Canada's Original Think Tank

Offshore Tax Havens

Offshore Tax Havens

Offshore Tax Havens

Hon. Percy E. Downe: 

Again, like others, my question is for Senator Harder. Part of the problem with overseas tax evasion, of course, is the issue of beneficial ownership. Jon Allen from Transparency International appeared before the Senate Banking Committee and indicated that you have to disclose more information to get a library card in Toronto than you do to set up a corporation.

There’s a story in The Guardian newspaper — the U.K. Guardian, not the Charlottetown Guardian — today on offshore destinations. They quote a study done in 2013 indicating Canada as one of the easiest of 60 countries in which to set up an untraceable company. When is the government going to take action on beneficial ownership?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. That in fact was the subject of discussion at the last federal-provincial-territorial ministers’ meeting, and the agreement reached is the one I described. There’s work to be done in this area, and the government is undertaking such.

Senator Downe: Well, this is always the same story, unfortunately, from the Government of Canada. This was agreed to in the 2014 G20 meeting that this was a problem. All the countries agreed to do it, including Canada. If you look at the record of other countries, the Brits were the first to act, followed by the Australians and most European countries. We are four years later, and Canada is still talking about it. This is a further indication of the ongoing problems with the Canada Revenue Agency and the government’s problem getting results for Canadians.

Why do Canadian taxpayers, who pay their fair share of taxes, have to put up with a system where individuals and corporations can hide their money, move it offshore, and not contribute to our country? Why does the government allow that to continue year after year?

Senator Harder: I would remind the honourable senator that in a federation like Canada, where there is shared jurisdiction, the Government of Canada must, by definition, work through our territorial and provincial counterparts, and that is what the minister is doing.