Finance Minister Bill Morneau failed to reassure members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that his tax reforms won't hurt their businesses, says Perrin Beatty, the group's CEO and president.
Beatty said Morneau's speech to the business group at its annual meeting in Fredericton over the weekend had "just the opposite effect" and the chamber is not backing down from its fight against the reforms.
"We're very much worried about what the impact would be on family farmers, small business people down the main street of all communities in Canada, and what it would do in terms of discouraging job creation, growth in the economy, and so on," said Beatty, a former Progressive Conservative MP and cabinet minister.
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"And we're very, very concerned about the process they've followed. It's not been listening, it's been one-way transmission."
Now, Beatty said, the chamber plans to "double down" on its fight against the proposed changes by working with local chambers of commerce across the country to gather more feedback from small business owners.
"The minister can cut off the consultations, but he can't prevent us from giving a voice to Canadian business," he said.
Guillaum Dubreuil, a public affairs official with the chamber, said the organization plans to deliver that feedback to the federal government.
Not enough consultation
Beatty, who served as a cabinet minister under Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, said he had a chance to meet with Morneau over the weekend.
Beatty said he told the minister that, among other things, the government needs to have a consultation process that is more fair and transparent.
"This 75 days in the middle of summer, so-called consultation process, is anti-democratic, and the government needs to take a fresh look at what it's doing," he said.
The federal government has said it plans to accept comments on its proposal until Oct. 2.
Asking for more time to comment
Over the weekend, delegates at the meeting approved a resolution to call on the federal government to extend its consultation period. It passed with 98.8 per cent support.
While addressing chamber audience Saturday, Morneau tried to reassure business leaders that the tax reforms won't harm businesses.
"We don't want to in any way jeopardize the strength and the health of the small business sector," said Morneau.
He also said that the proposed changes are the result of "serious deliberations" on the part of the government, including a review from a "council of experts," who have been looking into the changes for about a year.
"We are looking at how we can have the biggest impact on tax fairness," he said.
"We believe our approach, which includes listening, as I'm happy to do here today, is one that will allow us to get to a better system."
Beatty said he's rarely seen an issue generate such a strong reaction from Canadians.
"I have never seen an issue where there was more spontaneous concern across the country, with people saying, 'this is so damaging, it could prevent me from being able to keep the farm in the family, to be able to keep my small business in operation,'" Beatty said.
"And it's that spontaneous concern that you see right across the country that's unique."