'I would consider raising the GST but only if needed' - Macleans.ca

‘I would consider raising the GST but only if needed’


Amid all else on Friday afternoon, Martha Hall Findlay released a statement to explain her views on the GST.

The Liberal Party I lead will…

…NOT be afraid of discussing policy in public. The current hoopla over whether I would, or would not, raise the GST highlights exactly what ails politics in this country: fear of speaking out.

140 character tweets, sound bites taken out of context, and fear of attack ads all, shamefully, now seem to rule our public discourse. Here is what I really think about the GST. 

– Yes, I have said that I would consider raising the GST but only if needed. I supported the GST when it was brought in, and was among the most vocal in calling Harper’s politically-motivated reductions from 7% to 5% bad economics. It would be hypocritical of me now to say otherwise.

– I do not advocate any tax increases right now – not GST, not corporate taxes, not personal income taxes – not while we’re still struggling with the economy and the sluggish exit from the financial crisis. Indeed, this is exactly what Harper has done with his increases in EI premiums, a tax on jobs which I object to.

– I do not advocate a rise in the GST, even when the economy is stronger, to the exclusion of other things. For example, I would prefer a price on carbon, which would do double duty by also improving our environment.

– I would consider raising the GST if, using just one example, increased costs of aging demographics, health care and the all-important education for our next generations are not sufficiently off-set by spending cuts elsewhere.

Needless to say, that level of discussion never gets into tweets or sound bites or headlines.  Only the ‘sexy’ attack parts do. And that is wrong – because Canada must engage in this debate.


Are we so afraid of Harper and his attack ads that we can’t even debate significant economic issues in public? Have we no confidence left whatsoever? No wonder Canadians have lost respect for Liberals – and for politicians generally.  I refuse to let us conduct ourselves out of fear. We MUST be able to have these discussions. 

We keep talking about needing more engagement – how do we do that, when we ourselves refuse to engage in any real debate?  


We have taxation and we have spending. Determining the right mix is a critical part of Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Canadians should expect politicians to have the courage to engage in this kind of debate and discussion – and not to be afraid of doing so.

– No sensible Canadian objects to at least some level of taxation- it’s how we pay for roads, sewers, health care, old age security, passport services, immigration issues—all manner of government services that significantly improve our society. We understand that some taxation is needed in today’s world.

– What form it takes, and how much, paid by whom, and how it should be used, should always be part of our public policy debate. We can always do better.

– Despite initial concerns, Liberals quickly recognized that a value-added tax was a sensible form of taxation. We have supported it ever since.  

– Liberals were therefore, and appropriately, among the most vocal in condemning Harper for his ‘cheap politics’ of reducing the GST from 7 to 6 and then to 5%.  Because cheap politics is exactly what it was.  It certainly was bad economics.

– Many believe that Canada now has a structural deficit, thanks in large measure to those GST cuts.  If Harper had correspondingly cut spending, then that’s a different story – but he didn’t. His first two years in government, while cutting the GST, he spent the two largest-spending budgets in Canadian history. This BEFORE the financial crisis hit.

This is close to the position Michael Ignatieff seemed to try to articulate before abandoning it entirely: possibly raising the GST if necessary at some point in the future.

The question for the Liberal party remains not so much the likelihood of Conservative attacks, but whether the party is capable of responding: with a leader who can handle the attacks and a party that is agile enough and financially prepared to respond with its own ads.


‘I would consider raising the GST but only if needed’

  1. “… highlights exactly what ails politics in this country: fear of speaking out.”

    This is a shot at Trudeau as well, I believe. I think it was Trudeau or his spokespeople who were saying last week that his campaign would not focus on policy, only vacuous ideas on what it means to be a Liberal.

  2. I liked her better when she just said she’d raise it.

    • I’d like her better if she were to say what the money is needed for and/or what it would be used for. Just saying that she wants more money (who doesn’t) is a little bit too leftist for my taste. Basically she is saying if she wants to spend more on health care and education then she will. Which is another way of saying she will raise the GST. She won’t say exactly what level of health care and education spending she considers acceptable.

      • Has Harper?

        I know, I know, she running for the leadership of the third place party–Harper’s just been PM for 7 years.

        • That makes no sense. Harper lowered the GST, not raised it.

          But go ahead with a stupid anti-Harper comment, I’m sure it was fun.

          • “She won’t say exactly what level of health care and education spending she considers acceptable.”

            Harper hasn’t either.

            You’re putting words in her mouth.

          • You’re more than a little confused. I’m not putting words in her mouth, I’m talking about the lack of words of substance coming out of her mouth.

          • She said she won’t raise taxes, and you went on at length about how much and for what purpose she would raise taxes.

          • Because she did not say she won’t raise taxes. She previously said she would and she is still saying that.

    • Why? She made a fairly clear case for not excluding it from the universe of policy measures she might undertake, while saying she prefers carbon pricing.

  3. “Despite initial concerns, Liberals quickly recognized that a value-added tax was a sensible form of taxation. We have supported it ever since.”
    “Quickly”? Talk about air-brushing the truth. They ran an entire national election campaign (and quite a successful one) based on an explicit promise to get rid of the GST. They based an entire election campaign on a whopping lie. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

    • How is the 5 point plan coming along? 3.5/5?

      • Projection. How impressive. My old personality-disordered girlfriend used to do that a lot too.

  4. “I would raise the GST but only if needed”

    Ok, it’s time for an enterprising journalist to ask: “If not now, then what exactly would make it ‘needed’?”

    Sadly, I am highly doubtful there exists such an enterprising reporter outside of Sun News.

    Her answer above says she will spend it on health care and education if costs increase, which is a tautology. She herself determines the cost, the government decides what funding levels go to education and health care. So she is saying she will spend more if she spends more, and if she spends more she will raise the GST.

    • There are known costs for health care and education…you don’t just suddenly wake up one morning and pick say….5% or 10M or whatever ….out of a hat.

      And the GST is needed now….lowering it is what produced our structural deficit.

  5. It is hard to look brave while peddling backwards Martha…i have to agree with OB, i like this side of her less than when she was being brave.

    • This is not backpedaling.

      • Sure looks like it to me. What do they say, when you’re explaining you’re losing. Not always true of course, but in this case it rings true…sadly.

  6. I’m sure Finlay types will increase the % for GST even though it’s an enormous burden on people, especially those of low income.
    But it’s a silly thing to do because it raises only a few billion dollars and Liberals years ago started us out on writing cheques to Africa, Haiti and at-home Aboriginal Bands. Almost all of the GST must go to those questionable things and the related civil service salaries. It’s Voodoo fiscal policy. Isn’t it?