Three months ago the Panama Papers made headlines revealing a global web of tax dodging that touched every part of the globe - including Canada. The schemes were so blatant that they resulted in political resignations, law enforcement investigations and government promises to crackdown.
Canada's Revenue Minister promised to use the leaked documents to launch audits and go after possible tax cheats. "If we can lay criminal charges, we will lay criminal charges.… nobody will be able to hide," said Diane LeBouthillier.
So has anything changed?
Investigations take time - particularly in a leak of 11.5 million documents. So far the CRA has not released any information on Canadian cases. But neither has Minister LeBouthillier explained the plan or if the CRA continues to take the problem seriously now that the headlines have cooled off.
"Canadians deserve a good accounting of what the minister's strategy is," says Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness. "Tax haven use in Canada has grown at a shocking rate because our lawmakers looked the other way. If there is a plan, let's get it on the table."
The concern is particularly pressing after Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth resigned from a panel set up to investigate transparency problems in Panama's financial system. Earlier this month Stiglitz said he joined the panel believing the Panamanian government was committed to fixing the problem. But several months in, the committee was told that its findings would not be made public. “We can only infer that the government is facing pressure from those who are making profits from the current non-transparent financial system in Panama,” Stiglitz said.
That is very likely.
"The current system is making some people obscenely wealthy," says Howlett. "They are not going to give that up without a fight and they have the resources to do that. Governments need backbone and vision to fight the billionaires club and the criminal elements that are powering the status quo."
Help us keep the pressure on governments to clean up tax havens.