VANCOUVER _ British Columbia’s finance minister is citing rumours that the federal government intends to back off on elements of its proposed tax reforms that have drawn heavy criticism from small business owners across the country.
Speaking to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Friday, Carole James said she would be surprised if the Canadian government did not make adjustments in light of the backlash since unveiling its tax plans over the summer.
“I believe you’ll see a shift. Certainly the rumour that is out there is that you’ll see some kind of shift coming forward,” James said during a question-and-answer session with members.
James later told reporters that she has no inside knowledge of upcoming changes.
“The rumours I’ve heard have mainly come from individuals who have said that the pressure that the federal government is getting around the lack of consultation on this issue means that they will have to make some kind of adjustments.”
James said more consultation is needed to avoid unintended consequences that could harm small business owners, whom she described as the backbone of the provincial economy.
The federal government announced plans to eliminate several tax incentives designed for private corporations, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said unfairly encourages wealthy Canadians to incorporate to avoid paying their fair share.
Trudeau has so far resisted calls from doctors, farmers and small business owners to scrap or amend the reforms, but federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said he is open to making changes following a 75-day public consultation period that wraps up on Oct. 2.
Friday marked the inaugural address by the NDP finance minister to members of the Vancouver Board of Trade. James also faced questions on the government’s opposition to large-scale energy projects, $10-a-day childcare and how it intends to fund transportation infrastructure after eliminating tolls on two Lower Mainland bridges.
The only applause she drew outside of the start and end of her address came after she reaffirmed there would not be another referendum on transit funding.
James was asked about the government’s decision to send the Site C hydroelectric megaproject to the BC Utilities Commission for review.
“There is no reason not to ensure there is a good, strong business plan for Site C. That did not happen,” she said. “Spending public dollars wisely should be a commitment that every politician has.”
Such reviews by the utility commission were standard practice before the previous Liberal government’s clean-energy laws allowed some projects to bypass the regulatory agency.
James also defended the government’s decision to include a per-vote subsidy in its campaign finance reform bill, a move Premier John Horgan had rejected during the May election campaign without first going to Elections BC and an independent committee for review.
Political finance was a central campaign issue and people expected quick action on it , she said.
“Our premier took a look at the evidence and made the decision when we came in that that was the way to move the bill ahead.”