TORONTO — The head of the Bank of Nova Scotia is urging Ottawa to adopt a series of policy changes to help parents, businesses of all sizes and companies trade between provinces.
Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter said Tuesday that he wants to see a top up to the annual Canada Child Benefit and childcare expense deductions, the introduction of a grant for businesses to make capital investments and the elimination of interprovincial trade barriers.
Speaking at the bank's annual general meeting, which was held virtually for the second time because of the pandemic, he positioned his pitches as an opportunity to learn from the health crisis because "we have seen over the last year, the decisions we make matter."
"We have an opportunity today to pursue policies that ensure that Canada does not just go back to the pre-pandemic growth but achieves even higher and better growth for a sustained period," he said.
Porter's ideas come ahead of the April 19 federal budget and he believes they would help grow the economy, increase the number of working Canadians and make the country stronger and more prosperous.
First, Porter called for the Canada Child Benefit to be topped up by $5,000 per kid.
In July, the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit reached up to $6,765 per child under age six and up to $5,708 for kids aged six to 17.
Families already receiving the Canada Child Benefit also got a one-time $300 boost per child last year.
On top of the benefit increase, Porter is advocating for a significant increase to the childcare expense deductions to allow parents to fully deduct the cost of preschool child care.
Under the current rules, parents and guardians can claim up to $8,000 per child for kids under the age of seven and $5,000 per child for children aged seven to 16.
While childcare costs vary across the country, Porter said increasing the amount to $20,000 per child per year should cover the cost of daycare in every Canadian city.
It will also help keep women in the workforce, said Porter, because women are more likely to put careers on hold or abandon to raise children.
"Providing greater flexibility to families to find childcare arrangements that are best suited for them is good for women, it’s good for families, and it’s good for the country," he said.
Porter also wants a one-time, matching grant for businesses to make capital investments in machinery, equipment, and intellectual property.
The grant would help small businesses digitize, medium-sized businesses retool for efficiency and large businesses become more sustainable, he said.
His final ask was for the elimination of interprovincial trade barriers — a longtime demand for the bank.
"Let’s prioritize free trade between provinces and territories in the same way we prioritize free trade between countries," he said.
According to Porter, the International Monetary Fund estimates that complete liberalization of internal trade in goods can increase Canada’s GDP per capita by about four per cent per year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.
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Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press