The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer in British Columbia, and ten years of BC Liberal tax and social policy has deliberately and systematically moved us towards this inequality.
The large income tax cuts brought in by the BC Liberals, that they promised would leave more money in your pocket, actually benefitted upper-income earners the most. In fact, the richest 10% received the biggest tax break.
Most people assume that our tax structure is progressive, that we pay a greater share of our income as our income rate increases. And most of us believe that this is fair.
But the tax system in BC is no longer fair. When you take into account the total provincial tax rate which includes all provincial taxes (income, sales, carbon and property taxes, and MSP premiums), the wealthy now pay a lower total tax rate than the rest of us.
The result of the recent referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) has been characterized as a class struggle as regular people rejected a tax policy that will simply increase the wealth gap. Instead of believing the spin that reduced taxes on corporations will somehow result in more jobs for British Columbians, we saw the HST for what it was; a further attempt to transfer the tax burden on to those who can least afford to pay it.
Ten years of tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations have resulted in significant loss of revenue and massive cuts to services in this province.
Too often I hear from constituents who are being told that there is simply no money in the system. Whether it is funding for the East Kootenay Brain Injury Association, travel assistance for low-income seniors to get to medical appointments or supports for children with special needs, the constant refrain from this government is we just can’t afford it.
But let’s remember how we got in this situation. This was a conscious choice; this government chose to reduce revenue from taxes on corporations and the wealthy and the result is less money available for basic public services.
People tell me that they are committed to a strong social safety net and that they are happy to contribute their fair share in taxes. But they are fed up with a system where the tax burden is not evenly shared.