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Responses to Questions on Canada's Adoption of FATCA IGA

Published Jan 29, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Back in November I noted that MP Ted Hsu presented an order paper question (OPQ 816) on the topic of the unusual process surrounding Canada's adoption of an intergovernmental agreement on FATCA. He asked a series of detailed questions about the treaty tabling and ratification process, and today he got his answers, the substance of which I have reproduced below; you can find the full document here.

I note that there is a common answer to many of the questions: "Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old is considered a cabinet confidence and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act." Therefore, most of the answers are: you will find out in 20 years.

Though the government continues to claim that it "followed the treaty tabling policy" and that it made procedural exceptions deliberately, according to stated procedures, and out of urgent need, the facts and the nonexistence of key documents declare otherwise.

Bottom line: if there is a treaty policy in Canada, it is that a sitting government can bind the nation to any agreement of any sort with no parliamentary oversight of any kind and with no transparency, and if that agreement violates existing laws and rights, then it will be up to those whose rights have been violated to mount legal action to assert those laws and get their rights restored. This is not just a matter of some arcane technical procedure. It is fundamentally a problem of access to justice. Law is not free. It is, in fact, quite expensive.

I note that all the answers below are from the Minister of Foreign Affairs except with respect to three answers from Finance, which are indicated in brackets.

ORDER/ADDRESS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
No. Q-816
By Mr. Hsu (Kingston and the Islands) 
Date November 24, 2014 

With regard to the Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America to Improve International Tax Compliance through Enhanced Exchange of Information under the Convention Between the United States of America and Canada with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (the Agreement), the government's Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament (the Policy), and the statement of Peter Van Loan, Government House Leader, in the House on Monday, April 28, 2014, that "in this case, the fact is that the government, the cabinet, actually did grant such an exemption to the tabling policy. As such, the very words of the policy, the
requirements of the policy, have been followed. The processes for obtaining the exemption were obtained. As a result, the requirement that it be tabled in the House 21 days in advance of the legislation being introduced is not necessary and the policy is fully complied with" (the Statement):

(a) was an exemption to the government's Policy granted with respect to the Agreement;
Yes.
(b) what is the difference between an "exemption" and an "exception" in terms of the Policy;
Either term could be used in the context of the Policy.
(c) if the word "exception" is substituted for “exemption" is the Statement accurate;
Either term could be used in the context of the Policy.
(d) on what basis was the Statement made;
The Statement was made because the Agreement was granted an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy.
(e) how was the Government House Leader informed of the exemption or exception being granted to the Policy;
The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (the "Department") has no information on how the Government House Leader was informed,
(f) what documents or memos were created regarding this exemption or exception and what are their access or control numbers;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act
(g) who was involved in this decision to grant an exemption or exception and at what stage were they involved;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act
(h) what was the process, step-by-step, by which this Agreement was granted an exemption or exception;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act
(i) who reviewed the decision to grant an exemption or exception, (i) when, (ii) why, (iii) how;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
 (j) does the Policy apply to the Agreement, and how;
Yes. The Agreement was granted an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy,
(k) between what departments does correspondence exist-regarding the tabling of the Agreement under the Policy and what are the file numbers for these documents;
There is some correspondence between the Department, and the Department of Finance. There are no file numbers for the correspondence,
(l) on what date was the Agreement concluded;
[Finance] The Agreement was signed and made public on February 5, 2014.
(m) on what date was the Agreement tabled in Parliament;
In the context of the Policy, "If an exception is granted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification." (6.3b of the Policy), The Agreement was publicly tabled on September 15, 2014 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs as per Standing Order 32.2. That was the earliest opportunity for the Government to inform the House that Canada had agreed to be bound by the Agreement following its ratification - also the first sitting day of the House after the summer Parliamentary recess.
(n) on what date was the Agreement ratified;
Canada ratified the Agreement on June 27, 2014.
(o) when was the House made aware of the text of the Agreement;
In the context of the Policy, "If an exception is granted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification." (6.3b of the Policy)". The Agreement was publicly tabled on September 15, 2014 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs as per Standing Order 32.2. That was the earliest opportunity for the Government to inform the House that Canada had agreed to be bound by the Agreement following its ratification - also the first sitting day of the House after the summer Parliamentary recess. Additionally, the text of the Agreement was set out in Schedule 3 to Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
(p) how was the House made aware of the text of the Agreement;
[Finance] Legislative proposals to implement the Agreement with the U.S., including related amendments to the Income Tax Act, were set out in Part 5 of the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 (Bill C-31 ). The text of the Agreement was provided in Schedule 3 of Bill C-31. Bill C-31 was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
In the context of the Policy, the text of the Agreement was publicly tabled in accordance with the Policy on September 15, 2014. Additionally, the text of the Agreement was set out in Schedule 3 to Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
(q) when was the House made aware of the granting of an exemption or exception to the Policy in the case of the Agreement;
The House was first informed of the exemption through the Statement by the Government House Leader on April 28, 2014. In the context of the Policy, the House was made aware of the granting of an exemption when the Agreement was publicly tabled in accordance with the Policy on September 15, 2014.
(r) how was the House made aware of the granting of an exemption or exception to the Policy in the case of the Agreement;
The House was first informed of the exemption through the Statement by the Government House Leader on March 28, 2014. In the context of the Policy, the House was made aware of the granting of an exemption in the Explanatory Memorandum which accompanied the Agreement when it was publicly tabled on September 15, 2014.
(s) when and by what means is the House usually informed that an exception has been granted to the Policy;
In the context of the Policy, the House is usually made aware of the granting of an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy in the Explanatory Memorandum which accompanies the treaty when it is tabled publicly.
(t) in the absence of the point of order prompting the Government House Leader's response, how and when would the House have been informed of the exemption;
In the context of the Policy, the House would have been made aware of the granting of an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy in the Explanatory Memorandum which accompanies the treaty when it is tabled publicly.
(u) what steps and measures are in place to ensure that Parliament is informed of exceptions being granted to the Policy;
The Policy states: "If an exception is granted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification."
(v) what steps are in place to ensure that Canadians are informed when exceptions have been granted;
Informing Parliament publicly, as described under (u), is effective as a means of informing Canadians.
(w) what steps and measures are in place to ensure that Parliament is informed of exemptions being granted to the Policy;
The Policy states: "If an exception is granted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification."
(x) what steps are in place to ensure that Canadians are informed when exemptions have been granted;
Informing Parliament publicly, as described under (w), is effective as a means of informing Canadians.
(y) what does "urgent" mean in the context of the Policy;
The term "urgent" is not defined in the Policy.
(z) how was the ratification of the Agreement determined to be urgent;
The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act ("FATCA") was enacted by the U.S. in March 2010. FATCA requires non-U.S. financial institutions to report to the IRS accounts held by U.S. persons. Absent the Agreement, obligations for Canadian financial institutions to comply with FATCA would have been unilaterally and automatically imposed on them by the U.S. as of July 1, 2014. These obligations would have forced Canadian financial institutions to choose between (a) entering into an agreement with the IRS that would require them to report directly to the IRS on accounts held by U.S. residents and U.S. citizens, which would raise concerns about consistency with Canadian privacy laws; or (b) being subject to the 30 percent FATCA withholding tax on certain U.S.-source payments for not complying with FATCA.
The Agreement takes into account the objectives and provisions of the FATCA, while supporting Canada's objectives for improving the integrity and fairness of the Canadian tax system. The Agreement addresses the Canadian concerns about FATCA described above, as well as others. It was realized that observing the Policy's requirement of waiting 21 sitting days would have made meeting the U.S. FATCA deadline of July 1, 2014, unachievable. As a result, the ratification of the Agreement was determined to be urgent, and a request for an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was granted.
(aa) who made the determination in (z), (i) how, (ii) on the basis of what information, (iii) with what authority, (iv) under what criteria;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(bb) how was the decision in (z) reviewed, (i) by whom, (ii) how, (iii) when, (iv) by what criteria;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(cc) who are or were the lead ministers with respect to the Agreement in terms of the Policy and how was this determined;
The Minister of Finance is the lead Minister with respect to the Agreement. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for tabling treaties under the Policy.
(dd) when and how did the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the lead ministers seek approval from the Prime Minister for an exemption to the treaty tabling process;
Approval from the Prime Minister was sought. Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(ee) when was the approval in (dd) granted and how;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(ff) what correspondence is available -with file and control number- to corroborate the information provided in response to (dd) and (ee);
Approval from the Prime Minister was sought. Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(gg) was a “joint-letter that clearly articulates the rationale to proceed with the ratification, without tabling in the House of Commons" created;
No.
 (hh) with respect to the letter in (gg), (i) who created this letter, (ii) when is it dated, (iii) how can it be obtained, (iv) who has access to it, (v) to whom is it addressed;
No such letter was created.
(ii) was the letter drafted in consultation with the Treaty Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the relevant Secretariat in the Privy Council Office;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(jj) what documentation exists - with file or control number for each document - to corroborate the information provided in response to (ii);
No such document exists.
(kk) who is responsible for retention and access of such joint letters;
There are no special provisions for retention and access of such joint letters. Joint letters would be subject to the normal retention and access legislation, regulations, and guidelines for the Government of Canada.
(ll) with respect to the Agreement, were the responsible ministers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs aware early on of the need to request an exemption to the treaty process prior to obtaining Cabinet authority to sign a treaty;
Yes.
 (mm) how is "early on" defined for purposes of the Policy;
The term "early on" is not defined in the Policy.
 (nn) how is "aware" defined for purposes of this provision in the Policy;
The term "aware" is not defined in the Policy.
(oo) was a request made in a Memorandum to Cabinet, seeking policy approval for the Agreement;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(pp) what Memorandums to Cabinet exist relative to this agreement, (i) what are their dates, (ii) are they subject to privilege, (iii) who made them, (iv) what are their record or control numbers;
The Department of Finance will respond to this question and sub-questions. Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act
[Finance] Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old is considered a cabinet confidence and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(qq) which document in (pp) can be said to "clearly articulate the rationale for the exception to the treaty tabling process";
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(rr) what is the rationale for the exception to the treaty tabling process with respect to the Agreement;
The response in (z) outlines the rationale for requesting an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy.
(ss) who determines the rationale per the Policy;
The rationale was prepared through consultations by officials on behalf of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of National Revenue.
(tt) what is an acceptable rationale per the Policy;
There is no definition of “acceptable rationale” under the Policy.
(uu) how is rationale defined in terms of the Policy;
The term "rationale" is not defined in the Policy.
(vv) is there a minimal level of sufficiency for a rationale per the Policy and if so what is it;
There is no definition of a "minimal level of sufficiency" for a rationale under the Policy.
(ww) when was the exception granted;
Information pertaining to Memorandums to Cabinet which are less than 20 years old are considered cabinet confidences and details of these are excluded from disclosure under the principles of the Access to Information Act.
(xx) did the Minister of Foreign Affairs "inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification" per the Policy;
Yes. The Agreement was publicly tabled on September 15, 2014 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs as per Standing Order 32.2.
(yy) when did the actions in (xx) occur and how;
The Agreement was publicly tabled on September 15, 2014, which was the first sitting day of Parliament after the Agreement was ratified.
(zz) in 2014, how many exemptions or exceptions were granted under the Policy before the Agreement;
In 2014, there were two exemptions granted under the Policy. The first was concerning the Agreement. The second was concerning the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
(aaa) in 2014, was the Agreement's rationale for exception unique;
Yes. The ratification of the Agreement was determined to be urgent, and a request for an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was granted.
(bbb) in 2014, was the Agreement the only item determined to be urgent in terms of the Policy;
In 2014, the Agreement was one of two items determined to be urgent in the context of the Policy.
(ccc) is the Government House Leader always informed of exceptions and exemptions under the Policy and, if so, how;
The Department has no information on how the Government House Leader would be informed of exemptions to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy. There are no special provisions under the Policy to inform the Government House Leader of exemptions.
(ddd) is the House always informed of exceptions or exemptions under the Policy and, if so, how;
In the context of the Policy, "If an exception is granted, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform the House of Commons that Canada has agreed to be bound by the instrument at the earliest opportunity following the ratification." (6.3b of the Policy).
 (eee) how early could the Agreement have been tabled in Parliament;
It was realized early on that observing the Policy's requirement of waiting 21 sitting days would have made meeting the FATCA deadline of July 1, 2014, unachievable. As a result, the ratification of the Agreement was determined to be urgent, and a request for an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was sought, and subsequently granted. Since an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was granted, the Agreement was to be tabled at the earliest opportunity following ratification. This was done as early as it could have been when the Agreement was tabled, in accordance with the Policy on September 15, 2014. It should be noted that the text of the Agreement was also set out in Schedule 3 to Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
(fff) how was the date in (eee) determined;
Since an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was granted, the Agreement was to be tabled at the earliest opportunity following ratification. This was done as early as it could have been when the Agreement was tabled, in accordance with the Policy on September 15, 2014. It should be noted that the text of the Agreement was also set out in Schedule 3 to Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
(ggg) if the Agreement could have been tabled earlier in Parliament than the date in (o), (i) why was it not, (ii) what decisions were made in this regard, (iii) who made these decisions, (iv) how, (v) on what basis; and
Since an exemption to the normal treaty tabling process under the Policy was granted, the Agreement was to be tabled at the earliest opportunity following ratification. This was done as early as it could have been when the Agreement was tabled, in accordance with the Policy on September 15, 2014. It should be noted that the text of the Agreement was also set out in Schedule 3 to Bill C-31, the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2014.
(hhh) if the Statement could have been made sooner in the House than Monday, April 28, 2014, (i) why was it not, (ii) what decisions were made in this regard, (iii) who made these decisions, (iv) how, (v) on what basis?
The Department has no information on this question.

Reply by the Offices of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council
With regard to the Agreement, the Privy Council Office has no information in relation to part (ii) regarding a letter drafted in consultation with the Treaty Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.




Tagged as: Canada FATCA rule of law treaties u.s.

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