The angst of proposed federal tax changes

By MPP Toby Barrett         

Two issues have permeated farm gatherings and fairs this summer and fall – minimum wage proposals, and taxation changes for incorporated operations. The former is provincial, the latter federal.

As Ontario’s Opposition, we have been adamant the $15 mandatory minimum, as proposed, is going too far, too fast.

As well, during Question Period, we have challenged Premier Wynne to join us in fighting the federal tax grab on incorporated farms, and other small businesses including dentists, accountants and doctors.

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s Health Critic, led the charge this September, when he asked, “These federal Liberal changes will create financial barriers for doctors to make investments in their practices. In addition, the changes will negatively impact the retirement planning process and, most importantly, will make it very difficult for doctors to continue to pay staff and office expenses during absences such as maternity leave or illness. This government gave the doctors the ability to incorporate in lieu of fee increases.”

If one had any doubts federal taxation is a hot potato for the provincial government, one need only review further responses in Question Period to Monte McNaughton, Critic for Economic Development and Growth. McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, asked, “Will the Premier help put an end to these dangerous Liberal tax hikes?” Premier Wynne punted the question to Brad Duguid, the economic development minister. In his supplementary question, McNaughton asked again, “…” will the Premier denounce these tax hikes, and will she stand up for Ontario’s small businesses?” This hot potato was again offered to the Premier, and through a clever feint by the economic development minister, then landed in the lap of Jeff Leal, who is now minister responsible for small business in addition to agriculture, food and rural affairs.

My turn came next, as agriculture critic, when I asked the Premier if she has “challenged this tax grab on farm corporations with the Prime Minister. Why will you not join us in fighting these tax hikes, so the coming generation of young farmers can afford to buy their parent’s farms?”

As I explained, “For many years, farm families have been encouraged by their Ontario government to sharpen their pencils, run their farms like a business, and if warranted, incorporate. As farmers, we were told to think about the next generation, plan for the continuity of the farm within the family, do succession planning by incorporating. Many farmers took the advice of your government, will be punished for it by punitive tax measures from your federal cousins.”

Wynne evaded the question, suggesting it was one that should be asked of the federal Liberal government by the Conservative Opposition in Ottawa. This was the same response to the earlier questions by McNaughton. A supplementary to my question, by Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson brought an odd response from Minister Leal about Maxine Bernier.

During a local business round table, area MP Diane Finley pointed to the fear and confusion as to how the changes will affect small businesses. “The Liberals have proposed more spending and they need some way to finance it,” she said. “Some analyses project they will reap an addition $3 billion from this.”

If you disagree with this proposed tax grab, sign my petition at calling on the premier to fight the proposal