Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this important piece of legislation that will help to advance the government's tax fairness agenda.
The legislation we are bringing forward has a single objective: addressing tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance schemes in order to ensure that the tax system operates as fairly and effectively as possible. My colleagues in the House would agree that this is absolutely essential. It is about making sure that all Canadians pay their fair share.
Ensuring tax fairness demands engagement on many fronts. That is why Canada continues to expand and update its network of tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements. Canada has an extensive network of income tax treaties, with 93 comprehensive tax treaties currently in force. Worldwide, the OECD estimates that there are currently over 3,000 tax treaties in place.
Tax treaties are fundamental to trade and investment by eliminating double taxation. They provide the certainty needed to support open and advanced economies. They also permit the exchange of information needed to prevent international tax evasion.
Bilateral double tax conventions are used to eliminate tax barriers to trade and investment between two countries. They achieve their purpose in a number of ways.
First, they provide greater certainty to taxpayers regarding their potential liability to tax in the foreign jurisdiction. Second, they allocate taxing rights between the two jurisdictions and provide for the elimination of double taxation. Third, they reduce the risk of burdensome taxation due to high withholding taxes. Fourth, they ensure that taxpayers will not be subject to discriminatory taxation in the foreign jurisdiction. Fifth, tax treaties authorize the exchange of tax information to prevent tax avoidance and tax evasion. Finally, tax treaties provide a mechanism for jurisdictions to resolve tax disputes.
These are all important goals, and they are goals we can achieve with today's legislation. By updating the tax dimensions of our relations with Madagascar, we can strengthen trade and investment between our two countries.
It is important to the government and to all Canadians that we deliver the programs and services that Canadians need while keeping taxes low for small businesses and middle-class families.
When our government took office over three years ago, we made a commitment to invest in growth while upholding the principle of fairness for all taxpayers.
A fair tax system is key to ensuring that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class and everyone working hard to join it.
Let me remind my colleagues that one of the government's first actions was to cut taxes for the middle class and raise them for the wealthiest 1%, an action that directly benefited some nine million Canadians.
After moving forward with a middle-class tax cut, we then took action to replace the previous system of child benefits with the Canada child benefit, or the CCB. Compared to the old system of benefits, the CCB is simpler, more generous, and better targeted to those who need it most. It is also entirely tax-free. Today, nine out of 10 Canadian families are better off thanks to the Canada child benefit. It has helped to lift more than 520,000 people out of poverty, including about 300,000 children.
On average, families benefiting from the CCB are receiving $6,800 this year. That amount will help them afford the things they need for their families. It will help put healthy food on the table, pay for lessons and sports activities, and buy clothes and school supplies. The CCB is particularly helpful for families led by single parents. These families are often led by single mothers, and tend to have lower total income.
However, our government's commitment to supporting the middle class and those working hard to join it is also about helping the small businesses that families and communities depend on. That is why the government is supporting small businesses in Canada by reducing the federal small business tax rate.
We cut the small business tax rate twice. Specifically, the rate was reduced from 10.5% to 10% as of 2018 and to 9% as of last January. For the average small business, this will mean an additional $1,600 per year that they can use to reinvest in their business and create jobs. With these two small business tax rate deductions, the combined federal-provincial-territorial average tax rate for small businesses is now 12.2%. This is by far the lowest in the G7 and fourth-lowest among countries in the OECD.
Tax fairness has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of our government's promise to Canadians to strengthen and grow the middle class and grow the economy now and over the long term. In each of our past three budgets, our government has taken legislative actions on both international and domestic fronts to enhance the integrity of Canada's tax system and to give Canadians greater confidence that the system is fair for everyone.
An important focus of our efforts has been cracking down on tax evasion and tax avoidance, which create serious financial costs for the government and all taxpayers. Since budget 2016, the government has boosted the Canada Revenue Agency's capacity to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance. Investments made over the last two years have enabled the CRA to better target persons who pose the highest risk of tax avoidance and evasion and to be more effective in fighting tax avoidance and evasion. Those efforts are showing concrete results for Canadians.
With the new system, we are able to review international electronic fund transfers over $10,000 entering or leaving the country. This adds up to more than one million transactions each month. Reviewing these transfers helps us do a better risk assessment for unfair tax avoidance by persons and businesses.
Over the last two fiscal years, our government reviewed all electronic fund transfers between Canada and eight jurisdictions or financial institutions of concern. This amounted to 187,000 transactions, worth a total of more than $177 billion. Working closely with partners in Canada and around the world, we now have more than 1,000 offshore taxpayer audits under way, and more than 50 criminal investigations with links to offshore transactions.
Our government is also pursuing third parties who promote tax avoidance schemes. In the last fiscal year alone, it has imposed roughly $48 million in civil penalties on these third parties.
This year, we are also gaining better access to information on Canadians' overseas bank accounts, as we've put in place the common reporting standard. With this new system, Canada and more than 100 other countries will be exchanging financial account information to help us identify when Canadians are avoiding taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts.
We have also expanded our specialist audit teams, which focus on high-net-worth individuals. About 250 auditors are now checking to see that high-income earners and high-net-worth individuals are paying their fair share.
Another important means of ensuring tax fairness is knowing clearly who owns what. That's why the government is working with our provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure that Canadian authorities know who owns which corporations in this country.
We are also working to better harmonize requirements for corporate ownership records across our jurisdictions. This information will help Canadian authorities take appropriate legal action when people are hiding criminal activities behind corporate vehicles. In this way, we will be rooting out international tax evasion and avoidance, money laundering and other criminal activities.
I would like to note one further way that the government is acting to prevent misuse of our tax system. Canada is part of the OECD-G20 project to address the inappropriate shifting of profit offshore and other international planning by corporations and some wealthy individuals to avoid tax. That project is known as the “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” project, or BEPS for short. The OECD's work on BEPS identified a number of instances in which the terms of current tax treaties could give rise to potential abuse. To address those concerns, it has recommended changes to the design of tax treaties that countries could use to close loopholes in their treaties with each other.
However, given the large number of treaties in existence and the long time it would take to renegotiate each of these treaties bilaterally, a new approach was developed to implement these changes more quickly. The result of this effort is the multilateral convention to implement tax treaty-related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting, also known as the multilateral instrument or MLI.
Based on the work of the OECD's BEPS project, this convention was developed and negotiated by more than 100 countries and jurisdictions, including Canada. The MLI would enable jurisdictions that become parties to it to change their bilateral tax treaties quickly to incorporate the OECD's BEPS provisions. It would also help the international tax system function better and provide greater certainty for Canadian taxpayers by improving dispute resolution under Canada's tax treaties. As it committed to in budget 2018, the government has tabled legislation in the House to enact the MLI into Canadian law.
This government is ensuring that Canada is known to the world as an outstanding place to invest and do business. We do this because Canada's economic success rests not only on the hard work of Canadians, but also on strong trade relationships and foreign direct investment.
Together, Canadians have built a country offering a distinctly attractive set of assets. Today our key strengths include the most educated workforce among the OECD countries and a highly competitive corporate income tax system, one of the most competitive in the G7. Also, no other country demands fewer days to start a new business, and Canada is the only G7 country holding trade agreements with every other G7 member. We have done this through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The tax treaty with Madagascar that we are now considering is in keeping with our approach to strengthening our international ties and co-operation.
By cracking down on international tax evasion, we are building on the tremendous advantages that Canada enjoys. We are also ensuring that the government has the money needed to deliver programs that help the middle class and people working hard to join it and that Canada remains positioned as an attractive place to work, invest and do business.
As I have made clear today, we have already made tremendous progress toward a stronger Canada, but as I also noted, tax fairness is a complex goal needing engagement on many fronts. That is why we will continue to address tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance schemes to ensure that the tax system operates as fairly and effectively as possible. The legislation we have introduced today represents an important step toward meeting this goal. I encourage all honourable members to support this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition at this stage of Bill .
As I mentioned earlier, I want to assure members right off the bat that the official opposition supports this bill, the spirit of the bill and the measures it proposes, and we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done to combat tax evasion. We believe that this bill is a step in the right direction.
First, I want to give some background about what we are talking about. Bill S-6 is a Senate bill that seeks to facilitate work and trade between Canada and Madagascar by cracking down on tax evasion and eliminating some of the problems that could be created by differences in administration in Madagascar and Canada and the taxation principles underlying trade relations between the two countries.
This bill contains measures to eliminate double taxation, which is good for international trade. The bill also contains measures to eliminate discriminatory taxes. The field needs to be as open as possible to facilitate trade. Every country has its own measures, which is fair. However, some tax measures can undermine things more than others. The bill would therefore eliminate discriminatory taxes. It counters tax evasion. We will be able to talk about this later, but tax havens obviously warrant closer scrutiny, and this is not an issue that can be solved with a snap of the fingers. It takes time, co-operation and the support of some 180 countries on this planet. This is not a problem that can be fixed overnight, but we must do everything we can to fix it, and this bill is a step forward.
Furthermore, this bill would create mechanisms in the unfortunate event of a challenge on either side. These mechanisms will help find a way forward for finding a way forward with trade agreements.
Lastly, this bill will enable different administrations to share information when an investigation is required, for a company or individual, either in Madagascar or in Canada.
In essence, there are five measures in this bill: eliminating double taxation, countering tax evasion, eliminating discriminatory taxes, allowing for information sharing, and creating mechanisms to settle disputes.
We agree with these principles. We also agree that this should become Canada's 93rd treaty with other trade partners to simplify the tax system and boost trade. This is not a free trade deal per se, but it will allow for better agreements and greater flexibility. Madagascar may not be the best-known country in the world, or indeed among Canadians. It is an island in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. It is actually quite a big country. The island is about 1,500 kilometres long and 800 kilometres wide. Fifteen hundred kilometres is like the distance from the Alberta Rockies to the Ontario border, spanning the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That should give everyone a rough idea of the size of this country, which has a population of 25 million.
History tells us that Canada and Madagascar share similar roots, because Madagascar is a francophone country. We both belong to the Francophonie. We know that the Francophonie summit was held there a few years ago and that Madagascar was a French colony that gained independence in 1960 when a wave of decolonization swept through British and French societies around the globe. The decolonization movement reached Madagascar in the 1960s.
We should also know that Canada and Madagascar have had a trading relationship for years, particularly in the mining sector. A Canadian company has set up shop there, so to speak, to operate one of Madagascar's biggest mines. Furthermore, trade between Canada and Madagascar hovers around $100 million or $115 million.
Canada buys roughly $100 million in goods and services from Madagascar and in return Madagascar spends roughly $20 million buying in Canada. For the record, that represents 0.001% of our volume of trade with our biggest partner, our friends and neighbours, the U.S. Yes, that is significant. We recognize that, but we should still maintain some degree of perspective in terms of Canada's trade with Madagascar and our trade with the U.S.
The thing about this bill that we need to discuss is the issue of tax evasion. I addressed it briefly earlier. Tax evasion is an ongoing challenge facing every country in the world. Yes, we must make an effort. We certainly did when we were in government, and efforts to combat global tax evasion must continue. That is why the 180 or so countries on this planet cannot work in isolation in that regard. Everyone must join forces, work together and share the knowledge, efforts, energy and potential talent of each country and each country's experts in order to combat the scourge of tax evasion.
Canada is making an effort. With Bill , we have a treaty that will help us move in that direction. That is largely why we support this bill. It is important to always be alert and always keep in mind that tax evasion is a blight on our planet that must be tackled in a serious and rigorous manner. However, no one can do it alone. Major countries need to join forces, and tax havens, the smaller countries that unfortunately serve as tax shelters for some people, need to do their part to combat this situation. We completely agree with the principle that everyone must pay their taxes fully and legitimately. Everyone must pay them, and no one should be able to resort to tax havens, for when they do, Canadians do not get value for their money.
I am very concerned about this bill. We agree that this situation should be debated in the context of a truly independent bill. How many issues are never properly debated here in the House of Commons? This is a problem.
A year ago, the government tabled Bill , an omnibus bill that is almost 800 pages long. Ostensibly, the bill implements budget measures, which is fine because that is how things work. However, scattered throughout the 800-page bill are measures that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget tabled by the .
Need I remind the House that the Liberal Party was elected nearly three and a half years ago? I would say it was a sad day, but democracy is what it is, and we respect the choice Canadians made. Those people were elected on the strength of a clear promise.
I have here the Liberal Party's platform, which was called “Real Change: A New Plan for a Strong Middle Class”. The title sure sounds good. On page 30, under “Prorogation and omnibus bills”, it says:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.
How interesting. That is exactly what is going on with Bill C-74.
[The former Prime Minister of Canada] Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.
That is the Liberal Party of Canada saying that.
Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals.
That is exactly what is going on with Bill C-74. Here is the end of the paragraph:
We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
That is the Liberal Party promise.
Bill flies in the face of the party's promise. This reversal should certainly not come as a surprise. I remind members that in their document the Liberals said that they would run three small deficits in the first three years and would then balance the budget in 2019. In reality, the three small deficits they promised were three times higher than projected. The budget that was supposed to be balanced will be presented soon, as the announced yesterday, but we know that it will not be balanced. There will be a deficit in the neighbourhood of $20 billion or more.
In that same document, the Liberals also spoke about electoral reform. Did that happen? No. This is the very essence of the Liberal Party's privilege. It was elected on its promises, but it did not keep its word. On October 19, 2015, Canadians elected the Liberal Party. I respect democracy, but as they say, the people's will is not foolish, but the people can be fooled. This is exactly what is happening here.
Bill is supposed to implement budget measures, but dozens of items that have nothing to do with the budget were slipped into the bill, in particular clauses 715.3, 715.31, 715.32, 715.33, 715.34, 715.35, 715.36 and 715.37. This is no small matter. These clauses are found in the section “Remediation Agreements”. I do not have the time to read all of them. They directly address the problem that the government and, unfortunately, Canadians are grappling with today, and have to do with the special agreements that the government can enter into with corporations that, sadly, have failed to fulfill their responsibilities and find themselves in court on fraud charges.
That is exactly the crux of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which broke two weeks ago. Every day new situations arise that are an embarrassment for the government. The problem is that they are not only an embarrassment for the government but also for Canadians, who want answers.
I would like to remind members that these clauses were inserted into an 800-page bill. Earlier, the parliamentary secretary said that we could have discussed it in committee. Quite frankly, how would he expect us to directly address this issue if we have to study an 800-page bill. Today, we are spending many hours, and rightfully so, studying Bill on trade and tax agreements between Canada and Madagascar. However, we did not have the time to appropriately debate a matter that has embarrassed the Government of Canada and, consequently, Canada and Canadians.
Unfortunately, that is typical of this government, which says one thing and then does the opposite. When it comes time to get to the bottom of things, the Liberals trip on their own shoelaces, which results in what we have been seeing for the past two weeks. It has been a real comedy of errors on the part of the government, which is incapable of telling Canadians the truth about the Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal. What is more, the government is preventing the former attorney general from giving clear and specific explanations.
Day after day, we have been asking the very simple questions. On September 17, 2018, he met with the former attorney general. Yesterday, in the House, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister more than a dozen times what was said at that meeting and who asked for the meeting to discuss what has now become the Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal. The never gave a clear answer to the very simple question of who asked for the September 17 meeting. The same goes for the other very important meeting in the Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal, the meeting that took place on December 5, 2018, at the Château Laurier, between the former attorney general and the Prime Minister's former principal secretary, Gerald Butts.
Once again, yesterday, the leader of the official opposition asked the Prime Minister a very simple question: who asked for the meeting between the Prime Minister's top adviser and the former attorney general?
The Prime Minister did not give anything remotely resembling an answer, even though it was a very simple question. Which one of them requested the meeting? He was not even able to answer that. Canadians want answers. They have the right to know what happened.
Canadians deserve clear and simple answers to clear and simple questions on this issue. The Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal is totally unacceptable to Canadians.
What we have noticed is that we are debating this bill in the House for many hours today, which is fine. I agree we have to debate Bill , with respect to taxation between Canada and Madagascar. This is an important issue and we have to take the time to address it. On the other hand, why did the government dodge its responsibility to address the specific issues we find in proposed sections 715.32 to 715.37 of Bill , an omnibus bill of more than 800 pages? Those sections in the bill addressed the specific issue that we have today with the Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal.
This is the trademark of the Liberals. They say one thing during their electoral campaign and do the exact reverse during their mandate. Do members remember that they had clearly indicated in their platform that they would never table omnibus bills containing other issues that do not address the main omnibus bill, which is the budget implementation bill?
Unfortunately, they failed to do what they had promised Canadians, just as they failed to bring about the electoral reform they promised in their electoral campaign. Everybody knows they failed to budget the Canadian economy properly. During their campaign, they said there would be three small deficits in the first three years to invest in infrastructure and then a zero deficit in 2019. This is not the situation. During the last three years, the current government has tabled three huge deficit budgets. That is the reality of the situation. It is three times more than was expected and what they promised.
Also, 2019 was supposed to be a zero-deficit year. That is not the case. We are talking about at least $20 billion of deficit. The government has failed its responsibility and nobody in the government knows when the budget will balance, or I should say, when the budget will balance itself. That was the famous economic theory of the , who is the only person in the world to table that economic theory, which is absolutely stupid. However, this is the Liberal trademark.
Talking about deficits, let me remind members that, during the election, the Liberals said they would run small deficits because they wanted to invest in infrastructure. Let me remind hon. colleagues that the plan was to invest $180 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years, starting in 2015. Only 10% of that amount has been invested in infrastructure. Therefore, the huge deficits were not for infrastructure but for the daily business of the government, which was not elected to do that.
I want to reiterate that our party supports Bill , but unfortunately, although we are spending plenty of time debating the omnibus Bill , which is perfectly normal, there are other very important elements that the government snuck in and that should have been debated. If they had been, maybe the Liberal SNC-Lavalin scandal we are facing today would not have happened.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill , following two of my colleagues who have already spoken on this subject.
At first glance, this bill may seem a bit dull. I will therefore try to be as interesting as possible to ensure that Canadians tuning in know how important these issues are and that there are risks associated with establishing tax treaties with other countries. That is what is at stake here. A new tax treaty is being proposed to us. As we already have 93 of them, this would be our 94th tax treaty. That is not a small number. Consequently, we should not take this new treaty lightly, since it will be one of a series of treaties we have with many countries that have significant tax implications.
All Canadians feel concerned about tax issues because they all file a tax return each year to pay their dues and get all the credits to which they are entitled. They all know that taxation is an extremely important issue related to fairness and justice.
I have said this before, but in our country, we are fortunate to have a tax system that allows the federal, provincial and municipal governments to deliver services to the public. In some provinces, there are even school boards with a tax system. The ultimate goal of taxation is to ensure that the government can operate, but the government's primary focus is to serve the public and provide the best possible services to Canadians. They deserve value for their money, as they say in the business world.
When we buy a product or service, we want value for our money. The same goes for taxation. When we pay taxes to different levels of government, we hope to get our money's worth and get good services. The problem is that some Canadians feel like other taxpayers like them, usually the rich, are getting out of paying taxes by hiding their money either in Canada or offshore.
Some cases involve domestic tax evasion. For example, there are people who work under the table and hide their cash under a rug or in a mattress. We have all heard of that before. In other cases, people hide their money in tax havens. In both cases, the principle is the same, namely to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the system that helps provide services to all Canadians.
As I have said in other debates on taxation, most Canadians receive more in services than they contribute in taxes. That much is clear when we add up all the services they receive. This means that we have a fair system, but it needs to be even more progressive so that the least well off can still receive the best services.
No one wants to live in a country or a society where a person's wealth determines the services they receive from the government. It is therefore important to make sure that the wealthy contribute their fair share, especially multinationals and Canadian banks, which post record earnings in the billions of dollars every year, and which make use of many tax havens. This is fundamental to preserving Canadians' trust in our tax system.
This is perhaps a brief preamble to the debate we are having on tax treaties, which avoid double taxation.
I will use an example that many Canadians will recognize. Consider a Canadian company that has a U.S. subsidiary or does business there. If that company pays taxes there, where rates are similar or even higher than ours, it will not be taxed a second time when its profits are repatriated to Canada. That is the basic premise of tax treaties, and it is a matter of fairness. If the taxpayer pays taxes in another country, that money should not be taxed a second time when it is brought home. The main purpose of a tax treaty is to avoid taxing the same income twice.
Having said that, this makes sense in the case of countries like the United States, which has tax rates that are comparable to and even higher than ours depending on the state. However, in the case of other countries with which we have tax treaties, we must ask ourselves what the real purpose of the treaty is. Take for instance Barbados, with which we have a tax treaty. Barbados is a small country. For reasons that are still unclear to me, even though I have asked many questions about it, this country ranks third, and sometimes even second, in terms of countries where Canada makes direct investments abroad. This information comes from Statistics Canada. Barbados, of all the countries in the world, ranks third in terms of Canadian investment. After the United States and the United Kingdom, Barbados often ranks third or fourth in terms of our foreign direct investments. We have to ask ourselves why.
The answer seems simple to me. We have an agreement with Barbados to prevent double taxation, and Barbados has a tax rate ranging from 0.5% to 2.5% for foreign companies. We need look no further to understand this. This is not new, but from 1982. It was one of the first international tax treaties we signed.
When we ask questions about this agreement with Barbados, we hear snippets about why, historically, we have this very close relationship with Barbados. It is hard to find it anywhere in writing, but Barbados being Canadian companies' gateway to the rest of the world actually seems to be part of Canada's tax policy. If a Canadian company wants to do business abroad, Barbados is the gateway to those countries with its low tax rates ranging from 0.5% to 2.5% for foreign corporations. A Canadian company that establishes a subsidiary in Barbados will do business with countries from around the world, and since their revenues are reported in Barbados, that is where they are taxed. Instead of being based in Canada, the company uses Barbados as the gateway to the entire world. The government will not admit it but, unofficially, during many discussions, I heard that this tax policy dates back to 1982, and that Canada adopted it because that is what every other country was doing. We are being told that we have to do this because everyone else is. If everyone is doing it, why should Canada be put at a disadvantage by not doing it? That is what we are hearing.
It is extremely important now, more than ever, to have a real discussion and to work together on tax havens, even though the current and former governments have never taken real action on this. More than ever, we need to put an end to these dishonest practices by many taxpayers, especially companies and multinationals, which use shell companies in tax havens all around the world.
Barbados is the preferred tax haven for Canadians. Other countries will have another. We need to put an end to this practice for good. All industrialized countries that are missing out on taxes and whose tax base is incorrect as a result of these practices need to get what they are entitled to. They are owed the taxes that these multinationals generate on their billions of dollars in profits every year. These billions made all over the world are hidden away in bank accounts, in tax havens, to avoid fair and equitable taxation that would be used to provide public services.
The worst is that these companies are often the first to make use of these public services. They are the first to use the infrastructure that our industrialized countries have built. Their employees are the first to use roads, public transit and public services like education and health care. It can therefore be argued that they are taking advantage of Canada. They are taking advantage of Canada's system and of its generosity, and they are then hiding their money abroad, without contributing to our system in return.
What we keep hearing from governments, especially Conservative ones, is that there is not enough money. Fortunately, not all of them are sending that message, but around the world, more and more of them are saying that the money has run out and that governments no longer have the means to provide services to Canadians. Governments are drowning in debt, they cannot balance their budgets, and they have to cut services, yet billions of dollars are being hidden abroad, where they are not contributing to society as they should. We want to see more services, better services, services that benefit everyone, including people in Canada, of course.
That is the crux of the matter. That is why it is important to consider this issue carefully. Far from being a boring bill, Bill is exciting. The tax convention with Madagascar may enable continued abuse of a convention. I am not alone in saying that tax agreements are being abused. Bill is being debated at this very moment two floors down in a committee room.
As finance departments officials themselves have admitted, taxpayers can and do abuse tax treaties. That is why Bill was tabled. It is clear, it has been said in so many words, which is fortunate. I think this was the first time I heard anyone admit it out loud. Earlier I was saying that we often hear things through the grapevine that are never said out loud into a microphone. However, it was said loud and clear that tax treaties do get abused, which is why Bill C-82 had to be tabled and now has to be passed.
My question for the parliamentary secretary, who did not seem to know the answer, was related to that. I actually know the answer to my own question. Bill follows the old tax treaty model, which, by the government's own admission, produced tax treaties that get abused.
Today we are debating a bill on a tax treaty with Madagascar. In this case, it seems all right. As I said earlier, we do not want double taxation. Madagascar has reasonable tax rates that are comparable to those in Canada. That is fine, but we do not want tax treaties to be abused.
However, Bill C-82 demonstrates that tax treaty abuse is already happening. Also, Bill S-6 seeks to adopt a treaty just like the ones that the Liberals themselves admit are open to abuse. That makes no sense.
They should have taken the time to negotiate the treaty using the new model developed by the OECD to come out with a better agreement. I am not saying it would have been perfect—and I will be saying that in committee—but at least it would have been a step in the right direction. They acknowledge that tax treaty abuse is a possibility, and they are making an effort to close these loopholes in the treaties to keep that from happening. However, by the government's own admission, taxpayers could abuse this treaty.
That is why I wanted to say in my speech today that the government has a responsibility to make a clear commitment to ensure that these conventions cannot be abused over time. As I was saying earlier, a convention with Madagascar is a good idea because its tax rate is similar to Canada's.
However, this does not meant that five years down the road, Madagascar will not become a tax haven or will not change its tax laws to lower the tax rate of foreign companies operating on its territory. We need to ensure that there is a monitoring and control mechanism. We need to monitor the 94 conventions that are in place to ensure that they do not become tax conventions that can be abused. That is extremely important. Unfortunately, the government did not commit to monitor the conventions and ensure that they do not become gateways to tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance for Canadian companies. As everyone knows, tax evasion is reprehensible and illegal.
The government talks a lot about tax evasion and says it is doing great things to address it, but the Liberals do not have any results to show Canadians.
The Conservatives got zero results in that regard, and they had no intention of doing anything to address tax evasion. For the benefit of Conservatives who may be listening, I repeat, a former minister of national revenue even admitted that tax evasion was not a priority. I did not address that in my speech, but I did mention it in a question I asked my Conservative colleague, although that member made no reference to the issue. Jean-Pierre Blackburn admitted that tax evasion was not a priority.
This government promised to do more to combat tax evasion, but it has no results to show for it either, even though concrete results are all that matter. It is all well and good for the government to say that it is doing what is necessary, it has invested $1 billion and it hired 1,300 auditors, but if there is nothing to prove that the plan is effective, then clearly it is not working. This government does not have the motivation or any real intention of getting to the heart of the problem. The government is actually only scratching the surface.
Since the Liberals took power, there have been three tax and financial scandals: the Bahama leaks, the Paradise papers and the Panama papers. In all three cases, it was determined that many Canadians were involved in these scandals. Today, three years later, no taxpayers have been convicted of tax evasion. Worse still, no charges have been laid against even one taxpayer involved in these financial and tax scandals. This clearly shows that the system is not working and that it is flawed.
Even if they invested $1 billion and hired 1,300 auditors—as the says every day—if the system is flawed, nothing will change. Taxpayers will still be able to shirk their responsibilities. That is the crux of the matter, but the government refuses to see it.
The tax system needs to be reformed as a whole. It is not enough to close a few loopholes here and there. The first version of the tax code was 15 pages long. Today, the code is 1,800 pages long. This is proof that the system is flawed.
Canada's chartered accountants are calling for a comprehensive reform of the tax system. That is what is at issue today, and that is what the government needs to address. Otherwise, investing $1 billion and hiring 1,300 auditors will not change anything. The government must review the Canadian tax code from top to bottom, to simplify it and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. It is often easier to comply with something simple.
I hope that the government will also study this issue. The NDP is committed to reviewing the entire tax code in order to close all loopholes and have a simple tax code.
Canadians expect to receive quality services commensurate with the money they invest in the system.
Mr. Speaker, the existing tax convention with the Republic of Madagascar, which was signed at Antananarivo on November 24, 2016, contains an interesting element that is not systematically included in other agreements. That is what I want to focus on here.
I would like to draw the attention of the House to article 25 of the convention, which has to do with the exchange of tax information. The wording of that article is consistent with the standard established by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD, on the exchange of tax information. Article 25 provides for the automatic sharing of the tax information set out by the OECD to address base erosion and profit shifting. The information is automatically transferred on both sides, and that is a very good thing. In other words, Canada receives all of that information automatically.
We could relate that to Quebec's single tax return proposal. With an information exchange agreement like the one in this bill and with the co-operation of Ottawa, Quebec could have access to all of that information. Such a convention is therefore fully compatible with the much-talked-about proposal for a single tax return administered by Quebec, which we recently discussed here in the House.
The wording based on the OECD standards is used in a number of Canada's information exchange agreements. Unfortunately, however, it is not used in most of the agreements Canada signed with tax havens. I find that extremely disappointing.
Take Barbados for example. In the Canada-Barbados tax treaty, paragraph II(3) states that, “The existing taxes to which the Agreement shall apply [only] are, in particular: in the case of Canada: the income taxes imposed by the Government of Canada, (hereinafter referred to as “Canadian tax”)”.
A bit further, article XXVIII, which deals specifically with information sharing, states that the only information that Barbados is entitled to share within the meaning of the treaty are “taxes covered by this Agreement insofar as the taxation thereunder is in accordance with this Agreement.”
In other words, it can share information only with Ottawa, it can share information regarding federal tax only, and it cannot possibly share any information that would allow the application of any Quebec tax law that is not an exact copy of federal tax law. The Canada-Barbados tax treaty therefore prevents Quebec from having access to tax information if its tax legislation differs from federal legislation. However, it is an old treaty from the 1980s. Let us look at another tax information exchange agreement concluded with another tax haven. One example that comes to mind is the 2011 agreement with Bahamas.
Article 3(1) indicates that the exchange of information, for the purposes of the agreement, pertains only to “existing taxes imposed or administered by the Government of Canada”. I repeat, “imposed or administered by the Government of Canada”, meaning the federal government. The same is true of the agreement with Barbados.
To summarize, when Canada signs information exchange agreements with countries that are not tax havens, in this case Madagascar, it has access to all of the information available, and that information can be used by Quebec, even if its tax law differs from Ottawa's, as long as the federal government co-operates.
On the other hand, when Canada signs information exchange agreements with tax havens, such as Barbados or the Bahamas, Canada no longer has access to all of the information available. The only information that can be obtained is what is specifically requested by Ottawa, according to its tax law, the wording of which conflicts with the OECD standards. This prevents Quebec from waging an effective war on tax havens and makes its single tax return proposal difficult to implement. I believe that the federal government, regardless of the party in power, did that deliberately.
Obviously, Canada does not want to share information about tax havens with Quebec, even though the current agreement with Madagascar shows that it is entirely possible to do so. This clearly shows that it is possible to reach agreements that are compatible with Quebec's single tax return proposal. The problem is that we cannot tax income if we do not know that it exists.
In his testimony on this topic before the public finance committee of Quebec's National Assembly on September 15, 2016, tax expert André Lareau said right off the bat that we cannot control what we cannot see.
Access to tax information is crucial for the enforcement of the Income Tax Act. To that end, the federal government has entered into nearly 100 tax treaties and more than 20 tax information exchange agreements, which, despite their serious flaws, all include provisions related to the sharing of information. Without those provisions, the government would not have the information it needs to enforce its own legislation. Treaties are the cornerstone of international taxation.
The tax information sharing provisions in these treaties contain many flaws. For instance, they do not provide for automatic sharing of information. Requests must be very precise and refer to specific information on a clearly identified taxpayer, which makes it impossible to go after a taxpayer if we do not have details about their activities in tax havens. Above all, they pertain only to income tax collected by the Government of Canada and existing taxes established or administered by the Government of Canada.
In other words, only Ottawa can request tax information from other countries because only Ottawa signed the treaties, and it can only request that information for the purpose of enforcing federal tax law. Current agreements with tax havens explicitly forbid foreign countries from exchanging tax information except for the purpose of enforcing federal tax law. That works as long as Quebec's tax law is essentially the same as federal law, but if Quebec's law ever differed from federal law, the Government of Quebec would not have access to the information it would need to enforce its law. Basically, Quebec is free to come up with its own tax system, but if it exercises that freedom, it will no longer be able to enforce its law. Regardless of whether we have a single tax return, if Quebec wants to go after tax havens more vigorously than Ottawa, it will not be able to, because it does not have access to the information. Where agreements relate to tax havens, it does not have access to the information. Where agreements relate to countries that are not tax havens, like this agreement, it will have access to all the information. That is frustrating and outrageous.
Therefore, even though Quebec has autonomy in matters of international taxation, it is subject to restrictions. Quebec has autonomy on condition that it does the same thing as Ottawa. For all international aspects of Quebec taxation, including tax havens, this is unfortunately the crux of the problem, regardless of what the Constitution states. This agreement shows that we can do things differently.
I sincerely hope that all tax information exchange agreements with tax havens will be reviewed and amended to incorporate the wording based on the OECD standard that is used in this agreement with Madagascar. That was the main point that I wanted to raise.
In my opinion, part of the reason for this new treaty is that, since the early 2000s, there has been a resurgence in oil development and uranium, ilmenite, nickel and even niobium mining. These are important areas of investment for Canada's oil and mining companies. This treaty will also include a foreign investment protection agreement, which has been signed but not yet implemented. That agreement contains a provision similar to what is found in NAFTA chapter 11, which protects foreign investment. It could effectively allow western oil companies and mining companies from Toronto and elsewhere in Canada to plunge Madagascar into bankruptcy. That is well known.
With this kind of investment protection provision, the foreign entity, the Canadian firm in this case, will have the power to take the Madagascar government to court over any changes in legislation or regulations that could reduce future profits. If environmental standards were implemented by the government, the Canadian company's profits might suffer and it could sue the government.
A standard to protect mining workers would do the same. The Canadian mining company could take the Madagascar government to court. However, that country's economy is struggling even more than those of developed countries, so a court case could bankrupt the government, which is a big problem.
The government boasts about establishing progressive agreements and partnerships that respect workers' rights and environmental rights. We do not know whether that is the case in the information exchange agreements currently being discussed. However, the problem is with the foreign investment protection agreement, which has been signed and will be implemented at some point in the future. I hope there will be an amendment.
With that, I conclude my speech.
Mr. Speaker, under Bill , future tax agreements will be based on OECD standards, which allow for comprehensive tax information exchange.
We will continue to support that bill as well as Bill , the Canada-Madagascar convention. We believe that the convention honours the spirit and the standards set out by the OECD even though the wording itself is not exactly the same as what was signed in Paris. Again, that is based on my understanding of the file.
Madagascar is not a tax haven at the moment, so, in my opinion, the wording about the information exchange agreement is fine. Obviously, it would be better if this were standardized across all our agreements, which is the goal of Bill C-82. The real problem lies with the tax information exchange agreements with tax havens, which make effective tax information exchange complicated or well-nigh impossible.
In such cases, the Canada Revenue Agency has to request specific information about a known taxpayer. We do not have enough information to monitor data about information exchange. If everything were available, auditors could identify situations in which tax fraud or tax evasion likely took place. That is what needs to change. Tax information exchange agreements with tax havens are the problem.
I would remind members that when these agreements were entered into with tax havens, the Income Tax Act was changed. It was not done openly, but hidden in the information on medical expenses, among the thousands of pages of the Income Tax Act. It stated that when Canada enters into an agreement with a tax haven, the portion of income that the Canadian corporation declares was generated in the foreign country will no longer be taxable here. The income will only be taxed in the tax haven, where the tax rate is zero or close to that. That is what we are speaking out against and it must change.
Canada is a lame duck in the fight against tax avoidance; it is letting the big banks and multinationals shift their profits to tax havens under these agreements. At the time, there were 22 agreements. This is still going on. Things have to change.
I introduced a motion in the House to do just that. Every Liberal, except for one, and every Conservative member voted against the motion. Do the parties that aspire to govern represent the Canadians who want to eliminate the use of tax havens, or do they serve the big corporations and major banks that are the main beneficiaries of these immoral schemes?
I think that in asking the question, we have our answer. This must change.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from British Columbia, the hon. member for .
The hon. member came to Lévis in his role as the Coast Guard critic and we proceeded to launch the supply ship Asterix. That ship is the pride of the Royal Canadian Navy. It was a contract that the former Conservative government wanted to give to the Davie shipyard. We all remember the whole political interference mess. We will not talk about the Norman case here this morning or the scandal surrounding how this contract was awarded by the Liberals. Instead we will talk about tax evasion.
I want to thank my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George for his involvement in ensuring that the coast guard can play a role on the three oceans and on maintaining the St. Lawrence Seaway. The coast guard is currently struggling with its aging fleet to ensure that these major waterways can be used for shipping, and so, I thank the hon. member. Like me, he will rise to speak to the bill today. This is Canada's 94th tax agreement. This one is being concluded with Madagascar to reduce and prevent tax evasion and also to avoid double taxation.
We need agreements like this so that the state can fulfill its responsibilities. I just gave an example. The Canadian government is responsible for ensuring that our waterways are navigable and for protecting our sovereignty on the three coasts. This is why we need agreements with other countries, and this is why the countries need revenue to carry out their constitutional duties.
Canada has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that we have a fleet of Coast Guard ships to respond to increasing demands. As we are seeing now, this is a challenge. This winter, a number of ships got stuck in the ice on the St. Lawrence, and it is time for the Liberal government to take concrete action.
As my colleague saw at Davie shipyard, the workers are able to meet the Canadian government's needs. This is relevant, because we are talking about revenue. This revenue would be well spent by the government, because the workers have shown that they can meet deadlines, as was the case with the Asterix.
That being said, I would simply like to remind the people listening that, if we count only the amounts owed by Canadian taxpayers, it is estimated that the government is losing up to $17 billion as a result of tax evasion and tax avoidance. That is how much the public treasury loses each year in unpaid taxes, often because of wealthy people hiding income in tax havens.
Quebec authors have studied this issue, and in addition to individuals, there are companies as well. On that subject, I have here a study by the Conference Board of Canada, which indicates that, compared to other countries that experience loss of revenue due to tax evasion, if we consider the entire tax gap, including taxpayers and companies, we could talk about annual losses of up to $47 billion. That is the magnitude of the problem.
Imagine what we could do with those billions of dollars. I gave the example earlier of the ships we could have for the Coast Guard. Those are just some of the needs that we have.
Just two days ago, a constituent in my riding called me because he has a serious health problem. He has paid into employment insurance all his life. Now, he is in a situation where he has to leave his job to focus on his treatments, and he is limited to 15 meagre weeks of employment insurance. He is unable to get any more assistance from EI.
I would like to remind the House that employers and employees pay the same amounts into the EI program. Of course, the government has financial needs and responsibilities. In this case, it is important that the government be able to collect all of the revenue to which it is entitled. However, the government also has a responsibility to control its spending. That is the important issue before us today. We are talking about a 94th agreement with another country, namely Madagascar. My colleague from reminded us of the relative importance of this agreement compared to our trade with countries like the United States or China. He also reminded us that we must be vigilant in implementing such agreements. As they say, the devil is in the details.
My colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent gave us a good example of that this morning. Louis St. Laurent was the prime minister who opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, which the Liberals are currently neglecting to maintain.
My colleague reminded us of the importance of having agreements on tax evasion. He also mentioned that we need to ensure that our laws do not contain any irrelevant provisions or provisions that could constitute loopholes. In its most recent budget bill, the government included legal provisions to create a sort of remediation agreement. That puts the government in a difficult situation. We want to know what this government is trying to hide.
We will support the bill, but we also want to remind the government that it has the responsibility to allow us to openly debate the bills it introduces. Adding legal measures to an 800-page bill that will be studied by the Standing Committee on Finance is not the way to go about that.
Today we are discussing tax evasion, taxation and an agreement with Madagascar. The government is very bad at making sure that taxpayers receive value for their money. The average family pays more income tax. The government has problems when it comes to spending. It is addicted to spending; although it earns revenue, it spends more than it takes in. The irony in Canada is that Canadian families pay more income tax. I have here a very recent study from the Fraser Institute. It is dated February 21. According to this study, most middle-income Canadian families pay higher income tax. According to the same study, middle-income Canadian families pay $1,000 more in income tax each year.
Many studies and many statistics have shown this. We know that the Liberal government is always trying to increase its revenue. We believe that it should at least balance its budgets, but we are in a bottomless pit. Not only must families pay more income tax, their children will have to pick up the pieces. In terms of taxation, the government has no idea where it is going.
On March 19, the government will present its next and last budget. It was supposed to herald a return to a balanced budget, but that will not be the case. The government has lost control of the deficit. As we saw this morning, our veterans are paying the price.
We agree that we should have agreements with other countries—in this case, Madagascar—to limit tax evasion. However, that is not an excuse to make a mockery of Parliament by introducing bills or important elements concerning public confidence in institutions that are being threatened by certain sections of the bill. I hope to be able to address this again a bit later.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak to Bill , an act to implement the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. It has been said that this is the 94th agreement of this type and it deals specifically with tax evasion.
In preparation for this debate, I did some research and homework on Canada's relationship with Madagascar. We established diplomatic ties with Madagascar in 1965. The latest data on our two-way merchandise trade shows a total of $115.5 million. I enter that into this debate because the hon. parliamentary secretary mentioned that very often tax treaties are seen as a way to break down barriers to trade. That is something of importance.
I want to thank my hon. colleague who hosted me as we toured the Davie shipyard. The day we were there we saw the pride of hundreds of workers in the product they put forth. The Asterix ship is the pride of our navy.
Our hon. colleague also touched on my file. I am the shadow minister for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. Did members know that Canada has the longest coastline in the world, yet we have the oldest marine fleet to protect our sovereignty? Our marine fleet also ensures that all of our waterways remain open and free for the coastal communities that depend on them. It ensures that the transportation of good and people flows freely, that our trade can take place and that our waterways are safe. That is what the brave men and women of our Canadian Coast Guard do every day. Their service to our country should never be forgotten.
It is shameful that we have a government that makes a lot of promises. The Liberals like to stand in the House and on stages right across our country with their hands on their hearts to talk about their most important relationships. I do not know what number they are at now in terms of their most important relationships but there are a lot, and that is why we are here again today talking about a relationship between Canada and Madagascar.
I want to talk about our most important relationships and I want to go back to something my hon. colleague brought up about our brave men and women who serve our Canadian Coast Guard. We need to make sure that we outfit our men and women who serve, whether as first responders or in the military. Our Canadian Coast Guard needs to have the equipment necessary to fulfill its job and we know the government has not done that. The Liberals talk a good game but they have failed to do that.
The department has appeared before committee a number of times, yet the Liberals have failed to give any kind of schedule indicating when they will proceed with the procurement of new vessels to make sure that our waterways remain free. God forbid that we have an incident in the Arctic where we have to save a ship that is trapped or, heaven forbid, even in worse conditions.
This leads me to another part of why we are here today. We are talking about tax evasion and the estimated $47 billion annually that is lost to our economy. I want to talk about our economy. Not only are we losing an estimated $47 billion annually but we are losing investment in our country. Business is fleeing our country at record levels right now. The levels are astronomical. They are at 70-year highs. We have tax evasion and we have business investment fleeing our country at record levels.
Why is that? It is because of the policies and inconsistent messages the government has delivered in the short term it has been here. I would argue that it has been a long three and a half years. It feels very long.
Businesses appear before us every day. They come into our offices and talk to us about how concerned they are. They are no different than our constituents who come to us when we have our riding breaks.
This brings me to the experience I had last week. An accountant in my riding talked about the mineral exploration tax credit for start-up businesses. The CRA has now deemed it assistance, so now companies have to claim it as income. It is another barrier, when we are talking about breaking barriers to trade. We need to do whatever we can to break the barriers to investment for businesses.
The Liberals like to talk about how many jobs they have created, but here is a news flash. Governments do not create jobs. Their job is to create the environment so that businesses can invest and create jobs. We know that the numbers are staggering. It was recently reported that nowhere has a government spent so much and received so little, boasted so loudly and spent so much to achieve so little.
We know that the , in the 2015 campaign, made a lot of promises. He promised to be different. He promised real change. He promised that there would not be omnibus bills and that he would not sneak things into these big bills. What we have seen in the headlines lately is that in the Budget Implementation Act, there was a little clause snuck in that was really a justice clause. Some could argue that this was sneaky and underhanded. Why was it in there and not where it should have been? Why did the former attorney general not put that forward if that was something they wanted?
The Conservatives on this side of House support this. We see the importance of breaking down barriers to trade and of making sure that the flow of dollars lost to tax evasion is stemmed. We want the legislation coming before the House to have fulsome debate, and we want the 338 members of Parliament who were elected to be the voices of Canadians to all have a say in those pieces of legislation.
The campaigned on being open and transparent, but the Liberals tell us to just trust them and that when it gets to committee, we will have that fulsome debate. We also know that the Liberal majority on committees shuts down that debate, and the conversations are very one-sided, as much as they like to talk about it being very collaborative.
I want to bring this back to our committee. We do good work when we put aside our partisan ideas and the committee works at arm's-length from the minister. We managed to do some great work that actually helped expose the clam scam issue, which then saw the former fisheries minister quietly shuffled in the middle of the summer to another position. Why? It was because the Liberals awarded a lucrative surf clam quota to a sitting Liberal member of Parliament's brother and a former Liberal colleague, also a relative of the then fisheries minister, as court documents now show.
Why does this side of the House have concerns? The government says that the opposition is loud and boisterous, but our job is to give sober second thought to what those folks are doing on the other side.
That is the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, it might be the Senate, but someone has to take a reasoned approach to legislation because of the parliamentary tricks the current government has continued to use to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address a bill that has really galvanized opinion in my constituency.
Ms. Elizabeth May: Oh, oh!
Mr. Garnett Genuis: This is Bill an act to implement the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
My friend from appreciated my quip at the beginning. I will say that I do hear a lot about taxation issues in my constituency—not as much about the particulars of our relationship with Madagascar, but a great deal about taxation.
I do think it ironic that the government is proposing the implementation of a bill for the avoidance of double taxation, because if we want to avoid double taxation, I might suggest that the government start at home in avoiding it.
This is a good bill. This is a good agreement. However, as they say, charity starts at home. This is not really a matter of charity; it is a matter of letting people keep more of their own money and avoiding double taxation. How about if the government starts in an area of its own direct control?
Before I get into the particulars of this legislation and this issue, I want to mention that I had the pleasure this morning of meeting with Ms. Chemi Lhamo, who is the elected University of Toronto's Scarborough campus student union president, someone who has faced significant bullying, intimidation and threats from people who oppose her on the basis of her Tibetan background and her human rights advocacy on behalf of Tibet. There is indication that some of this intimidation and bullying may have as its source the nefarious inclinations of some diplomats here in Canada. This is a very serious issue in terms of freedom of speech on campus, and also in the way in which foreign diplomats may be engaging in intimidating Canadian students. Perhaps at a future point, the kind of response we as parliamentarians should have to these events should be the subject of detailed consideration and debate.
Having said that, I will now return to Bill and the proposal to seek, through an agreement with Madagascar, to avoid double taxation and address the issue of fiscal evasion.
I will make the case in my remarks that we should support this bill, but the first priority of the government should actually be to take the necessary steps here at home to address these very same issues: the tax burden that Canadians face and, in the area of fiscal evasion, the way in which the Canada Revenue Agency interacts with citizens.
On the issue of the Canada Revenue Agency and its relationship to citizens, it was interesting to see a post from the , who is very excited that it is tax-filing season. I do not know if there has ever been a tax collector who was so enthusiastic about collecting taxes. Canadians are not enthusiastic about the taxes they are paying, and they are not enthusiastic about these incidents, which we hear about on a regular basis, of Canadians being harassed by the Canada Revenue Agency, having difficulty getting good information and having a hard time getting clarity and support around key issues.
That is why my colleague, the great member for , put forward a motion to give the Canada Revenue Agency a duty of care. Whatever people perceive to be the magnitude of the problems in terms of the behaviour of CRA in its interactions with citizens, giving the CRA a duty of care would ensure that citizens were treated well and fairly in their interactions with the agency.
Members in both the Liberal and NDP caucuses voted against this motion. That is interesting, because recently I have been hearing, in speeches being given by members of the NDP caucus, that they may have had a change of heart on this issue. We hear members of the NDP caucus speaking about instances they are hearing about in their ridings of CRA going after single moms and other citizens who do not have the lobbyists and connections of, say, an SNC-Lavalin. My friends in that section of the House have criticized the government for not addressing this poor treatment of citizens who lack those connections and points of access while at the same time exploring special deals with well-connected insiders.
I applaud the direction of that discussion by my colleagues in the NDP, but I hope that in the future they will support measures like the initiative from my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge. They had an opportunity to show clearly with their vote that they have these concerns and that they are standing up for their constituents. Instead, they voted against that motion. It is better late than never if they want to now come onside and support that initiative. It is maybe a little too late for this Parliament, but if we have their support and they have changed their minds and recognized the problem, maybe we can move forward in the future.
Certainly, though, the government has had no change on the issue. It voted against the motion for the CRA to have a duty of care in its interactions with citizens. In all of its statements and interactions, it continues to seem to not appreciate the need to address this vital issue, the frustration that so many citizens have in their dealings with the Canada Revenue Agency.
The time the government spent and the energy and resources it put into certain problems versus others make it very clear who the government is invested in helping. Are the Liberals seized with the challenges of the middle class and those working hard to join it, or are they seized with the challenges of SNC-Lavalin and, maybe more importantly, the political implications for themselves?
There was a very long cabinet meeting two days ago, and one wonders about it. Were the Liberals discussing how to help struggling families or struggling energy workers? Were they discussing how to address the challenges we face on so many fronts and the way in which those challenges affect everyday Canadians? I suspect they were discussing how to politically manage the message, something they have failed to do until now, on the worst corruption scandal we have seen in this country in a very long time. Canadians at home are wondering whether or not the government cares about their priorities when it votes down motions like the one from my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge and continues to pile on taxes.
We should reflect not only on the failures of the current government to attend to the needs of Canadians but also on its general lack of interest in the plight of Canadians. Its focus is not on what people at home are thinking about or on struggling energy workers and auto workers, but on protecting well-connected insiders. That is what we have seen from the government in recent weeks. We have seen in how many meetings how eager it was to try to get a legislative change into a budget bill, and then there is the implication that the inappropriately tried to encourage the former attorney general to do something with respect to the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. These are serious allegations.
One thing we know from the government's repeated and ongoing conversations is just how seized it was with this issue, while there was a corresponding lack of regard and concern for the struggles that Canadians face, showing a disconnect between the priorities of the government and those of Canadians. We can see it in what the government spends its time on and what it talks about. We can see it in its legislative program. We can see it in how its members vote on key opposition proposals, such as the proposal from our leader, which would have made parental leave tax-free. The Liberal members voted against that great proposal to cut taxes for new parents.
We also had a great proposal from our shadow minister for finance, the member for , for legislation that would have helped ensure that Canadians with disabilities are not penalized for entering the workforce.
Those are our priorities: cutting taxes for Canadians, helping Canadians with disabilities, helping new parents, and as my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge tried to do, helping those who have problems in their interactions with the CRA.
That is what we are trying to do on this side of the House. The government, though, is focused on helping well-connected insiders, and that disregard has consequences for people at home.
Mr. Speaker, I will do my best to avoid referring to the presence or absence of members for the duration of this speech. I appreciate the support of my colleagues as I deliver these remarks, but I understand why these messages are difficult for the government to hear.
I would like to speak about double taxation with respect to the carbon tax. We had another great legislative initiative from one of my colleagues, who is from Langley—Aldergrove, that would have tried to remove the GST being charged on top of the carbon tax. That is a pretty clear instance of double taxation. Right now the government is imposing a carbon tax on all Canadians. If the province does not agree or wants to go in a different direction in terms of its response to climate change, the government says no, it will impose a federal carbon tax.
The carbon tax will make everything more expensive. We can be sure that if the is re-elected, the carbon tax will go up significantly after the next election. He will not admit that right now, but he will not deny it either. If he succeeds in the next election, he will still want more of taxpayers' money, but he will not need their votes anymore. That is what we have to watch out for.
The carbon tax is already imposing pain on Canadians, but it will impose more pain as it goes up further. If the carbon tax goes up, then we will see an increase of the GST as well. The federal GST is charged on top of the carbon tax, and that goes directly into the federal coffers.
The government has claimed that the carbon tax is revenue neutral to the federal government, which is a bit of a joke. By “revenue neutral”, the government seems to mean at this point that the money will all be spent.
Transparently, and quite obviously, charging the GST on top of the carbon tax is a form of double taxation intended to go directly to the federal coffers. As the government, given the opportunity, will increase and increase the carbon tax, necessarily the GST will go up with it. We know that the government would like nothing better than to hike the GST as well. After it was cut by former prime minister Stephen Harper, the Liberals continually mused about the possibility of raising the GST.
When the Liberals are running deficits in the tens of billions of dollars, far beyond what they promised in the last election, we know they have a plan to raise taxes. They will try and do it in a way that is least noticed. They will try to remove deductions. They will try to change the framework. They will try, through the CRA, to crack down on ordinary Canadians and penalize them even for doing things that have been common practice and accepted as allowable for a long time.
They will do everything they can to increase the tax burden on Canadians without ever announcing the major tax increases they are bringing in. They will do it. That is necessarily their plan, because they have no ability to control spending.
When governments run deficits like this, then they will increase taxes. What is needed instead is a new government that will have different priorities from the current government, that will instead truly focus on providing tax relief to those Canadians who need tax relief the most.
Let us recall that that is what Conservatives have always done. We have targeted vital tax relief to those who needed it the most. We introduced a children's fitness tax credit. We introduced a transit tax credit. Those tax credits were eliminated by the Liberal government as a way of increasing taxes. The Liberals will look for more ways of increasing taxes.
Conservatives also lowered the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%. Liberals are trying to collect more GST through double taxation on the carbon tax. We cut the GST from 7% down to 5%. We lowered the lowest marginal rate of tax. We raised the base personal exemption, which is the amount of money Canadians could earn without paying any tax. Our tax cuts were targeted at those who needed those tax reductions the most.
The Liberal government has raised taxes on Canadians through the carbon tax, the removal of these credits and deductions, and through all sorts of other changes. As well, it has not in any way changed the tax rate for those who are making $45,000 or less a year. Its tax changes were more beneficial to somebody making an MP's salary than to somebody making $45,000 a year. That person making $45,000 a year experienced only increases, and most Canadians at all levels recognize they are paying more tax under the current government.
Canadians are paying for the mistakes of this . They are also paying for his lack of interest in their situation. When I talk to people in my riding, they are talking about the issue of double taxation. They are talking about the piling on of what they feel is triple taxation and quadruple taxation through all the new taxation measures, and the targeting of small business that we have seen under the current government. They see this at the same time as the government is pursuing special deals with well-connected insiders.
We need a new government in this country that wants to move forward on the avoidance of overtaxation and wants to do that through partnerships and treaties such as this agreement between Canada and Madagascar, but that is also prepared to take the steps necessary domestically to do what we can on our own, which is to reduce the taxes all Canadians pay.
We need a government that will hold the Canada Revenue Agency accountable to ensure it is treating all Canadians fairly, through the duty of care measures proposed by my colleague from , as well as through providing tax relief to Canadians, especially those who need it the most.
My friend across the way was scoffing when I said the previous government provided tax relief to those who needed it most. I invite him to stand up in a question and counter what I said with actual facts and argument. If we look at the record, all the tax cuts—
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in this place to speak on behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, as well as to bring forward some of my concerns.
Obviously these tax treaties have existed for a long time. In fact, two of the tax treaties I looked at earlier were dated back before I was born in the late 1970s. These tax treaties have existed for a long time. They have developed over the years. It is important to note that double taxation should be addressed.
Canada, as an open economy where we try to attract foreign direct investment, should do all it can to provide certainty so that monies from other countries can come here to make many of the important projects go forward in places like Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola. In my riding of Princeton, we have the Copper Mountain mine development. It is a very popular mine because it is one of the larger private employers in the area. That mine was the beneficiary of foreign direct investment.
When I did door-knocking in the 2015 election and introduced myself to the good people of Princeton, because the riding had changed, people pointed out that when the mine had originally closed for an extended period of time, the economy in Princeton had suffered greatly. The people benefited greatly from that mine both in terms of taxation, because now the community gets a share of the taxes that go to the provincial government, and from the employment and the services that the community is now able to have.
The same goes for the Highland Valley Copper mine just outside of the great town of Logan Lake. On a per capita level, Logan Lake and Princeton are some of the largest contributors to the net GDP of the area.
Before I go any further, I plan on sharing my time with the hon. member for and l am sure she will be giving a much more informed view on things.
However, when we talk about foreign direct investment building certainty through international tax agreements, it is important we talk about the benefits we have.
A new flotation facility was put in Highland Valley Copper about four or five years ago, easily half a billion dollars worth of investment. Those kinds of investments do not happen in countries unless there is a stable framework and the rule of law, including tax treaties. Again, the Nicola Valley has prospered as has the Similkameen Valley prospered because of these large developments. The amount of capital it takes is not always possible to be raised here.
Sometimes Canadians ask me why we have foreign direct investment, why can Canadians not simply invest in our own projects. The answer is that there is so much opportunity in the country that we cannot on our own resources alone expect reasonably to see many of these projects go forward. Having that foreign direct investment, having that stable presence in terms of the rule of law is incredibly important.
Bill is an act to implement the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. To be very clear, these are not new. Under the previous government, led by former prime minister Stephen Harper, we saw the renewal of the New Zealand agreement and also the agreement between Canada and France was updated.
Consecutive governments of different political stripes have sought to put these things in place. Not only does it relate to double taxation, it also makes life a little easier. For example, students are covered and it defines what a student is. If those students are drawing income from the other country that is part of the agreement, they will not have to pay taxes in the country where they are studying. These things are important and they eliminate a lot of red tape for individuals. I think we can find some common ground on that.
I have talked about two things: first, the importance of certainty, because business, development and investment cannot happen without that certainty; and second, opportunity, meaning people have to feel if they put a dollar in, they can expect that money to come back with even a return on that investment.
I am fearful that while the framework of Bill is here, the government has eroded some of those areas of certainty and opportunity.
For example, we had an opportunity today. We had Kim Moody talk about the changes the government had made to the Income Tax Act, specifically around small businesses and Canadian controlled private corporations. I asked the Canadian Federation of Independent Business about this. The government likes to talk about lowering taxes for small business, but when I spoke to the CFIB, when I heard some of the testimony of Mr. Moody today, I found that the government had made it so difficult for many families to utilize a legitimate tax regime that was available to them in previous years. Because there is such a grey zone by the layering of rules, they do not have any certainty.
If we ask Canadians or people from other countries to invest in this country and if they find there is not the same certainty or opportunity they once had, they may choose not to invest. They may choose to not grow their business because they do not see the opportunity there.
Bill does add a little more certainty for people to come from Madagascar to invest in Canada, knowing the rules that would be applied to them under law. There would be a tax treaty to share information between jurisdictions to ensure they would not double taxed. However, when someone sees the absolute mess the government has placed our country in on responsible resource development, there is no certainty.
Look at the visiting convoy we had the other day. Those people want certainty. They want opportunity. They do not want bills like Bill . They do not want to see foreign investment chased away.
While we are talking about chasing away investment, the government, through its failure to create a stable regulatory state, has allowed the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to languish. Private dollars were going to build opportunity for the people of Merritt. I am not sure I mentioned this before, but the community of Merritt was promised, under a community development agreement, that it would get certain funds to use for flood mitigation. However, because the company did not have that certainty and did not feel there was an opportunity, it decided to use its money to fund pipeline development in the United States. That is a real shame.
It is not just having the framework like Bill in place. There also has to be a sense that the rule of law will always be followed, that we are bound by the rules that have been put in place, that our word is our word, that there is no political interference once the Governor General has given the nod to a piece of legislation and it is the law of the land.
Mr. Speaker, earlier you raised the issue of you wanting all of us to talk about Bill . However, the elephant in the room is we find out that cabinet confidences have been broken. We find out that caucus confidences have been broken on the Liberal side. It is all over the papers. When people find out that someone is allegedly trying to interfere in an independent prosecution case, they start to ask themselves if this is a country that follows the rule of law. That erodes confidence. That makes people say that perhaps they will not invest in Canada, that they instead will go to Australia, or the United States, where they have certainty and opportunity.
As a Canadian, this is so important for us. We have bills, like Bill , that put forward proper frameworks. However, even if those frameworks are in place, if people do not feel that officials will follow those laws, both elected and bureaucratic officials, that dissolves or erodes the sense of rule of law. May we never find ourselves in such a state where people question the Canadian government or the Canadian people on our commitment to the rule of law.
I call upon the government to have that public inquiry. I call specifically for the to waive client-solicitor privilege for the former attorney general. Why? Because I am all about certainty, opportunity and feeling proud of our country and telling people that I am a proud Canadian. I am sure the people on the street are saying the same thing. It does not look good. It does not make us feel good. That needs to change.
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a bill called .
For those who might not be aware of the process on how the legislative calendar is set in the House of Commons, it is important that people who are watching this debate understand that the found it proper and a great use of time to prioritize this piece of legislation in the House today.
My objection to the bill is an objection to the fact that it has been prioritized. This particular bill, a tax avoidance with Madagascar bill, has been prioritized for debate in the House of Commons today, when, arguably, the House is on fire. This is kind of like a “the House is on fire and the government is choosing to water the rosebushes outside” situation.
Let us recap the week. We are debating the implementation of the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation, after a convoy of trucks of out-of-work western Canadian energy sector workers had to drive to Ottawa to talk about the fact that we do not have a pipeline built, after the spent billions of dollars buying something that the private sector was going to build but then decided not to after he put in place legislation that has completely bankrupted the investment climate in Canada.
Maybe we could be debating that. Maybe we could be talking about getting energy sector workers back to work or the ridiculously poor investment climate for energy investment in Canada. That sounds important. However, I do not think the wanted to meet with any of those people. What we are talking about today is the Canada-Madagascar avoidance of double taxation bill. That seems about on par in terms of importance.
We could talk about the fact that we just found out this week that for refugee claims, after the has allowed 40,000 people to illegally cross the border from upstate New York, the haven of persecution that is upstate New York, to claim asylum in Canada, the wait times to hear whether or not their claims are valid, and they are coming from upstate New York, has ballooned past two years and is on track to be five years.
The government has spent over $1 billion to give hotel rooms and social welfare payments to people from upstate New York. Maybe we could talk about that. No, what we have here today is the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation. What?
Okay, those are two things we could have talked about. I am happy to talk about those things. I think they are important. They are certainly important to my constituents. One thing my constituents have not emailed or called me about, and I have not heard about at the door in any of the ridings I have door-knocked in, is the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation.
I could be surprised. Maybe this is a burning issue in a riding that went from a single-digit national rate of unemployment to one of the highest unemployment rates in the country because of the government's failed policies that have been punitive to the energy sector. My constituents phone me about the fact that they might have to move out of Alberta, that their houses are up foreclosure and they are out of credit card room, and they ask me to do something about their jobs. No, maybe my constituents want me to talk about the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation. Come on, what is going on in this place?
Seriously, how could this even make the legislative agenda, given the government tabled a eight-billion-page omnibus budget bill where it conveniently snuck in the deferred prosecution agreement? Maybe we should have debated that at the justice committee but the government stuck that in there.
However, we have to have a whole day of debate on the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation. Why would the government want to spend a whole day of debate on—
Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the government would like to silence voices speaking out against it at this time. We have seen that over and over. We know that the Liberals, particularly that member, are prepared to ramble on about any subject under the sun whenever they get the opportunity. The member has never been concerned about relevance except when we talk about things he does not want Canadians to know.
We are on that subject right now. The and the do not want the former attorney general to speak about what she knew and what they tried to force her to do with respect to SNC-Lavalin. The Liberals shut down a finance committee today to avoid tough questions on that subject. Now this member, who speaks for the government, is trying to shut me down, because he does not want any more debate or discussion on this issue.
If they want relevance, I will tell them about relevance. This treaty is supposed to be about fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, but it is about more than that. It is about who the government is working for. We have seen a pattern with the current government of crony corporatism and favouring the powerful and moneyed elite.
Since the Liberals took office, there has been a massive spike in reported lobbying activity. That is because the government has become the leading decision-maker on who gets what money. Businesses increasingly understand that the way they get ahead in this Liberal economy is not by having the best product but by having the best lobbyist.
Lobbyists managed to secure $400 million in handouts for Bombardier, a company that then laid off its workers, shipped the jobs to America and sold the IP to Europe. Europe got the IP. America got the jobs. Canadian taxpayers got the bill. Why did the Liberals do it? If the Canadian taxpayer did not kick in, the Bombardier-Beaudoin family would have lost control of the company. It would have had to issue more shares, which would have diluted its interest and brought it below 50%. Therefore, $400 million Canadian tax dollars from working-class people was used to protect the interests of feudal billionaires who wanted to maintain control of this company.
Why did the Liberals want SNC-Lavalin to get off these charges? It is a Liberal-linked corporation, which gave over $100,000 in illegal money to the Liberal Party and has lobbied the current government and its members over 100 times since.
The richest Canadians are paying $4.6 billion less. Those who inherit wealth and massive fortunes from ancestors, as the did, are able to shelter their money in special vehicles. The introduces tax changes that go after plumbers, pizza-shop owners and farmers, but interestingly, do not touch his family business, Morneau Shepell.
The Liberals set up an infrastructure bank that guarantees against losses for large construction companies in large public procurement projects so that all the risk is with taxpayers and all the profits are with the private-sector corporations.
That is the crony corporatism that drives the current government. Instead of relying on free enterprise, the Liberals want government control. Instead of meritocracy, they favour aristocracy. Instead of businesses making it by having the best products, they make it by having the best lobbyists. Instead of those same businesses obsessing over customers, those businesses have to obsess over pleasing politicians. That is the Liberal economy they are building. They are building an economy of political insiders, where people get ahead through their connections and where those with money turn that money into power and turn that power back into yet more money.
That is exactly the kind of crony corporatism we must end. When we do, we will replace it with a meritocracy driven by free markets, where we favour the challenger over the incumbent, the underdog over the fat cat, and everyday Canadians ahead of the interests of those on the inside track.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill regarding an agreement between Canada and Madagascar.
I will support Bill S-6 because I think it is good for Canada to have agreements with other countries.
I would like to talk about the agreements that were signed while the Harper government was in office and compare them to what the current Liberal government has done. I will talk about the impact on my riding and a few other things.
To start, having agreements with other countries is a good thing. In this case, we are trying to prevent double taxation and fiscal evasion between Canada and Madagascar. If I look at the number of trade agreements that were signed under Stephen Harper, I see 43 trade agreements with huge significance in terms of economic benefit to Canadians. If we compare that to Bill , which seems to have a very small impact, we can see that the government is focusing on things of lower priority.
Where is the focus, for example, on NAFTA? This is an agreement between Canada and the U.S. that has huge economic implications for us, but this agreement still has not been ratified on either side. We still have tariffs of 20% on steel and 10% on aluminum, and that situation is impacting businesses in Canada, especially in my riding. Sarnia—Lambton has a manufacturing base. These kinds of tariffs actually cause jobs to move to the U.S. I would think that the government would have a concern there and spend more time on that issue than on talking about the offshore impacts here in Madagascar.
Again, the CETA accord was negotiated but has not been signed yet by any of the 13 countries. Where is the government's effort to get that in place? It would have a huge economic benefit to Canadians if we could get that going. On the CPTPP, there is not much to say, except that the made a lot of countries angry when he went over there. We are still waiting to see the economic benefit of that agreement.
While I think it is good to have agreements in place, there has to always be a concern about priorities and about working on the things that have the largest impact first.
In terms of the fiscal evasion of taxes, we saw the paradise papers and the Panama papers, but where is the follow-up on that by the Canada Revenue Agency? To me, the amount that could be at risk in Madagascar is a very small amount compared to what is in those papers. We have seen no follow-up, and that is a definite concern.
In terms of avoidance of double taxation, I can certainly speak a lot to the issue of double taxation because we have seen double taxation happen all the time with the Liberal government. Most recently, this week I held a press conference to talk about the tax on a tax on a tax on medical cannabis. In this case, the government put in place a 2.5% tax on the producers after all the deals were signed, an additional tax, and then the provinces have an excise tax of 7.5%. On top of that, there is the GST. There is a 15% tax on what is prescribed by doctors for people who are suffering from pain, vulnerable people with medical conditions.
This is not the first time the Liberal government has decided to target the vulnerable with taxation. We saw this happen with the disability tax credit. In the past, 80% of people with type 2 diabetes or conditions such as autism or mental health disorders, such as being bipolar, were able to take advantage of that disability tax credit. The Liberal government got involved, and then 80% of people were not eligible. In fact, the reason for that change was to try to make them ineligible for the retirement disability pension, which had built up to about $150,000 per person. The government was attempting to claw that back.
It is not good to try to double-tax our own citizens, and to be focusing on the double taxation in Madagascar compared to the double taxation that is happening in Canada does not seem to be the right priority.
It is always good to try to get more tax revenue. It is very important. In order to get tax revenue, we have to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
As an example, with respect to Sarnia—Lambton, the government would receive $4.3 million in tax revenue every year if the ferry border crossing at Sombra was repaired. However, two years ago now, the border crossing was broken by the Coast Guard's operation of an icebreaker when the ice was too thick, crushing the border crossing. It has not been fixed. There has been a lot of time wasted and a lot of economic job loss on the Canadian side. All of the restaurants and services located there went out of business. On the U.S. side, the restaurants have gone out of business.
There was an outcry to multiple ministers in Canada. One would think that the , whose CBSA organization was getting this $4.3 million worth of tax revenue, would have done something. It was only going to be $2 million to fix the border crossing and the government is spending $80 billion on the Gordie Howe bridge, so it is surprising to me that the public safety minister chose to do nothing.
The had combat engineers in my riding. I was told that if it was in the national interest to have a border crossing opened, it could be done out of the budget of Minister of National Defence, and he also refused. The member for , the former minister of transport, indicated there was a contingency fund there that could have been put in place, but the current minister told me that this was not the case and that he could not do anything. The refused to help.
We even appealed to the 's Office. In fact, it is really disturbing to me that when the Marine City mayor, congressman Paul Mitchell, senators from the state of Michigan and the U.S. ambassador to Canada appealed to the 's Office to reopen this border crossing, nothing was done. In this example, there was an opportunity for payback in less than a year, in terms of paying to fix the Sombra ferry crossing and getting the revenue, yet the government did not take advantage of that opportunity. That was wrong.
It is currently in litigation, so the crossing will remain closed and the economic opportunity to use that border crossing is lost.
People question the seriousness of the government on the NAFTA agreement. If the government really wants to do business with the United States and will not even spend $2 million to open a border crossing, there is a question about the government's priorities.
That is certainly something we have been talking about as we study Bill and think about the government bringing this forward as a priority when we know there are other huge issues. There is a huge loss of jobs in some sectors, such as the oil and gas sector, and what about the forest products sector? We know the government has done nothing to address the problems with the tariffs on softwood lumber. This is something we have been talking about since the Liberal government was elected in 2015, and still there is no resolution to this issue.
While it is great to have an agreement between Canada and Madagascar and it is fine to address issues there, hopefully that will be leveraged to take advantage of all of these other priorities that are being ignored while we are discussing this particular bill in the House today.
When it comes to CRA, one of the concerns I have is that we are not taking action on the Auditor General's report. We are very sad about the passing of the Auditor General, but if we recall the results of his report, we know that on average people have to call four times and wait 110 minutes to get an answer from CRA, and a third of the time the answers they get are wrong. I have personally seen all kinds of mean-spirited letters sent to my constituents from CRA, basically threatening to put them in jail. These are hard-working, taxpaying people, and there are very small amounts of money at risk. The amount of money we are talking about in offshore accounts for tax avoidance is far superior to that, and it seems to me that there are already 70 CRA employees in a position to work on this specific sort of thing. Perhaps we should increase our focus on going after the people hiding their taxes in the millions of dollars range rather than the hundreds of dollars range.