Fallout from revelations that prominent Canadian businesses and politicians are sheltering millions of dollars in offshore tax havens worsened Thursday with new reports that senior bureaucrats in Ottawa provided advice to lobbyists on how to help their wealthy clients shield their assets from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
CBC News reports that top federal bureaucrats held private meetings with a lobbyist who represented clients interested in placing their money in offshore tax havens, with one senior government official providing talking points to the lobbyist that go against Canada's official stance on greater transparency of corporate ownership.
The meetings were held with London-based Canadian lawyer Richard Hay, according to documents revealed through the Paradise Papers, an online leak of classified documents concerning the world`s wealthy and powerful. The meetings between Mr. Hay, the lobbyist, and Canadian government officials were not reported through the federal lobbying registry as is required by law, and Hay himself was not registered to lobby in Canada. Several meetings took place between Mr. Hay and bureaucrats in Ottawa starting in the summer of 2013.
Mr. Hay, a lawyer with Montreal-founded firm Stikeman Elliott, was representing a lobbying group called the International Financial Centres Forum (IFC) when he met with government officials in Ottawa. There was concern at the time that governments around the world, including Canada, were going to crack down on the use of offshore tax havens. The International Financial Centres Forum is comprised the planet's major offshore law firms, which help to set-up and administer offshore companies.
Documents in the Paradise Papers show that Mr. Hay even met with then Canadian Minister of International Trade Simon Kennedy on the issue of tax havens. The IFC Forum minutes show that Mr. Hay met Minister Kennedy on two occasions, as well as another high-ranking civil servant from the same department, Duane McMullen, Head of Canada's Trade Commissioner Service.
The current Liberal Government is likely to face a new round of attacks from opposition politicians during Question Period on Thursday over the latest revelations. The immediate government response to the CBC News story was to issue a statement that reads, in part, "Trade? ?commissioners? ?talk? ?to? ?people? ?on? ?all? ?sides? ?of? ?an? ?issue? ?and? ?in? ?doing? ?so,? ?try? ?to? ?understand their? ?positions,? ?point? ?out? ?their? ?weaknesses, and? ?identify? ?areas? ?of? ?common? ?ground."