We are all struggling

While it is a challenging time for everyone, some businesses are still really struggling and have little or no revenue.

Some of the sectors I’ve heard these concerns from include:

  • Travel agents
  • Events services
  • Arts and culture
  • Wedding services.

Many of our friends and neighbours’ immediate and long-term future may be uncertain, so it’s important we recognize that many industries aren’t back to normal.

The government announced that some passport office services will be resuming. If someone has an immediate need for a passport or are travelling in fewer than 30 days with proof of travel, they can request in-person appointments.

Check out Canada.ca/passport for more information.

I wrote extensively about the WE Charity controversy in my previous column, so I’ll just add some new information.

We learned that WE Charity started working and incurring expenses on the government’s proposed program, before the Liberal cabinet approving it. The government originally announced a $912 million student grant program, with WE Charity receiving $19 million to administer it.

We learned that agreement for grant distribution was actually $500 million, with WE Charity receiving $43.5 million to administer the program for 40,000 students. That leaves $368.5 million from the initial program costs not accounted for.

In addition, the program could only disperse a maximum of $5,000 per student, so the costs multiplied by the 40,000 students would be $200 million, not the $500 million budgeted.

Simply put, the numbers just aren’t adding up and there are more questions than answers as information drips out through individuals testifying at committees.

On July 28, in my capacity as shadow minister for Interprovincial Trade, I issued a statement on Canada reaching a partial agreement with Australia regarding a wine trade challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO), alongside the shadow minister for International Trade.

We asked the government to work with the wine industry, which have given them proposals.

Back in 2017, the Official Opposition and wine industry representatives warned the government of consequences of an escalator tax (automatic increase) on excise tax they were proposing, saying it would likely instigate a trade challenge with the WTO, which Australia did.

The legally binding judgment from the WTO was coming this summer. This is a made-in-Canada issue that did not have to occur.

Due to lack of action from the government on this for almost two years, I, and other MPs from the Official Opposition with wineries in our ridings, signed a joint letter asking the government to open negotiations with Australia to resolve the dispute.

I also spoke about this in the House of Commons.

On July 27, the government announced an agreement with Australia at the WTO. However, it is basically what Australia wanted. Four hundred Canadian wineries will have to start paying excise tax on domestically grown grapes.

The Australian media announced they “won” and the government of Canada announced they “came to an agreement.”

To put this into perspective, a 9,000-case-a-year winery will have a new $54,000 per year tax bill. We are hearing reports already of investment being put on hold and how this will set the industry back.

Overall, it’s a $40 million hit to the industry in new taxes.

Wineries had many of their distribution channels shut down for months such as restaurants, pubs, hotel events, onsite cancellations of weddings, and overall visitors numbers down.

On top of this, the excise tax is escalating — it will continue to automatically increase each year. That is for all liquor including beer, wine, and spirits.

The shadow minister for Agriculture and I wrote the Finance Minister asking to not increase these taxes during a pandemic, but unfortunately this still went through on April 1.

Please reach out to me to let me know what is important to you or if we can help with any federal programs. I also always appreciate the feedback I receive from our community. 250-470-5075, [email protected].


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More In Your Service articles

About the Author

Tracy Gray, MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is the Official Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Export Promotion and International Trade.

She also serves on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and is a member of the National Caucus Committees Credit Union Caucus, Wine Caucus, and Aviation Caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the year, and 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, on the Passenger Transportation Board 2010-2012, and elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library as a Trustee and was chair 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