1976 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 31st Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 1976
[ Page 899 ]
Budget debate (continued)
Hon. Mr. McClelland — 899
Mr. Davidson — 901
Division on motion to adjourn the debate — 902
Social Services Tax Amendment Act, 1976 (Bill 11) Second reading.
Mr. D'Arcy — 902
Mr. Wallace — 903
Division on motion to adjourn the debate — 904
Mr. Lauk — 904
Division on motion to adjourn the debate — 909
Mr. Lockstead — 910
Division on motion to adjourn the debate — 913
Ms. Brown — 914
TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 1976
The House met at 10 a.m.
Orders of the day.
ON THE BUDGET
HON. R.H. McCLELLAND (Minister of Health): I rise to support this $3.6 billion budget. Despite what those people on the other side of this House have been saying for the last few days, by far the largest portion of this budget is in direct services to people. I think you owe it to your constituents to go home and tell them that there's a $339 million increase in health, education and income support. If you do any less, you're not doing your job.
Mr. Speaker, I don't rise only to support this budget. I'm very proud of this budget. I'm very proud to support a people's budget. I'm proud that my government is moving to relieve senior citizens from paying property taxes. I'm proud that my government is taking major initiatives in housing through programmes which will assist people to own their own homes, and to find rental accommodation if they wish it.
I'm very proud that my government is building the kind of economic development programmes which will provide job opportunities for all of our people.
I'm very proud that my government is extending income support benefits through the Guaranteed Available Income Act to people in need in the age group 55-59 and to single-parent families who need our help to maintain them as full partners in our society.
I'm very proud, too, that the largest single expenditure in this great budget is in health care — up $148 million, an increase of over 20 per cent — almost one-quarter of the total budget for the health care needs of the people of this province.
Mr. Speaker, I spoke in the throne speech debate and talked about some of the specific programmes this government plans to deliver in the next few years. I'd like to outline briefly in this debate some of the general approaches we hope to make in the delivery of health care. Detailed debate, of course, will happen during the estimates of the Health department, but perhaps I could talk for a few moments at least about some of our major concerns.
First of all, in any discussion about health care delivery, Mr. Speaker, we have to talk about costs, and no member of this House would disagree with the statement that something has to be done about spiralling health care costs, not only in British Columbia but in Canada as well. Our National Health minister, Marc Lalonde, said recently that Canada's medicare bill for 1975-76 is going to show an incredible 16 per cent increase over the previous year, and that bill was up some 14 per cent, almost.
We have, perhaps, an even more dangerous situation in British Columbia in that in the last two years in this province we've seen payments for hospital care rise an average of 34 per cent in both of those years. That kind of increase can't be tolerated because the people of this province will not be able to continue to afford the kind of health care that they deserve and must get from government.
The question, of course, Mr. Speaker, is how we curtail these costs without interfering with the level of health care delivery. It's a tough question to answer, but there are some answers. Probably they come mostly, as has been said before, in the provision of low-cost alternatives in different kinds of health care services. I just wish to say that this government is committed to providing those low-cost alternatives and those different levels of care, and for the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), I would like to say that I share his concerns that have been expressed in this House on many occasions since I've been a member about the provision of intermediate-care facilities for the people who need those facilities all over this province.
I served with the member for Oak Bay and other members of this House on a committee which travelled this province a few years ago to talk about alternatives and to find out what was needed. The answer was overwhelmingly clear: everywhere in British Columbia the greatest single need in health care delivery was for that level known as intermediate care. That need was clearly identified after even the first year of the NDP government's rule, but nothing was ever done other than to identify the need. I promise you, Mr. Speaker — and I promise the people of this province — that there will be a plan put forward this year in which we'll be able to identify the way this government is going to provide intermediate care for the citizens of British Columbia.
Another low-cost alternative that was developed some time ago in British Columbia was the early discharge programme and the home-care programme. The home-care programme is proving to be a tremendous success. In the areas in this province which have used it to the best advantage we're finding that we are saving hospital days at a substantial rate, and by saving those days we must reduce the cost of health care delivery.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, last year the previous government initiated a programme of staff cutbacks which seriously affected the delivery of home care in this province. We were faced with staff
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shortages in the home-care services in the public health units throughout this province when we took over. It was a dilemma that we had to face immediately because it was one that couldn't be allowed to continue. We faced that dilemma and we've solved it. If you'll check your budget you'll see that the allotment for home care is up substantially, and we have now made arrangements to have those staff shortages alleviated immediately. Hiring is now going on to restore the home-care programme to its previous level. It's just another example, Mr. Speaker, of the kind of mess that was left. I'm not going to dwell on that, but we were faced with some serious problems when we took office and it will take us a few months to settle all of them.
There are other ways in which health care costs can be curtailed, but I think we're whistling in the wind when we look to traditional methods of cutting costs, because each time we develop new programmes in health care they're more expensive and the costs go up. Wages, which are 80 per cent of the hospital costs in this province today, continue to go up. While we expect that there will be some modification with the new guidelines, we still are faced with cost of living increases.
So there's only so far you can go in saving money in the traditional ways, and I think once we recognize that we can get on with the job of looking for new ways of saving money in health care delivery. I believe the only real way we'll ever achieve those cost savings is once we establish, once and for all, that we must bear much more personal responsibility for our own health care and take the responsibility ourselves of coming up with ways and means by which we can save money. The first, of course, is perhaps the most important, that we take care of our own bodies through good physical fitness and nutrition, good diets.
Safe driving, Mr. Speaker — this government through ICBC initiated a programme of incentives for safe driving in this province which is paying off already and that will pay off in saving money for health care delivery.
I think it's time that our education system — I guess I've said this before in the House, but I don't think there's any problem with repeating it — started to develop programmes of lifetime sports, the kind of sports that we can carry with us all of our lives rather than giving up at age 35 or 40, because that's when we start going to pot.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Listen, I'm coming over to your house tomorrow night to check the plumbing in your basement. The Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Phillips) is coming with me. (Laughter.)
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Which lifetime sport are you talking about?
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: The only lifetime sport I am engaged in at the present time is politics. It's strenuous physical exercise these days as well. (Laughter.)
MR. G.V. LAUK (Vancouver Centre): That's because you jump to conclusions. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, another area we must address ourselves to is one which will also save us considerable health care dollars, and that is the use of seat belts. If people would buckle up more often we know very well that we can save literally millions of dollars in the delivery of health care. We know now — there isn't any doubt — that the wearing of seat belts reduces accident fatalities by as much as 30 per cent. We know that people in British Columbia are only using their seat belts about 20 per cent of the time now — or 20 per cent of the people are using them. We know that safety-belt wearers are likely to remain conscious in an accident and so they are able to escape from a car which might be in difficulty in water, or trapped in some way.
Hospital expenses for the rehabilitation of traffic accident victims amounted to some $13 million in 1974. One-third of the beds at our G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver are now occupied by paraplegic and quadriplegic victims of automobile accidents. The evidence is here that if only two-thirds of the British Columbia vehicle occupants wore safety belts, a 20 per cent reduction in fatalities would result. There are lots more figures; I won't bore you with them today.
We have to address ourselves, as we have and will, to the whole problem of drug and alcohol abuse because that, too, will result in a tremendous cost saving for the people of this province. There was an alarming editorial in the paper the other day which dealt with a study which has just been completed in Ontario. It bears directly in British Columbia where we have a lower drinking age than we had a few years ago as well. Over a three-year period in Ontario there was an increase of 300 per cent in fatal accidents involving young drivers and alcohol — in just three years. Alcohol is involved in at least half of Canada's fatal traffic accidents.
Mr. Speaker, I'd just like to tell you a few things about what the abuse of alcohol is costing us in this province today. Alcoholism ranks first to third with heart and cancer as North America's deadliest killer and public health concern. In this continent, of the approximate 100 million alcohol users, there are reported estimates of anywhere from 7.5 million to 19 million alcoholics. One out of every 12 to 15
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people who use alcohol will develop a dependency; one in every two or three of those people will be a woman. Each alcoholic, directly or indirectly, affects another five people: their spouse, their children, other family members, employees.
Over 90 per cent of those dependent on alcohol and other related drugs represent an average cross-section of society. They are not skid road derelicts; they are professional people; they are doctors; they are salespeople; they are housewives; they are ordinary people. Almost every third arrest and over 95 per cent of all jailings, over 50 per cent of all commitments to mental and penal institutions, over 50 per cent of all recipients of welfare and social aid, over 50 per cent of all highway accidents, deaths and injuries involve alcohol.
In most communities alcohol is at least 10 times as serious a problem, with a higher incidence of dependency, a higher death and cost factor, causing 25 times more disasters, than all other dependencies combined.
Business, industry and labour now refer to alcoholism as their "billion-dollar personnel problem." Property damage costs over $13 billion in North America — over $1 billion of that is in Canada. One out of 13 to 14 employees in industry and government is a problem drinker. Alcoholism at home is equally and adversely reflected in the employee at work.
If you want to look at the future, if we don't do something about it, you might recognize that 70 per cent of all students between grades 7 and 13 use alcohol. One in every 10 of these will become an alcoholic.
More than half of the young people in trouble today come from homes where one or both parents are alcoholics. Arrests for drunkenness of those under 21 years of age have increased over 500 per cent, with 50 per cent of all the serious crimes being committed by this same age group — and these are average young adults.
The chief medical adviser to General Motors, Dr. Nicholas Pace, gave some statistics in which he said that alcoholism causes 40 per cent of all hospital admissions, 31 per cent of all suicides, 60 per cent of all homicides and 40 per cent of all family court problems. The epidemic is spreading to youngsters. It's an epidemic that we have to deal with urgently, and it's one that will save us literally millions of dollars. It will reduce the costs of health care in this country.
Perhaps the final way in which we can contain health care costs comes in the utilization of the services. Again we come back to the problem of our personal responsibility in developing good health care habits. Every one of us in society has a responsibility to develop that kind of an attitude.
We have to rely on our doctors to practise the kind of responsibility in which they'll be responsible for bringing down the utilization of our health services. I'm very happy to say that one of the first things we did after becoming government was approach the medical profession and ask them if they would come to us with some ideas about the way in which this kind of future cost containment could happen. Just yesterday we had a meeting with the British Columbia Medical Association in which they presented us with a very comprehensive brief offering their cooperation in the future towards this problem.
I think it's a first, It's a programme that will continue, and with the help of the doctors, who are the prime movers of this industry, we will come up with some solutions at the end of the road.
Mr. Speaker, the patients also have a serious responsibility in this regard. I suppose that what we have to do with people in our society is to start to "uneducate" them. For so many years we have had no regard for health-care costs. We have said to people: "Use your doctor; use your hospital. If you have a sliver in your finger get down to Emergency and have it taken out. If you have a runny nose go to your doctor and get a prescription." We used the services too much, and we have come to rely on the service too much.
The only way we'll ever achieve what we're trying to achieve is if we take that personal responsibility and don't go running to the doctor with every minor ailment that we have, don't overuse our hospitals and do use our alternative services. That way, in the long run, we will end up with a better system at less money.
This is not only a good budget; it's a great budget. It's one in which all British Columbians who accept the challenges of these difficult times — and I know that the majority of our people do — can take pride in. As just one of these British Columbians, I am proud to support this budget with all of my enthusiasm.
MR. W. DAVIDSON (Delta): Mr. Speaker, may I at the outset of my first major address in this assembly take the opportunity to offer you my sincere congratulations on your elevation to the position of Speaker of this, the 31st parliament of British Columbia. May I express also my congratulations to the member for Chilliwack upon his appointment as Deputy Speaker. We are indeed fortunate to have such dedicated and capable members in positions of authority and trust in this House.
To the other members of this assembly, both newly elected and re-elected, may I add my best wishes in your endeavours to serve the people of this great province in your respective ridings.
I would also like to state the honour I have in serving in this historical parliament — the 31st
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parliament of British Columbia and the first parliament in Canadian history headed by the son of a former provincial Premier. If ever any Premier were to set himself a goal, what higher goal could there be than to equal the distinguished record of accomplishment of a father who served this Legislature for 32 years and who, for the last 20 of those years, led the province of British Columbia to the highest level of social reform, economic stability and international stature in its entire history?
To the people of Delta, White Rock and North Surrey — the people who make up the riding of Delta — may I take this opportunity also to express to them my sincere gratitude for the confidence they have placed in me and for the honour they have bestowed upon me, and may I in turn pledge to them my determination to serve their interests to the very best of my ability and to represent them, first and foremost, here in Victoria.
Mr. Davidson moves adjournment of the debate.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 32
NAYS — 18
|Wallace, B.B.||Gibson||Wallace, G.S.|
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. G.M. McCARTHY (Provincial Secretary): Second reading of Bill 11, Mr. Speaker.
SOCIAL SERVICES TAX
AMENDMENT ACT, 1976
MR. C. D'ARCY (Rossland-Trail): Once again, Mr. Speaker, I must oppose this bill. As with most, but not all, of the other tax and rate increases attempted to be imposed by this government, this tax increase is well over and above the national guidelines which we are being asked to support morally and legally by this government and by the government in Ottawa. It is one of the heaviest tax increases in terms of revenue it will generate to the province, and which means a loss in terms of the amount of money which will not be there for use by the citizens of this province to purchase goods and services or to invest in job-intensive industry and service industries.
Mr. Speaker, we are seeing constant tax increases by this government which betray the position they would ask us to take, and ask the people of this province to take, in terms of their own business. The government not only seems to be saying but is saying: "Well, the guidelines are good enough for you people out there, but they are not good enough for us." I ask: how can we encourage people to invest not only in business but in, let's say, rental housing when we have statements by various ministers that the municipal and school taxes could climb by 12 or 16 per cent? And we have statements by other ministers that the government intends to go further and further with tax removal from homeowners.
It used to be tax removal from residential properties; now it's tax removal from homeowners. What does that mean? Does that mean that the people who own rental housing are going to have to pay an increasing share of the burden? Does this mean the tenant will pay an increasing share of the burden, Mr. Speaker? Does this mean that it's a further disincentive for the private sector to build more rental housing in this province? What does it really mean? I would certainly like to know before I can support a bill of this nature.
I found a rather interesting letter in one of our local newspapers here in Victoria yesterday. I don't normally read things in papers, but I thought this was an excellent letter, and its writer should be congratulated. This gentleman, in writing to The Victorian, says that he would like to congratulate the provincial transport minister (Hon. Mr. Davis), whom I see is missing this morning, for his refusal to approve a wage increase for the crew of the Princess Marguerite on the grounds that the proposed settlement exceeded the guidelines of the Anti-Inflation Board.
"How comforting to know that at least one Social Credit cabinet minister has decided to adhere to these guidelines. We are indeed fortunate that the forthcoming increases in B.C. ferry fares also fall under the jurisdiction of Mr. Davis. As he has committed himself to a policy of only approving increases which do not exceed the wage and price control guidelines of 10 per cent, we can now look forward to the
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ferry rates being increased by a maximum of 50 cents per car and 20 cents for passengers.
"My only regret is that Mr. Davis did not impart his knowledge of the federal wage and price controls to other Social Credit cabinet ministers who could then have used them as a guide to determine the increases in car insurance, medical premiums, hospital charges and provincial sales tax."
That's from a Mr. Blair here in Victoria.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to look at some of the percentage increases that this government is doing. We've already mentioned in this debate that some 40 per cent is being added to the provincial sales tax. We've already seen insurance increases of 133 per cent. We expect to see, by virtue of statements in the budget and in the Price Waterhouse report, possible ferry increases of up to 160 per cent. We are looking at medicare premium increases of 50 per cent; corporation tax increases of 16 per cent, which have already been dealt with; income tax increases of 7 per cent, which is one of the few increases which are within the guidelines; hospital per diem increases of 400 per cent; tobacco tax increases — which are again within the guidelines — of 6 per cent for those who smoke. For people like myself…it doesn't really matter to me.
We are seeing other increases which will accrue to Hydro: electricity, natural gas users and bus users in British Columbia. Some people would say those are not taxes; I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that those are essential services and they are taxes.
Now I would ask before I sit down once again: how can we expect the people of British Columbia to take seriously what we say in this Legislature, or take seriously what the government says? How can we expect them to keep their salary and wage expectations within the guidelines? How can we expect them to keep business and corporate income expectations within the guidelines; their professional fee expectations within the guidelines? How can we expect landlords, and even tenants, to adhere to these kinds of guidelines when we have this kind of what I believe to be a callous and cavalier attitude, whenever it comes to tax increases, by the government?
I would suggest that the most heinous of all the tax increases we have seen in British Columbia — more so than the auto insurance increases or the ferry increases — is the sales tax. I certainly deplore this move of increasing these taxes by 40 per cent in one fell swoop in this difficult year of restraint and, hopefully, expansion of the economy in British Columbia.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the main points have been canvassed and I'll be very brief.
The sales tax is not based on ability to pay, and for that reason, above all others, I will oppose this bill. The impact of the sales tax unquestionably inflicts hardship on lower-income groups since they have much less flexibility in disposable income, and spend a very high percentage of their income on essentials.
If the sales tax has to be increased then I think some specific and special consideration should have been given to recipients of Mincome and social assistance recipients, much in the same way that there are basic exemptions under the income tax provisions. I think that if the government felt that this was the only way to raise that further $200 million, then at the same time there should have been some specific initiative to exempt persons receiving Mincome and social assistance from the provisions of the sales tax.
I realize that that might be a somewhat radical move, but all the voices from this side of the House have made it very plain that not only is it the agreement of the members of the opposition parties but they have quoted numerous independent and objective authorities from many jurisdictions, pointing out that indeed the sales tax is a very unfair tax in relation to the people at the lower end of the income scale.
Beyond that, it seems to me clearly to be a depressant to the economy inasmuch as consumer goods people have talked about…dryers and washers and stoves and fridges and so on. Young people setting up homes, young couples getting married, are just having an extremely difficult time to find the financing for that in any case in inflationary times, and it'll just be all the more difficult. If consumer sales drop, then, of course, the expected upturn in the economy will be that much slowed.
I think that in the field of home construction also, if the government was really very concerned about encouraging an economic upturn, this kind of increase in the sales tax is just about the last thing that should have been done. It very clearly increases the cost of construction of new homes or repairs to existing homes or expansion of existing homes. We all know very well that basic industries and the sales of appliances and so on depend very much on the number of people setting up homes, whether it's in an old home or a new home. So I think this is a very negative effect.
I've said already that there is a contradiction in the budget anyway. If the increase in the economy is anticipated as being 4.5 per cent, there really is no need for as much as $200 million extra, regardless of the source of its revenue.
There's every likelihood from the budget that increased income tax revenue will take care of a much larger fraction of the total government revenue than has been projected. I've repeated this figure before but I just say again, Mr. Speaker, that it is quite likely
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the $815 million in personal income tax which is expected in 1976-77 will be a great deal higher. Under these circumstances, this $200 million which the Minister wants to derive from an increased sales tax is an exaggeration.
Without reflecting on a vote, I think that we have tried to put forward positive alternatives in this debate, Mr. Speaker, which were reasonable and constructive and I thought were very well argued by the three opposition parties. I've no wish to intrude on the rules of the House by reflecting on that vote, but it's so often felt that opposition parties simply oppose for the sake of opposing. I happen to think that in this particular debate regarding the 2 per cent increase in the sales tax there have been very many valid, positive, justifiable points put forward which have risen above the partisan political approach to debate.
Even at this late stage in the debate I would hope that the government might still take a second look, particularly in areas such as the impact on Mincome recipients and social assistance recipients, and particularly on the longer-term effect on the economy. Certainly the economists — the people whom I have sought advice from — are unanimous in saying that at a time when you want an expanding economy to create more jobs, the last thing you do is put up taxes. So the government seems to be contradicting one of the basic goals that it should have at this time. While I realize that the government has taken a basic position that it will balance the budget at all costs, I still feel that even on that premise it is going overboard in raising taxes in a variety of ways which not only are unnecessary to the degree that they're doing it, but in fact are inflationary and a depressant to the economy at the very time when we're trying to expand the economy.
With these thoughts in mind, Mr. Speaker, I'd move adjournment of this debate to the next sitting of the House.
Motion negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 16
NAYS — 31
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
MR. LAUK: All the cabinet is leaving as soon as I get to my feet, Mr. Speaker. The press gallery should take note of this. In fear they're rushing out of the House….
MR. LAUK: Oh, the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer) is going to stay.
MR. LAUK: What files? Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly grateful to the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) for calling a division on adjournment of this debate. At least we got a few more members in the House.
I think this is one of the most serious bills to have come before this 31st parliament, although short-lived.
MR. LAUK: No, Mr. Member, you feel I always say that, but I don't. It's just guilt feelings on your part.
You know, Mr. Speaker, raising the sales tax — a most regressive tax that will affect the ordinary citizens of British Columbia in a most drastic way — is a most serious bill, and I think for all of the members of the House, it should be incumbent upon them to stay in the House and listen attentively, as the hon. Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) is right now. I mean, he should set an example for his other colleagues on the front benches.
AN HON. MEMBER: You made me.
MR. LAUK: The Attorney-General says he's going to hang himself. Well, I don't think he should feel that bad about this bill, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
AN HON. MEMBER: You know you fought it in cabinet.
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MR. SPEAKER: Can we get back to the principle of Bill 11?
MR. LAUK: The principle of Bill 11, Mr. Speaker, is a bad principle. It's a principle that if you can collect a tax easily enough, even though it hurts the low-income people of this province, then by all means let's do it.
Let's not take the time to consider carefully the alternative measures of taxation that would be fairer and more equitable for all groups of people, not just the privileged, not just the millionaires and the well-to-do people of this province, but every ordinary citizen.
It was not too long ago that W.A.C. Bennett spoke on the sales tax. It was not too long ago, as I pointed out in the debate on the amendment to hoist this bill for six months, that the distinguished British Columbian was so distressed by the fact that the government he supported at the time was bringing in a sales tax that he shortly after bolted that party, and I say rightly so, Mr. Speaker.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): What year? What year was that?
MR. LAUK: 1948. I bring that to the attention of each and every backbencher of this government side of the House, Mr. Speaker. W.A.C. Bennett had the courage of his convictions, and I know some of you, especially the member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot)….
MR. CHABOT: Twenty-eight years ago.
MR. LAUK: The member for Columbia River — boy, he's not anxious for this House to adjourn, Mr. Speaker, if he has to go back to Columbia River and tell his merchants who are right near the Alberta border that there's now a 7 per cent sales tax, and that all the people of Golden are going to have a regular cavalcade to Calgary.
Where does that suit come from, Mr. Member?
MR. LAUK: Calgary. The suit you've got on your back is Calgary because there's no sales tax, and you know it, Mr. Member.
MR. LAUK: The dust is there. The dust is there, but let me tell you there's no dust on that suit.
MR. LAUK: There's no dust on that suit. The member for Columbia River, boy, hightailed it to Calgary and had that suit made as soon as he heard about the sales tax.
MR. LAUK: Who could blame him? The people of Columbia River can't be blamed either if they're going to form a cavalcade — an exodus from British Columbia of all the people of Columbia River to get goods and services in Calgary where there's no sales tax, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAUK: W.A.C. Bennett….
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
MR. LAUK: I don't know, I haven't asked.
AN HON. MEMBER: I don't think they'll ask you either.
AN HON. MEMBER: Withdraw!
MR. LAUK: You know, Mr. Speaker, I can imagine why the member for Columbia River is upset today. At least he has the courtesy to sit in the House and take what's coming to him, but I'll tell you that he's going to be hard-pressed to go back and talk to that hardware merchant — not the one that's sitting in the Premier's chair — but that hardware merchant, that drugstore operator, that restaurateur…
HON. MR. GARDOM: Or tailor. (Laughter.)
MR. LAUK: …the tailor, who's now voting NDP (laughter)….
MR. LAUK: He always did. That's why he goes to Calgary. Not the sales tax. All right. No, I can't accept that, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LAUK: You know as well as I do….
MR. LAUK: I'll tell you that the hon. Member for Columbia River is going to have some explaining to do, and rightly so, but I have a feeling before the final vote on this bill is taken, Mr. Speaker, that the hon.
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Member for Columbia River will stand up and at least speak on this bill. He's sat on his hands quietly because he knows there's no defence for this bill. He knows that the people of Columbia River are going to reject him and finally after all these terms throw him out of office (laughter) because of that extra 2 per cent on the sales tax. He knows it. He's laughing now but he's hiding that hurt, that pain. He knows he's got to face those good people in Golden and explain the sales tax.
MR. CHABOT: Come on up and run against me.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, Hon. Member, can we get back to the principle of Bill 11?
MR. LAUK: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what greater principle there is for the member for North Peace River, very close to Edmonton. I don't know what he's going to say, Mr. Speaker. If he were in the House today, he'd be listening to this debate and he'd say to himself: "What am I going to tell the merchants in Fort Nelson? What am I going to say to them?"
MR. SPEAKER: The principle of the bill, Hon. Member, is an increase in sales tax in the province of British Columbia. I hope you will direct your remarks to that principle.
MR. LAUK: I am, Mr. Speaker. I'm very interested in helping the member for North Peace River (Hon. Mr. Smith) explain this increase in sales tax to the merchants of Fort Nelson and Fort St. John. What is he going to say to them when he goes home? What happens when you hang up your three-cornered hat and you go up there and you have to talk to the merchants?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, Hon. Member. There's a certain dignity and respect paid in this House to the three-cornered hat, regardless of, what member might wear it. I'd ask you to observe that respect and that dignity.
MR. LAUK: Thank you for drawing that to my attention, Mr. Speaker. I would in no way wish to mean any offence. It was just a little light-hearted humour, and I hope that Mr. Speaker doesn't take offence at that remark.
Seriously, Mr. Speaker, I think it's incumbent upon you, because you are the Speaker of the House, that we speak out on behalf of you because you are not allowed to enter into the debates. I think that if I were the member for North Peace River and able to speak in this debate I would be concerned about the people of Fort St. John and Fort Nelson — the little merchants there who must collect an extra 2 per cent sales tax. Will not the people of those communities from time to time take advantage of shopping trips to Alberta? Will not that great amount of economic activity in the Peace River area, in Columbia River and in the East Kootenays go to Alberta?
Is this not a self-defeating measure, Mr. Speaker? This is the point I'm trying to raise. W.A.C. Bennett in 1948 had the courage to stand in this House and say it was wrong, it was regressive and it was going to hurt the farmers, the industrial workers, the merchants and the little people of this province. He called it an accountant's budget, and it's truer today than it was in 1948.
It's not important, I suppose, to worry about the sales tax when you're a millionaire; it's not important, I suppose, when you're well-to-do.
HON. K.R. MAIR (Minister of Consumer Services): Tell us about being a millionaire, Gary.
MR. LAUK: I don't know what it's like.
HON. MR. MAIR: You drive a car.
MR. LAUK: I drive a car; I'm a millionaire. That's very good. The Minister of Consumer Services says anybody who drives a car is a millionaire. We have to take that minister out of the horse-and-buggy era. That's the way the old Mercedes bends.
HON. MR. MAIR: You've got a basement full of files. What more do you want?
MR. LAUK: We could hope for a better government.
I feel that the example of W.A.C. Bennett set for this House, for this province and for that back bench over there is an important one. He not only spoke against it, but he voted against it and he went around this province and spoke against it to every constituency group in B.C. Then he crossed the floor, Mr. Speaker, and eventually formed his own party and became Premier of this province for over 20 years. Now think of the possibilities for you, if you stand up and speak against this regressive legislation. It turns you on, doesn't it? You think about it. Not only that, but you would be arguing for the ordinary citizens on this province.
What's happened? People say: "Well, how are we going to increase revenue if we don't have a sales tax?" That, in the modern vernacular, is a cop-out. That is admitting defeat. There is only one kind of person who is going to be defeated in this world, and that is a person who admits to defeat — a person who says to himself: "I choose defeat."
You can choose to be victorious, and you can choose to do something better than Bill 11. You can choose to take the time that's necessary to work out
[ Page 907 ]
a fair and equitable plan of taxation for this province, instead of a regressive, ancient, 19th century approach to taxation.
MR. G H. KERSTER (Coquitlam): What would you do, Mr. Wizard?
MR. LAUK: I would argue what W.A.C. Bennett argued: we'd increase revenue from the natural resources of this province. We would increase revenue from natural gas and coal royalties, because natural gas and coal are in demand.
MR. KERSTER: Well, why didn't you do it?
MR. LAUK: We did. This is not our budget, Mr. Member — this is your budget.
I don't object to the member for Coquitlam talking out of his seat, Mr. Speaker, but you should.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! If the member for Coquitlam wishes to harass the member who is speaking he will have to do it from his own chair, not from someone else's. (Laughter.)
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, I object. That is encouraging people to harass me.
MR. SPEAKER: I withdraw the word "harass."
MR. LAUK: Thank you. Let the record show that the Speaker withdrew the remark. (Laughter.)
Mr. Speaker, they ask what we should do.
MR. KERSTER: Nothing.
MR. LAUK: We would increase the revenue of this province by concentrating on getting more money from American users of our natural gas, a very precious commodity indeed.
Coal is now becoming in demand. I can remember under the previous Social Credit administration where the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources actively encouraged the closing of coal mines in this province, and coal mines closed one after another. Little foresight did that person have, and that administration have, because we could see — surely, all of us could see — the energy shortages that were coming. They were talked about in the last 10 years of that administration's life.
Now coal is a valuable resource in the world market; it is increasing every year, and coal royalties — it would make sense — should be increased as well. We now talk about a vast plan for developing the coal resource in this province, a plan developed and started by the former NDP administration…
MR. CHABOT: Nonsense!
MR. LAUK: …but we are delighted it is being carried on by the new administration. It makes good economic sense, and if the coal resource is properly taxed, either by royalty, economic rent or profits tax, the revenue to the people of the province of British Columbia would help greatly to avoid regressive taxation measures such as that outlined in Bill 11.
MS. R. BROWN (Vancouver-Burrard): Hear, hear!
MR. LAUK: As I say, now that energy shortages are here it will lead inevitably to coal sales throughout the world. It'll have its little dips and so on, but soon the market for coal will be increasing in Japan. We've got many good entrepreneurs who are producing coal in this province who are travelling through Japan, through Europe, making long-term contracts for the sale of coal. This is all to the interests of the people of British Columbia. It will bring revenue and jobs to the people of British Columbia. It will increase income tax. It will increase revenues through royalties — or it should — so why should we rely on this regressive legislation that only attacks the lower-income earners, the industrial workers and the pensioners and fixed income people of this province?
Coal, metallurgical and thermal…coal is a very, very valuable resource. It is marketable; long term contracts are being signed every day. Natural gas; very precious, very valuable to the United States; why should we allow the American users of our natural gas to pay less for our natural gas than they would otherwise? I say that's wrong. I say the people of British Columbia own that resource. They have every right to expect that their government, which is supposed to act in their interest, that has the trust of the people, will make sure that the revenue from those natural resources is sufficient so that the people themselves are not taxed to death.
MR. KERSTER: Are you on Bill 31 or Bill 11?
MR. LAUK: You know, even in forestry, Mr. Speaker, when you talk about stumpage, the NDP administration gave stumpage 1ncentives to forestry during a slump last year. Every indication is that forestry is improving. We have Mr. Barclay of B.C. Forest Products who says that he expects that the market is going to improve slowly but surely, by a great measure, toward the end of the year. Stumpages will be increased. Revenues to the government coffers will be increased. The revenue expectations of the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe), I'm sure, will have to be revised in mid year. Why are we troubling ourselves now with this bill? Why are we imposing this hardship upon the ordinary people of British Columbia when things are looking better, when revenues could be increased on our natural resources?
[ Page 908 ]
1 say the only reason is political revenge and vindication. I don't think for a moment that if this government was operating with good sense and with — as W.A.C. Bennett would describe — careful budgeting planning techniques, they would bring in a social services tax, particularly to 7 per cent.
I think that in the forest industry as well we can see great markets opening up in Japan. The efforts of the Department of Economic Development in that regard — if I would cast modesty to the winds for a moment — was excellent in the last three years.
MR. LAUK: I hope that the new minister gets his mind off trivial matters and gets down to the business of selling British Columbia products abroad, gets down to the business of selling forest products to the Japanese and to Europe.
HON. A.V. FRASER (Minister of Highways): Let him get out of the basement.
MR. LAUK: I would think so. He should get his mind out of the basement, Mr. Member, and on to the high office that he's supposed to occupy, and get out there and make sure that our forest industry survives — not only survives, but prevails in the world markets.
AN HON. MEMBER: Return the files.
MR. LAUK: Do you know that increased sales are predicted for Japan? And the revenues to the province for an increased market in forest products will be beneficial to us all. Get out and sell, Mr. Minister. I should say to all the members of the front bench: get out and sell the products of this province to the nation. Don't sit on the backs of the little people of the province who voted you into office. Don't tax them to death. Don't sit there and whimper about recession; get out and sell this province to the world and make sure we've got enough revenue so that we don't have to tax our people to death.
This is the kind of creative thought that I would urge upon the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, instead of saying: "Oh, well, what can we do? We need the revenue; let's raise the sales tax."
That requires no imagination. That's dull, uncreative and oppressive on the people of British Columbia. They hoped that they had voted in a government that was creative, that had some financial pizzazz, that was able to get out there and think of a creative, more equitable tax structure and also create jobs and economic development in this province. So far we've only heard petty complaints and whimpering about the economy and trivial matters that have been dragged on the floor of this House.
Nothing has been done to create jobs, to create revenue, to avoid the kind of oppressive kind of tax legislation we're now dealing with in Bill 11.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! The first member for Vancouver Centre has the floor.
MR. G.R. LEA (Prince Rupert): Grace, you're going to have a long way to fall when you go.
MR. LAUK: Why is it, Mr. Speaker, that this government always is most interested in protecting the corporate structure of this province — the profit structure of this province — and never interested in protecting the jobs that the ordinary people have in this province? This is the approach that can be seen in Bill 11. An increase of 2 per cent on the sales tax will be almost a death blow to the retail sales economy of this province. A 40 per cent, 2-point increase is a death blow to the economy, Mr. Speaker.
I mentioned the ridings such as yours and Columbia River which border on the Alberta border. I mentioned how that would create an exodus for retail sales in this province. But that's not even the major issue. The major issue is not the exodus on the Alberta border; the major issue is the $200 million minimum that will be taken out of the private economy. To me, Mr. Speaker, that is a death blow. That is part of the real regression of this bill; that is part of the lack of creativity — the lack of imagination — that has become so apparent in that government in the last four months.
Why couldn't they take W.A.C. Bennett's words to heart? Why couldn't they take the time to plan a careful budget that was creative and equitable to the people of the province? No, the easiest way out, even though it's on the backs of the little people — they take it. Two hundred million dollars are taken out of circulation in the consumer economy, Mr. Speaker, and they sit there silently on their hands and talk about phony issues, trivial matters, and at the same time the little people of this province are suffering. December 11 was a cruel joke of the people of British Columbia — at least $200 million less in wages, $200 million less in income taxes, $200 million less in retail sales.
Have we forgotten the multiplier effect, Mr. Speaker? Have we forgotten that? I wonder how many members of the cabinet benches understand the multiplier effect of taking that taxation money out of the economy. If they don't understand it then they should understand it; they should understand it before they bring down this kind of regressive legislation. Every dollar taken out of circulation by this tax means three or four in the multiplier effect to the economy. That's $600 million, perhaps, out of
[ Page 909 ]
the economy of British Columbia — $600 million less that the people will have to spend on themselves, to take that vacation, to pay the high increase in ICBC rates or ferry travel or to pay the high increase in their home heating fuels or the food prices that were unfrozen by that cruel administration. It's $600 million less for the ordinary little people in this province to spend because the Minister of Finance only knows black and white. He's an accountant. He hasn't got the creativity or the imagination to think in terms of an equitable, fair taxation structure for the little people of this province. That is a sad, sad condemnation of the Minister of Finance.
We would hope that a businessman of his stature would be more creative. We know how creative he is in selling his product. Why couldn't he be creative in dealing with the taxation of the ordinary people of this province? I am saying, Mr. Speaker, they did not take the time of day for the people that voted them into office. They gave them short shrift, indeed, Mr. Speaker.
If they had courage, which they do not, they would bring in an equitable structure. They would have lowered taxes and not raised them. There are jurisdictions which were condemned in the very budget speech that that Minister of Finance uttered in this House — administrations that are taking real steps to protect ordinary people. They are lowering taxes, not raising them, because these other administrations realize that lowering taxes increases economic activity and, in the long term, will increase revenues to the government many more fold than they would by this one-shot affair at raising the sales tax.
The ordinary people would then feel that there was a government that was on their side; a government that was not interested in protecting the privileged class, but interested in government for all of the people of British Columbia; a government that was interested in equity and social equality; a government that would apply a tax structure that would enable little people to have a chance in this system.
What were they promised before December 11 — these people who got short shrift by this bill and the many other oppressive measures of the Finance minister? They were promised better times. I think it was: "Happy days are here again." They were promised more jobs. They were promised a tax freeze. They were promised practically everything under the sun.
They promised the NDP policy, they promised the federal Liberal policy, they promised every policy but their own — and what have they delivered? Zero. The opposite.
What is the legacy of the little people of this province after December 11? ICBC rate increases making us second or the highest in Canada as far as automobile insurance rates are concerned. They lifted the price freeze so that the people on fixed incomes — Mincome recipients and the people on disabled pensions — could no longer rely on a government that will protect their interests at the supermarkets, allowing Kelly Douglas and Safeway to make their profit on the backs of the people on fixed incomes. They are offering an increase in income tax and an increase in sales tax by this bill. Medicare premiums have been raised. Ferry rates are to be raised. Home heating fuels are allowed to rise. Hydro rates are going to be raised. Cutbacks are in place and will only cost more money to the ordinary person on fixed income.
This government has shown great courage in agreeing to the anti-inflation bill. They said to the ordinary people: "We'll raise all these rates but you hold back your wages." Isn't that sweet?
When you look at the budget and you look at this bill particularly, in The Province of March 29 there is an article which says:
"Subtract $150 and you've got it. A family of four will face an extra $150 or more a year in provincial taxes and health insurance premiums, with another increase due in 1977 as a result of the provincial budget.
"The biggest individual increase will be the extra $75
for medical plan premiums. Notwithstanding this increase, if any
members of the family have to go to hospital, they will still pay more
for the treatment. Instead of the current $1 a day it's $4 a day."
And on and on it goes.
The sales tax cannot be calculated with any degree of accuracy, but we know it will weigh more heavily on the people on pensions, the ordinary, little people in society. We would think the government should have adopted the amendment put forward by the Liberal leader and take that six months that is so crucial to careful budgeting. We reiterated the warnings of W.A.C. Bennett and many other distinguished people who understand taxation. They have gone unheeded.
The reward to the people who voted this government in on December 11 is not "happy days are here again," but "eat crow." That's a sad, sad day.
Mr. Lauk moves adjournment of the debate.
Motion negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 16
[ Page 910 ]
NAYS — 28
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
MR. D.F. LOCKSTEAD (Mackenzie): Mr. Speaker, I take my place in this debate with some pleasure, although I expect to be quite short.
I know that we are discussing the 40 per cent increase in the sales tax, an increase that hurts people in my constituency possibly to a greater degree in some areas than in other parts of British Columbia. That possibly may be because in large areas of my riding I have a large proportion of senior citizens, people on fixed incomes. It appears that this government is not prepared to assist our seniors or people on lower incomes and in fact are making it more difficult for them.
In these sad economic times when there's an economic recession all over the world, and the federal government is attempting to fight inflation with its Anti-Inflation Board, this government has introduced a budget and a bill that is unquestionably inflationary, particularly to the poor, the working poor, low-paid people on low incomes, ordinary working families, small businesses.
Yes, how about the small businesses, Mr. Speaker? How about that? How about people who wish to start a new business? There's no doubt about it that with the 2 per cent sales tax the start-up cost of a new business will be initially much greater than it would have otherwise been. I think many of these businessmen are people who voted for that government, if I recall. I would suggest that possibly the majority of people in the small businesses perhaps supported the Social Credit government for their so-called intent of fiscal responsibility. Well, we have disproven that claim in this House, Mr. Speaker, time and time again.
It's a regressive tax. This tax hits the poor, the working poor, the ordinary working family and the small businessmen much more and much harder than the rich. The rich, the well-to-do, can afford this 2 per cent, or 40 per cent — 2 cents on the dollar. In fact, they can afford a lot more than that. I think under our present taxation system they're getting away with murder because of the loopholes in the federal law.
AN HON. MEMBER: They can afford to go to Alberta and shop.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Well, anyway, I don't think that people living in unorganized areas will get the full benefits of this social service tax when we hear that ambulance services may be cut back in areas where it's particularly needed, such as rural areas like the one I represent. And we're all paying our equal share.
I wish you'd listen to me, Mr. Speaker. Who am I talking to?
I think it's worthwhile quoting a letter I received the other day from Vancouver, a letter dated April 1 and sent to the Premier and the Minister of Finance from a senior citizen. I'd like to quote this letter, if I may. It is from Ethel M. Davis:
"I feel I must bring to your attention a grave error in your budget of last week and your claim that it is fair and doesn't hurt anyone…"
"…and that it does not hurt we old folks seriously" — it does so! — "the raise in sales tax to 7 per cent and the hospital charge from $1 a day to $7. I am 83½ years old and live in a home at my doctor's insistence. I get my OAP of $132.90, but as I have a railway pension, half of my husband's, I do not get Mincome nor the supplement."
Well, I've got news for some of the seniors, Mr. Speaker; they're going to be getting less. under this government.
"There are old folks here who are not so fortunate" — she considers herself fortunate — "and it is for them that I am so concerned. One lady in her 90s, who has been widowed many, many years, raised a family by working through the hungry 30s and has outlived them all and gets $226.12 per month. She pays the rent, board and light-nursing care, $244. How does she afford the little necessities one must have, a cake of soap, a box of Kleenex, Polygrip, deodorant and all these things raised by 2 per cent? She does like to give church collection."
[ Page 911 ]
Ah, you're biting into the church collections. I'm shocked, shocked!
"But where does it come from? To keep her hands busy she knit herself an afghan with wool, $1.35 per ball; that used to run 29 cents. What does one do when their clothes or shoes wear out? Can she go to a rummage sale or ask the Salvation Army for replacements? You will say, too true."
Mrs. Davis goes on to say:
"There are men who live alone, without wives; some are chronically ill in hospital. When the rate is raised from $1 to $7, how are they supposed to afford this raise? There are also personal items a man must have — shaving cream, razor replacements, clothing, shoes, an occasional haircut."
For sure you need a haircut these days, Mr. Speaker, or you won't get anything; they'll cut you right off.
Mrs. Davis continues:
"These are the bare necessities of life and things people should have on any account.
"Another item I almost forgot to mention is that in this elderly-folk group there are many with heart conditions, angina, and whose doctors prescribe a tablespoon or so daily of brandy, or in many cases rye, which is costly. Now they have to pay an extra 14 cents. Do you call this being humanitarian? To quote Marie: 'Let them eat cake!'"
Well, boy, I'll tell you quite frankly, I object to the price of booze myself, Mr. Speaker. I really think it is unfair. There are a whole lot of ordinary working people in this province who like to have a little nip now and again. I really think this bill is infringing on their rights — and this budget. I really believe that. What's wrong with a person, after a hard day's work, going and enjoying an ordinary glass of beer or having a drink in the bar with his friend before dinner? What's wrong with that? Not a darn thing.
"I call this government the many-Vs government: vindictive, vicious, vituperative, vitriolic, vendetta, inhuman, money-mad and arrogant," says Mrs. Davis. "These are my thoughts on this government.
"The almighty dollar is more important than the people, especially the small people who have a vote but little else. The increase in sales tax does hurt them — the big business, the hospital cost to $7, the callous treatment by Mr. Vander Zalm, Minister McClelland and the Minister of Education, Dr. McGeer. And the enthusiasm of our Premier pounding his desk as these inequities were mooted was very disgusting."
Mrs. Davis closes with a poem: "I will close with a favourite poem of mine that seems to fit your attitude towards the unfortunate of this province."
Away with him; he utters the word love,
Dark-souled incendiary, madman forlorne.
He dares to put humanity above discretion,
Better never having been born than thus to be offended.
Learn, good brother, that love and pity are forgotten fables
Told by the drowsy years to one another
With nothing in them to supply our tables.
These are the ways of hungry common sense.
Millions of men have died to bring these days,
And more must die these good days go hence,
For God moves still in most mysterious ways.
Ah, Debs, Debs, Debs, you are out-weighted, out-priced!
'David Barrett might be substituted for "Debs", by the way.
These are the days of Caesar, not of Christ.
Yet, suppose all was done and said
There was a resurrection from the dead.
So says Mrs. Ethel M. Davies.
A copy of this letter was sent to all leaders of all parties. Okay, there you have it once again.
How about the price of housing? How will this affect the price of owning a home, Mr. Speaker, the increased sales tax? This government claims to try to live up to the standard that we accept for housing. We had made a good start when we were the government, in terms of housing, and made good progress. But this government, while they say they are interested in helping people obtain houses, I find that, in effect, they are not doing very much. I don't expect that they will do very much. I think they might do something for the developer, the speculator, but I doubt that there will be very much housing for people.
I think John Kenneth Galbraith has something to say about housing. Just to quote Galbraith: "There is no country in the world where middle- and low-cost housing works under private enterprise." I think we've found that pretty well to be true. It works if you have money; it works if you want to sell your soul to the mortgage company or to the bank for the rest of your life. But for ordinary people on ordinary paycheques trying to raise a family — I can tell you from experience that is just darned well won't work. Is "darn" on the list, Mr. Speaker?
The proposed increase in ferry fares — how about that?
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Well, it's the first time I've said it, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. members: There is a
[ Page 912 ]
rule in the House about repetitious debate, whether it be debate you have delivered on the floor of the House or debate that others have used, and the repetition of that. The other thing that I would ask the member to do is to relate his remarks to the bill before us, and the principle of the bill. Reading from whatever you may have in front of you, unless it is relative to the principle of the bill, could be out of order, Hon. Member.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate your remarks, but I would like to point out to you that I expect to have the same leeway extended to me as was extended to members over on that side of the House when they spoke for hours and hours, some of them 34 hours at length — repetitious, about nothing and didn't prove anything.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! Continue as long as you relate your remarks to the bill before us.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am discussing the 40 per cent increase of a sales tax.
Another aspect of my remarks is the effect on the cost of living that this sales tax increase will have on the personal and private decisions of investors in British Columbia not to invest in primary industry.
You know, Mr. Speaker, I really believe that B.C. should be more self-sufficient in its economy. We're not going to be that way as long as we rely on the resource industries and ship them out of this province. It may be a way of raising the necessary funds that the government feels it needs, although I don't believe that they need it. I think it's a revenge type of situation we are in here, But, in any event, I think that we could raise these funds by looking at the possibility of a steel mill, secondary industry, copper smelters in environmentally sound areas, a petroleum plant — why not?
I really must object, by the way, to this government's proposed — and we haven't heard the exact amount — ferry fare increases. Now this is going to be really inflationary — another inflationary move — and they'll have to pay a 40 per cent sales tax probably on these fares, will they not?
HON. MR. MAIR: No.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: No? Oh, good. But it's an inflationary move like the 40 per cent sales tax, Mr. Speaker, and I really don't think it's quite necessary.
We've discussed the merchant service problems. I don't want to be tedious and repetitious. The previous speaker did discuss the possible ways and means by which funds could be raised for this province. Certainly we're not getting a fair price for our natural gas. I think the royalties should be raised. I think that this government should be receiving the same amount in royalties as the American producer is….
MR. LOCKSTEAD: No.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: I would like to draw to your attention item 43 in our standing orders, Mr. Speaker. The present speaker on this motion continues to be repetitious, and I would appreciate it if you would draw his attention to the concept of the bill itself and to please stop him being repetitious in the House. We are wasting the time of the House in that regard, and that's what the standing rules are for.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, I would just suggest to you that your debate must be relevant to the principle of the bill and not a repetition of debate that has been used by other members in the House. As long as you observe those rules, then you're in order in the debate.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, it's very unusual during debate on second reading — that is the principle of a bill — that one should be brought to order in this House. We understand and we can see it in the committee stage where there can be that kind of repetition but, Mr. Speaker, a person is charged in the principle of the bill to delineate the problems as far as his constituency is concerned. It strikes me that if there is some overlapping, and I've been in the House long enough to see an awful lot of overlapping…. I was in the House the last number of years….
MR. SPEAKER: What is your point of order, hon. member?
MR. COCKE: The point of order, Mr. Speaker, is that the House Leader did not make a point of order that's relevant to this situation at all.
A member is standing in this House trying to suggest exactly what his constituents feel, and I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this is relevant to the second reading of the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: I've already suggested to the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) that as long as he stays within the principle of the bill he can proceed.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have very nearly concluded. I know that we are not discussing the budget but the principle of this bill, and I thank you very much for your remarks.
On one hand this government espouses the fact that they would like to fight inflation by supporting
[ Page 913 ]
the AIB — the Anti-Inflation Board — and on the other hand does bring in legislation that is extremely inflationary.
This 40 per cent increase in the sales tax can be construed in no other way but being inflationary and regressive, and it will certainly create unemployment in this province. I can see nothing in this bill — as a matter of fact, nothing in the legislation that has been introduced to this House to date — to create employment for our people. I really think that's quite despicable. Is "despicable" allowed, Mr. Speaker? Could you advise me?
If it's allowed, then I say it's a despicable budget. If it's not allowed, I withdraw it. I'll have to find another word. I'm just asking your advice, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, if you are applying that word to any hon. member of the House….
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Oh, I'd never do that. Never!
MR. SPEAKER: If you're applying that word to any hon. member of the House, or specifically to the executive council or the government, then it would be out of order. If it's a general term used in a general manner, then I don't find it offensive to the rules of the House.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Thank you for your advice, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad we have that cleared up. I was certainly not directing that word towards any member of this House, certainly not toward the executive council.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, to conclude, as I said, I find this bill regressive and inflationary, and will create unemployment for the people of this province, and I move adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Ordinarily, hon. members, I would not put that question to the House at this time. Inasmuch as we've had two motions of adjournment of this debate, a third, in my opinion, is an abuse of the rules of the House. The only reason that I'll consider it is that on past occasions, when we have sat at 10 in the morning, we have, on occasion, adjourned at 12 o'clock. But I would also remind the members that there is nothing in our rules that say, when we sit at 10 in the morning that we necessarily stop at 12. But because we have done this in the past, on occasion, I'll put the question to the House, but it's very, very close to being a definite abuse of the rules of this House.
The question is adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.
Motion negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 17
NAYS — 30
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member for Vancouver Centre on a point of order.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, I would draw your attention to standing order 8, which says: "Every member is bound to attend the service of the House unless leave of absence has been given by the House." Mr. Speaker, I am instructed that the hon. Premier is in the precincts of the Legislature and is absent from division without leave. In addition, I would ask Mr. Speaker to decide whether or not the Premier is in breach of the rules of this House.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has suggested that because one of the other hon. members is not present when a division was taken he is offending against the rules of this House. Standing order 8, if you read it carefully, says: "Every member is bound to attend the service of the House unless leave of absence has been given him by the House." That rule is there in the event that people will be absent from the House for more than a few minutes or a few hours. The rule presumes that it will be effective and that the persons absenting themselves from the House will make that fact known to their party Whip and to their party leader, if they are, in fact, to be absent for any length of time. The fact that a member is not able to be present every minute of every hour is not an abuse of the rules of this House.
The hon. Premier was present for quite a bit of the debate this morning. Obviously he has business
[ Page 914 ]
elsewhere at this moment, but that does not mean that he's absent from the precincts or he is away with or without leave.
I will listen to the hon. member for Vancouver Centre on the same point of order.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, my reading of Sir Erskine May indicates that a similar standing order which applies means, and has been interpreted to mean, that no member shall be absent from divisions if he is in the precincts of the House, and that that is considered to be a breach of the standing order.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: On the point of order that the hon. member for Vancouver Centre raises, I would like to say that the hon. Premier did indicate to the House Leader that he would be in business with the federal government on very important business affecting the Province of British Columbia and its activities with the senior government.
I would also like to say, Mr. Speaker, that if the rules were to be interpreted that the Premier would have to be present while neglecting his duties as the Premier of this province in negotiations with the federal government, surely this House would expect that he would attend this House for a very important motion, but surely a division on obstructionist tactics to delay the House cannot be considered important.
MR. SPEAKER: A point of order by the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. W. S. KING (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, the point is that if this House kept reasonable hours that recognized even basic labour standards in this province, perhaps all members could spare the time to do the province's business properly, and the Premier would not have the dilemma, trying to be in this House and do business in his office at the time.
[Mr. Speaker rises.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. Leader of the, Opposition has been in the House long enough to know that when the Speaker rises the hon. member takes his seat.
Hon. Members, we are on second reading of Bill 11.
[Mr. Speaker resumes his seat.]
MS. BROWN: I would like to rise to make my comments about this bill, certainly before debate is terminated by the Minister of Finance.
I notice that when the minister introduced the legislation he stated that it was with a great deal of reluctance that he introduced the bill to increase the sales tax. I would have wished that the minister's reluctance had extended to the point where he refrained from introducing this increase to a tax which should not even exist. In fact, the sales tax should have been wiped out, rather than extended, because of the impact that it has on people in this province.
Mr. Speaker, because the sales tax applies to everyone, the people who bear the brunt of it are those people who make incomes of between $4,000 and $6,000 a year. Who does that include? That includes people earning the minimum wage. It includes people who, according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, are below the poverty line. Because people in those incomes spend all of their money, and spend most of their money on consumer purchases, that is where the brunt of the sales tax will be coming: on people on incomes of between $4,000 a year and $7,000 a year. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that that income includes people making the minimum wage in this province, as well as people who have been designated as living below the poverty line by Senator Croll and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and other measurements used to measure these things.
The Minister of Finance went on to say in his speech that he did not agree that this tax is going to bear more heavily on low- and medium-income families because of the generous exemptions to the tax on food, children's clothing, footwear, for example.
In fact this sales tax has some very strange exemptions. One of the things that it does not exempt, for example, are the drug supplies used by people who need the service of osteopaths. These people are not covered by MSA, they are not covered by Pharmacare, but in fact their need, after they have had one of these operations, is just as great. It makes no difference whether they are on welfare, whether they are earning the minimum wage, or if they are eligible for Mincome. They have to pay for these supplies, because these supplies are taxable, and now we find that they are going to experience. a 40 per cent increase in paying for these very essential supplies which they must have after they have had one of these operations.
Who else is included, Mr. Speaker? Another important item is vitamins. I really am at a loss to decide who decides what is covered by the exemptions and what is not. Children use vitamins. We just heard a long speech from the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. McClelland) telling us that one of the ways in which we could cut into the cost of health care in this province was through preventive services, through keeping ourselves in good, physical condition, through keeping ourselves in good health.
Anyone who has had small children knows that
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vitamins are a part of keeping your children in good health. Yet vitamins are not covered by this sales tax. Parents who are concerned about the health of their children will continue to purchase vitamins, and once again will have to bear the brunt of this 40 per cent increase on the sales tax.
Who will be bearing most of that brunt, Mr. Speaker? The people on fixed incomes and on low incomes; people earning the minimum wage; people living below the poverty line, whose dietary needs are as great as anyone else's dietary needs, whose nutritional needs are certainly equal to everyone else's nutritional needs. To all the other increases which those people will be suffering as a result of that government over there will be added an increase of 40 per cent every time they decide to buy vitamins — essential vitamins certainly for themselves when they're senior citizens, or for their children.
Another strange thing that this sales tax does, Mr. Speaker, is to decide when a child is a child and when a child is not a child.
According to the sales tax, a child ceases to be a child at the age of 15. Now anyone who has ever had teenage children knows that they eat more from 15 and over, that they grow out of their clothes more quickly from 15 and over — and I notice the gentle smile on your lips, Mr. Speaker. Surely, like so many other parents, you must know what it is like to be faced with the food bill of a teenager, to be faced with the clothing bill of a teenager. Gone are the days when our teenagers' clothes were at the reasonable rate. Yet we find that that period of their life, when they are more expensive to us than at any other time, is a time when the government has decided that they are no longer children and that the sales tax must apply.
Aside from the fact — and again I'm addressing myself to the principle of the bill — that over and over and over again, economists and people who study these things, and know these things, tell us that the sales tax is surely the most regressive form of taxation that there is as it applies to everyone, it does constitute an additional burden. It does constitute a greater hardship on those people in our society who live below the poverty line, or certainly who earn less than the $7,000 income.
Who are those people, Mr. Speaker? If we look at the reports of the royal commission on the status of women for this country, we find that they constitute most of the women in this country who are the single heads of families. They fall into this category. Most of the women in this country who are over the age of 65 fall into this category. Again, on top of all the other burdens which have been placed on this segment of the community, we have this 40 per cent increase in the sales tax, despite the minister's statement about generous exemptions for food and drugs and for footwear and books and other things.
HON. E.M. WOLFE (Minister of Finance): All services?
MS. BROWN: Mr. Minister, I would like to give you some statistics to help bring this fact to your attention because I'm certainly labouring under the illusion that you are listening to this debate and that you have an open mind, Mr. Minister, and that there is a chance that you will retract your decision to increase this regressive tax. You yourself admitted that you introduced it — I can quote you, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, of course — with great reluctance.
That includes, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, 123,200 families headed by women in this country. On top of the increases under the MSA programme, on top of the increases in their hospital premiums, on top of the increases of ICBC, on top of the pending increases of heating fuel, public transportation, and everything else, comes this 40 per cent — certainly the most regressive form of taxation that has ever been introduced in this province or any other, for that matter.
The minister again, when he was introducing this taxation, said, and I quote from an article in the Times of March 27: "The primary consideration is the revenue that the tax will be bringing in."
Over and over again, Mr. Speaker, the primary consideration of that government is never people. Never do they care one bit about the kind of impact that their increased taxes and their cutback in services is going to have on people. Did he care — did the Minister of Finance care, through you, Mr. Speaker — about those 125,000 heads of families? Did he care about those working-poor families who are only making the minimum wage in this province? Does he care about those people over the age of 65 on fixed income, who use all of their income in terms of consumer services and other services? Did he care what kind of impact that 40 per cent increase on sales tax would mean to them?
The saddest part, Mr. Speaker, is that this is to raise $200 million to ensure that at the end of the financial year this government shows a surplus. Again we have what the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Phillips) refers to as 'kitchen-table' budgeting going on over there. Again we see that people are being sacrificed in order to boost the ego of the Minister of Finance and the Premier (Hon. Mr. Bennett) in their headlong attempt to end up with a surplus at the end of the fiscal year. Increasingly we see that it is the people in society who can least afford it — it is those people in our community who can least afford it who continually are being called upon by that government to bear the brunt of these iniquitous tax increases, of its unfair and unreasonable and regressive tax increases.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of
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Finance, I am appealing, on behalf of those people earning incomes below $7,000 a year, to the minister to reconsider his decision to increase this tax by 40 per cent and, instead, to look again at the whole business of his budget to see whether it would not, in fact, be possible to wipe out the sales tax altogether, or at least decrease it by 40 per cent rather than increase it by 40 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that, in fact, this 40 per cent increase in the sales tax is another way of the Premier carrying out his promise which he continually made around this province during the campaign to make this province like the State of Texas. If I can quote him again — I know it by heart now — he said: "There was a time when British Columbia was the Texas of Canada. There was nowhere bigger." That is the climate which he is trying to return to this province. This increase certainly is very much the way things are done in Texas.
Again, Mr. Speaker, if I can read from the special report done on Texas, that province which, like British Columbia, is so rich in natural resources, that province which, like British Columbia, has so many other ways of raising its revenue, yet when it decides to raise its revenues, Mr. Speaker, it does so by increasing its sales tax, and worst of all — the thing that frightens me most of all — extends it to cover food and drugs…. Is this what we are going to expect? Is this what we are to expect from that government over there — that in the future, when it finds it needs to raise income again, it will think of extending the sales tax to food and drugs? It is frightening, as one remembers the Premier's words and one looks at the things that that government is doing, how closely he is, in fact, trying to reproduce Texas right here in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, you asked us to refer ourselves to the principle of the bill. This is an unprincipled bill dealing with destructive and regressive legislation. As I repeat, whether it is Samuelson, whether it is the federal Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Macdonald), the special report done for the federal government on finances, the textbooks used in your economic tests, with very few exceptions — the most outstanding exception is the Minister of Finance himself — everyone agrees that this is regressive taxation and its impact on the lives of people on fixed income and poor people is a destructive one. In fact, it is a tax which we should work very hard to abolish, a tax which we should work very hard to wipe out and not a tax which we should be increasing, especially since there is no urgent need for the $200 million which will be realized by that tax at this time.
The fact that the minister brags that there are other provinces in this country with a higher sales tax than British Columbia again fills me with apprehension. What is that government trying to do?
Do we really have to have the highest taxes? Do we really have to have the biggest and the worst of everything in order to satisfy that government over there? It is to Newfoundland's sorrow that their sales tax is so high; they are not proud of the fact that their sales tax is so high. Ontario is not proud of the fact that their sales tax is so high. Yet we have a Minister of Finance who stands up and brags that our sales tax is not the highest and that we still have further to go. That, Mr. Speaker, I submit to you, is certainly a backward step and a retrogressive way of thinking in this day and age. It goes back to what has been referred to in describing the budget as pre-Cambrian and certainly has nothing to do with the kind of philosophy which we as a government, and you as a government over there, should have.
The other thing that….
MS. BROWN: Look, Mr. Speaker, I accept the principle that that government over there accepts democracy very reluctantly, but I intend, certainly as long as I am a member of this House, to demand my right to speak on the issues which affect my constituency. If this government decides that legislators do not need to eat; if this government decides that we are going to go back to the days when people sat in this House around the clock until the following morning in order to represent their constituencies, Mr. Member…
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. member.
MS. BROWN: …I will certainly do that.
MR. SPEAKER: Will you please get back to the principle of Bill 11?
MS. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, this is the principle of this bill. It is the principle of this bill that any government that would make that kind of decision certainly could not be expected to understand the kind of hardship that a 40 per cent increase has on the poor people in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Vancouver-Burrard has the floor.
MS. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MS. BROWN: I certainly accept the heckling of
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the members across the floor because that's the only thing that they seem to be efficient at doing, having bungled everything else they have done since they have become government.
MS. BROWN: You have my permission, Mr. Member…
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MS. BROWN: …to heckle. Please, be my guest.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! The member for Vancouver-Burrard has the floor.
MS. BROWN: And I am speaking. That's right. Any further comments, Mr. Minister?
MS. BROWN: Right!
MS. BROWN: I know why they're not speaking on the bill. It's because, as the minister himself said, it was introduced with great reluctance. There was a battle over there. Not one member from the back bench is speaking on this bill because they know that it's regressive legislation, Mr. Speaker. They know it's a bad bill. They know that they can't support the bill. The great reluctance the minister spoke about when he introduced this bill is demonstrated by the fact that nobody over there will speak in support of this bill. It's a cruel, vicious attack on the poor people in this province, and you know it, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, and that is the principle of the bill which I am dealing with.
Quite frankly, the only reason I'm speaking on this bill is because I'm hoping that the Minister of Finance, who is still new to the job, still has an open mind and will reconsider his position on this bill. It is only because, in an attempt to represent the people of Vancouver-Burrard, I am hoping that the Minister of Finance who, unlike the Premier, at least is sitting here listening, will reconsider this position on this piece of legislation, because the legislation, Mr. Speaker, is iniquitous. It bears heaviest on the people who can least afford it, and that is what I keep saying over and over and over again. If I am repetitious, Mr. Speaker, it is because this needs repetition.
MR. J.J. KEMPF (Omineca): Over and over!
MS. BROWN: Precisely, and it has to be said over and over and over again. This is regressive legislation. It works a hardship on the people who can least afford it, over and over and over again, until sooner or later it gets through the head of the Minister of Finance over there, and perhaps he will hoist his decision. He should have accepted the amendment which was moved by one of the other members of the opposition.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to quote from the Minister of Finance again, since this is his bill. He assured us in speaking about…. He said "regressive tax", and the reasons why it would not bear heaviest on the low-income families was because of the exemptions. In fact the people who benefit most from this legislation, of course, will be your top….
HON. MR. WOLFE: I did not say it was regressive.
MS. BROWN: I'm sorry.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard has the floor.
MS. BROWN: Just a minute, Mr. Speaker. I think the House Leader was trying to say something to me.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I was going to suggest to the hon. member, if she would like to move adjournment of the debate, we would accept adjournment.
MS. BROWN: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all the other hungry members in this House, I would like to move adjournment of this debate.
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12:33 p.m.