Canadians OK with higher taxes to fight inequality

A majority of Canadians are at least somewhat willing to pay higher taxes in an effort to address income inequality, a new poll shows.
A man protests against corporate greed in Toronto in October, 2011, as part of the Occupy Bay Street demonstration. A new poll shows a majority of Canadians are at least somewhat willing to pay more taxes to protect social programs. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Canadians are willing to pay more taxes to help close the growing income gap and want corporations to pay higher tax rates too, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The survey of 2,000 Canadians, commissioned by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute, found that 23 per cent are "very willing" and 41 per cent are "somewhat willing" to pay slightly more tax in order to protect social programs such as health care, post-secondary education and pensions.

The Broadbent Institute, named after the NDP's former leader Ed Broadbent, argues that protecting social programs would help reduce income inequality.

Liberal and NDP voters are the most supportive of this proposal, the results showed, but 58 per cent of Conservative voters are also in favour of it.

"This attitude toward paying slightly higher taxes is reflected equally in high income and middle income Canadian households. It's only their governments who are offside," says the report, the first from the newly established think tank.

The phone survey was conducted between March 6 and March 18. The results are considered accurate to within 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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A majority of Canadians – even wealthy ones – are behind the idea of raising income taxes on people who earn more than $250,000 and more than $500,000. The poll found 83 per cent are in favour of that idea.

And 73 per cent agree with raising corporate taxes back up to 2008 levels. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has steadily lowered the rates since taking office in 2006, arguing the tax breaks help corporations create more jobs. The NDP and Liberals are opposed to the lower rates, saying they haven’t helped create new jobs and that corporations are just sitting on higher profits.

Canadians 'disturbed' by inequality

The poll results go against Conservative mythology, said Broadbent, speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC-TV's Power & Politics.

"It shows that Canadians are way ahead of their politicians… 64 per cent of Canadians say they themselves are prepared to pay more taxes. Not just the rich, not just corporations," Broadbent said.

"Canadians are … really disturbed by the degree of inequality and they are prepared now to do something about it."

Broadbent says there's "a global move" to increase taxes on the super rich.

"Canadian politicians, I repeat, are behind the people of Canada on this issue," he said.

The survey, conducted by Environics Research Group, found that a majority of Conservative voters support higher corporate taxes.

It also shows that 69 per cent of Canadians support the introduction of an inheritance tax on any estate valued at more than $5 million.

The Broadbent Institute says the poll shows that the problem of income inequality is not an ideological one and that even the wealthy agree that they should play their part in addressing it.

It calls on governments to match public opinion and take action to reduce income inequality.

The survey showed that 77 per cent of respondents agree that widening income gaps are a big problem for Canada that will have long-term consequences and 71 per cent agreed that income inequality undermines Canadian values.