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Peter Simons urges Quebec to amend tax code, says it’s an ’emergency’

Quebec could start regulating e-commerce
WATCH: Quebec Soldaire’s Amir Khadir wants to regulate e-commerce in the province, including asking companies to pay local taxes. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, if it passes, it’ll be a first in Canada.

One of Quebec’s biggest entrepreneurs says unfair tax laws could be devastating to local business. Peter Simons, the president of Simons department store made a plea at the National Assembly Wednesday.

He said local companies are subject to Quebec tax law, while foreign online retailers are not: “It’s a big, big change, that’s happening. It’s tectonic,” Simons said.

READ MORE: Quebec-based clothing retailer Simons to expand stores across Canada

Simons, a household name in Quebec, is the oldest family-owned business in the country. It’s also the second largest online fashion retailer in Canada after Amazon.

Despite all of its success, owners say it’s struggling to compete — as a Canadian business, Simons is subject to a 30 per cent tax rate, but its foreign competitors are not.

“These things are going to touch our ability to affect minimum wage, offer services, education,” the president says.

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Simons explained that local business is at an unfair disadvantage and the province is losing tax revenue that could go into social services.

On Wednesday, MNA Amir Khadir tabled a private member’s bill to amend Quebec’s tax code: foreign companies would be subject to the same tax laws as local businesses and they would also be required to collect PST.

“It’s nothing extravagant. We just say, if a commercial activity is being carried out here, the tax on that activity should be paid here, nothing more,” Khadir explained.

The Canadian government’s new Netflix deal that doesn’t require the American company to collect sales tax garnered outrage across the country. Quebec’s finance minister said the government is considering charging a provincial sales tax.

READ MORE: Heritage Minister Joly won’t put a number on Netflix investment boost

Simons finds the federal government’s reluctance and the province’s sluggishness on the issue confusing.

“Can we not admit that it’s an emergency? And these aren’t very difficult, intellectual ideas,” he said. “This week it was, ‘Well, Netflix has to be in agreement.’ Who’s making the laws now, really? What’s happening?”

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“There’s at least, right now, 100 other jurisdictions who already passed a bill regarding sales tax,” said Marwah Rizqy, a tax law professor at the University of Sherbrooke.

So what’s taking Quebec so long to join the parade? she asks.