Well this was a fun filled week of events all over the constituency. We were so fortunate to have interim UCP leader Nathan Cooper join us for a busy but extremely well attended Thursday event. We spent the morning in Langdon with the Chamber of Commerce, community groups, visited the Food Bank in their new quarters, generously donated by Langdon Medical Clinic, and toured the Fire Hall and the site of the proposed Community Campus. We attended the Prince of Peace birthday bash, met with Synergy and other non-profits, and finally to the landing where we met with many of you in Chestermere from our Chamber. I also attended a Pride Shabbat as well as the Camp Fyrefly (a camp for LGBTQ+ youth) Premiers lunch, Women Talk in Strathmore, the Highland games, and then the launch of Island Tea, a new program on OMNI TV featuring Althea Carol-Clarke. She is an entrepreneur on International Avenue, and had politicians of all stripes out and empowering the Caribbean community.
Many of you have written me with concerns about the proposed Federal tax changes that will hit small businesses, farmers, and other self-employed people. The Federal Liberals are spinning this as making these hard-working people, who rely on their savings for their retirement, pay their “fair share”, implying they have been cheating the system.
I would like to share some excerpts from a letter I received from a family physician who questions whether it is even worthwhile to keep working long hours to serve the community when she is portrayed as a tax cheat.
“In 2008, when I finished residency I returned home to work in northern Manitoba, with a fully maxed out line of credit as well as 45,000 in provincial loans. I had spent six years and gotten into just over 250,000 in debt at age 30. I was single, had a car I was making payments on, and nothing else to my name, including zero pension. I had spent approximately 41,000 a year to live and pay tuition during the six years when I often worked 100 hours a week for pennies a day.
When I finally started working, I was overjoyed to start paying off this crushing debt, which has caused no small amount of stress.
I met my husband and we decided to have children. We decided to move to live closer to family in Alberta after I became pregnant with my first, as I couldn’t imagine continuing to work 100 hours a week, which I had been until 38 weeks gestation. My last delivery for a patient was at 36 weeks, and I worried I would go into labour due to how physically demanding my job was.
When we notified Manitoba we were moving, they told me I needed to repay my three years of loan money immediately, with interest, as the three years I’d put in didn’t count for repaying them, as the town had given me money as well – they told me I owed six years. They graciously gave me one week to pay $50,000 plus $13,000 interest.
Luckily, I had the money saved in my corporation for my maternity leave, that I had been putting away since finding out we were pregnant. But after paying back 63,000 to the province of Manitoba, I had to go back to work before my child was 4 months old, and we were back to living pay-check to pay-check.
We added our next child 16 months after the first, and I again returned to work after 10 weeks, due to lack of savings. We had to wait a little longer to have our last, before we decided it was now or never. I was almost 37 when he was born, and we only had my income. Again, I went back to work early, this time at one week postpartum, as I had a family of six to support, over 100,000 in school debt, a mortgage, and over 2500 a month in insurance in case I die or become unable to work in my field which I have to pay for as well. Because I serve a vulnerable elderly patient population, I also went back because I couldn’t stop worrying about what would happen to them if I took time off. My husband never went back to work, as childcare costs in Alberta for three children worked out to about 4000 per month for daycare, more than what he’d been earning previously.
In the last 6 years, I’ve taken 38 weeks off total, including the time for three maternity leaves. I just can’t take time away, because my patients would suffer.
I love what I do, and I hope I make a difference, as it is what I think about everyday. I worry about my family, my patients, and health care in general. As a physician, I struggle with the social determinants of health every day. Many people struggle with the basic necessities, and I know how lucky I am to make a good income.
But when the government tells me I’m cheating these people by not paying my full share of taxes, I am completely demoralized, and I feel a gulf open up between us. Once again, the government is playing people off against each other.
If I had gone into nursing, I would have almost 25 years of work experience, including sick days, three year long maternity leaves, no school debt to start my career, and I’d be able to retire in a few years. If I was a plumber or electrician, I could raise my prices.
I’m in a place where I’m “cheating” if I use the legitimate tax structure, but where I have no safety net like sick days, vacation or pension accruing.
My job is mentally draining, and many of my friends are seriously discussing cutting back on hours or moving, some are evening discussing early retirement.
I can’t afford to do that right now. I’m almost forty, and I still have 80,000 in school debt, a large mortgage, and no pension or sick days. I hurt myself in June, and went to work because I couldn’t afford to stay home to recover. The changes they made to personal taxes meant last year I didn’t receive any child tax benefits, even though I had a 1,3,5 and 13-year old.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do if these tax changes come into play. In medicine, I think it will make it harder to access timely medical care. I also think for the amount of extra money it will gain, they will lose an equal or greater amount from those who simply stop working. If I cut back to half what I’m working now, regardless of these changes, I will pay less in taxes.
Small business owners do what they do out of passion, but if you punish them for doing it, they will lose that passion. And small business owners are smart; if they realize it’s never going to be worth it, they won’t do it.
I’m terrified these changes will kill health care in Canada and the spirit of entrepreneurship. I can only hope these facts are taken into account, but I am not hopeful the changes won’t pass. The Liberals have made it very clear they will be making these changes, and we can only wait for the fallout.
Thank you for reading my story.”
Note that Federal MPs are eligible to collect a very lucrative pension after 6 years service beginning at age 55. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we love to hear from you.