The Canadian Employee Ownership Coalition is urging the federal government to introduce an employee ownership trust in the next federal budget and to remove tax barriers to employee ownership by adopting the U.K.’s approach to a capital gains tax exemption.
The federal government pledged to study the barriers to employee ownership in its 2021 budget and committed last year to introduce an employee ownership trust to give retiring employers more incentive to sell to their employees. However, it’s yet to release any draft proposals or legislation.
“In the U.K. and U.S., they’ve had this policy in place for [a while now] and it’s been positively benefiting workers,” says Tim Masson, chief executive officer of Raise Recruiting and a member of the coalition’s steering committee.
“So I think what this group identified and what we’re seeing in these countries is business owners need to come up with succession plans and it’s not easy. Families don’t necessarily want to take over the business, so they need to figure out what their exit strategy will be.”
Toronto’s Juno College of Technology is one organization that’s planning to move to a 100 per cent employee-ownership model. Heather Payne, its CEO and a member of the coalition’s steering committee, says while it was easy to get a lot of supporters involved from the business community, individual voices can only do so much.
While the coalition is meant to be a short-term project created solely to achieve its goals with the upcoming budget, some members plan to continue offering support and resources to employers once those objectives are met, she notes.
Masson believes Canada is missing out on an opportunity for the generational shift that’s coming with so many Canadians nearing retirement. “[Having] the option to sell the business to your employees feels like an opportunity to sell the business without selling your soul. The other options, at least for my business, are to sell to a multinational competitor or private equity — and both of those paths start with Canadian job cuts.”