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Enough Already – Let’s talk about our common goals

September 26, 2017

I am saddened by the current tone of our debate on social media around the proposed tax changes. With the release this week of an open letter by physicians supporting tax reform, the focus has shifted from issues that a majority of physicians are concerned about to doctors arguing with other doctors – and the media loves it. I understand and respect that there are differing views among doctors on any given topic, and that there are times when you feel the need to be outspoken. But unless we build some bridges within the physician community, everyone will lose. Rather than focusing on our different language and perspective about tax reform, it would benefit us all to try to promote the issues we have in common.

Our tax system is complex and could do with clarity and simplification. We all want a tax system that is fair and equitable to everyone. Incorporated physicians have not asked for special treatment compared to any other business using Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. We all are concerned about the current legislative process, and I had the opportunity to raise some of these issues with Minister Morneau in our August 30 meeting.

Our Asks: 

  • An extension to the consultation period given the complexity of the proposed changes. There is obvious controversy which must be addressed with accurate data – and this takes time. 
  • Grandfathering or some protection for recently retired folks who have the bulk of their retirement savings in their corporations. This applies to physicians and non-physicians alike. Minister Morneau has stated that changes will be on a go forward basis, and this is good, but questions remain about those close to retirement who will not be able to restructure their business without potential significant penalty. 
  • A detailed transition plan to mitigate potential effects on small business and personal financial stability. This includes a consideration of gender issues, as women with small businesses have interrupted work lives around childbearing and family care (even in 2017!), and the debt load of younger physicians.
  • Consider defining what a reasonable amount is to keep in a corporation and what mechanisms could be implemented to ensure businesses have flexibility to weather unexpected circumstances and business owners are able to self fund benefits and pensions.

Interestingly I think these requests are very similar to the “caveats” listed in the open letter to government. Fundamentally we doctors are aligned on many of the issues. So let’s talk about the system as a whole, let’s not pit one doctor against another, and let’s focus on the small business owners across Canada who fear for their futures, and what this could mean for the delivery of health care down the line. This greatly concerns me.

My plea is that we all stop denigrating those we disagree with. Please stick to the issues. Work with our commonalities and advocate for reasonable change. We are not surprised when government postures for political gain, but let’s keep our posturing at bay – for the sake of unity, for the sake of our patients. Diversity is a good thing, but divisive language and criticism within the profession benefits no one. So please be respectful of each other and engage in reasonable discussions among ourselves and with government. This is what your provincial medical association has been asking for all along.

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