Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am so grateful that we are actually having a conversation and talking about this issue. The reality of the FATCA that the current administration has accepted is that it does nothing for reciprocal exchange of tax information. It is non-reciprocal; it is asymmetrical. It is unprecedented in international law for one sovereign country to say, “Oh gosh”, and cry uncle, “They are going to get our information whether we like it or not and they are going to punish our banks”.
The best legal minds in our country are advising the administration not to cave in just because the United States says it has a right under its domestically passed legislation, but which has not been ratified as an international treaty by its senate. There are a number of legal issues here, for which I do not think we have shown sufficient backbone in response. We do not need to accept a law passed by the U.S. Congress. Would we accept a law passed by the People’s Republic of China that requested information of Chinese citizens in Canada? Are we to accept that in response to laws passed in other countries with implications for Canadian citizens, the Government of Canada can do nothing but say, “Here’s all the information we can provide you. It’s private. We’re not warning Canadians. We’re giving it to you. Good luck”.
Everyone knows that Canada is not a tax haven. People who live here, Canadian citizens and residents, pay taxes. We pay more taxes than people do in other countries. We need to protect the privacy and charter rights of Canadians.
Helene LeBlanc: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Conservative member, the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, clearly proved that this portion of Bill C-31 should be studied separately.
The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands eloquently established and demonstrated that this part of the budget should be studied independently of Bill C-31. She also demonstrated that parliamentarians, regardless of party, are being denied an opportunity to study this part of the bill in detail, even though it will significantly affect Canadians, financial institutions and the Canada Revenue Agency. A Radio-Canada report stated that implementing this would cost CRA $100 million.
Who does my colleague think will have to foot this pricey bill?
Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.
I completely agree with the member. It is clear that FATCA is advantageous for the United States alone. There is nothing in it to help Canadians. As the lawyers and legal experts explained, the only reason why the Government of Canada accepted this agreement, which will violate the rights of Canadians, is that the U.S. government threatened to impose sanctions on our banks.
We need to take this very complex section out. As the legal experts have commented, there was a truncated period for public comment. Very little time was provided for the financial sector, and look at the costs and what it will mean to our banking institutions and credit unions to comb through all the material they have on every customer. It will raise the costs. The banking sector does very well, but this is going to raise consumer costs and it will violate charter rights.
Surely it should be removed from an omnibus budget bill for proper study. Additionally, we should go to international court to challenge the idea that the U.S., through a domestically passed law, has the right to punish commercial banks in Canada.