From time to time some of the more significant issues that arise out of Ottawa do not originate from within the House of Commons. This is certainly the case this week as news reports from CBC regarding a compliance and enforcement decision by the Canadian Revenue Agency has created considerable reaction among many Canadians.
If you are unfamiliar with this specific issue it has been reported by CBC that a major Canadian accounting firm advised affluent Canadians to invest significant amounts of money outside of Canada for the purposes of either tax mitigation or outright tax avoidance. A further investigation revealed through internally leaked CRA documentation that an agreement between CRA and those involved resulted in an agreement to pay back taxes owed without further penalty, fines or prosecution. It has been further reported that the Canadian Revenue Agency also insisted on a confidentiality clause so this deal would not be publicly disclosed.
News of this confidential deal has created considerable reaction in large part as most Canadians who have encountered similar challenges with the Canadian Revenue Agency have faced fines with interest, prosecution and even in extreme cases garnishment, asset seizure and even foreclosure. The perception here is that a deal was offered by CRA that would not be available to most Canadians.
This situation in my view does raise serious concerns. Although elected officials do not make decisions related to compliance and enforcement by the Canada Revenue Agency there is an expectation of fairness and consistency to be applied equally to all Canadians. Federally elected officials can also expect accountability from public agencies such as Revenue Canada. In this specific case there is still information that is lacking. Who ultimately made this decision and the reasons why will need to be disclosed in a publicly transparent manner. It is critically importance for taxpayers to have confidence in institutions such as the Canada Revenue Agency and the decision makers involved in compliance and enforcement actions. As I believe more information will be forthcoming on this subject I will provide further updates as they become available.
Also occurring this week is a rare State dinner at the White House in Washington DC where our Prime Minister will be a special guest. This dinner has created a significant amount of media interest in Ottawa as well as rampant speculation from political pundits. From a British Columbia perspective I am hoping that our Prime Minister will use this diplomatic opportunity to raise the critically important need for a new Canada United States softwood lumber deal. Communities in Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola such as Princeton, Merritt and West Kelowna all have one or more lumber mills that are significant employers as well many surrounding communities such as Keremeos, Logan Lake and Summerland also have forestry dependent small business operations. As forestry is an important industry to our region I am hopeful that our Prime Minister has success in advancing causes important to British Columbia and Canada at this rare event.
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.