Helping small business grow

Canada’s economy is among the fastest growing in the G7.

The unemployment rate is at a 40-year historic low, real wages are rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade, and more than a million jobs have been created since December 2015.

It’s the kind of economy that makes investors interested in Canada, and why we are ranked third globally in foreign direct investment confidence and have seen some of the highest levels of venture capital investments since the 1990s.

Much of this good news can be attributed to the strength of our small business community and it is the reason our government remains committed to making it easier to do business in Canada.

On Jan. 1, we lowered the small business tax rate to nine per cent, giving Canada one of the lowest small business tax rates in the world and saving small business owners to up to $7,500 a year.

Last fall, we proposed three immediate changes to Canada’s tax system that will make it easier for small business:

  • allowing businesses to immediately write off the full cost of machinery and equipment used for the manufacturing and processing of goods
  • allowing businesses to immediately write off the full cost of certain clean technology equipment
  • and, through a new Accelerated Investment Initiative, allowing businesses across all sectors of the economy to write off a larger share of the cost of newly acquired assets in the year the investment is made. 

We also kept our promise to cut red tape and make regulations more effective:

since 2015, our government has cut more than 450 federal rules that impose an administrative burden on business; and we are tackling regulatory irritants by harmonizing food regulations and inspections and facilitating greater trade of alcohol between provinces and territories.

As we pursue an ambitious trade diversification agenda, we are also investing more than $1 billion to help Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs scale up and access the $1.5 billion new customers made available through the USMCA, CETA and the CPTPP. 

These trade agreements make Canada the only G7 country with a trade agreement with all G7 partners.

And, because we know the full and equal participation of women in the economy is essential to Canada's future competitiveness and prosperity, our government created the $2-billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), with a goal of doubling the amount of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025.

Buoyed by economic confidence at home, Canadian small businesses are succeeding at being more productive, more innovative and more competitive providing important paths to prosperity for families in our communities. 

As an advocate for our local business community you have my assurance I will continue to work to alleviate the pressures that small business owners face. 

Our community would not be the vibrant innovative regional hub it is without the hard work and determination of our entrepreneurs and our government is committed to doing everything we can to clear the path to success.


Our collective responsibility

As elected officials we encourage citizen participation and open dialogue to strengthen democratic participation. 

But increasingly, individuals are using these opportunities to express anger:

  • against government
  • against authority
  • against each other.

Last week’s events surrounding the violent message directed at Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran cannot be ignored. 

The fact that the RCMP took this threat seriously sends an important message to others who think there is no harm in inciting violence against others, however frequent an occurrence it has become. 

Indeed, the need to respond effectively grows more important by the day.

Recent events — including the Brexit outcome and the U.S. election, as well as more frequent reports of spying and illegal information sharing of personal data — has many alarmed that the rules and regulations governing the internet and social media platforms are not robust enough especially as we head into the next election. 

Last January, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made multiple announcements regarding potential threats to Canada's democratic process.

One announcement was a new "critical election incident public protocol" group that will alert the public if it becomes aware of interference during the campaign period.

While there is no plan to call out the usual political spin on the campaign trail, threats deemed "disruptive" to a free and fair election, such as email hacking or viral videos spreading false information, will be.

The government is also taking measures to address the fact that the internet has increasingly become a tool for terrorism and violent extremism, including coordinated action to prevent social media and other online platforms from being used to incite, publish, and promote terrorism, violence, and hatred.

Last December, our government launched our National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence and on May 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, French President Emmanuel Macron, other government leaders, and industry leaders to adopt the Christchurch Call to Action.

The Call to Action is a global pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The pledge aims to build more inclusive, resilient communities to counter violent radicalization, enforce laws that stop the production and dissemination of terrorist and extremist content online, and encourage media to apply ethical rules when reporting on terrorist events to avoid amplifying terrorist and violent extremist content. 

Closer to home, citizens like Kelowna’s Janice Taylor are taking actions of their own. 

Janice initiated petition E-2133 calling for legislation that protects the data privacy and online safety of children under 13 years old. More information can be found on the House of Commons e-petition website at www.ourcommons.ca.

Finally, while governments, authorities and organizations are actively working to ensure online platforms remain open and are not used to disrupt civil society, we all must demand more of ourselves. 

It’s not enough to be appalled by the misinformation or mischaracterization of others that fuel the kind of comments we saw last week. 

We each have a responsibility to actively reject and denounce such behaviour and demonstrate through our actions a commitment to uphold decency, fair mindedness and fact.

I encourage all of us to do our part.

Affordable housing option

Community housing offers an affordable option for many Canadians and has been the backbone of Canada’s response to housing challenges for more than 60 years.

That is why Canada’s first National Housing Strategy (NHS) is ensuring that Canada’s community housing stock remains affordable and in good repair well into the future.

Some of these affordable housing units rely on subsidies through operating agreements with the federal government, many of which were set to expire leaving low income tenants vulnerable.

We have three federally administered housing co-ops in Kelowna that provide 58 units for residents.

Now, through the National Housing Strategy, the federal government will invest $500 million over 10 years in the Federal Community Housing Initiative to help preserve the affordability of these units.  

This is in addition to $4.3 billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative (to be cost-matched by the provinces and territories) to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing,

Subsidies will continue on a transitional basis in order to maintain affordability of federal units and stabilize operations of community housing providers.

It will also allow time for housing providers to transition to a new Phase II rental support program beginning in April 2020. 

For community and affordable housing in need of repair that is not federally-administered, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide low-cost loans and/or financial contributions to support and develop mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use affordable housing.  

With an emphasis on energy efficient, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, and social inclusiveness, the Fund is prioritizing projects that support partnerships between governments, non-profits, private sector, and others to make federal investment go further.

It also covers a broad range of housing needs, from shelters to affordable homeownership.

Regarding homelessness, our local community entity the Central Okanagan Foundation recently received a substantial commitment from our government to support our communities’ efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness, part of our national goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027–2028. 

As of April 1, 2019, Kelowna-Lake Country is receiving more than $4.8 million over five years to address our local homelessness challenges.

Additionally, our government has also put aside funding through the Veterans Emergency Fund to provide immediate financial help to any veteran who is in crisis. 

The fund will help ensure that veteran homelessness becomes rare and doesn’t reoccur and that all those who served our country have a safe place to call home.

More details on the components of our National Housing Strategy and the Veterans Emergency Fund can be found at www.canada.ca.

Secure, affordable housing is essential but for too long our municipalities have been without the resources they need to adequately plan for and address critical shortages in affordable housing. 

By making key strategic investments in community housing through our ten-year, $40-billion National Housing Strategy, and partnering with the province, our municipalities, and local non-profit and private sectors, we will be better positioned to tackle the affordable housing shortfall and have a direct and positive impact on our community.


Budget invests in Canadians

In the fall of 2015, unemployment was stubbornly high, wages were stagnant, and consumer confidence was in decline.

Today, the picture is much different. 

  • We have a government that is focused on investing and strengthening the middle class and a Canadian economy that has rebounded: 
  • 825,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty
  • 900,000 new jobs have been created resulting in the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years
  • wages are rising while income and small business taxes are lower
  • Canada’s debt to GDP ratio continues to track downward ensuring the long-term fiscal sustainability of Canada’s economy.

Budget 2019 builds on these efforts with a focus on affordability and improving the lives of low and middle-income Canadians. 

Here are just a few of the initiatives that will help people in our community:

Budget 2019 provides a new option to help get people into their first home with the introduction of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, and an expanded withdrawal limit under the First Time Home Buyers Plan. 

To place younger Canadians in a better position to save, Budget 2019 lessens the burden of student loans with a reduction in interest payments and an expansion of the Student Work Placement Program so that more students will be able to work in their field while obtaining an education.

For those workers looking to upgrade their training, Budget 2019 creates the Canada Training Benefit which includes a new, non-taxable Canada Training Credit to help with the cost of training fees, and a new EI Training Support Benefit to provide income support when an individual requires time off work.

For seniors living on fixed incomes, Budget 2019 reduces the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) claw back, extending it to self-employment income, and providing an exemption on up to $15,000 of annual employment income.

And to ensure that no senior is forced to make a choice between heating, food or medication, Budget 2019 creates the Canadian Drug Agency as part of the steps we are taking towards a national pharmacare plan.

Budget 2019 also addresses concerns about the security of workplace pensions, making insolvency proceedings fairer, giving courts greater ability to review executive payouts leading up to insolvency.

It also protects Canadians’ hard-earned benefits by clarifying in federal pension law that if a plan is wound-up, it must still provide the same pension benefits as when it was ongoing.

To lower Canadians' energy costs Budget 2019 creates a partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-use buildings, and introduces a new incentive for buying electric battery or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

For municipalities, Budget 2019 provides a one-time top up to double support through the Gas Tax Fund. From roads, to wastewater, to disaster mitigation to recreational infrastructure, doubling the Gas Tax puts our municipalities in the driver’s seat to fund necessary local projects.

In other sectors, both tourism and agriculture and agri-food are getting a boost through the Canadian Experiences Fund and a Western Canada Growth Strategy.

Full details of the budget can be found at www.budget.gc.ca.

The outlook for global growth has become more uncertain, but Canada’s economy is expected to strengthen as Canada’s trade strength. 

Our plan supports strong business investments with new tax incentives to encourage businesses to accelerate investment in capital.

I am aware that not all constituents are comfortable with our government running deficits, albeit modest. But austerity, as the IMF has warned, runs the risk of stalling the economy by increasing inequality and instability, and undermining growth. 

The time to invest in Canadians is now, when we have the fiscal capacity, in the things that matter most: good jobs, strong communities, a clean environment, and better opportunities for future generations.

And as Minister Morneau said in his budget speech:

“we’re going to make these investments to grow our economy for the long term — while we bring the books back towards balance.”

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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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