So, true story, folks. I was FaceTiming with my daughter and son-in-law (they live in Washington, DC) the other day, and as things always have in my family, talk turned to politics.
And I said my goodness, has Justin Trudeau ever bungled this tax thing. My daughter agreed and we discussed the many ways in which young Trudeau had royally screwed up his planned tax reform.
And in the background I heard my son-in-law laughing.
“All y’all are hilarious,” he said. “All you have to talk about in Canadian politics is whether your Prime Minister is messing up tax reform? That’s adorable.”
Did I mention my son-in-law is American?
He went on to say that when our leader was about to start World War III by Tweet, when he was taking on a pro-sports league and alienating people of colour while seeming to support white supremacists, when his own Secretary of State is reported to have called him a moron, then we could talk politics.
Did I agree? Yes, I did.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that here in Canada, the PM is bungling tax reform.
And the thing is, some of the tax reform that is being proposed is not that awful. It’s the delivery that has been bungled so badly. Trudeau and his team, usually spot on when it comes to message, have allowed the opposition to frame this debate since the beginning. They are allowing FaceBook memes to deliver messages that make the reform seem like the most evil legislation Canadians have ever seen. They are allowing the Conservatives and the NDP at once to claim they would never — NEVER — consider so malicious a tax plan.
Going after struggling independent businesses! Targeting hard working Canadians! Stealing tips from minimum wage earners pockets! Taxing employee discounts!
Yup, the Liberals have dug themselves a pretty deep hole here. And Finance Minister Bill Morneau has already begun the walk-back, saying the government will make changes to its tax plan. Now his wording is the plan will be changed so “it meets its goal of making sure the system is fair and encourages investment”. That’s government speak for “you will have to wait and see”.
“Changes are going to be required — as we move forward we will have more information on timing.”
Government speak for “you hate our plan, we intend to go ahead with it, with some minor tweaking”.
Morneau also said last week that the Liberal government had heard the feedback and they now had to take the time to “fully understand it”. Although what about “we hate your plan” is so hard to understand, I don’t know.
Regarding taxing employee discounts, Justin Trudeau was forced to take to Twitter to stare unequivocally that the government was not going to tax anyone’s discounts. This time the Liberals say that this was the fault of the Canada Revenue Agency re-wording something without approval from the Minister.
“The Agency issued a guidance document that does not reflect our government’s intentions and the Minister of National Revenue has instructed officials to clarify the wording”, is the official statement on that.
I would not have wanted to be the Agency employees at that ‘instructional’ meeting, and I imagine they are re-re-wording, with a quickness.
And now, no matter what fixes are put in to try to address people’s complaints, no matter how fast and furiously Trudeau tweets, no matter how many carefully worded explanations are put out, the message is out there that this is a bad plan.
The government has handled this whole thing pretty badly.
And while an American observer thinks it’s pretty funny that this is what is holding our attention, and while it is true that Americans have more concerns with their leadership than merely tax reform, it is also true that these Canadian government tax proposals have struck us right in the most important spot — our wallets.
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Bulletin