Canadian lawmakers have passed an unpopular new tax on goods and services, ending months of procedural delays.
The bill, pushed through the Senate on Thursday night by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Conservatives, now only needs the formality of royal consent to become law. The vote was 55-49.The opposition Liberals were outraged, saying the Conservative maneuver to end an 11-month filibuster to force the vote was illegal.
The goods and services tax, known familiarly as the GST, imposes a 7 percent federal levy on nearly all merchandise and services beginning Jan. 1. The tax is added on top of provincial sales taxes, which range from 8 percent to 10 percent.
That means the buying public will see 15 percent to 17 percent tacked on to nearly all purchases, including such things as haircuts, music lessons and even postage.
The GST has been languishing in the unelected Senate since it was passed by the House of Commons in April. The bill was taken up actively with the opening of the autumn session of Parliament on Sept. 25.
The Liberals pledged to kill the tax, which polls showed was opposed by 75 percent to 85 percent of the people.
More recent polls indicated people were tiring of the debate. Delaying tactics in the Senate included hooting, catcalls, shouting, blowing kazoos, interminable reading of petitions name by name and other delaying measures.
More than 1.3 million businesses will help the government collect the tax.
Many have spent the last few months reprogramming their cash registers and computers and adjusting their pricing in anticipation of the tax.
In October, Mulroney used an obscure, never-before implemented section of the constitution that allowed him to ask Queen Elizabeth II to appoint eight extra senators. By filling vacant seats and getting the queen to appoint eight more, Mulroney succeeded in packing the Senate in his favor.
Angry Liberals said the forced vote violated Senate rules.
The GST is supposed to replace the 13.5 percent manufacturers sales tax.