New Brunswick

Doctor who backs tax reforms says it 'just makes sense to pay into society'

Lisa Turner says she signed an open letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau stating support for the proposal because she fundamentally believes that people who make more money should be taxed more.

Saint John family doctor Lisa Turner signs open letter to finance minister in support of controversial reforms

Hundreds of Canadian doctors and medical students have signed an open letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau expressing their support for tax changes proposed by the federal government. (Shutterstock/funnyangel)

A Saint John family doctor says there's another side to the uproar from physicians and medical societies over proposed federal tax reforms. 

Lisa Turner is one of about 400 physicians and medical students in Canada who have signed an open letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau expressing support for reform.

Although the New Brunswick Medical Society says almost half the doctors in the province might go elsewhere if they lose a tax loophole, Turner said she fundamentally believes that people who make more money should be taxed more.

"I've always thought that since I get paid through the tax system, it makes sense to pay into the tax system," Turner said. "I firmly believe that if you make more money, you should pay more taxes in."

The proposed changes would, among other things, curb the use of incorporation as a tax-saving mechanism.

Turner said she has never used incorporation, even though she was often advised to. 

Lisa Turner, a family doctor based in Saint John, says it's a fundamental belief of hers that people with high incomes should pay higher taxes.

"I do very well, despite my high tax bracket, and it just makes sense to pay into this society."

Transition plan needed 

However, Turner said she understands why many doctors are concerned about the proposed changes, given that these tax mechanisms have been used to save for retirement or maternity leave.

"That doesn't seem fair either — to have a plan in place and then all of a sudden have it be changed on you," she said.

The challenge that physicians face is they still have to pay the cost of running their offices even while on leave, she explained.

The letter to Morneau calls on the federal government to come up with a transition plan for doctors who have used tax mechanisms for saving, and to work with provincial governments to look into options to extend health coverage and other benefits to physicians.

Most doctors use incorporation 

The president of the Canadian Medical Association said in a recent statement that Morneau has been told doctors rely on the measures now in place for working capital needed for expanding their practices and, among other things, to deal with "unanticipated costs, sick or parental leave, staff turnover, and other business requirements."

Data compiled by the association suggests the majority of Canadian physicians are incorporated, which gives them access to various measures to reduce their taxes despite earning significantly more on average.

Earlier this month, the New Brunswick Medical Society surveyed 500 doctors in the province  and found nearly half would be willing to leave the province if the federal changes were implemented unchanged.

Even though the changes affect doctors Canada-wide, Dr. Lynn Murphy-Kaulbeck, president of the society, said New Brunswick doctors would still find taxation relief if they moved.

"The level of taxes will be lower than what we have in New Brunswick," she said of jurisdictions outside the province and country.

"You've got to remember, physicians are portable, and there are jobs across the border and in other places as well and so there are members considering that."

With files from The Canadian Press