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Taxes and the politics of division

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The Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce and Charlottetown, Eastern P.E.I., Kensington, West Prince and the Acadian & Francophone Chambers of Commerce, representing over 1,900 local businesses, oppose the recently proposed changes to the tax code by the Federal Finance Minister.

We believe that the proposals punish small business and discourage entrepreneurship.

The policy debate over the ministers’ proposals have been well covered in this paper and in others and I am not revisiting the details here. There is an active debate underway that needs to continue in a manner that is informed, respectful and transparent.

Tonight (Sept. 20) at 6 p.m. at the Loyalist the Summerside Chamber is teaming up with tax specialists from Grant Thornton to discuss how the proposed changes will impact small businesses and their families. We encourage you to join us for a respectful discussion.

This article is about what can be done to fix the process and bring people together instead of pulling them apart.

Every summer hundreds of thousands of families come to our island to play, unwind and relax, while many Islanders spend this time working around the clock. So, when Minister Morneau proposed the most significant series of tax changes for small business in over 30 years with a mid-summer press release and speech in Toronto, island business owners were excusably pre-occupied.

Small business owners deserve a fair chance to get informed and be heard. They deserve time to understand the potential impact on their future. Minister Morneau has given 75 days. That is simply not good enough. The consultation period to review the hundreds of pages of tax proposals must be extended.

While the proposals are myopic and poorly thought out, the government messages delivered to support the proposals are even more so. Whether brought forward by political intent or incompetence, the messages surrounding the proposals are creating a wedge that is dividing our communities. This is wrong and unfair.

Small business owners that have structured their company affairs in a way that has remained largely unchanged for the past 30 years are now being targeted as abusers of “loopholes” and painted as tax cheats. Nothing is further from the truth. The Bannonesque rhetoric must stop so that we can engage and debate in a way that is respectful and transparent.

The Financial Post estimates that the proposals will increase federal revenues $250 million and provincial revenues roughly half that. To put that in perspective, the federal government annual revenue is $304 billion. The Minister should explain why the put forward tax proposals are his tool of choice (there are other options available to raise revenue) in an era of unprecedented government spending. He should also explain why so many other tax “loopholes” remain untouched or when a full review of the tax code will happen.

Around here small business owners are neighbours, community leaders, and employers playing a vital part in economic growth and prosperity. Whether it’s the local flower shop you rely on every Mothers’ Day, the parts manufacturer that employs a member of your family, the furniture store that sponsors your daughters’ hockey team, or the accounting firm that helps you manage your finances, small businesses help to shape our community and make it run. It is time to hit reset on these proposals and start again.

- Dan Kutcher is President of the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce. 

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