Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Tim Houston is among thousands of prominent Canadians named in the so-called Paradise Papers, but he says it has nothing to do with personal taxes.
The provincial NDP party sent out a press release late Thursday revealing that Houston, MLA for Pictou East, is named among the 13 million confidential documents regarding 19 offshore tax havens leaked to media earlier this month, shedding light on the tax-avoidance activities practised by some of the world’s most wealthy individuals.
Being listed in the Paradise Papers database does not always mean a person is utilizing tax havens. Moreover, while controversial, the use of tax havens is not illegal.
“The Paradise Papers database contains the names of many, many people who think it is acceptable (that) wealthy people should find ways of not having to pay taxes and have that civic responsibility covered by people of more moderate income who don’t have the means to evade taxes in that way,” NDP Leader Gary Burrill said.
“That’s not the kind of company a person seeking to offer leadership should wish to keep.”
Houston’s entry on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists database connects him to four entities in Bermuda, where Houston lived for 12 years before moving back to his home province of Nova Scotia in 2007. Houston has not hidden this fact — he has spoken about it in this legislature and in his leadership candidacy announcement speech.
Houston, a chartered accountant by trade, is listed as the director and vice president of Inter-Ocean Services Ltd., Inter-Ocean Holdings Ltd., Inter-Ocean Reinsurance Company Ltd. and Inter-Ocean Credit Products Ltd. between January 2006 and April 2007.
In an emailed statement, Houston said his listing among the Paradise Papers files has nothing to do with Canadian taxes or personal taxes but is related to his time living and working in Bermuda, which he said was a great opportunity for him to work in international business.
“One of the non-Canadian reinsurance companies I worked for at the time owned several other companies. These are companies that operated in the international reinsurance market. Given my time in Bermuda, working in this market at a time in my career when I was taking on increasing responsibility, I was listed as having held senior positions in certain companies. These responsibilities have been identified in one of the 13.4 million records pulled,” Houston said.
Houston said taxes are a fundamental part of how our society functions, and he believes companies and business owners need to play by the rules and pay their taxes like everyone else.
“This sloppy NDP research shows a willingness to make knee-jerk decisions without the facts,” Houston said. “That’s certainly not how I intend to run this province.”