With the Canadian federal election drawing closer, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) reached out to the major political parties with a survey to help voters and our retail members understand where each of the concerned parties stand on issues effecting retail.
Survey questions were provided to each party. What follows are responses received by RCC from the Liberal Party, New Democratic Party and The Green Party. Additional responses will be added if received.
Q1: With Canada’s recently announced tourism strategy and a renewed focus on growing our tourism economy, there is lots of potential to see a boost in business for Canadian retailers as visitor numbers increase. Unfortunately, however, any potential boost in business will be softened by a federal sales tax. Currently, Canada is the only OECD country with a federal sales tax to not provide a rebate to visitors. As a recent RCC study concluded, Canada’s tourism GDP was reduced by nearly $6 billion dollars over the past decade since the last Visitor Rebate Program was canceled. Not only have retailers been asking for the reinstatement of the program, but so have municipalities, such as the Niagara region. If we can eliminate the sticker shock visitors experience when shopping in Canada, it will encourage even more spending and larger economic growth.
With this in mind, what plan does your party have to help support Canada’s tourism industry, including those retailers who rely on visitor spending?
Liberal Party: Since 2015, the Liberal government has been working to grow our tourism sector, because we know that tourism helps every part of the country – urban and rural – by creating good middle-class jobs, helping small businesses, and growing our economy. Canada’s visitor economy is a fast-growing sector that provides economic benefits for every region, and it supports 1/10 jobs in Canada – 1.8 million people. That’s why the Liberal government introduced the Tourism Growth Strategy, that will stimulate growth in the tourism sector through new and ongoing investments.
This Strategy will empower communities of all sizes by enhancing Canada’s tourism products and experiences by providing $58.5 million in funding through the Canadian Experiences Fund; changing the way we invest in tourism by developing Tourism Investment Groups where all levels of government will collaborate to invest more efficiently while meeting local priorities and identifying ways to raise private investment; and creating a new Tourism Industry Economic Strategy Table to provide a platform for government and industry leaders to collaborate on overcoming sector challenges.
New Democratic Party: New Democrats understand that tourism is a driver of regional growth and an important sector for our national economy. However, after a decade of reckless cuts to tourism programs under the Harper Conservatives, Canada’s standing as a tourism location has fallen. And, the Liberals have failed to return Canada to its former standing. That’s why we’re committed to helping promote Canada and help our businesses compete in the global market. A New Democrat government will continue to work with the tourism industry to help it grow.
Rural Canada drives at least a third of the country’s economy, but successive Liberal and Conservative governments have missed the opportunity to develop these regions to their full potential. A New Democrat government will invest in regional economic development agencies and provide economic support for rural areas. We’ll do this by investing in job creation in tourism and community development.
A New Democrat government will also support creating high-frequency rail along the Quebec-Windsor corridor, restoring the Ontario Northlander, and grow passenger rail service. We know that efficient transit options are key for the tourism industry and we are committed to growing sustainable transit across Canada.
We are also committed to working with Indigenous entrepreneurs to find solutions for accessing capital and scaling up by investing in Indigenous social enterprise projects and entrepreneurship.
New Democrats understand that arts and cultural institutions need to receive stable, long-term funding to grow and thrive. By doing this, we can promote Canada’s diverse cultures and histories, as well as grow our cultural tourism.
Our remarkable landscapes and wildlife are a significant driver of Canada’s tourism industry. New Democrats support improving our conservation efforts to protect ecosystems and preserve biodiversity. We’ve committed to protecting at least 30% of our land, freshwater, and oceans by 2030 and to back those protections with funding and enforcement in order to achieve this goal. We’ll also work with other levels of government to develop a system of urban national parks – to advance our conservation goals while connecting more people to our natural heritage.
The Green Party: The Green Party wholly supports the restoration of the individual GST-HST rebate program for foreign visitors.
Q2: Retailers are greatly appreciative of the work that’s been done to ratify the many free trade agreements we’ve seen over the last decade, including CETA and the renegotiation of CUSMA. These agreements will help make life more affordable for Canadians by keeping prices low on the goods we buy every day. However, with that said, Canadians are still paying about $5 billion annually on everyday purchases because of tariffs still in place. Progress was made in 2013 when the government eliminated tariffs on baby clothes and sporting equipment, which helped ease the financial burden for new families and families with children in sports, but we are still paying an extra $2 billion a year on essential items like clothing and shoes.
What plan does your party have to build on the progress that’s already been made on eliminating these extra tariffs?
Liberal Party: The Liberal team knows that trade and investment go hand in hand, so we’re laying the foundation for Canada to attract investments, create jobs, become more competitive, and succeed in the global economy. Securing new markets means new customers for Canadian businesses– helping them to grow, remain competitive, and create good jobs for the middle class.
After a decade of cuts and inadequate growth under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the Liberal government has been making smart investments to create new opportunities for Canadian businesses to expand in markets around the world. With new trade deals with the US, EU and Asia Pacific countries, Canadian businesses are now connected to 1.5 billion consumers in over 50 countries.
As well, the Liberal government is investing over $1 billion to help Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs access those markets to expand their innovative ideas and products globally. We’ll keep working to get Canadian goods to the world so businesses remain competitive, our economy stays strong, and more good jobs are created here at home.
New Democratic Party: Canadians know that trade is essential for our economic success. They expect trade deals will be fair, respect human rights, protect the environment, and put the interests of Canadian workers and communities first.
Unfortunately, under Liberal and Conservative governments, trade negotiations have too often hurt Canadian industries and cost us jobs. New Democrats support fair trade that broadens opportunity in all areas of the country while protecting our industries and upholding labour standards, environmental protections, and human rights. That’s why we’ll always defend Canadian workers in trade negotiations, protect supply management, and stand up against unfair tariffs.
We’re committed to improving the transparency of trade negotiations, so that Canadians can clearly understand the costs and benefits of any proposed agreement and have their say before it’s signed. We’ll also ensure that all trade agreements are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We will evaluate all potential trade deals for their social, environmental and gendered impact on Canadians.
New Democrats will always protect Canadians against measures that could increase the cost of pharmaceuticals, weaken our cultural protections, or undermine privacy rights. A New Democrat government will also do more to defend Canadian workers and communities from unfair trade practices.
The Green Party: The Green Party believes that import tariffs and duties need to be rationalized to ensure that federal policy maintains a balance between ensuring Canadians have access to affordable essentials and ensuring that foreign businesses do not hold an unfair trade advantage over domestic businesses.
Q3: In 2011, Canada and the US announced the creation of the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council, which promised to “better align the two countries’ regulatory approaches”. This was a positive sign and a step in the right direction given that retailers in Canada have been asking for greater harmonization in the areas of consumer product safety. Unfortunately, though, we’ve seen little to no success. In fact, we’ve actually seen things worsen, costing the industry millions of dollars.
How would your party support harmonization efforts, with the goal of reducing costs for the industry and increasing consumer product safety?
Liberal Party: Since forming government, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government have been committed to strengthen our ties and to further our relationship with the United States, including successfully renegotiating NAFTA and securing a good deal for Canadian workers, businesses, and communities across the country.
In addition to our ongoing work on regulatory cooperation, we have also announced our intent in the 2018 Fall Economic Statement to pursue mutual recognition of regulatory decisions and approvals with various trading partners, so that products certified and deemed safe by a comparable international regulator—be it a washing machine or a new digital technology—could be approved in Canada.
New Democratic Party: New Democrats understand the importance of regulatory cooperation with our largest trading partner. We also know that this cooperation must be balanced with our ability to protect consumers and ensure product safety. We’re committed to working with the United States’ administration to further find solutions to reduce unnecessary differences, eliminate duplication, align regulations and adopt international standards while making sure that products sold in Canada are safe.
The Green Party: Despite economic concerns, Canadians have (by large majorities) continued to say they will not trade away environmental and personal protection to help the economy. Ensuring that Canadians consumers are not exposed to unsafe or environmentally harmful products through international trade remains paramount. However, as noted, a lack of harmonization leads to large costs on either side of the border. The Green Party is committed to further investment in an easily defensible science-based approach to regulation and continued diplomatic efforts to share best regulatory practices with our trade partners, to advance regulatory harmonization and cut costs.
Q4: Canadians pay some of the highest credit card interchange fees in the world. Merchants – and ultimately consumers – pay more than $5 billion annually on Credit card fees, leading to higher business costs and higher costs for the goods we buy every day. Internationally, 37 countries have recognized the uncompetitive level of interchange fees and have moved to reduce and cap them – with the exception of Canada.
What actions would your party take to help curb the rising costs of doing business in Canada and the excessive cost of processing credit card payments?
Liberal Party: The Liberal government has been working hard to make it easier for small businesses to save money and invest in their business by lowering the small business tax rate to 9% – one of the lowest rates in the world. We have also asked credit card companies to lower the fees they charge businesses when their customers use credit cards. The reduction in interchange fees is expected to save small and medium-sized businesses in Canada $250 million per year, based on credit card sales of roughly $250 billion per year. By securing lower interchange fees, businesses will be able to save money that they can use to invest, grow, and create more jobs—an important part of strengthening and growing the middle class.
New Democratic Party: New Democrats sympathize with Canadian retailers who pay among the highest fees in the world. This makes a competitive global market even more challenging.
That’s why Canadian retailers needed the Liberal government to follow through on its commitment to place a hard cap on merchant fees. Unfortunately, credit card and bank lobbyists convinced the government to abandon that promise. Instead of a hard cap, the Liberals entered into a weak, non-binding voluntary agreement with the credit card companies.
A New Democratic government would establish a permanent cap of 1% to save Canadian small sized businesses over a billion dollars every year. Canadian businesses are done waiting for this government to act. It’s time to boost consumer buying power, inject much-need resources into our local economies, and help create jobs in every community from coast to coast to coast.
The Green Party: The Green Party believes that the large commercial banks are unfairly profiting from the use of credit cards. This practice is especially harmful to small businesses. We believe that we can find a balance and will work with the retail and banking sectors to find that balance.
Q5: Retailers across Canada are doing their part to help protect Canada’s environment. For instance, even before any new regulations or bylaws were adopted, retailers took steps to reduce the amount of plastics provided to customers. We saw major reductions in the distribution of plastic bags – between 30% and 65% depending on the province. But clearly there is much more that needs to be done to better manage plastic packaging and single-use items.
What support or incentives would your party provide Canadian retailers to further their conservation initiatives?
Liberal Party: Plastic pollution is a growing threat in Canada and around the world—it’s a problem we cannot afford to ignore. With the longest coastline in the world and one-quarter of the world’s freshwater, we have a unique responsibility—and opportunity—to lead in reducing plastic pollution. That is why the Liberal government s taking bold action to ban harmful single-use plastics and make sure companies – such as large food retailers and product manufacturers – take full responsibility for collecting and recycling their plastic waste.
Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives still have no plan to fight climate change, and will only follow in Stephen Harper’s footsteps and neglect our environment. We are the only party with a real and affordable plan to fight climate change, and by reducing plastic waste and supporting new innovative technologies, we will create economic growth that benefits everyone, and leave a better, healthier planet for future generations.
New Democratic Party: To reduce waste in our landfills and communities, a New Democrat government will ban single-use plastics across Canada by 2022 and develop legislation that holds companies responsible for the entire lifecycle of their plastics products and packaging. We will tackle our existing plastic pollution by working with provinces and territories, municipalities, and Indigenous governments to capture and recycle the single-use plastics already in our communities.
Waste management is a growing financial burden for many communities and businesses in Canada – that’s why a New Democrat government will make funding available, through the Canadian Climate Bank, to help boost investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low carbon technology across the country.
Plastic pollution is a direct and growing threat to ecosystems, food chains and human health, and is even being absorbed into our bodies. But under the Trudeau Liberals, Canada is falling behind on reducing waste and phasing out single-use plastics. In contrast, New Democrats are providing leadership by leading the charge to ban microbeads. And we were successful in passing a motion that demanded the government take action to reduce plastic pollution in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Additionally, an NDP government will invest in the development and deployment of technologies to help manufacturers transition away from harmful plastics – and work towards a zero-waste future.
The Green Party: The Green Party is committed to implementing strong waste management regulations to increase reuse and recycling, including banning single use plastics such as straws, dishes, cutlery, foam take out containers, drink stirrers, and bags. This will ensure a level playing field for retailers. Further, producers will be required to contribute to the costs of collecting and recycling their products, which will disincentivize plastic packaging.
Q6: Retail is Canada’s largest private-sector employer with over 2.1 million Canadians working in our industry and is a vital part of our economy. It’s essential we remain competitive globally, as the world continues to get smaller with online sales growing at break-neck speeds. This has drastically changed Canada’s retail landscape and is continuing to impact retailers in all ridings.
Seeing that retail makes up 10.8% of Canada’s workforce,what can retailers expect from your party to support our industry now and into the future?
Liberal Party: The Liberal team understands that small businesses are critical to the Canadian economy, and to growing the middle class. Over 98% of all businesses in Canada are small businesses—they employ 8 million hard working Canadians.
That is why the Liberal government has been working hard to make it easier to do business here in Canada by lowering the small business tax rate to 9 per cent, cutting red tape, supporting innovation, and making it easier to export to new markets.
Together, we’ll ensure small businesses can continue to save more money, invest, create good jobs, and remain the backbone of our economy now and into the future.
New Democratic Party: Canadian industries power our economy and sustain the jobs that families across the country rely on. But for too long, Liberal and Conservative governments have ignored the need to support Canadian industry, trading away advantages in trade deals and failing to invest in the targeted support that our industries need to thrive. If we make the right choices now, we can make Canada an even better place to invest, protect and create good jobs for the future. We can make Canadian industry a global leader as market needs evolve.
As a start, New Democrats will strengthen and modernize the Investment Canada Act to protect Canadian jobs and undo the damage done by the Liberal government, which has allowed more takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign investors without national security reviews. We’ll scrap the failed Invest in Canada agency and create iCanada, a one-stop shop inside the federal government to help attract investors to Canada and turn their plans into reality – and champion Canadian industry on the international stage. New Democrats know that small businesses are the engines of job creation in Canada and an important part of every community across the country. Small businesses need a government that helps them access the services and infrastructure they need to thrive and expand, while investing in a healthy and talented workforce. New Democrats believe that small businesses should have access to all the support they need to grow, innovate and stay competitive in Canada and around the world. That’s why we have stood up for lower small business taxes, opposed unfair merchant fees, and fought to make it easier to pass on small businesses to the next generation.
In government, New Democrats will keep working hard for small businesses to tackle issues that impact their bottom line, like high credit card merchant fees. Our plan for public, universal pharmacare will also save businesses approximately $600 per employee with extended health benefits every year – and it means that all small businesses can feel confident knowing that their employees are able to access the prescription drugs they need. Our plan to develop head-to-toe coverage, including dental and vision care, will mean small and medium-sized buisnesses can better compete for talented employees – who are healthier and more productive.
We’ll also make it easier for the family business to be passed on to future generations, with new legislation to end the unfair tax treatment of family transfers of small businesses. To help Canadian small business step out on the world stage, a New Democrat government will streamline access to government export services and make it simpler to break into foreign markets. We’ll also provide small-and medium-sized businesses with a single point of contact to help ease regulatory processes and support compliance – freeing up time for entrepreneurs to invest in growing their business.
Recognizing that a shortage of workers is a major barrier for many small businesses operating in rural areas, we’ll make important new investments in training Canadians and boost support to traditionally underemployed groups, ensuring that they can access good jobs that pay a fair wage.
New Democrats are also committed to investing in the transit infrastructure we need to keep Canadians moving. That is why a New Democrat government is ready to modernize and expand public transit in communities across Canada and build a path towards fare-free transit. We know that investments in transit will help Canadians get to work and put money back in their pockets.
The Green Party: The Green Party is committed to applying a corporate tax on transnational e-commerce, companies reaping billions of dollars in Canada. Foreign-owned digital businesses should not be given a tax holiday. E-commerce companies like Amazon are capturing a huge and growing share of the Canadian market but pay little or no taxes. The Green Party will level the digital playing field, and will require foreign vendor to register for, collect, and remit the tax according to where the product or service is consumed.