“You see me at the door,” Mr. Hurd said, smiling.
“You can tell I have a heart.”
He paused, a little startled, then added: “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
The Hurds were among a wave of wealthy Canadians who have become known for their unconventional ways, a trend that has attracted scrutiny from the public, lawmakers and the legal community.
The wealthy, who often don’t show up for court hearings, often use a legal loophole to evade paying taxes or fines.
The Hangersons, in a twist of fate, also make a fortune through their own investments, which allow them to avoid paying taxes on their wealth.
The Canadian Bar Association has been pushing to crack down on tax evasion.
Last month, it urged the government to require companies and individuals to disclose the names of investors who are under investigation or whose financial records have been subject to a tax audit.
In a report last year, it estimated that there are more than 100,000 Canadians in the tax evasion business, with the number growing every year.
“We’re seeing more and more people being caught,” said Richard Murphy, president of the Canadian Bar Foundation.
“And we’re seeing it in a variety of ways.”
A common tactic involves creating offshore accounts, which can allow the Hangersons to dodge taxes by concealing their true financial worth.
Mr. Murphy said the law on the books for years is vague and unclear, leaving a loophole for people like Mr. Holley.
The loopholes have been exploited by individuals who have no financial ties to Canada and have used them to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Canadian real estate.
A spokesman for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, which oversees the Canada Revenue Agency, said the agency does not comment on individual tax cases.
“While the CRA and its partners take appropriate actions when a taxpayer is found to be under the jurisdiction of the CRA, we do not comment further,” said Ian Clark.
“The CRA takes its duty to protect the integrity of our tax system very seriously.”
The Holleys, who live in Toronto, bought a house in a condo on a small peninsula in the Vancouver suburb of Scarborough in the late 1980s.
When the Hutsons became wealthy in the 1990s, the couple began moving to more luxurious homes in Vancouver and Toronto, and eventually bought a $200-million mansion on the same peninsula.
They had the funds to buy it.
They were still struggling to pay the mortgage on their $1.5-million home when the mortgage company filed a lawsuit in 2009.
In its defence, the bank said the house was in good repair and that the Halls were in no way responsible for the damage.
The company said the couple owed $9.3-million to the CRA.
The case eventually went to a judge, who dismissed the lawsuit.
The judge said the Hums’ decision to invest in the house in Vancouver in the early 1990s did not mean they were tax cheats.
“It was a sensible decision, which the Huttons have been able to maintain over time,” the judge wrote.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, the Hurd family spokesman said that while the family was not aware of any wrongdoing, the legal battle could have a chilling effect on future investments.
“They were not aware the CRA was going to go after their investment and they’re not aware that it was going forward in a court,” said Stephen Holley, the spokesman.
The couple is now living in a home on the lakefront property.
“I think the public would have to be very careful to be able to trust that they’re doing things in the right way,” Mr, Holley said.
The real estate market in Vancouver is still booming, with sales increasing by 15 per cent this year.
The number of new listings rose by a staggering 76 per cent last year.
There is another tax loophole that has the Hangs’ family feeling less comfortable.
They say that since 2007, they have used a loophole in the federal tax code to avoid a $10-million tax bill.
“So the real estate industry has become the tax haven of choice for the Humblys,” Mr Holley added.
Mr Holleys own real estate company is owned by Mr. Clark, who is also a member of the board of the BC Liberal Party.
He has said that he is not a wealthy person and does not have a personal fortune.
“But the fact is I don’t have any investments,” he said.
“My net worth is around $1 million, so I’ve made a few investments, but they’re very small.”
He said that his company’s board is working to close a loophole that would allow it to avoid taxes for up to five years, though the Hs have said they are willing to work with the government.
“For the first time in my life, I’m