As they prepare for the fall session of Parliament in just over a week, Canada’s lawmakers are girding themselves for battle this week.
Both the governing Liberals and the official opposition Conservatives had retreats this week and the principal issue for both caucuses was clear, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s sweeping tax change proposals.
Even Trudeau doesn’t deny it’s a tax grab: he just says only the rich will be fleeced.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has had a bumpy first few months at the head of his party, disappointing a lot of the faithful with his equivocal response to the Liberal pay-out of $10.5 million to confessed killer and former terrorist Omar Khadr but he has found his issue with Trudeau’s tax changes.
“If they knew, if they understood, if they cared, the Liberals would not be punishing local businesses and their employees with crippling new taxes,” he said at his Winnipeg caucus retreat on Wednesday.
“We’re talking about the mom and pop businesses that sustain our communities. The cashier working at the hardware store down the street, or the college kid who just got his first job with the local landscaper.”
For the Conservatives, the proposed tax changes will destroy small business owners and everybody who finds a tax shelter in the safety of a private corporation.
Specifically, the changes would prevent people from sharing income with other family members, reduce the opportunities to move individual earnings to a private corporation and limit the amount of income that can be transferred to a capital gains tax category.
Trudeau is committed to moving full speed ahead with the amendment and won’t even consider a compromise since he continues to say the tax changes will only target Canada’s wealthy, who he says are using private corporations to avoid paying income taxes.
Trudeau continues to declare anyone making over $150,000 a year as “rich” and he insists that this class of people are abusing the use of private corporations while those not making that much have plenty of other tax dodges at their disposal.
“If you’re making $150,000 a year or less, you can max out your RRSPs, you can use the tax-free savings account,” Trudeau told radio station AM1150.
The non-partisan Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is leading the charge against the legislation from the private sector. President and CEO Dan Kelly is coordinating a tax revolt that has attracted business owners, doctors, lawyers and even farmers.
Government employees are solidly behind the tax changes but Kelly responded to that on Twitter:
“Don’t be shocked public sector unions support higher taxes for small biz. Someone has got to pay for them to retire at 55. #unfairtaxrules
For Scheer, the issue is one of “fairness,” a favorite talking point of Trudeau’s but one that the Conservative leader says the prime minister has lost his perspective on:
“You tell me what’s fair about a landscaper who can’t hire more workers when these tax changes come into effect because his tax burden’s too heavy,” he told reporters.
“There’s nothing fair about it and there’s nothing compassionate about it and Conservatives will fight this every step of the way.”