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Bloc seeks probe of construction magnate, troubled tax office

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Dec. 13, 2010.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The opposition is trying to lift the veil on an ongoing controversy at the Canada Revenue Agency that has seen six employees fired and three others suspended over the last two years.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the House finance committee to launch an inquiry and hear from construction magnate Antonio Accurso and the officials who have been fired or suspended from the tax-collection agency, among others.

Mr. Accurso was the administrator of two construction firms that pleaded guilty to tax evasion last week, after claiming non-deductible expenses such as jewellery and the costs of restoring a luxury yacht. Court documents allege the fraud was conducted in part with the help of former officials within the Montreal offices of the CRA.

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During Question Period, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said the government has to state whether or not the CRA was infiltrated by rogue employees, and to outline the scope of the problem.

"Can the Prime Minister put an end to the ongoing law of silence and state whether there was a network at play? How many people are involved in this affair?" Mr. Duceppe said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, stuck to a tight script, stating that the government is fully collaborating with ongoing investigations by the CRA and the RCMP.

"Such wrongdoing on the part of Canada Revenue Agency employees will not be tolerated. The government will conduct an investigation and ensure that the CRA functions appropriately," Mr. Harper said.

The other opposition parties are supporting the idea of a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, although there might still be some debate on the proposed list of witnesses.

NDP MP Thomas Mulcair said the committee's work cannot compromise ongoing investigations. Still, he said the committee must look into the revelation that one of the CRA officials in charge of the ongoing internal investigation was attacked after a staff Christmas party over the weekend.

"This touches at the institution's very ability to function," Mr. Mulcair said.

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Liberal MP Scott Brison added: "When Canadians pay their taxes, they need to know that the Canada Revenue Agency is ensuring that all of Canadians pay their fair share. We have a responsibility at committee and in government to ensure that that is the case."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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