A number of New Brunswick and national business lobby groups have been up in arms lately to oppose any increase in their personal income tax or in their corporate tax. They seem to forget that they benefited, for years, from a reduction in their personal and corporate income tax from the Shawn Graham Liberal government and partly from the David Alward government. They seem to forget that the province’s corporate tax is the lowest in the Atlantic Provinces. They seem to forget that the small business tax, now at 3.5%, will continue to decrease to 2.5%, to become one of the lowest in Canada.
As if they are not benefiting enough from the government largesse, they want more. New Brunswick has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, no pay equity legislation in the private sector and one of the lowest workers’ compensation rates in the country.
Meanwhile, New Brunswick has a number of provincial government programs that benefit businesses such as the Youth Employment Fund, the Small Business Investor Tax Credit, the Joint Office of Regulations and Service Effectiveness. The federal government had the Small Business Tax Credit which reduces employers’ Employment Insurance contribution for new employees. Those are only a few examples of programs created to decrease the operational costs for the small and medium businesses.
The business lobby groups are still unsatisfied. What more than the millions of dollars we are giving them each year through Opportunities NB, the Regional Development Corporation or the Provincial Holdings Ltd., do they want? What more than low royalties in forestry and potash do they want? What more than the Miramichi and Northern New Brunswick Economic Development and Innovation Fund, the Canada-NB Job Grant Program, the Employer Wage Initiative, the Job Bank for Employers, do they want? What more than the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency annual budget of hundreds of million dollars, do they want?
They now want to be the ones delivering public services instead of our government. They are proposing that the province privatize, outsource or do private-public partnerships for all appropriate government services. They then could buy NB Liquor, take over all hospital cafeterias and janitor services in schools, maintain all our highways, and manage toll highways. They could buy government buildings, parks, golf courses, ski hills or heritage attractions. They could even manage the government data registry.
They allegedly experience difficulties competing in the private sector and need help and handouts, but all of a sudden, they would find enough cash to provide all these services and buy governmental assets. They probably expect the government assets will be made available at basement bargain price.
The latest issue in the business lobby groups unending lament is the provincial deficit.
They consider that the province is going over the proverbial cliff and that bold steps are needed to attain a balanced budget, and the quicker, the better. But for them, bold steps mean citizens should bear the brunt and should do with less government public services. They say, of course, that they are prepared to put the shoulder to the wheel by “working together to ensure that business competitiveness is the foundation of our shared economic and community development vision of a thriving New Brunswick.”
Bold words, but don’t ask them to dip in their back pocket to achieve this.