Small business owners in the Maritimes are voicing their concerns over planned tax policy changes by the federal government.
The Trudeau government is looking to remove a loophole it says provides an unfair tax advantage to wealthy business owners.
Alan Streatch is President of the Family Business Association Atlantic and owns four businesses, including Turfmasters Landscaping in Halifax.
He says that the business owners the proposed tax changes will affect the most are not among the country’s super wealthy.
“You’ve got your government, your federal government come out and and try and villainize you and make you feel like the only thing you think about is about how you’re going to evade paying your fair share of taxes,” Streatch said.
“Well the fact of the matter is that most of these small, medium-size businesses are worrying about how they’re going to pay their bills.”
Streatch is among many Maritime business owners speaking out against planned changes to federal tax policy.
The changes would close a loophole the government says provides an unfair tax advantage to the wealthy, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said there is nothing in the proposals targeting small, middle-class businesses.
Streatch isn’t mincing words.
“It’s insulting to a group of people that work 60, 70, 80 hours a week and look to, at some point in time in the future, be able to look after their families,” he said.
Other sectors of the Maritime business community are also organizing in opposition.
The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce is calling for a, one minute, nationwide business strike on Friday as an act of protest.
There’s also a call for an extension to the 75-day public consultation process, which allows the public to weigh in until October 2nd.
“We believe that some of these changes are complex and that what we’re hearing is that people don’t fully understand what the implications will be on their business,” said Sheri Somerville, C.E.O. Of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.
The issue continues to intensify at the local level politically.
On Tuesday evening, Saint John MP Wayne Long will attend an open discussion on the matter with small business owners.
WATCH: Federal tax changes could be ‘catastrophic’ for Nova Scotia doctors
The changes announced in July would, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, close loopholes in the federal tax system that disproportionately benefit wealthy Canadians.
The tax-dodging manoeuvres that Morneau said the changes would get rid of involve so-called “tax-sprinkling” or using a private corporation to spread income among family members to create tax savings, using private corporations as a substitute for a regular savings account or converting a private corporation’s regular income into capital gains, both of which can shelter money from higher tax rates.
But doctors in both New Brunswick and neighbouring Nova Scotia, who also feel targetted by these proposed changes, disagree. They’re already among the lowest-paid doctors in the country.
They say that they won’t be able to increase their fees, which are set by their respective provincial governments, leaving them with less money after taxes for things such as parental leave or paying off student loans.
It’s expected the minister will introduce legislation addressing the tax changes next spring.
— with files from Alexander Quon