Pubdate: Mon, 25 Sep 2017
Source: Truro Daily News (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 The Daily News
Author: Chantal Hebert
Page: A4


When it comes to two of the big policy battles that loom as the fall
sitting of Parliament gets underway this week, prudence dictates that
a journalist keeps his or her powder dry.

In the debate over the government's proposed tax changes for people
with private corporations, as in the case of the Liberal plan to
legalize marijuana, what we have so far seen are just the opening
manoeuvres in a tug-of-war, the outcome of which in the court of
public opinion is far from decided.

Here are some observations on the twin issues.

Tax changes for people with private corporations: A lot of noise and
fury is attending Finance Minister Bill Morneau's proposed curtailing
of the fiscal advantages available to the professionals who shelter
their incomes in private corporations.

But, so far, the level of engagement of the vocal minority of
taxpayers directly affected by the measures and of the opposition
Conservatives is inversely proportional to that of the voting public.

If and when the so-called ordinary Canadians that both the government
and its main opposition claim to champion do get engaged, it is not a
given that they will not side with the Liberals.

Based only on the proportion of voters who have no access to the
tax-saving measures that Morneau aims to curb or eliminate, an
observer might surmise that it is the government that has the best
hopes of bringing reinforcements to the fore in the battle for public

That's why it may be best to take with a grain of salt the notion that
the government tried and failed to bring about its reform by stealth,
in the dead of the night or in this case in the dead of the summer.

If only by virtue of the 75-day consultation period Morneau undertook,
not to mention the months involved in debating the legislation in both
houses of Parliament, the issue was never going to be resolved before
the House of Commons got its teeth into the plan. Time will tell
whether the Conservatives jumped the gun by hurrying to deploy their
heavy artillery against Morneau's reforms. A government forewarned is
one that is forearmed, and the Liberals have left themselves plenty of
wiggle room.

Marijuana legalization: By comparison, the cannabis legalization front
has been relatively quiet. But that hardly means peace has broken out
in the marijuana trenches.

If anything, the government may be living more dangerously, as it
strives to change the legal status of pot, than it does as it attempts
to rein in the tax benefits of private corporations.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that voters are more attuned to the
cannabis debate than to Morneau's tax changes.

While polls have found a potentially supportive audience for the
Liberal tax fairness rationale, Justin Trudeau's contention that he
wants to legalize marijuana to keep it out of the hands of minors has
mostly been met with incredulity.

The risk here is not so much that a groundswell of opposition against
the concept of legalization will sweep the country, but that its
implementation turns out to be so chaotic as to reflect poorly on the
competence and the good judgment of the government responsible for
rolling out the policy.

On that score, think back to the favourable climate that attended the
creation of a federal gun registry only to have the latter
subsequently become a poster child for government waste and

Much as Trudeau's government seeks to wash its hands of the messy
details attending the creation of a dozen provincial and territorial
markets for cannabis in time for next July, it remains a signature
promise of the prime minister. And it is Trudeau who is setting the
pace of the transition.

The opposition parties: It is early days, but it seems that the
take-no-prisoners approach that was one of the less appealing features
of the Conservatives in their recent government incarnation has
survived the transition from Stephen Harper to Andrew Scheer. But only
a party operating in an echo chamber would believe that the way to
resonate with more voters is to deafen them with over-the-top partisan

As for the New Democrats, their leadership campaign has yet to help
them carve a larger place in the Liberal-dominated federal universe.
Once a new leader is in place, that task may have to wait until he or
she sorts out the party's relationship with its flighty Quebec
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt