May 22nd, 2024

Poilievre tight-lipped on what Conservatives might do with capital gains tax changes

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press on May 5, 2024.

OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is telling business leaders to fight their own battles when it comes to the Liberals’ proposed changes to capital gains taxation.

But even as he characterizes their plan as an “attack,” his office is keeping tight-lipped about whether or not his party will vote in favour of it.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced legislation last week to implement the most recent federal budget that did not include one of its marquee announcements.

Instead, the government is expected to table a stand-alone bill to update the tax system so the wealthiest Canadians and businesses pay taxes on a greater share of their profits.

That means each party will have to stake out a clear position by voting yes or no.

Public opinion polls show younger Canadians increasingly support the Conservatives – a trend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has long relied on voters under 40, is hoping to reverse.

Last month’s budget focused heavily on tackling housing affordability. Freeland and Trudeau framed the spending plan as being about “generational fairness.”

Poilievre has said the Conservatives will vote against the budget.

But as he pitches himself as a champion of the working class and the one who best understands cost-of-living anxieties, will he support measures that the government says would only affect the very richest Canadians?

His office won’t say.

“Common sense Conservatives will vote against Justin Trudeau’s inflationary budget,” spokesman Sebastian Skamski said in a statement.

“The legislation you are asking about doesn’t exist yet due to Justin Trudeau’s incompetence, so it’s impossible for us to weigh in on the matter.”

Trudeau and his ministers have been travelling around the country touting how the measures will require those who earn profits from the sale of assets to pay more of their “fair share.”

The Liberals propose making two-thirds rather than one-half of capital gains taxable.

The increase to the so-called inclusion rate would apply to all net profits realized by corporations and those above $250,000 for individuals. They would not apply to the sale of a primary residence.

The government calculates the change would create more than $19 billion in tax revenue over the next five years, helping to fund new spending, including on measures meant to spur housing construction.

“It’s obvious the Liberals are making up their ‘cornerstone policy’ on the fly,” Skamski’s statement said.

He added that “Trudeau’s wealthy friends” won’t pay a cent more, and “working and middle class Canadians” will be on the hook for Liberal spending.

Poilievre hinted at his own thinking in a recent opinion piece.

He put what he described as the “attack” businesses and entrepreneurs are facing at the feet of corporate leaders themselves, writing that their approach of sucking up to Trudeau’s Liberals hasn’t worked.

“They had been planning to do nothing except complain and hope their useless and overpaid lobbyists meet Chrystia Freeland or Justin Trudeau to talk some sense into them while the Opposition hounds the government to reverse course,” Poilievre wrote last Friday in the National Post.

“If you want to stop Trudeau’s latest tax hikes, don’t talk to politicians about it, talk to the people.”

His comments – which were heavily circulated by his MPs and other Conservatives on social media – are in keeping with the populist message Poilievre has been sending to the business community since becoming leader: he will prioritize everyday people, not “corporate Canada.”

He also warned that that approach will not change should he become prime minister.

Poilievre’s opinion piece addressed the concerns professional associations and companies are expressing about the proposed capital gains changes.

It said they should raise such issues directly with their patients and employees.

“Obviously, my future government will do exactly the opposite of Trudeau on almost every issue,” he wrote.

Poilievre was asked directly in an interview last week whether a future Poilievre government would repeal or keep the capital gains changes.

He did not specify, saying only that it’s still a “hypothetical” matter.

He argued that hiving off changes to the capital gains taxation regime from the budget implementation bill amounts to a “flip-flop” by the Liberals.

And while Poilievre didn’t lay out what he might do next, he panned the measure as ineffective.

“What is clear is that it won’t affect the rich, because the rich are just selling their assets now before the change takes effect. They’re moving their money over to tax havens “¦ they won’t pay a penny more,” he told Toronto’s CP24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2024.

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