Internal whistleblower emails and memos mistakenly filed in Federal Court which disclosed allegations of misconduct by senior Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) executives were removed from public access by federal lawyers Thursday.
“The court has ordered that the documents be removed from the public record and returned to our office,” said Bronwyn Johns-O’Hara, spokeswoman for the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. She added lawyers with the Department of Justice made the commissioner “aware of the sensitive nature of the information.”
The “sensitive nature” includes claims that CRA managers arranged “preferential tax treatment” for an unnamed corporation with offshore accounts. All managers were named, including individuals who have since left the CRA.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, whistleblowers alleged executives personally ordered CRA employees to approve a favourable Income Tax Act ruling for the corporation “quickly and without meaningful analysis.” According to records, the subsequent savings were worth millions.
One memo said the approval was completed “without allowing any substantial review or due diligence.” It went on to say that a CRA executive “signed off on the advanced pricing arrangement without reading it and employees were allegedly pressured to rubber stamp an unverified settlement from another division that had no authority to enter into an advance pricing arrangement settlement.”
Another memo read that employees were told one executive “wants this done.” Longtime CRA managers who filed complaints depicted the arrangement as suspicious.
“What did (they) get out of this?” one wrote in a 2020 memo. “Prestige? A feeling of power? Influence? Future favours? 10M in a Swiss account?”
“It doesn’t matter,” the complaint continued. “It’s wrong no matter what they got. What are you going to do about it? Failure to act will result in us going to the Privy Council, the auditor general, the minister of Revenue and the prime minister.”
The documents were among 2,324 pages of records filed by mistake in Federal Court by Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday, a lawyer. The mammoth file included private emails, human resources reports and confidential correspondence.
The disclosure breached the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, but the Commissioner’s office yesterday said it was not to blame. “The commissioner and the parties are working together to examine the need for further redactions,” said spokesperson Johns-O’Hara.
The records were obtained by Blacklock’s prior to yesterday’s confirmation of a court order that they be withdrawn from public access. Blacklock’s has declined to print the names, titles, addresses and telephone numbers of individuals accused of wrongdoing pending any House of Commons committee investigation.
Matthew Horwood is the Parliamentary Bureau Chief of the Western Standard
Matthew Horwood is the Parliamentary Bureau Chief of the Western Standard based in the Parliamentary Bureau. He has a degree in journalism from Carleton University and has been a reporter for the Hill Times and the Ottawa Business Journal.
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