Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois at this stage of Bill C-46.
Amendments have been proposed, and some of our colleagues have claimed that they gut the bill. It is exactly for that reason that we support these amendments.
This bill would implement a free trade agreement with Panama, which is not a good agreement. Many people, both Conservatives and Liberals, have spoken about the economic advantages. However, we cannot deny, and I believe we must acknowledge, that Panama continues to be a tax haven in the eyes of the OECD. Panama has not been taken off the OECD's grey list of tax havens.
Apparently, Panama has taken steps to be removed from this list, but that has not yet happened. Panama still has to conclude agreements and tax treaties with certain countries. Canada would be able to verify or monitor tax evasion by Canadian citizens if it signed a tax information exchange agreement with Panama.
When the bill was being studied, we heard that the Minister of Finance or the Minister of International Trade, I do not remember which one, had written to his counterpart in Panama about negotiating and signing such an agreement. The committee asked different witnesses on a number of occasions if Panama had agreed. To date, we have not been given an answer. We even heard a representative of the Government of Panama tell us, at the Standing Committee on International Trade, that it was not in the interests of his government to enter into a tax information exchange agreement with Canada.
If it is not in the interests of the Government of Panama, why is the Canadian government so intent, despite everything, on going ahead with this free trade agreement and passing an implementation bill, when that would mean giving away all our bargaining power with respect to Panama?
It is because we have given in to Panama. We have given in and will allow it to have free rein so that Panama can tax Canadian businesses. It has said that it wants to sign a double taxation agreement, which really means a no tax agreement. Canadian businesses will be able to repatriate profits to Canada, tax-free, and pay minimum tax in Panama. That is absolutely unbelievable.
The Canada Revenue Agency cannot even say estimate how much tax revenue it will lose because of such an agreement, how much tax leakage the middle class will have to make up through their work and their own taxes.
It is absolutely incredible that we are moving forward with such an agreement. That is why the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the proposed amendments. At least some attempts have been made to improve the bill. In committee, it was proposed that Canada and the Republic of Panama ratify a tax information exchange agreement, based on the OECD model agreement on the effective exchange of tax information, that would not cause Canada to lose tax revenue.
The Conservatives and the Liberals voted against that idea. They could at least have said they want to conclude a free trade agreement with Panama. As many have pointed out, such an agreement might not be such a bad idea.
However, if we end up losing revenue and promoting tax evasion and money laundering, I think that ethically speaking, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.
Should we continue to move forward with this? The Bloc Québécois says no. We absolutely must wait and see whether this possible agreement could be used as a negotiating tool and as a way to put pressure on Panama to get off the OECD's grey list of tax havens and sign a tax information exchange agreement with Canada. That would be fairer for Canada.
I want to come back to the testimony of Richard Montroy, a Canada Revenue Agency senior manager who testified at the Standing Committee on International Trade on November 17. We asked him whether companies could still bring tax-free profits back to Canada when there is a tax information exchange agreement in addition to a free trade agreement. He said yes.
In other words, there will always be companies bringing money back home no matter what. However, if we had all the tax information on Canadians and their investments in certain countries, we could recover some of the money that is eluding the Canada Revenue Agency.
That is not the case. The government has given up. The Bloc Québécois thinks we absolutely must support these amendments, go back to the drawing board and wait until Panama does its homework before moving forward.