Lo­Cal Lib­Er­als sErvE up thEir DECaDE-olD tax plan

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID REEVELY dreevely@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/davidreevely

The On­tario Lib­er­als will boost Ot­tawa’s al­ready boom­ing econ­omy by, er, do­ing a bunch of things they’ve al­ready done, a batch of Lib­eral can­di­dates an­nounced Tues­day.

Ot­tawa Cen­tre in­cum­bent Yasir Naqvi and fel­low can­di­dates John Fraser (Ot­tawa South), Stephanie Magh­nam (Kanata-Car­leton) and Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ot­tawaVanier) stood up with a mi­cro­phone out­side In­vest Ot­tawa’s Bayview Yards head­quar­ters and talked about this stuff in very se­ri­ous voices, with very se­ri­ous looks on their faces, pre­sent­ing it all as things they will do if their govern­ment re­tains power June 7.

“Only our plan will en­sure that we will cre­ate more jobs, not cut,” Naqvi said.

The plan in­cludes: cut­ting the in­come tax on small busi­nesses from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, elim­i­nat­ing the cap­i­tal tax, an an­nual levy on cor­po­ra­tions’ held wealth, and re­duc­ing busi­nesses’ prop­erty taxes by $200 mil­lion.

Only the cut to small busi­nesses’ first $500,000 in prof­its is re­motely new. The Lib­er­als an­nounced that they’d do it last Novem­ber, as a sort of com­pen­sa­tion for the hit some small busi­nesses were about to take from the govern­ment’s hike to the min­i­mum wage. The tax cut went into ef­fect in Jan­uary and was fi­nal­ized in the Lib­er­als’ last bud­get.

They elim­i­nated the cap­i­tal tax partly in 2007 and fully in 2010. They changed the prop­erty taxes busi­nesses pay for ed­u­ca­tion (an an­ti­quated sys­tem that for an­ti­quated rea­sons means busi­nesses in dif­fer­ent school-board ter­ri­to­ries pay dif­fer­ent amounts) also in 2007.

Some of this stuff is more than a decade old.

It’s all le­git­i­mately part of the Lib­er­als’ record, which in­cludes cut­ting busi­ness taxes al­most con­stantly since they were first elected in 2003, but of­fer­ing it up as a Lib­eral plan in 2018 is bizarre. It’s not dis­hon­est in the sense that they will keep th­ese things in place if they’re re-elected, but even that does vi­o­lence to the or­di­nary hu­man un­der­stand­ing of time.

“We al­ready started putting th­ese mea­sures in place, that is al­ready help­ing our busi­nesses,” Naqvi con­ceded.

He threw in the min­i­mumwage hike as a busi­ness-booster, putting money in the hands of rel­a­tively poor peo­ple who are most likely to spend it. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of all th­ese poli­cies that is hav­ing an im­pact.”

We can feel for the Lib­er­als a bit here. What­ever new they have was in the bud­get re­leased in March, and now Lib­eral can­di­dates get to re­peat it.

De­spite the con­stant rhetor­i­cal at­tacks from the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives that On­tario’s an eco­nomic dis­as­ter, the key in­di­ca­tors from Statis­tics Canada are good. The num­bers just don’t sup­port the claim that On­tario’s a ruin.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate in On­tario is 5.6 per cent, bet­ter than the na­tional av­er­age and within a few tenths of a per­cent­age point of the low­est it’s been in a gen­er­a­tion. Ot­tawa’s is the best it’s been in 30 years. Wages are up. Part-time jobs have been re­placed with full-time ones. You can walk down Bank Street and see half a dozen help-wanted signs in three blocks.

Long-term un­em­ploy­ment, the most dam­ag­ing, soul-crush­ing, ca­reer-ru­in­ing kind, is down to 15 per cent of all un­em­ploy­ment, from nearly 25 per cent five years ago.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs have de­clined by 300,000 since 2003, which is bad, but man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs have dis­ap­peared across North Amer­ica. Over­all, On­tario has 900,000 more jobs than it did in 2003.

Much of the growth has been in ur­ban On­tario.

Ru­ral On­tario’s been kicked in the shorts by the grad­ual but un­re­lent­ing shift from lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing to global sup­ply chains, up-and-down com­mod­ity prices, and the rise of ser­vice and knowl­edge work that tends to be done in cities. This is a prob­lem, and if any­body has an idea for how to re­store small fac­to­ries to small towns, every govern­ment in North Amer­ica would like to hear from you.

The Lib­eral eco­nomic plan is fo­cused on, as leader Kathleen Wynne would say, build­ing On­tario up — im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion, build­ing in­fras­truc­ture, tak­ing up things like drug cov­er­age as pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (at least par­tially) so that pre­car­i­ous em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship don’t seem as scary.

Naqvi and the oth­ers, who aren’t stupid peo­ple and know that their “plan” of re­forms they did over a decade ago is guff, re­verted to that kind of talk al­most in­stantly when pressed.

“This elec­tion is very much about the econ­omy,” Naqvi said. “What kind of econ­omy we’re build­ing as we’re mov­ing for­ward, and one of the big­gest con­cerns we have is we have two par­ties, one on the right and one on the left, that are run­ning based on their ide­ol­ogy.”

The Tories never saw a pin­stripe suit they didn’t want to snug­gle, the New Democrats hate cap­i­tal­ism, et cetera.

That’s fine as a po­lit­i­cal sales pitch, it’s just not much in the way of good­ies for busi­nesses. The Lib­er­als would be bet­ter off be­ing open about that and em­pha­siz­ing how well they’ve done rather than warm­ing over tax tweaks from the Dal­ton McGuinty era as if they’re new.

ER­ROL MCGIHON

From left, Ot­tawa-area Lib­eral can­di­dates Yasir Naqvi, Stephanie Magh­nam and John Fraser high­light the Lib­er­als’ job-cre­ation record in the cap­i­tal at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day. The poli­cies are all le­git­i­mately part of their govern­ment’s ac­com­plish­ments, says David Reevely, but some are more than a decade old.

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