Feb 8, 2013

Response to a tax critic: the sky will not fall


On January 29, the Vancouver Sun ran an opinion piece by Iglika Ivanova and myself entitled “The Case for Higher Taxes.”

Last Monday (February 4), the Sun ran an opinion piece in response by Andrew Wilkinson (a former deputy minister currently seeking the BC Liberal nomination in Vancouver-Quilchena) entitled “Wave goodbye to skilled labourers.”

Today, the Sun ran the following letter in response by me:

Andrew Wilkinson’s February 4 op-ed takes issue with our recent report “Progressive Tax Options for BC.” He claims the tax increases we model would harm the economy and result in wealthy people fleeing the province.

I will grant Mr. Wilkinson this: It does bother me that the late great George Harrison likely had different views on taxes that I do (Gerard Depardieu not so much). But let’s make tax policy based on evidence and not anecdote.

Our CCPA report offers up a host of reform ideas, and models 16 scenarios for raising provincial income taxes in an equitable manner. Notably though, even under the “highest tax” scenario we model, BC income taxes would remain the lowest or second lowest in Canada for everyone with an income up $120,000. Indeed, right up to individuals with taxable income of $150,000, all the tax options we model generate income tax increases of 2% or less of income.

If Mr. Wilkinson thinks that is too much to ask he is welcome to his opinion. But to suggest such options would have significant economic consequences or result in skilled labourers leaving the province is far-fetched.

Seth Klein
BC Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Sun also published a great letter from Ian Boyko of the Canadian Federation of Students:

Andrew Wilkinson is woefully misguided in asserting that young skilled workers are opposed to paying more income tax in British Columbia.

Unlike the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ (CCPA) study that he refutes, Wilkinson doesn’t rely on data, but rather on anecdotes from the 1960s, and his own ideology, to measure the opinions of young skilled workers. The fact is young people want to work where there is a good standard of living with public services on which their families can rely.

Graduates seek accessible child care, good public schools and comprehensive public transit.

A decade of tuition fee increases under the B.C. Liberals, record high student debt and policies that emaciate public services are precisely how we keep taxes in B.C. artificially low.

The good news is that there is room to grow the tax base to improve public services. The CCPA’s research shows that the majority of British Columbians, especially young people, are ready for that conversation.

IAN BOYKO, Research and communications officer, Canadian Federation of Students-BC