Mr. Speaker, this appears to be my day for speaking.
We must be getting through reams of legislation. Let us talk about Bill C-49 which is the government's reorganization of the political patronage industry in this country.
As members know I publish a waste report. I brought one out a few weeks ago which dealt to some degree with patronage appointments and the illegal tax evasion scams of some of them.
Having been an accountant in a former life I know that the government has gone to great lengths to ensure that every dollar a person earns is a dollar taxable. These things are quite important because the government needs every dollar it can squeeze out of Canadians. However, it seems that when it comes to political patronage appointments it has forgotten to squeeze hard because there is an illegal tax evasion scam going on. It goes something like this.
Dr. Victor Goldbloom, the Commissioner of Official Languages, was asked by the Clerk of the Privy Council to accept the appointment of official languages commissioner. The job of course is here in Ottawa.
I have it on the record of the official languages committee when I asked the commissioner exactly what was going on. He said that he had no intention of moving from Montreal, where he lives, to Ottawa. The Clerk of the Privy Council then said: "You will therefore be entitled to a second residence allowance". Since that date we as taxpayers have been providing him with an apartment here in town. I understand the rent is somewhere around $15,000 or $16,000 a year.
In addition to that, he said: "I prefer to live in Montreal". Since his position carries a chauffeured limousine along with it, the chauffeur goes to Montreal every Monday morning and brings him to Ottawa and on Friday night takes him back home, all tax free of course. For every other Canadian commuting to and from work is not a tax deductible expense. They have to pay taxes on it if their employer provides that transportation. But not so for the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Every time an employer provides extra accommodation, the value of that accommodation is taxable except under very limited circumstances. The Clerk of the Privy Council gave Dr. Victor Goldbloom a tax free apartment in Ottawa courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer and that is illegal.
I have it on record at the official languages committee that that is exactly what has transpired. The government was asked through a question on the Order Paper a couple of years ago if this was an isolated experience or does it exist elsewhere. It took me two years to get the information. I had to rise on a point of privilege two or three times. I had to badger the government to get an answer to my question on the Order Paper. You know that yourself, Mr. Speaker. While the government has a responsibility to answer that question within 45 days it took two years before it was able to answer the question.
The reason is that not only is the Commissioner of Official Languages participating in an illegal tax evasion scam but others are doing it too. They may have received a patronage appointment in Ottawa and live somewhere else. They want a housing allowance tax free. They may be within reasonable commuting distance of the position but they have to drive a certain distance. They are getting up to $2,000 a month for travel allowance because they decided that they were not going to move to where the job they accepted actually is. This is all on a tax free basis.
Every other employer in the country cannot provide that type of service and that type of benefit on a tax free basis. Yet we have found numerous agencies that are paid by the taxpayer that are participating in this scam. These people with patronage appointments are in many cases making more than $100,000 a year and in some cases as much as $150,000 a year and are getting an additional $10,000 to $25,000 a year tax free.
I reported these people to the Minister of National Revenue. I have had her verbal assurance today that she will follow through and ensure that she fulfils her duty to apply the Income Tax Act fairly and without bias right across the country and also to these patronage appointments.
It is a disgrace that the people who are appointed by a government, not because of what they know but because of who they know and what they may have been, such as a minister or an MP in a government of a previous day, should be able to latch on to the taxpayers' purse and then on top of that start some illegal tax evasion scheme to make it even more generous. It is despicable that we allow it to continue.
I hope the message goes out loud and clear to every board and to every person with a political patronage appointment in this country that there are laws and they apply equally to them as they do to every other Canadian citizen. That is the type of attitude that brings disgrace on the political process. That is the type of thing that destroys Canadians' confidence in government.
That is why this government, like the previous government, has a serious integrity problem. It has destroyed the trust that people have in government. People now believe that those who are in power are in power to help themselves. Unfortunately the facts seem to prove that to be so.
Government and being a politician used to be an honourable profession where people wanted to serve their country, serve their constituents and serve the people of Canada. It is a noble calling that has been thrown in a trash can by the people who have used the opportunity to help themselves.
I hope that in a small way this will show a new beginning, that trust can be won. However, it has to be won through earning the respect of Canadians by living responsibly, by working responsibly, by living within the rules, by ensuring that the laws that we write in this House apply not just to all Canadians out there but apply to us in here. Surely that is the fair test.
If we are prepared to apply a law to Canadians that says this is how much tax you have to pay, this is how much tax you have to forfeit to the Government of Canada, then surely that same law should be applied to us without fear, without favour and without bias and without writing a special, more lenient rule for ourselves and for patronage appointments.
That is a small way that we could start to reintroduce integrity that has been lost and damaged and trashed by succeeding governments, especially this one right here. How can we have accountability when we have seen cabinet ministers whose positions of trust have been compromised by expense reports that cannot be fully justified by the travel on government business?
It goes a long way to telling the poor people in this country, who are being taxed to death to subsidize people's grand style of living. We hear government members say bring out another tax and spend program, another child poverty program so that they can throw a few crumbs back to these people, while at the same time feathering their own nest.
They are the tax and spend programs where people feel they only qualify for the tax side and seldom qualify for receiving the cheques side. When they open the paper and find out that here in Ottawa it is very easy to get on the receiving side that is when the trust is destroyed.
I hope that Bill C-49, which we do not agree with, will be the final step and that from here on we start to build integrity into the system.