The business community is reacting favourably to the election of a Conservative majority in Canada, citing political stability and the prospects of lower taxes.
But business groups are also calling for the Conservative government to add more immigration and job training to its agenda.
“The Fredericton Chamber of Commerce is pleased to see that we have a federal government in place that has committed to both a stable, competitive corporate tax rate as well as an expansion of our international trade agreements,” said Susan Holt, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, on Tuesday.
The NDP is the official Opposition and it has prioritized small business support with hiring incentive and tax cuts, she said.
“We feel both ends of our membership spectrum are well represented in this new government structure,” said Holt.
She said the Conservative party’s approach to deficit reduction comes from growth expectations rather than deep cuts in spending.
“We really want to see the government move forward with that pro-growth strategy that focuses on jobs and productivity and international trade rather than really dramatic cuts to services in order to balance the books,” said Holt.
That being said, the chamber wants to see the budget balanced in the medium term, she said.
Holt said the chamber isn’t expecting cuts to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield is the minister.
“In Keith Ashfield we feel fortunate to have someone who is familiar with the issues that face the Fredericton business community,” said Holt.
The chamber has identified one issue not in the Conservative platform it would like to see and that is increased immigration, said Holt.
In fact, the Tories have cut spaces for new immigrants and the chamber will lobby to have that reversed, she said.
David Plante, New Brunswick vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the organization supports the Conservative agenda of lower income taxes and reform of taxation in general.
“That includes the accelerated capital cost allowance,” he said.
“We’re pleased to see that agenda is going forward.”
He said the Conservatives have promised to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent from 16 per cent.
The federal budget should be balanced before any additional tax cuts beyond the reduction to 15 per cent are considered, said Plante.
“The agenda is pretty set for at least the next 100 days,” he said.
“We don’t really anticipate any further moves at least over the next year.”
Plante also said Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters has been advocating for the past few years to introduce training tax credits to deal with the coming labour crunch and incentives for productivity improvement.
“We will be working on those in the years ahead,” he said.
Plante said he’s hopeful a majority government can move on such issues faster than possible for a minority government.
“There is an overall vision this government has and I don’t think that includes just taking off and adopting really right of centre measures,” he said.
“One thing a majority government does offer, however, is a greater stability, which eases business’s planning process which typically takes a five or 10 year time frame.”
Don McIver, director of research for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said the return to stability that comes with a majority government is good news for business in Atlantic Canada.
“We’re in a situation where there is going to be more predictability about business decisions,” he said.
But McIver said it’s too early to judge if there will be any negative impact on the future of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
“I think the Conservative majority will be a different political animal than the Conservative minority,” he said.
“They are more in a position of adopting a philosophical position unfettered by the opposition.”
Having said that, the Harper government today is less ideological than it was when it was first came to power three elections ago and more open to listening to input from other parties and regional interests, said McIver.
“It’s good for the country overall,” he said.
“We’re not looking at Atlantic Canada having a new (economic) lever that it can utilize.”
“The question is whether the outcome is likely to result in any disadvantageous situation (for this region) and I don’t think so.”
McIver said the Conservative philosophy is business friendly and accommodative of regional interests, which is good news for Atlantic Canada.
He said the Harper government won’t be in a rush to take the corporate tax rate below 15 per cent but philosophically the party isn’t averse to going lower after the deficit is under control.