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'You're not a cheat': Doctor reacts to Trudeau's 'sinister' tax reform rhetoric

The prime minister's speech didn’t just turn being successful into a dirty word, says Dr. Nadia Alam. Trudeau turned 'doctor' itself into a dirty word.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way onto the stage for an armchair discussion with Melinda Gates in New York, Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way onto the stage for an armchair discussion with Melinda Gates in New York, Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

“Doc, don’t listen to him. You’re not a cheat.”

Parliament resumed in Ottawa on Monday. Like many others, I watched Canada’s prime minister stand up on national television and make doctors sound like wealthy tax cheats. He also slammed any elected MP for “standing with doctors.”

Even though seven Liberal caucus MPs — including the chair of the finance committee — came out against this tax reform.

Even though small businesses, tax analysts, policy experts and world-renowned entrepreneurs have run the numbers and said this tax reform will hurt the economy in significant, unexpected ways.

Even though many have called for thoughtful, widespread tax reform rather than this isolated jab at one sector.

Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — our country’s leader, our country’s voice — turned tax reform into open season on doctors. He didn’t just turn being successful into a dirty word. He turned being a doctor into a dirty word.

“Doc, don’t listen to him. You’re not a cheat,” texted one of my frail elderly patients who follows politics closely. I wondered, how many of my patients will be swayed by Justin Trudeau’s disdain of doctors? How many will stop trusting what I say because my government stopped trusting what I say?

Over lunch boxes and school bags, I looked at my husband. “Our kids are not going to be doctors,” I said. “I don’t want them to ever feel this way.”

Shaken. Betrayed. Ashamed for my life’s work.

My family immigrated to Canada when I was 10. My dad opened a dollar store in Thorncliffe Park, working 6 to 7 days a week. The people who frequented the store were not the BMW-driving silver-spoon trust-fund types. Our customers bought food at our store. Because of that, year by year as the cost of living rose, as the expense side of the ledger encroached on the revenue side, as taxes/CPP/EI contributions for his employees rose, my dad could not bring himself to raise prices.

From age 13 on, I worked in the family business: sweeping floors, stocking shelves. In university, I worked three jobs to pay my way, including night shifts as a personal support worker. My sister worked four jobs to pay for law school. Fast-forward a decade: a few hundred thousand dollars of graduate and postgraduate school debt, grey hairs and worry lines, kids, mortgages and small-town lives. My parents retired. One sister became a lawyer; another, a project manager; I am a doctor.

I’ve come far. Wit, grit, and no small amount of luck helped me live my dream. I now appreciate the risk my dad took opening a small business. As a small-town doctor, I run a small business, working crazy hours, serving patients of all stripes. I have a job I love, through which I create jobs for other people, support my local hospital, donate to community organizations. Most of all, I take care of my parents and my family.

My story is echoed by many Canadian physicians, and many more small business owners.

I remember the day I became a Canadian Citizen. Every so often, I look at my citizenship card, at the proud grin on my face.

Today, I’m ashamed. My prime minister mocked my family’s sacrifice and twisted my success into something … sinister.

It’s wrong.

The math behind Trudeau’s tax plan is controversial and questionable at best. It’s created such uncertainty that decades-old small businesses worry about keeping their doors open. Family farms worry about passing down to the next generation. Mom-and-dad entrepreneurs worry that their kids made a mistake following in their footsteps. Instead of celebrating success, our government is scapegoating it.

The ripple effects of these tax changes will hit every small business — along with every single person who depends on them for jobs and services.

Our government pitted neighbour against neighbour, created class warfare where there was none. I watched this happen to the U.S.; I never thought I would see it start in Canada.

The emotional toll of this government’s political spin cannot be understated. I’m not the only one heartbroken and disillusioned.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Canada until Oct. 2 to respond to his tax plan. Here’s my advice:

Stop the mudslinging.

Slow down.

Commission an analysis of what complete tax reform should do, could do and will do.

Prepare for unintended consequences.

Then step up and do it right.

Prime Minister Trudeau, please respect our life’s work. We are your people.

Dr. Nadia Alam is a family physician-anesthetist in Georgetown, Ont., as well as the president-elect of the Ontario Medical Association.

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