Avoiding Uncle Sam: Tax Haven leaks implicate Canadian companies like SNC-Lavalin
Mauritius, an African island east of Madagascar and smaller than Ottawa, may seem like a little fish in a big sea. However, for the international business community, including companies as notorious as SNC-Lavalin, it is anything but insignificant.
The growing republic is a tax haven, a self-titled “gateway” to the third-world, with a maximum corporate tax rate of 3%.
For the world’s business class, saving taxes through places like Mauritius presents itself as a good idea—however much many starry-eyed nations might nag about the necessity for public funds.
Indeed, this appears to be the dynamic. An American multi-billion dollar corporation like Pegasus erects mock companies through which it funnels management income and fees for the use of their logo. Countries like Senegal cite losses of $257 million in tax dollars from CEO’s taking money to Mauritius.
These revelations come in a recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The selling point for the report is the claim that “54 journalists from 18 countries” could “provid[e] an inside look at how the former French colony has transformed itself into a thriving financial center, at least partly at the expense of its African neighbours and other less-developed countries.”
Since the agglomerations work was published early Tuesday morning, Canadians for Tax Fairness have advised Canadians not to be smug. Our own home-grown industries have $2.5 billion invested in Mauritius.
On the island there is, for instance, the innocent-sounding Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that, according to the recent leaks, has used Mauritius as a tax haven for a while now. They also employed Conyers law firm when the investment board bought Tomkins engineering, the engineering company’s subsidiary in Mauritius, and the multi-billion dollar investment management company, Onex.
What makes Conyers law firm worth mentioning in these purchases is its centrepiece position in the recent report. It has a special record of handling businesses looking to skip taxes in Mauritius. The firm once noted its average client as someone “who would rather spend $10,000 on legal bills than pay $5,000 to Uncle Sam.”
Other investment giants, like Sun Life Financial insurance, garnered a mention. They had a similar love-story with Mauritius.
Looking back in 2018, SNC-Lavalin was also the victim of a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Their dealings with Mauritius meant saving of up to $8 million for the construction powerhouse. The tax dollars they saved would have otherwise gone to Senegal, where infant mortality rates touch 5%, and over a third of the country earns less than $2 a day.
True to their charitable nature, SNC-Lavalin exploited a tax treaty between Senegal and Mauritius, allowing them to be absolutely tax-free in Mauritius while they took on a large contract in Senegal. Senegal has admitted their intent to withdraw from the treaty which at first they believe could have been a “win-win” for both nations.
One tax researcher at Mcgill University commented on the case, “It’s a redesign of neocolonialism. In the 1800s, in the 1900s, they came with violence. Now, they come with sophisticated accounting systems and the lure of investment. But no country needs investment if it’s not going to be rewarded.”
Indeed, practices of co-opting foreign countries as tax-havens have always proven profitable for businesses albeit dreadful for countries. Staying in Canada, of the 60 largest companies detailed by the Toronto Stock Exchange, a flattering 4 do not have subsidiaries in notorious tax-havens.
Despite claims to the legitimacy and necessity of these subsidiaries, one can take Bermuda as the example of a nation where Canadian majority-owned affiliates report $31 billion in assets but only 35 employees.
The Canadian government loses anywhere between 10 to 15 billion because of the systematic abuse of offshore accounts. These several billion are no small amount, and could otherwise serve a tremendous amount of good, that gets harder and harder to imagine as we become used to seeing figures this large.
Instead, the amounts are turned into profits that enrich an already well-fed few.
The practices which allow for money to be re-routed from coffers to profits, are often perfectly legal, however immoral they may be. Moreover, there are numerous solutions to relenting these widespread practices.
It is not that the people heading corporations lack humanity, but they have a mandate in this economic system. With respect to their mandate, one can say with some certainty that it is unlikely that these mechanisms which allow rapid unfettered growth of corporations will see an end—despite their deleterious effects on the public’s wealth.
The more likely alternative is that as these companies continue to grow, they will only hold more political power, larger shares of the world’s resources, and will find more clever and secretive ways of hiding their money from the poor and greedy masses.
Christmas is quickly approaching and many people are using delivery services to receive their packages, but there appears to have been an increase in package thieves or “porch pirates” across Canada.
Porch pirates are thieves who keep an eye out for deliveries and attempt to grab whatever is dropped off at a given house. Some houses are equipped with security systems allowing homeowners to capture the thieves on video, but this method is not always successful in identifying suspects who quickly run off with others’ loot.
One man was caught by someone in the neighbourhood loading his SUV with Amazon boxes in an Oshawa neighbourhood on December 12.
Another thief can be seen on camera stealing a package straight off of a porch of a house in Ingersoll, Ontario.
Some people have taken it upon themselves to get back at the thieves. A Colorado woman, Christine Hyatt, filled her old amazon boxes with garbage and duped thieves into taking it off of her hands.
The Post Millennial reached out to several police departments in major cities across Canada. Some of them provided advice for homeowners to help prevent this sort of thing from happening.
David Hopkinson, the Media Relations Officer for Toronto Police Service, told The Post Millennial, “During the holiday season there is an increase in thefts.”
“As thieves become more aware of this opportunity and our society becomes more reliant on online purchases, there may be an increase in these types of thefts,” said Hopkinson.
“In some instances where homeowners, their neighbors, or citizens in the area have dash-cam or video surveillance, we have been able to gather pictures and video.”
In a study conducted by Ring, a home security company, they found that close to 1 in 5 homeowners have had packages stolen. The study showed a spike in thefts around Christmas.
The Edmonton Police Service told The Post Millennial, “Homeowners can also have packages shipped directly to Canada Post outlets if the retailer is able to ship to PO boxes. This is a free service that may be helpful for those who are unable to receive their packages.”
The Montreal Police Service referred us to the Office de la protection du consommateur who told us, “…consumers might not be aware of their rights. For example, when a consumer receives a photo of the package at his door from the carrier, he might think tough luck when he comes back home and the package is gone. That’s why we issued a release to say it’s the merchant’s responsibility to make sure the package is received, and if not, the consumer can cancel the order and be reimbursed.”
The Post Millennial asked a Canada Post representative if their a lot of Grinch-like porch pirates around the holiday season stealing Christmas packages.
“Absolutely yes, we do receive a lot of calls around the holidays of course. Even for packages it is pretty hectic. It is the peak season but for calls as well we are getting swarmed,” said the Canada Post rep.
We encourage readers to share any experiences of package theft with us here at The Post Millennial.
Had a Christmas package stolen from outside your home? Send your story to The Post Millennial reporter Sam McGriskin at [email protected]
An Extinction Rebellion protest beside the National War Memorial in Ottawa expanded to four tents on Friday afternoon, with no word from authorities on whether related squatters would be removed from the hallowed ground.
Tanya Buckner started the encampment nine days ago and claimed she walked from Calgary to Ottawa to discuss the prime minister’s “negligence on the looming climate extinction”, and that it was her “human right” to camp there until she received an audience.
Joining Buckner for the protest at the war memorial, and on her sixth day of camping out is 25-year-old Roksana Hajrizi, a self-described “stateless Roma from the former Yugoslavia” who fears she, her sister and mother Celina Urbanowicz will be deported to Kosovo.
“We are in danger of removal and the long story short is there was lawyer negligence on our refuge process,” claimed Hajrizi.
“My mother was not given a translator in her language and our lawyer didn’t provide documents to the court on time.”
According to Hajrizi, she and her sister “got smuggled into Canada” by Celina and her father Ismet, arriving Vancouver in 1997 after fleeing the war in Yugoslavia. Ismet was deported to Kosovo earlier this year where he “remains in hiding” while Roksana says they will be next.
Hajrizi also wants to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the hopes that he might intervene in her case.
According to National Capital Commission, which is responsible for historic properties in the Ottawa region, its jurisdiction ends at the war memorial’s concrete expanse and that the adjacent garden where a tent city is emerging, remains Public Works’ responsibility.
Public Works has yet to respond to queries about the legality of camping beside the war memorial, right across the street from the Prime Minister’s Office. The Post Millennial queries to the PMO on whether Trudeau would meet with Hajrizi or Buckner, have thus far gone unanswered.
However, Extinction Rebellion’s Buckner, who goes by the alias “Ann Cognito”, was very willing to offer her thoughts about the matter and her tent neighbour Roksana.
“Our government knew that this eco-system collapse was coming over 40 years ago and our immigration system has been designed with this in mind, to keep people like Roksana out,” said Buckner.
The openly gay Hajrizi said she is currently engaged to a Canadian and wants to remain in Canada and get her citizenship. According to her, she would be persecuted in Kosovo for being Roma and for her sexuality.
Either of Hajrizi’s parents–Celina, a Catholic Pole and Ismet a muslim of Serbian origin–have had run-ins with the law since sneaking into Canada; both spent time in jail for 2006 fraud and extortion convictions, ironically against other vulnerable immigrants.
“Yes, both my parents have made mistakes,” said Hajrizi who provided documentation that her mother received a pardon in 2018.
Shortly after Andrew Scheer’s accidental Conservative leadership victory, I was having beers with some dejected party faithful, who bemoaned the outcome and their fraught involvement with Dragon’s Den investment mogul Kevin O’Leary’s abandoned campaign.
My drinking compadres could best be described as the millennial generation of hardcore Conservative supporters. And by hardcore, I mean they volunteer for campaigns–municipal, provincial or federal, wherever a hopeful they like may be–engaging in the thankless campaign drudgery of door-knocking and pamphleting, sometimes for days on end.
The more experienced among them even contribute to strategy, and for their efforts are often rewarded with work with victorious MPs. Others in these tight-knit circles that exist among all parties, also end up in the bureaucracy or at NGOs in the Ottawa beltway’s revolving door of organized politics, PR and public service gigs.
All of us had witnessed U.S. President Donald Trump’s election victory the previous November, and argued how Mr. Wonderful’s similar bombast might have played in his favour. On that subject, we could agree that O’Leary’s no-nonsense, direct manner with the media was his strongest quality.
Take for example the answer to question about his French speaking ability, early on in Conservative leadership campaign: “I speak the language of jobs”, was peak O’Leary and a beautiful response worth pounding away on. Jobs. Economy. Jobs. Economy.
But in the end, O’Leary loathed the grind of on-the-ground politicking and despite a decent chance of victory, he pulled the plug and threw his chips in with a loser.
Insofar as political stratagem, it’s the kind of choice that separates an O’Leary from a Trump. Trump would never leave this sort of thing to chance and plays to win, while Mr. Wonderful gambled that a third of his supporters would vault Maxime Bernier to a first-ballot victory.
But in the field of 12 remaining candidates that included now-viable successors to Scheer–Erin O’Toole and Lisa Raitt–thirteen rounds later, Scheer squeaked out the win and the rest was history.
Not withstanding searing bouts of rhetoric from stalwart front benchers like Pierre Poilievre or Michelle Rempel, federal Conservatives remained stuck behind a simpatico leadership approach that stretched through the last election.
Even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s antics, scandals and world-stage gaffes piled up, including Time Magazine revelations of avid blackface enthusiasm through our PM’s 20s–during an increasingly bitter election, no less–Scheer could never quite convert that into his advantage.
And Scheer’s leadership strategy never really diverged from this idea he could win by being a regular Joe – easy to be around and in other words not the millionaire playboy that the country’s 2015 choice for PM was turning out to be.
This failed programme was ultimately compounded by Scheer’s inability to square his personal religious views in a manner that the wider public could trust, on incredibly polarizing issues of abortion or gay, lesbian and trans rights.
By the time Scheer got around to showing any gumption on this subject–the memorable “is being gay a sin” exchange–he was scrumming with reporters after surviving a losing election post-mortem revolt at the party’s national caucus.
This time around, Conservatives need to find a winner. It seems a no-brainer, but this winner, wherever he/she/they may be, needs to be the sort who prevails in more than a leadership race or internal review.
This leader has to be the type of person where winning courses through their veins and maybe require an outsider with more zest for the glad-handing politics’ of the rubber chicken circuit than Mr. Wonderful had.
TRIGGER WARNING: During his Coach’s Corner prime, Don Cherry would have brought the perfect sort of everyman, energy required for such work –a Ralph Klein on blades – if only the leadership came å la sidekick Ron Maclean, playing Grapes’ foil of course.
Back in a post “you people” matrix, outsiders like Alberta energy tycoon Brett Wilson–another Dragon’s Den alumnus–as well as behavioural psychologist Jordan Peterson, have been bandied about social media as great replacements.
But if yardstick be real-world experience, paired with an ability to communicate effectively with a wider public, either are credible options especially given that Trudeau’s relative inexperience outside of politics was often compared to Scheer’s own career-politics trajectory, outside of briefly flogging insurance.
Back on the inside, former Conservative MPs who earned their stripes in previous Stephen Harper governments–former cabinet ministers Peter MacKay and Rona Ambrose–remain potential and formidable contenders if they choose to throw in their hats.
While MacKay has not ruled it out, Ambrose has indicated she’s not interested. Nevertheless, it’s early days with plenty of time to convince Ambrose she’s the perfect counterpoint to Trudeau.
Unlike MacKay’s Laurentien elite provenance, Ambrose’s Albertan roots would provide the West strong representation in Parliament and “because it’s 2015”, Conservatives could walk Trudeau’s often empty, gender talk.
What MacKay has going for him is a deeper cabinet resume, having served as attorney general, foreign affairs and national defence minister in former Harper cabinets. In terms of pure political calculations, the West is already solidly blue while MacKay’s corner of the country could use his ability to attract Maritimes voters back into the Conservative fold.
At the moment, all comers would be considered in the context of taking on a Trudeau-led Liberal Party in the next federal election. And if Trudeau’s insatiable appetite for attention, or another SNC-Lavalin level scandal emerges, from which there are no reasonable escapes; the caucus could oust golden boy and all bets are off.
In the meantime, former Canadian Forces navigator and minister of Veteran Affairs Erin O’Toole – another competent Harper’s crewman – is the first to jump in, having announced his leadership intentions at a Thursday night soirée.
A British business gives it workers “hangover days” which allows them to stay home when they’ve knocked back a few too many. I tell you this reporter could use that policy, STAT. Canada, what’s the holdup?
The Audit Lab, a marketing agency is based out of Bolton, England and currently has ten employees.
Ellie Entwhistle, 19, is a senior digital PR Manager at The Audit Lab and told CTV News, “You just use them as and when you need them.” she said. “I’ve probably had about five this year, three with work colleagues and two when out with friends.”
Entwhistle’s job requires networking with clients which often means going out and getting sauced. When you have to work the next morning you’re likely to leave the event prematurely as one is wont to do.
The hangover days provide flexibility which allows them to stay later, perhaps a better shot at solidifying partnerships with potential clients. This also allows for more transparency with the boss meaning you don’t have to call in “sick” when actually you’re just feeling like a sack of wet hair from the boozin.’ Heck, we’ve all been there.
The Audit Lab regular working hours are 10 am to 4 pm, not bad. What’s better still is the staff get unlimited holidays and six-month pay reviews. I need to quit this gig.
“You create a massive barrier when you lie to your manager,” Entwhistle said. “If people start to take the mick (abuse the system), the perk will start being taken away. You can use them when you need them.”
According to Entwhistle if you take a hangover day you’re still required to work from home, but that couch ain’t half bad. “Grab your laptop and grab the duvet,” Entwhistle added.
Lee Frame, a co-founder of The Audit Lab said the hangover days are part of a “three-pronged attack.” “We wanted our staff to come into work on a Monday,” he said. “It’s great for staff attrition and retention.”
Bolton is in the NorthWest of England and is close to Manchester a much larger city which makes it difficult to retain employees Frame explained.
Frame felt the policy didn’t encourage excessive drinking as much as it encouraged trust and respect. “We go to conferences, alcohol is often a part of it. We’d be remiss to think that people don’t drink through the week,” he said. “It’s a perk, a work-from-home today kind of thing.”
Entwhistle confirmed that you don’t have to be a drinker to be eligible for hangover days. “It’s for anyone who’s had a late night,” she said.
Sign me up.