House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Health
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that question is no, we are not going to reconsider our position. It would be singularly inappropriate for anyone to comment at this point. Charges have been laid. These matters will be dealt with before the courts. Obviously we need to await the outcome of that litigation.

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

November 20th, 2002 / 2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, she will await the outcome but her answer is no.

Earlier this fall the Minister of Finance asked both the House of Commons finance committee and the banking committee of the other place to review the current rules on bank mergers.

Obviously, to do their work effectively, the committees need to hear from the minister who sent them their task. So far the minister has not agreed to come before the committee in the other place.

Is that because the government has no position on bank mergers or is the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the minister for fouling up Canadian security just too busy to attend committees of the House of Commons and the Senate?

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have already been to the committee of the House of Commons. I was there just two weeks ago.

I have asked the committees, both in the House and the Senate, for their advice. I presume they do not need my advice to give me their advice.

In any event, I have indicated to the chairman of the committee that I would be happy to make myself available to the Senate committee at an appropriate time. In the meantime, in helping fill out the scope of the public interest considerations related to possible mergers of financial institutions, I think that is a committee well qualified to give us advice without any further input from me.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, New Zealand warned Canadian officials about the potential for GST fraud at the very beginning, yet the barn door was left open.

By 1995 the Liberal government knew it had lost over $10 million to GST fraud, yet it failed to include safeguards when it revamped the GST legislation in 1996.

My question to the minister is quite simple: Why did the government sit idly by while criminals and con artists helped themselves to millions of dollars of taxpayers money?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong when he says that we did not heed the warnings. In fact, we did.

We have taken very significant action that has resulted in 13 successful prosecutions, 14 additional prosecutions that are before the court today and 20 more that are under investigation.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is simply no excuse for this. The government was warned repeatedly about the dangers of GST fraud, yet it failed to plug those loopholes.

Even today the Liberals talk about auditing, investigating and prosecuting instead of closing the loopholes that led to these scams in the first place.

What we are talking about is fraud that may have cost Canadians over $1 billion. That buys a lot of Sea Kings and a lot of hospital beds.

When will the government do something concrete to stop the flow of free money to criminals and con artists?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about loopholes, we are talking about income tax credits, which are a very important instrument for business to remain competitive internationally. If this member and his party are calling for an end to import tax credits, he will hear loud and clear from some of his own constituents.

What I can tell the hon. member is that we are talking about fraud. We have upfront screening in place right now for those who apply for GST rebates. We also have a very effective 1,000 person investigation team doing a good job ensuring that where we find fraud we prosecute.

Budget Surplus
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, all the studies indicate that the federal government surplus is going to reach as yet unattained heights in the years to come. By 2007-08, for example, barring corrective action, over $71 billion will have been accumulated.

Can the federal government deny that, without any particular effort, those in charge of the Government of Canada in five years will find they have astronomical sums available to them? This indeed confirms that, unfortunately, its tax field is too broad for its obligations.

Budget Surplus
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, in the year 2000 we announced federal tax reductions totalling $100 billion. It is unfair to suggest that there will be no other tax breaks or increases in federal government spending on federal programs or transfer payments to the provinces.

Budget Surplus
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government, through its Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, ought to admit that there is indeed a fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the governments of all the Canadian provinces. The taxpayers are tired of having half their tax dollars being sloppily managed by the federal government, while the provinces are being forced to pinch every penny and are having a tough time funding the services they are required to provide. Is this so hard to understand?

Budget Surplus
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is easy to understand. There are two facts: first of all, the provincial debt load is half the federal debt load. Second, over the past 30 years there have been 25 federal deficits. Was there always a fiscal imbalance when these deficits took place? I do not think the hon. member will admit that there was.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue says that there is adequate screening in place to detect a GST fraud. That is simply not the case. The agency may have found $10 million but there is $1 billion still out there.

I will tell the House why that is. It is, at least in part, because in 1995 the government shut down the fraud squad that was dedicated to detecting this fraud in the GST system.

Why, in 1995, did it shut down the one team that was doing the work?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Wrong again, Mr. Speaker. We have an investigation directorate of 1,000 persons and the result is that we are doing double the number of prosecutions today than we were in 1995.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the government is satisfied with collecting about one cent on the dollar but we are not.

The GST fraud squad was axed in 1995 so now the system works like this: all people need is a numbered company, an anonymous post office box and a word processor to get millions of dollars from the government.

Why did the government shut down the GST fraud squad that was at least able to pick up when someone was ripping off the government? Why is it picking on the legitimate business owners instead of picking up on the fraud artist?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, it is insulting to compare legitimate business people to people who are being successfully prosecuted for criminal activity like fraud.

Second, the member opposite is throwing around all kinds of unsubstantiated numbers. I would say to him that the numbers he is using are not based on any fact.

Our people are very aware of these issues and we are working very diligently to ensure that we collect as much as we possibly can from the criminals who in fact are sitting in jail. He should ask those in jail if they think we are doing a good job.