With all the attention it is getting, one might think climate change is the only issue in the current federal election.
A new Ipsos poll, however, shows it is actually third on the list of ballot box concerns for voters.
Typically, health care was number one. It always is. Affordability and cost of living was second.
The economy—as nebulous an issue as it is possible to find and yet it’s always up there—came in fourth.
All but missing from the conversation is taxes, although it was fifth on the list.
It’s hard to know what people mean by taxes being an important issue. Of course, we all want less taxes, but that’s impractical at best especially since polling indicates we also all want more services.
It really ought to be the top-of-mind, however, because it goes hand in hand with all the others. Health care is paid for by taxes. Paying taxes (particularly for lower and middle income earners) directly affects the affordability of the cost of living. And if government is ever going to do anything meaningful about climate change it is going to take a huge investment.
There is a deeper issue related to taxes that really ought to be at the heart of the question, though: income inequality.
On the hustings, the politicians know this, which is why they’re all always talking about helping the rest of us get ahead. The Conservatives think boutique tax credits are the answer. The NDP wants more government-provided services, such as child care spaces. The Greens would give us a guaranteed annual income and free university. The Liberals want to raise taxes on the rich and lower them for the middle class.
We’ve danced this dance before. It’s not working. New statistics from 2017 show the incomes of Canada’s one per cent grew at a disproportionate rate.
Incomes for all Canadians rose, on average, 2.5 per cent in 2017—barely a cost of living increase with the inflation rate at 2.13 per cent that year. But the top one per cent of earners saw an increase of 8.5 per cent.
The 0.1 per cent fared even better seeing an increase of 17.2 per cent and the richest of the rich, the 0.01 per cent took home a whopping 27.2 per cent more money.
Furthermore, despite the Trudeau government raising taxes (marginally) on the rich in 2016, their taxes actually went down in 2017.
And then there are the huge multinationals, such as Netflix, Amazon and AirBNB, that don’t pay any taxes at all.
The vast majority of people in wealthy Western countries, including Canada, want to see higher taxes for the rich (and corporations) and we are starting to see some support from an unlikely place. The uber-rich themselves.
In 2014, Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based entrepreneur and member of the .01 per cent, wrote an open memo addressed to “My Fellow Zillionaires.”
“I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working,” he wrote. “I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks.”
Hanauer makes the case that capitalist societies are quickly reverting to the feudal societies of the past with plutocrats like himself replacing the hereditary nobility who once controlled all the wealth before the poor rose up and burned down their palaces.
Hanauer is not alone, gazillionaires Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and a host of others are on board. In Canada, we’re not nearly as far down the road to feudalism, but income inequality has never been higher and it is accelerating.
There is growing resentment in Canada toward rich people, as there is everywhere.
I personally do not begrudge people being rich. I take responsibility for the choices I’ve made in my life that make me decidedly not so. And, in Canada, our one per cent includes people who make as little as $200,000 a year.
What I object to is people being poor when there is so much wealth to go around.
If we want to solve health care, cost of living, climate change, poverty, crime and the whole host of other issues, we need to get serious about income inequality.