Conservative budget 2012, “Creating Jobs” ?

The Canadian government has not, is not, really known for any maritime policy prowess. There was some hope when they undertook the National Ship Procurement Strategy, that they could be seen to be recognizing how important ships are to Canada, but really this was more about defence spending, rather than a positive outlook on the importance of shipyards and heavy industry.

With the latest federal budget, delivered late last week, the conservative government really took whatever little hope Canadian maritime professionals had of being competitive on the international market, and threw it right out the window.  The ruling Conservative Party under the leadership of Mr. Harper, have introduced a phase out plan of the Overseas Employment Tax Credit, also known as the OETC.

This tax credit was probably not originally meant to appeal to Canadian foreign going seafarers, but has been extensively utilized by those sailing aboard ships servicing the oil and gas industry. What it did, is allow a higher income threshold before income tax became applicable – therefore reducing the overall income tax load. This allowed for money earned by a Canadian seafarer, to have similar purchasing power, to their international counterparts. However, with the phase out, this means the same salary paid internationally will be worth much less to a Canadian because most of it will be taxed as if working in Canada.

Income taxes on foreign going Canadian seafarers, has put us at a severe competitive disadvantage to our international peers, and I have long railed against it. I have been fighting for income tax change for some time on my main website, but without much success. Mr. Flaherty, the Finance Minister, has flatly turn down any options for us seafarers. You can view his response to my queries on the main website, just look for the “Taxes” area – which incidental, has quite a bit of information on Canadian taxes and seafarers, including the OETC.

To be honest, I am not upset about the phase out, I think the program was designed to benefit a very narrow field of companies; the benefit to professional seafarers, I believe, was unintentional, confined to a very narrow section of Canadian seafarers. I would much prefer a proper income taxation scheme, similar to those in most international jurisdictions, that recognize the importance of all seafarers.

Unfortunately, I have not much confidence that this government is able to develop a strategy for the maritime industry, much less one that focuses on the human workforce. So giving up even a millimetre of benefits to seafarers is therefore a step in the wrong direction in my view.

You can learn more about the phase out of the OETC on the CCRA’s website. As you can well imagine, there are a few of our peers affected by this, and they are not too happy about it. There is a an active campaign to let the Finance Minister know about their displeasure with the changes, you can lend your support for it at the “Allow the current OETC rules to remain in place” petition, which can be found here. There is a discussion thread going on The Common Rail as well, you can find that here.

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