Worrying increase in number of personal and business bankruptcies

Insolvency concerns

New reports are showing a significant rise in both personal and business bankruptcies and insolvencies.

Annual consumer insolvency filings for 2023 increased 23% compared to 2022, with an average of about 337 Canadians filing for insolvency each day in 2023 and more than 123,000 consumer insolvencies for the year.

British Columbia was again rated second in the rate of increase of consumer insolvencies, with a 26.8% increase to 12,896 filings.

The latest report from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy shows a 41% increase in business insolvencies in 2023 compared to 2022. Those numbers represent the most significant increase in business insolvencies in the 36-year history of the superintendent's office.

Digging into the numbers, some of the underlying trends are even more worrisome. Business insolvency filings rose 34.7% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to the third quarter and were 51.6% higher compared to the fourth quarter of 2022.

British Columbia had the second-highest rate of increase in business insolvencies in 2023, compared to 2022 at 65.4%, behind only Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada show there were 44,236 business closures in October 2023, with retailers being the most affected.

As a former retailing entrepreneur, I'm aware of the struggles of balancing debt, sales, and costs while trying to make payroll and keep up with ever-increasing government red tape.

Canada also had the second highest increase in bankruptcies in the G7, second only to France, as analyzed by Oxford Economics/Harvar Analytics.

We have to recognize all these statistics and numbers actually represent people, livelihoods and dreams. Mental health and wellness for many is already fragile and declining.

I’m holding the federal government to account for its role in Canada’s cost of living crisis. The current federal government’s lack of plans to reign in inflationary deficit spending in order to bring down interest rates, to end punitive tax increases or to tackle the housing crisis, is affecting people’s lives and small businesses.

Without a healthy economy, the trends in insolvencies and bankruptcies among consumers and businesses will surely only grow. A large percentage of Canadian mortgage holders will renew their mortgages this year at higher interest rates, so we will see further pressures on families.

Conservatives continue to put forward measures in the form of motions and MP Private Members’ bills to reduce costs for people and small businesses. A few include removing carbon taxes on farmers, removing the GST on the carbon tax (which is essentially a tax on a tax), and the Building Homes, Not Bureaucracy Act which is aimed at incentivizing more home construction. We continue to call for the halting all tax increases.

We’ve called on the federal government to stop deficit spending by a halt to funding the Asian Infrastructure Bank (and get our money back), stop funding the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, which hasn’t completed one project and stop the excessive billions in increased federal spending on outside consultants (some of whom it’s been discovered got paid to not do any work in the development of the ArriveCAN app).

The concerning rise in bankruptcies and insolvencies must be taken seriously. I will continue to advocate to find solutions to stabilize the economy and bring down costs.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MP calls for federal alcohol excise tax increase to be scrapped

Stop the tax hike

Increases in taxes are top of mind for businesses and families.

For many local small businesses in Kelowna-Lake Country and across Canada, there's growing concern about the 4.7% alcohol excise tax increase hitting their bottom line by on April 1.

Local wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries will face this significant tax hike. The increase, known as an "escalator” tax, is tied to inflation, so it is higher in years when inflation was high the previous year. "Escalator" is just a fancy bureaucratic word for automatic.

It is an automatic tax increase put in by the current government and, therefore, it is not included in the budget and there is no debate or vote in Parliament.

I am against this and believe any tax increases should be debated and voted on by parliamentarians.

This dates back to 2017, when the current government set this escalator tax increase and tied it to the Consumer Price Index. In practical terms, that means the excise tax increase is tied, via a formula, to Canada's inflation rate.

The government proceeded at that time, despite objections from Conservatives, industry leaders and small businesses. There were also warnings it might lead to trade disputes, which it did with Australia.

When I was first elected in 2019, I spoke out against annual escalator tax increases and have made the case about its unfairness every year since.

The excise tax increase comes at a time when our local beverage producers, and those in the hospitality industry such as restaurants and pubs, are already grappling with rising costs of everything, including raw materials, packaging, energy, rent, and transportation. Many have incurred extra debt loads and have not seen sales return to 2019 levels.

With interest rates high, more of their bottom line goes to debt financing.

Canada’s alcohol producers stepped up during the pandemic to retool and manufacture sanitizer and they are thanked by yearly excise, payroll and carbon tax increases.

More than 95% of wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries in Canada are small businesses. Many local producers have reached out to me expressing their concern about costs and tax increases.

Ultimately, the excise tax increase will be passed onto the consumer and will perpetuate higher inflation. It’s estimated this increase will cost Canadian taxpayers around $100 million in 2024-25. This, at a time when Canadians are dealing with the highest cost of living and highest interest rates in decades.

Appeals have been made to the federal government by industry organizations and, most recently, in an open letter to the Minister of Finance with an urgent appeal from a group of unions representing brewery, beer retail and distribution workers from across the country, who said the increase jeopardizes the livelihoods of their workers

The Conservatives have continually called for an end to all new taxes and all tax increases, including the excise tax increase. Canadians, whether trying to look after their families, businesses or homes, cannot afford the federal government taking more money out of their pockets.

I will keep pushing to stop this April Fools Day tax increase so local producers and those in the hospitality industry won't have to shoulder an additional financial load that will be passed onto consumers and further fuel our cost of living crisis.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MP worried about expanding MAID program for only mental illness

MAID expansion fears

There are numerous federal government bills and policies expected to either come before Parliament in 2024 or be fully implemented.

One is the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) eligibility for persons suffering solely from a mental illness. Last year, Parliament delayed this MAID expansion by a year, to March 17, 2024.

In 2023, the heads of psychiatry at all of Canada’s 17 medical schools called for the delay to the federal expanded eligibility. Many stated it is impossible to determine an individual’s mental illness will never respond to treatment.

As the (Conservative critic for) Persons with Disabilities, I have also found widespread opposition to the expansion of MAID to persons with mental illness among advocates for persons with disabilities.

More than 50 disability organizations, including several in B.C., wrote a joint letter to the justice minister in December 2022 to express their opposition to the expansion, citing discrimination, lack of supports, and concerns for protecting vulnerable people.

There are also many Kelowna-Lake Country residents living with disabilities who have reached out to me, expressing serious concerns about this.

The government supported only a one-year delay from March 2023 to March 2024, while the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying consulted further on the matter.

The prime minister and the newly appointed justice minister have not answered whether they believe MAID should be offered to those for whom mental illness is the sole underlying condition.

Canada’s Conservatives supported a Conservative Private Members Bill, C-314, which sought to amend the Criminal Code to provide that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying. That bill was voted down in October 2023, with 150 MPs voting in favour and 167 against.

Many people are increasingly struggling with a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. Many local residents and Canadians across the country have to deal with the immense stress of not knowing how they will pay to house themselves or put food on the table every month. With such a climate of anxiety, mental health challenges and increasing rates of addiction, expanding MAID to include mental illness as the sole underlying condition could be a tragic course.

We’ve already seen concerning examples, such as Veteran’s Affairs Canada confirming unprompted suggestions of MAID were offered by a caseworker to several veterans as a resolution for concerns such as PTSD, testimony by disabled persons considering MAID at the Human Resources committee due to lack of living affordability and reports of food banks being asked by clients for details on applying for MAID.

I believe we should focus our efforts on improving affordability and quality of life, and compassionately helping people where it should not be easier to get MAID than to access mental health and addiction supports.

I, along with my Conservative colleagues, will continue to stand with the many experts, doctors and those serving disabled persons who oppose MAID expansion, where mental illness is the sole underlying condition, who are expressing inherent risks and concerns about protecting those who may be struggling and expressing concerns about protecting the most vulnerable.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MP outlines concerns about what's coming this year

Looking ahead to 2024

As we look forward to this new year, I've heard a wide variety of concerns from our community regarding upcoming government policies and legislation.

Residents in Kelowna-Lake Country, and Canadians across the country, continue to face a worsening cost-of-living crisis, with increasing mortgage interest costs, several increasing federal taxes, an increase to EI premiums, concerns from workers about “Just Transition" legislation and the potential expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

An eight-year decline in the standard of living performance leaves Canada lagging behind other advanced economies, and with soaring costs in essentials like food, fuel, and housing, many local residents and people across Canada are grappling with unprecedented challenges.

The 2024 Canada Food Price Report estimates food prices will increase by 2.5% to 4.5% over the next year. We have to remember, this is on top of the last couple of years, where we saw increases as high as 11% year-over-year.

2023 also marked a distressing milestone as more Canadians than ever turned to food banks. Housing expenses have skyrocketed with the most interest rate increases in one year in Canadian history.

Should we hope to see any substantive change in inflation or interest rates, a serious change in fiscal management and balanced budgets will need to be undertaken by the federal government.

Families will soon face added financial strains as the government raised EI premiums on Jan. 1, leaving less on paycheques despite the assurance in Budget 2023 that those premiums would stay the same for workers. Businesses will also have to pay higher premiums.

Wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries in the Okanagan, and across Canada, are very concerned about the government's yearly "escalator" (automatic) excise tax increase on alcohol once again on April 1. Not only will that cut into producers' bottom line at a time when many are struggling, but the cost inevitably gets passed on to restaurants and other licensees, and ultimately consumers. That, in itself, will increase inflation further.

Increasing mortgage interest payments, increasing carbon taxes making the price of everything go up and other tax increases are fuelling the inflationary fire and reducing Canadians' quality of life and putting more small businesses at risk of closing.

If the government's "Just Transition" legislation passes, it will continue to create uncertainty for the 2.7 million workers in the country who the government has said will have disruptions to their jobs.

I'll be following the effects of the implementation of firearms legislation on responsible firearms owners, the federal drug decriminalization policies in B.C., the minor amendments to bail reform legislation and how online news could continue to be restricted in Canada due to legislation passed last year.

Another issue coming up soon is the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) eligibility date for persons suffering solely from a mental illness. It is approaching (March 17), based on government legislation. Conservatives got behind the many experts, including doctors, who came forth expressing the inherent risks of implementing MAID for mental illness, with concerns about adequate safeguards to protect the most vulnerable.

Wars, international instability and geopolitical issues can also affect our residents at home in our community who may have family abroad. My constituency office is always available to serve in any way it can.

I will continue to fight for residents across our community to ensure we bring home safe streets, powerful paycheques and homes people can afford.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More In Your Service articles

About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]


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

Previous Stories