Friday, October 8, 2021

The View From Olympus


As I tried to suggest in my post the other day, rich people really are different from us, and people like Justin Trudeau, part of that rarified group, have no desire to really disrupt their status quo. 

While it might seem reductionist, in my view that fact goes a long way toward explaining the inability of the Canada Revenue Agency to recoup taxes that have been sheltered in off-shore havens. If you believe that the CRA acts without political interference, you need only remember how Harper sicced them on non-profits that were active on environmental issues, often embarrassing the prime minister in the process. The same thing is happening under the Liberal administration; it is just taking a different form.

And people are noticing the CRA's apparent impotence:

Five years, 200 audits, zero charges, Oct. 5

Aside from hearing how the wealthy continue to evade paying taxes in this country, what is even more infuriating is reading about how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does very little to recoup this money or charge these people for this kind of criminal activity … all the while charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars in penalties and fees to small businesses or average citizens for filing our taxes late or not making our payments on time.

Heidi Bigl, Toronto

Heidi Bigl is not the only one. Writes Terry Glavin:

As for Canada’s diligence in capturing tax revenue — it’s not much to boast about. It was only after the ICIJ’s Panama Papers bombshell in 2016 that the CRA dropped a court fight intended to prevent the Parliamentary Budget Officer from releasing estimates on how much the treasury was being effectively bilked out of revenue by individuals and corporations resorting to secret offshore accounts. That was just one minor impact the Panama Papers had on government policies worldwide, but Canada remains a laggard in corporate transparency.

And the same laxity seems to apply to money-laundering:

For years, Transparency International Canada has been campaigning against what it calls “snow-washing,” a kind of money-laundering that allows foreign investors to hide dubiously sourced capital in Canadian assets, notably real estate. It was only earlier this year that the federal government promised to introduce a searchable “beneficial ownership” registry in the House of Commons.

The adverse impacts of snow-washing in real estate is most noticeable in British Columbia, where a provincial expert panel reckoned in 2018 that in that year alone, money-launderers had sunk $5.3 billion into real estate investments, mostly in Metro Vancouver. It’s a racket that’s been going on for years, causing dramatic distortions in the city’s house prices, and it has spurred B.C. to introduce a beneficial ownership registry of its own.

The promise of a federal registry to identify the real owners of corporations investing in Canada was made in the Liberal budget that was introduced in the House of Commons last April. The registry is supposed to come into effect within five years. But a federal election has since come and gone. So will Ottawa finally act to clean up Canada’s reputation and start collecting taxes on the super-rich with the same rigour the CRA applies to the rest of us?

We’ll see.

The view from Olympus can be dizzying, and it is a great height to fall from. Hubris and nemesis, anyone?


  1. It appears that, if you have enough money, Lorne, you can buy youself a government.

    1. And that is one of the reasons unfettered capitalism is so loved by so few, Owen.

  2. As the title of Andrew Potter's book, "In Decline," demonstrates, this sort of lax failure is incidental to the decline of the West. It's evidence of dysfunctional governance. In the case of climate change it has gone on for decades. On a more general basis we can trace this dysfunction to Harper and, now, his successor. The longer term risk is the rise of a disaffected electorate, the public alienated from their governments. I think there's a causal relationship between this dysfunction and the rise of tribalism.

    1. I think you are right, Mound, but it bothers the elite not a whit, believing, as they do, that great wealth offers great protection from the growing dysfunction the rest of society has to contend with.

  3. Quick opinion: the status quo will continue.

    Have you read this?

    1. I see little prospect of change either, Toby, and thanks for the link. I read the Guardian every day, but missed this piece by the always insightful Monbiot.