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'Deeply insulting': Carbon tax rebate cuts spark petition from business advocate

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The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is launching a petition against the federal government's changes to the carbon tax.

The CFIB says the carbon tax system is broken overall, but recent cuts to small businesses rebates are 'deeply insulting.'

New documents published by the federal government last Friday reveal that Ottawa is reducing the carbon tax revenue it plans to rebate to small and medium-sized businesses from nine per cent to five per cent starting in 2024.

The CFIB calculates that the change will be worth $500 million this year.

"Well, the truth is that businesses contribute to about 40 per cent of the carbon tax revenues," said Andrew Sennyah, an Alberta-based senior policy analyst for the CFIB. "But it is supposed to be revenue neutral. You know, you and I, as consumers, get that rebate back; small businesses should get their fair share of what they've paid and the fair rebate that they deserve."

On top of the rebate cut, the CFIB is also calling on the federal government to give businesses money promised from the tax.

The CFIB says there's no system set up to return a nickel to small businesses — despite the tax being collected since 2019.

"The federal government has committed to giving rebates every year to consumers like you and I. Small businesses were promised a specific amount, and unfortunately, they haven't received much, if not any," said Sennyah.

According to figures from the CFIB, Alberta businesses are owed approximately $718 million in rebates.

The CFIB is now calling on the government for immediate action, launching a petition outlining a range of demands.

The petition calls for the federal government to immediately return the $2.5 billion it feels small businesses are owed since 2019.

It also calls to scrap the plan to reduce the rebate cuts to small and medium-sized businesses, instead introducing a plan to increase their share to a much larger 40 per cent.

The CFIB is also asking the government to freeze the carbon tax at its current level instead of hiking it as planned for April 1.

The petition ends by calling for the exemption of all heating fuels, including natural gas, and the passing of Bill C-234 to exempt natural gas and propane used for on-farm activities.

"Energy costs have been cited as the number one cost constraint for small businesses over the past year and a bit,  as we walk into 2024," said Sennyah. "That is still the number one concern."

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce also weighed in with its CEO Deborah Yedlin calling the reduced rebate “just another step in a death of 1000 cuts.”

“Higher electricity cost in Alberta, this is an issue. We lead the country in terms of inflation. So one more thing that small businesses have to navigate and to think that they're owed money or the rebates changing. That's not great news,” said Yedlin

“It's almost like you're adding insult to injury, and when you hear that there is two and a half billion dollars, that hasn't been paid in carbon tax rebates to small businesses, then there's a whole bunch of other questions that come out of that.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada said the carbon pricing system was developed with special provisions for small and medium-sized businesses “by allocating a portion of all revenues to be returned specifically to them, in jurisdictions where the federal system applies.”

“The Government of Canada is working hard to launch funding mechanisms that will return revenues generated from pollution pricing back to small businesses,” the statement read.

In a survey from November 2023, CFIB found 90 per cent of its Alberta members are against the carbon tax, while 85 per cent of members are against it nationally.

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