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Questioning income trusts puts seniors at risk
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
On September 19 , the Prime Minister acted recklessly when he ordered his Finance Minister, Ralph Goodale, to wade into the income-trust market like a proverbial bull in a china shop. On that day, investors were put on notice that their popular income trusts were going to be targeted by a Liberal government seeking higher tax revenues from companies and investors.
Martin's reckless action has caused uncertainty over the future of income trusts, and so has wiped out billions of dollars in market capitalization from Canadian companies and tens of thousands of dollars from the retirement nest eggs of individual investors. Most notable was the damage done to Canadian seniors who may not have the time to recoup their losses.
One couple e-mailed my party to complain that the uncertainty around income trusts caused by the Liberals' announcement trimmed $30,000 from their retirement portfolio in a single day. Another man wrote to tell us that he had lost 15% from his his portfolio.
Many seniors feel the government is putting their retirement at risk and have let Ottawa know. In a letter to the Finance Minister, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons said, "Seniors are actually enraged, frightened and panicked about potentially losing retirement savings that they count on for the essentials of daily living."
Income trusts are popular with seniors because they provide regular payments that are used by many to cover the costs of groceries, heating bills and medicine. They also provide tax relief from a government that is addicted to taking too much money from their pockets and spending it without care, and very often without meaningful results.
So one must ask, why is the government clamping down on the retirement savings of seniors and investors?
But it gets worse. Instead of immediately moving to assure markets that income trusts are here to stay, the Liberals are justifying their actions in the coldest political terms. As one government member was quoted in the media as saying about income trust investors, "They have no constituency. They don't count politically."
That kind of arrogance cannot go unanswered. There is just no justification for what amounts to a Liberal government attack on investors, and especially on seniors.
The government continues to overtax Canadians and run multi-billion dollar surpluses, yet their first instinct is to attack an investment vehicle that can make the difference between bare survival and a dignified retirement for millions of Canadians.
The government claims that income trusts enjoy an unfair tax advantage over corporate dividends. If they believe this, then the answer is not to shut down a valuable investment vehicle, but to cut the double taxation of dividends. In short, level the playing field and let the market decide between income trusts and dividend-paying companies.
As my party's finance critic, Monte Solberg, says, the success of income trusts represents a rare triumph for investors over the tax man. Let's not be so naive as to assume that the Liberals will do the right thing to protect taxpayers. We'll need to fight hard to keep what we have, and even harder to gain ground.
It's time to stand up to Paul Martin and stop his attack on seniors and investors. Source: National Post
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