Mr. Speaker, for the people watching today, what Bill S-243 would do, in technical jargon, is amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act to require that the CRA report on all convictions for tax evasion, including international tax evasion, and that the tax gap or the difference between estimated taxes owing and actual taxes collected be included in the annual report it submits to the Minister of National Revenue for tabling in Parliament. It would require the minister to provide data for calculating the tax gap to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
The Conference Board of Canada estimates the tax gap at between $9 billion and $50 billion. That is a lot of money. What could that be used for? It could be used to reduce the deficit, spend money on things that we need and maybe not tell veterans in Canada that they are asking for more than we can give.
I find the parliamentary secretary's speech ridiculously hilarious and I do not even know how to summarize her defence of voting against this bill. I am going to give this lecture to the CRA bureaucrats in the lobby who wrote that audacious speech that she did not even bother to edit before coming in here and reading it.
To the CRA bureaucrats watching, first, none of us on this side of the House would be the man and then take the man's talking points into the House of Commons to argue why CRA bureaucrats would not provide this data for not doing their job, number one. That is just ridiculous. It is actually laughable.
Second, some poor political staffer put the one attack line in her speech. My colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge made a wonderful comment, which was summarized as follows: “Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves for not doing 10 years ago the thing that we are not going to do today.”
Come on. We know that this is important, which is why my colleague has spoken against it, but the delicious part of the argument to not support it was the argument of privacy for financial records.
I am going to give credit in a nod of bipartisanship to this point. The lobby coordinator of the New Democratic Party, Anthony Salloum, said it is really rich for the Liberals to be making an issue about the privacy of personal banking records when it was they who wanted Statistics Canada to dive deep into people's individual banking records and then stood day after day in the House of Commons saying it was all good. They said there was no problem with the government being able to see if people went to the 7-Eleven at 10 o'clock at night and bought a delicious blue Slurpee, because that is the role of government.
They did that for a month. Day after day, they said it is the role of government, that the man should be able to see everything people buy, that there is no issue with privacy and everything is A-okay. Now, today, they are saying that Canada Revenue Agency bureaucrats are all of a sudden concerned with privacy.
As a member of Parliament, I have to hire someone in my office just to do casework, and I have had cases in which people had their files locked in some CRA bureaucrat's desk or left by the water cooler. The incompetence of this bureaucracy is staggering at best and irresponsible at worst. Anytime somebody stands in the House of Commons to talk about privacy, that person should at least read the speech that the bureaucrats provided and think about whether it makes the individual sound like a super-villain. I think the parliamentary secretary forgot to do that today.
In all seriousness, we need to ensure that we are addressing the issue of the tax gap, because it is a source of revenue that we are not tapping into and it disadvantages Canadians who are paying taxes fairly if we are not collecting taxes in an appropriate manner. In fact, it creates a disproportionate burden of taxpaying on one aspect of Canadian society as opposed to another.
Since I have a moment to talk about the Liberal government's ability to prosecute tax evaders, I am going to point to a CBC story in 2018 that talked about governments around the world being able to recover $500 million in taxes thanks to the Panama papers.
However, the article said that this is in stark contrast to the CRA's effectiveness at catching offshore tax cheats and comes in the wake of a CBC investigation that found that few, if any, of the criminal convictions the agency cites in defence of its record have anything to do with offshore tax evasion.
In fact, of the court cases the government had cited in Parliament to defend its record on cracking down on offshore tax evasion, a 2017 CBC article said that few, if any, had anything to do with millionaires hiding money in overseas tax havens.
As a further point of proof, the parliamentary secretary's boss, the Minister of National Revenue, or the minister of bluster, since she has a tendency to stand in the House and repeat nonsensical talking points that have nothing to do with the question asked, said in 2016 that her agency had already started to identify 45 targets for audits. However, three years later there are no tangible outcomes.
The nice thing about this bill is that it would force the bureaucrats who wrote that very staid and weird speech to determine what our tax gap is on an annual basis and help ensure that Canada is retrieving those taxes, so that complying Canadians do not shoulder this burden of taxes on their own.
I want to point out the government's hypocrisy. When it saw that it was potentially losing billions of dollars to tax evasion, its action was to increase taxes on law-abiding Canadians. In terms of the results of its tax increases, my colleague, the shadow minister for finance, made a wonderful intervention in the House that is worth repeating.
He stated that the CRA data that had recently been released demonstrated that “in the first year after the tax increase took effect, the government actually collected $4.6 billion less from the wealthiest 1%.”
He went on to say:
Finance Canada released documents almost exactly a year ago today in its annual financial report, on September 19, 2017, in which it revealed almost exactly the same phenomenon. Revenues went down from the wealthiest 1%.
As my colleague pointed out, the government said that this was all “due to one-time factors”, but we know there were some wealthy individuals who moved money around to avoid paying their fair share.
It is worth pointing out that one of those individuals was the Minister of Finance himself; the minister of the french fry yacht. He announced a tax increase to take effect on January 1, 2016. He sold shares in his own company, Morneau Shepell, just 30 days before that, in order to ensure his capital gain would be taxed at the earlier, lower rate and he would not have to pay the same higher taxes he imposed on everyone else.
We see the Liberals' record and the absolute ridiculousness of making the argument on privacy after they were going to allow Statistics Canada to look at Canadians' personal banking records. We see the track record of the Minister of Finance on this. We understand that bureaucrats are not motivated to have transparency in terms of their efficacy. The role of the executive branch is to go to bureaucrats and thank them for their public service and let them know that it has a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and is going to make these changes. This is what we need to do in this place.
By voting against this bill, we understand what real change means to the Liberal government. It means absolutely nothing.