Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.
I am fortunate to rise to speak in the House regarding the Liberals' proposed changes to the taxation of private corporations in Canada. I received hundreds of phone calls, emails, and letters from my constituents, most from small business owners, expressing their deep concerns about how these changes would affect their ability to run their businesses.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance want Canadians to believe this tax hike is about fairness for the middle class. I fail to see what is fair about a family farm having to pay more tax, while the Prime Minister's self-proclaimed family fortune will be unaffected. The same goes for the finance minister, whose multinational family business, worth millions of dollars, will not be touched by these changes.
These policies are going to hurt the very people they were supposedly designed to help, the middle class. That is why the members on this side of the House will fight this tax hike every step of the way.
My riding of Souris—Moose Mountain is a rural riding in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy there, with ranchers, farmers, and family farm operations making up a good chunk of those businesses. These farmers and their families work hard to feed Canada and the world, and they deserve the utmost respect for the hard work they do.
The Prime Minister does not seem to agree with that, however. The timing of the consultation period for these tax changes showed a blatant disregard for farmers as it fell during harvest, one of the busiest times of the year for the agriculture industry.
I have had farmers calling me from their combines, while sitting in the middle of a field, to voice their dissatisfaction with the proposed changes. I find it incredibly short-sighted that the government thought it was wise to initiate a very short, very limited consultation period during the time of year when one of the most affected groups, farmers, would be unavailable to submit their thoughts and opinions. If the minister did not know, then it shows an even greater disregard for our farmers. It is yet another example of how out of touch the Liberals really are.
I would like to set out just how the proposed tax hikes will affect farmers and their operations in my riding. Later I will touch on the effects to other small businesses, but for now I would like to speak more about farmers and the negative impacts these tax changes will have on their livelihoods.
Anyone who knows a farming family knows that running a farm involves everyone, from young children, to teenagers, to parents and grandparents, and sometimes great-grandparents. It is expected that all will help out with whatever tasks need to be done at any given time.
The government's tax hike proposal will now impose a reasonableness test to determine if family members are earning their income. This means there will be higher compliance costs for farmers and other small business owners as this reasonableness test will only serve to increase the administrative burden these small businesses already face. It is clear that the Prime Minister and his government have no regard for what this means for farmers and small business owners, especially since large businesses, such as the one owned by the finance minister's family, will be unaffected.
Another tax planning measure that will have an impact on farmers is tax on passive investments. When money is saved inside of a corporation, it is for business investment purposes. This is extremely important for farmers whose ability to generate income depends heavily on variable and unpredictable factors, such as weather and expensive equipment costs, like $500,000 for a combine.
Farmers are not trying to shield massive sums of money within their operations. They are not trying to cheat the system. The so-called loophole they use is what allows them to plan for their retirement.
Passive investment income is a necessary hedge against economic uncertainty for these small business owners who get no sick leave, no vacation pay, no health care, and no dental plan. Now the government will tax small business owners twice, once inside the company and again when paid out to the owner. Again, I fail to see the fairness in this when big corporations will not be subjected to this change.
I have a number of century farms in my riding of which I am very proud. These families have been farming in the area for over 100 years and have passed their operations down through generations. This, however, may not be an option for them any longer. Under the Liberal tax plan, the government will tax the proceeds of asset sales to non-arm's length buyers at the higher dividend rate rather than at the lower rate. This means farmers could face a significantly higher tax rate selling their farms to their children than if they sold them to a multinational corporation. This is not supporting local small business. This is killing local small business and killing the jobs they create.
I have heard from a number of constituents who are now afraid they will need to sell their century family farms as their best financial option rather than to pass it on to the next generation. How can the Liberals support tax changes that will effectively kill small businesses like century family farms, an important part of Canadian heritage?
Farmers face a lot of adversity in their day-to-day lives. They need their government to support them in every way possible, but these tax changes will do exactly the opposite. On top of this, the forced carbon tax will hurt farmers even more, despite the fact the reports show that hitting farmers with a carbon tax will not reduce emissions faster. As I have said before, and will say again, the government is simply out of touch and rural Canada is paying a price for that.
The Prime Minister talks a lot about the need for innovation in our country. I am not sure he realizes this but small businesses are at the very heart of innovation. The tax hikes that the government wants to impose will only act as a disincentive for those people looking to start a small business in Canada. This means a lack of innovation, which in turn means economic growth is stifled.
It is not just the farmers in my riding who have serious concerns about the tax hike. Small business owners and a number of different industries have been in contact with me, asking me to be their voice on this matter since the government clearly refuses to be. These include veterinarians, insurance brokers, small oil and gas companies, doctors, store owners, and even rural municipalities. I have never seen such an extensive response from the people of southeast Saskatchewan than I have on this issue, and the government needs to pay attention.
I would like to ensure that the Liberals understand the level of risk small business owners take on when deciding to operate a business. They hire employees and manage their overhead. They pay CPP and EI for those employees. They do not receive any health care or dental benefits, and have to pay out of pocket when these expenses arise. They are not entitled to any kind of vacation or sick leave, so they do not usually take time off. They do not get overtime. They are wholly responsible for financially planning for their retirement. Most of the time they have invested a significant amount, if not all of their savings, into the business and if it fails, this is lost. They take the chance, they take the risk.
I say all of this because the tax planning measures the Liberals hope to change actually help to mitigate some of these risks. There will be no benefit for small business owners to take those risks. Instead, they will encourage people to stay in employment rather than pursue entrepreneurship. Why? Because employees often get benefits with their pay. This means that no new jobs will be created and innovation and economic growth will be slow. Why? Because employers, the risk takers, cover these benefits for their employees.
These people are not the 1%. Many of them are firmly middle class and are offended by the notion they conduct their business in a dishonest way. If the Prime Minister truly wants to target the richest Canadians, as he says, then perhaps he should look to his right, where the finance minister sits in the House, instead of looking at the barns and pastures of our farmers or at the books and back offices of our small businesses.
Clearly, the west has yet again been forgotten about under the Liberal government. While we believe that higher taxes help no one, and we continue to be the voice of the small business owner in Canada, we call upon the government to extend the consultation period on these measures until January 31, 2018.
The Prime Minister visited a Saskatchewan farm in April and spoke to farmers on issues they were facing in their line of work. It was clear to me that was just a photo op. He targeted our farmers and instead of helping them, he basically insinuated the constituents were tax cheats.
I would like to conclude by reading a quote that was sent to me by one of my constituents, a veterinarian and rancher who is also an employer within his community. His letter to me stated the following by William B. Boetcker:
“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong....You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich....You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence. And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.”