Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is going to vote against the budget implementation bill, mainly because of the way it was introduced. Bill C-63 is a 318-page omnibus bill. It amends 19 acts and creates a new one. Some of the measures are budgetary, but others have absolutely nothing to do with the budget. What is more, they are all mixed in with such a hodgepodge of technical measures that we cannot debate the bill properly. Here is what the Prime Minister had to say about omnibus bills during the election campaign, and I quote:
Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will...bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
What a great promise. Yes, this is an undemocratic practice, and I am not the one who said it. Members can read it for themselves on page 30 of the Liberal Party's election platform. However, we are starting to get used to the government's shell games.
Every time the Liberals introduce a new bill, it is the things they do not say that we need to be careful of. For example, six months ago, they hid a measure in their last mammoth bill, Bill C-44, that would do no less than give investors in the Canada infrastructure bank the power to disregard Quebec's laws. There was no agricultural zoning, no environmental protections, and no municipal zoning. Under the bill, Toronto bankers were considered agents of the federal crown and could do whatever they wanted in Quebec.
Six months before that, the Liberals sought to give Toronto bankers another gift with Bill C-29, another mammoth bill. On that occasion, the government was seeking to allow bankers to circumvent Quebec's consumer protection legislation. To heck with consumers and the little people who are getting ripped off, we know that the government reports to Bay Street.
Today, we are being presented another omnibus budget implementation bill. Once again, the government has a nasty surprise for us. On page 277 of the document and on the following pages, we see that the government is amending the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. With this apparently innocuous, or at least highly technical, amendment, it is establishing the legislative architecture for imposing a federal tax on cannabis.
We all know that cannabis will be legal in eight months. From that point on, the federal government will no longer have a role to play. All it will have to do is pocket the tax it is setting up in this bill. Healthcare services, prevention, drug treatment and public safety will all be under Quebec’s jurisdiction. It will be very expensive.
In other words, the government is creating a problem, telling the provinces to deal with it and making money all at the same time. Quebec and the other provinces are saying that they need more time. We understand that the Prime Minister is really intent on rolling his joint in front of the cameras on Canada Day 2018, but the government’s attitude toward Quebec is nothing less than scandalous. It is shovelling problems into Quebec’s and the other provinces’ yards, and has the gall to make money as a result.
The government cannot hide behind the fact that Quebec can impose further taxes if it so desires. It does not work that way. There is a maximum price beyond which black market cannabis will be less expensive for consumers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said so. He issued a warning. If the government tries to make marijuana a cash cow, it might very well foster organized crime. In Bill C-63, the government is opening the door to this possibility.
The Bloc Québécois recently introduced a bill to prevent outlaw motorcycle clubs from acting like rock stars, waving their banners, intimidating citizens and making a show of force. However, the Liberals and the other parties did not even want to read the bill, and rejected it out of hand. I am therefore not surprised that the government is not concerned about organized crime. However, with Bill C-63, it will be giving organized crime yet another break.
The provinces will have to lower taxes and forgo revenues so that the Hell’s Angels’ cannabis is not a better deal than cannabis sold legally. For that reason alone, I encourage all hon. members to oppose the bill. It is scandalous.
However, there is more. The main reason why we are disappointed with Bill C-63 is because of what it does not contain. There is nothing at all in the bill to solve the problem of tax havens.
Madam Speaker, you may not have noticed, but we are celebrating an anniversary today: it has been exactly four months since the government signed the OECD’s multilateral convention to prevent tax evasion and tax havens.
Canada signed the BEPS Project agreement on July 7, but it has not yet ratified it, because Canadian law, essentially the Income Tax Act, does not meet the agreement’s requirements. Today, four months later, how many measures from the international agreement are included in Bill C-63? Not a single one.
We are extremely disappointed, but not particularly surprised. I have been a member of the House for two years now. Almost every day, I see the exceptionally powerful lobbying of the five major Canadian banks on Bay Street in Toronto. The Minister of Finance, himself a major shareholder of Morneau Shepell, uses tax havens, is involved in financial schemes and advises people to use tax havens to divert money from Canada.
For example, his company advised the Bahamas on how to better attract Canadian insurance companies. It is written on the website of the Minister of Finance’s company. It is also written that he advised Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in methods of fostering access for his client companies.
In terms of economic policy, there is not much difference with the previous government. The Prime Minister is a great communicator, but the fact remains that this is an old government that is more interested in finances than in Canadians. The financial lobby runs Ottawa when it comes to economic matters. This is nothing new. Paul Martin had a shipping company registered in Barbados so he would not have to pay income tax.
If you look at the Income Tax Act, the Bank Act or the Canada infrastructure bank, you can see that Canada’s economic development is wholly based on the interests of the financial lobby in Toronto. After Barbados in the 1990s, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government legalized 22 more tax havens in 2009 by signing tax information exchange agreements.
Last spring, the Liberals added the Cook Islands to the list. That is the history of Canada. The financial community has the government’s ear, and, really, who is governing who? The Minister of National Revenue keeps repeating that we are investing historic amounts, “zillions and zillions”, in the fight against tax evasion and that the net is tightening. I am all for prosecuting fraud, but the problem lies elsewhere. Essentially, the use of tax havens is perfectly legal in Canada. That is the real problem. As legislators, that is the problem that concerns us here in the House.
When the minister says that the net is tightening on those who abuse the system, she is mistaken. It is still wide open. For example, Canada accounts for 2% of global GDP, and yet, last summer, the IMF reported that three Canadian banks, the Royal Bank, Scotiabank and the CIBC, represent 80% of all banking assets in Barbados, Grenada and the Bahamas. In the eight other tax havens that make up the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Canadian banks own 60% of banking assets. That is considerable.
Canada is not an economic superpower, but it is a superpower in tax havens. Nothing in Bill C-63 addresses this problem. Every Canadian has to pay the income tax that these freeloaders are not. The middle class that the government is so fond of talking about will be footing the bill. The regulatory framework was written specifically to allow banks and multinationals to avoid paying income tax in Canada.
I say “regulatory framework” because the problem is in the regulations. No tax treaty condones the use of tax havens. Even the treaty with Barbados does not cover the empty shells that enjoy tax breaks in that country. As for the other tax havens, Canada has not signed tax treaties with them. When you look at the Income Tax Act, it does not condone tax havens, either. When Parliament passed the act and adopted the treaties, it never condoned tax havens. Members of Parliament did their job and prohibited them. It is the government that failed in its task. In obscure regulations, it contravened Parliament’s decisions. It decreed by regulation that the act and the treaties adopted by Parliament do not apply, and that bank profits can be exempted by having them go through the West Indies.
For this reason, and because of what this mammoth contains and does not contain, we will be opposing it.