Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House to speak to Bill , an act to implement the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation, which is another important step forward in our government's continued commitment to Canadians to strengthen tax fairness.
The measures proposed in this bill strengthen our efforts to build a fair and equitable tax regime that will benefit all Canadians. Bill is a tax convention that complements other tax treaties we already have with many other international partners.
To ensure that our economy is really working for everyone, we must have a fair tax system, and all Canadians must pay their fair share.
After all, through the taxes we pay as Canadians, we can provide greater support to the middle class, reduce inequality and build modern infrastructure that will get our products to new markets and help create good jobs all across the country.
For nearly four years now, we have been committed to taking action to foster growth and inclusive prosperity, while maintaining fairness for all taxpayers.
A fair tax system is crucial to ensuring that more and more people benefit from a growing economy. When Canadians have more money to invest, save and grow the economy, everyone benefits. Our government began taking steps in that direction from the very beginning.
In fact, one of our first legislative actions was to raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians in order to cut taxes for the middle class. Over nine million Canadians are benefiting from our middle-class tax cut. Single individuals who benefit from the middle-class tax cut are saving on average $330 each year, and couples that benefit are saving an average of $540 each year.
We also took action to provide simpler, more generous and better targeted support to those Canadian families that needed it the most. We did so in 2016 by replacing the old child benefit system with the Canada child benefit. Across Canada, the CCB payments are worth about $24 billion and benefit 3.4 million Canadian families every year. As a result of the Canada child benefit, nine out of 10 Canadian families are better off. I am very proud to mention to the House that the Canada child benefit has helped lift over 300,000 kids out of poverty.
To ensure that the Canada child benefit continues to play a vital role in helping Canadian families, our government strengthened the benefit by indexing it to the cost of living, as of July 2018, which is two full years ahead of schedule.
Thanks to the middle-class tax cut and the CCB, a typical middle-class family of four receives on average about $2,000 more each year to help with the costs of raising their children, which is $2,000 more than they received in 2015. Those numbers are not according to me, they are according to the OECD, which published a study last summer, highlighting how big a difference those two measures had made in the lives of so many Canadian families.
We are not stopping there. Small businesses are one of the key drivers of the Canadian economy. They represent 70% of all private sector jobs, and that is why our government also lowered the small business tax rate. We did that because, when small businesses succeed, all of Canada benefits. We lowered the small business tax rate not once, but twice. As members know, we first lowered it from 10.5% to 10% in 2018 and then we lowered it to 9% in January of this year. For a medium-sized SME, that represents an additional $1,600 a year compared to 2017. That money can be used to create jobs, invest and buy new equipment. With those two consecutive reductions in the small business tax rate, the combined federal-provincial-territorial average tax rate for SMEs is now 12.2%. That is by far the lowest in the G7 and the fourth lowest among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, countries.
Thanks to these measures that have helped boost Canadians' confidence and stimulate economic growth, over a million jobs have been created in Canada since 2015. These new jobs brought Canada's unemployment rate down to the lowest it has been in 40 years and fostered economic growth, making Canada one of the strongest economies in the G7. Our goal is to maintain that growth in the long term.
Our long-term plan is working, and Canadians can feel confident their government is working hard to ensure they can keep more of their hard-earned dollars.
Tax fairness is an important step in this process. Tax fairness has been, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of the 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 budgets, we have taken legislative action on both international and domestic fronts to enhance the integrity of Canada's tax system and give Canadians greater confidence that the system is fair for everyone.
Our government has also boosted the capacity of the Canada Revenue Agency, or the CRA, to crack down on tax fraud and tax avoidance. Investments made over the past two years have enabled the CRA to better target persons who pose the highest risk of tax avoidance and evasion. The CRA now has better access to information on Canadians' overseas bank accounts as we have put in place the common reporting standard. With this new system, Canada and more than 100 other countries now exchange financial account information to help us identify when Canadians are avoiding taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts.
The CRA needs other types of information from foreign countries to ensure that all taxpayers pay their fair share of taxes. That is why the tax convention to be implemented by Bill establishes a system for the exchange of tax information between Canada and Madagascar. Our efforts have focused mainly on fighting tax evasion and fraud because these practices result in heavy financial losses for the government and, by extension, for all Canadian taxpayers.
Recently, we passed important legislation through the House to introduce a multilateral convention to allow Canada and many of its treaty partners to implement tax treaty-related measures to counter a practice known as base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS. BEPS refers to the international planning used by some corporations and wealthy individuals to inappropriately avoid paying taxes by shifting profits earned in Canada to other offshore jurisdictions.
Just last month, budget 2019 proposed to invest an additional $150 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, to step up our efforts on tax evasion. This new investment would allow the CRA to fund new initiatives and extend existing programs. This includes taking action to enhance tax compliance in the real estate sector by investing in the creation of four new dedicated real estate audit teams at the CRA that focus on high-risk areas, notably in Vancouver and Toronto.
Budget 2019 also takes action so the CRA can stay ahead of non-compliance schemes driven by the use of new advanced technologies. Budget 2019 proposes to invest $65.8 million over five years to improve the CRA's information technology system. This would replace legacy systems and modernize the infrastructure used to fight tax evasion.
A modern tax system will help provide more opportunities to Canadians. It will also help create a trading environment in which business owners and entrepreneurs will have the means to invest. They will be able to develop their businesses and create more well-paying jobs for the middle class. That is why, in a world of challenges and constant change, it is so important for Canada to continue developing and updating its network of tax treaties.
The bill we are looking at is part of those efforts. Because Canada is and always will be a trading nation, our tax system has to be designed in such a way to help Canadians seize the incredible opportunities that international trade and investment have to offer. Tax treaties with our trading partners are absolutely fundamental to creating those opportunities.
Canada's 93 tax treaties make up one of the broadest networks in the world. The tax treaty being considered with Madagascar in Bill is part of our countless efforts to strengthen Canada's ties and international co-operation.
Canada and Madagascar have had diplomatic relations since 1965 and share a common French-language heritage. Both Canada and Madagascar are members of the International Organisation of La Francophonie.
Enhancing our competitiveness depends on opening up more markets and ensuring those markets are available to Canadian businesses. Tax treaties provide the certainty needed to support trade and investment between two countries. They also permit the exchange of information needed to help prevent international tax evasion.
Bilateral double tax conventions are used to eliminate tax barriers to trade and investment between two countries. They achieve this in a number of ways.
Tax treaties also provide a mechanism for jurisdictions to resolve tax disputes. The Canada-Madagascar tax convention will promote certainty, stability and a better business climate for taxpayers and businesses in both Canada and Madagascar.
These are all important goals.
In closing, four years ago, we committed to investing in growth while maintaining tax fairness for all taxpayers. A fair tax system is essential to giving as many people as possible the opportunity to reap the benefits of economic growth.
As I said, tax fairness has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of our efforts ensure that Canadian prosperity is inclusive.
We are working with international partners and we are investing to give the Canada Revenue Agency the tools it needs to do its work and ensure that everyone pays their fair share.
We will also ensure that the government continues to provide programs that help all Canadians and that Canada remains positioned as an attractive country for those seeking to work, to invest and to do business.
The benefits of Bill are clear. The tax convention between Canada and Madagascar will promote fiscal certainty and a better business climate for taxpayers and businesses in both Canada and Madagascar. Furthermore, the convention will help solidify Canada's position in a world that thrives on competition to attract foreign business and investments. By increasing its number of convention partners, our government is helping to create the ideal conditions for the long-term economic growth needed to strengthen the middle class.
Our government is committed to growing the economy by helping all Canadians. We maintain that a strong economy is a result of a strong middle class, and our policies and our results reflect this.
Over the past three years, the government has invested in Canadians and in the things that matter most to them and we will continue to do so. Bill is part of that plan for inclusive and long-term prosperity in this country.
I urge all hon. members to vote yes on this important legislation.
Madam Speaker, I am glad to be joining this debate on the most exciting of subjects, tax and a tax treaty. For those constituents of ours who are tuning in on CPAC this early morning, or who have come to watch in the gallery, this is as exciting as this place is going to get, I think, until question period. I see the parliamentary secretary nodding his head, because he knows this too.
I am also glad his intervention covered so much subject matter beyond Bill , because that now allows me to delve into the government's record on taxes, its management of different public policy issues like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, consumer confidence in Canada and business confidence in Canada, as well as how the government has approached Bill .
I will start with an observation about this tax treaty and some of the comments made by the parliamentary secretary. He seemed to be placing Bill within the confines of trying to achieve greater tax fairness and doing other great things with the Government of Madagascar. He said the bill would make sure that Canadian companies and Canadian taxpayers who may be doing business in Madagascar would not be double taxed, and that it would increase trade and do all of these wonderful things.
However, when I asked officials a question at the Standing Committee on Finance, we heard there was such a small number of tax filers with tax filings in Madagascar that each instance raises confidentiality concerns. Officials from Finance Canada responded to me that these concerns are such that, “consistent with the taxpayer confidentiality protections in the Income Tax Act, the department is precluded from releasing these data”.
This may be why Bill comes from the other place, the Senate side. The department told me in this official letter to the Standing Committee on Finance that there are so few tax filers impacted by this that the department would not be able to release the data. I had asked which sectors of the Canadian economy and which sectors of the Madagascar economy would be affected, and whether there were any good examples. I did a quick Google and DuckDuckGo search, and I was able to find that Sherritt International was one of the companies in question. It is mostly a mining consortium. There was very little else that I could find.
To the credit of the Department of Finance, it did a pretty thorough review. It reviewed sources including the T1134 information return on foreign affiliates of Canadian taxpayers, the T1135 information return that collects data on specified foreign property holdings, the T106 information return on non-arm's length transactions with related non-residents, and Schedule 21 to the T2 corporate tax return on foreign income tax credits. The department examined all of the years to 2011 and then the subsequent years.
For those still able to follow, either in the public gallery or at home, Finance Canada did a thorough search to double-check how many of these filings would include Madagascar in some way, and they are actually very, very few. Perhaps the tax treaty will enable more business to be conducted by Canadians in that particular country, and there are opportunities yet to be found for this tax treaty and the consolidation of some of the rules to make it simpler for individuals to do business in both. I was unable to find an instance through any international organization or online that showed that Madagascar was behaving like a tax haven. I think that assuages some of the concerns individuals may have had.
I am sure the government knows that I will be supporting this piece of legislation as well. There was no concern about curbing tax evasion through Bill , or about a potential increase in tax evasion. In fact, this is a very small piece of legislation that does not do what the said. It is not part of a broader approach. If there are so few tax filers that the information cannot be released, then the impact is negligible. Therefore, it cannot be counted as part of the government's broader plan.
I am pouring out my heart here on what I believe about Bill and its contents, having spent several meetings at committee looking at this particular piece of legislation. I am feeling lighter. As the Yiddish proverb goes, when one pours out one's heart, one feels lighter, so now that the parliamentary secretary has poured out his heart about the government and what he believes its achievements are, I am going to do the opposite. I am going to poke holes in a couple of things he said. I am going to poke holes in some of the Liberal government's achievements, including in some of the statistics it likes to use.
At committee we asked both Global Affairs and Finance Canada for information on the specifics of Bill and who it would impact. We were told the bill would impact the mining sector. We were also told that detailed information could not be released because it would compromise the privacy of certain tax filers.
That is unusual. In prior cases, when we have done these tax consolidation treaties or signed up to multilateral international instruments with respect to taxes, such as Bill , which was the tax treaty of tax treaties, it was always tens or hundreds of thousands of Canadians who would be impacted. That included Canadian-controlled private corporations in Canada. There would be many of them, so it was easier for us to estimate the impact.
The parliamentary secretary mentioned base erosion and profit sharing, which is not a fixed section in this particular piece of legislation. We have already had legislation to cover that off.
When I mentioned to my kids, who are very young, with my oldest being 10, that I debated an obscure bill called the Canada-Madagascar tax treaty, the first thing they wanted to talk about was King Julien and Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, the famed characters from Penguins of Madagascar and the other movies in the Madagascar series. My kids were thrilled to watch that series when they were younger, and they are still thrilled to watch it today.
However, this piece of legislation is not about that. I am sorry to burst their bubble but this, unfortunately, is not about King Julien or those four little penguins.
The parliamentary secretary went off on a tangent at one point. He mentioned that the tax treaty in Bill would increase consumer confidence, and that it was part of a slew of policy decisions the government has been making to increase both consumer and business confidence. If he had bothered to check the latest statistics posted by different economic analysis bodies online, or if he had bothered to check the Conference Board of Canada, he would have seen that consumer confidence is just as low as it was in 2015. It has not improved since then. We can see that in our communities. I can see it in cities and towns all over Alberta.
However, there is more consumer confidence in Alberta now that we have Premier Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party in charge. A new cabinet has been sworn in, and on Tuesday of next week the members of the legislative assembly will be sworn in. I hope we will know the new plan for the province on Wednesday.
Some of that plan has already come out. The government of Alberta has already announced that it will get rid of the punishing provincial NDP carbon tax, which was far more punishing on Albertans and Alberta businesses than the federal backstop. That does not mean the backstop is any good. It does not mean the federal carbon tax is any better.
The Alberta government is basically proposing to return to the old system, which was working. It was the first system to put a price on carbon for the largest emitters, not directly on consumers. The system worked. It was lauded all across North America at the time. It did not punish consumers directly for their behaviour, but was specifically aimed at the largest emitters, who were making it part of their business plans. That is the difference. May 31 is the last day of the Alberta carbon tax.
We can really see consumer confidence returning in Alberta. People are more confident now that they have a government that is on their side and will back up the decisions of private businesses, everyday Albertans, the mom-and-pop convenience stores, the local dry cleaner and the small oil and gas servicing company that has somehow managed to just get by over the last few years.
Albertans are on the cusp. They know that prosperity might return with the right decisions being made by their government to get involved, not to make decisions for them but to support them in the decisions that will create new jobs, create more business investment and lead to higher returns in terms of corporate and personal income taxes.
That is how consumer confidence returns, not by having what we have seen from the federal Liberal government over the past four years. The Liberals created a situation here in Canada that made it impossible to build a pipeline. Energy east was cancelled because of regulatory red tape. Northern gateway was cancelled by cabinet order. There already is a functioning Trans Mountain pipeline, but the Liberals caused a situation in which Kinder Morgan saw no real means to get the expansion built. It was losing construction seasons to it, so the government expropriated it. The government bought it for $4.5 billion.
Now we know from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that the government not only overpaid for the pipeline project by $1 billion but will also need to extract another $8 billion to $9 billion from the taxpayer to build this pipeline.
There has been talk of legislation and there has been talk of an expedited process, but we are waiting until later in June to find out whether this pipeline will get perhaps half a construction season. We know that construction seasons in Canada are short. Basically, there is a construction season and then there is winter. These are essentially the two seasons we have in Canada. Most people who live in big cities know this, as they have experienced it. We are going to lose a second construction season, and this does nothing but reduce business confidence and reduce consumer confidence.
How can Canadians have faith in a government that purchases a pipeline, overpays for it, and loses money every single month operating it? When the interest being paid on the debt is subtracted from the tolls charged on the pipeline, Liberals are losing money every single month operating in the most profitable part of the energy sector, which is shipping.
As I hear constantly from the , who is from Edmonton and should know better, as once the oil gets to the west coast, 99.95% of the product shipped out of the port of Vancouver goes to California. Those are not my statistics; I am not making them up. I asked the Library of Parliament to confirm them for me. This is from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The port itself has said that 99.95% of the product goes to California to feed the refineries there.
Therefore, this is not about reaching new markets on the current pipeline, and perhaps not even on the future pipeline. A series of public policy decisions led to a situation such that a private company felt unable to build a pipeline because of obstruction at the federal and provincial levels. Those obstructions are not gone; they have just become purely governmental. All the decision-making is on the government side.
When I knocked on doors in my communities and for my provincial counterparts, which I did during this past election in Alberta, I heard time and time again that people have no faith whatsoever in the Liberal government's ability to deliver on the construction of a pipeline and no faith in the government's ability to manage public finances.
The mentioned the Liberals' great plan to increase affordability for the middle class and that Liberals reduced the tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%. I remind the parliamentary secretary and all members of the House that the biggest tax break from those tax changes went to every single member of Parliament in this chamber. Those who were earning $45,000 or less got zero. They received no benefit whatsoever from that tax cut, but because of the way the progressive tax system works, every single member of Parliament in this chamber got over $800 off their taxes at the end of the day.
That is what the Liberal government did. Those of us in this chamber are not the middle class, but the Liberals did this and claimed it was for the benefit of the middle class. They gave themselves a bigger tax cut than they gave not so much to the working poor, but to people trying to get by and get ahead, people who are taking jobs that many people do not want to take. They work hard for the wages and salaries they earn.
Instead, they received higher payroll taxes. There has been a CPP increase as well, which is taking away from their income at the end of the day and taking away their ability to choose how they want to save.
The second part is that they have a carbon tax to pay. We heard the speak to this, and in the scenarios he noted, he gave OECD numbers. A colleague of mine mentioned that a family on the lower income scale with two kids would not be getting back all of that money. The parliamentary secretary's numbers only make sense if we include the child benefit, which is just a re-badging of the old universal child care benefit. It is the original Conservative policy that was introduced when the government wanted to introduce a universal, one-size-fits-all, cradle-to-old-age welfare system. Whereas the government would take care of our children directly under this system, the UCCB was meant to empower parents, and that is how we should be looking at it.
The government claims that if we look at all government policy together, the carbon tax is not so bad. However, that does not help the kind of family my colleague mentioned, which is not seeing these rebates.
As well, if we look more closely at the GGPPA, which is the acronym for the government's carbon tax bill that is over 200 pages long, and then if we look at this latest budget document and some of the implementation portions of it, including the algebra formula that implements the rebate program for the federal carbon tax, we see that there is a provision that would allow the minister of finance to exclude any money he or she wishes from the rebate. A finance minister could give it to any other minister he or she wants, for any program, infrastructure or purpose. It is right there in the formula. There is no guarantee in the legislation that Canadians would receive any sort of rebate on the carbon tax, and it will never replace the full amount.
It is absolutely illogical and irrational to say that 100% of the collected tax will be returned to those who pay it. There always is and there always will be an administrative cost in collecting a tax, unless people think that public servants work for free and they think the lights and the heating in this place come for free, and they do not. It has to cost a certain amount of money, which is why we say the government is misleading them. The way the government presents the facts around the carbon rebate and the carbon tax is ingenious, but it is not an environmental plan; it is a tax plan. It is as simple as that.
To return to the point of consumer confidence and how we have not seen it return, some of the facts on LNG speak for themselves. In the case of LNG, 78 billion dollars' worth billion worth of projects in Canada have been cancelled since 2015. Those are LNG projects that have been completely abandoned by the companies that were proposing them. Tens of thousands of potential well-paying construction jobs, many of them unionized, are gone. They will not be created, because that $78 billion to put people to work has been removed from the private sector. That is an important fact to remember.
The only large-scale project that I am aware of that is going ahead is LNG Canada's project. LNG Canada is a consortium. Mitsubishi is involved and Petronas is involved. The only reason that the consortium went ahead with the project is that it has an exclusion and an exemption from the carbon tax. Of course a company will go ahead and build a large-scale industrial project, as LNG Canada is proposing to do, when it gets an exemption to a tax.
I cannot imagine any regular, everyday, hard-working taxpayers being told by the Liberal government that CRA is going to give them an exemption this year so that they do not have to pay taxes because they are doing so well in producing jobs and growing their business or are earning a higher salary because they work hard. Nobody gets that type of exclusion or exemption.
I will spend my last two minutes on my favourite subject, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, because Madagascar, this country that we are signing a tax treaty with, is a member of this bank. As I said, the parliamentary secretary, by going on a tangent, has allowed me to go on a tangent here. Madagascar is a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. As far as I know, it has not received any project yet. It has only spent $15 million to $20 million, which is a paltry sum compared to the nearly half a billion dollars that Canada has set aside. That same money is being used to build pipelines all over Asia, including in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh and the suburbs of Beijing.
I am pouring my heart out here. As my Yiddish proverb said, I am feeling lighter from being able to speak about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. If we in Canada are unable to build pipelines, which are the safest way to move energy, it seems absolutely wrong to be giving a half a billion dollars to governments in Asia and to the China-controlled, Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
I support Bill , a small piece of legislation coming to us from the Senate, but I do not support the government's agenda and its repeated failures to get large-scale energy infrastructure built in Canada. I do not support the government's policies that have undermined business confidence and the confidence of Canadians. October cannot come soon enough. The current Liberal government is not as advertised.
Madam Speaker, I have to come back to the member for , because having been one of the only members in the House of Commons who has actually been ankle deep in oil, having worked at one of the closed oil refineries, I have to state, for the record, that the Conservatives are not only incoherent and illiterate on energy policy and renewable energy policy, but the example the member has just given shows how completely out of touch the Conservatives are when it comes to the basic economics of exporting raw bitumen.
The reality is that the Conservatives love to cosy up to foreign-owned oil companies, but the idea that we would ship Canadian jobs overseas and contribute to a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions makes no sense at all. It makes no sense to people right across the country, including the people who are suffering from the record levels of flooding we are seeing in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In British Columbia, we are already seeing the start of the forest fire season. In the month of May, there are now 15 out-of-control forest fires in British Columbia.
Over the last three years, we have seen our skies covered with smoke in the Lower Mainland and on southern Vancouver Island because of the catastrophic number of forest fires. In the last three years, in the month of August, the air has been unbreathable. Therefore, for Conservatives to say that there is no problem at all, let us just ship raw bitumen overseas, and for the Liberals to support them, shows the degree of irresponsibility we have in the House of Commons. That is something I think Canadians will want to change on October 21.
That being said, I will return to Bill . We support it on this side of the House. We support it because it is the one initiative the Liberals have managed to put forward that does not increase tax havens, money laundering and the legalized tax evasion that is costing this country so much.
There is an idea that this massive tax evasion, started by the Conservatives and continued by the Liberals, with the largest and most profitable Canadian corporations taking their money overseas and not paying taxes on it, is something that is victimless. Somehow it does not hurt Canadians in any way, shape or form. In this corner of the House, we in the NDP caucus can only say that this is simply not true.
We have underfunding of our health care system and the inability of either the former Conservative government or the current Liberal government to bring in pharmacare. One in five Canadians are struggling to pay for their medication. There are Canadians, literally outside the House of Commons, like Jim, whom I have mentioned numerous times, who has to beg on the bridge between the Chateau Laurier and the East Block because of the $580 a month he has to pay for medication that he cannot cover any other way.
The fact is, we have tens of billions of dollars that should be paid as part of the fair share of Canada's largest and most profitable corporations. Tens of billions of dollars simply evaporate away. They are taken to overseas tax havens and sit in corporate bank accounts, because we do not have a fair and just tax system, which is something that hurts so many Canadians. It hurts Canadians who cannot access health care. It hurts younger Canadians who are forced to go into debt on a scale of tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to go to college, university or trade school. They have to borrow the money because of the punitive fees that are charged for college and university.
At the same time, Canada's corporate sector is just laughing. I am not talking about Loblaws and the $12 million the Liberals doled out to Canada's richest billionaire, which is unbelievable. It is the fact that so many Canadian corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes because of the very intricate network of overseas tax havens, which the Conservatives started and the Liberals promote. That is what causes so much challenge for the average Canadian family, so much so that the average Canadian family is now the most indebted in the industrialized world and the most indebted in Canadian history. That was on the Liberals' watch during the last four years.
We have seen family debt load skyrocket because people are having to pay for medication and are having to struggle to save money because of college and university, because we simply allow that money to go overseas. Instead of having a fair tax system, Canadians are indebting themselves to a record extent, worse than any other country in the industrialized world. One would think the Liberals would say that it is profoundly unfair, that maybe they should do something about this intricate network of tax havens, that they should do something to force the corporate sector to pay its fair share. However, instead, they double down.
They have signed a number of arrangements with overseas tax havens, some of the most notorious in the country. The ones the Conservatives had not yet signed, the Liberals took up, such as the Cook Islands, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, notorious tax havens where people can put their money, report it and pay zero per cent income tax. Canadian authorities then say that since they paid zero per cent in Antigua, the Cook Islands or Grenada, they do not have to pay a cent in Canada. It is legalized tax evasion to an unbelievable extent. That is why many of the chartered accountancy firms that specialize in tax avoidance, as they would say, though I call it tax evasion, trumpet the fact that Canada now has the lowest effective tax rate in the industrialized world. It is at 9% for the corporate sector, because it can take so much money overseas.
Single parents, fathers or mothers, struggling to raise their children are indebted to an unbelievable extent but are still paying their taxes, because they believe, as most Canadians believe, that Canadians should pay their fair share of taxes, that we all contribute to this project called Canada, that we all contribute to this country. Canadians struggling to make sure that they are keeping up to date and paying their income taxes like good Canadians can take no comfort from what is massive and unbelievable tax evasion. We have the lowest level of corporate tax in the industrialized world and the highest level of family debt. Yes, those two things are related.
It is not just that. A few minutes ago, the finance critic, the member for , stood to present a bill that should have been presented four years ago, if the Liberals had kept any of their promises, and 10 years ago if the Conservatives had been truthful to their ideology. It would ensure that the massive web giants, corporations like Facebook and Google, outside the country, which suck advertising dollars and revenue out of Canada, should pay some taxes. What a concept. How radical for these massive, multi-billion dollar companies to actually pay some taxes in Canada.
Conservatives said that they did not have to do it. When the Liberals came to power, they talked about a fair tax system but did nothing to address that. Therefore, as usual, as with medicare and in so many other cases, it is the NDP that is putting forward a plan in the House of Commons to ensure that these massive, multi-billion dollar companies, with enormous profits, actually pay some tax in Canada.
It is not just that, as we know. We have also seen reports coming out of British Columbia on the extent to which Liberal policies have contributed to amplifying, to an extraordinary extent, money laundering in Canada. The report, just last week, from the expert panel on money laundering, shows that under Liberal policies, money laundering has reached a critical stage: $47 billion in illegal funds were laundered in Canada last year, according to the expert panel. This is the product of criminal activities. This is the product of illegal activities, yet the government refuses to do anything significant to address the massive extent of money laundering.
This is not a victimless crime. The impact on just one sector, the affordable housing market in the Lower Mainland, the area I represent in the House of Commons, with the escalation in prices, now means that so many families in the Lower Mainland are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, or they have to live on the streets or move away.
I cannot tell the House the extent of suffering that comes from allowing this money laundering to continue without any due regard for cracking down or shutting it down. Honest Canadians, the ones who pay their taxes, are the ones who are most badly hurt by what has now been a couple of decades of complete negligence by Conservative and Liberal governments in this regard.
Last year, $47 billion of illegal money were laundered in Canada. The Liberals do nothing. The Conservatives do not care. However, this has a profound impact on average Canadians, not just on housing prices but on a whole range of activities.
When the finance committee was discussing measures that could have curbed money laundering, the NDP's proposal, which is one of the first recommendations by the expert panel, was to have public accessibility to beneficial ownership registries to ensure we knew how to track the money.
However, the old parties, the parties that have contributed to this system, a system that has been so detrimental for the average Canadian, said no. Members speak with seniors in their ridings. They know how seniors are struggling to make ends meet. Members see young Canadians, who are trying to acquire the skills to contribute to the country, forced to go into debt, in the tens of thousands of dollars. Families are struggling to keep affordable homes over their heads. All Canadians are struggling to pay for their medications. This is all a result of policies that put so much, tens of billions of dollars, in the hands of the very wealthy at the cost of the quality of life of Canadians right across the country.
When we talk about money laundering, the beneficial ownership registry and the NDP's proposal that it be publicly accessible, both of the old parties said no. They did not want to have that. They did not want to have that sunlight that would bring transparency, which Canadians want. It would allow us to combat what has become Canada's black eye around the world. We are now renowned as a haven for money laundering.
The Guardian newspaper talked about Canada being a haven for “snow washing”. It is a now a term that is used around the world to describe the systematic use of money laundering in Canada. It can be done through buying real estate. It can be with a whole range of things. It can be done with impunity because the Liberals have refused to fund the resources that would allow our over-strapped, overworked agencies to combat it. The Liberals and the Conservatives refuse to have a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry that would allow all of us to track the money.
This is the legacy of the Liberal government.
Let us just take a moment to look at what we have after four years of Liberals in power. They could have done so much to help the quality of life of the average Canadian, to address seniors who eat dog and cat food because that is all they can afford if they want to keep a roof over their head, and often even that is not enough. What about people like Jim who have to beg to get enough money for the medication their doctors have prescribed, medications that are absolutely necessary for their health? What have they done to combat the underfunding of our health care system and the skyrocketing tuition fees that are leading so many families to not even be able to attend university, or college or trade school, at the same time as we have a crisis and shortage of trained and skilled workers in so many sectors?
All of this dysfunction has contributed to the highest level of family debt in the industrialized world. It all comes from the basis of having a profoundly unfair tax system, created by Conservatives and Liberals to benefit their buddies on Bay Street, a system that allows billionaires to get away with not paying taxes. In addition, they get grants that are paid for by those regular taxpayers who do pay their taxes. We saw with the $12 million the Liberal government handed to Loblaws.
It is shocking that we now have created a fossilized unfair tax system that provides us with the lowest effective tax rate in the industrialized world and ensures that some of the largest web giants on the planet do not have to pay a cent of tax in Canada. Even as they are running into bankruptcy, a whole network of community newspapers and local television and radio stations, sucking that advertising out of the country, they do not have to put anything back. It is a legalized tax evasion.
At the same time, we now know that $47 billion, and that is a conservative estimate from the expert panel on money laundering, have been laundered in the country in the past year, contributing to the rise of completely unaffordable housing prices for families that are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and contributing in so many ways to deterioration in the quality of life. Things definitely need to change.
How can we change that?
The NDP has already proposed putting in place a fair and equitable tax system. We are asking that Canadian corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We do not think that is too much to ask. We are not asking that they pay large sums, like 50% or 60% of their profits. However, an effective rate of 9% for corporations is absolutely ridiculous when we consider that the tax rate for individuals is higher than that. Some people do not have the means to be taxed at that rate, but they contribute to our country. We need to have a system that is fair. For that, the effective rate for corporations has to be greater than 9%.
Secondly, web giants have not been paying any tax in Canada for years. They make billions in profits and pay absolutely nothing. These web giants should pay their fair share of tax. If the NDP is elected to government on October 21, our party will get to work immediately. We will not allow this to continue. Instead of giving billions of dollars in gifts to web giants, we will lower tuition for students who want to go to CEGEP, learn a trade or attend university.
With respect to money laundering, our institutions, such as the RCMP, must have the resources required to deal with these crimes. They are not victimless crimes. This is a situation that has rather significant consequences. Eastern Canada is one of the worst regions in the world in terms of money laundering.
All these elements should be considered. All that is needed is the will to do something about it. In recent years, we have seen that the Liberals did not have the will to put in place a fair tax system. This bill is a small gesture made during four years of inaction on this file, which is extremely costly for Canadians.
In a few weeks, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is going to table a report that sheds light on this situation and all the money that is leaving the country. We are ready to examine it. Canadians will then judge the government.
Madam Speaker, I have listened to the debate on Bill this morning and I must say there are plenty of things that one can draw upon in order to shed more light and to be a bit more forthright with respect to the bill.
The Government of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada recognize the important role that trade plays in the development of our nation. Having observed the NDP for many years now, it is my experience that as a general rule that party does not support trade agreements.
There have been dozens of trade agreements. On one occasion, the vote was not a recorded vote, so NDP members claimed not to have voted against the bill. They might have voted in favour of one other bill. A couple of MPs have indicated they have voted in favour of trade, but as a general rule the NDP does not support trade agreements between Canada and other countries, and that is somewhat unfortunate.
Bill is about a tax treaty with Madagascar. Madagascar has wonderful opportunities for Canadians, and individuals from that country have opportunities here in Canada. We have many tax treaties with countries around the world, and tax treaties provide significant benefits to both countries.
That is why it is with pleasure that I rise today to address this legislation and to add my comments on a wide variety of issues, all stemming from our economy, social justice and the tax laws that we currently have. I have a fairly wide spectrum to work from based on the debate I have heard so far today. Let me attempt to do it in the best way I can.
The number that comes to my mind, which ultimately demonstrates what this government has been able to accomplish by working with Canadians, is one million, and that is a fairly recent number that has come out relating to employment.
It is worth mentioning that since we took office in October 2015, we have seen the generation of over one million new jobs. That is historic, in the sense of the last 40 or 50 years. It is an incredible number of jobs, and it is due in good part to the policies that this government has put in place, budgetary measures and legislative measures, all with the idea of supporting Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it.
Day after day, for weeks, months and years, our government has taken Canada's middle class seriously. We have developed progressive measures to assist middle-class Canadians, bringing forward policies that will support them, policies such as the Canada child benefit program and the guaranteed income supplement for our seniors, which have added great value to our economy.
We hear a lot about taxation. People expect to pay their fair share. From day one, our government has taken this very seriously.
Members will recall that during the last election, today's made a commitment to Canadians that there would be a tax cut for the middle class. If members look at Bill , which was our first piece of legislation, they will see that we delivered on that tax cut, which put hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of Canadians. I would argue that the money going into the pockets of Canadians enabled them to increase their disposable income, allowing them to spend more into the economy, and it is one of the reasons for the one million-plus jobs that have been generated. Working with Canadians, investing in Canadians, allowing Canadians to have more disposable income has allowed Canada's economy to perform that much better.
Taxation policy matters. The NDP and the most recent speaker talked about tax fairness and said that the rich need to pay more. That was an important part of the very first budget we brought forward, in which Canada's wealthiest 1% had to pay more. The millions raised through that one initiative supported giving Canada's middle class a tax break. The issue of tax fairness, much like the tax break, has been of the utmost importance to this government. It was one of the very first actions taken when we assumed office in 2015, recognizing some of the comments made today, whether it was the NDP talking about tax fairness or the Conservatives talking about the tax on Canada's middle class.
When the member for asked who benefits from the tax break that we gave to the middle class and then said it is members of Parliament who benefit, I think of the tens of thousands of teachers, the tens of thousands of nurses, the tens of thousands of factory workers or the tens of thousands of people who work for our financial institutions. Those individuals also benefited from that tax break.
I indicated that when I had the opportunity, I would put some facts on the record, and there is no disputing what I have said, because it is all factually correct. The government has consistently gone out of its way to develop policy through legislation and budgetary measures that has had a positive impact on Canada's middle class.
The tax treaty that we are debating today is all about international relationships and ways for these treaties to further advance Canadian interests. This is not the only tax treaty legislation that we have put forward in the last three years. Bill also dealt with tax treaties. It is not the first time we have had to deal with tax treaties, because we understand and appreciate the true value of having these types of treaties with countries. It allows us to have a better sense of taxes flowing, both here in Canada and in the country in question. It provides additional security, if I can put it that way, for investments flowing to countries with which we have tax treaties.
We recognize, as we do on the broader picture, trade and international relations. No government in recent history has done more with respect to trade agreements than this government. The previous government likes to say that it had 30-plus trade agreements, but that is just not true. Through this administration, we have been able to sign more trade agreements than any other government in the last 40 to 50 years. Since trade agreements have been tied into tax agreements or tax treaties, I would challenge any member in the House to list a government that has been able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time on that file.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, with respect to treaties and trade, the approach this government has taken in regard to international relations has supported our economy. By supporting our economy in many different ways, it has had a profoundly positive impact on the generation of jobs.
We can look at the province of Manitoba and at an industry I have cited in the past, which is the pork industry. It provides thousands of jobs in the province. In any given year, we have more pigs than people in Manitoba. Plants out toward Neepawa export 95%-plus of their production to Asia. However, the industry provides hundreds of direct jobs on the factory floor and hundreds of additional jobs outside the factory.
Those jobs would not exist if we did not have the international relations we have today. Whether it is cattle or pork, members will see significant increases in the last few years. I like to believe it is because of the approach, in part, and working with Canadians and other stakeholders, encouraging the development of those industries and taking advantage of the agreements on which we have signed off.
At times, the Conservatives will say that they brought it close to the goal line. As we know, it is not bringing it to the post that matters as much as it is getting it over the post. We have been very successful at doing that.
The CETA agreement is a great example. It involved a couple of dozen countries. It was completely off the rails and had it not been for our current , that deal never would have gotten over the goal line. We are still hopeful the European Union will get behind it 100%, as its respective legislative bodies continue to deal with the issue.
Whether it is recognizing the value of our tax treaties or the benefits of getting engaged with the countries, and we are talking about dozens of countries, Canada has been successful in negotiating these treaties, which provide assurances in progressing on the trade file. In a relatively short period of time, the government has been able to accomplish a great deal on both accounts.
We hear a lot from the opposition benches about tax avoidance. Again, we have seen the government not only talk about it but invest in it. For two consecutive years, the government invested additional monies, almost $1 billion, hundreds of millions in each of two separate budgets, in the Canada Revenue Agency to go after individuals who try to avoid paying taxes.
We have taken this very seriously, along with tax evasion. In three years, the government has done more to go after individuals for tax evasion than the previous government did in 10 years. The same applies to tax avoidance. We have recognized the importance of doing the follow up, of looking at ways to ensure that those who are supposed to be paying their fair share are doing so.
We do not need to take lessons from the opposition, in particular the Conservative opposition, on this because it has virtually ignored the problem by not investing. If anything, it divested. It took money away from the CRA. Cuts were brought by the Conservative administration.
When I put forward a question for the member for , he talked about taxation policy. He implied that we needed to go after corporations and make them pay more. I give the NDP an A-plus for consistency on it while it is in opposition, but that is it. I underline the words “while in opposition”.
I have witnessed first-hand an NDP government in my home province of Manitoba. What I hear from the NDP in opposition is in contrast to what I hear from the NDP in government. It is like night and day. When the NDP was in government in Manitoba, it cut corporate taxes seven times, as I pointed out in my question.
We can look at the record and the many comments today by my colleague and friend from the NDP. He has tried to shape the debate as if the NDP is the strong advocate for tax fairness. In the last three years, we have seen a national government not only come up with tax treaties to ensure there is a stronger sense of tax fairness at the international level, but also it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Revenue Canada to go after individuals who avoid or evade paying their taxes. Those are significant sums of money.
All of this together is what we have been able to do in the last three and a half years. I look forward to the next six months. There is a lot more we want to do to continue to support Canada's middle class, those aspiring to be a part of it and those who need to be ensured that there is a sense of social justice.
Mr. Speaker, it is always good to rise in the House, and as I have announced I will not be running in the next election, every time I rise in the House, I am still overwhelmed with not just the beauty of the chamber, but also the great responsibility I have had from the people of Battle River—Crowfoot in being entrusted with bringing their voices to Ottawa.
Today we rise to support Bill , an act to implement a convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar that has the objective of eliminating double taxation and preventing tax evasion. Tax treaties of this nature meet this objective through the sharing of information between signatory countries.
We know that for governments to build strong economies at home, it is important that they look at a number of very important subjects. All three or four of the points that I want to make today deal with having a strong economy at home. They deal with making sure that jobs stay here at home, making sure that our young people are not travelling overseas necessarily to work but can find jobs here so that we can prosper here at home, and making sure that Canadians who invest abroad or find work abroad will have a better opportunity to prosper there.
There are some very important conditions that have to be laid out in order to find that prosperity and allow those jobs to be created. We know in the Conservative Party know that one of the vitally important aspects of securing a strong economy and creating jobs is trade. We are an exporting country. Canada, whether it is resources or agriculture, exports more than what we use at home. We are a vast country. Our geography and land mass make us a country of amazing opportunity. It is one of the largest countries in land mass in the world.
However, compared to many other countries, our population base is fairly small. We have only 35 or 36 million people. How do we guarantee that we will be able to prosper in spite of having a small population base? One way is through trade, through making sure that our resources and our agriculture can be sold and marketed around the world.
I live in a fairly rural riding in Alberta, a province whose economy has been hurt over the last four or five or six years in a remarkable way. In my riding, we have many different industries and many different sectors of the economy: gas and oil, resources, coal. We are rich in resources in Alberta, and my riding is also very strong in agriculture.
With all of these, we have a high level of exportation of our products. In order to have a free trade agreement in South America, we realized that people there had a desire to secure a safe food supply and were looking to Canada to provide grains, oilseeds, pulse crops, and other agricultural products, including beef and pork. Much of the food stock for the world is created in Canada, and much of it in Alberta.
We realized that we want to have free trade agreements with many countries, and if we do not have a free trade agreement with a country, we still want to have some kind of opportunity to trade with that country.
We do not have a free trade agreement with China, but we still carry on a great amount of trade with China. However, always, agreements enhance our trade. Likewise, agreements on taxes will enhance it as well.
Regarding our agricultural products, right now we are really feeling the pinch with canola. We are feeling the pinch, with one of our largest markets, China, basically stopping our canola from coming into that country. We believe that this is unfair and ungrounded. We have no doubt that this is not about food safety. It is not about the product. As I have said, we have the safest, best product in the world. However, we do not have a free trade agreement with China. Maybe when we see what is happening, we understand why we do not have a free trade agreement with China.
Right now, our canola farmers are really feeling the pinch. Indeed, at this time of year, in the spring, when our crops are being planted, I am getting calls to my office asking me if I am expecting the market to open up. They are asking whether they should be planting canola or cutting way back, although their rotation does not allow them to do that. We are hearing all the concerns coming from agriculture with regard to trade.
The Conservative government had a free trade agreement with Europe. We were pretty well ready to sign onto the TPP. It was not ratified, but everything was laid out. We wanted to get our product into these countries so that we could prosper at home.
However, it is not all about trade. If we want a strong economy, we also have to recognize that we have to have training. We have to have a skilled workforce. We have to be able to invest so that when times get tough, if we cannot compete with Mexico on wages to manufacture, we can compete with the skill sets we have here in Canada. Therefore, we invested greatly in training young people and enhancing the skill sets our workforce had already. This was a driving force in our Conservative government in the last 10 years we governed. We put money into innovation and training.
It was trade, training and red tape. How are we going to have job creation? How are we going to enhance it? How are we going to attract businesses to start up in Alberta, or wherever in Canada, if the red tape to get that business going is a mile long?
We brought forward a red tape reduction strategy to make it easier for businesses, investors and job creators to create those jobs right here at home. That job is unending. With more government and more bureaucracy, the tendency is to see red tape grow. One of the strong things we brought forward was making sure that we were able to cut red tape, and we still need to do it. Therefore, I am pleased that Premier Kenney is committed to the reduction of red tape. There is a level of optimism we have not seen in Alberta for many years. I would also say that our government has always and would continue to look at ways to enhance job creation through the cutting of the red tape burden.
The fourth and final aspect, besides trade, training and red tape, is taxes. If we are not a country that can attract manufacturing and investment because our tax regime is so out of whack, then we cannot expect to see our economy grow. We cannot expect that people will have confidence in investing their capital here in Canada. In Alberta, because of regulation, red tape and high taxes, including the carbon tax, we saw between $80 billion and $100 billion in foreign investment capital flee, and with that went jobs and hope for a lot of young Canadians and Albertans.
To have a strong economy, we have to make sure that we have a strong tax system that has integrity but is also not overly burdensome. When the Conservatives came to power, and when the world fell into a global recession, we moved our corporate rate from 22% to 15%, because we knew that business and manufacturing would flee to the United States or Mexico, predominantly, and other places if we did not compete with a tax structure or a tax rate that would attract investors to Canada.
A lot is about taxes. A lot of what we want to do in building a strong economy is in regard to the tax structure. Tax levels make a large impact on investment, and we have seen that.
Canada not only mines and extracts resources around the world, it invests around the world. We have people who prosper and earn an income from foreign investment. We want to be sure that if we are allowing that, we avoid double taxation. If taxation is important, who, as an investor, would want double taxation, where a country, Madagascar, in this case, would tax us, and then Canada would when we came back home? How much investment do members think would take place in those countries, and here, if we allowed double taxation?
Predominantly where we have massive investment, we have double taxation treaties. A tax treaty contains rules regarding the circumstances under which a signatory country may collect certain taxes on income so that when investors invest, they are aware. They look at the treaty and say that this is what we have to pay, this is what we do not have to pay and this is what we will pay back home. It is a single tax base. In the absence of a tax treaty, the income of a Canadian citizen abroad would be hit on both sides, and investors would flee.
For that reason, we come to this today. This debate, I would say, is the meat and potatoes of what is going on here in Parliament. This is not a day when we are talking about the issues that are really important to Canadians. I do not know if I have had a call to my office in Camrose about Madagascar. My constituents expect that we are taking care of business so that they can prosper, whether on the farm, in investing or in the oil patch.
Most of the tax treaties to which Canada is partnered follow the Model Tax Convention. This is a tax treaty or convention that is given as a model by the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This was done in 1963, and subsequent to that, there have been a number of occasions when it has been revised. Currently, Canada is signatory to 93 agreements. This is not something new. We are not stepping out into uncharted territory. This is common.
As I said at the outset, I fully support the intent of Bill , but I am particularly concerned about the tax evasion side. We have heard much from all parties today about tax evasion and the ability of the Canada Revenue Agency to consistently enforce compliance rules and collect taxes.
I do not like high taxes. I look for ways to cut taxes. I formerly served as the minister of state for finance. We looked at every opportunity we could to drive this economy by lowering taxes and keeping more money in the pockets of Canadians. However, tax evasion is different. I think every Canadian expects that there is a certain level of taxes that they are required and willing to pay, not just by law but in order to have the services we have here in Canada.
From report 7 of the 2018 fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada, on compliance activities of the Canada Revenue Agency, the public accounts committee, which I have had the privilege of chairing, learned the following: “Most taxpayers are individuals with Canadian employment income. We found that the Agency requested information from these taxpayers more quickly,” and this is the important part, “and gave less time to respond, than it did with other taxpayers, such as international and large businesses, and taxpayers with offshore transactions.”
The Auditor General went on:
For example, if the Agency asked an individual to provide a receipt to support a claimed expense and the taxpayer did not provide the receipt within 90 days, the Agency would automatically disallow the expense as an eligible income tax deduction. The Agency would assess the taxpayer’s income tax return on the basis of the information it had available and would notify the taxpayer of the taxes due.
In other words, average middle-income Canadians are not cut much slack when it comes to their domestic income here in Canada.
Comparatively, the Auditor General's report states:
For other taxpayers, such as those with offshore transactions, we found that the time frame to provide information was sometimes extended for months or even years. For example, banks and foreign countries could take months to provide information on the taxpayer’s offshore transactions to the Agency or the taxpayer.
It continues, and this is important:
Sometimes the Agency did not obtain information at all, and the file was closed without any taxes assessed.
We can see that these agreements are vital. These agreements enhance what the CRA is given. If people understand the treaty, they know what to claim, they know what to put forward and they know what to show CRA. They feel less vulnerable to the Canada Revenue Agency and can also invest with greater confidence.
The Auditor General's office said that “over the past five years...the Agency took, on average, more than a year and a half to complete audits of offshore transactions.”
These agreements speed that up. The fall 2018 report was not the first time the Auditor General noted how long it took the agency to enforce compliance. The Auditor General further stated:
As we noted in the 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada, Chapter 3, Status Report on Collecting Tax Debts—Canada Revenue Agency, the longer it took the Agency to enforce compliance, the less likely it could collect the taxes due. This was especially true for taxpayers with offshore assets, who may have been inclined to liquidate assets or transfer funds to make it more difficult for the Agency to obtain information and collect taxes due. On the other hand, for individuals and domestic businesses, the Agency had a better likelihood of collection by garnishing wages and seizing assets.
To add insult to injury, the Auditor General found that the Canada Revenue Agency did not proactively consider waiving penalties and interest consistently for all taxpayers. Again, the Auditor General stated:
We found that the Agency offered to waive interest and penalties for taxpayers in some compliance activities but not others—even when the Agency had caused the delays.
The inconsistent application of relief for taxpayers contradicts the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, according to the Auditor General. The report states:
[The] Taxpayer Bill of Rights gives all taxpayers the right to have the law applied consistently. It also gives all taxpayers the right to receive entitlements, such as benefits, credits, and refunds, and to pay no more and no less than what is required by law.
Although it may not quite be unanimous, I am pleased that most in this House, as far as I can see, see the importance of these kinds of meat and potatoes regulations and bills. Coming into compliance and making sure that Canadian investors are not vulnerable or put on an uneven playing field is imperative if we are going to increase foreign investment coming to our country and our investment in those countries, all of which will help build the economy, help Canada prosper and help us create jobs.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be participating in this debate on Senate Bill in my new role.
I would like to start by saluting my colleague opposite for his fine speech on this bill. I will continue in the same vein and express my support for this bill.
Until just recently, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. I sat on the committee for nearly three years, and I absolutely loved it. We got to examine all the issues that fall to the federal government, including all bills related to taxation authority, and review our government's finances. One of the last studies I took part in was about Bill . It is part of our government's agenda for ensuring tax fairness and a fair tax system.
Before I get into the details of the legislation, I would first like to underscore the fact that this is not only part of this government's tax fairness agenda, but this also places itself within a whole framework of what we are trying to achieve to help Canadians who are trying to keep their taxes low, including small businesses as well as for middle-class families.
When our government took office three and a half years ago, we made a commitment to invest in growth and we made it while upholding the principle of fairness for all taxpayers. This proposed legislation goes a long way toward that end.
A fair tax system is key to ensuring that the benefits of a growing economy accrue to all and are felt by more and more people, especially people with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class and for everyone who works hard to join it.
I would like to remind hon. members that one of the first things our government did was lower taxes on the middle class and raise them for the wealthiest 1%. Over nine million Canadians benefited from that measure. That really fills me with pride. All members can take pleasure in knowing that nine million Canadian families enjoy a much lighter tax burden today.
After the middle-class tax cut, we took steps to replace the old system of child benefits with the Canada child benefit. I take pride in that measure because it fulfilled an election promise. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada made that promise in my riding, , surrounded by middle-class families and families hoping to join them. These people work hard to build a stable family life.
It is one of the biggest promises we have ever made, and the result is that 300,000 children were lifted out of poverty in Canada. That is remarkable.
I have been involved in federal politics for a long time now. I started here, in 1988, as a page in the House of Commons. I remember there was a debate that year called “campaign 2000”. The idea was to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.
We made that commitment in 1988. Every single government since has made it too. However, it was not until 2015, when the current Liberal government was elected, that we were able to accomplish great things in that area. We cut the child poverty rate by a third, which is remarkable, and we did it in one fell swoop. It was one of the most important social programs—if not the most important—to have ever been implemented in Canadian history.
I would now like to return to the bill on the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar. As I said earlier, I am on the Standing Committee on Finance; we examined the provisions of the bill and we unanimously voted to support this bill without amendment. I am very proud that we have now reached the stage where it is up to the House of Commons to approve it.
I know that this is not something that we generally do when we introduce a bill, but as a former member of the Standing Committee on Finance, it is very important for me to review and explain the five major clauses of the bill without getting into too much detail.
First, this bill sets the maximum withholding tax rate on dividends at 5%. That is important, particularly if the beneficial owner is a company that controls at least 25% of the voting power in the company paying the dividends. It sets the maximum withholding tax rate at 15% in all other cases. The first provision is consistent with other double taxation treaties that Canada has with a number of other countries in the world.
Second, the bill sets the maximum withholding tax rate on interest at 10% and eliminates withholding taxes when interest is paid in respect of a loan made, guaranteed or insured by a public agency or the central bank of one of the states or when the beneficial owner of the interest operates exclusively to administer or provide benefits under one or more pension, retirement or employee benefits plans, subject to certain other conditions. As I said, that is completely normal. That is something we do in the 93 other double taxation treaties that Canada has with other countries.
The third element of this double taxation treaty sets the minimum withholding rate of 10% of the gross amount of royalties and further provides for the withholding tax on certain royalties. This is particularly important, especially for people who might be involved in companies such as in the mining sector.
As members know, Canada is a worldwide leader with respect to investment in mining companies and in doing these investments around the world. It is very important for Canadians who are working for these companies in these countries to have this opportunity to participate and be protected by these taxation agreements.
The fourth element includes a provision to avoid potential double taxation that can arise in respect of the capital gains that an individual realizes on the deemed disposition of property upon immigration between two states, in this case between Canada and Madagascar.
This proposed bill will benefit Canadians by boosting our exports abroad, making it easier for Canadians to take part in these activities. In doing so, Canadians will know they are protected by these measures on double taxation.
Tax fairness is as important to Canadians as it is to our government's plan for economic growth. It is very important that Canadians know their hard work will be rewarded with greater opportunities and a fair chance of success. They need to know that their fair chance of success and opportunities are being protected and that their efforts will not end up being for not when they are caught in between differential taxation treaties between two different countries.
The legislation before us today will build on Canada's extensive network of income tax treaties. As I mentioned earlier, we have 93 comprehensive tax treaties that are currently in force with countries around the world. Canada's tax treaties are a part of a larger global network of approximately 3,000 tax treaties between nations worldwide. Therefore, we have 93 of 3,000 treaties. We have been doing quite well in ensuring we are protecting Canadians, their investments and efforts abroad.
This network of tax treaties is really fundamental to economic growth, not only for Canada but for many countries. It is fundamental to our trade and investment. At the end of the day, we can talk about companies but we really are talking about people. We are talking about how people are putting their creative efforts into creating economic opportunities through entrepreneurial opportunities that present themselves. This gives them that opportunity to ensure they are fairly taxed and their efforts are protected.
By eliminating double taxation, these treaties provide the certainty which Canadians need to support open and advanced economic opportunities and encourage our friends in our countries, in this case Madagascar, to support open and advanced economies as well. They permit the exchange of information needed to prevent international tax fraud and tax evasion.
From what I have gathered in listening to the speeches presented in the House today and with the support of all major political parties for this treaty and others like it, we are really creating a whole network of opportunity for Canadians to ensure they can take their economic activities abroad. Yes, we want investment here and yes, it is important, but we also have to ensure that we have equipped Canadians with the opportunity to go abroad, to find and create opportunities. This is not only be good for them individually, but also good for Canada in creating more international trade opportunities. I dare say if it is done in the right conditions, there are certainly great economic opportunities for the countries in which we decide to put our entrepreneurial know-how to work.
Bilateral double tax conventions are also fundamental to eliminating tax barriers to trade and investment between two countries. They achieve this purpose in a number of ways.
First, tax treaties provide greater certainty to taxpayers regarding their potential liability to tax in the other country.
Second, they allocate taxing rights between the two jurisdictions, thus eliminating double taxation.
Third, treaties like this one reduce the risk of burdensome taxation that may arise because of excessive withholding taxes.
Fourth, they ensure that taxpayers will not be subject to discriminatory taxation in the other country.
Fifth, tax treaties authorize the Canada Revenue Agency and its foreign counterpart to exchange tax information for the purpose of preventing tax evasion and tax fraud.
Last, tax treaties give jurisdictions a dispute resolution mechanism.
All of these objectives are important, and this bill will enable us to achieve them.
By updating our tax relationship with Madagascar, we can strengthen trade and investment between our two countries. By doing so, we are showing the world that Canada is an outstanding place to invest and to do business in and, more important, we are creating stability for Canadians to invest and do business outside of our country. We do this because we know that Canada's economic success rests on the hard of Canadians but also on the strong relationships that inform direct investment.
I would like to draw the attention of the House to the importance of signing such tax treaties.
Canada has 93 tax treaties with 93 countries around the world. These treaties are part of our government's efforts to ensure Canada's economic well-being. Since budget 2016, our government increased the Canada Revenue Agency's resources and funding in order to strengthen its ability to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance. The CRA's compliance programs now help them to better target those posing the highest risk of tax avoidance.
These efforts are producing tangible results for Canadians. Through the new system in place, our government can monitor international electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more that enter or leave the country. This represents over one million transactions per month. Monitoring these transfers helps us better assess the risk of individuals and companies committing unfair tax avoidance.
In closing, by increasing the number of tax treaties we have with our partners, the Government of Canada is helping to create favourable conditions for long-term economic growth that will help strengthen Canada's middle class and support those working hard to join it. The bill we are introducing today is an important step towards achieving that goal.
I encourage all my hon. colleagues to support this bill. That concludes my speech. I thank my colleagues for their attention and hope to have the unanimous support of the House to pass this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to let you know that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is always a privilege to rise in the House and talk about matters of state. That is all the more true today as the end of the parliamentary session draws near. We have just a few weeks to go until the summer recess, and there is going to be an election this fall. With that in mind, I would like to express my support for Bill , an act to implement a tax convention between Madagascar and Canada for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion, as my colleague opposite just explained.
As a number of members have said today, we already have 93 such agreements, some of which were signed by our government before 2015 and all of which are meant to prevent tax evasion. I want to emphasize that tax evasion is a scourge that prevents the government from collecting monies owed, which it uses to provide services to Canadians.
Of course, the important thing is that there be trust between two countries. It is the reason why we are supporting the bill. Trust between the public and the government is equally important, but it has been shaken. It has been shaken because, as we are about to sign an agreement with Madagascar, we have to face the fact that Canada has its own major challenges with tax evasion.
For example, in an article published by the Journal de Montréal, Guillaume St-Pierre said that the Canadian treasury is losing up to $3 billion each year in unpaid taxes because wealthy Canadians are hiding money in tax havens.
A Canada Revenue Agency study revealed that Canada is losing significant tax revenue to tax evaders. These people use complex schemes to hide taxable income abroad. The $3-billion figure could be just the tip of the iceberg. It has been suggested that companies or individuals who evade or avoid taxes could owe as much as $17 billion in unpaid taxes.
Our system already has certain weaknesses. It is important that Canadians pay their fair share of taxes. This week, we learned that British Columbia also has challenges with money laundering, which is pouring huge amounts of money into B.C.'s real estate market. Several billions of dollars have been injected into the real estate market.
When the time comes to meet a need as fundamental as housing, the average Canadian who pays his taxes must turn to the real estate market, where he is in competition with unknown sources of money.
We support Bill , but the trust between Canadians and the government has been undermined at a time when we are headed towards an election. I would like to remind those listening that, on taxation, which is the issue we are discussing today, the Liberal government looked us in the eye and promised that by now, so in 2019, there would be no deficit because the budget would be balanced.
Why is this important?
It is important to balance the budget, because a period of relative economic prosperity is the perfect time to generate revenue and pay down the deficit so we can get money flowing in the event of an economic crisis, in order to stimulate and support the economy. That is what our Conservative government did.
The difference between what is happening now and what we went through is that we were faced with an economic crisis. The Conservative government did three things: we paid down debt, stimulated the economy in a period of economic crisis and balanced the budget.
The Liberal government's four-year term is almost over, and we have yet to see the government taking any of these measures. In fact, it has done the opposite and plunged us into a bottomless deficit pit.
Writing about the 2019 budget for the Journal de Montréal, Michel Girard mentioned the $71-billion deficit and called the budget blatant vote buying. He wrote:
True to form, the Trudeau government is spending like there's no tomorrow. That is why, for the fourth time in a row, it's kicking off the new fiscal year with a colossal deficit.
I mentioned trust, and members will recall that we were promised a balanced budget and modest deficits.
Michel Girard goes on to say:
How big will it be this time? Nearly $20 billion, including a “small” $3-billion cushion.
Adding it all up, since [this Prime Minister and the Liberals] came to power, they have dug a massive $71-billion hole with four successive huge deficits.
As a result, [at a time of relative economic prosperity, under the Liberals' watch] the net federal debt has skyrocketed by $100 billion.
Where is that $100 billion going? Is it being invested in families, in infrastructure or in the fight against climate change?
Most of the Liberal government's spending is the result of direct program expenses, particularly expenses associated with the federal government's departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
What concrete benefits are there for taxpayers? Most of that $100-billion deficit goes to the departments. Basically, it goes into bureaucracy, unfortunately.
Direct program expenses have skyrocketed by $30 billion. Who is footing the bill? Ordinary Canadians are. Since the Liberals came to power in 2015, government revenues have increased by $43 billion. Money does not grow on trees. The Liberals are taking that money out of taxpayers' pockets, the same taxpayers who have recently been burdened with a carbon tax whose effects are still unknown.
Such is the government's record. It has lost the trust of the people.
It is okay for the government to sign partnerships with Madagascar, as it has done in 93 other cases, but it is not okay for the government to break its word.
I was saying that the Conservatives restored budgetary balance and that we invested during the economic crisis and paid down the debt. The Liberals spend left and right with no real result. I just explained today how this money went to the bureaucracy and taxpayers are the ones paying an extra $45 billion. Unfortunately, that is not all. This deficit includes measures that taxpayers will not benefit from but will have to pay for. For example, the Parliamentary Budget Officer told us that the government paid $4.5 billion for a pipeline. Taxpayer money is being used to pay an expense that will not even help Canadian energy access the market at a fair price.
I see that my time is running out. I will simply say that it is important that there be trust between countries, as is the case between Canada and Madagascar in this agreement, but the trust between the Canadian public and the Liberal government has been broken.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to 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.
There seem to be good measures found in this bill, especially on double taxation. This bill contains provisions for tax in both Madagascar and Canada.
In the case of Madagascar, double taxation shall be avoided as follows:
(a) where a resident of a Madagascar derives income which, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, may be taxed in Canada, Madagascar shall allow as a deduction from the tax on the income of that resident, an amount equal to the income tax paid in Canada. Such deduction shall not, however, exceed that part of the income tax, as computed before the deduction is given, which is attributable to the income which may be taxed in Canada.
It is great to see the government is making a move that might keep more of people's money in their own pockets instead of going toward paying for the government's reckless spending. It is also good to see the government is concerned about double taxation. It is just a shame that it is only concerned about it when it is happening in the Republic of Madagascar and not here in Canada.
Would it not be great if the government made such an effort to avoid double-taxing Canadians? However, the government is doing exactly that with its carbon tax on everything. The is charging GST on top of that carbon tax. I would say that is a tax on a tax. That is just it. The government does not particularly care about the average Canadian, and especially rural Canadians, such as those in my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
When the carbon tax took effect, it immediately raised the price of everything, from gas to home heating to groceries. Canadians are being taxed twice for living the life of luxury by heating their home and driving to work or driving their children to soccer or dance, or even driving to the doctor.
If the carbon tax were actually an environmental plan, would it not be logical that the great emitters of pollution in this country would pay most of this tax? They are not. Canada's biggest emitters are exempt from the carbon tax, while small business owners, commuters, hockey moms and dads, and farmers are expected to take public transit. That is not possible for many rural Canadians.
The expects rural Canadians to just hop onto public transit or buy a new Tesla. That does not jive with what is happening across Canada, and certainly not in my riding of Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. It does show how disconnected the really is with average Canadians. Average Canadians, at least half of them, are $200 away from insolvency, but they had better rush out and buy that new Tesla.
We have amazing farmers in my riding, and it would be great if this bill protected them from double taxation, but it does not. They are hit by the carbon tax and the GST on top of that.
The farmers in my riding are some of the greatest stewards of the land that we have in this country. They have long been at the forefront of sustainability and innovation. The way farmers have incorporated new technologies like biofuel and robotics into their operations is very interesting. The prevalence of the use of biogas and biofuel on today's farms is particularly noteworthy. Biogas is methane that is produced with the use of anaerobic digesters on the farm. Usually manure and leftover waste like corn stalks and husks are introduced into the anaerobic digester to create methane for use on the farm; then the solid byproduct of the methane production can be used as fertilizer.
Cavendish Farms, a large potato processing operation with plants in Alberta, Ontario and the Maritimes, has reduced emissions by 50% over the last decade through the use of biogas, not because they were forced to by a nonsensical carbon tax on everything but because it made good business sense and because it was the right thing to do.
In addition to that, biodiesel can be created on the farm through high-energy waste such as vegetable oil. We know that most of the machinery on the farm will run on diesel. If farmers can meet some 20% of their diesel needs by creating biodiesel, then they are reducing emissions and helping their bottom line at the same time.
These investments in sustainability and innovation have occurred because it makes good sense for farmers, their families and businesses, not because they were threatened with taxes.
Now the 's carbon tax is raising the cost of bringing crops to market, buying fertilizer and drying grain, which causes margins to shrink, and farmers cannot afford new investments in innovation when they are worried about that bottom line. The question still stands as to why the government is concerned with people abroad keeping more money in their pockets while it neglects people at home. The answer is clear: The simply needs the revenue to pay for his reckless spending, which will be paid for on the backs of everyday Canadians.
This reckless spending has come with massive deficit after massive deficit, the latest of which came in the form of the 2019 cover-up budget. In the midst of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the must have sat down with the to make a plan to distract Canadians from the corruption and contempt the Liberals have shown for the judicial system, which they continue to demonstrate, so the Liberals announced a budget with a $20-billion deficit and $41 billion in new distraction-spending.
We saw a large corporation, with the clock ticking, launch a full-court press lobbying campaign. The corporation got the 's top advisers and top government officials on board. Then we saw a who respected the rule of law and would not cave to pressure from the PMO. Then there was a convenient cabinet shuffle that saw the fired and replaced with a Montreal MP from right next door to SNC-Lavalin, one who was willing to support the government's disregard for the rule of law.
Knowing the trial of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was soon to be in court, the Liberals released this cover-up budget. It is clear the was trying to cover his tracks with this budget. There is overwhelming evidence that the Liberals politically interfered in this case and tried to destroy a decorated military officer, the vice-chief of the defence staff, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. The prosecution made clear that the documents the and the Liberals were fighting to keep secret were the very documents that caused the charges to be dropped. This fact strongly suggests the government was deliberately withholding and suppressing documents to prolong the politically motivated attack on the vice-admiral.
From withholding documents that would have exonerated the vice-admiral to using code names in emails to having government lawyers coach witnesses, the interference and the lengths to which the government was willing to go were very clear. It is no wonder the government needed to rack up record spending and record deficits to distract Canadians.
If my memory serves me correctly, 2019 was supposed to be the year the budget would balance itself, like so many babies on the campaign tour that the is now on. In 2015 he said, “I am looking straight at Canadians and being honest the way I always have. We said we are committed to balanced budgets, and we are. We will balance that budget in 2019”.
That could not be further from the truth. The free-spending 's and 's own finance department documents show the budget will not be balanced until 2040. What they are engaged in is nothing short of intergenerational theft.
It is shameful. The government spent $50 million to impress a celebrity on Twitter, gave $10.5 million to a convicted terrorist who murdered U.S. Army Sergeant Chris Speer, and the is willing to raise taxes on everyday Canadians to pay for it.
While Bill , an act to create a tax convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the purpose of avoiding double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to income taxes is a solid measure, the real issue is that the government has neglected to take the same measures on double taxation here at home. Canadians should not have to pay for the 's reckless spending through raised taxes and double taxation for generations to come.
The advertised that he would balance the budget in 2019. As Canadians have learned over the last three and a half years, the current is just not as advertised.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in the introduction, the thrust of my speech is about tax fairness, as Bill is about tax fairness, and talking about the other measures the government has taken with respect to tax fairness. I am happy to continue and bring it back again.
Next year, the combined federal-provincial-territorial average tax rate for small businesses will be lowered to 12.2%, by far the lowest in the G7 and the fourth lowest among OECD countries.
However, tax fairness requires action on multiple fronts, not just Bill .
For example, in each of our budgets we have taken steps to strengthen the Canada Revenue Agency's ability to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance. I know those are issues that have been discussed by the opposition members in questions they have brought up.
The government has also taken action to close loopholes that result in unfair tax advantages for some at the expense of others. Actions like these help ensure the government's ongoing ability to support the programs and services on which Canadians rely.
Today's legislation, Bill , targets strategies used by businesses and wealthy individuals to exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to inappropriately reduce or avoid tax. Bill S-6 greatly enhances our ability to counter tax avoidance strategies that would otherwise abuse Canada's tax treaties and reduce or avoid Canadian tax.
While we have made significant investments in the CRA, we know that fighting tax avoidance is not something that we can do alone. It is not easy work. Bill implements a multilateral convention that contains a number of treaty-related measures to combat base erosion and profit shifting, or BEPS. BEPS refers to tax avoidance strategies in which businesses and wealthy individuals can use gaps and mismatches in tax rules to avoid tax or shift profits to low-tax or no-tax locations. In other words, these strategies enable businesses and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their full or fair share of taxes.
To implement all these measures in a timely and effective manner, a new approach was required. This new approach is the multilateral convention contained in the bill, ultimately known as the multilateral instrument, or MLI. The MLI is a product of a global initiative, working with more than 100 countries and jurisdictions, including Canada. The purpose of the MLI is to allow participating jurisdictions to adopt measures to combat BEPS without having to individually renegotiate their existing tax treaties. The MLI would also improve the functioning of international tax systems by including measures designed to better facilitate the timely and effective resolution of disputes under tax treaties.
We have listened to Canadians. They want the government to take action to address tax avoidance, and we are committed to that. We are making significant progress.
The bill builds on the government's ongoing work to ensure that we have a tax system that is fair for everyone. Starting with budget 2016, the government has been giving additional funds to the Canada Revenue Agency, so that it can more effectively crack down on tax evasion and combat aggressive tax avoidance. These additional investments continued in 2017, and again in 2018, and they are already paying dividends.
At the close of 2017-18, CRA had 50 ongoing criminal investigations related to the transfer of money that rightfully belongs in Canadian coffers to low- or no-tax jurisdictions. The government is also targeting those who promote tax avoidance schemes and has imposed more than $44 million in fines on those third parties.
We are joining this international collaboration in making these investments in the CRA because Canadians want their money back and want the loopholes through which these tax dollars flow out of Canada closed. If our economy does not work for everyone, if people do not pay their fair share, Canadians grow concerned and they want action.
We invested in the CRA, after years of cuts under the Harper government. Of course, it limited the CRA's ability to prosecute tax offences. We need to fund those who are on the ground. They are essentially police officers, and we saw today in Ontario, during Ontario Police Week, the provincial government cutting $46 million to front-line policing and the OPP.
We are doing the opposite. When we see criminal or illegal activity, in this case tax avoidance, we need to step up and take action. That is why we invested in the CRA. That is why we are putting more officials on the ground. This is not easy work.
Through my legal practice, I know that dealing with cases of fraud and white-collar crime is a very difficult burden for investigative agencies like the CRA. It is not a matter of seeing something on camera or hearing from an eyewitness. It takes a great deal of work to bring forward cases for enforcement and prosecution.
In the absence of investment, there will be a decline, and it will be easier for Canadians to avoid taxation and move their money overseas without fear of getting caught. This needs to be emphasized. The tax system needs to be seen to be fair. Justice should not only be done; it should be seen to be done.
This has been an important part of our investments in the CRA, ensuring that we have a tax system working for every man, woman and child in this country. That is money that needs to work for Canadians, including through some of the tax programs I talked about. It is about making our entire tax system fairer.
We talked about the CCB making the system fairer. I had a wonderful conversation with a constituent who is no longer receiving the CCB. She was able to use the CCB to start up her small business. There is more money in her pockets, tax-free. The opposition voted against this, but she received this benefit and was able to start up her business. She is now making enough money that she no longer receives the CCB. She is employing Canadians. She was able to take the step to help herself and better our community, and that is significant.
Coming back to the middle-class tax cut, I note that one of the first things we did as a government was lower taxes on the middle class and raise them on the wealthiest 1%. Again, it is about a tax system that works for everyone. We were shocked that the opposition voted against this, but it is a measure that Canadians wanted. They wanted to ensure that the wealthiest in our society paid a little more so those who make a little less could get a bit of a break, so that is what we did.
The previous speaker, the hon. member from eastern Ontario, said that families are not better off under our government. Nothing could be further from the truth. The average family is $2,000 better off—