|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 1143, Justice: Women's Outreach Program - Congrats.,|
|Mr. D. McInnes||3688|
|Vote - Affirmative||3688|
|Res. 1144, Health - Doctors: Over-Prescribing - Action, Mr. R. Chisholm||3688|
|Res. 1145, Health - Children's Dental Prog.: Cuts Made -|
|Promise Ignored, Mr. G. Moody||3689|
|Res. 1146, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Seniors Effect - Scrap,|
|Mr. R. Russell||3689|
|Res. 1147, Liberal Party (N.S.): Trust Funds - Surrender, Mr. J. Holm||3690|
|Res. 1148, Health: Blueprint Comm. Report - Read, Mr. G. Moody||3690|
|Res. 1149, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Ban -|
|Res. (All-Party) Support, Mr. R. Russell||3691|
|Res. 1150, Gov't. (Can.): CBC-Fund/GST-Scrap - Promises Fulfil,|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||3692|
|Res. 1151, Transport (Can.) - Air Nova (Yarmouth-Boston) Service:|
|Restoration - Demand, Mr. J. Leefe||3692|
|Res. 1152, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Creation Effects -|
|Apologize, Mr. A. MacLeod||3693|
|Res. 1153, Health - QE II Health Sciences Centre: Lab. Serv. -|
|Privatization Stop, Mr. R. Chisholm||3693|
|Res. 1154, Women, Status of - Poverty (Women Aged +75):|
|Increase - Action, Mr. D. McInnes||3694|
|Res. 1155, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Creation -|
|Gross Incompetence Recognize, Mr. A. MacLeod||3694|
|Res. 1156, Educ. - TUNS: Microchip Dev.|
|(Profs. T. Manku, M. Cada & D. Chen) - Congrats., Mr. T. Donahoe||3695|
|Vote - Affirmative||3696|
|Res. 1157, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Hearings (LA) -|
|Prov.-Wide Urge, Mr. J. Holm||3696|
|Res. 1158, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization:|
|Effect (Income [Lower/Middle]) - Scrap, Mr. T. Donahoe||3696|
|Res. 1159, Gov't. (Can. & N.S.) - PST & GST Harmonization:|
|Democracy - Restore, Mr. G. Archibald||3697|
|Res. 1160, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Riots Avoid -|
|Withdraw, Dr. J. Hamm||3698|
|ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:|
|No. 445, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement (Annex A & B) -|
|Distribute, Mr. R. Russell||3698|
|No. 446, Health - QE II Health Sciences Centre: Lab. Services -|
|Privatization, Mr. R. Chisholm||3700|
|No. 447, Health - Home Care Prog.: Cuts - Explain, Dr. J. Hamm||3701|
|No. 448, Health - Reg. Bds.: Hospitals - Designation, Mr. G. Moody||3704|
|No. 449, Justice - PST & GST Harmonization:|
|Legal Access (Lower Income) - Impact, Mr. T. Donahoe||3705|
|No. 450, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas: Everlasting Barrens - Status,|
|Mr. J. Holm||3707|
|No. 451, DFO - Shelburne: Meeting Reason, Mr. J. Leefe||3709|
|No. 452, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Kings Co.: J-Class Roads -|
|Maintenance, Mr. G. Archibald||3711|
|No. 453, Health: Home Care Program - Criteria, Mr. R. Russell||3712|
|No. 454, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Home Care - Exempt,|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||3714|
|No. 455, Commun. Serv. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Cost - Assumption,|
|Mr. B. Taylor||3715|
|TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:|
|Civil Procedure Rules, Hon. J. Abbass||3717|
|Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Memos, Hon. J. Abbass||3717|
|Anl. Rept. of the Public Trustee of Nova Scotia, Hon. J. Abbass||3718|
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:|
|No. 48, Sales Tax Act||3718|
|Amendment [Reasoned - debate resumed]||3718|
|Mr. R. Russell||3718|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||3725|
|Mr. P. MacEwan||3739|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||3741|
|Mr. A. MacLeod||3755|
|Mr. R. Carruthers||3762|
|Mr. G. Moody||3771|
|Mr. B. Taylor||3782|
|Vote - Negative||3798|
|Mr. G. Archibald||3798|
|Mr. A. MacLeod||3811|
|Mr. D. McInnes||3816|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||3821|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||3826|
|MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):|
|Agric. - Progs.: Cuts - Effects:|
|Mr. G. Archibald||3832|
|Hon. G. Brown||3834|
|Mr. R. Chisholm||3837|
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:|
|No. 48, Sales Tax Act [Debate resumed]||3839|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||3839|
|Mr. G. Moody||3848|
|Hon. W. Gillis||3853|
|Vote - Affirmative||3862|
|TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:|
|Final Report Survey of 1995 University Graduates, Prepared for Maritme|
|Provinces Higher Education Commission, Hon. R. Harrison||3863|
|HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 8:19 P.M.||3863|
|HOUSE RECONVENED AT 9:42 P.M.||3863|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Dec. 13th at 9:00 a.m.||3864|
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now begin with the daily proceedings.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Women's Outreach Program is designed to improve support services to victims of domestic violence who find themselves involved in the judicial process; and
Whereas the program, established in 1995 by the Department of Justice, attorneys, police and correction officers, held its official opening on Monday; and
Whereas decisions about services offered by the program will be made upon the recommendations of an advisory committee comprising representatives of Bryony House, Avalon Centre, Dalhousie Legal Aid and other community groups;
Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Women's Justice Outreach Program as a model for women's programs to base their decisions on a fair and consultative approach.
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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Health yesterday tabled the first annual report of the Seniors' Pharmacare Board; and
Whereas the report revealed that despite a decline in Pharmacare beneficiaries, in 1995-96 the number of prescriptions dispensed increased by 4 per cent; and
Whereas the report revealed that prescriptions per insured and expenditures per insured increased by 6.1 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges this government to tackle the problem of over-prescribing by doctors, and high drug prices, instead of dealing with rising Pharmacare costs through premiums and co-payments by seniors.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the 1993 Liberal campaign platform promised no further cuts in Nova Scotia's Children's Dental Program; and
Whereas the Premier admitted to being the author of this section of the Liberal platform; and
Whereas the Liberal Government proceeded to slash the Children's Dental Program;
Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians recognize yet another example of the Premier's own words on health care not being worth the paper they are written on.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas one-half of the seniors in this province live on fixed incomes of less than $20,000; and
Whereas seniors' incomes in this province continue to be assaulted by increased user fees on necessities like prescription drugs and now the BS Tax will further increase their costs for other necessities like gas, home heating oil, over-the-counter drugs, footwear and clothing; and
Whereas the Premier of this province has a letter on his desk from the 240,000 member-strong Canadian Association of Retired Persons outlining its objections to the introduction of the BS Tax;
Therefore be it resolved that the government open its ears and listen to the voices of wisdom, the voices of seniors of this province and drop the BS Tax.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Liberal Government has attacked the Children's Dental Program and cut $3 million from the funding for this program; and
Whereas the Liberal Government has ignored the pleas and petitions of thousands of Nova Scotians who have spoken out against this ill-advised program cut; and
Whereas the balance remaining in the Liberal trust funds estimated in 1993 to be worth at least $3.5 million would completely restore funding to the Children's Dental Program;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Liberals to turn over the balance of their ill-gotten trust funds to the provincial Treasury so these funds can be used to ensure that children in this province have access to the dental care they require.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: 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 maintains his government is implementing the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee; and
Whereas the Blueprint Committee recommended community health boards fund and coordinate primary health care programs and services, particularly in the areas of addiction services, continuing health, mental health, health promotion, and public health; and
Whereas yesterday the minister ranted at the Leader of the Opposition for suggesting it would be preposterous to allow community health boards funding authority, making it the second time in as many weeks the minister is showing he does not even know what the Blueprint Committee recommended;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health read the Blueprint Committee Report and clearly advise what he accepts or does not accept, and acknowledge that what he took such strong actions to yesterday was, in fact, a recommendation of the Blueprint Committee Report, something which he maintains his department is following to the letter.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on Tuesday, this government attempted to ban the words BST or BS Tax from the lips of all members of this House; and
Whereas this government apparently thinks the BS Tax is so obscene that even the Deputy Speaker took the unprecedented step of cautioning this province's many viewers of legislative television; and
Whereas my Party is in complete agreement that the BS Tax is indeed obscene and vulgar and should be barred from not only this Legislature but from this province;
Therefore be it resolved that this government join us in an all-Party resolution to ban this obscene BS Tax from the order paper of this government.
I would ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday handed pink slips to 1,200 of its employees; and
Whereas these latest devastating layoffs are the direct result of the failure of the federal Liberal Government to live up to its Red Book commitment of stable, multi-year funding for the CBC; and
Whereas this broken election promise is as shameless as the Chretien Liberals' broken promise to scrap the GST;
Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the broken promises of the Chretien Liberals and urge them to adequately fund the CBC and scrap the GST like they told Canadians they would.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Air Nova recently suspended direct flights between Yarmouth and Boston; and
Whereas this move is the latest in a series of blows to southwestern Nova Scotia's transportation links; and
Whereas the Mayor of Yarmouth is quoted in the media as saying, that the federal and provincial governments have done little in the past two years to ensure that important transportation links stay in Yarmouth;
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government start standing up for the economic future of southwestern Nova Scotia and immediately demand that Air Nova reinstate service to Yarmouth.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas debate on a new system of property taxation has developed enormous friction in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and
Whereas battlelines are being drawn between rural and urban councillors of the new municipality; and
Whereas this is a direct result of the Liberal Government misleading the public on savings that would result from municipal amalgamation;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his fellow Liberal members from metro Halifax apologize to the residents of metro Halifax for misleading them about the benefits of municipal amalgamation and worsening relations between urban and rural property owners.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas experience elsewhere shows that privatization of hospital laboratory work leads to steeply increased costs and thereby further threatens our health care system; and
Whereas the Department of Economic Renewal appears determined to facilitate the hand over of lab work from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre to the Ontario-based MDS Inc.; and
Whereas this Liberal Government has no mandate from the people of this province to preside over a potentially costly privatization of an important element of our health care system;
Therefore be it resolved that this House call on the Minister of Health to put an immediate stop to the privatization plans being cooked up between the QE II and the Department of Economic Renewal.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a Statistics Canada report released last week shows an astonishing 40 per cent of women over the age of 75 in Canada living below the poverty line; and
Whereas federal authors of this report cautioned social policy makers about tampering with the social safety net as the ranks of Canada's elderly grow, especially those of poor women living alone;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance and the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women make it an immediate priority to review these disturbing statistics and ensure alternative measures are developed and implemented to assist the number of Nova Scotia women impacted by this report.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Halifax was front and centre in a feature article of this past Sunday's Toronto Star under the headline, "Halifax shows us how not to amalgamate"; and
Whereas the article faults the Liberal Government for proceeding with amalgamation without due patience, public consultation or diligent accounting; and
Whereas the Toronto Star through lengthy conversations with municipal councillors of all political stripes in all areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality concludes that the amalgamation of Halifax's former municipalities is "the textbook example of how not to amalgamate municipal governments";
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the Savage Liberal Government for putting their gross incompetence on centre stage in Canada's most read daily newspaper.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas as a result of work by a trio of researchers at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, a new microchip is on the brink of being developed that could revolutionize cellular phone technology, television and other high frequency communications; and
Whereas electrical engineering professors Taj Manku, Michael Cada and David Chen are presently working on a prototype to develop a technology to send voice, video and printed information at super-high frequency; and
Whereas as a result of this research individuals could ultimately develop a television screen, cellular radio or receiver as small as a wristwatch;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature extend their best wishes to electrical engineering professors Taj Manku, Michael Cada and David Chen and wish them every success now and in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Liberal Government of Nova Scotia is attempting to fast track and force an unwanted and unfair tax on the citizens of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas thousands of Nova Scotians have expressed their concerns about the impact of the proposed blended sales tax; and
Whereas it is impossible for members to give Bill No. 48 and the massive federal legislation proper and thorough consideration because the government has chosen to thwart the Rules of the House and impose extended hours;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to stop the fast-track passage of Bill No. 48 and instead mandate the Law Amendments Committee to travel throughout the province to give Nova Scotians in all areas of the province an opportunity to have their concerns heard.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Bar Association says that the increase in the cost of legal service as a result of the BS Tax will seriously impede the ability of low and middle income individuals to get justice in this province; and
Whereas a single mother of two earning $1,700 a month does not qualify for legal aid and could end up paying between $3,000 and $5,000 to pursue something as basic as child support; and
Whereas many Nova Scotians will be prevented from seeking justice in such fundamental areas as being dismissed from a job, divorce arrangements or applying for benefits under the social welfare legislation;
Therefore be it resolved that this government stop the injustice it is perpetrating upon lower and middle income Nova Scotians and scrap the BST.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas both the federal government and the Nova Scotia Liberal Government seemingly enjoy games of closure despite stifling debate and the opposition of Nova Scotians on important issues such as the BST and the casino gambling; and
Whereas the Savage Liberal Government first played its shameless game in the early winter of 1995 cutting off debate in this Legislature on casino gambling; and
Whereas the federal Liberal Government liked it so much they decided to invoke closure this week on the federal BST legislation while the provincial Liberal Government of John Savage decided to legislate it by exhaustion;
Therefore be it resolved that both the federal and provincial governments get their act in gear and put a legislative form of democracy back into our parliamentary system instead of using the bullying tactics presently in force.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia states that the province agrees that as one of the participating provinces any decision as between the participating provinces to propose an increase in the PVAT rate will require a simply majority of such provinces; and
Whereas this means that New Brunswick and Newfoundland can agree to increase the BST rate from 15 per cent without the agreement of the Province of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas this amounts to taxation without representation;
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government remember that a similar action by the British Government in the 1700's sparked what is commonly referred to as The Boston Tea Party and that it immediately withdraw from the BST agreement in order to avoid a similar riot here on the Halifax waterfront.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
It is time for the Oral Question Period and the time is 8:21 a.m. The Oral Question Period will run for one hour until 9:21 a.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
AGREEMENT (ANNEX A & B) - DISTRIBUTE
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Question Period I questioned the Minister of Finance with regard to Annex A of the agreement with the federal government and its relationship to the harmonized sales tax. My question to the minister was that the amount of harmonized sales tax that will be paid in this province after April 1, 1997 we will get back from the federal government not 100 per cent of what the Province of Nova Scotia pays out as harmonized sales tax because a portion of that will be going to other provinces whose Gross Domestic Product is less than ours, that is Newfoundland and New Brunswick. I asked the minister if he could tell me or give assurances to the people of Nova Scotia that this would not happen. The minister wasn't too sure about that particular annex but I note
that the Minister of Business and Consumer Services was one of the signatories to the document. Perhaps she could explain to the House how much of each dollar that Nova Scotians pay in harmonized sales tax will be going to the other provinces?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, whereas the Minister of Finance has been the individual and the minister who has been the lead person on this particular piece of business I will pass it to the Minister of Finance.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I assure all honourable members of the House that the monies, taxes, that are collected in Nova Scotia will be returned to Nova Scotia. It is formula based, it is done through formulas derived by Statistics Canada but it is based on consumption in Nova Scotia. It has nothing to do with Newfoundland or New Brunswick, it is Nova Scotia and that is the way it will operate.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the minister still doesn't understand what he is talking about because it is based on economic activity and the taxes are all paid to the Department of Finance in Ottawa. The Department of Finance then, by a formula which I won't bore you by reading it to you but a very complex formula, cuts the pie up according to economic activity, as the minister said yesterday. If our economic activity is better than the other two provinces then we get less. So, I would ask the minister to confirm that when he goes to Ottawa. I understand he is going to go very shortly to discuss this BS Tax along with the other two ministers. Will he be pressing the federal government to change that formula so that a dollar spent in Nova Scotia on health services tax or harmonized sales tax will be returned 100 per cent to this province?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I think the member knows something that I don't know. If I am going to Ottawa in the near future to discuss the harmonized tax, I am not aware of it so I guess he is wrong on that. He is also wrong on the other. The taxes paid in Nova Scotia will be allocated back to Nova Scotia and it has nothing to do with Newfoundland or New Brunswick.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, can the minister confirm then that 100 per cent of what is paid in Nova Scotia in harmonized sales tax will be returned to this province from the federal government? That is a simple yes or no.
MR. GILLIS: As I said, there is a formula because some of this money will come through payments (Interruptions)
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes or no.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. GILLIS: The Tory candidate for the South Shore should ask a question, if he has it, not be babbling from the back row. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, there will be money collected on behalf of Nova Scotia and other provinces where mail order and television sales are concerned, at international borders. As a result, that particular dollar is not taken down here in a wheelbarrow and given to Nova Scotia. There is an allocation formula and money that should be paid to Nova Scotia will be paid.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
LAB. SERVICES - PRIVATIZATION
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. Earlier this week the Deputy Minister of Health on CBC Information Morning reported that the Department of Health is in the midst of active negotiations with MDS Inc. of Ontario with respect to the privatization of lab services in hospitals in the Province of Nova Scotia, in particular the QE II.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health if, in fact, he has given the blessing of the Government of Nova Scotia and his department for the privatization of lab services at the QE II hospital?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there was some discussion going on involving a number of departments and, indeed, the QE II about the possibility of privatization of that facility. I am not aware what stage those negotiations have reached.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, then I ask the minister to find out what is going on because they are talking with the company, MDS Inc., that was turfed out of Saskatchewan because the cost over the four year period when they were operating laboratory services in Saskatchewan rose by nearly 50 per cent.
I want to ask the minister if he will report back to this House with information on the reputation and the past record of MDS Inc. and tell us once and for all just exactly what is happening with respect to the privatization of nearly $50 million worth of lab work in the Province of Nova Scotia?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I said in my first answer that I was aware that some discussions had taken place between a number of departments and the administration of the QE II. I can say very confidently, I think, without further checking, that no commitment has
been made to any company at this stage and, indeed, I can't foresee that arrangements would be made with one company without an appropriate process.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Health, given the seriousness of the whole question of privatizing health services, given the concerns that have been raised about the past record of MDS Inc., will the minister assure this House that before any further talks, any further commitments with MDS or any other company have been undertaken by this government and by this minister, that he will table in this House, in front of the people of Nova Scotia, evidence to suggest that there is any benefit to the health care system or to the Province of Nova Scotia from privatizing health care services, or is simply a matter of a benefit going to the shareholders of a company like MDS Inc.?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member has any horrible, terrible information about any company that may be attempting to do business in Nova Scotia, he should bring it forward and put it on the table. I will certainly look at it and I will see that everyone involved gets a copy of the information. He has the responsibility to do that. (Interruptions)
He wanders in here one morning on a slow day and makes allegations, I think he has a responsibility, in all fairness, to produce the information. If he does, I will be happy to pass it along. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health. In my right hand, I have a copy of the minister's press release of August 15th. The minister will remember having that press release, and it says $65 million is required this year to maintain and enhance new and existing services at a level that meets the needs of Nova Scotians. The minister will remember saying those words because I did attend the press conference.
Now, in this hand I have a document dated August 14th and this document is called, Home Care Nova Scotia, Summary of Policy Revisions and Changes to Resource Allocation Standards. In this document, which was eventually circulated to all home care coordinators in the province, bearing in mind it is dated a day before the minister's press announcement, this document outlines some 12 cuts to the Home Care Program. My question to the minister is simply, how does the minister rationalize on August 15th talking about maintaining and
enhancing services while a document was prepared the day before cutting essential services out of the Home Care Program?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think that the action that this government has taken in home care has been a responsible one. The amount of money that we have committed to home care in this province this year is $60 million. That represents an incredible increase in the financial commitment of the Nova Scotia Government to home care. I might say, I suspect - and let me go out on a limb here - it is probably the fastest growing program in any area of government anywhere because we had to take a program that only became universal in this province on June 1, 1995.
Now, let's do a little comparison in other provinces. I have the information here somewhere but let me guess at it and if I am a little bit wrong - oh, here it is. Manitoba - they introduced a universal Home Care Program in 1974; British Columbia and Alberta in the mid-1970's; Saskatchewan in 1978. Even our sister Province of New Brunswick, introduced one in 1981. In Nova Scotia, June 1, 1995. We have gone from a point where in about three years we have tripled the amount of money we are committing to the program and about tripled the number of people who are being served. The reason it had to be ramped up in such a fashion was because his colleagues, who still sit around him on that side of the House, did nothing about home care for years. (Applause)
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister. The minister indicated that home care started in the 1990's in this province and of course it started in the 1980's. But that is not the question that I asked the minister. The question is, how does the minister, on August 15th, get up and say he is enhancing a service while a document was prepared the day before which was curtailing and cutting a service?
My specific question, by way of first supplementary is, will the minister undertake to table in this House, sometime between now and midnight tonight, a detailed breakdown of where the $60 million that he has earmarked for home care, will he table a detailed analysis of where the money is being spent? How much is going out for nursing service? How much for salaries and administration? How much on drugs and medical supplies and other costs? Would the minister be prepared to table an understandable budget for the $60 million that he says will be spent this year on Home Care Nova Scotia?
MR. BOUDREAU: Of course, Mr. Speaker, we will table with this House complete records of where that money is spent and we will do that in the normal course. What this honourable member doesn't seem to understand, and he repeats it in the prelude to his question, he says, oh, there was home care in Nova Scotia back in the 1980's. What I said - and I want to repeat it so he will understand it - a universal Home Care Program was introduced in this province on June 1, 1995, not before. (Applause) They have a record in home care that they should be ashamed of. The last four years they were in government (Interruptions) Now, the whining from Queens County rises again in the back row. They
should let him ask a question directly. One of these days his Leader should let him ask a question directly. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member across the floor does not have the floor.
MR. BOUDREAU: The Queens backbencher is still whining, Mr. Speaker.
In the last four years of their administration - and let's not just say the Department of Health, let's include the Department of Community Services and the municipal program that they ran. Let's include all that home care and let's look at what they did in the last four years they were in government. The amount of money spent on home care went down. (Interruptions)
AN HON. MEMBER: Shame, shame!
MR. BOUDREAU: In 1989-90, the figure was $19.3 million. The next year, in 1990-91, it was $19.3 million; they held it the same. The next year, 1991-92, it was $19.2 million; they dropped it. In the final year of their glorious reign here in the province - the reign of fiscal irresponsibility - when they were putting it out the door for just about everybody who came in, when they were running deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars, they reduced home care, again, to $19.2 million. (Interruptions)
AN HON. MEMBER: They don't want to hear that.
MR. BOUDREAU: That is what they don't want to hear; that is why the whining is coming from the back row, the member from Queens County. (Applause)
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Minister of Health. I will be pleased to send a transcript of the minister's answer to those who, when they receive news that their home care was being cut just weeks after this minister said it would be enhanced by the addition of another $11 million into the program, I am sure they will take great comfort in the minister's answer, because that in reality is what happened. This directive that was available the day that this minister was indicating that the program would be enhanced and improved was, in fact, about to be cut and curtailed. That is the simple answer that I was looking for from the minister; a simple recognition that he was up saying that this program would be improved, and a document existed in his department that was curtailing and cutting the Home Care Program. The minister failed to suggest, or even indicate, that the requirements for home care were not nearly as great when we had more hospital beds in this province. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
DR. HAMM: This program is to replace hospital beds that no longer exist. The beds don't exist, but this program doesn't exist. That's the problem.
MR. SPEAKER: Order.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary, the minister's department had indicated that it would have completed its current review of home care by October. Would the minister indicate to the House, has the review been completed and, if not, when can we expect to see the results?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note that the transformation in the Leader of the Opposition is now complete; now he can fit in comfortably with the former caucus of John Buchanan. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, we are improving the program. We have improved the program. We will continue to improve the program. In 1994-95, it went up to $24.5 million, that's spending. In the next year, 1995-96, it went from $24.5 million to $49 million. This year it went from $49 million to $60 million. I will let this honourable Leader of the Opposition in on a little secret, he heard it here first, next year we will spend more money on home care than we did this year and the year after next, we will spend more money on it than we did this year. But we will do it in a focused, managed way, so that we can make the program sustainable, so that the people who need it most will receive it. That's what the honourable member doesn't understand nor does his caucus from the previous days of the Buchanan Government.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health and I am hoping that I can get some information from the minister and not some rhetoric or history. The minister is probably aware and I am sure he is, hopefully he is aware, that as of January 1st, in the designation of hospitals to regional health boards, there are some hospital complexes in the province that will not fall under the regional health boards. I would ask the minister to indicate the names of those hospitals that will not fall under the regional health boards as of January 1, 1997?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, as I announced, actually, I think it was in the same press conference that one of the member's colleagues alluded to just moments ago, there are four hospitals in Nova Scotia that will not be designated as of January 1st. Those are the QE II, the IWK-Grace, the Nova Scotia Hospital and the Cape Breton Health Care Complex.
MR. MOODY: I wonder if the minister could explain how, for these hospitals not falling under the regional health boards, their business plan will be coordinated with the regional health boards and the provincial programs advisory committee? In other words, is it the minister's intent that these hospitals will forever stand alone or if not, how will the business plans and the coordination with the regional health boards take place?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, what we have done - as I explained in some detail at the time and subsequently - is set in place an 18 month plan, for that 18 months these institutions will not be designated. However, that does not mean that they will not be cooperating in a regional approach. So, in fact, mechanisms are already in place to have in the central region the IWK-Grace, the Nova Scotia Hospital and the QE II come together with the Central Regional Health Board to develop a regional approach to health care delivery and spending in this area.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, then it is my understanding that the hospitals that stand alone, after January 1st, may, in fact, be under the regional health boards after an 18 month period. Is that a possibility? Maybe the minister could let me know if that is a possibility or whether they will stand alone forever or what the plan is after 18 months? I understand the transition of the 18 months, I guess I am trying to find out from the minister what his intentions are after the 18 months.
Also, regarding regulations that he has put in place for community health boards, who is being consulted and how will this work with regard to the regional boards and those institutions that he now says for the next 18 months will stand alone?
MR. BOUDREAU: Well, ideally, Mr. Speaker, the degree of regional cooperation that will be exhibited over the next 18 months may make the question of designation irrelevant. That would be the ideal situation. But in point of fact, we will be monitoring that situation closely as we go forward. I quite deliberately have not indicated what will happen after the 18 months, we will see. But I have every confidence and, indeed, there is every indication at this stage that, in fact, that cooperation is developing, that the institutions and the regional health board are committed to a regional approach to health care. I am very confident that that will be demonstrated quite clearly over the next 18 months.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
LEGAL ACCESS (LOWER INCOME) - IMPACT
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. I expect that he - as has been the case with members of our caucus - has received a
communication from the Canadian Bar Association expressing concerns about poor and low-income families and the impact of the BST upon them and their access to the legal system.
The Canadian Bar Association has expressed a concern that the 8 per cent additional cost will result in difficulty for many, low income particularly, in such matters as applying for child maintenance applications against a former spouse or partner, seeking a justified change in maintenance or enforcing payment of maintenance, landlord-tenant evictions and withholding security deposits and the like, in certain divorce matters, custody/access, property/debt, dispute resolution sort of thing, defending themselves against unjust allegations, fair settlement in alleged wrongful dismissal situations and applying for benefits under the myriad of social welfare legislation such as social assistance.
My question to the Minister of Justice. Has he had an opportunity as yet to address the concerns which have, in fact, been raised on behalf of the poor or lower income Nova Scotians in regard to the impact that the BST has upon them and their access to the legal and judicial system?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I am just in the process of responding to that letter at this time.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, well I wouldn't want to get ahead of the CBA and get a response here that I am sure they are awaiting from you. By way of first supplementary, may I ask the Minister of Justice if he will tell us whether or not, in the course of drafting the response to this particular letter, he has had an opportunity to consult on these issues with the Minister of Finance and, if appropriate, officials in the Department of Finance, to determine whether or not there is a way within the BST agreements across Atlantic Canada or with Newfoundland, New Brunswick and the federal government, if indeed there is a mechanism available whereby he could hold out any hope to those in these circumstances that perhaps some relief, some rebates, some relief of some form, might be available to them? Has he made those inquiries?
MR. ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, in the course of drafting my response to the CBA, I want to discuss matters with the body which is most representative of the Nova Scotian Bar and that would be the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society. The CBA is a much-respected association in its own right and many of the members of the Nova Scotian Bar are members of the CBA but the more representative group is the Nova Scotia Bar Society so I will be talking to them and seeking their advice.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I understand then that essentially it will be a response from the minister that he will not be in a position to make any definitive statement of any kind to the Canadian Bar until he has had these discussions with the Nova Scotia Bar Society. May I then ask the Minister of Justice, is he contemporaneously with his communication to the Canadian Bar Association, communicating with the Nova Scotia Bar Society, inviting them
to engage him in discussion to address these very significant issues? Will he give an indication that he is, in fact, making arrangements to have such a meeting?
MR. ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I suspect that my deputy has already telephoned the Bar Society and has asked questions about the position of the Nova Scotia Bar Society in this regard and I will look forward to their advice.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Natural Resources, I will direct my question through you to the Premier. The Premier will know that approximately a year ago, 31 sites were designated as candidates for being protected sites. One of those sites was the Jim Campbell's Barren in Inverness County. A few days ago the government announced that it was going to de-select that site.
My first question is to the Premier. For example, it is my understanding that when the Cheticamp Development Commission requested the removal of the designation from the Jim Campbell's Barren, they also recommended that another barren, the Everlasting Barrens, be substituted as an alternate site for the special designation.
My question to the Premier is, quite simply, you accepted one recommendation; why was the government unwilling to accept the second one and to substitute the Everlasting Barrens as a site to be protected, to ensure that the kind of ecosystem that we are trying to protect will, in fact, be protected and that we will have a representative sample left in its natural state?
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Agriculture is standing in for the Minister of Natural Resources and I will ask him to address this issue.
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I think we should understand that the Jim Campbell's Barren is a proposal. It is before a committee and the tribunal committee that looked at it recommended that we honour those leases that were in there. We felt it was better to make a change down at the first stage before everything is totally finalized. That is why we are moving in this direction.
The question with regard to taking the other section in is still under review and I am sure the minister may have those answers when she returns to the House.
MR. HOLM: I thank the Minister of Agriculture for attempting to provide the information but it is my understanding that the Premier himself was very much directly involved. I don't know if he touched down or just flew over the top of the site but I know that the Premier did visit it. That is why I thought it was a good choice to go to the Premier on the question.
On my first supplementary I am going to go back to the Premier. The leases that the Minister of Agriculture talked about only occupied approximately 20 per cent of the land area involved. Before the designation could have been removed - and to put it in context, it is my understanding that although there has been some exploration and testing done in that area over a number of years, the results have not been overly fantastic since the 1950's.
My question to the Premier is simply this. Why didn't the government place any conditions on the type of exploration that can be done? In other words, to ensure that it would be non-intrusive and prohibiting going in and bulldozing and constructing roads and tearing up the landscape, when there are non-intrusive methods of exploration available, why didn't they impose those kinds of restrictions to ensure that if there are not the kinds of mineral resources that somebody expects may be there, that site could, in fact, be re-designated and actually be worthy of being redesignated because it hasn't been destroyed by unnecessary intrusive destruction of the terrain?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again the Minister of Agriculture has information on this and he is privy to it and it would make sense if he answered the question.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, he is absolutely right that the Premier flew over the area and I am pleased that we have a Premier who understands the needs and the important issues with regard to rural Nova Scotia and our land that is so important.
Mr. Speaker, the public review committee, and this is a review committee that was set up when these 31 sites were all brought together, in 1996 reported that the existing mineral rights should be recognized and they should be maintained. We should honour them as long as they are in good standing. That was Recommendation No. 18 under the public review committee that dealt with that. This is what we have done with regard to this situation.
MR. HOLM: Again I thank the Minister of Agriculture for trying to handle the ball that the Premier has passed over to him, but, again, I did not get an answer to the questions that I asked. I point out yet again that only 20 per cent of it had had a claim.
My final question then, Mr. Speaker, and I am going back to the Premier. The Minister of Agriculture has said that they are acting on Recommendation No. 18. There are many other recommendations in that report. My question to the Premier is quite simply this. When are the other recommendations going to be acted upon? When in fact is the government going to put in place the protection for the other sites? This is but one of 31 sites. When can we
actually anticipate seeing from this government action on the other recommendations to ensure that the extra 30 sites and so on will in fact be protected so that the government will actually deserve to earn the accolades that it was given approximately a year ago when it made its first announcement?
THE PREMIER: The member opposite knows full well that when a minister is away, another minister is designated. In this case, the Minister of Agriculture was designated and I have no hesitation in asking the minister to answer the question.
MR. BROWN: Look, Mr. Speaker, under this whole structure there is a management plan. That management plan is being totally reviewed all through Nova Scotia, the 31 sites. That report has to be completed by the year 2000. I am very pleased that this province has received strong support with regard to what we have done and following the appropriate channels and working with the management plan and although protecting the rights of individuals who were there before, we were there as well. We shall proceed along with that plan in the best interests, not of the government, but the best interests of all Nova Scotians who care about rural Nova Scotia and our agriculture and forestry land.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: My question is to the Minister of Fisheries. A short while ago there was a meeting of fishermen convened in Shelburne by DFO to discuss a number of outstanding issues within the hook and line fishery. I wonder if the minister could advise the House more specifically what the purpose of that meeting was?
HON. JAMES BARKHOUSE: The member opposite raises a good question, but I would like to know what time-frame and what particular meeting he is speaking of. Is it the meeting my staff member, Clarrie MacKinnon, and DFO scientist, Mike Sinclair, chaired?
That was a recent meeting that was convened at the request of the industry in the Shelburne region of Nova Scotia in which there is a requirement to develop a fisheries management plan for the ensuing year of 1997. As a result of the disputes that arose last year, it was considered that an early development of a fisheries management plan could be developed if we could bring the fishing industry people together. I believe there are about 730 different fishing vessels in that particular region and there were eight different groups, I believe, represented at that meeting. There were a number of discussion points that came up. I think this was perhaps the third of a series of meetings which took place. Due to various disagreements, half of the groups - four groups - left the meeting, as far as I understand. From that point in time the co-chairs resigned from that particular meeting and now there are other activities taking place.
MR. LEEFE: I wonder if the minister could explain how it is that a member of the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries staff came to be involved in a meeting which, essentially, revolved around the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and, particularly, respecting decisions, which it appears it was hoped would result in an agreement among the fishermen present of whether ITQs would be extended to certain persons represented at the meeting, where as others would be involved in the competitive fishery? How is it that the province became involved as an equal partner in such a decision?
MR. BARKHOUSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite raised a very good question. It was at the request of the fishermen in the communities, which both Mr. Sinclair from DFO and Mr. MacKinnon of my department were requested by the fishermen to act as co-chairmen. I believe, at the meeting in which the discussions broke down that Co-chairman, Mr. Sinclair, was actually seated in the Chair at that particular meeting.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister, on a number of occasions in this place, as recently as a few weeks ago and I refer him to response to a question that I raised which is answered on Page 2120 of Hansard, has given the impression that he has deep concerns respecting the further extension of ITQs in the inshore fleet. Yet, he dispatches one of his staff to participate in a meeting which, had it been successful, in likelihood, would have resulted in exactly that happening, the extension of ITQs further into the inshore fleet, in particular, with respect to the hook and line fishery.
Has the minister changed his position with respect to his concern, respecting ITQs, or do we have here a situation where the minister is advising us in the House that he has concerns and, yet, his staff in the field are participating in meetings where those concerns seem to be set aside in favour of a solution which would result in the further extension of ITQs?
MR. BARKHOUSE: In the purpose of co-chairs, this was at the request of the industry and the neutrality of the chairmen was to convene a meeting and adjudicate, and develop a consensus of the fishing industry. Unfortunately, because of that breakdown in communications between the various organizations that were represented at the meeting, a further conclusion has been developed by DFO and a representation by letter to the various fishing organizations in that region, DFO has made a proposal that there be two management boards in that region. That is not our view, that is the view of DFO and it is a proposal that has put forth to the fishing industry in that region, whether that will fly, that has been a proposal put forth by the regional director of DFO.
The fact that our representative sat there as a co-chair was because the industry asked him to be there and I support my staff member for being at the table to help adjudicate a very difficult situation for over 730 fishing captains in the Shelburne region. It is very complex and this has, historically, been a very difficult situation.
I certainly have, in the past, cautioned the development of ITQs because it is the privatization of the common resource and the conflicts which have developed in the past have been very difficult for communities to accept in this province and we continually lose the privilege of the competitive fishing for our small communities. Through ITQ developments, which have taken place in other sectors, we have lost many fishing industry people. I think that is a travesty. It can remove many jobs from our communities and I will defend the right of the people in those communities to select the people they want to act as chairman and who will do a good job on behalf of the fishing industry is Nova Scotia. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
J-CLASS ROADS - MAINTENANCE
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation. It is with regard to the J-Class roads that exist in Kings County. Currently, J-Class roads in Kings County are the roads that have been named by the municipality in the Province of Nova Scotia that have been taken over by the municipality as a responsibility and then the responsibility is turned back to the Department of Transportation and Public Works and they are paying approximately $3,500 per kilometre.
In Kings County this year the county has taken the responsibility for 2.6 additional kilometres of road in Kings County. Those are in three different sections and subdivisions. To this point, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation and Public Works has refused to take over the maintenance and plowing of these roads. I wonder if the Minister of Transportation would make an undertaking that, indeed, he will reverse that decision and they will, in fact, take over those roads at the cost of $3,500 a kilometre?
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to go back and take a look at the Class J roads classification in Kings County, as the member opposite has brought forward, and report back later.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that a great deal. I know you will look into it and do what you can, together with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. This 2.6 kilometres of road is in three little sections; the current road stops and then a few more houses were built, so they are little extensions of other roads.
This 2.6 kilometres, which is less than two miles, has a price under tender of $55,000. So, rather than $7,000 that the province would charge to put these roads out to tender, it is going to be a real hardship for the county because this will be $55,000 to maintain these three little pieces of road.
I do hope that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the Minister of Municipal Affairs will, indeed, sit down with Kings County and work out the arrangements. So if the minister makes that commitment, I will take him at his word, and he will have a meeting with Kings County as soon as possible so that this $55,000 hardship is not continued into the new year?
MR. DOWNE: The only concern that maybe the member opposite is not aware of is in the classification. Some subdivision roads and J-Class roads and some roads that we have considered part of our responsibility are part of the responsibility of the municipality absolutely.
As I indicated before, Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I would be happy to look into the matter but clearly, as long as the member opposite is not confusing some aspects of some subdivision roads versus Class J roads, I will look into the matter and report back to him in regard to the concerns he brought forward.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. It is a very simple question, in my mind, but in his it is probably quite complex.
The question is, simply, are there criteria established for persons to receive home care? By that I mean not something subjective by the assessment person who goes out but is there a schedule of criteria for a person to receive home care?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to indicate to the member that criteria are used. Home care, as he knows, is divided into different categories. In fact, there is the home hospital care, which is intended to deal with people who are released from hospital and, for a relatively short period of time, need attention as they proceed in the recovery process. Then there is chronic home care which, again, is directly related to a medical condition but is not something that is hospital-release, short-term recovery; it is obviously something that is going to be required for a longer period of time. Then, fundamentally, there is in-home support, which is the old program that was funded through the Department of Community Services and that element was delivered in cooperation with the municipalities and has to do with such things as snow removal, cleaning service, that sort of thing in the home.
Some of these programs and elements are combined, obviously, in different combinations for individuals, but, yes, there are criteria for making judgments on that. I would be happy to have the department share that with the member.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to see that criteria. In Question Period about two weeks ago I asked a question of the minister but unfortunately it was in the dying moments of Question Period and I only got as far as my first question. That question dealt with a man, 93 years of age, partially blind. His wife, 89 years of age was living with him but she deteriorated in condition and she is now in a nursing home. At the time the wife was with the husband they were receiving home care five days per week, there were supports for them plus the fact that they both had some health problems. When the wife was moved out, the husband remained behind and he has been cut back, I believe, to 2.5 hours of home care per week. I asked the minister if he thought that was adequate and he said no. The problem is that I am told there is no criteria in place to establish home care and in-home support for a case such as that?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there are criteria which are used. If the honourable member brings that case to my attention I would ask him as I think I probably did then, to provide me with the information on that particular individual and I can respond very specifically and very directly to the honourable member in that particular case. I would be very happy to do that.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have to say thank you very much Mr. Minister, that is very kind of you and very decent of you but the problem is this shouldn't be necessary because every person in Nova Scotia that needs home support shouldn't have to go to their MLA to stand up in the House and badger the Minister of Health to get that kind of support. That is the whole problem. The Minister of Health may talk from now until eternity about what a wonderful home care system he has got but the truth of the matter is it is not working, people are not getting home care when they need it so that is the problem. So what I would advise and ask the minister to do is to take a look at home care and not cut back on hospital care until such time as he has firmly got the home care system up and running and providing the adequate support that the people of Nova Scotia not only deserve but have to have?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I take it from the honourable member that he will be providing that name because I would have thought in such an urgent situation, having had the information for two weeks he probably would have provided the name to me before now. Indeed, if he will, perhaps he will provide the name today so that we can address that particular question.
Now, to the general point, I am not going to repeat the statistics on home care again, those people in that government know the kind of job they did and they simply should be ashamed of it. As we build it up and we are building it up quite dramatically, the largest increasing program in government, then we are going to have to continue to strive to build
this program to a mature level. Is $60 million enough to meet all of the needs? No, we never claimed that it was and in fact next year it will be more. We are attempting to bring this program to maturity as quickly as possible. It should have been done 15 years ago.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is about home care too but it is for the Minister of Finance. On Tuesday, the Leader of the New Democratic Party asked the Minister of Finance whether the BST applied to home care. The reply that he gave and I will just read it was, ". . . medically necessary home care services will not attract the harmonized tax. I think all honourable members would realize if a person chooses . . . some kind of home care, if they choose to have someone clean their apartment, for example, because they don't choose to do it, I don't think that is something that should be exempted.".
Mr. Speaker, because of that response, my question to the minister is, if the GST is now being charged on a home care service, will the BST also be charged on that service?
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it may require, at some point, a written question and a detailed written answer because it is a fairly complex matter. However, I will try my best to be helpful. The adoption of the HST has no impact in terms of tax on programs delivered under Home Care Nova Scotia. There is no tax impact or implications for Home Care Nova Scotia and that's a fact. Whether it be nursing, personal care or home support that is carried out by Home Care Nova Scotia, there is no impact at all.
MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I am aware that there is no tax on Home Care Nova Scotia. The difficulty is that with the cutbacks to home care and the lack of a full service people are more and more having to go to private home care. So, in fact, a person with Alzheimer's disease - this is a real case that we heard about - has medically necessary home care support around the clock. This man can't survive without it. Without it, he would be either institutionalized or dead by now. This person is paying $2,300 a year in GST. My question on that is, because this is private home care service with the GST charged on it will that man be subject to the 114 per cent increase in taxes, raising his taxes to nearly $5,000 a year?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member would realize that it is impossible to start interpreting individual cases on the floor. If the honourable member has concern about an individual case, I think she should give the person's name and all the details to either the Minister of Health and/or myself and we can help.
I just want to make crystal clear that the GST now and the HST in the future is not charged for services such as cleaning, meal preparation and child care provided to individuals who due to age, infirmity or disability require assistance in their home if such services are provided by any of - and I will list several - a charity, a government, municipal or non-profit organization that receives an amount from a government or municipality in respect to their services. This, for example, covers the VON, Northwood Home Care as well as Home Care Nova Scotia clients.
MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister although I did know that and I do want to say that this case that I am talking about is not some kind of an exemption. So the really simple question here is, if a home care service now charges and has to charge GST on top of its services, will that same service provider have to add the additional tax that the blended sales tax will add to the bill of this person who is spending $2,500 a year already on taxes, and other people in the same situation?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I think the general rule is that the HST base is the GST base. Again, I think to try to interpret individual cases and a certain person with certain diseases in here is just not a reasonable approach. The member raised a specific case and if that member wants to get answers on that, bring it up with the Minister of Health or myself and we will give them a detailed interpretation, we will check with Revenue Canada if necessary.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: My question is for the Premier. Last evening I had an opportunity to speak with a rural councillor from the Halifax Regional Municipality and I also had an opportunity to have a discussion with an urban councillor from the Halifax Regional Municipality. The councillors both indicated that the Premier, during his shotgun wedding, the build-up or the lead-up to the shotgun wedding, stated and somewhat implied - although it may not have been explicit, the Premier implied - that the province intended to take over the full cost of welfare in return for municipal units assuming control over roads and policing. Would the Premier tell me and tell members of the Halifax Regional Municipality when the province, when his government intends on taking over the full cost, through you, Mr. Speaker, of social services?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what this government has done, through the minister, has moved towards a one-tiered system of community services/social services which was one of those goals that we established long ago. We believe very clearly that for there to be a fair distribution across the province, the province should be running it.
I would love, and have stated repeatedly, that the province would love to take over the cost of all the community services. It is just not possible and what we are doing now is utilizing the money that the municipality provides in providing across the province a service that we hope will be much fairer than the patchwork that exists now.
As to the time-frame, I can tell you that I would hope that gradually over 10 years it may be possible to do that but it is not, we stated that clearly before, it is not an immediate objective simply because we will not continue to borrow money for those services which can be done in a more manageable and sustainable way. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period has expired.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the last couple of weeks during Question Period, we have had a number of ministers absent during Question Period. Traditionally in the House we understand that ministers have government business to do and we understand that sometimes their duty requires them to be out of the House but traditionally in this House, the Opposition has been informed of the minister being absent and that works fine, we can gear our questions around those situations.
Last week we had our secretary call ministers' offices to see, in some cases, whether ministers were going to be in the House. Our secretary was told by the ministers' secretaries that they could not give not give out that information, whether or not the minister would be in the House.
I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if there could be some arrangement. We are not saying that ministers don't have to do work when the House is in session but out of courtesy, it would be very helpful, as in the past, to the Opposition Parties if they knew a particular minister was away on a particular day, then we could formulate our questions to those ministers that we knew were here. But it is very difficult to operate as we have operated in the last two weeks.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the member for Kings West is quite right. It should be extended to them so that the questions can be directed more to those who are here. I think he understands the inevitability of ministers being away but there is no reason at all why the Opposition should not be informed.
MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is a point of order. The member for Hants West asked for information on home care standards and service delivery. One of my staff, I guess, was very efficient at this and I am able now, at the end of Question Period, to table Home Care Nova Scotia Standards for Quality Service Delivered to Home Care Nova Scotia Clients, the most recent edition, September 1996. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister tabling that and I have just tabled with him a document with the 92 year old gentleman's name and address. So I guess it is something we have done across the floor on our own. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we move to Government Business, I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late debate. The honourable member for Kings West, at 6:00 p.m. this evening, will debate:
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing begin to understand why Nova Scotia's agricultural community is sick and tired of the financial assault continually being imposed by this government upon agricultural programs.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, could we please revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Judges of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on September 10, 1996, and I have other documents that I wish to table subsequent to this.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, again in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Memos that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on October 5, 1996.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the Annual Report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1996, by the Public Trustee of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The annual report is tabled.
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 has 39 minutes left.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to at least take some of that time to further the debate on Bill No. 48, a most unfortunate piece of business.
Last week I was commenting on the fallacy, the incorrectness if you will, of the statement put forward by the Minister of Finance when this harmonization agreement was first announced. There were various, as I said just the other day, several salary brackets and it listed for each of those brackets of salary what the impact of the tax would be. The interesting thing, of course, was that the Department of Finance, with no surprise at all, came up and showed that everybody was going to be ahead - that is ahead of their expenses - before the tax was implemented.
As a way of an example, Mr. Speaker, I spoke about somebody that we are all familiar with, and because we all come from different parts of the province, I cannot talk about farmers or I cannot talk about miners or I cannot talk about bus drivers, et cetera, but everybody knows who a civil servant is. We know, with some certainty, as to the approximate average salary that a civil servant receives, and that puts them into - on Table 6 of the Nova Scotia Tax Reform document - the $20,000 to $30,000 bracket. We are told that such a person would save $104 per annum; in other words, $2.00 per week, but this is based on so
many variables and so many assumptions and so many ifs, that I am afraid that the figure of $104 per annum will just not hold water.
This table takes into account that prices will increase for this person earning between $20,000 and $30,000, by $158 but they also, in the same breath, say however on other things that this consumer buys, prices will decrease by $162 per annum and, on top of that, they will receive an income tax decline of $100, to arrive at a net figure of $104 ahead of the game at the end of the year. But Mr. Speaker, the price decline is the one that we must concentrate on because this is assuming that the manufacturers and retailers across this province are all going to accommodate the Minister of Finance by dropping their prices equivalent to the income tax rebate that they will get by claiming their input taxes.
The fallacy of this argument is simply the fact that businesses at the present time are only marginally profitable, particularly on the retail side. At the present time, as any of you know, you can look around your shopping malls just before Christmas and you can look at all the stores. You go back after Christmas in January or February and you find that many of those stores have gone out of business and they are just collapsed completely because the retail industry at the present time is operating on very low margins. If they have the opportunity to increase those margins, Madam Speaker, then they are going to take that opportunity. So I do not believe for one moment that this figure of $104 in that particular bracket is relevant.
You also notice in this table they speak about people in the bracket up to $10,000. Those persons are supposed to be better off to the tune of $13 per year. In other words, about $1.00 a month or roughly 21 cents a week. It is even hard to imagine how those people will be ahead of the game because they are supposed to save $54 by buying things on which the price will be declining. I would suggest to you that people who are earning less than $10,000 per year are not having too much money to go out and buy yachts and automobiles and refrigerators and such. These people are buying the necessities of life - accommodation, heat, clothing and food. They haven't got any money left to buy anything else. None of those things are going to come down in cost. The only one that in fact stays unchanged is food. The rest are going to increase.
So how in Heaven's name are they supposed to save $54 on things that will be declining in price? What are they going to buy? They do not have the money to buy anything. That, Madam Speaker, is why this tax grab is so bad for the people of this province and, I would suggest, for the province as a whole.
You must ask yourself why are we doing this. Why is the province giving away to Ottawa control over our tax regime? It baffles me completely because I cannot find one thing favourable in this agreement that would recommend to any Finance Minister of this province
(Interruptions) Doesn't to me. I cannot find one thing favourable that would indicate to me that the Minister of Finance should have signed this agreement. I can find things that indicate why he should not have signed this agreement.
First of all, up until this period of time, this province has controlled its own taxation at the retail level and at the business level and at the provincial level. Income tax and sales tax. (Interruptions) Yes, now we no longer have control over that very important part of our tax regime, the $785 million per annum that we collect through health services tax at the present time. We have said to the feds you can collect it and in effect we have said to them you send back to us what you think we deserve. That is, Nova Scotia.
Who makes the decision? Ottawa makes the decision.
AN HON. MEMBER: Do we get to audit their books?
MR. RUSSELL: Yes, we do indeed. I had asked the Minister of Finance the other day for a copy of Annex A because I had been unable to get it from the Department of Finance. When I phoned the Department of Finance they more or less told me it is too complicated for you to understand so I do not think we should supply you with a copy. Anyway, the minister came through and he delivered a copy of Annex A and Annex B to me.
It certainly is complex, Madam Speaker. So complex that I could put this whole place to sleep in about one second just by reading one page of this document. Where you have to determine what the provincial share is, it is called, in this document, prov-share equals prov-base times prov-rate divided by fed-base plus fed-rate plus epsilon times (prov-base times prov-rate). That is the easiest equation in this particular agreement.
Madam Speaker, let me tell the Minister of Finance, I have a dandy idea for him. What he says to the federal government is, when we ship you up our tax dollars from this province and we send you $1.00, you make a mark over here that $1.00 is owed to Nova Scotia and you promptly send back a cheque, and that is very simple. All you need is an adding machine. You don't need something like this. So why have we got this? I will tell you why we have this and it is so complicated.
AN HON. MEMBER: What is epsilon?
MR. RUSSELL: Epsilon is a Greek letter and it doesn't mean very much. We also use delta in this equation further on and we use epsilon and we use sigma. We use the whole works. We have all the Greek alphabet in here. If you think I am kidding, any member who wants a copy of this is entitled to get a copy. Okay, why do we have such a complicated formula? That is a good question. As I said before, a good question is also why are we engaged in this sham right now, because we should not be, because it is bad for Nova Scotia.
It is bad for consumers and, I am going to suggest, it is bad for this government, too, because this is going to get you nowhere.
Madam Speaker, why is it so complicated? Well, I will tell you why it is complicated. You have heard of equalization payments. Equalization payments are what has kept this government afloat for the last three years. They have enabled the previous Minister of Finance to balance the books for the last three years because, every now and again, he gets shipped, down to Nova Scotia by the federal government, what are commonly known as equalization payments. You get equalization payments when the economy in your province is not working, when it is not growing and when it is not delivering. The provincial government looks at all the other provinces and says; yes. Nova Scotia did poorly compared to Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, et cetera. So what we will do is we will take some of the taxes we get from those provinces and we will ship it down to Nova Scotia as an equalization payment, to help those . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: That has kept us from going bankrupt . . .
MR. RUSSELL: That is exactly right. In fact, we would be nowhere even near a balanced budget if it had not been for the windfall that we have been getting in equalization payments over the past three years, approximately $3.5 billion. Can you imagine? Since these guys came to power, in equalization payments. Wow, are we ever doing well. In my dictionary, equalization payments are welfare. Instead of paying it to people who are living in poverty, it is paid by the federal government to those provinces that are existing in poverty, that are not doing well. That is it.
The federal government says that equalization works so well at the federal level, maybe it would work fine at the provincial level. So we have three provinces who are combining their tax systems and giving it to Ottawa, Department of National Revenue. Why don't we, instead of just saying, well, here is $1.00 from Nova Scotia, we will put it over there and we will send them a cheque, and here is 50 cents from New Brunswick and we will send New Brunswick a cheque for 50 cents, why don't we come up with a formula that will take all of these dollars and we will see which of the provinces is doing better than the other? You get where I am coming from, don't you?
The federal government is forming a brand new equalization payment scheme for the provinces in Atlantic Canada. So when we ship up a dollar to Ottawa, Ottawa says, Nova Scotia is doing a little better than Newfoundland so why don't we nick off a nickel and we will send it to Newfoundland, and New Brunswick is not doing so well either so we will take another couple of cents and ship them across to New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, for the dollar you sent up, thank you very much, we will send you back 93 cents. Is that fair? It may be fair but it sure isn't fair to the Nova Scotia taxpayer.
I don't know why, I can't believe - it is beyond belief - that a government would give away the taxing powers of Nova Scotia to the federal government. Why? Well, there are only two possible conclusions you can reach. One is they are having a rough time financially all of a sudden, so why doesn't the federal government think about sending down to Nova Scotia a bonus cheque if they will sign onto this deal? That is exactly what they did. They gave us a bonus cheque. It is a signing cheque, you know, one of those things that if you are a baseball player or a hockey player you get a bonus when you sign on with a club. Well, these characters signed on with a club and the club is called Revenue Canada and they got a signing bonus of $249 million.
The federal government said, that is $249 million to keep you going for the next four years because you are going to lose money on this deal. That is the reason they gave and the Minister of Finance, I am sure, will agree with that. They have given to this province $249 million to accommodate for the losses that this province is going to incur.
This government looked at that and they thought, my golly, that is about $60-odd million a year that we can get and because the money is coming in upfront, we can also draw down the interest. In fact, they have the cheque in the bank right now drawing interest. They are collecting money under this scheme before the scheme is even in place. Boy, what a bill of goods.
Just think what happens at the end of four years, how much better off, supposedly, we will be when that $249 million is all gone. We are still shipping off our dollars to Ottawa and getting back 93 cents in return, we still cannot raise or lower our sales tax unless we can get the agreement of the other participating provinces and the federal government. But if the federal government wants to increase the GST part of the combined BS Tax, they don't have to ask anybody; they just tell us, we are going to raise our tax tomorrow folks, no problem. But if you, Nova Scotia, want to raise your taxes or decrease your taxes, you have to go to Newfoundland, you have to go to New Brunswick and get them on side and then come and tell us and we maybe will come and tell us and maybe we will come on side, but you have to get the approval of the federal government and two other participating provinces. Well, Madam Speaker, I just don't think it is fair, I don't think it is right.
The other thing that distresses me about the blended sales tax is the fact that the people of Nova Scotia, as a whole, are much smarter than this Legislative Chamber, as a whole, and certainly much smarter than the government, as a whole. The people of Nova Scotia have taken a look at this deal and they have said, we don't want any part of it. So what right, what mandate has this government got to give away our taxing ability and to impose on the people of Nova Scotia about $100 million worth of extra taxation? What right have they got to do that?
They have the right, Madam Speaker, if they would go to the polls and say, vote for us and we will give you a blended sales tax, and if the people said, yippee and went out and voted for them, well, that is fine, I have no quarrel with that. But to sit here and say, we are going to put in the blended sales tax and we are going to stay here until 1998, or as late as we possibly can, to give the people an opportunity to register their approval or disapproval of what they are doing is undemocratic. I am surprised that the ex-Minister of Finance would do that to the people of Nova Scotia, I am really surprised.
So, Madam Speaker, as I said before, this is a bad deal. The funny thing is that in the Province of New Brunswick, our next-door neighbour - well, first of all, let's go to P.E.I. where they went out first of all and spoke to the people and said, do you want this BS Tax? The people said, no, we don't want it. They had a committee that went around and spoke to people around the province. They said they didn't want it and the government said, fine, we won't sign on.
You go across to New Brunswick today, Madam Speaker, and you will find that the Minister of Finance in New Brunswick has yet to introduce his bill. In fact, he is going around the province, as I understand it, getting opinions of people as to whether or not they want the minister to actually introduce a bill. That is why I am surprised, because I understand that he is going to go to Ottawa and try to get changes made to this bill. That is why I am surprised that our Minister of Finance this morning in Question Period said he had no idea that he was going to go to Ottawa, so I guess he is not going to go.
If I was the Minister of Finance or if anybody else from this side was the Minister of Finance, I can assure you that we would be up there in Ottawa, saying we don't want this deal and we certainly don't want the deal the way it is written. We do not want a blended sales tax; that is what the people of this province are saying, that is what the consumers of this province are saying and now even those groups that heretofore have been so much in favour of this blended sales tax are starting to get a little twitchy. In fact, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has just sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the federal Minister of Finance and Nova Scotia's Minister of Finance - this letter, by the way, is dated yesterday - and they no longer support harmonization the way it is. They recognize, as does every other thinking person in this province, that this is a bad tax and the only way it can be operated is at a cost to the consumer.
Madam Speaker, I would hope in all sincerity - how much time have I left, Madam Speaker?
MADAM SPEAKER: You have until 10:05 a.m.
MR. RUSSELL: Oh, that is good because I can talk about barbers. I got a letter today from a hairdresser. (Interruption) No, the Minister of Finance is right beside you, he has it and I would hope - that was the Minister of Community Services who wanted a copy of the
formula. He used to be a Minister of Education so I am sure that he can help the Minister of Business and Consumer Services and the Minister of Finance with the math in the formulae.
AN HON. MEMBER: He wasn't talking about the solution.
MR. RUSSELL: I have the solution, get rid of the tax. (Interruptions)
Madam Speaker, I received a copy of a letter today and I just can't find it but it doesn't matter, I will tell you what it is all about. It is from the Hairdressers and Barbers Association of Nova Scotia. I have been waiting for this letter for some time because I thought that finally somebody in that particular profession is going to write a letter and, sure enough, they did. When the federal Minister of Finance, the Honourable Paul Martin, was down here and he was talking across in Dartmouth to the chamber of commerce, about the advantages to the harmonized sales tax. One of the examples he used was that of a person who cuts hair and it went like this. He said that people are complaining. He said they are complaining, for instance, that the price of haircuts are going to go up. He said that is just one thing that is going to go up, but he said people should not be bothered about that because, now, whenever the barber buys a pair of scissors - I don't know any barbers who use scissors these days, anyway - and he pays the tax on that pair of scissors, he will be entitled to an input tax credit and, thus, the price of your haircut will come down.
I will tell you, I have spoken to a number of barbers since that time and they have all cracked up on that. One barber - a gentleman who passed away quite recently in my riding - said, is that right and he brought out his pair of scissors that he used and he asked, do you know how long I have had those scissors, Ron? I said, no, how long? He said, 25 years. So I don't think that the barbers are going to be saving very much on their purchase of scissors that they are going to be able to pass on to those who are getting their hair cut because hair cuts are one of the things that are going to go up in price. How much? They are going to go up by 8 per cent. How much is 8 per cent? If you pay $10 to get your hair cut these days, you are looking at another 80 cents every time you get your hair cut. If you have four kids, that is $3.20. Your wife goes out and gets her hair done - and I guess that is a little more expensive - so maybe that is $20, so there you go, and everybody has to get their hair cut.
Well, Madam Speaker, we have got the chamber of commerce and we have got the barbers. I think that is about all the mail I have got. Oh, no. I have got a letter here from somebody in Gerry Fogarty's riding. I just happened to go by one here from a store that sells newspapers, magazines and what have you. I have not seen anything in the newspapers, as yet, about the fact that newspapers are going to go up in price. Everybody reads the newspaper. Certainly, in this place, everybody reads a newspaper anyway; in fact, they probably read two or three. The price of your subscription to your favourite newspaper, as of April 1, 1997, is going to go up and if you buy Maclean's or Time or Newsweek, et cetera, those subscription fees are going to go up.
There was a great hurrah by the government about how they were able to get the tax off books. They are going to do that by a rather cumbersome process whereby when you get to the cash register and the bookstore owner rings up the cost of the sale, it will show the tax but, however, that tax will be deducted from the price charged to the person who is buying the books and they will then claim that amount from the Department of Finance. I think that is the way it works. Whatever it is, typically, it is a cumbersome method. Why not just simply exempt books, magazines and newspapers, et cetera? Why not simply exempt them?
Surely to goodness we are going to try and encourage people to read. Surely to goodness we are going to do everything we possibly can to encourage literacy and we are not doing that, Mr. Speaker, by what we are doing with books, newspapers and magazines.
I have a letter which I will table. I do not know who it is from. There is an address but Page 2 is missing. However, I do know that it is addressed to Mr. Gerry Fogarty so he probably has a copy of the letter and probably responded to it. This gentleman or lady, I do not know which it is that wrote, was writing about the blended sales tax. She says we object to it being called the harmonized sales tax. A different name makes it no less odious, is her description.
Anyway, she is talking about the tax burden applied to home heating fuel, electricity, small clothing purchases, gasoline, et cetera. She says that these costs are going to reduce the health of the economy in Nova Scotia and that in her particular case she is going to be in a loss position because of the imposition of this tax.
I am sure that this letter is just one of many that the members of this House have received about the blended sales tax, so I am sure they are all aware of the unpopularity of this tax. I would ask every member in this House to join with me and vote for this amendment which by passage will indeed destroy the blended sales tax.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, I rise in support of the amendment to Bill No. 48. I want to read the amendment because I want to make sure I understand the rules about this debate. As you know, I am not always clear on the Rules of this House, but I do want to assure you, Madam Speaker, that I did spend some time in the last few days studying my book. If I break any rules today, I want to assure you that it is out of pure ignorance and inexperience. I do want to clarify the purpose of this debate and discussion so that I can go forward with some sense of comfort that I am within the Rules of the House.
The amendment says, "That the motion be amended by deleting all the words following the word 'that' and substituting therefor the following: 'that in the opinion of this House, consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay'.".
My understanding then is, and if it is not correct, I would be very happy to have it clarified, that we are discussing a principle. We are discussing the principle of consumption taxes and we are discussing debating whether or not they are in fact regressive. It seems to me that it would be of some value in a debate like this to make sure that we understand what consumption taxes are, to look at the range of consumption taxes and their effect and to look at what knowledgeable people say about consumption taxes. Madam Speaker, that is what I intend to do in the hope that this is indeed an appropriate thing to do with this amendment.
I never formally studied economics. When some of my friends were studying economics when we were undergraduates, I was dissecting frogs and cats and looking at slides of chicken embryos.
AN HON. MEMBER: Ugh. That's not very nice.
MS. O'CONNELL: It does not sound very nice but that is what we did in a science program. I do not have any formal economics study and a lot of Nova Scotians have no formal courses in economics.
MR. JOHN HOLM: They have horse sense.
MS. O'CONNELL: That is right. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid says they have horse sense and indeed that is true. I am going to actually talk about horse sense a little bit later.
One of the things I did was hit the books a little bit yesterday to try to get clear in my mind what a consumption tax is and what its opposite is, which is just as important. I learned that you can categorize taxes into about, I will say, three categories, but there is some room to move there. The first kind of tax I want to talk about is called a proportional or flat tax. Flat taxes are based not on a person's ability to pay, so they are a regressive type of tax. Under the category of proportional or flat taxes we find sales taxes; any sales tax is a proportional or flat tax. We find flat income taxes, the kind that are levied in some rather than percentage of income.
Then we find excise taxes, and I want to say a little word about excise taxes because excise taxes are not direct taxes the way sales taxes are but the ultimate effect of them is the same. I looked up in the Canadian Dictionary of Business and Economics (Interruptions) Now the minister across the floor says this is not hard. Perhaps it isn't but it always pays - and I know that he is the former Minister of Education - to get a person's facts straight and to understand what it is we are talking about. An excise tax is an indirect tax levied on a specified list of products and services. It is levied either on the manufacturer of goods or on the importer of goods and it is also called a value-added tax. There is a long list of things in
this country that we pay excise tax on, including everything from jewellery, imported wine, tobacco products, aviation gasoline and so on.
The interesting thing about this little definition in the Canadian Dictionary of Business and Economics, it says, "Although the tax is levied on manufacturers and importers, the tax itself is shifted on to the consumer, who pays it in the retail price of the product.". What that means, of course, is that all of those taxes that we don't see when we purchase our ticket are still there, they are indirect and they are passed on to the consumer. So, ultimately, the consumer pays the price of that kind of tax. So they are indirect as opposed to a direct tax but they are there; they are in the price of the goods and consumers have to pay for them.
There is another kind of tax that is not a consumption tax but it still is a type of tax that is regressive and I am just going to say a word about it and pass on, because it is another tax that hurts people because it doesn't fairly assess their income or their ability to somehow afford this tax and that is property tax. Our Party has always felt that property taxes were also regressive. Based on a mill rate per $1,000 of the value of your property, a property tax is indeed another kind of regressive tax. Now we are not focussing on it today but I did want to mention it. (Interruptions) That is right, it will be affected by the BST, the member for Sackville-Cobequid is quite right.
The other kind of tax, the kind of tax that we like is a progressive income tax. Progressive income taxes are based not on a flat rate but on a proportion of the income that people make. That means that each of us is assessed somewhat fairly, depending on the system and the emphasis on one principle or another in the tax system. So a progressive income tax at least has the capacity, in an ideal world, to levy taxes in a way that are fair, affordable and are somehow based on a person's ability to pay.
So, we are talking about consumption taxes, though, because we are talking about the BST, a tax that is not structured in such a way that people can know whether they can afford it or not. It is a regressive consumption tax which causes people at the lower end of the income scale to pay more, a higher percentage of their income, in order to buy goods at the consumer end of the market.
Madam Speaker, I also went back to a little bit of history because I didn't know how old consumption taxes were in this country and how heavily the taxpayers were burdened with them. I looked back in history, I actually went to a primer, a tax text for beginners and discovered some interesting things about taxes. Thirty-five centuries ago a writer in Sumer, which is now Iraq, engraved in cuneiform on a tablet, you can have a lord, you can have a king but the man to fear is the tax collector. Certainly with consumption taxes we fear the tax collector more than we do with progressive income taxes.
It is interesting to note, Madam Speaker, that in Canada the first taxes were consumption taxes of the indirect sort. The first tax in Canada, in 1650, was an export tax of 50 per cent on beaver pelts and 10 per cent on moose hides leaving the Colonies. So there we have an early case of a consumption tax, although an indirect one.
In 1867 under the Constitution, it is my understanding that the Canadian Government was empowered to raise money by any mode or system of taxation. In the early years the federal government had a minor role in taxation and that changed later. For the information of the House, from 1867 until 1917, the government taxed horses, dogs, cars, gasoline, salmon, canaries, racetracks, foxes, circuses, travelling shows, restaurants, bowling alleys and pool rooms. Now most members know, and even I knew this although I never studied economics, that our income tax system came in as a war tax in 1917. That was the beginning of a tax system federally and ultimately provincially which, at least to some extent, was based on the progressive notion of a person's ability to pay.
That brings us to the question of, what are the attributes of a tax system? The federal government in 1987, when it was doing tax reform, identified three important principles of a tax system. Those principles are fairness, simplicity and efficiency, also known as competitiveness. Madam Speaker, this is where I come up against my lack of economic learning, so I am not exactly sure but I think I understand this. We want to talk about fairness. That is what we are talking about, because we are talking about whether consumption taxes are fair or not. So how many kinds of fairness are there in a tax system? Well, according to the federal government, there are two kinds of fairness in a tax system. Horizontal equity refers to individuals in similar economic circumstances being required to pay similar amounts of tax. Vertical equity requires individuals with higher incomes not to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than those with lower incomes. In other words, the income tax system should be progressive. So we are talking about what is called vertical equity here. Vertical equity is exactly what is missing from a consumption tax system.
I want to read you a little something, Madam Speaker, from a book called Tax Facts, What Every Woman Should Know. This document was put out by the federal Advisory Council on the Status of Women in 1993. So it is a fairly recent document.
Here is what this little booklet, put out by the federal government, says about the federal tax system. Under the heading Consumption Taxes, this booklet says, "An increasing proportion of federal government revenues now come from sales and excise taxes and customs duties, including the GST. These taxes are also known as consumption taxes because they tax what people purchase or consume. Many people consider sales taxes regressive because instead of being based on ability to pay, they impose the same burden on everyone regardless of circumstances.".
It might interest the House to know, Madam Speaker that, according to this document, in the 1992-93 fiscal year, the federal government collected about 23 per cent of its revenues from consumption taxes. Here is the important part and I want to read a little constructed scenario that they have in the book that demonstrates the importance of vertical equity. Here we have a little example. "An 8% sales tax means that everyone pays a tax of 8% on everything they buy.". Now let's take two different women. Let's take, ". . . Jasmine and Ali, each buy $5,000 worth of things in a year, they both pay $400 in tax. But suppose Jasmine is a low-income earner and her annual wages are only $15,000. The $400 tax she pays is 2.7% of her annual salary. Let's suppose . . .", the other woman, ". . . is a high-income earner, making $80,000 a year. The same amount of sales tax translates into only 0.5% . . .", of her annual salary although I don't know too many women who make that salary a year. Perhaps that is a man's name.
The document goes on to say that, "This trend to reliance on consumption taxes as a major source of revenue for government increases the tax burden on those with lower incomes and negates the principle of ability to pay. Such trends have particular significance for women because women generally have low incomes and must spend most of what they earn on necessities.". I don't think it could be clearer than that, Madam Speaker, who is affected and how they are affected.
Madam Speaker, lots of people in Nova Scotia have not taken an economics course either, but as the member for Sackville-Cobequid said, they have a lot of horse sense and they have a lot of experience and they have learned a lot in the course of their lives about a great many things, but what they have certainly learned about is the certainty of taxes. The people of this province know that the BST is a regressive consumption tax. They know it is unfair. They know it does not contain vertical equity and they know, more than anything else, that you can put those indirect taxes through the line, you can give rebates to business or input tax credits or whatever you want, but the end of the line is that consumer. The consumer cannot do that. The consumer cannot get an input tax credit or some other kind of a rebate and the people of Nova Scotia know this.
It has been really interesting for me in the last few days and weeks, Madam Speaker, in this House because, from time to time, there is a moment where people sense frustration because the Opposition is mounting what they might call a filibuster and what we would call a valuable debate on the subject of this tax. But one of the things that has come clear in the last few days is that the value of this debate is that it gives people time to respond to government action and to marshal their forces against it, to bring their experience, to bring their knowledge of the regressive tax system to the attention of the government.
Now, I do not know today, and maybe if somebody else knows they can tell me, how many individuals and groups in Nova Scotia have signed on for the Law Amendments Committee. The last I heard a day or so ago, there were 68 submissions in line for Law Amendments. In addition to those submissions, Madam Speaker, the horse sense of Nova
Scotians has been coming to us through a great many names on petitions and through letters. I would like, with your permission, to spend a few minutes on what it is that people are saying and how they know. They are saying they know what this tax is.
I want to start with a letter that was received by all of us here from a group called the Voice of Nova Scotia. I am not going to read a lot. I am going to read you two lines to set the tone for the rest of them.
The Voice of Nova Scotia says in a letter to all MLAs: "The people of Nova Scotia see the harmonized tax being paid for on the backs of the poor. This is arrogant when people have no say in the tax.".
There are two issues. I want to ask the member for Sackville-Cobequid, and I should know this, how many groups and people are represented by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. Do you know? Thousands of Nova Scotians? Tens of thousands of Nova Scotians? So I want to draw Madam Speaker's attention and the House's attention to the next letter. This letter was received by the Leaders of both Opposition Parties, the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Third Party. This letter came from Rick Clarke who is the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. I just want to read a couple of lines from it.
"Dear Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Hamm: We felt we should drop a note to congratulate and to thank you for your ongoing combined efforts against the BST.". I do not call that a filibuster, Madam Speaker, I call that an ongoing combined effort against the BST and so does the Federation of Labour. Mr. Clarke goes on to say, "The fact that the two opposition parties have combined efforts in an attempt to defeat, turn back, or amend this regressive legislation sends a very powerful message to Nova Scotians on just how bad this tax is, and how negatively it will impact on them.".
There you have it again, Madam Speaker. You have the point that it is regressive, that it is on the backs of the people who will least be able to afford to pay.
I have to ask the member for Sackville-Cobequid another question because, again, I am not sure how many tens of thousands of people are represented by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, but I hope if he knows he will tell me. I know that there are a great many people there, 12,000 or 13,000 people, Madam Speaker, at least. What I know for sure is that the NSGEU has written a letter, that David Peters, the President of the NSGEU, has written to the Premier. To represent it honestly I have to say that the main purpose of the letter is around the issue of Law Amendments. Law Amendments might not be directly relevant to this resolution, but it does relate to the openness of discussing the issue because it is a regressive tax.
Rather than read large chunks of it, I will read the piece that is related.
"While we are pleased with how our members will be treated, we are strongly opposed to this legislation.".
So the Nova Scotia Government Employees' Union, tens of thousands of Nova Scotians, are in strong opposition to this legislation.
The United Mine Workers of America, District 26, and there is a whole paragraph I am going to read here. It is addressed to the Premier and we received a copy and there is a paragraph in here that I really think should go on the record.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order please. It is getting increasingly difficult to hear the member. I would like to have less conversation going on in the Chamber so that we can hear these remarks, so I would ask the members to call themselves to order.
MS. O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, this letter from the United Mine Workers of America, District 26, and the relevant paragraph I will read is a very powerful message to the Premier.
"Mr. Savage, in your heart, you know that Nova Scotians do not deserve to be subjected to a tax that has not been accepted by the majority of our sister provinces. In your heart, you know that ambiguities in the proposed legislation could lead to future economic problems for the taxpayers of this province. In your heart, you know that the true bottom line is that the B.S.T., in its present form, will definitely increase the day to day living expenses of every single taxpayer in Nova Scotia.".
The implication of that is if it affects every single one it will affect the poorest taxpayers the most and the richest taxpayers the least.
Here is a copy of a letter to the Leader of the New Democratic Party from the Canadian Bar Association. This letter has already been tabled, but there is a section of it that the House hasn't heard yet which just gives you the flavour of the suffering that will be inflicted by the piling on of this tax, in particular, to low-income people. What happens in this letter, whose topic is Harmonized Sales Tax and Access to Justice, is the letter discusses the issue of legal aid, for example. It says, "Currently, a single mother of two earning $1,700 per month does not qualify for legal aid and could easily have to pay approximately $3,000 to $5,000 to pursue a maintenance application through the courts. A large number of maintenance applications are made in our courts every year. The tax increase will mean an additional $240 to $400 to her.". The Canadian Bar Association goes on to say, "As a society, we want to encourage proper support for children of broken relationships, and eliminate the consequences of poverty and need. Increasing the amount of tax to pursue what is lawfully
due children of separated parents will make it impossible for some and harder for others to be properly represented.".
In that letter, which covers a great many other issues that we have already read, I think, into the record, in some short form at least, we also have a clear explanation of yet another example of how poor people, low-income earners and the working poor will be affected by this tax.
I have a letter from a man in Dartmouth as well - and so did the Premier and all members of the Legislature - it is from a man whom I think is retired now, but he still cares and he took the trouble to write. We all saw it and I just want to read one paragraph of that too because this is a man with a wealth of life experience in the world and in business.
"During my working career . . . I dealt with people from every walk of life, from the most affluent, to the most unfortunate. Believe me, it would enlighten you and maybe teach you some common sense and values if you met with the working poor for their views on the proposed tax and how it will affect their way of life. I have my doubts . . .", to me, this casts aspersions on all of us and if we deserve it, we should accept it, ". . . if any of you understand how these people struggle to survive on a day to day basis. I hope ladies and gentlemen you never have to experience this feeling because I know not one of you could cope with such an ordeal.".
Madam Speaker, I think I just have two more and these are from businesses and, as we know, business, to some extent, but not entirely, is taking a different approach on this. Its concern is it intended to focus largely on the tax-included pricing. The Charm Diamond Centre is a business that has been around in this province for a great many years. I can remember it existing a very long time ago. Charm Diamond Centre has written to the Leader of the New Democratic Party and tells us, and this is after a letter in which specific concerns are explicated. Says Sharon Calder, the Vice-President of Human Resources at Charm Diamond Centre and Crescent Gold and Diamonds, "In sum, the 'Tax-Inclusive Pricing Requirement' of the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax puts retailers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland at an unfair disadvantage with retailers in the rest of Canada. The extra burden of creating and maintaining two separate inventory control and price ticketing systems, along with a 100% + increase in advertising expenses, will not only make retailers in this region less competitive and stifle growth, but also lead to many bankruptcies. We are requesting that you represent retailers in this province in our fight against the 'Tax-Inclusive Pricing Requirement' of the Proposed HST so that retailers in this region will not be treated unfairly or be faced with undue hardship.".
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid got a letter from the President of The Jeanery, Rick Salsman. The President of the Jeanery Ltd. looks at it more broadly and so it demonstrates to us, Madam Speaker, that business, too, understands the trickle-down damage, if you like, of this kind of a consumer tax. I am just going to highlight them in point
form. Mr. Salsman says, "The . . . addition of the new tax . . . will cause reduced consumer spending and sales losses in these categories.". So the notion that somehow jobs will be created is a myth. The second thing Mr. Salsman says is, "Businesses will fail and create job losses as a result of these sales losses.", exactly what I said. The third point that he makes is that, "These catastrophic reductions in spending can be expected again in these categories when prices rise 8%.".
The next point he makes is that, "The retail business is no longer a level playing field, due to this legislation. Some retailers will have advantages over others because of Tax Included Pricing (TIP)". The next point he makes is, "Visitors to Nova Scotia will be shocked at the price difference . . . They will not buy.". The next point he makes is, "We will have to advertise one price in Nova Scotia, N.B. and Nfld and advertise other prices in PEI and other provinces.". He goes on to say, "The savings due to the new tax credit does not come close to covering the cost of tax included pricing and the sales losses we will experience . . .". Then he says, finally, "It is terribly unfair to penalize loyal Nova Scotian companies and then give a benefit to new businesses entering the marketplace.".
Madam Speaker, we are hearing over and over again, letters, phone calls, faxes. We get faxes in the office that just have two or three words on them - keep it up, keep going, don't stop. We hope many of these people will come to the Law Amendments Committee and say so. What they are saying is that across this province, in every region, in every sector, people understand about economics, they understand consumption taxes, they understand vertical equity, they understand regressive taxes, they understand fairness. This government is not fair and the people of Nova Scotia do know it.
Madam Speaker, I want to check with you first about the time before I speak. I want to talk about fair taxation as opposed to unfair taxation. How much time do I have left?
MADAM SPEAKER: You commenced at 9:57 a.m.
MS. O'CONNELL: I wasn't a math teacher. Lots of time? Okay.
Madam Speaker, I want to talk about the opposite of regressive taxes. I want to propose the absurd notion that there are alternatives to the kind of taxation that we are having foisted upon us here in Nova Scotia. There are groups in this province and in this country that have spoken out. I pointed out several days ago that even this Liberal Government, when in Opposition, understood about fair taxes. Even this government, when in Opposition, called for a fair taxation commission. Somewhere on the road to election that got lost. So they knew, and so does the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and so do labour groups in Nova Scotia and so does the New Democratic Party, federally and provincially.
For as long as I have been around the Party, which is 20 years, we have talked about taxes and we have said that it doesn't have to be this way, Madam Speaker. Right now the federal New Democratic Party, under Leader Alexa McDonough, is out there across the country fighting a pre-election fair taxes campaign. That campaign is about this very issue. It focuses on the GST because that is the federal tax, but it is the same issue. Is it regressive? How can we fix it? How can we make it more progressive?
In fact, way back in May the federal New Democratic Party said - this is the proposal that was put forward on the GST - our program isn't just opposition to the Liberals and it isn't just a quick fix; we recognize the pressing need for comprehensive tax reform so that a fairer, simpler system helps Canada work better. Now I don't know what more we could want, Madam Speaker, than a fairer tax system that would make this country work better. It sounds like a real good idea to me.
AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe we should have a fair tax commission.
MS. O'CONNELL: Well, we have certainly tried to make a fair tax commission happen, as the member for Sackville-Cobequid says. As I said, this government at one time in an earlier incarnation, thought the same thing
AN HON. MEMBER: Before an election.
MS. O'CONNELL: That's right, before an election.
Now I am going to just tell you what we proposed around the GST because the same general principles apply, Madam Speaker. How can you take this tax and fix the system so that this regressive tax, once it is there, does not even have the impact that it has now? Well, the first thing you can do, of course, is to stop it. The second thing you can do is to ease the burden. The third thing you can do, and I have just talked about it, is undertake a comprehensive tax review and then you can make sure after that that everyone pays their fair share. Our Party has said that.
When you look at the federal Liberals and you see what they have said about regressive consumption taxes, we discover, lo and behold, that in a previous incarnation the federal Liberals understood it too, Madam Speaker. I want to read you something written by John Manley, who is now the Minister of Industry in the House of Commons. He actually said it before the Liberals were elected to government. That is my point exactly. My point is that there seems to be a kind of reincarnation of tax grabbers after election time. I just want to read this because I think it demonstrates exactly that. Everybody, when in their right mind, knows this is a bad tax.
Here is what John Manley said in 1990, "We also need to look at the burden distributed between corporations and consumers in Canada. The consumers have been paying their income tax. The real consequences of this shift from the manufacturer's sales tax to a new value added tax is that about $5 to $6 billion in existing tax paid at the corporate level as part of the cost of business is being shifted downstream to individual consumers. This is a very large tax increase to put on the backs of Canadian consumers at a point when 1.1 million are unemployed, their confidence is down.".
So we have had this big tax shift already and now we are going to do it again, just in case there is anybody still standing. We are going to do it again and we are going to see if we can knock everybody else over. Since the election of the federal government in October 1993, $50 billion in profits made by big corporations in Canada have gone untaxed. Since the election of the federal government in October 1993, the federal government cut its support for health, education and other services to people and they downloaded it.
We are seeing the consequences now, Madam Speaker. The dominoes are falling. A little push from Ottawa and the dominoes started to come down and they are coming down and pretty soon we are all going to be flat. Because the banks, big corporations and the very wealthy are getting away with unchecked tax breaks, middle-class and working Canadians are paying even more heavily. A fair tax system, one in which everyone pays their fair share, should be the first place government looks for new revenue with which to create jobs, protect vital services and reduce the deficit. That sums it up so very nicely.
In the time that I have left, Madam Speaker, I do want to talk a little bit about the Alternative Federal Budget, because you know what people say, they say tax is so hard and it is not easy. Tax is so hard and it is so complicated and there are so many ways to manoeuvre the tax system. How do you know when it is fair? How can you take each piece of it, take it apart and put it back together so that we don't continue to suffer from these regressive consumption taxes? So I want to talk about the Alternative Federal Budget of 1996.
The Alternative Federal Budget has come from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Mr. Speaker. I have to read some numbers, but I think it is important to know, to get at least a vague sense, a kind of general overall sense, that things can be different. So I am going to talk briefly about the 15 proposals in the Federal Alternative Budget.
The first thing that the Federal Alternative Budget would do would be to, ". . . speed up efforts to collect outstanding taxes, in line with . . .", the question of finding more revenue, which is what taxing is all about. One of the things that can be done is that the government can be more zealous in its collection of taxes owed by citizens who have not or will not pay. Federally, they said that, "By increasing staff at Revenue Canada, we believe we can accomplish an increase in collections of outstanding personal and corporate income taxes (estimated at over $6.6 billion) and of under-collected GST (perhaps as much as $13 billion)
of at least $660 million a year in the near future.". They believe, based on their numbers, that that was a modest and reasonable estimate of what they could do.
Number two, Mr. Speaker, the second thing that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says it could do, is that in the Alternative Federal Budget, they would begin, ". . . phasing in a tax on wealth transfers at death, along the same lines as the wealth transfer tax in the United States.", with certain exemptions between spouses and so on. This will raise, according to the alternative budget, ". . . 0.33% of GDP and will be phased in over two years, yielding an additional $1.4 billion a year.".
Mr. Speaker, the third thing that could be done; on the corporate taxation side, ". . . impose an excess profits tax on banks and other financial institutions . . .". This would yield $300 million this year; a corporate minimum tax, as proposed by the Ontario Fair Tax Commission, that would yield another $528 million a year.
The fourth thing; "We also eliminate the deductibility of the remaining meal and entertainment allowances . . .", for individuals. That will cough up $50 million to the tax Treasury. ". . . eliminate the deductibility of corporate lobbying expenses ($50 million), halve the SR & ED credit by tightening eligibility rules ($272 million), and limit the deductibility of salaries over $200,000 as expenses for tax purposes . . .", another $50 million.
The second last thing they do on the corporate side is, ". . . tax the overseas earnings of life insurance companies . . .", that will get us another $85 million. ". . . impose a surtax on overseas interest earnings ($300 million) . . .", in tax can be raised that way, Mr. Speaker. The purpose of that would be more for the purpose, ". . . of providing incentives for domestic lending than . . .", to raise that additional revenue, so it has another side to it and, indeed, a benefit.
Mr. Speaker, what changes would the alternative federal budget make in income tax for individuals? Two new, ". . . tax brackets will be added for high-income earners: a 32% rate for those earning in excess of $100,000, and a 34% rate for those earning more than $150,000.". That will raise $775 million in tax revenue.
The second thing they will do, and it is a good idea, "We reduce the RRSP deductible limit and adjust the pension maximum in such a way that tax expenditures will be reduced by a minimum of $500 million.". These are big sums of money. "In effect, this will have no impact on those earning up to twice the average industrial wage, or approximately $60,000." a year.
The next thing they would do, Mr. Speaker, is, ". . . eliminate the exemption of 25% of income from stock options . . .", another $25 million can be raised that way. "We also eliminate the $500,000 capital gains exemption for farm assets, allowing roll-over only within the family . . .". This will raise another $200 million. These figures are adding up and adding
up. It is clear that there is room in the tax system to do it better and in such a way that the poorest are not always hurt by it.
Three more things, Mr. Speaker, and then I will be done with the list, that the Alternative Federal Budget can do. It, ". . . will significantly increase the after-tax income of low-income families by eliminating the surtax on incomes below $20,000 and gradually reducing the rate to 3% on those earning $20-25,000. This will cost $550 million a year.", and there is also a tax cut that is also a cost but this budget is so well done that we can afford to move the tax burden from the poor to the better-off and, even with these costs, the Alternative Federal Budget provides a way of redistributing income, it supplies vertical equity to the tax system. It does that by redistributing wealth in a way that makes the whole system fairer and adds to the economic power of low income people.
Two more things, Mr. Speaker. If you throw on one cent a litre to the motor vehicle fuel tax, and that is for environmental reasons as well as for tax reasons, you can raise another $525 million. Of course, raising the tobacco tax, which is the one thing that we have seen recently done by both federal and provincial governments, raising that tax is another source of revenue, and a very reasonable source of revenue it is.
The last thing, "The $500,000 capital gains exemption for small businesses", would be abolished, with the same RRSP adjustments being made for farmers, $785 million. That is a lot of money. In effect, the measures proposed in the alternative federal budget concentrate on collecting outstanding taxes, closing off corporate loopholes and introducing tax increases only on the wealthy, while reducing taxes on the poor. What a really good idea; what a great idea. Crunch the numbers, look at the system first, study the system. Crunch the numbers and come up with something that is not going to drive Canadians and Nova Scotians right down into the ground.
I want to say that in speaking to this resolution, I have tried to say that there are alternatives. I have tried to say, first of all, what it is we mean in this amendment, what it is that we are debating here and that we, in our Party, are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to debate. I am saying that people of Nova Scotia understand what we are saying, they understand the principles of a dollar and a nickel and what happens to it. They have experienced it, they have spent, they have tried to save. Some of them have gone hungry, some of them have been wealthy, some are better off than others, but people do understand fairness and I said it before in here, people said, we don't mind paying taxes, as long as it is fair. We want a tax system that will maintain our services, maintain our health care, put some money back into education, all of those things that we are so proud of in this country and in this province.
We want some kind of a system that will give us some assurance that if we pay our taxes, and if we pay them fairly, then we will be able to live in some sense of mild comfort around the issue of services and we will be able to sleep nights instead of fretting about the future. So people in Nova Scotia know that consumption taxes don't create jobs. I don't care how many times this government says that this blended sales tax - whatever you want to call it, the BS Tax, the BST, the HST, the whatever, whatever tax - people know that is not going to create 3,000 jobs. Consumption taxes don't create jobs; I read it right there in the book on taxes.
So people know and what they are doing right now is saying we don't want this tax. We will write you a letter, we will telephone your office, we will send you a fax, we will come on down to the Law Amendments Committee, because we agree that the principle of this bill is grossly unfair and . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: They should also call their MP and tell them.
MS. O'CONNELL: They should indeed call their MP, the member for Sackville-Cobequid is quite right, because it is going to take not just a provincial fair tax commission but a federal one as well to get things right in this country.
AN HON. MEMBER: The MPs are railroading it through Ottawa . . .
MS. O'CONNELL: That's right, there they are, up in Ottawa, and we have had this discussion about closure versus time allocation in this House, and we know closure when we see it and it was on the front page of the paper yesterday that the federal government, with their 356 pages of Byzantine prose, expect that they are going to ram that through in a way that is indecent, and disrespectful and insulting to the people of this country, especially to the people of this province and the provinces who are being hauled, kicking and screaming, into the BST scenario.
The people of this province know it. They have known it all along. They knew it the day that document dropped in this House, May 17th. They know about regressive tax. They know consumption taxes are regressive and I feel very strongly, based on the information that we have from voters and taxpayers that they do not want this tax. They know why they do not want this tax. They would like some avenue to send that message to this government so we can sit down, take a look at it and start it all again. (Interruptions)
I want to say that I speak very powerfully in favour of this amendment. I do not think there has been anything in my few weeks here that I have felt as strongly about as the principle of this BST. I am here, I stand on my feet, to go on the record as saying that we profoundly reject the principle of this tax and we support with all our might - we may be a small caucus but we are mighty and with all our resources we will continue to support letting the people of Nova Scotia have their voice heard on this matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly not my intent to filibuster this amendment in any way. I might mention that it might just be possible that the evidence that we have heard advanced is not all that objective. It does not reflect, perhaps, a balanced viewpoint. One can take any subject one wishes and look at it in an objective way and try to see both the pros and the cons, or one can look at it in a wholly critical manner. I suppose one could criticize apple pie or motherhood, for that matter.
If one did, one could find all kinds of terrible things to say about motherhood or about apple pie. I noticed in the newspaper this morning a large ad from the Maritime Telephone & Telegraph Corporation. "What impact will the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) have on my MT&T bill?". The answer is, "Residential customers will save money.".
It goes on to say, "Right now, telecommunications products and services are taxed with both the GST (7%) and the PST (an additional 11%). The proposed HST will see one, lower, tax of 15% applied to telecommunications products and services. For the average Nova Scotia household, this amounts to approximately $25 a year in tax savings.".
AN HON. MEMBER: They can put that on their heating bills. That is going to go up.
MR. MACEWAN: You can see from the reaction that the critics do not want to hear what was just stated. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member entertain the question?
MR. MACEWAN: No, not from that source. I never entertain questions from the NDP, Mr. Speaker. Never. (Interruptions)
I was going to say it is obvious (Interruptions) It is obvious from the reaction that they do not want to hear anything that might suggest that there might be some good aspect to this. (Interruptions) They are not wanting to hear a balanced analysis that would say here are the pros and here are the cons. (Interruptions) They just want to hear cons only.
Just as if one were to take Perry Como's old song about accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and turn it on its head and come out with a new song saying accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you afraid to answer the question?
MR. MACEWAN: Certainly not. I am not afraid of the extreme left at all. I have taken them on quite successfully at the polls over the years.
AN HON. MEMBER: He has been there many times.
MR. MACEWAN: Let me say this about that. The evidence that we have just heard is not objective evidence. It is not a scientific analysis of the bill before the House.
The process of hearing speech after speech after speech consisting of only selected evidence demonstrating one side of a proposition does not constitute an objective examination of the proposition before the House at all. Therefore, sir, it is objectively useless. It serves no useful purpose other than to consume time.
I stated yesterday that filibuster tactics, the ideology of which, this is a new one for our friends on the extreme left, is filibusterism. They used to be socialists, but now they are coming out a filibusterists. The ideology of filibusterism is what has consumed them. Filibustering, anyway, is the use of extreme dilatory tactics in speaking to consume time by an individual or a group attempting to delay or prevent action by the majority in a Legislative Assembly. In other words, it is actions against majority rule. They are against majority rule.
I want to say this, that we have seen in history, some very extreme and sad examples of nations that have been misled when they had governments and regimes in power that were against majority rule. I noted last night in the late debate, particularly the example of the former regime in the Republic of South Africa, which was very clearly against majority rule. I know that my friends in the New Democratic Party abhor the ideology of the former government of the Republic of South Africa and I would not, for a moment, attempt to connect them with that, except to this extent that they do share this in common with them, that they, too, are against majority rule in a different context. But what is shameful in one context is surely shameful in another. To be against majority rule means to be against democracy, which is the very foundation of our society here in Canada, thanks be to God.
I say, sir, in taking my seat that it is unworthy to carry on in a dilatory fashion, hour after hour, reading selected extracts from correspondence and from articles and so forth to attempt to prove a point that really is not a point, that they themselves know is not true. They know it is not true because of the obvious evidence. Surely, there is a wealth evidence of available to demonstrate that this new taxation system, this tax reform is quite bearable for society, generally, for the public, for business, for consumers. I suggest, sir, that the most telling point on that is the lack of the indignation factor in the stated opposition to this bill. The evidence of mass support, the evidence of real opposition, from the heart, not from the lips, is simply not there.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well, go out and talk to the people.
MR. MACEWAN: We hear those kind of catcalls and I go out and I circulate among the people and don't hear anything about this on the street, nothing. I just hear about it from the Opposition. So, sir, I say, in conclusion, that in my view, the best interest of democracy
in Nova Scotia will be served by allowing this matter to come to a vote so that the people's elected representatives can decide because that, sir, is the essence of our system of government, not filibuster tactics. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel. (Interruptions)
Order, please. The honourable member has the floor. (Interruptions) We all want to hear the honourable member.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to address the amendment which is before us, relative to Bill No. 48. I cannot help but think that the intervention just now from the very senior member for Cape Breton Nova was interesting. Might I be so bold and in this festive season, perhaps considered by some to be unkind, to suggest that while his intervention was interesting, with the greatest respect, not really very helpful. I noticed that my sense of things was that as an old senior partner in my law firm, many years ago, used to say, and relative to the remarks just now for the member for Cape Breton Nova, I think he attempted to lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. (Interruption)
Well, the member says not guilty. The member's contribution, again with the greatest respect - and everybody knows that when anybody prefaces a comment with those words with the greatest respect, they don't propose to be terribly respectful at all. I say to my friend from Cape Breton Nova, with the greatest respect, that not only do I think his narrative was unconvincing, I felt, frankly, if I may be so bold as to say so, it was rife with pedantry and malapropism, which doesn't really help advance the debate here at all either.
The member, Mr. Speaker, when he rose suggested that perhaps it was time for somebody to - and I assume he was going to then proceed to do so - to use his words, lend some balance to this debate. He then proceeded, of course, to berate others and political regimes in other places in the world but failed in his stated intention, to bring some balance to this debate, and, in fact, accused those of us who have spoken against the BST of being one-sided and not fairly or in a balanced fashion representing the reality.
Mr. Speaker, the member, who had an opportunity to speak to us for an hour, stood up and said that there is a wealth of evidence available to demonstrate that this new tax is bearable. The unfortunate flaw, and may I say the absolutely total flaw, to the contribution that the member for Cape Breton Nova I presume thought he was making was that he stopped at that point. He did not then go on to explain to me and to any Nova Scotian who would hear him through this forum, what is that wealth of evidence available to demonstrate that this new tax is bearable? It really was disappointing.
AN HON. MEMBER: I could send you a package of helpful literature.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the member says he could send me a package of helpful literature. If he would be kind enough to do that, he doesn't even have to spend the postage. If he will simply let me know it is available, I will come to his desk, to his office, indeed I would go to his constituency and pick it up free of charge to him.
AN HON. MEMBER: You will have it in an hour.
MR. DONAHOE: Within the next hour? One of the things, Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton Nova did offer, in fairness to him, as evidence, in his opinion, of an indication that there is another side. As part of his wealth of evidence available to demonstrate that this new tax is bearable, he produced - I don't know if he tabled it or not - an advertisement which appeared in the Thursday, December 12, 1996 issue of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, Page A16. It is a great, almost full-page advertisement. "Questions. Questions. Questions . . . MT&T. How can we help you?". What impact and so on and so on. He offers this as indicating that the HST is going to result in one lower tax of 15 per cent applied to telecommunication products and services. For the average Nova Scotia household this amounts to approximately $25 a year in tax savings. Well, that is going to happen in many households.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is one little component.
MR. DONAHOE: It is just one very little component. You know, Mr. Speaker, there is one component to which it means absolutely nothing. MT&T might as well save their money. That component which I have in my mind is a component of the community in our province to which I have attempted to make reference a number of times that I have been on my feet in this debate. That is in the area, and the Minister of Community Services, unfortunately, is not present, undoubtedly away from the Chamber on business. The fact of the matter is that those unfortunate families in Nova Scotia who have to try to struggle and survive on family benefits, they don't even have a telephone allocation allowed to be factored into their budget. What does a saving on the telephone mean to them? They don't even have an opportunity to have that cost, that realistic, everyday function of their lives and their families lives namely, the use of a telephone, to be factored as part of their budget. They are not going to receive considerable amount of benefit as far as I am concerned. But may I say, in fairness to the member for Cape Breton Nova, that he deserves some credit. He is one of the few of the 40-some member government who has been prepared to stand up and offer some comment. As I said, I didn't think it was terribly helpful comment that he offered, but at least he got up and offered his view. That I don't see happening from two other members of the government caucus. (Interruption)
AN HON. MEMBER: I think your comment is . . .
MR. DONAHOE: Pardon me? Well the honourable member for Eastern Shore, he says that my comment isn't worth it either. That in fact is the real problem that the Nova Scotia taxpayers are experiencing because all of these members, particularly that member, but most members on the government benches, they don't think any comment other than their own and those which they share among themselves are of any value whatsoever. I just simply find it interesting and amusing that the members opposite sit there, in the main, mute on this issue. (Interruptions) Pardon me?
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . we'll get up and talk.
MR. DONAHOE: Oh you are going to talk, when?
AN HON. MEMBER: Whenever you . . .
MR. DONAHOE: Oh, now, now, now. Now it is clear, the Minister of Transportation now announces the government position relative to debate on this bill. Isn't that interesting? The Minister of Transportation says, we are not going to talk at the most fundamental stage or element of debate on a piece of legislation. This is the stage - if the Minister of Transportation might have missed it - where all members of the House are afforded the opportunity to talk about the principle of the bill. So that minister, the Minister of Transportation for one, announces today he doesn't have any interest in talking about the principle of the bill. I presume he will have something to . . .
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We have heard several members enter the debate, the honourable Minister of Community Services, the honourable member for the Eastern Shore and, today, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, and we will continue to add our voice to this debate over time. So I think the member is being a little misleading in saying that we haven't heard from anybody.
MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that my good friend has reminded the House that, after some days of opportunity, not yet 10 per cent of the government caucus has taken it upon themselves to rise to their feet and offer opinion, and advice, and commentary, and debate on the principle of this bill.
Just going back for a moment to the Minister of Transportation, he apparently is telling us this morning that he doesn't propose to stand up and talk about the principle of the bill. I take it what he indicates is a harbinger of what I expected anyway. We now have, compliments of this government ripping up the rules of this place, the opportunity for consideration of this or other pieces of legislation at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage now constrained to the point where even at that stage which some of us happen to believe is a fundamental portion of the review of legislation is now designed in such a way
(Interruptions) You mark my words and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will watch it happen, the members of this government will stand up in very large measure at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage which is restricted by time and outnumber us and outnumbering us in the Opposition as dramatically as they do, they will then take that opportunity to further stifle the opportunity for those in the Opposition to raise concerns about this bill.
If the Minister of Transportation thinks he is being smart, my mother used to have a saying that perhaps he is being too smart by a half. The people of his constituency will learn and will know and we will make sure they do that this minister likes to take shots at those of us across the way about our attempts to raise issues relative to this bill, but yet he will not stand up when we are talking about what the bill is all about, what are the principles of the bill, what does the bill do and not do, what are the positives of the bill. Why doesn't that (Interruptions) Pardon me? (Interruptions) The difficulty is (Interruptions)
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. A moment ago the member for Halifax Citadel said we ripped up the rules. We did no such thing. We proposed the resolution to extend debate and there was a full filibuster by the Opposition members on that resolution. (Interruptions) So for him to say that we just ad hoc-ly changed the rules is simply not true.
MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the difficulty is that the concerns which I have about this bill so greatly outweigh the benefits of this bill that I think they deserve attention.
When we are talking about the principle of this bill, I defy any member of this House, including the Minister of Finance, including the Minister of Health, the former Minister of Finance - I should not perhaps say defy because that denotes or characterizes a challenge or some degree of hostility which the Minister of Health acknowledges he and I do not share. Perhaps a better turn of phrase would be that I would invite, I would encourage, I would plead with the Minister of Finance or the former Minister of Finance, now the Minister of Health - or with the Premier if any one of them would be prepared as we debate the principle of the bill and the bill is a bill that enshrines or gives legal force and effect to an agreement signed by the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia and the Governments of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and the Government of Canada and has attached to it two appendices. It was notable that it took a call from me to Mr. Hynes yesterday at the Department of Finance to finally enable us to get our hands on the annexes - I think I said appendices - to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether you have yet had an opportunity to see the annexes but I have and they are, to say the least, the most difficult piece of reading that I have ever encountered. They are fundamental to this arrangement. These annexes are, in fact, the
documents which give life to the formulations which will result in the return by the Government of Canada to the BST collected, once it is implemented.
The preamble to Annex A, Agreement Regarding Revenue Allocation, says, among other things, "The annual revenue entitlement of a province out of the tax revenues is determined based on a share which is a function of the PVAT rate, the CVAT rate, national and provincial economic data as supplied by Statistics Canada, administrative data provided by Revenue Canada, and other data sources determined by Finance (Canada). This annex also sets forth the rules regarding the payment mechanism, including payment adjustments and the final settlement procedure, with respect to the provincial annual revenue entitlement.".
Well, I would love to see one sentence in Grade 6 English. The one sentence in Grade 6 English that I am looking for is that regardless of how many people ever read this document, it is hereby undertaken and guaranteed by all the parties hereto that every nickel of BST expended in the Province of Nova Scotia will, in fact, make its way back to the Province of Nova Scotia. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I don't see in this particular annex that there is that statement or, necessarily, that guarantee.
We have a formula which I don't understand in its entirety and, hence, I ask about it. I think that is a legitimate exercise when we are here debating second reading of this or any other piece of legislation; if a member doesn't understand an element or the impact of an element of the piece of legislation and it seems to be fundamental to the principle of the bill, then it is has always occurred to me that it is not unreasonable or inappropriate to ask a question.
We have a formula - more to the point, this government has signed a document to which is attached Annex A, which is headed, Agreement Regarding Revenue Allocation. There is a formula set out here, Mr. Speaker, on Page 13, BUSBASE, with some letters and numbers, equals BUSBASE with those same letters and numbers, times BUSGROWTH. I presume that that means business base equals the business base multiplied by business growth. You find business base defined as, ". . . the estimated harmonized sales taxes base attributable to taxable supplies acquired for consumption, use or supply in the provision of exempt supplies in a province "i" for calendar year "t", as determined by Formula J;".
Then you turn the page and you find that BUSGROWTH, or business growth, "means the growth of the business sector tax base . . . in a particular province . . . which is equivalent to the growth in nominal provincial gross domestic product measured at market prices from calendar year . . .", such and such to calendar year some other symbol, ". . . derived from the latest Provincial Accounts as provided by Statistics Canada.". Well, perhaps you understand that, Mr. Speaker. I don't experience much embarrassment in standing in this place and saying that I am not sure I understand it. Frankly, I am not sure that the business community of the
Province of Nova Scotia understands it. In fact, I know the business community of Nova Scotia doesn't understand it because it is only as a result of a call which I made to the Department of Finance after other colleagues had made requests that we were provided a copy of this annex. This annex isn't out in the public domain.
I called a number of chartered accounting firms to ask if they might, because they are in the business of providing financial and other advice to the business community of our province, large and small, and I called a number of accounting firms to ask if they could tell me anything about Annex A and Annex B and in fact, I was told by a number of them that they have never seen them. They were part of the agreement, they are referenced in the agreement but those chartered accountant firms had never seen the annexes.
It really makes me wonder, and maybe I am too suspicious, maybe I am too cynical, maybe I am too paranoid, I don't know, maybe I am all of the above but it makes me wonder if there is some credence to another thought that is in my mind. That thought is that this government, in concert with its cohorts in Ottawa, is so intent on jamming and ramming through this legislation in as short a time-frame as possible so that the government will be able to do, by way of regulation and other agreements government to government, pretty much as they please.
I haven't yet heard, even from our own Minister of Finance, I haven't heard Finance Minister Gillis stand up here in this House and come within light years of telling us what is the haste. Why must this be done in a matter of the few days which this government is absolutely and doggedly determined that it will be done? Why is that the case? Why have we not had the public meetings and consultations which were promised?
I had correspondence with the Minister of Finance a couple of months ago and I think on balance, he is understood by most to be an honest and honourable person. In his communication with me, he suggested that he and the government were striving for a proper balance between giving business certainty about how the new system will work and our desire to make sure the new system does not have unintended consequences. I say, without hesitation, I don't believe since that time - and that was a communication back in October - I don't believe in that time that there has been anything close to a legitimate effort made by this government to enable business, let alone the ordinary, everyday consumer, understand the legislation and understand the impact and to determine whether or not there will or may be unintended consequences as a result of the enactment of this legislation.
I think today we have a perfect example of the fact that there may well be an unintended consequence. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General and I exchanged some discussion about that very issue this very day. It now appears upon some analysis that a possible unintended consequence of this consumption tax is again, as I have said repeatedly in this debate over the last number of days, a possible and very potential unintended consequence is that it will hurt again, in another manner which frankly, hadn't even occurred to me but did
occur to others, hurt those who are among the least advantaged in our community, namely those whose resources are poor or modest. That, of course, is in the area of what is going to happen to those families and those individuals who, while they make just ever so much more money, enough money to take them out of the legal aid system in the Province of Nova Scotia and that limit is something in the range of $17,000 or thereabouts.
I can picture and I am sure any member who thinks about their constituencies can think of any number of people who have, in some cases and indeed, perhaps many cases, a single parent household, the maximum income is ever so slightly over $17,000 which is not a lot of money to come and go on and that household and that single parent has two, three, four and who knows who many little ones and how many youngsters to look after. So that parent, that person doesn't qualify for legal aid. There are all kinds of situations: the applying for child maintenance applications against former spouses or partners seeking a justified change in maintenance orders; enforcing payment of maintenance; difficulties with landlords by reason of limited resources; evictions; the withholding of a security deposit by a landlord; the obtaining of a divorce or an appropriate and binding custody or access or property or debt or support resolution in a matrimonial dispute situation; their defence, of themselves, against, on occasion, unjustified allegations of one kind or another; attempting to, in this era of downsizing, as the corporations like to call it, attempting to obtain a fair settlement with a former employee when downsized or otherwise, in their view unjustly dismissed; and applying, as will be the case, with, unfortunately, thousands of Nova Scotians, for benefits under social welfare legislation, such as EI or social assistance.
The relevance of making reference to those concerns and some of the families which will experience those concerns, Mr. Speaker, is that the legal service which they will now be required to secure because they do not quality if my example for access to the legal aid system, is now going to cost them a lot more money, considerably more than it would otherwise. Is that an unintended consequence? Is that the kind of unintended consequence to which the Minister of Finance was referring when he wrote to me about six or eight weeks ago and said that he was making sure, or wanting to make sure, that business would be given certainty about how the new system will work and that he would make good on his desire to make sure the system does not have unintended consequences? I think that is an unintended consequence. I think it falls, absolutely and immediately, into that kind of a category.
So I ask the Minister of Justice about that kind of unintended consequence today in Question Period and what do we get? We get, essentially, well, he is not much interested in talking to the CBA, but he is going to talk to the local Barristers' Society, so he is going to open up dialogue with the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society in that regard. I noted, with interest, that he had not yet taken the trouble to make that communication, but he had apparently indicated that staff has or would be undertaking that communication. I think, that, Mr. Speaker, is an unintended consequence of the kind to which Finance Minister Gillis was referencing when he communicated back and forth with me in October, just six or eight weeks ago. I don't think it is a matter that has been dealt with at all.
Mr. Speaker, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is concerned about this tax, as you know. I acknowledge that they came to the government with, I think it was five significant and major concerns about the tax. The government responded by making alterations in the new BST regime which responded to four of those, but they did not and will not and have not and, to this point, refuse to respond to the fifth. The fifth relates, as I think you are aware, to the tax-included pricing difficulty. The Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, it is not Terry Donahoe speaking, it is not the Opposition caucus, it is the organization which speaks for business in the new Halifax Regional Municipality, in metropolitan Halifax, generally, and they raise some very real concerns about what is going to happen if this regime is imposed as it is with the tax-included pricing. They indicate, and I will not read all of the individual concerns, but they say to this government, and I am attempting to help them say it, that tax-included pricing will not generate additional revenue for government, but will create added costs for business and business could be lost to other areas, reducing economic activity in the harmonized zone and in turn reducing tax revenues for government. That, I think is a very real concern.
I think if this government were to consider seriously the potential damage and difficulty to business which they keep telling us - they, the government - are doing so well by business, because of all the pass-throughs and the flow-throughs and the input credits and so on available under this new regime, that business is going to do so very well. Well, here is the organization which speaks for business which says, that ain't necessarily so, as the saying goes, and that there may well be some very real difficulties.
AN HON. MEMBER: But they do say they favour it.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, they do, but they have this difficulty which should be addressed and should be changed, and I would appreciate it if the Minister of Finance might, at some point before this debate ends, rise and acknowledge that he understands, and the government understands, the difficulty that will be caused there, the administrative grief that will be caused and the confusion that will be caused, and the sticker-shock concern that will be caused that has been talked about so much, can be avoided by virtue of that tax-included pricing situation.
The chamber of commerce has written to the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, and they have said that, as the Premier just indicates and I acknowledge, that they favour HST. They have written by date of December 11, 1996, to the Prime Minister and they say that they oppose the tax-included pricing until the majority of the provinces, including Ontario, are also using the same system. They talk about marketing disadvantage, tax-included pricing will not only affect retailers, other industries will be hurt. The airline industry will experience a number of problems, charter operators, and on they go. The cost of implementation will be a difficulty for them. There will be difficulty in the area of expansion and growth problems.
They say, "As we have previously stated in correspondence and meetings with both the federal and provincial governments, the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce is again requesting that tax-in pricing not be implemented until the majority of the provinces, including Ontario, are also using that system.".
Now I guess I am a little bit apprehensive, Mr. Speaker, and I know many Nova Scotians who are as well. The Minister of Finance got up some days ago and said something like this is the most major and fundamental change to the tax regime since Confederation. Well, that is a pretty lofty statement and if he wants to use that turn of phrase, that is fine, but if, in fact, it is a significant tax regime change, as he suggests, and it sure is fundamental, I guess I really fail to understand why it is - in fairness to the interests and the concerns, to say nothing of the rights, of those who will be affected by the tax change, the business and personal and private Nova Scotian taxpayers - why is it that this government has so dismally failed, more to the point, has refused to share information with the taxpayers which will give them at least a start at some working understanding of how this tax is going to affect them and their families?
You know there have been some half-truths thrown around, Mr. Speaker, in relation to some of this. You see documents produced by the government in which they say that there will be no new BST on rents. Well, that is technically true but what they fail to tell Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian renters - and it is an issue which could and should be addressed and it is an element of a consumption tax - the fact is that the costs faced by the men and women who own and operate and make available, by way of rental and lease agreement, the rental accommodation across Nova Scotia are going to face very substantial increased costs. They are just simply not going to eat them they are going to, out of financial necessity, pass those on to those of us who are their renters, their tenants.
I haven't seen the Minister of Finance stand in this place at any point since this debate began and table here a document which indicates that any single corporation in the Province of Nova Scotia has given him or the government a written commitment that they, that corporation, have understood the implications of this BST and that that corporation has concluded that therefore, Mr. Premier, therefore, Mr. Minister of Finance, we hereby are delighted to tell you that we are going to pass on some of these savings to our customers and our clientele. The government is operating on what I consider to be an absolutely misguided and unsubstantiated hope that there will be some pass-through. I might have said as I mentioned tax-included pricing that the Saint John Board of Trade in New Brunswick has expressed the same concern as has the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce here and so clearly, it is not just a local issue, it is an issue, a fundamental concern relative to this whole regime.
I repeat, where is the indication that these assumptions that any savings which would be realized by the business sector will, in fact, be passed on to the consumer. I don't believe they will be and I don't say that because I believe for a minute that the men and women
running Nova Scotian business wouldn't love to be in a position to pass on some saving to their customers and their clientele. The hard, cold reality is that they simply don't have the capacity because of the difficulties and the hits that business in Nova Scotia, most of it in the small business category, has taken over the last number of years, requires them for their very corporate survival to retain any savings which are realized by this BST regime in their businesses simply to keep their heads above water, simply to pay down debt and if these ministers would talk to men and women running the businesses of the Province of Nova Scotia, they would find that most of them are struggling with very difficult bank loans, and mortgage indebtedness and commitment and that is where any saving, if such savings there are, will be going and they will not be going to be passed on to the consumer.
The Premier loves to holler over at me and others and say, the government is going to get $100 million less, $100 million less. Well, the Premier is going to get a $249 million bribe from the taxpayers I might say, it just happens that the Honourable Paul Martin is the person signing the cheque but where does the Premier, where does Finance Minister Gillis, where does anybody who thinks about these things think that money comes from.
The Honourable Paul Martin is reputed to be an extremely wealthy man in his own right but I doubt very much that Paul Martin has put his hand to his personal bank account and written a cheque for $249 million payable to the Minister of Finance, Province of Nova Scotia, he hasn't. What he has done is sent $249 million of our money, the taxpayers' money, from Ottawa to Halifax, that is what he has done. Add to that that this BST arrangement is taking $84 million out of the Nova Scotia taxpayer by way of increased consumer tax and in the main that $84 million is coming from (Interruptions) Did I hear not true? (Interruption) Yes that is right, good. It isn't true? Well, maybe I am wrong and I could get some help. The honourable member for Eastern Shore is telling me that the consumers are not going to be paying $84 million in increased taxes. Is that what I am being told? I would just like to know because I won't take any further time of the House on that point if I am in error. (Interruption) I am.
I would yield to the member, Madam Speaker, if he would rise and explain to me how it is that I am in error when I say that? If he would do that then I will shift away from that and we will not have to worry about that issue again. I will yield the floor long enough for - I will ask the member a question, to help me with my debate. Can he stand in my time and offer an explanation to me, Madam Speaker, which will indicate clearly that I am in error when I say (Interruption) Oh my goodness. We will get into that.
This member over there, Madam Speaker, sits there heckling me, saying that I am wrong when I say that this BST is going to rip $84 million out of the consuming public of the Province of Nova Scotia. He says I am wrong. I offer this member the opportunity in my speaking time, I would yield to him for a moment. I made him the offer to stand up and tell me how I am wrong. I made a further promise, that if he gave me an explanation that satisfied
me as to how I was wrong, then I would move away from my contention that $84 million is being taken from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia in this BST arrangement.
Do you know how we conclude the discussion? We conclude the discussion by him saying, no, no, when we get on to clause by clause. This member, like so many of the Liberal members in this caucus, Madam Speaker, are not prepared to stand up and speak to the principle of this bill. The principle of this bill, in part, is that it is ripping $84 million out of the consumers of the Province of Nova Scotia and, in the main, most of those Nova Scotia consumers who will be paying that $84 million are the poor and the less well-to-do. That is one of the principles of this bill and this member over here, who likes to heckle and catcall, isn't prepared to stand up when he screams at me, you are wrong, you are wrong, when I say that, I give him the chance to offer explanation as to why I am wrong and he plays partisan games and says no, no, we will talk about that at another stage. It is a joke. His attempt to make it sound and look as if he is going to explain to the people of Nova Scotia how what I have just said is in error is also a joke. (Interruption) Oh, no problem, no problem. I love it, the arrogance just drips down off the desks and the tables from across the way, Madam Speaker.
If these people really believed in the principle of this bill, any of these backbenchers, trained seals, would get up and now, in this stage of the debate, at second reading, where we are talking about the principle of the bill, they would get up and say; Madam Speaker, this bill is a wonderful piece of legislation for the people of Nova Scotia and here is why. They would recite chapter and verse, paragraph by paragraph, formula by formula, Greek symbol by Greek symbol, how all of this is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
None of them are doing that and none of them are prepared to do it. They love to heckle and they can go on and heckle and heckle. The other day one of them somewhere along the way used the expression, you know in this whole thing there is light at the end of the tunnel. Well I want to tell them that the light at the end of the tunnel that some of these people are seeing is the tunnel of the electorate coming down that tunnel to pound into them and smash them to smithereens. When they finally see their lives before them, as that light is about to hit, they will say, gee, that short time I had as a member of the government caucus was interesting, wasn't it? Too bad it wasn't longer. That is the light at the end of the tunnel for this arrogant Liberal Government.
The fact is, Madam Speaker, and you know it and it is simply your commitment to your duties, to your place here in the House, that greatly constrains your ability to make remarks sometimes here in this House. I know that if you weren't tied to that Chair that you would be one of those who would, undoubtedly, be up on your feet explaining the values and the virtues of this BST.
I will extend another invitation to the Minister of Finance. Perhaps, before we finish second reading of this bill, the Minister of Finance, Madam Speaker, through you, if I may, would be prepared to stand in his place, and table for us in this place the communications in which he has received from business, large and small, across Nova Scotia, indicating that those businesses have said to him, Mr. Minister of Finance, we have checked out the BST legislation and the agreements and the annexes and we understand the Greek symbols and we understand how this prov-base and fed-base and busbase and c-base and house-base and so on - and there might even be a little d-base in there - we understand how all this works and we want to tell you, Minister of Finance, that on the basis of everything that we have seen and everything that we have heard and everything that we have reviewed with you and your officials, we now understand that there will be considerable savings to our business, which we will pass on to the consumer. I would like to know how many Nova Scotian businesses have said to this minister, to this government, that if they recognize or believe there are savings to them and their businesses, how many of them have said those savings will be passed to the Nova Scotian consumers?
I have talked to many businesses and I don't believe for a minute, Madam Speaker, that those businesses are in a position to pass any savings along. More important, many of them are still scratching their heads trying to understand what savings there will be, the nature and extent of any such savings and, therefore, I think that the assumptions which this government has made about the extent to which all of us as consumers will be benefited as a consequence of this ill-conceived BST, is still very much up in the air.
The government, Madam Speaker, as you know, has issued various releases about what the impact of all of this BST stuff will (Interruption) Well, the honourable member for Hants East says, just trying to be helpful. Well, helpful is a relative term. Being straight and full up and open and honest and clear is sometimes helpful and that member might well be, if given his druthers, but is constrained by the attitude of some of his colleagues.
The Nova Scotia Government produced a document, what taxes go up, what taxes go down, the consumer fact sheet, and they have items to remain tax exempt. Well, let's just stop there for a moment. Items to remain tax exempt: rent, a half-truth because the costs to the men and women owning rental accommodations in this province are going to rise and they are going to rise dramatically. Until the Minister of Finance tables a piece of paper in this House which says that he has heard from every man and woman and corporation which owns rental accommodations, that they are not passing a nickel through to the tenants - and there are tens of thousands of tenants in this province - until the landlords say to the minister and this government, we are not passing through those increased costs, then for the government to say items remaining exempt, rent, is only half true. He knows and I know that in order to survive in business the men and women and the corporations owning the rental
accommodation are going to pass the increased costs and they are substantial. They are going to pass them through to those who rent from them.
Taxes going down, items where GST and provincial HST are now applied, a long list, watches and jewellery. Boy, we'll buy some diamonds and save on the BST. A real good list. That is quite a long list. That is under durable goods. We have the taxes going down on semidurable goods, and that is a list of some fairly considerable length. Then we have a list that is of some length under non-durable goods.
Then we have taxes increasing, and that is a strangely narrow and short list. It is about one-third the size of any one of the other sections. We get an item that the government says in their short list of what is going to go up under the BST, household services. We could have lengthened the list by five or six or seven items by talking about accounting, legal, funeral, carpentry, plumbing, landscaping. They did not mention stamps and any number of things. They did not mention the fact that if families in this province want to take their children to minor hockey and figure skating and recreational activity of that kind, there is additional cost there. They have not spent much time talking about the fact that in order for most families and particularly for most businesses of this province to function, motor fuels, diesel and gasoline, are part of the lifeblood of operating most families and certainly most businesses and up they go.
The municipalities and the universities and the schools and the hospitals and so on. Why are they telling us, Madam Speaker, that the rebates that they are going to be receiving, while rather different from the rebate arrangement previously, will by their analysis not recover back to them the amounts relative to the tax that they will be paying, that they are even now recovering? What is the result going to be there? The result is going to be increased costs.
To stay with but one element of all that, the school boards, the Minister of Education and Culture is reducing the grants to school boards on a regular basis. The difficulty in the circumstances being faced by the children in the schools is worsening by the day for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of resources being made in the schools of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is going to be further exacerbated by this BST. We do not hear that from the provincial government but it is true. It is in fact happening and it is going to happen.
I knew there would be sighs of disappointment across the way that I only have three more minutes but we all have crosses to bear in life and I guess that is just another cross for the members opposite. Not only do they recognize it as a cross but I am sure they recognize it as an opportunity. The opportunity available is that when I take my place, they have the chance to respond to that itch and the drive that I know they have been experiencing and that is that they can get up and tell the taxpayers of Nova Scotia about the wonders and the glories and the advantages of BST. We will see how many of them scratch that itch.
The BST arrangement that we have debated here the last number of days is, with respect, nothing but a weak provincial government buckling to pressures and bribes from Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. We are taking $249 million of our own tax money that Paul Martin is sending down from Ottawa - I repeat, it is not Paul Martin's money, it is your money and mine and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, that's whose that money is - so $249 million of our own tax money coming back and in addition to that there is $84 million worth of tax being taken from the consumers of Nova Scotia, and yet this province attempts to suggest that the net result is that in terms of total tax revenues they will realize something in the order of $100 million less a year under BST than is the case with the present tax regime.
Well, as the saying goes, I am from Missouri. I will wait to see those numbers because I think essentially the fundamental flaw that has been made here is that this government has made a conclusion that there will be all kinds of pass-throughs, of rebates and input tax credits available to business, which are allegedly available in this regime, and in my opinion they just simply will not be passed through because the men and women running businesses in Nova Scotia don't have the capacity to pass that through. Business in Nova Scotia is in the main hanging on by its fingernails and they have long-term debt and mortgage debt to retire and the taxpayers are not going to see that.
My final comment, my time is up. I find it interesting and amusing and, frankly, more than a little bit frustrating that we are now dealing with a new tax regime, the agreements relative to which were signed by the previous Minister of Finance, that same Minister of Finance who, a few years ago if I can find the reference . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, your time has expired.
MR. DONAHOE: My time is up. Well, signed by a Minister of Finance who is 1992 was calling . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. Honourable member, your time has expired.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . for a fair tax commission, and his answer, a few years later is the BST, and I think Nova Scotians are in for a real difficulty if this legislation should pass.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East, on an introduction.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, today in our west gallery we have a number of students from the adult high school, the Quest Program, with us. These Grade 10 students are here with their leader, Sandy MacDougall and on behalf of the member for Sackville-Beaverbank who is out of the Chamber to attend an official opening, I would like to introduce through you and to all members of this House the members of this adult high school that are here today and I would like to have all members give them our usual warm welcome and ask them to rise to receive this welcome. (Applause)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to be able to rise on this amendment that was put forward on this bill. That amendment says, "That the motion be amended by deleting all the words following the word 'that' and substituting therefor the following: 'that in the opinion of this House, consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay.'".
That is quite interesting, especially as I am proud to be a member here representing people from Cape Breton Island. It is interesting in the fact that we have an area with the highest unemployment rate in the country, yet we had another member for Cape Breton Nova, stand up and say that the tax was bearable. Well, Madam Speaker, the 26 per cent plus who are unemployed do not believe that the tax is bearable. This same member got up and waved an advertisement in the daily paper from MT&T. He went on the say that great savings would be conveyed onto the public and onto him as an individual. He didn't make any comment, no comment, about the number of people MT&T has laid off in Cape Breton.
AN HON. MEMBER: This is not what this bill is about.
MR. MACLEOD: The member for Cape Breton Nova says this is not what this bill is about, but that is exactly what this bill is about. It is the ability to pay and if you are not working, you do not have the ability to pay. That is what this is about. That is what the amendment is about, regressive. We don't take into consideration a person's ability to pay. You don't have to be a high school teacher or a university professor to figure out that if a person is not working, it is very difficult for them to pay.
The same gentleman for Cape Breton Nova talked about the $25 that you are going to save. But I would like to see that same member have his telephone keep him warm at night, or in the middle of the night when he has to get up and go to the washroom, I would like to see him use his telephone to light the way to the washroom. Madam Speaker, he cannot. But if he turns on his furnace, that tax that we are talking about here is going to cost him more money. If he turns on his lights to go to that washroom, the tax is going to cost him more money and it might be bearable. (Interruption)
MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member yield the floor on an introduction.
MR. MACLEOD: With pleasure, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria on an introduction.
MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Madam Speaker, I want to thank my honourable friend for Cape Breton West. I thought I would get his eye before he got into high gear, but I am sure he can pick up the tempo in a moment.
Madam Speaker, I would like to introduce a friend of mine and an entrepreneur from that great Village of Ingonish. George Brown is the operator of the Sleepy Hollow Cottages in Ingonish and any time any of the members go to Ingonish, I want you to go to visit George and probably stay in one of his cottages. George, I would ask you to stand and receive the warm welcome of the Legislature. (Applause)
MR. MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, I, too, would like to extend my welcome to another Cape Bretoner. It is a pleasure for them to be here in the House.
AN HON. MEMBER: Now, what were you saying about the member for Cape Breton Nova?
MR. MACLEOD: Oh, the member for Cape Breton Nova. This is the same gentleman who said it was bearable. Many people, Madam Speaker, have told us through petitions, through phone calls, through conversations on the streets, that they do not believe that the tax is bearable and this amendment takes that into consideration. (Interruptions) There have been many businesses heard from. They are saying . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. If the members would like to take their conversations outside the Chamber, I would invite them to do so.
MR. MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, we have, over the course of the last few months, heard from a lot of businesses and they keep saying the same thing: there are no savings from the BST; we have problems with the BST. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business releases a survey that makes opinions on the new tax; some like it and some don't. That is fair, that is showing both sides of the argument. I am sure the member for Cape Breton Nova would like that. There have been many businesses that have shown their concern about the BS Tax.
Then again, Madam Speaker, we had a Liberal backbencher show his concern about the use of the word BS Tax. I think the member for the Eastern Shore said that, and he asked in this very House for an outright ban on the term BS Tax. I think the member really wanted to go a step further, I think he wanted to have an outright ban on the BS Tax, the whole thing, because it is not good . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to have an outright ban on irrelevance in this Chamber. Now if the member would bring himself back to speaking to the amendment, I would appreciate it.
MR. MACLEOD: Well, thank you for your guidance, Madam Speaker. The relevance of all this is that this tax is not good for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is what the relevance of all this is. We have another opportunity here, and I am fairly sure that if the Premier was willing to let us take the Law Amendments Committee on the road, so that people could have an opportunity in all the different communities in this province to come forward and talk about their concerns, because yes, we have heard many times from businesses and we have heard from different groups. What we are asking for and what we want is to talk to the people who are going to be affected by this tax.
This amendment is talking about a person's ability to pay, Madam Speaker. If we don't go out and ask people their opinion, then how are we going to know about their ability to pay? It is not such a big question, it is one of those situations where people are being denied their rights again by this government. It is a simple matter of everything being shoved through, with nobody giving any consideration to the person who is going to be most affected by it, that is the taxpayer of this province.
You have to ask yourself, Madam Speaker, who is this deal really for? Who is it really going to benefit? Is it going to benefit business? Is it going to benefit government? Is it going to benefit the individual taxpayer? There are those in this House who say yes, but they only have the ability to speak when others are speaking. They won't get up and actually show real, solid proof. (Interruptions)
If the honourable member for Hants East would like to get up and speak, as he is so good at doing when he is across the floor, I would be more than happy, Madam Speaker, to give the floor to him. It would be nice, for a change, if he would get up and actually say what he really means. We all know that he won't, we already know . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: I am ready.
MR. MACLEOD: I am not ready but I will give you the floor.
You know what he will do, Madam Speaker? He will just get up and do some fluff and puff and away he will go - huff and puff and he will disappear because he is not allowed to talk.
AN HON. MEMBER: Give him a chance.
MR. MACLEOD: Well, we will give him a chance, he is going to have all kinds of opportunities. He is next on the list, he is the next person. I can guarantee him that I won't be up here for an hour, Madam Speaker, so he had better not go too far.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, I am not waiting for you.
MR. MACLEOD: Oh, you are not waiting for me. You don't have to wait for me. Why don't you wait for the people who put you here? Why don't you stand up and speak on their behalf, instead of speaking on behalf of the Party that has put you over there, that gave you a little job as a Whip and now you think you are the king of the castle. Well, you are not the king of the castle. (Interruptions) You should be talking for the people who put you here.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACLEOD: I know, get back.
MADAM SPEAKER: Now we will bring this debate to a mature level in this Chamber. I will recognize the honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, this is about a person's ability to pay.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I heard distinctly well this member saying that he would take his seat if the member for Hants East would stand in his place and I gave him that offer. Is the member going to answer to his word? He said he would then take his seat. Will he take his seat now?
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to rule on this point of order, and you are not recognized yet. It is an interesting point, but it is not a point of order. It seems to be a dispute between two members at the present time and I will recognize the member for Cape Breton West.
MR. MACLEOD: Thank you. As usual, Madam Speaker, your rulings are appropriate for the situation at hand. What we are talking about is the ability for people to pay and that is what this amendment is about. The more times that we talk about it the more disturbed I get. I am trying desperately to keep calm about it. There are those who say you should stop talking about it and maybe they are right. This crew is going to do what they want to do, Madam, Speaker. I am going to tell you, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the people we were asked to represent have their words heard. (Interruptions)
It is all right, Madam Speaker. I am not going to get taken away by the rabbit tracks of the Premier. He is saying I am doing a good job, and coming from him I am not sure if that is a good or bad sign. What is important is that this tax is hurting people. It is hurting people who can least help defend themselves. This tax is a tax on children's clothing. It is a tax on children's school supplies. It is a tax on those things that we consider to be necessities, like heat, like water, like when you have to get a well dug. It is about being able to afford to pay.
I represent an area on Cape Breton Island with over 26 per cent unemployment. I told you that before; the highest rate in Canada. The minister from Cape Breton East has said that in his area the unofficial rate is over 50 per cent.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is 40 per cent to 50 per cent.
MR. MACLEOD: He has corrected me. It is only 40 per cent to 50 per cent unemployment. Whatever the case, it is very hard for those people to pay their bills.
I am not really sure what it is that we can say or do to change this government's mind. I wonder if the Premier would consider letting the Law Amendments Committee go out across the province so that the people who are affected by this tax would have an opportunity to come forward and tell their concerns. I am relatively sure that if the Premier was willing to do that, we could move on in this debate and move on to the Law Amendments Committee and let the people have their say. If he is so sure that his government is right on this, the people will back him up and prove him right, but if he is not, they will come forward and tell their side of the story. I think that the Premier would be reasonable enough when he heard the evidence to then decide if he should go forward or change his mind.
I have said it before in this House and I will say it again until I am blue in the face, Halifax is not Nova Scotia. Two square blocks around this building is not Nova Scotia. The many people who are going to be affected by this tax, Madam Speaker, can least afford to jump in their cars and come to Halifax and sit before the Law Amendments Committee. It is almost impossible for those people who are going to be drastically affected by this bill to come here and show their concerns, so the government will be able to sit back and say, well, we only had a few people come to the Law Amendments Committee and they didn't say that much and they weren't that against it. But there isn't a real opportunity for the people to come and give their opinion. So we should ask the Premier - and the Premier is a reasonable person - to let the Law Amendments Committee go on the road.
We have lots of time, Madam Speaker, this doesn't have to be effect until April 1st. I am sure that the Premier doesn't have to go travelling after the new year so he can stay and listen to what people had to say and that would be important. Then he might even have the satisfaction of getting up in this House and saying, you people on the Opposition benches, you are all wrong. But if he doesn't go and give those people that chance, he is only going by what he thinks is right. That's where he has an opportunity to finally show some leadership, to prove that he certainly has the interests of the people of this province at heart.
The challenge for him and for his government and for his ministers is to let the Law Amendments Committee get out on the road and talk to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and let them tell him what they really think, because he doesn't believe that members of the Opposition are bringing forward the real truth. Let him go out and ask the real people of the province, not the ones who run the industries, not the ones who are operating all the banks, let him go talk to the ones that are trying to pay the bills. Let him go and talk to the
people who want a quality of life. Let him go talk to the people who we have the opportunity to represent.
It is not a big request but it is a fair request and it is a request that this government could operate on and should act on. Then, Madam Speaker, we will find out if a person has the ability to pay. That's what it is about; the ability to pay.
Time after time, petition after petition, phone call after phone call, people are telling us that this is not good for them. How many times can we repeat that in this House and it is going to land on the deaf ears of the government members? How many times do we have to say it before it will actually sink in and before we will actually take some action?
Madam Speaker, the Minister of Finance appeared on a radio program on December 10th and they asked him the $84 million question. The question was, "So the 84 million dollar question for you Mr. Gillis. Yesterday, in the Legislature Premier Savage said this tax is not going to cost taxpayers $84 million dollars more. It is going to save $100 million dollars. What do we base these figures on?". The Minister of Finance's answer was, "Well, I think what you have to do, is . . . the 84 million, that would appear to be the extra taxes that will be paid on the one hand. There is going to be paid by consumers on certain items but, I think of 53 million in tax relief going against that . . . And then if there is any pass through at all, you cut down the $84 million even if there is a 25% pass through for businesses, retailers, or otherwise, and there is a lot of others, construction companies and others, if they pass through their savings, will easily come up with a break even proposition.". What kind of an answer was that?
What effect does that have on the average individual? You're again talking about business. We need business. I would be the first one to tell you that. We could use some businesses to come Cape Breton Island but, Madam Speaker, even the Minister of Finance, the person who is responsible for this bill, the person who brought it into the House and sponsored it, can't tell us about the $84 million question. That concerns me and I would say to you that that concerns a lot of Nova Scotians.
Another question asked on the same radio program of the minister. I think it is the well drillers who are upset because they are saying it is going to cost too much for somebody to drill a well, what do you say to them? The Minister of Finance said, ". . . it's hard to say individually. Maybe they can charge the lower prices because . . . it may well be that the tax would go up for a job that they do but for all of their equipment, they'll no longer pay provincial sales tax -11% no longer pay the cost of their trucks that they buy or lease, their gas and oil and all those things. So you know it's one of those things.". Again, it doesn't tell us how the individual who is getting the well is going to pay for the well.
We could go on and on and talk about all the different effects that this tax will have on people but they are all effects that each and everyone of the people in this House have heard. The long and the short of it is we still haven't heard from Nova Scotians, the people who are ending up paying the tax. Now we are going to get money paid to us by the federal Finance Minister but do you know where that money comes from? It comes from the same taxpayer, it comes out of the same pocket, it doesn't make any difference.
The member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is shaking his head no, that it doesn't come from the taxpayer. Well I didn't know that Paul Martin had a money tree up there and that is where the money was coming from but if he doesn't get his money from the taxpayer, I would certainly be interested in hearing where he does get it from. He gets it out of the pockets of the people of this country, that is where the money comes from, it comes out of the taxpayers' pockets. The only way governments can operate is if they put their hands into the pockets of the people.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.
MR. MACLEOD: The former Minister of Finance is saying it is in the hands of Canadian taxpayers and not Nova Scotian taxpayers. He is probably quite correct but they are still taxpayers and they still have the right to know what is going on.
The problem sometimes is that people forget we are supposed to be working as a unit and we are supposed to be trying to do good for everybody, not just those who are members of the Liberal Party or not just those who are related to their Liberal cousins in the federal government, we are supposed to be trying to help everybody on an equal and fair basis. At the end of the day the bills in this country are paid for by the individuals of this country. Now we have an opportunity to listen to them and this government refuses time after time to listen, to do their share.
The day-to-day necessities are going to be higher in price. It is going to cost more for the day-to-day necessities. Many people don't buy new appliances or new cars, many people cannot afford to go out for supper. If they do, if they can afford to go out for supper it will be cheaper now but the question you have to ask yourself is are they going to have any disposable income to go out for supper because they are going to be turning around and paying more for their heating oil, more for their electricity and more for the gas to drive to the restaurant if they can afford to go.
You have to wonder, does the consumer have the ability to pay. I am not sure that they do and many of the ones who have talked to me say they don't. They also say they would like an opportunity to come and talk but people who live in Main-a-Dieu, or Louisbourg, or Big Pond, or Grand Mira, they can't just jump in their car and drive to Halifax at the whim of the government on a Friday, Saturday or a Monday. If they are lucky enough to have a job they have to go to it and most of them who don't have a job cannot afford to just jump in their car
and drive to Sydney, let alone drive to Halifax. Again, this government is not being fair to the people, the people who elected them, overwhelmingly, to represent them. They were elected because they said that good government begins with listening and as soon as they got elected, they stopped listening.
People are upset, Madam Speaker. We have an opportunity here before us to make a difference and make a change and we are not using it. Each one of us, as members of this House, should be ashamed; we should be ashamed that we are not giving the normal taxpayer of this province that opportunity.
Madam Speaker, I am not sure that what this government is trying to do is right. I am convinced it is wrong, but I am convinced even more that by not listening to Nova Scotia's people, we will never really know. I really think that if the Premier was serious about making a difference in this province, he would go out and listen, and he has that opportunity through the Law Amendments Committee.
Madam Speaker, I will be voting in favour of this amendment because I think it is important that people have the opportunity to tell the Law Amendments Committee what it is all about, and I think that the amendment says it all because this tax does not take into consideration a person's ability to pay, therefore, it is not a good tax, if there is such a thing as a good tax.
So I am going to take my place now because I can see the member for Hants East is chomping at the bit for his opportunity to get up and say something constructive, and I will be listening intently and I guarantee you that I will not heckle him because I respect what he has to say and I know that the people who he represents are waiting with bated breath to hear what he has to say and to tell us all why it is that he is supporting this BS Tax. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Cape Breton West in making the generous offer that he would surrender his place on the floor if I would rise. He took a bit of time doing so, I guess, so . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: He didn't take the hour.
MR. CARRUTHERS: But he did not take a full hour, so I think that was a reasonable accept and compromise and I want to thank the member. I think it is true, and I have heard many of the members opposite speak negatively with regard to the bill that proposes to harmonize the two sales taxes. They ask, why is it that no one has anything to say with regard to some of the pluses about this legislation? I just want to rise to keep the House just a short period of time, to indicate there are two or three components of the average Nova Scotia
resident's costs of living that are going to be significantly improved by the harmonization of this bill.
One of the things that struck me, after listening to the speakers opposite, was that they continually referred to things like the ownership of a house or the ownership of a car or, for that matter, the use of a telephone as being things that only wealthy people have or use. I heard that from just about everyone. It was somewhat surprising to me that both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party would echo the same comments. It seemed like strange bedfellows, indeed. But I would be surprised if the average Nova Scotian was sitting here in this House of Assembly and got to hear that the right to own a car, the right to have a house and the right to have a telephone were for the elite minority of the Province of Nova Scotia, because I can tell you that the vast majority of my constituents actually have telephones, and I don't have a constituency . . .
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Let me say, before I start my point of order, I am encouraged that the member for Hants East has gotten to his feet and I am looking forward to him expounding on his points of why this is positive.
I do want to correct the record, Madam Speaker. He was indicating that the New Democratic Party had suggested that only the elite own cars and can build houses, and that is absolutely not the fact at all, that is very far from the truth. What we did say was that average hardworking Nova Scotians spend a lot more money on family necessities than they do on going out and buying new cars and new homes.
MADAM SPEAKER: I will just comment that that is not a point of order and it is becoming a dispute between two members.
MR. CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, it is not surprising but it is peculiar that when a government member gets up to speak, after being cajoled and heckled and called names, seals and everything, over and over - when this government member got up to speak, I wasn't on the floor for a minute and one-half and the Leader of the New Democratic Party wanted to get up and take that time from me. My Heavens.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I think it is important that the honourable member for Hants East understand the fact that my rising on a point of order isn't taking time from him. This member has another 55 minutes which he is able to speak on this bill. I look forward and will listen very intently to everything that member has to offer this House.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to rule on this point of order. If I am going to have repeated points of order, I hope they soon start to be points of order or I will be adding time to the member's debate.
MR. CARRUTHERS: I want to thank the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party for straightening out that matter. I do appreciate him advising me exactly how much time I have to speak but I want to get back to the issue at hand. When I rise to speak on the principle of this bill, I want to do just that. I promise you I will not grab textbooks and read out of them, nor recite things or sing you songs or take pieces out of letters and not have them to table and sometimes have them to table and not really know exactly which letter it is, who wrote it, what it is about and whoops, that is the wrong subject, this is the wrong bill. I want to speak to this bill.
I am going to be somewhat concise in my comments. Let's talk about two or three of the really important items, the things that are important to the average Nova Scotian. I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that is a home and transportation and communication, and I am going to add to that list something to eat. That is food, shelter, transportation and communications. Now these are not things that some elite minority have. These things are not limited to the business sector.
Just in passing on that, there seems to be a bad word coming out of this House in the last few days about businesses. Somehow someone is trying to link - and I say someone. I can't say that all members opposite are doing this because I don't think all members opposite are. You can feel it, the tone, that somehow what is good for business is bad for people. I wonder who runs these businesses? Chickens? Donkeys? I would think that they must be people. I don't think you can equate business in Nova Scotia with these massive conglomerates like the banking industry. We are talking about small businesses here. When I talk about small business - and I have risen in this House before on this issue - I don't take some definition from the federal government or anybody else who says that small business is 250 employees or less, I mean 2, 3, 5, 7, 10. These are the businesses that I am talking about and these are the ones that I am concerned about. It is not evil to assist small business. I'll tell you what, if the small businesses in this province get a fair shake when they have to compete with businesses outside this province, we can lick 'em every time and each time that I see small businesses, whether in bad times - and we have had bad times in this province, Heaven knows - they are even stronger; they are more competitive.
In my community of Hants East, you just have a look at the small businesses. I can tell you this much, when people start to talk about a seven hour day with so many hours allocated each week for sick time and vacation periods, I can tell you the small businesses where I come from put in long hours and they work hard. It is about time that these truly small businesses got a break and this bill is going to give these small businesses a break. (Applause) These small businesses can compete and they are not afraid to compete. We are just putting them on an equal level.
A couple of things, I just want to go down the short list. I don't want to keep you. I realize that the Opposition wishes to speak to this bill, but I want to say a few things about a couple of key things. When you are building a house, now I heard some comments from some of the speakers opposite, I think the member for Kings North mentioned that there were three components in building a house. He mentioned two and he forget to mention the third one, but, nevertheless, I knew there were three components.
You know, because there are three components, the implication means that they are all equal. Three components don't mean all of the components are equal, it just means that there are three components. For instance, you are walking down the street and you are wearing three articles of clothing. One is a ring, one is watch and one is a bathrobe. If you take off your ring, nobody is going to notice. If you take off your watch, nobody is going to notice, but if you take off your bathrobe, you shall be noticed. These are not three equal components that were referred to. The materials component in building a house, in most cases, is the biggest component of the other two added together. I would suggest to you that the materials component is much larger than the other components.
What do our homeowners have to do now? When you buy building materials, you are paying both taxes. One is piggy-backed onto the other one and you are paying nearly 19 per cent. Now on the labour component, the counter-argument is, well, that is only the GST, 7 per cent. (Interruption) The member for Kings West says to me that I was getting low on numbers. I should have known that that was not true, because I am speaking. Having said that, the major component here is the materials component. When the materials component gets merged into the 15 per cent, I can tell you, that is going to make a big difference to building a house on the right side. That means the average person building a house is going to save money.
It can be said, and I have heard from certain organizations that they are not quite sure of this, and these organizations, many times, are cherry-picking. You know what I mean by cherry-picking. The two Opposition Parties, you know what I mean by cherry-picking. Cherry-picking is when you say, look, I am not against this idea except I want this and I want this taken out. I am not against the idea of harmonization, but I just want to have it with this out and this in and this out and this in. That is cherry-picking. Of course, the Opposition knows what I mean when I refer to cherry-picking because that is what they are doing.
In fairness to the New Democrats, I have to say this, in fairness, at least the New Democrats do say, we don't care about what we pick. We do not want to have anything to do with anything like this. Am I understanding that correctly? (Interruptions)
That is right but you have to understand. That is the social philosophy Thou shalt not get ahead. I understand that. I am a little bit surprised. How do these two Parties merge here? Who is calling the shots in this coalition? My heavens, strange thing.
Okay, we'll just do houses. That is pretty important. Young people that are trying to start out. I have heard members refer to young people trying to get ahead. There is a pretty big component right there. (Interruption)
Try this on. The member from Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley talks about water. Did you ever have a house that had nothing in it? You have to furnish this house. (Interruption) I have never been in your house.
AN HON. MEMBER: Only when you were in it.
MR. CARRUTHERS: You have to understand that. There is a god. Having said all that, I want to be (Interruption) I do want to say this. This house that we have just built - you have got to furnish this house. You have to put things in this house. The average Nova Scotian has a right to have things in this house. Doesn't he have a right to a chair in this house and a bed, something to cook on? That is the average. That is not some rich elite. That is not some corporate agenda, is it? He is going to have some furniture. Lo and behold, let there be light in this home. (Interruptions) I can tell you this much. When you go to the store and buy that chair and that stove and when you go to buy that bed, I can tell you what kind of tax you are going to be paying on it right now. I can tell you something else. I will bet you I know where it is going to be manufactured most times too. I know where that is.
AN HON. MEMBER: Where?
MR. CARRUTHERS: Our good friends in Upper Canada. Now, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, he knows where Upper Canada and Ontario are. That is the same place where the last government was a New Democratic Government. That is where Ontario is. Then it was replaced and became a Conservative Government. Maybe that is the basis behind this merger, is it?
AN HON. MEMBER: There is a point there, I am sure.
MR. CARRUTHERS: The point I am trying to make is that my Nova Scotia people have a right to furniture, too, and they are going to pay less under this merged tax than they ever did before to furnish their house. (Interruptions)
Now we've got somewhere to live. I know, I am starting to rattle on. I will try to be brief. (Interruptions)
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member from Hants East would entertain a question.
MR. CARRUTHERS: Yes, I would love to take a question.
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, at present there is no tax charged on pay-phone calls costing less than 70 cents and paid for in coin to pay phones. Now, the member accuses us of cherry-picking, but many people, business people, truck drivers, et cetera. use the phone (Interruptions) You say this is only small potatoes, but believe me, day in and day out thousands of dollars are spent in the pay phones across this province. Is the honourable member aware that there is no tax charged on pay phone calls costing less that 70 cents and paid for in coins while others, to make the sales tax system more equitable it is proposed that the threshold will be reduced to 25 cents? In other words, the BS Tax is going to be applied to phone calls greater than 25 cents.
MR. CARRUTHERS: I thank the honourable member for that question. I know this. That when dealing with the merged sales tax, the harmonized sales tax, that there was a very large ad in the newspaper, I think it was today. It was put in by Maritime Tel & Tel and what did that phone company tell us? That phone company told us and it is them that is putting it in. We do not. This government does not own the phone company. We don't own the power company either. They say that there is a deduction through this tax. They are in favour of it. It is going to benefit consumers. That is what I know about telephones here. (Interruption)
I do not know. I am not sure about how many people make use of those pay phones for long distance calls. The last time I checked, a local call costs 25 cents, doesn't it? Isn't that what a local call costs at a pay phone, 25 cents? I am not sure exactly how many long distance calls are made on long distance phone calls between 25 cents and 70 cents. I have not turned my mind to that most interesting, but not significant, question. I hope that is the best answer I could give you.
AN HON. MEMBER: Do you know exactly . . .
MR. CARRUTHERS: I know this, that we have now talked about a person who has bought a house . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . what the amendment is, Bob?
MR. CARRUTHERS: . . . he has built a house, he has put something in it. Now he has to drive to the house. Do I have to spend any time on this one? I think everybody agrees because one of the big hammers that the Opposition has used . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Hammers?
MR. CARRUTHERS: . . . is bang, people who actually are going to get cars are going to save money. People with cars you say, people with cars are going to save money. Off with their heads! My Heavens. I just wonder how many members of the Opposition over there, what did you come to work today with? Horse and buggy was it? The average Nova Scotian uses their car. They are not all new. Both of my cars are second-hand cars, but this thing applies to second-hand cars too.
I would like to see if both Leaders of the Opposition Parties actually came to work, I don't know, by way of raft or did they come here by way of driving a car? I will tell you, so now we have a guy and a lady, a couple, they actually have a house to live in, they have things to put in and they have a way to get there. Doing pretty good, aren't we, so far, wouldn't you say? They can telephone from there.
I am not going to leave this subject until I turn on one pretty important issue and this is where we will find out just how many of the Opposition members are really in favour of supporting Nova Scotians as opposed to making some political points. Now we have heard some members speak over there about how they love this and they love that because the electorate might give them some votes for it, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about what is good for Nova Scotians after you have the facts. That is what this government always talks about. I represent the people, all of the people, all of the time. (Applause)
I am tired of having a disadvantaged tax position between the manufacturers and the producers. For instance, did you hear about the farmers' agricultural meeting on the weekend? They support this harmonized sales tax. You can't get much more basic than the primary producers of this province, the farmers, and there is a pile of them in my district and they are important people to me and they should be important people to you, too. (Applause)
When the manufacturers have had to go through years - years, I say to you - of a non-competitive, unequal playing field with the producers and manufacturers out of Upper Canada, it wasn't just because they were living close to the market, it wasn't just because of transportation costs, it was because of taxation policies that have hurt the Atlantic division for quite some time.
I am going to just leave you with this. Right now, if a manufacturer in Nova Scotia, a primary producer or manufacturer, even an assembler, puts together, through his input tax credits, the 15 per cent, he has now increased his credits, he doesn't actually pay any - what we used to call - PST, because he passes through. Anything he buys to produce, every component to the item that he produces, he used to have to pay PST all the time and never pass any through. Now in Upper Canada, if they don't merge, then they can't do that. The producer out there can't do it . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: That is right.
MR. CARRUTHERS: . . . if they don't merge.
AN HON. MEMBER: They are at a disadvantage for a change.
MR. CARRUTHERS: Now, mind you, I think they are going to merge, but the longer they hang out there for political reasons, the better it is for producers in Nova Scotia, I can tell you that. (Applause)
AN HON MEMBER: Don't forget to take your blood pressure medication.
MR. CARRUTHERS: I have great blood pressure. It goes up and down just like that. I must tell you one thing, don't be sucked in when you hear about Alberta being upset. Of course they are upset . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: I don't care about Alberta, I care about Nova Scotia.
MR. CARRUTHERS: If they were having a better deal than we were, why would they be upset? Remember, they don't have any sales tax in Alberta; their producers don't have to face the same thing that our manufacturers have to face. It is about time we got on an even playing field.
Now I want to be fair. I realize the Opposition has pointed out there are some good things in this. I just think you should be more balanced in your approach. I don't want to instruct you. Some of you have been here much longer - it was pointed out to me some you have been here - oh, my, my, a very, very long time. So I respect that and I am just saying to both Parties that when you get together I don't know whether it is the Socialist Conservative Party. Whatever it is, try to be at least logical about the approach, try to be objective about the approach, as I think I am attempting to be. It is just like a couple of other bills, remember, that we went through; on and on and off with their heads, it is terrible stuff. Certain people get afraid when they hear the things you are saying. People get afraid when they hear some of these horror stories that just aren't so. Mind you, after the bills were in, just like all of the other bills that we put in, they found out it wasn't so.
I have a concern. I have always been concerned because I looked at this and analyzed it fairly closely. It can't be perfect. You can't know all of the details. For instance, the member says, do you know the difference between a long distance call on a pay telephone that costs less than 70 cents but more than 25 cents, if it has an effect on the tax? I didn't know that and I appreciate the member bringing it to my attention. Some of those things I would have to dig out and find out. I have had a look at this bill and I have studied the repercussions. The first thing that struck me is to have a look at all different segments of our society. I wondered, as I think was pointed out by some of the members opposite, about low income people and working poor because that is a concern to me. You can cut the income tax . . .
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Hants East answering my previous question. I have just another short snapper, with his permission. I am just wondering what the honourable member for Hants East is telling the Municipality of East Hants, because municipalities from one end of this province right to the other are very, very concerned that their costs are going to go up once the BST is added. I believe the honourable member was once a councillor, in perhaps another life so to speak, and I am just wondering, what is he telling Warden Lloyd Matheson, for example, relative to this new blended sales tax?
MR. CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - I don't like to use people's surnames or Christian names but I know the Warden of East Hants and of course, it is nice to know that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is so interested in my riding. He has shown that interest before and I certainly appreciate that. I also am interested in his riding.
Yes, I had the advantage of being a municipal councillor for some years and municipal solicitor. I know that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley also was. I know this. If municipal governments around this province, if this provincial government and other provincial governments and the federal government had enough savvy and business sense to know they had to balance their budget, like the Municipality of East Hants has been doing for years, if the governments before us had any sense, knew how to balance the budget like East Hants, we would all be in good shape here. That is not what the previous government did for many, many years. It is not just this government, governments all through. (Interruptions) I am trying to answer the question. The first thing I am trying to tell you is that you should listen to governments like East Hants because they know what they are doing. It is too bad the previous government here didn't listen. We wouldn't be out of balance and we wouldn't owe $8 billion or $9 billion.
I want to talk specifically about what the member asked. The member asked, does he think the municipality, just like any other municipalities, might have some increasing costs as a result of the merged sales tax? I am not 100 per cent sure. I know there is a lot of pass-through. They already had 57 per cent pass-through, a pretty big pass-through anyway. Once again, the same thing applies to the input credits.
I do want to make this point. No government in Nova Scotia, be they municipal or anybody else, can think that they can go through a process and say, we don't want to be affected at all. It is like the Progressive Conservative Party's point. I know the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley believes in what his Leader says, I think he accepts what his Leader says. He is going to speak after me so I am sure we will hear lots. His Leader says that he wants to have a harmonized sales tax, and I think the member right ahead of him, the member for Pictou West . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: He's a good member, too.
MR. CARRUTHERS: He is a good member, I like that member. That member said the same thing; he wants a harmonized sales tax but he doesn't want to have any impact. Like hello! How do you implement a system that has no impact? If you didn't want to have any impact, why would you implement a system? It makes good sense to me. I will talk to you afterwards; we will have a long talk you and I. I hope that answers the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I can tell you right now, first of all they run a good government in Hants East and you can take it over to your County of Halifax and you can learn a lot. Having said that, I am sure the municipal governments are concerned at the effect it will have, but nobody ever has a system that doesn't have some impact. This is a plus impact. (Interruptions) Sure it is, exactly, couldn't have said it better.
I am taking more time than I wanted to but I want you to know that; the average Nova Scotian, when you take all the pluses and minuses, is going to be better off with the harmonized sales tax, the average Nova Scotian. That might be a fellow or a lady who almost would be all the way up to a level where they might even have a telephone; the average Nova Scotian. Businesses, by far, are finally getting the competitive advantage. I think on the principle of the bill the two Opposition Parties, merged as they are, should seriously consider voting for this bill to go through second reading. Consider it; it is logical. Who knows, there may be a cherry or two that can help in the future. Join us in bringing the most sensible tax change to this province and this country that we have seen, I would say, in two or three decades. Join us, be part of the team that helps, not part of the Opposition opposition. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I was listening very carefully to the member for Hants East, and I am not sure if he touched on the amendment or not. The Deputy Speaker never mentioned it and you didn't, so I am not sure whether he was for or against the amendment, but he certainly spoke to the principle of the bill.
I listened carefully. What I couldn't imagine, after listening to the honourable member, and I think he said it as clearly as I think many of us have said it, I thought it was refreshing to hear a member from the government side say that there were details that even he didn't understand and that we are all cherry-picking out of what we think is good and what we think is bad.
I think what he was saying, and I don't know why he voted against, say, the Public Accounts Committee, or some other sort of independent group, going through it in detail so that the people could have a proper analysis of the details of this legislation, so that one could decide what the pluses and minuses were. I know that the member also agreed that there are minuses. Now what we have to find out, Mr. Speaker, is how many minuses and how many pluses and then find out who are going to benefit; which consumers and which businesses are going to benefit and which are not.
I think it was refreshing to hear the government say that there were still areas, and I admit that he agreed with the principle of the legislation and the direction in which it went; he did agree that there were some details. That is why we have had difficulty in trying to get those details. That is why we have argued about the length of time of trying to deal with this legislation in the House.
The honourable member talked about having furniture in the house and what was wrong with that. Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, Mr. Speaker, but what if you have furniture in the house and you have all the things that he said you must have, but if you have no heat and no lights and no job, it is going to be pretty difficult to say that that is good for those individuals.
I know what he meant when he said that the average Nova Scotian has a car, a home and a phone and there is nothing wrong with that. I don't disagree with that. As a matter of fact, I agree that Nova Scotians should be permitted to have that. What has really concerned me of late, Mr. Speaker, and this is going to impact this legislation even greater because of it, on those who are on community services who have cut their budgets. I have had person after person call me now who have had to give up their phone, because by the time they pay their heat, their rent, their lights and buy food, they cannot afford the phone.
In this province, I agree, and most people I talk to and some of these people, Mr. Speaker, are people who are sick and for emergency reasons, should have a phone, but absolutely cannot afford a basic phone. I think what this government and this tax does is put those that are disadvantaged in our society today at a further disadvantage. If you are going to have a tax, you tax those who can afford to pay it, but not those who are further disadvantaged. The minute that this goes into effect, April 1st, will this government, through Community Services, raise the amount of money that people are going to get for all the necessities of life that they have to have. Probably not, because what they have been doing of late, is lowering the amount that those people get. So, in actual fact, this tax is regressive, from that point of view.
I was interested this morning, Mr. Speaker, in listening to the Minister of Finance answer the question about the impact on home care. I think it was him or somebody who tabled this document on home care. It could have been the Minister of Health or the Minister of Finance, but it came to our desks a very short time ago. It was interesting for me to read what the Government of Nova Scotia, the Department of Health, said what home care is all about. It is, ". . . a program provided by the Department of Health, is intended to prevent or delay admission to nursing homes and help with early discharges from hospital. It meets people's health and safety needs in order for them to remain at home by providing the following services:". It goes into the nursing, but it also goes into, "Personal Care. Examples: bathing and grooming, transfer from wheelchair to bed, assistance with toileting. Home
Support. Examples: laundry, light housekeeping, limited meal preparation.", and all those things. Then, as I read down, the GST is not charged for personal care or the home support if it is provided by the government. But if you have to have a private company or an individual come and provide those services, you are now going to pay 15 per cent on those services.
As I know, from personal family experience, that when someone develops Alzheimer's disease or people need some assistance because they cannot look after: number one, their personal care; and number two, they need home support, you call Home Care. You cannot get 24 hours a day home care, in this case, which you need. You cannot get into nursing homes because there is a waiting list. What is the option? The option is to hire, privately, the home support and the personal care. That is what the option is. Now this government, through this taxation, is charging 15 per cent for those people who need those kinds of services.
I think that is very unfair, it is disadvantaged. As a matter of fact, if you look at the charter, and it is provided for some and not for others, what is fair about the program? If you are going to be able to provide it for some, because you are providing it through the Nova Scotia Government, through the Home Care Program and I cannot get it because I am on a waiting list, but I have to pay the 15 per cent; I don't believe that anyone, whether you are on that side of the House or this side of the House, would agree that that is fair. What we are talking about in this side of the House, and we talk about a coalition, well, all of us are saying, I think we would say it as individual members, whether we belong to a Party or not, that we want fairness for those Nova Scotians who are going to be hurt by this government blending the sales tax. That, Mr. Speaker, is what this amendment is all about.
Now, you say, well, yes, there are some things that will go down and there is absolutely no question but the things that go down are not things that a person on a fixed income has to do. They talk about the food that goes down but I talked to many people and they say snack foods, restaurant meals and fast food is going to go down but you know, Mr. Speaker, those who are on fixed incomes and limited incomes and what I call those on very low wages, you talk to them - and you go back to your constituency, like I do - they just can't afford to go out and eat. They have to eat at home where it costs less. So, there is no saving for those people.
Yes, there is a saving for those who are richer, who have more money and can afford to do that. Absolutely, no question, there is a saving. But when you look at jewellery or you look at an expensive, whether it be an item such as a fur coat, it will come down, absolutely no question, but you look at clothing and footwear and the government says this, under $94, will go up. I am saying to myself, well, what is fair about the fact that because I can afford a $5,000 clothing item - I don't even know what fur coats cost - or a $300 coat but if I don't have the means, I have to, under $94, pay more. I have to pay 15 per cent which I didn't have to before. The idea on the exemption of clothing and footwear under $94, was to allow those
on fixed incomes and those who happen to be maybe unemployed at a particular time or those who are on disability pensions, which are fixed incomes, would have the opportunity to not have to pay extra tax. I think we would all recognize in this Legislature that it is very difficult for those people to make ends meet so we have always allowed them under that amount to be tax free. They could shop around and find something and save some money when shopping.
But what does the government come along and decide they have to do? Well, they have come along and said, I am sorry, no more do we recognize that the lower amount - be it children's clothing or children's footwear or whether it even be adults' - that we are going to now tax you more because we obviously must feel that you can afford to pay more. If we wanted to be fair and didn't feel you could pay more, we obviously would not charge the extra on that kind of a thing.
Do you know the reason this tax is regressive is that I don't have a choice, no one in this province has a choice, we all have to pay a light bill. That is not a choice. It is a necessity of life. It is not one of the items where I can go out and buy a new watch or new jewelry, I can have a choice. I do not have a choice when my monthly light bill comes in. I do not have a choice, and neither do any of my constituents when they heat their home. All of a sudden they are going to pay more for heating their home but they do have a choice whether they want to go out and buy a CD player or a television set that is going to cost less, they have a choice about that and they probably won't do that unless they can afford to do it.
If the government said, look, we are going to bring in a tax that is more fair, we are going to tax some of the things that are more or less not necessities of life. Most people would like to have the finer things of life, most people strive to better themselves in life and they may, at some time or another, buy items they consider luxury items that they want to enjoy during their lifetime. You have to have the finances in order to do that. What this government fails to realize, that what we used to call middle class in this province are now finding they cannot buy those luxury items as maybe they did in the past but they do know, and all of the people know, no matter how much you earn or how much you have as income, you have to heat your home and pay your electric bill.
This government says this is a much fairer tax than we have had in the past. If I thought they were really sincere about that, why would they make adjustments to put it on things that are necessities of life. I believe even toothpaste is a necessity of life that they indicate will go up in price. One has to have healthy teeth in order to have good health or down the road it can lead to all kinds of things.
If you take the government's list and you go up and down the list, and then you listen to the government say this tax is a fairer tax than the one we had before, when in actual fact you know that the necessities of life are going to cost you more than when the tax is implemented and no matter how much you earn, you are going to pay, then it is not a fair tax.
I think one of the things is the ability to pay. There was always that principle, the way our income tax system works, it is the ability to pay. The more you earn, the more you pay. What this government is saying is it does not matter how much you earn, it does not matter your ability to pay, we are going to up the things that are necessary for you to live day to day, week to week, month to month. We are going to up that tax and you are going to end up paying more.
The government will argue that there are going to be some savings somewhere. It started out by the Minister of Finance saying that through the retail outlets we would see all the savings of the inputs and outputs passed on to consumers. Then the Minister of Finance was down to saying that maybe 25 per cent would be passed through to the consumers; now he is down to saying he does not know whether any at all may be passed on to the consumer. The consumers know that when they wake up on April 1st, whether or not there will be any pass-through, and whether or not with the tax-included, we are told by businesses and others who have come out in support of this, because the tax-included is causing problems, the consumer knows that when they wake up on April 1, 1997, to heat their home is going to automatically going to go up. They know that the electricity is going to go up. They know that clothing and footwear is going to go up. They even know that getting a haircut is going to go up, and if they have to repair their shoes - they cannot afford new ones - they know that is going to go up.
So all of those things they absolutely know. When they buy their toothpaste, it is going to go up on April 1st. The government says have faith, have faith, we think there will be some pass-through. We have asked day after day and you know we have asked for businesses to show us the documentation that actually says that the consumer will get some benefit from the pass-through, the input/output taxes that business will receive in this province.
I have talked to some of those businesses. They do not see a pass-through. They say that there will be an extra cost to them of doing business because of the tax-included. They do not see as pass-through to the consumer and, as I explained the other day - and I do not want to repeat myself - many businesses indicated that in actual fact with the tax-included you are going to pay more than you were paying before with the two separate taxes. In other words, the consumer is going to be hit at the cash register, and the consumer is going to be hit, taxwise, both ways. When the government did the study that said that the consumers would pay $84 million, their own study, you can rest assured that was on the low side. I cannot believe the government would ever produce a document that would be on the high side; that would not be favourable to them.
What we have is a tax that many people are opposing, and I know the government is wondering why all the fuss by the Opposition Parties and why aren't people just accepting this as is? Why don't they take our word that it is good for Nova Scotia? Part of the reason is that the government fails in its attempt to produce documentation to prove to Nova Scotians that, in actual fact, this tax is good.
I think most Nova Scotians are fair-minded, Mr. Speaker, but they do get upset when people talk about taxes to them. One of the things that people get upset about is taxation because they feel that governments, for some reason or another, overcharge them for the services they get. One of the things that the consumer is going to know is that when you come into this world you have nothing, but it is going to cost more to leave this world because we are going to pay higher taxes on funerals.
I think the member for Hants East said that it is fine for businesses to make a profit and those are real people, and I acknowledge that. You cannot ignore the fact that, yes, those people have to make a profit, but you cannot ignore the fact that those businesses, when they use the legal service or the accounting service of the province, will have an input/output and so they will have a saving. But what about John, what about Mary, who have to use those services? Do they have an input/output? No, they do not have an input/output. Mary and John will have to pay 15 per cent for that service after April 1. So if Mary or John need help with accounting or have a matter that may not be their doing but ends up in the courts, or a land transaction, any kind of transaction, Mary and John, who do not have an input/output, have to pay.
Mr. Speaker, businesses today - when the member for East Hants talked - yes, they pay the 11 per cent, but that can come off of the profit line. It is a claimable expense. For the poor individual, you cannot claim anything. There is no way to claim an expense. You just have to bear it and hope that in some way you will be able to pay the bills. You know what the consumer is afraid about? That after April 1, 1997, it will be more difficult for them. The honourable member for Hants East said, that there are a number of points that he didn't know, about the pay phone and other points. What would have been wrong with all of the details being worked out? I am sure there are enough independent people in this province that we could mutually agree on that could do an analysis of the details of this tax so that they could hear from somebody, other than politicians, who absolutely say, yes, this tax is good for us or this tax is not good for us.
Mr. Speaker, I had this laid on my desk today, and I am sure it came in the mail. It was dated December 11th, yesterday. The Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce support the tax but - there is always a but - the tax-included pricing should not be implemented. They go on to say what the market disadvantage would be. They also go on and say, "Tax-in Pricing Will Not Only Affect Retailers . . .", and they talk about the cost of implementation, the expansion and growth problems. What would be wrong with the government allowing consumers and businesses so everybody would know? I don't know what study said that this tax would be good for Nova Scotia, because the study we saw said the consumers pay $84 million more. There has been not enough work done so that everybody can come to a conclusion that this is actually what is good.
I was interested when the Minister of Finance tabled his consultation report of November 25th, before the government signed on the dotted line. They have set up a 1-800 number and they had 251 calls. We have had more calls than that in our office alone, since this legislation has come to be. They had 11 per cent complaints, 89 per cent seeking information.
They did have some private meeting with groups. Now we don't know who; it said it ranged from senior citizens to the Canadian Bankers Association. I hope those private meetings were better than when they met with the seniors about Pharmacare, when they said this is the way it is going to be. Members on that committee told me that they had no choice but to go along with it because they were told by government that this is the way it is going to be.
I don't know, if we knew the details and who was allowed to have input, we might know what actually took place in those private meetings. There have been a few sponsored meetings around the province but there was never an opportunity for a public meeting, for the department to have people there with all the answers on what is going to be taxed and what is not going to be taxed, how it is going to affect the individual, how it is going to affect the business person. If those meetings had taken place, I think there could have been a different end to this whole thing.
One of the things when the government included its price-included, if they had explained to the consumer that by including this it would actually cost you more for the items - and I know it can be demonstrated - then I wonder how many people actually would say yes, that is the best way to go.
The things that are affected. Groceries are not affected but your weekly gas is and yes, I would hope most or all Nova Scotians would have access to a vehicle but it is actually going to cost more to drive to work or drive to look for a job, if you have not got a job. There are a lot of Nova Scotians out there looking for work, so it is going to cost them more. It is going to cost them more to send off a resume if you are unemployed; it is going to cost you more to buy newspapers; it is going to cost you more for haircuts; it is going to cost more for diapers, and that is a necessity for many young families; for dry-cleaning; for toothpaste; for clothing. Take-out chicken is going to be less; movies are going to be less. But if you add it all up, with the oil bill and the electric bill, each family in this province will actually end up paying more.
For some people, Mr. Speaker, who make $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 or $100,000, or whatever you make, that is probably not easy but not a problem, really. What about the person who is on a fixed income? I know a lot of people who are even on $10,000 or $12,000. Many people live in this province under $20,000, many people. Many people I talk to tell me, and I have sat down with many of them in my constituency. I have looked at their costs. I have looked at their rent, at their light bill, at their home heating costs, I have looked at some of the necessities they have to have with regard to their medical condition and, you
know, they don't have one red cent as surplus. As a matter fact, a lot of those people today are going in the minus because they can't afford the necessities of life.
What this government is going to do to them after April 1st is make them have an even more difficult time. Why couldn't the government make the taxation as such that if you are making $100,000 you could pay a little more, but if you are making under $20,000 and struggling to make ends meet, you wouldn't tax them more after April 1st, because they have no more to give; you have taken every bit of blood out of them that there is to get.
One person said to me, you know, George, there isn't another drop left for them to get, I am giving it all out. I can't work, I am unable to work, I have a limited income and I just can't do it. For many of these people they end up sicker, stressed out, needing additional medication, because there isn't any one of us who wouldn't worry when you can't pay a bill; there isn't any one of us, when you can't make your monthly amount go around, who wouldn't worry.
Many of us in this Legislature may not have ever been in the position, but I am telling you that there are people in that position today; I have them in my constituency. Every one of us do and I feel bad for every one of them that are coming forward. What is this tax going to do? It is going to make it worse. So why didn't the government make a fairer tax if they were going to make the change? Fairer from the point of view that the more you have, obviously, the more you can afford to pay. That is pretty simple, that is pretty basic, and that is part of the democratic process.
What does this government do? No, this government doesn't care about the people that I think they should care about. They say they care, they say they feel deeply for those but, if you feel deeply for them, why would you run an advertisement that tells them that next April the necessities of life are going to cost them more? Now, how deeply do you care about them?
I don't see why this government can't take this legislation and acknowledge that it is a bad sales tax, the BST, and say listen, if we are going to change any taxation in this province, if we are going to do anything, let's do it in a fair way and let's do it so that it is fair in a way that those who can afford to pay - as the amendment says - and those who are less disadvantaged are not clobbered once again by taxation. I don't think the government members fully understand the impact that has. They can say yes, we have talked to our constituents and I know they get calls because all of us, as MLAs get calls and usually we get the hardship calls, but there are a lot of calls we don't get from people who are too proud or want to try to make it on their own.
It is pretty discouraging because people coming out of university today are working for very low wages, many of them minimum wages. Even for those people and those families that are working, and both members of the family working, now are going to be faced - and
imagine having three or four small children in your family - the government comes along and says footwear, clothing and all of that for those children is going to cost more money because we are going to put a tax on it. It is bad enough that things go up in this world because of inflation and all of the things that happen to people. Those who are hurt the most by inflation and all of those things are the low-income people. What this government is doing by not accepting this amendment is saying, we don't recognize that it is harder for some individuals, that this tax is unfair to them.
Maybe if the government members really cared as much as they said, they would acknowledge that this legislation has some shortcomings, as the member for Hants East indicated. He said that you cherry-pick and yes, you can cherry-pick. I can give examples of where some may be better off but I can't give an example of someone on a fixed income being better off, not one. I can give you an example of someone making more money or a business, there are areas where I can stand up here and cherry-pick in that area, as he did, and say that there will be some advantages.
If you look at a piece of legislation, you have to look at it in totality. In other words, you have got to look at all the cherry-picks on the pluses and the minuses and then you have to make up your mind, is this really what is good for Nova Scotia, for the consumers of this province? I have done that, I have talked to business, I have talked to consumers and I have yet to have anyone say to me that it is a good deal. I know they keep referring to my colleague from Pictou West saying maybe some sort of harmonized tax would be good for the country. This isn't good for us; this isn't good for Nova Scotia. That is what we are dealing with here. We are not dealing with something that is good for the country, we are dealing with something that affects us, as Nova Scotians, and whether or not it is good for us. That is the way we have to cherry-pick. We can't just get on a bandwagon. You know, I remember when they said 30-60-90, we are going to hum in this province, we are going to have jobs, jobs, jobs. They set the process in motion and they said, believe me. I have had people phone me saying, boy oh boy, Mr. Moody, when are these jobs going to be available? My son is out of work or my husband is out of work, I have no job, I have been looking and I am just waiting for those jobs.
Well, here we are, three years later and they are still waiting for those jobs. We have less jobs in Nova Scotia. Now they want Nova Scotians to say - because we are getting close to election - that they have another plan, only this plan is different, they say, than the 30-60-90. This plan is going to make jobs hum, hum. I expect that people will call again, wondering where those jobs are because they have not been identified. I have not heard a retailer in this province tell me that they are going to hire more people because we are implementing the BST, not one. As a matter of fact, I have heard some say that they are going to be hiring fewer. I even heard one business say that because of this tax he may have to close. So there
may be more than one, actually, to be honest with you, there are two. You have to wonder, where are they? They say they are going to come.
You know, Mr. Speaker, if there was an opportunity to look at this in detail, and one of the things that has amazed me about this government is that a lot of things are secret, you can't get the information, but the government expects you to believe them. I cannot understand, it is almost like the Pharmacare, you can't get the actuarial studies, you can't get the studies that the government put together with the federal government, to show that in actual fact this will provide all of those jobs that this government talked about.
Mr. Speaker, the government members wonder why the Opposition, regardless of what Party has gotten up and asked questions and debated this important legislation. This legislation will affect every Nova Scotian, it will affect every constituent that I represent. I think I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't get up and represent the views of those people I represent.
Yes, I have had business people call me who have concerns about it. They don't like the tax-included price. I have had consumers call me; yes, they don't like it because they don't like what they see is going to happen to them on the necessities of life. So I haven't had one constituent in my area call me up and say that as is, George, that BST is a wonderful thing, support it. Not one person, not one. I think that most members of the House know that if I had, I would say so. I have done it before and I will do it again.
Mr. Speaker, part of it is that a lot of people may not even know the ramifications of this legislation. I think it is important that government try to get the message out. You know it isn't getting the message out by putting an ad in the paper that says; personal services, haircuts, shoe repairs, dry-cleaning, et cetera, will now be higher because we don't know what et cetera is except we know that it is private home care, personal care and we know that it is home support. Why wouldn't the government be honest and put all the information in the ad so that I and my constituents would know exactly how it affects them. No, we put out an ad that is only half there, has half of the information.
If this government is going to take out ads, please put all the information there. They wonder why people don't trust them. That is why they don't trust them, they don't trust them when it says "et cetera" because we don't know what et cetera means. One day we had the Premier get up in this House and say, they are crazy over there, it doesn't affect home care at all. When you look at the definition of home care by this government and when it says; home care is personal care and home support, and those who can't get it through the government because of the long waiting list, you are now going to tax them. Of course home care is going to be taxed through the private sector and this government has allowed the private sector to develop in this province without any kind of regulations whatsoever.
We are going to see more privatization, whether it is the labs in health care or whether it is hospitals, we are going to see more privatization. We don't know where it is going to end with this government, so when you go to privatization, we don't know where it is going to end and whether the consumer is going to have to pay more tax. If the government would come clean, I think Nova Scotians then could accept the fact and make a decision on whether they actually think this tax is a good tax or whether they think it is a poor tax.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is, obviously, two different opinions in here. We have a very strong opinion here and a not quite so strong one over there, but at some point I would hope that when the Nova Scotia Government finds out from Ottawa the details - which they do not know yet, because I know Ottawa is dictating to them - that they would pass along that information to the general public of this province. Here we are signing a deal where we are losing autonomy because if the two other provinces - New Brunswick and Newfoundland - say that tax will be 16 per cent or 17 per cent, we need it, this government cannot veto. We all are 17 per cent, according to the agreement. So we lose autonomy.
It used to be that each province set their own PST rate and this province had a lower PST rate in 1993, and even now than Newfoundland does. I think New Brunswick was 11 per cent or 12 per cent. So we always had control of our own destiny. We don't have any control over our own destiny anymore because it says in the agreement that if a majority of the provinces say that the tax goes up - or the tax goes down, which is unlikely - then the other province has to go along with it. Why would this government sell their soul to Ottawa? Why would they allow others to determine what happens here in this province? Why would we even need a government here in this province if we are not going to have autonomy to the taxpayers we are responsible for, to make sure we decide how and what the tax rate is going to be?
Mr. Speaker, we got a piece of information yesterday, the appendix, that tells us that we may not even get all the money that is paid in Nova Scotia because it is blended and then it goes in a computer mix of the three provinces and we are not even sure if we are going to get all of our own tax. So as we get this information and as the general public begins to fully understand that this government has sold itself to Chretien and the Liberals in Ottawa, then people begin to understand, hey, maybe we had better have a look at this. What we are trying to do is make sure people have a full understanding of what this BST is all about and how it is going to affect them.
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting, obviously, for the amendment. I think it is one that in all good conscience all members should consider, because actually what it is saying is let's be fair. Let's not continue to hit upon those people on the low fixed income. Let's not keep doing that. Let's try to be fair to those people and let's try to devise a system so that those who can afford to pay, pay, and those who least can afford to pay are treated with fairness and dignity, and allow them to strive towards some of the things in life that one would want to have. So, I will be supporting the amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak this afternoon in support of the amendment. The amendment basically states, "that in the opinion of this House . . .", the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, ". . . consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay.". I know you and some of your counsel gave that amendment a lot of careful consideration and probably much deliberation. I appreciate your view that it was in order because I feel that it is very much in order.
Mr. Speaker, I have a document that obviously government members do not have. This document is called the Prince Edward Island Final Report and the government should look at this document, examine, assess it and then see if they come to some of the conclusions that they already have come to. It points out, "As you are well aware, during the 4 Session of the 59th General Assembly, the Legislative Assembly established the Special Committee on the Proposed Harmonization of the Federal Goods and Services Tax with the Provincial Sales Tax. The committee was authorized to meet intersessionally and directed to make its final report to you, complete with recommendations, as soon as was reasonably possible.".
The special committee that was looking into the harmonization of the federal goods and services tax with the provincial sales tax really did not have a time gun, if you will, held to their heads. The covering page is signed by Roger Soloman, MLA and Chair of the Special Committee on the proposed BS Tax, but the MLA says that, "Accordingly , as Chairman, I am pleased to inform you that the Committee has concluded its deliberations and presents this Final Report for your consideration. In addition, we hereby humbly request that you forward a copy to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and to the general public . . .".
Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the Savage Government does not support sharing information with the general public and that may very well be quite strange language to the government. The Opposition comes in here and tries to do a job and tries to hold this government accountable and answerable for its actions. We do not come down here to be pessimists or dampers or killjoys and things of that nature. In fact, I consider myself for the most part to be a very optimistic individual and quite hopeful most of the time. What we are trying to do is bring forward some of the concerns that everyday Nova Scotians have and we hear from our constituents, be they young people, seniors, people on fixed incomes, and so on and so forth. A lot of those people do not have the ability to pay this additional tax. A lot of these people just do not have the ability.
In the final report that was prepared by a special committee in Prince Edward Island, and Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I would know, that Prince Edward Island certainly has a lot of similarities and a lot of likenesses. In fact, many Nova Scotia companies compete for and participate in the same markets as many Prince Edward Island businesses do. Many of the
points that the committee on harmonization of the tax for Prince Edward Island make are very topical and, of course, they certainly would be appropriate in this province as well.
"There was concern expressed about tax measures that eventually . . ." the province would have to take measures, ". . . to replace lost revenue.". That is what the Prince Edward Island committee found. "A number of presenters . . ." in our sister province - and again I say we have a lot of similarities, a lot of likenesses. Many businesses in Nov Scotia compete in and for the same markets as Prince Edward Island - ". . . also expressed concern about provincial autonomy.". We are fundamentally changing the taxing regime in this province and Prince Edward Island taxpayers recognize that. In Prince Edward Island presenters expressed concern that, "The existing Provincial Sales Tax is a form of direct taxation over which the provincial Legislature has control . . .", but they felt that, "Under the harmonization proposal the federal government would determine the base of goods and services covered.", because they, as we know here the GST was going to be used as the base. "As well, the rate of the provincial portion of the harmonized tax would only be adjusted in conjunction with the other Atlantic Provinces.".
We know, subsequent to this report, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland in cooperation, and I hope in concert with Ottawa have worked up a clause whereby a majority of provinces now can effect any change relative to the rate of tax. Already we have given up some of our provincial autonomy. "Some presenters expressed the view that under harmonization the province would be surrendering significant control over the most important revenue source and potential tool for economic development that the province has.". Does this government have any concerns whatsoever that you are surrendering control over a very important economic tool and that is the ability to implement taxes. "Some presenters suggested that certain sectors may even benefit if the Province chose not to harmonize its sales tax. Some presenters presented the view that tax harmonization represented further evidence that taxation was increasingly being placed on consumers and away from business and in particular large enterprises.".
The member for Hants East on this very same amendment got up and said, what is wrong with giving businesses a break and so on and so forth and he more or less implied that the Opposition somehow was against business, be they big or be they small. My constituency, not a whole lot different from the honourable member's, has a lot of small businesses. In fact, about a month ago at the Musquodoboit Rural High School, we held a trade and service business expo and you would be surprised at the number of businesses in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley; many businesses came out.
Did you know that there is a goat farmer in the Musquodoboit Valley who has nearly 400 goats and they tell me that over one-half of the world's population drinks goats milk. People say, what has that got to do with the amendment? Well, that is a very good question.
Now the point to be made is that the government is milking the taxpayer. (Interruptions) Well, goat farming is very popular and I think one of these days I would like to have an opportunity to debate farming with the honourable Minister of Agriculture but I won't take time today to do that.
Some of the presenters over on Prince Edward Island did present the view, ". . . that tax harmonization represented further evidence that taxation was increasingly being placed on consumers . . .", that is included in the report. I have something that the government doesn't have or the government won't admit they have and that is a study; one of our sister Atlantic Provinces conducted a study. They have many small businesses.
Then, "A significant number of presenters took what could be termed a 'qualified' position. These presenters often sought some form of offset (i.e.; rebate, tax credit or exemption) in the event harmonization occurred. These presentations came from the MUSH sector . . .", which we all know is municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals and things of that nature (Interruptions) Well, he pronounces MUSH different than I do. ". . . as well as groups and individuals seeking exemptions from the application of the tax under harmonization . . . and some business/industry organizations.
Individuals, organizations and businesses on Prince Edward Island were given an opportunity to go to a government-sponsored committee and make presentations. I know to this government that sounds eccentric. (Interruptions) Now they tell us that is Law Amendments here. They make legislation and then call in a few presenters, Madam Speaker, and we already suggested . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Anybody can come in.
MR. TAYLOR: Anybody can come, it doesn't matter if you live down in Gabarus Lake or you live down in Yarmouth, anybody can just give up what they are doing and drive into Halifax and make a presentation. Now we know that is a bunch of hogwash, Madam Speaker. We know that is hogwash. Why couldn't Law Amendments, for example, maybe we should perhaps present and introduce another amendment whereby the Law Amendments would go into communities like Yarmouth, Bridgewater, Digby, Kentville, Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Amherst, Port Hawkesbury, Canso, Glace Bay, Sydney, Inverness? Why couldn't perhaps (Interruptions)
Now, if you really want to hear, because what you are doing, you are coming in with economic policy that may not - I say is not - in the public's best interest. I stated the other day that public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency. Public opinion is very important and it is incumbent on government to provide the vehicle for those expressions. Where do Nova Scotians go? They come to the Opposition. We are receiving forms - as you know, the Leader of the Opposition, I won't dig that form out, you have seen us hold that up, Help John Hamm stop the BST, the blended sales tax - we have received forms from, now I know the
honourable Madam Speaker would admonish me if I mentioned but we heard from citizens in Cape Breton North, we have heard from citizens from Cape Breton Nova, we have heard from citizens right across all our 52 constituencies and I ask this government a reasonable . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Halifax Needham?
MR. TAYLOR: Halifax Needham, absolutely, a lot from Halifax Needham. We literally have hundreds and hundreds. Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, you name it, we have received hundreds and hundreds, Madam Speaker. What I ask all honourable government members . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Table them.
MR. TAYLOR: Now the honourable member for Halifax Needham makes a very good and reasoned request. He asks us to table those forms. Madam Speaker, I will tell you what I am prepared to do. I am prepared to go to our caucus staff and ask them - and this will take some time - if they would sort through and separate the forms that we received and put them into individual constituency allotments and then would the honourable members table them on behalf of their respective constituents?
Madam Speaker, that is a reasonable . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Fifteen minutes should do it.
MR. TAYLOR: Fifteen minutes? There are hundreds and hundreds, thousands, literally thousands of names but I am just asking the government, the Opposition, in a spirit of cooperation, at a time of the season when we all should be happy and be in the festive mood from time to time, Madam Speaker, I ask the question, could somebody speak on - perhaps the member for Hants East. You know he likes to get up. At least that honourable member did have the courage of his convictions and beliefs, he did get up. (Interruption) I understand the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Shore and I will be careful not to say BS Tax too much, Madam Speaker, but . . .
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: A question, Madam Speaker. Would the honourable member, he has made mention, not only this time but a few times before, about he is the only one or his Party is the only one that has the report from P.E.I., would he be willing to table that report from P.E.I. so we may all have the opportunity to look at it?
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I want to say I appreciate the question from the honourable member for Lunenburg. I would have no difficulty at all tabling the document. In fact, I wonder if we could go one step further and perhaps, because that document is such an important document and public consultation was held, I am wondering, Madam Speaker, if you wouldn't be prepared, because it is such an important document, to perhaps adjourn the
House for a couple of hours and let all honourable members - just a consideration - take the document, assess it, read it, peruse it but yes, we will table the document. That probably was a request that you cannot comply with but nonetheless, I had to make it.
Now, Madam Speaker, in addition to the various positions taken by groups during the public hearing process. ". . .a number of sub-issues were addressed and the committee would be remiss . . .", this is according to the Chairman, Roger Solomon, one of the MLAs from Prince Edward Island. He says, ". . . would be remiss if it did not note them in this report. A number of groups addressed tax-in pricing and while there was not unanimous opinion, a number took a strong position against tax-in pricing. It was put forward that it would be expensive for many retail businesses to initially adjust.". Again, I state that we have a lot of similarities and likeness to P.E.I. and they are questioning their people's ability to pay. It is in black and white. "Much of the opposition centered on practical concerns as opposed to philosophical concerns about government hiding the tax.".
Madam Speaker, I know you have heard about people concerned about sticker shock and then they will say, oh my gosh. I don't know if I do have enough money to pay for it. So this government, I believe, is basing a lot on some of their philosophical views, rather than real practical issues. You know, we have seen this government talk about businesses passing on their savings to consumers, but, in Prince Edward Island, businesses made it very clear that they, in a lot of cases, are operating by the seat of their pants, so to speak. They have stated that rather than pass it on to consumers, they would most likely bolster their profit margin or reinvest their money in the company.
Even the former Minister of Finance surely has to recognize that many of our small and medium businesses in Nova Scotia, at present, are very hard pressed. While input tax credits, in some sectors, will certainly help those businesses, and I have never stated otherwise, the concern is that, well, you know, last year was not all that good. Our profit margin was only 2 per cent or 3 cent. We better invest in this company. We owe it to the employees of this company, you see. If they invest in their company, the minister may say, well, gosh, that is good. We said that businesses are going to create 3,000 jobs as a result of these input tax credits, but the end consumer is going to be impacted. That is the concern that we have and it is clearly documented in this study.
This study, Madam Speaker, goes on further to state, "It is evident to the Committee that the GST remains an unpopular tax measure which in turn necessarily impacts on the public discourse on the merits of sales tax harmonization. The vast majority of persons who made presentations or contributions to the Committee were against sales tax harmonization . . ." - harmonization, for the honourable member for Eastern Shore, ". . . mainly due to the impact on consumers . . .". They also had, to a lesser degree, concern about provincial autonomy and finances.
Madam Speaker, it also goes on to say that, "While there was general opposition to harmonization, a number of groups did caution that if the Province chose not to harmonize, the status quo with respect to the existing PST may not be an option either.". That is a concern P.E.I. has at present. I believe the sales tax is 10 per cent in Prince Edward Island, at present. "The Committee was reminded our Province competes in many of the same markets . . .", as I pointed out before, ". . . as our sister Atlantic Provinces and that the PST may have to be altered to take into account sales harmonization in those Provinces.".
We all understand what that is saying, Madam Speaker. That is saying that Prince Edward Island is concerned that its sister provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland are adopting this policy. It is not a true national approach. As we talk about unity, we talk about Canada (Interruption)
MR. KEITH COLWELL: A question, Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the honourable member if he is insinuating that the Province of Prince Edward Island is actually going to lower their hospital tax in the province because they feel the deal in Nova Scotia is so good?
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I will answer the honourable member's question directly. What the report is saying is that the committee, the five member committee, was reminded that our province competes in many of the same markets as our sister Atlantic Provinces and that the PST may have to be altered to take into account sales harmonization in those provinces.
Madam Speaker, it can't be clearer than that. Yes, Prince Edward Island is very concerned. We are all very concerned when we are talking about a national tax and harmonization we know what the honourable member for Pictou West said, irrespective of some of the comments made by members opposite. We know what the honourable member is talking about, he is talking about the country Canada.
Now, Madam Speaker, we are getting down to the committee's assessment. The honourable member for the Eastern Shore should perhaps listen to this because, as I pointed out, this is a study that received over 70 presentations. "As a public policy issue, sales tax harmonization poses a particular challenge to our province. The apparent lack of information . . ." - no different than here - ". . . on the subject proved frustrating for both presenters and the Committee. That aside, our Province has a small population and economy. As such, there has been a tendency to cooperate both regionally and nationally on economic and social issues. The harmonization proposal in many respects is attractive, but at the same time it has features that are not acceptable to the Province and its people.". So you see, Madam Speaker, they listened to their people. Again I say that public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency.
Now, Madam Speaker, why can't this government, why can't the honourable member for Halifax Needham understand that people want a forum, a vehicle, and it is important that you - now the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, I will say from reading the papers, did hold a town hall meeting on this topic. Am I correct? The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage did. How many other members? Did the member for Hants East, who has a lot to say? I know the honourable member is a constituency man, I am not saying that he is not, but did he actually bring up the topic at his annual meeting in Nine Mile River?
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes. Donald Downe was the speaker.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, I understand that Donald Downe was the speaker. Just the night before, just to balance things out, at the Hants East Progressive Conservative Annual Meeting I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker. The honourable member was very kind, I even brought (Interruption) Well, no, we are getting off the amendment. We have a great relationship with our neighbours over in Hants East and I hope that continues. I wonder if that member understands that many of the end consumers - you see, we are all consumers, but as end consumers people in Hants East, and we have a number of forms - I am not saying they are all Tories, not all the Liberals in Nova Scotia buy this harmonized sales tax package.
Madam Speaker, the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Shore says he had a meeting in his riding. It is important that we gauge the public, see what they think of this tax. What we are hearing, we are inundated, we are overwhelmed with forms and phone calls and letters protesting.
Madam Speaker, back to the amendment and back to the report. The government is quite helpful today and I appreciate their insight into this. I know the honourable member for Hants East did get up and speak on the topic. I don't know if you are aware of that or not but maybe the honourable member . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Actually, member, I was in the Chair when he spoke so yes, I am quite aware.
AN HON. MEMBER: So you weren't paying attention again.
MR. TAYLOR: Now, Madam Speaker, I am not going to take the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury to task for comments like that because you know it is the season to be jolly.
Harmonization has several shortfalls and let's talk about shortfalls in this province and talk about the ability to pay. Let's talk about the municipalities across this province. The honourable member for Hants East did, by anybody's admission, a poor job in answering the question as to how municipalities were going to be impacted. He skated, he tap-danced, he did everything, he walked on hot coals, but he did not answer the question.
Halifax Regional Municipality - there are several former county councillors in the Chamber here - may have to raise property taxes because this government is implementing and establishing the blended sales tax, the hated BS Tax. (Interruptions) I have said harmonization a number of times, but the blended sales tax, the BS Tax, $6 million. How is that going to impact Colchester County, the Town of Stewiacke, the Town of Windsor? It is not going to make any difference, you see the direct cost to the Halifax Regional Municipality is estimated to be between $6 million and $8 million. That is where the majority of Nova Scotia's population is, in the municipality, the highest concentration of population. The Town of Bedford estimates that because of the BS Tax, the taxes in Bedford will have to go up by $1.7 million; that would be the Town of Bedford's portion of this new tax hit. So the province again is down-loading on the poor, beleaguered, property taxpayer.
Harmonization does have many, many shortfalls. The government again promised to take over the full costs of welfare. They didn't say, look, we will dictate where the monies are to be spent and what the service to be provided is but you pay, but it is estimated and projected that the Halifax Regional Municipality is going to pay between $22 million and $23 million. When is this government going to live up to its commitment? My, my, my, that is very unfair.
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . like drunken sailors.
MR. TAYLOR: Oh my gosh, I cannot repeat what, I wouldn't. Halifax Regional Municipality is spending like drunken sailors, my goodness, I am surprised. I guess maybe the honourable member for Halifax Needham hasn't spoken with his councillor lately.
Last evening I had an opportunity to speak to three Halifax Regional Municipal Councillors, one urban and two rural. They are very concerned about the BST and are very concerned that this government - remember back in the spring - with the stroke of a pen, this government eliminated the grant in lieu of taxes on agricultural land, do you remember that? So you tell me what you are going for municipalities and you tell me what you are doing for farmers.
"Harmonization has several pitfalls. First, while under harmonization the province . . ." - and we are speaking about Prince Edward Island because we do have a study and we compete for the same market, the same businesses as they do - ". . . would still maintain its constitutional authority over direct taxation, it would lose a great deal of autonomy.". Nova Scotia does not have a lot of information, citizens are very frustrated. (Interruptions) Don't listen to the coaching, Madam Speaker, they know not of what they speak.
We are concerned that Nova Scotia is losing some of its provincial autonomy. Now can anybody dispute that? When you don't have your provincial autonomy, then you question not only the people's ability to pay, you have to question the province's ability to compete. How
are you going to raise taxes without going to New Brunswick, without going to Newfoundland and with kowtowing to Ottawa. It cannot be done.
Let's be honest. Let's not mislead Nova Scotians into thinking that this will give us somehow more power, more jurisdiction and more autonomy. It just don't work that way. Under the proposed harmonization agreement the base of goods and services to be covered would be established by the federal government. We are talking about people's ability to pay. The amendment is right here, Madam Speaker. I am being very relevant and you are not (Interruptions)
Madam Speaker, I should not respond to rabbit tracks because you know that I am being right on the button. Right on the topic. Yes, Madam Speaker.
The province presently (Interruptions) You know, Madam Speaker, we have got to talk about people's ability to pay because this government was offered some (Interruptions)
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I have been advised by the media that the Law Amendments Committee is sitting on Saturday and my point of order is simply this. Surely, members of the committee should be advised before the media. I was wondering if the chairman of the Law Amendments Committee could advise the members of the committee right now whether or not that is so.
MADAM SPEAKER: I think that it is not a point of order so much as a request for information.
MR. RUSSELL: . . . because I think it is a point of privilege. When a minister makes an announcement to the media and then does not tell the members of that committee, I would think that indeed my privileges as a member are being run over.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I do not think it is a point of privilege and it is not a point of order, but it might be a helpful courtesy if the chairman of the committee would advise the members if there is a schedule for the upcoming hours ahead. Would the member who is chair of the committee care to comment?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Yes. Whether it is a point of privilege or order or otherwise, I am happy to share what little information I have on this. It is not widely known outside this Chamber, that is for sure, although on an informal basis I have spoken to one or two members of the media. I will, as soon as I sit down and debate resumes, have a chance to talk to the member opposite and other members of the committee.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. Yes. (Interruptions)
MADAM SPEAKER: You are all cutting into your honourable member's time in this debate.
MR. LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I realize that you will hear me out, as to whether I have a point of order or not. Another honourable colleague on the other side of the House has assumed I do not before I state my case.
My point of order is simply this. In any statement respecting the ordering of a committee to convene and hear submissions to it, it is the House to which that information should be first addressed, not some members privately by the chair of that committee who happens to be the minister who just spoke. It is this entire House, members of all Parties, who should be given that information.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable members, I am not in a position to make a judgment call on this. I have no knowledge of anyone speaking to the media on this. I cannot help you out on this. At this point in time the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, the amendment that is before us questions a person's ability to pay. I know the former Finance Minister had visions, perhaps, of sugarplums when Ottawa offered the compensation package and when the inducement was offered, I cannot help but wonder if that package - I know there have been all kinds of figures floated around, but in Prince Edward Island, for example, when we are talking about a compensation package, Prince Edward Island was offered $50 million and they state emphatically and very clearly in this document that it would not replace the long-term loss of revenue that would accrue to the province as a result of harmonization. That supports the previous minister's argument that, in fact, we are going to be bringing in or we are going to accrue less tax dollars. I am not disputing that but my question is, over the long term - in the short term I think maybe this government, and I don't think I am casting any unfair aspersions by saying that . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: But aspersions, nonetheless.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, Madam Speaker, we have to question how objective the former Minister of Finance and his management team were when they accepted that inducement package. When we are talking about people's ability to pay, we have to look at the long term. In the short term, yes, that would enable this province, perhaps, to balance its budget.
I am not saying that this government's boast that the budget will be balanced is fiscal myth or anything of that nature, I am not suggesting that. I support the budget in this province, as is the case in all the municipalities across the province, being balanced. I agree
that we have seen, Madam Speaker, enough deficit financing and budgeting. I support fiscal responsibility but in the long haul, down the road, did we, as the Leader of the Official Opposition suggested, sell the farm? This inducement money is just that, it is hush money to keep Nova Scotia quiet. But let's not forget that public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency, Madam Speaker. The day of reckoning probably will have to be at the polls because this government is not prepared to go out and listen to everyday Nova Scotians, to find out if, in fact, they do have the ability to pay.
Madam Speaker, I don't doubt that you could recite the list of commodities that are going up as well as I could but do you have any concerns that gasoline is going up? Do you have any concerns that home heating oil is going up?
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am not in a position to answer what you are raising here, when I am sitting in the Speaker's Chair, so I really wish you would stick to the discussion on the amendment, in all fairness.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker, I appreciate that. The provision for tax-included pricing, and that is part of the harmonization proposal, it is a very real matter of concern for the business community of Nova Scotia.
AN HON. MEMBER: This is P.E.I.
MR. TAYLOR: Well, Madam Speaker, it was a concern in Prince Edward Island also, a sister province. We compete in and for many of the same markets, so let's not fool ourselves that the business community is very concerned about tax-included pricing.
During the presentations in Prince Edward Island there was little philosophical opposition during the public hearings. (Interruption) Pardon me, Madam Speaker?
MADAM SPEAKER: You have the floor, honourable member.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker, I appreciate that. An issue that proved quite problematic for the committee over on Prince Edward Island centered on the issue of whether sales tax harmonization would cost the consumer more or less than the existing PST. Now the Government of Nova Scotia is telling us that the sales tax harmonization will cost the consumer less than the existing provincial sales tax. I wish the present Minister of Finance was in the Chamber; I know he is a very busy man. An issue that proved very problematic for the committee centered on the issue of whether sales tax harmonization would cost the consumer more or less than the existing provincial sales tax.
The Savage Government of Nova Scotia and the former Minister of Finance - and I don't mean to single him out because he is in the House - but he is a very busy man and I am sure he gave this careful examination before he signed on the dotted line. I think he was hasty,
but this government is telling us that the provincial sales tax, the hospital tax, impacts Nova Scotians more negatively than this new BS Tax will.
Madam Speaker, over in Prince Edward Island, that was a very problematic concern that that government had. So most presenters took the view that harmonization would cost the consumer more than the provincial sales tax. That is the view they had in Prince Edward Island, that the BS Tax, the HST, the HFC or KFC, whatever you want to call it, was going to cost the end consumer more. But here in Nova Scotia, we are telling our constituents, or we are supposed to be telling the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that is going to cost less. What I say, is I have a document, apparently you don't have this document.
AN HON. MEMBER: No, and I asked you table it.
MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, it is rather difficult to table it at the present time because I am referring to it and I do believe that it is tabled and I think it would have been incumbent on this government to get a copy of the document before they ever brought the legislation forward. Prince Edward Island had the wherewithal and the vision to go to its people and hold public consultations. I know that term public consultation seems alien and foreign to some of the government members, but it is important.
It is important that the public be given an opportunity and, obviously, they are not going to be. We are on probably our last amendment and we have a few speakers left on second reading and then this bill is going to the Law Amendments Committee. That is great for people in the metropolitan area that have time. I know many of the people in metro have to work and have commitments and so on and so forth, but, nonetheless, the committee over in Prince Edward Island, Madam Speaker, most presenters took the view that harmonization would be negative and often pointed to the fact that the harmonization tax would apply to a broader base, including necessities like clothing, electricity and heating oil. There is no question that the consumer would pay more in direct taxes under harmonization. How much clearer can you be?
They state, again, "There is no question, that the consumer would pay more in direct taxes under harmonization.". Hindsight is always 20/20, Madam Speaker, no question about it, but if this government had gone to the people of Nova Scotia like our sister province did, Prince Edward Island, you would have come to the same conclusion. So would we be responsible not to speak up for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, not to present the views of the consumers? "The Committee reviewed data prepared by the Department of Provincial Treasury using both a 50% and a 100% flow through assumption.". The department used a 50 per cent and a 100 per cent flow-through assumption. "Under these scenarios the Department's data indicated that harmonization would be generally positive for consumers.", based on a 100 per cent flow-through. "Opinion on the consumer impact of harmonization depends largely on what represents a reasonable flow through of business tax savings to consumers.".
The Government of Nova Scotia, the Savage Government, has told us, I believe their projection is, or one of the examples they use, is that if 20 per cent of the savings flows through, I think it is 25 per cent, then it is a good deal for the consumers. But, in Prince Edward Island, they used 100 per cent flow-through and did come to the conclusion that it would be generally good for consumers. So we are talking 25 per cent and Prince Edward Island is talking 50 per cent and 100 per cent, there is certainly many percentage points in the difference.
I have a document and the Government of Nova Scotia does not have a study. (Interruption) There is an old advertisement and I am not sure if it is on television or not but it says, don't go out without it. Well, I don't go out without this document and I would encourage some of the government members not to go out, without this document. You know, this is great when you are sitting down and people say, you guys down in Opposition are nattering away and you are whining and crying about this and that, do you know of what you speak? So, I am very pleased to be able to pull out a document, a study. I have a study and the government doesn't. By the way, the office of the Premier of Prince Edward Island, the Honourable Pat Binns, was kind enough to fax this document over to us.
Now Conclusions and recommendations. (Interruption) No, I am not concluding my contribution to the amendment.
"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 impact on some sectors of the Island economy and that down the road government may need to make adjustments in this regard. Therefore, it is recommended that the Government of Prince Edward Island not enter into the sales tax harmonization agreement as proposed by the Government of Canada.". That is the recommendation.
The government took the time, went to the people and that was the conclusion of a special committee looking at the harmonization of the provincial sales tax and the federal goods and services tax. The Government of Prince Edward Island is going to, ". . . monitor sales tax harmonization in the three other Atlantic provinces and assess the impact on the Prince Edward Island business community, consumers, regional trade, economic development initiatives and trends, the competitiveness of Island business and the general performance of the economy.".
If this government had conducted a similar study, these recommendations could very clearly read, the Government of Nova Scotia not enter into the sales tax harmonization agreement as proposed by the Government of Canada, the Government of Nova Scotia
monitor sales tax harmonization in other Atlantic Provinces. That is what the document would have read, I would submit to you. I put to all members of the House that if this government had gone to the people, we would have come up with the same conclusions as Prince Edward Island did. It is important because we are not only changing the tax structure of Nova Scotia, we are coming in with what is very clearly a change in the economic policy in this province. I don't honestly believe that the blended sales tax is in the public's best interest, looking at the whole picture. Yes, there will be businesses that benefit, there will be businesses that won't, but the end consumer is impacted and all businesses are end consumers.
The Truro and District Chamber of Commerce stated that the chamber could accept tax-included pricing. That is another concern, tax-included pricing. Before I go off without actually explaining where I am going, I would like to talk a little bit about tax-included pricing because sticker shock may impact an individual's ability to pay in a psychological way, it very well may. As the honourable member for Eastern Shore mentioned he had some difficulty, I guess he has a lot of difficulty with members of the Opposition calling the merging of the taxes, the blended sales tax. He doesn't like us calling it the blended sales tax.
Any way you cut it, tax-inclusive pricing is a big concern to the business community. Prince Edward Island found that out. We are receiving correspondence and I know that the Minister of Finance and his management team are receiving a lot of correspondence from the business community in Nova Scotia. The Chamber of Commerce said that if it were national or close to being national, they could probably accept tax-inclusive pricing. So you see, this thing is put together kind of willy-nilly, if you will. We have three have-not provinces in Atlantic Canada accepting a package which really should be national in nature.
Now does anybody on the government benches, maybe the honourable member for Victoria has some concerns that only 2 million people out of 30 million people are buying into this new blended sales tax. Chambers of commerce across Nova Scotia tell us that it will affect the desire of major manufacturers, distributors and chains to do business with us in Nova Scotia. (Interruption) That is tax-inclusive pricing. I am not sure if the government is listening to the business community, it is certainly not listening to the end consumer, but I don't know if this government is listening to the business community.
Madam Speaker, we in the Opposition have tried to bring forward concerns about the blended sales tax. I have had an opportunity, this is my fourth kick at the can, I guess, relative to this blended sales tax. A lot of the concerns that we are raising seem to be falling on deaf ears. In fact, some people have accused the government of being a dictatorship; some people have said that this legislation is offensive, it is repugnant, it is abhorrent. They have used all kinds of words to describe this legislation but obviously the government doesn't care what the people think. The government is saying, we know what is best for you.
Again I say, Madam Speaker, that public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency. The vote will represent that expression. If you are not prepared now to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to put forward their views, their concerns relative to the blended sales tax, then the vote will be the opportunity, will be the chance. That will provide the vehicle for Nova Scotians to express the concerns they have.
In the Opposition we have said that Nova Scotians' ability to pay will be compromised relative to many initiatives that this government is coming forward with. This government didn't tell Nova Scotia back in 1993 that, for example, casinos and toll highways and thirst taxes and tire taxes and things of that nature were going to be your economic salvation. I don't think this government said those things, Madam Speaker. Those things are going to greatly impact Nova Scotia's ability to pay.
Just by way of concluding, the trucking industry - now it is very important that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, because I know he has ongoing dialogue and communicates on, I don't know whether you would call it a regular basis with that fraternity but from time to time I know the minister sits down with the Nova Scotia trucking industry - I don't believe, Madam Speaker, I raised a concern with the honourable member for Hants East, relative to pay phone calls and the threshold being lowered from 70 cents to 25 cents. Many truckers in Hants East and across Nova Scotia use the pay phones. That may seem like, oh gosh, you are cherry-picking, but . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: But it costs them more than 70 cents.
MR. TAYLOR: It does not cost you more than 70 cents if you are calling from Elmsdale to Musquodoboit. If you paid 35 cents before, you were exempt. I am not going to get into a discussion (Interruptions) Just for the benefit of the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works, talking about one's ability . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Not many of the poor have . . .
MR. TAYLOR: Talking about one's ability to pay and being very germane and on topic, has the Minister of Transportation and Public Works ever heard tell of the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement? Surely to goodness the Minister of Transportation would have heard tell of the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement; he is asking me what that means.
Here is exactly what that means, for the minister. I am glad he is interested and I am prepared to tell him. Businesses (Interruptions) Listen, businesses licensed under the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement that purchase motor vehicles, trailers and repair parts in a participating province will be required to pay tax at, the document says, the HST rate. If they are registrants for the tax, they will be entitled to claim an input tax credit to the extent of the conveyance's use in their commercial activities. Further, they will be required, pursuant
to the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement to remit provincial retail sales tax to non-participating provinces based on the percentage of distance travelled in a non-participating province.
Does the Minister of Transportation and Public Works not understand that long-distance truckers will be required pursuant to the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement to remit provincial retail sales tax to non-participating provinces based on the percentage of distance travelled in non-participating provinces? So, for the minister to say, or any other MLA, government member, to say that it is going to be great for the trucking industry, that is just nonsense. That is hogwash; complete bunk, Madam Speaker.
There is some new information for the Minister of Transportation to internalize and understand. (Interruptions)
I thought you said 2:41, Madam Speaker. Not to be argumentative. (Interruption)
I really appreciate your indulgence and I appreciate the attention of the Minister of Transportation and his colleagues. This is fundamentally changing the tax regime in the Province of Nova Scotia and based on a sister province's finding - by way of my last few words on this topic, and I have had an opportunity to make a few comments on this during the amendments and during second reading - the Province of Prince Edward Island found that it would negatively impact low- to middle-income, disproportionately it would affect those consumers. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: All those in favour of the amendment, please signify by saying Aye.
Recorded vote? I have heard two requests.
Would you ring the bells, please.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied? The question is that the motion be amended by deleting the all the words following the word 'that' and substituting, therefore, the following, "that in the opinion of this House, consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay.".
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse
Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe
Mr. Russell Dr. Smith
Mr. Moody Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Chisholm Dr. Savage
Mr. Holm Mr. Gillis
Ms. O'Connell Ms. Jolly
Mr. Archibald Mr. Harrison
Mr. Leefe Mr. O'Malley
Mr. McInnes Mr. Surette
Mr. Taylor Mr. Brown
Mr. MacLeod Mr. Lorraine
THE CLERK: For, 12. Against, 27.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would declare that the amendment is carried in the negative. Are there speakers to the main motion?
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Look, I am sorry to disappoint some of my colleagues from across the floor who would like to have a vote and get this thing through as quickly as possible and no more discussions. However, Madam Speaker, if I could, I would like to discuss the main motion now, since we have been through three amendments.
AN HON. MEMBER: Do you have another one?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Even when they are trying to be helpful, Madam Speaker, they are not. We have been discussing and talking for very long hours on this bill for the last few days. This bill is very important to the Government of Nova Scotia and Premier Savage and the Minister of Health. So important that they were willing to change the rules with regard to the operation and the standard hours for this Legislature. We were in extended hours, the Government House Leader brought in a resolution that gave him the power to arbitrarily set the hours of meeting to whatever it will take to get us through this bill as quickly as possible. This is unheard of up until two years ago. Prior to two years ago, all changes in hours, Rules of the House, took place by unanimous agreement at the Committee on Assembly Matters. However, the government decided that the Committee on Assembly Matters didn't need to meet and they need not meet to consider the Premier, the Minister of Health or the Government House Leader's timetable for this legislation.
This legislation is important to the government, I am not sure why it is so critically important that we had to run roughshod over the people who are elected to represent Nova Scotians, I am not sure why this legislation has to run roughshod over people. A professor from Acadia, who wrote in the papers shortly after the resolution passed changing the hours, indicated that the government probably was doing something clever this being the holiday season, and during the Christmas season people have other things on their minds besides worrying about what a few politicians are doing in Halifax and perhaps this could get pushed through with the least possible notice in the public. However, there are thousands of petitions out there being signed by Nova Scotians of all political Parties. There were many advertisements placed in newspapers on behalf of our Leader, John Hamm, urging people to call, write, fax, phone, e-mail their concerns to him. So far there have been thousands and thousands who have done that, and there is no let-up in sight.
Why am I concerned as a Nova Scotian and as a member of the Legislature with this new BS Tax? The reason I am concerned is primarily what it is going to do to Nova Scotias who are already taxed beyond the level to which they want.
We have seen an alarming number of people indicating that if they can escape the tax they will use the black market. If they can shop at stores and businesses operated by the native community they will do that. There is a huge store that just opened the other day, I guess near the Hants County border, selling car tires to people tax free and installed for $5.00. A lot of non-natives are buying them. This indicates that people are fed up with paying taxes and if they can get out of paying taxes they are going to do it.
It is very hard for the established businesses that are paying the taxes and operating within the letter of the law; however, those businesses are going and they are expanding and this new BST is going to allow businesses that are escaping the tax rules and regulations to expand and it will allow people who are operating on the fringes of the rules and regulations that allow them to expand as well. I guess that is perfectly fine with this government because they have done nothing but encourage the operation of tax-free stores since 1993.
One of the difficulties with this bill is what it is going to do to the average, everyday Nova Scotian, the Nova Scotian who is making $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 is just a dream to most Nova Scotians. That is not the economic level that most Nova Scotians find themselves in. People that are in the average category are buying gasoline for their cars and they are going to see the price of gasoline increased again by this government on April 1st. This will be the second huge tax hit in the last three years. I think the first tax hit was about $22 million in 1993. This new tax is going to amount to, I understand, about $50 million on the price of gasoline to the consumers of the province.
The other thing that concerns me very greatly about this tax is what it is going to do to electrical users throughout Nova Scotia. I guess that includes pretty near every one of us, because I don't know anybody that is living in a home that does not have electricity. Now, I am sure you can probably find somebody that has figured a way to get around electricity, but I don't know any of them and I don't think any of them voted for me. So I think that includes pretty near everybody that we come in contact with in the run of a day. They are using electricity. The electricity bills were increased by this government 3 per cent in 1993 and now this government is going to increase them another 5 per cent on April 1, 1997. So that will mean, in three years, an 8 per cent increase in electricity rates in Nova Scotia.
Madam Speaker, how could any government in any conscience allow that to happen? Can you imagine what would happen to Nova Scotia Power if they submitted an application to have an 8 per cent power increase? Now can you just imagine? Who would be the first person down there beating on the door? It would be the Minister of Finance and he knows the way to get there because he used to protest all the time when they were looking for a 1 per cent or a 2 per cent increase. I am telling you, this government has closed its doors and turned its back on Nova Scotians when it legislates your electricity bill to increase by 5 per cent in one fell swoop on April 1st.
Oil for your furnace is going up as well. The government wants to leave no stone unturned in Nova Scotia because pretty near everybody has a car that is using gasoline, pretty near everybody has electricity in their homes and the vast majority of Nova Scotians heat their homes with oil and those that don't usually heat their water with oil. There is no escape for any Nova Scotians. I can see some of the people here saying, oh, yes there is. I know people that live in apartments and they don't have an electric bill and the heat is supplied by the
landlord. Even those people will not be escaping this regressive tax. Those people will be paying the tax because their rent is going to increase. So there is no escape from this tax, from a population in Nova Scotia that is over-taxed now, the solution for economic recovery and growth that this province seems to be heading down is, tax them even more.
Premier Savage indicated, and he spoke the other night and I admired his courage for standing up and trying to defend this. He was a little vague about most details - well, not a little vague, he was a whole lot vague, but he was doing his best to defend it. He said - and I am summarizing - that this $84 million tax increase is going to create 3,000 jobs. So I don't know why the Premier didn't increase taxes $200 million. Maybe that would have made 5,000 jobs. Do you see the foolishness to the logic? It doesn't make sense how any elected person, particularly a Premier, who will be riding around in a wagon that says, I am going to put taxes up $84 million and create 3,000 jobs.
I don't know what economic school he went to, perhaps it is one that they have over in Wales. Maybe that is the economic theory from Wales, that you increase taxes and create jobs. The more familiar economic theory that operates in North America and in most other free world countries is that you reduce taxes, you increase spending, therefore, jobs are going to be increased. The Premier is not such a reactionary sort of a person but he sure has a peculiar economic theory, one that most of us didn't study when we were in school, we haven't even been reading about it in the books and magazines that publish economic thought because I have never seen anybody else advocate a tax increase to create jobs and get the economy going. Everybody else in this great world of ours says, you lower the taxes and it will have a beneficial effect on economic development.
Now the government put out a list, you might have seen it in the newspaper. The only way you know it is a government document is the little flag of Nova Scotia on it. There is no ownership by any minister or any department. What really annoys me is that the list of items that the tax is going down on is so large, compared to the ones that are going up. You see, that is not right because the list that is going up is all-inclusive now. Every single thing you want and need and can't get along without is going to be taxed.
Now apparently the Premier has decided that snack foods and restaurant meals are going to go down. You know the GST was not popular and I will tell you that the restaurant industry in Canada will tell you that they have not yet recovered from the imposition of the 7 per cent GST. This is going to hurt restaurants as well because they still have not recovered but the people of Nova Scotia are going to have less money to spend in restaurants because they are going to be spending it all trying to pay the gasoline, electricity and the fuel oil tax. Detergents, cleaning products and paper products are going to go down but now we are going to have taxes on our dry-cleaning like we have not had before. We are going to have taxes on hair cuts, shoe repairs, like we didn't have before. So even if your shampoo and shaving stuff and your razor are going down, but everything for yourself is going up. The funny thing about it is that you can feed your dog cheaper than you can get a haircut now.
I think this was all designed by the same economics professor that the Premier had in Wales who told him that if you increase taxes you create jobs. I am not too concerned about the tax on dog food, toys, games and hobby supplies, furniture and appliances, diamond rings and fur coats. If there is a tax on those non-life-threatening necessities, that is fine. When you get into my house and every house in the country and increase my electric bill, my gas bill and my oil bill, I do not like it much, thank you very kindly.
The government will be thrilled, excited, overjoyed and dancing on the streets because the Halifax Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce sent out a little media thing today. We all got it, they made sure we all got it. I guess that was to speed debate up. I see them on everybody's desk all around me and everybody got a copy. It says that the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce support the blended sales tax except they do not like this pricing structure where you have to include the price in the display. The nice thing about that is the Minister of Finance will be holding a press conference, probably momentarily, to announce that the government has negotiated with Ottawa so that we no longer are going to require stores to change all the prices on books, magazines, greeting cards and the like. The Board of Trade will say we have won; this is the best thing since sliced bread.
Now everybody in Nova Scotia is not opposed to this tax. I talked to a business man yesterday. You have to be fair - I do not want to be a negative nilly, you have to be fair. A friend of mine called and he owns a store and he said on balance, I think that I like this tax because I can see that I might save $10,000 next year. I said, is that why you like the tax? He said, yes, if I can make $10,000 I will like anything. This points out so clearly the ridiculousness of this Wales economic professor that the Premier follows because the reason we are doing this is the flow-through was going to be passed on, remember, 50 per cent of the pass-through is going to go to the consumers so prices will come down. My friend and his store, does not agree, I am not passing down five cents, I cannot afford it.
Do you see what I am saying? There is not going to be a flow-through. So, if there is not any flow-through, consumers are really going to catch it because prices will either go up or stay the same and there is a higher tax on that. Every single economic argument that the Premier, this government and the Minister of Health put forward, you could drive a cannon through it because it is full of holes - it just does not wash. I remember last May when the Minister of Health - he was Minister of Finance then - announced this great program and much to his chagrin and shock, he realized it was a $84 million tax increase included in the documentation that he had not read before. We suddenly had a disaster on our hands, but they muddled through and kept on. He is a disaster. It is almost as bad as Minmetals; I guess it is worse than Minmetals. (Interruption)
Yes, something like Sydney Steel. The Minister of Health, everything he touches, instead of like Midas turn to gold, he touches it and it turns to something else. I am not sure what it turns into, it turns into the BS Tax.
We can be drifting along and remember what people have said. People said there was going to be a 50 per cent pass-through and if that happened this thing would not be too bad; in fact, you would save $84 million somewhere. There is no pass-through, I hate to tell you. The Minister of Finance on the radio the other day when he was asked the question, he was saying I hope it is 25 per cent, so even the Minister of Finance woke up to the fact that the Premier and the Minister of Health's economics professor from Wales really did not know a whole lot about economics because the Minister of Finance currently indicated that it is not 50 per cent, it is 25 per cent, he hopes. It is not going to happen.
The other night we had a very great dissertation in this House by one of the government members. It was said that this was a good thing because the Premier of Ontario said it was bad thing and that it would mean that Nova Scotia industries would have an unfair competitive advantage over Ontario industries. Well, I did not hear the Premier of Ontario say that and I am waiting for the honourable member to table the speech or the reference to that fact. I have been looking, doing some research and finding out what the Premier of Ontario is saying about this tax. The Ontario Government has balked, which means they decided not to do it, the Ontario Government has balked at a blended tax saying it would result in an added tax burden of more than $2 billion for its residents.
The Ontario Premier didn't say in this article that was published in the Globe and Mail in June, he said he wasn't going to get mixed up in this because it was going to cost his taxpayers $2 billion. He didn't say, I am not getting involved in it because Nova Scotia is going to have an unfair competitive industrial advantage and all the businesses are leaving Ontario and moving east. He said, I am not doing it because I can't afford it. He said this is going in the opposite direction from the way we want to go. He said Ontario is going to have tax reductions; this blended sales tax is tax increases. So he didn't go to the same economics professor that our Premier and our current Minister of Health went to.
Ontario has indicated that they would be in favour of a national sales tax program but there were some wrinkles that this Government of Nova Scotia did not want to get into. The bottom line is the Minister of Finance in Ontario said, we are in the tax reduction business, we are not in the tax increasing business. The Government of Ontario have indicated that if the federal government will come to the Ontario Government with a proposal that will harmonize and at least be revenue neutral in terms of its impact on consumers and the business community, or preferably save the taxpayers money, it makes sense to harmonize.
That is Ontario's position from their Minister of Finance. That is not the position that we were led to believe the other day in this House, that Ontario really wanted to get into a deal like this so they would have the advantage on Nova Scotia. I can't find where the Ontario Government has indicated that this is such a great thing. All I can find is where the Ontario Government says, this is not revenue neutral, this is a tax grab.
The Ontario Government also indicated and the Quebec Government joined with them and said it was unfair to compensate three Atlantic Provinces from merging their provincial sales tax with the GST because it is not fair. You see we have this big problem. You can't really tell us one thing in Nova Scotia and have something else told in another part of the country and think we won't find out. With all of the modern technology like the Internet and the worldwide web, newspapers, mail and television news. You see you can't fool us, we can keep abreast, we can find out what they are saying all the way up in Ontario, we can find out what they are saying in Quebec. It is a different story than the one this government is trying to pass off.
One of the most appalling things and one of the things that bothers a lot of Canadians from coast to coast is the bribe or the payoff or whatever you want to call it, I don't know what you would call it. It amounts to $1 billion and there is $249 million for Nova Scotia, $364 million for New Brunswick and $348 million for Newfoundland. This is supposed to make up for the tax that we are losing. Get with the program, fellows, there are no tax losses with this BST, there is what you call tax increases to the consumer. Those tax increases to the consumer amount to a minimum of $84 million. That is the bottom line.
This government we have, these skilled negotiators that saw Cornwallis close, I watched the Henry Larsen moved to Newfoundland, have seen half the navy ships in Halifax Harbour head to the West Coast, have seen the BST centre move to New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. These skilled negotiators we saw were at it again; they allowed New Brunswick to get over $100 million more than Nova Scotia and they allowed Newfoundland to get exactly $99 million more than Nova Scotia. If these negotiators are the same people that are negotiating with Ottawa, then I can see why we have a problem. Every single time Nova Scotia gets pitted against another province, we don't even come out second, we come out dead last. Who is doing the speaking for us? Are they all brand new? Did you pick them up on the way to Ottawa? Were they the first three guys you found on the bus? What is happening?
When this province settles for $100 million less than Newfoundland, $120 million less than New Brunswick, and we are the largest province in the region, we have the greatest population, but we are getting the least amount of money. It has a familiar ring to it. It is the same with the forestry agreement; we are getting less money than New Brunswick. It is the same with the highway agreement; we are getting less money than New Brunswick. Even in the BST, which is there so the Prime Minister can say that I kept up with the red book and we have started to get rid of the GST; now we are going to call it the BST.
What is wrong? I will tell you what is wrong. This government had an agenda and they must have had them there on a Friday and there must have been a commitment somewhere else and they signed the first agreement that was set in front of them. Yes, that is good enough for me. See you later, guys. Send me a postcard. If this government cannot negotiate with Ottawa any better than New Brunswick or Newfoundland can, then it is time for an
election and let's get some people that know how to deal with Ottawa, because this, Mr. Speaker, is an absolute disgrace.
The government will stand up and say, oh well, because New Brunswick had a higher number of things taxed than we did and Newfoundland's rate was higher. Those are not reasons, they are excuses and they just don't wash. There is nobody in Nova Scotia who is going to say that Newfoundland should get $100 million more for signing this than we are. I will tell you why we did it, because we are what you call easy. We are easy pickin's. This Liberal Government in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, is easy pickin's for the federal government. Anything the Prime Minister says they should do, they just say, okay. When he says jump, they say, how high?
Mr. Speaker, this is a disgrace. It is a disgrace that this government would bring in legislation, a disgrace that they bring in a resolution to force it through, a disgrace that there has been no consultation, and now we find that we are cheap. The Nova Scotia Government comes cheap. You can buy them for half the price of Newfoundland or New Brunswick. My golly, it is going to get embarrassing to say you are a Liberal Government member for Nova Scotia. When you get to Ottawa, they will say, oh, yes, these are the guys, they don't need to stay in a hotel when they come here, there is a tent pitched out back and they can sleep in that.
AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe they will sell us the Rideau Canal.
MR. ARCHIBALD: The Rideau Canal, yes. They will sell us that in the winter and say, here is your boat. Go for a row. It is full of ice.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is bizarre. Yesterday, I read a quote from the federal bill and asked our minister if he could understand and explain it because the tourism people could not explain all these worldly things and I cannot even read it again today because I got a little bit frustrated with it yesterday. The book retailers, remember the Premier went to the book read-a-thon. He posed for a few pictures reading a book. The Premier does read. I have seen him in here with a book on his desk and I know for sure he was reading. He said he reads three or four books in an evening, when he is not too busy. But even the book people are not happy anymore. They thought they had some kind of an accommodation to sell school books and educational research journals. I mean, with so many universities in town, it is kind of important that we do have a good deal for high-class, quality books, but you know they are saying the application of the non-tax is going to cost us as much as we said it would to have the tax on.
This government is something else. They can't negotiate with Ottawa, they can't negotiate with the members of the Legislature to pass any legislation and now even when they are trying to work a deal to save the book retailers money it is going to wind up nothing but a nuisance and costing them more than if they left the tax on. Is there anybody home? They
used to have a saying down home, the lights are on but there is nobody home. I am wondering if they have even got their lights on. (Interruption) The Minister of Education reminded me light bulbs are cheaper but the electricity to turn them on is going to cost you more. You can't even make jokes any more for fear that it will backfire and you will find out that something works.
Let us make no mistake, this bill is totally without heart, without compensation, without comprehension. The minister yesterday in Question Period could not decipher the question I asked him regarding the tourism sector and the sub-uses, sub-clauses and all the different ramifications for people trying to sell tours to Nova Scotia. It is a tough bill to understand, but that is okay, we are going to pass it lickety-split, as quick as we can. It will be a law by the 23rd or 24th of the month and then we will have all the great fun of working out the details.
Now, our little bill is only seven pages long to allow flexibility to the government so they can work out the deals by regulation. I have to tell you, there is a surprise coming down the pipes. The federal legislation is that thick. There aren't going to be too many details left for the government to put into regulation because we have given away our rights of taxation in Nova Scotia to the Premiers of Newfoundland, New Brunswick and to the federal government. There aren't too many regulations that we can enact. When we try to enact a regulation to help the bookstores, it turns out that they were so inept at designing some way to get around the tax for books that it is going to wind up being more inconvenient and cost as much as if the tax were there anyway. What a bunch.
Every single family in Nova Scotia making less than $80,000 a year is going to pay more. Now, if your income is above $80,000, and that is not very many of you - I suppose there are some around this Chamber making more than $80,000, but it wouldn't be very many - then they are going to be better off. The people in the $80,000 a year wage category I don't think need a whole lot of help from this guy or any of the other politicians to look after them. With an income of $80,000 a year, you should be able to look after yourself pretty well. You can hire your accountant. Oh, Oh, your accountant is now going to have to pay the higher tax. You can hire a lawyer and the same for him, he is going to have to pay. Well, there goes a lawyer right there from Hants East. All his bills are going to go up more now.
Everybody, unless you are making over $80,000 a year, is going to be paying more. Is that fair? I don't think so. When you look at the numbers, $15 million for home heating oil, $15 million for electricity, $84 million for gas, these are the new increases. Now, if you are in the $80,000 a year category, good for you, you will save money. People wanting to buy new houses, well, there is going to be a tax rebate. That is not in the legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear. Hear.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Oh, hear, hear. Yes, I hear some government members saying, hear, hear. That is good. I guess that is the extent of their understanding. How long is there going to be a tax rebate for a new house? Is it for six months, six years, or is it going to be like so many other programs? When they run out of money, it is gone. Sorry.
AN HON. MEMBER: Is that what happens?
MR. ARCHIBALD: That is what happens, yes. They do not plan. Seniors are going to be paying more. The working poor are going to be paying more, so who is going to benefit? From what the Premier - he is trendy. We all hear about these deals that are win/win, but he has got the win/win/win deal. He has got the three win deal, so I just don't know exactly what that is. I think what he meant was Newfoundland was going to win, the federal government was going to win, New Brunswick was going to win. So those are the three winners in this win/win/win deal. It should be the win/win/win/lose deal because Nova Scotia is taking the hit.
We are a have-not province, I hate to tell you that, Mr. Speaker, but we are. Even New Brunswick and Newfoundland are going to be able to come out of this with more money than we are and so is the federal government going to be able to stand up and the Prime Minister can hold onto the little red book and say, in the three Atlantic Provinces, they have got a win/win/win and I kept my promise, the GST is gone in those areas. It is the BST. They sure did get a good size chunk of money from Ottawa.
I don't understand, Mr. Speaker, how we could get ourselves into a fix like this. We are in a pickle and I don't know how in the devil they ever thought it was going to be good for Nova Scotia, because as late as December 3rd, the Department of Transportation was wondering, what is happening? The Minister of Finance announced this thing way back in May and the Department of Transportation heard about it in December. So they thought, hmm, I wonder what is happening and they sent out a letter, "how much gas would he use annually", was the question? They were referring to the trucking industry. "The Department is attempting to determine the impact of the new BST on the trucking industry. Can you give me an idea of the types of costs an independent trucker would incur . . . for example . . . how much gas would he use . . .".
The Department of Transportation is so up-to-date, they are writing an independent trucker to find out how much gas he is going to use. Anybody in this country ought to know that an independent trucker is not using gas, he uses what you call diesel because he has got a diesel tractor. Very few people are running a commercial, gasoline-driven truck anymore. You just don't do it. They have not done it for years, but the Department of Transportation
is still wondering about the gas that they might be consuming and I am sure he meant, how much diesel fuel would you use annually.
"how much would he generally spend on repairs . . . tires are they replaced yearly"? Generally they replace them when they are worn out. They should have written me. I could have helped them out. "are there any other major costs"? This is the extent of it, I guess. You buy diesel fuel and you might need tires. You have got your accounting fees, you have got your legal fees, you have got all these costs, your accommodation, your restaurants, your inter-provincial ticket so you can buy fuel in other provinces and in the United States. There are all kinds of interesting things the government is going to find out. But, you know, they just decided on December 3, 1996, that they were going to have a look-see. What is this tax going to do? This is the only fax we have from a government department and I bet it is the only fax that we are going to get from a government department, too. The rest of them have probably gone through the shredders as quick as they could from sheer embarrassment.
Last May, we received a booklet outlining this tax. It has taken May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December before the Department of Transportation and Public Works thought, I wonder what is going on. Can you believe it? Wouldn't you think that the government would be a little more organized than that? This tax is coming onboard on April 1st and they are still trying to find out what effect it will have on the trucking industry. Who is doing the coordination over there? It must be the economics professor that the Premier used who told him that increasing taxes would create jobs.
We have a problem, Mr. Speaker, and the marvellous thing about it is that this government is oblivious to it, they have no idea. They are kind of like Nero when he was fiddling when the fire was getting hot.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Premier made a speech the other night. He indicated that the BST would be fairer and simpler. Now you tell me how it is fair that Nova Scotians got an increase in their electricity, home heating fuel and gasoline tax. You tell me how it is fair, that Nova Scotians are now going to be paying tax on their clothing. You tell me how it is fair that Nova Scotians are going to be paying a tax to get a haircut, to take a ride in a taxi or to get on a bus to go from Kentville to Halifax.
Now if that is the Premier's idea of fair, it is a most peculiar definition and one that he must have dreamed up on his own. He said it is the greatest economic boost since Confederation. Who writes this drivel? The grammar isn't even that great in it, if you want to get technical. The thought isn't there either. This is the best thing since Confederation.
Can you tell me (Interruption) Well, look, if I was paying somebody to write a speech for me I would hope that they could get the punctuation right somewhere. Anyway, how can the Premier indicate that this is the greatest economic boost since Confederation, an $84 million tax increase to the consumers of the province and that is an economic boost. I suppose
he thinks the 1993 budget, where they cleaned out $120 million from the taxpayers of the province, really made the province hum, too. There are 3,000 less jobs in Kentville or in the Annapolis Valley this year than there was last year. There are 12,000 less jobs in Nova Scotia than there was last year.
The province announced the other day that they had given somebody $4.5 million, half of it forgivable, to create 150 jobs. One of our major Nova Scotia companies just laid off 100 people in the last month, comparable salaries. Is this progress? This government is just doing the dog paddle when everybody else is swimming the crawl. We are losing ground, Mr. Speaker. The solution to that, when all else fails, raise taxes.
Mr. Speaker, we have a problem. He says at least 3,000 jobs will be created. Where did he get that number? We asked him to table the study, table the figures, give us something. It is not that we don't take your word for it, Mr. Premier, but we would like to share in this information. I want to send it to my constituents because they are having a struggle to believe it, too. But even if you did create 3,000 jobs, that is just making up for the ones you drove out of the Annapolis Valley this year, through your economic policies.
The Premier says the GST is a bad tax and I don't think he is going to find anybody who is going to say that it is a good tax. Gee, by telling me that the GST was bad news, how does he expect me to believe that the BST is good news? There is about as much logic coming out of this government as there is from a couple of kids in the school yard. It is just too much to comprehend for the average person who has not had the ability to go to the same economic school as the Premier. Most of us are having trouble following the gentleman's logic, and with good reason.
I know from talking to some of the government members, they wish they had never heard of this dreaded BST but, once the power brokers in this Cabinet and the government got it rolling, they couldn't get out of it. Even in Saint John, where they hoodwinked us in the bribing business, they got $120 million from Ottawa and we only got $100 million. They don't like it, that is the Saint John Board of Trade. They said higher consumer prices, poorer merchandise selection, fewer jobs and it will deter the retail business from setting up in the region. They want to see the Premier's job expectations too, they want to know where all of these new jobs are coming from.
Tax-included pricing, they don't like that, but apparently the Minister of Finance will be holding a press conference momentarily saying that is out the window now. About two weeks ago, that was the big ticket. Remember when the Minister of Finance with his great fanfare and ballyhoo was running around saying, we are getting into this thing because 70 per cent of Nova Scotians want the tax-included pricing so we are giving it to them; 70 per cent support it. Well, what happened along the road?
If 70 per cent of the people wanted the tax-included pricing and now the Minister of Finance has found a way to get out of it, and I know the Minister of Health demanded that Ottawa do that. He said it is the only way we can sell it to those people down home. He said we have been fooling them as best we can but we can't trick them unless we do the tax-included pricing. Now the tax-included pricing is on the line too and soon that will be gone - gone by nightfall apparently - as soon as the minister has his little press conference. That will get the Board of Trade in Halifax on side because that was what they didn't like. But still Nova Scotians don't like this tax increase, $84 million.
Our Leader, Dr. John Hamm, is willing to put his political career on the line over this. Is the Premier of the province? (Interruptions) Oh the Minister of Municipal Affairs giggled, he laughed. Well, let's see your Premier put his political life on the line; let's see your Premier call an election and issue the writ over this. If it is going to create jobs and be so great, take up the challenge from John Hamm; issue the writ and have an election. I am not afraid to meet the voters and tell them what this government is trying to do to them. Even the Minister of Health knew when he signed this deal and took us down this silly road towards this tax, he knew it was a risky deal and he still knows it is risky. If it was as good as they thought it was they would have an election tomorrow, don't wait. But they won't, they are going to try to hang on.
I think one of the most ironic things to come out of this whole deal was the day the Premier was in Toronto with the other two Premiers - they took him along - and they paraded up and down telling everybody what a great deal this is; come to Nova Scotia and save money. What happened? A store announced closure in New Brunswick and they are having another look at Nova Scotia. Over 150 jobs out the window already, so that means the Premier has to find 3,150 just to break even. This is not the kind of deal that Nova Scotians want, need or asked for. Nova Scotians are getting sick and tired of tax increase after tax increase and a reduction in service and benefits.
The measure of a government is the care and concern it shows for the less fortunate, the young and the elderly. This government has not shown any care for the young, the old or the infirmed, and that is a real tragedy. This is the most uncaring government that has ever been elected to power. The people of Nova Scotia had high hopes for this new government because they believed everything in their little red book. Very much like their federal Liberal cousins, this government has changed their mind on every single campaign promise they made. No new taxes, that was the first promise they broke, over $120 million in the 1993 budget on everything from gasoline to electricity. This is another $84 million tax grab.
Well, my gracious sakes, I did not realize I had been speaking so long. Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say without hesitation or reservation that I am very pleased to stand and tell you and all members of this House and the people in Nova Scotia that I will not vote for the BST. I will not vote for the BST for three reasons. I guess there is more than three, but the three that come to mind are electricity, gasoline, home heating fuel and I guess I would have to say children's clothes. Those are four good reasons to avoid this tax. There are other reasons, 84 million of them I would have to guess. For the government to be so hard and so callous to force this through and not allow people to have any input is beyond me.
I just want to hold something up and show it to you. This is the little brochure that John Hamm placed in the newspapers across Nova Scotia on three different days. It says, help John Hamm stop the BST. We are dedicated to doing what we can to stop this government from implementing the most devastating tax that we have ever seen. We want to create jobs in Nova Scotia, we want to create a level playing field in Nova Scotia, so that we can again have our rightful place in Confederation and become a have province. Anybody that follows the Premier and the Minister of Health's economic school of thought that says tax increases equal prosperity and job creation is totally and completely wrong.
I urge you, Mr. Speaker, as I urge all members of this House, do not support this legislation. It will do harm to your constituents. When it comes time to make your final vote on this, I urge you to remember the people who sent you to this Legislature and think of the people that you represent and vote no to the blended sales tax. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I want to say first and foremost I am privileged to be able to stand before you today to talk on this bill that is going to introduce the BS Tax to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.
There has been a lot of talk about this bill over the last few days here, courtesy of the extended hours. There has been some carrying on and there has been some joking and there has been a few laughs, but I think it is time that we got quite serious. I think it is time we take note of why we are really here. Time and time again, we have heard people of the Opposition stand before you, your House and say we have to stop the BS Tax. We have to get rid of it because it is not good for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Time and time again we have talked about all the bad effects. We have had amendments, we have had people talk about the amendments and each time this government with its overwhelming majority has been able to vote those amendments down. Where do we go from here? We have a few more speakers to speak on this and then the bill will go to the Committee on Law Amendments, back to the Committee of the Whole House. We all wonder what will take place. There is no question in my mind that this government can and most
likely will put this bill into power. If we are truly serious about helping the people we are here to represent, we still have to make sure that the process is used and used well.
The Premier and certainly the former Minister of Finance have both said in this House that they would have lots to say about this bill. Our colleague for Hants East this morning got up and he had his say on the bill and I congratulate him for that. I may not agree with everything he said, but I do congratulate him on the fact that he got up and he had his say. The Premier and the Minister of Health have put us on notice that at the Committee of the Whole House they will have lots to say and that is good, there is nothing wrong with that.
The member for Cape Breton Nova says we should hear both sides of the story. That is good and there is nothing wrong with that, but when the Premier and the other members of his government benches are up and speaking on this bill, they should be getting ready to address some real questions. Questions that are being asked by many Nova Scotians, not just the members of the Opposition bench. Questions that will indeed bring the answers forward so that all members of this House can make a real well-founded decision on this tax.
Questions like who is this tax really for? Is it for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia or is it for the government to indeed keep some pact with their federal cousins? I hope that during the Committee of the Whole House that question will be addressed.
A question of how the 3,000 jobs are going to be created that have been talked about time and time again by government members. If there are 3,000 jobs to be developed through this taxation process, people have a right to know what type of jobs they are and certainly where they are going to be located. I want to go on record right now, Mr. Speaker, as saying that we need some of those jobs in Cape Breton because of the high unemployment rate there. If there are jobs to be created and I am not sure there are because we have not seen one shred of evidence that there will be. If there are, if that one little glimmer of hope is there, I hope some of those jobs will come to Cape Breton.
A question that has to be asked and addressed during the Committee of the Whole House so people can see the real picture is what is the $8 million fund for? Who is going to benefit from it? How do people qualify for it? When will it happen? How soon will they see the effects of it. Those are the type of questions that this government should be addressing during the Committee of the Whole House.
Questions like who will really benefit and what effect will signing the BST have on our provincial autonomy with respect to determining the level of our provincial sales tax, that question has to be addressed and answered. How many people are going to lose their jobs in the Department of Finance because of this harmonization and because the federal government is going to be doing most of the work? When are those people going to be affected and how soon are they going to lose their jobs?
Questions like what penalty clauses does this agreement have if we decide that we do want to opt out or amend this deal? That is a real possibility and I think that the people of the province should know what penalties would be incurred because this government may find out that it is not all it is cracked up to be and we should know the complete consequences down the road.
Another question that I believe people like the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the former Minister of Finance will ask to be addressed is, what guarantees do we as taxpayers of this province, do our constituents have that we will not see new fees and new taxes on other items to make up the shortfall? Where are those guarantees and is this government willing to make such guarantees to the people of this province? Mr. Speaker, the numbers of questions that have to be answered go on and on.
Another question that I think has to be addressed by this government, if they are serious in getting out the full story so that everybody understands, is, what is the real impact on the municipalities of this province? What is it really going to cost the municipal units? Can this government guarantee that that impact will not be done by the same people who did the study for the amalgamations? Whoever did those studies, we know the answers were flawed, but the answers were convenient in those studies to get the bill passed, to do the deeds that wanted to be done by this government, and now people are suffering both in Cape Breton and here in the Halifax Regional Municipality. We have to ask what kind of guarantees are in place to make sure that when we are told a number about an impact that this tax is going to have on us, we know the real impact.
Another problem for municipal units is, what is going to happen to them if they buy services from other municipal units? Is that going to be taxed? I am sure that the Minister of Municipal Affairs would like to address that. Those are questions that are on a lot of people's minds because they are going to affect what the municipal units and their councillors are going to have to do and what kind of tax rates they are going to have to charge. This government is already on record as saying that property taxes may have to go up in order for them to meet the demands that this new tax is going to put on them. If that is not true, this government should be made to tell the people what the truth is. The problem, of course, with that is it has been so long since this government told the people of the Province of Nova Scotia of the truth that they would not know it if they tripped over it. Anyway, those are the types of questions that have to be asked.
Another question that should be addressed by the ministers when we get into the full debate in Committee of the Whole House on Bills is, what is the real cost to the municipalities of this province? What is going to be the real cost that this new bill is going to add to the costs of our municipal units? The municipalities say, Mr. Speaker, that in 1996-97, they are looking at an $8.8 million increase. Where does that money come from? That money has to come from the pockets of the taxpayer. But when people put their hands in their pockets and then bring them out, there is nothing left, they are empty, and that is only the first year into
the agreement. The municipal units believe, and have numbers to back it up, that in 1997-98, you are looking at a $10.8 million cost. Let us hope that the numbers that the municipal units are producing are better than the amalgamation coordinators' numbers that were produced, because I remember being told that we were going to save money in Cape Breton and now we hear that it is an overrun of $63-odd million. We can't continue to go after people's money and expect our economy to revive and strive and come alive.
Another question that is on everybody's minds, especially here in metro and in places like Sydney and Glace Bay, is what is the real effect of this BS Tax on rent? Now the government says that rents won't be affected, and that is a good thing. But the landlords say that their costs are going to go up. It is going to cost them more to heat their buildings, to maintain their buildings and, if they are supplying power, that is going to cost more. What are they going to do? Where are they going to get the money, because all the pass-through credits are not going to be there.
Earlier today I had the opportunity to read into the record some of the things that the Minister of Finance said on a radio program and he could not understand the pass-through credits. Eventually these costs are going to be passed on to the person who is renting and they are going to have to pay. That is the real effect this tax is going to have on rents.
Another question that many parents are asking me is why are we going to have to pay taxes on school supplies for our children? Isn't it bad enough that we had this amalgamation of school boards to save $11 million, which is actually costing us money. We are seeing schools closed, downsizing, teachers' aides being taken out of classes; now we are going to subsidize the system by having to tax the school supplies for our children.
We heard the other day about a high unemployment rate in eastern Nova Scotia. The Minister of Community Services said that the best way to defeat that is through education and training. It probably makes sense but now his own government is going to tax you when you go to school and tax you on the supplies you need. That doesn't make any sense. People need answers to that question and this government has an obligation to answer it. I am sure that the Minister of Community Services, when he is in the debate in Committee of Whole House, will get up and tell everybody. That is what I think will happen.
Mr. Speaker, people want to know why is it that we have to pay taxes on our children's clothing. Does anybody realize how hard it is for families to try to get through today? Does anybody know how often you have to buy clothing for growing children? Most of the time I could go out and buy a pair of pants or a shirt and it will last a long time. I do have a tendency to outgrow my clothes but not as much as children do.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you getting taller?
MR. MACLEOD: I am getting wider. But do you know what? I can control that, but children can't control their growth patterns and their clothing is going to be taxed. (Interruptions) I don't mind people taking pot-shots at myself for my size.
AN HON. MEMBER: We say he is the biggest Tory in Nova Scotia.
MR. MACLEOD: I was once told I was twice the man that was hired, but that is another story, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is, taxing of children's clothing is a backward step in this province and each and every member of the government benches should be ashamed of themselves and of that measure.
Mr. Speaker, time and time again I get the feeling that the government is this close to actually taking this seriously, and then we hear noises from some of the front benches and we realize that they don't take anything seriously, that they don't care about the people they are sent to represent, they don't really care. There are times that I want to believe that the Minister of Education cares, but every time he opens his mouth I am more convinced that he doesn't care, he doesn't care about the children and doesn't care where this province goes.
AN HON. MEMBER: He should resign.
MR. MACLEOD: The Minister of Education wants a second chance. Well, that is not up to me, that will be up to the people of Kings South and they will make their decision and I can guarantee you it won't be a hard decision for them to make, that he won't get a second chance.
We have a very serious matter before us. We have a matter before us that is going to be around this province long after each and every member of this House is gone; long after each and every member of this House moves on to something else. This bill is the legacy that this House is going to leave to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and I urge each and every member to seriously think about the consequences and the effects that this bill is going to have, not only on their constituents but on their children, their grandchildren and their neighbours, because this bill is a bill that is going to be around and the effects are going to be here for a long time. This government has an opportunity to show how wrong the Opposition is if they really and truly believe that, because the next step is to the Law Amendments Committee.
Now if this government and our Premier, if he decided in his wisdom to let the Law Amendments Committee travel around this province and visit all the different communities and listen to Nova Scotians, the consumers, the ones at the end of the pile, the ones who are paying all the bills, the ones who are paying your salary and my salary and everybody else's salary in this House, if we went out and listened to them, then we would be doing the right thing. The Liberal Government would be doing the right thing, and it would probably be one of the flip-flops that this province could actually understand. The Premier still has time to do
that, this bill does not have to go into effect until April 1, 1997. I am sure the Law Amendments Committee could travel across this province in the month of January and hear what people had to say and come back and report to this House and we could finish this off.
I really believe that this bill and the taxes that it is going to impose on people will hurt Nova Scotians. It will hurt small-town Nova Scotia, it will hurt small municipal units because of the costs that we talked about earlier, and it is going to hurt the people of this province. Later on today, we will probably be voting on this bill and I will take my place as everybody else here will and I will be voting against this bill. I know that comes as a surprise to some people but we, in the Opposition benches, really and truly believe that this is going to hurt people and this government and the members of this government haven't done one thing to convince us otherwise, or to convince the thousands of people that sent their petitions and made their phone calls. None of those people have been convinced that this isn't a bad thing.
As we proceed onward today I would ask that the government benches consider two things: the first one being that the Law Amendments Committee go around the province and hear people; the second thing is when we do the final ballot on this tax, it be a secret ballot so that the members on the government benches can actually vote with their true feelings rather than along Party lines. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: I rise to participate in the second reading of Bill No. 48 which we have been debating for quite some time. Why is this bill here and why are we in such a hurry and why did we have to do Resolution No. 921 to have the hours extended to put this bill through? I think the reason is very simple. I think the reason is simply because the government of the day knows that they have to go to the polls prior to May 1998 and they want to get this out of the way. They are doing everything in their power to slip it through.
I have said before, publicly and in this Legislature, that harmonization for the right reasons would be the right thing but on a national basis and one that does not affect the average consumer of our province. This bill is a tax grab. The minister, when he presented his paper to us the last session on the last day at the last hour, said there was going to be an $84 million tax grab; $84 million, and maybe it is more than that.
On electricity alone, which everybody I know across this province has, it is going to be up an additional $15 million. On gasoline, up an additional $54 million; most everybody has a car. Most families have a car in this province. They have to get to work. Not too many people with bicycles and if they had a bicycle, they would have to buy a helmet, too, and that is being taxed. Home heating fuel, $14.9 million. Mr. Speaker, these are the necessities of every average family in this province. (Interruptions)
Why are we doing this? The government of our province got, I believe the figure is, $249 million handout of our money. It is our money, coming back from Ottawa. How much did New Brunswick get? They got $100 million more. Why was that? I have not heard it explained yet as to why they are getting more money than we are - a smaller province than Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.
HON. GUY BROWN: I have a lot of time for the honourable member. He and I have been colleagues in the House for many years. The reason that all the provinces are not equal is very clear. In New Brunswick they already tax dry cleaning. They tax municipalities where Nova Scotia never has until this point and we are trying to work out a deal. In New Brunswick they have been taxed, every municipal unit in New Brunswick. Laundry and dry cleaning . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: A point of order you are talking about?
MR. BROWN: My point of order is, he said we got $100 million less and he wanted to know why. If he would check with New Brunswick or if he goes up there - I do not want him to shop in New Brunswick before Christmas or before April - but if he is up there, I wish he would take some time and look at all the goods, hundreds of them, that they now pay tax on in that province that we do not pay here.
The federal government and I am not going to get in a political debate, I appreciate what they have done - they have reimbursed through the provinces, the money that we are losing. The only reason we got less is because Nova Scotia has always charged on less items than the Province of New Brunswick and their loss is major and our loss is not as major as the Province of New Brunswick and also the Province of Newfoundland.
That is my point and I know it is not a very good one, but . . .
MR. SPEAKER: It is point of information. (Interruption)
MR. MCINNES: I appreciate the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing getting up and explaining his position on it and I really appreciate him doing that. (Interruption) Anyway, I appreciate the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing giving that information.
Mr. Speaker, I think a member would like to make an introduction.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on an introduction.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you to all members of this House, I would like to introduce two very constituency-conscious hard-working councillors from the Halifax Regional Municipality - Mr. Jack Mitchell and Mr. Ron Cooper. I wonder if both members would rise and receive a welcome from the members in the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I will recognize the honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank on an introduction.
MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery, two more regional councillors - Reg Rankin and Clint Schofield. I would like to welcome them. (Applause)
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Welcome to Mr. Schofield and well as Mr. Rankin. Mr. Schofield was one of the better managers the province has ever had with Nova Scotia Housing and I want to tell you that both of those individuals have more conscious than most people when it comes to housing for the poor. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor for the introduction.
MR. MCINNES: My pleasure, Mr. Speaker and I, too welcome our guests the councillors and I do know Mr. Schofield, too because I was privileged to be in the Department of Housing a number of years ago and he was a very excellent and conscientious civil servant (Interruption). I am going to get to that in a minute, just give me a minute or two.
I was saying about what the province got and the Minister of Agriculture got up and tried to explain at least why New Brunswick got more and that he may be correct and he may not. What happened, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Chretien called in all the Premiers of the provinces to try to get them to get into harmonization and we had three - Newfoundland, New Brunswick and our own province, Nova Scotia who decided to take the plunge and go for harmonization. As I said before, the principle of harmonization, I think is right, but not to put the extra tax on the average consumer of this province who is in the $30,000 - $40,000 range. He cannot afford it to put extra gas in his car, to pay more for his lights, it cannot be done. It is very unfortunate.
We have been on this bill for a long time and we have heard from all the Opposition members, the 12 of us, many times. There has been a lot said and a lot of it has been repeated. We have heard from the Minister of Finance when he introduced the bill, we heard from the Premier for a few minutes the other night and I think that was good that he had taken the opportunity. We heard from the member for the Eastern Shore the other night and the
member for Cape Breton Nova and we heard from the member for Hants East. But that is only 5 and there are 34 other members over here that we have yet to hear from.
I can't understand why people would talk to us against this legislation and not say anything to them. I find that very difficult to understand, that our Leader took the opportunity and put an ad in the paper, no BST, help John Hamm fight against it. We had thousands of replies, where they took the time to cut that out, put their name on it, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it.
Now I know most people don't do that unless they are concerned. It blew me away to see the women over in the office sorting these out. Somebody asked if there was any from their constituency, I believe it was the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat but it would take a lot of time to sort out each constituency. I am sure there were some from every constituency across this province.
AN HON. MEMBER: There wasn't one in favour, did you notice that? I went through them . . .
MR. MCINNES: Well, I didn't go through them all - Mr. Speaker, I don't want to be off to the one side - but we also had many petitions tabled. Our Leader tabled a lot of petitions, the Third Party also tabled many petitions against this GST and PST and whatever. I can't understand why we don't have people phoning up and saying, do it, you fellows sit down and let them pass the legislation.
I know it is going to pass, we know it will pass and it will likely pass before Christmas. As I understand it, the Law Amendments Committee will probably be meeting some time tomorrow to start having hearings on the bill. Rumour has it that there are over 80 individuals and/or groups that have asked to come in. I hope that the chairman will give everyone an opportunity to have his or her or any group the opportunity to have their say. It is going to be interesting to see how many are coming in to say that they are, in fact, in favour and there may be.
If the committee was able to travel the province, I am sure they would have more people appear; people from Yarmouth, people from Cape Breton. I don't know if they are going to be able to take the time to come in here, in fact it is a busy time of year for most people, the Christmas season. I don't know whether they can take the time to come in, Mr. Speaker. The fact is I understand the committee is going to sit on Saturday and that will make it difficult for some people. At any rate, I hope the committee will make themselves available to hear all the concerns of those people who have made a special effort to come in.
What about the municipal units? I had the opportunity of actually meeting Mayor Walter Fitzgerald on the street the other day and I believe one of the other councillors who is in the gallery. They wanted to know when this bill was being passed and when it was going
to go to the Law Amendments Committee and they said, we want to be there and we are going to be there.
This government has been doing things that people don't like. We have had cuts in health care, cuts in education, amalgamation of school boards, amalgamation of Cape Breton, amalgamation of Halifax. Has that been saving money? The figures I have been seeing don't really show that. People are very unhappy about the amalgamation of school boards; 92 school principals in our region. How can they all work together?
We had one of the Atlantic Provinces that is not going to participate in this deal of harmonization and I guess you all know what province that is, the Province of Prince Edward Island. Why aren't they going to do it? They are not going to do it because they appointed a committee to go out across their province, I know it is not a very big province, but they appointed a committee to go out and ask the people, ask their constituents what they thought. They did have many meetings, I think it was eight hearings across P.E.I. and they had 47 public presentations made to the committee. ". . . a strong majority stated opposition to Prince Edward Island joining the federal government's sales tax harmonization plan.". I am not going to go all through that again because it has been tabled, it has been talked about and it has been recorded but they listened to the people.
If those people across the way and to my right don't listen to the people, the same thing will happen to them as happened to the Government of Prince Edward Island, they got turfed out because they stopped listening. When you stop listening to the people, it is game over.
The Saint John Board of Trade, well what did they say about this? They said that, ". . . tax-included pricing will lead to higher consumer prices, poorer merchandise selection, fewer job opportunities . . .", and I could go on and on.
The bottom line of this bill is that it is going to hurt the average consumer of this province. It is going to hurt their pocketbook, they cannot afford it.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order please, it is getting more difficult to hear the speaker who has the floor.
MR. MCINNES: Madam Speaker, what I was trying to point out again for about the fourth or fifth time is that this bill is going to hurt the average consumer of this province. Tax on electricity, tax on your fuel, tax on your gasoline, it is going to affect everybody. People who are making over $80,000 sure they can afford it, that is fine but how many people are making over $80,000 in this province? A few CEOs on the school boards but other than that.
Anyway, this bill will probably pass tonight and go to the Law Amendments Committee tomorrow and I say that I hope the Law Amendments Committee will give everyone an opportunity to have their full say, not try to cut them off but to give them their full
opportunity and that the chairman will give the members of that committee the opportunity to ask questions and to hear the concerns of those people there. Needless to say, I will not be voting for this bill. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: I rise to speak against the bill, obviously, that is no surprise to anyone. I rise as a person who has not been in this place very long and I have been extremely fascinated, to say the least, by the process that we have gone through here. I wanted to, through you, Madam Speaker, to the other members, say how it looks from where I sit with regard to this bill, what we have said, how we have said it and what I think it means as we come up to voting on the bill, which will obviously take place tonight.
I just looked on my calendar and I counted, I think this is my 19th day in this place. When I came here with the other two members of my caucus, we thought this bill wasn't coming in. We were told no bill, no blended sales tax bill would be coming. We wanted it and we said so and we did, in the way the rules allow, we came in and said bring in this bill, what are you afraid of. We were still a bit surprised when the bill did come in and it became clear that the bill was coming in, in a compressed time-frame. So we did what we could do as an Opposition and I certainly don't respond to the notion that we are not here to speak our minds and use the rules, I think that is what we are here for. We sincerely opposed the bill so we set about in this rather compressed time-frame opposing the bill as seriously and as carefully as we could in this short time-frame.
Madam Speaker, what we did was we used the rules to raise amendments to the bill. The House will remember that we brought in a hoist amendment. A hoist amendment, as everybody but me here knew, was an amendment to take the bill out of here for six months, put it away somewhere else. The Opposition's suggestion was that maybe that was a good idea because if we could take it out of here, there would be more time and the time-frame would no longer be so compressed. People made sensible arguments about that. They said that the bill doesn't come into effect until April 1st, and there is time to do that and the Opposition spoke diligently to that amendment.
When that amendment was defeated, we suggested - in the Opposition - that the bill go to the Public Accounts Committee in our second amendment. We went through the same process again. We talked about what a good forum that was to expand our discussion to talk about particularly the money end of it, and it is about money, so that was an obvious place to put it. We talked about the kind of things that needed to be talked about, and while we were doing that we talked about the bill too, and I am not going to go through the list of things and talk about them again, and I am sure that the members on the other side will be just as relieved to hear that, as I am not to say it.
We talked about all kinds of things, we talked about what would go up, we talked about what would go down; we tried to talk intelligently about the effects of the ups and the downs of the bill; and we tried to talk about who would be affected the most; who would be affected the least; and we tried to talk about the costs and benefits, if there were any, to this new tax throughout it all, and the second amendment that we brought in was defeated. Then we brought in the third amendment and this was an amendment which argued against the principle of the bill. I think that was a terrific opportunity for this House, I think it was a wonderful chance for us to talk about where it is we stand on the principles behind what is before us.
We did out best to talk about that and again throughout it all we talked about what people have said about it, how people can say something about it and how the time-frame would affect what people could say about it and so on and so forth. The member for Pictou West is right, this bill will probably, well it will go to the Law Amendments Committee because here in the Opposition we do not have enough numbers to defeat this bill.
So we have gone through this process, Madam Speaker, but what has been interesting to me as a new person here is how we have done it across the floor and with each other. I can certainly speak for my caucus, not for the other, but we did what we thought was our obligation. We believed in it and we did it diligently, I think, and that was to try and engage in debate on the merits and demerits of the bill. I was somewhat surprised in my early days here to see that the government did not want to engage, most of the time, in that debate. Sometimes, and I was pleased when they did, members on the government side did get up and speak. As someone else noted, the Premier spoke, some other members spoke on the bill and engaged in some debate.
What really surprised me, Madam Speaker, was a member - and I apologize, I think he is from Hants East - said this afternoon, what is wrong with us, why couldn't we be objective about this bill? I was a little bit taken aback by that because I thought that was everybody's job here, not just our job, to look at this bill, and that if we were going to have a debate and find out the merits and demerits, the other side of the floor, the government side, would speak up in a convincing way to tell us what was so good about this bill. As I said, to a very small extent, they did.
AN HON. MEMBER: Did they convince you?
MS. O'CONNELL: No, they didn't convince me, but, you know, I am open-minded and I am sure that with the number of members on the government side, if they had spoken longer, at least I would have understood it better, even if I had not agreed with them, Madam Speaker.
Then the member for Kings North got up this afternoon and said something that really and truly surprised me. The member for Kings North said, well, we know of at least one group that has been opposing this bill, the Chambers of Commerce. I don't want to misquote him, but I think that is what he said. He said, they are going to get what they want because we hear that the government is going to change the tax-included pricing. Well, blow me down, Madam Speaker, because what I learned in that minute was this, that this government does listen, or at least that it can listen. If it is true it tells me that there is some potential here for the kind of give and take that is needed to make good legislation in this province. If it is true, it means that some groups of people in this province were able to explain to the government what it was that was so bad about one particular aspect of this bill. What that tells me, just to break it down a little bit, is that people came and talked to the government and said, look, we have some concerns - this was a concern that we had too - here are our concerns.
Madam Speaker, I just got a note from another member asking me and I would be happy to yield the floor.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: I would like to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor for an introduction and thank the Speaker for affording me the opportunity. I would like to introduce, to all members of this House, Mr. Peter Whalen. Peter is a resident of the Clayton Park area. He recently joined the Halifax Regional Police Youth Service. I understand that he has been an avid follower of the Halifax Council and now the Regional Municipality Council. He is helping the regional councillors in any way he can. I would ask him to stand and please accept a warm welcome from all members.
MS. O'CONNELL: I would especially like to add my welcome to Peter. Peter is a good friend of the Halifax Fairview constituency office as well. He is a true fan of politics at all levels. We are well acquainted and we are glad to see him here today. Welcome, Peter.
I was saying that if what we heard just in the corners and around the place today is true and if the provincial government is prepared to make some alterations in this bill because people said things to them and because they listened, then that tells me something really important here. It tells me that if it can make one change, it can make many changes. It tells me that if other people who have concerns about this bill come and articulate them, then maybe this government will listen. Maybe that is naive. I hope not. The fact of the matter is that starting tomorrow morning a fairly large number of people, to my understanding, are going to come to this government and they are going to be given time and they are going to talk about this bill. I do not know who is coming and I am sure that they will not all be on one side or the other of this issue, but I can pretty well guarantee that you are far more likely to come if you have concerns than if you do not.
I would anticipate that a great many people are going to come to this government in spite of the short time-frame, in spite of the ungodly hours when the Law Amendments Committee will meet. These people will come and many of them will say we have this concern about the bill. You have heard them all in here so I am not going to go over them again, but people will talk about the price of necessities. People will talk about the specific necessities that perhaps affect them most or they may speak generally. They may talk about the four things that the member for Kings North ended his comments with. They will talk about the unfairness of the price increase on a necessity like children's clothing.
I hope they will talk about the increased cost of fuels for your vehicle or home heat. I expect that they will talk about the ins and outs of some of the other concerns that they have with this bill.
One of the other things that we talked about was the massive size of the companion federal legislation. We argued on this side that there needed to be time, there needed to be consultation. We do not have any choice about that right now. We have aired those concerns. We have let them be known. We do not have any choice about that but I think that people will come and as best they can, given the short time-frame and given the fact that they may not have seen - very likely, I suppose, will not have seen the federal legislation.
People will come and they will say this or that. They will come representing groups and they will come as individuals. They will come as labour. They will come as consumers. They will come as business people and so on and so on. I hope that this government will listen. There will be other members there to listen, too.
I hope that this government will listen when people say to them, Madam Speaker, that this is a bad bill for Nova Scotia. This is a bad bill because it is a consumption tax. It taxes people evenly, no matter how much money they have in their pockets, Madam Speaker, it takes the same amount out. We all learned percentages in school and we know that if you make a small sum of money every year, the percentage that comes out is a much higher percentage than if you make a higher income. So my hope is that this government will listen to these critiques, listen to the concerns we have raised and not just say, oh, there is the Opposition going at it again, they are so obstructive, they are so oppositional. Well, I have said it before in here, that is my job, that is our job. Our job is to look at it with a critical eye and to speak in this way, on behalf of the people who need a bad bill opposed.
We will be there, the NDP will be at the Law Amendments Committee, the other Parties will be there and we will be listening and finding out, too, what concerns people have. We may, indeed, have missed a number of them and we will be very happy to hear the ones that we have not missed and we will be glad to know the other concerns that people have. So, Madam Speaker, we will be there, we will be listening about this bill. We will come back here
and whatever process we go through, we will engage in to the best of our ability to oppose a bill that we feel is profoundly negative for Nova Scotians.
From what we hear, you know we didn't sign all those petitions ourselves, we didn't mail that mail to the Leader of the Official Opposition, we didn't do all these things, we didn't phone ourselves and tell us it was a bad bill. Nova Scotians did that and they did it in a short time-frame, under a lot of pressure, in the time since this government said we are going to bring this bill in, or since they said they weren't and then said they were, so that the time-frame was even shorter. People didn't even have time, if you like, to sort of warm up their computers or sharpen their pencils, if you like, to get to us and to the government with their concerns. It was a high speed process from the beginning to the point we have reached now.
So, Madam Speaker, we will be listening for how social assistance recipients are going to cope with this. There is no help for them here. We are going to listen to how unemployed people, people on employment insurance, cope with this bill. We are going to be listening to find out how students are going to cope with this extra tax. We are going to be listening to hear how seniors are going to cope with this and whether they can, indeed, cope with this ongoing drain on their small budgets, their fixed incomes. We are going to be listening to hear how families with children are going to suffer or struggle to cope with this bill. We are going to listen to business, we are going to find out whether it is going to put them under or whether there are going to be job losses.
We are going to be listening, too, to hear whether, in fact, business will say, oh yes, those 3,000 jobs is perfectly reasonable. I doubt it, Madam Speaker, but I am willing to listen. We are going to try to engage in the process in the way that is responsible and respectful and we are going to continue to go through this. When it is all finished, at least the people on this side of the House, we can say to Nova Scotians that we did our best, we are sorry, we did the best job we could in a short space of time and within the rules, as amended by this government, with our inability to prevent them.
We are going to be there. We are going to ask good questions and we are going to listen to the answers and, when it is all done, I do have to say that I don't think when this bill goes through, as it very likely will, in fact it most certainly will, I can't imagine, Madam Speaker, that there will not be some kind of fallout down the road whenever this government gets around to facing those people in an election, facing those students, facing those seniors, facing those families with children to raise, facing the social assistance recipients, facing the small businesses and the marginal businesses and the working poor and the regular family just getting by and struggling to get by, some of them.
Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that the day of reckoning is not coming, even when this bill passes. So we will wait and we will continue to oppose and we will wait for the day when Nova Scotians will get the chance to say to this government, this is a bad bill. We did not want this bill. We cannot afford this bill. We cannot live with one more inch of being
pushed into penury and suffering by this government and we will say so to this government at the polling station on election day. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have what I gather will be my last opportunity . . . (Interruptions) well, I was not afforded the opportunity to finish the sentence, but the standing ovation from the Minister of Education and Culture was heartwarming. Indeed, they are all marketers, but, boy oh boy, what a crummy product they have been marketing in this Bill No. 48. If I were they, I would be hesitant or embarrassed to attempt to market this particular product.
The government has talked through the course of this debate, those few who have participated in the debate and then in Question Period and out in front of the television cameras with the scrums and so on, that this the greatest reform of the tax regime in Nova Scotia since Confederation, said the Minister of Finance. It is going to be a boon to everybody and their uncle and their dog. It is going to result in $100 million less revenue for the Province of Nova Scotia and, boy, the marketing effort and the spin that the ladies and gentlemen opposite, Madam Speaker, have attempted to put on Bill No. 48 has been vigorous to say the least.
I want to say that it has, in very large measure, and they know it, fallen on deaf ears right across this province. Because as the Opposition has worked as hard as it has to maintain the bill in the foreground of public attention, and we have had that effect the last number of days, increasing numbers of people in increasing numbers of places across this province have come to understand that there are very real problems for them and, indeed, in many cases, for their businesses, as a consequence of Bill No. 48 and its implications.
I had occasion to have discussion with a few people just through today about Bill No. 48 and the thought occurred to me that in a lot of the debate and discussion and in the speeches which we have heard, we, perhaps, have not always managed to put quite the face on the people out there who are likely to be so seriously and I think, in many cases, very adversely affected by the impact and implications of Bill No. 48.
I would like for a moment just to try to put a face on one element of our community out there about which I have very real concern and I think that group is clearly one which has the potential to be very badly hurt by this bill. That group to which I refer and upon whom I would attempt to put the face, of course, are the poor and the less well to do because they simply don't have the advantages that so many of us in this place do and so many whom we represent do. They simply do not have the economic capacity and unfortunately for most never will have the economic capacity to take advantage, and I use that word advisedly, of the so-called tax relief which the Minister of Finance and other ministers and indeed the Premier when he deigned to give us some words here the other day have suggested will be
available or are available as a result of this legislation. They are those out there and we know them all or we know many in our constituencies and in some cases they have been in these circumstances for a very long time.
They are those who are barely hanging on to their jobs, who are at the present time functioning in what could only be regarded as menial, part-time and low paying employment. Some of them, many of them unfortunately, have been condemned to that economic level in our community for far too long because of the dismal economic performance and particularly dismal, may I say, in economic terms since the ladies and gentlemen opposite took office. When we realize that we have something like 26 per cent unemployed in the Island of Cape Breton it borders upon the scandalous and we have heard for years, since these folks came to office, we have heard about 30-60-90 and community economic development and we have heard of God knows what in terms of economic development initiatives and as we have seen, and we have certainly seen on the Island of Cape Breton, that it is an abject and dismal and 100 per cent failure.
One out of every four there in that community has been let down and is in very real difficulty. Those people are working hard simply to survive day to day. Many of those people, as I know you know, are the heads of households and they are unemployed and they then of necessity have to turn to the welfare and social assistance systems in place municipally and provincially to even keep body and soul together. They are first on the list among those who would be very badly hurt by this legislation.
Then there is another community about which I think often, many of whom I know are also in that group, I refer to those who are the disabled in Nova Scotia. Those who struggle with physical and mental disability every single day of their lives and I know many of them and I know every member of this Legislature knows many who are unfortunately disabled in one way or another and I say to you, they too are without doubt going to be very badly further disabled and disadvantaged in economic terms as a consequence of the adverse impact of many of the provisions of Bill No. 48.
They, the disabled, are people whose circumstances in life are unfortunately not as generous as those of us who are here in this place, in the main, enjoy. They are many who struggle every single minute of every single day with great adversity. Many because of accident or injury, or medical misfortune which but for the grace of God seems not to have afflicted too many of us here in this place. The disabled generally have one of the most difficult times making a go of it financially. They are, unfortunately, by reason off those disabilities, shunned by too many employers and they are not able to move up the ranks of the economic ladder and the employment ladder and they do have very great difficulty. So those are among the faces and those are perhaps the first faces which come to my mind, who are outside of this place, that I consider when I realize that the implications of the bill which we now debate will, in fact, have.
Madam Speaker, it is coming clearer and clearer that it is, in very large measure, the kinds of items and goods which are required by the poor, so many of them are those which will attract the larger tax. Even just fuel and electricity among them, just an absolute necessity. Clothing and footwear under $100, there is a tremendously large community of disabled and less well-to-do out there whom we know have enjoyed ever so modest a bit of relief until this new BST, in regard to their clothing and footwear purchases. Now this government decides to say to them, thank you very much, it is going to cost you 8 per cent more to buy that very modest pair of shoes or that very modest sweater or jacket or pair of slacks.
I continue to be amazed by the characterization of this piece of business that has consumed us for the last many days. I continue to be amazed that the Premier, with the arrogance just dripping off his lower lip, standing up and saying, we are going to take $100 million less out of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
AN HON. MEMBER: That is true, it's the truth.
MR. DONAHOE: I hear from the Liberal backbenchers to my right, that's true, that's true. Well, maybe that is true in total, but we will wait, the jury is out on whether or not that is true; we will wait to see whether or not that is true. Something that is equally true - and the jury is also out because I think the number I am going to suggest is going to go higher - the $84 million which is going to come out of the poor and the less well-to-do in the Province of Nova Scotia in increased consumer taxes, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that I will go so far - I probably shouldn't wager here on the floor of the Legislature - the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has been good enough to suggest that he might even break down and buy me a Tim Horton's coffee one day. Well, I will tell you what, I will put up the cost of the Tim Horton's coffee and we will have a little wager. We will wait 12 months and, if 12 months from now or 12 months after this ill-fated tax is in place, if the amount of the $84 million gouged out of the consumers is that or lower, then I owe the minister the coffee, but if it is higher, then he owes me two. That is the deal I make with him.
Madam Speaker, I honestly believe that the $84 million out of the consumers is going to be very much more than that. One of the reasons I believe that is that I just simply don't, for a minute, buy what I believe is a juvenile and childish and uninformed assumption made by this Premier and by this government, and that assumption is that business is going to pass through all of these so-called big savings. Business is not going to pass through those "savings".
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps maybe it is even a question to the member.
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, which is it?
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, which is it?
MR. HOLLAND: Well, I will make the comment and he can respond to it. Is it also his opinion that APEC - I mean they have made those same comments - and the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce have made the exact same comments, so is he calling all those people childish and juvenile as well? If he is, I think he should apologize to them.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would just like to comment. Honourable members, when you rise to make a point of order, identify it. If you are asking a question, identify it, because then I have to seek the permission of the member who has the floor. There is no point of order. It appears to have turned into a question. (Interruption)
MR. DONAHOE: The Minister of Education thinks I am okay. No point of order, no nothing. I do not have to respond to nothing, is what he told me. Well, I do not mind . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: I think you should apologize to APEC, though.
MR. DONAHOE: I do not mind. I thought that the minister might say that and the honourable member suggests that I should apologize to APEC. The last thing I am going to do is apologize to APEC for the very simple reason that unlike most of the members of this House - the Leader of the New Democratic Party and a couple of colleagues were there, but very few - I went to an APEC session at St. Mary's University and I listened intently to what APEC had to say. APEC had some very interesting things to say. They had some positive things to say about Bill No. 48, about the BST.
They also went on to say that they too were not so sure about this $84 million. On that very issue, and they also said they were not sure that it would generate quite the kind of numbers which the government has been advertising.
AN HON. MEMBER: They said it would generate more. They were being conservative.
MR. DONAHOE: If the peanut gallery would lay off for just one moment, I will tell them that at that APEC conference they suggested among other things that there was a distinct possibility from their analysis that it would in fact not raise more, but that there was a potential that this ill-fated scheme might raise less.
They were then asked a very significant question, what do you, APEC economists, think might happen in the event that it does not generate the numbers the government advertises. Do you know what the answer was, Madam Speaker? I know you do. Some of your colleagues probably don't but I know you do. I was there to hear it. The answer was
that in that event the government would probably have to turn to contemplating raising taxes to generate some more revenue. (Interruptions) Well, that is what they said at APEC.
Now if the members, my colleagues, my friends or former friends, take your pick, if the men and women who are here as members of this Legislature do not want to believe that that was what was said at APEC, go talk to APEC. Go get the tapes. Go talk to the economists. Do not sit here and natter at me like trained seals and talk about APEC when you have not even got the gumption to go to the session offered by APEC and listen. The Minister of Community Services was there. Yes, he was. (Interruptions) Yes, and the chairman of the Human Resources Committee was there. Yes, they were. (Interruptions)
I acknowledged him but do you know what is interesting? Neither of these members who said they were there have gotten to their feet right now and said, point of order, that is not what APEC said. Neither of them have denied what I just said. That is because they know that that is in fact what was said at the APEC conference. So, when we hear that all is sweetness and light with this Bill No. 48, as the saying goes, that ain't necessarily so. That ain't necessarily so at all.
I say, Madam Speaker, that it is clear that $84-plus million is going to be gouged out of the taxpayers. You have to wonder, or certainly I do. Increasing numbers of Nova Scotians are wondering what kind of a deal is this now? We are doing a little friggin' in the riggin' here with tax rates and we are blending those tax rates and we are trying to pass them off as if they are reduced tax rates for so many people and so on and it is a wonderful deal, but do you know what has to happen, according to this government, to make it all work? They have to go looking for even more of our taxpayers' money. They have to go up to their buddy Paul Martin or probably more to the point, Paul Martin came down and bribed them, but the long and the short of it is, they have a basket full, a briefcase full of $249 million of your tax dollars and mine to make some of this work. They already have it in the bank, they are making money off it right now. It averages, for the sake of discussion, $60 million a year of our tax money.
AN HON. MEMBER: Not bad.
MR. DONAHOE: That is not bad, says the former Minister of Finance. Not bad at all. It would be real great if it was Paul Martin's personal cheque and his personal largesse was making this all happen. The fact of the matter is that it is the Nova Scotia taxpayers' money via Paul Martin that is making it happen at $0.25 billion. There is $84 million or thereabouts already acknowledged by this government going to be gouged direct from the Nova Scotia taxpayers' pocket. There is $249 million or $250 million coming from the taxpayers via Paul Martin's cheque. That is $333 million or $335 million, taxpayers' dollars, coming to this government in year one to make this scheme work.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I know the honourable member is not trying to mislead the House, I know that. The Leader of the Opposition acknowledged very clearly that it is $110 million less coming to the Province of Nova Scotia because of the harmonized tax. (Interruption) With all due respect - and as the honourable member said earlier in the day, when that is said, it is usually said facetiously - if I could, the point of order is for the honourable member, who I am sure does not want to mislead the House. The $85 million is what it estimated on the front side was going to happen, but it also says in the same document that $110 million less will come to the province. So, for the honourable member to take $249 million and add $85 million is, I think, probably misunderstood by the honourable member. I am sure now he could take (Interruption) I am on the point of order, sir, please.
AN HON. MEMBER: I want to interrupt your point of order.
MR. MACEACHERN: No, please (Laughter) $249 million so he could subtract $110 million and he might get a better read on what is happening.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would just like to rule on the point of order. It does not appear to be a point of order, it is obviously a difference of opinion between two honourable members.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. When that gentleman raises a point of order, when you realize the minute he starts speaking that there is no point of order, would you please ask him to sit down.
MADAM SPEAKER: Sit down, honourable member. Thank you.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I guess we had what a dear friend and a former deputy of mine used to refer to as a scabble amongst 'mongsts' just recently. I do not have any intention to mislead. Perhaps I should not ask you the question because you may feel that there have been those occasions where I have, but I have never attempted to mislead this House and I certainly do not intend on this particular issue to do so here. I am simply quoting what I believe to be numbers well and roundly and fully advertised. The government's own documents tell us that $84 million is coming out of the Nova Scotia taxpayers' pockets, consumer taxes mostly going to the Treasury of the Province of Nova Scotia.
MADAM SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. You have 36 minutes remaining. The debate this evening is one that was submitted earlier by the honourable member for Kings West.
[Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing begin to understand why Nova Scotia's agricultural community is sick and tired of the financial assault continually being imposed by this government upon agricultural programs.]
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I wish this evening to address this Legislature during the late show on agriculture. Agriculture is truly a marvellous industry in Nova Scotia and we are fortunate to have some of the greatest farmers in all of North America.
Some of the technology has been introduced to Nova Scotia from Europe, California and all over the world. Some of the equipment that has been developed in Nova Scotia is truly world- leading and high-tech. There is a disturbing happening in this province at the present time and I don't want to stand and say bad things about the Minister of Agriculture or about the staff of the Department of Agriculture.
I was at the Kings County Federation of Agriculture meeting last month and I reviewed many of the transcripts from the provincial federation, I was unable to attend but I have spoken to others that did. Agriculture in Nova Scotia today is at a crisis point.
I have a copy of a speech that was delivered to the farmers of Nova Scotia at the federation meeting. I want to read a few excerpts and some transcripts and then if I have time, I want to talk about agriculture some more.
The outgoing President of the Federation of Agriculture is Mr. Charles Keddy. You should know that Charles wasn't born on a farm and wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Everything that Charles Keddy has he worked for, everything he has, he deserves. Charles and Doris Keddy operate one of the most successful strawberry farms and beef farms anywhere. His strawberry plants are moved from Nova Scotia to Florida where they produce berries and we buy the berries when they arrive back here.
Charles' address to the federation members began with, "It is amazing how quickly things change.", he says. "The political climate we are forced to operate in today is as unpredictable and often as unfriendly as the weather conditions during the past cropping season. During the past year we have witnessed negative change at an unprecedented rate; the loss of millions of dollars of funding from the provincial government; experienced field and extension staff have not been replaced; a tax has been placed on farm land; the loss of feed freight assistance has resulted in higher feed costs. And those are just the changes that
the government have unloaded on us.". The government, " . . . have given us a preponderance of regulations which we must comply with and pay for. Occupational Health and Safety regulation; Environmental regulation; Employment regulation and Fee for service regulation. The government call their new service fees they charge 'revenue enhancement'. They enhance the governments revenues at the expense of farmers. Politicians take credit for the quality of food available, what they are doing to protect the environment. What they do not say is that they are forcing the costs of protecting the rest of Canadian society on 3% of us, the farm community.".
Charles wonders whether he will be able to continue farming in 10 years time. Other farmers are wondering the same thing. "The Province of Nova Scotia is losing farms at an alarming rate. When do we reach the critical point when the services industries and the infrastructure that support the agricultural community can no longer survive because there are not enough farms to support them? We are quickly reaching a point where no one can afford to get into the business of farming.". One thing we must not forget, "Food doesn't come from the Super Store. We produce it, it is expensive to produce, and we won't continue to produce it unless there is just a tiny bit of incentive to do so. Although it doesn't pay the bills; we at least deserve some recognition.".
One of the greatest challenges that the Federation of Agriculture has before it is to ensure that there is an, ". . . available and affordable source of capital for young farmers now and into the future. There have to be programs developed now to encourage young farmers to develop farm businesses. My good friend, Guy Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, realizes this. He knows what's at stake.", a $2 billion industry and 16,000 jobs.
Nova Scotia views $4.5 million as bait to land 135 high-tech jobs; that was in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. "That same government who, when the agricultural community asks the government to cost share $25,000 on a program to encourage the efficient disposal of dead livestock, say no. That is the same government who last year wanted to shut down the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board. The Farm Loan Board does not loan money to farmers on the same terms it loans money to 'high-tech' firms from away.".
Farmers in Nova Scotia use computers, farmers are high-tech, farmers create jobs. In spite of the beating we are taking, we will probably still be here tomorrow. I think someone had better take a look at protecting and promoting what is here now and is most likely to be here in the future.
We have to meet the problem of our industry head-on and government is one of our problems. "And if we continue to provide governments with the quality of advice we have in the past, I believe we can be successful in convincing the Government of Nova Scotia that we are an important part of the economic future and that we deserve to be dealt a better hand than we have been dealt in the past three years. If farmers in Nova Scotia do not want to
become an endangered species it will be necessary to unite in the pursuit of one common goal. The long term viability of our industry.".
We know our role is the pursuit of that goal and we have lived the kinds of sacrifices we have to make in pursuit of that goal. Government has a role to play in the pursuit of the goal as well. However, they will no longer accept their role as they have in the past, without questioning the value they are getting for their investment. It is our job to convince the government of the hard facts and sensible judgment and, above all, a commitment to invest in our own energy and resources of the future.
We have the advantage over all the high-tech, job generating, hot shot industries in the world. We are here and we have an excellent track record, but if we expect to be here in the future, if the government expects us to continue to invest in Nova Scotia, we will have to forge a new partnership, designed to work with the times in which we live. We have been hard on the new Minister of Agriculture; he is a tough individual and he can take it. I know he thinks the same way I do; when we push him he works harder for us and when he pushes us, we work harder, looking for more innovative and creative solutions to our industry's problems.
I want to thank, Madam Speaker, for the few minutes to summarize roughly the feeling of the agricultural community at the present time. Agriculture is one of our primary industries and this government must take it more seriously than they have shown in the past.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.
HON. GUY BROWN: Madam Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Kings North for taking part in this debate this evening. I want to say right off the top that agriculture is the most important business, along with forestry and fisheries and tourism, that we have in this province. I want the record to be very clear, that 35 per cent of our farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia have a degree from some institution or educational facility somewhere around the world, 35 per cent, the highest of any province in Canada and they are community leaders and this industry is so important to rural Nova Scotia, and when the Premier asked me to take over this portfolio, I was pleased because it is a challenge for me and I cannot work much harder than I have worked over the past five or six months with regard to this industry.
I appreciate this debate. The honourable member for Kings North brought out a lot of good points, but agriculture is growing in the province. I agree that we must develop programs through loans or whatever that would carry farmers. With regard to more acres than apples, at one time, all Nova Scotians should realize that this province produced 9 million bushels of apples - I am talking the 1930's, 1940's and up through into the 1950's - today, and over the past few years, we have produced about 3 million bushels. Why? Because
we need a program to stimulate and to bring some of that land on side that has gone out of production in Nova Scotia.
I want to say very quickly - I wish I had an apple here, I normally have one - if I took an apple and we talk about the agricultural land that is left, and you peel it and it drops, you cut it up and that apple, a percentage of it is under water, a percentage is under forestry, a percentage is under swamps and deserts and so on, you cut that apple right up and you have no core left, so you pick up a little piece of the peeling and that is as much land we have available for agriculture throughout the world today.
I want to tell you people, I don't care if they live on Hollis Street, they live in the north end, the south end of the city, or Sackville or where they live, we have to come together as a society and appreciate the land that we have and introduce programs to encourage development of that land so that we can create jobs and put more people to work in Nova Scotia.
Madam Speaker, just for a moment or so, I want to say that in 1993, when we came into power - and I was on the government side before in the 1970's, and there is nothing the members can do about it here today and I am not going to get into a debate about that - we came in in June and we never even had a budget for that year.
Honourable member, I am not being political, why don't you sit down and hear what I have to say?
AN HON. MEMBER: Why don't you talk about agriculture?
MR. BROWN: I am going to.
AN HON. MEMBER: When?
MR. BROWN: I have been. So what do we have to do as a government? We have put a debt on our children's back that was unbelievable and we have to make changes. Yes, there were cuts under the Agriculture budget, the same as there was under every other budget in government, because we had an issue to face that we had to deal with. Also, today, we are in a new era; we are in a new, world marketplace.
I was in the Valley and very pleased to be there to see a container, due to the trade delegation of farmers and myself that went to Caribbean, 1,000 boxes of apples left the Annapolis Valley yesterday for a new market that they have not had a chance at before. I am also told there will be a container of poultry going there in the near future, and I will not say who that is from, and I am told that meats may go there, as well, because we have to develop those new markets in order to grow.
The farmer buys everything at retail. It does not matter what the farmer buys, they buy it at retail and everything they sell, does not matter what it is, they sell at wholesale. Yes, we have an issue and we all within our society have to appreciate the efforts with regards to agriculture. I am pleased that the Premier has been supporting me and the government of this province has been supporting me with regard to this issue. I thank all my colleagues in a public way.
We reduced the budget, I am not arguing that; the same as fisheries, the same as all the rest of them that we have. Even with that, I want to tell you Nova Scotia's agriculture expenditure as a percentage of agriculture GDP is above the national average. It is not enough, I wish we had more, but let's look at the figures as they are. It is now above the national average. We are now third in Canada and one of those provinces when they started their changes this year - the Province of Quebec, we will probably be in second place. By the end of this government's term I hope we are in first place and that is what we are working towards.
The GATT deal. What came down from GATT? I want to tell you. We had a committee that was put together of farmers in Nova Scotia, the Federation of Agriculture, farmers, in fact, Mr. Speaker, when you were minister you put that committee in place as well as industry and government, to look at GATT and to look at changes. We just won a major battle in the last few days with regard to GATT. There should not be a group in Nova Scotia that is under a management program that cannot go to bed at night and sleep well after the decision that came down. We cannot forget about it because we know the Americans and we know the way they operate. They will have us back at the table likely in a few years.
The NISA Program is an $18 million deal that was signed by the provincial and federal governments that we just announced within the last ten days. Major.
Everything is not done under a capital grants program. Let me tell you and let me give you an example. Nova Scotia is a partner with her groups today. Canada has been negotiating at the table, a new development, on milk pooling in this province. No, we have not given them capital grants but I want to tell you we have taken a tremendous amount of time and commitment to get to the signing stage. We provided the staff through our own staff and travelled to make sure that Nova Scotia was represented at the table. We did that as a government on behalf of the agriculture sector of Nova Scotia to a cost of about $20,000 this year. That was our commitment.
Technology is also a commitment with regard to that. Just this week Cabinet - one minute left. I want to tell you the grain elevators in Halifax are important for the future of agriculture in Nova Scotia. The grain elevators are important. That was always a federal responsibility. I want to tell you we have been negotiating, and I will tell you I have told the
feds what I think of their cop-out on some of these things. What do we have to do to get the grain elevator under way now? The Province of Nova Scotia has to cost share. I have Cabinet approval to cost share in the rebuilding of that grain elevator and getting the repairs under way. I have sent that information to the federal government to see if they will accept the deal. That is brand new, Mr. Speaker. That is a new obligation on the back of this government because it was always the federal responsibility. I could say, no, that is a federal responsibility, but I said this and this government said this, no, that grain elevator is a must in Nova Scotia and we are prepared to be partners and help get those repairs underway. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments tonight on the debate with respect to agriculture and the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia and say at the outset that, as has been indicated, clearly the agricultural industry in this province forms an important cornerstone to the economy of this province, plays a significant role. I don't think there is any question that the industry, whether it be tree fruit, whether it be cattle, whether it be in vegetables or in chickens and poultry, any of those areas, that in Nova Scotia we have as sophisticated and as well-organized industries that make as significant a contribution to this economy as they do anywhere, certainly in this country.
Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party, along with the other Parties in this House, fought tooth and nail with our friends in the agriculture industry, against the efforts at GATT and through NAFTA, to try to decimate supply management programs that would have a devastating impact on the family farm and on the farming industry here in Nova Scotia. There is no question about that. We were very clear on it and worked with the industry, as well as with the other Parties, to beat back that attempt.
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to make a presentation before the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Dairy Producers. I reiterated that commitment. It was before the decision had come down by the dispute panel with NAFTA. I reiterated our commitment to that and I am very pleased that that decision came down in our favour. I think it is important that we remain vigilant, as a government and as politicians, to ensure that the supply management system is maintained in this province.
Let me say that we must also be vigilant to ensure that agriculture is protected in this province in other ways. We must ensure that there is not a continued deterioration of agricultural land or the shifting from agriculture to residential or from other land uses. I think, Mr. Speaker, we have to consider strategies that have been followed in P.E.I. and in British Columbia where we set up an agricultural land reserve because far too much land that was previously producing for agriculture has now moved into residential property and I think we have to be concerned about that. This is not a large province, we do not have a large land mass that has been involved in agriculture. I think we must move assertively towards coming up with a policy in this province to establish an agricultural land reserve.
I think we have to be more focused in the whole question of sustainable farming practices, not only as it relates to the environment but as it relates to the quality and the sustainability of that agricultural land that is being maintained, that we ensure we don't continue to lose it through erosion, whether that be in rivers or near other bodies of water, Mr. Speaker. There are other ways that we have to ensure that we maintain a more sufficient practice to make sure that we sustain farming land in this province.
Clearly, there has and there continues to be a move of young people away from the agricultural industry, Mr. Speaker. I know that many of my generation, for example, have gone on to agricultural college and university and have gone back and are working on family farms. Unfortunately, there is also a large number of people who have decided or have been forced to make a decision on whether or not they are able to maintain the family farm, are able to strike out and create a living for themselves and for their families in agriculture and I think that is a concern that we must all have. I know in my part of the province where I was born and raised, in the Valley, I have seen a number of small farms that existed when I was growing up, now become a part of large corporate farming operations. I think that is a concern that we must all have.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the blended sales tax, an issue that has been under some significant discussion over the past few weeks, I have talked to a lot of farmers who acknowledge the fact that, as businesses, there may be some advantage to them in terms of input tax credits. At the same time, they do recognize that for the consumers, this is going to be a further hit because consumers will have to pay more for many of life's necessities and, therefore, as a result of unemployment and as a result of the economy being as sluggish as it is, their disposable income will continue to be reduced and their ability to purchase products that are made here in Nova Scotia, that are grown here in Nova Scotia, will be affected. I have had that comment and that concern raised with me by many farmers in the past few weeks. They are concerned.
As a couple of economists have made clear to me, in fact APEC itself has acknowledged, that when there are winners and losers, the losers, kind of at the bottom of the scale, are going to be the rural poor. It is going to be those people living in rural Nova Scotia who are going to be affected the most by the blended sales tax arrangement and that will, in turn, affect their ability to be consumers of the many agricultural products that are produced in this province and, therefore, that will be a threat or is a threat to the agricultural industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker.
As I suggested to the Nova Scotia Dairy Producers, as we, all of us, Nova Scotians, politicians of all sides, rallied around recognizing the impact on all of us of the dismantling of supply management programs, even though, as consumers under supply management, we will have to pay a little more, perhaps, for some of those agricultural products, Mr. Speaker, we understood, as consumers, how important is was to pay a little more in order to maintain the family farm and the agricultural industry in this province.
I urged the dairy producers, and I have tried to do the same to other farmers that I have spoken to, to recognize the negative impact the BST will have on consumers, and to work with us, to join with us to try to urge this government to back off, that now the economy in this province does not need a further slap in the face, which is what is going to be created by this additional consumption tax, Mr. Speaker. I have passed that message on. It is not necessarily being responded to in as public a way as I would like, but, nonetheless, we must all recognize that when challenges are facing us, that we cannot simply look at our own self-interest, that we must recognize the impact that these changes and these policies are going to have on us as a community.
Mr. Speaker, as my time is closing up, I just want to say, once again, that it is certainly acknowledged in this corner of the House, the important role that agriculture plays in the economy of Nova Scotia and we will continue, through our policies and through our efforts in this House and outside the House, to support the agriculture industry as it contributes to the overall community of the Province of Nova Scotia. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late debate. We will now resume with debate on the second reading of Bill No. 48. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel has 36 minutes remaining.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act. [Debate resumed.]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I am pleased to continue my remarks in relation to Bill No. 48 as we wind down the second reading phase of Bill No. 48. I had an opportunity before the moment of interruption to make some remarks with regard to it and there are a few other observations which I think I would like to make that I do trust you and others will find relevant and of value to advance the debate.
There is some interesting scuttlebutt around Province House today, Mr. Speaker, of which I am sure you are aware and that is that this very day there are officials from the Province of Nova Scotia in Ottawa engaged in discussion with officials of the federal Minister of Finance and the story, as I get it, is that the possibility is apparently being touted and mooted that perhaps the tax-inclusive pricing element of this deal may well be changed and that there will be certain modifications in that regard.
I find that interesting in the context of the news release document issued October 23rd, headed, Sales Tax Harmonization Detailed Agreements reached because in the document under the heading, tax-inclusive pricing, we have a question, Why are you implementing tax-inclusive pricing? The document goes on to read, for an answer, Through the government's deliberations on replacing the GST, Canadians have expressed a strong preference for tax-inclusive pricing. Tax-inclusive pricing will benefit consumers who will be able to know the full price of goods and services before they purchase them. In addition, the House of Commons Finance Committee recommended that tax-inclusive pricing be adopted in moving to a harmonized sales tax.
All of that may or may not be true but it was offered, that element of this arrangement was offered by the Government of Canada and by the Government of Nova Scotia as one of the principles and cornerstones of this arrangement. I sincerely trust that the Minister of Finance, when he closes debate on second reading, will tell this House and tell Nova Scotians straight up as to whether or not he does, in fact, and has had officials from his department in Ottawa dealing with federal officials and whether or not the tax-included pricing will or will not be an element of this particular scheme.
You are aware, as I am, that the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Saint John Board of Trade and others have indicated that the tax-included pricing element is a very real difficulty for business. It is one of the reasons, with its inclusion in the arrangement, one of the reasons that I think there is a very real possibility that the assumptions and the numbers which have been assumed by the governments are certainly suspect. Without reading the full document provided by the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce they did say that tax-included pricing will - and this is their opinion not mine - not generate additional revenue for government but it will create added costs for business. They said that business could be lost to other areas, and by other areas they mean out of the Province of Nova Scotia and out of the harmonized zone, reducing economic activity in the harmonized zone and in turn, reducing tax revenues for government.
When I read that the other day and the Premier was present, he almost applauded when I read the line, reducing tax revenue for government, as if that was somehow reflective of a wonderful thing, that the government would be taking fewer tax dollars. The unfortunate reality is that the Premier wasn't bright enough to understand the earlier part of the sentence. The Chamber of Commerce said that, tax-included pricing would reduce economic activity in the harmonized zone and that is why there would be reduced tax revenue for government. Anything that is done to reduce economic activity is surely not in the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia and the whole point of what we should be attempting to do as a government and the whole point of what this government has gone on and on and run off at the mouth about for three-plus years is their commitment to growing business.
I would repeat, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, not yours truly and not Opposition politicians but the organization that speaks for business in the Halifax Regional Municipality, says that the tax-inclusive pricing has the potential to reduce economic activity in the harmonized zone and that in turn would reduce tax revenues to government. Then we would be in that much worse a fix because if we have reduced economic activity, what does that say to you, Mr. Speaker, against the backdrop of the Minister of Finance standing and saying this whole arrangement is going to create 3,000 jobs? It sure is not going to create 3,000 jobs if the Chamber of Commerce is right.
That one element of this arrangement is going to result in reduced economic activity. If there is reduced economic activity, businesses are going to fail, businesses are going to downsize, businesses are going to lay off people and businesses are going to disappear. People are going to end up out of work in larger numbers than is now the case.
So how do you square that with what cannot be considered to be anything but rhetoric from the Minister of Finance and from the Premier and from others when they say this is all going to create 3,000 new jobs? Well, I am but one person and I have one opinion, but as the old saying goes, opinions are like haircuts, everybody's got one. The Minister of Finance has a haircut and an opinion and his opinion is that this is all going to generate 3,000 jobs. I say with the greatest respect to the Minister of Finance that he has not done anything more than any other Nova Scotian. He has stood up and offered an opinion. He sure has not offered any factual background or detail or precise information which makes it possible for me and thousands of Nova Scotians to believe that he is doing anything except blowing the words out of his mouth and saying there are going to be 3,000 jobs. If the minister was in a position to provide documentation and provide detailed analysis that lets me and others believe that there is some potential veracity to that statement, then I would feel much more comfortable about it than I do.
I said earlier and I really do think it is worth repeating because every single member in this place represents, depending on the circumstances, some thousands and in many cases tens of thousands of men and women and families who rent. This government produced a document and said what goes up with the BST and what goes down and it is surprising they did not have a column that said what goes sideways with this, but what goes up and what goes down and what is not impacted by the tax. Among other things suggested in their listing as to what was not impacted by the BST was rent. The difficulty and the real disappointment in that is that that is really only a half-truth. The Minister of Finance knows that and the government knows that.
The hard cold reality - the government has had it explained to them over and over again by the men and women and the organization which represents the individuals and the corporations who own the rental accommodations in this province - those individuals and corporations are going to face very substantial increased cost as a result of the BST. Those men and women who run and own those rental accommodations, regardless of how well intentioned they might be, regardless of how much of a personal relationship they might have with the men and women and families who rent from them, are running businesses. They are not going to be able to eat the thousands and thousands of dollars which will face them as new costs as a consequence of BST and they are going to be forced to pass them on to those who rent from them. So for the government to stand up and try to tell Nova Scotians that rent is BST free and not impacted by BST is simply not true. That simply is not true.
I am very much concerned, and the government has had the detail provided to it. In some cases the amount of increased rent per unit on an annual basis in one configuration is almost $100 - $96.21. That doesn't sound like a lot of money, perhaps, to some people, $96.21 over the course of a year, but it is going to be borne by the renter because when you add up all those $96.21 in a 200-unit apartment building, it is the landlord who is facing a $19,241 increased cost that, until this bill was introduced, he didn't face. That landlord is not going to be able to eat that $19,000 worth of costs. A 48-unit condominium complex, $3,299 in new cost, $68.73 per condominium and the condominium owner would face an 8 per cent increase in fuel oil, and on it goes.
So I think there is very real concern, Mr. Speaker. I don't have the exact number, it is, well, I don't have it in the documentation. I thought I had a number handy as to how many rental units and, more to the point, how many people, how many tenants live in the buildings which are owned by the members of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia. I would hazard a guess that in the metropolitan region alone, undoubtedly, 100,000 to 150,000-plus people rent accommodation and they are going to face increased costs on the rental of their accommodation.
A constituent of mine wrote to the Minister of Finance a few days ago, copied to the Attorney General, and I made mention of it the other day. I think the constituent stated as succinctly and as graphically as certainly I could, what his assessment is of the BST and what his concern is. He wrote to the Minister of Finance, copied to the Attorney General, on December 8th and he said if the BST is honestly conceived and you - referring 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? 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, that 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 was signed, a concerned voter.
That, Mr. Speaker, is reflective of the attitude of a tremendous number of people in every community of this province. This is a tax grab, there is no other way to characterize it. It is a tax grab. The Minister of Finance will tell us that it is the most dramatic modernization of the tax regime in the Province of Nova Scotia since Confederation.
Well, if that is the case, why is it that we are rushing the thing through with such unseemly haste? Why is it that we are taking the unusual step - I am not sure that it is unprecedented - of having the Law Amendments Committee meet on Saturday morning? Why is it that we are changing the Rules of the House of Assembly, so as to ensure that this ill-conceived piece of legislation gets jammed through in the shortest time possible? Why is it that the federal Minister of Finance invokes time allocation in the Parliament of Canada, so that the Members of Parliament, who are supposed to speak for us here in Nova Scotia, would have an opportunity to subject the legislation to more careful and closer and somewhat lengthier scrutiny? I have to wonder if the constituent whose letter from which I just quoted isn't right on the money. Is there some kind of a hidden agenda here? Is there some kind of sub-plot which this government is scared to death will become known to too many Nova Scotians unless they have this piece of work done in the shortest time possible?
This government, you know went out of its way in the election campaign of April and May 1993 to point fingers at myself and those who were colleagues of mine in the same party which I represent and tell the province what scurrilous rascals we all were and they urged and invited Nova Scotians to vote for them to enable them to form a government and they made certain promises to the people of Nova Scotia and you would really think that if they believed the things that they said when they pointed the fingers in April and May 1993 supported by the language which they produced in their program materials and if they really believed that you would think that they would run a government which demonstrated that they really did believe it and that they really do and are prepared to live by it. (Interruption)
I hear the Minister of Education say, still do. Well, the Minister of Education and all of those who are over there saying, still do, I presume still stand behind the line that they used that, "Government in a democracy . . .", this is the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, ". . . 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.". (Interruption) Hear, hear, say some of my Liberal friends, well hear, hear be danged, this performance here with the BST legislation is a perfect example that none of those words mean anything to anybody connected with this Liberal Government. None of those words mean anything. "To honour the responsibility government has to the people, it must open its activities to scrutiny by the public and the opposition.". How do you demonstrate that; more to the point, how does this arrogant Liberal Government demonstrate it?
They demonstrate it by bringing in a piece of legislation, ripping up the Rules and Forms of Procedure and the way in which matters are handled here in this Legislature and squeeze the matter in such a way through the rules so that it gets done in the quickest time possible, that is in fact what they have done, that is what Paul Martin has done in Parliament, by invoking time allocation and my friend the member for Cape Breton Nova corrected me the other day or earlier today when I talked about closure, it wasn't closure and he is absolutely right, it was time allocation. Why did he do that? Why are we doing what we are doing here? We are doing it because this government is absolutely determined that the least amount of scrutiny that Nova Scotia business and consumers have of this legislation prior to its passage is for some reason or other seemingly in the interest of the political motivation of this government.
This same government which presumably stood by that earlier with a bit of rhetoric about deriving its powers through the consent of the government, they also said that, "A Liberal Government will pass legislation requiring two sittings of the House of Assembly each year.". (Interruption) I know they did it, I really think it is just wonderful that they did it. I think there are more Liberals who are disappointed that they did it than there are others but anyway they did that, they honoured that commitment and hooray for them. Then they went on to say, "Accountability should not be left to the discretion of the government of the day, but should entrench the public interest in legislation.". Well, I say, Mr. Speaker, that I sincerely do not believe that the public interest is represented in Bill No. 48.
This legislation is going to hurt those who can least afford to be hurt. It is going to hurt the lower income, the poor, those of modest income the most. It is exactly those who cannot afford to be hit again who are going to be hammered, to use the Government House Leader's favourite word, are going to be hammered by this legislation. They, the poor, the less well-to-do are those who are going to feel the effect deepest and hardest and the cuts are going to be the bloodiest on that part of our community. They can scream, if they like, but that is my belief.
The government's own documents tell us that some $84 million is going to be taken out of the consumers of the Province of Nova Scotia. The government's own documents tell us that there is another $249 million of our taxpayers' money coming to the Nova Scotia Treasury. Those two amounts coming out of the Nova Scotia taxpayers totals $333 million worth of tax money that the Minister of Finance has at his disposal to make this work. That is an awful lot of tax money and it is coming from the Nova Scotia taxpayers.
Doesn't it make you wonder a little bit about the strength and vitality of a fundamental tax move, change, shift or new regime that is undertaken on the basis that it requires the taxpayers to subsidize it even further by producing this transitional amount of money of a $0.25 billion. What happens when the transitional money expires? It works out, on average, $60 million a year and that money is gone. That money is gone and this big majority government is going to have this new legislation in place and then what happens? What is the
situation at that point? To say nothing of the interesting reality which I would not be surprised to subject it to some constitutional review. This government is abdicating and giving away its control over its taxation authority.
I think there are some very fundamental concerns about that and I have not heard anybody on the government benches explain, certainly not the Minister of Finance, certainly not the Attorney General, certainly not the Premier explain that the best legal minds possible were brought to bear on that question as to whether or not there are or should be any concerns about the fact that this government is, in fact, abrogating, giving up, deferring, passing out, passing over some of its inherent taxing authority. That is what they do by this agreement, the agreement with the other provinces and with the Government of Canada.
I guess the thing that bothers me most is that I just - if the Minister of Finance, if the Premier, if anybody on the government benches had at any point prepared and provided this House and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia with any documentation at all, any analyses at all which indicated that there really is good reason to have faith in the assumptions which have been made then I would feel better about this whole mess. I do not know that I would be supporting it - I truly don't - but I know I would feel better.
I happen to know some people who run business and I am talking to them and I am hearing from them. The overwhelming majority of those men and women who are running businesses who are speaking to me, and not anything close to all of them are partisan pals of mine, they are not supporters of the Party which I represent, but the overwhelming majority of those men and women are saying they must be dreaming in Technicolor if they believe that I, the business person, and that most business people in the Province of Nova Scotia have the financial strength and capacity to pass all these "savings" which the government says will be realized by them through to the consumer. Business in the Province of Nova Scotia in the last many years has been beaten and pilloried and battered around by reason of very difficult economic circumstances.
The Minister of Finance surely must know, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency must know that the Nova Scotian economy and the state of Nova Scotian business is very fragile. I ask, if I may, through you, Mr. Speaker, just to pick one example and I pick it because I think I can make the point, and I trust I don't offend. It is the unfortunate reality that the unemployment rate on the Island of Cape Breton is in the area of 26 per cent; 1 out of 4 people are unemployed. I just simply want to pose the rhetorical question, how many businesses do the members of this Legislature, how many men and women running businesses in Cape Breton have the financial integrity and strength to be able to pass-through savings to (Interruption)
Well, the Minister of Community Services says this may enable some of them to float. There we have that magic may again. He has no idea whether it will or it won't. He has no idea how this legislation is going to impact upon the community which is supposed to be his
principal concern, and that, of course, is those among us who, unfortunately, in many cases, through no fault of their own, have (Interruption) I am getting all these notes. I have a number to choose from.
I am assuming, Mr. Speaker, that that is your note. (Interruption) I would be delighted to table the note. Let the record show this is a note from the distinguished Speaker to myself at 6:57:38 this date, December 12th, and copies for the whole House. I might say, the Speaker being the honest man and the man of integrity he is, sent me a note telling me that I had 10 minutes left.
I am shocked, but somebody else in this place sent me a note that said I had five minutes left. (Laughter) I would guess, if we put to the authenticity test those two notes, I think the five minute note would probably win, but I thank you for your kind reminder and I certainly will abide by that. May I say, sincerely, in the spirit of Christmas, I certainly thank whoever it was who sent the other note, as well. (Laughter)
Mr. Speaker, notes aside, just the very use of the word note in the context of what we are talking about here in Bill No. 48 is, in and of itself, interesting, I think, because that is why when I think of notes, I am so suspicious and, frankly, simply do not believe the assumptions upon which the government has based its projections. I just really don't believe, before embarking on this course, that this government took the time or the trouble or exerted the energy to talk seriously and in a detailed fashion with Nova Scotia business. Because when you talk about notes, so many and such an unbelievably large percentage of Nova Scotian businesses are on so many notes and are as fragile as they are financially that I repeat, I just really do not believe at all that they are going to be able if, in fact, they realize any of these so-called savings, I don't believe that for a very long while they are going to be in a position to pass any of those savings along to their customers.
This piece of legislation revolutionizes the tax regime here in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is, I believe, ill-conceived, it is a piece of legislation and the development of a tax regime which was created on the basis of far less analysis, review and study and discussion with the people who count. The only people who count are the Nova Scotian taxpayers and this government was not prepared and still demonstrates a lack of willingness to consult fully and completely and openly with the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.
As I said a moment ago, and the Minister of Finance was not in the Chamber and I will say it again if I may for his benefit, we hear some scuttlebutt around these halls today that the Minister of Finance has officials this very day dealing with officials from the federal Department of Finance addressing the question as to whether or not the tax-included pricing element of this deal is now on the table and that there may well be some change, refinement
or indeed perhaps elimination of what was advertised by this government as one of the cornerstones of this new tax regime.
I say that it is the duty and the obligation of the Minister of Finance to tell this place before second reading closes if, in fact, that story is true. I call upon the Minister of Finance before this second reading debate closes to tell this House and to tell Nova Scotians as to whether or not the tax-included pricing element of this deal is or is not now being negotiated with officials from the Government of Canada and is possibly going to be changed, altered or perhaps even deleted from this arrangement. If that is the case, I know you readily understand, Mr. Speaker, that that in very large measure changes some of the dynamics of the reality of what happens out there for business, for consumers and I suggest that it would have an impact on some of the assumptions which have been made by this government.
It is interesting that we have a bill before us which has the legal effect of enshrining or making into law agreements which were signed by the Minister of Health who in his previous incarnation as Minister of Finance (Interruption) I am so intrigued. My goodness, that Minister of Community Services is quick, isn't he? He is so quick he can pick right up the references I am making. Sharp as a tack, he is really good. Yes indeed, he hasn't missed a word and is having more fun than a man in his right mind, I am sure he is.
This legislation gives legal life to agreements signed by the man recognized right away by the Minister of Community Services as the Minister of Health, formerly the Minister of Finance. That is the same minister, the Minister of Health, who a couple of years ago in this very place was hollering at the government of the day that they not harmonize PST and GST and that was a bad thing and he acknowledges it was a bad thing, a bad deal. He was indicating that that should not happen.
The point I want to make, and upon which I will close, is that that Minister of Health, former Minister of Finance was telling this House and telling Nova Scotians that the former government should not execute an arrangement which would result in the harmonization of the PST and the GST and he offered a resolution in this place on April 16, 1992, with which he closed with the resolution clause which read, "Therefore be it resolved that this government . . .", referring to the previous 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.".
How times change. How attitudes change, Mr. Speaker, how the reality changes when that distinguished member of the then Liberal Opposition becomes a leading member of the government and he produces this legislation and these agreements. The legislation, in my opinion, is based on faulty and questionable assumptions. It will hurt most the poor and the less well-to-do in the Province of Nova Scotia and it is a bad bill and I propose to vote upon it when you call the vote on second reading. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the government members are quite pleased that I am the last Opposition member to speak on this bill. (Interruption) I want to say, I was thinking, as I sat here, of the amount of hours we spent on Bill No. 48 and sometimes it has been compared to the privatization of the Power Corporation and I think many members sitting on that side would remember that debate . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Good old days.
MR. MOODY: Good old days, quite well. But one of the things that the Minister of Health said in those good old days, they looked across at us and said, this kind of legislation, just wait until you go to the polls. You know what? History may repeat itself. This kind of legislation, you have to go to the polls. The same thing may happen. What happened after that debate, Mr. Speaker, you weren't here, but you know about the history, is that the group over here that spent days and days debating that legislation, brought up all the points they said were wrong, and after the election, ended up over there. So now we have a piece of legislation that after the debate of this could just have the other effect. So you know, history does . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: George, so we will be over there.
MR. MOODY: Maybe a coalition, I don't know. I am going to go back on the bill because I don't want to (Interruption) No, they are only mice tracks. They are not even rabbit tracks. I have to stick to the legislation.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of points have been made with regard to this piece of legislation. I am sure, the Minister of Finance, in closing the debate tonight, hopefully, will answer many of the questions that have been raised. One of the most recent questions the member for Halifax Citadel raised, which is a very interesting one and which I keep hearing rumours and one doesn't know, in actual fact, whether the rumours are correct or not, but that is whether or not there will be some change with the tax-included pricing. There is some discussion, I know, in New Brunswick. I hear in Ottawa that, in actual fact, this might change. I know that government, I am sure, as one of my colleagues said before, members of the government are getting the same kind of comments and calls that we are. One of the comments and calls that business keep talking about is that this tax-included pricing is going to, in actual fact, cost the business more and the consumer more.
One of the things this government sold this legislation on, and I am sure the Minister of Finance will try to sell it on again tonight as we go down through this bill, is that it is good for Nova Scotia, one, it is good for businesses because of the input-output tax credits and that if business, obviously, do well they will hire more people and that the consumers are going
to get a better price because that flow-through tax saving is going to be passed on to the consumer.
I think the government has finally realized, at least the government in Ottawa, that, in actual fact, the price-included is not good for the business and is not good for the consumer. In other words, they also figured out what would happen if the tax-included is kept, and that is that businesses using catalogues and a lot of business, if you are in Nova Scotia, it would be very difficult but I talked to an individual who told me that he does all of his work here and his publication would end up - the difficulty of putting the price on here and the difficulty of putting on a separate price for somewhere else and actually he might end up - folding his business.
I talked to an individual with greeting cards that are pre-marked. You can go on and on and give hundreds of examples of where it doesn't make sense in a province as small as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland to not have a system whereby it is compatible with the rest of the country. If that issue is not resolved, I am telling you the consumer and business alike will remember this government at election time.
We don't have in this country and we don't have in this province large demonstrations. We don't have in this country people demonstrating in a non-orderly fashion, although we tend to have some interest groups having demonstrations. One thing the general public understands and they made up their mind about us back before 1993, it did not just happen in the spring of 1993, the people woke up and said we are going to vote different in the 1993 election. As I talk to people who point to this very issue who say to me, George, I now have changed, I am going to make sure even though I voted Liberal last time, I am now going to vote differently in the next election. They don't pound the streets, they don't gather around Province House, they don't throw stones, they don't demonstrate at the MLAs' offices. They talk at the workplace, they talk to one another and very clearly they are upset a lot with the process.
That is how this legislation came to be. It didn't come to be in very much of a democratic process at all. The dictatorship that the Premier has sort of carried on from day one as being Premier, the kind of arrogance and dictatorship that he has thrown has gone straight through his Cabinet. You see what has happened is the people are making up their minds. The government thinks because there are not people out here trying to get in the fortress, that every body must be in favour of this legislation.
We had in our office, day after day, mail bags full of people who cut out and wrote that they opposed this BS Tax and we have had petitions besides, those people who took the time to cut out the ad and send back their objections to the BST. I wonder why? Is it because they don't understand the tax or should we not give credit to the general public to base a decision on the information given to them by this government? I think the intelligence of the people
of this province is such that they can only make that decision based on the information that this government gives to them.
We know in this Legislature that we as MLAs who were asked to debate Bill No. 48 weren't given all the information and it has been coming in dribs and drabs. We still haven't got it all and then they wonder why would any Nova Scotian be opposed to such a wonderful piece of legislation.
The reason they are opposed is because what they see on the surface and from the study this government did itself that in actual fact the government is sticking it to those on fixed incomes and those on low incomes and that they are going to have to pay for basic services. I would challenge the government to redo an ad whenever they find out from Ottawa what et cetera means. What are the lists so that government, so the people of this province know what it is that is going to go up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent as of April 1, 1997. You know they are quick to give the long list of what they say will go down and I do not doubt that they are correct when they talk about watches, jewellery, hotel and motel accommodations, and they talk about sporting and recreational equipment and those sorts of things. What they do not talk about, they make a very short list on the 7 per cent that will go 15 per cent and they use the words, et cetera, so that they do not describe the full list. That, to me, is misleading advertising.
AN HON. MEMBER: The et cetera is pretty long, isn't it?
MR. MOODY: Oh, et cetera is pretty long and we have already demonstrated in this House that the et cetera includes such things as personal care that is done by the private companies that are out there in home care. When the general public reads the et cetera, how are they going to know? They are only going to know when they actually get their bill for an item, that the government failed to list what was actually going up to 15 per cent.
If a company did that, they would probably say that was false advertising because you cannot do that sort of thing, you are not giving out all the information. I am saying to the government, at least give out all the information so that people will know on April 1st what it is that goes up and not down. I do not think if the government is spending the taxpayers money to promote their ad - and I do not have difficulty with that because that is, hopefully, information that can be useful to the general public - if you are going to give it out, please give it all out so the general public will have that information to make a decision.
The kind of basics that are taxed have been given over and over again by members of this Legislature in what it is and why we oppose this. I am hoping that maybe the government could look at amending it so that home heating fuel and electricity would not a part of the tax increase that this government is so willing to put on, if the government would say, we are not
going to raise the tax on essentials. We all know what essentials are in order to live. If we could leave essentials alone and put the tax on the luxuries or those items that we all like to have, but yet maybe all cannot afford at any given time, we all like to have toys, games and hobbies, but we can limit how many toys, games and hobbies we buy. We can let the carpet go for an extra year; we can let the wallpaper go for an extra year; we can wait an extra year or two before we buy a new car; we do not have to buy jewellery; we do not have to buy CD players; and we do not absolutely have to eat out at fast-food restaurants.
If we are on a fixed income, we can eat at home, but you know one of the things that you have to have is electricity and heating fuel, you have to have gasoline to go to work and, obviously, you are going to have to have a haircut. Shoe repair, and it is bad enough that it is on new shoes, but for some people, the only way - and this is a struggle for them - is to get their shoes repaired because they cannot afford a new pair. What are we going to do? We are going to raise the tax on that very basic thing that people who are on fixed incomes have to shell out for.
The Minister of Finance will say, look, you know this tax overall will save some money for some people, and it may. I suspect those that are making $80,000, $90,000 or $100,000 because they have that kind of income to spend, will probably look, after April 1st, and say, you know we can save a few dollars. Then you look at those people who do not have that option and whose monthly income is such that they can hardly exist, then obviously it is a real tax burden to them.
You know, Mr. Speaker, if the government would make a few changes in the taxation so that it would be fairer, then I think Nova Scotians would say maybe this whole thing could be bought into. Why people are upset is because when you talk about taxation, they know that after April 1st the things they absolutely need are going to cost them more. So the Opposition, at a time of year when we all would like to be doing other things, I am sure, are here debating something that will affect every Nova Scotian. It is not going to affect a selected few, it is going to affect every Nova Scotian. Madam Speaker, there won't be a person after April 1st who won't be affected by this legislation. Even children will be affected by this legislation and the adults of this province will be affected by this legislation. So we have a piece of legislation and we know that it is going to have a negative impact on a lot of these people. Yes, I acknowledge that you can cherry-pick and there will be some positives.
What is the government trying to do? Is it trying to collect more money? Is it trying to have a fairer taxation policy? What is it trying to do? I have not heard this government say what it is trying to do, other than it made a commitment to Jean Chretien that they would help them do away with the GST. How do we do away with the GST? That is easy, you roll it into another tax and you call it BST or HST or whatever you want to call it. So you just make it another name and you raise it up and you say, now when the federal Liberals go to the polls, they have kept their commitment to do away with the GST.
You know, Madam Speaker, I am hoping that when the Minister of Finance wraps up I will be able to fully understand what it is that this government is trying to do for the people of this province and who they are trying to do it to. They say that it is for business, that business is going to flourish and that is why they are trying to do it.
Then I talked to some businesses who say that that might be so but not necessarily so and we have some problems with it. Then they say, no, it is for the consumer, it is for everybody. But they produced a report that the consumer is going to pay $84 million more. So I am saying, okay, it is for the consumer. Even though the consumer is going to have to reach into his hip pocket and pay more money, it is for the consumer.
I have yet to understand, Madam Speaker, what it is that the government is really trying to do with this. I can say one thing, it is certain that this session would have been pretty quiet without it. We all acknowledge that we would not have had a lot of debate, we would not have had an issue and it would have been more difficult for us when the election is called if we didn't have this issue. It is going to be better for us and I acknowledge that.
You know, I do not yet fully understand why it is that we had to debate this in such a short period of time. I know it is going to be implemented on January 1st and I know that that is the deadline. We knew that, I think, since last summer. If the government was going to debate it, I don't know why we didn't come in earlier. If you didn't come in earlier, what would be wrong with us doing this debate in January? There is still time enough. I know how the system works; regulations can be drawn up even while you are debating the bill.
If you look at this legislation, you know that there are going to be regulations that are drawn up that are going to affect even more people, that we won't know how it is going to affect them. So it is not because the government has work to do that they have to get this legislation through; they want to get it through because they know that as people learn more about the BST more people oppose it. So the quicker they can get it through, then they know that there is less opportunity for them to be under the heat because what they can say when the phone calls come is it is too late. It has already happened and we have no control over it.
There is still a lot of confusion out there and I do not know if this debate in this House is going to help the confusion or not. We are going to fully understand as we finish the debate; we have been able to get information about the agreements that we did not have initially that raise all kinds of concerns. We are beginning to understand that the perfect plan the government said they had may have to change. We also know that we have lost some autonomy because no longer can we as a province determine our own destiny regarding the rate. We have to work with two other provinces, or two other provinces or a majority, can make us go along with them, up or down, and it will probably be up. So there are still a lot of people who have a lot of concern about this legislation.
I hope as we go through the Law Amendments Committee and as we go through Committee of the Whole House on Bills, as we hear from people in the Law Amendments Committee who may see this bill from a different perspective than we do, I am sure we will raise issues and concerns about this legislation and that we maybe can come back and if there are changes that will make this better, then I hope the government at least will do that. My choice is that we not pass it at all because to make this better you would have to start over again. It is just that the whole concept has been poorly done.
I am not going to delay the House and I just want to say in wrapping up that I hope everyone gives serious consideration, not only in second reading and it will obviously go on to the Law Amendments Committee, but I hope government members at the Law Amendments Committee will bring back to their colleagues the kind of information that could be useful to them in deciding how they vote on this bill and what this bill should look like when it has third reading in this House.
Madam Speaker, it will not be a surprise to you or probably a surprise to anyone that, as you heard me speak day after day, I will be voting against Bill No. 48 and hope that when it comes back again from the Law Amendments Committee that it will be in a better form and that maybe it will not come back at all.
MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.
The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I thought I was off the hook but that is okay. I do the same thing myself in Question Period. I hear a question for a post I had before and tense up and say is that for me, then no, I realize it is not.
Madam Speaker, members of the House, I am just going to make some comments to conclude debate on Bill No. 48 and it is not my intention to unduly hold up the business of the House. There are a few things I just wanted to touch on. There is no way I could possibly cover all the matters that came up in the debates over the last number of days. I think we should keep in mind that we have been debating this bill since last Friday and within the limits of the rules we have had full debate. There has not been closure involved. Every person had every chance to have their full say on this and I think that is important to note. I know the hours have been long and that is true. It reminds some of us of other debates on other days but everybody has had their full chance to express their views and make amendments that are in order; those were duly made by the members doing their jobs.
What should debate accomplish you might ask? I think it is important in debate that we look, as members of this House, duly elected, at the pros and cons of any bill that is before us or any matter and we have a discussion of the alternatives. I think it is unfortunate that in terms of the accomplishments of debate on this bill I think we have more emphasis on the negatives and we didn't have a lot of suggestions as to alternatives and that is the regret that I have from the debate.
I want to ask some questions with regard to the Official Opposition. I want to know if they believe in cutting taxes to stimulate the economy? We do, we believe the economy will be stronger and more people will be put to work. (Interruptions) No it isn't, it is decreasing taxes as part of a total package. One hundred million dollars less will be collected in sales tax and in addition, as part of the whole package, there are income tax reductions for everybody, along with low income reductions. I don't know what the Official Opposition are proposing in terms of tax cuts, maybe we will hear that in the new millennium.
How would the Conservatives boost the economy? We have a plan to do that because we think work and jobs are important, especially to young people but we don't know what the Official Opposition stands for in this regard.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order please, order.
MR. GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I don't want to dwell on that aspect but I do want to turn just briefly to the members of the Third Party. It seems from listening to the debates of the members of that Party, they are on the record as opposing income tax cuts, that is the way I read it. They seem to be on the record for raising taxes on business, that is the way it seems to me and they are on the record with regard to raising the taxes for the so-called wealthy.
The important question I think we should ask them, I think the members of the Third Party would share this, it is an important question, who are the wealthy? We are not talking about the Irving family or the Bronfmans or these other people but I want to take, for example, a family making $56,000. Is that a wealthy family, and I am talking about this area? If it is, if a family with that kind of income is well off it is the average based on Statistics Canada, it is the average family in this Metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth area. That could be a combined income of a couple in the home, one making say $38,000 and one making say $18,000. Are they wealthy? I don't think so and they deserve a piece of the action, they deserve that 3.4 per cent cut in personal income tax that will be coming next July 1st when their paycheque will go up a little because of that tax cut instituted by my predecessor in this portfolio, the present Minister of Health. (Applause) We will be listening for the Third Party and others to address whatever they wish on third reading.
What about lower income individuals, what is the impact on them? I think that is an important question too. First of all, under our broad program which includes harmonization and the tax cuts, they will get either an income tax cut or direct assistance. The government is putting an extra $20 million in the hands of low income people and I think that is important.
The tax reduction program will mean $100 more per adult, that is what the tax reduction will mean when income taxes are filed that for each adult the tax reduction will be $100 and it will be $60 for each dependent child. For example, for a family of three you are talking $260 a year and for a family of four, $320 more and that is money that is important and that will stimulate the economy. It will be spent, be it at the holiday season or throughout the year. That will help our economy.
More than that we plan, again as was announced by my predecessor, a direct assistance program which will provide help to those who do not benefit from the tax cuts. Unfortunately, there are people whose incomes are such that they don't benefit from the income tax reductions. We are not ignoring these people and including low income seniors, because they have important challenges in living and paying their bills so they are part of our program. I hope very soon to announce the details of the $8 million package that was announced by my predecessor.
I think something else I want to touch on and move away from the income tax changes and who is wealthy and who the low income people are, we should keep in mind that the harmonized tax goes down, as well as up. We did not hear a lot of talk from the Opposition side about the savings on certain items. For example, you could take a telephone bill, the average use of telephone, a recent statement by MT&T, the local phone company, indicates that the average person would save $25 a year on their phone bill because tax is going down. Now, those are their numbers. Presumably, a person who has cable, Madam Speaker, might save $15 a year. (Interruption)
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please, honourable member.
MR. GILLIS: Maybe in another time, that honourable member will have another go at it, but we did hear members of the Opposition, in order, talk about things like the power bill, but we did not hear them talk about phone or cable and some of those. The fact of the matter is, if a person or family had a $600 a year power bill, the extra tax, in fact, would be $30. So what would happen? Wouldn't the $30 to $40 they would save with cable and telephone offset that? Look at the whole balance because we have a total balanced picture. We have a program reform that creates jobs and puts people to work and reduces taxes on the low income. You have to look at this as a whole package and then you will get the picture, Madam Speaker.
Balance is the issue. Unfortunately, we have balance in the program, but we need balance in the debate and I am afraid, Madam Speaker, in my opinion, we did not have a lot of balance in the debate. The level of rhetoric was high, but I think some future political scientists might say that the substance was low and I think that is unfortunate.
I can go on and talk about some others, but I am not going try to analyze all the people who spoke. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, just in particular, he talked about the impact on school boards. He talked about a $2 million impact. On what basis was he saying that? It apparently was a guesstimate by the School Boards Association. The government, the Department of Finance, is doing more than guessing. We hired an accounting firm to do a fair, open analysis in partnership with the school boards. The government looked for facts. It appears the Opposition prefer headlines. I think facts are better, Madam Speaker.
We have also heard a number of comments in this debate about the subject of rents. People should not be misled into thinking that the harmonized tax will be applied to rents, it will not, not to residential rents. There will be no change, Madam Speaker, from the present provisions of HST, where it applied before on commercial, it will apply in the future, but it does not apply to residential. It is true, landlords offering rents which include heat, may well face higher costs next year. That is true if you have the extra percentage with the harmonized tax, but landlords offering rents with heat may face lower costs next year because how do we know how volatile the price of oil is. It has gone up 6 cents to 8 cents or 10 cents a litre in terms of home heating fuel in the past six months. It can go the other way just as well. We know how volatile oil supply and the prices are. So that is a factor.
Also, we have, with the excellent Liberal Government in Ottawa, with good financial policy, good monetary policy, the lowest interest rates in 40 years. We all know that some of the mortgages on the apartment buildings are coming due and when you substitute a 4 per cent, 5 per cent, 7 per cent or 8 per cent mortgage for a 12 per cent, 14 per cent or 16 per cent mortgage, Madam Speaker, there has to be savings. So these things all have to be kept in mind in a fair debate. We should keep in mind that rents are not just affected by these costs, but market supply enters in and we know about the vacancy rates; they are high in Halifax. We also know that public housing is not affected. There is no tax applied to the supplies in the public housing. That will not be affected and so all of these things have to be kept in balance. To come back to the area here with low vacancy rates - renters have a choice, landlords are business people and the market will dictate those changes. Let us all keep it in balance and look and see what happens as we go into the new tax and if the economy grows and there are more people working, they will be able to pay the rents and maybe the landlords will be able to fill up their buildings and make more money, make a profit from their endeavour which I certainly applaud.
While we are on shelter costs, I want to mention home construction. Again, I am not going to detain the House too long, but there are a few other points, one of them is home construction. Some honourable members talked about an 8 per cent increase in housing costs
because of harmonization. In particular, I think it was the member for Hants West talked about this type or this magnitude of an increase. The honourable member for Hants West, as I recall, quoted a letter from Scotia Homes. I was wondering if he read it all or read it in detail? I wonder did he look at the date on the letter? I wonder did he ask whether what was written last spring is still valid? Did he look at the assumptions because many things have changed. Our department, the Department of Finance has looked at the assumptions. The letter that was quoted assumed the end of federal rebates. Federal rebates continue - that is an important element under harmonization and that letter assumed no provincial rebates and there will be provincial rebates, neither assumption on the letter is correct.
The honourable member, so I do not pick on my colleague, the member for Hants West - I do not want to pick on him, but the member for Sackville-Cobequid talked about a 4.5 per cent increase and I just wonder where he obtained his numbers. I know the member is a very careful and conscientious member and he does not normally trust numbers given to him without looking at them closely. I wonder why he accepted those? I wonder what research was done? Does he know why the cost of new homes is supposed to go up 4.5 per cent after April 1, 1997? It is nothing to do with taxes. The fact is, the government is not getting more taxes from a new home valued at say $100,000 or $150,000.
There are three flaws in the 4.5 per cent increase number. Number one, I think it is something people should keep in mind so that they get the fair picture. Using that increase number it uses the factors of material costs at only 28 per cent of the cost of construction. Information that I have been given is that the cost of material is closer to 50 per cent of the cost. What that means is the savings by removing the PST have been grossly underestimated by those people who say there will be a higher increase and I think that is important and that we all should know it. Hence, the savings should be 60 per cent or 70 per cent higher than suggested. We have had good housing starts this fall and we have every expectation that come spring, they will be as strong or stronger than ever. (Applause)
A study quoted suggests that home builders will increase their margins. If a builder wants bigger margins, why don't they get them now? There is nothing to prevent that from happening. Why would they wait until April 1st - do it now. The reason is, if they increase the margin and increase the price, people will not buy. The builders are competitive, they are good business people. There is no greater ability to raise prices next spring than there is now and this type of approach just does not hold water.
A third matter under the study that was quoted by the honourable member is that - and this relates to the building materials - that the people selling the building materials will raise their prices. The same point prevails just as in the cost of the house. If they can raise the prices of the building materials in the spring, why not do it now? They would if they could, if they could sell, but they want to sell and make a profit and that is what the building material facilities and businesses are doing. There is nothing magic about April 1, 1997. Competition is not abolished. The prices will be what the market decides. If somebody can undersell a
competitor, that is what will be done and still keep and flourish a business. The tax revenues will remain unchanged. There will be no increase in tax revenue on home building and the rebate programs, both federal and provincial, ensure that that will be the case. No one should forget the fact that there will be, depending on the value of the house, it is capped provincially at $150,000 unlike the federal program which goes beyond that. Our program gives a rebate of 1.5 per cent up to a $150,000 house. I think the maximum amount of $2,250, quite a substantial rebate which will help in the cost of building.
I think all of us need to keep a moral tone in the debate. We talk about the essentials, about electricity and home heating. Of course they are essential, but you have to broaden the debate to talk about shelter because that is essential too. If you do not have shelter, if you do not have a house, you do not have to worry about having electricity in it or heating it. Shelter is important and when you look at shelter, you will find that some of the costs will go down, such as the cost of repairing the home. Certain things that attract tax now, some of those taxes are down. Certainly the cost of furnishing a new house with a refrigerator and bedroom suite and living room furniture will go down almost 4 percentage points come April 1st.
We could look also at the cost of operating the home. When we talk about building the home, if people are involved in the sweat equity and do it themselves, there are certainly savings there because the building materials will go down and there will not be a big factor from the labour. We also should not forget there is no HST on mortgage interest and there is no tax on the water bill, the municipal water bill, and those things are really important as well.
There are other essentials as well, Madam Speaker, that I want to mention. These things get glossed over. We hear about child care. There is no tax on child care and there should not be. It does not attract GST and it will not attract HST.
We have heard a good deal about home care. This has come up here a number of times in different ways. I want to repeat, Madam Speaker, that home care given or carried out by a government agency or a charity is exempt. There is no GST now in December 1996 and there will be no HST after April 1, 1997. Make no mistake about that. That means that Northwood Home Care, for example, the VON and others as well as Home Care Nova Scotia, there is no tax now and there will be not be a tax come April 1, 1997. Even those who are in the private home care business and they charge the tax, they get the tax back. I am talking about private for-profit organizations that deliver certain non-medically necessary home care. They get the tax back. They have input tax credits and maybe they will not need to increase their rates that much because their costs will go down in delivering the service and that should be a factor in it as well, Madam Speaker.
The fact of the matter is, Madam Speaker, that most people use not-for-profit services. I thought that was what the Third Party was pushing for. They seemed to be the great advocates of the private side and they do not want to see anything happen in that area, but the fact is most people use the not-for-profit services. These services do not pay tax now and they will not pay it next year. I think it is important that the facts be out there and we not have scare-mongering. People do not deserve to have to live in fear. (Interruptions)
I have the paper and I listened to you when you spoke. You will have another chance in Question Period if you have something to raise. I do not know what the honourable member is referring to. (Interruptions) Madam Speaker, that honourable member had several turns. I am going to finish my turn.
With that I want to turn to some of the remarks of - I am glad to see that he is in his place, as he is usually - the member for Halifax Citadel. He asks, in part, why is $84 million coming out of the poorest, lowest income families. I don't know on what basis he says that. Where does he get this? I would like to have him show me how this is true. He says that the questions asked go unanswered.
Who can't get the questions answered? The only issue still to be determined in this whole matter, and this came up this evening, is the implementation of tax-included pricing. I want to tell honourable members there is no change from the principle of tax-included pricing but we are still talking with our other provincial colleagues and the Government of Canada. We want tax-in pricing to be fair to both the consumer and business. We don't want to go too far on one side, we want the consumer to have the benefit of knowing when they go into a store and see an item that says on the shelf or on the item that it is $9.99 and then, if they have a $10 bill, when they get to the cash register they will come away with a penny. That is a good way to do business. They don't want to have to do mental gymnastics about adding 15 per cent or, at present, almost 20 per cent.
On the other hand, we are trying to work with business, the Metro Chamber of Commerce and the chambers of commerce across the province and the retail council, to see if we can make this as least onerous as possible. We can have a balance that is fair to both consumers and to business. I just wonder if the Opposition is against the idea of letting the consumers know the real price before they go to the cash. If they don't think that is a good idea, they should tell us. I think it is a good idea and that is our position.
We have heard others, and I don't want to get bogged down there. We heard others talking about tourism. We think more people will visit Nova Scotia, accommodations are going to be down. This is what we want, a growing tourism industry. It is almost a $1 billion industry and I think people will enjoy Nova Scotia for all its good qualities. We have a very active and hard-working minister who is promoting Nova Scotia. I think people will come and enjoy Nova Scotia and they will enjoy lower costs. Those who come from abroad will get rebates on their accommodation and that will be a bonus, too.
I would like to know where the Official Opposition stands on lowering taxes on something like this. Are they in favour or are they against? It seems that sometimes they want to lower them and sometimes they are not in favour of lowering them. I wish they would make up their minds.
Madam Speaker, in part I have heard the honourable member for Halifax Citadel talk approvingly, in some cases, about small businesses using tax relief to invest, to modernize. He has talked about that. The question is, if businesses use the tax savings they have to reinvest, they are spending the money, they are hiring people to do the work and it means jobs, it is putting people back to work, it is lowering the unemployment rate. That is what we want to do. We want to get people working.
Then, Madam Speaker, we have questions about how the impact of whatever number you hear, of $80 million or $84 million impact on consumers. How is that going to be cushioned, this so-called $80 million or $84 million when somebody isolates one page in a report that my predecessor tabled last spring. Again, to look at this number, you have to look at the whole picture because we have a total picture and it includes $8 million in help for those who need the help most. I indicated earlier that that will be announced soon. We have $12 million in low income tax reductions, Madam Speaker, which will come into effect in 1997; $33 million in general income tax reduction, a 3.4 per cent decrease, the first in the history of Nova Scotia, where income tax will go down and a person's paycheque will go up. More money jingling in their jeans and I think that is a good thing. It won't stay in their jeans, it will be spent and will help grow the economy.
More in terms of balancing off the so-called $80 million or $84 million, there are $6.3 million for the new home rebate, which I talked about earlier, I didn't give the particular quantity. By making sure that there is no 8 per cent tax on books in Nova Scotia, that is a $4 million item. When you add it all up, you are talking about over $63 million, Madam Speaker. Compare that with $84 million, we have come very close to a break even, and I will explain the rest of the way with any pass-through.
The rest is simple; over time the businesses have a significant benefit in the tax reduction. There is $170 million, businesses will not and cannot keep it all, they won't want to, they want to be competitive, they want to sell, they want to make profits and they will pass along some of their input tax credits and that will happen at retail, it will happen in construction, it will happen in transportation, in communications and many other ways. Competition means that customers will get some of the savings, over time a significant part of the savings. Again if you look at the big picture, we talked about the consumer, an impact of $80 million, we have already accounted for $63 million or $64 million with tax decreases and rebates so that leaves a difference of $16 million, business has $170 million in tax savings and if business even pass through 10 per cent of the $170 million there is a break even.
There isn't an economist in the province who thinks businesses can keep 90 per cent of the dollars they are going to save through the input tax, not one, and that is only 10 per cent. Of course, if the businesses pass through more like 25 per cent of the tax savings or more, consumers will clearly come out ahead and there is no doubt about it and that is the optimism we have and we believe in Nova Scotia and we believe in Nova Scotia growing. I don't want to detain the House much longer, I am going to conclude. I just want to make a couple of points and I will take my place.
I just want to repeat and summarize to say that consumers have more money through the tax rate reduction, through income tax cuts and the low income assistance, business will have tax savings. Everybody will have more to spend and that creates jobs and jobs are what it is all about. What is more, we will have good jobs because we will have a modernized economy, a more competitive economy that will export internationally and within Canada. We will have advantages for IT, our high-tech sector and we are going to do well. Our resource industries will thrive and prosper and more people will work.
This measure is about jobs; helping the private sector to create those jobs. We are not like the Third Party, we don't like having a 5 year plan or 10 year plan, we believe that the private sector will create the jobs. (Applause) The private sector can do it; they can do it, when they sell more for less. That is what competition is all about and we're helping businesses be more competitive, we are helping industry become more competitive and harmonization does that.
Madam Speaker, I do not want to detain the House but I do want to say that we believe that our economy will grow the GDP by eight-tenths of 1 per cent, almost 1 per cent and more importantly and an easier way to understand, we think in a reasonable time in a year or so there will be 3,000 new jobs, good jobs created, put people to work especially young people given the chance to contribute, build their self-esteem and make Nova Scotia a better place in which to live. (Applause)
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 48. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
I hear two requests for a recorded vote.
Ring the bells. Call in the members.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
I just would like to caution members just this once. On a number of recorded votes, there have been a lot of comments made while the vote is being carried on. It is very difficult for the Clerks to do this, so please be mindful of the rules, that we do not make comments during a recorded vote. The motion is on second reading of Bill No. 48.
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe
Mr. Downe 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. Leefe
Mr. O'Malley Mr. McInnes
Mr. M. MacDonald Mr. Taylor
Mr. Abbass Mr. MacLeod
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 25. Against, 12.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried. (Applause)
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Madam Speaker, I beg leave to table a report entitled, Final Report Survey of 1995 University Graduates, Prepared for Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
MADAM SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
MADAM SPEAKER: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
[8:19 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]
[9:42 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]
MADAM SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:
THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 43 - Condominium Act.
Bill No. 44 - Dalhousie-Technical University Amalgamation Act.
Bill No. 34 - Izaak Walton Killam-Grace Health Centre Act.
Bill No. 35 - Université Sainte-Anne Act/Loi de l'Université Sainte-Anne.
Bill No. 37 - River John Voluntary Fire Department Dissolution Act.
Bill No. 38 - Lunenburg Street Closing and Location Act, 1996.
Bill No. 39 - Bridgewater Curling Club Act.
Bill No. 40 - Yarmouth County Historical Society Financial Assistance Act.
Bill No. 46 - Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Corporation Act.
and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.
Also, Madam Speaker, the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 41 - Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act.
Bill No. 42 - Victorian Order of Nurses Act.
and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.
MADAM SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, that concludes the business before the House tonight. I wish to advise the House that we shall meet tomorrow between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The order of business shall be Public Bills for Third Reading, and Private and Local Bills for Third Reading, being the bills which have just been reported from Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Following that, we will proceed with second reading of Bill No. 50 and, with a bit of luck, we will be finished prior to the 5:00 p.m. stated time.
With that, Madam Speaker, I move that we adjourn until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
MADAM SPEAKER: We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
[The House rose at 9:44 p.m.]