IN THE HOUSE ~ S-3 Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010
May 13th, 2010 - 4:00am
40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I find the Conservatives' strategy of cramming several bills into one very curious. They did the same thing with Bill C-9. They put all sorts of things in that bill, but of course it was inappropriate and showed a complete lack of respect for Parliament.
Bill S-3 has to do with Greece and Turkey, two countries that have rather advanced tax systems, and Colombia, where the drug industry rakes in about $90 billion a year in revenues. We know that that industry has close ties to the government.
Does the member believe that it is inappropriate to combine two countries that have relatively advanced tax systems with a country whose government is linked not only to paramilitary groups, of course, but also to the drug industry, which rakes in tens of billions of dollars?
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague, whom I am very fond of and who makes a solid contribution here in Parliament. I believe that what he is saying here today is important.
The principle behind tax treaties with other countries is that we have the highest possible standards for taxation information. Yet we know very well that Colombia, where the drug industry has ties with the government, cannot have the same standards.
Does the member find it contradictory and hypocritical that the government, which claims to be implementing these tax treaties with countries that have the highest possible standards, is trying to sign a treaty with a regime linked to drug traffickers?
Mr. Peter Julian: Madam Speaker, would my colleague be willing to split this bill into two parts? One part would deal with Greece and Turkey, which do not pose a problem in terms of taxation and human rights, and the other would deal with Colombia which, naturally—
Context : Debate
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-3.
As my colleague from Outremont mentioned earlier in the House, we have great difficulties with the way the government is approaching legislation generally.
There are principles in this place that have been well established for generations and have been respected generally by all parties. Over the last few years, but particularly in the last few months, we have seen a throwing out of those conventions of appreciation for democratic debate and respect for this place, respect for Parliament itself. We are seeing this illustrated just once again by Bill S-3.
The first issue of course is the fact that the bill comes from the Senate. We notice that through the appointment system, and remember, this was a government that promised, prior to the last election, that it would be bringing democracy to the Senate, Conservative associates have been appointed to the Senate. This is a legislative place that is nominated by the Conservative Party with largely Conservative appointees.
Canadians do not want to see the perpetuation of a fundamentally anti-democratic system imposed on Canadian democracy. Yet we are now seeing bills pushed through the Senate, where there is a bunch of Conservative Party appointees who are responsible to nobody but the Prime Minister himself, creating this legislation and bringing it into the House of Commons. If that is not a fundamental rejection of the democratic principles on which this country is founded, I do not know what is.
When we couple that with prorogation, a refusal to table in this Parliament documents that should be, as the Speaker has ruled in the past, tabled in Parliament, we see systematically an obstruction of the democratic principles in Canada that have served Canada so very well. We now have a bill referred from the Senate.
The second principle that I think is being violated by the bill is the fact that the government has very cleverly tried to insert a poison pill. The bill itself is a rather anodyne bill, a tax treaty bill that treats with Greece and Turkey.
Though there have been concerns raised in the House by a Liberal member earlier today, I do not think anyone in this place would have any strong differences with Greek fiscal policy or Turkish fiscal policy. We understand that their democracies are relatively advanced systems. Instead of submitting Greece and Turkey to a parliamentary vote, the government deliberately inserted the poison pill of the Colombian regime into the bill. Rather than respecting parliamentary debate and have two separate bills, the government deliberately tried to muddy the water, deliberately tried to insert a poison pill. It is absolutely ridiculous, and it shows the complete lack of respect that the Conservative government has for democracy.
Though we have no objections to the Greek and Turkish treaties on fiscal management, the tax treaties themselves, we will have to move in committee to split this bill up so that we can consider the case of Colombia. It is pretty appalling that the Conservatives would do this, but Canadians are not surprised by anything this Conservative government does any more. It simply has no respect for democratic traditions, period.
Bill S-3: The Backgrounder put out by the Minister of Finance says very clearly, and I would like to quote this because I think it is a pretty strong illustration of how the government proceeds. What it says in the Backgrounder, that is supposed to speak to all of these tax bills that are brought forward, is that Canada will conclude no new tax treaty, no update on existing tax treaty unless the treaty partner country agrees to abide by the highest international standards of tax information exchange, highest international standards being brought forward.
Context : Debate
For anyone who knows anything about Colombia and the Colombian industry, we know that Columbia is the producer of about 90% of the world's illicit cocaine industry. We are talking about an industry that is $90 billion a year, produced by drug lords, produced by paramilitary gangs connected to the government, produced by guerillas, produced by all sectors.
There is no taxation system around this massive industry in Colombia. So obviously the highest possible standards of fiscal probity cannot be maintained in what is a narco economy.
The Conservatives and Liberals have admitted to this in the past. They have said that this trade agreement has been condemned by every major human rights organization around the world and particularly in Canada, every major civil society group, every major labour union in Canada and almost all of the Colombian trade unions except those directly affiliated with the Colombian government or under the thumb of the Colombian government. The Conservatives say that we need this treaty because it is going to eliminate the narco economy. This is Conservatives speaking. Eliminating the narco economy when they know that that is the significantly largest industry in Colombia and is not part of the tax foundation, the so-called prudent fiscal management of the Colombian government.
Therefore getting back to the background which says “agreeing to abide by the highest international standards”, Colombia has already failed those standards even before the treaty was signed. Even before it was brought to the House it has manifestly failed with a $90 billion a year narco economy, not subject to taxation laws. It has already failed.
Yet the Conservatives have the nerve to throw in this failed narco economy, failed fiscal framework into a bill that affects Greece and Turkey. We have to hand it to the Conservatives. The Colombia regime has been described as Hell's Angels with a public relations firm.
Nowhere is it clearer than that when we look at the Conservative government trying to endorse Colombian fiscal policy with a $90 billion a year cocaine industry, an illicit industry outside if that fiscal framework.
Conservatives will say that has nothing to do with the government. Of course, anyone who is actually following the debate around why the United States Congress has refused to ratify a free trade agreement with Colombia, why the European Union is refusing to ratify a free trade agreement with Colombia, why EFTA is refusing to ratify an agreement with Colombia, everyone who is following this debate and does their due diligence, does their homework as a member of Parliament--I must say certainly the 37 members of the NDP in this House have done their homework, done their research and have actually found out what is going on in Colombia--they know that the defence intelligence agency in the United States very clearly identified the Colombian President as being affiliated with drug lords.
In fact in its document that was released under access to information just a few years ago stated very clearly that President Uribe had risen to power through his connections to the Medellin drug cartel and was a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar. They are a notorious drug lord and a notorious drug cartel and the President is in their pocket.
We might ask why the Conservatives would want to cozy up to a regime like that. Perhaps someone might say, that was before. Sure, he rose to power with the drug lords and the drug cartels but he is a nice guy now. Really? He is a nice guy. He has a good public relations firm. We should treat him royally, regally. We should sign privileged trade agreements with him. We should pretend that the fiscal framework that he runs is of the highest international standards.
However we know that the story does not end there, that his connections with these murderous paramilitary thugs who kill dozens of people every year, who kill aboriginal Colombians and chase them off their land, with more forced violence displacements than anywhere else on the planet, more killings of labour activists than anywhere else on the planet.
We see the forced displacement of Afro-Colombians, more than anywhere else. The Colombian Association of Jurists talks about the repeated and ongoing sexual torture, sexual assault and killing of Colombian women.
These are all present day circumstances that Conservatives in this House tell us, “Just disregard all that. He is a nice guy, really. He shook my hand so he must be great”. They want us to forget about the past, forget about the drug cartels, forget about Pablo Escobar, forget about the killings and brutal rapes of children and women in Colombia. They say, “Forget all that. Let us just endorse his regime. Let us say that he has excellent international standards on tax information and fiscal exchange, even when he does not”.
The Conservatives are trying to make that argument, but in this corner of the House, we have actually done our due diligence. In this corner of the House, we have actually done the work to find out what is going on behind this bloody, murderous regime, the secret police, the murderous paramilitary thugs and the Colombian military. They kill hundreds of innocent people every year under this horrifying rubric of false positives.
In this corner of the House, we have done our due diligence. We know full well what is involved in this, and that is why we will be moving to separate out Greece and Turkey, that do meet those excellent standards that obviously do not exist in Colombia. We should not be saying that this treaty-partner country agrees to abide by the highest international standards of tax information when it clearly does not, with a $90 billion illicit cocaine industry. At the same time, we should not be allowing the government to make another promise that it is going to break. It promised to clean up human rights abuses and it has not.
That is why we are looking to break this bill into two halves: one dealing with Greece and Turkey, the other with Colombia.