3 P.E.I. MLAs list tax debt in conflict of interest documents
P.E.I.'s transportation minister says he paid off his debt Monday
P.E.I.'s Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Steven Myers says an income tax debt listed as owing to the Canada Revenue Agency on his conflict of interest disclosure form has now been paid off.
Myers is one of three MLAs who listed liabilities to CRA on public disclosure statements posted on the website of P.E.I.'s conflict of interest commissioner. The other two are Green MLAs Ole Hammarlund and Hannah Bell.
Myers' disclosure form lists a liability of an undisclosed amount to CRA for 2017 income taxes, and indicates the debt was being paid off in instalments.
Ole Hammarlund's disclosure form lists as a liability unpaid income taxes from the years 2016, 2017, and 2018. It also lists a liability to CRA resulting from unpaid HST, with no indication as to whether the debts are being paid off.
On Monday Hammarlund said he's "working with my accountant first of all to complete the returns so I know exactly what I owe and then we'll make a plan to pay it off as fast as possible," a process he said could take two years.
"I'm certainly not proud of being behind on taxes but I have paid taxes all my life," said Hammarlund. "I believe in paying taxes. And although I have occasionally been late I will catch up."
Meanwhile the disclosure form for Hannah Bell indicates the MLA is making payments to creditors including CRA as a result of bankruptcy proceedings, and indicates she will be eligible to be discharged from bankruptcy on or before Aug. 15, 2020.
Paid in full on Monday
When he was first contacted by CBC about the tax debt Monday, Myers said it would be paid off this week. Hours later he said the debt was paid as of Monday.
Before being named to cabinet, Myers earned income working for the company Business Technology Consulting in addition to his salary as an MLA.
Myers told CBC the taxes owed were a result of working two jobs taxed at different rates. He said his taxes were filed on time and the payments were not in arrears, and that the amount owing was less than $5,000.
According to P.E.I.'s Conflict of Interest Act, MLAs aren't required to list assets or liabilities on their public disclosures that are worth less than $5,000. However, it's not unheard of for MLAs to list things they aren't required to declare — for example, assets like their primary residence or a cottage.
None of the other MLAs listed tax liabilities owing. Finance Minister Darlene Compton does not have a public disclosure statement posted on the website of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly. Neither does Natalie Jameson, elected July 15 in a deferred election in District 9.
Under the Conflict of Interest Act, P.E.I. MLAs have 60 days from the time they're elected to file their first private financial disclosure with P.E.I.'s Conflict of Interest Commissioner. After that initial disclosure, further disclosures are required once per calendar year.
From that private disclosure the commissioner prepares a public disclosure, which is posted on the website for the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly.
There was no initial response to questions regarding the lack of a public disclosure form from P.E.I.'s finance minister. On Tuesday, the province said Compton's private disclosure was submitted within the required 60 days, and that she was "now in the process of following up on a couple of points of clarification raised by the commissioner in order to finalize her [public] disclosure."
Financial issues forced former minister's resignation
In 2015, former MLA Tina Mundy resigned from cabinet one day after being named education minister.
At the time Mundy cited "ongoing financial matters" as the reason for resigning from cabinet.
Former premier Wade MacLauchlan said at the time the fact the province was one of Mundy's creditors with regards to property taxes would put her in a "compromised position in terms of sitting around the cabinet table."
He also said if he'd known Mundy owed on her taxes, he wouldn't have put her in cabinet. She was named to cabinet less than a year later, after she said she'd taken time to "deal with financial issues."
There was no response to questions sent to the premier's office regarding whether Myers' tax liabilities were considered in the decision to appoint him to cabinet. While the CRA is a federal agency, it also collects income taxes for the province.
Myers provided information for this story but a request to government for an interview with the minister did not receive a response.