Workers walk about 600 metres below the surface at the Cameco McArthur River uranium mine site in northern Saskatchewan in 2007. (Photo: Dave Stobbe/Reuters)
Activists delivered a petition to the prime minister's office last week, demanding that a mining company pay the Canada Revenue Agency the $2.1 billion it allegedly owes in taxes.
Cameco Corp. will face the federal government in court this September over the dispute. If found guilty, it would be the largest tax avoidance scam in Canadian history. But activists are worried the issue will be settled out-of-court for a lesser amount.
“When an everyday Canadian makes a mistake on their taxes, you have to pay every cent back,” Rosa Kouri, campaigns director for Sum Of Us, told The Huffington Post Canada.
Kouri’s organization partnered with Canadians For Tax Fairness to deliver the 36,000 signatures to Justin Trudeau's office and Cameco’s headquarters in Saskatoon.
Activists from consumer watchdog organization Sum Of Us deliver a petition to the prime minister's office last week. (Photo: Facebook/Sum Of Us)
“We want to make sure there isn’t a backroom deal over the summer,” Kouri said. “We really want to see Cameco held fully accountable.”Other powerful companies — namely KPMG — aren’t always forced to pay back taxes even when the CRA detects wrongdoing, Kouri said. “That’s a double standard and it’s not fair."
“We really want to see Cameco held fully accountable.”
Cameco’s dispute with the CRA started in 2008. The company, which mines 18 per cent of the world’s uranium, allegedly set up a subsidiary in Switzerland where product was shipped from Canada. The subsidiary would then mark up the price exorbitantly, so income would be reported in Switzerland — not Canada, alleges the CRA.
Cameco’s subsidiary company only had one employee, who didn’t even live in Switzerland, reports the National Observer.
'We've followed all the rules'
Cameco disputes the CRA's position. "We’ve followed all the rules and paid all of the taxes owed," the company's media relations manager, Rob Gereghty, told HuffPost Canada in an email. "We are confident that we will be successful in our case."
Profits made with Canadian labour and resources should benefit Canadians, Kouri said. The petition points out that Cameco’s uranium comes from northern Saskatchewan, an area that “desperately needs better services and community investment.”
“The government says that clean drinking water for First Nations and education for First Nations is too expensive,” Kouri said, “and honestly if we were to raise funds from the very companies that are making billions in profits from those northern communities, then we could do so much more as a country.”
UPDATE - June 24, 2016: The CRA says it is committed to ensuring every person and company pays the correct amount of taxes. "Tax evasion and avoidance hurts all Canadians and means less money for benefits, programs, and services for Canadians," said spokeswoman Jelica Zdero in a statement to HuffPost Canada. "The CRA is committed to combating the abusive use of offshore jurisdictions and protecting the integrity of the Canadian tax system," she said.
Whether Cameco will have to pay remains to be seen. In the meantime, here are some things Canada could do if it ends up collecting that disputed $2.1 billion:
End boil-water advisories on every reserve.
Kavin Redsky, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation water plant operator, prepares to treat water from the lake with chlorine in one of the community's water treatment plants. (Photo: John Woods/The Canadian Press)
Pay off 13 per cent of all student debt.
Depending how much the interest is, Canada could also potentially:
Send a rover to Mars.
The planet Mars is shown on May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble space telescope view taken when it was 80.4 million kilometres from Earth. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters)
Take the entire country to Snoop Dogg’s show at OVO Fest. (Drake tickets are too expensive.)
Also on HuffPost:
The Liberal government delivered its maiden budget Tuesday, March 22. A deficit of $29.4 billion in 2016-17, nearly three times the $10 billion promised during the fall election campaign, and a projected deficit of $17.7 billion in 2019-20 rather than the balanced budget that was promised in October. (Source: The Canadian Press)
One of the earmarks of the budget is a commitment to spending on aboriginal issues. This includes: - $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on First Nations reserves, including language and cultural programs, plus $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure. - $1.2 billion over five years for social infrastructure for Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and northern communities. - $10.4 million over three years for new women's shelters in First Nations communities, and $33.6 million over five years and $8.3 million ongoing for support services. - $40 million over two years for the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will be changing the structure of Canada's child benefits, ending income splitting and other tax credits for families and parents. This means: - $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit, absorbing and replacing both the Canada child tax benefit and the universal child care benefit. Targeted to low and middle-income families, the government says the new benefit provides an average increase of nearly $2,300 in 2016-17. - An end to income splitting for couples with children, the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The government will spend $2.5 billion over two years on a suite of changes, including reducing the required work experience for new entrants and re-entrants; halving the two-week waiting period; extending a pilot project to allow claimants to work while collecting benefits; simplifying job-search requirements; and extending the benefit eligibility window in specific regions with a higher unemployment rate. (Source: The Canadian Press)
- $5.6 billion more in benefits to veterans and their families over five years, including a disability award that increases to $360,000, retroactive to 2006, and an earnings loss benefit to injured vets of 90 per cent of pre-release salary. The government is also re-opening nine veterans' service offices across the country and adding a 10th. - Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget includes $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals broke a major campaign promise to cut the small business tax rate. Instead, the rate will remain at the current 10.5 per cent on the first $500,000 of active business income. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $1.53 billion over five years to increase Canada student grants to $3,000 from $2,000 for low-income students, to $1,200 from $800 for middle-income students and to $1,800 from $1,200 for part-time students. $2 billion over three years is also earmarked for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, in partnership with provinces and territories.
The Liberals' green infrastructure plan includes: - $2.2 billion over five years in water and wastewater treatment and waste management - $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund - Over $1 billion over four years to support future clean technology investments - $345.3 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada and the National Research Council to take action to address air pollution. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $500,000 to help understand the role of foreign homebuyers in the country's housing market. The government says comprehensive and reliable data on the number of homes sold to foreign buyers does not exist right now. Read more here. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The marquee Liberal commitment to Syrian refugee resettlement could end up costing taxpayers close to $1 billion. The budget provided an additional $245 million over five years to bring in the remaining 10,000 people needed to meet the Liberal promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
$142.3 million over five years will be spent to add new national parks and improve access during the 150th anniversary of Confederation. (Source: The Canadian Press
The Grits will provide up to $178 million over two years for the provinces for urgent affordable housing needs. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget earmarks $38.5 million over two years to strengthen and modernize Canada's food safety system. (Source: The Canadian Press)