Opposition parties staked out their priorities on Monday ahead of this week’s fiscal update, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calling for any business tax breaks to be focused on measures that create jobs or support clean technology.
Meanwhile, Conservative MPs forced a daylong debate on a motion calling for Wednesday’s update to set a clear timeline for erasing the federal deficit.
The Conservatives also expressed concern that the government is poised to “buy off” the news media in an election year with measures in the update aimed at supporting Canadian journalism.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fall economic statement is expected to outline the Liberal government’s response to recent tax cuts adopted in the United States that have effectively erased Canada’s competitive advantage when it comes to corporate tax rates. The U.S. tax package also reduced personal income tax rates and included new tax incentives for businesses that invest in new equipment.
The minister has signalled that while he is not likely to cut corporate or personal tax rates, Ottawa is open to new tax breaks for business investment to address competitiveness concerns. This could be done by expanding what is known as the accelerated capital cost allowance, an incentive that lets companies deduct capital expenses more quickly, rather than gradually over the life of buildings, products or machinery purchased.
At a news conference in Ottawa, Mr. Singh said his party is strongly opposed to “corporate giveaways” such as lower corporate tax rates. However, he said the NDP might be willing to support targeted incentives for business investment.
“Blanket approaches don’t actually work towards achieving our goals," he said. “If we tie the capital cost allowance to a measure that will ensure job creation, then it’s something we can look at. If it’s an encouragement of investing in new technology that would reduce emissions, that’s something we want to support.”
Mr. Morneau indicated in his February budget that the government will announce measures this year aimed at supporting Canada’s ailing news sector. The budget pledged a five-year fund of $50-million to support local journalism, and said the government would consider proposals that would allow media organizations to obtain charitable status for not-for-profit journalism in the public interest.
“A healthy democracy relies on a free and independent press," Conservative MP Peter Kent said during Question Period. "It would be unacceptable for the Liberals to even appear to be trying to influence favour with the media. Will the minister confirm the Liberals will not attempt to buy off the media in an election year?”
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez dismissed what he called “conspiracy theories” put forward by the opposition, but said the government would soon have “more to say” about support for journalism.
“We all know that professional journalism is one of the pillars of our democracy,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We want quality news, independent news, and on this side of the House we respect the independence of journalists.”