Mr. Leonard Hopkins (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Lib.)
Madam Speaker, as I rise to speak on this motion today I am really amazed with its content. It has been some time since I saw a motion in this House that is worded in the way this one is today. It is really trying to get at rulings that were made in 1985 and 1991 relating to the immigration of taxpayers and the distribution of Canadian trust property to a non-resident beneficiary. It is also very much about migration taxation.
The opposition motion today tries to convince people that the doors are open for other transactions to leave the country and they talk of this in terms of hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. This is an absurd assumption. What they are trying to do is create a perception of a loss of tax dollars. The finance committee has brought an excellent report into this House and found no such transactions taking place.
As I have said, this is an absurd assumption. Are billions of dollars leaving the country tax free? The answer is a clear and unequivocal no. Revenue Canada is not aware of any similar transactions since 1991, and the finance committee confirmed it found no indication of large revenue losses or tax planning opportunities that occurred because of the 1991 ruling.
The minister of revenue, as she said today, has placed a moratorium on any such rulings in this area of the Income Tax Act until such time as the government plugs the loopholes.
The hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans indicated today that the Liberals would be blaming this on the Tory administration. The Canadian public has already passed judgment on the Tory administration. It did that on October 25, 1993 in the general election. Therefore we do not have to pass it on to it, it was there during its time. However, there was no evidence found of wrongdoing on the part of tax department officials in this ruling. That is in the report that the finance committee brought into this House.
I want to emphasize that the Minister of National Revenue has stated that we have a moratorium on any such procedures until the government plugs the loopholes. This is in effect a freeze on all procedures, and no decision to let money out of this country can be taken while that moratorium is on. How do we get fish out of a lake when the lake is frozen? We have to drill a hole. But the finance minister and the Government of Canada are saying they are going to plug the hole. The Bloc can try as it likes but it will not be able to drill a hole in the ice on that lake and get the fish out. The Government of Canada is going to review these tax laws which have not been reviewed for 25 years. It has already taken many measures in this regard.
Therefore let us not get carried away with the idea that something terrible is going on today because the finance committee, the auditor general and other officials, six leading auditors of this country, have said there was no wrongdoing. The Department of National Revenue says that nothing has happened since 1991.
If they are trying to put a hole in the Liberal armour in Quebec, they will have to try harder than this. The people of Quebec are smart enough to know they are not being led down the garden path by tactics such as this. Just reading that motion is the worst bedtime reading anybody could possibly have.
The government has stated on the floor of this House that the problem today is how to treat capital gains when someone, an immigrant, a person, a trust, a company or a partnership wants to leave Canada. That is the question. That was the auditor general's main point. The majority finance committee report of the House endorsed it by saying action must be taken. The Minister of Finance said: "We agree and we intend to take action".
At another place in Hansard on September 20, the government said that the majority finance committee report was very thorough in the way it dealt with this point and that the government intends to take action. The Minister of Finance, on behalf of the government, said: ``We wanted to shed some light on the matter and the majority report of the finance committee did so, and we intend to act''.
It becomes very clear that the motion which the House is debating today has been placed on the Order Paper by the official opposition as an example of straight crass politics, and that is why it does not mention the positive approaches that have been taken by this government to update the Income Tax Act. The average Canadian needs the facts surrounding this issue and they are getting them. They do not need the kind of political rhetoric portrayed by this motion.
I repeat that a moratorium has been placed on all rulings with respect to taxpayer migration until the government has introduced legislation and taken other steps to plug the loopholes. It wants to study the finance committee report in depth.
Let us compare ourselves with other countries. In the House we are always downgrading ourselves in many ways. I want to compare Canada's tax laws with those of other countries.
Our tax laws are tighter than those of other G-7 nations. Our tax administration system is the most highly respected of any today. It is pure speculation that money has been lost. There is no evidence from any source that money has been lost.
It is another matter when we come to a debate such as this to examine the issues in their full complexity, not just in simplistic statements such as those stated in the motion today. It is another matter to examine the actions of hardworking and dedicated officials in the context in which those actions occurred.
It is very easy to criticize somebody, talk about the good and the bad, put people into categories of heroes and the villains. But that is why it is absolutely necessary to explain the whole issue on the floor of the House. It is quite another matter when we consider that one of the central issues we are examining today relates to the highly complex and frequently uncertain area of the tax treatment of taxpayers who migrate.
Chapter 1 of the auditor general's report issued on May 7 of this year raised issues related to income tax rulings and in particular Canada's tax policy as it relates to persons who become or cease to become resident in Canada.
The fact that these concerns dealt partially with family trusts should not obscure the fact that the principal issue in this matter is the tax rules relating to taxpayer migration.
I think this is something which is very relevant. It has been said that the period since the end of the second world war will be regarded by historians as the twilight of the nation state and the dawn of the single world economy.
According to Webster's Dictionary the term globalization did not even exist until 1944. Today it is the defining watchword of our modern world. Yet surprisingly tax rules relating to taxpayer migration were not enacted by Parliament until 1971 and have not been significantly reviewed in the 25 years since they were enacted.
Topic: Government Orders