Dr. Jenny Clement: Let’s talk #TaxFairness
Six years ago, Dr. Jenny Clement and her husband, also self-employed, built a small family medical clinic in the west end of Toronto. To meet the growing needs of the community, and specifically seniors in the area, they expanded the office three years later. Today, nine physicians practise out of the clinic, with an approximate patient load of about 9,000 people.
“My husband and I invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in building the clinic, as well as our own time and energy,” Dr. Clement said. “And neither of us has taken a draw from the corporation.”
As incorporated professionals, Dr. Clement says both she and her husband will be hit hard by the recently proposed federal tax changes. “The reason the office exists is to meet the needs of the community around us; it’s one of the reasons I went into family medicine,” she said. “But the tax reforms are going to make it very challenging for us to run the business without it becoming a non-profit organization.”
Despite not having medical benefits, pensions, sick time or paid vacation, Dr. Clement considers herself fortunate and believes she makes a decent living. Running a legitimate corporation has allowed her to plan for her future. “I’m not trying to ask for something that’s not legitimate,” she said. “I take umbrage with the fact that the government is framing this as though there are loopholes that I’m somehow taking advantage of or milking the system.”
Through her corporation, Dr. Clement employs five staff and covers the cost of ancillary services for the clinic such as cleaners, suppliers, and the companies that provide oxygen and liquid nitrogen. Unfortunately, she’s not sure the average person sees the hidden costs of running a medical practice. “They understand that health care comes out of their taxes, but they have no concept that the majority of us are running a business,” she said, “And we have staffing costs and overhead costs that we have to contend with, and no control over what we earn.”
With the proposed tax changes in place, some physicians are making plans to leave the country. “I lived in the United States for a number of years and I had the opportunity to work there,” Dr. Clement said. “But I chose to return to Canada to study and practice medicine specifically because I believe in single-payer medicine.”
But that doesn’t mean others physicians won’t travel south. And when they do, in about five to 10 years is when Dr. Clement says patients will start to understand and feel the impacts of the tax reforms, if passed.
“People care about something when it affects them directly,” she said. “Patients are going to see wait lists get longer, they’re going to see surgical wait times go up again and they’ll see specialists siphon off to the United States.”
Dr. Clement says she’s at a loss of what to do. Attempts to advocate for her rights as an incorporated professional as well as for more family doctors in her community have proved unsuccessful. “These changes are punishing not just docs, but anyone who owns a small corporation. These reforms, if passed, will make it impossible for anyone to start up a small business in Canada.”
“This is me trying to plan around the government that hasn’t planned for me,” she said. “And I don’t want to spend my time talking to my patients about how the health-care system is failing them; I’d rather just practise medicine.”