This is Bill S-6, an act to implement the convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
My friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands appreciated my quip at the beginning. I will say that I do hear a lot about taxation issues in my constituency—not as much about the particulars of our relationship with Madagascar, but a great deal about taxation.
I do think it ironic that the government is proposing the implementation of a bill for the avoidance of double taxation, because if we want to avoid double taxation, I might suggest that the government start at home in avoiding it.
This is a good bill. This is a good agreement. However, as they say, charity starts at home. This is not really a matter of charity; it is a matter of letting people keep more of their own money and avoiding double taxation. How about if the government starts in an area of its own direct control?
Before I get into the particulars of this legislation and this issue, I want to mention that I had the pleasure this morning of meeting with Ms. Chemi Lhamo, who is the elected University of Toronto's Scarborough campus student union president, someone who has faced significant bullying, intimidation and threats from people who oppose her on the basis of her Tibetan background and her human rights advocacy on behalf of Tibet. There is indication that some of this intimidation and bullying may have as its source the nefarious inclinations of some diplomats here in Canada. This is a very serious issue in terms of freedom of speech on campus, and also in the way in which foreign diplomats may be engaging in intimidating Canadian students. Perhaps at a future point, the kind of response we as parliamentarians should have to these events should be the subject of detailed consideration and debate.
Having said that, I will now return to Bill S-6 and the proposal to seek, through an agreement with Madagascar, to avoid double taxation and address the issue of fiscal evasion.
I will make the case in my remarks that we should support this bill, but the first priority of the government should actually be to take the necessary steps here at home to address these very same issues: the tax burden that Canadians face and, in the area of fiscal evasion, the way in which the Canada Revenue Agency interacts with citizens.
On the issue of the Canada Revenue Agency and its relationship to citizens, it was interesting to see a post from the Minister of National Revenue, who is very excited that it is tax-filing season. I do not know if there has ever been a tax collector who was so enthusiastic about collecting taxes. Canadians are not enthusiastic about the taxes they are paying, and they are not enthusiastic about these incidents, which we hear about on a regular basis, of Canadians being harassed by the Canada Revenue Agency, having difficulty getting good information and having a hard time getting clarity and support around key issues.
That is why my colleague, the great member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, put forward a motion to give the Canada Revenue Agency a duty of care. Whatever people perceive to be the magnitude of the problems in terms of the behaviour of CRA in its interactions with citizens, giving the CRA a duty of care would ensure that citizens were treated well and fairly in their interactions with the agency.
Members in both the Liberal and NDP caucuses voted against this motion. That is interesting, because recently I have been hearing, in speeches being given by members of the NDP caucus, that they may have had a change of heart on this issue. We hear members of the NDP caucus speaking about instances they are hearing about in their ridings of CRA going after single moms and other citizens who do not have the lobbyists and connections of, say, an SNC-Lavalin. My friends in that section of the House have criticized the government for not addressing this poor treatment of citizens who lack those connections and points of access while at the same time exploring special deals with well-connected insiders.
I applaud the direction of that discussion by my colleagues in the NDP, but I hope that in the future they will support measures like the initiative from my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge. They had an opportunity to show clearly with their vote that they have these concerns and that they are standing up for their constituents. Instead, they voted against that motion. It is better late than never if they want to now come onside and support that initiative. It is maybe a little too late for this Parliament, but if we have their support and they have changed their minds and recognized the problem, maybe we can move forward in the future.
Certainly, though, the government has had no change on the issue. It voted against the motion for the CRA to have a duty of care in its interactions with citizens. In all of its statements and interactions, it continues to seem to not appreciate the need to address this vital issue, the frustration that so many citizens have in their dealings with the Canada Revenue Agency.
The time the government spent and the energy and resources it put into certain problems versus others make it very clear who the government is invested in helping. Are the Liberals seized with the challenges of the middle class and those working hard to join it, or are they seized with the challenges of SNC-Lavalin and, maybe more importantly, the political implications for themselves?
There was a very long cabinet meeting two days ago, and one wonders about it. Were the Liberals discussing how to help struggling families or struggling energy workers? Were they discussing how to address the challenges we face on so many fronts and the way in which those challenges affect everyday Canadians? I suspect they were discussing how to politically manage the message, something they have failed to do until now, on the worst corruption scandal we have seen in this country in a very long time. Canadians at home are wondering whether or not the government cares about their priorities when it votes down motions like the one from my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge and continues to pile on taxes.
We should reflect not only on the failures of the current government to attend to the needs of Canadians but also on its general lack of interest in the plight of Canadians. Its focus is not on what people at home are thinking about or on struggling energy workers and auto workers, but on protecting well-connected insiders. That is what we have seen from the government in recent weeks. We have seen in how many meetings how eager it was to try to get a legislative change into a budget bill, and then there is the implication that the Prime Minister inappropriately tried to encourage the former attorney general to do something with respect to the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. These are serious allegations.
One thing we know from the government's repeated and ongoing conversations is just how seized it was with this issue, while there was a corresponding lack of regard and concern for the struggles that Canadians face, showing a disconnect between the priorities of the government and those of Canadians. We can see it in what the government spends its time on and what it talks about. We can see it in its legislative program. We can see it in how its members vote on key opposition proposals, such as the proposal from our leader, which would have made parental leave tax-free. The Liberal members voted against that great proposal to cut taxes for new parents.
We also had a great proposal from our shadow minister for finance, the member for Carleton, for legislation that would have helped ensure that Canadians with disabilities are not penalized for entering the workforce.
Those are our priorities: cutting taxes for Canadians, helping Canadians with disabilities, helping new parents, and as my colleague from Calgary Rocky Ridge tried to do, helping those who have problems in their interactions with the CRA.
That is what we are trying to do on this side of the House. The government, though, is focused on helping well-connected insiders, and that disregard has consequences for people at home.