NDP MP loses post in shadow cabinet over unpaid taxes
Published Friday, May 24, 2013 1:39PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 24, 2013 7:26PM EDT
An NDP MP has been suspended from the party’s shadow cabinet after it was revealed that he owes more than $58,000 in back taxes.
Montreal MP Tyrone Benskin is no longer the NDP’s official languages critic and will remain out of the shadow cabinet until he repays his debt.
In a statement, Benskin explained that his income from his acting career was often inconsistent, which at times left him unable to meet all of his financial obligations. Benskin, who was elected in 2011, appeared in the Hollywood film “300.”
“The life of an artist isn’t always easy. I have had lean periods. I have lived in precarious conditions, not knowing what the future had in store for me, sometimes without a contract for several weeks, or even months. I have had to juggle bills,” Benskin said.
“My situation has prevented me from fulfilling all of my tax obligations and I am truly sorry.”
Revenue Quebec said the debt was incurred between 2007 and 2011. The agency will garnish part of Benskin’s $160,000 annual MP salary.
“As in other cases for other citizens, we will do all that is possible to be sure that Mr. Benskin will meet his tax obligations,” Revenue Quebec spokesperson Stephane Dion told CTV Montreal.
The Conservatives called on the NDP to kick Benskin out of caucus altogether.
“I think Mr. Mulcair should show leadership there,” Industry Minister Christian Paradis told reporters in Ottawa on Friday. “Only to have these people without their critic function, I think it’s not enough.”
But NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said he is satisfied with Benskin’s apology, and said he would remain out of the shadow cabinet until his debt is settled.
"He has to pay his taxes, like everyone. He will do it. He will do it completely. He apologized -- which was the right thing to do," Mulcair told reporters in Trois-Rivieres, Que.
"Until then, I have removed him from our shadow cabinet. So he loses his responsibility in official languages until he pays his taxes."
Benskin once introduced a private member’s bill that called for averaging out earnings over a number of years so taxpayers wouldn’t get hit with a massive tax bill in a good year. Benskin said Bill C-427, which was rejected by the federal government, would help artists who can’t access Employment Insurance benefits.
"This is a deeply personal project for Mr. Benskin, who has been an artist for over 30 years," he said in a statement last year.
"C-427 is born of an intimate understanding of the numerous and pressing challenges faced by contemporary Canadian artists."
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Rob Lurie and files from The Canadian Press