Paul Ratchford: Paying tax is not a privilege!
We face a new crisis in British Columbia. Our government has adopted tax after tax after tax, which is perniciously eating away at the economic fabric of our province.
Piggybacking on the serious affordability challenges in the region, those who seemingly have a love of government, which borders on the nonsensical, have overtaken policy discussions and are now are running the government.
The NDP has ploughed full steam ahead with a heavy tax agenda while paying lip service, at best, to economic-efficiency arguments emanating from local universities, which suggest property taxes should bear a greater portion of the tax burden versus income taxes.
We know that high tax rates discourage work, saving, investment, and innovation, and the NDP’s tax policies appear likely to steadily impoverish British Columbians as they increasingly draw money from the hands of individuals into a giant unaccountable soup of “general revenues”.
Politics aside, it is not difficult to see that governments that are not held accountable by tax-paying residents quickly turn hard-earned dollars into massive Dumpster fires. Look no further than the fast ferries fiasco under the previous NDP administration, the ICBC losses under the Liberals, and the wave of firings and severances that seemingly accompany every administration shift as each party fills key positions with their own party minions.
Polling support for additional and new taxes speaks more to the desperate hope of British Columbians that something must be done with the affordability crisis (or permanent condition, as former premier Mike Harcourt calls it) than it does to a zealous love or fundamental trust of government to spend our tax dollars wisely.
However, NDP MP Bowinn Ma, Attorney General David Eby, and countless others in power seemingly share a fanatical love of government, which common sense and history suggest borders on the harebrained. To claim that their shotgun approach to raising taxes will have a material impact on affordability in our region is an enormous stretch at best. The following is a list of additional revenue from new (and in some cases increases in existing) taxes.
Tax increases under current NDP administration over three years:
- $2.5-billion payroll tax.
- $1.3-billion carbon tax increase—the NDP phased out the requirement for carbon tax to be offset with other tax cuts.
- $480-million speculation tax
- $115-million expanded foreign buyer tax
- $243-million increase in property transfer tax
- $450-million school tax
- $285-million increased tobacco tax
- $200-million new cannabis tax
- $86-million in other tax measures, including levies on luxury cars
Tax reductions under current NDP administration:
- Sales and carbon tax relief for the liquefied natural gas industry
Staring in the face of failed housing initiatives (apartment prices up 25 percent in the past one year across the Lower Mainland), our fervent tax lovers like Bowinn Ma and David Eby are doubling down, fuelling fires of class division with a targeted “school tax” (which actually goes to general revenues not schools) while failing miserably in their promises.
Unable to deliver on their affordability promises, the B.C. NDP seems to have deliberately chosen to stoke populist fires in a manner that bears eerie parallels to the populism we see in plain sight with our southern neighbors.
What better way to gain votes than to implement a socially divisive “school tax” aimed directly at the wealthiest in our province? After all, who wouldn’t support taxing rich, selfish, privileged, and undoubtedly snobbish Arbutus Club members just a bit more?
Of course, where this taxation ends nobody knows. As jobs, savings, investment, and innovation dry up due to higher taxes, how will the government respond in the face of declining revenues? Raise taxes more, invent new taxes, target the rich even more? It is a brazen and disgustingly political attempt to divert attention from their failures and gain public support for even more taxes.
British Columbians should be cautious in assuming their government can be either efficient or effective in achieving its goals. There is no doubt in my mind that people support taxation when and where their tax dollars are put to good use and generate value for our communities.
However, there is no accountability for where new taxes are going, and recent tax policy appears to have gone far beyond an optimal point with respect to levels of taxation for British Columbians.
The consequences of this excessive taxation and the inevitable inefficiencies and wasteful spending that come along with it are only beginning to be felt, and will ripple through our economy for years to come. With no modelling done to determine the full economic impact of recent taxes, the NDP are placing the jobs of thousands of British Columbians in peril.
Unfortunately, the government has turned a deaf ear to voices of reason against their aggressive taxation policies. In the coming months, we need to work with our coworkers, neighbours, family, friends, and community members to insist on accountability for how our money is spent, and to let the NDP know paying taxes is not a “privilege”!
We face a simple choice as British Columbians. Do we continue down the destructive path of higher taxes, bigger and wasteful government, divisive populist rhetoric, and a weak economy? Or do we realize that we all benefit from a strong economy, we all benefit from reasonable rates of taxation, we all benefit from accountability in government, and we all benefit from working together to solve the difficult problems of our time?
There is no good that comes from the divisiveness of pitting neighbour against neighbour, landlord against tenant, employer against employee, community against community, and rich against poor.
On this I hope we can all agree. A government accountable to its citizens is good for all British Columbians; a government that seeks to bring people together rather than divide us is good for all British Columbians; a government that takes care of those less fortunate in society is good for all British Columbians; a government that is fiscally responsible and understands how to build a strong economy is good for all British Columbians; and a government that understands taxes are NOT a “privilege” is good for all British Columbians.
Paul Ratchford is a lifelong resident of Vancouver, where he lives with his wife, three-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son. He is not directly impacted by any of the new taxes.
This article originally appeared in The Georgia Straight on June 16, 2018 and has been published here with the author's permission.