Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is trying to rally his fellow premiers against the federal government’s proposed small business tax changes, hoping to “back them up” before they are imposed.
He’s hoping the government will not force the changes before a more exhaustive analysis of the proposals is undertaken by experts and explained to the public.
“I suggest they defer this for full discussion,” Pallister said Sept. 29.
“Without clarity and full explanation, how valuable is your consultation period going to be?”
The consultation period officially closed Oct. 2 after weeks of rancour and bewilderment from thousands of farmers and small businesspeople, who have generally feared that the changes could seriously undermine their profitability, sustain-ability, retirement and succession plans.
Pallister planned to raise the issue with fellow premiers Oct. 3 when they gather to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I do think there’s a growing concern,” Pallister said about the feeling in other province’s capitals.
“They are dangerous proposals that will hurt farm families and hurt small businesses around the province and country.”
The fraught situation between farm/small business groups and the federal government has grown as Conservative federal politicians jumped to the defence of those benefitting from special tax provisions for small business.
Pallister has been a vocal critic of the federal government on the issue, and if his temperament since his election holds, he is unlikely to back off his position easily.
Since being elected premier last year, Pallister has tussled with the Trudeau government over carbon taxes, health-care funding, marijuana legalization and assisted suicide.
The dispute over the proposed small business tax changes finds Pallister on comfortable ground because his private sector career was based upon building a small financial company that advised many small businesses.
He also grew up on a farm and has a large base of support among farmers and rural people, whose votes helped him win the last election.
“These are proposals that only could have been developed by people who don’t understand small business,” said Pallister.
His main hope is to get the federal government to put the proposals on hold until they can be more carefully researched and given to experts and the public for detailed comment. He doesn’t expect the government to just walk away from them after the hard sell it has undertaken since unveiling the changes in mid-July.
“They seem to have got in too far down the path and now they’re digging their heels in, and that’s not good,” said Pallister.
Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, who was in Winnipeg last week for a meeting about the national food strategy plan, said he has raised farmers’ concerns with Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues.
“I bring the concerns of agriculture to the forefront, indeed, and will continue to do so, being a farmer myself,” said MacAulay.
He would not discuss how cabinet, Finance Minister Bill Morneau or Trudeau have responded to what he has said, but noted that the government does not intend to penalize farmers for reinvesting in their farms.
“Any money, if you have a corporation … in the farm, and you use that money to expand your business, that’s not what (the changes) are about,” said MacAulay.
“But anybody that has a corporation just to save taxes, there could be some difficulty.”