WOW. When you read what Nathan Cullen said yesterday in the House of Commons, you could conclude he has been hanging out at Sandbox or Brock.
Now, let us get to the bad things that are in Bill C-31.
Let us start with the first one, FATCA. What a great deal it is that is buried in this bill. One would think that something like a major tax treaty with our most significant trading partner would have stand-alone legislation and its own debate. That is not so with the Conservatives; they bury it. When they bury something and they release it, as they did on a Friday afternoon when they released this bill, one can anticipate that there is something they do not want to talk about. We estimate that more than one million Canadians may be affected by this tax treaty. They are Canadians who do not even know they may be implicated by this by being married to an American or former American. They are Canadians who were born to American parents. Canadians who were born here may be implicated by this.What this deal would do is to tell the banks in Canada to release the private personal banking information of those Canadians to the Canada Revenue Agency, which then ably and quickly would pass it along to the IRS in the United States. Passing the private banking information of more than one million Canadians to the U.S. government somehow does not seem to bother the Conservatives. There were no consultations with the Privacy Commissioner. They told the Privacy Commissioner it was happening, but did not bother to find out if it went against privacy laws in Canada.
We do not know if this is even charter proof. Constitutional lawyers have said that this is a mistreatment of Canadian citizens and it will face a charter challenge. Again, there were no charter questions. The banks have estimated that to collect this information may cost upward of $100 million. Some have already spent tens of millions of dollars; it is hard information to get at. We asked the government how much it would cost it to wade through these millions of documents and pieces of banking information, and the government said it had no estimate, that it does not know what it is going to cost. The banks have said it would cost upward of $100 million per bank.
The federal government signed this treaty and did not bother to find out what it might cost the Canadian taxpayer. In addition, there is no reciprocity. There is no agreement with the U.S. to have some sort of equal treatment of Canadians. Canada is not a tax haven for American money. It has never been described as such. Why institute a tax treaty to go after tax cheats and tax havens that do not exist? Why forego the privacy of so many Canadians?
What fight did the Conservatives actually do? The Minister of Finance wrote an op-ed. He did, and it was strongly worded. He put it into a couple of papers in Washington, and that was it. Compare that with the government having spent millions of dollars toward lobbying the U.S. government on Keystone. It has spent millions on a full-scale frontal attack. The Prime Minister said that if the U.S. does not agree, this is a no-brainer, and we will wait the president out. Was this all that could be done in diplomacy?
We spent millions, and are spending millions of dollars on diplomats running around Washington trying to convince the Americans to create 40,000 jobs in the U.S. to add value to the bitumen coming out of the oil patch in Alberta. Who came up with that number? The Canadian government did, when trying to convince American legislators. Compare that full-on assault in trying to convince people in Washington to do something, to an op-ed, when they were standing up for Canadians’ rights. It is a no-brainer. This is bad policy to sell out Canadians at such a cheap level.
Then, Ted Hsu asked:
As the member mentioned, there were a couple of things that the government did not do that it should have done: first, to perhaps ask the courts whether an intergovernmental agreement that was being negotiated would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and, second, to get an official comment from the Privacy Commissioner as it was negotiating with officials from the United States.I think the government could have done a better job of protecting the rights of Canadians, and I would ask if my colleague would like to comment on that.
Mr. Cullen replied:
Mr. Speaker, do members remember that old slogan that the Conservatives used during one of the campaigns, “Stand up for Canada”? Was that the first campaign? It has been so long, I suppose, that they have forgotten what “Stand up for Canada” actually means. Both on the side of pushing back and negotiating a deal that protected Canadians’ privacy and rights, they have capitulated entirely. Canada was one of the last G7/G20 countries to sign the deal with the United States. It is always a good sign when we are last up with our most significant trading partner.This is the “ready, fire, aim” government. It puts it in place, and then after the fact says “This is a privacy issue, and perhaps we should check with the Privacy Commissioner. We’ll do that later” or “Perhaps this might be unconstitutional. We have a whole bunch of lawyers here in Ottawa paid for by taxpayers, and they are constitutional experts”.These guys are trying to run them out of work. They do not ask them anything, especially when dealing with something so fundamental as our constitutional rights.“Stand up for Canada”; what a fascinating idea. They should perhaps dust off those old pamphlets from that election and actually do what they said they would do.