Government tries to shut down debate on the HST

House of Commons

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I know that we have only very limited time for this debate, which is very unfortunate. I have to say that on days like this, one feels a sense of shame about what is taking place. The motion that we had in this House a few minutes ago, which is now placing a limit and a closure on debate on the HST, is truly shameful.

As a British Columbian and as someone who has heard not only from so many of my constituents but also from people all across B.C. and indeed other parts of Canada, I feel incredibly disappointed that there are Liberal and Conservative members of this House who are going along with this proposal to ram through this legislation before Christmas when there is absolutely no reason to do so.

We had the leader of the B.C. NDP here today in Ottawa. In a press conference she held with our leader, she made it clear that in British Columbia they are not even looking at the legislation on the provincial side until spring, so why is the government, aided and abetted by the Liberals, now trying to ram this through?

We come to Parliament to represent our constituents. We all understand that one of the most important issues that we represent in that debate, and why we come here, is the debate over taxation. We in this party, I am proud to say, stand for a fair and progressive taxation system. We believe that taxes should be paid; they produce the services and the programs that can help bring about a sense of equity in our society, whether it is for housing, pensions, social programs, help for veterans or help for the unemployed. We understand that the importance of the taxation system is fundamental to who we are as parliamentarians in the role of government.

However, what we are debating and what is being rammed through here today is legislation that is inherently regressive for people on low and moderate incomes.

I spent all of Saturday in my riding in east Vancouver at the Kingsgate Mall and at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House at what we call travelling community offices. I did not raise this subject, but every single constituent I met asked me about the HST, why it was being rammed through here in Ottawa and why that had to happen. I had to say it was because members of Parliament from B.C., other than New Democrats, are refusing to stand up and speak out in favour of their constituents to ensure that in this country we will have a fair and progressive taxation policy and program that will not hit people on low incomes or people who are poor.

I feel very ashamed today that we are having this debate on closure and that we are going to be voting tonight at 8 p.m. Because the Liberals and the Conservatives have worked together to bring forward this closure motion that we voted on a little while ago, this debate will now be eliminated at 8 p.m. tonight. Then this bill will be rammed through tomorrow and the day after, when it did not need to happen. Shame on those members.

One of the constituents I met was someone was working full time washing dishes in a very popular and fairly expensive restaurant. He showed me his take-home pay stub. His net take-home pay every month was $890.00, and that constituent is trying to support his wife and his family. He just got moved out of a social housing program. Luckily, he was able to find something else. However, a large percentage of his income is going on rent. To meet constituents one by one, to meet the people who are going to be hard hit by this legislation, is not something to be taken lightly. It is not something that can be brushed off by our being told that in the long run this is going to be good for us.
I can tell members that in B.C. people know intrinsically, they know inside their hearts, they know inside their guts, they know from their chequebooks that this is a bad tax, that it is the wrong tax at the wrong time, that it is being delivered by the wrong people, that it is regressive, that they are going to be hurt by it and that they are going to be paying more money every day for very basic essentials in daily life, whether those are haircuts, vitamins, a taxicab or even a funeral.

I feel very proud that we New Democrats in this House have done everything we can to point out the inequities of this proposal being rammed through by the government.

We have stood up time and time again and said to the government that this is absolutely the wrong course of action to take. It took months for the government even to acknowledge and admit that it had anything to do with it.

We heard from the finance minister and still today Conservatives are saying that this is not really them, that it is the provinces. I can hear them now. They want to duck their responsibility.
The people of B.C. understand that it is the Conservative federal government and the Liberal provincial government that are foisting this on the people of B.C. There is incredibly widespread opposition to this tax. It goes right across the political spectrum. We can see it in the emails. We can see it in the letters to the editor. We can see it in the rallies that have been held. We can see it in the petitions that have been collected all around British Columbia.

We are here today as a very united voice in our party to say that we 100% oppose this regressive tax that will so unfairly hit people particularly during an economic recession.
I think members of the House need to reflect on what is taking place here today and ask themselves why it is that this is being done at this moment. Why does this legislation have to go through before the House recesses on December 12? Why do we have a motion today, which is going to be approved, that will set out debate for two days and the bill will be before the finance committee for a mere four hours?

We can see there has been a gathering of ideological forces between the two major parties. They are determined to try to thwart public opinion, to try to duck their responsibility and to get this out of the way as fast as they can.

We have news for those members who think that by getting the bill through before the House recesses the issue will go away. It is still going to be a major issue in British Columbia. People are still going to be talking about it. They are still going to be signing petitions. They are still going to be raising this issue both in the federal arena and in the provincial arena. They will do everything they can to ensure that the legislation does not go through.

Today as we approach this time limit we should really be thinking about what our responsibilities are as members of Parliament. Our responsibility is to listen to our constituents and to understand the impact of legislation, whether it is this kind of legislation or other legislation. Obviously there is other legislation but at this particular time it is this piece of legislation that we are talking about and to understand the reality of how it is going to impact people.

We believe that the legislation is ill-conceived and should be scrapped. As we go through this debate, maybe some members will change their minds. I would like the members from B.C. who are supporting it to come into the House and tell us why they are supporting the bill and why they are going against the wishes of their constituents after all that they have heard and after all of the opposition in B.C.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to move an amendment to the motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after paragraph 1 and substituting the following:
“upon the adoption of second reading motion, the Standing Committee on Finance shall undertake public hearings in which opinions of Canadians on this legislation shall be heard; the choices of witnesses to be heard in this process will be made by the Committee; in relation to its study of the Bill, members of the Committee be authorized to travel in Ontario and British Columbia, and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee; and the Committee shall report these Canadians’ views back to this House before February 28, 2010”.