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House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Bill C-442--Admissibility of Amendments Made at CommitteePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise with respect to the admissibility of three amendments made in committee to Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument. The bill, which was reported back to the House with amendments on June 9, 2010, is scheduled to be debated on October 27, 2010.

Before I speak to my substantive points, I want you to know that I and my party and each member of the House wish to see the establishment of a national Holocaust monument in our nation's capital as soon as humanly possible. In bringing this matter to your attention, I am simply seeking to ensure that proper procedure and practice is followed on this important bill and that there are no errors in legislation and indeed in the process.

I seek your ruling that the committee has exceeded its authority and passed amendments that are beyond the principle and scope of the bill as outlined in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, page 766. To wit:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principles of the bill.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the issue of inadmissible amendments being passed in committee and included in the bill as reported has arisen in the House on numerous occasions. In the most recent occurrence, you ruled on May 11, 2010 that the Speaker does not get involved in committee issues except in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, such as an amendment that is beyond the scope of the bill. In such cases, the Speaker is responsible for ruling on the admissibility of such amendments after the bill has been reported to the House. This is because the motion to refer the bill to committee after second reading establishes the principle and the scope of the bill. As a result, a committee report that is not consistent with that motion must be corrected.

On September 18, 2009, Bill C-442 was introduced by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park and was debated at second reading on December 8, 2009. In presenting his private member's bill, the member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park summarized the scope and principle of the bill when he concluded:

This monument is a statement made by Canadians to the world that honours those who died in the tragedy of the Holocaust and says to future generations of Canadians, never again.

Based on this principle, the House of Commons unanimously, and I might add enthusiastically, adopted Bill C-442 at second reading and referred it to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

On May 13, 2010, the committee began a study of the bill at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities where the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park stated, and I repeat, that the Prime Minister gave his support and approval to the bill as passed in the House.

On May 26, 2010, and again on June 3, 2010, your committee met in public, not in camera, for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. The government presented a total of nine amendments, one for each clause of the bill.

At the meeting on June 3, 2010, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities moved five amendments. In at least three cases the chair ruled the proposed amendments inadmissible. In each case the chair's ruling was appealed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the chair was overruled. The amendments were then carried on division.

For clarity's sake, I will read out the specific amendments in question.

On Clause 2, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities moved:

That Bill C-442, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 10 on page 2 with the following:

“Minister under section 4 and directed as such by the Minister to form a legal entity in order to properly manage the functions and ensure good governance and accountability of said council.”

The chair ruled this amendment inadmissible because it proposed a substantive amendment to the bill by way of a modification to the interpretation clause, as provided on page 769 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition.

On Clause 7, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities moved:

That Bill C-442, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 12 and 13 on page 3 with the following:

(fund rais)“ing campaign to cover the cost of planning, designing, constructing, installing and maintaining the Monument, and any other costs incurred by the Council.”

The chair ruled this amendment inadmissible because it was beyond the scope of the bill, as provided on page 766 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition.

Further, on clause 8, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities moved:

That Bill C-442, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing lines 14 to 16 on page 3 with the following:

“8. The Minister may delegate to the Council his or her responsibilities under paragraphs 6(a) and (c) and subsection 7(1).”

The chair ruled this amendment inadmissible because it was moved at the wrong place in the bill, as provided on page 768 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, and also because it was beyond the scope of the bill, as provided on page 766 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition.

In committee, I argued that the government, in bringing nine amendments to the bill, one for each clause, was attempting to rewrite the bill, leaving nothing but the title intact.

A national Holocaust monument in our nation's capital is something that the government can accomplish today, without this legislation. However, since it has chosen the legislative route, it is important that the proper procedures and practices be followed so that the House can be assured that the committee did not overstep its authority and produce legislation beyond its mandate to do so.

It is my view that upon examination, Mr. Speaker, you, too, will find that the amendments proposed by the government are inadmissible and that the bill should be restored in its original form and so reported to this House.

I respectfully seek your ruling on the matter and thank you in anticipation of same.

Bill C-442--Admissibility of Amendments Made at CommitteePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his intervention.

Let me first say that I find it somewhat amusing that a member of the opposition, a member of the coalition, would stand in this place and complain about members overruling or trying to overturn rulings by the chair when in fact we have seen on many occasions in many committees where the combined coalition would effectively gut a government bill brought forward at committee.

Second, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you from experience I have seen in the procedure and House affairs committee on several occasions members of the coalition overturn or overrule the chairman's rulings, calling for certain elements of a particular bill to be inadmissible.

I would say it is somewhat ironic that we have an intervention from a coalition member saying that there has been untoward practices, in effect, at a committee just because he does not like the results.

What I will say in direct response to his intervention, however, is that I would reserve the right to make a fulsome response once I have a chance to carefully examine today's intervention.

Bill C-442--Admissibility of Amendments Made at CommitteePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I can hardly wait for the hon. parliamentary secretary's intervention. However, he will bear in mind that the bill is coming up for debate next Wednesday and he will want to make any interventions on this matter promptly so the Chair can make a ruling and deal with the issue. I know I want to hear every word he has to say on the subject as I have listened so attentively to the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

I thank members for their submissions on this point and I will deal with it in due course.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-46, particularly about the amendment proposed by an NDP member.

To begin with, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois will support this amendment because it means that debate about the bill will be delayed, potentially killing it. We are against this bill, and we said that during the first debate.

It is important to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois opposes this bill mainly because Panama is a tax haven, a country that promotes tax evasion. It is unbelievable that the Conservative government, supported by the Liberals, wants to conclude an agreement and adopt a bill to implement that agreement with a country that promotes tax evasion, when we have seen over the past two or three weeks that rather significant capital belonging to Canadians had been transferred to the HSBC Bank in Switzerland. In essence, this constitutes a form of tax evasion. The government tells us that it has started recovering some of the money, but it is a double standard. On one hand, it says it wants to recoup this money but it is not going to great lengths to do so, and on the other hand, it wants to conclude a trade agreement with Panama, a country that openly promotes tax evasion and is on the OECD grey list of tax havens.

France, among other countries, has taken very serious measures to fight tax evasion. French parliamentarians believe that this type of tax evasion absolutely must stop. They have taken measures to impose more taxes on companies that want to set up in known tax havens. France has established a black list, which was published in February 2010. It includes a number of Latin American and Asian countries, Anguilla in the Caribbean, Belize in Central America, Brunei in Asia, Costa Rica in Central America, Dominica and Grenada in the Caribbean, Guatemala in Central America, the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands in Oceania, Liberia in Africa, Montserrat in the Caribbean, Nauru and Niue in Oceania, Panama in Central America, the Philippines in Asia, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. Panama is clearly on the black list of countries that promote tax evasion.

In Canada, we have a government that wants to promote trade with a country that has been blacklisted by other countries for promoting tax evasion.

We are short on money, and the government says we have a massive deficit. And yet it wants to negotiate and sign agreements with countries that promote tax evasion. These agreements will favour businesses and individuals that invest in these countries in order to pay less in taxes. That makes no sense, and is a complete contradiction.

The Bloc Québécois is not against free trade agreements. On the contrary. We have often said this. The Bloc Québécois was the first party to introduce the idea of an agreement with the European Union. We were in favour of a free trade agreement with the European Union, and these negotiations are now under way. We are absolutely not against trade agreements. Take NAFTA, for example, which Quebec fully supported.

What we are saying is that we must take advantage of the globalization of markets to try to level the playing field with trade regulations, to ensure they are fair for workers in other countries and workers here, for the different companies and for the environment. We must ensure that free trade agreements are not signed at the expense of the people of another country, of their environment or ours. We must look at the measures beforehand, instead of rushing to sign agreements, which only leads to serious repercussions in terms of the environment and labour rights. It is quite possible that these agreements would be better negotiated from a multilateral perspective.

What we are saying is that yes, we must be open to trade, but not just any old way. We believe that in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. A trading system that results in exploitation in poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. There is a downside, as I just mentioned. The Bloc Québécois will never tolerate a system of free trade that would result in a race to the bottom. We worry that an agreement like the free trade agreement with Panama will result in a race to the bottom.

The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete with products made with no regard for basic social rights. The Bloc Québécois believes that child labour, forced labour and the denial of workers' fundamental rights are a form of unfair competition, just like, or even more than, export subsidies and dumping. Prohibition of these practices is widely accepted at the international level, as reflected by the large number of countries that have signed the International Labour Organization's eight fundamental conventions. We must have a way to protect ourselves against such practices. We need an overall vision, a policy geared more to multilateral than bilateral agreements.

Trade agreements and trade laws do not protect our businesses and our workers from this social dumping. If a country wants to benefit from free trade, in return it has to accept a certain number of basic rules, with regard to social rights in particular. Environmental organizations and human rights groups have been concerned about this issue for a long time. More recently, though, it has become a major economic issue. Quebec has proportionally more industries threatened by competition from Asia than the rest of Canada. Quebec is at the forefront of this debate.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment. In their current form, side agreements on minimum labour standards and environmental protection lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective. The Bloc Québécois believes that if Canada wants to have credibility on this front, it should immediately sign on to the International Labour Organization's fundamental conventions against various forms of discrimination, forced labour and child labour, as well as those in support of the right to organize and collective bargaining.

Once again, we will support the amendment put forward by the NDP so that, ideally, this bill will eventually be withdrawn.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, at the beginning I want to make a Hansard correction on behalf of the member regarding Bill C-46 because in his black list of countries with tax haven status he had mentioned the Dominican Republic, but he had meant to say Dominica, so I want to correct that on his behalf.

I think it is very interesting on the difference in approach on the issue of tax havens between France and Germany vis-à-vis the Canadian Prime Minister.

In France, the French government drew up its list of tax haven countries and it was very proactive. It applied taxes against these companies that do business in Panama. It taxed their dividends, service fees, royalties and interest paid.

What does the Canadian government do? Exactly the opposite. It waits until an employee of a Swiss bank turns over bank records to the French government and now we have the Prime Minister going cap in hand to Switzerland to talk to the Swiss finance minister about getting more information from Switzerland.

Revenue Canada has been given the list of these Canadians who have been investing in the tax havens, and guess what Revenue Canada does? It gives them an amnesty. There is a totally different approach. We have a very soft approach whereas the Germans and the French have a very tough approach.

I would like to ask the member--

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Saint-Maurice--Champlain.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for asking the question. And he is quite right to suggest the Hansard correction regarding what I said earlier. I said the Dominican Republic was on the black list, but I meant to say Dominica. I will make sure that is corrected, right after my speech.

My colleague is quite right. It is very strange that this government is promoting tax evasion by trying to pass this bill to enter into a free trade agreement with a country that is on France's black list and on the OECD's grey list of tax havens.

It is a complete contradiction for the government to say it will address a few of those issues with Switzerland. Why this double standard? We simply do not understand. That is why we completely oppose a free trade agreement with Panama. I mentioned several countries that are on black lists or grey lists, so what country will be next, after Panama?

Does the government have a policy on free trade, or is its policy to encourage as many free trade agreements as possible with tax havens? We cannot help but wonder.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, my follow-up question for the member is this. After France put Panama on the black list, guess what happened? Panama signed a tax avoidance treaty. After Panama signed with France, it now has eight signed agreements.

Where is Canada in all of this? Canada is pushing ahead with a free trade agreement and it is not even one of the eight countries that Panama signed a tax avoidance agreement with.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, once again, the member is quite right. France is very advanced in that regard and we have to wonder why Canada, which also wants to enter into free trade agreements, is not equally forward thinking. It must be consistent and not invest in tax havens, on the one hand, and not invest in other countries that do the same thing, on the other hand, or enter into free trade agreements with them. It makes no sense.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama. I am also pleased to be speaking after my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who does such excellent work on the Standing Committee on International Trade.

First of all, it is never easy to keep track of the Conservatives because they go off in all directions, which is why they got such a bad grade at the UN. That is part of the problem. They are not focused enough, they cast too wide a net and they are not building a solid base. The result is inevitable. And we can see it in the agreements that this government is signing.

To begin with, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois does not support Bill C-46 concerning the implementation of a free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

Yes, Panama is one of the most developed economies in Central America, but the Bloc Québécois cannot ratify a free trade agreement with this country as long as it is on the OECD's grey list of tax havens. This is very important.

We know that the citizens who are listening to us work very hard and pay their taxes. Some of them are retired and continue to pay taxes. We often forget that. The economic situation is not easy, which means that we cannot revitalize our economy. This is the whirlwind that the Conservative Party got sucked into because it decided to forgo a traditional economy. This is a choice that the Conservatives made, notably by not supporting investments and the forestry industry.

In recent budgets, the Conservatives invested more than $10 billion in the automotive sector, but barely $200 million in the forestry industry, which is nevertheless Canada's primary industry. Without forestry, the development and industrialization of the past 50 years would not have taken place. Unfortunately, the decision to not support one segment of our traditional economy forces us to attempt to open markets in other economies. That is what the Conservative Party is trying to do by signing agreements with other countries. In this case, it is Panama. However, this country is on the OECD grey list of tax havens.

The Conservatives' message is that we can do business with tax havens and that we will avoid paying taxes in Canada, all the while hoping that our companies will create jobs here. However, we are increasingly seeing the good jobs leaving Canada, right under the Conservative Party's nose.

We must examine what the Conservatives have been doggedly working on: destroying the traditional economy, including the forestry sector. They have attacked it repeatedly. I am saying this because the forestry crisis started well before the banking crisis of the past two years. The forestry crisis started five years ago and businesses had sounded the alarm well before that.

The Conservatives decided to take other action rather than helping the forestry industry. This inevitably led to lower family income. There are fewer high-quality jobs and this affects our retirees and seniors, who must make an additional effort and continue to pay taxes year after year. There is no possibility of indexing the assistance that could benefit or be available to them, or the very basis for retirement income. The increase in old age security is negligible and does not even pay for a coffee.

The Conservatives decided not to invest to protect our traditional jobs in forestry and other industries, and they are shifting the tax burden to seniors and retirees. This is a choice the Conservatives are making, and the Bloc Québécois is not fooled.

The Conservatives are trying to get good press, with the Liberals' help. We must not forget that the Liberals supported the last two budgets. They let them pass by sitting down and not voting. That is how the Liberals do things. They have no backbone. We know them, and we have known for a long time that that is how they are. They have given moral support to the Conservatives as they shift from a traditional resource-based economy to a capital development economy. They have chosen to have huge mining companies that are going to invest in foreign countries and hire foreign workers.

That is not what the Bloc Québécois would have chosen to do, and it is not what the Bloc Québécois has always stood up for. We want to keep our jobs and our money in Quebec and the rest of Canada. If we can help Canadians by standing up for Quebeckers, then so much the better. That is what we do every day in the House. We have to prevent the Conservatives from continuing to damage the traditional economy, and one way to do that is to stand up against this free trade agreement with Panama, a country that is on the OECD grey list of tax havens, as I have said many times.

Today, here in the House of Commons, we were treated to quite a sight during question period: the Bloc Québécois members were asking the minister in charge about the cases of tax evasion involving the HSBC bank that were discovered by the French. Capital was being held in Switzerland and other countries by people from different countries who were evading tax. The government likes to brag about recovering money, but it is dead-set against prison terms for individuals who defraud the people of this country in this way.

That is unacceptable. Our constituents work too hard, or have worked too hard, if they are retired. Yet today we learned in the news that the French discovered that Canadians were evading taxes. We learned this through the news. It took a report from the CBC for this government to wake up. In fact, it had not decided to investigate Canadians who were evading taxes by putting their money in Swiss accounts. The Conservative government realized that it had no political choice, since it is a minority government, and could be defeated any day. As soon as there is a crisis on the horizon, the Conservatives try to put out the fire. That is what they did by trying to recover the money, but they forgot that tax evasion by a citizen is a violation of the Criminal Code.

Someone who is accused of stealing a litre of milk from the corner store must pay for the milk and face criminal charges. So I do not see how someone who diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Canadian tax authorities could simply walk away by writing a cheque and facing no criminal consequences.

That is how the Conservatives work. They are trying to destroy the traditional economy, as they did with the forestry sector, and open up new markets with tax havens like Panama. We have never supported that; we will not support it today; and we never will. We will always be against the way the Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, choose to govern by taking away from the poor to give to the rich.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his comments today.

The fact of the matter is that France did show some leadership with regard to chasing people who are investing in tax havens. First, it compiled a list of the tax havens. I think it was 17 or 18 countries, and then it proactively levied a tax of 50% on dividends, interests, royalties and service fees paid to anyone based in France to a beneficiary based in countries on its black list, which included Panama. That is what France did.

Guess what? In short order, what did Panama do? It lined up and signed a double taxation avoidance treaty with France. As of now it has eight signed treaties. That is an example of a country that was proactive and got results on tax havens.

What does Canada do? It waits until it gets some tax information from a former employee of the HSBC and it offers them amnesty if anybody wants to come forward and confess their sins. Then we have the Prime Minister going cap in hand to Switzerland to beg the prime minister of Switzerland to help out.

That is a totally different approach than what the French and the Germans have done. Those two countries know what to do in this situation because they are getting results.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is quite right, especially since Canada is headed for a record deficit of more than $54 billion. The men and women who are watching us, the workers and the retirees, have no hope that there will be a change in their personal situation in terms of the income the government provides, whether it is old age security or employment insurance, to those who need it.

It is even more frustrating when a political party, the Conservative government supported by the Liberals, decides that it will not ask the rich to pay their fair share, while those who suffer the most have no hope of seeing their income rise. They could at least have decided to take from the rich, who have been spared through tax avoidance measures, and improve support for seniors, the unemployed and those without work. That will never happen with this Conservative government supported by the Liberals. Never.

We have to fight hard against free trade agreements such as the one the Conservative government is about to sign with Panama, a country on the OECD grey list of tax havens.

My NDP colleague is right. I hope he will vote with us against this bill.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his intervention in regard to this bill. We heard his comments in regard to the tax haven that Panama offers. Canadians are incensed by the fact that there are those who defraud the rest of us when they refuse to pay their taxes.

I wanted to ask him about the labour side deals. I have been looking at this agreement and there is, of course, a labour side deal. Unfortunately, it does not protect the men and women who work in this country or in Panama. Without real teeth in labour negotiations and deals, workers both here and in Panama are lost. They are going to be as victimized as the rest of Canadians who will never see those tax fraud artists brought to justice.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is right. As I was telling her, it is even more unfortunate given that the Conservative government, supported by the Liberals, is trying to establish a new economy. It is trying to sell it to us as economic development. However, an entire sector of our traditional industry—I am referring to the forestry industry—has been left to fend for itself. I have trouble understanding that. I can understand that the Conservatives are trying to play politics with this, but I hope that the people will not be deceived.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-46 today. It is certainly a bill I have been looking forward to speaking to for the last little while.

I enjoyed the two previous speakers. Certainly, the Bloc has put a lot of effort into dealing with the issue of tax havens. Clearly, that is a very important point to which we should have been paying attention in this country for many years already. It is extremely unfair to have corporations and individuals essentially hiding their money in foreign tax havens, basically to save taxes, but it is essentially robbing Canadian taxpayers and stealing from the Canadian public.

The tax dollars that are collected by the government are used to build infrastructure and provide services in this country. A lot of tax haven participants are people who take full advantage of our roads and medical system. Yet, they insist upon putting half a million dollars in a Swiss bank to try to hide income.

It is good to see that after all these years, at least two countries, France and Germany, are actually doing something about it. However, it took them forever, too, to get the ball rolling, and by the way, it had more to do with actually two disgruntled bank employees. The first bank employee worked for a Liechtenstein bank and when he left, he took his computer diskettes and actually sold them to the German government. The German government have chased down the German tax evaders and collected. I am not sure whether it is half a billion dollars, but quite a bit of money in back taxes.

The German government gave the information to the Canadian authorities two years ago. A small number of Canadians were involved, most of whom are from the beautiful province of British Columbia. Guess what? Revenue Canada offered an amnesty to these people. Why would we need an amnesty if we had the names of the tax evaders? I assume they are offering the amnesty because they want people to voluntarily walk in and declare their undeclared income.

Since then, another employee from the HSBC in Switzerland went on the run to France and he too carried a lot of information on maybe 5,000 taxpayers. I believe 160 of them are in Canada and their names have been turned over to Revenue Canada.

Now we have the Prime Minister going to Switzerland this week to talk to the Swiss prime minister to try to get more compliance from Switzerland. The French government did. The French government collected a list of, I believe, 18 tax havens around the world and decided to be proactive. Unlike Canada, which is totally reactive and acts as though we are surprised when something happens. We wish it would not happen because it causes us some inconvenience. The French government levied a tax of 50% proactively on dividends, interest, royalties and service fees paid by anyone based in France to a beneficiary based in the countries on its black list, which in this case included Panama.

Once this happened, it did not take long before some of the 350,000 corporations that are hiding assets in Panama, the French participants of the 350,000, started to get concerned and put pressure on Panama. They will have to take their money out of Panama. In view of that, the Panamanian government simply went cap in hand to France and asked to be removed from the list because it is bad for business, and Panama agreed to sign the taxation avoidance treaty with France.

It signed the double taxation avoidance treaty with France and now there are eight countries that have negotiated tax agreements with Panama.

However, it was not done by coercion. France did it by getting tough on Panama. It got it by taxing its own corporations who were actively doing business in Panama. That is how France got results.

Panama ratified its agreement with Mexico on June 21. I believe the agreement with Barbados is being signed. It has also reached agreements with Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Qatar and Spain, but that is it.

Did we see Canada on this list? Absolutely not. What is Canada doing that the other countries are not doing? Canada is going further. Canada has a free trade deal. Canada is proposing ratification and implementation of a free trade deal with the very country that is a haven for some of our taxpayers. This is a perfect opportunity to follow in France's footsteps and these other eight countries, and demand that before we implement anything, before we pass anything in the House, that we get Panama's agreement on these taxation avoidance treaties.

Once we implement the agreement, once we pass it through the House, what is the incentive for Panama to do anything? There is absolutely none.

We should be proactive as the French were, as the Germans were. When the Prime Minister gets back from Switzerland talking to the Swiss prime minister should get on a plane and visit the Panamanian president, and demand that he sign the double taxation avoidance treaty with Canada, so that we can be number nine. Only when he has done that, then we should be looking at proceeding further, but not putting the cart in front of the horse which is what we are doing.

This is a government that talks about being tough on crime. The government is soft on crime.

We have mentioned many times that the number of white collar criminals put in jail in the United States is 1,200. The number in Canada is one, two convictions both against the same person.

The Americans feel their system is not tough enough and they want to get tougher. They are recalibrating, recalculating and reregulating the whole financial services industry.

Let us look at what the United States is doing in this case. The United States is dealing with a Panama treaty as well. Guess what? Fifty-four congressmen have demanded that President Obama forgo the agreement with Panama until Panama signs the tax information exchange treaties, so we have activity going on there.

I do not know if anyone has mentioned the situation with AIG. AIG, the House will recall, received huge bailout money from the American taxpayers only two years ago. Guess what? It is one of the 350,000 foreign registered companies operating in Panama and it is suing U.S. authorities right now to keep, I believe, $306 million in back taxes that it wants to hold back on because it has been using the Panamanian tax haven. Is that not sweet? The taxpayers bailed it out in its time of need with huge amounts of money. The next year it turned around and rewarded itself by giving employees huge bonuses and now it is suing the taxpayers to keep its ill-gotten gains through tax havens like Panama.

These are the types of companies that we are dealing with. We have to get tough with them. It is about time the Prime Minister started doing something, rather than just pretending that he is tough on crime. He is soft on white collar crime.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could expand on his discussion in regard to the tax haven and the fact that companies and individuals are dumping money in tax havens.

I wonder if he could also address to what is happening to union workers on the ground. I note that in July there was a new wave of anti-union repression in Panama, resulting in several workers being killed. Over 100 were injured and 300 arrested, including the leaders of SUNTRACS and the CONATO trade union.

My colleague has a great interest in the rights of workers in Canada and abroad. I would like to hear his thoughts in regard to this kind of overt violence against men and women who are simply seeking fair compensation for their work or the ability, I think more accurately, to fend for themselves and their families.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. There has been a new wave of anti-union repression in Panama. This is hardly a good time to be implementing a free trade deal when a situation like that is developing in that country. Several workers were killed. Over 100 were injured and over 300 were arrested, including leaders of the trade unions.

We are considering this at a time when trade with Panama is actually very small. We only have $132 million in trade with Panama. Even if we were not to proceed with a free trade deal, this trade would not go away. There has been some suggestion on the part of the government that somehow if we do not sign a free trade deal with Panama or any other country that we will stop trading with them. That is not going to happen. There has been trade with Panama for many years and we will continue to trade with Panama for many years with or without the free trade deal.

Let us not put the cart in front of the horse. Let us get the tax avoidance agreement signed with Panama while we still have some clout. Eight other countries have signed agreements, including France. France received compliance from Panama. Why can we not do the same thing? I would ask the Prime Minister to pause a bit, to follow in France's footsteps, and maybe in the whole area of tax havens.

I want to ask the government about its arrears situation in GST and income tax, corporate taxes, and other kinds of taxes that it may be a little slow to collect from some people. The fact of the matter is that the government could collect a lot of this money if it followed what France did when it formulated its black list.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, the discussion in regard to the fact that money is not being collected leads me to a question that pertains more to Canada's reality. My esteemed colleague has indicated he has questions for our government with regard to tax evasion here.

More specifically, I read in the paper today that the government has determined that $33 million is owed in terms of unpaid taxes and suspect it is far more, yet the government is laying off 500 civil servants, many of them at the Canada Revenue Agency. We know that for every $1 invested in a worker at CRA, $5 is recouped in terms of revenue. I wonder if my colleague would comment on that.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member is correct. The fact of the matter is that tax evasion has been a big problem for many years. We cannot provide services and infrastructure to the taxpayers and the citizens of Canada if we allow corporations and wealthy individuals to simply take their money offshore. As long as tax havens are available, people and corporations will gravitate toward those tax havens. It has to be a concerted international effort to shut these places down.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona and especially the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for outlining some of the key concerns that New Democrats have with Bill C-46.

Some of us have ridings that have been impacted by trade deals or agreements that have seriously affected the ability of people in our ridings to make a living. I just have to point to the softwood lumber agreement. My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan is still feeling the effects of that agreement. It was supposedly going to be great and resolve all kinds of issues. In fact, it has meant that we continue to ship jobs south. People in my riding are certainly very concerned about this move toward the kinds of trade agreements that simply do not benefit Canadians.

We have often heard from the other side of the House that New Democrats are opposed to trade and that is absolutely not true.

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4:15 p.m.

Ed Fast

When is the last time you voted for a free trade agreement?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

What New Democrats feel is really important is that it is incumbent upon us as legislators to perform the due diligence, to examine those kinds of trade agreements to ensure that—

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4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.