Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Nov. 28, 2005)

GST = Promises, Promises

John Pifer

For Canadians with long memories, the saga of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is one of duplicity and outright lies – which unfortunately, we have come to expect as the norm from our elected politicians.

Brought in amid great controversy in 1991 by the Conservatives of Brian Mulroney, the GST was said to replace the 11% manufacturers’ sales tax. The then-Opposition Liberals blocked its passage in the Senate, but Ol’ Lyin’ Brian found a way to up the Senate numbers just long enough to get it through to make it law.

The other Great Canadian Liar of recent years, Jean Chrétien, then promised to abolish the despised GST if his party was elected in 1993. It was, and the promise went the way of most political BS from that Prime Minister – straight down the toilet.

Fast forward a dozen years and we find the newest incarnation of the not-Liberal party, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, have launched the current election campaign with a promise (uh-oh) to cut the GST by 1% immediately, and by another percentage point over five years. Quite frankly, it is a bold and welcome proposal, because it would affect everyone positively if it were actually to become a reality. By cutting costs of consumer goods, it leaves more money for people to spend in other areas.

Liberal leader Paul Martin was quick to denounce the plan, however (probably because he did not think of it first). The PM sneered that his party was out to help the middle class with income tax cuts (uh-oh, another promise!) which was a better way to go than to cut the GST, blah, blah, blah.

Truth be told, it looks like a bright Tory initiative that will play well with all “classes”, all members of which are able to do the math and see an immediate saving.

There is one very disturbing thing about it all, however, and it concerns the aforementioned Senate. Through the past 12 years of Liberal rule, the party has truly stacked the deck. It has made sure that the Senate, mostly useless and an appalling waste of tax dollars, now has an unassailable number of old Liberal codgers, so that if a major government initiative comes from a Conservative minority government, but the Liberals do not like it, Senators can veto it, or at least cause parliamentary paralysis.

The current standings show 65 appointed Liberals, 28 Conservatives, one NDP and five independent Senators. It would take a minimum of 32 “jobs for the boys” by a Conservative government even to give it a chance of controlling any Senate vote. And the public would not stand for that blatant patronage, even though it has put up with the Liberals’ version of it for a dozen years.

Vancouver political analyst and pollster Dr. Christie Jung says the Conservatives may even consider outright abolition of the Senate, or at least suspending the existing pecking order to create elected Senators instead of by appointment of party friends and insiders, which has been the norm for decades, regardless of the party in power.

No doubt there will be more promises about that, too, in this winter election campaign. Voters would be wise to take this, and pretty well all and any other promises, with the proverbial grain of salt.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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