POLITICS

Peter Julian Reminds Pierre Poilievre That Tories Broadened Offshore Tax Avoidance Schemes

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10/05/2017 19:33 EDT | Updated 20 hours ago
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 5, 2017.

The words coming out of a Conservative MP's mouth were a bit too rich for Peter Julian on Thursday, prompting the NDP MP to shout an outburst during question period.

It happened while Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre attacked the Liberals' proposed tax reforms, targeting the finance minister's company, Morneau Shepell.

The Carleton MP pointed out how the company has a registered subsidiary in Barbados, a popular tax haven for Canadian companies. Poilievre repeatedly asked why the government hasn't done anything to address the 1980 Barbados treaty that gave way to tax evasion schemes — which seemingly annoyed Julian.

"The Conservatives signed it!" Julian yelled before being chided by Speaker Geoff Regan for unparliamentary behaviour.

"I would ask the member for New Westminster—Burnaby to try to restrain himself, and I do not want to hear that kind of outburst from him again," Regan said.

Canadian tax havens increased in 2009

Barbados is the No. 3 offshore destination for Canadian companies to park their cash, according to StatCan. The Caribbean island sheltered some $68.3 billion dollars of direct Canadian investment last year alone.

The incentive for Canadian companies to bring money to Barbados is its low tax rate (up to 2.5 per cent). So by creating an offshore subsidiary, companies can pay low taxes on international profits and repatriate those profits back to Canada, tax-free.

And that's because of a treaty signed between Canada and Barbados in 1980 by Joe Clark's Conservative government.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
File photo: Then prime minister Joe Clark forms zeros with his hands to show how many policies the Liberals have on Feb. 14, 1980.

But despite the continued criticism against tax evaders, a series of deals signed in 2009 increased the number of tax havens available to Canadian companies.

Those deals, called Tax Information Exchange Agreements, were negotiated by Stephen Harper's former Conservative government. The agreements allow countries to take in Canadian direct investment, but on the condition that offshore account information is shared with Canadian authorities.

Canada has Tax Information Exchange Agreements with 22 countries including Aruba, Bahrain, and the Cayman Islands.

Liberal MP agrees with Tory motion

The Liberals have been facing scrutiny from the opposition as well as Canadian small business owners for its proposed suite of tax changes.

On Tuesday, Liberal MP Wayne Long broke rank and voted in favor of a Conservative motion to extend tax reform consultations, calling the 75-day period that wrapped Monday to be too short. He was the only Liberal to do so.

The motion was easily defeated by the Liberal majority government, 198 to 89.

Long confirmed to CBC News that he's been removed from two parliamentary committees as a result of his action.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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