The Press, both internationally and locally, is often maligned when it deals with matters of national importance in an aggressive way, even though, in the majority of instances, careful research of the facts often support the questions posed or views espoused.
Even in the most reputable of newspapers, however, there are times when such criticism is deserved; when bias creeps in, and half-truths are insinuated while the critical facts are ignored, sacrificed at the altar of profitability; when selling more newspapers becomes more important than telling the whole story, lest truth might destroy a chance to break a story on a hot topic. This lapse in good journalism is no more evident than in times where seemingly sensational news has broken, and the temptation to get ahead of a story can go even beyond the imperative of selling more papers to corrupt journalistic mores.
Such is the case, we believe, with two articles appearing over the last weekend in the Canadian Press, both of them fuelled by the recent “Panama Papers” imbroglio, and both attempting to label Barbados as a tax haven allowing Canadian companies to evade taxation in Canada, as a result of Canada’s Double Taxation Treaty with Barbados, and their exempt surplus programme. Both articles erroneously suggest that money can be “parked” in Barbados away from Canadian or American tax authorities — nothing could be further from the truth — and that the result of this is, and will continue to be, higher taxation for Canadian residents, clearly appealing to a sore spot in the psyche of a population who already see themselves as heavily taxed, and to the Canadian ethos of fair play and doing the right thing.
For those in possession of all of the facts, the subtle deception of an experienced journalist can easily be detected, but for the millions of uninformed readers in this Internet age, they can do little else but follow the carefully manipulated pseudo-facts and open-ended questions which will lead them, inevitably we fear, to the wrong conclusions. In hard economic times, those conclusions can coalesce and bring pressure to bear on already economically beleaguered Governments to make changes that are inimical to the greater good of their countries.
Successive Governments of Canada have clearly recognised, on the one hand, the increasingly competitive nature of conducting international business, and on the other hand, the import of the considerable research conducted by their own University of Toronto (Professor Hejazi, 2007, 2015), as well as by US Universities Harvard (Professors Desai and Foley, 2008) and Michigan (Professor Hines, 2008, 2009). That is, the use of a reputable, well-regulated, treaty-based international financial centre conduit, like Barbados, by Canadian companies investing abroad, is net positive for the Canadian economy in the long run, and that the benefits outweigh the more immediate loss of taxation in the home country, typically seen in the use of a double taxation treaty. Interestingly, none of this sizable body of research was mentioned in either article.
Our purpose today, though, in highlighting these articles, is not to address the shortcomings of the Canadian press, who are but following what has become an unfortunate trend in sensationalist journalism almost everywhere else in the world. Rather, it is to call on the Barbados Government to recognise that the 300-plus years of Canada/Barbados trade and international business-relationship could be at risk, and that urgent action is required on their part to spearhead a determined effort to ensure that the new Liberal Government of Canada is in full possession of all of the facts, and fully appreciates the value of the Barbados/Canada international business connection. This matter needs to be addressed at the highest level, and with the highest priority, before uninformed opinion is allowed to fester and misdirect electoral pressure, resulting in considerable damage to both our own and Canada’s economic future.