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Question - Minister of Finance

Ministry of Finance

The Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance

Money Laundering and Tax Havens

Hon. Serge Joyal: Minister, my question is supplementary to the question raised by Senator Day.

Minister, put yourself in the shoes of the average taxpayer who filed his or her tax return two weeks ago and at the same time was reading in the paper the study of the C.D. Howe Institute, which is not recognized as the most leftist group of thinkers in Canada, as you know. They were stating that Canada’s legislation against money laundering and tax havens are “the weakest among the liberal democracies.” The weakest. Not average. We are the last one.

When you read into your obligation to file your tax return and you see all those companies and citizens succeed in avoiding paying their taxes, they feel that they are the object of exploitation in a way. There is the principle of equity, which is at the bottom of our democratic system. Each one must pay his or her share. It is the foundation of democracy.

Here you are telling Senator Day that you are looking at B.C., which has done something to the registry of ownership for housing, at Quebec imposing GST on Netflix, and you are just trying to say that it’s a question that action from federal and provincial governments is welcome. What are you waiting for in order to act on your own? I will have to vote just four months from now, and filing my tax return and looking at that, why should I vote for you in your capacity to address tax evasion and money laundering so that my part as a taxpayer is fair in this country? Why should I vote for you on those grounds? Convince me now, as you will have to convince average Canadians on this.

Hon. Bill Morneau, M.P., P.C., Minister of Finance: Thank you for your question. I’m looking forward to coming to your door. Perhaps you can give me your address.

This is a really important question. It’s something that we have been on since day one. There have been a number of really important things that have been achieved over the last three and a half years while we’ve been in office.

First of all, we’ve been part of an international approach to deal with what’s called base erosion and profit shifting. That is trying to ensure that companies don’t have the ability to move their profits from a high-tax environment to a low-tax environment. That’s critically important as we work with other countries to deal with that. We’ve signed on to that. It’s been an important progressive step for us to deal with this issue.

Second, it’s critically important that we have a common reporting system around the world, which has come into play this year. It means having the ability to ensure we can see into bank accounts of Canadians in other countries around the world. It’s challenging to have the ability to deal with money laundering if you don’t actually have the ability to follow the money. That is something that has been worked on and signed through the OECD. I can tell you that our department, the Department of Finance, has been instrumental in getting that to conclusion.

Similarly, on the home front, we’ve been on this issue around beneficial ownership from the very first meeting I had with the Finance Ministers. This isn’t something we came to lately. We had to convince the Finance Ministers across the country to come on board. I’m happy to say we’ve gotten there. What we have done is not just that, we have also put more money into this. I can tell you we have put significantly more money into the Canada Revenue Agency each and every year that I’ve been Finance Minister. Each year in our budget, we have put more money into the CRA and it has been successful in finding a way to ensure that we find returns from people who are evading or avoiding taxes.

This is an ongoing effort. The bad guys keep finding new approaches. We are working hard to make sure we are dealing with these issues. That will be a continuing challenge. It’s one that I hope, when I come to your door, I can convince you that we are taking very seriously.