Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your afternoon reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes that Robocon is placing Canada at the forefront of dubious electoral results in the developed world. Which of course means it's time to evaluate the Cons' fraud merely as a matter of political damage control, rather than focusing on who's responsible for what abuses of democracy.

- Peter Gillespie comments on the effect of tax havens, including this list of the resources siphoned out of other countries as a result:
In the United Kingdom, a parliamentary public accounts committee estimated that tax losses due to the offshore system are at least £8.5 billion annually; the Trades Union Congress, however, estimates that the real figure is more than £25 billion. A U.S. Senate investigation of offshore tax abuse assessed the cost to the U.S. treasury as $100 billion annually.

In 2002, Canada’s Auditor-General warned that corporate “tax arrangements with foreign affiliates have eroded Canadian tax revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars over the past ten years.”

A June 2008 study by the University of Quebec at Montreal concluded that the five major Canadian banks avoided $16 billion in federal and provincial taxes through offshore affiliates between 1991 and 2003.

A 2004 Library of Canada report noted that, between 1990 and 2003, Canadian corporate investments in Barbados increased from $1.5 billion to $24.7 billion, exceeding the GDP of Barbados by a factor of six. The report concluded that at least some of these investments could only be explained as tax avoidance measures.

Statistics Canada reported that $88 billion of Canadian corporate assets were held offshore in 2003, mostly invested in the tax havens of Barbados, Ireland, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas.
Wealthy people are also escaping their tax obligations. Financial institutions have aggressively pursued “high net worth individuals,” encouraging them to move their assets to offshore accounts and trusts. The London-based Tax Justice Network estimates that US$11.5 trillion of the wealth of the world’s richest individuals is held offshore, resulting in lost tax revenues of $255 billion annually. The Cayman Islands alone holds US$1 trillion of the assets of the world’s wealthiest people.

A 2006 U.S. Senate subcommittee report concluded that wealthy Americans avoid $40 to $70 billion in taxes each year by holding their assets offshore.
- Gloria Galloway reports on the Cons' committee efforts to effectively eliminate any environmental oversight by setting inflexible timelines and granting automatic approval if a project proponent can run out the clock. And Mike de Souza notes a separate Harper Con scheme to gut protection for fisheries.

- Finally, Kady documents another blatant form of anti-accountability from the Cons, as Helene Laverdiere's order paper queries about the Office of Religious Freedom were answered with nothing but oft-recycled talking points which utterly failed to respond to the actual questions. But scooping my next Parliament in Review post (which will likely be postponed under after the end of the NDP's leadership campaign), that shouldn't be seen as a particularly radical development: just take a look at the non-answers and irrelevant spin provided in response to questions 233, 259, 322, 325 and 378 here from the first sitting day of 2012 - as well as the flat-out refusal to answer questions like 379 and 382. And for added fun, compare the detail provided in response to #246-249 (Brent Rathgeber's questions about CBC costs) with that (not) offered to #253-255 (Tyrone Benskin's queries seeking similar information about the PMO).

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