Mr. Speaker, I will use Bill S-17 to talk about tax evasion.
People take advantage of our excellent economy, our extraordinary education system and our infrastructure to make money, but some refuse to pay their fair share. They keep their profits in offshore bank accounts in order to avoid paying taxes in Canada. According to the OECD, an estimated $10 trillion is hidden in tax havens around the world.
Every year, this scourge deprives Canada of $5 billion to $8 billion in revenues. According to Statistics Canada, between 2003 and 2008, Canadian investment in tax havens went from $94 billion to $146 billion. This is a quarter of our direct foreign investment.
As I already said, this is money that is owed to Canada. It is money that is not being spent here to renovate infrastructure or pay for services that would allow Canada to have a better social safety net. In the meantime, those who do not have the means to use tax havens are the only ones paying the bills. That is what my colleague calls tax fairness. Those who do not pay their fair share are often those who say we need to reduce spending. It is a great injustice that undermines the very foundation of our society. Tax evasion is one of the greatest challenges the federal government must face. Bill S-17 is a step in the right direction, but the step is far too small. Even though we will vote in favour of the bill, it is woefully inadequate.
Bill S-17 implements four tax treaties with Namibia, Serbia, Poland and Hong Kong. It also implements amendments to the treaties between Canada and Luxembourg and Canada and Switzerland. The purpose of the tax treaties is to avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion. We support harmonizing tax laws and complying with OECD standards, and that is why we will support the bill. However, the government could do more.
Bill S-17 does not make any changes to Canada's policy. It is considered standard legislation of a routine nature.
To hear the Minister of Finance tell it, this bill is a major step forward in the fight against tax evasion. While it does contain provisions that will be useful to the government, it does not make up for the government's failure to take the major tax haven problem seriously.
The last budget was proof that the government is not taking the problem seriously. On March 20, 2013, 900 Canada Revenue Agency employees, including 400 tax auditors, received notices that they were in danger of losing their jobs because of budget cuts.
The Canada Revenue Agency's budget will be cut by about $460 million by 2015. How is the agency supposed to fight tax evasion with fewer employees and resources?
My NDP colleagues on the Standing Committee on Finance proposed several recommendations to combat tax evasion. I would like to share some of those recommendations.
First, the Canada Revenue Agency should require Canadian corporations and all of their subsidiaries to disclose all taxes paid in other countries. This measure would result in greater transparency concerning their activities in offshore tax shelters.
Second, the auditor general should evaluate, on a regular basis, the success of the Canada Revenue Agency in prosecuting and settling cases of tax evasion.
Third, the federal government should create an efficient system to identify tax evasion enablers including accountants, lawyers and other professionals.
Last, the federal government should to move towards a system of automatic tax information exchange with other countries. This would be a much more effective way to fight tax havens than the bilateral agreements covered in this bill.
We made clear recommendations to ensure tax fairness for all Canadians. They deserve to know how much tax evasion is going on.
Despite our repeated requests, the Conservatives are refusing to measure how much tax fraud costs us. The Conservatives' failure to collect lost revenue means that Canadians who do pay their taxes are on the hook for a larger share of the cost of government programs.
Why do the Conservatives insist on doing the bare minimum with respect to the serious problem of tax evasion and tax havens?
We hope that the government will introduce major changes to solve this serious problem instead of giving us routine measures like Bill S-17. This bill will not solve the problem. As I illustrated earlier, tax evasion is serious. The government must act now. I urge the government to consider our recommendations.