Madam Speaker, I am glad to be joining this debate on the most exciting of subjects, tax and a tax treaty. For those constituents of ours who are tuning in on CPAC this early morning, or who have come to watch in the gallery, this is as exciting as this place is going to get, I think, until question period. I see the parliamentary secretary nodding his head, because he knows this too.
I am also glad his intervention covered so much subject matter beyond Bill S-6, because that now allows me to delve into the government's record on taxes, its management of different public policy issues like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, consumer confidence in Canada and business confidence in Canada, as well as how the government has approached Bill S-6.
I will start with an observation about this tax treaty and some of the comments made by the parliamentary secretary. He seemed to be placing Bill S-6 within the confines of trying to achieve greater tax fairness and doing other great things with the Government of Madagascar. He said the bill would make sure that Canadian companies and Canadian taxpayers who may be doing business in Madagascar would not be double taxed, and that it would increase trade and do all of these wonderful things.
However, when I asked officials a question at the Standing Committee on Finance, we heard there was such a small number of tax filers with tax filings in Madagascar that each instance raises confidentiality concerns. Officials from Finance Canada responded to me that these concerns are such that, “consistent with the taxpayer confidentiality protections in the Income Tax Act, the department is precluded from releasing these data”.
This may be why Bill S-6 comes from the other place, the Senate side. The department told me in this official letter to the Standing Committee on Finance that there are so few tax filers impacted by this that the department would not be able to release the data. I had asked which sectors of the Canadian economy and which sectors of the Madagascar economy would be affected, and whether there were any good examples. I did a quick Google and DuckDuckGo search, and I was able to find that Sherritt International was one of the companies in question. It is mostly a mining consortium. There was very little else that I could find.
To the credit of the Department of Finance, it did a pretty thorough review. It reviewed sources including the T1134 information return on foreign affiliates of Canadian taxpayers, the T1135 information return that collects data on specified foreign property holdings, the T106 information return on non-arm's length transactions with related non-residents, and Schedule 21 to the T2 corporate tax return on foreign income tax credits. The department examined all of the years to 2011 and then the subsequent years.
For those still able to follow, either in the public gallery or at home, Finance Canada did a thorough search to double-check how many of these filings would include Madagascar in some way, and they are actually very, very few. Perhaps the tax treaty will enable more business to be conducted by Canadians in that particular country, and there are opportunities yet to be found for this tax treaty and the consolidation of some of the rules to make it simpler for individuals to do business in both. I was unable to find an instance through any international organization or online that showed that Madagascar was behaving like a tax haven. I think that assuages some of the concerns individuals may have had.
I am sure the government knows that I will be supporting this piece of legislation as well. There was no concern about curbing tax evasion through Bill S-6, or about a potential increase in tax evasion. In fact, this is a very small piece of legislation that does not do what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said. It is not part of a broader approach. If there are so few tax filers that the information cannot be released, then the impact is negligible. Therefore, it cannot be counted as part of the government's broader plan.
I am pouring out my heart here on what I believe about Bill S-6 and its contents, having spent several meetings at committee looking at this particular piece of legislation. I am feeling lighter. As the Yiddish proverb goes, when one pours out one's heart, one feels lighter, so now that the parliamentary secretary has poured out his heart about the government and what he believes its achievements are, I am going to do the opposite. I am going to poke holes in a couple of things he said. I am going to poke holes in some of the Liberal government's achievements, including in some of the statistics it likes to use.
At committee we asked both Global Affairs and Finance Canada for information on the specifics of Bill S-6 and who it would impact. We were told the bill would impact the mining sector. We were also told that detailed information could not be released because it would compromise the privacy of certain tax filers.
That is unusual. In prior cases, when we have done these tax consolidation treaties or signed up to multilateral international instruments with respect to taxes, such as Bill C-82, which was the tax treaty of tax treaties, it was always tens or hundreds of thousands of Canadians who would be impacted. That included Canadian-controlled private corporations in Canada. There would be many of them, so it was easier for us to estimate the impact.
The parliamentary secretary mentioned base erosion and profit sharing, which is not a fixed section in this particular piece of legislation. We have already had legislation to cover that off.
When I mentioned to my kids, who are very young, with my oldest being 10, that I debated an obscure bill called the Canada-Madagascar tax treaty, the first thing they wanted to talk about was King Julien and Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, the famed characters from Penguins of Madagascar and the other movies in the Madagascar series. My kids were thrilled to watch that series when they were younger, and they are still thrilled to watch it today.
However, this piece of legislation is not about that. I am sorry to burst their bubble but this, unfortunately, is not about King Julien or those four little penguins.
The parliamentary secretary went off on a tangent at one point. He mentioned that the tax treaty in Bill S-6 would increase consumer confidence, and that it was part of a slew of policy decisions the government has been making to increase both consumer and business confidence. If he had bothered to check the latest statistics posted by different economic analysis bodies online, or if he had bothered to check the Conference Board of Canada, he would have seen that consumer confidence is just as low as it was in 2015. It has not improved since then. We can see that in our communities. I can see it in cities and towns all over Alberta.
However, there is more consumer confidence in Alberta now that we have Premier Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party in charge. A new cabinet has been sworn in, and on Tuesday of next week the members of the legislative assembly will be sworn in. I hope we will know the new plan for the province on Wednesday.
Some of that plan has already come out. The government of Alberta has already announced that it will get rid of the punishing provincial NDP carbon tax, which was far more punishing on Albertans and Alberta businesses than the federal backstop. That does not mean the backstop is any good. It does not mean the federal carbon tax is any better.
The Alberta government is basically proposing to return to the old system, which was working. It was the first system to put a price on carbon for the largest emitters, not directly on consumers. The system worked. It was lauded all across North America at the time. It did not punish consumers directly for their behaviour, but was specifically aimed at the largest emitters, who were making it part of their business plans. That is the difference. May 31 is the last day of the Alberta carbon tax.
We can really see consumer confidence returning in Alberta. People are more confident now that they have a government that is on their side and will back up the decisions of private businesses, everyday Albertans, the mom-and-pop convenience stores, the local dry cleaner and the small oil and gas servicing company that has somehow managed to just get by over the last few years.
Albertans are on the cusp. They know that prosperity might return with the right decisions being made by their government to get involved, not to make decisions for them but to support them in the decisions that will create new jobs, create more business investment and lead to higher returns in terms of corporate and personal income taxes.
That is how consumer confidence returns, not by having what we have seen from the federal Liberal government over the past four years. The Liberals created a situation here in Canada that made it impossible to build a pipeline. Energy east was cancelled because of regulatory red tape. Northern gateway was cancelled by cabinet order. There already is a functioning Trans Mountain pipeline, but the Liberals caused a situation in which Kinder Morgan saw no real means to get the expansion built. It was losing construction seasons to it, so the government expropriated it. The government bought it for $4.5 billion.
Now we know from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that the government not only overpaid for the pipeline project by $1 billion but will also need to extract another $8 billion to $9 billion from the taxpayer to build this pipeline.
There has been talk of legislation and there has been talk of an expedited process, but we are waiting until later in June to find out whether this pipeline will get perhaps half a construction season. We know that construction seasons in Canada are short. Basically, there is a construction season and then there is winter. These are essentially the two seasons we have in Canada. Most people who live in big cities know this, as they have experienced it. We are going to lose a second construction season, and this does nothing but reduce business confidence and reduce consumer confidence.
How can Canadians have faith in a government that purchases a pipeline, overpays for it, and loses money every single month operating it? When the interest being paid on the debt is subtracted from the tolls charged on the pipeline, Liberals are losing money every single month operating in the most profitable part of the energy sector, which is shipping.
I hear constantly from the Minister of Natural Resources, who is from Edmonton and should know better, as once the oil gets to the west coast, 99.95% of the product shipped out of the port of Vancouver goes to California. Those are not my statistics; I am not making them up. I asked the Library of Parliament to confirm them for me. This is from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The port itself has said that 99.95% of the product goes to California to feed the refineries there.
Therefore, this is not about reaching new markets on the current pipeline, and perhaps not even on the future pipeline. A series of public policy decisions led to a situation such that a private company felt unable to build a pipeline because of obstruction at the federal and provincial levels. Those obstructions are not gone; they have just become purely governmental. All the decision-making is on the government side.
When I knocked on doors in my communities and for my provincial counterparts, which I did during this past election in Alberta, I heard time and time again that people have no faith whatsoever in the Liberal government's ability to deliver on the construction of a pipeline and no faith in the government's ability to manage public finances.
The parliamentary secretary mentioned the Liberals' great plan to increase affordability for the middle class and that Liberals reduced the tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%. I remind the parliamentary secretary and all members of the House that the biggest tax break from those tax changes went to every single member of Parliament in this chamber. Those who were earning $45,000 or less got zero. They received no benefit whatsoever from that tax cut, but because of the way the progressive tax system works, every single member of Parliament in this chamber got over $800 off their taxes at the end of the day.
That is what the Liberal government did. Those of us in this chamber are not the middle class, but the Liberals did this and claimed it was for the benefit of the middle class. They gave themselves a bigger tax cut than they gave not so much to the working poor, but to people trying to get by and get ahead, people who are taking jobs that many people do not want to take. They work hard for the wages and salaries they earn.
Instead, they received higher payroll taxes. There has been a CPP increase as well, which is taking away from their income at the end of the day and taking away their ability to choose how they want to save.
The second part is that they have a carbon tax to pay. We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance speak to this, and in the scenarios he noted, he gave OECD numbers. A colleague of mine mentioned that a family on the lower income scale with two kids would not be getting back all of that money. The parliamentary secretary's numbers only make sense if we include the child benefit, which is just a re-badging of the old universal child care benefit. It is the original Conservative policy that was introduced when the government wanted to introduce a universal, one-size-fits-all, cradle-to-old-age welfare system. Whereas the government would take care of our children directly under this system, the UCCB was meant to empower parents, and that is how we should be looking at it.
The government claims that if we look at all government policy together, the carbon tax is not so bad. However, that does not help the kind of family my colleague mentioned, which is not seeing these rebates.
As well, if we look more closely at the GGPPA, which is the acronym for the government's carbon tax bill that is over 200 pages long, and then if we look at this latest budget document and some of the implementation portions of it, including the algebra formula that implements the rebate program for the federal carbon tax, we see that there is a provision that would allow the minister of finance to exclude any money he or she wishes from the rebate. A finance minister could give it to any other minister he or she wants, for any program, infrastructure or purpose. It is right there in the formula. There is no guarantee in the legislation that Canadians would receive any sort of rebate on the carbon tax, and it will never replace the full amount.
It is absolutely illogical and irrational to say that 100% of the collected tax will be returned to those who pay it. There always is and there always will be an administrative cost in collecting a tax, unless people think that public servants work for free and they think the lights and the heating in this place come for free, and they do not. It has to cost a certain amount of money, which is why we say the government is misleading them. The way the government presents the facts around the carbon rebate and the carbon tax is ingenious, but it is not an environmental plan; it is a tax plan. It is as simple as that.
To return to the point of consumer confidence and how we have not seen it return, some of the facts on LNG speak for themselves. In the case of LNG, $78 billion worth of projects in Canada have been cancelled since 2015. Those are LNG projects that have been completely abandoned by the companies that were proposing them. Tens of thousands of potential well-paying construction jobs, many of them unionized, are gone. They will not be created, because that $78 billion to put people to work has been removed from the private sector. That is an important fact to remember.
The only large-scale project that I am aware of that is going ahead is LNG Canada's project. LNG Canada is a consortium. Mitsubishi is involved and Petronas is involved. The only reason that the consortium went ahead with the project is that it has an exclusion and an exemption from the carbon tax. Of course a company will go ahead and build a large-scale industrial project, as LNG Canada is proposing to do, when it gets an exemption to a tax.
I cannot imagine any regular, everyday, hard-working taxpayers being told by the Liberal government that CRA is going to give them an exemption this year so that they do not have to pay taxes because they are doing so well in producing jobs and growing their business or are earning a higher salary because they work hard. Nobody gets that type of exclusion or exemption.
I will spend my last two minutes on my favourite subject, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, because Madagascar, this country that we are signing a tax treaty with, is a member of this bank. As I said, the parliamentary secretary, by going on a tangent, has allowed me to go on a tangent here. Madagascar is a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. As far as I know, it has not received any project yet. It has only spent $15 million to $20 million, which is a paltry sum compared to the nearly half a billion dollars that Canada has set aside. That same money is being used to build pipelines all over Asia, including in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh and the suburbs of Beijing.
I am pouring my heart out here. As my Yiddish proverb said, I am feeling lighter from being able to speak about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. If we in Canada are unable to build pipelines, which are the safest way to move energy, it seems absolutely wrong to be giving a half a billion dollars to governments in Asia and to the China-controlled, Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
I support Bill S-6, a small piece of legislation coming to us from the Senate, but I do not support the government's agenda and its repeated failures to get large-scale energy infrastructure built in Canada. I do not support the government's policies that have undermined business confidence and the confidence of Canadians. October cannot come soon enough. The current Liberal government is not as advertised.