A number of measures taken by the Conservatives jeopardize the protection of personal information.
First, as requested by the Americans, they would have allowed the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to spy on Canadian travelers by monitoring the actions of airport passengers using wireless connection.
In addition, on February 5, 2014, the Minister of Finance signed an agreement with the Americans in order to facilitate the transmission of personal information via the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Canadian financial institutions will have to comply with more requirements to meet the new rules statements.
However, the frontal assault by the Conservatives against personal information came in the form of Bill C-31, the omnibus bill implementing, generally speaking, the budgetary policy of the Harper government. Clause 28 would amend section 241 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) allowing an officer of the CRA to provide confidential information to a police organization in Canada or abroad.
This breach in the Canadian tax secrecy is dangerous. An official could provide by its own accord confidential information whether or not criminal proceedings have been instituted. Section 241 of the Tax Act is clear. "Except as authorized by this Article, a) no official or other representative of a government entity may knowingly provide any confidential information to any person or knowingly permit the service; b) knowingly allow any person to have access to confidential information;..."
Instances when officials can provide confidential information are clearly stated in the law or with the authorization of a judge. The income tax system is based on voluntary compliance in the sense that taxpayers willingly agree to give all the information required to process an income tax return.
The CRA has the authority to compel any individual to provide financial, medical, patrimonial and family information. They can undertake audits, use peremptory demands or conduct searches and seizures in taxpayers' homes.
In 2012, I vigorously fought against this change that the Quebec Government tried to implement twice, first under Bill 5 then Bill 18. The Barreau du Québec and the Quebec Order of Chartered Accountants among others appeared at Committee to describe the negative impacts attacking the tax secrecy would have. In the end, the Government relented.
We must deny the Conservatives permission to allow the transmission of personal information without the authorization of a judge, under the pretense of combating tax evasion. Instead, they should focus their energies in countering the scourge of tax havens, where they could recover billions of dollars.