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Federal Small Business minister sidesteps carbon tax question

Federal Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez spoke at a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce event
Federal Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez is seen at Bryston’s On The Park in Copper Cliff on Tuesday during a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce speaking engagement.

Save for one critical question regarding the carbon tax, federal Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez faced a largely supportive crowd in Sudbury this week.

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce luncheon on March 12 saw Valdez highlight recent Liberal government efforts during brief remarks followed by a question-and-answer period.

“It’s nice to hear about the positive options available to businesses,” past chair Anthony Davis told after her keynote address.

Among the positives is a new Business Benefits Finder website which links business owners and non-profit organizations with various information, such as grant and funding opportunities.

However, between high insolvency rates, a limited skilled labour force and high interest rates, he added, “Small businesses are struggling, and I think the government can do a little more to step up.”

Federal Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez is seen at Bryston’s On The Park in Copper Cliff on Tuesday during a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce speaking engagement. Tyler Clarke /

The minister’s response to a question regarding the carbon tax’s impact on small businesses was also lacking in substance, he added.

The question was raised by Barrydowne Paint owner Kelly Scott, who Davis said “nailed” a topic many Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce members have been raising.

“I don’t know if you’re dreading this question,” Scott told the Minister during its lead-up, in which she said businesses “are being hit really hard by the carbon tax,” asking what the federal government was doing to mitigate these impacts.

“Here’s what no one talks about, and I’ve been able to see it firsthand, is simply the impacts climate change has had and it’s real,” Valdez responded, sharing that the Rideau Canal was not suitable for skaters for much of this season.

“The reality is, the impacts of climate change have even more drastic impacts on all of us, especially small businesses,” she added. “I get what you’re saying, however, we are also trying to fight climate change.”

Valdez added that Ontario families of four are getting back $1,120 this year in carbon tax rebates.

Scott clarified in her follow-up that she’s not a climate change denialist, and that the challenge locally is that a lot of Sudbury businesses are competing on a global scale, including against countries without carbon taxes.

“It does reduce our competitiveness, and I think Sudbury in particular is hit very hard by that,” Scott said.

“Fair question,” Valdez said, pledging to take it back to Ottawa.

After the meeting, Scott told her question was not adequately addressed, since a $1,120 carbon tax rebate for families isn’t going to help with companies’ global competitiveness.

With only 35 employees, her company is considered small, but more than half of their business is in industrial coatings for larger steel fabricators and mining equipment manufacturers.

There’s a trickle-down effect when these global companies lose out on business due, in part, to carbon tax costs making them less competitive.

“When our local industries lose a job, the job still takes place, except this time it might be manufactured in a market with zero to no environmental protections or questionable labour laws,” she said. connected with Valdez after her presentation to dig deeper than her response to Scott’s question.

“If we as a country do not put a price on carbon, unfortunately we’re going to in future be paying (environmental) tariffs left, right and centre when we’re importing and exporting goods, and we can’t have that happen,” she said.

“I think Canadian companies recognize the need for us to fight climate change,” she added. “What I’ve been hearing is the Canadian companies who are continuing to keep jobs here in Canada, it’s because of our investments in a green economy going toward a net-zero economy.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for