After the National Allied Golf Associations met with 15 individual MPs and engaged in over 20 meetings during Tuesday’s Golf Awareness Day in Ottawa, NAGA spokesman Jeff Calderwood figures the chances of accomplishing the most immediate goal are 50-50.
NAGA wants to correct a tax situation in which golf doesn’t qualify for a 50 per cent deduction on business expenses occurred while entertaining clients, a break that other similar industries enjoy.
The goal is to have that situation rectified by the time next spring’s federal budget is introduced and if the odds of that happening don’t sound overly optimistic, Calderwood, the CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, says it depends on your perspective.
“When we started this, just to be sure we get an optimistic view of 50-50, our chances were somewhere between zero and one, probably closer to zero. It had no chance when we started,” said Calderwood.
“We’ve come a long, long way. We’ve just got to keep our foot on the gas and make sure we’re making the coming six to eight months as effective as we can,” he added.
Although details have yet to be worked out, the plan is for NAGA to return to Ottawa in the fall in an even bigger effort to get golf’s message across to the politicians.
Between then and now, Calderwood is calling on golf operators, people who work within the industry and other stakeholders across the country to arrange meetings with their individual MPs to discuss the situation.
Between now and the fall, when pre-budget talks are taking place, every day will be a Golf Awareness Day, according to Calderwood.
“I really think the golf industry over the years hasn’t done a good enough job of expressing all the virtues that it has,” said Calderwood.
“I’m proud that we, as an industry, in the last three years or so are stepping up to start doing a good job on that. It’s a big part of what it’s going to take for us to break down that political barrier to get this done,” he said.
“We believe it’s a 50-50 chance. To me, yes it’s realistic. I think the biggest determining factor on whether we get it tipped on the right side of the 50s has a lot to do with what we do inside the industry over the next six to eight months,” he said.
The purpose of having individual operators and other stakeholders approach MPs is not only to cover more ground than NAGA could hope to in its efforts, but also to emphasize the small business nature of golf and all of its benefits such as employment, student employment and charitable funds raised through golf events.
All of that was outlined in the updated economic impact study unveiled by NAGA before heading off to Parliament Hill on Tuesday. You can read more about that here.
As Calderwood points out, the small business aspect of the industry is attractive to MPs, most of which have golf courses in their own ridings.
“Beyond that, they’re interested very much in the employment numbers,” he said.
“When we point to employment contracting a little bit in the last five years, that’s a good way for us to state our case to them that there’s an unfairness in the Income Tax Act that isn’t sustainable and now, we’re starting to point at employment numbers or rounds down,” he added.
“They’re quite sensitive to that and some of them are very big on youth employment and that’s a challenge right now in our economy outside of golf,” said Calderwood, pointing to golf’s tradition of hiring students due to its seasonal nature.
Trying to stress that aspect of golf was part of a balancing act that needed to be done by NAGA on Tuesday. On one hand, they were presenting big numbers on golf’s economic impact, but on the other, they were trying to illustrate that it’s a collection of small businesses.
“Most that we met with, it’s the first time that they’re hearing our story directly one-to-one, face-to-face as opposed to a lot of other MPs we have already met with,” said Calderwood.
“They are surprised when they hear for the first time, the scope of the golf industry,” he said.
“We have to be careful as we express that, that we remind them that it’s a collection of small businesses because it’s big enough collectively that they can start thinking, `Hey, you guys are Corporate Canada,’” he added.
“Then, we’re back into having to break down the barriers about it being big business or elitist in any way,” said Calderwood.
When you’re at 50-50, you want to go forward and not slip back even further, especially when MPs are thinking about a federal election next year.
Having individual operators discussing employment, charitable benefits and other positive aspects of golf will help that cause, according to Calderwood. So will some of the media attention that Tuesday’s Golf Awareness Day and the unveiling of the economic impact study received.
“Generally, I would describe it as open-minded. I think the media appreciates and understands the unfairness of it and that it is a small business issue,” said Calderwood.
It remains that way as Tuesday’s visit to Ottawa was the first step this year, meant to get the momentum going over the summer and increase those 50-50 odds in favour of golf as it heads towards decision time in the fall.