My youngest son runs a very successful business teaching boxing in downtown Vancouver. What interests me today is not the business plan, nor the teaching strategy, not even the occasional appearance of Prime Minister Trudeau for a jabbing lesson in how to keep your opposition off balance; what I find utterly fascinating and widely applicable to understanding what is going on in our world is his simple, encompassing tagline: Always in Your Corner.
Looking at the recent presidential election in the United States, Always in Your Corner provides an understanding of how the Democrats failed against a Republican candidate—and legislators, who otherwise would not have attracted a respectable sized audience at the circus.
Clearly American voters could not bring themselves to believe that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or the Democrats generally were, by any stretch, in their corner. What on Earth were the Democrats thinking? Did they not see the massive civil resistance to these “Free Trade” agreements whose obvious goal was the entrenchment of corporate greed over the interests of citizens? How long did they think it would take for citizens to wake up to implications of these agreements giving corporations the right to imagine money they would like to make—regardless of the impact on wages, environmental safeguards, and the provision of public services for the public good—and sue governments (our public treasury)to convert these greedy imaginations into corporate cash flows? Clearly American voters just could not bring themselves to believe that switching Hillary Clinton for Barack Obama would change the fact that government, under the Democrats was, most definitely, not in their corner.
It is interesting that our Canadian Liberal government, which continues to push for these corporate/investor rights agreements, doesn’t seem a bit more aware than Obama/Clinton that the gig is up. The clearly understood meta-message of these one-sided corporate rights agreements is that those promoting them are not in our corner. With the Liberals chasing after even more, illusionary, corporate rights deals, while the Conservative Party leadership race trumpets values and policies that increasingly mirror the Republicans, now, seems the time for a party like the New Democrats and/or the Green Party to define themselves as the party that really is–in our corner.
How could that happen? What is the issue that could positively and emphatically define the difference between the parties that would govern for our citizens, our common good and democratic values and parties that are simply not in our corner? With corporate rights agreements sidelined for sometime in Washington, anything Canadian parties might say about corporate rights agreements is pretty much a mute point. The big issue that will divide those who are on our side and those who are not is tax fairness. No issue, not even corporate rights agreements, more clearly defines who is in the ordinary citizen’s corner than tax fairness.
By tax fairness, I am not referring to slight differences in the official tax classifications. Differences in official tax categories have become nearly meaningless compared to the wink-wink/turn a blind eye use of tax havens to circumvent meaningful tax assessment and create an underground economy of greed and sociopathic “entities” that rob legitimate governments of the resources to meet the needs of their citizens. This tax haven economy has become nearly as large as that of legitimate governments. It really is a misnomer to call the illegitimate economy a “tax haven” because it really is a black economy where money from tax dodging is mixed with criminal monies of all sorts to serve the interests of crooked politicians, crooked finance, strongmen, drug money, illicit arms deals etc.
At one time these tax “havens” were thought of as quaint little, out of the way places like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Bermuda where a few privileged people retired in a little more luxury than they otherwise could have afforded without dodging the tax man in their home countries, but that never was the case, and it far from the truth now. So called Tax Havens have long since morphed into major trading centres where secrecy is the word and facilitating the evisceration of democratic governance is the game. Canadians for Tax Fairness estimates that Canadians lose at least $7.8 billion dollars every year through direct tax losses to these corrupt economy havens. It has been estimated that $21 to $32 trillion is now invested in tax havens—an amount equal to the combined annual output of the USA and Japan. Imagine the social/environmental good that could have been done with that money if it went to the public purse where it belongs.
That Canada has the lowest corporate tax rate among G7 countries has made almost no difference to the amount of tax money flowing out of our country. While the financial and banking industry enjoys all the benefits of our standing in the world and our social services, it accounts for more than half the money that hides in a secret off shore mail box.
It makes me wonder why Canada does not, like some other countries, lay tax fraud charges against individuals and corporations for having undeclared bank accounts in tax havens and—at the same time—allows private companies to keep their ownership secret.
It angers and baffles me that we do not have a Canadian party taking on tax havens and their associated criminal businesses. Do they not hear the seething public anger over a tax system that is blatantly unfair, promotes an economy by and for crooks and robs Canadians of the money our democracy generates in order to pursue the common good? Why do we allow Canadian banks to operate secretive offshore subsidiaries from Switzerland to Singapore? Why the hell aren’t our politicians absolutely infuriated that, according to documents in the Panama Papers, the law firm Mossack Fonseca promoted Canada as a “good place to create tax planning structures to minimize taxes” and charged offshore clients thousands of dollars to set them up shell companies with falsified annual financial reports based on a Canadian identity easier to obtain than a Canadian library card.
Billions of dollars in increased revenues from money we should be collecting from tackling tax havens and closing tax loopholes but aren’t would mean we would have money for health care and pharmacare and looking after veterans, and clean energy and a national housing strategy… Instead the money goes into the pockets of wealthy individuals and corporations that do not share our commitment to the common good.
Closing tax havens and requiring transparent financial accountability would be a big task, but is that not what we elect our representatives to do—take on the big jobs and secure for all a just, decent, sustaining and sustainable Canada?
See you at a ballot box soon!
–as always, in your corner