In recent years, progressives and social democrats have begun to embrace a much bolder tax fairness agenda than was the case even five years ago. This is especially true in the United States where Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both made the case for a significant tax on large holdings of wealth, the closure of personal tax loopholes for investment income such as stock options, and serious corporate tax reform. In the 2019 federal election, the NDP similarly called for a wealth tax, higher taxation of capital gains in the personal income tax system, and a higher corporate tax rate.
The Conservative platform put forward by Andrew Scheer delivers tax cuts for the relatively affluent, to be paid for by largely unspecified cuts to spending on social programs and public services. That is a poor deal for ordinary working families who get much more each year in program benefits like public health care and post-secondary education and child benefits and public pensions than they pay for in personal income taxes.
The competing personal income tax cuts proposed by the Liberal and Conservative parties in this federal election are almost identical in terms of goals and re-distributive impact, and neither advance a truly progressive agenda.
Of late, many mainstream Canadian media pundits have sided with centrist Democrats in the United States to argue that a left-wing Democratic nominee would lead to the re-election of President Donald Trump. For example, Konrad Yakabuski wrote in the Globe and Mail on August 2 that “their (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) hate-on for private enterprise has cut them off from the mainstream United States. Instead, they seem to have embarked on a kind of space odyssey 2020.”
It is widely argued that the rise of extreme income and wealth inequality, combined with the stagnation of wages of the middle-class and working class, have helped fuel the rise of right-wing populism and racism around the world. Many in the political centre, and not just the left, have called for robust policy measures to help create more equal societies and to counter the perception – and reality – that the economic system is rigged against ordinary working people.
This blogpost appeared in the Globe and Mail on February 18th.
By now, everybody is surely aware that the core commitments of the Liberal federal government are to “build a strong middle-class” and “help those working hard to join it.” But economic progress and social progress over the past three years seems to have been very limited, and it is far from clear that the government is pursuing the best overall strategy to promote higher living standards and greater income equality.
This blogpost originally appeared in the Globe and Mail.
Partly fuelled by reports from conservative think-tanks such as the Fraser Institute, many Canadians believe that they are taxed far too heavily and that the tax “burden” has been rising over time. Recently published Statistics Canada data show, in fact, that most individual Canadians pay very low effective rates of personal income tax, and that the tax “burden” has been falling.
Adam Tooze. Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. Viking. New York. 2018
The global economic crisis is now more than a decade old, and is far from definitively behind us. Indeed, many fear, with good reason, that the recent, uneven and lethargic global recovery may soon come to an end, and that the next crisis of global capitalism could be even worse than that of 2008.
The Trudeau government has said that the new USMC agreement continues to give us an effective means of resolving bilateral disputes with the United States, allowing us to appeal to a special tribunal if that country (or Mexico) has, in our view, violated the agreement.