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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberal.

NDP MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Financial Institutions March 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the evidence and the stories keep piling up; something is indeed rotten in the state of Canada's banks.

High-pressure sales, toxic financial products, lack of consent, no disclosure, and even lies: that is how our banks are treating us, as household debt rises to a peak. Shareholders rule and to hell with the customers!

Is the Liberal government going to respond? Is the Liberal government going to support the NDP motion asking for a parliamentary inquiry on the questionable practices of Canadian banks?

Canada Revenue Agency March 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government lets KPMG hide a rich client's money on the Isle of Man, does it consider the message it sends to honest taxpayers? It is precisely because of these practices in tax havens that we cannot properly care for our seniors or support our students.

Treaties with tax havens amount to robbery. They pay peanuts over there and send nothing back.

Will the Liberal government revisit these treaties so that these companies pay their fair share, like everyone else?

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the mess of the KPMG scheme, with some degree of complicity from the Canada Revenue Agency, is very worrying. The government is failing to take action.

In the United States, when someone is found guilty of tax evasion, the fine is from 20% to 27% interest on the amount owed to the government. In Canada, unfortunately, it is zero. That is not much of a deterrent.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that Statistics Canada itself came up with the $7-billion figure when estimating lost revenue due to tax evasion and the use of tax havens. It would be no problem for me to find out the year the report was published.

The problem with the figure provided by Statistics Canada is that employees are able to estimate the amount only when the companies or individuals tell them that they have sent money to tax havens and that money came back here after the transfer. They are not obligated to systematically report this to Statistics Canada. The result is that these estimates are based on data that has been voluntarily submitted.

This is why the Conference Board of Canada and Canadians for Tax Fairness quote numbers much higher than $7 billion or $8 billion.

We regard that figure as a minimum and believe the actual amount to be much higher.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government crows over its investment of $444 million in the Canada Revenue Agency. No one has been arrested and no charges have been laid, however, so they cannot be said to have a good batting average, as we say in baseball.

In his mandate letter to the Minister of National Revenue, the Prime Minister wrote:

We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government.... Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.

One man wrote:

Now is the time for the prime minister to order the Canada Revenue Agency to get with the program and provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with the required information, so Canadians will know the actual amount of taxes owed, but not collected, and what resources the CRA needs to collect those taxes. Only then will the CRA meet the standard of openness and transparency set by the prime minister.

This was written by a senator from Charlottetown.

Business of Supply March 7th, 2017

moved:

That, given the government loses tens of billions of dollars annually to tax loopholes, deductions, and exemptions that mostly benefit the wealthy and estimates suggest that tax evasion through the use of offshore tax havens costs the government more than $7 billion dollars annually, the House call on the government to: (a) address tax measures that primarily benefit the wealthy, including keeping its promise to cap the stock option deduction loophole; and (b) take aggressive action to tackle tax havens including (i) tightening rules for shell companies, (ii) renegotiating tax treaties that let companies repatriate profits from tax havens to Canada tax-free, (iii) ending penalty-free amnesty deals for individuals suspected of tax evasion.

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the always very diligent and meticulous member for Sherbrooke. It will be my pleasure to give him the floor on this fundamental issue. I do not think I have ever discussed an issue with such serious consequences on the state's ability to provide services to Canadians.

I think it is now fair to say that we no longer live in a fair and equitable tax environment that works well for our workers, those less fortunate, and the poorest families in our country.

Let us put things in context. We live in a society where every year we hear the same old story: by noon on January 2, CEOs of major Canadian companies have already earned as much in a little over 24 hours as an average worker will earn for the entire 365 days of the year. It is this type of inequitable society that the successive Conservative and Liberal governments have built over time.

Two billionaire Canadians have as much money as the poorest third of the population. Two people alone have the equivalent of what 12 million people have in our country. Are we supposed to just accept that and move on? The highest paid CEOs in Canada earn 193 times more than the average salary and the gap has only gotten bigger over the years.

A number of things explain this increased inequality. According to the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, for a decade now, inequality has been growing at a much faster rate in Canada than in the United States, a society often considered to have greater inequality. Inequality is growing faster here than there. How did that happen? What caused this to happen? There are several reasons. In his book Une escroquerie légalisée, Alain Deneault provides a list of reasons that is impressive, but not comprehensive.

First, there was the reduction in federal corporate tax rates, which dropped from 37.8% in 1981 to only 15% in 2012. Next, the federal capital tax was eliminated. Then, the federal capital gains inclusion rate was cut from 75% to 50% in 2000. I will come back to that. We could also mention the sales tax and duty exemptions, and the fact that some companies can indefinitely defer payment of their taxes. Well, imagine that! Let us attempt to do the same with our T4 slips in just over a month's time, see how that goes. Let us not forget that some mining and oil and gas companies can be set up as non-taxable income trusts, and that tax rates for Canadian taxable assets owned by non-residents are declining.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does show that over the years the trend has been to systematically favour big business and the wealthiest in our society to the detriment of those who receive a pay cheque every two weeks and are required to pay their taxes in order to receive, incidentally, fewer and fewer services.

One thing that is not on that list but is nevertheless a reality is the phenomenon of people sending money to tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes here in Canada. Were that tax money collected, it could be used to provide social programs and social housing, improve public transit, provide care for the elderly, and help students take on less debt. We are losing billions of dollars because that money is being sent to a bunch of sunny tax havens. It is hard to put a number on exactly how much is being lost. It is kind of frightening.

What is more, the problem is exacerbated by all of Canada's bilateral tax treaties, such as the one we have had with Barbados since 1980. Since then, Canadian direct investments in Barbados have increased by 3600%. Canadian businesses and individuals sent $130 billion to Barbados in 2011. Two years later, $170 billion was sent to Barbados and hidden there. Why?

This happened because we foolishly agreed that, if people paid their taxes in Barbados and reported their earnings in Canada, they would no longer have to pay taxes in Canada. It is the principle of the avoidance of double taxation, under which people do not have to pay taxes on the same income in both countries.

There is just one small problem: in Canada, the corporate tax rate is 15% and the individual tax rate is approximately 25% or 30%, whereas in Barbados, the tax rate is 1% or 2%. Obviously, that is nothing. People are paying their taxes in Barbados and reporting the income here in Canada. It is completely legal. There is nothing that can be done about it. Billions of dollars are being lost every year. That is why the NDP's motion proposes that all of the bilateral tax treaties be reviewed and renegotiated. These treaties are obvious scams that are depriving us of necessary resources and giving gifts to those who do not need them. It is rather mind-boggling.

Canadian investors invest four times more in Barbados than in Brazil. Looking at total Canadian investments, twice as much is invested in about 10 tax havens than the total invested in China, India, and Brazil—growing countries where we need to be present.

All of these multinationals are profiting from crime. They are now responsible for 40% to 60% of international economic transactions, transactions that are taking place between the same companies and their subsidiaries. They are what is called shell companies or dummy corporations, and their sole purpose is to move money to a certain address via a certain country. They are also called PO box companies. They are empty shells that produce nothing, or are sometimes paid to manage a company’s branding or logo. We have seen millions of dollars being paid to manage a logo. I would like to be able to do that.

This has created totally absurd situations where all these dummy corporations, all these PO box companies, are often accommodated in the same place. I have one good example: in Georgetown, in the Cayman Islands, there is one building in which 18,000 companies are registered. In fact, the Cayman Islands have more registered companies than inhabitants, making their population the most entrepreneurial in the world. And the tax havens or shell companies do not exist only in the southern hemisphere. In Delaware, in the United States, the Corporation Trust Center houses no fewer than 250,000 companies on its premises. Now that is quite a number.

I have spoken a little about the tax havens, which make up a large part of the problem. Statistics Canada estimates them at $7 billion or $8 billion. The Conference Board of Canada says it is probably more like $47 billion, while Canadians for Tax Fairness cites $80 billion. The range is huge, but in any case it is a lot of money.

The other thing we would like to talk about is the Liberal promise to put an end to certain tax loopholes, particularly stock option deductions. This was a promise made during the election campaign that unfortunately has been totally forgotten.

All these tax loopholes were examined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in November 2016. That study has some absolutely incredible things to tell us. When we add up all these deductions, all these tax loopholes and all these tax credits, the shortfall to the public purse comes to $103 billion. Every year, about one hundred billion dollars eludes our coffers, money we could be using to care for our seniors, to treat our sick, and to have roads that make some sense. They examined 64 tax measures that constitute exemptions or deductions. Of those 64, only five are progressive; the other 59 are regressive. What does that mean? For a tax measure to be progressive, one assesses whether most of the benefit of the measure goes to the 50% poorest or the 50% wealthiest Canadians. Only five tax measures benefit the poorest, while the other 59 benefit the wealthiest. In certain cases, such as that of dividend tax credits, it is the wealthiest 10% who benefit, as much as 91% and 99%.

The Conservative and Liberal governments pulled off something absolutely incredible—they created a tax environment called Robin Hood in reverse. All of us together are going to chip in and subsidize the wealthiest.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague because many of the things that are new in this bill really are troubling.

For example, in the past, people in the pre-clearance area on Canadian soil had the right to say that they did not like the interrogation, that they were uncomfortable, and that they were going to go home and not travel to the U.S. Now people no longer have the right to halt the interrogation. Canadians can be detained and forced to answer U.S. officers' questions.

What does my colleague think of that? Is he okay with it? Does he think Canadians should be okay with it?

Canada Revenue Agency March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, $444 million has been invested, yet no charges have been laid. White collar criminals must be shaking in their boots.

People who go to work every day pay their taxes. They do not have a choice. However, if they are late to file their tax return, the CRA cracks down on them right away and charges them interest. It is funny how the same rules do not apply to millionaires. Millionaires can hide their money in the shade of the palm trees of some tax haven, and that is fine. If they are caught, they can enter into secret agreements so that they do not have to pay any fines.

When will the Liberal government stop being so spineless? When will it stand up? When will it do away with tax loopholes? When will it renegotiate the bilateral conventions? When will it punish fraudsters?

Taxation February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as researcher Alain Deneault reminded us, when people have to wait 15 or 20 hours for emergency care, it is because of tax havens. When the subway keeps breaking down and there are not enough buses, it is because of tax havens. When there is not enough money to take care of our seniors, it is because of tax havens. This legalized tax scam is costing our country tens of billions of dollars. The wealthiest Canadians are sending their money to the Caribbean and are not paying any taxes in Canada.

Will the Liberals crack down on this highway robbery?

Taxation February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, while SMEs like the businesses in the Saint-Hubert Plaza are wondering what happened to the Liberals who promised them a lower tax rate, the wealthiest members of our society are still taking advantage of tax loopholes.

The Liberals' flip-flop on their plan to increase taxes on stock options is yet more proof of the influence that rich lobbyists have on government policies, as if we did not have enough proof already.

When will the Liberal government stop letting its millionaire friends call the shots and finally put an end to tax loopholes?