OTTAWA — It was another stormy Question Period for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.
Documents revealed in the so-called Paradise Papers leak show that Trudeau’s principal fundraiser, billionaire Stephen Bronfman, may have used an offshore trust in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes in Canada.
CBC, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star reported the news Sunday.
If the allegations are true, it puts Trudeau in an embarrassing position since he and his Liberal Party campaigned in the 2015 federal election on forcing “the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.” Trudeau also supports a tax plan that would make it more difficult for individuals to claim corporate status in order to reduce their tax burden.
On Monday, Trudeau refused to directly comment on whether Bronfman had done anything wrong but continued to insist that his government is foursquare behind “fighting tax avoidance and tax evasion.” The Canada Revenue Agency on Monday said it would be examining the tax-dodging allegations and would begin “appropriate action” if necessary.
The Conservative opposition was having none of it. Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre joked that Revenue Canada might be investigating tax fraud but it isn’t looking at Trudeau’s wealthy friends.
“Have they gone after the billionaire Bronfman family, or have they instead decided to go after people suffering with diabetes, or minimum wage-earning waitresses who enjoy a small chicken sandwich at the end of the shift, or small businesses and farmers?” he asked. “When will this high tax hypocrisy come to an end?”
Trudeau was also reminded that he took Bronfman with him when he went to Washington, D.C., in 2016 for a state dinner with then-President Barack Obama.
Bronfman isn’t saying much about the controversy, allowing only that a “single loan made over a quarter century ago to the Kolber Trust was repaid five months later,” he said in a statement.
“Stephen Bronfman is a proud Canadian and has always fully complied with all legal requirements, including with respect to taxes,” according to the statement, adding that the Seagrams whiskey heir “has never funded nor used offshore trusts.”