Many of the MPs and cabinet ministers that representatives of the National Allied Golf Associations met with during their Golf Awareness Day on Tuesday in Ottawa are headed towards a federal election next year, thus wanting to create a positive image to their constituents.
The main issue for now in the NAGA mission is correcting a tax situation in which golf doesn’t qualify for a 50 per cent deduction on business expenses occurred when entertaining clients, as is the case with other similar businesses.
As a result, says Jeff Calderwood, the CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada and a spokesman for NAGA, business people prefer to take clients to sporting events, restaurants, concerts and other venues over golf.
“This outdated legislation is simply unfair and does not allow our golf industry to compete on a level playing field, a unfairness that we can no longer sustain and no other industry would ever be expected to tolerate,” said Calderwood.
NAGA is hoping to get this changed before the spring budget comes down next year when the government is expected to announce a balanced budget. In fact, most expect a surplus, so the timing seems right for such a correction should it come.
If it doesn’t happen by then, it’s conceivable that golf will have to start all over again should the federal election produce significant change on Parliament Hill, although Calderwood says representatives of all parties have been open to the argument put forward by the industry.
Many of the people that NAGA was meeting with on Tuesday are the same people who will be on their best behaviour with an election looming next spring when golf would like to see this included in the federal budget.
Corporate tax breaks are the farthest thing from voter’s minds, perhaps even met with disdain by many who may perceive such a move as just another goodie for big business.
NAGA unveiled its latest economic impact study which you can read about here before heading off to meet with the politicians.
It contained numbers on jobs provided by the golf industry, charitable donations raised through golf and other figures on the game’s contribution to society and the economy.
That will help, but Calderwood knows he also needs to emphasize that golf isn’t about a corporation, even if it is trying to lure corporate golf, but about small businesses.
“Although we’re stating some big numbers collectively, it comes from entirely a small business community,” he said.
“They’re averaging one-and-a-half million gross revenue. If you look at suppliers, other component such as that of this economic impact study, again it’s a small business-driven economy, but there’s so much, so many, that it adds up collectively to substantial numbers that has a big impact on the Canadian economy,” he said.
“The unfairness, I think, is a little more sensitive when you’re talking small business,” said Calderwood, adding that the small business aspect has caught the attention of the NDP.
Calderwood says the average green fee in Canada is $42, which is more affordable than tickets to a NHL game or theatre tickets, but people outside the industry still have the image of golf being a game for the elites.
It’s an image that needs to be changed, but it won’t be easy as they appeal to elected officials trying to spruce up their own images before next year.
“What has made it difficult for the Department of Finance to quickly act on this is the political sensitivity,” said Calderwood.
“I do think they believe totally in the right and the wrong on the fairness issue and I do think part of our messaging is to communicate that perhaps golf, once upon a time, came from an elitist environment, but it has really evolved in the last several decades to the point where it is arguably the most diverse sport out there,” he said.
“It’s our job to communicate that and we find that the MPs are welcoming that, but do not understand it. They tend to default to the starting position of it’s either just a game, not a business, and that it’s a little more elitist than is the truth,” he added.
“We get receive well when we clarify it, but it’s part of our task, for sure, to make those statements,” said Calderwood.
Success depends on the industry, like the politicians, sprucing up its image.