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QUESTION - National Revenue (Offshore Tax Havens—Cannabis Industry)

Hon. Serge Joyal: I would like to follow up on the question raised by Senator Downe and Senator Smith in relation to the offshore money invested in cannabis corporations in Canada now.

An article published in La Presse today revealed that more than $250 million came from one single investor in the Cayman Islands to a variety of companies scattered all through Canada. In fact, it revealed that hidden money, with the capacity to shift the profit away without paying due taxes in Canada, is in the control of the market now.


I want to be very polite to you, Senator Harder, but I have difficulty reconciling that situation. You are hiding behind the provinces and territories to wait for the Government of Canada to take leadership on this. I mean, the Criminal Code is federal legislation. The Canada Revenue Agency is a federal body. They have ample capacity to come into this chamber and request changes or amendments to the Income Tax Act to be able to fight that.

I think that the government has to be very concerned about this because its credibility on working and supporting the middle class is challenged by its attitude of some kind of laissez-faire in relation to the offshore money and those who don’t pay taxes in Canada while we go after everyone else. That is a very important credibility gap.

Could you reassure us that the government will take the bull by the horns and take the initiative to strengthen the Canadian legislation so that we are able, now, to tackle those major problems in the Canadian system of law?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I will do what I can do, and that is ensure that the views of the honourable senator and other senators who have commented on this are brought to the attention of the minister concerned. This is an issue that we had raised in the Committee of the Whole and ministers did express their commitment to dealing with this important issue. Parliamentary Secretary Blair specifically spoke to the issue as well.

I do want to assure the honourable senator that I will ensure that this exchange and others are brought to the attention of the ministers so that as we move forward there’s a clear understanding of what action has been taken and what action will be taken.

Senator Joyal: Would the Government Representative accept that we amend Bill C-45 in part 3 in relation to the issuance of permits? Because that’s where the government can intervene to block that loophole.

The health minister cannot close her eyes and think that everything is fine in paradise, because the loophole is there. The government has the control of the permits. That’s where the government has to move to amend the conditions for which a permit to produce and sell marijuana in Canada lies.

Would the Government Representative commit to accepting an amendment unless the government comes with its own amendment to block that loophole?

Senator Harder: Well, senator, the minister’s and the government’s position on this piece of legislation, as with other pieces of legislation, is to ensure that the Senate deliberation of the legislation is timely. And if bills can be improved, the government has demonstrated a willingness to accept improvements to legislation that have come from this place.

I’d like to see us get to a point where we are actually in committee dealing with the bill beyond simply the principal discussion of second reading so that, should there be a consensus in the Senate to accept particular amendments, they can be brought forward. And if they garner majority support in this chamber, they will be sent to the other chamber for their consideration. That’s how a bicameral system ought to work and I hope we can get to work.