Dear Editor : Debates about taxes in B.C. can be as much a blood-sport as politics. But a major new opinion poll conducted by Environics Research (commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) offers some surprising insights into what people of different political stripes think about taxes, inequality and public services.
It turns out we aren't nearly as divided on these issues as you might think. On the whole, British Columbians appear ready to approach issues of tax reform - and even tax increases - with more openness than our political leaders give us credit for.
The overwhelming majority of British Columbians (90 per cent) think there should be income tax increases for those at the top. As to where those higher taxes should kick in, a clear majority (57 per cent) says at $100,000 per year of income. A majority (67 per cent) also think major corporations are asked to pay less tax than they should.
Those results aren't terribly surprising given the high level of concern respondents have about inequality. British Columbians want to see a significant redistribution of income - away from the richest 20 per cent, towards the middle and the bottom. Three quarters of us also say we'd have greater confidence in a government that reduces the income gap between the wealthy and others.
What is surprising is the extent to which these responses cut across party lines. For example, it's not just those who would vote NDP or Green in a provincial election who think high-income individuals and corporations should pay more tax. A majority of Liberal and Conservative voters say the same.
Perhaps this widespread appetite for tax fairness reflects the growing consensus, including among many business leaders, that extreme inequality is as much an economic problem as it is a moral one.
Or perhaps it reflects the reality that tax cuts over the last decade have contributed to the growing gap by delivering the lion's share of benefits to the richest 10 per cent and one per cent. Meanwhile, higher consumption taxes, user fees and MSP premiums have hit modest and middle-income earners hardest.
It's time for a thoughtful, democratic conversation about taxes. The idea that we should debate whether taxes are 'good' or 'bad' is old.
The questions we need to answer now are: what are the things we want to pay for together, and how can we raise the money needed in a way that ensures everyone pays a fair share.
Shannon Daub, B.C. director of communication, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Seth Klein, director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Randy Galawan, public engagement specialist