Verbatim: The CFIB’s Richard Truscott on a sales tax
"Business owners expect governments to be just as focused on the bottom line, as much as possible, with public spending"
by Tim Querengesser
Position: Vice-President B.C. and Alberta, CFIB
CV: Truscott has an MBA from Queen’s University and was a PR strategist with Venture
Comparing a government to a business is like comparing a corner store to the town it does business in. What works for one usually doesn’t work for the other. And yet, while the town can survive without the store, the store can’t survive without the town.
We had this in mind when calling Richard Truscott, head of the Alberta branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. A recent survey by CFIB found that more than 80 per cent of its members don’t support a sales tax to deal with our government’s revenue problem. Instead, the CFIB says, the way forward is cuts.
AV: What did small business owners say in your survey?
RT: One of the top line questions we ask is whether they think balancing the budget should be a priority. There’s pretty clear support for governments to balance their books – 75 per cent support that statement. Only 17 per cent disagreed.
AV: What were the options your survey presented for balancing the books?
RT: To increase taxes, cut spending, defer or delay capital infrastructure projects or increase borrowing. Eighty per cent said government should be cutting spending and restraining growth in operating spending.
AV: Why would small business be against increasing revenues, say through a consumption tax?
RT: Business owners expect governments to be just as focused on the bottom line, as much as possible, with public spending. If the numbers don’t line up, they’d better get down to controlling spending. One of the reasons we’re in this mess is previous governments have allowed spending to expand faster than the economy, population growth and inflation.
AV: So what do the survey results suggest is the way forward?
MB: To cut. I think that’s what business owners realize has to be done. It would not be healthy or productive to go back to consumers and demand even more tax money, and take even more money out of the economy that’s supporting small business.
AV: Is comparing a business with a government a fair comparison?
RT: You’re right. There are some big differences between business and government. But at the end of the day, businesses wouldn’t survive if they operated like the government. Governments do have the latitude to go back to their customers, to taxpayers, to ask for more money. In the history of Alberta, that’s happened time and again. Thankfully, they’ve focused on growing the economy, increasing tax revenues through greater economic activity. That’s been the key to our success. That has produced the so-called Alberta Advantage, where we haven’t needed a sales tax.