Dear Justin Trudeau
I’ve seen interviews and read articles where you are basically calling businesses who pay both family partners “tax cheats.” You claim “income splitting” is simply a way for rich business people to avoid paying taxes. I realize you’ve never been involved in a business and were barely even in the workforce before becoming Prime Minister so all of this “tax stuff” is probably confusing for you.
That is why I want to make my point abundantly clear. BEING THE SPOUSE/PARTNER OF A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT JOB! Yes, even more difficult than being a snowboarding instructor or substitute teacher believe it or not. When you are the spouse of a small business owner you are also a therapist, coach, caregiver, assistant, cheerleader, driver, and a million other things. Not only that, you have to be willing to sacrifice and risk everything in your life to support your spouse in achieving the business goals. A business owners' spouse is invaluable and without them, a business’s likelihood of failure would increase exponentially. But somehow, according to your government, this extremely important job doesn't actually contribute to a company. You couldn’t be more wrong.
Let me tell you my family’s story. My parents started their business in a small apartment in 1985. They were equal partners in business, partners in life, and both signed personal guarantees so they shared the same amount of risk. They were 25 and driven to be successful. Dad worked very hard to get the business off the ground. My mom did everything she could to help but most of her time was spent taking care of my brother Justin who was born with a rare disease called Thanatophoric Dysplasia. He lived in a hospital bed at CHEO in Ottawa two hours away from their home and business. My mom’s nights in Ottawa were spent in my aunt’s dorm room at Carleton, the Ronald McDonald House, or with the Edwards family who lived nearby and welcomed her into their home. Through the week, while mom was in the hospital with Justin, dad was working 18 hour days, travelling around trying to get their business off the ground. I’m sure he would have rather spent his time with his wife and child but if he didn’t work, they couldn’t eat. There was no government support for them, they were business owners.
I was born in 1986 and my brother Mike came along in 1988. Justin was still living in a hospital bed far from home, so now my parents had the challenge of raising two more children. I honestly have no idea how they could do it, especially while still running a business. A year or so after Michael was born, Justin passed away at the age of 5. When he was born, he was only given a few days to live so I guess this was a win for them. It sure doesn’t seem like it to me. I’m sure they would have loved to step aside and take some time to grieve, but they couldn’t. If they didn’t work, they didn’t eat. There was no government support for them, they were business owners.
Later, my parents had two more children, Jenny (1990) and David (1992). My mom stayed home to raise her four remaining children. Dad grew the business to the point where he moved his office out of the apartment and built dry kilns and a lumber yard. He began exporting lumber into the United States, and throughout Asia, and had 20 employees. They were only 34 but their hard work was finally paying off and their business was able to put food on the table for several families. It was great for the local economy. To put this into perspective for you, at 34, you had not yet had a full time job and were still in university trying to “find yourself.”
Dad continued to work very hard. He did the sales so he was the engine of the business. If he didn’t sell lumber, there would be no work for the local loggers, sawmills, and his employees. While he worked directly in the business, mom stayed home to raise us kids. Her support for him through the good times and the bad times was incredible. She is an amazing person and an amazing mother. Knowing his children were at home with such incredible care, dad didn’t have to worry and could focus on work. Even though she was not involved in the day to day aspects of the business, her contribution to the family business was equally as important as dad's. Dad would never have been able to grow a business and hire employees without her. Her sacrifices and hard work were invaluable. For you to state otherwise is demeaning to my mother and all of the hard working stay at home parents across Canada. For someone who claims to be a feminist, you could not be any more sexist.
It is also very hypocritical. How is it fair for you to have $100,000 taxpayer funded nanny’s to help raise your children but claim it is wrong for one business owner to stay home and raise their children while the other runs the business? Frank Morneau (Bill’s dad) still receives a pay cheque from their family business Morneau Sheppell. His title is “Honorary Chairman” which effectively means he attends (or tries to attend) ten meetings per year. Is this contribution more important than a business owner who stays home to raise children? Why is he entitled to a pay cheque? Is it because he wears a suit and tie and is rarely covered in baby puke? Is it because his son is the minister of finance? Or is it because he is a man? You have some explaining to do.
I realize you will never understand the risks and struggles facing business owners. You’ve never had to worry about money, I get it. But please listen to the concerns of small business owners across Canada. P.S. I didn't put up any photos of my mom from 1985 to 2005 because I knew she would not be impressed with her hair.