Marking Canada’s 150th anniversary this year presented a unique opportunity for Canadians to celebrate this incredible place we call home. It allowed us to celebrate the diverse communities that make Canada so unique and to reflect on our shared history, including that of the Indigenous peoples who lived here before most of our families arrived. I hope it also served to inspire us to recommit ourselves to building a more just, inclusive, and peaceful country. Looking forward to 2018, I want to carry with me the enthusiasm that so many Canadians, particularly in our part of the country, demonstrated over this past year.
This fall I introduced a private member’s bill that calls for Sept. 30 to be recognized as Orange Shirt Day: A Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The intention is to educate future generations about the importance of respect and recognition of the role that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians must play in achieving true reconciliation. Eddy Charlie is a Kuper Island Residential School survivor and an organizer of Orange Shirt Day in Victoria. It was Eddy who asked me to bring Orange Shirt Day to Ottawa so that it could be formally recognized in legislation. I was honoured to do so. In October I was also proud to support local author, Monique Gray Smith, by arranging for her two children’s books on truth and reconciliation to be given to every Member of Parliament. I anticipate many more opportunities to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in 2018 and am very proud to represent Victoria and Oak Bay as Canadians work towards true reconciliation.
I will also continue to fight for tax fairness in the New Year. Bill C-362, the Private Member’s Bill I introduced to close tax loopholes like those exposed in the Paradise Papers, would crack down on abusive tax avoidance schemes by denying tax breaks to those who resort to dubious transactions that have no real “economic substance”— solely to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in Canada. Companies that actually employ people and undertake real business operations wouldn’t be affected. However, money being moved to and from a tax haven such as the Cayman Islands through shell corporations for the sole purpose of having investment income taxed at a ridiculously low rate, would no longer be legitimate. These amendments to the General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) would bring Canada’s tax anti-avoidance law in line with tax avoidance measures already in place in other jurisdictions like Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Canadians for Tax Fairness estimates that my bill could recover up to $400 million per year — money that could be invested in infrastructure, creating jobs, or providing services to Canadians.
On another front, I am passionate about the need in any democracy for citizens to have a meaningful right of access to information about their government. While the Liberals campaigned on promises of transparency, this year the government introduced Bill C-58, a regressive bill that will do little or nothing to enhance this right of access. Even the independent Information Commissioner testified that the Liberals’ bill would make things worse, not better. At committee I put forward many amendments that would have improved the Act but they were all voted down by the Liberals. I will continue to speak out against this bill in 2018 and stand with First Nations, whose ability to access information about claims, disputes and grievances will be hindered by Bill C-58, and with environmentalists, media and other civil society groups who are all bitterly disappointed with Bill C-58.
Most importantly, I look forward to continuing to work with community members, business owners, neighbours and friends throughout the coming year. I will continue to push for federal funding for housing especially and for important projects like the new Crystal Pool, the Belleville Street Terminal and improvements to our Art Gallery and Museum.
Together let us recommit in 2018 to seek positive change so we can make Canada a fairer, greener and more prosperous country.
Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year to one and all.
Murray Rankin is the MP for Victoria.