of Canada’s workforce works in Retail. That’s 1,863,890 people (2020).
stores in Canada (Dec 2020)
in capital expenditures (2019)
in total annual compensation paid to retail workers (2020)
Canada’s average hourly retail compensation (2020)
in Core Retail sales* (Jun 20-May 21)
$605 Billion in Total Retail sales (Jun 20-May 21)
*Core retail excludes gas stations and auto dealerships
Key Retail Issues
Reduce credit card interchange fees
Canadians pay some of the highest interchange fees in the world.
Lowering these fees will make doing business in Canada more affordable and will save Canadians money on their everyday purchases.
Approximately 1.4% of Canadian consumer credit card spending goes directly to the big credit card companies and their issuing banks, drastically reducing a retailer’s profit margin. This is especially true for small business owners who pay a fee each time a customer uses their credit card.
This situation is even worse for online payments, or “card not present” payments, where the credit card companies charge a higher fee.
As all retailers will understand, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated this problem as the use of credit cards in online and contactless payment has skyrocketed during long periods of lockdown and as customers shies away form using cash and “Chip and PIN” transactions.
RCC has long fought for lower credit card interchange rates, securing a victory in 2015 with a reduction of the average rate from 1.65% down to 1.50%. Further success has been achieved with a reduction from in average rates from 1.50% to 1.40% in 2020. Altogether, the reduction efforts achieved by RCC will save merchants over $1 billion annually.
Despite these wins, Canadians still pay among the highest interchange fees in the world, and Canada is one of the few industrialized countries without regulations on this subject. This needs to change.
Worldwide, 37 countries have recognized the uncompetitive level of interchange fees and have moved to reduce and cap them. For example, France limits interchange to 0.28%, the EU is moved to a 0.30% cap across the board, Australia limits interchange to an average of 0.50%.
In the 2019 federal election the Liberal Government promised to eliminate interchange fees on the GST and HST. That promise has since morphed into a more general 2021 Budget commitment to further reduce interchange rates, with discussions to commence this fall.
While RCC welcomes this revised commitment, it will be important to make more meaningful reductions in the permissible average interchange rate. Otherwise, these interchange rate reductions every few years are quickly negated by rapid growth in credit card use, crowding out debit and cash.
A newly elected government must:
- Lower Canada’s interchange fees to align with other international jurisdictions to support small businesses in Canada.
- Lower the fees charged for online transactions, which are currently treated as “card not present.
Reinstate a new Visitor Rebate Program
Canada must stay competitive in the global tourism market.
In 2007, the Canadian government became the first member country of the Organization for Economic Co operation and Development (OECD) to cancel its Visitor Rebate Program. Canada – and post-Brexit, the United Kingdom- are now the only OECD countries with federal sales taxes to not provide a rebate to visitors. Since the Government’s decision to move away from the Visitor Rebate Program, many industries dependent on tourism and retailers in Canada are calling for a reinstatement of the program, with good reason.
Tourism GDP has been reduced by nearly $6 billion dollars over the past decade as a result of the cancellation of the Visitor Rebate Program. While this policy decision was made with a goal to save money, an RCC study found that the government lost $137.9 million a year in revenue, well above the annual administrative program costs of $86.3 million a year. This translates to a net loss of $51.6 million a year by not having a Visitor Rebate Program.
This has had direct impact on Canadian retailers, as well as many other industries that rely on Canadian tourism. These industries have been especially hard-hit during the COVID pandemic, given the long and continuing ban on most international and cross-border visitors.
A recent study by UK-based Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) shows that a visitor rebate program would add $810 million in tourism GDP, boost Canadian jobs by 32,100 and because of increased economic activity, would be net positive for federal and provincial government tax revenues (+$127 million). For a more detailed look at the potential benefits of a Canadian visitors rebate program and how it could operate, see RCC’s white paper and supporting documents here.
A newly elected government must:
- Reinstate a new, more efficient visitor rebate program for Canada, allowing retailers the ability to issue tax rebates at the point of sale giving a boost to the tourism industry and retailers in Canada.
Eliminate tariffs on clothing and textiles
Canadians are paying up to 10% extra on apparel and shoes.
Canadians are paying around $5 billion in hidden taxes each year because of tariffs (i.e., customs duties), increasing living costs unnecessarily.
Historically, tariffs were used as a method for protecting our domestic industries from out-of-country competition. However, today only 4.4% of textile and clothing products used by Canadians are manufactured domestically. Since these tariffs are remnants of an outdated system that was designed to protect an industry that has moved offshore, they now act only as a hidden tax to consumers.
Among the worst offenders of these embedded taxes are tariffs on apparel and shoes – in some cases as high as 20% – resulting in a cost of $2 billion annually to Canadians. This means that when Canadians purchase a $150 pair of shoes, they’re often paying $16 more than if there wasn’t a tariff. The situation for apparel is similar. Canadians are paying more for the goods they need because of an outdated system that is no longer relevant in the Canadian context.
Elimination or significant reduction of these tariffs could be an important lifeline for the Canadian apparel and footwear retailing businesses that have been the hardest hit of all retailers during the pandemic, shedding 63 thousand jobs since the beginning of 2020 and losing a cumulative $10.5 billion in sales relative to the pre-pandemic period.
A newly elected government must:
- Eliminate tariffs on clothing and shoes to make life more affordable for Canadian families.
- Undertake a review of tariffs to understand what is still needed to protect Canadian businesses and what is now only a legacy system.
Harmonize Canada’s product safety regulations with the U.S.
Harmonization allows for more product choice and affordable prices for Canadians.
RCC has been a significant contributor to the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council which focuses on harmonizing regulations between the U.S. and Canada. Unfortunately, we have seen very little success in the area of consumer product safety, and there is concern that new discrepancies may emerge with regards to energy efficiency standards for home appliances. Having disparities in this area limits product choice and availability in the Canadian market, which also increases the cost of many items.
We know harmonization is achievable. For example, in the area of food safety, there is now mutual recognition of U.S. and Canadian food safety standards under the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. There is no reason to have these differences with our largest trading partner. Harmonization of product safety and energy efficiency regulations increases choice and lower costs.
A newly elected government must:
- Reaffirm to joint North American standards on all regulatory proposals moving forward.
- Urge the Regulatory Cooperation Council to harmonize regulations in the area of consumer product safety and energy efficiency standards for home appliances.
Where the Parties Stand
Retailers can learn more about the relevant election issues affecting their businesses through the party platforms linked below. The leading political parties’ platforms will be listed in order of the current number of seats held.
1. Find your candidates
Use the Federal Elections tool to find candidates and their contact info for your riding.
2. Print your sign
Show your pride in retail by posting a photo of your retail staff holding a #RetailMatters sign or a photo of your store.
Advice When Meeting with Candidates
An election is a great time to reach out and meet your local candidates.
It’s a great opportunity to share your perspectives, and discuss how the government can help small, mid-sized and large businesses grow and prosper.
Given that the retail industry is vital to every community in Canada, RCC needs your help to get the retail industry’s message front and centre. We have a unique opportunity to ensure that every candidate in every community knows the importance of the retail sector. We can provide candidates with approaches to ensure the competitiveness of our industry if they are elected.
Here are some ways that you can help spread the message about the importance of retail in your community:
- Learn about your local candidates by visiting their party websites.
- Request a meeting with each of your local candidates to discuss issues facing retailers in your community. RCC has prepared one-pagers on the key issues to help guide your discussions.
- Attend events where candidates will be in attendance. To find out about upcoming events, check your candidates’ websites, sign up for their newsletters, or follow them on social media.