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FAQ: CNA Comments on Federal Tax Changes – updated September 8, 2017

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has received numerous inquiries on our comments regarding Finance Canada’s proposed tax changes, which are subject to consultation until October 2, 2017. We thank those of you who have sent us messages; either of opposition or of support. We hope the following responses to some of the questions and comments we have received will help explain our statement on this controversial issue.

Thank you,

Barb Shellian, President                                 Mike Villeneuve, CEO

Q: Why did CNA speak out on this issue without polling members?
A: The reality of working at the national level on behalf of nurses is that we have to speak up on many public policy issues, sometimes with short notice. We approach our decisions based on the mission, vision and values of CNA, and our best analysis on each issue and informed by consulting with our nursing policy staff and other health-related organizations. We strive to strike the right chords that are respectful of our members and which, we believe, will strengthen health care.

In all sensitive issues, we know that there are diverse opinions. We aim to provide decision-makers with the evidence-informed recommendations we can develop in a timely manner with the facts we know, and that are available at that time.

In the spirit of moving forward, we will review our process for gathering information. One way would be to create a mechanism for our members to provide feedback to us in a very tight turnaround, often within less than eight business hours. If you would like to be part of future consultations, please complete our consent form here so that we may e-mail you.  

Q. Why does CNA believe that it needs to speak out on tax issues?
A: A fundamental part of CNA’s mission is to advocate and take a stand for healthy public policy and a publicly-funded, not-for-profit health-care system. Taxpayer dollars fund our public health-care system through the Canada Health Transfer. As such, advocacy related to federal policy relevant to population health falls within the association’s mandate.

CNA has a successful history of addressing tax law issues, including Bill C-44 which removed numerous critical barriers to allow nurse practitioners to fulfil their important role as primary care providers to Canadians, particularly those living in rural and remote locations in Canada. We also spoke for tax credits for family caregivers.

In our statement on the proposed tax changes, we clearly recommended a more comprehensive review of the Canadian tax system with an eye to simplification and ensuring all hard-working Canadians are treated fairly and equitably.

Q: Why is CNA pitting nurses against doctors on this issue? We need to work in collaboration.
A: The strong, interprofessional relationship among nurses and physicians is fundamental to health-care delivery. It is distressing to see the tax changes recently proposed by Finance Canada cast as an issue of one group against another when it is solely about fair and equitable taxation. We addressed this issue on the principle that it is about tax law, not about any one profession.

The article to which many nurses reacted, which was published by Postmedia, was the reporter’s interpretation of our statement. It makes for good headlines to cast the issue as nurses being pitted against physicians. We recognize our statement has caused some concerns for nurses and physicians who work together in a mutually respectful and professional way. We are sorry for any negative impact our statement has caused and wish to reassure our members and the Canadian public that CNA will continue to build on its positive, long-term relationship with the Canadian Medical Association.

In this case, there is an equity issue related to the tax rates for the highest-earning small-incorporated businesses who in recent years have been able to shelter income through mechanisms not available to non-incorporated, working Canadians. In short, the current tax regime creates the possibility that individuals who make a lot more money can pay a lot less tax. The greatest potential impact of Finance Canada’s proposed tax changes is on those small-business owners who earn more than $350,000 — seven times higher than the salary of the average working Canadian — and who cannot demonstrate that deductions for staff, supplies, and services are reasonably related to their business.

CNA believes governments should support Canada’s small businesses — often run by families —that are the backbone of most communities. This is especially true in our urban neighborhoods, fishing villages and farm communities, where small businesses may be the primary businesses. Whether or not a small-business owner chooses to operate as a sole proprietor or to incorporate, it is appropriate and within the law for them to deduct all real and reasonable expenses for staff, supplies, and services.

As the proposal is currently under review and consultation, there remain opportunities for CNA, its members, and all Canadians to raise concerns about or to support these, and future, proposed changes.

Q: Should CNA be engaging in political activism?
A: CNA is often asked to comment on public policy issues. We have a 109-year history of advocating to and working in collaboration with successive federal governments and opposition parties. In the past two years alone, we have engaged with all federal parties and parliamentarians to promote health care and better health for all Canadians. Aside from meeting parliamentarians, we have organized community town halls for all parties in preparation for the last federal election, and most recently, CNA has covered both the CPC and NDP leadership races.

CNA is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse or support any political party, platform or candidate. In recent months, we engaged with all federal parties to promote nursing and better health care for all Canadians. You can see some examples by going to www.cna-aiic.ca/onthehill.