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EDITORIAL: Tax fairness is all we ask

FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER BILL MORNEAU
FEDERAL FINANCE MINISTER BILL MORNEAU

This afternoon, Opposition finance critic Darlene Compton will seek to have a P.E.I. legislative standing committee hear from Island businesses and professional groups about proposed federal tax changes.

The Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development is meeting to consider its work plan and will likely address Ms. Compton's request. She wants a hearing at the earliest opportunity where affected groups could explain how the changes would affect Islanders.

It’s a good bet that any individuals appearing before the committee would be critical. The feedback since federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled his proposals has been overwhelmingly negative. Was it coincidence that the minister tabled his proposals in mid-July when distracted Canadians were in the middle of summer holidays; which turned into getting kids off to school and university; and suddenly Mr. Morneau’s 75-day deadline for public feedback is here?

Hence, Ms. Compton’s plea for a hearing as soon as possible. Perhaps it would be more effective if she called on Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Finance Minister Allen Roach to explain where they stand on the tax changes. To date Atlantic Premiers have been silent. There are suggestions that Ottawa wants their support - or least their silence - and in exchange, the provinces will benefit from any tax bonanza.

Premier MacLauchlan has always strongly supported local businesses and Island entrepreneurs as being critically important keys to the Island’s economy. If these tax changes are going to hurt and increase their tax burden, then he must step forward and say so. His silence implies approval and acceptance.

Ms. Compton’s initiative has some merit by trying to put a grassroots face and response to the tax changes. But businesses and professionals have effective lobby groups already acting very vocally on their behalf. They don't need a committee hearing to hammer home their message.

In recent weeks, The Guardian’s opinion pages have carried a number of local, regional and national commentaries on those changes. The Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce submitted a critical opinion, as has the local chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The Atlantic chamber has waded in and a member of Premier MacLauchlan’s regional economic advisory council – all against the changes.

The chamber is already gathering additional feedback. Mr. Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have heard the storm of protest and debated Canadians face-to-face in public forums. The arguments for and against are all out there.

A poll released this week suggests that most Canadians have paid little attention to the recent tax proposals. An Insights West poll conducted for Maclean’s magazine found only a third of Canadians say they have followed these discussions and a majority who did pay attention, supports the federal changes.

Many expect the Liberals to eventually capitulate. Reforming Canada’s confusing tax laws has been tried by a long list of finance ministers and repeatedly failed after successful lobbying efforts. But this week’s poll may harden Liberal resolve.

Canadians want tax fairness and for everyone to pay their fair share. Is that too much to ask?

 

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