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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to welcome the witnesses and thank them for being with us today.
Before I get to my questions, I want to recognize the important work that senior officials and all employees at the Department of Finance have done during the pandemic. This committee met often, and we regularly heard from department officials. They have done incredible work to save the economy. I want to commend them and thank them again for all their hard work.
My questions are for Mr. McGowan.
After yesterday's news release and Ms. Bendayan's earlier comments, everything was clear in my mind, but the answers, details and clarifications you gave Ms. Dzerowicz confused me. Therefore, I'm going to ask you the same question.
Since Bill C‑208 received royal assent in June, the provisions in Bill C‑208 have applied in the case of parents who sell their farm or family business to their son or daughter. Is that correct?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
Julie Bissonnette of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec wanted us to ask you that question. Both my fellow member Ms. Dzerowicz and I have asked it now. You gave a clear answer, which I appreciate.
Nevertheless, something you said in response to my fellow member's question worried me, and you said it again when you answered my question. You said that it has been that way since yesterday's news release. This morning, however, the law clerk for the House of Commons and former members of the House told the committee that it has actually been that way since the bill received royal assent, regardless of what the news release said. Yesterday's news release reiterated that fact. However, since Bill C‑208 received royal assent, it has been possible to sell a business for the purposes of an intergenerational transfer of a family farm with the usual rights and benefits. Is that correct?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Very good. Thank you.
Now I'm going to move on to another topic; it has to do with the amendments. As you said, in yesterday's news release, the government announced its intentions to make changes to the amendments set out in Bill C‑208. It is our understanding that a new bill will be introduced to amend the changes contained in Bill C‑208, without altering the bill's intent.
Something about this whole process surprises me. As we heard this morning, the first reading of the bill took place on February 19, 2020. That means the period between when the bill was given first reading and when it received royal assent was 527 days. As Mr. Dufresne, the law clerk, pointed out this morning, at almost every stage of the legislative process, the government could have brought forward the amendments it is now saying it will introduce in a future bill.
I gather from the answers you gave Mr. Fast that, when Bill C‑208 was at committee stage, the government had not asked the Department of Finance to draft amendments to the bill that would close the potential tax loopholes. Is that correct?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Pardon me, Mr. McGowan. I don't think I made myself clear. I meant that it was up to members of the government, not public servants or senior officials, to bring forward amendments that would have addressed the concerns you raised with the government regarding this bill.
My question is this. Did the government ask you to draft amendments to rectify the potential problems resulting from Bill C‑208, amendments that could have been proposed when the bill was being studied by the committee? Did the government ask you to draft such amendments?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to start with a few comments.
In yesterday's news release, the government recognized that Bill C‑208 has been law since it received royal assent. As I said this morning, I have no doubt that yesterday's news release had to do with the fact that the committee was recalled for a special meeting today. Again, hats off to us.
My concerns stem from the questions I asked Mr. McGowan last time. In yesterday's news release, the government stated that Bill C‑208 had become law and that the law was the law, but the government also indicated that it would bring forward new legislation to amend the bill. Since the bill was studied for 527 days, I'm wondering why the government did not propose the amendments during the usual examination process. Five hundred and twenty-seven days is a long time.
What's more, as has been mentioned, this isn't the first time Parliament has considered a bill like this. A few years ago, Liberal member Emmanuel Dubourg proposed similar legislation, as did the NDP's Guy Caron, not to mention my fellow Bloc Québécois member Xavier Barsalou‑Duval. Mr. Maguire's version was the one that finally took and got passed by Parliament.
Although the bill received royal assent, the government did not recognize it as law, just as the government did not recognize the authority of the House of Commons. Threats were made, and the Standing Committee on Finance decided to hold an emergency meeting. That was when the government finally acknowledged the application date of the bill, while indicating that it would bring forward amendments. Why were those amendments not brought forward during the legislative process, which lasted 527 days?
I asked the witnesses who were called before the committee whether the government had instructed them to draft amendments. I recall quite clearly that Mr. McGowan, among others, told the committee members that it was rather complicated, that numerous loopholes existed and that they needed to be closed. I then asked whether the Department of Finance had prepared, at the government's behest, amendments that could have been brought forward, voted on and adopted during that 527‑day period.
Now, Mr. McGowan, Mr. Jovanovic and Ms. Aitken are saying that it is a matter of cabinet confidence and that they can't answer the question. My guess is that, if the amendments aren't ready yet, they will be soon, since the government announced that a bill containing the amendments was on the way.
The government could be accused of being asleep at the wheel, because it dragged its feet and did not do what it should have—instruct the department to draft the amendments and bring them forward. On the committee and in the House, we were all able to work together harmoniously. I have no doubt that, had we studied the amendments, the level of co‑operation would have been high and the process would have been fruitful, but that was not the case. That makes me wonder what happened. Here's my theory.
I think that, back in the spring, the government was considering calling an election, not caring too much about Bill C‑208—figuring it would die on the Order Paper. An election was coming, anyhow. When the third wave of the pandemic hit, the Liberals realized that they couldn't do as they had planned; they would lose face if they called an election in the spring. Subsequently, the bill received royal assent, which was seen as collateral damage in the government's little game of cards. The Liberals weren't expecting it.
Now that the bill has received royal assent, they are saying 527 days was not enough time. They want to recognize the changes, but announced that they were going to bring forward new legislation to do what they should have done when the time was right. The level of ineptitude is astounding, and I have a real problem with that.
Those are my comments. I have no questions.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Good morning, Mr. Chair.
My regards to Mr. Bédard and Mr. Dufresne.
My regards also go to my colleagues and all the members of the team that makes it possible for the committee to run. It's really nice to see them in person, although it's during the first week of the construction holidays.
That said, a committee's gotta do what a committee's gotta do.
Let me start with a brief comment. Yesterday, I was delighted to see the news release from the Department of Finance, which reversed its position and its decision. I think the announcement of the emergency meeting of this committee may have prompted the department to say that the law is the law, as was reported in The Globe and Mail this morning. So I take my hat off to all the members of the committee, and in particular to the chair. I think we have succeeded in changing things here.
Mr. Dufresne, we are talking about the rights, powers and authority of the House. In the first news release, how were those not respected? How do you think that was corrected in the second news release?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you. That is very clear.
At the beginning of your opening remarks, you reminded us that you advise Parliament, the House, its committees and elected officials, and you said that this is more or less what the Department of Justice does for the government.
Let me add an editorial comment. I would be very surprised if the Department of Justice officials thought that not including a date in the bill meant that the government could put it into effect whenever it wanted.
I think the government, the Prime Minister and his team, thought that this bill was not quite working for them and that they would try something. I am sure that the Department of Justice would never have misled the government in that way, which is why the emergency meeting of the committee today was so important and why I think an updated news release was issued.
Larry Maguire, who is here with us, can correct me if I am wrong. In a CBC article yesterday, we are reminded that the first reading of Bill C‑208 took place on February 19, 2020. It's now 2021. Yesterday, the journalist reminded us that 527 days passed between the first reading of the bill and its implementation following royal assent.
Mr. Dufresne, can you remind the members of the committee and those listening of the normal stages that a bill must go through? Also, at each of these stages and during those 527 days, when could the government officials have suggested amendments or proposals to make the bill consistent with what they wanted to do, as they said they wanted to do through a future bill?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, that is very clear.
So there are several stages in the House and in the Senate where the government officials could have said that the bill was not perfect and that they would have preferred to make amendments to it. That was the reason the government gave us in the first news release for choosing not to implement it now.
But there was a 527‑day delay, and at each stage, the government could have made amendments. We have a minority government. We can work together, and we saw that was really the case at the Standing Committee on Finance. That is the beauty of a minority government where all members of Parliament work together. But as far as I know, the government officials did not submit any amendments. I would say that they “were asleep at the wheel” because they had 527 days to bring forward the amendments they wanted.
I would also point out that similar legislation exists in Quebec and that safeguards have been put in place with respect to our concerns about the whole issue of tax evasion. The Quebec Minister of Finance actually reminded me that it was working well. The federal government officials have therefore had all the time they need to draw inspiration from it, to propose that such guidelines be put in place, to ask what others think of them, to discuss them and to invite experts and other witnesses to the committee.
As far as I know, the Liberals did not call any witnesses or submit any amendments to the committee. So they were really “asleep at the wheel” and missed an opportunity. I'm very pleased that there was an about‑face in the news release yesterday.
That's the end of my questions to Mr. Dufresne and Mr. Bédard. Their answers shed light on the situation. My thanks to them for being here.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will wait until Mr. Gerretsen is listening.
After what I just heard, let me remind you of the basic factors. We are here because something very serious happened. Parliament passed Bill C‑208, which is extremely important. When I first ran for office, it was the first issue people talked to me about. Farmers were saying that they had to choose between their retirement and their children, who wanted to take over the farm. The farmers would lose their pensions if they sold it to them, so they were wondering what to do.
Members from every political party brought this bill forward to the House. As I said earlier, after 527 days, it was passed and it came into force. The government issued a news release saying that it would come into force later. The Liberals are therefore saying that they will not honour the will of the House, which is very serious. That is why members from each party have asked for this emergency committee meeting today, to emphasize the seriousness of what is happening.
Much reference is being made to the news release issued yesterday afternoon, just prior to the committee meeting. I am sure that this correction made through the news release is directly related to the fact that the Standing Committee on Finance did its job and announced an emergency meeting. It is very important to remember that what is voted on in Parliament must be respected and that the government cannot act like a tinpot dictator by not implementing what it does not like. We live in a democracy, and that is not how it works.
Let me come back to you, Mr. Dufresne.
Yesterday, in the press release, the government announced its intention to make amendments in keeping with the spirit of the bill. The Liberals gave us their word. As they have said and as you have reiterated, this must be done through a whole new legislative process. In short, Parliament will have to pass a new piece of legislation.
Is that the case?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
Could the government introduce a bill in the House to repeal Bill C‑208?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Actually—
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay. Thank you.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning to all the witnesses.
Thank you for your very interesting presentations.
I will begin with a comment for Ms. Bissonnette.
Thank you for your presentation. You had a question. It could even go to the senior officials this afternoon. I was delighted to hear that we already had the answer from Ms. Bendayan, who was speaking on behalf of the government. She assured the companies that will be doing family transfers that the next bill amending Bill C‑208 will not be retroactive.
I commend and thank the government for sharing this commitment with us.
Before I turn to questions, I have a comment in response to the discussions we have heard at this meeting.
Senior officials in the Department of Finance may have had concerns about the implementation of a bill, but I don't think that's at all an excuse. In the previous hour, Mr. Dufresne, the Law Clerk of the House, appeared and told us that. He knows full well, as does everyone here, that, when a bill has no implementation date, it comes into force on the day it receives royal assent.
Mr. Dufresne reminded us that the government, the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and everyone else in government, relies on the Department of Justice to advise them on this matter. There is no better resource than the Department of Justice for advice on how legislation works. Everyone in the government knows full well that when royal assent is received, the legislation is in force, that is how it works. Even if the government did not know that, the senior officials have no excuse and cannot say that they did not know either. The minister and the government are responsible. If they didn't know, they are like boy scouts in short pants and that's inexcusable. It is completely unacceptable.
I have one other comment. According to yesterday's Radio‑Canada article, between the first reading of Bill C‑208 and royal assent, there were 527 days, or a year and a half. At each stage, at first reading, second reading, third reading, report stage, committee and Senate, the government could have proposed amendments. If it had done its job as a government in any serious manner and if it had said that it had concerns about tax evasion, which are perfectly valid, why did it let this go on for 527 days? Then it decides to have a new bill, and we gather that it will likely be after the election. They are creating uncertainty by saying that they are going to propose their amendments. Yet they had 527 days to do so. Once again, it smacks of boy scouts in short pants. It is really sad.
My last comment before my questions is this. Yesterday, we received the news release that corrected the situation and the Parliamentary Secretary, Rachel Bendayan, spoke on behalf of the government. Phew! We saved the bill, it's in effect and it will be implemented. I am very pleased about that.
I want to commend the work of all the members of the committee. I think the fact that the committee called an emergency meeting enabled the government to make this correction. I particularly want to raise my hat off to the chair of the committee.
Thank you for this meeting, Mr. Chair. It has changed everything.
Let me proceed with the questions.
I'll start with Ms. Bissonnette.
Your presentation was excellent. You mentioned that 70% of Quebec farmers want family succession. You have a dairy farm. How much is an average dairy farm worth when you include the fields for grain and everything else? On average, what is it worth in Quebec?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Are you saying $2 million?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
You are saying it's millions of dollars.
How much did it cost parents to sell their farms to their children rather than to strangers, before the legislation was passed?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
So, deciding to sell your farm to your children meant giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars and the passage of the Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of a small business or family farm or fishing corporation) corrects this injustice.
You said that you have been pushing this issue for 15 years. In 2015, when I ran for office, this was the first issue I heard about. Farmers are well mobilized, and so are the small and medium‑sized businesses. It's really very important.
Don't stop, keep going. Let's hope that, in the end, we will get there.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Before you call the vote, could you please tell us again what we are voting on, so we know exactly what's what.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
[Inaudible—Editor] I'm waiting.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, it's one o'clock. What happens next? Do we keep going a bit longer? I have some motions. I don't need 12 or 22 minutes. I can be extremely quick about it, but I have some comments afterwards.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Do you have anyone else on the speaking list after me, Mr. Chair?
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
It is now 1:35 p.m. The meeting has been going on since 11 a.m. this morning. I'm just taking the time to get myself set up, since this is my first speech.
Just like you, we have activities in our ridings. The people who are listening to us today have the opportunity to see us in person and see that we are hard at work in Ottawa. Yes, we are working. I should give them a bit of background about what is going on, however.
Under Standing Order 106(4), we can sign a written request to call a meeting when, unfortunately, we are unable to obtain certain answers on a given issue. As indicated in the wording of the request, the reason why I supported my Conservative colleagues in making this request is that, unfortunately, I could not get the answers to my questions.
During the last parliamentary session, I was constantly amazed at how much room was left for different interpretations. In life, I have always been told to get to the bottom of things to make sure whether what is being said is true or false.
In the last hour and a half, according to what has been put on the table—and this is a perception, I want to emphasize that—there seemed to be nothing wrong, nothing to worry about. We told ourselves from the outset that everything was perfect, that this meeting would be so uncomplicated, for once, that we could take the time left to us to work in our ridings and meet the people we have only seen virtually all year. Personally, I found that reassuring. I thought it would be a simple meeting, since the colleagues opposite had absolutely nothing to worry about. I thought it would be a two-hour meeting to shed some light on the subject of the written request made under Standing Order 106(4).
We were asked what was the point of doing this at this time, between two parliamentary sessions. In fact, the work is still going on. The House of Commons is actually open. I'm very happy that we can see each other in person, that feels good. I was told that I was dancing behind the screen. What we're experiencing right now is a bit like what I have experienced. I was introduced to this along with all of you. For hours and hours, we have heard speeches that often ran counter to the proposals before the committee, just to kill time. We keep hearing people saying we don't want to waste time, but we are wasting time. They say they want to get to the bottom of this, but they don't want to allow us the opportunity to ask questions.
In fact, what we should be asking is why things are so complicated today. Anyone who has nothing to hide or fear should be willing to go ahead and get to the bottom of things. Sadly, someone made a speech saying that they felt threatened. That's a defence mechanism. I will say to the people who are listening to us that this is perfectly normal, this is what happens in committee.
However, here is what it's like in real life. It's summertime. We are not sure what's coming up. According to my schedule, I will be back with you on September 20, in person. That will be very exciting. In the meantime, I don't want to repeat what we did last summer. I am convinced that none of you want to do that.
Some people feel that if you open the door once, you'll have to open it the next time too. The proof is in the pudding: We have already opened the door, based on an item we had. There were no worries, everything was perfect, we were going to meet the following week. There may be other proposals; it depends on what people want to do.
Trust and transparency issues fall under the purview of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We are an oversight committee. Every committee has its strength. Ours is very considerable, and equally important.
It is easy to say that we are trying to look for dirt and dig where there is nothing to dig up. Beyond all that, we are demonstrating something to people. Essentially, technically, the results shouldn't be a big surprise. We simply saw, and I will reiterate, that 95% of the Liberal MPs paid $30,000 to Data Sciences and the Liberal Party paid $1 million to NGP VAN. Accordingly, we want to ask the founder of Data Sciences some questions. If things look good, this will be over; if they don't, then something else will happen. People need to know what's going on.
People say time is precious. I'm sure some of my colleagues have meetings scheduled in their ridings in an hour. I myself have one at 5 p.m. People want to see us. They also want to see that we're not wasting our time. Well, we have just shown them that we did waste our time. At this point, I think that by 2 p.m. we will have finished hearing from everyone who wanted to speak. We are ready. Everyone has spoken. We all know how the vote will turn out. Let's vote on the amendment. Soon, when we feel comfortable and we are in agreement, we can vote on the motion.
Why should we do this? I think that the clerk has the right to enjoy her summer, too. We can do our work and our planning efficiently and effectively.
You know where I stand. We still agree on the basic wording. The work will resume on September 20. There will be requests then, but we will be able to stay focused.
Thank you.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
What my colleague is saying is very interesting, but I'm trying to see how it is linked to the amendment we are debating. Maybe she can explain to me what the link is or actually arrive at her conclusion, because I'm having trouble following her.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
We're talking about a very specific amendment. Could members refrain from making comments not related to the amendment? Otherwise, we could spend three days on this. I agree that this is important and interesting, but can we focus on the amendment so that we can make a decision?
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Are we talking about adjourning the meeting or suspending it until later?
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
What's the difference between the two?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
Along the same lines, I think it's a shame because in some cases, this is the second time our witnesses have come here. They have been very patient and I wish I could have asked them some questions. I believe it would have been beneficial to the committee.
I understand my colleagues' time constraints, but I believe the context warrants more than just five minutes. We could also remind witnesses that, if they want to add anything, they can do so in writing afterwards.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
A point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Unfortunately, the interpreter cannot translate what Mr. Maley is saying.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
The interpreter is telling me that there is a problem with the sound.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the House interpreters. They are doing an exceptional job in these times of pandemic, allowing us to hold these meetings with no problem.
I also want to thank the witnesses; they are teaching us as well as shedding light on current events. For that, I am very grateful to them.
This question is for all the witnesses, and I would like the floor to be open to anyone who wants to respond, because each one of you has your own experiences.
My question is quite general. Our research tells us that Afghanistan's constitution states that followers of religions other than Islam are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the law. Can you tell us what those limits are?
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
I am sorry to have to raise a point of order.
The interpreter apologizes, but she is unfortunately unable to do her job.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, this is the committee's final meeting. We can talk about it later…
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
This is the committee's final meeting before the break.
I certainly do not want Mr. Ibrahimi to have no opportunity to speak. I think we have a technical difficulty. I would let Mr. Ibrahimi…
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
No, I would like to hear what Mr. Ibrahimi has to say anyway.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
I will go onto the floor channel and listen in English.
Our interpreters are unfortunately unable to do their work because of the technical difficulties. I am prepared to get this done before the break. So, despite the Official Languages Act—
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, I think that Mr. Singh wanted to add something. I would be curious to hear what he has to say.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Singh.
I would now like to hear from Ms. Chiovenda, if we have any time left.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We have heard a lot about the government in Afghanistan and about the laws in Afghanistan, but we have not heard as much about the social situation in Afghanistan. I would be curious to hear what the witnesses have to say about it.
Earlier, I asked you what the government could do, but I would also like to know about the social attitudes of the people in Afghanistan towards religions other than Islam. For me, that's important too.
Are any of the witnesses ready to answer that question?
Can you answer it, Mr. Maley?
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Maley.
I am wondering about another question. The conflicts and the armed struggles in Afghanistan have been going on for decades. We can mention the ones with the Soviets, of course, then with the Americans, the internal intertribal wars, and so on. What impacts have those conflicts had on religious minorities in Afghanistan? My question is for all the witnesses.
Mr. Ajimal, do you want to start? Mr. Singh, do you want to follow on?
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Singh, you can add a quick comment.
Afterwards, if we are lucky, maybe we can hear what Ms. Chiovenda has to say.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Like the minister, I too want to wish you a happy birthday, Mr. Chair.
I am going to start with a statement. Then I will ask my questions.
Hello, Minister. Thank you very much for being here this afternoon.
The committee has already been working on the problems of tax evasion and tax avoidance for some time, in particular on the tax schemes put in place by KPMG, providing a financial vehicle to enable certain of its clients to reduce their tax payable. In light of the internal documents relating to this plan provided to the committee by KPMG on May 17, 2016, this could be a form of tax evasion, so of something illegal.
All these problems are extremely complex, as you acknowledged and pointed out in your speech. Today, for example, we can read in La Presse that data from the Canada Revenue Agency show that its recent efforts to combat tax evasion by the richest Canadians have not led to any charges or convictions. The same kind of article can be read on CTV.
Experts have appeared here to tell us that there is a feeling of impunity toward the government and the CRA, among the users of the tax havens and the tax law experts who create their schemes. We have been told that to put an end to this kind of behaviour, the United States brought out the heavy artillery to deal with KPMG: investigations by the Internal Revenue Service, threats of searches and of charges of obstructing justice, penalties, criminal charges of fraud and conspiracy against the firm and its officers, and threats to charge the firm with being a criminal organization. Here, there has been none of that. Instead, the CRA has proposed voluntary disclosures and still nothing has been resolved with the clients who did not agree.
The experts reminded us that it is not possible to control what we can't see. Unfortunately, as you said in your testimony, the Canada Revenue Agency does not have access to all the information for doing these audits. For example, KPMG keeps going to court so it doesn't have to share its information with the CRA. The experts denounce the appearance of impunity and unfairness for the rich clients and the companies that create these schemes. They conceal their information from the CRA and contest the requests in court. At the committee, it is extremely difficult to get answers to our questions, to shed light on this entire matter. There are even witnesses who refuse to appear, in spite of the summons issued by the committee. These are no jokes!
I repeat: it is important to shed light on this entire matter and get to the bottom of things. We have to be able to put in place laws, regulations, processes and guidelines to prevent any form of tax evasion. That is why I am asking you, as Minister of National Revenue, to initiate a public inquiry into the matter of the schemes created by KPMG that enabled Canadian taxpayers to collect money in the form of gifts or otherwise, money that was not included in the tax returns of the recipients, from companies in the Isle of Man or any other country, as section 231.4 of the Income Tax Act empowers you to do. I believe the committee could also adopt a motion to that effect a little later.
Do you want to initiate a public inquiry, Minister, please?
Thank you.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
If I may, that is not at all what I asked. The committee's limitations are clear, and the only solution, the only tool, for shedding light on the entirety of KPMG's offshore activities is the public inquiry.
We are not talking about an investigation before the courts. You, as the Minister of National Revenue, are the only one who has this power under the Income Tax Act; you can ask for a public inquiry to be held to get to the bottom of things and shed light on the situation. In my opinion, that is what should be done.
I will ask you again. Please, can you ask for a public inquiry to be held into this entire matter so we can get to the bottom of things?
Thank you.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
I am extremely disappointed to hear such nonsense being given as an answer.
In the United States, a senate committee held an inquiry that has changed things. It is our role to do that here. My role as an elected representative, and our role as a committee, is to ask the minister to initiate a public inquiry to get to the bottom of things. There are enough points to be raised to ask for that.
We are not getting any answers, other than being told to change jobs. What a load of nonsense. She is the one who has the power.
Is she going to do it, yes or no?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If we want to get to the bottom of the tale of the shell companies set up by KPMG, if we want to get to the bottom of the tale of the thousands of small investors like Ms. Watson who were swindled, the only solution, according to the experts, is a public inquiry. Tax law expert André Lareau is one of the people saying that.
The role of requesting an inquiry has been assigned to you, Minister, and no one else. I also want to remind you that it was thanks to a whistle-blower inside the CRA that we got wind of the deals that were offered to the Isle of Man fraudsters. The reason the CRA's investigators are unhappy is that the order came from higher up. It takes a public inquiry.
Are you going to call a public inquiry, as you are given the authority to do by section 231.4 of the Income Tax Act, yes or no?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
It isn't interference.
Minister, you are the only person in Canada with the power to shed light on it and get to the bottom of things. That is the power you have. You are the minister. Sympathy is not enough.
Are you going to initiate a public inquiry?
I understand it's a no. The message you are sending to everyone who has been swindled is that you are sympathetic, but you aren't going to do anything. That is unacceptable. That choice is the choice to do nothing to get it moving, to do nothing to get to the bottom of things. That is a definite sign of incompetence.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
You are the only person who can request a public inquiry. It would seem that you do not even know this. That is unacceptable.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, I think the minister wanted to congratulate you, but you didn't hear her because of the interpretation. I don't know whether she wants to do it before my point of order.
I think she has left.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
She wanted to congratulate you before leaving the meeting.
I have a point of order regarding Mr. Gallivan's interpretation of the minister's power of inquiry under subsection 231.4(1).
Obviously, I do not entirely agree with his interpretation and I would point out that when Mr. Lareau, one of the leading Canadian tax law specialists, appeared, he asked us to ask the minister to initiate a public inquiry under that subsection.
I would like to read the paragraph, which is only a few lines long, but speaks volumes. I would like to point out that the power of inquiry given by subsection 231.4(1) has been confirmed by a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. It went that high. So that everyone understands, I am going to read it.
231.4 (1) The Minister may, for any purpose related to the administration or enforcement of this Act, authorize any person, whether or not the person is an officer of the Canada Revenue Agency, to make such inquiry as the person may deem necessary with reference to anything relating to the administration or enforcement of this Act.
The minister absolutely has the power to initiate an inquiry under that subsection. That is what we were told by Mr. Lareau, the expert who testified at the committee, and it has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
I would just like that to be quite clear. That concludes my point of order.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
No, Mr. Chair.
Thank you.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank the witnesses.
The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is conducting this study on the realities experienced by seniors during the worst of the pandemic. However, some of the issues were already there, long before we began our work. We can discuss the living conditions of our seniors in a comprehensive way, from a financial, social or health perspective.
Ms. Oko, unfortunately, many seniors in residences are experiencing a situation like yours and your mother's. The same thing happened in some Quebec facilities. I would not lump all public seniors' care facilities together, because we also saw some good examples and good practices during the pandemic. However, the pandemic snuck up on us, and every province took steps to deal with it, to the best of their abilities. At times, it was painful for seniors, their loved ones and their families.
They had to take action to protect seniors, including preventing their loved ones from visiting them, and you're absolutely right that isolation had a variety of effects. Thank you for your testimony, even though it was difficult. I feel it reflects the glaring testimonies of people across Canada, depending on the network.
On the other hand, I have to say with all due respect that I'm skeptical of one solution that you seem to be putting forward, which is national standards that would come from Ottawa to regulate what's done in each province. I could tell you about the countless standards that we have in Quebec for our institutions and the organization of health care. These are choices we have made, particularly with respect to the number of attendants per patient. I don't believe that can be governed by a national policy that would apply uniformly. I have a very hard time believing that it will fix the situation.
However, you mentioned something that we believe is important. You talked about underfunding with respect to personnel. So it's the underfunding [Technical difficulty] of the provinces, which have the skills to organize health care, because it's a provincial jurisdiction. So Ottawa has to contribute. The Ontario and Quebec governments had one request for the federal government: significantly increase health transfers so that the federal share of funding for expenditures meets the needs of the provinces so they can deliver services.
How do you feel about the position of the Ontario and Quebec governments and others? Does Ottawa need to make a bigger contribution?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to talk about abuse. It's a pressing issue for our seniors. I can tell you that in Quebec, we now have a policy to fight abuse that was established even before the pandemic. The policy provides a definition of abuse and also protects staff members who report certain situations.
I'd like to focus more on financial abuse. What role could we handle better in terms of fraud or financial abuse?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
What I meant to say is that each province probably has its own policies to handle these issues. However, when it comes to financial fraud, the federal government could play a role. Can anything be strengthened?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank our guests very much for their testimony.
Mrs. Guerin, I salute you. Thank you for your testimony and for everything you do as coordinator of the Conseil régional de développement social des Laurentides. We can see how important these agencies are in Quebec. I congratulate you.
Your testimony is so broad. You addressed social factors, economic factors, work factors, but, above all, you succeeded in brilliantly describing the contribution that seniors make in our society. I don't know how I'm going to approach my questions. As the labour critic, I was struck by one topic in particular in your testimony: when you were talking about job losses among seniors and their return to work.
Your brief indicates that, in 2008, people aged 62 and older were the least likely to find new jobs after becoming unemployed and that they may experience negative age stereotypes in attempting to return to work.
Do you believe this problem will continue? We know that people 60 and older sometimes work to meet certain needs. Can specific efforts be made to avoid that kind of discrimination?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
As you may know, the Bloc Québécois is particularly concerned about the financial situation of seniors. I'm not saying that it's the only party concerned. I don't want to stigmatize anyone. That said, we know that seniors are becoming poorer. The pandemic has increased costs in terms of groceries, housing and drugs. Some seniors are family caregivers. The cost of getting around has increased as well.
The government decided to help seniors by increasing the old age security pension, but only for people aged 75 and over. In our opinion, it would be fairer to support all seniors by providing this increase to everyone aged 65 and over. What do you think about this?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
I would now like to talk about affordable housing.
You're conducting a great study for our region, the Laurentians. We need to determine how to adapt housing and make it affordable for seniors.
It has taken years, but the federal government has implemented the rapid housing initiative. There's also the national housing strategy. Yet Quebec municipalities are saying that this isn't enough.
You believe in the need to strengthen these measures to meet housing needs.
What makes these needs so critical?
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Guerin, I'll ask you an open‑ended question and give you time to answer it.
I really liked your reference to human rights in your testimony, which included issues relating to isolation, mental health, psychology, affordable housing, dignity, poverty and equality.
You said that our analysis grid should be based on human rights. Could you elaborate on that, please?
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am in the constituency of Abitibi—Baie‑James—Nunavik—Eeyou, on the unceded territory of the Cree and the Anishinaabe.
Everything you have said today is very harrowing. You have a lot of courage to be here before the committee today. You have gone through terrible things: exploitation and violence. Once again, I greatly admire the strength that you are showing by being here today.
Let's talk about the way trafficking young children starts.
How do you know that those children have been subjected to it? Is there a process? How did you manage to get out?
You can all answer my questions.
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
Yes, Mr. Chair. My apologies, I had to step away.
Ms. Gobert, you said you want to see certain things happen. What are they?
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
In your introduction, you mentioned some programs, especially education programs. You said that a Pandora's box must be opened and that political changes must be made. What are your recommendations for making those political changes?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. May, for your bill, which I had the opportunity to speak about and support in the House.
I also appreciated Mr. Jowhari's questions about the environmental issue. It will be good to continue the discussion on this topic.
First, in terms of planned obsolescence, please explain the impact of the current legislation on the lifespan of objects and how this legislation is currently being used by companies to their advantage.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Clearly this issue inspires you. We know that the environmental cost of not doing things is always there. Have you been able to measure how much it costs us in terms of waste?
With this bill, how much public money could be saved if we were able to repair our washers and dryers, our electronics and so on? This would keep these items out of landfills or recycling facilities in the United States, for example, as we discussed earlier in our work.
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Regarding the elections, the ball is in the government's court.
You described Bill C‑272 as a precursor. What other legislation could be reviewed in the same way to promote a longer lifespan for our devices?
At the same time, you said that many bills in the past weren't finalized.
What inspired you, both in the bills that were passed and the bills that weren't finalized?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. May, at the start, you identified four or five things that could interfere with provincial legislation. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this topic.
How does the bill align with provincial jurisdictions without infringing on them?
This could affect the Office de la protection du consommateur du Québec, for example. Have you contacted this office?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Speaking of removing barriers, do you think that there may be a development opportunity for regional machine repair companies wanting to promote and expand their market?
I'm thinking in particular of all the Apple devices, in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, that we were forced to return to the company.
Do you think that this could create opportunities in the regions?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First, Ms. Gomel, I want to congratulate you on your appointment. Second, I want to thank you for being here today.
In your remarks, you said something that surprised me. You said that you were particularly grateful for Canada's generosity, which I acknowledge, and the speed with which it helped tourism companies. Frankly, this isn't what I've been hearing throughout the pandemic. On the contrary, we were told that, if any industry wasn't receiving government support and needed to wait to get help, it was the tourism industry. One reason was that the programs were poorly adapted to the reality of tourism, including the Canada emergency rent subsidy or the emergency wage subsidy. We know that jobs in the tourism industry are often seasonal. We must remember the programs in place during the March, May and June qualifying periods.
Are you really ultimately satisfied with the federal government support for the tourism industry throughout the pandemic? Are you concerned about a fourth wave?
How do you see the future, with a possible opening of the borders and the emergence of the Delta variant?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
In concrete terms, given the $100 million announced, what's your plan once the borders are open again? What will Canada do?
What are the needs of the tourism industry today? We know that predictability is necessary in this industry.
Do you feel that clear direction can be provided?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
What are your views on Quebec's tourism structures?
The tourism attraction agencies are working together a great deal, and increasingly so. Given the need for labour as a result of the new reforms, more tourism development officers are wanted.
Would you be prepared to support this strategy from a Canadian perspective? What's your opinion on this?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Do you have any funds available?
What could be done to encourage these tourism development officers to flourish in the field in the various regions?
For example, what could be done in Abitibi—Témiscamingue to promote adventure tourism, which would provide a great experience in the area?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
In concrete terms, how do you work with the regional agencies?
I gather that you're presenting a marketing campaign across Canada or internationally, but that there are few relationships with regional agencies.
What does this mean on a daily basis?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
In the current situation, the tourism industry is calling for planning over the next two or three years in order to maintain its expertise and receive special financial support. In particular, the industry is calling for the extension of the Canada emergency wage subsidy for this sector.
I'm thinking specifically of all the tourism events, such as festivals, which can require up to two years of preparation. Above all, they require a great deal of work over a whole year. You seem very satisfied with the measures implemented by the government.
Will you lobby for a long‑term vision for the various festivals?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
I understand, but you must still have an opinion. If you're satisfied with the measures in place, it means that you have an opinion. That's a form of lobbying.
On that note, I'll ask one last question.
What tourist attractions do you hold dear in the current situation?
Will you be showcasing the regions of Quebec, or will you be focusing more on promoting events in the main cities that appear on Canada's postcards?
Can we expect your promotions to be a little more diverse?
View Sébastien Lemire Profile
BQ (QC)
Will you include the parks of the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec, or Sépaq, in your promotion of Canada's parks?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the witnesses, Nafisah Chowdhury and Faakhra Choudhry, for their testimony. I think that simply talking about it is already a step in the right direction. People need to be more alert when they see something unacceptable.
I'll draw a parallel with what I heard in a very good report yesterday on the CBC about elected officials and people being harassed online. What struck me was that we realized that people who commit these acts often don't have a criminal record. They're just ordinary people, and it takes us by surprise.
Do you feel that Islamophobic gestures come from the average person, or is there a typical profile of an attacker, harasser or hateful person?
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Ms. Chowdhury, I'd like to come back to the comment you made in response to my last question. You talked about the preconceived notions that we may sometimes have unconsciously, that can resonate with others and that may be ignored or, worse, condoned.
I’d like your perspective [Technical difficulty—Editor]. The concept of “ordinary sexism” has been developed, which covers small, everyday gestures that go unnoticed but contribute in an insidious way to hatred in general. Our study is on violent crime and online hate. Would it also be appropriate to address what we might call “ordinary Islamophobia”, if such a thing exists?
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Chair, will the amendment be introduced in French as well?
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
Yes.
My position has slightly changed following Mr. Blaikie's presentation.
Personally, I wasn't firmly opposed to the idea of having a referendum. However, after hearing how people reacted, I realized that it wouldn't go forward. That's why I thought that Ms. Vecchio's amendment should include the notion of conditionality. [Technical difficulty—Editor] ask for a referendum, so that we can gain public support for it.
That said, Mr. Blaikie told us that he didn't disapprove of having a referendum. He can correct me if I'm wrong. To be honest, I must admit that I would support the mover of the motion, because I think that it is an appealing idea. I believe that it would boil down to further democratizing our democracy. I don't know if that's the right way to put it or if that is possible, but I like the idea.
If Mr. Blaikie has no issues with passing Ms. Vecchio's motion, it would be very ill‑advised for me not to support it.
That's what I had to say about this topic.
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
I will be very brief.
I don't know whether the interpreters will be able to get this right, but here's a challenge for them. My mom always used to say, “don't bite off more than you can chew.”
I was convinced that the purpose of Mr. Blaikie's motion was to further study the electoral process as a whole. Mr. Turnbull's amendment would expand the study to democratic practices within the parliamentary process.
However, I believe that we should limit ourselves to the electoral process. People are asking themselves questions, and we should be too. We've heard people talk about the need to change the electoral system to proportional representation, because some parties are over‑represented, and others under‑represented.
I don't have the same background as Mr. Turnbull and I am not an expert on the matter. I am but a mere economist. However, my constituents often talk to me about the need to adopt proportional representation. Doing so would allow parties that are disadvantaged by the current electoral system to be better represented and better equipped to speak on behalf of people, who deserve it.
I will stop here. I don't believe that Mr. Turnbull's amendment would be beneficial for us because it weakens the premise of the main motion. Therefore, I hope that this amendment will be defeated.
View Alain Therrien Profile
BQ (QC)
It's late. I supported what Ms. Qaqqaq proposed to us last week. Despite the fact that the chair did her job and told us that it was out of order, I nevertheless stressed how important it was to agree with this request.
Quebec is a nation of francophones, and we have been in a precarious position since 1763. You know Quebec's history. We are truly attentive to all peoples when they want to assert themselves and impose and preserve their language. As a gesture of solidarity, given what we are experiencing in Quebec, I will support any measure to promote and protect indigenous languages.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I rise on exactly the same point of order, Madam chair.
First, I'd like to point out to my colleagues that I have no doubt about Justice Jamal's competence. I do not dispute his competence at all. We'll meet with him later, and we will be able to ask many questions on a number of topics. That's great. I thank the committee and the minister for that opportunity.
However, we are currently meeting with the Minister of Justice and the chairperson of the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, the IAB. The subject of the meeting is the appointment process. That's what Mr. Lametti and Ms. Campbell have told us about. We need to ask questions about the appointment process.
We may or may not like Mr. Cooper's question. I remind you that I'm not a member of the Conservative Party, but we're talking about the appointment process. If any of us don't want to hear about it, we can move to another committee. Right now we're talking about the IAB appointment process. I think it's relevant, and I, too, have questions about this process. If our questions aren't about that, I don't know what we're doing here.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to begin by thanking you, Ms. Campbell and Mr. Lametti, for being with us this morning to address these important questions.
You're both eminent jurists, well recognized as such, and I'm convinced that your contribution to the justice system is of major importance. That said, I have some questions for Ms. Campbell, but I'd like to start with Mr. Lametti.
Please, Mr. Minister, I don't want to argue with you. I just want to make sure I understand. I'll pick up on my colleague Mr. Cooper's question about using “Liberalist” or any other partisan information.
I thought I understood from your answer, but I may have been mistaken that, in Justice Jamal's case, you didn't check his political affiliations. You didn't consult the “Liberalist” or anything else in any way. Did I understand you correctly or not, Mr. Minister?
If you prefer not to answer, that's your absolute right. Just tell me you won't answer, but please don't waste the precious few minutes we have to question you both.
If I understood your response correctly, you didn't use the “Liberalist” or any other process to verify Justice Jamal's political affiliations.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Minister.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
There were probably other candidates on the short list. Did you check the political affiliations of the other candidates or not, Mr. Minister?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I just want to know—
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
You didn't for any of the candidates?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Is it possible to know quickly when you stopped using the “Liberalist”?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
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