Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier Sandy Silver
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier Sandy Silver
Considerable debate in the Yukon legislative assembly Wednesday revolved around activity in Ottawa.
It was the second day of the legislature’s fall sitting. It was also the first for which Premier Sandy Silver was present in the house, having returned from a first ministers’ meeting in the capital on Tuesday.
The official Opposition Yukon Party accused the premier of “coming back with nothing” from his meetings in Ottawa.
Silver, however, reported to the house a significant update on the federal government’s proposed changes to small business taxation.
In addition to a letter penned to Finance Minister Bill Morneau last week, Silver said he met with Morneau one-on-one in Ottawa. His purpose was to “reiterate the concerns that have been voiced” by the Yukon business community.
He relayed their suggestions that the public consultation period on the proposed tax changes be extended.
He also advised Morneau to consider transitional provisions to allow businesses time to adapt to changes to tax law.
Silver went on to tell the house that Morneau assured the premiers the federal Liberals had also listened to Canadian small businesses and would be adjusting the proposed changes to ensure that only the “1.7 per cent of corporations that make up 80 per cent of wealth of the companies in Canada” would be affected.
Extension not needed
After hearing that assurance from Morneau, Silver said, all of the premiers determined an extension to the consultation period is no longer necessary as they are confident “the small businesses have been heard.
“That’s the good news that we’re all looking for, isn’t it?” Silver posited in the legislature.
“Aren’t we now looking to make sure that these small businesses who have been preparing all of their lives for a financial retirement, not having government pensions, making sure that women in the workforce who are planning for maternity leaves have the ability to continue to be an active part of the workforce?”
Any further extension of consultations, he said, would now create more uncertainty for small businesses.
The Yukon’s federal representative appears to be on the same page as the premier.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell voted against a Conservative motion in the House of Commons Tuesday that called on the government to extend the tax consultation period to the end of January.
The motion failed after all NDP and Liberal MPs – save for one – voted against it.
Bagnell told the Star Wednesday afternoon he opposed the motion because the extension proposed was too long. Had it just been a few weeks, he said, he would have been “fine with that.”
But he’s spoken with many Yukon business owners in person and by phone or email, and realizes that “people want to know” what the final changes are going to look like.
Edge of their seats
“They’re sort of sitting on the edge of their seats, and I don’t think really it would be good to give them any more angst,” Bagnell said.
He also said he’s offered to pass along the input of Yukoners who missed the consultation deadline.
“If they do have stuff over the next couple weeks, get it to me and I will get it to the people in Finance.”
However, Bagnell said he’s confident the Finance minister has heard the concerns of the business community, as the five principles the government announced Tuesday will govern their next steps on the proposed changes to reflect many of those concerns.
According to a Department of Finance press release, the five principles are:
• Support small businesses and their contributions to our communities and our economy;
• Keep taxes low for small businesses, and support owners to actively invest in their growth, create jobs, strengthen entrepreneurship and grow our economy;
• Avoid creating unnecessary red tape for hard-working small businesses;
• Recognize the importance of maintaining family farms, and work with Canadians to ensure we don’t affect the transfer of a family business to the next generation; and
• Conduct a gender-based analysis on finalized proposals, to ensure any changes to the tax system promote gender equity.
The premier told the house he also met with the several other ministers while in Ottawa Tuesday to discuss issues that directly relate to the Yukon.
He spoke with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna about the pending carbon tax. She did not provide an update about a timeline on that federal initiative or any new information about special considerations for those living in the North, said Silver.
He also discussed Bill C-17, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA), with Carolyn Bennett, the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs minister.
The premier said it’s a priority to see this bill move through the House of Commons quickly.
NAFTA and the 2018 legalization on cannabis were also the subject of much conversation at the meeting, according to Silver.
In the house Wednesday, the Yukon Party chided the premier on making, by its calculation, 16 trips to Ottawa and returning with little for the Yukon except plans for implementing a carbon tax.
Silver said he found that view curious, considering that on Sept. 2 in Whitehorse, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Ottawa will contribute an unprecedented $260 million toward a $360-million plan to develop infrastructure to improve access to the Yukon’s mineral wealth.
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