Mr. Speaker, today I love hearing the word “fair” from the Liberals.
I am going to be sharing my time with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, and I am honoured to speak today on behalf of my constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London regarding the proposed tax changes put forward and the request to extend the consultations on these proposed changes.
I would like to thank the Liberal government for creating chaos in my community. It was created by the Liberal government and not by anyone else but the Liberal government.
Members of the community, including renovators and home builders, farmers, physicians, family-run businesses, restaurants, and accountants made sure they took time away to come to speak to me about these changes and how they will be negatively impacted.
Today I want to start with some of the highlights from my constituents. I have only brought in about eight of the letters from the hundreds and hundreds of letters have come in. I have had lots of meetings. We have been doing these consultations, and I continue to have consultations.
I would like to begin with a letter from Mike from London, who wrote:
Three years ago I established a new business in London investing significant resources in addition to working the 60+ hour weeks required to make it successful. In March we doubled our warehouse space and employee count double to 4, with us considering adding a 5th person this fall. I question why I am doing this based on the new tax path the federal Government is planning to implement. The returns available to small businesses are just not balanced with the risks faced every day.
Jim, from St. Thomas, is also a well-respected accountant who immediately started reviewing these changes. It wasn't us, but someone who has worked in this field for 35 years who then wrote to me the following:
We continue to feel that the income sprinkling issue in particular is way out of line and potentially just plain wrong in every sense of the word if you can't share your family business income and future gains with a child rearing/non participating or only partially participating spouse. For example is the doctors spouse who runs the office and may or may not be a nurse eligible for equal compensation to the doctor in the future? I'd like to be there when the CRA field auditor says they're not just to see what happens. Or the farmers spouse?
We are also hearing that the new “reasonableness rules” in the Act will override the old administrative policy of the CRA that “any” owner-manager salary/bonus is reasonable. So if dividends paid have to represent a reasonable return, then we are unclear of how to distribute income from a company whether it be by way of a wage or a dividend.
It is funny that we are talking about how the Conservatives have spun on this, but I did not write anything to these people. They are actually writing us, and we have tax specialists writing to us. I have not asked for their insight. As we continue with this, I want to be sure that members of the government know we are listening to the people.
I would like to share three paragraphs.
Hetty is another small business owner. She works in the community. She is widowed and happily just remarried, and we are very proud of her. She works seven days a week at her landscaping business. She wrote me a very lengthy letter, but I just want to read a little excerpt:
Please find attached a couple of letters from me regarding Taxation of Private Corporations. From what I have been hearing, it is really starting to worry me. I've worked my whole life as an entrepreneur and if I can't use capital gains exemptions or realize a profit from the sale of my business then my retirement is looking very dim. I do not have CPP or a pension to fall back on. Small business owners need support in order to realize a decent retirement. I hope that the government is able to stop what they are doing and have some conversations with the business community so they don't unfairly target private small business.
As I continue with this, the letters and emails have been pouring in from Canadian families, but I specifically looked at only the people from Elgin—Middlesex—London, which includes the city of London, the city of St. Thomas, and eight other municipalities, mostly farming communities.
I have Jason and Shelby from Thorndale, who wrote to me:
According to the Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness, these proposals will restrict small-business owners, like family farm owners, from sharing income with family members. Changes to capital gains rules will make it more difficult for owners to transfer their farms within the family to the next generation.
This in particular is a concern for multi-generational farm businesses that have incorporated for the purposes of farm succession....
That is something we on this side have heard many times from our advocates. We are here to listen to the farmers. We want to know what is going on.
I can continue, and that is exactly what I am going to do. Members are going to have to listen to me for five more minutes. Farmers in my area are very vocal. If members ever want to hear vocal, come to Elgin—Middlesex—London. They will let the members know what is really happening.
Peter and Sarah from West Elgin shared with me a very familiar story. I too was raised on a farm and I understand the challenges and risks. I was a farmer's daughter. We raised 18,000 turkeys and 2,000 pigs. My dad worked seven days a week, 365 days a year, and that is what he did until he sold his farm in 1996.
However, this is what they have written. He gave me an entire page before it, but it states:
Fast forward 30 years and we have survived almost complete bankruptcy, droughts, crop loss, pig deaths and many other trials and tribulations to create successful cash crop and livestock operations. However, all of this was at a cost. We received no funding to pay for our university educations, no help to open our new businesses. We risked it all. On paper we might look like a successful business but there is no retirement for our parents other than the family farm. As an employer I have no access to EI, I have to pay for my own benefit plan and I have no access to OSAP for my children to attend University. I have no help other than my own blood, sweat and tears poured in 365 days a year and multiple hours a day because that what it takes to raise livestock. I risked marrying a city girl only to have her discover that pigs get shipped out on Christmas Day, that chores need to be done on the weekends and going away for more than 4 or 5 days at a time is hardly possible.
To continue with this, now I have Linda's letter. Linda is a great lady from the city of London. She wrote:
I thought it might be helpful to provide a more personal response to the proposed tax amendments. The amendments are premised on the idea that small business owners are wealthy. To the contrary, many business owners are middle class – the same group of people that this government seems to want to prioritize.
I think that speaks for itself. It is the middle class saying, “Hey, you're not helping us, government.”
I would like to move on to Dan. Dan is a very well-respected financial planner within our own community. He also does insurance. He has studied this. He has not been told about it by me or any other member of the Conservative Party. We are talking about an academic studying this information and breaking it down, so before members say that this is a Conservative spin, this is what Dan, a well-respected person in my community, has written. These are the first top six issues he has:
Federal proposals represent significant tax reform for family businesses in Canada.
Family business owners are the middle class. Family-owned enterprise is the engine of our economy.
I hope everyone realizes that.
It is misleading to equate business owners with salaried employees. I am not sure how many members have been small business owners in this room. However, I have been. I have worked many times for zero dollars. I can tell members that at the end of the day I made sure the employees went home with a paycheque, while I sat there trying to figure out what to do. That is just the life of a small business owner.
Imposing new rule introduces more complexity and uncertainty.
We have heard that time and time again.
Integrating generational businesses makes succession even more difficult.
Those are some of Dan's tactics and issues.
I want to finish with Jonathan. When I looked at Jonathan's letter, I thought, “This guy gets it. This guy really gets it and does care.” He wrote:
I am deeply concerned with the tax proposals released by the Department of Finance on July 18th. These proposed changes, as currently worded, will be extremely damaging for my farm and the farm businesses across Ontario and Canada. These proposed changes, will add uncertainty and complexity to farmers and small business owners across the country. I am particularly concerned with the impact these changes would have on succession planning. It is unacceptable that the government of Canada would make it easier and more beneficial from a tax perspective for a farmer to sell their farm business to a stranger, rather than their own child or grandchild. This type of policy threatens the tradition of the Canadian family farm.
The conduct of this consultation is completely unacceptable. Providing a 75-day consultation period on such complex, and ill-conceived legislation makes a mockery of the democratic process and good governance.
As currently worded, these proposed changes cannot be allowed to move forward. If tax reform is a priority, it must be done in a meaningful consultation with Canadian farm businesses and other small businesses.
I ask that you do not support this process or these proposed tax changes.
As a young farmer, and someone that is now completely self-employed, these changes will de-incentivise entrepreneurial ventures and business owner ship in general.
He carries on about how in Ontario we do not have just the Liberal government to deal with but also the Ontario Liberal government to deal with, so these farmers will now be paying minimum wage increases and paying more for hydro. I really do not know how they are doing it.
All we are asking for today is more time for consultations. The government can say the process is over, but if it is over, why do I continue to get loads of calls from many people still wanting to meet with us? It is because people just found out on July 18 that the government is proposing this change. In the dead of summer, people are busy doing things. Maybe they were doing Canada 150 celebrations, as I was, but we have not given Canadians the proper opportunities to speak.
What the government has done here is totally demobilize the faith of good Canadians. I urge members to vote yes to allow the consultations to proceed for the next couple of months so that all Canadians can have their voices heard.