OTTAWA — A Liberal MP skipped his party's weekly caucus meeting Wednesday, a day after he went rogue and voted in favour of a Conservative motion to extend consultations on the government's proposed tax reforms.
Wayne Long was the only Liberal to vote "yea." He was applauded by Tory MPs when he rose from his seat.
"I'm comfortable with the decision as awkward as it is," he told HuffPost Canada in an interview. He justified his absence from caucus by saying he would have been a distraction anyway.
The motion, tabled by Tory MP Pierre Poilievre, claims the suite of proposed tax increases will have a "drastic negative impact on small and medium sized local businesses." It calls on the government to extend its consultations, which ended Monday, to January 31, 2018.
Liberal MPs were advised to vote against the motion, which was defeated, 198 to 89.
Long told HuffPost his vote was shaped by his experience as a small business owner. A 75-day consultation period isn't long enough to justify implementation of contentious set of tax reforms, he said.
"Doctors against nurses, put farmers on the defensive, and made lawyers, small business and professionals feel vilified," the Saint John — Rothesay MP wrote on Facebook after the Tuesday vote.
"I'm sorry to my colleagues who I know I've put in a very awkward position. I deeply regret this as you are such great representatives," he wrote.
The Liberal government has been hammered in recent weeks over the proposals, which the opposition have framed as an assault on small business owners.
Among the suggested reforms are restrictions on business owners who reduce their tax rate by redistributing their income to family members in lower tax brackets, even if they're not employed at the company.
New limitations on the private corporations to make unrelated passive investments have also been proposed; as well as restrictions on how much corporate income business owners can convert into capital gains.
'There most likely could be consequences'
In question period on Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer continued trying to chip away at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's credibility on the issue by highlighting his personal wealth. It's a strategy Tories have also used with Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
"We know that he incorporated to collect thousands of dollars in speaking fees from charities, we know that he has a multimillion dollar trust fund, and he brags that his fortune will not be touched," Scheer said of Trudeau.
The government has maintained its measures are about making the tax system more fair.
"We got elected on a commitment to Canadians to raise taxes on the wealthiest one per cent to lower them for the middle class. That is what we did," Trudeau said.
"Canadians know that wealthy Canadians are encouraged with our current tax system to use private corporations as a way to pay lower tax rates than many middle-class Canadians," the prime minister continued.
"We do not think that is fair. Canadians do not think that is fair."
This, despite the finance minister conceding earlier that changes will be necessary to the government's proposed tax reforms.
But Long, a former seafood executive, said the outcry from small business owners across the country has been too much to ignore to vote against the motion requesting more time.
"I came to Ottawa with the intentions to do good things for my riding," he said.
As for possible repercussions, Long hinted maybe he was a bit "naive" to vote against his party on such a contentious issue.
"There most likely could be consequences," he said. But he said sees himself as a former New Brunswick small business owner in Parliament, and not Ottawa's pitchman at home. To him, he did the right thing.
"In some small way if what I've done makes change, then I'm satisfied with that."
With files from the Canadian Press
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