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JIM VIBERT: Liberal governments publicly silent

To date, their gutless, hypocritical compliance has been bought by a third of the booty

Published on September 8, 2017

The region’s Liberal premiers are shown at a recent meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers, from left, Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia; Brian Gallant of New Brunswick; Dwight Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador; and Wade MacLauchlan of Prince Edward Island.

©(CP File Photo)

The federal government went hunting big game, and seems about to bag endangered species.

The Trudeau Liberals claim transparency, but act like they’re sneaking ivory out of Africa. A government that’s proud of its tax plan would not slip it out in July and limit consultation to 75 mostly-summer days. The 63-pages that try to explain the federal proposals are available, in full bureaucratese, online.
Those who know say the plan contains the most far-reaching tax changes in 50 years, and the most vulnerable victims are small, particularly family businesses and professionals. It will also dissuade prospective entrepreneurs from prospecting.
The feds are trying mightily to claim they’re closing loopholes the wealthy use to dodge paying their fair share.
In fact, they are killing small family businesses; discouraging initiative and risk-taking, and aiming a bullet at the brain of weak economies, like Atlantic Canada’s.
Like George Thorogood’s parents, the government is telling small business people to get a haircut and get a real job. Working for the man 35-hours a week, full benefits, a pension plan, sick leave and paid vacation does have advantages over 80-hour weeks and none of that other stuff. The proposed tax changes remove the financial incentive that made the latter choice vaguely sane.
To date, the region’s four Liberal governments are publicly silent. Their gutless, hypocritical compliance has been bought by a third of the booty.
The next time your local Atlantic premier touts the need for entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, or self-reliance, laugh aloud, because shoe-throwing is as dangerous to your freedom here as it is in despotic Iraq.
There is no need to repeat the impact on professionals, except to say family docs incorporate to stay financially afloat and this change may be the last straw for many who can do better elsewhere.
In the upcoming budget, Nova Scotia’s Finance Minister Karen Casey could honestly say, “We support the federal tax proposals, and agree that family businesses are expendable. We aren’t bothered that we are co-conspirators in the death of the family farm, and we will save money by denying more Nova Scotians family doctors.”
Stark honestly not being a strength, she’ll more likely tow the line, and claim the government is committed to tax fairness by closing loopholes to ensure that the richest Canadians pay.
Let’s call that the cow paddy defence. One enduring characteristic of “the richest Canadians” is an ability to find new and exciting ways to get richer while paying the minimum tax possible.
Federal bureaucrats drew up these proposals. As a class, they take 65 per cent more sick days (all paid) than small business operators, who don’t get paid at all if they don’t work. That’s a bit of disconnected information that somehow seems relevant.
To add frustration to vulnerability, the proposals increase tax complexity, a burden that already staggers small business.
Still not convinced this is madness?
The proposed changes could make it cheaper for farmers and family businesses to sell their operations outside the family, rather than pass them down to their children. This according to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, who qualify their opinion because farmers can’t take time out to assess the full impact of labyrinthine tax changes at harvest time.
If the government hears the drumbeat of public opposition, and climbs down off this impending disaster, it will do so after hoisting its leader on the petard.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already delivered the speaking points Finance handed him.
“We’re doing more for the people who need it, and less for the people who don’t,” he said recently. A wise government – unlike this one – would protect its primary asset so, when needed, he could ride to the rescue. That escape route is tight if not closed.
Risk-taking, self-employment and small, family businesses have no place in the Atlantic Canadian economy. Premiers Stephen McNeil (NS), Wade MacLauchlan (PEI), Dwight Ball (NL) and Brian Gallant (NB) can admit this, or grow some body parts and publicly oppose the federal tax plan.
Otherwise, they need to stand up and defend the plan, and somehow explain to Atlantic Canadians how it is consistent with their mantra that new, home-grown enterprise is our last best hope.
It can’t be done.

- Jim Vibert spent 10 years as a political reporter and editor with the Halifax Herald; and 14 years with the Nova Scotia government where he set up Communications Nova Scotia