OTTAWA – LEADERS LEDGER – Do you think the federal government should be allowed to share your personal information – your physical location, bank account numbers, income, etc. – with a foreign government? I don’t either, but the Harper Government is trying to pass a law that will allow them to do just that, and it will have a huge impact on the economic well-being of at least one million Canadians.
The Harper Government has stuffed more garbage legislation into their latest omnibus budget bill, the 359-page Bill C-31, but one particularly smelly piece is an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the United States to implement that country’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) for dual Canadian-US citizens. The Harper government’s decision to implement this provision is a monstrous invasion of privacy for more than one million Canadian citizens and could end up costing each of them literally tens-of-thousands of dollars.
You may not have heard of the FATCA so let me explain what this is and why it is so bad for dual Canada-US citizens. The United States and Eritrea are the only countries in the world that employ a citizenship based tax system that requires their citizens to pay tax on income that they earn anywhere on the planet. This means that a dual Canada-US citizen living and working in Canada for years should have been not only been paying the income tax in Canada, but also in the United States.
Many dual Canada-US citizens did not know that they had to pay double the income tax on their earning and the US rarely enforced this odd and unusual tax provision. Unfortunately, times have changed and the cash strapped US government has decided that it wants their money, earned by Canadian citizens in Canada while living in Canada, and they want it now and with interest. The FATCA is the mechanism that allows the IRS to collect this money, and the Harper Conservatives are more than happy to sneak their cooperation with this scheme into a 359-page “budget” bill in the hope that no one would notice. Well, guess what? New Democrats did.
My constituency offices, along with other constituency offices across Canada, have been flooded by complaints from dual Canada-US citizens who have recently received letters from the IRS and a bill for past taxes that they didn’t know they owed and the bill has been more than $30,000 in some cases. Personally I don’t think it’s fair practice to compel anyone to pay twice the tax on income earned in Canada, but I really don’t think it’s fair for the Canadian government to violate the privacy rights of Canadian citizens by handing over personal and private information such as bank account numbers and account balances without the permission of those who own them. It is a massive invasion of privacy that will hurt Canadian citizens and many constituents in Thunder Bay – Rainy River.
The Canadian government must first and foremost act in the interests of Canadian citizens and defend their rights – including their right to privacy. Instead, the Harper Government has decided to help the IRS collect money that almost no one thinks they are justified in collecting, and they are doing so by revealing personal information of Canadians to a foreign government. It is a colossal failure in leadership.
Now don’t get me wrong. New Democrats think everyone should pay their fair share of taxes, and certainly abide with the law. However, we see this intrusion by the Canadian government on behalf of the IRS as unjust and a clear violation of the rights of Canadian citizens. We understand that some people may not agree, but we want this provision separated from the 359-page C-31 so it can be properly debated and so the 1 million Canadians w ho will be directly can have their say.
This provision implementing the FATCA in C-31 has nothing whatsoever to do with the federal budget, so separating it and allowing a thorough debate on the matter would be the right thing to do. But when was the last time you can remember the Harper Government doing the right thing? We’ll keep working to protect your rights and your privacy because it is something that New Democrats fundamentally believe in. You can count on us to stand up for your rights.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River