Mr. Speaker, today we have an adjournment debate on a question posed about four months ago, on November 21, 2016. The question was the following:
Mr. Speaker, although the Minister of Canadian Heritage is free to make major changes to the rules governing our distinct culture, she has the responsibility to be open and transparent about what she is calling her “public consultations”. In the interest of transparency, when will the minister make public the briefs submitted as part of these consultations? One thing is certain; they contain important information. Can our ecosystem count on the minister to do what everyone thinks is the right thing and ask foreign companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix to pay their fair share?
This is the answer I received four months ago:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his important question. I would like to remind him that we are indeed holding an open and transparent consultation process and that we are going to make public the briefs submitted by the various stakeholders.
That was done. Thank you and congratulations.
I thank the member. I know that he specifically asked me to make this information public. Of course, I agree with him. This is a good example of co-operation.
I agree that there was a lot of consultation, but the question was about the consensus emerging from every sector in the minister's portfolio that the playing field is not level. Foreign providers do not collect sales tax. Their revenues may not be taxed either.
Yesterday, four months later, I asked her the following question:
Mr. Speaker, last week, the closure of the HMV stores led to the bankruptcy of the distributor DEP, which has put an abrupt stop to the marketing of Quebec artists. From Vincent Vallières to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Florence K, DEP's bankruptcy seems to be the latest sign of the collapse of Quebec's recording industry and a new source of worry about Canadian content. Canada must move swiftly to regulate all the new online providers, whether they are based in Montreal, Los Angeles, or some other tax haven. Can the minister tell us what she has done to ensure that these new players contribute to our ecosystem and to the same tax system as everyone else?
I will read her response:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important question and his interest in this file. Of course, we launched public consultations last year to consider all the repercussions that digital services have on the entire Canadian cultural ecosystem. In 2017, I will have the opportunity to introduce some major changes in order to address some of the issues that were raised by my colleague.
I have been asking this question for four months. Some might say I sound like a broken record. Well, yes, that is because it is obvious to everyone. Everyone knows full well that we must ensure that our merchants, our retailers, and our service providers have access to a tax system that is consistent and equal, or at least equal to that of foreign providers.
Of course, when we are in this situation we scratch our head and say it cannot be so. This is a serious problem. Retailers think that online competition makes no sense because they can sell the same product tax free, no GST and no HST. They are right. The same is true for all our cultural providers.
The only thing that is tax exempt is culture from abroad. It is rather pathetic. The question is simple:
Has the Minister of Canadian Heritage asked the Minister of Finance to resolve this situation and ensure that transactional taxes are applied to foreign suppliers?