Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this legislation. It is my pleasure to follow my colleague from Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola and his excellent discussion on a topic that he is interested in and knows a great deal about.
Bill C-82 is a welcome step forward. It is the natural conclusion to work that was first undertaken by the previous government in 2013. This is a good, positive step forward by two governments now to help address the serious problem of base erosion and profit shifting.
This legislation seeks to address a global problem that Canada is a part of, namely tax evasion, whereby corporations, through a corporate domicile or clever accounting, can shift profits between different jurisdictions or shop for the most desirable tax treatment from any of a variety of different jurisdictions.
For years we have heard in the news criticism of many global giants, including Starbucks, Apple and a number of other familiar global brands, that will seek to minimize their taxes by shopping for the most favourable jurisdiction. This is a problem that confronts western governments.
If the bill passes, Canada would be able to participate in a protocol that the OECD has in place.
We heard a bit about the scale and scope of this problem at the finance committee, and we welcome the bill.
The bill is an effective and efficient means by which we could deal with a wide variety of different tax jurisdictions through the same instrument. We would not have to separately renegotiate dozens of different existing tax treaties. As a result, we could co-operate much more efficiently with our global trading partners and combat what has been described by some as a “race to the bottom”.
Perhaps close to $25 billion in taxes is not being collected from economic activity that takes place in Canada. During its first two years in office, the Liberal government claimed it was going to recoup this $25 billion. The Prime Minister in late 2017 said in the House that the government looked forward to collecting this money.
While I do support the bill and acknowledge that it is an important step forward, it is certainly not a panacea or a solution to deal with all of the problems. I do hope colleagues from all parties will support it.
With respect to this $25 billion, the government has yet to really tackle the issue at all and it is now three years into its mandate. That number has been debunked. It would seem that most of the money the government planned to collect, money from tax evasion and tax avoidance, through the steps it would take, would be on the domestic side, the majority of which is believed, even by the department, to be uncollectible.
The CRA, almost three years into the government's mandate, has failed to make significant progress on foreign tax evasion, but during that time period it has floated a number of, in some cases, strange ideas on how it would plug its gaps in revenue. These ideas do not involve foreign tax evasion and do not involve corporate profit shifting.
They involve ideas that arose when the CRA first floated the idea of taxing employer benefits, like health and dental benefits; taxing retail discounts to service industry employees; and the war that was being waged this time last year on disabled Canadians, including the rejection of the disability tax credit for type 1 diabetics and a number of people who suffer from other health ailments.
In my riding, I have spoken to people who suffer from different types of chronic fatigue, who had been receiving the disability tax credit for years and suddenly were denied it. In one case, someone had been receiving it for 10 years and was suddenly denied it while her medical evidence had not changed. We have also heard the parents of autistic children losing their disability tax credit at the hands of the CRA under the Liberal government.
None of these seemingly small and petty attempts to raise additional revenues address the issue at hand and fulfill the promise of the government to crack down on foreign tax evasion and tax avoidance. These are nickel-and-dime measures targeting low-hanging fruit. The CBC reported again last night how the Liberal government makes it very difficult for single parents, with its onerous requirements on their proving they are indeed separated. We have seen quite a number of cases of this, and it has been raised in the House.
The other side of this and what this bill does not address is a different type of base erosion. Base erosion from profit shifting is an important global phenomenon that must be addressed. However, perhaps a bigger threat to the Canadian economy and a bigger drain on the tax revenue of the government than base erosion from profit shifting is base erosion from capital flight taking place right now.
Since the Liberal government took office, we have seen the imposition of a carbon tax. My colleague from Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola spoke about carbon leakage, how chasing economic activity with emissions into a different jurisdiction does not change global emissions, but does change the tax revenue base of the Canada Revenue Agency and costs jobs. We have seen the carbon tax and have seen Bill C-69, which should be titled, “an act to ensure no pipeline is ever built in Canada again”. We have also seen tax increases, which the government had indeed promised to impose on the wealthiest Canadians, actually result in a reduction in tax revenues from the wealthiest Canadians. That is a different type of base erosion that would not be addressed by this bill.
We have seen the debacle over the Trans Mountain expansion. That will also result in an erosion of the tax base, as that economic activity is curtailed. We also all know what is happening with the NAFTA negotiations, and we know how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Canadians who fear for their jobs as this unfolds.
To conclude, this bill is an excellent step forward to address a serious global problem that Canada must play a part in solving for our own tax base and in participation with our economic partners. I look forward to its coming to committee, where it may be improved and where I could address some of the issues that have been raised by my colleagues.
I will be supporting this bill, and I commend the government for moving ahead with this initiative.