To the editor:
A new Fraser Institute report claims that since 1961, the tax bill for Canadians has shot up 147 per cent. The Institute’s analysts are now flogging the report across the nation – probably in eager anticipation of Harper’s promised tax cuts in the coming election year.
Both “visible and hidden” taxes — including income taxes, payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, profit taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and others – chew up 41.8 per cent of a family’s income, according to the right-wing think tank.
Sure, the analysts admit, taxes help fund important government services. But then Tea Party ideology creeps in. When we give more money to government, we’re less free in our spending decisions, they say, and more dependent on big government, they imply.
Progressive economist Iglika Ivanova has wasted no time in unpacking these claims.
First, she notes that 1961 was over half a century ago, “before the time of universal health care that we all benefit from, before the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that hugely reduced poverty for seniors, before the Canada Child Tax Benefit which is helping lower child poverty.”
It stands to reason that we might pay more today than we did back then.
Second, the Fraser Institute has “misleadingly” included all business taxes, import duties and resource royalties in the tax bill of the average family. Many business taxes are paid by foreigners through export taxes, while the majority are paid by Canadian shareholders. Including all these business taxes has grossly overestimated the tax bill of an average Canadian family.
Third, Ivanova has found that taxes did rise as a share of family income in the 1960s, and again between 1975 and 1985. But they’ve been cut significantly since 1999, and today are lower than they were 30 years ago.
In making its claims, numerous are the facts that the Fraser Institute has ignored. A 2012 national survey showed that rather than being worried silly about taxation, the majority of respondents, whether Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Green, would pay even higher taxes if that’s what it would take to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and post-secondary education.
A full 83 per cent of respondents were also in favour of increasing income taxes for the wealthiest Canadians. Wealthy Canadians were just as supportive of this proposal as poorer ones. Canadians from coast to coast obviously want a strong social safety net and fair taxation to pay for it.
Another fact the Fraser Institute ignored involves corporate taxation. Since 1961, the tax bill for Canadian corporations has dropped from 41 per cent to 15 per cent. A friend recently wrote, as corporate taxation is reduced, the burden of paying for social programs, infrastructure, defence, etc., falls upon the back of the individual taxpayer. Instead of going after corporate welfare, we’re encouraged to attack those citizens who need the services and the workers and agencies that provide them.
We’ve got to get better at spotlighting the real villains, he concluded.
I would add that the combination of reduced personal and corporate taxes in the era of the ideologically relentless Harper government has resulted less in a shift of the tax burden to individuals than in a decimation of public programs and services. The Agriculture Department, for instance, has had 23 per cent cut from its total operating expenditures compared to six years ago. Canada Post had 77 per cent cut.
Working alphabetically, the Canadian Grain Commission had 75 per cent cut. Canadian Museum of Nature, 58 per cent. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, 60 per cent. Canadian Tourist Commission, 30 per cent. Citizenship and Immigration, 56 per cent. Economic Development Agency for Quebec, 20 per cent. Environment, 11 per cent. Fisheries and Oceans, 14 per cent. Industry, 29 per cent. Justice, 17 per cent. Library and Archives of Canada, 43 per cent. National Defence, 12 per cent.
Without reaching the end of the alphabet, we get the picture. This is how the Conservative government is going to meet its election promise to balance the budget and reduce taxes for families.
My own conclusion? We’ve got to get better at retaining facts like these, remembering our social values, and resisting the piecemeal destruction of our country.