Mr. Speaker, in November, I was alerted to two troubling cases in which Syrian refugee families were targeted by the CRA for Canada child benefit clawbacks. We have long known that the government has failed to provide proper access to language training for the Syrian refugee cohort. We also know that in the government's struggle to find Syrian refugee families affordable, long-term housing, many families were moved around numerous times. As a result, many Syrian refugee families entered month 13 without having had access to the settlement services they needed to integrate into Canadian society during their first year here.
Despite all of this, the CRA had apparently deemed it reasonable to target these families. In at least two instances during the summer, refugee families were given short timelines to respond to CRA demands to prove eligibility for the CCB. Despite it being the summer, one family had to prove that their children were enrolled in school, which is a difficult task on a tight timeline when school is out. This was made more difficult by the family's lack of technical English knowledge.
As a result, one family did not respond quickly enough, and the CRA billed them $27,000. Thankfully, the family's private sponsorship group found out and were able to help the family clear things up. This allowed the group to intervene in advance to prevent a second targeted family from being billed.
The CRA has long been accused of only targeting so-called “low-hanging fruit” for audits and clawbacks, but this is a new low.
The use of tax havens, tax-law loopholes and aggressive tax avoidance schemes result in fat cat CEOs and wealthy international corporations failing to pay their fair share every single year. The stock option loophole allows the wealthiest executives to drain over $1 billion from federal and provincial budgets. Federal and provincial governments lose an estimated $7.8 billion through wealthy corporations hiding their profits in offshore tax havens.
The paradise papers and the Panama papers provide the compelling details of the aggressive tax avoidance that is well entrenched in Canada, yet the CRA has done little to address the issues presented there. Instead, it goes after refugee families.
Whether it is ignoring the issues of aggressive tax avoidance by the wealthiest among us, paying billions for a 65-year-old leaky pipeline to bail out a Texas oil company or putting backroom pressure on the former attorney general to go easy on SNC, this Liberal government has made it abundantly clear whose side it is on: the rich, the powerful, the well-connected.
The Liberals are not here to make life better or more affordable for average everyday Canadians. The Liberal government gave the CRA $1 billion to tackle tax fraud and avoidance, and this is how it is being spent.
Budget 2019 gives the government one last chance to live up to its own rhetoric. Will the government use this opportunity to finally ensure that the wealthiest in this country pay their fair share, or will it be more of the same, where working-class and middle-class Canadians, including recently settled refugees, are targeted by the CRA to fund more corporate cash giveaways?