House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

This report is the first report of the subcommittee on international financial institutions relating to the development and effectiveness of World Bank lending programs.

I would like to express my appreciation to my colleagues on the subcommittee.

This interim report begins the study of what can be done to ensure that World Bank lending and its programs meet the needs of the world's poor and satisfy the concerns of taxpayers in Canada and elsewhere in the developed world.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration relating to a study of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's foreign workers policy.

The committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report within 150 days of its presentation to the House, in accordance with Standing Order 109.

I would like to thank Santosh Sirpaul, clerk of the committee, and Margaret Young, researcher from the Library of Parliament, for their devotion to the task and the fantastic job they have done. I send my best to all the members of the committee for their devotion to the task as well.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Bloc's minority report on the admission to Canada of temporary foreign workers, we agree with the main thrust of the majority report. However, we have some serious misgivings regarding this document. Unions were not invited to take part in the consultations. In addition, the report does not pay enough attention to the astronomical unemployment rates in Canada and Quebec, especially among young people.

We decry the fact that companies spend so little on manpower training. Moreover, companies should improve the work place environment, working conditions, and salaries to prevent highly skilled workers from leaving Canada for the United States. Finally, foreign workers should only be allowed in for a few years, not indefinitely. The regular immigration system should take care of the shortage of workers in the high tech industry.

Canada Evidence Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano for Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-98, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code in respect of persons with disabilities, to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act in respect of persons with disabilities and other matters and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Canada Transportation Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bernie Collins Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-437, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act.

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to rise in the House today to present a private member's bill entitled "An act to amend the Canada Transportation Act".

The bill calls upon Parliament to allow for the appointment of a grain transportation administrator whose duties would be to monitor grain transportation performance and to apply a scheme of sanctions against those who fail to meet established service obligations.

The primary purpose of this bill is to ensure that grain transportation participants fulfil their obligations for receiving, carrying and delivering wheat and barley from western Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

April 23rd, 1997 / 3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

moved:

That the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts presented on Monday, October 28, 1996, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with a colleague and that my motion is supported by the hon. member for Laurentides.

I am pleased to speak today to a theme that will play a major part in the next election campaign, that is, the integrity of this government.

Speaking of which, the report we are discussing under this motion deals with the famous family trust scandal, as you may recall.

What exactly was done in this matter? As chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, I must say that, unfortunately, our committee was not able to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Let us put the facts in their context. On December 23, 1991, a date that sets off an alarm as to how a taxpayer can get an advanced decision on December 23, 1991. It quickly raises a certain question. So, two taxpayers were able, with Revenue Canada's permission and blessing, after asking the advice of the finance department, to transfer $2 billion in family trusts to the United States.

I said that this government would have to account for its morality or its integrity. We in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts wanted to shed some light on that issue. Since the very beginning, the Bloc members on this committee have asked that an independent inquiry be conducted so that Canadian taxpayers can find out what really happened on December 23, 1991.

Even though, as representative of the official opposition, I chair the committee, it has to be explained to people watching our proceedings that the official opposition does not have a majority on the committee. The Liberal majority on the committee literally gagged the Bloc members.

Mr. Speaker, could you ask the chihuahua from Vaudreuil to go yap outside the House?

The tabling of this new report by the Liberal majority on the public accounts committee about the family trust scandal is in keeping with the government's cover-up of a financial and tax scandal unprecedented in Canada.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts had to shed light on the nebulous events surrounding the advanced ruling delivered on December 23, 1991, leaving the finance committee to deal with the technical aspect, that is to say, the tax changes needed.

Soon after that scandal was uncovered by the Bloc Quebecois, which followed up on the report of the Auditor General, which party raised that issue in the House of Commons? It was the Bloc Quebecois. This is a very good illustration of what we are going to tell Quebecers during the next election campaign: "It was a good thing the Bloc Quebecois was there to uncover this scandal because if, instead of 54 members of the Bloc Quebecois, we had had 74 Liberal members out of 75, as we did in the 1980s during the Trudeau era, this issue would never have been raised".

This is yet another good reason for Quebecers to elect a strong contingent of Bloc members to defend Quebec's interests and to point out inequalities and injustices in the Canadian federal system.

The day after this scandal came to light, several Liberal members of the committee were outraged by the actions of Revenue Canada and the Department of Finance. These recalcitrant Liberals soon went back to the party line of doing everything possible to protect the interests of those in very, very high places.

I ask those listening from the comfort of their homes to try to imagine, the day before they file their tax returns next May 1, that they have a way of hiding $2 billion. Are these ordinary taxpayers? Are these single mothers who are able to hide $2 billion tax free? No, these are not ordinary people.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Not even $100.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Exactly, they would not even hide $100. For every hard won cent the average citizen earns, the government is right there grabbing half of it. The public will remember this during the next election, and the public knows that the Bloc Quebecois also defends the interests of the middle class and of disadvantaged members of our society.

To justify its ineptitude and its lack of courage, the Liberal majority maintains that the committee found no element for which to cast doubt on the integrity of bureaucrats involved in the making of this premature decision. This is incredible. This is extraordinary.

Liberal MPs are being hypocritical and even naive in pretending to be able to pass judgement on the integrity of the bureaucrats involved. All of the Liberal MPs' actions during the committee meetings were a shameless attempt to bury the affair by trying to conceal the facts.

Numerous other examples make the list of inconsistencies, inexactitudes, lapses and differing versions even longer. From the outset of the committee's work, the Liberal majority, blatantly

manipulated by the government, prevented the public accounts committee from shedding light on the entire family trusts scandal.

The majority report is the crowning achievement in this blatant effort by the government to bury this scandal and to silence the truth in order to protect themselves. What we said during the 1993 election campaign, and will repeat during the next one, is that the Liberals and the Conservatives are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Put them into a hat and pull one out, there is no way to tell them apart.

Let us not forget that this family trust scandal happened in 1991, when the Conservatives were in power. Let us not forget that. We said to the Liberal majority: "Why do you not let us bring this fully out into the light? You have nothing to gain, but do you have something to protect?" Let us ask the question. Let us remember the 1993 election campaign, with its $1,000 parties at Senator Cogger's in Westmount, the fund raising parties attended by the present Prime Minister.

That is why, when campaign contributions are being examined, we say "Look at who is contributing to your campaign fund, and then you will know whom you are beholden to". We in the Bloc will be collecting funds for the next election campaign from ordinary people, $2 here, $5, $10 or $20 there. Our election campaign will not be funded by big business. Whom will we be answerable to after the next election? To the ordinary people who contributed to our campaign fund. We owe nothing to big business. Look at who is behind the funding of the Liberals, of the Conservatives. They are no different one from the other.

That is why with this dissenting opinion we, the Members of the Bloc Québécois, make the following recommendation, and I quote: "That a special commission of inquiry be set up, independent of the government, with the mandate to shed light on all of the events surrounding the December 23, 1991 decision and the subsequent use of this tax loophole by other rich Canadian families". That is what the Bloc Quebecois thinks.

To conclude, without a neutral investigation, free from all partisanship in the Liberal government, this scandal will never be brought out into the open. If the government has nothing to hide, no one to protect, nothing to feel guilty about, as it says, what is stopping it from putting such an commission of inquiry into place, one which will certainly absolve it of all blame? Or so the government has been telling us over and over for the past six months.

Once again, I must conclude that, unfortunately, the Liberal majority has gagged us in the public accounts committee, and again here today we are unable to tell Quebecers and Canadians what actually happened in this family trust scandal, where two rich families were able to transfer $2 billion to the United States without paying any income tax.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to pay a glowing tribute to my colleague because he worked so very hard. He is the fiscal conscience of this party. Unlike the hon. member for Vaudreuil, he will be able to rest easy tonight because he did his job.

The question I wish to put to my colleague is this: Could he explain, with his usual clarity and expertise, why the Liberals refused to shed more light on an appalling situation? Everyone in this House knows we are talking about the flight of capital, tax evasion and protection. Do members of parliamentary committees not have an obligation to report on these matters?

I want to ask the hon. member how our Liberal colleagues could be so lacking in integrity, transparency and a sense of values?

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve for his very pertinent question.

When answering this question, we should consider that the names of the two contributors to the campaign fund were never released. The Globe and Mail reported the story. I am not going to repeat what it said, because we have no evidence.

However, we need only look at the main contributors to the Liberal and Tory campaign funds. When we see companies giving $500,000 and more, the reason is simple: you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. We always see the same donors, I agree, but these are people who are close to the Liberals.

My second point is that senior officials who were there at the time, including Pierre Gravel, the Deputy Minister of National Revenue, who was there in 1991, continued to work under the Liberal government as well. This means that to repudiate the decision made by Mr. Gravel in 1991 would have been tantamount to admitting it was a sign of incompetence to have kept someone like Pierre Gravel since 1993, when the Liberals came to power.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, 18 months ago the member for Richelieu introduced a votable private member's bill providing a limit for contributions to campaign funds, knowing that certain individuals, groups or companies pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a party'coffers or, not uncommonly, into two parties' coffers, to hedge their investment.

I was listening very carefully earlier to my colleague for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans talk of the two prominent families, obviously well known, that sent over $2 billion to the United States without paying a cent in income tax. I would ask the member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans to take a few

minutes to tell us in the Bloc about this transfer of $2 billion to the United States tax free.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question by my colleague from Frontenac is particularly relevant, but very complex. I will not be able in the next 45 seconds to provide an intelligent and comprehensible answer to this question. I make no claim to any expertise in taxation. So I think my answer would require a lot of details.

What we can say is that the folks who manage to transfer $2 billion worth of assets without paying taxes are not the folks who do their income tax at the kitchen table while they watch hockey. We are talking about billionaires who can afford the best tax lawyers in the country at $500 an hour. They are not ordinary folks who have a hard time and are fed up with paying income tax. Ordinary folks cannot afford a tax lawyer.

So, to answer the question, what is involved is tricks, tax loopholes, always above board. However, we might well ask whether something like this, which is legal, is also moral. Let us have a look at the government's morality.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate. With whom will you be sharing your time?

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I only mentioned that I would share my time with one of my colleagues.

Committee Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Would you please choose who it will be, my dear colleague.