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Results: 1 - 15 of 18
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.
The first point in their motion reads:
(a) take note of the importance of a free and independent press to a healthy democracy;
The Conservatives want a “free and independent” press. Do they also want a sustainable press or do they want a dying one? From what I know, things are not going well.
What are they proposing?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
I am beginning to feel like a parrot and it is getting tiresome. Why does another four years have to go by before something gets done?
He is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism. His minister's predecessor launched the ecosystem review process four years ago.
It was passed from committee to committee, then there was a committee report, and then it went back to committee. The election will be over and still nothing will have been done.
How is it that the Liberal government has not accomplished anything in this regard in four years?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
I am happy that the masks are coming off today, because we are talking about something that the NDP has been concerned about for a long time. For around eight years, we have been standing up for Canadian news media and cultural content, and particularly in Quebec, where there is a great deal of provincial investment in businesses that offer such content. Furthermore, as a result of the changing paradigm, every investment the Government of Quebec makes involves greater risk.
Last night, the Québec Cinéma Gala celebrated the talents of director Ricardo Trogi, actor Debbie Lynch-White, actor Martin Dubreuil and Sara Mishara, who did the cinematography for the movie The Great Darkened Days. The Québec Cinéma team reminded us that Quebec is so good at telling its stories because of giants like Jean Beaudin and Jean-Claude Labrecque, who passed away last week.
A pioneer of filmmaking on nearly 100 Canadian films and keenly attuned to the evolution of Quebec society, Jean-Claude Labrecque, considered the filmmaker who captured the essence of Quebec, used to describe himself simply as the guy holding the camera. He did right by us, as the great man he was.
To pay tribute to Jean-Claude Labrecque is to pay tribute to the architect of what we inherited today. We inherited a system that allows us to tell our stories through fiction and documentaries, but also through the news media. It allows us to talk about our democracy and to monitor what our politicians do. That is precisely what is currently at stake, because of the partisan games and mediocrity we are seeing from Canada's two main parties.
Under the Conservatives we had 10 years of inaction. Ten years of acting like nothing happened. Then the Liberals came to power saying that something had to be done, that we absolutely needed to fix the problem. That was four years ago and they have done absolutely nothing since then. This government has done a poor job because it is afraid of the opposition. I am talking about the official opposition, of course, because the NDP has been fighting for this cause for at least four years, if not eight, since this issue was not as urgent at the time. This situation has truly deteriorated in no time at all.
It is unacceptable that 80% of Internet advertising revenue currently goes to the United States. All legislators in Canada should be ashamed. It is not unusual for a society that lives in the north, like ours, to import pineapples or bananas. However, we are now importing advertising signs. Is it not appalling that we are letting all our advertising investments go elsewhere? That is a pathetic trade record. Time and again I find myself having to face the fact that we have no backbone. We have to wake up and protect our industry. We have to stop being mesmerized by five different colour letters just because they represent the most beloved brand in the United States, by Republicans and Democrats alike. We need to wake up.
It is not Google's fault that we are slackers. It is not Netflix's fault that we have not asked it to collect the GST, our country's basic tax, which is a consumption tax. The Liberals will not do it for utterly embarrassing reasons. They are afraid that those opposite, the Conservatives, who only want to win the next election, will say that a Netflix tax will raise prices. Give me a break. All Canadians pay the GST on goods they purchase. That is normal. We pay for goods and services, but they will not charge the GST.
You should all be ashamed. I, for one, as a citizen of a country like Canada, am ashamed that we are not taking a stand and charging our consumption tax. That is just disgraceful. As we can see, this mainly concerns the GST.
The government has been avoiding the issue and thinking pretty highly of itself for four years. For the past four years, it has been ignoring other people's advice. For four years, it has been afraid of being known as the government that taxed Netflix, but come on, Netflix raised its rate by about 33% a year ago and nobody said boo. The Liberals say they will not charge the GST for that kind of service. They know they do not have a leg to stand on, but they will not do it. There might be questions at the year-end review. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are literally lying to us when they say taxing an intangible online service is complicated. They talk about seeking advice from their G7 and G20 friends. Seriously, though, this is a sales tax. What is the deal here? You are lying to our faces. This kind of situation—
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)
Madam Speaker, I will focus on the second part of the member's comment, so that my answer is as constructive as possible.
In the second part of his comment, the member asked me what we would recommend. First, we would recommend that the government take things seriously and acknowledge that information promotes a better democracy. Such a fundamental issue should have been tackled much earlier. It would have been preferable not to wait until the last minute, as the government did with a number of very important bills. It also should have done some research and not thought it was so superior that it was above criticism.
Obviously, it is going to be a bit controversial when the government chooses a union that has very much taken a side in the debate and when it makes the announcement at the last second, right before the election. Nevertheless, the Conservatives should not be surprised. They are hated by almost everyone in the news and communications sector. The Conservatives hung us out to dry for 10, or even 14, years, because they were threatening the government.
As for the first part of your comment, you claim to have done things. The Canada Council for the Arts budget was doubled four years ago. Stop saying that; you have not done a thing since.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
That will not be easy, Madam Speaker.
I thank my colleague. I know he means well, and I appreciate his province taking the lead.
He is absolutely right. This definitely demonstrates how pathetic it is that this government does not to have the guts to do the obvious and just apply the GST to a service like this. He is right that we all need to work together. As a result of the government's inability to show federal leadership and persuade the telecom giants to join the comprehensive review, the stakeholders are left to watch as the system falls to pieces. They are petrified of being swallowed up by Big Brother, Google, GAFA and others.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important speech, particularly since, in his riding, the Franco-Ontarian fact is, of course, very vulnerable and must always be promoted and protected.
I would like to know where small newspapers and local weeklies stand. Did the people who run them feel reassured by the government's announcements? If the member has any time left, I would like him to tell me why the Liberals took so long to present solutions that were looked into two years ago in a number of reports submitted to the government.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech and excellent work at committee, where we discussed these issues at length.
I will not ask her why we had to wait until the last minute because I have already asked that question many times today. A lot of people are wondering if they are going to pack up next weekend because the parliamentary session is almost over. It cannot believe that we are tackling this issue today, but the Conservatives wanted to raise it.
Is my colleague surprised by the Conservative belief that choosing a union such as Unifor to represent the views of workers and others is some kind of a game?
I find it appalling that they waited until the last minute, just before the election, to introduce such a highly debatable motion.
Is she surprised by the Conservative belief that unions do not look favourably on the Conservatives and do not believe them to be on their side?
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 thank my colleague for his speech.
I agree with him. There is a lot wrong with this situation. A few days from the end of this Parliament, it is very awkward and negligent of this government to be making so many proposals and appointments that could cause confusion, when we do not have the means to do an analysis. Our news industry and our media are not doing well.
I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the information I found indicating that Canada subsidizes the media to the tune of $2 per capita. In Quebec, with its current formula, it is about $3 per capita. Compare that to $5.83 in the United States, $18.17 in the United Kingdom and $30 in France. Of course, Sweden, Norway and Finland, which are fantastic countries, provide significantly more help to the media, with support ranging from $57 to $90 per capita. That is a huge amount compared to Canada's $2 per capita.
Does my colleague agree with the idea that the state must provide better support for newspapers, in a non-partisan manner of course?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who serves with me on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Clearly, we cannot oppose a good thing, even if it being proposed late in the game. When a union that represents thousands of workers is disparaged, there may be some comments that people would like to take back.
However, as everyone has said today, it is obvious that this is a temporary measure while we wait for something better. That is the issue. Why did we wait all this time to solve the fundamental problem afflicting our media, namely the loss of advertising revenue? What is the cause of these losses? I wonder if my colleague can answer that. Section 19 is overused with respect to online advertising, as though the ads were being placed in Canadian media.
Why has this loophole not been closed? Why is GST not charged on ads purchased on these platforms? If the reason is that these are U.S. platforms, it is not a good reason.
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)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague referred to the Canada-Quebec agreements. I had the chance—anyone could have joined in—to walk with the people from FRAPRU, the Quebec social housing coalition, who left Ottawa roughly a month ago to travel to Quebec City. They will arrive in Quebec City tomorrow. They walked 550 kilometres and stopped in all sorts of towns and villages along the way to talk about social housing.
I had the opportunity to welcome them back home in Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, where we walked 1% of the journey together. These people have deep convictions and they are walking on behalf of an entire community of people who need social housing.
In Longueuil—it is not for nothing that they stopped by—there are major housing challenges. The waiting lists are appalling. My team was on the phone with a friend in my riding who is a young professional, a single parent with two children. She came to see my team because she could no longer make ends meet. She pays $1,000 a month in rent.
These situations are commonplace in Longueuil. Fortunately, there are fantastic solutions. People have stepped up. The people on this walk were invited, for example, to have breakfast at Habitations Paul-Pratt, Manoir-Trinité, where seniors have been able to find great social housing and a wonderful quality of life. That is important. These are urgent needs.
I am wondering why we are talking about this today when the government made some lofty promises about great funding, which we were very pleased with. However, 90% of this money will only be disbursed after the government is re-elected. I believe it is horribly Machiavellian to deal with these issues in this way. I can say the same thing about cultural issues. I just blasted the Minister of Canadian Heritage because his committee will release a report in 2020, after the election. That is just appalling. The needs exist right now.
Why does the government not see what people across Canada and especially in Longueuil are dealing with?
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, their biggest problem is that they do not keep their campaign promises. Their platform reads as follows:
We will fulfill our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term.
When will those people stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry?
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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