The federal Finance Minister has announced his second attempt at reforming Canada’s tax system, specifically the rules around private corporations and those reforms came into effect January 1st.
There’s no doubt that these decisions will have reverberations that impact the health system, not just the taxation system. Over the last few months, there has been a lot of conversation about what physicians will do to respond to this effort by the government. There has been discussion about the Minister’s personal motives. There has been a review of the reasons behind why Medical Professional Corporations are so prevalent. I’d like to focus on three very different things.
The first is that no matter how you slice it, the consultation process used by the government was certainly a failure. Launching a short consultation period in the middle of the summer is bad optics at best, and judged by many to be in bad faith at worst. This kind of process makes doctors feel like the decisions have already been made and leads a lot of people to react. Even the best ideas in the world deserve honest debate, and a lot of doctors don’t feel like these tax proposals were transparently brought forward by the government.
The second is that as our national body, the Canadian Medical Association must continue to rise to the challenge of lobbying on our behalf. This issue affects doctors from coast to coast, and the CMA needs to take on a very proactive approach to lobbying. We need national advocacy more than ever. Our national physician leaders crisscrossed the country in opposition to these moves, and their energy helped launched a coalition with groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It was when they and hundreds of thousands of other small business owners got involved that we saw traction. The CMA absolutely has a role in helping voice the concerns and interests of doctors in this discussion.
The third is that as a profession, we did not live by the principle of “be tough on the issues, and easy on the people.” There were many doctors who were in favour of or against these changes who had to deal with personal attacks from other doctors. This can’t be a productive approach to have a conversation about a very important policy issue. We as a medical profession need to be respectful of each other, even when we wholeheartedly disagree.
I’m curious to see what financial experts say on the recent round of revisions. This is a political issue and it has prompted a lot of concern, especially in provinces like Ontario where doctors already feel under attack. In a time of great challenge when doctors and government need to work together, this initiative has pushed us apart. I will work to change this.