Canadians overwhelmingly believe corporations and the wealthy should pay more tax, but they're split over major economic initiatives such as building more oil pipelines, according to the latest results from Vote Compass, CBC's online voter engagement survey.

The economy has been the biggest issue in this election campaign so far, with the parties offering competing visions on how to spur jobs and growth — and on the subject of taxes.

Fiscal matters are bound to remain a major talking point this week as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau take part in the second leaders' debate, in Calgary on Thursday, which is to focus on the economy.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada confirmed the country met the technical criteria for being in a recession (that is, two consecutive quarters of decline), thanks in part to the impact of falling oil prices, though most economists are projecting modest growth in the second half.

All three parties have targeted the "middle class" with their economic plans.

The Conservatives pointed to strong growth in June, the final month of the second quarter, to argue the recession may already be over and that their plan of lowering the deficit while cutting corporate taxes and offering targeted personal tax cuts has worked.

Alta Royalty Redux 20150602

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada confirmed the country met the technical criteria for being in a recession, thanks in part to the impact of falling oil prices. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

The NDP has promised to raise taxes for corporations and cut them for small business, while investing in manufacturing, while the Liberals have proposed raising taxes on the top one per cent of earners to offer tax cuts and higher monthly child benefits for middle-income earners, while investing more quickly in infrastructure.

Vote Compass, which asks respondents to complete a survey around the major issues of the campaign and compares the answers to those of the main political parties, includes questions about taxation and fiscal policy.

In response to questions about how much tax corporations and wealthier Canadians should pay, 71 per cent of Vote Compass respondents said corporations should pay more tax, while 77 per cent said the wealthy should pay more in tax.

The findings are based on 309,985 respondents who participated in Vote Compass from Aug. 29 to Sept. 12, 2015.

This sentiment is shared across a number of demographics, including 51 per cent of those who identified as Conservative supporters, who don't typically condone higher taxation.

"A longstanding theme for the Conservative Party would be reducing taxes on the wealthy or on corporations, but it seems as though most self-identifying Conservatives don't want to take that route," says Brandon Schaufele, professor of business, economics and public policy at the Ivey Business School in London, Ont.

Even so, the overall findings are not totally surprising, says Christopher Cochrane, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

"It's one of the central theories of taxation: everybody wants everybody else to pay more taxes," says Cochrane.

The jobs conundrum

Vote Compass also asked respondents about their views on cutting taxes.

In response to the statement "The most effective way to create jobs in Canada is to lower taxes," 41 per cent said they disagree and 35 per cent agree.

Broken down along party lines, respondents expressing support for the Green Party (49 per cent), Liberals (48 per cent), NDP (40 per cent) and Bloc Québécois (39 per cent) largely disagreed with the statement, while more than half of Conservative supporters (56 per cent) agreed.

Bernard Wolf, a business professor at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, says the longstanding claim by right-leaning governments that lowering taxes automatically creates jobs is "highly oversimplified."

"It is correct that in circumstances where there is insufficient aggregate [consumer] demand, lowering taxes will create jobs," Wolf says. "Is it the most effective way? That's another question. And the general public is not really in a position to judge."

He suggests that government investment in infrastructure can be more effective in job creation, particularly in this time of historically low interest rates.

To build or not to build... pipelines

For decades, the oil and gas sector has been one of the main drivers of Canada's economy.

And despite a significant drop in oil prices in the last year, many observers believe that building pipelines out of the Alberta oilsands would be a sound investment.

The idea has also met fierce opposition, especially from environmentalists.

Vote Compass asked respondents to consider the statement "No new pipelines should be built in Canada." Thirty-eight per cent of respondents overall agreed, while 43 per cent disagreed.

U of T's Cochrane notes that on other issues in the current campaign, from lowering taxes to taking in more refugees, the positions of the Greens, Bloc Quebecois, Liberals and NDP have become increasingly indistinguishable.

But this centre-left contingent seems to fray on the topic of pipelines.

According to the Vote Compass findings, Bloc and Green supporters agree 66 and 59 per cent, respectively, that no new pipelines should be built, while NDP and Liberals only agree 50 and 36 per cent, respectively. In fact, 41 per cent of Liberals and 29 per cent of NDP disagree with that statement.

Cochrane says this reflects the difficulty the Liberals and NDP are having in formulating a stance on pipelines.

"Usually, left-wing parties are more coherent on economic issues, moral issues, but the environment has proven to be an issue where right-wing parties, conservative parties, are remarkably coherent," says Cochrane. "There's a split on the centre-left on pipelines that doesn't exist on the right."

In this election, that "may mean it's a better issue for the Conservatives, and that they're able to use this as a wedge issue" against the Liberals and NDP.


Developed by a team of social and statistical scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is a civic engagement application offered in Canada exclusively by CBC News. The above findings are based on 309,985 respondents who participated in Vote Compass from Aug. 29 to Sept. 12, 2015.

Unlike opinion polls, respondents to Vote Compass are not randomly selected. Similar to opinion polls, however, the data are a non-random sample from the population and have been weighted in order to approximate a representative sample. Vote Compass data have been weighted by geography, gender, age, educational attainment, occupation, religion, religiosity and civic engagement to ensure the sample's composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to census data and other population estimates.