Although the environment is commonly assumed to be the issue that’s top of mind for members of the Green Party of Canada, Cyrille Giraud, who is running for member of Parliament (MP) in the downtown Montreal riding of Laurier — Sainte-Marie, is quick to correct this misconception.
In fact, there are many issues of importance to Giraud and his party in this year’s federal election, he says, adding that, in his perspective, tax avoidance is the problem that needs to be addressed most urgently.
“It’s not only about the environment,” says Giraud. “Financial matters, for me, are the most important ones in this campaign.”
Giraud, 40, has worked in the financial services sector for the past 15 years primarily in roles related to compliance and back-office functions. His experience includes two years as an investigator with Quebec’s securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF).
Currently, Giraud works for Montreal-based Peak Financial Group as internal auditor, compliance, ethics and deontology — a role that involves overseeing advisors to ensure they act in the best interest of their clients.
The compliance and ethics elements of Giraud’s role tie in nicely with his goals as a politician, he says, and specifically, with his efforts to ensure all Canadians comply with their tax obligations.
“I’m very concerned about all the money the country is losing through tax evasion,” Giraud says. “It’s a huge problem.”
The biggest problem, he says, is international tax havens. He points to data from Statistics Canada showing that Canadians had at least $170 billion in offshore tax shelters as of 2013. A perfect example, Giraud says, is the recent case that was featured prominently in the media, involving a wealthy Victoria couple who allegedly avoided paying taxes for several years by engaging in an offshore tax sham.
“It’s so insulting to all of the people who pay their taxes as they’re supposed to,” Giraud says. “Everybody should be happy to pay taxes, but there should be fair taxation. Right now, this is not fair taxation.”
All Canadians suffer as a result of tax avoidance, Giraud says, as it means less income for the government to spend on things such as infrastructure. “It’s why we have so many austerity measures and cuts [to services].”
If elected, Giraud hopes to take steps to crack down on offshore tax havens in co-operation with other jurisdictions around the world so that the funds being sheltered abroad can be taxed appropriately and reinvested in Canada’s economy.
Giraud also sees opportunity for securities regulation to be improved in Canada. Specifically, through his experience in the industry, he says he has seen first-hand the challenges that can result from the fragmented regulatory framework. For example, he says trying to keep track of regulatory requirements that vary considerably between provinces makes his compliance responsibilities much more complicated.
Giraud does not support the Conservative government’s efforts to establish a single national securities regulator because he says it’s important to some provinces — including Quebec — to maintain responsibility for their own capital markets. However, he says greater standardization of rules between provinces could benefit the industry.
“We could find a way to have the same laws in Quebec and the rest of Canada,” Giraud says. “The only thing is that Quebec doesn’t want to lose the control of its supervision.”
Born and raised in France, Giraud moved to Canada in 2003 to pursue new career opportunities. He quickly settled in, established a career, and built up a network of friends. He received his Canadian citizenship in 2008.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Giraud says. “The quality of life that we have here is amazing.”
Giraud got involved in Canadian politics in 2012. In Montreal’s 2013 municipal election, he ran as a candidate for the Projet Montréal party.
Giraud faces an uphill battle in his riding in this year’s election, where he’s running against incumbent New Democratic Party MP Hélène Laverdière, who won the seat in 2011, and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who held the seat for 21 years prior to the last election.
Although campaigning is an activity that consumes most of Giraud’s spare time, he says it’s a rewarding endeavour that allows him to give back to the country he now calls home.
“My political involvement is a way to give back what I got from the country,” he says.