Some business and agriculture leaders had the chance to tell the Liberal government what they think about proposed tax changes at a meeting in Regina Thursday.
Joël Lightbound is the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister. He said it was important to visit Saskatchewan and hear from the business community, including farmers and those in agriculture.
However, those in the business community don’t feel they were being heard.
“The frustration continues,” said Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve McLellan following the meeting.
“They’re truly not listening because the best advice I think they’ve been given is do a reset, say ‘We didn’t get this quite right.’”
McLellan said they repeated that advice today.
“Let’s start again. Let’s allow them to get this right because clearly, they’ve not,” he said. “They’re not prepared to do that so the fight from the Canadian business will continue.”
The Liberal government has said these changes are meant to close loopholes that allow owners of corporations to pay less tax. But the proposals have been highly controversial, with critics saying they will hurt everyone from doctors who incorporate to small business owners and farmers.
“The reality is this government came out with these in a very abrupt manner through a period of time where the consultation was challenged at best, and impossible at most cases,” McLellan said. “They didn’t need to do it this quickly.”
McLellan argued impact on business will be long and hard. While he said he supports “constant review” of the tax system, he said there needs to be more clarity around the proposed changes.
The finance minister’s representative said it’s all about fairness.
“We have to realize the way the tax system is built that there are some inequities built within the system that allow for some high-income individuals to have advantages that the middle-class and salaried employees don’t have access to,” Lightbound explained.
“When we move forward the objective is really to bring that fairness in the system but also to make sure there are no unintended consequences.”
Lightbound also explained the federal government stands behind farmers and will always defend the family farm. He added he doesn’t want the tax changes to prevent families passing the farm down to subsequent generations.Meeting called last minute
Meeting called last minute
Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins questioned the last-minute timing of the roundtable meeting with the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, Joël Lightbound.
Hopkins said he only got an email invite to the closed roundtable meeting one day in advance.
“We’ll have an opportunity to express some views,” Hopkins told 980 CJME prior to the meeting. “Will that have any impact at all? It’s questionable at best.”
“Although we appreciate the fact the parliamentary secretary came to Saskatchewan, organized this roundtable, we were invited to it yesterday,” he said, acknowledging the provincial secretary was just appointed to the role two weeks ago.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has remained firm on the Oct. 2 deadline for the consultation period on the proposed tax reforms.
Hopkins said they are concerned with the short 75-day timeframe for the consultation and the manner in which it is being done.
“The biggest tax changes in 45 years and so you drop it literally in the dead of summer and then it goes through when people are harvesting,” Hopkins said. ”
Not a lot of time to respond, and these are very complex changes that are being proposed and really we haven’t seen this as being anywhere near the type of meaningful consultation that needs to take place from coast to coast to coast.”
This roundtable-style meeting also included representatives from the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan. It is one stop on a cross-Canada tour for the Ministry of Finance.