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Pfizer pushes Liberals to include corporate tax breaks in next federal budget

Pfizer Canada wants the Liberal government to introduce new tax breaks and to cut or freeze corporate tax rates in the next federal budget, in a push for more incentives to attract pharmaceutical investment in the country.

The domestic arm of the pharmaceutical giant behind the first coronavirus vaccine approved by Health Canada outlined its recommendations in a pre-budget submission to the Commons finance committee.

The submission notes that the government should provide "certainty and predictability" about federal tax rules, policies and regulations in order to retain and grow pharmaceutical manufacturing along with research and development in Canada.

"A vibrant and strong Canadian pharmaceutical sector can play a significant role in restarting the economy and improving Canada’s self-sufficiency in healthcare, as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic," the company says.

"Yet for this to happen, Canada must create a fertile and hospitable environment to retain and attract economic activity and generate more self-sufficiency."

Pfizer says Canada should either repeal or postpone the planned phasing out of the Accelerated Investment Incentive that offers tax relief for new property assets, while also expanding eligibility for certain tax credits so they are refundable to multinational corporations like Pfizer, and not just Canadian-controlled private companies.

The company also notes that other countries are implementing tax breaks to promote investment in the post-pandemic economy, and urges Canada to follow suit if it wants to grow its domestic pharmaceutical industry.

"Improvements to tax incentives cannot, alone, succeed in retaining and attracting economic activity in the healthcare sector but they are important building blocks," the submission concludes.

"The overall business environment must be attractive, including clear and predictable tax outcomes."

The pre-budget document was submitted by Pfizer Canada in August and posted online by the finance committee in November. It is one of nearly 800 other submissions that the committee will examine as it produces recommendations for the 2021 budget.

The document was submitted while the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech was still in clinical trials and was being reviewed by Health Canada, which gave its approval in December.

Pfizer Canada told Global News in a statement Wednesday that the company has never engaged with anyone in the federal government on tax policies before the August submission.

"The submission has also never been discussed in the context of our discussions with the federal government about our COVID-19 vaccine," a spokesperson said.

Katherine Cuplinskas, spokesperson for the office of Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minsiter Chrystia Freeland, said Wednesday that the finance committee is independent from the government and is awaiting its recommendations.

“We are committed to ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of tax so we continue to have the resources needed to invest in people and to help our economy weather the COVID-19 pandemic," she said in an email.

The Liberals have been criticized by Opposition members for not having sufficient domestic pharmaceutical production facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines at home, instead relying on shipments from overseas. Pfizer's vaccine, for example, is shipped to Canada from its manufacturing plant in Belgium.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have said those facilities would not have been ready by the end of 2020, when vaccines began to be approved and distributed, even if construction and development had started last spring when the pandemic first took hold.The government said last week that Canada's supply of Pfizer's vaccine will be temporarily delayed as the company scales up manufacturing capacity at the Belgium plant -- effectively cutting the country's supply for the month of January in half. 

Officials said Tuesday that Canada will not receive any Pfizer vaccine doses during the week of Jan. 25 due to the delivery delays, which have also hit other countries around the world.

Trudeau has said the delays will not affect his government's stated goal to have enough vaccine does shipped to the country by the end of September to inoculate every Canadian.

Source: Global TV

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