Opinion Column


Transit tax penalizes the poor

By Laila Yuile, City Hall

More transit needed, but the province should figure out an equitable model.

More transit needed, but the province should figure out an equitable model. (FILE PHOTO)


This week's topic: Is a 0.5% increase in the provincial sales tax a good way to fund transit improvements in Metro Vancouver?

Let’s face it, for most people tax is a four-letter word. Say it and people scowl as if you’ve said something offensive and inappropriate. However painful it is to hear, the truth is that taxes are a necessary evil. For every level of government, from municipal through to federal, taxes are vital revenue streams that help pay for the services and infrastructure we rely on.  

Having said that, I don’t think an increase in the provincial sales tax within Metro Vancouver to fund transit improvements alone is the solution.

It’s been said that a no vote in this referendum will set back transit a decade and there is no other way to fund transit that is as fair as this proposal, yet a tax that penalizes those who can least afford it is anything but equitable.

It’s estimated to cost the average family approximately $125 a year, and the poorest families, $50.

Without a doubt, we need to get moving on transit in Metro Vancouver, but we are also facing some big challenges as a province. Highways and other infrastructure are in disrepair. Hospitals are overcrowded and understaffed. The list goes on, yet we keep hearing there is no money.

Read Brent Stafford's column here

I can’t help but feel it’s terribly short-sighted to approach the funding solution for transit on its own when the province is clearly in need of a solid revenue stream for all of these challenges.

While the premier often boasts about our low tax rates, the cost has been steep. What isn’t mentioned is that the series of cuts to both personal and corporate taxes since 2000 created a devastating hole in provincial revenues that has never been adequately replaced. We’ve been left with a regressive tax system that hurts the people who can least afford it - just like this sales tax increase.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published an extensive list of progressive tax reform solutions in 2013 that should be considered. By raising personal taxes at certain levels, creating new brackets, or reducing corporate deductions, the province could bring in enough revenue to address transit improvements and the challenges we face in health care, education and other services. This is the conversation we should be having instead of this transit piecemeal approach.

It’s time for a fair tax solution to fund the services and infrastructure we desperately need, however that would require strong leadership and progressive vision - something this province is lacking.

Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com. 


Who wins this week's Duel?

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