Canada Votes 2015 - Party Leaders' Survey

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Party Leaders' Survey
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CFIB has asked each federal party leader for their specific commitments on key small business issues. Each leader has been asked 15 questions on a range of topics, including:

  • The tax burden on small business
  • Red tape reduction strategies
  • Controlling government spending
  • Addressing Canada’s skilled-labour shortage
  • Retirement savings
  • How to make Canada a better place for small business

Party responses

The answers to these questions have been presented in an easy-to-print comparative table and reproduced in full below.

Please note that responses from the candidates were posted as received and have not been reviewed for content or grammar.

The tax burden on small business

+Will you commit to lower the small business corporate tax rate and on what time frame?

New Democratic Party: An NDP government led by Tom Mulcair will immediately begin cutting the small business tax rate from 11 to 9 percent in the first two years of our mandate. This measure will help small business owners create jobs. Fully implemented, this will cut small business taxes by nearly 20 percent and save small business owners across Canada approximately $1.2 billion each year. We’ll put more money back in the hands of almost 700,000 small businesses, so they can continue leading in job creation in Canada.

Liberal Party: The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to bringing the small business corporate tax rate to 9% by 2019.

Green Party: The Green Party of Canada is committed to reducing the small business corporate tax rate from its current rate of 11% to 9% by 2019.

Conservative Party: Our Conservative government has a proven record of lowering taxes. We have consistently lowered taxes on small businesses to help them grow their businesses and hire more workers.

Early in our time in government, we lowered the small business rate to 11 percent and increased the small business threshold by two-thirds, to $500,000. The result of these changes is that a small business with $500,000 in taxable income is receiving $28,600 in tax savings. We also introduced the Small Business Job Tax Credit for this year and next to provide over $550 million in tax relief to over 780,000 small businesses.

Our latest budget – Economic Action Plan 2015 – set out our medium-term plan for lowering small business taxes even further. We legislated a further small business tax rate reduction from 11 percent to 9 percent over the next four years. This is the largest tax rate cut for small businesses in over 25 years.

+What are your party’s overall plans for corporate taxes?

New Democratic Party: New Democrats believe that corporations have to pay their fair share while, of course, keeping our corporate tax rates competitive with our largest trading partner, the United States. The NDP supports targeted tax cuts to help small business owners – like lowering the small business tax rate from 11 to 9%. The NDP would introduce further measures to support small business owners, such as a tax credit for microbrewers that brew up to 15,000 hectolitres of beer and malt liquor per fiscal year.

Liberal Party: We feel that Canada’s current corporate tax rate is competitive among our trading partners and competitors and have no plans to alter it during the 42nd Parliament.

Green Party: The Green Party believes that, while the small business corporate tax rate must remain low to stimulate growth in SMEs, we should raise corporate taxes over four years from the current level of 15% back to the level set in 2009 – 19%.The federal rate of corporate taxation has steadily declined for years. Yet corporations have not used the extra cash to create jobs: by 2014, an astonishing $629 billion was stagnating in corporate accounts – 35 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Restoring the corporate tax rate to 19 per cent is a fiscally responsible choice while keeping Canada competitive internationally.

Conservative Party: We reduced the general business tax rate from 22 to 15 percent, creating a world-leading, competitive tax environment for job creating businesses.

Our party has a low-tax, low-debt plan for Canadian business and the economy. The other parties have opposed every tax cut we have introduced and have promised to hike taxes on businesses and employees alike.

+Will you reject a mandatory expansion of CPP/QPP premiums?

New Democratic Party: Canadians are facing a retirement security crisis. The Canada Pension Plan has consistently enjoyed some of the highest returns of all retirement savings vehicles, yet the Conseratives have broken their promise to strengthen it for future generations of Canadians. An NDP government will take immediate steps to work with the provinces to gradually increase the Canada Pension Plan and Québec Pension Plan, in a responsible manner and on a fully-funded basis. We will also protect pension-splitting and recent RRIF changes.

Liberal Party: We will enter into negotiations with the provinces to gradually phase in an expansion of the core CPP.

Green Party: Strengthening the CPP can be done without sacrificing fiscal responsibility. Many Canadians understand the need for government to encourage retirement savings.

The CPP can be modified to offer enhanced benefits, by phasing in a doubling of the target income replacement rate from 25 to 50 per cent, and raising the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) to at least $90,000 over several decades. Subject to an actuarial evaluation, raising the YMPE could be achieved with a phased-in increase of CPP contribution rates. Some of the increase could be covered by redirected reductions in workplace pensions.

Conservative Party: Our Conservative government has been clear: a re-elected Conservative government will continue to reject a mandatory expansion of CPP payroll taxes. CPP payroll tax increases would hurt middle-class Canadian families and small businesses, leaving them with less money every month.

+Would you consider implementing an equal (50:50) split in EI premiums between employers and employees?

New Democratic Party: For years, Conserative and Liberals set EI premium rates where it was politically convenient. The NDP supports an independent process that sets premium rates to deliver the support Canadian workers and families need. The NDP wants to make sure the premiums that small business owners and employers pay into the EI fund are actually used to provide EI benefits to the unemployed, special benefits for families and training for Canadians.

Liberal Party: The Conservatives have maintained artificially high EI premium rates that have generated billions of EI revenues not needed to pay for EI benefits. We will reduce the EI premium rate saving both employers and their employees’ money.

Green Party: The Green Party supports an employment insurance scheme that ensures the viability of small businesses, while providing workers the necessary support to survive in today’s challenging workplace environment.

The time has come to look at new models for EI funding and delivery. The Green Party believes we need to think outside the box and consider a variety of reform options including the proposal put forward by the CFIB for an equal 50:50 split in EI premiums between employers and employees. In the latter case, the federal government would fund a modernized efficient program available to all who are unemployed (see continued discussion below).

Conservative Party: Working with small business groups like CFIB, our Government put in place a freeze on EI premiums until 2017. A re-elected Conservative government will lower the EI premium rate from $1.88 in 2016 to an estimated $1.47 in 2017 – a reduction of 21 percent. Every business in Canada and every working Canadian who pays into EI will benefit from this significant payroll tax cut. It is estimated that the savings from this rate reduction will benefit over 16 million Canadians. In regards to any future changes to how EI premiums are collected, we would be pleased to continue the productive and collaborative relationship with the CFIB that we have valued while in Government.

+Please elaborate on your plans for employment insurance benefits and premiums.

New Democratic Party: Under the Conservatives, fewer than 4 in 10 unemployed Canadians receive regular EI benefits when they need them. The NDP wants to ensure that more Canadians and middle-class families can access the support they need if they lose their jobs, need to take parental leave, become ill or need to care for a loved-one. An NDP government will not back the Conservatives’ reckless reform that will make it harder for small seasonal businesses to keep their skilled and experienced workers. The NDP would also introduce legislation to ensure EI premiums can never be stolen.

Liberal Party: In 2017, we will reduce the EI premium rate from an expected $1.88 for employees and $2.63 for employers to an estimated $1.65 and $2.31.

We have heard from small business owners that they have trouble finding skilled workers. We will reinstated the Labour Market Development Agreement funding for the provinces to ensure that there is training capacity. We will not end the Canada Jobs Grant which reprofiled $500 million of LMDA funding in Budget 2013.

We will also make compassionate care leave more flexible.

Green Party: In the long term, the Green Party would replace the EI system, and other social supports, with a Guaranteed Liveable Income (GLI), which would provide a regular payment to every Canadian to meet Canadians’ basic needs while encouraging additional income generation. Arguably, a complete elimination of EI premiums would remove what employers call a tax on jobs , while ensuring that all Canadians could obtain needed transitional support and training.

In the absence of a GLI, we must expand eligibility standards while addressing seasonal workers more fairly, encourage more EI-sponsored work-sharing during economic slumps, and adjust the availability of training funds to benefit the manymany workers who are not eligible for EI. Canada must reform the current EI system to achieve the goals of accessibility, affordability, and reliability, while making the system work better for employers and workers.

Conservative Party: We have focused on ensuring that the EI program provides support to those who lose their job through no fault of their own so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible. The other party leaders have put forward dangerous policies – like allowing people to work for 45 days and collect EI for the rest of the year – that would result in massive EI payroll hikes that will ahrm small businesses across the country.

Red tape reduction strategies

+Do you plan on reducing the impact of red tape on small businesses?

New Democratic Party: The NDP believes in common-sense solutions to reduce paper burden and the compliance costs small businesses face when dealing with government, all the while protecting important regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of Canadians. An NDP government will work with small business owners to identify and eliminate unnecessary red tape, and let small businesses focus on what they do best; growing their businesses and creating jobs.

Liberal Party: Yes. We will seek to reduce duplication and eliminate obsolete regulations that hamper small businesses.

Green Party: The Green Party of Canada is committed to reducing the paperwork burden on small businesses. Any legislation or regulation would be subject to the Green’s proposed Think Small First legislation. Our Small Business Impact Assessment Act stipulates that a report on a legislation’s, or regulation’s impact on small business must be tabled in the House of Commons to ensure that all the facts are before legislators before policy decisions are made

Conservative Party: Small businesses are a key part of Canada’s economy, and our Conservative government cut the red tape burden on these businesses that create jobs for Canadians. 

In 2012, we launched our Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, and fulfilled our commitment to create the Administrative Burden Baseline, which provides a comprehensive picture of federal requirements in regulations and related forms that can impact Canadian businesses across different sectors and industries.

We were proud to pass “One-for-One” legislation requiring that every new regulation must be accompanied by the elimination of a current regulation.  We have worked to harmonize our regulations with major trading partners to make it easier to do business across borders. And, we improved the process for consulting with small business owners on new government policy, requiring the public service to apply a Small Business Lens when considering regulations.

As a result, Canada is a world leader in reducing the red tape burden and creating a more predictable environment for small businesses to grow and succeed.   To date, our Conservative government has saved Canadian businesses over $32 million in administrative burden each year, as well as 750,000 hours in time spent dealing with red tape. This is significant as regulatory compliance costs are disproportionately borne by small businesses.

+What specific measures or policies will you put in place to reduce the impact of red tape on small businesses in Canada?

New Democratic Party: The NDP have called on the Conservatives not to unfairly fine small business owners who are wrestling to understand Canada’s anti-spam laws. The NDP has also been consulting with businesses about ways to reduce paperwork requirements for operating in different provinces. For instance, in 2011, the NDP worked with the other parties to pass bill C-311: An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use). The NDP supported relevant parts of bill C-311 that eliminated federal barriers to the sale of beer across provinces.

Liberal Party: The current system’s one-for-one rule has a significant flaw in that it allows the government to book red tape reductions in one sector and increase them in other sectors. In fact, the government booked 80% of its red tape reductions in the health sectors and those “banked” reductions allow them to increase red tape in other unrelated sectors while drawing down on that bank.

The one-for-one system should be more reflective of the typical red tape that a particular business is likely to encounter.

Green Party: Greens would eliminate duplicative tax filings and red tape for small businesses. Government agencies should operate using shared information from the same database. The Green Party has already introduced Think Small First legislation that requires the consideration, and public reporting, of how new legislation would impact small business, based on a similar law in the European parliament.

Conservative Party: Under our Government, we have seen a steady shift in the culture of the federal government in favour of the needs of Canadian small businesses.  But we have a plan to do even more and move forward to a stronger economy.

A re-elected Conservative government will build on our current success in cutting red tape by:

  • Launching a new round of cross-country red tape consultations to get feedback on our current reforms and help to inform future ones. 
  • Expanding the “red tape baseline” to account for requirements on businesses stemming from legislation and policy rules in addition regulations.
  • Achieving a net reduction in the red tape burden of 20 percent by the end of the next mandate. 

We have a proven record that has controlled the growth of red tape, to the benefit of Canada’s economy. These new measures will move our economy forward to a stronger position as we significantly reduce the administrative burden faced by small businesses, saving Canadians even more time and money.

Controlling government spending

+Do you plan on maintaining and/or legislating a balanced budget? Please elaborate.

New Democratic Party: The Harper Conservatives have broken records in terms of bad fiscal management. Under Stephen Harper’s watch, the Conservatives have tabled 8 deficits in a row, and Canada’s national debt has grown by more than $150 billion. New Democrats have had a long standing commitment to balanced budgets. According to Statistics Canada, the provincial NDP governments have balanced budgets more often than any other party.

Liberal Party: The federal government has run consecutive deficits since 2008. We will balance the budget and return Canada to surplus by 2019 while reducing our debt-to-GDP ratio each and every year.

Green Party: The Green Party believes in living within our limits, fiscally and ecologically. We are committed to a balanced budget and to reducing the national debt. To pay down the debt while supporting programs that meet social, economic, and environmental needs, we must maintain a healthy and fair level of taxation while ensuring that Canadians get good value for their tax dollars.

Servicing our $600 billion federal debt costs taxpayers $29 billion a year. Deficits can be managed, but debt erodes public revenue through interest payments. All Green Party policies are fully costed, and will continue to only propose new spending within our means.

Conservative Party: Sound public finances and balanced budgets are at the core of our economic agenda.  We have held the line on operating budgets and program spending in federal departments, and eliminated duplication and waste.

As a result of these steps, we have balanced the federal budget and passed Balanced Budget Legislation into law.  Canada enjoys the lowest debt levels in the developed world by a significant margin, and the lowest federal tax burden in 50 years. Thanks to our actions, the tax burden for SMEs will fall by 46% relative to when we formed government.

The Conservative government will continue to hold spending down – particularly operating spending – and keep taxes low to maintain a balanced budget and a growing economy. 

We are the only party Canadians can trust when it comes to balanced budgets and debt.  After saying he thinks ‘budgets balance themselves’ Justin has since completely abandoned any pretence to balancing the budget, proudly promising to run ongoing and significant deficits. The NDP’s billions of dollars of promised spending would require massive deficit financing, regardless of their claims to the contrary. The reality is that both Justin and Mulcair’s promises of billions of dollars in new spending will mean large and spiralling deficits that will pile debt onto Canadian taxpayers and businesses large and small. And both Justin and Mulcair have promised to take away, in whole or in part, our tax relief for Canadians, such as income splitting.

+CFIB research shows that there is a wage advantage for public sector workers. The federal government has the largest gaps, with a salary premium of 13.0 per cent, which grows to 33.2 per cent once benefits are taken into account. Would you commit to addressing the wage advantage that currently exists in the federal public sector? Please elaborate

New Democratic Party: Canadians want a competent and independent public service. An NDP Government would engage in good faith negotiations with public sector workers to set wages and benefits, in a fair and democratic process. This promotes a stable climate of labour relations that will enable public servants to focus on their jobs: delivering services to Canadians.

An NDP government will lower small business taxes from 11 to 9% over two years. Small businesses create 80% of new, private sector jobs and are the backbone of our local economies. Once fully implemented, this measure will cut small business taxes by nearly 20 percent and further help them to deal with growing challenges. We will remain focused on creating a strong, diversified economy.

Liberal Party: We would ensure that public sector wages are negotiated through the collective bargaining process. Given those talks involve a wide range of issues from pay to benefits as well as give and take on the part of both the employer and employee it is not possible to provide an exact target at this time.

Green Party: The Green Party supports public sector workers. Many public sector workers accept employment at less than they might make in the private sector. Certainly, efficiencies in the public sector can be achieved, however, Greens are focused on working positively with public sector workers.

A National Pharmacare program would instrumental in reducing the cost of providing employee benefits. Too often employers and employees are stuck with the rising cost of drugs and pharmaceuticals, which are the largest single driver for increased healthcare costs in this country. A National Pharmacare program will enable Canada to negotiate purchases in bulk and combine administration costs, saving billions.

Conservative Party: Our Conservative government has taken concrete steps to ensure that compensation for public sector workers is reasonable and affordable, as well as aligned with that offered by other public and private sector employers. As part of this commitment, we advanced fair and responsible changes to employee pensions and eliminated severance benefits available to employees upon voluntary departure.  We negotiated in good faith to ensure that the costs of the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) for retirees are shared fairly between them and the Government as employer.   In Economic Action Plan 2015, we reiterated our commitment to negotiate with federal public sector bargaining agents to establish a disability and sick leave management system that is modern, comprehensive and responsive to employees’ needs. The Government of Canada’s antiquated existing system of bankable sick days is failing both employees and taxpayers.  These steps, among others, will help to better align public sector wages and benefits with those of the private sector.

+Public sector workers continue to have dramatically higher retirement benefits than private sector workers, including a bridge benefit that allows them to retire earlier than 65 with no reduction in Canada Pension Plan benefits. Would you commit to ending the bridge benefit for public sector pensions to improve fairness with private sector workers?

New Democratic Party: An NDP government would always engage in good faith negotiations with public sector workers to set wages and benefits, in a fair and democratic process. This promotes a stable climate of labour relations that will enable public servants to focus on their essential work of delivering services to Canadians.

Liberal Party: The bridge benefit is accounted for when the Chief Actuary sets pension plan contribution rates. Since the bridge benefit has been paid for through employee contributions, we would not consider retroactively ending it.

We will continue the move towards a 50:50 employee/employer contribution arrangement for the public service.

Green Party: All Canadians deserve better retirement savings plans, and Greens would work to enhance the CPP for all Canadians. Often, civil service workers will reach a contract that reflects a lower salary, but that provides comprehensive and reliable benefits that offset the difference between their compensation and the wage they would make in the private sector. A strong civil service needs to attract professionals that will invest much of their careers working for the public - offering fair benefits is one way of attracting skilled public servants.

Conservative Party: During the global recession, our Conservative government took steps to ensure that federal pension plans are sustainable, financially responsible and broadly consistent with the pension products offered by other jurisdictions as well as more consistent with those offered in the private sector.  As a result, public service employee pension contributions will equal those of the employer and the normal age of retirement for employees who joined the federal public service starting in 2013 is 65.  These responsible improvements were put in place, while respecting the Government’s existing pension obligations to its employees.

Addressing Canada’s skilled-labour shortage

+Would you support a training tax credit for small business?

New Democratic Party: Tom Mulcair knows small business owners are proud to give many of our youths their first jobs. The NDP understands many small business owners are concerned they will invest in their employees only to have their competitors “poach them” and reap the rewards of their investments. That’s why the NDP has called for measures like a Youth Hiring and Training Tax Credit to help youths get jobs. An NDP government will work with small business owners and workers to increase on-the-job training so that Canada is on par with other jurisdictions.

Liberal Party: A well trained workforce is vital to Canada’s future economic success and the wellbeing of the middle class.

We will maintain the Canada Job Grant while reinstating the federal-provincial Labour Market Development Agreements that was removed after Budget 2013. This will provide the provinces and territories with half a billion dollars per year to ensure our labour force has the skills it needs to meet the job requirements of tomorrow.

We will have additional measures to announce during the course of the campaign.

Green Party: We must improve Canada’s poor record of on-the-job training. We need to provide incentives for employers to train workers and invest in long-term productivity improvements to maintain our ability to compete in the global economy.

A very small federal Apprentice Incentive and Completion Grant increased enrolment in training programs, but only half of those enrolled actually completed their course. As a further challenge, most apprenticeships occur in small- or medium-sized businesses and are vulnerable to economic downturns, when apprentices are the first to be laid off. The Green Party’s proposed GLI will help. We need to provide sufficient income support to enable workers to manage their cost of living while in training.

Conservative Party: In September 2014, our Conservative government was pleased to introduce the new Small Business Job Credit which is expected to save small businesses more than $550 million over the next two years.  The Small Business Job Credit will effectively lower small businesses’ Employment Insurance (EI) premiums from the current legislated rate of $1.88 to $1.60 per $100 of insurable earnings in 2015 and 2016, reducing their EI payroll taxes by nearly 15%.  The CFIB was instrumental in bringing this Credit about, and we shared your view that it will “make it easier to hire new workers or invest in additional training to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.” (http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/article/5299-employment-insurance-helping-workers-back-to-work.html

+Will your government support a pathway to permanent residency for lower skilled workers, like CFIB’s proposed Introduction to Canada Visa?

New Democratic Party: The Conservatives have mismanaged and grown the Temporary Foreign Worker program to outrageous proportions, pushing down wages and resulting in Canadians being fired and replaced with foreign workers. Furthermore, they have revoked pathways to citizenship for lower-skilled workers. As a result, small business owners who use the program as a last resort are losing the skilled workers in whom they have invested. That’s why the NDP has called for an immediate restoration of pathways to citizenship for all classes of temporary foreign workers, and a full review of the temporary foreign worker program.

Liberal Party: We recognize that while there is a lack of skilled workers in many parts of the country, there is also a lack of low skilled workers in others. As an example of how to address this challenge, we have committed to developing more pathways towards citizenship for the Temporary Foreign Workers who want to make Canada their home.

Green Party: The Green Party is the only federal party to have concluded that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is irredeemably flawed and must be scrapped, while offering foreign workers clear pathways to citizenship. Weak mechanisms for assessing labour shortages have allowed the TFWP to undermine wage and labour standards. At the same time, the program exploits foreign workers. Instead, Canada must focus on diminishing high levels of unemployment among Canadian youth.

Conservative Party: When it comes to bringing in skilled workers, we have been clear that we want to ensure Canadians have first access to Canadian jobs.  Our Conservative Government has a solid record of taking decisive action to fix the broken immigration system left by the Liberals.  The previous Liberal Government left Canada’s immigration system in shambles with massive backlogs, unacceptably long multiple-year wait times, and no solution for Canada’s economy.

We have introduced Express Entry, a new cutting-edge electronic system that ensures Canada's economic immigration program is fast, flexible, and responsive to labour market needs. We increased the number of nominations each Province and Territory can make under the Provincial Nominee Program by 42% in the past two years – to its highest level ever – in order to ensure they are able to respond to skill shortages in their regional labour markets.

In addition, we have given the Provinces and Territories access to the Express Entry pool so they can directly select and nominate the best and brightest of the world’s talent for permanent residence in Canada.

We will continue to work with small businesses and the CFIB to ensure Canada’s immigration system meets the needs of Canadians and our economy.

+What other plans does your party have to address the growing skills and labour shortage?

New Democratic Party: Training is essential to help Canadians find well-paying, middle class jobs and improve opportunities for themselves and their families. The NDP has consistently defended the need for better labour market information to help identify and address any present and future skills shortages. Unlike the Conservatives, the NDP would work with, rather than against the provinces, to train unemployed Canadians in essential skills to help them get jobs. An NDP government would increase the number of Canadians who can take part in training funded through the Employment Insurance program. We will work also with employers to increase on-the-job training.

Liberal Party: First Nations are the fastest growing segment of our population and we have committed to invest significantly in First Nation’s education. We also need to ensure we have a robust immigration system that brings immigrants with the skills Canada needs.

Finally, we will invest $500 million per year in Labour Market Development Agreements with the provinces and territories.

Green Party: Our economy and our society will be stronger if governments help to promote a dynamic national labour market. This can be accomplished by:

  • Establishing a pan-Canadian body for the coordination of labour market information using the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM)
  • Bringing coherence to the fragmented $3.2 billion in annual transfers to the provinces and -territories for labour market development
  • Providing incentives for employers to train workers and invest in long-term productivity improvements
  • Expanding the availability of skills training through EI
  • Boosting access to apprentice programs in key trades
  • Removing existing barriers to interprovincial labour mobility

Conservative Party: We have a proven record of support for skills including the creation of the Canada Job Grant, which saw 1,600 grants approved in Ontario alone by April 2015.  The Conservative Party is the only party to support the skilled trades, and we have recently committed to expand the Apprentice Job Creation Tax Credit.  We have provided significant support for persons with disabilities and other underrepresented groups – such as new Canadians needing credential recognition – to help connect them with available jobs.  Our plan is working.  Canada is benefitting from 1.3 million net new jobs, of which 90 percent are full-time and 80 percent are in the private sector.

Retirement savings:

+What measures will you take to help Canadians save for retirement?

New Democratic Party: An NDP government would immediately get to work with the provinces and territories to implement a gradual, and fully-funded, increase in benefits under the Canada Pension Plan and Québec Pension Plans.

Liberal Party: As the late Jim Flaherty wrote to then Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan in the spring of 2010, there is a significant segment of the middle class that will not have enough savings to retire.

To address this challenge, a Liberal government will enter into negotiations with the provinces to gradually phase in an expansion of the core CPP.

Green Party: Greens will enhance and protect the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to help Canadians save for retirement and keep the elderly out of poverty. The CPP can easily be modified to offer enhanced benefits, by phasing in the doubling of the target income replacement rate from 25 to 50 per cent and raising the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) to at least $90,000 over several decades. We will also protect private pension benefits by requiring that they be audited to ensure that they are adequately funded and properly managed.

Conservative Party: Our low-tax plan for Canadians is helping ensure that they keep more of their hard-earned money.  Thanks to our tax cuts and benefits, Canadian families keep up to $6,600 more now than they did before we formed government.  These savings can directly help Canadians save for retirement.  In addition, we have created the options for Canadians to participate in Pooled Retirement Pension Plans, which can provide a new, accessible retirement savings option for individuals, including those who are self-employed, and are fully portable as individuals move through changing careers.  In our most recent budget, we improved the rules around Registered Retirement Income Funds to allow seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings and better  meet their retirement needs.

As well, our Conservative government introduced the most important new tool in a generation to help Canadians save for retirement: Tax-Free Savings Accounts.  We brought in this powerful and flexible savings option in 2009, and nearly 11 million Canadians had opened an account by the end of 2013.  Tax-Free Savings Accounts provide significant help to lower- and middle-income Canadians, and individuals at or near retirement have taken advantage of this tool.  That's why, through Economic Action Plan 2015, we enhanced Tax-Free Savings Accounts to allow Canadians to save even more each year.  Individuals aged 65 or over stand to benefit the most.

+Will you allow Canadians and employers to voluntarily contribute towards enhanced CPP benefits?

New Democratic Party: After ten years in office, seven in ten workers don’t have a company pension plan and less than a quarter of Canadians have money to put into their RRSP each year. We think every Canadian should have access to a secure, portable workplace pension. Last minute promises from the Conservatives to look at expanding voluntary contributions won’t put a dent in the overall problem unless standard Canada Pension Plan benefits are strengthened as well. An NDP will undo the damage done by the Harper government and take real action to boost CPP/QPP benefits to ensure that all Canadians can retire in dignity.

Liberal Party: No. The federal government recently studied the possibility of a voluntary CPP system and members of the governing Conservative Party of Canada have assured Canadians that it was simply not feasible and would not work.

We expect that the second such study, announced by the government in the spring of 2015, will result in very similar findings.

Green Party: The Green Party of Canada is a strong supporter of defined benefit retirement plans. They are much more efficient than defined contribution plans because they produce significantly higher pensions for the same contributions, yet they both receive the same tax support. Green MPs will seek opportunities to resist the shift to inefficient voluntary defined contribution plans and require that all corporate pension plans be audited to ensure adequate funding and proper management. Pension plans are far too important a social good to leave entirely to the free market. The GPC believes CPP should be expanded to help all Canadians save for retirement.

Conservative Party: We believe that Canadian workers and employers should have choices about how best to save for retirement.  In addition to our low-tax plan and the new savings tools we have introduced while in government, we committed to explore allowing additional contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, on a voluntary basis.  In July, our Conservative government launched consultations with individuals, business stakeholders and retirement income experts on how additional, voluntary contributions to the Canada Pension Plan would be most effectively designed.

As a voice for small business in Canada, CFIB has been clear about the economic dangers of mandatory CPP payroll tax hikes.  We share those concerns and are the only party who opposes the irresponsible policies being advocated by Justin and Mulcair.   The Liberal and NDP plans both involve massive job-killing, economy-destabilizing payroll tax hikes.  Justin Trudeau has said he supports and would nationalize Kathleen Wynne’s ORPP, which will inflict thousands of dollars in new payroll taxes on small businesses and workers, squeezing their business and family budgets. 

Our Conservative government has refused to cooperate with the Liberals' plan to raise payroll taxes in Ontario, and we will continue to do so.

+The Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) is important for our members, since many of them rely on the sale of their business for their retirement income. It is also a key part of proper succession planning for small business owners.Will you raise the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption for all small businesses to $1 million as was done in the 2015 budget for fishers and farmers?

New Democratic Party: The NDP supported increasing the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) for small business owners to help them retire and put in place a proper succession plan. We also supported the increase in the LCGE for fishers and farmers. The NDP would examine the tax code to look at the feasibility of making it easier for small business owners to transfer their businesses to their children.

Liberal Party: We support the indexation of the Lifetime Capital Gains exemption and will continue to let the maximum grown in line with the rate of inflation.

Green Party: Examining the LCGE’s impact on small businesses is an idea worth exploring. Greens are open to investigating all manner of policy tools to help grow and sustain small business.

Conservatives Party: Our Conservative government has a strong record of improving the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption, recognizing its importance to business owners preparing for retirement.  In 2007, we announced that the limit would increase to $750,000 from $500,000, the first such increase since 1988.  Through Economic Action Plan 2013, our Conservative government increased the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption to $800,000 and indexed the new limit to grow with inflation.  These important improvements not only help entrepreneurs ensure their financial security in retirement, but they facilitate the intergenerational transfer of the businesses they have spent their lives building.  We will continue to work with small business owners and groups like the CFIB to explore ways to reduce taxes on individuals and job-creating businesses and help small business owners prepare for their hard-earned retirement, and potentially passing on their business to the next generation.

+Will you support ensuring the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption is available to families wishing to transfer their business to the next generation?

New Democratic Party: For many small business owners, selling off their business will often be the main source of retirement funding. Unfortunately, rules in the tax code can make it actually more costly for them to sell-off their businesses to members of their own families. New Democrats thinks we should make it easier for family business owners to pass on their business to their kids. The NDP supports examining the tax code to make sure that businesses that are passed from one family member to another have access to the same Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption as any other business owner.

Liberal Party: Succession strategies will be increasingly important as hundreds of thousands of baby boom generation business owners enter their retirement years. Keeping the family business in the family will be tremendously important to many of them. We will examine ways to help ensure the tax system does not unfairly penalize these kinds of situations.

Green Party: Greens will explore all available policy tools to support small business development from coast to coast to coast. Elizabeth May’s Think Small First legislation would ensure that all legislation and regulation passed through Parliament would be subject to a thorough, transparent and mandatory analysis to assess its potential impact on small businesses.

How to make Canada a better place for small business

+What is your vision for making Canada a better place for small business?

New Democratic Party: The Conservatives have ignored Canada’s small business owners in favour of supporting wealthier, more profitable corporations. But Tom Mulcair and the NDP understand that small businesses are the real job creators in Canada. In 2013, NDP MPs from across the country embarked on the NDP’s “Onside with Small Business” campaign to meet with small business owners. We listened. That’s why an NDP government will continue to champion measures that help small business owners — like cutting taxes on small businesses, cracking down on anticompetitive credit card merchant fees and making it easier for small business owners to deal with government.

Liberal Party: We will reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019 and reduce employer EI premiums from $2.63 to approximately $2.31 in 2017.

We will ensure that the Canadian workforce is trained for the jobs employers need by investing $500 million per year in Labour Market Development Agreements with the provinces and territories.

We will invest nearly $60 billion in infrastructure over the next decade. Well maintained public infrastructure increases productivity and reduces the costs of doing business.

We will also invest heavily in ensuring that Canada’s small and medium sized businesses are able to take advantage of new export opportunities by investing in ports of entry and exit.

Finally, a Liberal government will also invest $200 million more annually to create sector-specific strategies that support innovation and clean technology.

These strategies will be developed in collaboration with the private sector, government, and research institutions.

Green Party: When looking to grow the Canadian economy, the first question government should ask is, ‘how do we grow small business?’ To create a business climate that will entice home-grown entrepreneurs, an easily-accessible and integrated system for business development and growth must be made available across Canada.

The Green Party has a vision for a Canadian small business landscape that reflects our country’s diversity. More accessible capital for start-ups led by women, better opportunities for new Canadians to build durable businesses and more First Nations entering the business community. We can and must do more to invest in our small business community. A healthy economy depends on it.

Conservative Party: Our Conservative government's vision for making Canada a place where small businesses can succeed and grow is evident in our proven record to date.  Small businesses are critical to the health of the Canadian economy. They represent 99 per cent of all businesses in the country and employ half of all Canadians working in the private sector. Through reduced business taxes, improved access to finance, increased support for mentoring, and new tools and resources to assist entrepreneurs, our Government has encouraged and supported the growth and success of small businesses.

To help small businesses grow and create jobs, our Conservative government has delivered substantial ongoing tax relief to small businesses and their owners. This includes both a reduction in the corporate income tax rate for small businesses to 11 per cent and increases in the amount of income eligible for this lower rate to $500,000. Together, these changes are reducing taxes for small businesses by an estimated $2.2 billion in 2015 alone.  Through Economic Action Plan 2015, we brought in a further reduction to the small business tax rate - from 11 percent to 9 percent - over the next four years, which will save small business another $2.7 billion in taxes.  Our low-tax plan has provided small business with the largest tax rate cut in more than 25 years.

We have reduced the payroll tax burden on small business, and brought in the Small Business Job Credit in 2015. Almost 90 per cent of Employment Insurance (EI) premium-paying businesses, about 780,000 in total, will directly benefit from the credit. This credit is expected to save small businesses more than $550 million over 2015 and 2016, and will cut their EI premiums by nearly 15 per cent.  A re-elected Conservative government will cut the EI payroll tax rate by 20% in 2017.

We have made significant and concrete investments in skills training, so that small business owners can find the employees and talent they need to succeed.  We have taken steps to encourage new investment in business, including a comprehensive plan to foster a thriving venture capital environment here in Canada so that entrepreneurs find the financial support they need. 

Our Conservative government has made historic investments in Canada's infrastructure, from public transit systems to ports, so that Canadians can get from their homes to their workplaces efficiently, and so Canadian products and services can reach the global marketplace.  Under our Government, Canada has seen its trade opportunities grow significantly.  Canadian business will benefit from free trade agreements with 44 countries around the world, compared to only 5 countries when we first formed government.  We have expanded the services available to small- and medium-sized businesses who want to pursue new export opportunities.

We have dramatically cut the regulatory red tape burden on small business, and we have concrete plans to go further.  Our low-tax plan for Canadians and our balanced budget means that we can continue to deliver real benefits to Canadian families and businesses.

We wish to thank all parties for taking the time to answer our members' questions!

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