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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was per.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for St. Paul's (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 54% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment March 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian people know which side of the House is talking and which side of the House is acting.

On the question of the CPP contribution increase, it is somewhat irresponsible of the hon. member opposite to talk about something as a job killer when it is an investment in the public pension plan shared risk that all of us share to ensure a decent retirement, a foundation for retirement. It is contributions toward a fund that is invested for the benefit of the workers, the present retirees, the future retirees. It is something that we will continue to support and make sure is viable and sustainable.

Employment March 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is simply untrue to leave the impression that the government does not care about employment. We care very deeply about it. Our strategies which are reflected in our budgets support that.

First and foremost we have, as the hon. member and his colleagues have insisted we do, maintained the course on deficit reduction. That has kept interest rates low, leading to investment.

That is going to translate into greater job growth this year. We are not stopping there and not sitting back.

The hon. member represents a party whose approach to all these questions is simply cut taxes for their friends, sit back and wait for everything else to happen. Canadians want a government that takes action so not only is it acting on deficit reduction but it is investing in short term growth and providing immediate impetus for jobs through infrastructure, foreign trade, youth employment measures, unemployment insurance reforms, reform of the CPP. It is also investing in long term growth in jobs through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, through higher education support for that and investing in a stronger society, something we care very much about.

Employment March 7th, 1997

Mr Speaker, we are concerned about the February figures which the hon. member mentioned.

I point out to him that the unemployment rate has not risen but has stayed the same. The trend over the the last four months has been strong job growth. If he had read this morning's papers he would have seen articles by a number of analysts who clearly stated that while this is disappointing, all the prospects for continued job growth are there.

This morning's papers were full of indications of increased house starts, increased house resales, increased purchases, increases confidence. As private sector forecasters assert, those indicators will lead to 300,000 to 350,000 new jobs in the coming year when Canada will lead the industrialized countries in growth.

Underground Economy March 5th, 1997

Madam Speaker, as the Minister of Canadian Heritage mentioned, the CBC makes all the decisions concerning its programming and its daily operations. This includes the decisions concerning French language television programming.

That having been said, I am pleased to provide details to the hon. member regarding the measures announced by the CBC on January 30, regarding its French language radio and television. These initiatives will improve services provided by Radio-Canada to French speaking communities outside Quebec.

According to the CBC news release:

The half-hour French language news bulletin Ce soir , which is aired at dinner time, will be maintained in the four western provinces, and will have a new format as of this spring.

As for other programs from western stations, services will remain essentially the same and regional teams will continue to produce news stories and information programs that will be broadcasted by Radio-Canada and RDI.

The French language radio will provide $500,000 in additional support to the stations most affected, namely Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver and Windsor, to focus on regional and local programming.

Except in Vancouver, there will be at least 36 hours per week of French language radio programs. Regional programming on the national network will be maintained and, in some cases, increased.

In Acadia, special arrangements will allow the Moncton station to maintain infrastructures to preserve regional and network programming. These infrastructures will also be made available to independent producers.

Radio-Canada has been present for a long time in Canada's regions, and it is an integral part of the communities that it serves. These measures reflect the public broadcaster's determination to provide regional programming and, particularly, to meet the needs of minority French language communities outside Quebec.

On February 11, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that, as of April, annual additional funding of $10 million would be provided to CBC's French and English language radio, as well as stable multiyear funding.

Underground Economy March 5th, 1997

Madam Speaker, Treasury Board is responsible for establishing the overall policy and for providing general guidance to departments in its implementation. This includes the need for them to be sensitive to the cumulative impact of fees on their clients.

We view the assessment of cumulative impacts as a very important issue with respect to the introduction or amendment of user charges. Officials of the Treasury Board secretariat assemble an advisory committee of businesses and consumer groups to help them draft a revised set of cost recovery policy guidelines. We see this policy development as a first and important step toward ensuring that all departments and agencies work toward the same goals when they introduce or amend fees.

Program review has changed the way government conducts business. Many activities are being totally re-engineered to ensure Canadians get the best value for money spent. Scarce tax dollars cannot continue to be used to fund programs that provide specific benefits to clients which are over and above those provided to the general taxpayer.

In our efforts to improve the focus of government spending we are paying more attention to who receives benefits from government activities. Unfortunately shifting such costs to those who benefit will necessary involve fee introductions or increases in those areas which seem large when viewed outside this context. We all know nobody objects to paying their fair share, but those impacted by these changes want and deserve a voice in what happens. Departments and agencies must give clients an opportunity to provide input as to how services for which they have to pay can be improved.

However, this is not a one way street. Departments and agencies must keep an eye on their overriding policy objectives as they work with suggestions for change. The Treasury Board will not impose a ceiling on charges. However, it wants to ensure that departments carefully assess how such fees affect clients before they are put in place. Ministers of line departments are responsible for implementing cost recovery for programs under their area of responsibility and for assessing the economic impacts of specific initiatives.

I cannot over-emphasize the role that clients will have to play in any such exercise. The specific impact of user charges will vary greatly across clients, depending on their particular circumstances. Therefore, open dialogue between clients and departments is crucial to understanding and resolving inequitable situations which may arise.

Underground Economy March 5th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I begin by recognizing my hon. colleague from Guelph-Wellington for her work as chair of the subcommittee of the national Liberal caucus committee on economic development. In late December 1996 the subcommittee held hearings to examine the underground economy, taking the first of many important steps in the government's efforts to address the underground economy.

I welcome the opportunity the motion presents to review the government's continuing efforts to address the underground economy. The issue is fundamental to the integrity of the tax system. The government must ensure that taxes owed are taxes paid so that Canadians have faith in the fundamental fairness of our tax system.

The Canadian tax system is based on the principles of self-assessment and voluntary compliance. Most Canadians are honest and pay the taxes they owe. In fact about 95 per cent of tax revenues are collected without any direct enforcement action. There are areas of the economy where there is lower compliance and where the government has had to focus its efforts. The underground economy is one of those areas.

The underground economy we are talking about are those transactions, often cash transactions, on which income is not reported or is only partially reported for tax purposes.

There is nothing romantic or harmless about the underground economy. The simple fact is that all of us benefit from the economic and social programs funded by our governments. When some individuals do not pay their fair share of taxes to support those programs it is the rest of us who have to pay more.

The underground economy comprises business competing unfairly with honest firms, because they can offer consumers lower prices, as they pay no income tax and do not contribute to the Canada pension plan, the employment insurance plan or to workmen's compensation.

In this context, the honest firms paying their fair share of taxes may be forced to accept smaller revenues, indeed to lay off employees and even, in some cases, to close their doors.

Consumers themselves become part of the problem of the underground economy when they agree to pay cash in exchange for a better price, which enables the business or the tradesperson to hide the operation and avoid all taxes. This sort of behaviour hurts all consumers and all members of our society.

In fact, lost government revenues cannot be used for essential services benefitting all Canadians, such as health care, education and other social programs.

The problem of the underground economy is one we cannot and do not ignore. Let me expand on what our government and Revenue Canada have done and the progress we have made since 1993.

The action plan the government has developed and implemented puts heavy emphasis on voluntary compliance and the things that support it. It is a plan that balances partnership, education and service activities with enhanced enforcement. Let me emphasize that our strategy to deal with the underground economy is designed to promote the principle our tax system is based on, voluntary compliance.

From an economic point of view that is a smart strategy. It costs the government less to obtain taxes that are paid voluntarily than it does for Revenue Canada to go out looking for, auditing and investigating those who do not comply.

Given this context, education is a major tool in battling the underground economy. Through its education efforts Revenue Canada has raised public awareness of the consequences of the underground economy and tax evasion. Presentations have been made to local community and business organizations. Information sessions have been held at universities, colleges and high schools. Revenue Canada staff visits business people in communities across the country to inform them about their efforts to combat this problem and to encourage a level playing field for honest businesses.

During these visits they provide information on departmental services, answer questions and provide assistance to make it easier for businesses to comply with the various tax regimes. Overall I am glad to report that during the past two years Revenue Canada staff

has visited over 100 communities and met with more than 21,000 businesses.

Another important element of Revenue Canada's action plan is to inform individuals what happens if they have not reported all their income and they want to come clean.

Revenue Canada's voluntary disclosure policy enables all those who take part in the underground economy and those who have not complied with the law to correct any omissions in the income they declare to the department.

This policy is based on a simple principle: if a disclosure is made voluntarily, that is, before the department has begun an audit or taken other enforcement action, no penalty or sanction, such as prosecution for tax evasion, will be imposed. The individual will simply be required to pay the tax due plus interest.

It is has sometimes been suggested that a temporary tax amnesty would be useful in addressing the underground economy. The state of New York experienced some success recently with just such a program.

Revenue Canada's voluntary disclosure policy is better than any temporary amnesty program because it is permanent. Individuals who are drawn into the underground economy do not have to stay in hiding for several years hoping and waiting for an opportunity to change their ways without fear of criminal prosecution for monetary penalties. Revenue Canada's voluntary disclosure policy is a responsible approach to collecting the taxes rightfully owing to the government and has proven to be successful in recent years, borne out by the fact that voluntary disclosures have tripled since 1993. People can make voluntary disclosures by contacting any Revenue Canada office.

There is no question that enforcement has to be a fundamental element of our fight against the underground economy. That is why Revenue Canada has currently dedicated over 1,200 auditors to strengthen its efforts to identify non-filers and GST non-registrants and to conduct audits of small businesses in sectors of high non-compliance. Special audit teams have been established to focus on the construction, home renovation, jewellery, auto sales and repairs, hospitality and other service sectors, areas that can lend themselves to underground tax evasion.

Revenue Canada makes extensive use of state of the art technology to cross match data from numerous sources including municipal and provincial databanks to identify non-filers and GST non-residents. Last year this helped identify over 500,000 non-filers and GST non-registrants.

To enhance these activities the Minister of Finance announced in the 1996 budget that 800 more auditors would be devoted to Revenue Canada's audit program for unincorporated businesses and self-employed individuals. This will increase the audit coverage rate for these groups and bring it more in line with the continued growth in this sector.

I would add that this co-operative effort is not limited to audits for provinces that have concluded tax collection agreements. Quebec, for example, collects its own taxes, but we co-operate closely with officials in joint strategies and we co-ordinate our activities with their own business audit activities in the fight against the underground economy.

I would also point out that Quebec has invested significant resources in this problem and taken a very focused approach in the fight against tax evasion and the underground economy. These are positive measures that will add to our strategy in the fight against the underground economy.

What about the bottom line of our enforcement initiatives? I am glad to report that since 1993 our enforcement efforts have yielded more than $1.7 billion of additional revenue for the government.

Another important facet of Revenue Canada's audit activities is the information it gets from other federal departments and from the provinces and territories. Statistics Canada, Transport Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada provide important information that facilitates audit selection and enforcement. Human Resources Development Canada works closely with Revenue Canada to identify links between employment insurance fraud and tax evasion. Revenue Canada also has an extensive network of provincial co-operation agreements that provide for information exchanges, joint enforcement action, shared experience and compliance.

These co-operative agreements are not limited to the public sector. During the past few years Revenue Canada has consulted with over 400 national and local industry groups and professional associations. These consultations are extremely effective in providing a common understanding of issues and obtaining private sector co-operation. These groups and associations include Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Canadian Construction Association, the Canadian Home Builders Association, the Canadian Jewellers Association and others. Each industry has its own unique character and issues. For that reason Revenue Canada is not applying blanket solutions. Instead, the department is working with industries on an individual basis to develop workable solutions.

One result of these partnerships was the announcement by the Minister of Finance in the 1996 budget of a new contract payment reporting system for the construction and home building industry.

Key industry groups and various trade unions are working in partnership with Revenue Canada to encourage these businesses to voluntarily report all payments made to contractors and to subcontractors.

For the small percentage of Canadians who feel they are above the law, Revenue Canada uses another effective tool, the widespread publication of successful prosecutions.

Bringing this information to the general public's attention has a major impact on the number of leads of potential tax fraud that the department has received. Since 1993, these have increased substantially to more than $28,000 annually.

Revenue Canada is taking an analytical approach to identifying and addressing non-compliance issues to ensure enforcement resources are used efficiently and effectively. The department is using technology to analyse data and assess the risk of non-compliance in specific sectors. Audits are then directed to those areas.

We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Revenue Canada has developed a long term strategy for the fight against the underground economy, which strikes a fair balance between measures promoting voluntary compliance and enforcement action.

Certain elements are essential to the success of this strategy. We must make the public aware. We must work with industry and other levels of government. We must take effective enforcement action.

We must ensure that every Canadian understands the underground economy threatens government services and programs. It imposes an unfair burden on honest taxpayers.

In conclusion, I commend the hon. member for Guelph-Wellington for bringing this matter once again to the floor of this House, supporting the government in its efforts to address the underground economy.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, if we are talking about chutzpah, let us talk about March 1, 1995 when Reform's subamendment asked members of this House to vote against the Liberal budget because it did not cut fast enough. They were opposed to the budget because it did not cut fast enough.

I would like the member to tell this House, to share with us how it is that he can stand there and criticize the cuts as he just did when he voted in opposition to the budget because it did not cut fast enough.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, where I come from we have a courtesy that we do not turn our backs on each other when we have asked somebody a question. On March 1, 1995, the member opposite voted in support of a subamendment on the budget saying that it should be defeated for its failure to eliminate the deficit quickly and decisively. In other words, more cuts, deeper cuts than the ones he is criticizing right now.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, let me take the last part first because it is easy. The hon. member opposite asks about the motion. This budget is in the interest of all Canadians.

Let me come to the substance of what he was saying. I have many numbers in front of me from their budget which, not surprisingly, do not add up.

I guess I cannot comment on who is here and who is not, but I wish the member could hear this. On March 1, 1995, the member who just spoke but who is not here to listen supported a subamendment to the budget that asked that the budget be defeated because it failed to eliminate the deficit quickly and decisively enough.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, talk about rhetoric. It is really incredible. My copy of the taxpayers' budget in brief is getting sort of dog eared. It is interesting reading. When I look through it, it is really incredible.

Reformers suggest they have a better way. Let me explain their better way. Their better way has been called slash and burn. Their better way would gut the very programs we are saving and preserving for Canadians, for instance the CPP, support for seniors, the employment insurance program. Their broad and dramatic cuts would have kicked in by now if their budget had governed the country over the last three years. Instead we have had a reasoned, prudent and balanced approach and this country has survived enormous sacrifices.

I would like the member opposite to come to my riding and talk to people who have shared the pain with other Canadians of the cuts we have made and tell them that they should be cut deeper and longer to make the same achievement faster than we are making prudently in a reasoned and measured way which Canadians support because it supports their values.