President Speech at Townhall Meeting on UnFair Tax Changes

Speech made by Dr. Anne Niec

President, Federation of Medical Women of Canada

Townhall Meeting on UnFair Tax Changes

Nepean Sportsplex, Thursday, September 14, 2017


Hello and thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Anne Niec and I am a small business owner. I am a physician, and I am a woman.

And I’m here to tell you that these tax changes will impact women small business owners negatively.

Women make up just over one-third of the small business owners in Canada. That’s a lot of people who are feeling stressed and discounted right now.

They are feeling this way because the government’s recent decisions will change the way they provide and care for their families and for themselves as they age.

It’s tough being a small business owner.

But consider that the personal and societal expectations of women, as her family’s primary caregiver, which is a 24/7 job, competes with the 24/7 expectation of the business world. This is an equity issue in the world of small business.

What do we mean when we say equity? How does it differ from the talk of “fairness” that’s being bandied about by government when they talk about tax fairness.  Fair is not the same as equal and equal is not the same as equitable. We need to be striving for equity. That means that some groups, some people need more help than others to achieve the same goals. It doesn’t mean that everybody is treated equally when they are treated equitably. It means the end result is equality, and the process we use to get there is through equity.

For example. Mr. J. and Ms. S each start their own business. It’s the same kind of business, say money management. They both have a secretary and another staff person. They both rent space. Starting off, they look the same – their start up costs are equal.

Ms. S goes on maternity leave with her first child. She loses income because she is no longer working. Her business must continue somehow, either by hiring a replacement or cutting down on client work, which impacts revenues, client relationships and existing staff who may experience cutbacks in hours.

The lack of quality daycare means she has to augment her childcare with whatever she can find or bring the baby to work. That might mean live-in nanny care to accommodate long working days.

Mr. J has just had a baby. Mr. J doesn’t have to recover physically from childbirth nor is he expected to breastfeed his child. His business can continue to operate without interruption. His revenues are not impacted by his new child. If Mr. J has a partner who is an employee for someone else, they are likely eligible for government maternity leave. There is no expectation to cover his partner’s lost revenue.

Because Ms. S has had to remove herself from the field, she loses momentum, client connection, and at the end of the day her economic losses create a gap that sets her back from where Mr. J is and will follow her throughout her life.

I could use the example of elderly parents for the concerns are the same. But what I want to emphasize is that in our culture, the expectations of women to be the primary caregiver for their families remains powerful. And efforts to level the playing field between male and female workers has largely focused on the challenges of working mothers. Not working fathers. And maybe this discussion would be different if society was different, but today, in 2017, despite our advances on many fronts, gender parity remains an elusive goal.

Women are typically in professions that pay less. The businesses they start are typically in food service, child care, personal services (hairdressers, aestheticians) and retail, which isn’t to say that women aren’t gaining greater access to professional spaces likes lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers etc. We are all working as hard as we can to serve our clients, customers and patients in our chosen fields.

We have to be careful that government policy doesn’t create more problems than it solves. The discourse around this topic has been divisive and classist, painting all small business owners as the wealthy elite, when for women, that couldn’t be further from the truth given the types of small businesses that many women engage in.

We have to be careful to not let allow ourselves be divided by this discourse. Concepts like “wealthy” and “elite” and “tax fairness” are being used to divide Canadians. And that’s a huge problem.

Women are constantly subjected to attempts to divide us. Whether it’s the mommy wars, or labour vs management, or professional vs pink collar, feminists vs non-feminists, we need to stand together to support women everywhere in their efforts to succeed and improve the quality of life for them and their families.

Perhaps instead of pushing rhetoric that divides Canadians, more focus could be put on programs that bring us together like a national childcare program, or a national seniors strategy, or a national housing strategy to help all women, including small business owners to be active economic agents and mothers too.