New year rings in changes to laws, taxes, wages – Politics

New Year’s Day always brings a round of changes to laws, regulations and taxes, and 2018 brings its fair share.

One welcome change for Canadian small businesses is a drop in their tax rate to 10 per cent from 10.5.

That reduction had been promised for some time but was brought forward as the Liberal government struggled to deal with a backlash against other proposed changes, including a plan to make it harder for small business owners to sprinkle income among family members.

Those changes also take effect on Jan. 1, although the first time business owners will have to account for them is when they file their 2018 taxes in 2019.

At the federal level, there will be a slight increase in EI premiums, but the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates it will add only about $6 in new costs for the average worker and $13 per employee for the average employer.

The government’s new inflation-adjusted escalator to the excise tax on beer, wine and spirits also comes into effect this year, although taxes won’t actually rise until April 1.

For those who want to bring elderly parents and grandparents to Canada, 2018 brings the return of the sponsorship program that had been closed down to deal with backlogs.

Not everyone will be able to take advantage, though. Applicants have to file an “Interest to Sponsor” form to be entered in a draw. Only those randomly selected will be invited to begin the application process. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has pledged that process will be fairer and more transparent than in years past.

And, strictly speaking, this is not a New Year’s Day change. The forms only go up on the CIC website at noon ET on Jan. 2.

Provincial changes are bigger

Some of the more significant changes this year take place at the provincial level.

Ontario will see the most significant, particularly for low-income earners and young people.

As of Jan. 1, the province’s minimum hourly wage will increase from $11.60 to $14, higher than the current highest in Canada, $13.60 in Alberta.

People demand a $15 minimum hourly wage in Montreal in October 2016. Alberta workers will see that wage this year, while Ontario workers see an increase to $14 Jan. 1. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Alberta will leapfrog ahead on Oct. 1, however, when its rate goes to $15. Ontario is scheduled to catch Alberta once again at $15 at the start of 2019.

Those changes represent a real increase in living standards for minimum wage earners in two of Canada’s…

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