Mr. Speaker, I thank my almost neighbour from for his warm welcome.
Today, we are debating Bill , which does not exactly have the most exciting title in the world but does address an extremely important issue. I am referring to the Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. There may be complicated bills that come before the House, but it is rare to have one with a title that takes up a significant amount of the time we have to debate it.
All joking aside, tax avoidance and tax evasion are key issues. The urgency of dealing with these issues is becoming increasingly evident, not just to us as legislators, but also to Canadians. This may seem like a subject that is not necessarily of interest to the average person. When we go door to door in our ridings, when we have an opportunity to speak with constituents at various events held in our ridings, the income tax act and the tax agreements signed with other countries may seem like issues that are not top of mind. Our constituents are focused on daily life, sending their children to school, looking after their health and managing their own budgets.
The thing that stands out to people is the fundamental inequity of this situation. People pay their taxes and the Canada Revenue Agency chooses to relentlessly go after single mothers who may have simply misunderstood a form or whose situation may have changed—maybe they separated from their child's father for example. I personally know individuals who have gone through shameful situations. I am not sure if my colleagues have had the chance to read the letters that the CRA sends those people. Even as members of the Standing Committee on Finance, I wonder if we would be able to understand the pages and pages of text and wording that is so complicated it has no meaning. We should not have to hire an accountant or, in some cases, a lawyer, because of the actions of an agency that is supposed to be a sound manager of taxpayers' money.
This situation is bad enough, but it is even worse when we consider that CEOs, the wealthiest individuals and unfortunately quite often friends of those in power, benefit from all these exemptions, all these poorly drafted laws, all these agreements that do not go far enough. Unlike the single mother, to continue with that example, they are able to take vacations in Barbados. Then they leave their money there while they are at it. It is unacceptable.
As a society, we cannot accept that. Our collective wealth, the social contract in which we are engaged as citizens of a society by paying taxes, and the work we call on the government to do on our behalf with our money, is one of the most fundamental aspects of our society. When we consider that some people do not want to fulfill this contract, do not want to meet this commitment, then we realize that we have failed somehow. Somewhere the government has failed in one of its basic duties.
These policies, these failures, are opening up a deep, dark gap of inequality between the rich and the not-so-rich. It is odd, because the loves talking about the middle class and those working hard to join it. In reality, when I am in my riding, I do not see a middle class and people working hard to join it. What I see is that certain citizens are honest and hard-working, and others do not need to lift a finger because they know full well that they will always enjoy the favour of the people in power. That is what is deplorable.
In my riding, there are some people who are relatively well off. They are the kind of people the loves to go after and brand as cheats. They are business owners running small and medium-sized companies, and to some people, they may appear to belong to a more privileged class. They have earned a good living and worked very hard on their businesses, but they are not the ones who should be targeted.
There are also people in my riding who struggle to put food on the table and can barely scrape together their rent or mortgage payments. In terms of means and lifestyle, these people could not be further apart. However, they have one thing in common, and it is what motivates me as an MP. They are all honest, and they all believe this:
“A rising tide raises all ships.”
The idea is that we live in a society where the wealth we share should benefit us all. They agree on that. The issue is the wealthiest 1%, which sometimes means literally 1% of the population but sometimes means Liberal Party donors who are friends with the . They are the ones benefiting from a system that is totally broken.
Let us dig into the substance of the bill. Kudos to the member for , who has been doing excellent work as our national revenue critic. He is doing amazing work on this extremely complex issue. Some people find this hard to believe, but he is Canada's youngest ever federal MP. His hard work got him re-elected, and he is so up on his issues that he can handle this extremely complicated file.
I also want to give a shout-out to the member for , who is doing great work as the NDP's finance critic. That is our job, after all.
We moved a motion in the House in this regard and so did our colleague from . We are calling on the government to do more and to solve the various problems and failures related the system that I just talked about a few moments ago in my speech.
The bill before us seeks to implement multilateral instruments and to address the fact that some of our agreements with other countries are expiring. These instruments are an important step that will enable to make changes to our multilateral and bilateral agreements more easily.
People need to understand that agreements, accords and conventions that Canada has signed with other countries often exacerbate the problem. We are being told that all of these agreements are being signed to prevent double taxation. For example, a business or individual would have to pay taxes in Canada or another country. However, the legislation and other aspects of the legal framework need to be updated because they facilitate tax evasion and tax avoidance, even though ideally they should not.
We will support the bill because we think it contains good measures that are a step in the right direction. However, let us be clear. Our support for this bill at second reading is not a blank cheque. We are far from supporting the Liberal government's approach, which has failed to date. The fact that we are supporting this bill also does not excuse the fact that the government has not taken action on any of the other issues related to tax evasion and tax avoidance that are of concern to us.
Let us look at subsection 95(1) of the Income Tax Act and section 5907 of the Income Tax Regulations. Dividends from a foreign subsidiary are exempt from taxes in Canada. That means that there are companies that are making a lot of money and they are even doing business with Quebec and Canadian consumers. They are making their money here but inflating their profits because they are exempt from paying taxes in Canada.
Closing loopholes is just a matter of common sense. We are not talking here about companies that do 95% of their business in other countries and 5% in Canada. We are talking about companies that do the opposite. We are basically talking about companies that conduct most of their business in Canada or the United States but that have opened a bank account in another country where they do almost no business at all. That is a major shortcoming, and the government has still not updated the legislation, even though it would have been quite easy to do. The bill that we are debating contains elements related to tax evasion and tax avoidance, but it does nothing to address the relevant aspects of the law.
It is funny, because earlier today, I heard a Liberal member say this has been one of the government's priorities since its first day in office. The Liberals have been in power for three years now, and nothing has been done despite pressure from civil society, prominent members of society, and even some former Liberal Party candidates. So many Quebeckers have called for action on this. We and our colleagues from other parties have been proud to speak on their behalf. Échec aux paradis fiscaux and the non-partisan Réseau pour la justice fiscale Québec are just two great examples of groups that are standing up and speaking out.
Just as an aside, not to be mean, but that is what happens when the 41 Liberal members from Quebec remain silent. When so many groups and individuals in Quebec are speaking up, those MPs come off as being not only silent, but also deaf because they are not getting their constituents' message.
I find it deeply troubling that no party that has ever been in power is blameless in this matter. I have only to come back to the example I mentioned earlier in my question to a Conservative MP. In the last Parliament, during debate on the bill on the free trade agreement with Panama, which was negotiated and signed by the Conservatives, I raised an extremely important point demonstrating that the issue of tax evasion and tax avoidance is nothing new. For years we have been talking about it, and for years the federal government has failed to take the necessary steps that Canadians expect.
To come back to the agreement with Panama, that country is known to be complicit in tax evasion and tax avoidance. The United States can hardly be called progressive, especially in light of recent events, but even they realized that when making free trade deals and opening up their markets to countries like Panama, it was vital to include a formal requirement demanding the return of any government or taxpayer money that had been stashed away by individuals who refuse to meet their obligations to our society. Through that agreement and other measures, the United States managed to recover some of the money, although there is still a lot of work to be done.
However, what has Canada done about this? We only raised the issue without even discussing the problems associated with environmental protection or labour conditions in Panama. We ignored these crucial issues. Even if we focus on just this one element, the government did nothing when we raised the issue.
This is very worrisome because the government keeps telling us that its negotiations will be based on progressive values and that it will discuss reconciliation with indigenous peoples, gender equality and environmental protection. Naturally, I agree with that. After all, the NDP are proud to raise these issues every day in the House of Commons.
However, when we have a progressive agenda, we must also promote fairness. We must take action to eliminate the gap between the friends of those in power, the people who can afford to vacation in Barbados and take their wallets with them, and the honest people working hard in our communities, the rich and the not so rich, business people, single mothers and everyone else who is harassed by the Canada Revenue Agency. That has to stop. I am repeating myself, but I have to.
I can only hope that when the government negotiates these agreements, it will recognize that we must continue on this path and demand better conduct from certain rogue international stakeholders. I may be suffering from misplaced optimism because this government has a bad track record on this.
When the Liberals came to power, they boasted that Canada is back, but what is Canada doing? It is allowing Netflix, Facebook, Google, and American multinational corporations to get away with not paying their fair share of taxes. Then it allows Liberal Party billionaire donors and friends of the Minister of Finance to do the same thing and shirk their obligations to our country. Then it allows environmental delinquents to evade their obligations. We do not even respect our own obligations. In addition, Canada keeps exporting arms to countries like Saudi Arabia. On that, we might say that the Liberals are trying to redeem themselves, according to media reports.
All of this is relevant to the debate on Bill because the bill talks about a multilateral instrument. If Canada really is back, then it should be showing some leadership in helping countries that want to combat tax evasion, tax avoidance and all the other problems I just listed. Instead, Canada is sheltering delinquent players and prolonging a situation that has existed for far too long.
I would like to explain why all of this is so important in a way that the people at home can understand. I do not mean to be condescending—far from it. When I myself get letters from the Canada Revenue Agency, my first reaction is often to wonder what it is all about. When people get these letters, they sometimes ask their friends if they are going to jail, because they cannot understand them. That is how single mothers, sick people and people with disabilities are treated when they try to claim benefits they are entitled to.
The member for said that this is criminal. She herself rose in the House of Commons to talk about diabetic people being targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency, which is totally unacceptable. However, the keeps bringing up this $1-billion figure. She keeps talking about money, but unless the law and agreements are changed, we are just throwing money out the window. That is a very apt phrase in this case, because, after all, that is what the rich in our society are doing, and it is all the more laughable because this money is landing well outside the federal government's coffers. That is unacceptable.
I would now like to say a few words to all of my constituents. It is all well and good to debate the fiscal code of conduct and the Income Tax Act, but it is important to recognize that the government has consistently failed when it comes to closing the gap between the rich and the poor. To accomplish that, the government must start with simple, practical measures.
By supporting Bill at second reading today, I am once again imploring the government to take action to put an end to tax evasion and tax avoidance, which it could have done by supporting the NDP's motion. The government needs to put an end to this injustice, which weighs heavily on the minds of honest Canadians who are trying to live their lives and benefit from a community and from an important social contract under which everyone must contribute their fair share.
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand on behalf of the citizens of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola. I will be sharing my time with the very capable member for , who in addition to his duties as member of Parliament, also stands as the shadow minister for national revenue. Even though this is a finance bill, ultimately it is the CRA and the that will become accountable for this. I know he will have many things to say on that end of it.
The two are very important, because, for example, in 2013-14 and particularly in the 2014 budget, the former minister of finance, the hon. Jim Flaherty, had opened consultations on the subject of base erosion and profit sharing. He did this specifically so he could go to the G20 and be able to make proposals and participate fully in those discussions on base erosion and profit sharing, which we are the beneficiaries of today.
I must give the government a little credit for taking its ideological blinders off. It does not seem to say that this is a Harper initiative. It has not blamed the former prime minister yet. I certainly hope that as we go through my speech today it will recognize sometimes there is much need for a new government to carry on the very good work of a previous government. We should not always judge something simply because of who had started an initiative.
During my time as the parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board in the previous Parliament, we worked on some pretty technical legislation from time to time. I will admit to having a certain affection for regulatory related bills that could provide benefits to Canadians and Canadian industry, particularly if they are done in such a way that is harmonized to reduce red tape. We recognize that Canada is increasingly becoming a competitor on the world stage, and we are likely to see more international trade, not less.
We must also recognize that with that come challenges. As one example, we have a situation where over this past summer the Liberal government was forced to modify its national carbon policy. Basically, it provided more carbon tax relief to some of Canada's biggest polluters. This is not unlike what happened in my home province of British Columbia, where greenhouse growers and cement manufacturers, to name a few, have been given so much in subsidies, exemptions or other kinds of carbon tax relief there is actually a word for it. It is called “carbon leakage”. It is defined in the 2018 B.C. NDP provincial budget as “...industries that compete with industry in countries that may have low or no carbon price. If BC loses market share to more polluting competitors, known as carbon leakage, it affects our economy and does not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.” This is the same reason this Liberal government provided increased carbon tax relief to big polluters, because, ultimately, they compete with industry in the United States and elsewhere that do not have a nationally imposed carbon tax.
We are not here to debate the carbon tax. I am using it as an example because it illustrates the importance of being competitive. As we all know, being competitive in the corporate world often comes down to the bottom line, and we know how much the bottom line bears on our businesses, at least on this side of the House, as the Conservative Party has a very strong understanding. This creates a situation where, ultimately through creative, and some would argue dubious accounting practices, some companies can find creative ways to transfer wealth created in one country into another country with a much lower tax regime. Some countries even make a point of creating a regulatory and financial environment that actively encourages this sort of behaviour.
How do we fix that? Obviously, one approach would be an attempt to lower taxes to a level on par with some of these countries to stop the outflow of revenue. Many refer to this as the “race to the bottom” approach.
There is possibly another solution, which brings us to Bill , which we are debating here today. What if we could get as many countries as possible to sign on to a common regulatory fiscal taxation approach that would better protect countries from this problem? Having similar fiscal language with respect to taxation would help reduce the regulatory red tape burden more than if we went at it piecemeal.
Not to mention there are greater efficiencies in adopting the kind of universal standard with OECD countries which sign on as opposed to having the same individual countries try to collect and negotiate separate tax treaty agreements among themselves.
To be fair, this multilateral instrument allows for Canada to quickly and efficiently update its agreements so that both the CRA and the tax authority in the adjoining country will immediately start to proceed, as the multilateral instrument has said, through the existing tax treaty. It is a very efficient way.
This is called, obviously, the multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting. Because that is a mouthful, we will simply refer to it as the MLI agreement. This work was started with the former Conservative government and I am pleased that the current government is continuing to work on this to the point we are here today debating the ratification agreement. Again, the agreement covers 75 jurisdictions worldwide and it is expected in the near future it will be over 100. That is a good thing.
While there are many benefits to the agreement, I should say it is not without some criticism. Some have suggested adopting the OECD MLI would result in the loss of tax autonomy for the country in question; however, I would point out there are provisions in the MLI agreement that allow countries to opt out of certain parts of the MLI at their discretion. This, by extension, can allow countries to still enable a specific tax structure but ultimately might provide unique tax benefits in certain areas. While some may consider that to be a bad thing, I also believe having a framework that allows some competitive incentive that keeps overall taxation levels in check is an important tool for countries to have.
Ultimately, this agreement is more targeted toward those who transfer money between countries for the sole purpose of avoiding taxation. Some people might say that some of this might be borderline tax evasion and in certain cases there may be, but let us be clear that Canada already has existing laws on tax evasion. That is not legal and the CRA should pursue those people who push the envelope much too far and know they are past the envelope.
I believe this agreement is more targeted toward specially transferred money between countries for the sole purpose of evading. In balance, I believe that is positive. Some have said that these types of agreements have not been successfully implemented in Canada before, but I would disagree with that. In the previous Parliament, we passed Bill . That bill proposed the ability to import standardized regulations from other jurisdictions so we have parity here in Canada. That makes it much more convenient for Canadian manufacturers as it can be extremely costly in addition to meeting a plethora of different standards in other jurisdictions.
Getting back to the MLI, time will tell the overall effect of this. The challenge right now is that some of these tax avoidance schemes are entirely legal, so this agreement creates a taxation environment that would provide common tax measures that will help to eliminate abusive taxation policy.
Before I close, I would like to take a moment and relay one concern I do have. As we know, the United States is not a signatory partner to this agreement. Given the close relationship in industry between our two countries, with many companies having U.S.A. and Canadian ties, there could be long-term impacts down the road. Obviously we also see concern over NAFTA where we will need to be vigilant in monitoring our competitiveness with our neighbours to the south.
Overall, I believe the bill is an important one and moves Canada in the right direction in parity with the majority of our G20 partners. I will be voting for the bill and believe that added scrutiny at committee stage, particularly on some of these thorny points, will be beneficial. I appreciate the House hearing my thoughts on the bill today.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this legislation. It is my pleasure to follow my colleague from and his excellent discussion on a topic that he is interested in and knows a great deal about.
Bill is a welcome step forward. It is the natural conclusion to work that was first undertaken by the previous government in 2013. This is a good, positive step forward by two governments now to help address the serious problem of base erosion and profit shifting.
This legislation seeks to address a global problem that Canada is a part of, namely tax evasion, whereby corporations, through a corporate domicile or clever accounting, can shift profits between different jurisdictions or shop for the most desirable tax treatment from any of a variety of different jurisdictions.
For years we have heard in the news criticism of many global giants, including Starbucks, Apple and a number of other familiar global brands, that will seek to minimize their taxes by shopping for the most favourable jurisdiction. This is a problem that confronts western governments.
If the bill passes, Canada would be able to participate in a protocol that the OECD has in place.
We heard a bit about the scale and scope of this problem at the finance committee, and we welcome the bill.
The bill is an effective and efficient means by which we could deal with a wide variety of different tax jurisdictions through the same instrument. We would not have to separately renegotiate dozens of different existing tax treaties. As a result, we could co-operate much more efficiently with our global trading partners and combat what has been described by some as a “race to the bottom”.
Perhaps close to $25 billion in taxes is not being collected from economic activity that takes place in Canada. During its first two years in office, the Liberal government claimed it was going to recoup this $25 billion. The in late 2017 said in the House that the government looked forward to collecting this money.
While I do support the bill and acknowledge that it is an important step forward, it is certainly not a panacea or a solution to deal with all of the problems. I do hope colleagues from all parties will support it.
With respect to this $25 billion, the government has yet to really tackle the issue at all and it is now three years into its mandate. That number has been debunked. It would seem that most of the money the government planned to collect, money from tax evasion and tax avoidance, through the steps it would take, would be on the domestic side, the majority of which is believed, even by the department, to be uncollectible.
The CRA, almost three years into the government's mandate, has failed to make significant progress on foreign tax evasion, but during that time period it has floated a number of, in some cases, strange ideas on how it would plug its gaps in revenue. These ideas do not involve foreign tax evasion and do not involve corporate profit shifting.
They involve ideas that arose when the CRA first floated the idea of taxing employer benefits, like health and dental benefits; taxing retail discounts to service industry employees; and the war that was being waged this time last year on disabled Canadians, including the rejection of the disability tax credit for type 1 diabetics and a number of people who suffer from other health ailments.
In my riding, I have spoken to people who suffer from different types of chronic fatigue, who had been receiving the disability tax credit for years and suddenly were denied it. In one case, someone had been receiving it for 10 years and was suddenly denied it while her medical evidence had not changed. We have also heard the parents of autistic children losing their disability tax credit at the hands of the CRA under the Liberal government.
None of these seemingly small and petty attempts to raise additional revenues address the issue at hand and fulfill the promise of the government to crack down on foreign tax evasion and tax avoidance. These are nickel-and-dime measures targeting low-hanging fruit. The CBC reported again last night how the Liberal government makes it very difficult for single parents, with its onerous requirements on their proving they are indeed separated. We have seen quite a number of cases of this, and it has been raised in the House.
The other side of this and what this bill does not address is a different type of base erosion. Base erosion from profit shifting is an important global phenomenon that must be addressed. However, perhaps a bigger threat to the Canadian economy and a bigger drain on the tax revenue of the government than base erosion from profit shifting is base erosion from capital flight taking place right now.
Since the Liberal government took office, we have seen the imposition of a carbon tax. My colleague from spoke about carbon leakage, how chasing economic activity with emissions into a different jurisdiction does not change global emissions, but does change the tax revenue base of the Canada Revenue Agency and costs jobs. We have seen the carbon tax and have seen Bill , which should be titled, “an act to ensure no pipeline is ever built in Canada again”. We have also seen tax increases, which the government had indeed promised to impose on the wealthiest Canadians, actually result in a reduction in tax revenues from the wealthiest Canadians. That is a different type of base erosion that would not be addressed by this bill.
We have seen the debacle over the Trans Mountain expansion. That will also result in an erosion of the tax base, as that economic activity is curtailed. We also all know what is happening with the NAFTA negotiations, and we know how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Canadians who fear for their jobs as this unfolds.
To conclude, this bill is an excellent step forward to address a serious global problem that Canada must play a part in solving for our own tax base and in participation with our economic partners. I look forward to its coming to committee, where it may be improved and where I could address some of the issues that have been raised by my colleagues.
I will be supporting this bill, and I commend the government for moving ahead with this initiative.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to address the subject of tax fairness.
In the last federal election, the barnstormed across the country, promising billions of dollars of new spending. A chicken in every pot, he said. When Canadians inevitably asked how he would pay for it all, he said not to worry for a moment, that he would just raises taxes on the so-called wealthiest 1%, the rich guy living up on the hill.
Today, as we debate the subject of tax fairness, it is appropriate to ask if he has, in fact, kept his promise to fund his spending through those means. He certainly has kept the promise to spend vast new sums. Spending has grown, at around 7% per year, which is three times the combined rate of inflation and population growth. In other words, the government is spending three times faster than is the need among Canadians.
The result has been that the deficit this year is three times the size the Liberal Party promised in its most recent election platform and the budget will not be balanced next year, as the promised it would. According to Finance Canada, that will only happen in the year 2045, a quarter century from now, during which time Finance Canada admits the government will add a half a trillion dollars in additional debt. In other words, the budget will not balance itself.
What has become of the rich? The claimed he was going to raise taxes on those people. The results are in. CRA data released two weeks ago demonstrated that in the first year after the tax increase took effect, the government actually collected $4.6 billion less from the wealthiest 1%. Finance Canada released documents almost exactly a year ago today in its annual financial report, on September 19, 2017, in which it revealed almost exactly the same phenomenon. Revenues went down from the wealthiest 1%.
The government said that this was all due to one-time factors. People were playing games to avoid the higher taxes, said the government and that phenomenon would disappear in future years. The government is right. There were some wealthy individuals who moved money around to avoid paying their fair share.
One of them is the . He announced a tax increase to take effect on January 1, 2016, and he sold his shares in his own company, Morneau Shepell, just 30 days before that in order to ensure his capital gain would be taxed at the lower earlier rate so he would not have to pay the same higher taxes he imposed on everyone else. Is that not nice? He knew the tax increases were coming, but being a multi-millionaire who had worked hard his entire life to avoid paying taxes, he was not going to pay a penny more on that capital gain. He was going to ensure he was taxed under a lower rate than everyone else.
He says, and his department has said, that many people did that. However, now that phenomenon is behind us, they say that in the future more revenue will come in. There is no question that in the 2017 tax year there will be probably be a one-time windfall of revenues from certain entrepreneurs and other Canadians as a result of reactions to government policies.
For example, the anecdotes by accounting firms and the reports in our business media are so common now that it is hard to be skeptical of their truth that people are moving money out of Canada. They are moving money out because the tax burden and the regulatory burden is so high that it is better for some people to do business outside of the country rather than keep their money here. Therefore, they will pay exit taxes. As that money goes out the door, it will be taxed one time.
The , who is only concerned about the here and now, who wants to spend more money today, might celebrate that one-time burst of cash as he shovels it out the door as quickly as possible.
What he forgets is that the problem with one-time cash is that a person only gets it one time and in the future it is gone. That money, once it leaves the country, will be taxed by other governments. When a wealthy CEO moves his fortune to London, England, the government today gets a one-time tax benefit for that as he pays an exit tax. However, in years subsequent, his tax burden in Canada is zero. He pays taxes to another government and funds services for another non-Canadian population. In 2017, I have no doubt that many people will pay one-time exit taxes as they took their money out of our country.
Furthermore, in the fall of 2017, the government announced small business tax changes that would have punished families for selling their businesses to their children. If a farmer sold his farm to his kids, he would pay a dividend tax rate of nearly 45% instead of a capital gains tax rate of 25%. If he sold that same farm to a foreign multinational, he could pay the lower tax rate.
In other words, there is a massive penalty for farmers selling their farms to their own kids, but a tax break for selling those same farms to a foreign multinational and having that multinational turn those children into tenants on their ancestral lands.
Because of the ferocious backlash led by the Conservatives and spontaneously ignited on the ground by Canadian taxpayers, the government has decided to put that change on hold until after the next election when it will surely be back. However, small businesses and farmers are not stupid. They know what bullet they dodged and are not going to risk having that change brought forward again.
What have many of them done? According to some of the most respected accounting firms in the country, many of them did their farm sales immediately upon learning that the government had put the change on ice. Therefore, those people will pay a one-time tax on that transaction in the 2017 year. After that year is gone, so too will future revenues, because those transactions will not repeat themselves every single year.
Finally, the government proposed to punish families that shared the work and earnings of a company. It calls that “sprinkling”. I can understand why it calls that sprinkling. The and the did have their wealth sprinkled upon them as if by an angel from above. Would it not be wonderful if we could all have trust funds and if we could all be trust fund babies like those two trust fund twins? They did have money sprinkled upon them from above, so it is not surprising that they would use the term “sprinkling” to describe small family businesses that own a local restaurant and therefore share the earnings of that restaurant with the kids who show up everyday and help run it.
The change proposed by the government took effect on January 1. Businesses knew that so they had to pay out higher levels of dividends to their children and their family members in 2017 before the tax change took effect. There is no question that the government will tax those dividends in the 2017 year. In other words, the government will get a burst of revenue from that phenomenon of forcing businesses to pay out to their family members before the punitive new rules take effect. There is no question the government will get more money in the 2017 year as a result of that.
Any day now, though, we can expect that the and the will march triumphantly into this room, as if they were Caesar at a Roman triumph, saying,“Aha! Look at all the money we took from all these people”. They will say that their high-tax plan actually worked in raising cash for them to spend. However, all of these phenomena I just described are one-time cash, in and out. Then it is no longer available to future governments to spend. For that reason the burden will inevitably fall upon the working and middle class that always suffer the most as the government gets big and expensive.
Why is that? Because higher earners and capital are far more mobile than lower earning people and workers. Labour has a harder time moving. Why? Because labour is carried out by a person and therefore he or she would have to move physically to another jurisdiction to have his or her labour tax at a lower rate. However, capital can flee or travel just like the air. Anyone can open their laptop computer and purchase equities, foreign stocks in companies around the world, literally in a matter of five minutes, moving their money out of the country just like that.
However, a working family who lives in Oshawa or Windsor on the assembly line floor cannot just get up and move because the government has hit it with a higher tax burden. That is why workers and labour cannot move around to avoid taxes the way capital and wealth can move around.
The end result is that when government gets big, capital flees and the burden gets more and more punitive on the working class Canadian. That is exactly what has happened. The average Canadian middle-class family is paying $800 higher income tax today than when the government took office. That is before the carbon tax and before payroll taxes that the government plans to institute the year after the next election. In other words, it is only going to get worse.
It is also before the increased cost of servicing our national debt, which is growing at a spectacular rate. In fact, last year, our government spent $23 billion on servicing the national debt. Within three years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that amount will rise to $40 billion, a two-thirds increase in just a few years, as debt rises and interest rates rise simultaneously to have a compounding effect of transferring more and more wealth, again, from the working class taxpayer to the wealthy bankers and bondholders who own our debt.
Here we are with these social justice warriors bringing in deficits and debts that have the effect of transferring wealth from low-income people who pay tax to wealthy bondholders and bankers who own the debt, in exchange for which we will get nothing. Interest on debt does not pave roads, does not build hospitals, does not hire nurses, does not pay soldiers, none of those things. It simply fattens the wallet of the wealthy people who have enough means to lend to the government.
If people ever wanted proof that these people are wealthy, the government cancelled the Canada savings bonds. It used to be that modest income people would buy Canada savings bonds and lend to the government. The government does not do that. It borrows all of its money from wealthy private equity fund managers, investment bankers and others of vast fortune.
Therefore, it always is that when the government gets big, the wealthy and well-connected and powerful are better off. It is ironic. Jeremy Corbyn, who calls himself a socialist, the socialist leader of the Labour Party in Great Britain, says that he wants to end greed is good capitalism. He is going to ban greed. The has made similar comments. The plan to end greed is to make the government so big that there is no room left for greed. It will be removed from human DNA. People will become altruistic and generous. No one will have more than anyone else, so they say. These socialists are actually going to transform human nature because they are so powerful they can do even that.
Can they really transform human nature? Apparently they did not read Macaulay, who wrote:
Where'er ye shed the honey, the buzzing flies will crowd;
Where'er ye fling the carrion, the raven's croak is loud;
Where'er down Tiber garbage floats, the greedy pike ye see;
And wheresoe'er such lord is found, such client still will be.
The point is that wherever there is money, there will be people trying to get it. If all the money is in the government, there will be greedy people trying to make money off the government. We see it all the time.
There are corporations coming to Ottawa saying they need a corporate handout, and they have had a very generous benefactor in the Liberal government, such as the $400 million for Bombardier, which went on to immediately give big bonuses to its executives. There is the infrastructure bank, for example, which will provide loan guarantees to powerful construction companies so that if ever their projects lose cash, the taxpayer and not the business owner will pay the price.
In Ontario, the Liberals brought in something called the Green Energy Act, which simply did not create any green energy, but it did put a lot of green in the pockets of the wealthy lobbyists who were able to get the so-called green energy contracts, double the cost of electricity and cause what the Ontario Association of Food Banks call “energy poverty”. People literally walked in with their power bills and said that they could not afford to keep their lights on and eat and asked for food so that they could pay their power bill. So, yes, it was great for the wealthy one percenters who got tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for their phony electricity, but it was not so great for the working-class people who could barely afford to turn the lights on and live a normal life.
So, yes, wherever we fling the honey, the buzzing flies will crowd. My colleague did not say “bees”. He said “flies”, and flies do not make honey but will happily consume it. They are parasitical. Bees create honey through the process of pollination, which is the free exchange between a vegetative life and a creature, which is the essence of the free market economy, right? That is the free market economy, the voluntary exchange of capital for interest, product for payment, work for wages.
Every single transaction in a free market economy happens through voluntary exchange. Do members know why? It is because every single transaction must improve the lives of both people or they would not engage in it. It is why we have something called the “double thank you”. We go to a coffee shop, buy a cup of coffee, pay for our coffee and say “thank you”. What do they say back? It is not “your welcome”, but “thank you”. Why? It is because our payment is worth more to them than their coffee, and their coffee is worth to us than our payment. In other words, we both have something worth more to us than we had before. If I have an apple and want an orange, and someone else has an orange and wants an apple, we trade. We still have an apple and orange between us, but we are both richer because we each have something worth more to us than we had before. That is the genius of voluntary exchange.
Why does no one write “thank you” on their tax forms? It is supposed to be a voluntary exchange. It is supposed to be an exchange. We are paying for something. We are supposed to get something in return. The answer is, because we have no choice. It is not a voluntary exchange. It is mandatory. We are forced to engage in it, and that is the rule of the government economy. Every single transaction in the government economy is done by force. Every single transaction in the free market is done by voluntary will of every single participant.
We on this side of the House of Commons believe in a bottom-up free market where businesses obsess over customers rather than over politicians. It is where one gets ahead not by having the best lobbyist but by having the best product. That is the free market economy. It is a bottom-up economy and not a trickle-down, government-directed economy, like the government on the other side of the aisle believes.
Therefore, we will continue to champion the free market system, a system based on meritocracy, not heiritocracy, where we do not have to have a trust fund to have hope for a better future. We just have to have big dreams and hard work. That is our plan for tax fairness.