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View Alain Therrien Profile
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-04-20 19:29 [p.2234]
Mr. Speaker, we are in an extraordinary situation, one that was unimaginable just a few weeks ago and that has prompted us to take exceptional measures.
I would like to come back to what I talked about eight days ago and remind the House that the government came here with a bill to subsidize 75% of the payroll of certain businesses in trouble. The cost of this bill alone totalled $73 billion. Surprise! The situation is so exceptional that everyone here supported the government’s proposal, which goes to show how serious the crisis is.
This is $73 billion, and I am not even talking about the rest of the spending. The bad news is that the government is using public funds. Therefore, it has to go get these public funds from somewhere. How can a government function? It is very simple. Of course, it can go into debt. However, we dare hope that at some point it will use its revenues, namely taxes.
Who likes to pay taxes besides you and me, Mr. Speaker? Very few people like to pay taxes, even though we joke that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Ironically, what do people generally try to avoid? Dying and paying taxes. That is the reality.
People are then forced to pay taxes. To have people pay taxes, however, there must be tax fairness. This means that everyone must be equal under tax laws. There is vertical equity and horizontal equity. Horizontal equity requires that individuals in the same financial situation—or simply the same situation—be subject to the same tax treatment. Vertical equity requires that people with different situations be subject to a different tax treatment, intelligently thought out.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, there is a fly in the ointment, and that is tax havens. Some businesses, especially big ones like banks, use this strategy. Why? To avoid paying taxes. They call it “fiscal optimization” because they do not want to admit it is tax avoidance. These people look us straight in the eye and say it is legal, so nobody can come after them. Under the circumstances, why not take advantage? There is a problem though: every member of society pays taxes.
The reason those people do not pay taxes is not that they do not have money or do not make a profit. On the contrary, they make so much that they can use strategies to avoid contributing their fair share to keeping our society running.
Now those same people are asking us for help. Are we against the support the government has made available to businesses? No; everyone here voted in favour of that. However, is it morally right for a business to do whatever it takes to avoid paying taxes, use accounting strategies to avoid paying taxes, and use tax havens to avoid paying taxes, then ask the state for help and get it? Essentially, in addition to not paying their fair share, these people are taking our tax dollars and using or spending them however they please.
Are we supposed to be okay with that? No, we cannot. Is anyone here okay with that? If I asked each person here whether they are okay with that, I think everyone would say no, that is outrageous. However, that is what happens.
Does this happen because we do not have the choice, because it is already a done deal and the government cannot do anything? No. On the contrary, the government can do many different things, but that takes conviction and will.
With these massive financial measures, the Liberals have one more tool at their disposal and they can tell these people that, from now on, if they want government assistance, they will have to pay their taxes and bring their money back from tax havens.
Let them do their share and we will do ours. Why do they not do that? They are saying that it is legal, but it is not right. If they do not agree to use the lever they just created with their spending, then I am telling them that there is another lever, and it involves making that practice illegal.
A regulatory change to section 5907 would make the currently legal use of tax havens illegal. Let us look the members of the government in the eye. I cannot believe that these people would not agree with the idea of making the failure to pay one's fair share of taxes illegal.
We are told that we cannot deprive these people of money because they hire Quebeckers and Canadians. They need help so that these Canadians and Quebeckers do not find themselves unemployed. That is what the Prime Minister said earlier, but it is not true. If they have money in tax havens, perhaps it is because they have the means to get through the crisis. If the money they have in tax havens is not enough, then they they should bring their money back to Canada and we will help them. That is true tax equity and fairness. It is not true to say that this is impossible and no one can do it. That is wrong-headed.
It can be done. Denmark and Poland are doing it. Denmark wants to go even further. Companies registered in tax havens get no assistance. Those paying themselves dividends get no assistance. Those buying up their stock and taking advantage of low prices and the stock market crash get no assistance. Is there anything illogical about that? All we need is the will.
There are several ways to make those people pay taxes. We could have taxed sales instead of profit. Some places do that. The OECD is on it. European countries do it. That is an important point. They are making faces. We are talking about this, and they are wondering what we are talking about, but it is very clear. I am sure you understand. You are a good man, Mr. Speaker. You know what I am talking about.
My second point concerns seniors. We are calling for immediate assistance for seniors amounting to $110 per month. It would cost $1 billion a year, but that is asking too much. The Liberals claim to be helping seniors by sprinkling aid here and there. They found $73 billion to help struggling businesses cover their payroll, yet they expect me to believe that they do not have $1 billion to help a group of people whose health is at risk, a group that is isolated and is having trouble coping with rising prices. They do not have $1 billion to spare, even though they wanted to spend that much before the crisis. My colleagues can bear witness. They proposed assistance for Canadians 75 and older. They were ready to do it. Now that the situation is critical, we are proposing assistance for Canadians 65 and older. Their response is to pout and stare at us blankly as if they have no idea what we are talking about.
I am talking about the main victims of this incredibly difficult situation, namely seniors. The Liberals need to wake up, because we have been telling them about this for over a week and they keep staring at us as if we were from outer space. We are not from outer space. We are in touch with our community. The Liberals know this because they have listened to us many times. They have listened, and they must continue listening.
We are asking for $1 billion to help our seniors who are having a hard time. That is one issue. If we examine the list of the other things we are proposing, there is nothing that is very difficult or onerous. We must listen to our elders, our builders, the people who contributed to a country as extraordinary as ours. I am talking about Quebec.
We must help these people and I want the government to understand the Bloc Québécois's message. We have hammered away at it. It is said that learning happens through repetition. I can say that we have repeated it often enough. It is time to take action. That is what I want for our seniors.
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