I am a family doctor. Two months ago, I completed a decade of education and training. Now, as I finally reach the point where I can begin to work toward paying off my hundreds of thousands of dollars of educational debt, the federal government is proposing changes to private corporations that would cripple my efforts to work and raise a family in Canada.
Incorporation lets doctors pay for staff, equipment, supplies, digital records, computers and so many other expenses, as well as raise our families and still save rainy-day funds to pay for sick leave, maternity leave, pensions and medical expenses. The proposed changes mean that doctors and other small-business owners will no longer be able to save earned money in company accounts for retirement or their own medical emergencies.
These changes also mean that Canadian doctors can no longer share income with their spouses to raise their families. For many doctors, these changes will mean difficult choices like cutting back on staffing, equipment and office hours. Ultimately, it means being unable to see as many patients. Some doctors feel so trapped that they are considering closing their practices or leaving the country.
These changes will hit female physicians hard, as female doctors represent an increasingly greater percentage of GPs — 64 per cent of family doctors under the age of 35 are women. Female physicians depend on their private corporations to provide them a (usually brief) maternity leave. Taking this away is a slap in the face to the women who are providing front-line medical care in Canada and contrasts starkly with the feminism that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has paid lip service to.
Canadian doctors fund Canada's health-care infrastructure out of their own pockets.
I have two little girls, one starting kindergarten this week, and one who just mastered putting on her shoes. I am the sole income-earner for my family. Years of moving to different cities for undergrad, medical school and residency necessitated my husband sacrificing his career goals. The reality of medical practice means there are no child-care options for us. There are no daycares available 24/7, as I am to my patients. My husband's contribution as a stay-at-home dad is completely ignored by the looming changes to small business taxation. Supporting men who stay at home to raise their children while their partners work hard for their communities is a profoundly feminist message. The government should not let this message be lost.
As a physician, I receive zero benefits from the federal government — no EI, vacation, medical benefits or sick leave, and the federal government contributes nothing to my maternity leave, disability insurance or pension. Thirty per cent of my income goes to overhead expenses (rent, employees, toilet paper, speculums, hydro, phones, bandages, gloves — and everything else purchased by doctors, not the government or patients). If I cannot work for any reason — illness, childbirth, bereavement — I still pay this overhead. Canadian doctors fund Canada's health-care infrastructure out of their own pockets.
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When you come into your doctor's office, wounded from battling an avocado, the doctor sewing you up pays for the chlorhexidine cleaning your wound, the lidocaine numbing your pain, the gauze staunching your blood, the sutures closing your wound, the tools that hold the needle, the Polysporin warding off infection, the bandage over top, the needle and syringe protecting you against tetanus, the paper sheet you're sitting on, the bed underneath you, the products to clean the room when you leave and the wages of the person who cleans it. Then there are the many thousands paid for the privilege of practising medicine (fees for licensing, insurance, mandatory provincial bodies, etc).
There is no tax "loophole." The ability to incorporate was given to physicians by the Canadian government in lieu of the government increasing doctors' incomes, so physicians can cover these costs. Small business owners first pay corporate tax and then pay the same tax as everyone else on their personal income when they are paid through their corporations. Why is the Liberal government attacking small businesses who operate legally and pay their taxes, while leaving huge loopholes open for Bay Street CEOs and providing amnesty to the wealthy elite who illegally hide money offshore and cheat Canada out of enormous amounts of money?
I recently learned I am pregnant — this is a hoped-for and very wanted child. However, the joy of seeing that tiny heartbeat for the first time was tempered by my knowledge that I will be able to spend very little time at home with my baby before having to return to work, because these government changes mean I will be unable to save for a maternity leave and support my family. Plus, during any time off, I still have to pay many thousands of dollars of overhead to my clinic — I will have to pay while I am delivering my child, and nursing my baby, and sifting through endless laundry mountains. The Liberal government, only a few months ago, said "No woman in Canada should have to choose between being a mother and pursuing her dream job" — then why is the Liberal government forcing me to choose?
I am fearful that the changes Mr. Trudeau and his government are proposing will eliminate my ability to perform the job I have worked so hard, for so many years, to do. All of the nights I spent away from my babies, while delivering other people's children; all of the times I left my toddlers crying at the window while I left dinner untouched and went back into the hospital to assist on a surgery; all of the bedtimes I missed while working in the emergency room — what were these sacrifices for if I cannot pay off the void that is my student debt, if I cannot take a few months off work to complete my family, if I cannot save for my children's education?
I urge the government to rethink the proposed changes. The impact will be devastating to many Canadian physicians and patients.
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