Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill S-2, which is an act to amend the Canada-U.S. tax treaty.
It is interesting to listen to my Liberal colleagues' defence of the member for LaSalle—Émard and his tax avoidance scheme in the Barbados. It is kind of like listening to the captain of the Titanic describe how well things went. It is unbelievable not to address the fundamental problems of reflagging and so forth.
I do want to segue a little into this tax treaty bill. It is tempting to spend half an hour or 20 minutes of our time on reflagging ships and also on the consequences to workers and so forth in the avoidance of taxation, but I do want to focus on Bill S-2 in particular.
There are some concerns in this process and in this actual tax treaty that do not resolve significant issues for my riding of Windsor West as well as Essex County and, greater than that, for individuals living in Quebec, New Brunswick and other places, where significant numbers of pensioners collecting U.S. social security and making contributions in the United States had the tax treaty changed on them.
This process still leaves them in limbo and is actually still counter to the private member's bill of the government's own member, the member for Essex. The government has made sure that the bill is basically squirreled away at the finance committee. It has not resurfaced, despite it having one hearing in the last session of Parliament, in which I participated. It has not seen the light of day. Jimmy Hoffa has probably seen more light of day than this bill in the last number of years.
It is very disturbing, because some seniors are being taxed extra. That is different to what they expected. They have had their lives put on hold. They have suffered significant consequences. In fact, some of them are dying. This is very shameful. We should be addressing it. However, this bill will only add an arbitration element for those particular victims of poor taxation policy. The shift happened and they got whacked twice. The private member's bill would rectify that by allowing the taxation system to be for only 50%. Without getting into technical details, it would have provided some equity.
I do want to touch on process, because I think it is important. I know that right now probably only a handful of Canadians are watching this as opposed to the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and the meeting going on right now, but this does affect people. It is important to set out for the record the concerns that we in the New Democratic Party have about why the Liberals and the Conservatives have rammed this through so quickly.
First of all, it is important to recognize that the bill originated in the unelected Senate. Senators are not elected. They are appointed by the Prime Minister, and in fact were by the former prime minister, who is having to explain right now how many bags of cash he took and why. If members recall, he actually loaded up the Senate at one particular point to force through the GST. The party that created the GST needed the Senate to push it forward. It is ironic that he is here today.
However, we have this bill today coming from an unelected house. Our side of the House, the New Democratic Party, has a concern about that.
What happened subsequently is really troubling. When the bill went to the international trade committee, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who represents our caucus, asked for witnesses to be brought forth and for some type of study related to the bill, which is normally what would happen on most committees.
I have been part of a number of different committees where we have moved quickly through clause by clause and so forth when there was a will and the support to do so, but when we have witnesses requested, we almost always have that consultation. That never happened. The Liberals joined with the Conservatives to block that.
The government does have some issues with regard to the tax treaty and we do want to have some of those things improved here, but there are some major unknowns and questions out there. I want to read from a communication I received. It was sent in confidence to me, so I cannot say from which legal firm it came, but it is a reputable Canadian legal firm that is giving its opinion on the tax treaty. I want to read what it has provided me in terms of the new protocol:
On September 21, 2007, a new protocol to the Treaty was signed between the federal governments of Canada and the United States and is expected to be ratified by both countries in 2008. The protocol adds a new provision under Article V of the Treaty (the “permanent establishment” article described above) to implement rules with respect to service income. Once ratified, under the protocol a Canadian company may create a permanent establishment if it provides services within the United States and meets certain thresholds. Thus, business profits associated with service activities could be subject to taxation--