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1990: Canadians to face more taxes with the new GST

The Story


Over the cries of hecklers in the gallery, members of Parliament vote on the controversial Goods and Services Tax bill. Opposition members catcall the governing Tories and members of the NDP raise protest cards. For eight long months, politicians have debated the necessity of the new seven per cent tax. The Conservatives have touted the tax as a deficit-busting tool, but critics say it will be hard on lower-income Canadians. On the bill's third and last reading, the House of Commons votes to pass it, 144 to 114. Keith Boag reports for CBC's The National.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 10, 1990
Guest(s): Harvie Andre, David Kilgour, Alex Kindy
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Keith Boag
Duration: 2:39

Did You know?


• The GST is a value-added tax levied on the sale of goods and services except food essentials, medical services, prescription drugs, daycare, residential rent, legal services and educational programs.

• In the three days prior to the vote, 1.7 million Canadians filled out GST protest cards. "This is not just a vote against something. It's a vote for fair taxes," said Tony Clarke, of the Pro-Canada network. (Globe and Mail, April 10, 1990.)

• Alberta Tories David Kilgour and Alex Kindy voted against their party and were accordingly kicked out of the Conservative caucus.

• The heavily stacked Liberal Senate expected to have the power to kill the bill once it had been passed in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, however, strategically shifted the balance of power with the appointment of eight new senators.

• When the GST came into effect on Jan. 1, 1991, it was expected to add $15 weekly to the budget of a family of four.

• "We hate it and we will kill it," promised Liberal leader Jean Chrétien in 1994. He vowed to scrap the unpopular tax when he was Opposition leader but ultimately he did not. Instead, in 1996, Chrétien's government introduced the Harmonized Sales Tax which merged the provincial tax with the federal GST. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador were the only provinces to opt in to the program.

• In 1993, Liberal MP Sheila Copps promised to resign if her party didn't eliminate the GST. After facing pressure from the Opposition, Copps resigned in 1996, ran in the subsequent byelection and was re-elected.

• During the 2006 federal election, Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised to reduce the GST to six per cent in 2006 and to five per cent within five years' time. Effective January 1, 2008, the rate for the GST dropped to five per cent.


Also on April 10:
1875: The North West Mounted Police receive permission to build a post in Southern Alberta. It would become the city of Calgary.
1937: Trans-Canada Airlines is established as Canada's government-owned national air carrier.
1997: Manitoba braces for the highest Red River flood levels since 1852. The flood turns southern Manitoba into a lake and forces 28,000 people from their homes as entire towns are cut off behind ring dikes.


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