Physicians from across the country attending the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) expressed concerns over proposed changes to the federal tax regime that could have serious unintended consequences on medical practices.
"Effects of the federal budget this year have the potential to significantly damage the (practice) structures that we have created and take away many of the supports that we have reached agreement on with our provincial government to support academic work and research as well as patient care," said Dr. Atul Kapur, a delegate from Ottawa.
In the 2016 federal budget released in late March, the government recognized the important contribution of health care practitioners as small businesses, following intensive advocacy efforts by the CMA and its members. While access to the incorporation framework has been maintained, the budget also proposed several technical changes targeting commercial ventures that have established a partnership with multiple corporations each claiming a small business deduction.
It is these changes that have caused concern among incorporated physicians, particularly those in the academic health science setting and certain specialties such as oncology, radiology and anesthesiology. If these proposed changes go through, they could force these partnerships to break up, which would have serious negative impacts on medical research projects, education and training for the next generation of physicians as well as Canadians' access to vital medical services.
"This proposed federal legislation is very disturbing to those of us in the academic centres because it would significantly impact what we're able to do in the research arena, the development of guidelines, the application of guidelines and following through," said Dr. Hugh Scully, a CMA past-president and current president of the academic health organization at the University Health Network in Toronto. "There's a very real concern about this, certainly from the academic setting."
CMA members are taking part in a grassroots advocacy campaign to educate parliamentarians on the potential negative impacts of proposed changes to the incorporation framework and can now send their concerns directly to their Member of Parliament, to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and to the ongoing public consultation being conducted by the government.
The CMA will continue to reach out and advocate on the issue through the consultation and legislative process ahead.