Mr. Speaker, I would first like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the esteemed member for Victoria.
Tax evasion deprives families of hundreds of millions of dollars that could be invested in good social programs. It is time to put an end to this strategy that benefits only the wealthiest Canadians. The Liberals promised to tackle this problem. On November 6, the Prime Minister himself even said that the government is working every day to make sure that all Canadians pay their income tax. I have my doubts.
When we talk about tax avoidance, we are talking about several billion dollars out of our coffers. Statistics Canada, an extremely credible source, estimates that tax avoidance costs Canada $8 billion a year. That is $8 billion a year lost in uncollected taxes because we have agreements with the Cayman Islands, Barbados, the Cook Islands, and so on. The list is a long one.
Imagine all the problems we could solve with an additional $8 billion a year. Here are a few examples. We could help 10,000 families upgrade their homes to improve energy efficiency. Those 10,000 families would see their energy bills drop, and there would be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We could help the most vulnerable members of our society by maintaining 800,000 social housing buildings for 25 years. We could take stronger measures to lower the price of prescription drugs for Canadians and increase health transfers to the provinces. We could implement a guaranteed minimum income. These are concrete measures that would help reduce inequalities. We would be helping the middle class and all those who are working so hard to join it. That is progressive.
I just cannot get over it: $8 billion. That is $8 billion in 2015, $8 billion in 2016, $8 billion in 2017, $8 billion in 2018, and $8 billion in 2019. That is $40 billion lost this term alone. That is $40 billion out of the public purse, and, most importantly, massive amounts that we cannot invest in health transfers, social housing, the fight against homelessness, infrastructure, and more.
I was recently appointed infrastructure and communities critic. I am proud of this role and the trust placed in me. As a former municipal councillor, I am intimately familiar with infrastructure needs, which are huge. During the election campaign, the Liberals built up great expectations in the 25 municipalities I represent. They informed us that there was an infrastructure deficit, as if we did not already know, and said we have to invest in our water and sewer infrastructure, our bridges, and our roads. When I was a municipal councillor, some of the sewers in the ward I represented were 100 years old and were made of brick.
People were hoping to see billions in infrastructure investments in Quebec, Ontario, or British Columbia. The revenue we are missing out on year after year because of aggressive tax avoidance and tax havens would cover the cost of two Champlain bridges or thousands of community centres in communities that really need them, such as Saint-Pie, which has been waiting for many years, and other places in my riding.
Public concern about tax evasion and tax havens is growing. My colleague from Sherbrooke and I got together on this. I invited my constituents in Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale to come talk about tax havens and tax evasion. My invitation was very clear. I invited them to come watch a documentary called The Price We Pay. Those who looked it up learned that it was a one-and-a-half-hour documentary set mostly in London and elsewhere around the world, and our presentation was mainly in English with French subtitles.
I represent a largely francophone riding, and yet nearly 100 people showed up on a wintry Thursday evening to watch this documentary. We had quite a long discussion about it. I thought they would never leave my office because they were so concerned. They are outraged that the government is not doing anything about this situation.
I quite often hear from constituents about tax havens, inequalities, and tax evasion. People tell me how unfair it is that companies manage to avoid paying taxes, while these people work so hard and pay their fair share. They are so right.
I want to share a quote from an email I received from one of my constituents a few weeks ago:
We need to get rid of tax havens and make companies pay their fair share. These companies earn billions of dollars and pay less tax than ordinary taxpayers. They send their profits to tax havens, when this money could be put towards major projects in our country.
So many sectors are in need of reform, and the government will not do it. The past 28 months have shown that the Prime Minister has forgotten his election promises.
My constituent took the time to write that, and it is so true.
In a few months, it will be time for us to do our taxes. Many will have to tighten their belts, while the wealthiest Canadians can afford tax accountants and big law firms to avoid paying taxes. I quote Brigitte Alepin, a leading Quebec tax expert:
When ordinary citizens pay on average 60% of their income in income and consumption taxes while the wealthiest have a full range of tax shelters at their disposal to get around, if not cancel out, billions of dollars in income tax, we have every reason to call this a scandal of society.
It really is a scandal.
I invite everyone in Saint-Hyacinthe to my third annual tax credit information session, which this year will be at the Centre communautaire Rosalie-Papineau, 5250 Rue Gérard Côté in Saint-Hyacinthe.
Year after year, this event is a big hit and is attended by over 200 people, often close to 300. Last year, after attending this session, one of my constituents got back a $15,000 tax refund. I therefore invite all of my constituents to come out to this event so they can hear what tax credits they are entitled to.
In March 2017, the New Democrats moved a motion to eliminate tax havens, loopholes, and favourable treatment for the wealthiest Canadians, and it passed. Instead of taking action, the Liberals signed new agreements with other tax havens such as the Cook Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada.
Now that we are approaching budget time, it is time for the Liberals to keep their promises. Almost one year later, we are realizing that the people in our ridings, the middle class, are the biggest losers when it comes to tax havens. The Liberals keep saying that they are working for the middle class and those who are working hard to join it. The reality is that the middle class is paying more income tax, while the wealthiest Canadians are laughing all the way to the bank thanks to loopholes and tax havens, compliments of the government.
All of this is increasing inequality in our society. Our leader, Jagmeet Singh, recently said that, even though the government keeps repeating that it is working hard for the middle class and those working hard to join it, the truth is that it is building an economy that works for the privileged and leaves everyone else behind. Because multinationals and the wealthiest individuals are finding ways of avoiding paying income tax, the middle class must shoulder most of the burden to compensate for the shortfall caused by the government.
Once again the wealthiest Canadians are getting richer more and more quickly to the detriment of the middle class, who must suffer the consequences. Instead of taking real action against this social scourge, the government is not doing anything about tax havens. That is the problem. Our tax system allows the wealthiest Canadians to legally send their money to tax havens.
It is urgent that we change the laws to remedy the situation. The government must present concrete strategies in the next budget to eliminate tax havens.