OTTAWA – The Senate Scandal dominated much of what happened in Ottawa again this week, but other events are also worth looking at and taking note of. This week we found out that the head of the Royal Canadian Mint was a financial advisor and tax dodger in a recent life and that the Auditor General is not happy with the federal government’s failure to implement their own rail safety guidelines.
Jim Love, another dubious Harper appointee and the Chairman of the Royal Canadian Mint, was accused of smuggling money offshore for his personal clients so that they do not have taxes on their wealth in Canada. In an exclusive report this past Tuesday the CBC referred to court documents that it had obtained which show that Love, acting on behalf of estate of former Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighan, engaged in a tax avoidance scheme that moved trust money “through offshore entities in Bermuda, Barbados and Antigua.” The documents were filed as part of a $15 million lawsuit by the Meighan estate and alleged that Love was in “breach of trust” as he funneled more than $8 million of the estate’s money into the risky tax evasion scheme.
[sws_pullquote_right]To be clear, we’re not talking about transferring money between a Tax Free Saving Account or other accounts to reduce your tax burden in a legal way [/sws_pullquote_right] To be clear, we’re not talking about transferring money between a Tax Free Saving Account or other accounts to reduce your tax burden in a legal way. Instead, the head of the Royal Canadian Mint has been accused of setting up fake companies in Canada and in the Caribbean that were used to essentially ‘launder’ his clients’ money and relieve them of the burden of paying taxes at home like every other Canadian. So effective were Love’s his services that he claimed in his defence of the Meighan allegations that he saved them $1 million through these shady transactions. In question period, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair demanded that Love be fired but Mr. Harper offered no defence, apologies, or answers.
Another significant event this week came with the release of the Auditor General’s fall 2013 report, which found that the Harper Government is failing Canadians on many important files; from railway safety, to food safety, and the new $35 billion shipbuilding contract which is already over budget before even a blueprint has been produced. Due to space I will just highlight the Auditor General’s finding on railway safety this week, and follow up on the other issues later.
On the railway file, it’s been twelve years since the deregulation of rail safety through the Safety Management Systems (SMS) regime, and the federal government can still not ensure the safety of Canada’s railways according to Auditor General Michael Ferguson. Ferguson said in his report: “Despite the fact that federal railways were required 12 years ago to implement safety management systems for managing their safety risks and complying with safety requirements, Transport Canada has yet to establish an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance that federal railways have done so.” In other words, after 12 years the new system still isn’t working and there is no way to tell if rail companies are actually inspecting their trains as they are legally obliged to. This is a somewhat scary thought given that transportation of hazardous materials by rail is on the rise and crude oil shipments alone have increased 75% over the past four years.
So another week is behind us and another ethically challenged Harper appointee is exposed in broad daylight and more criticism is heaped upon the Conservative government’s handling of railway safety. Such ethical and public safety failings are becoming a sad and dangerous pattern in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa. Next week I will highlight some other findings of the Auditor General, specifically related to the mishandling of food safety measures and the new $35 billion shipbuilding contract, which should be of concern to the Harper Government and Canadians alike.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River