Tax havens versus food banks: Politics on TV, Oct. 30 edition

Talking about the new report on food bank usage, tax havens, and changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act

Message of the day

“Tax evasion is not a victimless crime.”

Questions not answered

  • Why hasn’t the government prosecuted any of those Canadians investigated in Lichtenstein?

Hurricane Sandy:

Power Play started off by discussing the Canadian response to Hurricane Sandy with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Vic Toews. Toews said that everything went well, and though the hurricane didn’t hit us as hard as expected, it was a good test of our emergency services. Toews said that officials will be going over everything once it’s over, so that they can get a full appraisal of how the system is working, adding “Let’s not let a disaster go to waste.”

Food bank use:

With the release of a report on the increasing use of food banks in this country, Evan Solomon spoke to an MP panel of Kellie Leitch, Chris Charlton and Roger Cuzner. Leitch said that her heart goes out to those in need, but that the government has reduced child poverty. Charlton said it’s a troubling trend of children and seniors using the food banks more, and that it really points to the need for affordable housing. Cuzner noted that the government did away with the Canadian Council on Welfare and the parts of the census dealing with poverty, saying the government must believe that “if there’s no proof, there’s no problem.”

Later on Power Play, journalists Stephanie Levitz and Joel-Denis Bellavance weighed in, when Levitz said that this kind of report is a more regular snapshot at poverty than StatsCan numbers, and it juxtaposes what the government says about the rebounding economy. Bellavance said that it shows that while people may have jobs, they’re still unable to put food on the table.

Tax havens:

Evan Solomon spoke to economist and tax haven expert James Henry about the problem of tax havens for wealthy Canadians, and the fact that some estimates say that up to $80 billion in tax revenue is being lost. Henry said that there is a long history of Canada being involved with tax havens – Newfoundland once having been considered one – and that up to $32 trillion around the world could be hidden in tax havens. Henry said that the problem needs serious investigation, and that it was a question of how much audit resources were being donated to these investigations.

Solomon then asked an MP panel of Cathy McLeod, Hoang Mai, and Scott Brison about the issue, where Mai said that there is a motion at the finance committee to study this problem. McLeod said that the government is taking action, and has identified $4.6 billion sheltered in Lichtenstein, and has recovered $17 million in unpaid taxes and penalties from those 106 people identified. She said that they are realigning their auditors to work with prosecutors and the RCMP. Brison said that in 2005, the Liberal government increased CRA’s budget by $30 million to go after tax havens and recouped $2.5 billion.

Canada-China FIPA:

Don Martin spoke with Tzeporah Berman of Forest Ethics about the coming Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). Berman said she is concerned because there has been little debate over an agreement that lasts for 30 years, and would give China the ability to sue Canada if they don’t like laws we put into place or decisions we make in that period, as they are currently suing Belgium for $3 billion. She said that this isn’t about China, but because this agreement is different than others we’ve signed.

The state of the economy:

Martin spoke with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who said that he’s had about 60 per cent compliance on his requests for data, and is still getting information. Nevertheless, he is getting close to needing a legal opinion to clarify the questions around whether the data on cuts fits in his mandate – which he believes it does because it involves the Estimates. Regarding his latest report on the economic outlook, he said that his deficit numbers are similar to the government’s, but he is being mindful that growth has been sluggish, which is a huge uncertainty for forecasters.

Navigable waters:

The revelations in the Ottawa Citizen that almost 90 percent of the lakes and rivers still being protected under the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act will be in Conservative ridings prompted Don Martin to put the question to his MP panel of Megan Leslie, Chris Alexander, and Roger Cuzner. Leslie said that it was unbelievable to play partisan politics over the protection of lakes and rivers. Cuzner said that if this section was broken out of the omnibus budget bill, they could have an adult conversation about it. Alexander accused the Citizen of selective reporting, and said that the government doesn’t want the Act to be an unnecessary economic block for projects already facing reviews under other environmental legislation.

When P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, Martin Patriquin said that you can’t not say the changes are political if 90 per cent of the protected waters are in Conservative ridings. Stephen Carter noted that there aren’t a lot of navigable waters in Alberta, which is why there aren’t many protected waterways there. Robin MacLachlan said that it was questionable to suggest the protected waterways had to do with navigation when there were so many in cottage country. Amanda Alvaro suggested that it was a data-driven decision – driven by voter data.

Migrant Workers:

Power Play spoke with Martin Collacott from the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform about the number of Chinese migrant workers being hired in BC mining projects. Collacott said that the premier didn’t say that the “thousands of new jobs” would be going primarily to these migrant workers, and that there should have been better planning to train Canadian workers with the specific skills necessary for this mining technology.

Anniversary of the Quebec referendum:

As it is the 17th anniversary of the 1995 Quebec referendum, Martin spoke with Concordia University professor Bruce Hicks and Paul Journet from La Presse about the situation today. Hicks noted that there isn’t the same popular support for sovereignty in the province, and that Harper has been doing the right thing by not taking Pauline Marois’ bait. He said that if something happened, Harper may not be the best champion for Canada in Quebec, and that Mulcair plays better in the province, but he needs to be cautious with the Bloc trying to bring up the Clarity Act. Journet said that separatism seems to require a greater sense of resentment than is present in the province now and with the younger generation, and that the federal government knows the best way to create a crisis is to respond to the bait it’s not taking.

Martin later asked his journalists panel about the Bloc’s bill to revoke the Clarity Act. Bellavance said that it’s a trap that could split the NDP, who will need a strategy to deal with it. He added that there is a lot of apathy in Quebec on the national unity question. Levitz said that debate on that bill could provide an up-to-date record on support for unity, while it will be interesting to see how much control Mulcair has of his caucus.




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Tax havens versus food banks: Politics on TV, Oct. 30 edition

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