CANADA

FACING THE GST MUSIC

BRUCE WALLACE November 26 1990
CANADA

FACING THE GST MUSIC

BRUCE WALLACE November 26 1990

FACING THE GST MUSIC

During nearly all of his travelling this fall, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has been stalked by small but determined bands of people protesting the government’s planned Goods and Services Tax. Last week, about 200 demonstrators, ringing bells and chanting “Stop the GST,” greeted him outside a downtown Edmonton hotel on his four-day swing through Alberta. But it was already clear to Mulroney and his advisers that the GST is deeply unpopular, especially in Alberta, where federal Tory fortunes are at rock bottom. But the GST’s toughest hurdles are still to be cleared 2,500 km east of Edmonton—in the oakpanelled Senate chamber in Ottawa.

Since Oct. 19, a phoney peace has descended on that chamber after weeks of disruption. Then, the Liberal and Conservative senators agreed to set a timetable for dealing with the GST—with the Literals winning the right to propose eight amend-

ments. With that, the TV crews that had covered last month’s around-the-clock Literal filibuster against the tax packed up and left. But, although Tory senators have so far defeated six amendments and are expected to teat the final two add-ons this week, the GST’s passage through upper chamber remains a rocky and nerve-racking exercise for the Tories.

For one thing, the have teen close, with the government winning by margins as tight as five Said one senior Tory senator “I am worried about dents. This is Canada and it is November. Planes can be delayed and people can miss

votes.” As well, Reform Par-

ty Senator Stanley Waters and Independent Senator Edward Lawson also want to introduce amendments. And on those proposals, all senators could speak without time limits.

Clearly, the Tories cannot allow that to happen if the GST legislation is to be passed in time for the scheduled Jan. 1 implementation of

the tax. Unless Waters and Lawson agree to limit debate on their motions, the Tories may attempt to use procedural tactics to ignore them and force the debate on the bill directly to third and final reading. And so far, Waters, at least, is not negotiating. Declared the senator: “The only discussions I have had are with the Literals, on how they can help me be heard.” The Literals, 8 meanwhile, have vowed I to renew their filibuster < and use other tricks to z delay the final GST vote £ when the Oct. 19 truce ends with the expected defeat of their eight - amendments. In fact, Liberal strategists claim that they can keep debating the bill until at least mid-December—underscoring the GST’s still-uncertain future.

BRUCE WALLACE in Ottawa with JOHN HOWSE in Edmonton