects everybody and they know how it is going to affect everybody, and then there is the Department of Transportation that this government has not talked to yet that says, we don't know how it is going to affect truckers so we have to ask the truckers how it is going to affect them. I am thinking, man oh man, is this government so disjointed that it has absolutely no idea how and when it is going to affect many of them.

If it is the truckers on the one hand, what about other areas in this province that I know they have not consulted on? I know they have not talked to many of the retailers in this province. They certainly don't consider the consumer being important at all because the consumer absolutely has no opportunity and has had no opportunity to talk to this government about how it has got its tax priorities backwards by taxing the necessities of life and allowing the luxuries of life to be cheaper. If the consumer had its opportunity, I am sure it would point out to the government that in 1997 it is important that we ease the burden on the necessities of life and that we raise that money that you say you need on the luxuries of life that most seniors and most working people in this province cannot afford as of today.

Madam Speaker, as you probably would have guessed, I am going to vote for the motion to hoist this bill.

MADAM SPEAKER: The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the amendment that was presented by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Pictou Centre. As you could imagine, I am sure, and appreciate, the Leader of the Opposition gave the amendment a lot of careful consideration before he came over to the House and introduced the amendment to all honourable members in this House.

It is important, I think, that we all look within our own constituencies. It is nice, from time to time, to look provincially. I know the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova suggested that he did not receive one call, Madam Speaker, from any of his constituents against the blended sales tax. Now I may have been just a tad bit harsh with my remarks when I suggested the honourable member may not have his phone number listed. I don't believe that for one moment, I know the honourable member, he has been elected time and time again to this Legislature and he does have his phone number listed. I still can't believe that the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has not received any calls and I will tell you why

[Page 3231]

(Interruptions) No I am not saying that he is lying, I am saying that he might be leading some people down the garden path.

[12:15 p.m.]

The reason I say that and why we must support this amendment is because the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Pictou Centre, Dr. John Hamm, put an advertisement in some papers in this province. The advertisement said, help John Hamm stop the BST. (Interruptions) Well, to the honourable Minister of Community Services is on topic and it is important that we know what the cost of different initiatives are. Madam Speaker, did you know that the Savage Government spent $75,000 to advertise and extol the perceived virtues of the BS Tax, $75,000.

Again, the reason I am talking about this coupon is because we received literally hundreds of questionnaires, coupons, from people from one end of this province right to the other. Do you know what? Some of these forms came in from the constituency of Cape Breton Nova. So, the honourable member, because he is very busy and I would never suggest that he was otherwise, maybe his messages aren't coming through. We have the coupons, we have hundreds and hundreds of them. They are from Cape Breton The Lakes, we have heard from those people and they are telling us, see if you can talk some sense into our member. How about talking to the honourable member for Preston and asking him to support the amendment that you put forward. That is what they are saying. We are hearing from constituents in every provincial constituency, every riding, just think about it. Yet, some honourable members are saying that they are not hearing anybody, so what is going on? (Interruptions)

The member for Preston knows me better.(Interruptions) Well, one complaint is worth responding to but we have hundreds. We have heard from constituents in Pictou East, we have heard from constituents from the Eastern Shore. In fact, this morning we received two letters from people who live in Musquodoboit Harbour from the constituency along the Eastern Shore. We have heard from the constituency of Shelburne.

People in Shelburne are very concerned about the blended sales tax and they are saying, listen, we appreciate the fact that you are trying to have the bill hoisted. Shelve this for six months, give our MLAs an opportunity to go to the constituents, consult with people. It is important that the people know just what is going on here. We have received support on John Hamm's initiative to shelve the BST and it was the Leader of the Opposition who put the amendment forward, I don't think anybody disputes that.

Madam Speaker, I am a little bit concerned about your posture. You seem to be edging closer to the microphone and that tells me that you might be going to say something. I shouldn't pre-judge but you were indulged in some form of reading there.

[Page 3232]

MADAM SPEAKER: I am indulging myself in thinking, I hope I won't hear the repetition of 52 ridings mentioned in your dialogue.

MR. TAYLOR: It is relevant.

MADAM SPEAKER: You see because it would be repetitious so that is why I am leaning closer to the microphone just so you are warned.

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, your crystal ball is working pretty darn good up there this morning. It would be a bit repetitious for me to mention every constituency but I will just say that we have heard from the 52 constituencies. Many, I think 39 perhaps, are held by the governing Liberals.

There is so much information, it is really hard to stay on track but there is a booklet and I am sure you have a copy of it. It is called, Toward Replacing the Goods and Services Tax. Did you know that in 1994, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance conducted an extensive review of the sales tax reform options. The committee considered 20 alternatives to the goods and services tax. Now here is what the honourable members had to look at. First of all, they said they were going to abolish the GST. No replacement, just abolish the GST. That was one of the options they looked at. Well, the fact is, if we were to shelve this bill for six months, if we were to hoist the bill - there is the relevance, Madam Speaker - it would allow the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to be reactivated, if you will, to sit down and again consider the cutting of government expenditures as a possible option, reduce federal transfers to the province. Now none of us would support that but that is what they looked at.

They considered charging a personal income tax surtax, Madam Speaker, an additional one. (Interruption) Yes, they are doing that now. Now here is something that members of the Third Party perhaps would support a little more vigorously than some others. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, when they were conducting their extensive review of sales tax reform options, looked at increasing the corporate tax rate but they said no, that is not acceptable. They also looked at exchanging . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance said that because they looked at 20 options. Now, Madam Speaker, if we could just shelve this thing, support this amendment, and I believe that the honourable member for Halifax Needham is giving serious deliberation to supporting the amendment the way he seems to be engaging in debate here this morning.

Now that House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance also looked at establishing a flat tax as a possible alternative.

[Page 3233]

AN HON. MEMBER: That was the Reform Party.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Madam Speaker, this says the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance which was represented by all Parties.

They also looked at additional personal income tax, flat tax add-on, Madam Speaker, but again they said, that is no good. That is not acceptable to the Canadian public. So, back in 1994 when all these deliberations and all these meetings and considerations were taking place, the Standing Committee on Finance looked at 20 options. They looked at a turnover tax. Now, the honourable Minister of the information highway probably would know what a turnover tax is but that is another option they looked at. They looked at a payroll tax, they looked a wealth transfer tax, they looked at the taxation of gambling and lottery winnings, increasing those taxes.

Madam Speaker, they looked at a personal expenditure tax, they looked at a manufacture tax, but the committee concluded that a national invoice method, value added tax replacing the GST and provincial sales tax, was the best option for addressing the current shortcomings in the Canadian sales tax system. They looked at a wholesale tax, they looked at all these options, approximately 20 options, an all-Party Standing Committee on Finance, and what they came up with was the blended sales tax.

The government put a proposal, Minister Martin and his entourage, if you will, they put together a proposal and they submitted it to all the provinces across Canada and the territories. Now, lo and behold, after all that deliberation and all that consideration, they made the presentation to all the provinces across this country. Now Nova Scotia, I believe, was just a little bit too hasty. In fact, others will suggest they were far too hasty. They were hurried-up.

They said, this is great, I like the proposal, they signed on the dotted line. Do you know what, Madam Speaker? The Nova Scotia Government is of the same colour, political persuasion, as the federal government. So that, in itself, is not all that bad. Well, you know it is a deal and nobody is going to look at the Party that they are representing. Then we find out Frank McKenna - remember Frank McKenna? He was just here a couple of weeks ago or a week ago and he addressed an audience; $100 a plate dinner; made some statements that I certainly don't support but, nonetheless, let's go on to Newfoundland and Premier Tobin. You could have brought Premier Tobin in to make your keynote address. But, Madam Speaker, the point I am making . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: You see me moving again because, really, the comments about Premier McKenna and Premier Tobin are irrelevant to the hoist motion. You are debating the hoist motion.

[Page 3234]

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Madam Speaker, I would never challenge your ruling, I always appreciate . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: I know you wouldn't, so I would like you to debate the hoist motion.

MR. TAYLOR: Absolutely. Back onto the amendment. Madam Speaker. It is important that we support this amendment because, well, for a lot of reasons. I think my number-one reason for supporting this amendment is because of this document right here. That is the reason I support this amendment. I don't intend to read extensively from this document, but when Prince Edward Island received the presentation from the federal government, they set up a special committee. Now, what would be wrong with this government establishing a special committee on the proposed - and I will be kind and call it the harmonization of the goods and services tax, or, in other words, the BS Tax, Madam Speaker . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not BS, it's HST.

MR. TAYLOR: Now, Madam Speaker, I was just told that it is not the BST, it is the HST. Whatever it is, why couldn't this government establish a similar committee? We have a lot of likenesses and a lot of similarities when we are compared to Prince Edward Island. The mandate of the committee could be this, if you support the hoist - to receive it is something that you have never heard before - the mandate of your committee could be to receive public opinion.

What is wrong with receiving public opinion? Why is this government so against that? You could receive public opinion and then make recommendations on the proposed BS Tax, or harmonization of the federal goods and services tax. You could take six months, travel around the province, and you could make up a final report as soon as was reasonably possible. We wouldn't have to hold a gun to the committee's head and say, look, you have to be back by such-and-such a date. Let's give them a time-frame that is reasonable and logical and rational. It seems like a very honourable request: go out and gauge the public.

Now, Madam Speaker, Prince Edward Island found, after they put a similar committee in progress so to speak, they outlined the key element of the harmonization proposal. Here was the proposal they received - the same proposal that this government received - the province would adopt a provincial value-added tax to replace the provincial sales tax. That is what this government received; you received a proposal to replace the BST and adopt a provincial value-added tax. The provincial value-added tax would be at a rate of 8 per cent. Again, Madam Speaker, the same proposal, and the GST - and it states right in this document that the federal government had no intention of eliminating the GST - it states that the goods and services tax would remain the same, at 7 per cent and, of course, the harmonized sales tax would be 15 per cent.

[Page 3235]

Here is the kicker, Madam Speaker; there would be no tax on tax. The honourable Minister of Community Services said yes. I would suggest that different members of the Savage Government are telling their constituents and telling businesses that there will be no tax on tax. Now I am sure the honourable Minister of Community Services is aware that we presently charge a provincial fuel tax of 15.4 cents on a litre of fuel and there is a federal excise tax of 4 cents on a litre of diesel and there is an excise tax of 10 cents. This government is not going to tax a tax and the federal government is not taxing a tax, that is misleading the public, Madam Speaker, because you know, as well as I know, that the 15 per cent will be applied to those taxes. So you are taxing a tax.

[12:30 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, we have to support this amendment to clarify these issues. I notice, and it is very uncommon for the Minister of Community Services, even during his participation in heckling not to have a comeback, but he realizes now, as all Nova Scotians do, that this government is going to be taxing a tax. So don't tell us something that is not true. Don't say we are not going to be taxing a tax because that is what you are going to do. Period. Final.

Madam Speaker, the honourable Minister of the Environment told us, during a news conference, very relevant and on topic, on November 12th he told us, when he announced that the contract had been signed between TRACC and the Resource Recovery Fund, that he was going to ask the federal Minister of Finance for an exemption. He told us, at least at that press conference, that he was going to request an exemption of the tire tax or environmental fee, I will be kind to the minister for Preston this afternoon.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: It is a tax. Don't say it is a fee, it is a tax.

MR. TAYLOR: The honourable member for Kings North says it is a tax and not a fee. But, nonetheless, the honourable Minister of the Environment said that he would ask for an exemption whereby the tire tax would not be taxed the BST. Madam Speaker, do you know what our office did? Our office contacted the federal Minister of Finance's office. I don't want to mislead anybody. We were not speaking to the Minister of Finance, Paul Martin. But you know what? The federal minister's office never received any communication from the Minister of the Environment. So how are you going to get an exemption if you do not request it?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: On a point of clarification, Madam Speaker. I think the member knows full well that I did not make that statement. I told him I would work with the Nova Scotia Department of Finance to seek an exemption. I just want to clarify the chain of order.

[Page 3236]

MR. TAYLOR: I thank the Minister of the Environment for that very illuminating response, Madam Speaker, but the fact is . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is the truth.

MR. TAYLOR: It is always the truth when you are talking to the minister. Nobody else tells the truth, only the Minister of the Environment. Madam Speaker, it is very important that the minister does everything he can during the six months that this bill is hoisted. It is important that the Minister of the Environment goes out and communicates to his Minister of Finance. (Interruption) He do and he does. We want an exemption whereby the tire tax will not be taxed at the horrible 15 per cent rate. I believe the minister when he tells me he was talking (Interruption) After the next election, he could go by the way of the dodo bird, but that is really not topical. Now the Minister of the Environment, and I am not picking on the Minister of the Environment, but I have another document here and, again, this involves the Minister of the Environment.

Madam Speaker, the Minister of the Environment knows that he is somewhat, or perhaps ultimately, responsible for well drilling in this province. The Department of the Environment . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a long bow.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, it is not a long bow.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is this on the hoist amendment, honourable member?

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Madam Speaker, it is. But I just misplaced my letter. I will go from recall. I have it on good source and good authority that the Well Drillers Association is in support of the six months' hoist. (Interruption) The Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association, as you may not know, last year approximately 4,000 wells were drilled or dug. Seventy-five per cent of the cost of constructing a well is directly attributed to labour. Labour, at the present time, pre-BS Tax implementation, is charged at the 7 per cent, taxed only the federal goods and service tax.

The Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association took that concern to the Minister of the Environment, I have it on good source and authority, and again the Minister of the Environment said, look, don't worry, I will apply for an exemption. So the Minister of the Environment is telling well drillers in Nova Scotia, he is also telling people that purchased tires that he is going to apply for all these exemptions, but when we contact the federal Minister of Finance's office, they say that no such communication has been made and no such request has been received. That is what they tell us. Again, I welcome the honourable minister to tell me if I have my facts (Interruption) No, my facts are correct, thank you.

[Page 3237]

AN HON. MEMBER: You never do, eh?

MR. TAYLOR: Never do, no. The Minister of the Environment is the only one who gets his facts straight.

Well, the fact is the smallest province in Canada went to their people and consulted. What the heck would be wrong with this government doing the same thing during the six months that this bill is laid up on the shelf? Do you know how many presentations they received? Of the 47 public presentations made to the committee, in late August of this year the committee, and it was an all - I have to be very careful with that because it is important that we all understand the composition. It was made up of MLAs in Prince Edward Island. Roger Solomon was the Chair, the MLA for First Kings; the honourable Pat Mella, the Leader of the Opposition was on that committee; Tim Carroll, the MLA for Fifth Queens, and incidentally, Tim Carroll must have read the political cards right because he resigned on October 1, 1996; Tom Dunphy, MLA for Third Queens; and Stavert Huestis, MLA for Fourth Prince. I think the honourable member for Lunenburg would remember Stavert Huestis because he accompanied us on a parliamentary session over in Newfoundland, a very fine gentleman. So, the committee was certainly represented by some very fine and honourable elected MLAs from Prince Edward Island.

Beginning in late August, this committee, unlike Nova Scotia, began the public hearing process. I know those are new words to some of the honourable members opposite but it is important that this government consider holding and supporting public hearings. They held a total of eight public hearings on the following dates and locations. I think it is irrelevant that we talk about the dates, but they went across Prince Edward Island. They held hearings in Charlottetown, Summerside, Pooles Corner and so on and so forth.

Following the public hearings, the committee met with officials from the Department of the Provincial Treasury in Prince Edward Island and they discussed the issues associated with the sales tax harmonization. The committee then began preparing a report and the results from public consultation were this, "Of the 47 presentations made to the Committee, a strong majority stated opposition to Prince Edward Island joining the federal government's sales tax harmonization plan.".

Again, it bears repeating that we have a lot of similarities and a lot of likenesses with our cousins over in Prince Edward Island. Nonetheless, the most often cited reason centred on the belief that the consumer would end up paying more taxes. This was a highly respected committee comprised of honourable gentlemen and ladies. They went to the people. What is wrong with that? I know it is new to many members opposite but the words are public consultation, nothing wrong with it.

[Page 3238]

Their finding was that the consumer would pay more but here are some of the reasons that also were included in the results from their public consultations. "Low income families would suffer disproportionately . . . the fact the provincial tax would apply to such basics as electricity, heating fuel, clothing and reading materials was often cited as having a severe negative impact on consumers.". I think if this government had gone to the people, and now we are giving them an opportunity to go to the people by supporting this six months' hoist, they would have found (Interruptions)

The Minister of Transportation tells us from time to time that different industry sectors are in support of the BS Tax. He tells us that that is good and it will be good for business. He tells us that business will pass along some of these tax savings to the consumer, but you know what they found on Prince Edward Island when they held their public hearings and they went to the people? Here is what they heard. "Serious doubt was also expressed that business would pass on any tax savings . . .". That is what they found out.

Some will say, well how many businesses made presentations. Well, Madam Speaker, on the back of the article, and I haven't even read one page of this article, on the back of the article - I am sure you all have this article. If you don't, I could get Premier Binns to fax you over a copy, I am sure. I know Premier Binns would have no reservation and no hesitation to fax over a document and he would gladly allow you to have this information.

Madam Speaker, the city of Summerside, a municipality, what are the municipalities in Nova Scotia saying? No public consultation, how would you know what they are saying? The Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities spoke out against this BS Tax; the Prince Edward Island Potato Producers Association, the Town of Stratford, Powell Shoes, a business - I wonder if they feel that taxing children's footwear on sales under $100 is very unfair and unjustly punishing the poor. Absolutely. The Western School Board made a presentation, and so on and so forth. So you see that is why we are hearing from people all across Nova Scotia.

Now, Madam Speaker, this government has introduced the BS Tax, they are going to implement tolls, next December we are going to be paying tolls. A thirst tax has been brought in by this government, a tire tax. This government had no mandate to do those things; this government came to office on the theme that they would create jobs, jobs, jobs. What you are doing is fundamentally altering the tax regime in this province. They like doing it, they think they are doing something good.

Madam Speaker, I know the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is a very busy man and he tells me from time to time that the trucking industry will probably benefit from this BS Tax. Now the honourable member for Kings West already mentioned that this government sent out a request to the trucking industry, after the fact, they came in with this legislation, asked them how it is going to impact on them. So the Minister of Transportation and Public Works really doesn't have any idea.

[Page 3239]

Madam Speaker, this book is available to all honourable members and I think all honourable members have a copy. It is not the technical paper, it is Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax. The last paragraph, before you get into the annexes, state; clarifying the availability of input tax credits. Under the existing federal sales tax rules, registrants are able to claim input tax credits for federal sales tax paid on property or services acquired for use or supply in the course of a commercial activity.

Now, Madam Speaker, whether or not that activity involves the making of supplies. So this last sentence is very important, "It is proposed to clarify that persons whose activities do not involve the making of supplies are not entitled to claim income tax credits." So how does the trucking industry know that it is going to be able to claim income tax credits because it has not been clarified? I didn't produce this book, this book came from Ottawa, the Department of Finance, Canada. That, in itself, is a very major reason to support hoisting this bill for six months. (Interruptions) They haven't read their books. Distribution Centre, Department of Finance, 300 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, K1A 0G5, also available on the Internet.

[12:45 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, I encourage all honourable members to read the last paragraph on Page 90 and it states, "It is proposed to clarify that persons whose activities to do not involve the making of supplies are not entitled to claim input tax credits.". So, am I making a supply running down the road with a flatbed taking a piece of oil equipment from here to there? No, I am providing a service, so that seems to tell me that I will not be eligible for input tax credits.

Please get your house in order. You are coming in with this hastily prepared legislation, you are telling everybody - all businesses - they can claim these input tax credits and it states here, it is the purpose, ". . . to clarify that persons whose activities do not involve the making of supplies are not entitled . . .". So, my goodness, do they know which way they are going? Which end is up?

AN HON. MEMBER: I can't follow that at all. I find it hard to understand.

MR. TAYLOR: You read that, George, and I am sure it is very easily understood, Madam Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not what they are saying, is it?

MR. TAYLOR: No, that is not what they are saying. How about land surveyors? I had a call from a land surveyor in my constituency - and there are two land surveying companies registered in my constituency, one out of Stewiacke, and one out of Middle Musquodoboit - and the wife of one of the individuals who work very hard in the land surveying business said,

[Page 3240]

how is this BST going to impact me? Am I going to have to charge my clients, my customers? What is in it for me? I said, well, I understand that for services such as yours you are going to have to charge the BS Tax. She said, why am I going to have to do the dirty work? (Interruption) Madam Speaker, he is being a little bit insolent. (Laughter)

Madam Speaker, well drillers are concerned, land surveyors are concerned. How about the media? Now, that statement states, "It is proposed to clarify that persons whose activities do not involve making of supplies are not entitled to claim the input tax credit.". So I am sure that our various forms of media use all kinds of supplies. Maybe the media would support this hoist. Now the honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank, he is giving serious consideration now to support the amendment but the media, I am sure, purchases, from time to time, chairs, tables, desks, computers, printers, ink, paper, pens, all kinds of stationery the media would use. How is this going to . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Those are inputs.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, the honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank tells me those are inputs. Yes, they are inputs but it states here that if you are not involved in the making of supplies, you are not entitled to claim the input tax credit. That is exactly what it says. I can read it again verbatim. (Interruptions) It is supposed to be clarified. Madam Speaker, please get a copy of this book, clarify the availability (Interruptions) Don't get me off track here.

I did have some discussions with the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and the efforts were, for the most part, in vain. He had no sense of what that paragraph actually means but I appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule. The member for Eastern Shore was also kind enough to give his two cents relative to that concern.

How about muffler shops, Madam Speaker? Let's talk about the muffler shops around the country. From time to time we all need our exhaust systems changed. If you are not making, making of supplies, it states very clearly, you are not entitled. So, automotive garages and things of that nature, I think this government owes it to the businesses in Nova Scotia to come clear with them.

Now, Madam Speaker, it is important that somebody from the government side of the House, maybe somebody on the government front benches, on Page 90 of the Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax, it states very clearly, and I am becoming a bit repetitious here but I think the honourable former Minister of Finance wants to hear that statement again. It states, under clarifying the availability of input tax credits, "It is proposed to clarify that persons whose activities do not involve the making of supplies are not entitled to claim input tax credits.". Now maybe I am misunderstanding that. It seems to be in very plain English. It seems very clear to me that the businesses in Nova Scotia are, at best, ill-informed as to how they are going to be impacted by this 15 per cent.

[Page 3241]

If the Government of Nova Scotia, and it would be awfully nice if the Governments of New Brunswick and Newfoundland did the same, Madam Speaker, were to hoist these bills for six months, it would give the federal government and the provincial governments an opportunity to not only go to the businesses across Nova Scotia and the other two provinces, but you could go to the other provinces.

Do you remember the Premier, just a while ago, there was a picture of the Premier in the Chronicle-Herald and the Daily News, for example, holding up something and pointing to the BS Tax? Do you remember that picture? Do you have that picture? Well, that was fine and dandy. The Premier, our First Minister, was extolling the virtues of the BS Tax to Torontonians, Ontarians. I am sure we are very pleased. But do you know what? The Premier came back here the very next day to Question Period and we reeled off a few questions to the Premier and he said, don't ask me. Ask the Minister of Finance. I say what the heck was he doing up in Toronto if he did not know what the BS Tax was all about? What was he doing up there in Toronto extolling the virtues of the BS Tax?

Madam Speaker, I have to say it. If you support hoisting the bill, then you could send the Minister of Finance up and he could tell them to call the 1-800 number because that is what they are telling everyday Nova Scotians. Everyday Nova Scotians want to know. I will just read one sentence from a letter we received this morning from a constituent from Dartmouth. It might even be a constituent of the Premier's. I am definitely . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Is the letter relevant to the hoist, honourable member?

MR. TAYLOR: Very relevant, Madam Speaker, yes, very germane. (Interruption) You be the judge and tell me whether it is relevant. I will just read two very short sentences. "I am definitely against the BST. This is being railed roaded upon us. It and every major thing concerning the people should be voted upon. When they state the gains they never state the cost as to what they did to the people.".

Madam Speaker, that is just a couple of sentences from that document. When you read extensively from a document, I understand that you may be requested from time to time, but (Interruption) I have absolutely no hesitation in tabling that. I have another letter here from Richmond County, Nova Scotia, but I will not read from that because I don't want them to read something they do not want to hear. You have to respect people's confidentiality.

Madam Speaker, seeing as how I am going to table this document, I think it is only fair that I state that this concerned citizen and constituent from Dartmouth said, "Many issues in the government really upset me and I shall mention a few. I do not know why I should have to pay Pharmacare when I am in perfect health.". No drugs whatsoever. (Interruption)

MADAM SPEAKER: It is irrelevant.

[Page 3242]

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, BST is represented in it. Based on very conservative estimates of 40 litres a week, this is a very important point, per family with one car, it will cost an additional $100 a year for gas. That is based on a very modest type estimate. Government will generate an additional $14 million in taxes on residential home heating oil and $15 million in additional electricity taxes. Nova Scotians are now paying $63 million in gasoline taxes annually. This will skyrocket to $104 million. So you see, it is really going to impact our consumers. It is really going to affect the consumers in this province. There is no question about it.

Madam Speaker, I have another document I would like to read just a sentence from. I have absolutely no hesitation in tabling these documents; "Chamber voices concerns . . ." on - Madam Speaker, I will read what they call it, the HST. I will be kind to the government. We choose to call it and many people call it the BS Tax but, "The Truro and District Chamber of Commerce supports the harmonized sales tax - but only to a point. Tax-included pricing concerns many members and chamber president Ed MacDonald says changes must be made if businesses are going to get behind the HST.". They are saying that as far as the tax-inclusive price goes, they have some concerns.

The Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is saying, with "'. . . tax-included pricing restricted to Atlantic Canada will lead to higher consumer costs and poorer selection of merchandise'". Let's just talk about that for a moment. This is a highly respected organization. (Interruptions) They are against the HST, as I understand it. They are voicing their concerns. (Interruptions) That is very honourable of the member for Cape Breton East, the Minister of Education, to write to the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce. "MacDonald said that fewer job opportunities will develop in the retail sector and predicted that the HST will deter retail business from setting up in Nova Scotia . . .". (Interruptions) I cannot be any clearer than that. Is that speaking in favour of or against the HST? (Interruptions) '"The tax included pricing concept came about as a result of a very poorly conducted unscientific poll,' MacDonald said.".

Aren't they speaking against the BST? Those comments are attributed to President Ed MacDonald of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce. They have some very real concerns, Madam Speaker. You know what else they are saying? Mr. MacDonald said, " . . . there is no business reason to go this route.". (Interruptions) We are talking about the HST. In fact, the tax-included pricing concept came about as a result of a very poorly conducted, unscientific poll. I cannot believe the government on one hand is claiming to simplify procedures and processes for small business and then enforcing tax-included pricing, which directly contradicts their stated objectives of helping business.

Despite the widespread objections, the government seems determined to implement the tax-included pricing system, noted MacDonald. So you see, Madam Speaker, they are talking about one component. They are talking about that element - tax-inclusive pricing. Do you know what the penalty is? The legislation - yes, another major reason to hoist the bill. Of

[Page 3243]

course the Minister of Finance would know, but do the Liberal backbenchers, those not on the Treasury benches know what the penalty is if your receipt or your invoice does not show the breakdown? No, they do not know, but the legislation tells us that the penalty is anywhere from $100 to $5,000 or not more than 30 days in jail. (Interruptions) You are on the second front row of the benches. I am talking to the backbenches. I know he thinks because he is not sure yet what portfolio he is minister of - all jokes aside, I do not believe many Liberal backbenchers realize that the penalty.

Now suppose I run a little corner store and I was talking to the honourable member for Halifax Needham, the Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat about one of his constituents here, not too long ago who runs a little corner store down on Windsor Street. (Interruptions) Yes, Madam Speaker, he is quite correct. We have to be proper here. He is almost on a corner. He runs a little variety store. He sells a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I was in there picking up some Brown Cow one night and had a little chitchat with the owner of the store. He said, do I have to change my cash register? I said, look, as I understand it when tax-inclusive pricing becomes the law April 7, 1997, I understand you are going to have to clearly denote what the HST is on the invoice. He said, gosh, I do not think this cash register is capable of denoting that. I brought that concern to his MLA and I am sure that the MLA has already responded and has been out and talked to him several times and has him completely satisfied that that is a good deal. I am sure he has. Local retailers across this province are going to be impacted negatively.

[1:00 p.m.]

I did agree that the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce was criticizing the tax-inclusive component of the HST. (Interruption) Well, I could read a couple of more, just in case they did comment on the overall concept of the HST. I think if I picked up the phone and called Mr. MacDonald today, perhaps the former Minister of Finance would have time in his busy schedule to call up the President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce and say, listen, Mr. MacDonald, the Opposition is down there trying to hoist that bill for six months. Does the chamber support it or would they be against that? Would the minister go pick up the phone and ask and we would all be enlightened, would he be so kind as to do that?

Listen to the way this guy is talking and you tell me whether he supports it, Madam Speaker. He says, "I am appalled by this attitude. It certainly frustrates us in our role of supporting business.". Of course he would support the hoist. "Local retailers report the costs of reticketing goods will be an ongoing business expense because many items come from national or international distributors already pre-priced. As well, the cost of retooling their cash registers and computer inventory systems will more than outweigh the savings they will get from any input tax credits.". That is what the President of the Chamber of Commerce, that highly respected body up in Central Nova Scotia, is saying. So of course they would support

[Page 3244]

the hoist. What they are saying here is essentially that this is a job-killer, it is going to impact the retail sector negatively.

Now Mr. MacDonald goes on further to state, Madam Speaker, "We fully realize that certain businesses will be negatively impacted far more than others but if businesses are burdened with increased costs who is going to pay? - the consumer - you and I, says Mr. MacDonald.". So you tell me whether the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is in support of the HST, you tell me. (Interruption) Well, that is what the president is saying. He argues that it makes no sense for the government to be involved in the pricing of merchandise. "The government should not be telling business how to price their goods.".

You know, Madam Speaker, when you read the legislation, or at least you go through the technical paper, I think it is, or perhaps it is that booklet Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax, it tells these businesses that they have the option, if they want to price it the old way. The government has no difficulty with that, but you had better, the decree, the directive, the order is, you better change that sticker and have that sticker reflect the breakdown of the BS Tax by April 7, 1997, or you could be penalized up to $5,000 or not more than 30 days in jail. But, if you want, you can keep the old sticker price on there.

Well that is big-hearted, that is very kind. Support the hoist, I implore the government to support this six months' hoist. It will give you an opportunity to go to the grocery store, to go to the small business person, to go to the hairdressers, to go to the drug stores, to go to the service stations, to go to the bookkeeper across the road, to go to the graveyard attendant. Talk to all these different people, see what their feelings are; do what Prince Edward Island did. Prince Edward Island had the courage, Prince Edward Island had the wherewithal, Prince Edward Island consulted. We are now the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. John Hamm from Pictou Centre, has given this government an opportunity to do something that you haven't done before.

Down in First LaHave perhaps the people there would like to have an opportunity - First Branch, Madam Speaker, perhaps they would like to have an opportunity; the people in Wileville, people in Shubenacadie, they would like to have an opportunity, sure they would.

Madam Speaker, the former Minister of Finance, maybe he has gone to make that phone call - oh, I thought he was going out to call the President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce. But maybe now that the Premier is here, the Premier could designate somebody to call the President, Mr. Ed MacDonald. (Interruptions) Well, do you know what his final statement is? In this story, and the former Minister of Finance is very interested.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder if it is in order when we are dealing with a hoist amendment to continually just rhyme off, see if the member could memorize all the communities he can in the Province of Nova Scotia and repeat himself. He is doing it very well. Earlier you made it clear that that would be out of

[Page 3245]

order, but then, as I understand it, that is just what he has done. He said, I wonder if the people from here would like to, I wonder if the people from there. If he wants to go all over the map and name every spot in Nova Scotia and say, I wonder if the people, would that be in order in debating whether a matter should be hoisted or not? I would think it would be out of order if he were to do so. He certainly made a valiant attempt so far.

MADAM SPEAKER: I don't consider that a point of order. It is an interesting point and the member has been cautioned once on that point already in this past 45 or 50 minutes.

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a Santa Claus parade with the honourable member for Hants East and the spirit of cooperation was out of this world. We had a real good morning together. That is very irrelevant, yes. Back to the President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce. Please try to internalize what the president is saying here. This is for the benefit of all honourable members in the House but it is more especially directed through you, Madam Speaker, to the former Minister of Finance who really started the legwork, if you will, did some of the legwork on the blended sales tax. Now, you tell me whether the President, Mr. Ed MacDonald, of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is in favour of the BS tax or against it. He is saying, Madam Speaker, ". . . with only two million plus people out of 30 million Canadians it sure will affect the desire of major manufacturers, distributors and chains to do business with us.".

So now the former minister is telling us that they are in favour of it but the Chamber of Commerce is voicing concerns, Madam Speaker. I could table that for the honourable member. (Interruption) He knows, Madam Speaker. What I am saying is, they would like to be consulted with. They don't like waking up every morning and reading, oh my Gosh, another new tax. Well, they put this tax on, that tax on.

Just to correct the honourable member for Hants East on his point of order, Madam Speaker, the only community that I mentioned was Shubenacadie. When he said I was being repetitious, I was talking about the mechanics, about the drug store clerks, about the farmer, about the forester, about the trucker. I did not go on and on about communities.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: A point of order, Madam Speaker. The member says that he only mentioned one community. Well, I heard him mention the Eastern Shore and I heard him mention to the honourable minister a corner store in his riding. I heard him mention two or three other particular spots. I heard him mention Truro, I heard him mention the Truro Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in the debate, he went just right through it. When the member says that he only mentioned one community, well, perhaps if he has been speaking so long, he sort of has forgotten what he said before. I don't blame this person that rattles on that long. He probably does forget what they said. In that case, I would suggest the honourable member should take his place.

[Page 3246]

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you for the point. Again, I think it is a point of opinion on this and I will remind the honourable member his time is now starting to run down.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Madam Speaker, there are a lot of things to talk about when you talk about the BS Tax. Let's talk a little bit about school supplies. I have not mentioned school book supplies. If I have, then . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Let's talk about the hoist amendment.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, let's talk about the hoist. Well, Madam Speaker, by supporting the hoist - as you understand, presently the provincial sales tax is not applied to school supplies. Under the BS Tax, it will now be taxed at 15 per cent; 15 per cent is going to be attached to school supplies.

The government made a whole lot of noise, there was a big brouhaha, a lot of thunder, Madam Speaker, relative to the tax on books. They spoke eloquently. Do you remember? They spoke quite eloquently about the negative impact this would have on literacy and I agree and I support the government on that initiative, but then, do you know what they did? They ran out and signed a deal to tax school supplies.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you kidding?

MR. TAYLOR: No, I am not kidding. That is what it is going to do, Madam Speaker.

Other areas that will be taxed. The government failed to note in their $75,000 advertising campaign, the other areas. How about driving school? Do you know that driving schools are provincial sales tax exempt, but now they are going to be taxed at 15 per cent? So much for encouraging safe driving. This will discourage drivers, particularly young drivers, from taking safety courses that can save lives. How is it going to impact on insurance premiums? How will it impact on our health care budget resulting from the driving accidents of people who decided they just cannot afford the increased cost of driver education? Does this government support increasing driver education?

AN HON. MEMBER: Terry already used that. Terry said that.

MR. TAYLOR: If it is worth saying once, it is worth saying twice. Maybe Terry did not mention fitness clubs and amateur sport and ice time, how about private dance and music?

How about, Madam Speaker, our little clubs like our Girl Guides and our Brownies and Boy Scouts, when they purchase chocolate bars or their cookies, things of that nature? We know that they can be classified as, certainly, a charitable organization, but they have different initiatives where they sell things that are presently charged the GST. Is this government now

[Page 3247]

going to wield its heavy hand on organizations like Boy Scouts, like Brownies, like Girl Guides? I cannot support that.

Madam Speaker, I have a letter here from a well driller in Amherst. If I read it, do I have to table it? Okay. He is against the BS Tax. It is too bad that I don't have more time so that I could talk about the Department of Transportation, but the Department of Transportation - just as I sit down and in conclusion - is attempting to determine the impact of the BS Tax on the trucking industry. Thank you. I will be supporting the amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the Legislature this afternoon to speak to the amendment on Bill No. 48, which is An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. The amendment, of course, is that it not be now read a second time, but it be read a second time this day six months hence.

I had the opportunity to speak the other day on the resolution which extended the hours to debate this bill. I did say, at that time, that I could not understand why the government was actually introducing this bill at this time because they had told us a couple of weeks ago that the bill wasn't going to be introduced until the spring session. Well, they changed their minds again and it is another flip-flop as far as I am concerned. The fact is the reason they want the bill passed now is that in 1997 or at least early 1998 they have to go to the polls and so they want to get their housekeeping done and have this bill passed and out of the people's way before they call that election.

[1:15 p.m.]

Be that as it may, we have the bill and we will be amending it and there will likely be other amendments. The fact is that the bill will pass eventually. I think it is very unfair that the government is bringing this bill in at this time. Most of the members of the Legislature know that I was for a national harmonization, one that would harmonize the tax, I have been saying that for years and I have been quoted as saying that but not for a harmonization tax that will increase the tax to the average consumer of this province.

The fact is that the average person across this province is going to face a big additional tax and we will get into those numbers a little later on. Every taxpayer probably has electricity, probably has a car, has to heat his house and these are things that are increased by quite a little bit. Of all the things, they have even included toothpaste which I can't believe that they would put that on the list and why they wouldn't exempt that one, I don't know.

[Page 3248]

On the other side of the coin, the big ticket items will not be taxed as much. The fact is if people are buying a car every two years or every year there will be a saving. If you are buying a refrigerator every year there will be a saving. If you are buying new furniture every year there will be a saving. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people don't trade their cars every two years, in fact, they will go a number of years so they will not get any significant saving by doing that. Refrigerators, I had a deep-freeze that lasted for 36 years so how many am I going to buy in my lifetime, maybe two or three. I know they won't all last that long but the fact is that that one did. The point I am making, of course, is those are reduced and that is a good thing but it is not going to be used by that many people.

Back to the extra tax on gasoline, that figure is $54 million extra or it is in that vicinity and I don't want anybody to quote me on that number but that is the approximate number that it would be increased for people buying gas for their cars, for diesel for their trucks and (Interruptions) $63 million is the figure that my colleague brings to my attention. Anyway, that is a significant tax grab to the consumers of Nova Scotia.

Just as the last session closed, the Minister of Finance of the day tabled a statement, a technical paper saying that the tax grab would amount to $84 million to the taxpayer of Nova Scotia. Then he told us that a technical paper would be available to all members and to the general public before it was signed. Well, the time came and went and an agreement was signed, I believe it was October 23rd and did we have the technical paper? No, no technical paper, it never came out. I think that was unfortunate that we didn't give the people of Nova Scotia an opportunity to have some input into the discussion on this tax.

As I say, this bill will pass eventually and it will be along, probably, to the Law Amendments Committee some day, whether it is this week or next week or after Christmas.

AN HON. MEMBER: It will be this week or next week.

MR. MCINNES: And that is probably correct, to the Minister of Community Services.

AN HON. MEMBER: It could be the week after.

MR. MCINNES: It could be the week after but anyway, it will eventually. The government has 39 members and they are going to pass the bill and we all understand that but I hope, Mr. Speaker, that when it does get to the Law Amendments Committee that the chairman will be very fair and give all Nova Scotians who want to come, the opportunity to come to our Law Amendments Committee and present their cases. I know that in former years the now Minister of Finance was chairman of that committee and usually was quite fair. The honourable Minister of Agriculture also chaired the meeting and was more than gracious to the people and gave them ample time because I am sure that there will be a lot of people who want to come and express their concerns.

[Page 3249]

I met the Mayor of Halifax and a couple of his colleagues and the CEO for Halifax on the street out here the other day on the corner. They said, Donnie when is the BST bill coming in? I said, well, it is coming in today. When will it get to the Law Amendments Committee? I said, well, I would think probably later on this week or the week after. The point was that they really wanted to let us let them know when the committee was going to be meeting because he said we are all going to go in and have our say on this bill that is going to hurt the municipalities and make an increase to the taxpayers on their property tax. We want to go in and defend our position. I do hope that the Minister of Justice does keep an open mind and let people have an opportunity to have their say on this bill as it goes to the Law Amendments Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: Most people have just given up because they know they won't listen in the Law Amendments Committee either.

MR. MCINNES: Well, my good friend the member for Sackville-Cobequid has said, sometimes they don't listen. I guess that is true but I think it is an opportunity for people to have their say and from time to time over the years there have been some amendments allowed as a result of going to the Law Amendments Committee. (Interruption)

Well, I don't know. The Minister of Fisheries had a bill before the committee the other day and the aquaculture people came in and made some suggestions and, in fact, they did accept those. (Interruptions) Well, that is right. As I say, sometimes it happens and I hope that everybody would be as good as the Minister of Fisheries and accept any suggestions that may be made.

We have 39 government members in the Legislature and except for the fact that the Minister of Finance got up and spoke at great length on the bill the other day and told us how great it was (Interruption) Well, he may have important business to do and that is fine. The fact is that I did not agree with all the statements that he made and I guess everyone has a right to their opinion but they may not necessarily be right.

I would like to hear some of my colleagues in the Legislature get up and express their concerns in regard to this bill and tell us what they are hearing from their constituents. I must say that I didn't have many calls on the weekend but the three calls I had on Saturday were all about the BST.

AN HON. MEMBER: Were they in support?

MR. MCINNES: No way. They wanted me to express my concerns on this bill. (Interruptions) I wasn't exaggerating. I am just saying that on Saturday I had three calls and that is the only thing they were calling about.

[Page 3250]

Another item that concerns me very much, not only the gas, electricity and fuel oil, but it is a matter of clothing and footwear under $94. I think they have this backwards, for some reason or another, that it seems that you could buy a fur coat, tax-wise, cheaper than a pair of boots for your children. There is something wrong when that happens.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is hard to believe, isn't it?

MR. MCINNES: When this government came to power there was a sales tax in place of 10 per cent; then they upped it to 11 per cent. They put our electricity up 3 per cent; now it is up, it will be roughly another 8 per cent, bringing it to 15 per cent on our electricity. Members of the Legislature, that is a big kick in the teeth to people who heat their homes with electricity. As a matter of fact, I heat my own home with electricity and in my case it is going to amount to quite a few dollars.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to switch to wood, Donnie?

MR. MCINNES: No, I am not, but I understand that there are some people that it might be difficult for. If you had an average electricity cost of $2,000 on your home, that is going to put you up over another $100.

We are debating the amendment and the fact that we are trying to get this bill put off for six months. Why do we have to rush this bill through? Why do we have to rush it through before Christmas? Why can't we let the people have an opportunity to have some input and hear their concerns.

Our Leader, as most of you know, advertised in the local papers and the two papers out of Halifax: The Chronicle-Herald and The Daily News. I cannot believe the number of people who cut that out, signed their name, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mailed it to our office. I am not sure of the exact count today, but thousands and thousands. There are over 2,000 people and I would like one of our members to check that number. We also have tabled signatures of over 13,000 people who were opposed to this tax. The people are concerned.

AN HON. MEMBER: They didn't listen on the casinos though.

MR. MCINNES: They did not listen and they put them in place.

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to repeat everything that everybody else said. I do not want to waste all your time, but the fact is that Prince Edward Island's government decided in their wisdom to appoint a committee when they were asked by the federal government to look at harmonizing the tax. They had a committee, an all-Party committee, do a study on the harmonization.

[Page 3251]

I think you all know the results of that study; I am sure that it has been tabled. They talked about the proposal, and there were a number of items that they listed; I will not read them all. They travelled around the province to have input from the local people. The committee advertised in the paper that these meetings were going to be held. A large number of groups and individuals indicated they wished to give presentations to the committee; also, many telephoned. In total, the committee heard from 72 contributors. Beginning late in August, the committee went to Charlottetown and Summerside. They have five meetings in Charlottetown, one in Summerside and another one at Pooles Corner, and 47 public presentations were made to the committee.

The most often cited reason centred on the belief that the consumer would end up paying more taxes; that was the bottom line I will not read all that to you because I know some of it has been quoted before. "Much of the opposition centered on practical concerns as opposed to philosophical concerns about government hiding the tax. Concern was expressed that consumer demand may suffer as a result of 'sticker shock'.". In other words, you would see the price and you would say that that price is higher than others.

[1:30 p.m.]

They, in their wisdom, decided not to do it and I think it is unfortunate because the three other Atlantic Provinces are doing it and it is going to make P.E.I. a tax haven. ". . . the committee has come to the conclusion that the Province of Prince Edward Island should not harmonize its sales tax with the federal GST. The Committee believes that the sales tax harmonization proposal would not be beneficial to the Province and its people.". That is their report. That is not mine. That is the report from P.E.I.

On December 6th, in the Chronicle-Herald, the headline was, No savings from BST, say biz reps. Is that the NDP caucus? Is that the Tory caucus? No. That is not us. That is the business representatives in Atlantic Canada. They made it crystal clear on Thursday that, " . . . the new blended sales tax with tax-included pricing won't save consumers any money.". That is not us and it is not them.

"The Saint John Board of Trade asked a New Brunswick pharmacy to add up the costs of changes wrought up by the new blended sales tax. Here's the tally:

Software changes: $600, one-time cost

Shelf Label Changes: $3,890, one-time cost

Labour Costs: $41,640 a year

Extra Advertising: $5,200 a year

Sales Lost to Sticker Shock: Five to 10 per cent

Total Estimated Cost of BST: $51,331 a year

Total Estimated Tax Credit: $11,000 a year

Cost to Pharmacy: $40,331 a year".

[Page 3252]

As I say, that is not us. That is not any of the Opposition. That is the business people of New Brunswick.

I think the amendment is very straightforward. We are asking that the government consider hoisting the bill for six months and letting people have more input and discussions into the matter before this Bill No. 48 is made law. I think it is a bad bill. It is hurting the little consumer. This government has not listened to the people. They did not listen to the people on the casinos. There were all kinds of petitions and all kinds of people making presentations against doing the casinos. They forced amalgamation in Cape Breton and Halifax regional municipal governments. Are they saving money? Not yet and I don't have the figures for what was estimated the loss would be in Cape Breton, but I believe it was $6 million this year or something in that area.

What else did they amalgamate? They forced amalgamation of the regional school boards. Now we have seven. Are the people happy about that? I really don't think so. I think people are getting a little fed up with all the amalgamations and doing things without consultation. By voting for this amendment, you would give the people an opportunity to have their say and to have this bill put off until such time that - if it has to be passed, it has to be passed - but at least give the people the opportunity to look at it.

Mr. Speaker, municipalities across the province have said that they are against the tax, primarily because the the amount of rebate to municipalities will decrease. Many municipalities feel that the only way to make up the shortfall is through an increase in property taxes. I don't think we can afford any more property taxes, people just cannot afford it. We have all kinds of people who are going to be in here making presentations when the bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee and I admit it will get there sooner or later, maybe after Christmas but it will get there. I hope that that committee gives everyone the opportunity to have a hearing.

On new and used vehicles I did say that if you were buying a new vehicle every year there would be a savings for you. New cars will be taxed at 17 per cent this year and then decreasing by one per cent each year until it reaches 15 per cent. Second-hand cars through a newspaper or any other than a dealer jumps from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. Second-hand cars bought through a dealer drop from 18.8 per cent to 15 per cent. So it is going to be a cost again to the consumer who does have to buy a second-hand used car.

What about when it comes time to do your income tax and you go to your accountant, what happens then? My understanding is you would pay him an additional 7 per cent. In other words you are paying 15 per cent tax to have your accounting done and maybe if you are in a business you are using that accountant all through the year but for most of us I assume it would be a one time shot. It will cost us, even as members of the Legislature when we have our income tax done, an additional 8 per cent.

[Page 3253]

Renters and landowners, again, oil, electricity, snow removal, carpentry and professional services all combined to mean that their landlords will accept a decrease in profits or if not tenants will have to pay more. Their costs are going to be higher.

I understood that our Leader, the now honourable Leader of the Opposition, my colleague for Pictou Centre in case you didn't know. (Interruptions) I know the colleague for Pictou East too though.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jack MacIsaac.

MR. MCINNES: Well, Jack was a great member and served for a long time. Anyway, the Leader of the Opposition did present Your Family and the BS Tax and what the additional costs would be. I am sure he tabled it at the time and of course, there is no tax on groceries and that is a good thing. Your weekly tax on gasoline, newspapers, a book of 10 stamps, Heavens, the tax on stamps is up. Your haircuts are all going to be up. I get mine cut at home so I will get clear of that tax. Diapers are going to be up substantially. Dry cleaning (Interruptions) I have grandchildren and I am sure most of you will have grandchildren or you wished you had them. (Interruptions) Well, I wasn't picking on Sandy. But the toothpaste one is up too. Why would you put tax on toothpaste? Why wouldn't that be exempt? I wish somebody could stroke that one off, I think that . . .

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: For the same reason they cancelled the Children's Dental Program, they don't care.

MR. MCINNES: Oh the children. They don't listen. (Interruptions) Yes because we want the people to have the opportunity to see what is going on and when we hoist the bill, they will have an input. That is why.

AN HON. MEMBER: Say that without a smile on your face.

MR. MCINNES: I have no smile on my face. I think we need to give the people the opportunity to realize how much that is going to cost them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Like we did with the Power Bill.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Don't let them distract you.

MR. MCINNES: They are not distracting me.

[Page 3254]

Mr. Speaker, I did mention, I think, before and I don't want to be repetitive, but the fact is that there is something wrong when the government makes it cheaper to buy fur coats and more expensive for those faced with putting boots on their kids' feet or keeping them warm with a new winter coat. That is why we need six months, to give people an opportunity to have their say.

Now what about the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia? Did you hear what they said? (Interruptions) I want to be serious, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious matter and I baited them and I should not have.

In the case of a 200 unit apartment complex in Dartmouth, the BST will increase annual expenses by $96.21 per unit. The apartment complex would face an additional $68.73 per unit cost directly as a result of the BST. There are tens of thousands of people who live in those rental properties across this province. It is going to cost them a lot of money and a lot of them can't afford it. I think they should have the opportunity to have this bill tabled for six months, so again they would have the opportunity to see what is going on.

I mentioned the ad that our Leader put in the daily papers.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much did he pay for that?

MR. MCINNES: I can't honestly tell you. (Interruptions) Well, I am sure that is a fair question, I don't think that is an unfair question. The point is that the response to it was well worth the price of the ad. Over 13,000 Nova Scotians have registered their distaste for the Savage Government's BST. The Leader of the Opposition tabled petitions from metro, Whites Lake, Hants County, the Federation of Senior Citizens and Pensioners, on behalf of the MMG group, which operates 19 retail outlets employing over 500 Nova Scotians. This is in addition to the thousands who have written. So again, an $84 million tax grab on the average consumers of this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: The province can get more money out of this tax grab thing.

MR. MCINNES: Well, that is up to you to answer. I will give you the opportunity. I will sit down right now if the honourable member wants to take the floor. I would be very glad to let him speak.

What about the trucking industry? Do you know that after the agreement is all signed and everything, the department has (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor.

[Page 3255]

MR. MCINNES: Well, he wants to talk about the farmers of this province. It is going to be a cash flow problem for them and the minister knows that. I was at the meeting in Truro on Saturday.

AN HON. MEMBER: How do they feel about the tax grab?

MR. MCINNES: They are not happy with this government because of the cuts they are making in the Department of Agriculture. In fact, I almost felt sorry for the deputy minister, to be quite honest with you, because it was not him that should be defending the government, it should have been the minister there to defend it. (Laughter) I say that publicly, and I said to some of them, I feel that it is not fair because you fellows were told, the deputy ministers told to say, yes, sir.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Let's return back to the hoist, please.

MR. MCINNES: Okay. Well, they asked me. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, it has been an opportunity to speak to you on this harmonization. As I said in my earlier remarks, that I have said publicly - yes, I wrote a piece in the paper a year ago. I said, publicly, when the tax came in, that I felt there should be harmonization of this tax, but not at the expense of the consumer. I think it would have been easier to handle, it would have been one tax for the storekeeper to handle and for businesses.

The fact is, this tax is a regressive tax. It is going to cost the ordinary consumers of this province a lot of money and, quite frankly, they cannot afford it. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the amendment to Bill No. 48, an Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. We know it better as the BST on this side of the House. The government likes to call it the harmonized sales tax because it sounds peaceful and musical.

It is a fancy title but the amendment deletes all the worlds after the word, "that" and substitutes Bill No. 48, ". . . An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.".

[Page 3256]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have been to a lot of meetings in my lifetime and I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever come upon the amendment known as the hoist. I was a little bit confused - not seriously, just a little.

The member for Hants West, on Friday, put it very clearly for me. He said that a hoist is usually used to attempt to remove a bill from consideration indefinitely. He also said - and perish the thought, I agree with this - that the six month period in this case is a good amount of time, Mr. Speaker, an amount of time that could be put to good use.

Now, the use that it could be put to, Mr. Speaker, is to consult with the people of Nova Scotia about this tax. Six months might - I say might - be enough time to at least begin to look at the details and come up with some knowledgeable assessment of it, its meaning, its implications and its costs, or at least it would be a start. I recall that the GST took a lot longer. I think it was two years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I noticed in my wonderful briefing book - and I give full credit to the NDP research staff here - a book so big, I could hardly carry it. In my briefing book was the generic version of this agreement between the federal government and the government here. It said, this agreement is between the Government of Canada and the Government of X. I guess that means, fill in the blanks. Of course, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) Well, I thought of St. F.X., too.

I must say what popped into my mind - I am a great watcher of television and I thought about the X Files. One of the reasons I like the X Files is because it has a good motto, Mr. Speaker. The motto for the X Files is, the truth is out there somewhere. (Laughter) We could say the same thing about this bill but we have to have time to find it.

Now the Leader of my Party, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, pointed out last week that while the provincial bill is a scant seven pages long, the federal one is halfway between 300 pages and 400 pages. Now it looks very much like the members on the government side expect us, and all Nova Scotians, to understand our end of the problem by sitting a very long day or two. Then they will ram it down our throats and the throats of Nova Scotians in a very short time. Maybe, just maybe, hoisting this bill will give us enough time not just to digest the text but to study the implications.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a minute about the federal legislation itself. How much more difficult will it be for Nova Scotians and other Canadians to understand the complexity of that companion legislation which is so long and a lot more difficult? Would it not be better to wait until the federal bill is debated in Ottawa and hearings are held on that end to find out how it does affect us all? It will affect all Canadians. It is not just the Canadians in the three Atlantic Provinces.

[Page 3257]

You can say that only three provinces are engaging in this tax folly at the present time but it is worth noting - and it is worth noting that Prince Edward Island is not - but it has implications for manufacturers, retailers and consumers all across the country. Mr. Speaker, time is what we need and time is what we will not get if we rush into this thing now. You may well ask, what is the time for? What will we do with it? Well, it is for thought, discussion, consultation, and consideration.

It is clear enough to Nova Scotia what this government wants. What the government wants, as I said, is to ram this thing through and claw more money from the people of this province, at least from the people on the poorer end of it. But is it so clear to the government, Mr. Speaker, what Nova Scotians want? I would say it is not and the history of the whole thing makes it pretty obvious.

Mr. Speaker, this government had a whole different view when in Opposition. It is on the record. The Minister of Finance, the very minister who brought this bill before the House last week, had a very different opinion of the matter seven years ago when he was in the Opposition.

This same man said a very interesting thing to the then Premier during Question Period. This is what he said, Mr. Speaker, "Let's not kid ourselves, of course the Government of Canada, . . . has a constitutional right to a direct and indirect tax. There is nothing constitutionally we or any other province can do to prevent it, but we certainly are prepared to oppose as much as we possibly can, within our provincial jurisdiction, a movement into a shared jurisdiction with the provinces on those items that are at present not taxed here, and certainly on items that are taxed here.".

So, Mr. Speaker, I guess it depends where you are sitting or perhaps it shows the importance of the passage of time. Maybe the member for Hants West was wrong. Maybe we do need to hoist the thing indefinitely since it seems to take a very long time for the members on the other side to learn and unlearn things. The minister, in his Opposition days, said another sensible thing. He said, ". . . sales taxes are regressive taxes.". I should note here that my colleagues, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, said this earlier today and it is worth saying again. The Minister of Finance, when in Opposition, said, "These taxes do not recognize a person's ability to pay.".

So this government knew in Opposition that the taxation system was unfair. They also knew we needed a fair tax commission and they knew proper caution, consultation and the application of knowledge would result in a better system, Mr. Speaker. The fair tax commission is yet another example of the government knowing better when in Opposition.

On April 16, 1992, the current Minister of Health tabled a notice of motion in this House and it is worth hearing, Mr. Speaker. The notice of motion said,

[Page 3258]

"Whereas the Provincial Tax Commissioner, at a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, indicated, with respect to the harmonization of PST and GST that, 'on an overall basis, our feeling is that the impact would be more negative than positive'"; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance, in a November press release, indicated that, 'the province has considered both sides of the issue and determined that, with harmonization, Nova Scotia would lose more than it would gain'; and

Whereas the Premier, on February 12th of this year, only days after stating his opposition to harmonization, said the province was leaning toward not only supporting harmonization but broadening the base to include food;

Therefore be it resolved that this government establish a fair taxation commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before they even consider harmonizing the GST and the PST.".

There you have it, Mr. Speaker, public input and comment on our taxation system. Did we get that when this Party came to power? No, we did not. There was time to do that. People were receptive in 1993 when this government got elected. They were promised input. What did they get? They got some phoney job consultations called 30-60-90, a poor excuse for consultation if there ever was one and then they gave it up. If the government had consulted about this particular tax, they would know a great deal more than they know now. They could do it now. There is time now, but not at Christmas. Not when people are preoccupied with the legitimate demands of family; not at Christmas when the most public-spirited of citizens may be gone from home or otherwise busy; not now when people can hardly get everything that needs doing done in a day. But, after this season, when access to government and public consultation are not a sham and a joke. Six months would be a start; there would be time to do this.

Even the federal government promised time. Mr. Speaker, you may remember, if only a little. According to the press, the federal Revenue Minister, Jane Stewart, was in Halifax on November 5th and, according to the press, this is what she said. "The issues that the legislation raises will be in full debate, so the process still has a way to go.". The newspaper goes on to say, "She expects parliamentary hearings on the proposed tax in early January, meaning anyone can voice concerns and suggest changes.". Well, not on our end, they cannot. Not at this rate. What is more, the feds can say, well, it passed in Nova Scotia, we will have to do it on this end to fit, so we will have to leave things the way they are.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture revealed in the Amherst Daily News that even he was blind-sided by the speed of the bill. Only two weeks ago, he said, "The opposition will have ample opportunity to debate the controversial BST when it's introduced next spring.". The paper goes on to say, "Mr. Brown also vehemently denied Opposition claims the legislation will be rammed through the House before becoming law next April.".

[Page 3259]

[2:00 p.m.]

I do not know where he is today, Mr. Speaker, and I wonder what he is thinking. (Interruptions) His constituents must have an awful lot of hard questions for him and I would sure like to know what he is telling them now.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why he is not here today. He is telling them what he really thinks . . .

MS. O'CONNELL: I would like to think that is true, but I am not so sure there are any answers to give those constituents up in Amherst.

We also need to talk about what it is that people need time to learn about the bill. I think we need to start with the obvious, the increased cost of necessary consumer goods. Do people know yet what costs will go up and what costs will go down? Has there been time for people to know that? Since it is the season, I began looking at items of particular interest at Christmastime. Mr. Speaker, a basic Christmas requires certain things. For example, if you have a fireplace, you might want to light it up this time of year. Your wood is going to cost you more. Now, keep in mind, that you are already paying more - next Christmas, this is - for your fuel oil to heat your house. Now you are going to pay more for your firewood to give your family a festive evening at home.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are even going to charge you more for Christmas.

MS. O'CONNELL: That is right. It gets worse, Mr. Speaker. If you send cards to friends and relatives who are away, the cards will cost more and so will the postage. If you send packages to relatives who are not at home with you or live in some other place,

AN HON. MEMBER: You will have to go to P.E.I. to mail them.

MS. O'CONNELL: You are going to have to pay more for that postage or, as my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid says, you can go over to P.E.I. to mail them. You cannot visit. You want to send them something. The price goes up. Never mind the increased cost of whatever is inside the box. I wonder if people know that yet.

Your haircut for the Christmas party will cost more. Even if you wear the dress from last year, the dry-cleaning bill will be up. Then, Mr. Speaker, I have to talk about those standby gifts that we all joke about but which so many people need and receive at Christmas. We are talking about the ties and slippers, socks and underwear, scarves and mitts. They will all cost more.

If you plan to fly to your parents or your children or to drive there, your costs will go up there too.

[Page 3260]

Perhaps most serious of all, the price of coal for Christmas stockings. Now perhaps people do not any more threaten their children with coal in their stockings, but for those unkind parents who do, the cost of coal will go up. To put a coal in the stocking will cost a little bit more.

There are so many necessities of life, so many little things and so many big things. They add up to a lot of money for the family. At Christmas and in January, the school supplies are running out. The school bag got torn in the schoolyard and it may go on the Christmas list, too. Do you know what that means yet? I do not think so.

Perhaps going through Christmas with the new BST on their minds will help people realize what a bad tax this is. Families need extra money at Christmas. Often after Christmas they have to pay off these bills. It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that one way to reduce the effect of the public noticing is to whip this thing by people before the bills come in. Time is the enemy of this government here.

A reporter from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald did his own little test of the BST and he did it on his own shopping list that he needed on a particular day. His conclusion was that it was not all that bad. The response that the paper got to that article tells us what a little bit of time for consultation can do. A reader to the newspaper took him to task, Mr. Speaker. He wrote to the paper and said; I'm surprised that your newspaper has not made more effort to properly explain to the public what the government is imposing on consumers.".

I don't say this to criticize the media, Mr. Speaker, this reporter made an attempt to work out the cost, based on his own situation, and it was useful information for the public. This reader did a more comprehensive survey and calculated it on a yearly basis for a family of three. His findings were discouraging. He found that a family of three would pay almost $600 more in taxes with the BST.

Mr. Speaker, this doesn't sound like a lot of money and it isn't a lot of money to people who make a lot of money. This is a tax on consumption; this is a tax on outgo, not income. So the person who makes $100,000 a year pays the same per cent increase as the person who makes $20,000. For the poorer person, that is a much more substantial per cent of income. Hoisting this bill will give us all time to look at the real costs to real people in a province where very few of us have a lot of money to spend.

It is true that there will be savings for some on some things and who will save is a good question to ask and a fair question. Mr. Speaker, I already said in this place the other day that you can make substantial savings on your yacht purchase, but let's get realistic, hardly anyone ever buys a yacht. So what do people buy and, more importantly, how often do they buy it?

[Page 3261]

We all need a little bit of furniture, that is a typical example, but, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we don't buy in tough times; we make do and we put off buying that new refrigerator until the old one conks out dead, and the new or the used car, we put those off, forget it. Another good example of goods which will be cheaper, computers and video equipment. People with little disposable money don't buy them, they don't have $1,000 for a video camera or $2,000 or $3,000 to pick up a computer. I have seen clear evidence in schools, I have seen it often; disadvantaged kids are doubly disadvantaged when their better-off classmates have access to the computer in their homes. Their work is easier to do and the result is often better. So that is another example of saving money for the people who need it the least.

Now, Mr. Speaker, expensive clothes will be cheaper, that at the very time when many of us buy second-hand clothing. Used clothing stores are springing up all over the place. Leather is cheaper, another luxury. I don't think I am going to touch that one. Restaurant meals and served drinks, two more luxuries. We need the time to look at this carefully to see the meaning of the changes before us. Who is helped and who is hurt by the ups and downs of these tax changes? We need to know.

Mr. Speaker, this government will say and it has said that it has consulted with groups of people, and it did. Let's take a look at some of the consultation. Now I don't know what all these groups said to the government but I do know what some of them said. Let's take a look at it from the perspective of the poorest people in the province; no matter what the groups said, let's see how well those with the least were represented. The Construction Association. Poor people don't have the money to build things, especially homes for themselves. The Automobile Association. Ditto. They can't afford cars either. The Canadian Restaurant Association. Who can afford to eat in nice restaurants or eat out at all when poor? Air Canada. The poor can't afford to fly around the country or out of it. Maritime Marlin Travel. Ditto. The poor don't need travel agents. The Canadian Bankers Association. Now there is a close fit with the poor, with their $6.3 billion profit. University presidents. The poor are increasingly shut out from higher education and let's hope that the university presidents said so.

Students are even excluded from any assistance to compensate for increased prices on the false premise that their costs are fixed by living in residence. I asked around and more than 75 per cent of students at Dalhousie University live in the wider community; more than three-quarters of Dalhousie students do not have the fixed costs of residence living and do battle daily and monthly with heat and power bills and other costs just like the rest of us. Did the university presidents tell the government this before students were shut out of any tax consideration?

The second question on this is who is not on the list, who is not there with these consultations? We don't see any anti-poverty groups. We don't see any foodbank workers or organizations. We don't see any advocates for the working poor or any representatives of

[Page 3262]

the people who are scraping by. We don't see anyone who in the language of the market place might be called a marginal consumer, who in the psychographics of marketers are called need-directed consumers. That phrase says it all. This is the category that marketers ignore; they don't even advertise to them.

Airplanes. Poor people don't fly on airplanes. Poor people do not play golf or ski or dine out in nice places. They don't have to worry about the increased tax on their RRSPs, but what they need are socks and underwear. They need warm hats and dry, warm boots. They need deodorants and tampons, and they must buy pencils and bookbags for their children for school. They need to stay warm in the house in the winter and they need to buy clothes for the baby if there is a baby in the house. All this will cost them more. What are we going to do about that? Are we going to allow this bill to gallop through here with little consideration for the very people most hurt by this increase in consumption tax? This increase will hurt them and we are going to whip it by them while they are struggling to make Christmas for their families. This is a really crummy way to do things.

Oh, this government has consulted, if you call a $39,000 advertisement in the business pages of the Globe and Mail consultation. We are open for business, it says. That is the Atlantic advantage. But we are not open for consultation with regular, ordinary, everyday, average, struggling Nova Scotians. And we have already said in that advertisement that it is a done deal, we are open for business. What to do, what to do. Of course the government should consult with the people. We should hoist this bill.

[2:15 p.m.]

I very much fear that real consultation will come at the ballot box. This government wants to ram it down our throats while we are distracted by the business of living. It has made its bargain already, but when the time comes so will the devil to take it away. Hoist is the word, Mr. Speaker. This government will be hoisted on its own petard. I looked it up because I wanted to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. It means "destroyed by one's own scheme for the ruin of others". That is what will happen and that ruin will come to the government at its own appointed time.

Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Advantage is based on some shaky premises. It offers a business a 100 per cent input tax credit. This sounds good, since the government offers the now discredited trickle-down theory of benefits. "Consumers will save money because businesses will pass their savings on to consumers.". If you believe that, I have a nice bridge I can sell you. It is not that business is bad or mean, business is business. Business, too, is struggling. A marginal business might stay afloat by keeping its Atlantic Advantage to itself. That is if it is not already destroyed by the cost of the change to tax-included pricing. We know about that. We heard about MMG, the owners of Apple and Greenburg and Metmart. Some New Brunswick stores have closed and the jobs are gone and Nova Scotia will likely

[Page 3263]

be next. Marginal business will go under or will have to keep their tax credits to themselves in order to stay afloat.

Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says that we don't know enough about this tax. We do know what APEC said about the impact of the GST on Atlantic Canada and this is what it said. "The introduction of the GST in 1991 was followed by two years of poor economic performance in most of Atlantic Canada. Consumption sectors have been flat.". Now, I am not an economist, but I have lived through the last number of years in this province and I know what I hear and I see and experience. The very notion of fooling around with consumption taxes right now seems inutterably foolish to me.

Like so many others, I have cut back on my consumption of goods. I had a good job and I can even say I have a good job now, although not all my friends agree with that, but many people have been downsized on to barely adequate pensions, or they have lost their jobs and many more fear for their future in the jobs that they still hold. Unemployment continues to rise. Why would consumption be anything but flat? Interest rates have fallen and governments express wide-eyed surprise that people are not spending. They say times have never been better to buy a house, take on a mortgage, get into the consumption of material goods and boost the economy. They want us to spend money we do not have to save the economy. We need to talk about that. That is one more thing we need to talk about and we need the time to do it.

Mr. Speaker, could you tell me how much time I have left, please?

MR. SPEAKER: About one-half hour.

MS. O'CONNELL: Good, I am exactly half-way there.

MR. SPEAKER: Twenty-seven minutes.

MS. O'CONNELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What kind of jobs will we get with the Atlantic Advantage? It is hard to say, but we do know about some of the much heralded jobs that Premier McKenna brought to New Brunswick. Anyone can read in New Maritimes, or in the more mainstream press, about the working conditions in the New Brunswick call centres. The results are dismal and pathetic. People have written about low wages. They have written about verbal harassment and instant dismissals. They tell us about quota systems and abusive supervisors. They tell us about minimum wages, no job security, no benefits and miserable working conditions. Is that the Atlantic Advantage? We need time to find that out.

Mr. Speaker, APEC also talks about how we got into this mess. We know the federal government is buying us off. When the bribe money is gone, they tell us, Nova Scotia will be taking in $120 million less in taxes, on the big stuff, mind you, not on the daily essentials. As APEC says, "Once the compensation money is spent, the provinces are on their own.".

[Page 3264]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I was talking about consultation. The government did consult with the chambers of commerce and a few weeks ago the news was good. I heard the talk across the floor when the member, I think, for Pictou West was speaking. The Halifax Chamber of Commerce initially did give it a good grade, 4 out of 5, 80 per cent. They liked four of the five things about it. They liked the special attribution method for the finance and insurance sector; they liked the rebate on new home construction. Thirdly, they liked the rebates to the so-called MUSH sector, the municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals. They liked government's response to transitional issues, for the most part, to use their words.

Mr. Speaker, the chamber of commerce did not want tax-included pricing at this time. They wanted the government to wait until the whole country went to tax-included pricing. They had good reasons. The cost to the retail of repricing factory-priced inventory is going to hurt them, sometimes as much as a nickel a sticker change. Other than that, they seemed pretty happy a few weeks ago.

What happens, Mr. Speaker, we pick up the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Friday and what do we see on the front page, top fold, a great big headline that says, "No savings from BST, say biz reps." The lead on the story, "Suspicions confirmed. Business representatives in Atlantic Canada made it crystal clear Thursday the new blended sales tax with tax-included pricing won't save consumers any money.".

It goes on. "According to officials with regional boards of trade and chambers of commerce, companies will not be able to pass along savings from the BST as promised by the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.".

Mr. Speaker, the next paragraph says, "The three governments say there will be significant savings for consumers at the cash register. That's because businesses will realize big savings in their tax bills and that's supposed to translate into lower prices.".

"Not so, said the business coalition, which includes the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce and New Brunswick chambers and boards. If businesses are faced with increased costs . . . There's no question it will be the consumer.".

Mr. Speaker, the article goes on to say, to mention a member of the Saint John Board of Trade who, ". . . said tax in pricing will force companies to change their accounting, pricing and point-of-sale systems. He said the cost of the changes will be enormous and ongoing.".

Let's look at the situation here. We are talking about slowing down. We are talking about it, thinking about it, discussing, consulting and listening to the people. Let's look at what we have so far, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3265]

We first heard about this in, what was it, March, April, Mr. Speaker? Seven or eight months we have known about this. Business was consulted extensively and it is only now that we have come to the point where we begin to understand the problem. Here is what the problem is.

We have a big one-time payoff from the federal government to institute a combined tax. The provincial government will take in $120 million less in taxes. That is okay because business will get input tax credits and save money, they will pass it on to the consumer and consumers will spend it and create demand. This will create jobs.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you crazy?

MS. O'CONNELL: Exactly, Mr. Speaker. I am not crazy, it is one great big, "oops.". Oops, they can't save any money, they have to pay the costs of being out of step with the rest of the country, so oops, they will have to pass those costs on and people will have to pay those costs. What that means is that people will be poorer and poor people will suffer the most.

Mr. Speaker, we muck around and we muck around and we are not a bit better off. Next year, with the federal money gone, we are poorer than we were. Consumers will have not saved a penny and marginal businesses are gone, taking jobs down with them.

If we have only begun to figure it out, hadn't we better slow down? We need that hoist, that wonderful word, the great concept. We need to look at this a lot more carefully. Who else did they consult with? The Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association, Mr. Speaker. November 18th, in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald; "New taxes will be applied to land, labour and builder's margins" - says the President of CNL Construction - "Thirty years in the trenches tells me this additional tax means prices will go up.".

Suzanne Bona of Scotian Homes: "The industry has just started to recover from the hit taken by the GST. We can't afford another tax hit" Who else? The Municipality of Pictou, again in the newspaper: "Dear Jane. We think the blended sales tax stinks. Regards, Pictou County Council." Who else? HRM. Mayor Walter Fitzgerald says it will cost metro millions. The blended sales tax will mean a property tax increase in our 1997-1998 operating budget. "UNSM agrees, all municipalities will be worse off. Currently they don't pay that provincial sales tax and they receive a 50 per cent rebate on their GST. Under the new rules, they will get only 57 per cent of the 15 per cent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to make the mistake of listing every county and municipality in the province, I hear that is not well-received. In the press we find Lunenburg, Digby, Colchester and on and on. Do we know the full extent of municipal downloading on this same taxpayer who is paying the cost of tax-included pricing? This is the same person

[Page 3266]

who cannot afford to buy the goods that will be cheaper. Mr. Speaker, if there was ever a time to slow down, this is it.

More bad news from the Retail Council of Canada, specifically on tax-included pricing. Higher costs, lower employment, lower quality, less selection and higher prices they predict. Retailers will have to rewrite software, duplicate information systems, reprice goods and duplicate advertising.

AN HON. MEMBER: I think you should repeat that because I don't think they got that over there.

MS. O'CONNELL: Maybe I will say it again, a little more slowly, as my colleague suggested. There are four things that they will have to do that are going to cost them big bucks: they have to rewrite software, duplicate information systems, reprice goods and duplicate advertising because the prices from the national flyers will not suit three-quarters of Atlantic Canada. They will have higher warehouse and merchandising costs.

Now Peter Woolford, the senior vice president, says that their estimate of the annual ongoing cost of tax-included pricing is at least $100 million; that is $100 million of extra costs that retailers and consumers in harmonized Atlantic Canada will have to bear into the foreseeable future. Sandra Rodd, the President of Bass River Chairs, says: my stores are successful with customers because we can offer them a quality product and a good service. Now, instead of serving customers we will be repricing merchandise. How do I explain that to customers?".

Now, our Party has heard from a number of retailers and business associations. A few are: Winsbys Shoes; the In Fine Company; Beaver Lumber; and the Nova Scotia Licensed Embalmers and Funeral Directors Association.

[2:30 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, one of the more pathetic things about this tax is that it will cost more to die when we implement this tax. The reality is that Nova Scotians do not have extravagant funerals. According to the association, a rise in the cost of a funeral for some Nova Scotians will make the basic funeral unaffordable. Seniors on fixed incomes will be affected the most if the province imposes an additional tax on funeral services. The amount of the increase they estimate, the increased cost for a basic funeral service will be $450. Surely we need to think about this and we need the time to do it.

Madam Speaker, I want to talk for a minute, too, about rental housing, another area that has not had a full airing and needs one. Like retailers, landlords will pass increased costs on to their tenants. The social costs of this are rather disheartening. A great many renters are renters precisely because they do not have the financial means to buy their own homes. They

[Page 3267]

have lost protections in recent years and like everyone else will bear the increased cost of necessities. Their landlords will pass the increased costs on to them and, in fact, the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia documents this in an August submission. What will happen to renters? I quote straight from their own submission, "Tenants will suffer from a decrease in quality of their rental accommodations for the same rent they paid before the harmonized tax.".

The other possibility, Madam Speaker, is that the cost of rental accommodation will increase and rent increases have consequences and some renters will be forced to move to cheaper accommodations. So if the landlord does not increase the rent but reduces the expenses on the building, quality and safety will suffer and if the landlord raises the rent to keep the building at a decent quality for the renters, then some people will be forced into poorer quality, more affordable housing.

Their own conclusion, Madam Speaker, "There are no consumer benefits for tenants and no administrative savings for landlords under the new harmonized tax; only higher costs to all parties.". We need to stop and take a look at this and that is why I urge this House to hoist this bill.

In addition to everything I have said already, we need to talk - for a minute, at least - about the increased cost of transportation. Airfares and gas have been mentioned but we haven't mentioned taxis and buses between cities. So no matter how you go, it will cost you more to leave town and in some circumstances you won't even have to leave town to pay more.

Madam Speaker, we have been against this bill from its inception, not just because of the costs to the consumer through direct retail price increases, also we have spoken out against it because it downloads costs onto the consumer that have to be paid by retailers for the compliance costs and municipalities for their losses.

Madam Speaker, it is like a game we used to play when I was a kid. It was a pretty stupid game now that I think about it. It was a game called lumber and all we did to play it was we stacked ourselves in a big stack on top of each other. The person on the bottom yelled out lumber and tried to toss the whole stack over. You know what I remember now, 40-some years later about this? What I remember best is that the smallest person, when the smallest person was on the bottom, the smallest person could not throw the rest of us off and sometimes the second smallest and the third smallest wouldn't be able to do it either. So the older ones, when we played this game, would heave ourselves off the pile and pretend that the little ones had succeeded.

[Page 3268]

Madam Speaker, I am not sure the smallest and weakest people on the bottom of the pile can throw off the effects of this tax. We need to find that out. So hoist this bill and let's find out what the real damage will be - the bruising and the broken bones caused by the massive piling on of the weight of this tax.

Our Party has been concerned about this from the very beginning. We are also concerned about the way it was done. We know the process was not democratic. We know the federal officials and the Atlantic Ministers of Finance locked themselves in a room at the airport and cooked it up away from the prying eyes of the public and the other politicians. When we tried to get the details we were shrugged off, Madam Speaker. We were told to wait until after the agreement was complete. Did people vote for this government so it could tell them the details of things after the fact.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MS. O'CONNELL: I do not think so, either. They were promised openness. They were promised consultation and they were promised that strange, archaic, funny, little concept called democracy.

It got worse, Madam Speaker. The spin doctors and hacks and flacks got to work on the public in the absence of information. They told us it would not come in this fall. Now don't get me wrong. We wanted it this fall if it was going to come anyway, but we wanted it sooner. We wanted it sooner so there would be plenty of time for the public debate that is not taking place. They knew it was coming. Don't kid yourself. They said it was not and then they carefully staged it to reduce public reaction and input. They brought it to the public, into this House, at the most distracted and busy time of the year.

We all know where this deal came from, Madam Speaker. When Sheila Copps was backed into a corner last spring about her promise to resign if the GST were implemented, we saw the outcome. We saw some crocodile tears and a sham election that cost the people of this country over $0.5 million. Then she came out and said, there, I am all right now. I am cleansed. I am pure.

What do you know, Madam Speaker? She can go again to the voters and the federal Liberals can go to the voters. They can stand on the corpse of most of Atlantic Canada and play word games. They can say, see, we are working to abolish the GST. The incredible cynicism of it boggles the mind. That our provincial government would hold us all to ransom in exchange for a drag on the federal coat-tails come election time is both cynical and wrong-headed. The people of this province are not stupid. The really sad thing is they elected this government in hope. They gave it their trust. They gave them a whopping number of seats and said, we know you will do better than that other lot, but we have seen what they have done.

[Page 3269]

Since that time we have seen nothing resembling the promised democracy and consultation. People are mad. Oh my, are they ever mad. They are just hopping mad. I talked to a few thousand of them recently and they are mad. They feel angry, betrayed, anguished, double-crossed and any synonym you can find in the member from Colchester's synonym dictionary over there. You know what they say now, Madam Speaker? They say Liberals and Tories, same old stories. This tax change is no minor tinkering. No slight list to starboard for the ship of state. It is a major tax change involving four governments and the ceding of provincial jurisdiction over its tax base. They may have cooked it up behind closed doors, but we cannot allow it to sneak up behind us and grab us. The consequences are too dire.

That is why we have circulated our petition. Every day pages of signatures come back from Nova Scotians who know in their hearts this tax will hurt them and hurt the economy. That is why we want the time to let people think and digest and question and figure out the real consequences of this folly. Through it all, Madam Speaker, we intend to continue to tell Nova Scotians where we stand on this tax. We will continue to encourage people to come out and speak their minds to the government whether at noon in the day or in the tiny wee small hours of the morning. We must look for alternatives to consumption taxes which are so hard on the poor. We cannot replace them overnight but we could have that fair tax commission this government was so keen on when it was in the opposition.

People understand taxes and they pay them and they don't mind paying them when they receive the services that we need in our society, but they hate unfairness and they have no respect for tax grabs that will do no good and only harm to them. They hate deception and they hate sleight of hand and they want to have their say. This House and this government have no right in their cynicism to deprive them of their say.

So, let's hoist this bill as the amendment suggests. Let's get it out of here, let's get down to the job of real public consultation so this government can find out from the people who elected them just how wrong it is. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I too wish to rise and speak in favour of giving this bill a six months' hoist because truly I believe, and I do believe that most members in their heart of hearts realize, that this bill has not been properly thought out prior to its introduction. The implications and ramifications have neither been thought out and I think this government would appreciate the opportunity to have six months to look into all of the implications of this bill because for once perhaps this government, with proper scrutiny, study and forethought, could get something right.

We know the shambles that health care, education, community services are in because of a knee-jerk reaction that this government has acted upon. All we are trying to do here is help the government help itself. We would like to help the government from making another

[Page 3270]

of their typical disastrous changes for the sake of change. There is no rush. The Premier of New Brunswick said that he didn't even have the bill written. He wasn't going to introduce it last week when this government introduced the bill. Two weeks ago, the Premier was telling everybody that would listen that this would be a short session of the Legislature. The Government House Leader, who is unable to be with us this morning, indicated that there was just a little housekeeping that would take place this fall; it would be a quick session, a couple of weeks maybe. Either the Government House Leader didn't know what the government's priorities were or this is a new kind of housekeeping.

This is the biggest tax grab since 1993 when this government was elected and they increased the power bills by 3 per cent, they increased gasoline by some $52 million, they increased all fees, fines and licenses by $40 million and they increased the hospital tax by 10 per cent. This is the second biggest tax grab. However, I believe, and I am supported in this belief by thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians who will stand forward and speak up and say they too believe, that this will have more negative implications on the economy of Nova Scotia than any other scheme that has ever been launched.

If you ever talk to any business people in the community, Madam Speaker, and fellow colleagues in the Chamber, Liberal backbenchers and government members, they will tell you that they have not yet recovered from the imposition of the 7 per cent GST from Ottawa. I am not making that up. Do you know any business people? They will tell you. When the GST hit them, the skids hit them at the same time. So I don't know whether it is true or not, but that is what they tell me and I tend to believe them because they are the guys that are paying the bills. If you are paying the fare, you ought to be listened to. The taxpayers are paying the fare to keep the government going. They ought to be listened to and, I am afraid, they are not.

[2:45 p.m.]

This little bill deserves a six months' hoist. You know, it started out as a BST and then the Premier said he did not know what that was. It is the HST. But you know something, Mr. Premier, the taxpayers know and whether you want to call it a HST or a BST, it smells the same and the taxpayers do not like it and that is the bottom line. It is only seven pages long, but what does it do? Greeting cards, magazines, catalogues, used cars, everybody is concerned. They do not know. They call the government to get answers and what do they get? Another phone number. They call the Premier's hotline and what do they get? The cold shoulder.

Mr. Speaker, this is serious business and I think the government could use six months to get its act together. Home heating, clothing, electricity, the Retail Council of Canada, are they your enemy, Mr. Premier? I don't think so. They are just Nova Scotians and Canadians. They do not like this, $28 million to get ready for it. I mean, do you understand how much $28 million is and how many greeting cards or shoes or clothes or candy bars you are going to have to sell to gather up $28 million. It is going to take a lot of them. That is off the

[Page 3271]

bottom line because you cannot write it off. I will tell you what they have to do? They have to sell $3.7 billion in retail just to pay to get into the thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. ARCHIBALD: $3.7 billion, just to get in. This is the most exclusive club in North America because the Premier wants it that way, without consultation, without thought. The Premier says, spend $3.7 billion getting ready, but can you imagine. That $3.7 billion that it is just going to cost to get everybody geared up, how many nurses could we hire? How many health care workers? How many technicians could we have in our hospitals so maybe health care could get back on track? How many teachers? How many special education teachers? How many teachers aides for that $3.7 billion?

You see, it just is not a good deal. I bet when we signed it and were all giggly, the Premier and the Minister of Finance did not even know it was going to cost $3.7 billion. What are the retail people saying? Where are they going to get the $3.7 billion? They have not got it. They have had difficult times. They are going to have to lower their wages. They are going to have to lower the labour fee that they pay in their stores and is that good? That means there is going to be even more people working on a part-time basis.

One magazine store owner said he has 8,500 magazines and they all come with a little price. Have you ever bought a magazine in a store and you look at the price and it says, $1.95 in the United States, $2.25 in Canada, or $3.95 in Canada? They come with little prices already on them. This one fellow who owns store said he had 8,500 magazines. He has got to go buy little stickers and stick them on there, 8,500 times. I hope they come pre-glued or his tongue is going to get sore. So, Mr. Speaker, we have a real problem. Maybe if we had six months, all the implications of this could be found out.

Landlords, I saw this piece of drivel. You know I didn't think you were allowed to put stuff in the paper that wasn't right, or you shouldn't knowingly mislead people. You see the government of the province, under the auspices - this has to be the first time in the history of this government that there was not a minister's name on it. I mean the ministers are so thorough about putting their names on everything that isn't moving but boy, nobody takes ownership of this - not Finance, not the Minister of Health and not the Premier. I don't know who owns it, I guess nobody owns it. If you don't sign up to it, now anyway it says in this that we are going to save money because rents are not included. You know you have to be in dreamland if you think your rents are not going to go up, due to this increase in taxes. The landlords are saying if a building, we will say, has 200 units in it, that means an increase in costs per unit of $96 per year, let's just round it off, $100 a year if you are a tenant in a building with a couple of hundred units.

[Page 3272]

Now if you are in a building with 48 units, they said on average that will be $68, about $70. Those are increases of 3.4 per cent and 4.6 per cent. Now we are in the day and age of wage restraint and roll-back; the first thing the government did was say wages are too high, we are rolling them backwards and freezing them. How are these people who work for government and private enterprise and the people who just got laid off going to pay for an apartment that, due to the Premier's tax and the Minister of Health, they brought this in to us. We are now placing hardship on people who are already struggling.

In Hants West the municipality sent a little note to the provincial government. It was very short, I think about three lines. All the lines said was, outright rejection of the BST. That didn't make any impact on this government; I don't know what does make an impact on the government. Maybe Mr. Unsworth could do it. I saw him around here the other day and maybe he could make an impact. Maybe it is him we should be talking to, not the Premier or his ministers.

I remember a few years ago the Minister of Finance going to what used to be the Public Utilities Board, talking about electric rates in Nova Scotia. He was the champion of users of electricity in Nova Scotia at the time. He used to stand there and hail and wail you cannot have a 2 per cent increase in electric rates, it would be terrible, an awful thing to do and all that sort of thing. Can you remember when the Minister of Finance used to do that? Well, I remember when he used to do that but, as Minister of Finance and part of this tax-happy government, the Minister of Finance has been responsible for putting electric rates up 3 per cent before, 5 per cent now, 8 per cent in three years. The last time we had a government that put electric rates up that much and that fast, you know what happened to that government. That is exactly what is going to happen to this government. This government will be defeated because of the tax increases.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who sold the Power Corporation? You did.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I am sure glad we did.

The great thing about it, Mr. Speaker, we just heard the Premier say; you sold the Power Corporation. Great, that is done. I am proud of that. I think it was the best possible thing that could have been done with it. But do you know how it was sold? The legislation went through this Chamber without a single change in rules, not a change in rules, Madam Speaker. We did not need to alter the rules unilaterally. We privatized, we did it by democracy. We allowed every single person all the time they wanted to speak. We did not bring the House in here at 8:00 a.m. and sit until midnight. Some of the ministers do not have to come. The Government House Leader is not even here for this debate, and the man who brought in this resolution that altered the rules is not even here. What kind of a government is this? It is the old, do as I say, not as I do.

[Page 3273]

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I will remind you now that it is our custom in this House not to call attention to the presence or the absence of other members of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's breaking down . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Well, it may be breaking down because there is an attempt to break it down but when I am in the Chair, I will call the members to the rule that we have observed in this House that we do not note the presence or the absence of other members. I just wish to remind you of that. You have the floor.

MR. ARCHIBALD: The only person that should be here, and I will not mention names, but, boy, when the minister changes the rules, but they do not affect him, he should not be out of the province un-noted. Thank you and I will not mention that again.

Now, I want you to know that if this government, with a huge majority, had any idea how to govern, how to get along, the rule change would not even have been made. That was shown so clearly by a government with the majority of only one and the power corporation. You see, when you are doing the right thing you can get it done but, when a government tries to pull a trick like this, it just does not go over very well.

You know, seven pages is the length of this bill, seven pages that are forever going to alter the course of Nova Scotia's history. We are going to fine-tune this bill, according to the government, through regulation, not legislation. We are not going to tell the people or the Opposition what we are going to do; we are going to slide it through later once we get it passed.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where will they make their regulations?

MR. ARCHIBALD: They will make them downstairs.

AN HON. MEMBER: Down where?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Under the cover of darkness in the Cabinet Room.

AN HON. MEMBER: What's that the bunker?

MR. ARCHIBALD: What?

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the bunker?

[Page 3274]

MR. ARCHIBALD: I don't know what it is. Their backbenchers do not even know what is in this bill. They don't know what is in the legislation, they don't know what is in the regulation, but they are going along with it. Give us six months and we will tell people what is going on. It is truly not true.

You know, they have got the fines all figured out. Merchants who do not show tax-inclusive pricing on receipts, advertising or products, will be punished with fines of $100 to $5,000 or 30 days in jail. I mean, let's not make any mistake about it, you don't know what this government - if you don't do what they tell you, they have got the penalty figured out, but they are not exactly sure yet how it will affect you. Regulations to follow.

Used cars. Right now you have to pay the provincial sales tax on a used car, a second-hand car, if you are buying from a friend or a neighbour. That is not good enough for this government. No, sir. After April 1st, if you are selling a second-hand car to your next door neighbour, you are going to have to charge them 17 per cent tax. Now, that is going to help people in the lower incomes. People in the higher income bracket, going out to buy one a beautiful new Lincoln, Jaguar, or Lexus, or a . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: A Volvo.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Volvo. Sure, Volvo is about as good a car as you can get. They are going to pay the 17 per cent. They are not going to argue too much about it because they know it is coming and they are buying it from the dealer.

But the guy who is just starting out, and is not buying through a dealer and wants to buy it from a friend, neighbour or somebody, now he is going to have to pay the full load of tax, the 17 per cent. You see, this tax - I bet you all thought it was only 15 per cent, didn't you? Well, surprise! - the Premier and the Minister of Health moved it up to 17 per cent on cars and that is going to apply to you, the person buying a second-hand car, after April 1st, from your neighbour.

[3:00 p.m.]

We saw in the paper the other day - and I do not believe it is true, I cannot believe it because the Premier, the Minister of Community Services, who is a great herald of people, he says, have been telling us how good this is and how everybody loves it. The headline in the paper two days ago said clearly, "No savings from BST," say the business representatives. What in the dickens in going on here? The government experts sitting in the front bench across there have told us that this is a good thing for you and for me and the man behind the tree, but people that are out there in business, trying to make a buck and raise the taxes so that we can come in here to this Chamber and represent them, are telling us that this deal is not right.

[Page 3275]

What is it going to do? A one-time cost of $6,000 to change your software; shelf label changes, $3,890; labour costs, $41,000 a year. If this was a new job, that would be great. This is not a new job. This is the same guy trying to do a little more to just keep up with these crazy regulations. Extra advertising, $5,200; sales lost to sticker shock - now this is a new term. You have heard of electric shock and all those things and Ben Franklin showed us about lightening shock. Well, now this government right here is going to show us about sticker shock. Sticker shock is when you look at a price and your heart gets beating faster and you collapse right in the store. They figure they are going to lose 10 per cent to sticker shock. The total estimated cost of the BST is $53,000 a year.

We have heard a lot of chit-chat from the Minister of Education and the former Minister of Education about these things they call the tax credits. The store owner said his tax credit would be about $11,000. So he subtracts that from his total cost of $51,000, and he says, look, this cost to the average drugstore owner in Atlantic Canada is only going to cost him an extra $40,331 a year. Did you hear me? It is going to cost the average drugstore $40,000 a year. This is for nothing. I mean, he is not buying a new car with it. He is not painting the store with it. He is not hiring two more people or one and one-half people or making the store bigger or selling more stuff. This is going to be his added cost to the inconvenience of this stuff. These are the real costs and they continue. You are in, you are out.

Giggle and laugh and tell me I don't know what is happening around here. I don't know everything. I don't know very much, but you know, when a small business man tells me something, that it is going to cost him money to implement this tax, I have got to listen. How many people in this room, how many members of the Legislature have had to meet a payroll? How many are business people? How many people that are elected MLAs have had the experience of business and filing your payrolls, making the deductions? When we sometimes lack the expertise, we ask, and free of charge the business community has come forward and said, look, this is going to cost us $40,000 - the price of a good nurse to work in the hospital. So if we did not do this, there would be money in the community that would be spent and it would generate activity in the economic field and, perhaps, we could increase our economy.

The government said there were 57,000 or 63,000 unemployed in 1993. That is why we all voted Liberal, I guess.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you?

MR. ARCHIBALD: No, I didn't. Almost. They almost convinced me, but even at the last second I didn't but most people in Nova Scotia did. (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, we were told there were going to be all these jobs for everyone. Friday, in Kings County, we got the terrible news. There are 3,000 less jobs in western Nova Scotia this year than there was last year. Last year there were less than the year before. (Interruption) I am trying to help you. I don't want you to win the next election but more than

[Page 3276]

that, I don't want the people of Nova Scotia to suffer unduly and this foolish BST is going to render our economy pretty near to a standstill and our people are going to be looking for more jobs and they won't be there because this is an economic deactivator.

Now many of you might have seen one of the things that the Official Opposition and our Leader have done lately regarding the BST. We wanted to see what people thought about it. So did you see the ad? You couldn't have missed it. We put it in the paper in Halifax and the one in Cape Breton and the one in Dartmouth, we had universal coverage, right around the province. We were asking for help from the people. I don't know how many thousands replied and responded. They called us on the phone, so much so that we had to ask people, extra especially to work Saturday and Sunday, to come in and handle the calls. They did it and they said, I want to. We had to put full time staff typing the names and the addresses of all the people who clipped the little mail-on coupon. We are still not caught up, there are so many thousands and most of them are from Mr. and Mrs., thousands.

The little notes, I picked one up the other day when we had the mail bags over here and I looked it up and I loved it. They wrote in a red pen on the bottom, I used to be a Liberal but never again. That was my favourite.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, he gets a lot of those.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, thousands of them but I just looked at that one in particular because I liked the message. It was short and to the point. So, Mr. Premier, we are trying to be helpful, giving you the six months to learn to understand the implications of this. It means higher rents, Mr. Premier, it means higher electric and home heating bills, higher gas prices, higher property taxes, higher prices for clothing, higher costs for your everyday expenses. That brings me back to this. In here it is no HST. Somewhere it says public transportation. Well, look, is a taxi public transportation? I thought it was public. I mean you don't have to have an invitation to get into the car. You put your arm out, he stops, you get in and pay him the money but you see this tax is, I think, on taxis because it is now but it says here it is not.

Airplanes, are they public? Is the airline private? Do you have to get a call from the guy who is running CP or the guy who is running Air Canada, Air Nova, Air Atlantic or Icelandair? Do you have to get a call from the president and if you would like to go for a ride, come ahead. They are public. This would imply that there is no tax. So I am telling you, members of the Legislature, next time you are in a taxi and he tries to charge you, just say, no, I am not paying it. Next time you pay an airline ticket, just say no, the Premier said I don't have to pay it so I am not. I think that you will either get off the plane in a hurry or you won't get the ticket and you won't get a ride in the taxi. This is, you see, what you call misleading.

If this new tax, the biggest tax grab since 1993, if this big tax grab was as good as this government would have you believe, then why do they have to print in things like that that are not true. I mean, it should be self-evident that it is true but they are stretching it.

[Page 3277]

Somebody sent a fax to us the other day. He runs a horse stable and riding academy. He is interested in seeing the new tax axed or, if it has to become law, to see changes made that hopefully avoid any more pain to an already struggling small business, or lower income people. That about sums it up.

Small business, Mr. Premier, in case you have not noticed, is in trouble. They have been in trouble for a few years now and we are in what you would call a recession. Anybody who has not noticed has been missing the boat. The recession is not over yet. These are very taxing times for the citizens, but you know it is not just the taxes that your government stands for, Mr. Premier, it is user fees.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles. In photo licencing, motorcycle training, counselling for drinking and driving, you have charged an additional $3 million since 1994. The Department of Agriculture and Marketing has raised their fees so they have gathered an extra $533,000. The Economic Renewal Agency, in its fees, has gathered in $130,000. The Department of Natural Resources, $1.5 million. Most of that came through campground fee increases.

Sport Nova Scotia, $12,000. Justice, your birth certificate, your death certificate and your estate handling fees have brought in another $2 million. The Department of Education, increases in tuition and residence fees, $3.5 million. Museums, $500,000. Miscellaneous, $62,000. Another $4 million. Housing, $8,000. Environment, $164,000. Fisheries are at it for $1 million. The Gaming Control Commission picked up an extra $5,000 for special event bingo licences.

All this comes to a grand total of - my soul, I do not have the grand total. I will add it up. Okay. The new user fees thus far are $12.604 million in 1993 and 1995.

This government is tax happy. It would not be so bad if all the fees were not going up and the services going down and the taxes. What in the name of time is happening to the money? You are such poor fiscal managers. Every service in government has been cut to the bone, yet you are spending so much money that you cut more and you spend less. You are kind of ratcheting downwards and the services that people are expecting are worse than they should be. Yet they are paying more for them. You see, if the services were going down and the taxes were going down, people would say, well, that is a tradeoff, but in fact this government is raising taxes, is raising fees. At the same time the services are getting worse. All that tells you is that the money is going somewhere. If you look at health care, ambulances are costing an extra $6 million this year to administer. The Minister of Health's Office, I think that went up about $2.5 million just in the administration around the minister. People are concerned that they are paying more taxes and getting less.

[Page 3278]

Just so you do not think I just listen to a few people, I will tell you that a well-known member of the government's Party has written and he is complaining. He represents 32 businesses around the province that are similar to his in the hospitality industry and they are opposed to the requirement that you have to put the prices with HST included. That is another one of those people who suggests the sticker shock is going to cost a lot of business. There is a letter to the Department of Finance that he kindly sent a copy over to us. The tax on newspapers will more than double. In-store pricing, this store has 132,000 stickers. Do you know how much it is going to cost to re-sticker every book in his store once a month and some of it weekly? He can't afford it and does this government care? They don't seem to, they don't even seem to know that problem exists. Who in the name of time are these people talking to?

[3:15 p.m.]

I visited a big hardware store down in Bridgewater a month and one-half ago and there are mixed feelings with this small business employing 58 people full time. They sort of could see well, we will have one tax and we will give the government the benefit and then it hit them. This in-store pricing again and that old thing called sticker shock, I just think that is the neatest term but everybody is talking about sticker shock now. It is not a disease but it is serious.

One of the things that is a real problem and I can tell you so clearly, exactly what this is going to cost this one store. The cost to change the stickers in the store, just to buy the stickers, you are not going to believe. If I told you to buy the stickers was $5,000 you would be surprised, wouldn't you? Well it is actually not $5,000 it is $5,300 and labour costs is $6,800. It is going to cost $12,200 just to change the stickers in his store the first time he does it. New cash registers and it is a national chain that puts out a catalogue so they are going to put out a new catalogue I suppose just for him? That will be cheap, won't it. Who is at the switch in this government?

The letter to the editor just turned up, enjoy it now Richie Mann your time is coming. That is what the voice of the people said in the paper. This is so true because nobody in the government is listening. I have been told that the Premier is working on an address to make to the Legislature during this debate and I hope that he doesn't just wait until the 20 hour closure section comes when the bill comes back from the Law Amendments Committee. You recall that this government under the Premier introduced closure two years ago at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, so there is a maximum of 20 hours. It doesn't matter who fills it the Opposition or the government, it is 20 hours and it will go by. I hope the Premier isn't just waiting to take up part of that 20 hours. I suspect that the message he would like to deliver could be delivered now but what I understand is that the strategists from Gerry Regan's days back in the 1970's - we are looking ahead and this government is looking backwards because all of their advisors are from the 1970's.

[Page 3279]

Apparently, the government wants to use up as much of the 20 hours talking themselves as they can so that nobody will find out. I guess that is another new rule we have now, anybody can walk between the Speaker and the person who has the floor, it doesn't matter. No don't interrupt him, carry on. You see that is the part of this government that people on the street see and that is why, I think, this bill, the actions of the government and the people that lead it are so good for the other Parties. I think the Premier should issue the writ. I think the quicker the Premier issues the writ the better off Nova Scotia will be because it will be great.

Anyway, the well drillers, you have heard about the well drillers and the problem they are going to have for all the rural people in Nova Scotia who are drilling wells. It doesn't affect people in the Halifax area, right here, but it does affect a lot of rural Nova Scotians because now, when we are drilling the wells this year, and there are thousands drilled every year, it is going to cost each person about an extra $240 just to drill a well, but I know that is only a little money.

You know it is so frustrating to be a member of this Legislature when this government is in power because the disorganization is so blatant and so obvious and so frequent. I mean if this government could organize a tea party without something falling apart, I would love to see them do it. You know unpreparedness is so true and that is exemplified by this December 3rd facsimile that was sent out from the Department of Transportation and Public Works, wanting to know - I have to read you this.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it relevant to the hoist amendment?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Oh, you bet it is, it is exactly relevant. I wouldn't read it if it wasn't. I would not step on your parliamentary toes for all the money in the world, believe me. Well look, before you change, before the real Speaker comes in, let me read this to you. This was December 3, 1996, I mean this is recent, that was just a couple of days ago, for anybody who doesn't realize what year we are in, "The department is attempting to determine the impact of the new BST in the trucking industry.".

I love it; the Premier was asked a question the other day on the BST and he says, I don't know what you are talking about and sat down. He calls it the HST. The Department of Transportation and Public Works - and I feel sorry for the guy who sent the fax and I hope he doesn't get in trouble over this - but anyway, the department is attempting to determine the impact of the new BST on the trucking industry. What a great time to decide we have to find out the impact, after you have introduced the bill. I mean, you talk about forward thinkers. I told you a minute ago that Bob MacKay has them all looking backwards to Gerry Regan in the 1970's. Can you give me an idea of the type of costs an independent trucker would incur? For example, how much gas would he use annually?

[Page 3280]

Generally if he is a trucker he might be using diesel fuel but anyway, this guy wants to know how much gas he is using. How much would he generally spend on repairs, i.e. tires, are they replaced yearly, et cetera? They are generally replaced when they are worn out, whether that is yearly or every six months. Are there any other major costs? That's great. This will give us an idea of the real impact. The Premier, take the facts. You see, this is a real problem; you introduce a bill and then you start running around trying to find out what the impact is going to be on the purchase of gas for a diesel truck. I will tell you what the impact of putting gasoline in a diesel and it is not pretty.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member yield the floor for an introduction?

The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to introduce two CBC people from Toronto, Mr. Speaker; and a young man called Philip Savage. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: Welcome to our Legislature. Is he your father? (Interruption) No relation. I was going to say that if I thought it was family, I wouldn't have been saying all these things about you, I would have said nice things.

Property owners are concerned about this tax, truly they are. You see, I wish I could get my hands on the fax that the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs has been sending around, trying to find out what the real impact is going to be on taxes. I mean why didn't the Department of Transportation send out this fax a month ago, six months ago, and then the minister could have told the Premier that it is bad news, stick away from it, instead of sending it out now and trying to get it back. Do you want a copy of the fax?

The property owners are concerned that the municipalities are going to have a real shortfall as a result of this BS Tax. When municipalities have a shortfall, what do they do? They increase taxes. There was supposed to be no impact on municipalities and already we are going to be paying more taxes in the municipalities.

The government said there would be great savings from amalgamation in Cape Breton. What are they now, $60 million dollars behind the eight ball? They told us they would save $11 million in the classrooms by amalgamating all the school boards. How far behind are we there now? They told us that in Halifax we were going to save millions by amalgamation and I think they are down now to about $100,000. The government jumps in with both feet before they have done the research. Anybody who says that is not true, read the facts.

Transportation is still trying to find out. Look at the people in the province and have some compassion. Nova Scotians are paying $63 million a year now in gasoline taxes. Do you know what it is going to be when the BST takes hold? It is going to be $104 million in taxes

[Page 3281]

from $63 million as a result of the BST. I wonder, will that be used to get rid of the toll booths, Mr. Speaker? Have you heard about that? Perhaps it will. It is new money.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do they have to pay GST and BST on the tolls?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Of course.

AN HON. MEMBER: So the tolls will be going up before the booths even get there.

MR. ARCHIBALD: They will indeed. An extra $15 million in taxes on home heating oil. You see, you are sort of getting us where we live, Mr. Speaker, $14 million on home heating oil, $15 million on electricity and $85 million a year for gasoline. Is there any member of this Chamber that does not have an electric bill, a gas bill or a home heating bill? Every single person that you see driving a car, turning lights on in the home or the apartment is going to be paying more in a tax that this government and the Minister of Health would have you believe is a tax reduction. It is not a tax reduction, in any way, shape or form. What it is is a deception that almost went unnoticed until last spring on the last day of that sitting of the Legislature when the Minister of Finance at the time tabled the report that he had neither seen nor read, and on Page 84 of that report, it talked about all the millions of dollars it increased consumer taxes. He did not know that, but he sure found out in a hurry.

We are lucky that we did find out. Otherwise, we would have had to do all our own figuring, but when the Department of Finance says it is a tax grab, what else could it be but a tax grab? Look what they are grabbing. School supplies, exempt now from provincial tax, are going to 15 per cent. That is great. Get the kids before they get older. Get them used to paying the taxes. Get the poor little guys that are just starting Primary.

The government failed to note in the campaign this thing here. See that? This is the thing you forgot about. I already told you about public transportation. You forgot to tell us that. Tax is going up on that. Driving schools are taxed at 15 per cent. It is a funny thing about driving schools and graduated driver's licenses. This government even changed the regulations on the graduated driver's license to make it easier to get your license because you will no longer have to take a safe driving course as the very last thing that you do.

[3:30 p.m.]

They are going to put the tax up on driving schools 15 per cent. As members of the Legislature at $40,000 a year maybe the money insulates us from this new tax. Maybe the Cabinet Ministers at $60,000 or $70,000, maybe they are really insulated from taxes and they do not know how hard it is to pay them. I am telling you, people that I talk to are doing their budgets down to $1.00, $2.00, $3.00, $4.00 and $5.00. Two weeks ago I was out collecting in my community door to door for the Diabetes Society. The people were telling me what they could give because they were waiting for payday and we were talking about coins, Mr.

[Page 3282]

Speaker. Maybe we all have to get in the real world and find out that a 15 per cent tax means something to the average Nova Scotian.

Safety supplies. I cannot believe it. Now look, all the stuff that is going on around us and the government's biggest priority a week ago was to tell everybody driving a bicycle that you have to wear a hat now. I guess they did that now because they are going to tax them. You cannot buy a hat without paying the tax, Mr. Speaker. What a bunch. I wondered why the big push to have bicycle helmets and now I know. The Minister of Health put a tax on them. He sponsored the bill and then he taxed them. That is some slick.

Fitness clubs, amateur sport, ice time. It says in here it is not going to cost your kids any more. Your kids playing minor hockey. It is going to cost your youngsters in minor hockey or figure skating more because the association that rents the rink has got to pay the PST, the GST and the BST on the ice time now.

Private dance and music lessons. I am no dancer and I am not very musical but if I was, I would be kind of annoyed. I have been to a couple of concerts at home where these youngsters, little kids, they have ballet lessons, and now they are going to be paying the 15 per cent to learn to dance and appreciate music. Look, how do you know there is not another Rankin or Rita MacNeil or Anne Murray? How do we know that there is not somebody in this province now with that voice that needs the lessons whose parents say look, I can pay almost, but that tax just puts us over the mark. It is not the tax on the dance lessons so much but the tax on my electricity, my car, my heating oil and everything I buy at the grocery store, pretty near, is taxed now. There is not enough money to go around anymore. How do we know we are not winding up, perhaps, another great singer?

Our Leader, John Hamm, has received many letters - thousands even - a couple of editorials, maybe more than two or three. Clearly, John Hamm has taken on this government over the HST. He has said this is where we draw the line. We are not backing down. We are going to save the people of Nova Scotia from you guys as a government who do not listen, who do not care and are unorganized. We are going to save the taxpayer from you, the government, now by talking in the Legislature until you listen or call an election and he will be Premier and that is the end of this BST, or when the Premier finally calls an election and he is Premier, he is going to begin immediately to do away with it.

Why would the Leader of the Opposition be so determined on a bill? Because the bill is so wrong for Nova Scotia, it is so wrong for our people and it is so typical of this government to be running around with half of the information.

Nobody in this room can tell me that the government knows the implications of this tax when the Department of Transportation is trying to find out what it will do to the trucking industry. Three weeks ago I had an owner-operator calling me with questions regarding this tax that he could not get answered in Nova Scotia when he was calling the numbers.

[Page 3283]

Furthermore, he said there are ways around it when you are travelling nationally and internationally across North America. Maybe you don't buy your new tires in Nova Scotia anymore. Maybe you don't do your repair work in Nova Scotia anymore. Maybe we are going to be driving trucking companies out of Nova Scotia and they will just be coming in here, paying the tax on the fuel and getting out as fast as they can. Do you know the implications of this tax? I would say not when the government is faxing around letters saying what is going to happen. Give us an idea of the real impact.

We need a vote on this HST, the BST, across the province. Every single voter should be asked, do you support this government or do you want to support a government that will listen and not bring in regressive taxes? The appalling thing about this tax too is it was brought in under a cloud, a change to the Rules of the House by an arbitrary, autocratic government that cannot seem to get its act together at all.

The BST was the last straw. Do you remember the day the Premier went to Toronto with the other two Premiers that are in this deal with him? They ran up to Toronto to tell everybody in Canada that would listen about the virtues of doing business because of all the money they had saved. I would venture to you the Premier has no idea of the real implications of this BST. For one chain of stores in New Brunswick, the implication was simple, we are gone. They closed them and they have over a dozen stores in Nova Scotia and they are thinking about closing them too as a direct result of the implications involved in the BST. The store owner's profit margins are so small that he cannot afford to put in the new cash register, reprogramming and sticker everything about 16 times to satisfy the government that has to have the sticker price, including the tax, so that everybody is going to get this new sticker shock disease.

The health club owners, never an area noted for making owners rich, they are lucky if they can stay in business. What are they saying? They are saying we are in the front lines of preventive medicine but the government wants to tax the daylights out of us. The government wants to even tax health clubs out of existence.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the opportunity to speak and to urge the backbenchers to stand up for yourselves and be counted dealing with this government. Join with us, think about the implications and listen to your constituents. Your constituents are not any different when they are talking to you than when they are talking to me. My constituents are telling me they do not like this BST. My business community is telling me it is going to be the final straw. I urge the members of this Chamber to listen with an open mind so they can fully appreciate, understand and comprehend the results of this ill-founded tax. I must tell you I will vote in support of the amendment and I certainly intend to vote against this terrible BST.

[Page 3284]

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the honourable member, would the honourable member kindly table a copy of the documents he made reference to for the Minister of Transportation?

MR. ARCHIBALD: I don't have a copy of it right here, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to get up and say a few words on the amendment, be it not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence. There are many people I know who would argue that even that is not long enough. Let's make no mistake that this deal takes a minimum of $84 million in consumer taxes out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. There is no point in arguing over which list is longer, which list will save money and what goes down and what goes up; there is no need in arguing about that. This government, through a report that it generated out of the Department of Finance, has admitted that this tax is going to cost the people of Nova Scotia a minimum of $84 million more. A minimum. Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong with a tax that is going to cost us more money at a time when we have less people working.

The question we have to ask ourselves, who is this deal for? Virtually every family who makes under $80,000 a year will pay more. Mr. Speaker, there are not a lot of families in the area that I come from where the people make more than $80,000 a year. Eighty thousand dollars a year would be the income for three and four families where I come from, but these people, anybody under the $80,000 range will be expected to pay more and will pay more. There is a big question whether those that make over $80,000 a year with tax-included pricing will actually save any money.

There is no question, none, that the most vulnerable people will be hit by this tax: the people in the lower income bracket, the people in the middle income bracket, the working poor and our seniors. Those people, Mr. Speaker, will be affected and affected badly by this tax. There is something wrong, something drastically wrong, when it is cheaper to go out and buy a fur coat and only have to pay 15 per cent and then you turn around and go out and buy your children some boots and have to pay tax which you never had to pay before.

There is something wrong with that, nobody with any kind of moral standard could believe that that is right, Mr. Speaker, that taxes are coming down on fur coats and we are putting taxes on childrens' clothing and on warm winter boots and on headgear. It is a sad day for the people of this province and it is a sadder day for the children of our province, the people we are supposed to be here to do the best things we can for.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious to all of us and it is obvious to the people of the province that the day-to-day necessities are being taxed and they are being taxed at a higher rate. Electricity, fuel for your cars, fuel oil to heat your homes, all of this is going up in price.

[Page 3285]

Childrens' clothing, childrens' school materials, all going up in price. There will be an additional $14.9 million on home heating fuel alone. That is the new tax grab. Over $15 million more in electrical bills because of the BS Tax. An additional $54 million in gasoline taxes. Everybody uses those services and everybody is going to be affected.

[3:45 p.m.]

There was a government release not too long ago that said some things were going to go down. Household appliances are going to be cheaper. I have been married 19 years and we still have the same fridge and we still have the same stove. But I will tell you, we are seriously thinking about buying a new one before this BS Tax comes into effect so we can beat it that way. Jewellery is not a necessity of life, but it is coming down in price. The taxes are going to be less on it, or discs and cassettes. They are all nice, but they are not a necessity and they are coming down in price.

We go back to the fur coats, Mr. Speaker, as I just said, I have been married 19 years and I have never bought my wife a fur coat, but I have three children and every year I have to buy them a coat and every year these children are going to be taxed. I am not unlike many people in this province who can't afford to buy their wives a fur coat, but necessity demands that they buy their children clothing, good winter clothing, and that clothing is now going to cost more. What else is coming down in price? We can buy video equipment. Why would you want to buy video equipment? Are you are going to video your children starving to death? This tax is not a good thing. It is not healthy. But what is going up? One thing is textbooks. Textbooks, books and newspapers are supposed to be going up, according to this release by the government.

We had numbers released on Friday about the unemployment rates in this area and on Cape Breton Island. The Minister of Community Services was saying that the best way to cut this problem off was, of course, to do more training and more education. Yet, we are going to tax that very thing that he thinks is going to help our economy. New homes are going to go up in cost, Mr. Speaker, where we are striving to get young people to have a quality of life and now we are going to tax that.

Mr. Speaker, the government will argue that paper towels and toilet paper are going to come down in price and that is a good thing, but you are going to have to buy an awful lot of toilet paper in order to clean up this deal.

The BS Tax is not good for the people of this province and it, certainly, is not good for the consumers. So who is this deal for? That is the question we should be asking. It is not for the young people of Nova Scotia who are working and struggling to build homes, because new homes are going to go up in cost, up by about 3 per cent, thanks to the BS Tax, a cost that can make the difference in building or not building.

[Page 3286]

Of course, Mr. Speaker, it has been told to us that if these people are living home with their parents, which a lot of young people have to do - not out of choice, but out of necessity - they will not be affected. If they are living in an apartment, we are told that the landlords and the rents will not be affected, not directly, perhaps, but I believe that they will be affected. Landlords will be forced, they will not have any choice, to pass on things like electrical charges that are up and heating charges that are up and all of these, eventually, are going to land somewhere and that place is in the lap of the tenant.

So who is this deal for then, Mr. Speaker? It is not for families. It certainly is not for someone who is trying to raise young children. They are going to pay more to clothe their children. They are going to pay more to buy their school supplies. They are going to pay more to drive them to the rink to play hockey or figure skate. They are going to pay more to give them music lessons. They are going to pay more. That is, of course, if people have any money left after they have paid for the new costs in fuel oil to heat their homes and electrical bills to turn their lights on.

It appears that this government doesn't care. It appears that somebody has already shut the lights out on this government. The bills have stopped being paid and they can't see in the darkness. They are going to be led by a small group of people on the front benches who are going to lead this whole province down. They are going to be hauled down. (Interruptions) The question is, whose time on the floor is this?

AN HON. MEMBER: It is yours.

MR. MACLEOD: That is right. As long as we have that straight we will continue.

So who is this deal for? It is not for the seniors, that is obvious. Many of these seniors live in apartments and costs of living in apartments are going to go up. The government says they are not but we all know that the landlords are operating on marginal amounts and if they are going to get extra costs, they are going to have to pass them on.

I refer to some information that was provided to us by the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia. It talks about a few cases. One is a 200 unit apartment complex in Dartmouth. This group tells us that the BST will increase annual expenses by $96.21 per unit. Somebody has to take up those costs. What about a 48 unit apartment complex in Halifax that will face an additional charge of $68.73 per unit as a direct result of the BS Tax? Who is going to pay those bills? Somebody has to pay them and eventually it will be the tenant that will suffer.

Tell me, who is this deal for? It is not for the working poor. The working poor are already struggling to make ends meet. They will be paying more of the essentials of life to provide a quality of life for themselves and for their children, so the BS Tax is not going to help them.

[Page 3287]

The government says it will help those who are most severely hit. It has put aside, it says, $8 million, a sum even the Premier acknowledges is not sufficient to cushion the impact of the BS Tax. We have yet to see the details of how this money will be spent. How will this money be disbursed and how will these people that are hardest hit benefit from this fund? The question goes back again, who is this so-called win/win deal for?

The Premier tells us that he is honouring the wishes of Nova Scotians. I would like to know how he knows that since he didn't even have the faith or courage of his convictions to face the public in a public forum on this issue. There wasn't so much as a single town hall meeting where the ordinary Nova Scotian could come in and tell the Premier what they think of this deal, let alone tell the Premier what they think of him. I will tell the Premier as I will tell the other members of this House that despite the endorsement that he might have received from the metropolitan chamber of commerce - which, by the way, still maintains that tax-included pricing on a regional basis will hurt retailers in this province - the BST is not doing the vast majority of businesses in our province a favour, Mr. Speaker.

I will tell you flat out that the vast majority of businesses in this province believe the BST is a disaster in the making. They think that this deal sucks and I defy the Premier or any other member of the government to prove any different.

Let me just tell you why business is opposed. I will start with the retail sector which employs 40,000 Nova Scotians and provides over $1 billion - that is billion with a b - in income and which accounts for $4.8 billion in annual sales. The retail sector says that tax-included pricing on a regional basis will result in a combination of two things. Prices will go up and jobs will be lost; 10 major companies, just 10 of them, have indicated that tax-included prices will cost over $28 million in start-up costs and an additional $34 million in annual ongoing operating costs. The total savings resulting from credit inputs is just over $6 million. The one-time cost of $28 million and the ongoing costs of $28 million will be passed on to the consumers, the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, in only one way - in higher prices. Not lower prices as this government has been trying to tell people, but in higher prices. The increased costs that will be created will be absorbed by the employees who at the moment are still working but whose jobs are on the line.

We have already seen 79 jobs leave New Brunswick and that same company employs 500 Nova Scotians and operates 19 stores here in Nova Scotia; a number of them are on Cape Breton Island. The Premier refers to that company and those jobs that it provides as marginal. Well, Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you that the people who had those jobs and the people in Nova Scotia who still have those jobs consider them to be real jobs. After the numbers that were announced on Friday about the unemployment rate in Cape Breton, the worst numbers in all of Canada, I would like the Premier to call up one of those people who works in one of those stores and say to them your job is only marginal, we are not worried about it. You should not be worried about it either. I would like to have any member of the government benches call up somebody and say that to them, because a marginal job anywhere in Nova

[Page 3288]

Scotia is better than no job. A marginal job in Cape Breton right now is about the best thing that you could hope for.

This government, with this tax, is putting those people and those jobs in jeopardy and that is why we need more time to talk about this. I am not sure that six months would be even close to enough time for the people of Nova Scotia who are worked up and who are incensed over what is happening to their disposal income. I am not sure that six months would give them enough time for everyone to come forward and tell. There is a feeling out there, Mr. Speaker, that is growing. One time someone said, I am just one person and I cannot make a difference. Now they are talking to their neighbours and they understand there are a lot of people who feel the same way and a lot of people can make a difference; a lot of people in this province are going to make a difference.

There might be some kind of a psychological benefit to having the tax included in the prices but that is not a real financial benefit. There is no real benefit there for people. You go into a store and you look at something. After April 1st something that cost me on March 30th, $9.27, now when you go in it is going to cost you $10 and some cents. What kind of an effect is that? That is not going to make me feel better inside, it certainly is not going to save me any money. As a consumer, I am going to be wondering what is going on with my disposable income.

[4:00 p.m.]

The government says that the cash registers in the stores do not have to be changed or affected. People in the retail business tell me and other members of this House that it will affect their cash registers. They are going to have to spend more money and they are going to have to change their program, and that is going to be a cost to them. That is a cost that somebody has to bear and the only person they can get that cost back from is the person who comes in through their doors to purchase whatever it is this person is selling. That is going to hurt Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker.

We look at the different regulations that this government talks about. On the one hand they are saying if you come into a store and you are going to purchase a product here, you look at the price on the price tag and it has to be all inclusive, but if I go across the street to the Post Office and I go in there and purchase a stamp, it will have the BS Tax added to it. We have one standard for the normal everyday individual who lives in Nova Scotia, but we have a different standard for the government of this province and of this country and that is not where we should be. Oddly enough, even in Quebec, which harmonizes its tax, it maintains control over its administration of the tax and it recognized the price-included taxing was a disaster waiting to happen. What do we do? We rush out, we decide we will hide it, we will put it all together so people will only see one price. People are not happy with that, but still, even more, they are not happy with this tax.

[Page 3289]

We all talk about what tourism does for the economy of our province and what effect it has on us. The area that I represent has some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Nova Scotia and certainly some of the most significant tourist sites, such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, incorporated there. What are we going to do? We are going to see millions of dollars spent to promote Nova Scotia, spent to promote our uniqueness, our warmth, our hospitality, but people are going to come in and they are going to be taxed. They are going to be taxed highly on such small things as a night's stay in a country inn, so we are going to see another one of our small cottage industries put out of business by this BS Tax.

That is not what government is supposed to be doing. Government is supposed to be helping small business, not driving them out of business. The deal means that if you are a tourist and you are flying to the Province of Nova Scotia on a flight that originates in the BS Tax zone, or if you lived here and you wanted to travel to St. John's, Newfoundland or if you want to travel from Sydney to Halifax, it is going to cost you 15 per cent more. If you were leaving from here and going to an area outside of that harmonized tax zone, it would be less. So much for encouraging people to spend their money at home. They are going to spend it all right, it is all going to be spent on this new BS Tax, a tax which is unfair to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

What about the small craft-making industries and the small retail businesses? Again, these are very important to the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia. I will quote directly from a letter that we received in our offices, "To summarize, it is my opinion that the BST will harm this small business immensely and will work to the advantage of businesses located in non-BST provinces in the area of retail and catalogue sales. Should this harm prove to be as severe as I fear, it will result in the layoffs within our company.".

Mr. Speaker, we have heard this time and time again. Every time I go somewhere, I ask the people that are there how this tax is going to affect them. Time and time again they will say, it is not good, or the government has not told us enough - more proof that we need at least another six months. As I said earlier, I am not sure six months would be enough. We need more time to talk about this bill so that Nova Scotians know what truly is going to happen to them. The glitches in this BS Tax legislation are far too numerous to mention.

Let's just for a second think about how this whole thing came about. How did this dreadful, miserable, rotten, no good tax on the people of Nova Scotia actually come about? Mr. Speaker, it started out by a broken promise by the federal Liberals. Their promise was to scrap the GST. The federal government was elected on a promise to scrap that tax, but what did they do? They didn't. The government thinks that increasing taxes, taking in an additional $84 million out of the pockets of the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia, and through property taxes and other ways, that this and the BST legislation is somehow scrapping the GST. It is a classic case of going from the sublime to the ridiculous. I am sorry to say it is a classic case of the way that this government operates.

[Page 3290]

After the deal was signed, Mr. Speaker, we were told we would have a period of limited, formal consultations to avoid unintended consequences. Well, I fear the consequences of higher taxes and lost jobs and a blow to our sluggish economy have already taken place.

I will tell you how silly this whole thing is, Mr. Speaker. Just a few days ago on December 3, 1996, there was a memo sent out by the Department of Transportation and Public Works to find out the impact the BST would have on the business of private truckers. This is the same government that brought us amalgamation.

I am going to tell you what they think of amalgamation in the Toronto Sun. It is dated December 8th. I will table this, Mr. Speaker. The headline reads, Halifax shows us how not to amalgamate. There was never a honeymoon. There were too many unpaid bills from the wedding. The merger between Halifax and Dartmouth has become the textbook example on how not to amalgamate regional governments and municipal governments. This is what is thought of the plans of this province when they did amalgamation. If this government is foolhardy enough to go through with this plan on this BS Tax, we will be reading the same type of headlines. The classic example of how to screw people out of money is this BS Tax.

Mr. Speaker, imagine. They sign the deal, this government tables a piece of legislation and then they start asking questions of what impact it is going to have on a business like trucking. That is right next door to being unbelievable. Lunacy, I think, would be a good term.

This whole tax means that Nova Scotia will surrender its autonomy over the traditional taxing authority that it has. Ottawa, Mr. Speaker, the federal cousins that have never done anything for us with the relationship between the Premier and the Prime Minister since 1993, will administer and collect the tax. Where does the money go? Where did the jobs go? Where are the people in the Department of Finance in the Province of Nova Scotia? Are they going to have jobs? Are they just the first in a whole list of people that are going to lose their jobs because of the BS Tax coming into this province?

Mr. Speaker, we have to have time. This resolution would give us some time to talk and to let Nova Scotians tell this government their fears and their concerns over this tax. We want and we need, in this province, a way for the people to communicate their concerns and their fears. One of those ways is through the members of this House and all of us, I am sure, are receiving phone calls. In my case, I am getting more calls that are worried about the bad effects than any calls regarding what might be good about the BS Tax.

Mr. Speaker, who in their right mind would believe that putting an extra 8 per cent tax on legal fees and real estate fees and professional fees of any kind is going to help the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia? Where is that all going to take us? Who believes that an increase in taxes will not result in a jump in the underground economy? People will be going out and getting what they need and paying cash for it because they do not have 15

[Page 3291]

per cent to give away. This government campaigned on a slogan, a slogan that said, leadership starts with listening. Well, that is what this amendment is all about. It gives the people of this province an opportunity to be heard. It gives this government an opportunity for a change to live up to a commitment it made during an election campaign, that it would listen to the people it was sent here to represent. It is a simple request, a request that can be granted by the members of this House this very day, if they wanted to and, if they were wise, they would give that.

Mr. Speaker, the people of P.E.I. had an opportunity. The government there, led by a Liberal, the same as this government here, at that time, went out and they asked the people of their province what they thought about the BS Tax and the answer was a strong and resounding, we don't want it. Since then, there has been another strong and resounding message, we don't want the Liberal Government, either, but that is another issue that I don't want to get into right now. They did say to the Liberal government of the day, that we do not want the BS Tax. It is not good for us. It is not good for our province and it will not be good for the people that live here. The government did the right thing and they listened. We, through this amendment, are giving this government an opportunity to listen, something that would be unique for most of the members of the government benches, but, nonetheless, an opportunity that I am sure a lot of the backbenchers would like to see them take. It would be a good opportunity to see how government can really do what is best for the people in this province.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are outraged. They are taxed and taxed and taxed and they are tired. They are starting to lose hope, but we have an opportunity, by voting for this amendment, to give them new hope. What a great Christmas gift that would be, instead of the Christmas gift that we are planning, because when this passes, Christmas will be more expensive for people next year, but we have an opportunity this year, right now, to give people a real nice Christmas gift, one that shows that we are listening to them, one that shows that we care about them, one that shows that government is, indeed, directed by the people who elect it. Even a small break, Mr. Speaker, would be welcomed by the people of Nova Scotia.

[4:15 p.m.]

We are talking about people left, right and centre. We have seen increases in fees and licenses, we have seen an increase in what this government - every time you turn around there is an increase - there will be an increase in gas, electricity, heating oil. Mr. Speaker, there will even be a tax put on you when you die. People used to say there are only two things in life you can be sure of, death and taxes. Now we are even going to tax the first one so that it is going to cost people to die, it is going to cost them even more. We are going to tax them right into the grave.

[Page 3292]

We are driving people to the grave, Mr. Speaker, with legislation like this and we have an opportunity to change that, to listen to what people have to say. What is the difference? This government told us they were not going to bring this legislation in early, they were going to have it in lots of time, so we are asking for six months so people can hear and say what they really want to say to this government. This government will still have its majority and, if they come back and hear what the people said, they could still bring this legislation in.

It seems that the decision has been made, Mr. Speaker, we know best and we are going to put this in place because you, the people of Nova Scotia, don't know what is good for you. That is not right, Mr. Speaker. When this Premier has the time to go to the polls, he is going to find out just how unhappy people are.

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago in this House during Question Period a question was asked of the Premier about the BS Tax. His reply was, I don't know what you are referring to. If you are referring to the HS Tax, well that is okay. This government is more concerned with what we call this tax than they are on the impact that this tax is going to have on the people we are here to represent. That is sad.

Mr. Speaker, we hear the government benches talk about this tax as being some kind of a job creation strategy. I don't understand that; I don't understand how this government can tell people that increasing taxes will create more jobs. At first, I thought they knew something we didn't. Then they introduced the report that said it was going to cost Nova Scotians $84 million more. Last Friday we heard that the unemployment rate in the eastern region of Nova Scotia was 26.4 per cent, the highest in Canada. Not too long ago the honourable member for Cape Breton East told us that the unemployment rate in that area was 50 per cent. That is the unofficial number but that is the number that he was using, of people who fell through the cracks.

So we have this next tax that is going to be a job creating mechanism; we are going to have a jobs strategy come out of this new tax. I don't understand that. It would be a first for this government to have a job creation strategy but increasing consumer taxes to get the economy going and create jobs doesn't make sense. I mean if it really was going to work, why wouldn't people just double the tax so that they would have double the number of jobs? We know that is not going to be accurate, we know that is not the way it works, Mr. Speaker. Why do they think we are going to believe that increasing taxes are going to create a job?

I believe, as do many people I have talked to, that if there is one way to start jobs in this province, it is to give the consumer a tax break, not a tax increase. Mr. Speaker, consumer confidence was barely starting to recover and this BS Tax is one sure way to kill that little bit of confidence that we are getting back. We in this House have an obligation and that obligation is to pass this amendment so that the people of this province will have an opportunity to say what is on their minds, because I think sometimes people forget the reason

[Page 3293]

we are here. We are here to bring forward the views and the opinions of the people we represent and not the views and the opinions of the people that are in the hierarchy of any provincial Party or any political Party. I don't know how I can make it any plainer. The people want to be heard, this amendment gives them that opportunity, this government will be able to hear. Pretty straightforward, grade six English, people would have an opportunity for input.

Mr. Speaker, this government is saying that this will create jobs but yet they can't provide one single piece of paper, not one single piece of paper to show us the 3,000 jobs they say it is going to start, they can't show us that. But, what they can show us thanks to last Friday is the numbers of the people that are unemployed in this province. The people that can't get work and that is only touching on the surface because there is a lot of people who fell through the cracks and can't get any assistance and aren't going to have a nice Christmas. Unemployment is a bad thing all the time but at this time of the year it makes people sit up and take notice on how poor their future really is.

I could go on and on and there are some from the government side of the benches I know just want me to and I probably will because I feel it is the only opportunity that some of the backbenchers can hear some of the words that they would like spoken, spoken because they are not allowed to get up and say them. We are here to represent the people that put us here and we have to talk about all of the different issues that are being affected.

Transportation costs in this province are going to go up. They are going to go up because gas and diesel fuel are going to cost people more and that, Mr. Speaker, will have an effect on our economy. They talk about when you buy a new car the taxes are going to be cheaper. They didn't tell us about the little surcharge we are going to have slipped in there for the next couple of years, but that is okay, most of the people I know couldn't afford to buy a new car anyway. Everybody that I know is trying to baby their vehicle along so that they will get a few more years out of it because they can't afford the price of a new one because of the taxes, they are not sure if they are going to have job because of all the new taxes that are being put on their companies that they work for, so people are very cautious about buying new cars. They are very cautious about buying fur coats because there are more important things than new cars and new fur coats and they are the children of this province.

This government, they introduced a white paper on education and in it they said that the most important natural resource of this province was our children and then what did they do? They put a tax on their school supplies, they put a tax on their clothing. If that is the way we treat our most important natural resource, I feel sorry for the other resources of this province. We talked a little while ago about amalgamation and the things that happened in that shotgun marriage here in Halifax, certainly the one that took place in Cape Breton. The BS Tax is having an impact on these units and other municipal units. The BS Tax is having an impact on our school boards across this province. It is plain, it is simple, and it is very

[Page 3294]

obvious to those that want to listen and to those that want to go out and hear what people are saying, the BS Tax is not a good thing for the people of this province.

Madam Speaker, there are other items that are going to go up, thanks to the BS Tax. School supplies which are presently PST exempt will now be taxed at the rate of 15 per cent. The government made a lot of thunder about the tax on books and they spoke very nicely about the negative impact it would have on literacy, but then they signed a deal to tax school supplies; another case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.

The people of this province, through this amendment, need the opportunity to be able to speak about how they feel. They need the opportunity, that this amendment will give, to bring forward their concerns and their ideas. There are no savings to be reached from the BS Tax, and that is not the members of the Opposition saying that, it is the people who are in business in this province and the people who are in business in other provinces.

We are going to become aware of a new illness in this province and it was talked about earlier by the member for Kings North and it is sticker shock. When you go into a store and you see an item that two months ago you purchased for one price and all of a sudden it is 15 per cent higher, you are going to be shocked, you are going to be appalled. The sad part is you are not going to have anybody in the store to ask about it because most of the people will have been laid off so that the store can try to struggle through and survive.

I would urge each and every member of this House to think about this amendment, to think about the extra time that the six months would give them to see, indeed, if they truly want to represent the people they were sent here to represent, or do they just want to be led around by the nose by the bigwigs in the political Party that they belong to. If this Premier, and this government was serious about doing the best thing that they could for this province, they would allow a free vote on this amendment. I am sure if we had a free vote today, this amendment would be allowed to take place and the people of the province would have their chance to say what is worrying them and we, as government and people of this House would be doing the right thing for the people of this province. I thank you for this opportunity to speak, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The question is called for. I hear two or three requests for a recorded vote.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[4:29 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[Page 3295]

[5:27 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

The question that you will be voting on is the amendment to Bill No. 48, An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. The amendment reads: be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.

Would the Clerks call the roll.

[5:28 p.m.]

[The Clerk calls part of the roll.]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The wrong list.

THE CLERK: We have the old list, sorry. Last year's list. We will try this one.

[5:30 p.m.]

[The roll was recalled because the roll list was incorrect.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse

Dr. Hamm Dr. Smith

Mr. Russell Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Moody Dr. Savage

Mr. Chisholm Mr. Gillis

Mr. Holm Ms. Jolly

Ms. O'Connell Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Archibald Mr. Harrison

Mr. McInnes Mr. Casey

Mr. Taylor Mr. O'Malley

Mr. MacLeod Mr. M. MacDonald

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

[Page 3296]

Mr. Richards

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Colwell

THE CLERK: Madam Speaker, those in support of the motion, 11. Those opposed, 27.

MADAM SPEAKER: I will declare the amendment is carried in the negative.

The honourable Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: The normal order is the two Opposition Parties on the bill.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I believe I was on my feet before the Premier.

MADAM SPEAKER: I am sorry I was recognizing the Premier, honourable member.

THE PREMIER: Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to make a few comments during second reading of the Sales Tax Act. Because I don't wish to steal a great deal of time from my colleagues in the Opposition, there are no doubt as many interesting comments to come as there were earlier today, so my remarks will be brief, at least for now.

Madam Speaker, for hours, days and months now, we have been listening to the caterwauling, the doom and gloom observations and the outright distortions that have blown across from the Opposition bench opposite. Now, we understand the tendency of the Opposition to play politics, because that is what their game is about. But what is hard to understand is why the Tories and the New Democrats have picked this particular issue on which to stake their political futures, if they have any futures at all.

As a government, we are convinced that the HST will provide Nova Scotia with its greatest economic boost since Confederation. The HST will mean a fairer and simpler tax system, which will result in substantial benefits for business and consumers. Business will be more efficient and less costly to run, while consumers will be encouraged to buy more goods when the tax is reduced from 19 per cent to 15 per cent.

[Page 3297]

Above all, Madam Speaker, the issue which is obviously not of interest to the people across the floor, jobs will be created. (Applause) At least 3,000 new jobs and best of all, attracting investment and creating jobs for Nova Scotians that will help us on the road to self-sufficiency.

Let me just speak for a moment about the stance taken by the two Opposition Parties or is it one Party? I don't know. Maybe it is two Parties, maybe it is one. Does the coalition of confusion crash? We have been getting confusing signals from the Leader of the Opposition. One day he would retain the HST but maybe with some modifications and the next day he wants to scrap it. Doesn't it sound a little like regional health boards? Assuming that this flip-flopping by the Leader of the Opposition has concluded and that he really does want to do away with the harmonized sales tax, what would he do, might one ask, to replace the tax? I can only assume that he wants to bring back the GST.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame. Resign.

THE PREMIER: Now that is not surprising because remember, Madam Speaker, it was the Tory Party that gave us the GST in the first place. The GST, a Tory tax that grabbed $3 billion in tax dollars from this region and moved it to central Canada. This is not our version, this is the view put out by many economists, that if you do not have a manufacturing base, then of course you pay a consumer tax, those who have the manufacturing base benefit. It is interesting, that great GST, this raid on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia went off without a hitch, why? The Tory Government even appointed a series of instant Senators, one of them from this House, to cement the GST deal. The result was the biggest single tax rip-off of Nova Scotians that we have ever seen. The current Tory Party in Nova Scotia wants to return to the GST and doom this province to being forever subservient to central Canada and we say no, no, no. (Applause)

Now for their partners, the New Democrats, this wonderful part of the coalition that we heard of recently, it is not clear what they plan to do about taxation. The NDP members opposite have made repeated references to some kind of a fair tax policy but, as usual, they are short on details. The NDP would also eliminate the harmonized sales tax, leaving us with the GST and perhaps no sales tax at all. Who knows? When you live in pie-in-the-sky economics like they do, that would mean the disappearance of millions of dollars never to be replaced and where would they be. Ah, but I will tell you what, no doubt they would consult with their colleagues in British Columbia. Those wonderful colleagues who one day have $1 billion deficit which disappears and then reappears when the election is over. Good advice, follow it well, my friend. They certainly have learned well how to do it.

Madam Speaker, this province needs the harmonized sales tax which, with its full input tax credit, will have a major impact on both business and consumers in this province in a positive way. Much has been said about the HST and how it will add to the tax burdens of Nova Scotians. We have heard about it in the last day, everything from home care to the latest

[Page 3298]

imagined piece of whatever they think of on the other side. They just produce it and say the tax will go up.

Now I may not be an economist or an accountant but it seems to me that the facts don't support the argument at all. As of next April, the provincial government will collect more than $100 million fewer dollars from Nova Scotia taxpayers, $100 million fewer, not more. (Applause) So when the Leader of the Opposition gets up and prattles on about the $84 million, let him consider the reality of the facts, $100 million less will be taken from the taxpayers of this province. Put that in your $84 million pipe and smoke it.

It appears to me that if we are collecting less tax, then obviously less tax is being paid. It seems to me pretty straightforward math, eh? Sure, taxes will go up on some items. We know that. We have never disputed that but on the majority, the tax will either stay the same or better still go down from 19 per cent to 15 per cent. Everything from phone bills to light bulbs. Then, of course, there is the 4 per cent (Interruption) Ask the phone company. (Interruption)

Then, of course, there is 4 per cent in personal income tax next year which this Opposition conveniently forgets. This will mean, in particular, that coupled with - and we have always stated that our bill was coupled with - the reduction in income tax that will occur in July, the first income tax reduction for the people of this province since it was first introduced in 1917. (Applause)

They are continually prattling on about what we are doing to the people in the low income levels of this province. Well, maybe we should have a look at what we are going to do for the people in the low income levels. We are again dramatically increasing low income tax credit. We will also be announcing shortly an $8 million program for low income Nova Scotians who won't benefit from the drop in the income tax rate. That is a Party that cares. (Applause) Of course, there are special sales tax rebates on the sales of new homes and tax breaks for volunteer fire departments which we believe is very important for rural Nova Scotia. (Applause)

There will be no increase in the price of books as a result of our decision not to put a provincial tax on books. I think it is also noteworthy that it was pressure from this government and others that encouraged Ottawa to eliminate the sales tax entirely on books sold to schools and libraries. Mr. Speaker, I don't think for a moment that we should underestimate what the HST will do for business in this province. Businesses will no longer pay sales tax in Nova Scotia. The result will be an immediate, competitive advantage for Nova Scotia over places like Ontario where businesses will still pay the 8 per cent.

Now this, you have to admit, is a competitive advantage. I don't see how you can refuse to see that, although judging from your remarks earlier today, one would have to certainly say that you have economic myopia. The competitive advantage for business was

[Page 3299]

cited this week, not by us, but by Mentor Networks when it was announced that it was moving from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Ask them, Madam Speaker, don't just ask us. Now you will be hearing (Interruption) Well, do it again, because they announced it quite clearly and even your representative who you dispatched there was able to witness it.

Now you will be hearing more and more as we go on about businesses that will begin to understand and appreciate the Nova Scotia advantage. I would encourage existing Nova Scotia companies and firms, who will also benefit from a single and cheaper tax system, to start speaking out as well. I would suggest that maybe, one of the ways that we might do this and get it out is if - we would like to suggest tonight - that what you do in the Opposition is to put partisan politics aside and accept the harmonized sales tax. The HST will be the biggest and best stimulus to economic growth that this province has ever seen. (Applause)

We know from the Party that was in power that jobs were not particularly of any interest to them. The NDP also has shown little interest in jobs, but this is fundamentally a major opportunity to create jobs in this province. I ask them to join with us in creating jobs for this province. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, that certainly (Interruption) hasn't done much to further the debate very much. But, anyway, what it has done, of course, it has distracted me a little bit in terms of the direction that I was planning to head off, but nonetheless I think the Premier did underline or underscore, perhaps, some of the concerns that I had with this whole process and certainly with the tax itself.

Let me start with the Premier's request that members of the Opposition put aside partisan politics and accept the HST. This Party, the New Democratic Party, did not accept the GST, still does not accept the GST and we do not accept the BST and we will never accept the BST, Madam Speaker. If we are in a position after the next election, then we will show that commitment and we will immediately trigger the opting out clause in order to relieve the pressure on Nova Scotia consumers that is going to be caused by the BST. (Interruption)

[5:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask him to put aside partisan politics and vote . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: What the Premier does not seem to understand is that when members of the Opposition from this caucus stand up and argue against the BST, we do so on the basis of fact. We do so on the basis of philosophy. We do so on the basis of what Nova Scotia consumers, taxpayers and small businesses are telling us. It has to do with the merits

[Page 3300]

of the BST, which have absolutely no credibility and the sooner this Premier realizes it, the longer he will stay in this business.

There is no question that the GST was one of the greatest tax rip-offs for consumers in this country. Absolutely. (Interruptions) But saying that it was does not make it better today. To add another tax on top of the GST and wishing it away or calling it something different does not mean that it is so. It does not mean that it is gone. It does not mean that the abuse of Canadian Nova Scotian taxpayers has ended, as much as this Premier might like to think so.

When the Tories brought in the GST in this country, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The federal Tories.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . it shifted tens of millions of dollars from the manufacturing base of this country, Quebec and Ontario. It shifted the burden of the taxes that were going to the federal government in a major substantive way to the Atlantic Provinces. (Interruption) You see, the Premier just said to me, that is what I said. How is it going to make it any better to make consumers pay more on those GST items? Explain that to Nova Scotians, because they do not understand that.

If the GST in fact was a shift from manufacturers onto consumers, the burden shifted in a major way, not only from business to consumers, but also from one region to another, why is adding further tax on the GST supposed to make it any better? All it does is it adds more burden onto consumers. In Nova Scotia alone, this government's estimates are that the BST will save business $240 million. Now do you think that is just a gift and that is just going to go by the way? No. It is like the GST. It is going to be consumers who pick up a great deal of the slack caused by that shift, Madam Speaker, in excess of $80 million.

Yes, consumers and Nova Scotia taxpayers will pay in another way. They will pay because this government is going to take in $100 million less in tax revenue. That is $100 million that this government will not have to deliver health care services, to deal with the crisis in education, to deal with the poor who are in greater need now than they have ever been since the Depression. That is exactly what is going to happen. People who are being kicked out of hospitals early, people that are at home waiting for surgery who now cannot get home care services, Madam Speaker, are going to have an even more difficult time once that $100 million loss has been realized.

How is that supposed to benefit Nova Scotia consumers? The Premier said it is a package, it is the BST and the income tax reductions, you have to take it all together. You have to lump it all in one and then recognize how fair that we are really being to people. Well, how fair are they being, let's take a look.

[Page 3301]

What we are seeing, for example, as a result of income tax changes. Income tax changes that benefit high income earners, disproportionately more than low income and middle income earners. People earning less than $10,000 are going to realize the savings, according to the government's own figures of $3.00. Let me say that again, $3.00 a year. Whereas once you hit $80,000 then the savings begin to hit $500 and begins to climb the higher your income is. That is what the government talks about when it talks about fairness and we know that consumption based taxes are inherently regressive. If you make $10,000 a year or if you make $100,000 you pay the same amount of tax proportionately, it is much greater for the person making $10,000 than for the person making $100,000.

People understand that. Nova Scotians understand that. Nova Scotians do not buy the argument that this Premier and his ministers on the executive bench are suggesting that by giving business in this province - let us be clear what business it is going to be because economic analysis has suggested that the labour intensive businesses in this province, small business primarily, are not going to realize any savings as a result of the BST. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: They are not going to realize any savings as a result of this deal. The companies that are going to recognize the savings are the very companies that the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Education have been shouting across the floor in the last few days. It is the big manufacturers, Michelin, Trenton Car Works and Stora. So the people that are going to save here are those major corporations and who is going to pay for those savings? Who is going to pay for those savings and it is going to be people living in Sydney, it is going to be small businesses that are hanging on by their fingernails in the Mayflower Mall. People that I talk to on Saturday who cannot believe that this government would do something as silly as putting extra costs on them at a time when they are just barely surviving.

They took offence to the Premier when he said with respect to a major retailer in New Brunswick who said that they were going to shut down some of their stores as a result of the BST. About being marginal, I have had a number of calls from businesses in this province that have said, marginal, many of us are marginal thanks to policies of this government. We are still hanging tough as a result of the impact of the GST is what these people are suggesting. Now what is going to happen is that not only is it going to cost them more to get involved in repricing everything, but also they are not going to realize any savings and the people that come in and buy their products are going to be asked to pay more and they are not going to be able to pay more, Madam Speaker, that is the sad reality of it all. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 3302]

MR. CHISHOLM: The Minister of Labour has his hands full right now trying to peddle Sysco, I think maybe he should focus his attention on that and if he wants to know what my plan is on that, I have some ideas for him. Instead of going out and trying to again hand over the reins for important assets to any fly-by-night company that will come in from somewhere else, like the former Minister of Finance did, by getting into that deal with Minmetals.

The Premier when he had his comments talked about, why would the Opposition Parties have staked their political future on this issue? You see, it all has to do with the problem that Nova Scotians and Canadians are facing as a result of successive Liberal and Tory Governments that have bought the line that the way to solve problems in this country, the way to get the economy going, the way to create jobs is to give more money to the wealthy in this country, it is to give more money to corporations and somehow it is going to trickle down, somehow it is going to shake down to the little people, as the Premier refers to them. We have seen that, 20 years we have seen that in this country. You may remember somebody that was an American President named Ronald Reagan, who very much promoted this policy, lowered the tax rates for high income earners and cut taxes for corporations in the United States and what has happened? Well, what we have seen is that crowd of the wealthy that used to own 40 per cent of the wealth in that country now have 60 per cent of the wealth in that country.

The middle class are continuing to decline and the poor, the numbers, the tens of millions of people living in poverty continue to grow as a result of those trickle-down policies. The idea is that if you free up these guys, and that is what they are mainly, what you get is somehow they will create jobs, but, what people recognize, what really happens is that the profits continue to climb. The dividends to shareholders continue to rise. All the while low and middle income earners in this country, in this province, continue to pay more and more of the costs of providing public services. There are no jobs, what has this government done to create jobs? What has this government done in 3.5 years to create jobs? The difference, 6,000 jobs have been lost in this province between this year and last November. Look at these guys, look at these people, they laugh, they think that is funny, 7,000 people in industrial Cape Breton applied recently for 20 clerical level jobs provided by the federal government, 7,000. Imagine. Is that something the Minister of Labour is proud of? Maybe the member for Cape Breton East is proud of that, is he? (Interruption) That is what is going on here that these ministers don't seem to understand. You see, that is what Nova Scotians are saying is that these people, these members of government, are completely out of touch, they just don't get what is going on. They don't understand what it is like to be without work, they don't understand how hard people are working to try to find work, they don't understand how hard small business people in this province are working to try to hang on. When they bring their concerns to their attention, they are dismissed, demeaned and they are ridiculed.

[Page 3303]

[6:00 p.m.]

The Premier says that this province needs the BST. Who said this province needs the BST? What analysis has the government provided that shows that this province needs the BST? You know who needs the BST? The federal Liberals, those are the only people who need the BST.

AN HON. MEMBER: Unemployed Nova Scotians.

MR. CHISHOLM: I would like to see the Minister of Community Services, the member responsible for the hungry and the homeless, explain to me how the three thousand jobs are going to be created. I have gone through the analysis that they have provided. Do you know why he cannot? It is because, you see, it works this way. The idea is that he will ensure that the employers at Trenton Car Works or one of the other major employers in this province will save money by not paying the provincial sales tax and that somehow then they will translate that into jobs. What we have seen in this country is not a problem with the lack of corporate profits.

What we have seen is companies in this country, whose bottom line continues to get rosier, at the same time cutting off their workforce; at the same time they are cutting jobs. So why all of a sudden in that climate (Interruption) Even the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Paul Martin, has chastised corporate leaders in this company for enjoying record profits at the same time they are laying people off. Well, my love of Heaven, if that is what is going on in this country, how is giving them more money by making taxpayers pay more, consumers pay more and giving it to these profitable corporations, how is that going to create jobs? Nova Scotians are scratching their heads on this one. They don't understand why this government would have that kind of undying, committed faith. They just don't see it and I don't see it either, nor do my colleagues.

Let's talk about the unemployed in this province. Let's talk about people living on less than $15,000 a year. The people who pay increasingly more taxes on the necessities of life, how are they going to benefit from this deal?

Let met take you back to that time in April when we were trying to flush out of the former Minister of Finance the details of this package, of this miraculous tax savings. He talked about the low income tax credit. He also talked about this $8 million, because you see what we did was, we pointed out to the minister, when he said that people earning - correct me if I am wrong - under $30,000 - maybe it was $25,000 - and a family of two, I think, what we brought to his attention, Madam Speaker, was that the number of people earning under that level that don't pay any taxes at all would not be subject to the low income tax credit. So he brought to our attention the $8 million. So we figured out the $8 million affected around 125,000 people.

[Page 3304]

The minister, said, yes, but wait a minute. That does not include seniors. I think he wanted to take seniors out of that and wanted to take out people going to university and people on welfare. He wanted to take all those people out of that. I don't even know yet, because the details are not clear, but what we came down with was a figure in the area of, as I recall, around 65,000 people and, basically, what we figured out, Madam Speaker, was those people are going to realize a savings, as a result of what this government is bringing forward, of about $1.00 a week as a result of this great advantage. Now, I have not been able to nail that down any better for you here because that is one of the details that has not been worked out. When the agreement and then the legislation was tabled, the issues relative to low income Nova Scotians, to the people that the Minister of Community Services is increasingly responsible for, the hungry and the homeless, they had not quite worked out the details yet of who was going to be affected by that $8 million. I certainly hope that we are able to nail that down.

Let me also address, for a moment, this business about the coalition of confusion. Madam Speaker, the question of our position, I think, is clear. It always has been clear and it always will be clear. Let me say that I think the Leader of the Official Opposition has increasingly become more clear on this issue and I appreciate that. I appreciate, very much, the commitment that the Official Opposition, the Progressive Conservative Party, has made to this battle, as do many Nova Scotians, because what we have been able to do together is to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to express their concerns as they have done by the tens of thousands and are continuing to do.

In terms of what the Progressive Conservative Party will do when the rubber hits the road, that is up to them to nail down. I, myself, am a bit troubled by some of the claims. We have always said in the NDP, that the Liberals and the Tories, they run left and they govern right. When it comes to election time, whether it is the Liberals or the Tories, they begin to sound more like New Democrats when they are running for election. That having been said, though, that is exactly what we are seeing right now.

I don't mean to suggest that the Tories aren't going to come full square ahead on their commitment to scrap the BST but, at the same time, let's not forget that the Liberals and Tories, traditionally, anyway - maybe things are changing under the new Dr. John, and that is good if that is, in fact, the case. Maybe the Tories are becoming the Party of the people, as opposed to the Party of the corporations and wealthy individuals. If so, we will keep pushing them for clarification on that particular point.

I understand the Premier being somewhat confused about it. It doesn't surprise me after three and a half years to see the Premier confused about anything. I do think that is a fairly significant philosophical shift and I will work with the Tories and I encourage them to work to try to straighten out and clarify exactly where they stand on those taxation issues.

[Page 3305]

Nonetheless, we are committed in doing this. We are both committed in fighting this bill, Madam Speaker, because we believe it is wrong. We believe that what it does is further compound the difficulties created by the GST. It is exacerbating a consumption-based tax which does nothing to deal with the ability of the Government of Nova Scotia to provide public services to the people of Nova Scotia. It does nothing to deal with the fact that the Minister of Health can stand up in this House and talk about the fact that we can't afford single-tier universal Medicare in this province, we cannot afford to provide a children's dental program to children under the age of 10 years.

The Minister of Community Services says that we can't afford to provide people living in poverty with an adequate roof over their heads. That is exactly what he said. They have reduced the shelter allowance - can you imagine - from $350, which is extraordinary to think that somebody is going to be able to provide housing for themselves anyway at that, down to $225. Now I know here in Halifax that is hard but I understand in Cumberland County, for example, it is almost impossible to find accommodation for that kind of money. Then again, for people who are living in poverty, the minister tells them they can't afford it.

So what is the HST? What is the BST? What is this new tax? You know what the line is; whether it is bulls or horses, it still stinks. That is exactly what Nova Scotians are saying. What really troubles people is that this government is not coming clean with them. After having committed to creating 57,000 to 61,000 jobs, which they have turned their backs on, after having committed to real health care reform, which they have turned their backs on, after having committed not to amalgamate municipalities and school boards, they have turned their back on that commitment. What else have they done that they said they weren't going to do? They weren't going to break collective agreements. The list goes on and on, doesn't it? It is hard to keep up.

After the government said they were not going to do these things, they are doing them now. Now the Minister of Community Services has the nerve to stand up in front of Nova Scotians and say, trust us, believe what we are going to do for you because this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, Madam Speaker.

[6:15 p.m.]

I am telling you I spent two days in Cape Breton this weekend, in Sydney. The member for Cape Breton East says, well, I know it all now, but no I do not, I was just there for two days. I had an opportunity to talk with dozens of people (Interruption). I had an opportunity to shop through the Mayflower Mall, I had lunch there and I talked to a lot of people. You know what? They cannot believe this minister and his colleagues are bringing in this BS Tax, they cannot believe they are doing this.

[Page 3306]

You know what else makes people so confounded is that this government is ramming it down Nova Scotian's throats. If it such a good deal, people say to me from one end of this province to the other, why doesn't this government come out and talk about it? Why don't they debate it, why do they have to use their bully boy tactics to ram it through the House? Why don't they take the opportunity to travel around the province, give people an opportunity to understand what is going on, to understand what the deal is and to have a say.

I had the opportunity to talk to a woman in Cape Breton The Lakes and she may have been a New Democrat, who knows; she said she had a sign out, she said she used to work for the Liberals with the kind of zeal that women's libbers have, she said. She may have been a card carrying New Democrat, I do not know. I am sure the minister and his colleagues will want to dismiss what it is this woman had to say. (Interruption) Let me just say this, this woman said to me that she is going to have to pay more - she lives in an apartment in the back of a house, her and her husband - she is going to have to pay more on all those family essentials.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why is that?

MR. CHISHOLM: Somebody send the minister, what is his portfolio now?

AN HON. MEMBER: Transportation.

MR. CHISHOLM: Somebody send him a note, send him your briefing book, John. I think that is the problem, is that people according to the member for Lunenburg West, the people in Bridgewater are not low or middle income. They do not have a problem, they all live like kings and queens and do not have to worry about it (Interruption). Well, I tell you what, I would suggest the people in his riding, as with people across this province, there are a lot more people that have to spend their money on home heating fuel, on wood to heat their home, on gasoline to get around, clothing under $100, children's clothing, school supplies, there are a lot more of those people than people this government seems to be catering to, which are people that are buying fur coats, buying brand new Volvos and buying brand new yachts. I will tell you what, the Minister of Transportation may not realize it, but there are a lot more of those people around than there are the people that are going to benefit from this deal. (Interruptions)

The point that I was making before I was somewhat distracted by the call from the wild of the Minister of Transportation, looking for some information on the BST, what I was going to say was that what this (Interruptions)

[Page 3307]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the point that I was trying to make was that this woman, not unlike a lot of other Nova Scotians that I have run into in the past week, what they are saying to me and what this woman said, I cannot travel to Halifax, she said, to make a presentation to the Committee on Law Amendments. She said I cannot afford the trip, number one and number two, I do not have the time. She said I am really upset about this BS Tax, I think it is going to have an enormous impact on my life and on the lives of people around me and I would like to have a say to this government . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the one on the lakes?

MR. CHISHOLM: It's the one on the lakes, yes. I wasn't going to bring this up but since the minister encouraged me, this is another one of his constituents who said that she is having trouble getting through to this minister and to the Premier and to the 1-800 number.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . and then they will get an answering machine anyway.

MR. CHISHOLM: The point is, you see, that Nova Scotians, this gang of people here think that this is just sweetness and light. They are convinced that this is the greatest thing ever. You know they may be right, and maybe I am wrong; maybe these members are wrong; and maybe all those Nova Scotians are wrong. Maybe we are all wrong, just like the government of the day tried to say we were wrong when we talked about how bad the GST was and how bad it was going to be for the economy. I don't think so, but, regardless, there are tens of thousands of Nova Scotians out there who are extremely concerned about the impact that this legislation, this agreement is going to have on their lives and on their ability to make a contribution to their community and they feel that they should have the right to talk to this government about those problems, to talk to them about their concerns and to hear what it is that they have to say. I agree with them, because we were served up the same plate of bologna by the Tories when they brought in the GST.

The same claims were made. It is going to create tens of thousands of jobs, the economy is going to boom, we are going to free up those manufacturers, man, and they are going to create jobs left, right and centre. You know what happened, in southern Ontario, for example, the manufacturers took their money and they went across the border, thanks to the free trade deal; that is what happened. We continue to have a stagnant economy in this country, we continue to have unemployment levels that are absolutely obscene and now this government is going to build on a bad idea. The Premier said it was a bad idea, the worst tax rip-off in history; he is right. So what is he going to do in response to that? He is going to piggyback on it; he is going to add to it, he is going to make it worse. Somehow that is going to make it all go away. It is not very rational thinking as far as I am concerned and something that people in this province simply do not accept.

[Page 3308]

The question that is being asked by Nova Scotias is why is it that low- and middle-income earners in the Province of Nova Scotia have to continue to pay the price of the mismanagement of this government and the former government. Why is it, when the Liberal Party, when they were in Opposition, talked about what a regressive tax this was? Consumption-based taxes are inherently aggressive, they said. They talked about how harmonization is the wrong way to go. It will dampen consumer demand, it will not create jobs, and what we will do is set up a fair tax commission. We will consult with Nova Scotians about the right way to go, Madam Speaker. Now, when I stand up here and suggest that, they laugh.

They think it is a ridiculous idea to go out and consult with Nova Scotians. Well, I don't think it is a ridiculous idea and Nova Scotians don't think it is a ridiculous idea. Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, believe that that is what is wrong with this government. They took their 30-60-90 roadshow out there, they didn't like what they were hearing, so they came back in and they haven't been out since. (Interruption) Oh, that is right, excuse me - except for the former Minister of Municipal Affairs who went to all 66 municipalities, just long enough to cut that down by 20 or so. Look what you have got now as a result of what that former Minister of Municipal Affairs did. You have two merged municipalities that are in debt up to their eyebrows and they don't know which way to turn. (Interruptions)

Well, I tell you, I let myself get distracted by the Premier and I should know better, Mr. Speaker. Let me say as I begin to wrap up my comments here today that we have a problem in this province, we have a problem in this country and that is, you see, that no longer is there a principle that people pay their fair share. No longer is there a commitment to have government provide public services that we all pay for. You see, now what we have, the system in this province and in this country, is where low and middle income earners pay the bulk, share the major part of the burden of paying the taxes. Increasingly corporations and wealthy individuals in this province and in this country get away without paying their fair share.

You know what the result is? The result of that is that we can have the Minister of Health get up and tell us we can't afford health care. You get the Minister of Community Services get up and say we can't afford to feed the hungry and to house the homeless. You have the Minister of Education get up and say that we can't afford to have reasonable class sizes in this province. We can't afford to have schools in our communities. We can't afford to invest in our future. See, that is what you are getting here. That is what happens when you have a tax system that is so inequitable, when you have a tax system that does not treat people fairly. As a result of that, what you get is the situation that we are in right now, where you have the minister responsible for the hungry and the homeless laughing about the fact that we cannot afford to feed the poor. We have gone in this province since this group has come into power, we have gone on the scale from the 8th worst to the 4th worst. (Interruptions) When I raise that issue what does the Minister of Education do? He mocks me because I slur my words.

[Page 3309]

[6:30 p.m.]

Why are you not concerned about the fact that there are so many children living in poverty in this province? Why don't you get the fact that if we continue to cut back on education that we are going to have even a worse problem down the road.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. I will ask the honourable member to return to the bill.

MR. CHISHOLM: You have got to invest in the future of this province. The ability to invest is more difficult if you have a tax system that is inequitable, if you have a tax system that does not have people pay on the basis of their ability to pay, when you allow corporations in this province to pay the lowest corporate tax rate in this country, they always have and they always will. What has that done for us?

Do we have corporations that are rushing in here because of that? This Mentor business, they came here because of the BST? That is not true. Any analysis of why corporations set up in a particular jurisdiction, taxation policy is one issue, one factor and it is a small factor. There is always going to be corporations out there, you know the Minmetals and the other corporations out there that want to take advantage of a government like this, that want to take advantage of a government who is prepared to give the handouts, who is prepared to give a company $4 million just so they say in their press release, well, we think the BST was a good deal. You see we have got to stop that because there are always going to be those corporations out there.

There are a lot of corporations that now exist in the Province of Nova Scotia and a lot of corporations that will grow and continue to prosper and establish a base in this province, that are proud to be here and proud to pay their fair share. We don't need to go outside of this province. We don't need to go begging and scraping for companies to come here, to take our handouts, to take taxpayers money and to end up taking us for a ride. It hasn't worked for generations and it is not going to work any better in the future. If corporations want to come here and work with us and take advantage of our highly skilled workforce, take advantage of what we have in this province to offer which is good for any corporation, if they want to do that, if they want to pay their fair share then they are welcome.

Nova Scotians are asking you this question former Minister of Finance. They are asking you why do people that are earning between $10,000 and $30,000, why do they have to pay more to Michelin? Why do they have to contribute to get a computer company to come here? Why do they always have to be the ones who are being asked to give more? Why are they being asked to give more when they are having a hard time hanging onto their homes, when they are having a hard time putting food on the table and putting clothes on the backs of their children? Why is it when the young people in this province are having a difficult time finding the money to go to university? Why is it that this government continues to ask them to pay

[Page 3310]

more in order to give profitable corporations more breaks? That is the question that this government has not answered.

Let me tell you this, they may not want to give Nova Scotians an opportunity at this point, at this juncture, to talk to them about their concerns, but Nova Scotians are going to have an opportunity, Nova Scotians are going to have an opportunity, just as they did in Halifax Fairview, they are going to have an opportunity to render decision on the BS Tax. I hope that this government has the decency to come clean and to give Nova Scotians the opportunity to make that decision, to cast that ballot, before they take us too far down a road that I think is going to be so damaging for our economy.

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Seven minutes.

MR. CHISHOLM: The question of taxes and the unfairness of taxes is a matter that concerns Nova Scotians very desperately. They want the opportunity to talk to government. They know they cannot talk to this government. They want to talk to government about how to reform the tax system to make it more fair, to ensure that people pay their fair share. People say to me and they have said it, I think to everybody, it is in the polls, it is out there. People do not mind paying their fair share if they know that everybody is. If the services that they want to have provided - health care, education, the ability of government to help those who are unable to help themselves, those services are in fact provided to them. Increasingly this government, like the government before, is asking people to pay more, low and middle income earners to pay more. At the same time they are cutting back their services, they are cutting back their opportunities for jobs. They are cutting back their hope for the future and that is what Nova Scotians want an opportunity to talk to this government about.

I feel very strongly about giving Nova Scotians the opportunity to have their say. I believe that this tax, as I said before, is wrong and that this tax exacerbates the problems created by the GST. It is even worse because I alluded to this the other day. APEC in their presentation and their analysis talked about how the GST shifted the burden of paying taxes so much from region to region. Not only from business to consumers but from region to region. We in the Atlantic region now are paying tens of millions of dollars more to the federal government than we were under the manufacturing sales tax. The other thing about the GST was that it was at least for the benefit of the federal government to meet its obligations to pay for its services. It at least replaced, and then some, the amount of money that it was getting from the manufacturing sales tax.

The BST not only shifts huge amounts of money, taxation money, from corporations to individual consumers, it also means that this government is going to be $100 million short. This government is awfully pleased about the bribe money, the $249 million. I have seen it here in one of the documents. I cannot put my hands on it right now, but what they have said

[Page 3311]

is that that bribe money will enable them to maintain their budgetary surpluses over the next couple of years. What is going to happen when that money runs out? How are they going to replace the $100 million? APEC could not answer that question. This government has not been able to answer that question other than some fanciful notion that the money will slosh around and somebody will create money. Mr. Speaker, it is just like the GST promotion. It is far too much rhetoric and far too much bumf than it is fact and reality. That is the problem. That is why I am going to introduce an amendment (Interruptions) which suggests that: the subject matter of Bill No. 48 be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, so that we, members of this Legislature, can at least analyze here representations from the public and from experts in order maybe to answer that one question, among a whole host of other questions, for the members of this House and for Nova Scotians that are interested, Mr. Speaker.

So I, therefore, would move the motion that reads as follows: That the word after "that" be deleted and the following be substituted therefore, "The subject matter of Bill No. 48 be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.".

MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is in order.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make comment on what is a very sensible amendment and that is a referral of this whole question to the Public Accounts Committee. I welcomed earlier the entrance into the fray of the Premier. I welcomed it not because the Premier had anything enlightening to say: he really repeated the same kind of rhetoric that we have heard from members on the government benches all through this debate.

There is one issue that I do want to respond to. The Premier saw fit to question my position on regional health boards. My response to the Premier is that I attended, at a very early date, one of the initial meetings of the Blueprint Committee. I questioned because at that point they were talking about regional health boards and regionalization. I said to them that I don't think this concept will work, I don't think regional health boards are the way to go. I said, why exactly are your proposing it? The Blueprint Committee said to me, we are not proposing it. That was given to us by the Minister of Health. It is a given. So I wish to reassure the Premier that my position on regional health boards has not altered since day one.

Why would this be a good bill to refer to the Public Accounts Committee? Well, the reason being that there is a whole number of issues that are discussed in this document, Nova Scotia Tax Reform, Economical and Fiscal Analysis, which simply just don't bear up under scrutiny. We have an opportunity to debate this legislation, but to go into it in the kind of detail, in the kind of working atmosphere that this document needs, simply is not afforded in this place where we do stand-up debate. This document requires the kind of close examination

[Page 3312]

that if we were not conforming to the federal timetable would be afforded to us to look at this fundamental change in our tax structure. Unfortunately, our government has seen fit to buy into a federal timetable to allow them to have an election later next spring.

Now, no reasonable person would accept the federal argument that what is proposed here, in any way, shape or form is an elimination of the GST. As a matter of fact, the Premier said that all we are doing is simply adding. We are taking a 7 per cent GST and we are making a 15 per cent GST. The Premier, at one point in his speech, seemed to say that we had to live in this country with the GST, and he wanted to blame the previous administration in Ottawa that this was a bad tax, so the novel solution, presented now by our provincial government in collusion with the federal government is simply, we take that 7 per cent GST and we make it into a 15 per cent BST and somehow that is an improvement. I fail to follow the logic that the Premier has used in that and I fail to follow the logic that you take a GST and you call it a CVAT and that somehow solves the problem.

In reality, you know, we are really playing political games here when we on one hand, are saying that the GST was a bad thing and then the Premier comes to us and says well we will call it the CVAT and add another 8 per cent. Boy, doesn't that solve the problem. The whole argument that is presented in this Nova Scotia Tax Reform Economic and Fiscal Analysis - a document that we had an opportunity we could examine for perhaps four or five hours on the last day of the spring session - really bears a lot of scrutiny and I thought as time progressed, that we would have information that would really substantiate the government's claims, what they purport this tax will accomplish.

[6:45 p.m.]

Certainly, if it was as good as they would have you believe, it wouldn't be all that hard to support it. The unfortunate thing is that while the government is short on information that substantiates the claims, those who oppose the tax are not short on substantiation. Groups are coming forward now and are providing real information that says this will lose so many jobs, this will result in job loss and they present hard information only to be countered by soft information of either the Minister of Finance, and now the Premier.

For example, I would be very interested in looking at the information that is contained in this document that suggests that on a one time only basis this tax change will result in a growth in our domestic product of .8 per cent which is around $174 million, and we have an economy in this province which is measured something in excess of $16 billion. At least the numbers seem to coincide, but we haven't been provided with a single piece of information that would suggest that our economy would grow .8 per cent. This is particularly troublesome because this government hasn't been able to grow the economy and, you know, I fail to see why we should be accepting, at face value, the arguments of this government, because this government has been singularly ineffective in growing the economy in this province after three and one-half years in power.

[Page 3313]

I find it very, very difficult, as do most Nova Scotians, to take this government now at face value and it seems to me that job creation back in 1993, from a government that seemed to be committing to put Nova Scotians back to work then went on to its infamous 30-60-90 and then when that didn't bear fruit was particularly silent on issues of the economy up until recently when they came up with the blended sales tax idea and an argument that 3,000 jobs would be created by this initiative alone. Oh, were it true. Oh, were it true that we could in fact, with a single stroke of a pen, create 3,000 jobs. A tax reform as basic as this that does in fact change, in a very significant way, the responsibility for taxes because what it seems to be saying is the harder you tax the consumer that somehow that is going to grow the economy.

I am not an economist and won't ever be one, but I do understand a few simple economic truths and one of them is, and this is one that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business put forward just a few weeks ago when they were talking about some ways to grow the economy and the second most powerful weapon they said was decreasing consumer taxes. I find it very difficult to really accept, at face value, what the Minister of Finance says, what the previous Minister of Finance says and what the Premier now says that, in fact, we are going to increase consumer taxes, somehow we are going to grow the Nova Scotia economy. Well, I do not see any evidence that the Nova Scotia economy will grow, but I see a great deal of evidence that Nova Scotia families and low income and middle income Nova Scotia families are going to be colder and hungrier and less well clothed with this tax. That is what I see and I do not see all of the benefits that the government proposes or purports to come about by this tax reform.

It just is not there and that is why we need a sober second look by the Public Accounts Committee. We need somebody to take this book of information and go through it page by page and analyze it and to examine each assumption to test it, to model it, to give it real independent analysis and just to see if, in fact, there is any possibility that any of this can come to pass.

We have not had an opportunity to look at this in the detail that we would like. It is a very persuasive document in that it is well written and if you do not look behind at some of the conclusions then on a quick read it sounds like the solution to, certainly some of our problems. We always come back to the conclusion that the pain in the solution is far greater than the gain. I must hear from different sectors of the business economy, because what I am finding is that public acceptance of the blended sales tax is declining, but also the business community is gradually backing away from its initial exuberance about input tax credits and a tax free zone because they are seeing the harm it will do to the purchasing power of Nova Scotians. If you happen to be one of those business people that is dependent on a Nova Scotian customer, then that Nova Scotian customer is going to have less disposable income to purchase anything once this particular piece of legislation has been enacted.

[Page 3314]

One of the most poorly documented assumptions in the entire argument is that 50 per cent of input tax credits will, in fact, be passed along to consumers by way of lower priced goods. I looked at that and I remember when I first got the book. I went into a store and I started looking around at what was in the stores and I went to the stores where I like to shop, I went to a hardware store and a department store and what I found is that many of the prices in there were actually national prices. In other words, it was marked $4.95 and it is $4.95 here in Nova Scotia and it is $4.95 up in Toronto and it is $4.95 out in Vancouver.

I went, for example, in one hardware store and I looked at where the goods came from in that aisle, and that entire aisle, both sides and there was shelving from shoe height right up to the ceiling in that new way that they have of displaying, now in hardware stores, and if you want something off the top shelf, you have to go up a ladder. There was not a single item in that aisle that was manufactured in either Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or New Brunswick, so I fail to see how all of these items which had the prices, in many instances, clearly marked on, pre-priced, how many of those goods are going to be affected and made cheaper because we have a blended sales tax here in Nova Scotia. Those goods come from away and the prices are set from away and the price will stay the same, there will not be any lower price.

I am talking about, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is suggesting that they will go down in price. I am talking about the price of the goods because that is what this book says and that is what this book justifies; the increase in taxation will be offset by the decreased price in books. (Interruptions)

Now the price for the goods will be the same, the tax will change. You see the difficulty with government members is they are not prepared to follow the argument through, they are prepared to listen to what the Minister of Finance says. The argument is clearly that the 50 per cent pass-through will not significantly affect the prices of goods in Nova Scotia because most of the goods on the shelves that we buy are not actually produced here in Nova Scotia and the pricing is determined in another taxation jurisdiction. That piece of the logic really requires examination.

Let's go back to the 50 per cent. Now if we were guaranteed a 50 per cent pass-though, and that would be $120 million because the input tax credit value is $240 million. The difficulty I have, and I took it upon myself to examine this with some economists and I said, well, what would be a reasonable pass-through. There is no information available that would suggest that the assumed 50 per cent pass-through is any more accurate than 60 per cent, than 40 per cent, than 30 per cent, and some even suggested it could be as low as 10 per cent. (Interruption)

Well, the Minister of Community Services seems to want to have a game of chance; he said, well, it could be 75 per cent, it could be 10 per cent. That is not the kind of a hard argument that I think is going to give the consumer of Nova Scotia any real confidence,

[Page 3315]

particularly when for many of these what we are talking about here is a matter of survival, a matter of family survival.

The Minister of Finance said, have faith. We all remember when he said that, you have to have a little faith. The Minister of Finance made that statement at a time when, by his own admission, he was saying, there are literally hundreds of questions that I can't answer. I don't know, maybe the Minister of Finance would be prepared to let us in as to how many questions are unanswered in his own mind at this time. I know he hasn't answered any in the House and we have asked him several dozen questions. We haven't gotten up and had an opportunity yet to ask him hundreds of questions.

Mr. Speaker, that is really why the motion to refer to the Public Accounts Committee . . .

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question. I have been listening with great interest and I gather from what the honourable member is saying is he is admitting that there will be pass-through by business of the savings they have but what is in doubt is the amount, the degree. If I understand what he has said, is that business will pass through some portion of the savings. You are admitting that, is that correct?

DR. HAMM: The member makes a good point, that one could, without any hard evidence, suggest that maybe a few businesses would pass through. The difficulty is that the more information we are able to collect, the smaller the percentage of the pass-through seems to be. In other words, the 50 per cent isn't going to hold water. It is not going to be 50 per cent and it may well not even be close to 50 per cent.

As a matter of fact, I have talked to business people who said they won't pass along any of their input tax credits; they will have to keep it all and they intend to keep it all. So once you have to back away from the position that 50 per cent will not be passed through, then the rest of the tables simply fall to pieces. In other words, the assurances we are getting from members on the government side, the Minister of Finance, his predecessor, the Premier and others, simply those reassurances are not there. If you take 50 per cent of the input tax credit, that is $120 million that will be passed along to the consumer, but if it is 10 per cent, that is $12 million that will be passed along to the consumer. It makes a tremendous difference in the lives of Nova Scotians when they do their purchasing if, in fact, that promised reduction in the price of goods does not occur. I have provided you with two arguments now that suggest very clearly that those assumptions are entirely incorrect and they are certainly unsubstantiated.

[Page 3316]

[7:00 p.m.]

Now you get to the next page. It is going to take a little time to go through this tax reform booklet, but when I turn to the next page, another declaration needs examination. Among others, it says, the ". . . Retail and Wholesale Trade Sectors are projected to realize the largest benefits from harmonization . . .". It mentions the retail sector. Well, there is no evidence that that particular assumption is true. As a matter of fact, ever since this document came out, the evidence has been growing that, in fact, one of the hardest hit sectors in the entire economy will be our retail sector. I look here, for example. This is from the Retail Council of Canada. One would think that they would have some insight into the retail business and one would think that if they thought this was going to grow their industry, that they would agree with this document and they would simply say great, we would encourage the Government of Nova Scotia to bring in the blended sales tax.

What are they saying? They don't agree with what the economic and fiscal analysis provided by the government says; in direct contradiction to what is on the top of Page 2, Nova Scotia Tax Reform, Economic and Fiscal Analysis, which says that the retail trade sectors ". . . are projected to realize the largest benefits from harmonization and hence have the greatest potential for reinvestment and expansion . . .". That is what the Minister of Finance says, that is what this government said. Here is what the retail sector says. Higher costs, lower employment, lower quality, less selection and higher prices will result as retailers struggle with tax-included pricing in Nova Scotia.

They also are concerned about $84 million less purchasing power by Nova Scotia consumers who are going to pay $84 million more in consumption tax. (Interruption) The Minister of Community Services seems to be very bullish on this tax change and I would point out to him that those Nova Scotians about whom he should be the most concerned are those that will be hurt the most by this change in tax structure. The minister assures me that he is going to look after them. I hope he is good, because he is certainly going to have to look after them.

Now, the government would have you believe that this is a good tax change and that we should be looking forward to April 1st because this is really going to be a tremendous boost to the Nova Scotia economy. Where I really get disturbed is why did the federal government, who needed this change, we didn't need this kind of change but the federal government needed it and they are prepared to come to Atlantic Canada and provide us, as a province, with $249 million if we would buy into this tremendous tax improvement in Nova Scotia.

Perhaps at some point in debate, the Minister of Finance would indicate to us why did the federal government feel it so necessary to provide $249 million to Nova Scotia to buy into this tax policy? Was it not good enough to stand on its own two feet? Obviously not. Were there going to be costs generated to the province or harm done to the province that required

[Page 3317]

a cash payment of $249 million? Well, I would think so or else we wouldn't have been offered the carrot. The carrot is a visible admission that this is a bad deal. It is a political arrangement, it is not a tax reform. It is a political arrangement so this government, which has been very silent when challenged by its Ottawa counterparts, very silent, once again has allowed itself to knuckle under to a Liberal Government in Ottawa which really seems at every stroke of the pen to take advantage of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians.

What will happen when the four years are up and we are left with this terrible arrangement and the money has run out and we have spent the $249 million? What will happen then when we are left with an unworkable tax structure that hurts low income Nova Scotians, hurts middle income Nova Scotians and, in fact, has decimated our retail industry here in the province and other industries?

It is very, very difficult to see what it is going to do for, what this tax improvement that the government would have you believe it is, what it is going to do for school children, now having to pay a 15 per cent tax on school books, school bags and pencils? I fail to see how they will benefit. I related this little story but there are members in the House today that were not here before. One of the sobering days that I had since I became a politician was when I visited Sydney and was visiting the women's centre there. It was mid-September and I was told of a program that they were just winding up and it was a program to provide school supplies for needy children.

Those connected with the centre had gone out and had raised considerable public funds and had used those funds to purchase school supplies which were given to youngsters in the lower grades, beginning school and in the earlier grades in industrial Cape Breton. Four hundred and fifty young people in the school system there received free scribblers, pencils and school bags and another 450 who had applied to the program went without because the funds simply ran out. I would like an analysis of what increasing the costs of school supplies will do to those families and will this make it any easier for them next year to provide school supplies for the young people?

Again, and this is a recurring theme in this particular document where it talks about with harmonization the decision-making of businesses and consumers will together result in increased output, Gross Domestic Product and employment. All of the information that we are collecting is, in fact, contrary to that statement. Time after time we have addressed this with the government directly and have said, provide us with the studies that show that this is going to happen. The research we do confirms to us, in fact, that the reverse will happen, that the pass-throughs will not occur and the decreased buying power of consumers will hurt in a very great way the retail sector in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. (Interruptions)

The book describes in simplistic terms that the provincial value-added tax will be harmonized with the federal value-added tax, GST. Somebody slipped up when they wrote this page, which is Page 4, because in other parts of the book what they really want you to

[Page 3318]

talk about is the Canadian value-added tax, CVAT, and the provincial value-added tax. They really want you to forget the GST, but it slipped in here. On this particular page they do talk about adding the PVAT not to the CVAT but to the GST. The Premier went to great lengths to discuss that this particular piece of legislation does what the federal government would like it to do and that is eliminate the GST. In this legislation the GST is alive and well, thank you very much.

We have had considerable discussion here in the House about the MUSH sector. Again, I download onto essential services, our municipal services, our universities, our schools and our hospitals. We have had a great deal of discussion about the effects on property tax due to the $11 million or $12 million download because there is now not a 100 per cent exemption from provincial tax of the municipalities. I think we have considerable evidence brought forward by any number of municipal units who are saying to us, and providing figures to substantiate their claims, that the only way they can cope with this latest download is through an increase in property taxes.

The government may like to balance its books on the backs of municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals. In reality that is of no real benefit to the taxpayer. Whether they pay out of their provincial tax pocket or their municipal tax pocket, it does not really matter to the municipal taxpayer because it is the same taxpayer that we have here in the province. It is no relief, no advantage, no step forward for the taxpayer for the government simply to say we will pass $11 million down to the municipalities and they will look after it. We have in our province some municipal units that have unrealistically high residential and commercial tax rates. I come from an area where one of the towns that I represent, the Town of Trenton, has a commercial tax rate of $5.55. That means that when you add the 50 per cent occupancy tax on top of that, you are very handy $8.50. Every year they pay 8.5 per cent of their assessed value as their municipal tax. That has absolutely guaranteed that new business cannot afford to open up in that town. It is threatening the livelihood of those businesses that exist there now. This is a real threat to many municipalities who will be forced to raise their tax rates to a level which will be not only harmful or inconvenient but will be devastating to some businesses and to some homeowners.

Disposable income in this province has not been going up. One of the figures that sticks out in my mind as a statistic is that we in Nova Scotia have the lowest public sector average weekly earnings of any province in Canada. That means the buying power here in Nova Scotia is not great. That means that we have a fragile, delicate economy here in Nova Scotia. Something that tips the balance too far, one way or the other, becomes more than an inconvenience - it becomes, for many, a death knell.

[Page 3319]

[7:15 p.m.]

Little enough has been said about the download because the rebate to the municipalities on the tax will be 57 per cent and it will be a little higher at the university level, it will be 67 per cent. But let's look at the other way. That means 33 per cent of the provincial sales tax will not be refunded to universities and that will result, again, in a pass-along to students and it will be another upward pressure on tuition. We have all seen the dramatic increase in the cost of tuition, both at our community colleges and at our universities over the last decade.

I was looking at some tables the other day and it was projecting ahead because I was looking at one of these scholarship trusts that you can buy for young people as an advance payment on their university career. My recollection is that the projected cost of a year at university 18 years from now will be $162,000, if current trends continue. So that is a very scary statistic and I think it has to be very worrisome for anybody who is engaged in this place in this debate. Again, we are passing on more costs to universities, at the same time not only are we passing on more costs to them through the MUSH sector partial rebate, rather than a full rebate, also we are cutting their funding because the federal government have seen fit, through the Canada Health and Social Transfer to decrease the payments to this province. There will be a substantial cut again this year to that payment in the current fiscal year and next year, as well.

We are looking, too, at schools because they are going to be affected because schools once had a full exemption from the provincial sales tax and now they are going to find out that their exemption is only 68 per cent, which means they will be paying 32 per cent of the cost of what was once a 100 per cent exemption. That will weigh heavily on school boards who already are seeing rising administration costs as the result of the recent amalgamation process, resulting in too few, too big, school boards.

Hospitals are struggling as well because the Minister of Health is cutting the budgets of hospitals. It has been happening with not a great deal of thought as to what has to be cut when the budget is cut, but simply going and saying, well, we are going to cut your budget. You cut away some service and you let go some staff and you conform to the budget. This has been particularly harmful, Mr. Speaker, because the Home Care Program that was supposed to replace the hospital treatment simply has not grown as fast as the shrinkage in hospital-based care. Again, the government fails to acknowledge the fact that there is an increasing body of evidence to indicate that what I am saying is absolutely true.

Not only now are hospitals going to have to deal with a decreasing budget as provided by the Minister of Health, they are also going to now have to deal with 17 per cent of their provincial sales tax, which they formerly had received an exemption for at 100 per cent. So, again, this is going to be a significant hit for hospitals and, perhaps, in a hospital, result in one or two nurses who are now employed not being employed, perhaps a technician or perhaps closure of a couple of more beds. Who knows how the hospitals will be forced to deal with

[Page 3320]

the realities of the situation and the download that this blended sales tax initiates on the MUSH sector.

The whole issue is far more complex and it should never have been designed in Ottawa. That is really the problem. You see, what happened is our Minister of Finance went to Ottawa and he allowed the federal government to have its way with him and to design a tax program here in Nova Scotia. That sort of flies in the face of what provinces seem to want because on one hand they seem to be saying, well look, we want to be in control of our own destiny; we want to be masters in our own house, we want power decentralized. Then we are saying (Interruption) well, exactly.

Finally the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage seems to want to enter the debate and I will look for his contribution perhaps some time tomorrow during the 16 hours. I find it strange that members on the government side seem to be indicating, through asides that we hear when we are up making our speeches, that somehow they are hearing different information than I hear when I go back home or the people who approach me, that somehow if you are representing a Liberal constituency, that those people living in that constituency think differently about this tax than those that live in either a Conservative or an NDP constituency. I fail to accept or understand why that should be so. However, that will all unveil itself with the passage of time.

Now I remember the time when the then Minister of Finance was justifying the increase in the cost of gasoline. He said, well, gasoline will be more expensive, 8 per cent more expensive; a $20 fill-up will be $21.60. The minister said it is all right; he said, when you buy a new car you are going to be able to save enough money to pay for the gas. Then, strangely enough, the advantage to buying a new car, the reduction in the tax from 18.77 per cent down to 15 per cent, is not going to happen right away. So, in other words, you won't be able to buy the new car and save the money to buy the gas right away because the first year, the tax on the car will be 17 per cent and then a year from then it will go down to 16 per cent. So there is a real advantage there to those who can afford to buy a new car.

The difficulty is that that advantage is being kept from us initially. Why not bring it in on April 1st, because for many Nova Scotians who buy a new car after April 1st there will be a significant saving. But even that is being denied in this piece of legislation. Again, the consumer is the one being asked to bear the brunt of all this.

Now we had mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that the Public Accounts Committee would be an excellent place to look at this particular document and to do an independent analysis of what this tax means. In reality, I don't think the federal government took any time to analyze the effect on our province. All they wanted was a political excuse. Our Minister of Finance really didn't have the opportunity to come back and analyze what he was being told by his federal counterpart, he was simply told, sign on the dotted line and get back to Nova Scotia

[Page 3321]

and sell it and I guess that is the process that we have been going through since last spring. The whole tax reform process is suspect and certainly unsubstantiated.

Another interesting assumption which is on Page 9 which could be looked at by an independent committee because it says here, "Using factors from the Input-Output Tables, Nova Scotia Finance has calculated the amount of HST paid by business at $240 million . . ." and certainly the Minister of Finance would have access to information that would determine that in fact that is an accurate figure, that the input tax credit level should be $240 million, that is a pretty easy thing to determine. Here is where again we start to approximate and make assumption, but, then the same statement and approximated the individual sector in commodity breakdowns. Well, there again, once again, once you get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of the consumer it becomes not hard and fast, it becomes approximation and I guess what the minister is saying here in his document, he really doesn't know what the breakdown is but he is prepared to make an estimate to get this thing through by April 1st. Those are the kinds of assumptions that will come back to haunt this province for decades when the assumption is ultimately proved to be incorrect.

One of the other interesting little pieces of information that was provided is that the government said and the former Minister of Finance said this on a number of occasions, don't call this a tax grab because the tax loss due to harmonization is $120 million and that figure was bandied about for quite some time and was given to us as being an accurate figure. Following that, some things were done and there were some offsets put in place, there was an offset in books and that was an excellent one and I think it was one of the few times when the government and the Premier did, in fact, listen to what Nova Scotians were saying. There was a very, very strong, well-organized, well-orchestrated lobby to exclude books from the harmonized tax. Many members will remember the marathon reading sessions that occurred up at the Public Library in Halifax and the number of responsible Nova Scotians that said, look, the taxing of books, the taxing of information, the taxing of knowledge simply is not the way to go. The government, to its credit, did on that occasion did listen to what Nova Scotians were saying and arranged an accommodation with Ottawa and solved that particular problem.

Then, of course, there was the problem with the Home Builders Association who very correctly pointed out that the cost of the new home, for example, would increase by 5.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent and you know our building industry has been under duress for the last few years, certainly since this government came to power and building starts have been going down. This was before we have had this increase in cost because even with the offset of 1.5 per cent that the government offered to the building industry, the cost of a new home will still increase by 4.5 per cent which a bit of simple arithmetic would indicate that a $100,000 home will cost $104,500. Well that can't do anything but further depress the construction industry in this province and further make the realization of a new home even a more difficult dream for many Nova Scotians.

[Page 3322]

The thing that I can't understand is that following the offsets which would obviously cost the government tax loss is that they have revised not upwards but downwards, their estimate of their loss of tax revenue now down to $100 million. So, the only reason for bringing up that particular piece of information is to indicate to members that the information on which the government makes its assumption is real soft information. It is not hard evidence. It is not good enough to risk the very fabric of our province with this fundamental tax change which is absolutely guaranteed to hurt so many Nova Scotians and in many sectors of our business economy to be hurtful and to result in job loss.

[7:30 p.m.]

Another figure that has been put out in this document is that total personal disposal income will increase by $127 million from the price effects of sales tax harmonization. There again, based on a number of unsubstantiated suppositions, not the least of which, of course, is the 50 per cent pass-through and the fact that the cost of goods will go down. Again, some independent body has to look at this and analyse it and to verify what the tax department in Ottawa and what our Department of Finance is saying here is, in fact, good, firm evidence that really substantiates the arguments that are unsubstantiated in this document.

The other interesting thing, as you go through the document, you keep running into the same arguments which are not correct in the early part and are no more correct when you are half way through the document. They keep on talking about services will go up, retail and wholesale trade will go up, construction will go up. It is hard to understand how construction will go up if, in fact, the cost of constructing buildings will increase. It is hard to understand why the retail and wholesale trade will go up when all of the major employers of the retail sector are indicating that their business will go down. There will be fewer goods purchased and the cost of the goods will increase.

The figures that jump to my mind, of course, are the ones provided by, I believe it was six major retailers in Atlantic Canada. They are big employers on Atlantic Canada, they provide a very substantial amount of retail sales here in Atlantic Canada. Were they jumping with joy when this tax was announced? Not very likely. Those six retailers, these are figures which are a composite of the effect in the three provinces, that the start-up cost will be $28 million. Now that is $28 million and we in Nova Scotia will probably attract about 40 per cent of that; so that will be about $12 million of costs that Nova Scotia purchasers will have to absorb because there are small margins in retailing now and they are not going to absorb that. They are going to pass the $12 million along here to us in Nova Scotia.

They are going to have increased wholesale factory costs, they are going to have increased cash register costs, they are going to have increased ticketing costs, so all of those start-up costs will be on us. The other distributing thing is it does not stop there. They are going to have annual costs in addition to the one year, one-time start-up costs of $34 million. (Interruption)

[Page 3323]

The Minister of Community Services says, what about input tax credits. Well, the input tax credits that will be available to them to offset the $34 million of increased annual costs is $6 million. Their input tax credits - and I will provide the documentation if the minister wants to see it. It has all been provided - in other words, you take away $6 million input tax credit from the $34 million increased costs and the annual cost to those six retailers is $28 million. Again, an ongoing cost to Nova Scotians of some $12 million a year. (Interruption)

Remember the MMG Management Group and the day after all of this seemed to descend upon us here in the House and they went on the wire and they said, well, look, Nova Scotians, we have 19 stores and we have done a study as to what this will mean to our stores and we have 516 employees in Nova Scotia.

I have pointed out to members before, they have a store in my community, the Greenberg Store and they have a Red Apple Store in the Minister of Finance's community. All of those stores, if you look where they are, they are in small-town Nova Scotia. They are in towns roughly the size of New Glasgow or Antigonish and they are important employers in those small towns. MMG Management is indicating that 11 of their 19 stores will close with this new tax set-up and, in fact, over 300 of their employees will be laid off.

AN HON. MEMBER: So far, we have got minus 300.

DR. HAMM: Minus 300, and that is documented. If you look at what the major retailers, The Bay and others are saying, they are saying, well, look, this is not going to help us, it is going to hurt us and it is certainly not going to allow us to expand.

I had an interesting call, Madam Speaker, and, unfortunately, for obvious reasons, the retailer did not want to be identified, but this retailer is a well-known Halifax retailer of articles of clothing, and it has been in business many years. They called me up and said they were looking at expanding and opening up two new stores in the Halifax area but since this came in they have put that expansion on hold. Their business has flourished here for decades and they thought, with their good name, they could, in fact, expand their business here, but seeing what this blended sales tax and increased cost in doing business and a decrease in the retail trade here in Nova Scotia, they have simply put our expansion plans on hold.

The government may find this kind of amusing, but small- and medium-sized businesses are not chomping at the bit. As a matter of fact, when I go to meetings, it is small- and medium-sized business who say, look, this is going to kill us. The Nova Scotia consumer simply is not going to have the money, and the facts bear that up. In fact, the government itself says they will have less disposable income. So there is a real pall coming over the retail sector in Nova Scotia as the government seems intent on steamrolling ahead with this piece of legislation.

[Page 3324]

The amendment before us, Madam Speaker, is nothing more than to have a sober, second look by the Public Accounts Committee, someone to go over the information provided by the government side, by the Opposition side but, more importantly, by sectors of the Nova Scotia economy and by Nova Scotians themselves who are extremely apprehensive about their ability to survive this latest tax hit. They find it very difficult to understand why a government who promised no new taxes, no tax reform, a firm commitment, then in the fall of 1993 they increased the sales tax, they increased the electrical tax, they put on a business service tax, and this was just months after making a commitment that our solutions do not involve higher taxes. Then, for months, we have seen downloading onto the municipalities, which the municipal taxpayer will have to look after, and every permit and license and fee that the province charges has gone up in price.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does that have something to do with this?

DR. HAMM: What it has to do with is, it is the cost of trying to survive here in Nova Scotia with a government that really hasn't a plan to run the province. That is what it is all about. (Interruptions) I believe I have one minute left.

Well, Madam Speaker, I was going to go on to an analysis of Table 6, which is Consumer Impact by Family Income Level, but having now less than 60 seconds, I will close my discussion on the amendment and indicate to the House that I will be supporting it. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I am delighted that the front bench is going to be sitting there and listening to what I have to say because there is no doubt about it, Madam Speaker, they have got to go on a very quick learning curve if they are going to be able to administer the new harmonized or BST or whatever we want to call it.

I should just like to point out that I just received from the Minister of Finance the bill. This is the bill. This puny little thing that we got from the Minister of Finance and the Province of Nova Scotia - seven pages and seven clauses or something - that is not the bill. This is the bill. This, Madam Speaker, is what we are actually debating. We have in this province turned over to the federal government the administration of our own personal sales tax on goods and services. We have turned it over carte blanche so immediately the federal government comes out with a bill like this and they say, this is what you have to live with.

I was listening on the radio a few moments ago . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: On the radio?

[Page 3325]

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I was not on the radio, I was listening to the radio and it was news time. The top item on the news was that the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia had come on to centre stage in the debate on the blended sales tax in the province. I swear, this was on our national radio, on the CBC. It did not say that the Opposition was shocked and appalled, but it used words to that effect, that the Opposition was just flummoxed, they were completely surprised that (Interruptions) the Premier would get to his feet and say a few words about the BST. He did get to his feet, he did. In fact, it was such an important speech that he did not just get to his feet and do like the rest of us people have to do - just plow away for a while, he came out with a printed speech which he properly circulated to everybody and for reference purposes I have a copy in my hand.

You would think that when the Premier of this province gets up to address this Legislature on such an important matter as the blended sales tax and the Opposition is flummoxed about his getting to his feet, you would think he would have something to say. What did the Premier say? Well, he said, ". . . it gives me considerable pleasure to rise today . . .". Well, it might give him considerable pleasure, it did not give anybody else much pleasure. Anyway, he went on and what the Premier did was he just - he had been listening to what we had been saying in the Opposition and he just regurgitated what we had been saying against the tax. There was not one thing that the Premier said that I am sure would give any relief to those poor beleaguered Nova Scotians who are quaking in their shoes awaiting April 1st to come along and know that they are going to be robbed blind by this government to pay for the mistake that the Chretien government made when they promised to get rid of the GST. (Interruptions) Pardon?

Well, you know at the end of the Throne Speech that the Governor is in the Chair and he reads the Throne Speech. Then after he is gone and the Clerk gets to his feet and he chuckles and he says (Interruptions) for greater certainty (Interruptions) I am even getting heckled behind me now. He says for greater certainty let's read the speech into the record. Of course everybody laughs and claps and the Premier says well, I guess we can dispense with that.

This is the kind of speech we can dispense with in this place, because, Madam Speaker, (Interruptions) it does not tell us anything. (Interruptions) I honest to goodness thought, in fact, I was out in the coffee shop and a Liberal, one of these caucus members came up to me and said (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: What happened in the coffee shop? I want to hear about the coffee shop.

MR. RUSSELL: I was in the coffee room out there having a coffee and one of the Liberal caucus members, I won't mention who it was, came up to me and said, what do you think the Premier is going to say? I said I would expect he has got something pretty big to announce, he is going to make this major speech and I understand he is printing it and all

[Page 3326]

those kinds of things. He is probably going to tell us that he is going to make some major amendment that at least will make somebody in Nova Scotia happy, somebody out in the boondocks somewhere, after the Premier sat down and they would say, thank God the Premier has listened to my complaints and concerns about the BST and he has done something about it.

[7:45 p.m.]

In fact, I thought to myself the Premier would get to his feet tonight and he would say, I have listened to what the Opposition has been saying and in particular I have listened to the amendment that is on the floor and tonight I am going to state to all Nova Scotians that I am going to put the Public Accounts Committee on the road tomorrow and have them travel the province for the next week or 10 days and talk to Nova Scotians and find out what Nova Scotians have to say about this tax and to come back and speak to the Minister of Finance or the supposed Minister of Finance. The real Minister of Finance is still sitting in the House right now, Madam Speaker, I don't know if you are aware of that. He is a ventriloquist and that is his dummy.

MADAM SPEAKER: I think, honourable member, it is time to address the amendment on the floor.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes. That is what I believed the Premier was going to do. I believed the Premier was going to direct the Minister of Finance to go around and talk to the people of Nova Scotia, find out what is on their minds and to do something positive. (Interruptions) No, I was absolutely delighted. Every time that the Premier gets to his feet and he makes a speech like this that annoys some more people, I am as happy as a clam because he is losing more votes. I don't know if he can lose any more votes to be quite honest. I don't think that there is a vote in Nova Scotia that the Premier can lose now because he has already lost them all. Whether it is Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, whether it is the cooperatives, the farmers, the retailers, it doesn't matter who you talk to across this province, this government is disliked.

One of my colleagues to my left was telling me the other day that he went up to get a coffee at Tim Hortons and he couldn't get to the counter because people kept besieging him, asking him what was going on in the House and are you going to be able to stop that blasted tax and he never did get his cup of coffee. I was quite disappointed for him but anyway. (Interruptions) I won't answer that because our guy doesn't need recognition, our guy is there.

To get serious just for a moment, do you realize that at the present time you cannot get answers from the Department of Finance. You cannot get answers from the Minister of Finance and you cannot get them from the Department of Finance. That is the reason why this bill must go to the Public Accounts Committee where we can get not only our own minister and his departmental officials but also bring some people down from Ottawa who probably

[Page 3327]

have the real answers that are buried somewhere in this massive chunk of documentation that we have here.

On November 21st, Madam Speaker, I would like you to listen very carefully to a question that I asked the minister. I said to the minister during Question Period, "I wonder if the minister would confirm that insofar as the federal government is concerned, this is a signed deal.", speaking of the BST? "Any changes to the present regime to which the federal government has agreed, will be charged back to the Province of Nova Scotia. In other words, if the Province of Nova Scotia receives a representation from some sector and decides to exempt them from a portion or all of the BST or some other arrangement, that change will not be cost-shared by the federal government, but in fact will impact on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia?".

Now, that, I thought I felt that was perfectly logical question to ask the Minister of Finance and he should just be able to snap back and answer like that. Listen to the response from the Minister of Finance, Mr. Gillis; this is the answer to my question, "There are basic parameters in the deal and those are the board principles and up to roughly now, you could comment on the details. I think it is true to say that if anybody varied, if they want to do something else, like Nova Scotia has done on housing to have a housing rebate, volunteer fire departments and tourism rebates, these are on us, they are on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but other than that, I do not think there is an impact, because we do not intend to change the major tenets of the agreement.".

Now what the devil is that? I read that through five times and I still couldn't figure out what the answer was. Now perhaps I am a slow learner and that could well be but that is the kind of stuff you get from the minister. If you phone the department, at least they are willing to admit and they say, look, if you want any answers on the BST, here is a 1-800 number for Ottawa, and phone Ottawa. (Interruption) Question? Yes, indeed, I have lots of them.

You see, Madam Speaker, the problem is that the people in Nova Scotia at the present time expect us to examine this deal that the government is signing and to be able to - if the government can't answer the questions - then the Opposition may expect to be able to answer the questions. Quite frankly, we can't because we can't get the information from the Department of Finance.

I would like to read into the record a few very simple questions that we have been unable to get answers to, Madam Speaker. For instance, what penalty clauses does the agreement include for provinces that wish to opt out or unilaterally amend aspects of the deal? In other words, if you opt out what is the (Interruption) I read Clause 70. Clause 70 tells you what you can do but it doesn't talk about what the penalties are for opting out. (Interruptions)

[Page 3328]

I wanted to know if the Department of Finance would be able to inform us - that was the purpose of this question that I asked, actually - that the government will not increase taxes in other areas to make up for any shortfall in revenues resulting from the BST deal. Every accommodation that the government makes at the present time, like the one for the booksellers, that isn't a gift from Ottawa, Madam Speaker, you have to (Interruptions) oh, the Minister of Community Services is going to pay. You have no money, you are the custodian of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia's money and you are spending it. If you hadn't made this deal, you wouldn't have to pay that money. (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, in case these yo-yos don't understand - I am sorry - what the members don't understand is that it is not their money, it is money that is provided by all Nova Scotians and they are simply the repository of this money to expend for the welfare and benefit of Nova Scotians. That is why it is important that every government have a mandate. This government did not have a mandate to venture into a blended sales tax. They would have if they had gone to the people but they didn't go to the people.

For instance, I would like to know from the Department of Health the means by which that $8 million, that extra assistance for low income Nova Scotians is going to be doled out. How is it going to be done?

We were told back in September, I believe it was, or October, that by November at the very latest the government would come forward with the formula. I haven't seen that formula yet.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is on the way.

MR. RUSSELL; Well, how about that? Of course, the tax is on the way, too. (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, the Minister of Community Services, in case you didn't hear, said well the bill has to pass before they can advise us of how they are going to distribute this money. Well, I believe that the minister would be better served if he could come forward with the formula or whatever it is that he is going to use to distribute that money to the poor folks. Actually, they are going to distribute this money, this $8 million, to those who are, I believe, among the employed but not on welfare. (Interruption) No, they are not on welfare because the ones that are on welfare will already be on the program.

Do you know something, Madam Speaker? With this tax everybody suffers. It isn't just the working poor, it isn't just the very poor, it isn't the middle income, it isn't the rich; everybody in this province is going to suffer and take a loss because of the imposition of this tax. The question that I keep getting over and over again is, why are we doing it? None of you blokes know. Create jobs? This is revolutionary. This is something that has never been tried before anywhere in the world. They are going to increase the taxes to increase the

[Page 3329]

number of jobs. Well, I will tell you, if you can work that, if you can do that, I am sure that Bill Gates will be up here and he will put you guys on to some kind of a disc drive and you will be famous. It is bad economics, it is bad legislation and it is bad government.

I understand that the minister went around the province from May 27th until October 9th - on this sheet, anyway - and I guess it was mainly the old Minister of Finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is not that old.

MR. RUSSELL: Well he is the old Minister of Finance, the new Minister of Health.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is the real minister, Ron.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, the member for Kings North hits it right on. He is the minister. That's right. He is the only minister. I mean, he still, as I say, runs Finance in his spare time, looks after Health. He always ran Health even when he was Minister of Finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't forget he found Minmetals, Ron.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, he found Minmetals, he certainly did that, but boy, did he ever get out of that in a hurry. As soon as that started collapsing, he moved. Quite frankly - I have said this before and perhaps it is not a nice thing to say about somebody - I think that the Minister of Health is a perfect example of what we call a political opportunist. I think he understands that the Savage star that was shining so brightly has gone into decline.

AN HON. MEMBER: You said he was lucky.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, he is. I did say he was lucky. He is very lucky. Yes, lucky Bernie. He moved out of Finance just when everything was going downhill in Finance. (Interruptions) He went to Hell. (Laughter) As I say, I wish him luck. Really, I do. I think that he would make a great Opposition Leader. I think as Leader of the Opposition the former Minister of Finance would be quite good. In fact, I think he would probably relish that task and we will certainly help him achieve his end.

AN. HON. MEMBER: He would have to get rid of his Volvo.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, yes, the Volvo would have to go. (Interruption) I was talking about the referral of this bill to the Public Accounts Committee and the thought that I had that this might actually happen but I suppose that the government is going to rule that out of order but we will see anyway when we get around to the vote on it. The Minister of Finance keeps waving this piece of paper around and saying about the 80 different organizations and individuals that he met between May 9th and October 9th of this year and spoke to about, in fact, I called it a partial list of GST/PST consultations.

[Page 3330]

[8:00 p.m.]

Now, the first one that he met with on May 9th to his credit was the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, he met with them. Here it is right now, we are down in December, and I am still getting letters from municipalities, I have one right here, this is from a well known municipality, the Municipality of the District of West Hants (Interruption) and they sent it to me and they said, please note the Council of the Municipality of the District of West Hants goes on record that we outright reject having to pay the provincial component of the harmonized tax and we need the province to negotiate with the federal government exemption of the tax 15 per cent on intermunicipal contracts which (Interruption)

No, it is signed by the warden, Warden Gary Cochrane of the Municipality of West Hants. Madam Speaker, what I am trying to point out is that meeting with people and putting their name on a list doesn't mean a thing if you haven't done anything and that is the whole problem, the municipalities are still not happy.

The second group that they met with was the construction association. Well, I have some letters here from the construction association and what do they say? I suppose this might be one. This is not from the construction association but it is from Scotian Homes, they manufacture homes as people know and, in fact, they are up in East Hants, up from the member for East Hants' area, Enfield and quite obviously they haven't talked to their member lately.

They are forecasting that the increase in housing costs after rebate will increase by 8.1 per cent. Can you imagine that this great tax that they are imposing on the people of Nova Scotia, one of the offshoots is going to be that the price of housing is going to increase by 8.1 per cent. It just boggles the mind that they would do it. (Interruptions) I would be delighted to table it for the member but I am still going to use it for a moment or two. Would you like to make a copy of it?

The funny thing is, you know, is that the Minister of Community Services is always the first one to holler across, I want that tabled, and I want it tabled right now. But, boy you ask the Minister of Community Services to table something or to answer a question or to reply to a written question and nothing ever happens. (Interruption) I would like to get back to the Premier's speech just for a moment because it is only worth just a moment anyway, but I would like to go back to it just for a moment.

The Premier did say one thing that I think rang true, I think, and that was that the GST when it was imposed across Canada that it impacted more heavily on the Atlantic Provinces than it did on the rest of Canada and the reason for that being that there is a large manufacturing sector in Ontario, in Quebec and to a lesser extent out West. There is a large manufacturing economy out there and they because of the removal of the manufacturers sales

[Page 3331]

tax they benefitted more than we did in the East because we didn't have those kinds of businesses.

What does this Atlantic Report have to say about that? The Atlantic Report, The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, Fall 1996 edition, and they are talking about that very thing, Madam Speaker, they are saying that consumption taxes form a much larger portion of the provincial owned source revenues in Atlantic Canada, about one-third of own-source revenues compared with an average of about 20 per cent for Canada as a whole. In other words, around about 33.33 per cent in the rest of Canada and 20 per cent here. So they say the Atlantic Provinces are, by far, the most vulnerable to any changes in consumption . . .

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You must have sent us the wrong letter. This letter is dated May 30th. He said in the House that it is going to cost them money after the rebates, but this was before the rebates came in place, before they were announced. So I would ask the honourable member if he would table the appropriate letter that refers to the rebates and I would be pleased to examine that one as well.

MADAM SPEAKER: I don't consider that a point of order.

MR. RUSSELL: There was no point of order? I did not think so. The date was May 30th, the meeting with the Construction Association . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That's not the point . . .

MR. RUSSELL: Just a moment, Madam Speaker, I don't have to listen to him anyway. The letter from Scotian Homes was dated May 30th; that was after this meeting that had been held with the Minister of Finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: Before the rebates.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, but there were already rebates in place.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, yes, there were. (Interruptions) You do not listen. That is your problem.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor. Order, please.

[Page 3332]

MR. RUSSELL: In this APEC document - and I know the minister will want me to table this document, obviously - they go on to state that the fundamental issue is whether this new tax will stimulate growth in the region or be largely inflationary, and it goes on to say that an ongoing assessment, et cetera, is necessary. That is from APEC taking a look at . . . (Interruption) Oh, I can read all kinds of stuff here. I have got lots of it.

It is too bad, Madam Speaker, that the Government House Leader is not here tonight because I have a letter from a chap up in his area and he would probably know who he was. His name is Joseph MacPhee. He wrote, "Your objections to the Blended Sales Tax is being watched by all Nova Scotians who believe that this government has failed to consult the people.". How about that? "Nova Scotians want a fair and understanding government who will provide them with honesty and compassion.", obviously, this government has no compassion whatsoever, Madam Speaker. "The tax grab that this legislation will provide for indicates the depth that this government will go to get their own way." This is just a typical person in Richmond County expressing their views, a typical Nova Scotian living up in Richmond and probably unable to get an answer from their member.

I also got a letter from a lady down in Lunenburg.

AN HON. MEMBER: What year?

MR. RUSSELL: Well, the date on it is December 4, 1996; is that recent enough for you? This lady from Lunenburg, she wrote to all kinds of people actually, including the Premier. She says, "The new consumption tax, by whatever name, has many of the same qualities as a disease of the same name. It affects the poor more adversely than the rich, as does consumption and the adverse effects spread beyond the people directly infected, increasing costs to this town. It taxes commodities particularly necessary to life. . . ", and so on. This is just a typical lady from Lunenburg. Once again, a lady that you would think, a constituent that you would think could normally turn to their member in the Legislature and they could say, look, whoever their member is, I wonder if you could answer a question on the blended sales tax for me. Could you answer my question as to why you are putting this tax on electricity, why are you putting this tax on gasoline, on heating fuel, on clothing for my kids and sporting equipment for my kids, safety equipment so my husband can go and work, why are you doing these things MLA? Obviously, the MLA in question, in Lunenburg, did not have the answers, so they . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, are you tabling the letter?

MR. RUSSELL: I would be delighted to table the letter. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: Tabled my foot, we couldn't get any . . .

[Page 3333]

MADAM SPEAKER: I do not think we want your foot tabled, but I would like the letter tabled.

MR. RUSSELL: Certainly, I will table the letter.

That is indicative of some of the letters that you get. Here is another one, where is this one from? This one is from some insurance company and it ends up by saying, "Call your local MLA and say how you are going to vote in the next election - P.C. Party of Nova Scotia. If they don't kill it - we will.". Now I do not know what that all means, however, obviously somebody that is very upset with what they call the latest Liberal tax grab and they list a whole bunch of things that are increasing in prices and there is a great long list there.

Here is a letter from somebody out in Porters Lake. I do not know who their member out in Porters Lake would be but, however, quite obviously, they probably also telephoned their MLA and they got an answer saying, look I cannot help you, I am just a Liberal MLA, why don't you telephone the Department of Finance. They probably telephoned the Department of Finance and the Department of Finance said, we cannot help you, but we are going to give you a telephone number to Ottawa and they got a 1-800 number to Ottawa and they called Ottawa and Ottawa said we have not figured it out yet, but we will be coming out with a 5,000 page bill and we will send you a copy of it and you can figure it out for yourself.

This poor person out in Porters Lake, he says the blending of the GST and the PST is a proposal of such magnitude that it should go to referendum. Well, that is not a bad idea and that is one of the reasons why we should refer this bill to the Public Accounts Committe because that is what we would like to do. We would like people to have the opportunity to ask questions, the opportunity to get answers and the opportunity to tell the government whether or not they want this tax imposed upon them and their fellow citizens in this province.

This gentleman, it is a Mr. Coombes actually. He wrote to the Premier, to John Savage, and he says the present government was given a mandate for the people of the province in a democratic way, and they were. You won in the election in 1993. You won it fair and square. You won it on certain promises, you won it on the fact that you were going to create jobs - remember that, jobs? They won it on the promise that they were going to have no new taxes, remember that promise, no new taxes? The wheel fell off the wagon when they were just coming up the driveway into Province House here because within three months we had more new taxes and more tax increases than in the previous 15 years. Horrendous, great taxes and it has gone on year after year and now they have the gall to come before this Legislature with a bill and they say we are doing something different. We are going to create jobs and we are going to raise your taxes. That is what they are telling us, they are going to raise taxes and they are going to create jobs. These were two promises in their red book, so they are going to try and kill two birds with one stone, but unfortunately they are going to kill about 900,000

[Page 3334]

Nova Scotians along the way who are going to have to go into bankruptcy to live in this province to pay the taxes that this government is ripping off them on a daily basis.

AN HON. MEMBER: I like the one where you had to buy a new car to pay for the gas.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, yes, buy a new car to pay for the gas, right on. It is like what the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, if you are going to go and buy a fur coat, you are fine, you are going to save some money. But if you are going to buy a coat for your kid so that he or she can go off to school in the wintertime with a coat, I mean most kids prefer to wear a coat when it is cold. You are going to pay more. How democratic, how fair, how much compassion is there in that kind of a decision where you are going to take some person whose last dollar bill is virtually going to go out to buy a coat for their child to go to school and it is going to cost more of those dollar bills on April 2nd than it will for somebody who went out and bought a fur coat on April 2nd and paid $10,000 for it? What kind of justice is there in that kind of a system? There is none whatsoever.

[8:15 p.m.]

Okay, I was reading a letter here from a Mr. Coombs. I find this one particular paragraph quite interesting, he says, the writing is on the wall, isn't it, Mr. Savage. You know full well that you are not going to survive the next election so you do as the boss says and there will be a nice plush seat waiting for you after you are turfed out of here. In other words, what he is saying, I presume, is that he expects that Dr. Savage will end up in the Senate somewhere. It is a terrible thing this tax.

Just as an aside, the guy that is in Boston (Interruptions) Well, the only guy that I know who is in Boston is the Government House Leader and I don't know what he is doing in Boston, probably attending a tea party.

I have another letter here and this one is from somebody out in Hammonds Plains. I don't know who the member is from Hammonds Plains but . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill MacDonald.

MR. RUSSELL: Bill MacDonald, well isn't that interesting. Anyway, I am sure that this gentleman or lady, I don't know which it is, wrote, telephoned or spoke to their local member asking questions about the blended sales tax because this lady is quite obviously upset with the fact that she has questions, reservations and concerns about the blended sales tax and hasn't been able to get any answers. Well, what did she have to say about all this?

I have been slowly getting more and more discouraged by the way the Liberal Party is running the Government of Nova Scotia. Well, she is not alone, there are thousands of people across this province who are fed up with the way this province has been run by this Liberal

[Page 3335]

Government. Good for this lady, she knows exactly of what she speaks. I have therefore made the decision - will you listen carefully please. This is what they call the go paragraph, this is the main essence so listen very closely and you will get the thrust. I have therefore made the decision to transfer my vote to the Conservative Party at the time of the next election. Does that tell you something, does that give you a clue? I would hope so. There are three reasons I and others I know have decided to take this step and they are as follows.

Now you say to yourself, what three things would trigger a Liberal to become a Conservative when you think about it? Well, you can start off right at the beginning when they broke their promises about jobs and taxes, couldn't you? Then again you could also say well this is the government that also increased the sales tax by 10 per cent and that is a lot. This is a government that was complaining about 58,000 people being unemployed but after a couple of years in office they had 60,000 unemployed. You know the real killer is that this is the government that boasted the fact that they now have a $9 billion debt. When they came to power, what was the debt of this province? It was $6.8 billion, by golly, you fellows have done well. What great managers, what super managers. You know, they have been able (Interruptions) You know, Madam Speaker, they don't like the truth, do they. Have you noticed that? Well, perhaps you wouldn't notice it, but I notice it and I am sure that quite a few other people on this side notice it, that they don't like it when you tell them the truth. They find that difficult. So anyway, this poor lady, who wasn't able to get hold of her MLA, she says, the three reasons why she decided to change over from Liberal to Conservative are: one, the fact that Dr. Savage is the Party Leader. Well, that is pretty hard on the Premier, I think, but the Premier does those things like he did tonight, get up and make a great flap about a speech that doesn't do anything for the problem.

But the second reason, Madam Speaker, is quite interesting: the lack of information on the agreement that has been struck regarding the BST. The lack of information. That is exactly why we want to put this thing into the Public Accounts Committee so that this lady, and these other people that I have been speaking about from different ridings, mainly Liberal ridings as it turns out, around the province, who are trying to get information, if we just tonight, we all said, let's do something positive for Nova Scotia, just let's really surprise all the constituents out there and say yes, we are going to do something positive tonight for Nova Scotia. We are going to accept this present amendment to Bill No. 48 that we have.

MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, that particular letter, I think, was sent to the wrong MLA and it was transferred to me, so I did receive that later on. It was sent to the wrong MLA. I did get that later, just to keep the record straight. What was the date on that, by the way?

MR. RUSSELL: November 25, 1996. Well, if it went to the wrong MLA, I don't know what that means, but anyway, I was talking about (Interruptions) What was the third reason, Madam Speaker? There was a third reason. She was talking about the BST and she said, the remarks in (B), that is her remarks against the BST and the fact that she couldn't get any

[Page 3336]

information, also applied to the agreement for the Sable Island gas project. This lady has to join the club because we, in the Opposition, have been trying to get that same information, too, but the government just doesn't seem to want to give it to them. I don't know why it is so secret. Do you know? I wonder if the Minister of Community Services would know why that deal is so secretive? This gas deal that they have cooked up.

There are times that I despair, Madam Speaker, for the Minister of Community Services.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, the letter you just quoted from, would you be tabling that, as well?

MR. RUSSELL: I beg your pardon?

MADAM SPEAKER: The letter you just quoted from, would you be tabling that?

MR. RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I can't hear a word. There are about 27 people that would like to have the floor, obviously.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. I am just asking you, honourable member, if you are tabling the last letter you quoted from?

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, I would be delighted. Absolutely.

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. RUSSELL: How much times have I got left?

MADAM SPEAKER: You started at 7:40 p.m. so you have a few minutes left.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, I have lots of time. I can go to every riding probably across this province and drag out a letter or two. The letters that I have been receiving to date, that I have been talking about today, Madam Speaker, have been primarily from (Interruptions) Would those two people please step outside? The Minister of Finance is obviously listening intently to what I have to say. He is learning all the time and he is getting a handle finally on the BST and that is good because, as I say, probably when the next election is over and he is on this side of the House and he is Leader of the Opposition, he will probably also accept the position as being the Critic for Finance and Health, as well, I would imagine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bernie was good in Opposition.

[Page 3337]

MR. RUSSELL: I always thought that he was quite good in Opposition and obviously that was his bent and obviously he should get back there because he would be much more appreciated than he is at the present time of a government that is doing things that are making the people mad at them. When he was in Opposition, Madam Speaker, I know, I am going to come right back to it, but when he was in Opposition, Madam Speaker - I know, I am going to come right back to it - but when he was in Opposition, kids used to come up and ask him for his autograph, he was a hero. Now look at him. Good Heavens! When he goes home the kids throw stones at him.

Why should we refer this bill to the Public Accounts Committee? Well, I have another letter here, Madam Speaker. This one is from a store and it is another store in Lunenburg. My gosh, we get lots of mail these days from Lunenburg. I don't know, I think you can always tell. (Interruptions) It is just like being Santa Claus, honestly, you get these letters. Unfortunately, some of them are not very nice.

Now this poor lady owns a store down there, she probably makes a buck or two and she finds that she is going to be in great difficulty with the imposition of the BST and she probably has loads of questions she would like to ask the Law Amendments Committee, which I think would probably have to go to Lunenburg, first of all, the first stop on their journey around Nova Scotia, to deal with all the complaints that we get from Lunenburg, all the letters from Lunenburg.

Anyway, what does this lady have to say? Well, I see the Minister of Community Services is obviously busy, that is good. He has been talking about tax-in pricing and that is what this lady is talking about. She says tax-in will produce several problems for me and cost me more to administer than the present system. The most obvious is the pre-pricing on more than 20,000 items.

Now this is just a small store, Madam Speaker, it is not a Macys or a Hudson's Bay or something like that. This is just a little tiny store on the main drag, I believe, in Lunenburg. She and her staff are going to have to take 20,000 of those sticky tickets and stick them. They can't stick them over top of the old ones, you can't do that. You have to take the old one off and put the new one on.

Did you know, Madam Speaker, and I am sure that the Minister of Business and Consumer Services would be aware of this, that when you are going to reprice all the objects in your store, this poor lady with 20,000 items in the store, she has to take off the old sticker and put the new sticker on because you can't just put the new sticker over the old sticker unless the new sticker is a lower price than the old sticker. Quite obviously, with the BST, the price is going to be more, at least 15 per cent more on the shelf, so the old sticker has to come off. So you don't just (Interruptions)

[Page 3338]

MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the honourable member a question, please.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is the honourable member willing to take a question?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Madam Speaker, why not.

MRS. O'CONNOR: I would like to ask when the letter was dated and whom the letter is addressed to?

MADAM SPEAKER: I am sure that will be tabled tonight.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, everybody wants everything tabled tonight, it is amazing. It is like rabies, it is catching, honest to goodness. Well, I can tell the honourable member that it is dated October 21st. I don't know what kind of a day October - it was probably a rainy day down in Lunenburg and the lady who owns this store probably thought, you know if it rains on April 2nd I am going to be putting all these stickers on and they won't stick properly.

MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Madam Speaker, on another question. Would he answer the second part of my question - to whom was the letter addressed to?

MR. RUSSELL: The letter was addressed, I believe, to a member of our caucus, to one of the members of our PC caucus.

Anyway, I will be delighted to table it, Madam Speaker. I will have to blot out a couple of names on it. She goes on to say, this is no small task. The cost would offset any potential tax reform saving for years. That is the problem that this government doesn't seem to understand. If they ever got out on the road with the Public Accounts Committee, they would rapidly learn, they would learn from every retailer across this province, that while the government may think that they are going to make heaps of money, the problem is we are going to be like an island in the continent of North America, one with a completely separate pricing and taxing regime, with the exception of one smart cookie across the water in Prince Edward Island.

[8:30 p.m.]

Well, the Minister of Community Services, of course, he knows everything so it is not surprising that he knows all the answers about P.E.I., as well.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. Would the honourable member be kind enough to table the letter. He has referred to it a number of times. Would he simply make a copy of it so that a copy would go to the table.

[Page 3339]

MADAM SPEAKER: That is a question for the member for Hants West. You are planning to table the letter, I understand?

MR. RUSSELL: I have tabled about seven or eight letters already today, so I am quite prepared to table this one. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: This is very sad.

MR. RUSSELL: That is not very sad at all. The reason that I am doing that, I should tell you, is very plain because (Interruption) Madam Speaker, I will tell you what I will do for the Minister of Finance. I will provide the Minister of Finance, or the Premier, whichever one he wants, or the ex-Minister of Finance, if they want, with a copy that is not blacked out. But I am sure that this lady who owns a store would not want the media knowing that that was being battered about in the House.

MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: On a point of clarification, Madam Speaker, for the member's information, the Minister of Finance already has a copy of that letter because the letter was written to me.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ha, ha. You don't read your mail.

MRS. O'CONNOR: I recognize it from here. I am sorry. It has been answered and we have been in communication with them. I just think you should know that for your information.

MR. RUSSELL: Isn't it wonderful. I see the member is escaping out the door now. But the peculiar thing is, Madam Speaker, that these things are all of a sudden being looked after, after you announce it. We know there is a telephone just outside the door and we know that there is somebody going to telephone, but that is all right. That is acceptable. We have already been told that the Minister of Finance has a copy. You can make a copy of that, please. I want it back.

Let me see what else I have got here that you would probably like to have a copy of. I have another letter here and this is a real Jim Dandy, Madam Speaker. This one is from Dartmouth, just across the water over here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Read it.

MR. RUSSELL: You want me to read it? I will be delighted to, absolutely delighted.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would like to hope it is relevant to this amendment.

[Page 3340]

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, yes, absolutely, because these letters are the driving force of why people out there who cannot get responses from their MLAs deserve to get responses, at least from a committee. This letter and, incidently, the Minister of Fisheries asked, is dated December 5th and it is addressed to me and it says, "Dear Sir,", that is me, "I am writing you concerning a matter which I was in touch with you about in September. I wrote you and then you called me about seeing if I could get your support . . .". I am sorry this is a different letter. This one is about the Pension Act. I don't know how that got in this file, but that is all right. (Interruption) Actually, I will tell you why it ended up in there because it says that, ". . . I have been trying to get a response from my own M.L.A. - Dr. Jim Smith but my request for a meeting or the status of things goes unanswered.". That is how it got in here, because this was a file of letters about those kinds of things. (Interruptions)

Well, we never did things all that foolish, you know.

Here is one, anyway, from (Interruptions) No, that is another one. That one is another complaint from Dartmouth. That is why I picked it up. It is about Pharmacare. You see, that is the problem, Mr. Speaker. That is the whole problem. There are so many groups so upset with this government. Whether it is about Pharmacare, home care, hospitals, education, community services, fisheries, everybody in this province is upset with the government and with justified reason. The reason simply being, Mr. Speaker, that this government has been remiss in speaking and listening to the people and then reacting to what the people are telling them. That is why I think it is absolutely essential that this present amendment we have before the House to refer Bill No. 48 to the Public Accounts Committee is so absolutely essential that it be done. It just may save your skins, that is, the government. It just may save your skins.

I said this morning when I was debating this bill, I hate having to be put in this position of trying to help the government because you know - I mean really it seems that every waking minute I am being compelled to do things to try to secure their re-elections. If I am going to do the best for my constituents and other constituents across Nova Scotia, I have to try to help this government because quite obviously they need help. They need a tremendous amount of help. (Interruptions) I do not think it really is fair that the Opposition has to take the government by the hand and lead them through the political thickets. I think they should be adult enough after three and one-half years to have figured out how things are done insofar as politics are concerned. (Interruptions)

In Boston and New York they would call that graffiti and scribbling on desks, Mr. Speaker. I have two minutes. That is all I have left. I can come back to this again some other day. I have lots more material here to use, lots of it. As I say, I have lots of reading to do tonight because quite obviously this is going to be a mine of information for all people. I am sure that the Minister of Health, in his capacity as advisor to the Minister of Finance will be poring through this document tonight and analyzing it.

[Page 3341]

In closing, I would just say that I would hope that all members would join with me in voting in favour of this amendment because it is certainly a first-class amendment and one which will serve the government well. This will be one time they should heed the advice that the Opposition is offering because I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, the day is drawing nigh when that walk down to Government House is going to have to be made and these people in the government benches are going to face the constituents of this province who, unless they radically change their ways, I am afraid are just going to disappear, the whole works of them. There is not a safe seat in this province for a Liberal member at the present time. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion which is before your House. The motion is that the bill be referred to the Public Accounts Committee and as you know, you take a look at the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, there is a part of it which this particular government hasn't yet bastardized and ripped apart. It still stands in our Rule Book in its earlier form and it says for greater certainty, "the Public Accounts Committee is established for the purpose of reviewing the public accounts, the annual report or other report of the Auditor General and any other financial matters respecting the public funds of the Province;".

There is no question that the legislation which we consider tonight and the motion that it be referred to the Public Accounts Committee is clearly in order and it is clearly a sensible and fundamentally important course of action for us to follow. I say that because while I realize that most of those on the government benches who like to heckle a lot and holler and scream over when those of us on the Opposition benches suggest that things are not all well with this BST legislation, the truth of the matter is, as I understand it, see it and hear it from a tremendous number of very concerned Nova Scotians, they are not sure that things are all well with the BST.

I didn't have an opportunity to speak to the author of a letter which was sent to the Minister of (Interruptions) No, I am not going to read from the letter but I transcribed from the letter because I didn't have an opportunity to speak to the person who sent the letter but a letter with the following language was sent to the Minister of Finance, dated December 8th which isn't very long ago and a copy was sent to the honourable Attorney General. I quote from this letter and this person who signed his name but he described himself a concerned voter said this in his letter to the Minister of Finance on December 8th, if the BST is honestly conceived and you have nothing to hide, why are you not taking the time to have the pros and cons publicly examined and debated? My answer is you have a lot to hide, a hidden agenda because the BST cannot withstand an in-depth scrutiny. I am sure you agree but are unwilling or cannot do anything about it but the BST as now planned is a tax grab. This will not be accepted by the taxpayers. You may not believe it today but you will certainly believe it the morning after the next Nova Scotia general election. That is signed a concerned voter and it

[Page 3342]

is a gentleman whom I know and I didn't have a chance to speak with him and so therefore I am not going to read directly from his letter because I don't know that he would want it tabled. (Interruptions) Pardon me? I will table this. This is my handwritten note.

That voter obviously was very concerned and the truth of the matter is thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians are very concerned as well. They honestly do not believe that this government has shared with them the information, detail and the precision of what this BST is all about. They have not afforded the ordinary everyday Nova Scotian the opportunity to come to an understanding of how it works, what its impact is and how it will affect them and their families.

[8:45 p.m.]

I don't particularly care whether there is a member of the Liberal Party in this House who believes a word of what I just said. I know with every fibre of my being that what I just said is correct - Nova Scotians do not believe that they have had enough information shared with them about this BST. They do not understand it, they are uncertain of how it affects them if they are business people; they are uncertain of how it effects them, if they are like most of us, ordinary everyday Nova Scotians who are, in the main, consumers, they do not know what it is going to do to them. There simply has not been, in my opinion - and I am just one of a number of us here in this place and my opinion may not be shared by every other member of this place. I offer it because I believe it again to be true that Nova Scotians are like anybody else, maybe it is possible and some of the members opposite would say this is the case, that their fears are unfounded. This BST according to the Premier and according to the Minister of Finance and according to a whole bunch of people over here, this BST is going to be fine. (Interruption)

Well, the minister across the way, says you got it. I do not think too many Nova Scotians are so sure at all that it is going to be just fine. On the contrary, I think they are, in many cases, scared to death that it is not going to be fine. One thing they do know is that it is going to cost them, as consumers, not less than $84 million more than it cost them before the BST appeared. That $84 million is probably quite candidly and again, my opinion, that $84 million as referred to in the Minister of Finance's own documents is probably, when all is said and done, going to be something larger than $84 million, the response that the government gives to the poor consumers of Nova Scotia that this BST is going to cost them $84 million. The response is offensive in the extreme, but the government, when the whole deal is all mushed together, the government is going to receive less revenue. Well, I do not take issue with that because, in fact, less revenue will make its way to the Treasury of the Province of Nova Scotia and that will be because, as has been stated, the benefits of this new arrangement to some industry will result in some industry paying less tax.

[Page 3343]

The problem is that there is not any - as far as I am concerned - real good answer or any real explanation made available to the taxpayers and they know who they are, they are those in our province who are less well-to-do. There is no explanation offered by the Premier or the Minister of Finance or others as to how they are going to be cushioned from the blow of $84 million worth of new taxes.

When the government attempts to say to Nova Scotians, this is not a tax grab, as a matter of fact, the Minister of Finance describes it as the most, I think his words were and I made some notes when he spoke the other day, the most major significant tax change since Confederation. Those are very lofty words. I have to wonder if, in fact, that is true, if, in fact, this Minister of Finance can stand before the people of Nova Scotia and say what they are doing with the BST is the most significant tax change in this province since Confederation, I think that begs the question why then if it is the most significant since Confederation, why is this government ripping up the Rule Book of the Nova Scotia Legislature and having us come here to sit from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight for I don't know how many days. Before anybody suggests that I feel hard done by that I am here for those hours, you can disabuse yourself of that notion, I will sit here straight through as long as we have to, as long as this government forces us to sit here and on those occasions when I can and when I have the opportunity I'll attempt to raise issues and concerns which I believe are the issues and concerns of the Nova Scotian taxpayers.

I think for the Minister of Finance to stand up and say the most significant tax change since Confederation, I think that begs the question as to why this arrogant 40-some seat majority government feels it necessary to throttle the Opposition, to throttle the taxpayers opportunity to understand the impact of the tax and is ripping up the Rule Book of the Legislature of Nova Scotia, so this can be done with unseemly haste. I wonder if the concerned voter who wrote to the Minister of Finance on December 8th, the document and the extract I took from that letter and just tabled a few minutes ago, I wonder if he isn't right. If the BST, said this concerned voter, is honestly conceived and you, and the letter as I say was addressed to the Minister of Finance, have nothing to hide why are you not taking time to have the pros and cons publicly examined and debated? I think that is a pretty darned good question.

Why is it that the Premier of this province, Premier Savage told us in the election campaign of 1993, vote for me and there will be no taxes. The very first budget was a 10 per cent increase on the hospital tax and here we are now a couple of years after that an $84 million tax grab on the consumers of Nova Scotia. The Minister of Finance of that day, the earlier day stood in this place and you will remember it well, and on virtually the last minutes of the last day of us being here last spring, almost in an attempt to surreptitiously or in a clandestine fashion slide a document into the public domain with minutes remaining in that session which after telling everybody that this was the greatest thing imaginable for the Nova Scotian taxpayer, in fact, upon a reading of it indicated that it would take $84 million out of the pockets of the Nova Scotian taxpayer.

[Page 3344]

I repeat, Mr. Speaker, the concern I have is that the pockets and the wallets and the purses and the homes out of which the overwhelming majority of that $84 - and probably more than $84 - million will be from those in our province who can least afford it and that is a real problem. You know, the government has and I give them credit, they met frequently enough with among others the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and they responded to some of their concerns but they didn't respond to them all. The Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has produced a piece of paper called GST/PST Harmonization Backgrounder and they say TAX-IN PRICING SHOULD BE POSTPONED. Now this is the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce which, on balance, has said that we, as a Chamber of Commerce, are rather supportive of this BST stuff. If you will indulge me for a moment, Mr. Speaker, I am going to read a couple of lines, if I may, of what the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce says about the concern about tax-in pricing. They say it should be postponed. They say; "Governments propose to include the tax on the price tag with the total tax paid shown separately on the invoice or cash register tape.

many nationally-distributed manufactured goods have the price affixed at the time of manufacture (books and greeting cards are common examples). These items would have to be re-priced with the tax included at significant cost to local retailers.".

They go on to say that local retailers would not be able to use national advertising materials or programs that quote tax-excluded prices or they would have to absorb the extra cost for regional advertising campaigns. Further they say, Mr. Speaker, that existing cash register point of sale systems would have to be reprogrammed for tax-in pricing. In many cases retailers would need to invest in new cash register systems.

Prices within the harmonized zone will appear to be more expensive with the tax included. This will particularly affect the tourism sector. This is the Chamber of Commerce. This isn't me or the Tory caucus or some Opposition politician, this is the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

Finally they say that tax-in pricing will not generate additional revenue for government but will create added costs for business. Business could be lost to other areas, reducing economic activity in the harmonized zone and, in turn, reducing tax revenues for government. That is the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Could I have two or three copies of that, please? Having read from it, I suppose I should table it, Mr. Speaker.

So it isn't all sweetness and light on the business side of the equation either. The $84 million, perhaps plus, being gouged out of the less well-to-do, in the main, taxpayers of Nova Scotia, is clearly going to be ripped out of their purses and wallets and pockets. Here we have one of the leading organizations which speaks for business, raising what I think - I am not sure about you or members on the Treasury benches, Mr. Speaker, but raising what I think are very fundamental and significant concerns about the potential adverse impact that the BST has on the business community.

[Page 3345]

Of course that is what this government says is the beauty of all this stuff; there is so much less tax going to be taken from the business community. That is, in fact, the explanation as to why the Minister of Finance and others get up and say, in fact the government will be receiving less tax revenue so isn't that wonderful? We are obviously doing something right for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia because we are receiving less. Well, the less is on the business side, not on the everyday consumer side. That is where the less is.

Now when you read that document from the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, they, spokespersons or spokes-organization, call it what you will, for business, they raised some very important and disturbing concerns about what the tax-in pricing will do.

I wonder if, when he closes, perhaps the Minister of Finance might be prepared to indicate whether or not he would be prepared to look even at the tax-in pricing element of this plan. As the saying goes, I didn't come down in last night's rain so I don't believe that I am naive enough to imagine that this government, now in as deep as it is with this BST, is likely to make serious and fundamental and structural change. The opportunity is there for them to do that if they are so minded, if they are so disposed. The opportunity to have some advice and guidance, which I say to them, through you, Mr. Speaker, they have not gotten, they have not sought, they have not heard, is available through the mechanism which we debate here now, the reference of this legislation to the Public Accounts Committee.

[9:00 p.m.]

If we were to refer this matter to the Public Accounts Committee, it would be possible for any number of organizations, not only the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Council of Canada referred to by my leader, the Leader of the Opposition, and by other members, would have an opportunity in a public forum, where all of us who are affected by what retailers do in the Province of Nova Scotia, all of us, because we are all consumers, we are all taxpayers and we are all consumers, we would have an opportunity to hear what those men and women, who are the leaders of the retail industry in this province, have to say and outline as concerns about this tax.

I have not, Mr. Speaker, despite questions in the spring and despite questions here the last while and correspondence and so on, I have not seen this government table anything like an econometric model or documentation which goes anywhere within light years of addressing the issue which I think is one of the fundamental flaws made in the addled thinking of this government as they embark upon this BST adventure. That is the ill-conceived and I think, frankly, unfounded assumption that some of the assumptions and some of the numbers which Ministers of Finance and others throw at us and throw at the Nova Scotia taxpayers, are valid, say they, because there is going to be such a tremendously significant pass-through of these wonderful savings which they talk about, to the Nova Scotia consumer.

[Page 3346]

Our caucus has met with a number of organizations, with a number of individual men and women who run their businesses and I really believe, Mr. Speaker, that this government, this Premier, this Minister of Finance, all of the members of the Treasury bench, and all of their colleagues who support this legislation, I honest to God believe they are dreaming in technicolour if they believe that the pass-through to the consumer of any of these tax savings will be anything close to the percentages or amounts which have been speculated by this government.

The truth of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, and if they would talk to some people, if they would talk, particularly, to what really makes up the Nova Scotian economy, and that is small business, we have some very large and important businesses, but we have, in the main, an economy based and founded on small business. The truth of the matter is that those small businesses have, in recent years, been pounded by recessionary forces and other forces and only recently, as a result of some good fortune, having nothing to do with anything done by this government, that a reduction in interest rates has lightened the burden for some in business. But if this government would talk to men and women running businesses in this province, I am absolutely convinced that the overwhelming majority of the men and women running those businesses will tell this government, Mr. Premier, Mr. Minister of Finance, Mr. Minister of anything, we simply cannot and will not be passing these "savings" through to the consumer, because the financial integrity of the overwhelming majority of the small business in Nova Scotia is such that the men and women running those businesses need any relief that might come their way to reinvest or to firm up or, indeed, to wade themselves out of some significant debt which they have had to incur in order just even to keep their corporate heads above water over the last number of years.

Well, you really do wonder, I wonder, I take it from what appears to be the benign acceptance by most government members, certainly the Treasury bench members and it appears by all accounts, all the government backbench members that this most important tax measure in 40 years or as the Minister of Finance tells us, the most major and significant tax change since Confederation can be jammed through the legislative process in jet-like time and that is what is happening here.

I say again, it makes me wonder and it makes an awful lot of people wonder if this arrangement was half as good as the Premier and the Minister of Finance and others would attempt to have Nova Scotians believe, I cannot understand why it is that there is such hesitancy and, frankly why it is there is such a refusal on the part of the government to share some detail to go to the people of Nova Scotia to outline the fundamental elements of this new tax arrangement and this new tax regime, this most significant tax change since Confederation and outline that to the people of Nova Scotia, the business community and the consuming taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3347]

Yet, this government opted for the opposite course. They opted for the course of coming into this Legislature and absolutely brutalizing the rules of procedure in this place to make it possible to jam this thing through so that just the opposite would result so that the opportunity for scrutiny of this BST arrangement would be limited and almost eliminated.

It is no wonder that the concerned constituent whose letter I abstracted earlier wrote to the Minister of Finance on December 8th and said what he did. He wonders, that concerned voter, about other agendas. Why is it that so many people ask if this is such a good deal, this is, let us go back to the Minister of Finance, the most major and significant tax change since Confederation and it is such a great deal, it is so good that there has to be a bribe from Paul Martin to attempt to come - I will call it a bribe, the Minister of Finance can call it what he wants, I will call it a bribe from Paul Martin and Jean Chretien to bribe this Premier and this government into attempting (Interruption) Shame on Chretien, shame on Martin and more to the point, shame on these guys for accepting it and not being prepared to tell the taxpayers of Nova Scotia what the implications are. That is where the shame is. (Applause)

What kind of a fundamental, most significant tax change since Confederation is it that requires transitional money which is finite and has an end, to come from Ottawa to get us over, to get the Nova Scotia Government over the next short while and you know how and why that is configured. That is configured in such a way and in such amounts that it will be possible for this government to do with the books of account of the Province of Nova Scotia over the next number of months, those things necessary to make those books look as good as they possibly can as they go the people of Nova Scotia and say look at the great managers we are. I am certainly worried about those books. (Interruptions) They can rant and they can rave and they can rail. They can look in the rear-view mirror if they like. That is exactly what they are doing. They can attempt to deny the reality that they (Interruptions)

I have learned many lessons. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more therapeutic than spending some time on the Opposition benches. I know that. (Interruptions) Isn't that interesting that the Minister of Finance says he knows. He has not had evidenced anything that he learned. (Interruptions) He has not evidenced any of that because if he really did learn, how would he stand up and say, the most major significant tax change since Confederation and then not be prepared to go to the people of Nova Scotia and outline it and explain it, explain to the poor in the Province of Nova Scotia why this tax is taking $84 million and probably more out of their wallets and pockets and purses and homes. Why? (Interruptions) Oh, the Premier. I love him. I love this Premier. Isn't he unbelievable; $100 million less, he says. (Interruptions) $100 million less. No, $100 million less. (Interruptions)

Yes, Terry, says the Minister of Community Services who clearly is the expert. I am sure the Minister of Community Services who is the expert in this BST, I am sure that he has had at least one town hall meeting in his constituency to outline all the pros and cons of the new arrangement to his constituents. The GST/PST Backgrounder Harmonization from the

[Page 3348]

Chamber of Commerce - $100 million less says the Premier. "tax-in pricing . . .", says the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, will not (Interruptions) This is not Terry Donahoe. This is the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce. "tax-in pricing will not generate additional revenue for government but will create added costs for business. Business could be lost to other areas, reducing economic activity in the harmonized zone . . .", in my province, our Province of Nova Scotia, ". . . and in turn reducing tax revenues for government.". That is a very fundamental problem with this BST (Interruptions) reducing tax for government. The Premier thinks that is great. Reducing even more tax. But when Paul Martin's bribe money runs out, the answer from this Premier and this government is going to be, jeepers, Paul is not sending his cheque, and of course he will not be sending his cheque because Jean Charest and a Tory Government will be in Ottawa at the time (Interruptions) Look, they like that. They like that reaction, eh? Good for them. They recognize (Interruptions) Maybe these people are smarter than I thought. They really can see into the future, Mr. Speaker.

Isn't that interesting? The point is that when the bribe money runs out and - the Premier loves to advertise - the provincial government is going to get less. Even when I read the Chamber of Commerce document and in turn reducing tax revenues for government he gets even more excited. We are going to lose even more. He does not tell us that Paul Martin has told him that you lose more, Premier Savage, and I, Minister of Finance in Ottawa, am going to make up even more shortfall.

Then what is the result for the Nova Scotia taxpayer? What is the result for Nova Scotia business? What is the result for the poor and the less well-to-do in Nova Scotia who are being gouged for $84 million out of this tax? What is the result for them? The result, undoubtedly, is that the government then turns to even further tax increases, to make up that shortfall.

[9:15 p.m.]

Well, they can rant and rave and rail and ignore every word that I utter. I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I couldn't particularly give a tinker's whether they care anything at all about what I say. I don't particularly care if they have any regard at all for anything I have said. The Premier says, that's right, isn't that wonderful and boy, Hansard put the Premier in there saying, that's right. He doesn't care about anything that I say.

Do you know what that says? I know that you intuitively and immediately understand what that says. I am one of 12 in here raising questions on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia as to what this BST deal is all about. I have no other role or function in this place; my only role and function in this place, as is the case with any Opposition politician, is (Interruption) Well, the Premier says to pass on. Boy, isn't he quick and glib and boy, isn't the electorate going to pay him for his quickness and his glibness. I am here, Mr. Speaker, because the people of my constituency have faith in me to come and represent their interests

[Page 3349]

and that is what I am attempting to do. I am attempting to do that by asking questions which I think are legitimate. I know they are legitimate because they are the questions which are being shared with me by many Nova Scotians about what the impact of this BST is really all about.

The Minister of Community Services suggests I rant and rave. Well, that is his view and we will see his fate soon, too. The Premier doesn't seem to put any stock in the fact that there is any value in me standing here making comments or asking questions or expressing concerns on the part of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. That is a reflection, Mr. Speaker, on that arrogant Premier's attitude toward the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and not anything to do with his attitude toward me, as an individual. That is so typical of this arrogant Premier and this arrogant government. We have seen it here tonight in full flower. That is the fundamental hallmark of this Premier and of this government.

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker? (Interruption) Way too much? If the legislation was referred to the Public Accounts Committee we would have an opportunity to afford all Nova Scotians, and there are tens and tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who rent, we would have an opportunity for them to understand whether their very real fear is well placed or not. Their fear is that because this tax is going to do the job it is going to do on the owners of rental accommodation, the men and women in the corporations which own the buildings, rented by tens of thousands of Nova Scotians in every constituency of this province. Those owners, as a result of this BST arrangement are going to take a big hit. Their cost to run their rental accommodation buildings is going to rise considerably. I am saying here tonight that I am fearful and I say it that way because I am expressing it in exactly the same words that hundreds of renters and anybody who knows anything about my constituency knows that it is just loaded with apartment accommodation, thousands and thousand of renters, they are saying to me that they are scared to death that when the increased costs are faced by the owners of the rental buildings, of the apartment buildings in my constituency and in every constituency of this province, that those costs are going to be passed on to them as renters.

So it is technically true when this government produces a piece of paper as they did which says there is not going to be any BST on rent, that is technically true. But this government doesn't have any answer at all when asked how many of the men, women and corporations owning rental accommodation are going to eat the additional and substantial new cost and expense which they incur as a result of the BST. If they have any sense at all, if they have talked to anybody in that industry, if they have taken the time or trouble to read the document, Implications of Harmonized Tax on Landlords and Tenants in Nova Scotia which was a submission by the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia, they will know that not only are the renters concerned but the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia, the organization which speaks for the men, women and corporations who own those rental accommodations, they too are very concerned as to what kind of a situation they are going to be in. They are going to face very, very substantial

[Page 3350]

increased costs in relation to the operation, the maintenance and the upkeep of those rental buildings.

Some of those costs are going to be substantial. Some of them are going to result and I will take just a moment to indicate to you that a detailed examination of a 200-unit apartment complex in Dartmouth, the analysis after BST, $96.21 per apartment annual loss to landlord. That is $19,241 in increased costs for that landlord. Is that landlord going say I will eat that? You know as well as I do that the landlord isn't going to be able to "eat it". At some point and in some way the renters are going to be asked or required by that landlord, not because he wants to stick it to tenants but because he has to survive financially, they are going to be asked to assume some or all of that $19,000.

When the government produces a piece of paper and says, hooray for us, the BST doesn't apply to rent, that is about 3 per cent of the story as it relates to the landlord-tenant relationship.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't hear anybody jumping up with answers to that question?

MR. DONAHOE: No and we haven't had any answers and I won't go through the other examples in the Investment Property Owners' Association Document but they are there. The Premier wouldn't be interested in paying any attention anyway but they are taxpayers too, they are big taxpayers, the men, women and the corporations who own rental accommodations and they are very, very concerned about the impact upon them, their businesses and their tenants as a result of this BST.

CAA Maritimes sends a little newsletter called the Travelling Times. They open with Seasons's Greetings, December 1996. "What's more stereotypically Canadian than say the expression 'eh' or a bloody Caesar or 'he shoots, he scores'? The answer, of course, is TAXES. When it comes to taxes Canadians are world experts.", and they go on in this document.

Here is some general information about how HST will apply to travel. Flights originating from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland to a Canadian destination will be subject to a 15 per cent HST. Right? If I want to fly or if you want to fly from Halifax to Toronto, 15 per cent HST. But isn't this neat. Flights originating from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland to an international destination, including the United States, will not be subject to HST, however, United States bound flights will continue to be subject to 7 per cent GST.

One of the things that we hear all the time in the tourism industry is why don't we have Canadians travel Canada? Well, when we in Nova Scotia and we in the harmonized zone, the war zone, decide that we would like to go ourselves, or with our families or whatever, to some other destination in Canada, it costs us 15 per cent HST. But if I want to go or if you

[Page 3351]

want to go to the Boston, United States, outside of Canada, spend your money to support some other economy, an American economy or some other foreign economy, it is cheaper for you, Mr. Speaker, it costs you 7 per cent. As a friend of mine used to say to me, s'plain me that. What is the logic of that? There are a lot of questions, there are a lot of concerns, there are many, many people out there who are scared to death, uncertain, frightened, they really don't have any detail. I know from personal association with some people running business that attempts by them to get some answers to some questions, when put to officials in the Department of Finance, simply go unanswered.

Here we are, as legislators, debating the legislation. We are presented tonight with 356 pages of the federal legislation, with all the bumph that goes with it and news releases and Lord knows what, and we are here whether members opposite think it is worthwhile to have us here or not attempting to do it; that is for them to decide and that is for them to say to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. But we are here, those of us who are Opposition members, for one purpose and one purpose only, to attempt to find out what this legislation is all about. What does it do to the Nova Scotian economy? What does it do to the Nova Scotian taxpayer? What does it do to Nova Scotian business? Why is it that $84-plus million is coming out of the poorest and the lowest income families of the Province of Nova Scotia as a consequence of the harmonized tax, why is that?

Mr. Speaker, what I really find intriguing about this government, and they like to natter and rail at me a little bit I guess when I take some shots and they holler across and I am a big boy, I understand the real world. I grew up in a political family and in a political environment and I know all about the vagaries of political life and I lost one before I ever won one. I find it interesting that so many on the Treasury benches who toured this province in May 1993, making in some cases pretty wild statements about the previous government, said to the people of Nova Scotia, vote for us because we can do so much better. They also said a couple of other things; they said that, "Government in a democracy derives its powers through the consent of the governed.".

I would love to know where the consent of the governed is, relative to this BST. I know and you know, Mr. Speaker, that there isn't any such consent because there hasn't been any legitimate effort made by this government to consult, so that the electorate could have some understanding, even a modest understanding, of the detail and the implications of this legislation. "To honour the responsibility government has to the people, it must open its activities to scrutiny by the public and the opposition.".

[9:30 p.m.]

Well, how hollow and shallow those words are, in light of the process undertaken by this government relative to this legislation. The virtual abuse of the privileges of the members of this House as they tore up pages of the Rule Book, Mr. Speaker, to make it possible to ram

[Page 3352]

this stuff through just as fast as they possibly can. Boy oh boy, is that opening its activities to scrutiny by the public and the Opposition?

"A Liberal Government will pass legislation requiring two sittings of the House of Assembly each year. Accountability should not be left to the discretion of the government of the day, but should entrench the public interest in legislation.". Well, you know the authors of the lines probably were well paid for writing them and deserved the good pay because boy, that is great prose. This government, certainly in relation to this particular piece of legislation, has not come within lightyears of putting flesh on the bones of that prose.

I had an exchange of correspondence with the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, as far back as October. I won't even read the letter. I know the Minister of Finance gets exorcised when anybody on this side virtually touches a piece of paper on their desk we are concerned about tabling it so I won't get him upset. I will just simply say that he and I exchanged communications back in October. I have one on my desk but I won't read it. In that exchange of correspondence one would get the distinct impression that there was going to be a real serious and legitimate effort on the part of the government and this Minister of Finance to engage in a meaningful, legitimate, open, useful consultation process.

He knows and good, the Premier helped me out, the Premier said he knew and I am delighted that the Premier acknowledges that he knew - the Premier of Nova Scotia acknowledges here tonight that he knew, too, that no such meaningful consultation ever took place with people here in the Province of Nova Scotia. It just simply did not. So that is why, when the Premier acknowledges tonight, as he does and the Minister of Finance was saying a few months ago that there would be the opportunity for consultation, that is why the motion which is before your House tonight, Madam Speaker, is so fundamentally important, because despite their best efforts to avoid it, the opportunity now, by reference to the Public Accounts Committee, would afford all Nova Scotians, businesses and consumers, to have the opportunity to express their views.

Most important, I can see it being set up in such a way that it would afford the government of the day, the Minister of Finance - and the Premier could join him, if he wanted to and any other member of the Treasury benches who wanted to join him could join the Minister of Finance - and the review in front of the Public Account Committee could be begun by the Minister of Finance answering some of those hundred questions which he acknowledged publicly, only a couple of weeks ago, he did not have the answers to.

As we sit here tonight, we do not know how many of these hundred questions he has been able to answer. If he has been able to answer all hundred, the hard cold reality is that he has not shared the answers to any of the hundred with anybody in this Chamber or, to my knowledge, with anybody in the Province of Nova Scotia. Therefore, the reference of this legislation for consideration at the Public Accounts Committee would be a tremendous opportunity for all Nova Scotians to come to some understanding.

[Page 3353]

Back in 1992, as he was then the honourable member for Cape The Lakes - been our distinguished Minister of Finance - the Honourable Bernie Boudreau, now Minister of Health, said in this place when he was in Opposition, "Therefore be it resolved that this government . . .", referring to the predecessor government, ". . . establish a fair taxation commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before they even consider harmonizing the GST and PST.". Thank you, Bernie Boudreau.

Well, isn't it passing strange that attitudes, approaches, demeanour, commitment and willingness to live by your words uttered in 1992 can change so dramatically when you move from this side of the Clerk to the government side. Those were the words from the man who was the Minister of Finance for the Province of Nova Scotia; the man who brought us the BST was a couple of years ago pleading with this Legislature for a fair tax commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before they, the previous government, would even consider harmonizing the GST and the PST. Now this same Minister of Health, this Minister of Finance, this Premier, this government as a whole, won't even allow the detail of the BST arrangements, the impact of the BST arrangements to be opened up to reasonable scrutiny by the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

The Premier can growl or do whatever he wants to do over there, but that is my view, I offer it, I believe it to be true and I am comforted by knowing that tens of thousands of Nova Scotians also believe it to be true. They know that I speak for them when I say that here tonight as I have.

Madam Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence and I would, at this point, adjourn the debate on the motion before you.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I think that we have visited this debate sometime before and I think the Speaker has ruled that adjourning the debate is out of order. This is the same debate that has been going on for sometime now and the same rule applies. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to make a ruling on the a point of order. Are you speaking to the same point of order or a different point of order?

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, in response to the point of order that was just raised by the Deputy Government House Leader, and I will not get into the ruling or the decision that was made at that time, but the member would of course know, if he reflects back, that the other motion to adjourn had dealt with a resolution and not with a bill that is before this House. There definitely has been intervening business because that was on a resolution, that resolution as well as Question Period and all of the other things happening, but a vote was held on that resolution and we are now debating Bill No. 48, which is an

[Page 3354]

entirely separate item of business, Madam Speaker. Therefore, obviously I would believe that the motion, as moved is in fact, in order.

MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to make a ruling on the points of order before we get into protracted points of order. The motion is in order. This is the first motion to adjourn this debate on this bill. It is in order.

A recorded vote was requested by two people.

Ring the bells, please. Call in the members.

[9:41 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Are the whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[10:40 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse

Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe

Mr. Russell Dr. Smith

Mr. Moody Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Chisholm Dr. Savage

Mr. Holm Ms. Jolly

Mr. Archibald Mr. MacEachern

Mr. McInnes Mr. Harrison

Mr. Taylor Mr. O'Malley

Mr. MacLeod Mr. Surette

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. MacAskill

Dr. Stewart

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. White

[Page 3355]

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: Those in support of the motion, 10. Those opposed, 28.

MADAM SPEAKER: I declare that the motion is carried in the negative.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I welcome the opportunity to have a few words to say about what I think was - in fact, I do not think; let's put this in the more positive - I know was a very responsible, very intelligent motion that was put forward by my Leader, the Leader of the New Democratic Party.

I want to talk briefly initially about what the Public Accounts Committee is. Before I do that, Madam Speaker, just in case members on the government benches have not seen it, this is what we are talking about. This is a new copy. There were too many pages to photocopy so it had to be sent to the printers to reproduce. This is the bill in which the government of Nova Scotia, in which the defenders of democracy and freedom, in Nova Scotians' best interests have decided to pass off everything in terms of its responsibilities to their federal cousins in Ottawa. This double-sided piece of legislation is what we are asking, really, to be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. The little piece of scant skeleton that was introduced by the government members as their so-called bill is really just a piece of legislation to say that this comes into effect here in Nova Scotia. When one is talking about referring the subject matter to the Public Accounts Committee for examination, what you really have to look at is what is contained in these 356 pages of documents. It is almost heavy enough that you need to take some aerobics training or weight-lifting exercises to be able to lift it and carry it around. Of course that would have many other supporting documents to go along with it, many of which are still being negotiated and studied as we speak.

[10:45 p.m.]

Now the proposal was to refer it to the Public Accounts Committee. Some members on the government benches may not be all that familiar again with the Public Accounts Committee and what it does. Just last week the Public Accounts Committee - and I think it was rather unique - tabled in this House a report, a fairly lengthy report which contained within it not only a whole bunch of recommendations, in terms of how the government can

[Page 3356]

be made more accountable, but it also contained in it a full briefing, a full summary, the full analysis of all of the work that has been done over the past year - actually, over more than the past year. It talks about the briefings and the meetings that it held with many different groups and the research information that was gathered from that which can, through that process, be experienced and shared with the people.

The Public Accounts Committee has a tremendous opportunity. First of all, it has a lot of credibility. You can't just say that the Public Accounts Committee is the bidder for the government, although the majority of members on that committee are government members, it is an all-Party Committee of this House. It is chaired by a member from the Opposition benches. So it isn't initially controlled by the government. To even add to that credibility, Cabinet Ministers, whom many in Nova Scotia would say have very little credibility, but Cabinet Ministers and, in fact, Leaders of Parties are not permitted to sit on that Public Accounts Committee. It is one of the places where the backbenchers of the Liberal Government actually have an opportunity to get involved in something. They are even allowed to talk there and ask questions of witnesses, to collect and gather information. Just think how much they can ask about this. They might even find out what is being proposed and then they might be able to go home and talk to their constituents in an intelligent way and tell them what they are planning to do to them with this BST bill.

Mr. Speaker, the Public Accounts Committee, according to the Rule Book that we still have - now I know that the government doesn't have much respect for the rules and that they change them at every opportunity, like we are doing here tonight. It is interesting that the minister who introduced the resolution that favoured us with the opportunity to speak in here for 16 hours and tabled the resolution, the hammer that he said would only be used if warranted, even before the debate on this bill was called, had that 16 hour extended rules announced. Of course he is not here, Mr. Speaker, and I know that the government doesn't have much respect for our rules but one that they have not done away with yet is the Public Accounts Committee. (Interruption) Oh, the Minister of Science and Technology wants to intervene, probably on a point of order. He might have looked at the Rule Book so I will sit down.

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: On a point, Mr. Speaker, according to the Rules of the House, it is inappropriate and unacceptable for a minister or a member to indicate that any other member is not present in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.

MR. HOLM: I thank the member and I appreciate the fact that for the rest of this evening I apologize and I will not mention that the minister, the Government House Leader, is not here tonight. I won't mention that any more tonight. I take those comments back.

[Page 3357]

Mr. Speaker, some people, I will not mention names, have not even been here since (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

MR. HOLM: . . . they were saying Nova Scotians understand people working overtime. Some of those people who made those comments have not been here to have the benefit of the overtime yet, and I look forward to those people being here for the full overtime 16 hour day. I will not mention any names.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the member who shops at Sears? (Laughter)

MR. HOLM: Well, he may be down doing some cross-border shopping. I do not know, but the Public Accounts Committee is what I am trying to talk about. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, "the Public Accounts Committee is established for the purpose of reviewing the public accounts, the annual report or other report of the Auditor General and any other financial matters respecting the public funds of the Province;" any other public matter respecting the finances and the funds of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, what is this? It is the Minister of Community Services' paper. Well, this, according to the Government of Nova Scotia, to the Liberal red team, is the most significant tax change in the last 40 years or more. Examining this weighty document, the implications of that document, how it is going to be affecting every single Nova Scotian, not only those who are here now, every single business here now and for countless years to come, are going to be affected by this bill, and by this government's decision to pass off its responsibility, to slough it off, to try to give their federal Liberal cousin, Jean Chretien, an excuse for saying, oh, we did change the GST. Well, that is bunk. (Interruption) This document deserves a close scrutiny because every single Nova Scotian, your families, your children, your grandchildren and your grandchildren to come, are going to be affected by this legislation. Therefore, it is one of the most appropriate matters that can be examined by the Public Accounts Committee.

Now, Mr. Speaker, some people can say, well, gee whiz, you know, if we do that, it might cost a couple of dollars to have hearings. Now I have not seen your budget. I do not know how many dollars are left over in your accounts, but one of the major costs of the Speaker's Office - and the Speaker's Office, of course, funds the committees of this House like the Public Accounts Committee - is the operation of this House, and that would be for travel and accommodation when people who are coming to this House and all of the costs that are related to it. But there has to be significant savings in the accounts of the Speaker's Office relative to the operations of this House, because even though certain people, who I will not mention, have said that we need to railroad this through, we haven't got time to waste, this House, we are today if you look at your order paper on our 50th day, that is all this House has met so far this session, 50 days. In the normal work week of the average Nova Scotian, that is 10 five day weeks. Now you know, Mr. Speaker, the government has their

[Page 3358]

business, supposedly, can you imagine this, how totally disorganized they are, how - what is the word I am looking for?

AN HON. MEMBER: What disarray they are in?

MR. HOLM: What disarray they are in, yes. It is getting a little bit late and sometimes your thoughts are a little slower in coming and if I slow down a little bit in my speaking it is not . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And yawn a little bit.

MR. HOLM: . . . and if I end up yawning and getting a little that way, it is not that I am not interested in this, and not that I am opposed to working overtime but here is a government that says, in the name of expediency and efficiency and so on, we have to meet 16 hours a day and we cannot afford to give the public an opportunity to scrutinize this bill. This government, and we are here at the call of the Premier through - or I should say yourself, Mr. Speaker, through the Premier - 50 days. That is all.

If this government had its act together, the business of this House could have been done in an orderly and in an intelligent fashion. The business could have been presented to this House and Nova Scotians would have had an opportunity to be properly informed. But since we have only met 50 days, and if you take a look, and the Clerk, I am sure can provide us all with the details, find out that this - other than one year when we did not meet at all, and I won't bother going into that tonight - this is the shortest number of days that this Chamber has met in many years.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the Public Accounts Committee, through yourself, should have access to some funds so that they can actually hold legitimate public meetings. Do you know what else? If this government is truly committed to listening and hearing and understanding what people have to say, if it is concerned to know and find out what flaws are in this 356 page document of very fine details, small print, if they are, that Public Accounts Committee can actually go out to meet the citizens. They don't only have to sit in this Chamber, we don't only have to either meet here or across the way in the Dennis Building. That committee - and since we have only met 50 days because the government didn't want to call the House in for longer sessions, that committee - could get the resources and they could travel to Sydney. We could hold public meetings in Sydney and we could hear from citizens in that community, we could hear from those who cannot travel from Sydney to Halifax.

Do you know, to travel that distance, the costs that would be involved for citizens in those communities, whether it is Sydney or Yarmouth, and points in between would be of differing degrees. To travel on the last minute's notice because you know, as well I know, what is going to happen. If somebody in one of those communities around this province says that they want to make a presentation to the Law Amendments Committee, probably the day

[Page 3359]

before, even the evening before, they will get a phone call and say that we have slotted you in and you are to appear before the Law Amendments Committee tomorrow. It may be at 10:00 a.m., it may be at 2:00 p.m., but you will have your 15 minutes to make your views known tomorrow.

So the people who live in these far distant parts of the province have to, if they are to come here: make arrangements maybe to get off work, possibly to arrange for child care services; try to come up with the money for the cost of the gasoline and the meals to travel to Halifax; and maybe they will have to pay accommodations in one of the hotels, all for 15 minutes. The government knows that. What they are counting on is that people will, and I would suspect they will, most people would say, what's the point going to Halifax to spend 10 minutes in the Law Amendments Committee, because they have no intentions of listening to us anyway, and spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to go and to make their views known when they know they aren't going to be listened to.

[11:00 p.m.]

If this government is truly committed, if there is any substance to the rhetoric that they are really interested in what people want to say, the Public Accounts Committee can use some of those dollars that have been saved and that have been under-spent to go to those communities, to let those citizens come before them to make their views known.

I am sure the Minister of Education and Culture and Marketing could use his good offices and contact school boards around the province, and say to them - yes, all seven of them; they have been amalgamated, supposedly to save money, which didn't happen, which has driven up costs and now will have to pay the BS Tax which will hurt the classrooms and the children more - anyway, he could as penance call those boards and suggest that some of those schools maybe could be used in the evening. They are known by the community and they could invite those schools to please open their doors so that the Public Accounts Committee could meet in those buildings to hear what people in those communities are saying. They could do that.

There is no need for expensive transcripts, although they would be nice. Members would make notes as they do now. They would be recorded electronically but there would be no written Hansard transcripts kept of those Public Accounts Committee, so it would be up to the members to make notes and to work from the presentations that are given to them. So there wouldn't be the huge costs even involved in transporting around.

AN HON. MEMBER: There has been a standing committee of this House that has travelled around by bus.

[Page 3360]

MR. HOLM: Well, members can travel by bus, they can do a lot of things, Mr. Speaker, but it is an opportunity to genuinely try to give Nova Scotians their say.

Now, I might be wrong but my guess is that despite the wise or not so wise - depending on where you sit - words of the Premier earlier tonight, despite the Premier's helpful or not so helpful intervention on the floor this evening, it is all a matter of interpretation and the Premier says he doesn't want to be partisan in what he is doing; after he takes all kinds of shots at everybody, he says he doesn't want to be partisan. But my guess is that as soon as this bill passes through this House, almost before you can say Jack Robin, the bill is down the hall in the Law Amendments Committee. People may be given 15 minutes, an hour, two hours' notice that they are expected to be there. If they aren't there, too bad, you missed your chance. That's what this government sees as being democratic.

The Premier in his remarks tonight said that the BST - only he uses another name - is the greatest economic boost since Confederation. Boy, Mr. Speaker, I can just see the lights going off and the rockets firing. You know, it is very easy to make claims, it is very easy to make assertions like that. The Public Accounts Committee's job is to examine reports, to examine studies and, yes, even ask for expert advice to come in to help interpret, to hear witnesses. When you appear before a committee like that, that is the same as being under oath.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are on that committee, aren't you?

MR. HOLM: Yes, I have the privilege of being on that committee. I would love to hear - the Premier himself can come as a witness.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, we could subpoena him.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: That would be interesting.

MR. HOLM: Yes, indeed, but that wouldn't be necessary. They could subpoena the Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought you were looking for information, John, on that committee. If you were looking for information you wouldn't subpoena the Premier.

MR. HOLM: No, it wouldn't be necessary, but if he has it, he could come forward and share the information and answer questions which we haven't been able to get any answers to yet.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jim Livingstone wanted to go.

[Page 3361]

MR. HOLM: Oh, there are a number who would like to go and, I am sure, if they came would do more than pass out a 1-800 number.

We are told that the HST, the acronym for BST, will mean a fairer and simpler tax system which will result in substantial benefits for businesses and consumers. Well, let's examine that. I have here, and I may get to them tonight if I have enough time, a lot of letters. I am sure even government members got them, letters from businesses, those that are supposed to be benefiting all the time from this. Mr. Speaker, these businesses are saying that they don't like what the government is doing. (Interruptions)

Now the Minister of Community services calls them lapdogs. He is throwing those terms across the floor. Mr. Speaker, I suggest he should calm down. Maybe it is past his bedtime, maybe he should go home so that he will be fresh tomorrow so he can do his job.

AN HON. MEMBER: So he can heckle again all day long.

MR. HOLM: He may want to do that, but if we are keeping him up, I think that by a show of hands we could all agree to excuse him if he would like to go home. He certainly hasn't been providing a great deal in the way of assistance in this House so far.

The Premier said that jobs will be created, at least 3,000 new jobs, he goes on to say. Well, let's take a look at those assertions. Let's see the analysis that has been done and let's bring in some expert advice and witnesses to attest to that. Let's find out where those jobs are because everywhere that I look, people are talking about laying people off because of the BS Tax and the increased costs being imposed as a result of it.

One of the more interesting little tacks that the Premier took - I listened to the Premier and when he was finished his comments in this area I was scratching my head and I said, what is he saying here? Does this make any sense to anybody? What is he doing?

AN HON. MEMBER: He had a slot on the CBC.

MR. HOLM: So it is paid off as far as the government. He got a slot on the CBC. What was it, radio or television?

AN HON. MEMBER: CBC radio.

MR. HOLM: CBC radio. So I guess the Premier achieved his goal.

You know, the Premier was very critical, and correctly so, of the Tory GST, the Tory rip-off. It was the Tory Party that gave us the GST in the first place. (Interruption) Yes, that is correct. The Premier said the GST, the Tory tax, grabbed $3 billion in tax dollars from this region and moved it to Central Canada. You know what, Mr. Speaker? When I take a look

[Page 3362]

at this so-called harmonized BS Tax, I thought that was made up of two parts. One was the GST and the other was the PST. The GST is not disappearing. You may call it the BST, call it what you want. Call it the HST, but that $3 billion Tory GST is still part of it. It is still there. It is now melded with something else, it has a new name on it, but it is still there. I do not remember seeing, poof, the GST disappears. In fact, what the government is doing with this tax, this Liberal Government, the other wing of the Tories (Interruptions) That one hit.

AN HON. MEMBER: You landed that one across the bow.

MR. HOLM: Even though it is late and past their bedtime, we still manage to keep some of them awake. You have to throw an occasional zinger at them to get their attention.

What have they done? They have taken the provincial sales tax and yes, they have ratcheted down the rate. In fact, the provincial sales tax portion of the BST is going to be 8 per cent instead of the current 11 per cent. In other words, the PST portion will be 2 cents cheaper than it was when they assumed office. That is correct. It was 10 cent when they came to power and promised no new taxes. They increased it by 10 per cent and now they are going to drop it back down. But there is a difference, too, Mr. Speaker, because even though they have brought down the rate from 10 per cent, which it was when they started, then up to 11 per cent, now back down to 8 per cent, they are imposing it on a whole host of other things.

One cent alone, one small penny increase in the price of gasoline means $55 million more out of your pocket, out of my pocket, out of everybody's pockets in this room but, more importantly, out of the pockets of the seniors, of the disabled, of the poor, of all Nova Scotians. One penny alone, $11 million. But one cent is not enough for this bunch; they want 8 per cent. So that one item - 8 per cent of 60 cents is 4.8 cents, times 11 and we are talking well over $50 million more. If anybody would like to borrow my calculator and punch in the numbers for themselves, they are welcome to do it. Over $50 million on one item alone. That is new tax. That is at the 8 per cent rate.

Now, what about home heat fuel, 8 per cent. Electricity, 5 per cent more. Children's clothing, 8 per cent more. Sneakers, shoes, items under $100 which had been exempt, 8 per cent more. Essentials, 8 per cent more. Do all of these details appear in that little seven page document that they tabled?

AN HON. MEMBER: Listen, the minister responsible for the hungry and the homeless wants you to mention that new fur coats go down in price.

[Page 3363]

[11:15 p.m.]

MR. HOLM: Yes, I know. The Minister of Community Services keeps throwing out one word - food. I want to, if this will keep him quiet, tell him that food is not going to be taxed and he notices that. Snacks, yes. Maybe the minister can live and survive only by shovelling something into his mouth, into his face, but most Nova Scotians need more than to eat. They need to clothe themselves in this environment. They need a roof over their head. They need to have transportation to be able to get to and from work. They need to be able to care for their children, many of them have to be able to care for their parents and the list goes on and on. Food is, yes, an extremely important essential. So is water. So is electricity. So is heat. So is clothing and on and on. But the mink coat or the yacht or the brand new expensive automobile, that is not an essential, nor is a golf club, Mr. Premier, a golf club is not either. They are luxuries and they will go down. Some of the luxuries will go down, but the amount that the luxuries go down will not equal the amount that the prices of essentials will go up.

Mr. Speaker, by the government's own analysis, and I said it before in this House and I believe it very firmly, that the projected increases that they are saying that consumers will pay is low. The government is saying it will be $84.3 million more consumers will pay out of their pockets. I believe that figure will be higher.

The government members over across the way like to throw a heckle across, well how can it be more if it is less? Well, Mr. Speaker, let's take a look at what is happening. The Minister of Community Services, who is up too late, should be in bed. If it was not for his seat-mates, maybe he would be. However, he should be not only aware of what is happening, but as somebody who is charged with looking at the most vulnerable in this province, he should be extremely concerned.

What the government is doing to make it in a simple way that maybe even this minister can understand it, because his colleagues do not seem to have been able to explain it to him, the government, yes, is going to be seeing a reduction. There is going to be less money directly coming to the provincial government. This government has said that what it wants to do is give the big tax break to business - $240 million a year. Now, to make up for that $240 million, there are a couple of components that are going to happen, really three things. The first one, part of that money they are going to make up by cranking up the tax that consumers pay on essentials. All of those items that are currently exempt from the provincial sales tax, but have GST on it, that is going up. Their costs are going up by 8 per cent and that means that the government is going to be ripping, they say, $84 million, I say it is going to be well over $100 million, more directly out of the pockets of the consumers.

Mr. Speaker, the government is also saying, oh, but there is going to be less money coming in because businesses will not be paying their fair share in the future. More give-aways. Are they going to start another Clairtone? How many more millions are you going to

[Page 3364]

be giving away? We already have either the lowest or about the second lowest corporate tax rates in the country, and that did not work. It didn't work, either, when they tried to subsidize and tried to attract businesses on the basis of the worst workers' compensation payments being made by employers either. They got that fund into difficulty. Those things did not work in attracting the businesses and now it is one more attempt to give them even more money back and even those businesses are saying that there are not going to be the savings. What they overhear in terms of propaganda and trying to pretend it is going to happen, they are saying, no, it won't happen, it will increase our costs and we may have to lay off people as a result of what they are doing to us, supposedly because we want it and they say, we don't.

Government is saying that although they are going to be gouging more from the pockets of the consumers so the consumers are going to have less money to spend on material goods and services, they are saying they are still going to take in $100 million less because they are giving it away. Maybe the Minister of Community Services who was, after all, responsible for the amalgamation of the school boards that was going to save $11 million and was going to be putting all kinds of money back into the classrooms. I don't know if everybody who is involved in the education system at the grass roots, everybody on the front lines, they are probably all wrong and the spin doctors who work for the minister will be somehow coming out with his documents to show that black is white, or red is green, or pink is purple. They will come out with some kind of logic that will say that reality isn't true.

Those on the front end, they know, they see. The number of children ahead of them in the classrooms are larger, they know it, they are talking about crisis time. They know that the resources to help children with special needs have been withdrawn and been reduced and in some cases eliminated like with speech therapy and so on in different areas and others. By the way, according to this bill, private speech therapists are now going be taxed 15 per cent. So those people who can't get those services in the school, I wonder if the members on the Liberal backbenches knew that? If not, maybe you should get a copy of the bill that was tabled. Your bill that the government tabled here doesn't tell you any of this but if you take a look at the Ways and Means measure that was tabled in the House of Commons, get a hold of it, even in the summary you will see that those things are taxed.

Probably your Minister of Finance and your others who are on the front benches didn't share that with you but when your children in your communities need those services and the school boards cannot provide them because the funding isn't there, partly because this government ripped it back, has cut funding by tens of millions of dollars since they assumed office all to help education, now when those parents need those services they are going to have to pay BST on it.

Funding cuts through the Canada Health and Social Transfer as a result of that, this government, this minister now in his new responsibilities has to be trying to look out for those who are most disadvantaged and we have already seen that they have started to cut. For example, 3 per cent which really translates into 6 per cent because it is in half of the year to

[Page 3365]

those groups, volunteer groups and so on, non-profit groups that are providing essential programs and services to the people of this province.

These are crucial issues and do you know, the Public Accounts Committee has an opportunity to cut to the chase, they have an opportunity to get to the facts. If what we are saying is all hogwash over here, if what we are saying is not valid at all, then in the public forum, whether it be in this Chamber or in this Chamber plus possibly going down to Clare and Argyle and meet down there, we could meet at Université Sainte-Anne. Committees of this House have had meetings at Université Sainte-Anne before. It held meetings in Yarmouth, in Digby, Annapolis Royal. We could go to Kentville, we could go to Wolfville, we could go to Cape Breton and all points between.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sydney Mines.

MR. HOLM: Cape Breton Nova, we could visit there.

AN HON. MEMBER: There you go. We could go to that new Tim Horton's.

MR. HOLM: Yes, we could even meet people in that new Tim Horton's that so excited the member from that area. You know, we could do that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We could go to Glace Bay as long as the minister isn't there because they won't let us in.

MR. HOLM: . . . and, more importantly, we could show respect for those people.

Now, Mr. Speaker, jobs. The Premier says, and not only the Premier. I shouldn't just pick on the Premier, I should be picking on them all because in reality, this deal is with everybody. The government is talking about how this is about jobs and job creation. Now we know, of course, that some businesses have already said that they are going to face huge, horrendous cost increases as a result of this. (Interruptions) Another aspect, though, it is not only some of those businesses who will face horrendous cost increases associated with tax-inclusive pricing but many other businesses are going to be threatened because of either increased costs or the underground economy. Those businesses that are particularly labour intensive, because now, the figure was used in here about 8 per cent. I think that figure was a little bit off but those who are involved in the home building industry say that despite what this government has said (Interruption)

Hello. Are you home over there? Are you awake? (Interruption) That is very nice. Mr. Speaker, if the member would open his ears before he does his mouth, then he would know that I didn't talk about an 8 per cent. (Interruptions) Can I ask you to do me a favour, Mr. Speaker? Maybe tomorrow you could ensure that not only the Minister of Community Services receives a copy of Hansard but maybe you could sit him down in a corner, maybe

[Page 3366]

in the back corner of a classroom or something, and give him the Hansard and actually read it so that he can see what somebody says.

Although a figure of 8 per cent was used earlier tonight, as I started to say, that figure is very high. I believe it is about double the reality. The reality is that the homeowners association is saying that still the price of new homes will increase by about 4 per cent - 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent (Interruption) After, because there are now going to be full BST taxes on the cost of land, on the cost of labour and those are major costs.

I have never had a house built, but you know I have talked to builders and I have had quotes and prices given to me before and generally the rule of thumb is that your materials will amount to about 50 per cent of the cost but that your labour will amount to the other 50 per cent. So, Mr. Speaker, the government is dramatically increasing the taxes on those new homes to be constructed and we are talking jobs. We have high unemployment in this province and if we are going to have those kinds of increased taxes, then that is going to be a threat to employment. Labour intensive, those kinds of areas that we are talking about trying to create, plus the underground economy.

As you are going to be putting increased taxes on so many of these services, we already see that the underground economy has mushroomed since the GS Tax when on. You now put the BS Tax on it, then that underground economy has been doubly fertilized and it is going to grow by leaps and bounds.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are going to increase enforcement, John. They are going to increase enforcement, that is going to solve that problem.

MR. HOLM: Oh, yes. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services needs a little bit of help. I know it is late and children will play and you have to amuse them.

He sent over a copy of a letter to me that was tabled on the floor of the House. I want to tell the minister that when I received a copy of the letter early today, I read it, I saw the date on it, I knew it was relevant and I already recycled it. Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the minister that I am recycling his latest edition and I am not quoting that and there is no figure on it. What I am talking about are more recent reports where they are saying that the price will go up by about 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

[Page 3367]

[11:30 p.m.]

Now, this government is totally disregarding the concerns of those, for example, of the retail council. Letters here from businesses in this province that talk about how the increased costs are going to result, in terms of the tax in pricing, and all of the different things that you are going to be talking about. (Interruptions)

I wish that there was a way to have a panoramic view of what goes on in this Chamber. Nova Scotians would really be enlightened to see how serious (Interruptions) and government members over there throw their comments back and forth. It would be very enlightening for the people of this province to see how those businesses that the government says it is concerned about, and the citizens, the seniors in this province who are now going to be facing, if they have an apartment, increased rents.

Mr. Speaker, it is not me saying this and they are not particularly what you would normally consider to be the friends of the New Democrats or that New Democrats are friends of the groups, the major owners, the major landlords in this province. You know, even that group that persuaded this group to do away with rent review, even that group has said that the costs that they incur for electricity, for maintenance and so on, the different things that are going to go up, far outweigh the costs that they pay for paint and wallpaper, the items that will go down, and they don't have to buy hammers all that often.

Mr. Speaker, they are saying that the rents for tenants will go up, courtesy of not just the Premier but courtesy of 39 individual Liberal members sitting on the government benches.

In, for example, Halifax Needham, the seniors who are living in these buildings and will have their rents go up will be able to say, thank you, Mr. Minister, for helping to push my rents up even though I am on a fixed income.

AN HON. MEMBER: Say thank you to the member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. HOLM: Those, Mr. Speaker, who have property taxes go up because now municipalities are going to have to pay BS Tax which they did not before, the provincial sales tax, they can say, thank you very much, government, we really appreciate you pushing up our property taxes. Whether they live in Halifax Needham or whether they live in Cape Breton Nova, whether they live in Kentville, in Kings South, in Dartmouth South or in Sackville, property taxes, rents, higher. Thank you, 39 members of the Liberal Caucus.

Food will not go up, nor will it go down, Mr. Speaker, as a result of what is happening. However, many of those items that you buy in a grocery store will.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Down, down.

[Page 3368]

MR. HOLM: Some will go down and many will go up because there are many items that are not included.

Now, you know, Mr. Speaker, I do not want to wake them up over there. Actually, it might be nice to wake them up because they are just going on the sort of route recall, their instant defence and it would be very helpful for them. Wouldn't it be helpful for them to go out, to think of the political advantage for them.

AN HON. MEMBER: To us, to us.

MR. HOLM: No, disadvantage to us. If they go out and talk to the people, they may find out, and if they actually take out the earplugs and hear what people are having to say, they may actually then decide to start to be responsible. They may decide to scrap the tax, that huge document in which this government is giving up its power over our taxation system. They may be prepared to do that and if they did, that would look well for you. Of course, if you still are content to just sit on your backsides in this House for 16 hours without going out to the people through this process, well then, politically, that will help the Opposition. I throw back the words that the Premier used to all members of the Liberal team, let's approach this in a non-partisan way.

Let's do that. I will extend my hand across, and I will promise that I will go and I will serve on the Public Accounts Committee in a non-partisan way. I will go and I will meet with members of all sides of this House, if we are prepared to go around to listen to what people have to say, and give them a genuine opportunity to come forward. We would all benefit from that. (Interruptions) But, most importantly, so too, I believe, would the people of this province.

AN. HON. MEMBER: We would be doing this government a favour, wouldn't we?

MR. HOLM: Well, we would be doing everybody a favour. I have no hesitation in saying, I am more than willing and through those committees, we have had, generally, I think a fairly good record of being able to work in a cooperative way.

School Boards to Seek Break from Sales Tax. Cash strapped Nova Scotia school boards will owe an extra $2 million in sales taxes next year, if harmonization of provincial and federal taxes go through, as proposed, $2 million more to children's education. Where is that going to come from? Don't we owe it to those bodies, those institutions, who we charge with the responsibility of taking care of our most important and valued asset, our children?

We hear a lot about businesses and we want to attract businesses to Nova Scotia, and we are all in agreement on that. We want to create employment, but the thing that will create employment, the thing that will create meaningful jobs, is having a well-skilled, well-trained, motivated workforce, and that means a well-educated workforce. It does not mean that we

[Page 3369]

treat our children like widgets and gadgets, that when we send them to school that some of the widgets will turn out, but those that have a flaw in them, we chuck them to the side and discard. (Interruption) What it does mean is that you have the proper resources, so we try to help all children with needs so that they can maximize their greatest potential. It does not mean, Mr. Speaker, that we say that we are going to discard many who are in need of essential health care services. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I think on the basis of what I am starting to hear, it is probably time to go home.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you hearing bells?

MR. HOLM: Yes, I am hearing bells, I am hearing jingle bells and I don't think by the sound of it that it was Santa Claus. I am pleased to see that at least some people in here are in the Christmas spirit. Maybe we can even have a few individuals who would like to entertain other members with their good renditions. I want to assure you that I won't sing because that certainly would be quite an attack.

I think, in fact I know, that citizens of this province deserve to have better treatment. I know that citizens deserve to have an opportunity to be heard and I think this government would be doing a disservice to the citizens of this province, to the businesses of this province and, Mr. Speaker, I would even say to itself, if it is trying to railroad this through without hearing and having a full examination. That is why I think it would be a good idea to refer this matter to the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr. Speaker, given the lateness of the hour, given obviously the fact that people are getting very tired in here, on the basis of the antics and so on that I have seen already tonight, some people are up a little late. As I take my place and to give government an opportunity to reflect on the wisdom that has been expressed by so many tonight, I move that the House do now rise. (Interruptions)

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I am going to rise on a point of order. I am going to argue that that motion is out of order. As an interesting note, it seems that the honourable members here are more interested in ringing the bells and have spent more time ringing the bells than they have debating this particular point.

However, Mr. Speaker, the obligation of the Speaker is to maintain order and ensure that the Rules and Forms of Procedure and the rights of members are maintained and protect members from duplicate motions to adjourn and delay the House.

I would like to refer you, Mr. Speaker, to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, Page 112, Paragraph 381. This reads as follows, "The House having adopted an order pursuant to Standing Order 27(1) to extend the hours of sitting, the Speaker

[Page 3370]

refused to entertain a motion to adjourn the House.". The Standing Order 27(1) refers to the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Canada but, if you look at Standing Order 27(1), which is on Page 335, that says "On the tenth sitting day preceding June 30 a motion to extend the hours of sitting to a specific hour during the last ten sitting days may be proposed, without notice . . .".

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is very similar to our new Rule 5C which allows this House to extend the hours. I refer you to Hansard on Friday, December 6th, at which time I, as Deputy House Leader, moved a motion that the House meet from the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight. The House having decided to meet until 12:00 midnight, it will be out of order to adjourn the House prior to that time.

Accordingly, for the reasons mentioned, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that it is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on the point. (Interruption) Certainly the motion has to be put and whether it is adopted or not is going to be up to the members. In terms of the arguments just being made by the Deputy Government House Leader, what he is stating, whether we have any business or not, the way that he read his comments, the House could not be moved to adjourn, that could not be done, even if there is no business before this House.

Mr. Speaker, given that it is 15 minutes before the bewitching hour on which everybody's vehicles will turn into pumpkins over there, I thought that it was a good suggestion that at this time of the night we do adjourn.

[11:45 p.m.]

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The purpose of such a ruling is to protect the rights and privileges of the members. (Interruptions) Where obviously a motion is moved solely for the purposes of delaying and obstructing the House, this is the reason why you cannot move consecutive motions to adjourn and this, I suggest, is the reason why the Speaker of the House of Commons found that, in this situation, that motion to adjourn was out of order, because the House had already decided to meet until 12:00 a.m. midnight. Accordingly, I think it is very clear that the House has made that decision. Now, if we were to run out of business or if we were to complete the business that we are now considering, it would be in order for the honourable Government House Leader to call a new order of business or, in that case, to move that we adjourn. But, when we are still in the middle of a debate and we decided to sit to a specific hour, being 12:00 a.m. midnight, to consider that debate, it is incorrect, at that time, to reconsider the decision the House has made and that is to sit until 12:00 a.m. midnight.

[Page 3371]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Rules of this Legislature supersede Beauchesne and they supersede the House of Commons Rule in Canada and in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In other words, our rules are supreme, providing we have a rule for that particular item and we do, indeed, have a rule with regard to adjournment. It is very straightforward. I think that even the members opposite can understand what it says. It simply says that a motion to adjourn is in order at any time, but, however, no two motions of adjournment can be made without an intervening piece of business. So I think that is as plain as any rule can ever be. So, therefore, I think that the motion made by the member for Sackville-Cobequid is in order.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This rule that the honourable member for Hants West refers to at all times, let's suppose, during Opposition Day, just before Question Period, I would stand and move a motion of adjournment. Given, as a government, we have the larger number in the House and we call that the vote be called, we could actually stop Question Period and stop Opposition Members' Business, if that is the case. Now, that would be, and I would suggest to you, absolutely unreasonable for you to stop the Opposition members from having their day. So, therefore, that discretion is allowed. Likewise, in terms of repeatedly using the bells to keep this House from getting about its business, I think it is similarly unfair and unreasonable and stops the House from doing its business.

So I would say, in both of those cases, Mr. Speaker, your discretion consider the situation, analyze it, and say what is in the best interests of this House. I would suggest that if I make that motion on Wednesday, that you should stop me and I acknowledge that in the House. Likewise, this repeated ringing of the bells as we go, in fact, sometimes race out of the House as the bells are ringing, is unreasonable and stops the government from doing its business.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I may, on the original point of order, I just want to say, first of all, that the motion to adjourn the House is always in order and that I appreciate the Deputy Government House Leader expressing some frustration that the rights and privileges of members are being somehow affected by that motion. But I remind him and I remind all members of this House, that we had a two day debate here in this House where the rights and privileges of many members of this House were, in fact, and have been suspended, but that is not what this is all about. This is simply a question of a motion to adjourn the House, which is always in order and must be put without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chair will have a five minute recess.

[11:50 p.m. The House recessed for five minutes.]

[11:55 p.m. The House reconvened.]

[Page 3372]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In making reference to our Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, Page 1, Rule 1, "The proceedings in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia and in all committees of the House shall be conduced according to the following Rules.". Rule 42, Page 36, Adjournment motion, general, "A motion to adjourn shall always be in order, but no second motion to the same effect shall be made until after some intermediate proceedings have been had.".

The motion made by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is in order.

With the lateness of the hour, it seems that we are so close to the hour of adjournment, the only sensible thing to do now is to have a voice vote on the motion to adjourn this House. After the vote, then I will recognize the Deputy Government House Leader to advise the House of the business for tomorrow.

So, for the question. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried in the negative.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, due to the lateness of the hour, I guess it is appropriate for me to adjourn the debate and take my place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

MR. MOODY: I can't do that. All right, I will have to talk and I will talk or do whatever you prefer me to do.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understood the ruling, I didn't see anything in the ruling that would not allow the member, due to the lateness of the hour, to adjourn this debate and have the honourable Government House Leader tell us the business of the day. I see nothing wrong with that and as a point of order, I would just like to have that clarified. Could not the member at this stage of the game ask permission to adjourn the debate and then turn the business over?

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair may ask the honourable member for Kings West to adjourn the debate for this evening, so we could recognize the Deputy Government House Leader for tomorrow's business. Tomorrow the honourable member for Kings West will have the floor.

MR. MOODY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 3373]

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Spe aker, we will meet tomorrow between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, beginning with Bill No. 48.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made. The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 11:58 p.m.]