Builds on Progressive Opposition Parties' Criticism of Conservative Harper Government
James George Jatras for RepealFATCA.com
In Toronto today, a group of Canadian citizens have issued an "Open Letter" to Terry Campbell, President of the Canadian Banker's Association (CBA), detailing their opposition to the U.S. "Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act" (FATCA) and urging CBA to desist from its efforts to push the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty into signing a so-called "intergovernmental agreement" (IGA) with the U.S. Treasury Department to mandate enforcement of FATCA in Canada. According to an accompanying press release, the Open Letter is a collaborative effort of Canadians from coast to coast, mostly participants at the Isaac Brock Society and Maple Sandbox websites. Canadian citizens and residents only are invited to contact those sites and add their names. (The Open Letter is posted online at the preceding links. It is also available here in PDF format, with contact information; the full texts of the press release and Open Letter also follow below at the end of this RepealFATCA.com bulletin.)
As detailed in the Open Letter and the press release, enforcement of FATCA in Canada would amount "to changing Canadian law to suit American demands" and abrogating the rights of Canadian citizens and residents under Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and other legal guarantees. Both CBA President Campbell and Finance Minister Flaherty have been critical of FATCA but -- perhaps swayed by self-interested advice from a consulting industry looking forward to billions of dollars in FATCA compliance revenues -- have decided that an IGA would be the least bad option for Canada's banks. As noted in the press release:
"Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said FATCA is 'extraterritorial' and 'unwarranted' and 'will turn Canadian banks into arms of the IRS.' Nonetheless, the Harper government -- urged on by the CBA -- has been negotiating secretly with the United States for more than a year about an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to implement FATCA. Opposition MPs have demanded transparency and an explanation of the impact an IGA would have on Canadians' rights and on Canadian sovereignty.
Other issues highlighted in the Open Letter include the direct impact FATCA enforcement would have on some 12% of Canada's population, whose own government would decline to protect them from the demands of a foreign power. Other issues raised include the economic costs to Canada and data security (cf., NSA spying on America's friends and allies):
Rick Waugh, Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Nova Scotia, recently revealed that his institution has spent nearly $100 million for FATCA compliance. ("Electronic spying 'a big issue' for banks, Scotia CEO Waugh says," Financial Post, October 23, 2013.)
Leaving aside the insoluble data-vulnerability and information-security problems banks are encountering (compounded by the ongoing scandal of U.S. electronic spying, which creates enormous loss of trust in U.S. assurances), FATCA creates massive costs that will be passed on by your member banks to ALL Canadian consumers. [See "The US Surveillance Dragnet Extends to Foreign Bank Data, Too," Motherboard, by D.J. Pangburn, October 3, 2013.]
The Open Letter notes in detail the sharp inquiry made to the ruling Conservative government in Ottawa from the Green, New Democrat, and Liberal parties in Opposition. (In an indication of growing resistance to FATCA across the political spectrum, labor unions joined a recent anti-FATCA protest.) Finally, the Open Letter asks CBA belatedly to launch an effort to help secure FATCA's repeal.
If Canada declines to submit to FATCA by signing an IGA, the consequences would be far-reaching. It is well-established that FATCA cannot be enforced without a large number of IGAs being signed, particularly with America's major trade and finance partners. (To date, there are fewer signed IGAs than Treasury had predicted by the end of 2012!) Of these potential partners, the biggest and most important is Canada. As the Open Letter observes:
"If the Canadian Government and Canadian citizens spoke with one voice and told the U.S a firm 'No' on an IGA, and a firm 'No' on FATCA enforcement in Canada, it would resound around the world. Other countries would be encouraged to stand up to the U.S. on FATCA, and the path to the repeal of this misguided law would be opened."
James George Jatras