Mr. Speaker, I hope you did not pay too much attention to the last two speeches we just heard, because they were rather hypocritical.
These people say one thing and do the opposite. They are grasping at straws, looking for excuses. When they find things that do not suit their narrative, they say it is too complicated, it would be hard to do, or we have to wait for the OECD. These people have incredible resources, but they look for excuses to get out of doing anything.
We see that from both the Conservatives and the Liberals. As far as tax evasion and the use of tax havens are concerned, the system was built under Conservative and Liberal governments with the support of Canada's big banks and major accounting firms, which have spent years having fun helping Canadian millionaires, billionaires and corporations profit from not having to pay their fair share of taxes.
I want to point out that the NDP has been monitoring and working on the issue of tax evasion and tax havens for years.
I have already congratulated my colleague from Montarville on Motion No. 69, which we are debating today. I also want to acknowledge the work of the member for Joliette, who has been passionate about this file for years and has spoken about it a number of times. I can assure him that we want the same thing.
I do want to caution my colleagues though. I moved a motion in favour of fighting tax havens during the previous Parliament. The motion we moved in the House was adopted, and the Liberals voted in favour of it. However, they went on to sign new tax treaties with other tax havens.
I wish my colleague from Montarville the best of luck, but I want to warn him that the Conservatives and the Liberals may sometimes vote in favour of a given declaration of intent or worthy principle with which we agree as a progressive, left-wing political party, but that does not always produce the expected results. Let us hope it will be different this time. My colleague can always count on the NDP caucus to demand more justice and equity in this area.
The principle behind tax havens is not very complicated. I spoke about it earlier. It has been explained by many people, including Alain Deneault, who wrote a book called Une escroquerie légalisée: précis sur les « paradis fiscaux », or “A legalized scam: a closer look at tax havens”. Contrary to what my Conservative colleague said, we must fight all illegal actions. That is obvious, but the problem is that, with all the agreements and treaties that have been signed over the years, the use of tax havens is largely legal. This is due to the principle of avoiding double taxation.
Based on that principle and the use of tax havens, the same income or profit cannot be taxed twice. Let me give a simple example, that of Barbados, which is the oldest tax haven with which Canada has had an agreement, since 1980, if memory serves.
People send their money, profits or income to Barbados, where they pay 1% tax on that income. Then they can bring that money back to Canada and say that they have already paid taxes on it, and they will not be taxed twice on the same income. If it is a business, it should pay a minimum of 15% tax here. If it is an individual, it would be 30% in taxes. I am giving these percentages as examples, but the principle is that income cannot be taxed twice.
However, why could we not eliminate the advantage of using tax havens by telling these people that although the tax in Barbados is 1%, when they return to Canada, repatriate their money and put it Canadian accounts, the difference will be taxed?
They would be made to pay the taxes they did not pay here, in Canada. If someone only pays 1% in taxes on their company's profits because they were sent to Barbados, why could we not make them pay 14% in taxes?
This would eliminate any incentive to use such schemes. In the end, they would not pay more tax, but they would pay exactly the same percentage as other Quebec and Canadian citizens and other businesses, small or large, in Canada. This would uphold the principle of tax equity and eliminate all the advantages of using these schemes, which Alain Deneault does not refer to as avoidance of double taxation but rather “double non-taxation”, meaning these profits are basically not taxed anywhere. Someone pays a negligible amount of taxes in the tax haven, and then they pay nothing here, with the excuse that the revenue has already been taxed.
According to the member for Montarville, the traditional governing parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, sometimes say they cannot do anything about it. The NDP thinks they can. We think they are accommodating, complicit even, because they operate according to these rules. They want things to work this way, so they work hand in hand with the big Canadian banks. For years, those banks have had branches in tropical paradises, where it is warm and lovely, so they can help the super-rich, the millionaires and billionaires, avoid paying their fair share for our public services, like health, public transit, education and well-funded, public universities.
More than $80 billion Canadian are hidden in Barbados alone, the oldest tax haven with which Canada does business. Canada cannot access that money. That is what happens when people use tax havens. It undermines the equality of individuals and our ability to act.
Tax havens have multiplied over the years. One of the most obvious and glaring examples is the Cayman Islands, where there are more registered companies than there are residents. This means one of two things. Either their inhabitants are extremely entrepreneurial and own two or three companies each, or the Cayman Islands have become a kind of post office box where companies pretend to have a branch or office. Entire buildings contain nothing but post office boxes, so that companies can prove they have an address there, and therefore not pay taxes.
All of these schemes are well known, and yet Canadian governments, led by the traditional parties, have done absolutely nothing for years. This has serious repercussions, especially in these pandemic times, when huge investments are needed not only to fight COVID-19, but also to ensure an equitable, fair and green economic recovery that takes climate change and the climate crisis into account.
Government spending or investments are considerable and that is normal. We are living beyond our means, however, and at some point we are going to have to think about making cuts. Then it will be time for the Conservatives' favourite topic: austerity and making cuts to public services and services for families, seniors and students.
That is not the path the NDP wants to take whatsoever. If we look at government spending alone without looking at revenues, then we are getting it wrong. As the left-leaning progressive party, we are saying that we can bring in a healthy portion of revenues from the fight against tax havens.
We must seize this opportunity. A few years ago, the Department of Finance said that Canada loses roughly $16 billion a year to tax havens and that was a conservative estimate. The Conference Board of Canada thinks it is more than $90 billion. That organization is not known to have an international socialist bent that wants to bleed the big banks and the wealthy. Let us just say that we are talking about tens of billions of dollars.
Why can we not all work together and take this opportunity to say that enough is enough and put an end to this? We can accomplish a lot of things more effectively in a coalition or multilaterally with our OECD partners, and that is a good thing.
However, most of Canada's tax treaties are bilateral, between Canada and one other country. There is therefore no need to wait for the United Nations or the OECD to act. If they do, that is great and we will collaborate, but we can act on our own initiative. That would bring in more money and would be more fair for our businesses that pay their fair share of taxes in Canada.
The NDP has other measures to propose to increase revenues, such as a tax on wealth for those who earn over $20 million a year and a tax on the excessive profits of companies like Amazon and Netflix. In that regard, a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicated that a temporary tax on the excessive profits of these companies could bring in up to $8 billion a year.
We therefore have to seize these opportunities, and the NDP will be very proud to support Motion No. 69. It is a step in the right direction, but there are still many other things we can do to improve tax fairness. The NDP has all kinds of good ideas to share in that regard.