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Results: 1 - 15 of 19
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Courtenay—Alberni.
This is probably my last chance to express my opinion about this government.
I listened to my colleague from Malpeque, and I know his heart is in the right place. He talked about the new horizons for seniors program, which is a very good program in many of our ridings. It is indeed a success.
However, I listened to my other colleague who spoke before him about the government's social housing initiatives, and I had to work hard to keep from shouting. The truth is that places like Longueuil—Saint-Hubert need social housing. We do not spend enough time talking about that. Sadly, the poverty rate in the City of Longueuil and its two suburbs is incredibly high. Over a third of the children belong to families living below the poverty line. I know for a fact that we need social housing. The Longueuil housing office's waiting list now has over 2,000 names on it. We need this kind of initiative, but the Liberal government has never done more than talk about it.
Once again, we are seeing their obsession with always calculating the very best time to announce some big carrot they want to dangle in front of people right before the election. That is what they did. Even though that was two years ago, they told us they were investing $10 billion in social housing. What they have put on the table so far is really just peanuts. What will we get later? It will be a nice gift. We will see if Canadians are smart, if they have realized that they have to trust the blue bloods in the Liberal Party of Canada. Now we will get small carrots here and there; we will get what is to be expected. It is appalling.
The media industry is now in crisis. How are the Liberals going to support the media? They are offering more carrots. No changes were made to the legislation.
Getting back to the people of Longueuil, what did the government do right away? It eliminated the tax credit for public transit passes. That is fantastic. It is almost as good as pipelines. Let us encourage people to take the bus. Congratulations, that is fantastic. I will not even mention the subway, since we obviously still do not have our subway extension.
Quebec has a lot of needs and a lot of ambition, and we can be proud of that. People in Montreal and the rest of Quebec really want to use public transit. Are we going to get some support from higher up? I sure hope so. I would love to see some big announcements before the election. They had better be good, and the Liberals would do well to keep their word and not lose the election. I hope members on that side can really understand how things are for the people of Longueuil.
Longueuil has had the same metro station since 1967. It is 52 years old. Nothing has been built since. God knows we need more. The bridges in my riding, especially the Jacques Cartier Bridge, are constantly congested. When people need to get to Montreal, they do not even consider taking public transit because it takes two tickets to cross the river and the return trip costs $13, so they drive their cars.
In fact, that is why I am so passionate about electric cars and the electrification of transportation. The people in my community were early adopters because it seemed like we were always stuck in traffic. Many drivers ended up going electric. Again, we got peanuts for the electrification of transportation. The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development at least had the vision to support a few good projects, but the Department of Transport has not offered up a penny, for Pete's sake. How pathetic. Electric cars are nothing new. Tesla reinvented the car years ago, but Ottawa is asleep at the wheel.
Being here among the 338 MPs who represent the people of Canada is an incredible opportunity. It is time to wake up. We see a lot of apathy, especially on the other side of the aisle. I have said over and over how ashamed I am that this Parliament cannot stand up and make sure e-commerce is properly taxed, at least at the same rate as our own businesses. Peter Simons has opened a store here on Rideau Street, and what a store it is. It was not that guy from Amazon who did it; it was Peter Simons. He got people involved by investing his own money and hiring employees.
Taxes are to be expected, since they fund our services. Paying a tax is not a shame. Roads and hospitals do not pay for themselves, nor do the boats that keep us safe on the water.
The government is letting web giants into the country. Does Amazon, a competitor to Simons, for example, pay taxes? I am not so sure. People are always surprised to hear that someone who ordered a product on Amazon did not pay tax. This cannot work. We are not in a little village in 1812. This is 2019 in a G7 country. I am trying to refrain from swearing.
This is shameful. Why is the media in a crisis right now? The government thinks it is complicated and that it is a new paradigm. I remember I had an eBay account about 20 years ago. This is not a new paradigm, and that is not an excuse.
It is a fact that the Conservatives ignored this for 10 years. The Liberals are even worse. They have been calling this situation appalling for four years, but they are not doing anything. The truth is that the media sector is in one hell of a mess right now and has lost 16,800 jobs since 2008, and the Liberals are partly at fault, since they had four years to do something.
We do indeed need to amend legislation, but the government should have done it sooner. When the Liberals were elected in 2015, they said that they were going to change this because it is important. They said that they would consult, but they did not manage to get everyone together. A government is meant to be able to unite people. Did this government do so? Absolutely not. I do not want to sound alarmist, but that is the truth. Anyone in the culture industry would tell you that.
Currently, we are talking a lot about the 75th anniversary of the brave heroes who defended our democracy in the Second World War. That is what we call patriotism, correct? The person who made a documentary on the Second World War—I forget the name of the production company, but no matter—sold one million copies of his DVD. Three years later, or around four years ago, they made another documentary, this time on the First World War. I can see how people could have found it a little dated and would not have been as interested, but that is not the point. They sold 100,000 copies of this documentary.
The band Alfa Rococo received $16,000 in public performance royalties for one of their radio hits, which makes sense, given that the radio was playing their song. During the same period, they only got $11 from Spotify. Clearly, this is the kind of thing that influences the decision of whether to go into music or not. That said, we are all happy to have music.
The government is well aware of all the problems. This morning I was asked in an interview whether the Minister of Canadian Heritage is incompetent. I said that I believe he is not incompetent so much as powerless. He is powerless before the will of the Prime Minister and he is powerless before the intellectual dishonesty of the Minister of Finance, who, when asked why the GST is not applied to Netflix subscriptions or ads on Google and Facebook, always says that this is very complicated and it should be taken up with the G7 and the G20.
Most of the U.S. states apply a sales tax on accounts like that. Everyone is asked to pay sales tax. For example, when we go to a small-time garage to buy some washer fluid and the employee says it will cost $4 in cash but he will have to add the tax if we pay by credit card, we raise a disapproving eyebrow, but that is what we are allowing to happen.
I did the math. GST would cost Netflix roughly 75 cents a month per subscription. That is roughly $10 a year per subscription. Ten dollars times roughly ten million subscriptions is $100 million.
Do the Liberals not want that money? Canadians do. We need it. The Liberals have to wake up.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, the fact is, we are here in a Parliament where the opposition is supposed to be able to propose things and take a constructive approach. I have been fighting for the media for eight years now, and the NDP has been working tirelessly to protect our stories and our journalism, to ensure a level playing field for everyone. It is not happening. We are not the only ones. In January 2017, a report entitled “Shattered Mirror” recommended the following:
Recommendation No. 1: Enhance Section 19 and 19.1 of the Income Tax Act
We have talked about this. It is completely unacceptable that, in a wealthy, western democracy like ours, we are incapable of amending a section of an act that online advertisers are shamelessly exploiting. Basically, if a company pays to place an ad in an American magazine, it cannot include it as a deduction for its advertising expenses. It cannot put it in an American or Canadian magazine, because it is not an eligible expense. However, placing an ad on Google or Facebook is an eligible expense. It is completely ridiculous.
The Conservatives were no better. That loophole has been around for a long time but the Liberals let it be because they are afraid of being taxed. They have spent four years doing nothing even though this is such an important issue, an issue so crucial to our identity. Our stories are disappearing along with our journalism and possibly even our democracy. A number of us have pointed out that many of the weekly papers that cover local politics in every one of our ridings are closing. They are closing because advertisers can jump on that kind of outrageous advantage. That recommendation I just quoted was the first one in the January 2017 report. That was two years ago, and it came from an expert. The heritage minister requested the report. Two years have passed, and nothing has been done. The government has not done a thing about it even though that was the first recommendation.
Here is another recommendation from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage's June 2017 report:
Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Minister of Canadian Heritage explore the existing structures to create a new funding model that is platform agnostic and would support Canadian journalistic content.
That was two years ago. Let me point out that both the heritage minister and the Prime Minister summarily dismissed the report.
Here is the second recommendation from the other report from January 2017:
Extend GST/HST to all digital news subscription and advertising revenue for companies not qualifying under new Section 19 criteria. Rebate GST/HST for those that do qualify
Nothing was done. That was in the January 2017 report published by Mr. Greenspon, a distinguished journalist and expert. The Liberals did nothing.
Now, a little like the huge boondoggle they made of the SNC-Lavalin affair, the government decided once again to improvise. It slipped a line somewhere in the omnibus bill, thinking no one would noticed, but they were wrong. The government should have consulted everyone. It would have been nice if it had not tried to hide this in a huge bill the size of an Eaton's catalogue. What happened as a result? Many jobs were lost in Quebec. People might be in difficult situations, but it is not the government's problem. It is, however, a serious problem for Quebec.
Once again, a committee was thrown together at the last minute. It smacks of conflict and does not look good on the members opposite. They have always known just how much the unions hate them because they are always saying they do not care about the news or the situation facing our media here in Quebec and Canada.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague works with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, where we talked about this issue many times.
Does he not find it shameful that the Liberals once again waited until the last minute, when they could have been much more effective in helping our media outlets make more money? For example, the government could have amended the exemption in section 19 of the Income Tax Act so that Internet ads are considered expenses for income tax purposes just as magazine ads are.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to hear that. I will ask the member to slow down a bit and to find an answer to my question. Why is the government not closing the section 19 loophole?
Allow me to explain. Under section 19, a Canadian advertiser can advertise in an American magazine, but this expense will not count as an operating expense for advertising come tax time. This expense is not allowed because the advertiser is not advertising in Canadian media. However, section 19 does not currently specify that these ads must be bought on Canadian online media in order to be considered an eligible expense.
Why is the government not doing this?
Everyone knows that this is a big problem. Everyone also knows that if the government closed this loophole, Canadian advertisers would probably spend less on American platforms and more on Canadian ones. It is not complicated. This would obviously bring in more money for the government.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague for his speech. He spoke very eloquently about the major differences between them and us and about both the Liberals' and the Conservatives' lack of vision when it comes to management. He talked about the measures that make it easier for web giants to do business and make profits here in Canada without paying any taxes.
I would like to ask him about compelling web giants to collect sales tax, GST and HST, since, unlike Canadian companies, they are currently not required to do so.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.
Today, the Conservatives are asking the government whether it will make a commitment to not create new taxes. For my part, I will be speaking about existing taxes.
The member opposite is very familiar with the retail sector. She knows full well that merchants and SMEs must collect the HST on their clients' transactions. It is not money taken from their account, but it is their job to collect this tax.
Speaking of an existing tax, why is the government intent on being one of the last lax governments not to charge a “destination” tax, such as the GST, on over-the-top television services of web giants such as Netflix?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Many people in Canada who are aware of problems in the cultural sector and the media might be asking themselves this question. As my colleague said, our economic performance was among the best in the G7. However, yesterday in committee, Facebook representatives told us they had decided to set up their sales offices in Canada and would begin collecting GST on their ads sometime in mid-2019. How can that be?
How can it be that our government does not have the backbone to tell companies that sell ad services to Canadians to collect GST? That failure to act is inexplicable and has probably cost us billions in uncollected revenue at a time when we really need it.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would not normally intervene in the relationship between broadcasters and Quebec's many production companies, but since it was theheritage minister who drew up the agreement with Netflix in absolute secrecy, I would like to ask her if she is satisfied with her precious partner's approach. Forcing production companies to convince anglophone American bigwigs of the relevance of producing francophone stories for Quebec in English is like a throwback to the 1950s.
Is this the kind of colonialism that was redacted from the Netflix deal she has been hiding from us for months?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I rather agree with my Conservative colleague that we are once again spending time passing legislation in support of a decision that has already been made. These ministers of state already receive the salary usually paid to ministers. We are now covering up the tracks and amending the law to address a broken promise made during the election campaign and to let the Liberals cloak themselves in righteousness, which is something they do very well.
This state of affairs is summed up by the term “entitlement”. It has resulted in the Liberals coming to power and using this chamber's time to cover up their mistakes.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister indicated that the Liberals would not make Canadian consumers pay more taxes even though companies like Netflix and Amazon do not charge the GST. This mistake will hurt our own businesses. It is hurting people like Peter Simons, who invest millions of dollars, hire hundreds of employees, and than are at a complete disadvantage because of it.
Are you going to amend an act to justify the unjustifiable here, too?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but admire such amazing footwork.
I hope the Liberal Party's communications team fully appreciates just how much we believe the hon. member, whom we hold in high regard, is speaking in good faith. We sense in his voice that he wants to do politics differently. However, his voice is being used to justify the indefensible.
The Liberal Party's website states:
After a decade of Stephen Harper, Canadians' faith in government has never been lower. The reason is simple: Canadians do not trust their government...
How can we trust you and your reassuring tone when, just today, as the finance minister's French villa just happens to be under fire, you come out with a new policy for cutting small business taxes? How can we be expected to trust you, honestly?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his very eloquent speech.
I have to acknowledge that I approve of the wording of this opposition motion. However, I would have preferred to have devoted one hour rather than a whole day to this common occurrence, as important as it may be. That is too bad. It is obvious that the Minister of Finance should have complied with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's requests. It is an unacceptable omission on the part of the person holding that office.
This is also an opportunity for me to reveal that the government stooped so low as to promise to reduce the small business tax rate from 10.5% to 10% and then to 9%, and then waited until there was a crisis to make good on its promise. The SMEs in our ridings have been waiting a long time for this election promise to be kept.
Does my colleague not find it appalling that our SMEs are getting a consolation prize?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I find it strange that my colleague oopposite would use metaphors that could so easily be turned against his party. He talked about how people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Well, maybe the Liberals themselves should heed that old saying, but in their case, it would not be a glass house, it would be a glass villa.
In recent weeks, the government has been going after small businesses and poor people, turning a blind eye to all manner of tax evasion, and, worst of all, tolerating behaviour like that of the Minister of Finance. The fact that he did not disclose how deeply he was involved in the pension fund business when he was making laws affecting that very sector is unacceptable. The Liberals should choose their metaphors carefully.
Does my esteemed colleague see the shame in waiting until now to lower the small business tax rate from 10.5% to 10% and to 9% in the coming years? This is a bald-faced attempt to distract us from the villa issue and the fact that the minister did not disclose everything to the commissioner.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, whom I hold in great esteem.
However, as critic for culture and heritage, I have to say that, if you are hearing what people are saying in your consultations, then you are not really understanding them.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
My question is, will you at least extend the consultation period? That is what everyone wants.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, we have been hearing about austerity and cuts for years. We are familiar with the refrain of successive governments in Ottawa, Quebec, and elsewhere in the world, who have been feeding us the same message for at least 30 years, the same reductive solution of having to tighten our belts and live within our means.
It is as though the public institutions that we have legitimately established were an extravagance, as though the state structure built in Quebec and Canada to better educate ourselves, to take better care of ourselves, and to develop our economy were but a fantasy.
The entire time that a thousand and one cuts were being made, the system was haemorrhaging billions of dollars. Untold billions of dollars are leaving our tax system as a result of tax evasion and tax avoidance orchestrated by accounting firms big and small on behalf of their clients, the richest individuals and businesses in Canada. They are the wealthiest 1%. These people send the profits they make in Canada to tax havens and refuse to contribute to society like everyone else does.
This has been going on for years. Not enough has been done and ordinary people have been asked to pay more for too long. It is like a plumber coming to the house and telling us that instead of repairing the huge leak that is spewing water in the street, we will have to learn to live with lower water pressure.
The use of tax havens in the Caribbean or even the British Isles, for example, where billions are tucked away, has reached historic levels. Never before have we seen such an abuse of the tax system, and it is an international problem. In 2015, the last year the Conservatives were in power, $40 billion were transferred from Canadian bank accounts to about ten tax havens. Since 1990, $270 billion have disappeared.
Every year, billions of dollars are stashed away in tax havens. As if that were not bad enough, the government also gives the wealthy all kinds of little tax goodies to help them save. That costs the treasury $100 billion a year. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is very diligent about reminding us of that.
It is easier to tell Quebeckers and Canadians that they are not living within their means than it is to confront the wealthiest 1% of CEOs about the things they do that are hurting everyone.
This is happening right before our very eyes. We are talking about multinational corporations whose products we buy every day. People who buy their coffee at Starbucks probably know that the company was at the centre of a scandal in the United Kingdom because it went for years without paying taxes by using a strategy that enabled it to remove its profits from the country to give the impression that it was not making enough money in its stores there.
Canadian businesses and banks use the same strategy. In 2009, TD Bank paid just 7.6% in taxes when everyone else was paying 32%. BCE reported profits of $30 billion from 2004 to 2014 but paid a mere 5% in taxes. Gildan, a Montreal-based textiles manufacturer that makes t-shirts all over the world and has benefited substantially from a number of government subsidies, makes hundreds of millions in profits every year, but paid no taxes in 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012 thanks to an address in the Caribbean.
That is all it takes to keep billions of dollars out of the Canadian tax system, and more often than not, it is completely legal and even condoned by our governments.
How is it that these companies seem to think that they do not have any responsibility to society and they do not have to contribute? How is it that our governments agreed to turn a blind eye to this sort of tax avoidance, when they have been saying for years that they need to make cuts to hospitals, schools, rail regulations, and our presence on the international stage, when they are still saying that there is not even enough money to give seniors in long-term care facilities baths?
When asked about the consequences of such practices by the CBC, André Lareau, a professor of tax law at Laval University, had this to say:
The net effect is less taxes collected by authorities in Quebec and Canada.
With millions of dollars saved by Bombardier and millions of dollars saved by all companies that use this type of vehicle, there is no way to win for Quebec or Canada, which are short a phenomenal sum.
Moreover, all this is legal. In fact, Professor Lareau said, “Canada has given them permission to do this.” The Canadian government is basically encouraging the largest companies to take a tax holiday. Don't ask where the potholes come from.
However, our fat cats are not the only ones exploiting the flaws in our system; we now turn a blind eye to web giants who are stuffing themselves in the online shopping buffet. E-commerce is exploding, yet the government here in Ottawa, like the Conservative government before it, continues to treat online providers from here and elsewhere differently.
While a business here has to pay taxes on its business transactions on the Internet, a company that does business online in Canada doesn't have the same obligation, a situation that is making less and less sense as e-commerce grows.
That is likely why the OECD is now proposing standards for the taxation of online goods and services. Basically, the Minister of Finance believes that, if a corporation has no head office or physical presence in Canada, it is not engaged in commercial activity here. He may be right when it comes to cobblers and pizzerias, but certainly not for something like Facebook, which has millions of users in Canada, and certainly not for Amazon or Apple, which compete directly with businesses here.
Any other Canadian business that dares compete with online companies is immediately at a disadvantage, simply because it will be taxed. This is especially difficult in the media industry, which is going through a very tough time. The editor of the Winnipeg Free Press pointed out that Canadian readers of the online edition are taxed on their subscription, but they are not taxed when they subscribe to the New York Times online edition. Go figure.
Five or ten years ago, companies' advertising budgets were divided between radio, Quebec and Canadian television, and national and regional media, both print and digital. Today, however, 80% of those budgets go directly out of the country, through ad placements on Facebook and Google. This amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars a year that are leaving the country without being taxed. Our media are being bled dry. Even worse, in some cases, these foreign online ad placements are even tax deductible. We know very well that, in the case of the biggest web-based multinationals, this money literally disappears.
In the United Kingdom, instead of registering its British advertising revenue and being taxed in the U.K., Facebook recently decided to move everything to Ireland and the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying token amounts in taxes. When word got out, people reacted negatively and Facebook did some back-pedalling, after a few years of a little tax holiday, because the public got upset, but more importantly, because political officials took responsibility.
Yes, I am looking at the government.
Since 2015, the British government has been a pioneer in charging an extra 25% levy on foreign corporations that try to avoid paying taxes. That was a tough pill to swallow for the likes of Facebook and Amazon, who finally started paying their taxes after having processed all their transactions through Luxembourg for years. The moral of the story is: where there is political will, tax avoidance can be beat, including when it comes to companies that do business online.
The statement by British finance minister, George Osborne, could not have been clearer: he said that their corporate tax rate was among the lowest in the world, but England expects those taxes to be paid.
Here in Ottawa, we can only dream of our Minister of Finance having that much political courage. In the meantime, this wide-scale tax avoidance is doing immeasurable harm to businesses in Quebec and Canada.
Last weekend's edition of La Presse called this the Swiss cheese effect because it could create holes in Quebec's economy. The same article quoted Peter Simons, the president of La Maison Simons, a very successful and well-known Quebec retailer that just opened a new store in the nearby Rideau Centre. Mr. Simons talked about how big of a problem this is for electronic commerce. He pays his taxes and his customs fees, and he pays for his products and buildings, which are taxed. However, his competitors do not do any of that.
He said it very clearly: taxes are his biggest expense. He added that it is not right for a company that conducts 90% of its operations in North America to send 99% of the profits to Luxembourg. He also added that the things that cost the most in a society are the people, education, roads, and health, and that, as a society, we need to fund our values. He went on to say that he worries that the government will fall back into a pattern of making cuts without identifying root causes. He said that he does not have all the answers but that he believes that everyone should have to pay their fair share and participate in society. Companies cannot come to Quebec and Canada and expect to do business without taking any responsibility.
That is from one of our own business people. He is worried that governments are not listening to him and not getting his message. Mr. Simons added that he is not sure the government sees any urgency here and that the legislative framework must be redefined.
The weekend edition of La Presse said the same thing: Our elected representatives have to do a better job of helping merchants rise to those challenges and stopping multinationals from getting around the rules.
I wish I could say that I believe Canada will change the rules to put a stop to tax havens, but the truth is that Conservative and Liberal party cronies are the ones who created those tax havens in the first place. Here are just a few of them: Graham Towers, a former governor of the Bank of Canada, was an advisor to the Government of Jamaica when that country became a tax haven. Jim MacDonald, once a high-ranking Conservative Party lawyer, drafted the Cayman Islands' tax policies when that country became a tax haven. Donald Fleming, a former Canadian minister, put together the Bahamas' tax measures when that country became a tax haven in the 1960s.
Paul Martin, a businessman and former Canadian prime minister, has a company registered in Barbados. In other words, lots of people—
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