At the 104th AGM for the Chamber of Commerce, MP for Saanich Gulf Islands and the federal leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May talked small business, the Canadian economy and the new government.
“Small business is the largest employer in Canada and contributes 30 per cent of our GDP,” she said, adding in B.C. around 98 per cent of all business would be considered small business.
May also pointed out that the membership of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce would mostly fall into the category of small business.
“So support for small business is one of the things that I want to do as your member of parliament,” she said.
In the last parliament, May submitted a private member’s bill calling for government to perform environmental assessments whenever proposed resource development projects change. She suggested that government and proponents to this work ahead of time to anticipate and minimize damage to the environment.
“My private member’s bill would require an advance assessment of the impact of changes and regulation; our tax polices, our laws for what would their impact be on small business to anticipate in advance and minimize extra paperwork, extra unintended workload on small business across Canada,” May explained.
She added she plans on reintroducing that bill (it died in between sittings of parliament) and expects to have it ready for consideration at the 42nd parliament, just after Easter.
One of the things May touched on was tourism businesses. She said this is of interest to her, as her family opened a similar business when she was still a teenager.
“I’m very attached to tourism as an industry and I think it’s because of my personal background that I was paying so much attention as Canada dropped from number eight in the world’s most visited countries to now number 17,” she said.
The policy choices made by the previous government didn’t help, she said, adding a lot of that “precipitous drop” had to do with insisting on passports at the U.S./Canadian border.
As well, May said the elimination of the GST/HST rebates for non-Canadians who crossed the border, also didn’t make sense.
“The previous government decided, almost no one is using this so let’s cancel it. In other words, it’s a good will gesture that cost us almost nothing, let’s cancel it.”
Changes to seasonal rules for unemployment insurance weren’t great either, she added, saying she has been keeping a running tab on all of the things done under the previous administration that didn’t help tourism.
“The one that I found the most gobsmacking was that for the last number of years, the previous federal government decided not to advertise at all for tourism in Canada in the U.S market. Now that’s our biggest market and it made no sense to me that they prioritized China and Mexico for advertising, especially since they required Mexican visitors to obtain Visas.”
In trying to reverse those decisions, May said she has pushed on the tourism file. She said she personally got politician and former Minister of Finance, Joe Oliver to put money into tourism advertising in the U.S.
In May’s budget submissions to the new Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, she said she ran through some of the things she advocated, including putting more money into tourism.
“The other thing I advanced in my letter to finance minister Bill Morneau is in relation to the specific circumstances of southern Vancouver Island … If you take us as a region, it certainly should qualify for big city status for access to infrastructure money.”
“I’d really love to see the railway corridor … we put 10 million dollars in the last parliament into … improving the rail bed for the daily train from Victoria to Courtenay and if it was timed and scheduled it would alleviate a lot of commuter pressure.”
May added there are interesting solutions to alleviate congestion on the Pat Bay Highway and provide a low carbon transportation system for the Peninsula.