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Letter: Dear Prime Minister Trudeau - we're not all wealthy physicians

'We resent the Prime Minister labelling our profession as wealthy doctors. We find this comment to be derogatory and largely untrue'
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SooToday has received the following open letter from Algoma West Academy of Medicine representatives Dr. Timothy Best and Dr. Luke Fera regarding Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent negative comments about physicians.

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Dear respected citizens of Sault Ste. Marie,

The Algoma West Academy of Medicine (AWAM) is a local physician organization which represents doctors across all specialties in Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding area. 

AWAM would like to bring some of Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent negative comments about physicians to the attention of our community. 

In a recent session of Question Period, the Prime Minister attacked the opposition parties for supporting physician efforts to oppose proposed tax changes which will affect how physicians deliver services, ultimately impacting patient care. The Prime Minister stated the following:

“The member opposite and indeed the entire opposition has been going around the country telling every doctor they meet that they stand with them, that they will defend their rights to pay lower taxes than the nurses who work alongside those doctors. We don’t think that’s fair, but if the members opposite do want to stand with wealthy doctors, will they commit right now, to restore the system of tax breaks for wealthy individuals after we make the changes that Canadians expect us to do?”

The Algoma West Academy of Medicine unequivocally denounces this statement by Prime Minister Trudeau. We find that his words are exceptionally disrespectful to the physicians of Sault Ste. Marie, who continually go above and beyond to serve the health and wellness needs of our community. 

AWAM would like to know why the Prime Minister refuses to support physicians in delivering high quality patient care in our community, unlike the opposition parties. 

AWAM finds it dishonourable that the Prime Minister is pitting physicians against nurses, based purely on his party’s political philosophy to change tax laws. We interpret these comments as an attempt to dilute the critical collaborative relationship that local physicians and nurses share in caring for patients together in our region. It is not true that nurses pay more in taxes than physicians do. Physicians pay the same personal income tax as any Canadian would in the same tax bracket. Incorporated physicians pay a corporate tax on any funds remaining within their corporation, in addition to whatever personal income tax they pay. Your local front line nurses and doctors are more interested in working together to provide high quality medical care for the residents of Sault Ste. Marie, than we are comparing our amounts owing to the Canada Revenue Agency. 

We resent the Prime Minister labelling our profession as “wealthy doctors.” We find this comment to be derogatory and largely untrue. Sault Ste. Marie has some of the most skilled and most compassionate physicians anywhere. Your local doctors work extremely hard for this community. Most doctors would laugh if someone referred to them as being wealthy. It is not uncommon for doctors to have over $250 000 in student debt. Whatever financial wealth doctors accumulate over a long career comes because doctors have made a career choice to put our patients before ourselves. We do not view this as a negative, but truly as a privilege and an honour. Unlike most doctors, Prime Minister Trudeau is actually very wealthy. Can the Prime Minister honestly state that he accumulated his personal wealth spending a lifetime putting others before himself?  We did not note in the press reports of his holiday vacation that any “wealthy doctors” accompanied his family on their holiday with one of the world’s wealthiest billionaires.

The federal Liberal government is proposing changes to tax laws which will negatively affect small businesses.  Unlike salaried employees, small business owners, including physicians, do not get benefits, a pension, paid vacation, sick time or paid breaks at work. In order to compensate for these conditions, many physicians work as incorporated contractors. This is similar to how farmers and other small businesses operate. Small businesses are the cornerstone of the Canadian economy. All small businesses, including physicians, will be negatively affected by the proposed tax changes.

AWAM would like to warn the residents of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma that if the proposed tax laws are passed, there is a very real risk that doctors will decide to move to other jurisdictions to practice medicine. It will make recruitment of future physicians more difficult.  If these proposed tax laws are passed, Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma may face further physician shortages, which will lead to longer wait times, delays in care and increases in morbidity and mortality in Sault Ste. Marie and area. 

AWAM is perplexed as to why the Prime Minister would choose to attack physicians in his comments and make changes to laws that could precipitate a national physician shortage. 

The Algoma West Academy of Medicine demands an apology from Prime Minister Trudeau for his regrettable comments towards physicians. Sault Ste. Marie’s physicians do not condone this type of ignorance from our Prime Minister. 

We would also humbly ask the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie to consider the risk that the community could lose physicians if the federal government pushes through the proposed tax changes. AWAM encourages you to phone the MP and MPP in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma if you share our concerns about the true threat of further physician shortages in our community. 

Respectfully, 

Dr. Timothy J. Best and Dr. Luke A. Fera, on behalf of the Algoma West Academy of Medicine

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