The release of the Trudeau government’s 2017 budget in March — which revealed a review of private corporation tax advantages for high-income earners — has spurred a flurry of lobbying activity as business groups worry about paying higher taxes.
But this summer’s tax lobbying activity in Ottawa wasn’t filled by the usual suspects.
Advisor.ca has extracted and filtered data from the federal lobbyist registry to see which groups have been most active on tax, and the results are not accountants, doctors and lawyers.
The top group? The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, with a total of 84 lobbying communications posted between March 23 (the day after the budget was tabled), and September 4, inclusively (see our methodology).
The MS Society has been lobbying for additional government support for people with MS, including a request to make the disability tax credit refundable. “Many of the people who access it don’t have enough income to actually benefit from the credit at all. They don’t have the taxable income in order to get money back from it,” says Julie Kelndorfer, director of government and community relations for MS Society.
The group is also lobbying for some eligibility changes to the tax credit for people with MS, whose ability to work can be episodic. “It’s also a gateway program for other programs, such as the RDSP,” Kelndorfer says.
She says the group held a lobbying event in Ottawa in May to meet with parliamentarians and staff, boosting its number of lobbying communications.
Small business corporations
CPA Canada, representing Chartered Professional Accountants, scored further down the list, at No. 8. The group is registered federally to lobby on several tax and business issues.
Amid the Finance Department’s push to reduce tax benefits for private, small business corporations, CPA Canada wants Ottawa to launch a comprehensive review of the tax system, with a view to making it simpler and more efficient.
“A lot of the issues that we’re seeing — in terms of this private company consultation, and if you leave out the big picture issues — are that things aren’t really linking up as well as they could, perhaps, in the tax system,” says Bruce Ball, spokesperson for CPA Canada. “We’d like to see this done by setting up a committee or commission, like the Carter Commission.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Medical Association have been campaigning against Ottawa’s move to close tax loopholes for small business corporations. The CMA has argued it could push Canadian doctors to look for work abroad.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this month: “People who make $50,000 a year should not pay higher taxes than people who make $250,000 a year.”
Second-highest was the Canadian Vintners Association, with 62 communications posted. Among other measures, the group is registered to lobby the government about rising excise taxes as well as the Income Tax Act’s effects on replant expenditures, tax deductions and other tax credits.
The No. 1 lobbied person in Ottawa on tax over the summer? The lucky person is Elliot Hughes, senior policy advisor in the Finance minister’s office, who received 40 communications, according to the data.
The No. 2 spot was filled by Ted Cook, director of tax legislation at Finance Canada. He received a total of 39 communications.
The federal lobbying registry is intended to capture lobbying communications, including meetings, phone calls and emails, that happen outside public consultations like committee meetings and roundtables. Advisor.ca extracted all communications posted since the budget’s release on March 22, 2017, and filtered them for those that contain the word “tax” or “taxation” in the subject matter. (While all subject matters filtered contained tax, they could include other phrases, such as “Finance,” “Consumer Issues,” “International Trade,” etc.)
|Organization||Posted communications, March 23 to Sept. 4*|
|Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada||84|
|Canadian Vintners Association||62|
|Canadian Dental Association||58|
|Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc.||49|
|Canadian Beverage Association||36|
|Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)||36|
|TMX Group Limited||32|
*Communications posted as of Sept. 5, 2017