Madam Speaker, before I discuss Bill S-3, I feel it is my obligation to clarify something. The member for Outremont used the word “threat”. Let me put it on the record that it was not a threat. What I was saying to the member, because he refused to answer the question, was that in all fairness the taxpayers of his constituency deserve to know what happens in this honourable chamber because members, myself included, cannot say one thing here and then go back to their ridings and say another, not in the 21st century.
I refuse to engage with the member for Outremont with the vocabulary he used. I will use one word, “belligerent”. I use it only to outline to the audience and Canadians that I will not engage in that vocabulary. I say he lowered himself today because I did not attack him. I simply tried to tie the two together with Bill S-3 when he kept referring to Colombian human rights violations.
I will repeat it for the record. I asked if the NDP was going to base its support for Bill S-3 on human rights violations? The countries today that are moving forward, and I will be supporting this bill, include Turkey along with Colombia and Greece. I simply asked him the question. Today, a member of the European community, Cyprus, is occupied illegally, 30% of its territory, by Turkish forces. There are 1,600 people who still cannot be traced and are unaccounted for. Refugees, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, want their properties back. I simply asked the member, if we compare that, what does he think about that? Instead of responding, he simply attacked me. I wanted to clarify that for the record.
I was saddened when he talked about not bringing our ways here. I too am proud of the Canadian record on peacemaking and peacekeeping. My father is a veteran of the second world war and I believe very much in what Canada has done. I have supported it over the years and, yes, even the Afghanistan issue and its problems, as a former chair of the defence committee. That is what we are doing here, trying to solve these problems.
I was saddened when he said that. To quote him, he said he was a proud Canadian. I do not know what he was referring to, but I do not know what it is going to take. Is it going to take my grandfather, John Cannis, who arrived on these shores 105 years ago? Is it going to take my father's generation that came after the war? Is it going to take my generation? Is it going to take my kids' generation? Is it going to take my three grandchildren's generation before I belong or anybody else? I ask the member to reflect on the words.
Now, to the issue today, Bill S-3. I proudly say that I am of the race of Solon. I am of the race of Pericles, Socrates, Hippocrates, Alexander the Great of Macedonia in Greece, but I also am the product of Sir John A. Macdonald, Cartier, Laurier, Pearson and Trudeau. That is why I have the privilege of standing in this honourable House. I say to the members of the Bloc that I believe in a strong and united country, unlike them.
Today we are here to discuss Bill S-3. The member for Eglinton—Lawrence described it when he talked about nation building. The issues of double taxation, tax avoidance and tax evasion are issues that have been on the table for as long as I have been a parliamentarian, which is since October 1993.
I will refer to my former colleague from Ahuntsic, Eleni Bakopanos, and myself. Every time we found ourselves with Greek representatives, we brought this issue to the table. It was not that Canada was not willing. It was the other side more so. There were obstacles but we were moving forward. We were ready in or around 2003 to finally put this agreement in place with Greece in terms of double taxation so that seniors who may choose to move back to Greece or other people could be fairly treated on the tax side.
Then, of course, there was the election of 2004. I am pleased that this government, and I cannot say “this government” because the bill was introduced in the Senate.
I am just wondering why the bill was not introduced in this hon. chamber, the House of Commons. I am glad that it was introduced.
For the record, the bill states that it is:
An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
That is what it is all about. That is what the member for Eglinton—Lawrence talked about. That is what we are trying to do.
In his speech, Senator Wilfred Moore said:
As the global economy grew more integrated, a treaty on international taxation was sought to deal with the problems of double taxation and tax evasion.
The OECD began to address these issues in the 1950s, eventually creating the model tax convention. Since then, more than 3,000 tax treaties have been put in place worldwide.
This is yet another step in trying to find some continuity, some consistency and more so some fairness. We as citizens, and I include myself, demand that the system offer us certain services, whether that be health care, education, pensions, et cetera.
In order for those systems to be sustained, there has to be infusion of money into the system. That is why it has been said that too much tax relief is not good. Where would the money come from to address the infrastructure needs, to address climate change, to put money into post-secondary education and the health system? I ask each and every Canadian, how would we sustain that?
I agree with Senator Moore's proposal in the way he describes it. I want to put more of his speech on the record of this hon. chamber and for Canadians to hear. He also said the following:
It is important to remind honourable senators that while we have been impacted by a global recession, Canada has weathered the recession better than any other countries and we are well placed going into a recovery. Our fiscal standing is the healthiest in the G7; our housing markets avoided the problems seen in other countries; and our banks and financial system are the strongest in the world.
He is absolutely correct. He went on to say:
I would like to inform the chamber that I have passed on these compliments to the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, the man responsible for protecting the economy and Canadians from this recession.
In all fairness, the facts and the truth must be told. In 1993 when the Liberals assumed government, we inherited, unofficially, a bankrupt country. The debt was out of control. The deficit was just over $43 billion. There was over 12% unemployment. Students were disillusioned. They did not know if there would be any jobs for them after they graduated.
The International Monetary Fund was ready to step in. The bond market was ready in our country. What did we do? We said to Canadians that we would have to do a program review. Today they call it an austerity program, which is fairly true. We had to make adjustments. We had to make cuts, simply put.
Today when the government stands up and says we had to make cuts, let me remind the government members that their people at the time, Ray Speaker for example, stood up in this hon. House and said, “You did not cut enough.” When they stand up today and say, “Look at what you guys did”, let me remind them that it was Conservative provincial governments that were cutting first before the federal government did. Nevertheless, we have to move beyond that.
We implemented an austerity program. We started trimming the fat, as they say, in terms of laying off civil servants or terminating their employment, and adjusting how things were done. We tried to streamline with one-stop shopping concepts, so that services were not duplicated. In a short four and a half years, we balanced the books without raising taxes. Then surpluses came. Those are facts that nobody can deny.
We asked Canadians where they would like us to invest the surpluses. They said there were three areas--