You're welcome, and thank you very much for inviting us, Chair and members of the committee.
Congratulations to all members on your election or re-election and your appointment to the finance committee.
I'd also like to commend all of you and the staff of the finance committee for holding these consultations on such short notice. I'm always impressed with how efficiently and graciously you work under tight timelines.
For this year's pre-budget consultations, the committee asked interested groups and individuals, in particular, to provide advice on the theme of climate emergency, the required transition to a low-carbon economy. Finance minister Bill Morneau seems to have already taken your advice, as he said that the environment would be a major focus of this budget, and our supporters also identified addressing climate change as a top-five priority. So I'm going to start with this issue.
We agree that this budget must be a climate action budget with substantial federal investments to make the transition to a low-carbon economy. The Green Economy Network has done some research into this area. It called for an additional $81 billion in investments over the next five years. That works out to about $16 billion per year in building retrofits, renewable energy and energy efficiencies in different industries, public transit and high-speed rail. It estimates that this could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35%, which would meet our targets for 2030, and these investments could also create an estimated one million person years of employment. It would be good for the environment and the economy.
How could this be paid for? First of all, the federal government should finally eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, as these work contrary to our climate goals. The parliamentary budget office estimates that the federal government could recover over $2.5 billion annually by eliminating a few tax subsidies for oil, gas and mining corporations.
Second, the federal government should strengthen its carbon tax framework by limiting the preferences for large emitters. It should convert the cap and trade program to a transparent carbon tax but with border carbon taxes and rebates, as the EU is planning to do, so you have border tariffs on the imports and then rebates for exporters. This would maintain the competitiveness of Canadian industries, such as the steel industry, and provide an incentive for other countries to also take action.
The federal government could also generate many billions more by closing regressive and ineffective tax loopholes, as we've argued for a number of years.
We're glad to see the government planning another review of tax expenditures and that this one is going to be public, but it could achieve far more than the $1.5 billion that was projected in the fall economic statement. This review could be truly public and involve broad public consultations and input, and perhaps the finance committee could play a role in this as well.
One of the most regressive tax loopholes is, of course, the stock option deduction. I was glad to see the government take some steps on this, but we feel that it should be completely eliminated instead of the complicated and somewhat unfair proposal that was included in the 2019 budget.
We're also glad all parties agree that large foreign e-commerce companies should be required to pay tax on the business and revenue they generate from Canadians and that this is included in the platform and the plans for the government.
Applying the GST and sales taxes to imports of all digital services, including advertising, is essential to level the digital playing field and to making Canadian producers competitive.
Applying a digital sales tax to the revenue of large foreign e-commerce corporations is also an important step on the route to real international corporate tax reform, which is now under discussion at the OECD.
Together with this, Canada should certainly put limits on the interest payments that corporations can deduct from their profits, particularly to offshore subsidies. We're glad that the government is planning this, but the cap should be reduced to 20% or lower. The OECD recommended 10% to 30%.
The federal government could also end the ability of corporations to shift profits to offshore affiliates, by requiring corporations to demonstrate that these affiliates carry out actual economic activity. There was a recent report by the IMF that calculated that approximately 40% of the foreign direct investment overseas is actually in shell corporations. It's not for any actual economic purpose.
Ultimately, we should shift to an international corporate tax system with unitary taxation of corporations and apportionment of their profits according to a formula that reflects real economic activity just as we allocate corporate profit for tax purposes between provinces in Canada. The U.S. does the same thing as well.
We also need increased investments in the Canada Revenue Agency. Funding for the CRA only just recovered last year to what it was 10 years ago in real dollar terms. We were glad to see the Conservatives also pledge for increased investment in tax compliance and enforcement, as this would pay back many times in increased revenues to reduce the large tax gap.
I welcome any further questions and discussions. Thank you very much.