Taxes, equality and what we’re prepared to do

An Environics survey commissioned by the Broadbent institute finds concern about inequality and interest in increasing taxes.

We asked: “Would you personally be very, somewhat, not very or not at all willing to pay slightly higher taxes if that’s what it would take to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and access to post-secondary education?” Two-thirds (64%) of Canadians said yes. Almost one-quarter (23%) are “very willing” to pay more  taxes to save social programs; 41% are “somewhat willing” to pay slightly more tax … 

An overwhelming majority of Canadians (83%) are in favour of increasing income taxes on the wealthiest and those at high-income levels are just as supportive of this proposal. Canada used to have an inheritance tax but it was scrapped in the 1980s. Our research shows that most Canadians (69%) support the introduction of a new 35% inheritance tax on any estate valued above $5 million. Finally, the majority of Canadians want corporate Canada to play its part too. Almost three-quarters (73%) of Canadians support gradually increasing corporate tax rates back to 2008 levels—even a majority of Conservative voters support this measure.

You can quibble with what these numbers really indicate, but the findings roughly match what Innovative Research found on a couple of questions last month.

The federal government must take action to close the gap between rich and poor in Canada.
Strongly agree 40%
Somewhat agree 29%
Neither agree nor disagree 13%
Somewhat disagree 8%
Strongly disagree 8%

We need to raise taxes on the rich and big business to ensure they pay their fair share.
Strongly agree 42%
Somewhat agree 24%
Neither agree nor disagree 12%
Somewhat agree 9%
Strongly disagree 11%

At the same time, Innovative Research also asked a series of philosophical questions about economics and the role of government.

Is the main role of government to create equal opportunity so that everyone can compete on their own to be the best they can be; OR to redistribute wealth so that the poor and disadvantaged have more than they would if left on their own?
Create opportunity 62%
Redistribute wealth 28%
Don’t know 10%

Generally, do you think people who don’t get ahead in life should blame themselves or the system?
Themselves 50%
The system 19%
Don’t know 32% 




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Taxes, equality and what we’re prepared to do

  1. “We need to raise taxes on the rich and big business to ensure they pay their fair share.”I love this question.  Did they define ‘fair share’ for the respondents?  I’m glad this is a fair, objective survey not intended to be self-serving at all.

    • “Fair share” means whatever the NDP says it is.  And you can trust the NDP to do the right thing.  I mean, just look at what a complete saint Jack Layton was.

    • Why would they? What you think is fair and what I think is fair might be entirely different. Who made you (or them) the arbiter of what “fair” is?

      Personally, my issue is more with the philosophical question, given how they weighted it, I’m surprised it’s not even more lopsided.  A much more fair question, in my opinion would be “Is the main role of government to create equal opportunity so that everyone can compete on their own to be the best they can be; OR to create equal supports so that each individual can survive regardless of their personal circumstances?”

      • “create equal supports so that each individual can survive regardless of their personal circumstances?”

        What exactly are “equal supports”? If we shift to a welfare system of a single goose at Christmas for all, that’s still equal. Also, since current supports provide more than enough for people to starve, the question poses a rather low threshold for support for welfare. Very few people support letting poor people die en masse. 

        • What exactly are “equal opportunities”? If we assign everyone a job from birth, that’s still equal.

          That you question the latter and not the former says more about you than the question.

        • Well,  imagine a child with some disabilities.  Blind, deaf, autistic – one of those, for example.  Do we, as a society put money when he,s young into developing his. capabilities or do we wait until his parents can no  longer support him nd put hm on  welfare? I am a cost/benefot analysis fanatic (blame my engineer father for this) but this mindless low taxes/slash social programs the the REEEform party brought us is just mindless.

    • Are there some stone tablets  somewhere which detail what is the appropriate level of taxes that are  appropriate  for the various classes? It’s so distasteful to be talking about them  repeatedly.  I’d rather be drinking a gin martini.

  2. They use the words “protect” and “save” as if failing to raise taxes would mean that social programs would simply disappear.  Then they use the words “slightly higher taxes”, as if that is all that is required to save them from complete destruction.  What a laugh.

    The survey is not the slightest bit objective and is misleading, in order to get the answers they want.

    • I also thought they summed up part of the survey quite well in NP Full Comment today:  most people are fine with raising taxes, as long as it’s someone else’s taxes being raised (i.e., those big fat rich pigs and those big evil corporations).  But when it comes to having our own taxes raised, umm, no thanks.

      •  ”An overwhelming majority of Canadians (83%) are in favour of
        increasing income taxes on the wealthiest and those at high-income
        levels are just as supportive of this proposal.”

        • Unfortunately, the document to which Wherry links doesn’t provide any of the detailed polling data or questions, it’s merely a summary document.  So there’s no way to look behind that conclusory statement from the scrupulously objective and non-partisan Broadbent Institute.

  3. Not to worry. L’il Jimmie Flaherty is at the President Bush Center today where it
    seems they are discussing the finer points of the Laffer (Laugher ?) Curve.
    Oh, and taxes are Baaad ! We’re in good hands.

  4. The headline says “Canadians willing to pay more taxes for equality” but based on the poll questions and replies it should read “Canadians willing to have someone else other than themselves pay more taxes for equality”

    That is a big difference.

  5. Why don’t they ask a more specific question?

    “Would you be willing to have the GST raised to 10% to pay for social programs?”

    I would bet that a resounding majority would be strongly against it.

    But then, that would be too straightforward and wouldn’t have given them the desired responses.

    • Except of course that they’re looking to ascertain a general position.

      For example I may think the best way to raise taxes is the GST.
      You may believe the best way is adding another income tax bracket.

      In this hypothetical both of us agree that taxes need to go up, but disagree on how that should be achieved.

      Your suggested question therefore might end up with only one of us answering yes to the question, despite the fact that both of us agree in principle on the need for more revenue, which is the underlying point their trying to discern.

      • Thanks Ed.

        • Seeing commies everywhere are you?

          There’s medication for that. LOL

  6. McGuinty and Horvath are perfectly to test out the theory that people want higher taxes.

    To test out the idea for Rae and Mulcair. C’mon, Dalton and Andrea.  Go for it. 

    In fact, Harper’s GST tax cut, and income tax cuts, and corporate tax cuts, have left all sorts of room for Ontario to test out nutty left wing taxation ideas, to see if they work.

    C’mon, go for it.

  7. I am reminded of the last election, where Harper claimed that anything but a 16% corporate tax rate would kill every business in the country and Iggy felt varying from the 18% rate was a sop to jet fighters and corporate robber barons (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly).  Of course, neither was true – we would be pretty much in the same boat with either one, with more money in the public coffers at 18%, maybe one or two struggling businesses on the very very edge of solvency getting a miniscule reprieve at 16%.   W e are capable, as a country, of handling tiny changes either way as long as they’re part of an overall well thought out scheme – and overall well thought out policy is not what Harper has shown us.

  8. One problem with raising taxes is that many voters discount campaign promises, because they believe politicians like raising taxes. When politicians propose modest tax increases aimed at the rich, voters assume that politicians actually favour larger tax increases, that will hit the middle class. When politicians say they won’t cut taxes, voters assume they will, and so on. 

    Another problem is one of implementation. Stephen Gordon’s article in the Globe today is also interesting. He suggests that taxing the rich may be counterproductive because rich people have market power. As a result, they can simply negotiate higher salaries, effectively passing on the tax to consumers and less well-paid workers. 

    • Except Gordon’s line of thinking applies to any taxes whatsoever.  It’s like arguing that since we can’t perfectly enforce laws against murder, we shouldn’t have any. It’s rubbish.

      • Well Gordon’s obviously a little bit right, but then so are you. They can offset to some degree and will, but only within a certain market boundary based on competition and negotiation and the nature of their income in the first place. Clearly there is still gain in that regard, we just have to be reasonable in our expectations.

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