The Commons: All in favour of cutting taxes, say 'yea'

The annihilation of the tax code finds support in all corners

The Scene. “I don’t believe,” the Prime Minister once declared, “that any taxes are good taxes.” Most everything Stephen Harper says is sure to be contested by at least a couple people, but on this point all parties now seem mostly to agree. Even if they do make a great show still of objecting to each other.

“Mr. Speaker,” the NDP’s Libby Davies began this afternoon, not bothering to pause for her colleagues’ applause and talking fast, “the Conservatives’ reckless policy of corporate tax cuts has helped gut our country’s manufacturing sector. The Conservatives do not mind helping profitable oil companies and the big banks just love the handouts that they get, but there has been no benefit for the manufacturing sector, and now we have lost hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Nowhere is this more evident than in Ontario, with even Mr. Hudak saying as much. Will the Prime Minister wake up, see the evidence and cancel his next round of pointless corporate tax giveaways?”

The Prime Minister stood to respond, but a rejoinder had already been tabled moments before by Conservative MP Eve Adams. “The last thing Canada’s families need now,” she had warned the House, “is the NDP’s massive job-killing tax hikes that would cost jobs and hurt our economy.”

Ms. Adams had found excuse to say so in sharing news of Forbes magazine’s recent kind appraisal of Canada’s business environment. It is merely inconvenient that the Forbes ranking is based in part on the harmonized sales tax implemented in Ontario and (though briefly) British Columbia—a policy the Harper government facilitated and promoted, but for which it is loath to take much public credit because of how many Ontarians and British Columbians view it as a tax increase.

In response to Ms. Davies, Mr. Harper did not bother to repeat Ms. Adams sloganeering and instead took the opportunity to enthuse about all of the bad taxes his side was cutting. “Mr. Speaker, of course, the government has been lowering taxes of all kinds, for businesses, families, and individuals,” he reviewed. “There are measures right now before the House of Commons to give specific tax allowances and specific tax breaks to the manufacturing sector. I would call on the NDP to support those and stop opposing good things for Canada’s manufacturers.”

Ms. Davies tried once more to reason with the Prime Minister. “Mr. Speaker, those tax breaks to the big corporations are not working,” she said. “The fact is, two million Canadians are looking for jobs. Why are they not the priority instead of the big banks?”

Mr. Harper made a show of seeming confused. “What I do not understand is when we put job creation measures before the House—the new tax credit for new-hires, incentives for manufacturers—why the NDP, which has apparently no economic ideas at all to propose, just simply stands in the way and votes against these things for Canadian families,” he begged.

This was, it must be said, not entirely fair. Just last week, for instance, the NDP proposed a tax credit for small businesses that create jobs: a credit which would actually reduce the tax burden on small business owners by four and a half times as much as the credit the Conservatives presently propose.

Indeed, while the NDP would set the corporate tax rate at 19.5 per cent, they would seem to eager to do so, in large part, so that they might fund a half dozen tax breaks: a “Caregiver Benefit,” a “Child benefit,” a home heating federal sales tax rebate, an occupational travel and accommodation rebate, an “Inter-generational Home Forgivable Loan Program,” an extension in the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance and an increase in the education tax credit.

Not to be entirely outdone in this race to the destruction of the tax code, the Liberals have taken lately to asking the government if it will cancel a planned increase in EI premiums—”a killer of jobs, a direct attack on employment,” which would “further hurtle us toward a recession,” Bob Rae cried this week. The Conservatives have so far shown little interest in heeding Mr. Rae’s warnings, but yesterday they did congratulate themselves on eliminating the per-vote subsidy, or rather the “tax on voting” that was presumably driving 40% of eligible voters away from the polls.

Which brings us, inescapably and inevitably, to the subject of Montreal’s Champlain bridge. The Harper government is now committed to building a new span between Montreal and the mainland. On the need for a new bridge, every party was united during the last election. Except that, with today’s announcement, the Conservatives indicated that those driving across the bridge will have to pay a toll. And on that point the NDP is duly outraged.

“Hundreds of thousands of workers will now have to pay to travel where it is currently free,” Thomas Mulcair moaned this afternoon. “Why?”

Industry Minister Christian Paradis snapped up to defend the toll, not as a reasonable expectation to place on citizens in a functioning democracy, but actually as a measure to reduce the burden on the beleaguered taxpayer. “We will work this way and proceed with our partners and the private sector so that construction does not result in additional costs to taxpayers,” he said.

For sure the last thing that would ever be suggested in this place is that anyone should have to pay full fare for anything.

The Stats. Trade, seven questions. The environment, six questions. The G8 Legacy Fund, five questions. Infrastructure and military procurement, four questions each. The economy, three questions. The Canadian Wheat Board and aboriginal affairs, two questions each. Foreign aid, science, pensions, crime, young people and shipbuilding, one question each.

John Baird, seven answers. Stephen Harper, six answers. Julian Fantino and Peter Kent, four answers each. Ed Fast, three answers. Christian Paradis, Gerry Ritz, John Duncan and Keith Ashfield, two answers each. Bev Oda, Maxime Bernier, Gary Goodyear, Ted Menzies, Vic Toews, Diane Finley and Rona Ambrose, one answer each.

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