Federal tax changes come into effect as new year begins

OTTAWA _ The new year brings with it tax changes at the federal level that will affect just about every Canadian, as well as small businesses.

One of the first changes workers will see is an increase in Canada Pension Plan premiums coming off their paycheques the first of five years of hikes to pay for enhancements to the pension plan.

Employment Insurance premiums, on the other hand, will drop by four cents for every $100 of insurable earnings.

Meanwhile, the small business tax rate is going down from 10 to nine per cent. But changes to how much so-called passive income a small business can hold are also coming into effect, which is expected to push some businesses into paying a much higher corporate tax rate.

Also in 2019, low income workers can qualify for an increase in the Canada Workers Benefit. But they will have to wait until 2020 to receive the extra money.

The federal government’s new carbon pricing system will also come into effect in provinces that don’t have carbon pricing mechanisms of their own, resulting in higher costs for fossil fuels by April, and direct rebates to partly offset the increased costs.

Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is already gearing up to make it an issue leading to the October federal election, calling 2019 the year of the carbon tax.

Irregular migrants on track to cost Canada almost $400 million, watchdog says

By Teresa Wright

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Asylum seekers who entered Canada irregularly last year will cost federal organizations $340 million an amount projected to balloon to almost $400 million by the end of 2019, the federal budget watchdog says.

A report Thursday from the parliamentary budget officer calculates the average cost of each irregular migrant who arrived in Canada between April 2017 and March 2018 at $14,321.

The PBO projects that costs will rise to $16,666 in the fiscal year ending March 2020 because of extensive wait times for migrants waiting to complete the entire asylum claim process, “leading to greater expenses for federal health insurance costs.”

The actual amounts can vary depending on how long asylum seekers wait for their refugee claims to be finalized, budget officer Yves Giroux wrote in his report. For instance, claimants accepted at their first hearing will cost the country less, those who exhaust all legal avenues and are eventually removed from Canada will cost more.

But Giroux warned that $340 million could become an annual cost if Canada doesn’t seen any decrease in the number of irregular asylum seekers.

Canada has experienced an influx of irregular migrants along the border with the United States since early 2017, shortly after the Trump administration took steps to end temporary protected status for tens of thousands of migrants living in the U.S.

Since then, almost 35,000 asylum seekers have filed refugee claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board _ Canada’s arms length agency that deals with refugee claims and appeals. Many claimants have avoided official border checkpoints where they would have been turned back to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country agreement between the two countries.

The PBO says this influx has placed “significant pressure” on federal resources, leading to major delays in processing times for refugee claims.

Last year, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) had the capacity to hear 24,000 claims per year, but received more than 52,000 total new asylum claims half of which were from irregular migrants.

The federal government promised $173 million over two years to address rising costs, but Giroux said the growing backlog of claims shows it is not enough money.

“It’s a bit like shooting yourself in the foot to under-fund the IRB and other government agencies, because these kinds of savings end up increasing federal costs. So the savings, in terms of claims processing, end up costing more,” he told reporters in French.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel has been calling on the Liberals to close a loophole that exists in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which is believed to be a major factor in the spike of irregular border crossings.

She blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for causing the spike when he published a tweet in January 2017 in which he welcomed fleeing migrants to Canada in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants.

“It just blows my mind that between 2017 through next fiscal year, this prime minister is choosing to spend $1.1 billion on essentially what amounts to the abuse of our asylum system. Some of the numbers in here are absolutely shocking,” Rempel said in response to the PBO report Thursday.

Ontario has pegged its provincial costs for dealing with irregular migrants at $200 million. Quebec did not provide the PBO with its cost estimate, but Giroux said they likely face similar financial pressures as Ontario.

Giroux said federal figures suggest costs for provinces and territories are at least the same amount as those incurred by the federal government.

Conservative MP Larry Maguire asked Giroux to analyze the current and projected costs of dealing with an influx of irregular migrants who have been crossing through non-official entry points along the Canada-U.S. border since 2017.

Maguire, a member of the Commons immigration committee, said he turned to the PBO for help after not getting answers from the Liberals on the total costs of “illegal immigrants” entering Canada.

“As parliamentarians, we have been repeatedly stonewalled by the Liberals on what the total costs have been to taxpayers. Today we finally have those numbers and… they’re very staggering,” he said at a press conference.

CMHC declares dividend of $1.175B payable to the Government of Canada

The Board of Directors for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has approved a dividend of $1.175 billion to its shareholder, the Government of Canada. The dividend is payable by February 28, 2019.

For the first time, CMHC’s dividend includes $175 million from its securitization business. CMHC has now declared $4.175 billion in dividends so far this year.

CMHC manages its mortgage insurance and securitization activities on a commercial basis. The premiums and fees collected from these activities cover all related expenses while generating a reasonable return for its shareholder, the Government of Canada.

The dividend balances returning excess capital to the Government, while retaining sufficient capital to protect against housing market risks. Our dividend framework is informed by our risk appetite, stress testing and scenarios analysis. We intend to continue to return excess capital to the Government while establishing a dividend that allows us to maintain capital in line with our long-term capital needs.

CMHC’s intention is to continue declaring dividends on a quarterly basis, subject to approval by our Board of Directors.

Associated links:

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers unbiased housing research and advice to all levels of Canadian government, consumers and the housing industry. For more information, follow us on TwitterYouTubeLinkedInFacebookand Instagram.

SOURCE Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

For further information: Audrey-Anne Coulombe, Media Relations, 613-748-2573, acoulomb@cmhc-schl.gc.ca

If you’re counting money in Ottawa, that must sound pretty good. In Alberta, it doesn’t mean a thing.

Read more

Alberta declares beer trade fight with Ontario over access to liquor stores

The Alberta government is opening a new front in its beer war with other provinces by targeting Ontario for what it says are its unfair trade barriers to Alberta-made suds and other alcoholic products.

The initiative emerged on Monday, November 26, 2018 as Alberta announced a full retreat on its own craft beer subsidies that were found by a judge last spring to be unconstitutional.

“Alberta has the most open liquor policy in the country, offering Albertans a choice of over 3,700 Canadian products … Alberta merchants stock and sell 745 alcoholic beverages from Ontario,” said Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous at an Edmonton brewery on Monday.

“Ontario is the largest market in the country, three times larger than our own, yet we can only find about 20 Alberta liquor products listed for sale in Ontario.”

The complaint under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement is being made against Ontario because it has the biggest liquor market in Canada but it could be expanded to include other provinces with similar barriers, Bilous said, adding he’s hoping for an amicable solution.

Under the CFTA, Ontario will have 120 days to respond to the complaint made in a letter sent Monday morning. The complaint may then proceed to a CFTA panel for a ruling on corrective actions or allowed retaliatory measures, with a provision for either side to appeal that ruling, explained Jean-Marc Prevost, Bilous’ press secretary.

Neither the Ontario trade ministry nor the Liquor Control Board of Ontario immediately responded to a request for comment.

In his letter to Ontario Trade Minister Todd Smith, Bilous complains that Ontario gives local brewers access to stores over Alberta brewers, gives Ontario beverages preferential shelf or refrigerated locations, requires Alberta brewers to provide commercially confidential information to their larger competitors to be listed and gives Ontario small brewers a significant discount on listing costs.

Neil Herbst, owner of Alley Kat Brewery of Edmonton, said he has faced numerous non-tariff barriers when trying to ship his products to Ontario, giving as an example a $400 laboratory fee assessed on a shipment of $1,600 worth of beer.

Also Monday, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he will cancel by Dec. 15 a program of grants for small Alberta craft brewers in order to bring provincial beer regulations in compliance with Canadian trade law.

The province will return to a system similar that was in place before 2015, with markups (a tax collected for the province) of $1.25 per litre applied to all beer sold in Alberta by producers of more than 50,000 hectolitres per year.

Smaller brewers, regardless of province of origin, will be able to apply for markups of between 10 and 60 cents per litre.

Alberta dropped its graduated markup system to go to a flat markup on all beer in 2015. It at first exempted brewers in Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta, then changed its rules so it applied to all Canadian brewers but introduced a subsidy program solely for Alberta’ small brewers.

It lost a CFTA panel ruling initiated by Artisan Ales, a Calgary-based beer importer, which argued the grant program unfairly tilted the market against its product.

Last June, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ordered the province to pay a total of $2.1 million in restitution to Great Western Brewing of Saskatoon and Steam Whistle Brewing of Toronto, finding that the subsidies created a trade barrier against their products.

At the time, Ceci said the province would consider appealing that ruling.

His department says Alberta now has 137 liquor manufacturers, including 99 brewers. It says the number of brewers has nearly tripled since the subsidy program was introduced in 2016.

The province says it will introduce more supports for Alberta liquor manufacturers in the next few weeks.

NAFTA talks: Like Mexico, Canada may need ‘insurance’ against tariffs

Canada maintains that its efforts to evade American tariffs on steel and aluminum, and threatened tariffs on cars, are on a “separate track” from the ongoing NAFTA talks.

But that’s not how U.S. President Donald Trump sees it. His attempts to use tariffs as leverage in NAFTA negotiations have become such a ingrained habit by this point, he’s started using the word as a verb.

“If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!'” he tweeted Monday.

China was in Trump’s sights at the start of the week — but by week’s end he also could be talking about Canada and his threat to impose “national security” tariffs of 20 to 25 per cent on its auto industry if it doesn’t soon join the new North American trade deal Americans sketched out with Mexico last month.

One of Trump’s loyal Congressional soldiers, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, warned Tuesday that Congress would “consider its options” if Canada doesn’t sign on.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland insists Canada won’t sign a bad deal.

“That’s not rhetoric,” she told reporters before she left again for Washington. Still, she said, Canadians have a “talent for compromise.”

I don’t think we’re going to get a NAFTA deal any time soon.– Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics

Her negotiators face a tough call. Even if they strike deals and close the remaining chapters — by Thursday, Freeland’s Mexican counterpart suggested, if they’re going to have a text for Congress by the end of the month — a bigger question lurks.

Would a renegotiated NAFTA lift damaging steel and aluminum tariffs and shut down threats of future car tariffs? If it didn’t, why would Canada sign on?

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics, said people have been too focused on specific sticking points — dairy concessions, dispute resolution chapters, intellectual property demands and more.

“The big picture is the threat of tariffs,” she said. “And not just the threat. The ones already in place.”

READ MORE HERE: 

CBC News

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