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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, what the government is in the process of doing is gathering information. That is why in fact the letters were exchanged between the Minister of National Defence and the United States. We are gathering information.

Canada has made it very clear that we do not support the weaponization of space. We will not participate if in fact what is happening is the weaponization of space.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the information does not need to be gathered. It is plainly on the record in the United States. The Prime Minister seems to be as good at avoiding the truth on star wars as he is at avoiding taxes in the Barbados.

I want to say again, Paul Wolfowitz said:

Space is the ultimate high ground. We are exploring concepts and technologies for space-based intercepts.

In the 2005 U.S. federal government estimates, they mention, and I quote, “Space-based interceptor test bed...beginning in 2005”.

This plan is dangerous and destabilizing. It does not reflect Canadian values. Why is the Prime Minister afraid to say no to George Bush now?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said, and the government has been very clear, we are presently trying to find out from the United States about a plan, which it intends to proceed with, that deals with the defence of North America from ballistic missiles based on land and on sea.

This issue has nothing to do with going into space. There is a lot of speculation about going into space. A lot of people are talking about it. The present plan has nothing to do with the weaponization of space. We have made it clear that we will not engage in discussions with the United States that will lead to the weaponization of space, as the Prime Minister has said. What we do want to find out is if we can help the security of North America for Canadians.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

February 5th, 2004 / 2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims that he did not know the government had misrepresented, in February 2003, the public contracts with his company.

When he was asked about the massive $161 million error last week, he said that he was “appalled” when he saw what the original answer had been.

The question is very simple. On what date did the Prime Minister become aware of the $137,000 figure that the government released in February 2003?

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the important date is the date on which I published the report. The report was published on January 28, as a result of the work I had done all through January this year. It is perfectly clear. Let us not blame other people for what they should not have or could not have done. I was the person responsible for it. I published that quite clearly. The rest is of no significance whatever.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question is for the Prime Minister. It is about getting to the facts of the matter.

We submitted a question in October 2003. The answer provided in February 2003 was $137,000. The next answer, provided a year later, was $161 million.

We want to know when the Prime Minister became aware of this and why he failed to take action immediately to correct this gross error by the government.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the first part of that question has already been answered a number of times.

What is really important is that as soon as I was in a position, along with the House leader, to take action, I took action.

The hon. member will know that I was out of cabinet and not exactly in a position of power to do very much at that time. As soon as I was in a position to act, along with the House leader, the government acted.

Government AssistanceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, Stelco is in big financial trouble and is seeking help from the Prime Minister but Stelco is also one of the major clients of CSL, the Prime Minister's family business.

The Prime Minister says that he wants to build confidence in government. How will the Prime Minister avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest when CSL customers arrive in his office looking for cash?

Government AssistanceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, it is the Department of Industry that is in contact directly with Stelco. It is an unfortunate situation that we have right now with Stelco. We are monitoring the situation very closely and we hope the fact that it is under the CCAA will bring a solution to the problem it is having.

Government AssistanceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it will be pretty hard for the industry minister to forget that the Prime Minister's family owns CSL.

The fact that the Prime Minister's family's holdings touch almost every government causes a lot of problems.

How can the Prime Minister run a country when he has to run away from the cabinet table every five minutes to avoid a conflict of interest?

Government AssistanceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is not in a conflict of interest right now. Stelco did not ask anything from our Prime Minister.

The contacts right now are with my department, with my deputy minister and with my assistant deputy minister. We will meet with our provincial colleagues to monitor the situation very closely. There is no problem about being there right now to help Stelco with the difficult situation it is having.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-28, which made it possible for the Prime Minister's company to save some $100 million in taxes, was his second attempt at avoiding taxes. On December 2, 1996, while he was the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister introduced Bill C-69, with exactly the same objectives. It died on the Order Paper because of the subsequent general election.

Are not these two attempts by the Prime Minister proof that this was a wholly premeditated and planned act, and that he was fully aware of all of the consequences?

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the amendments proposed in Bill C-28 concerning international shipping clarify the rules designed to encourage foreign shipping to do business in Canada.

They do not apply to companies incorporated in Canada, or to foreign subsidiaries administered elsewhere.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear for the sake of everyone listening. Eight shipping companies benefited from this legislation, including the Prime Minister's, which was also the largest. Those are the facts. The Prime Minister missed his chance with Bill C-69, so he came back two years later with Bill C-28.

Is it not true that the Prime Minister did not want to lose one cent of the $100 million in tax savings, since he included a four-year retroactive period in Bill C-28? He wanted to be sure not to lose a single cent of that $100 million.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, repeating a falsehood does not make it true. What we have here is an incoherent babble of allegations from the Bloc members in an obvious attempt to try to smear the Prime Minister because they cannot lay a glove on him in any other manner.

Bill C-28 simply was not relevant to CSL and, even more important, the then finance minister had absolutely nothing to do with the shipping provisions contained in that piece of legislation.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to understand then is why CSL Vice-President Préfontaine tells us he moved to Barbados because of the changes to Canadian tax rules, while the spokesperson for Canada Steamship Lines tells us that Canada Steamship Lines International would never have made such profits in Canada. She described Canadian taxes as too high. “Subsidies and contracts are good, but the taxes are too high”, she said. According to the Prime Minister, they had to do the same as everybody else if they wanted to make any money.

So let him explain that to us, if it really made no difference.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again this attack from the Bloc is absolutely ludicrous. The Government of Canada has not now nor during the last term of the government engaged in any conduct that was deliberately contrived to assist any particular company. Not at all. The allegations to the contrary are completely spurious.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely incorrect. It is an attempt to shirk responsibility. Changing the rules for shipping companies means changing the rules for shipping companies.

When Canada Steamship Lines International, now headquartered in Barbados—where the tax rate is roughly 2.5% for the first few million, compared to 37% here—suddenly moves from Liberia to Barbados and then the legislation changes twice, what is that called? It is called taking care of one's own business by using one's position. That is what it is called.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, all these allegations were examined, both in the House and in committee. I refer the House to the records of February 17, 1998 that completely demonstrate the facts of this matter. The allegations are totally spurious. Bill C-28 had absolutely nothing to do with Canada Steamship Lines. Furthermore, the then finance minister had nothing to do with drafting the provisions in Bill C-28 that related to international shipping.

What we have here, if this were a hockey game, is the Prime Minister as the hockey star and those across the way trying to cross--

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, in a CBC interview, was quoted as saying, “To deal with the whole issue of tax havens, you can't cherry-pick. You have to deal with them all at once, otherwise people have many options and they'll just go to one or the other. Closing down one doesn't do any good”.

Why did the Prime Minister not close all the loopholes and why does his family's company still use the loopholes that allow it to escape paying Canadian tax?

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister launched a number of initiatives in the 1990s to try to deal with the issue of tax havens, as he has described both in this House and outside.

At the same time, the OECD launched an initiative that was aimed at trying to deal with this on a global basis. We had hoped that the OECD would be able to deal with it comprehensively. Unfortunately, it appears that the OECD initiative has faltered. Therefore, Canada and a number of other countries are looking at what we can do on a country by country basis to ensure that everybody pays their full fair share of tax.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, whether they are looking at it country by country or company by company, it is obviously a pretty sweet deal for those who can take advantage of it.

Again, the Prime Minister said, only a year ago, that we had to deal with all these tax havens at once, otherwise people would have many options and they would just go from one to the other. Closing down one does not do any good. That is pretty clear.

What has changed since April of last year? Why does the loophole stay open for the Prime Minister's shipping company?

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, what is required here is an international consensus, which we had hoped the OECD would be able to achieve, following upon some of the initiatives that were launched by the Prime Minister when he was Minister of Finance. Unfortunately, the OECD was not successful in its initiative. It appears to have faltered.

Therefore, on a country by country basis, we need to look at this whole situation, which I said several days ago in this House that we were doing, to attempt to renegotiate, where appropriate, these tax treaties.

Canada Steamship LinesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the average Canadian works half the year to pay off their taxes. Between income taxes, payroll taxes and the GST, up to 48% of income is eaten away by the tax man. By contrast, through the generous use of a Barbados tax haven the Prime Minister created while he was finance minister, his former company Canada Steamship Lines pays only 2% of its income toward taxes.

Will the Prime Minister please explain to the Canadian public why they should pay half of their income to taxes and his company can sail away, scot free?