Monday, September 17, 2007

Liberals' internal polling must be showing a drop last week

What some of the media suggested going into last weekend (that Howard Hampton and John Tory were the winners after the first week of campaigning) must have also shown up on the Liberals' own polling numbers. How else to explain Ian Urquhart's column today in the Toronto Star? While Mr. Urquhart has no obligation to be NDP friendly, and while I usually find him one of the more balanced and sober writers at The Star, this piece will be used to deflect valid criticism of the Liberal record on taxation. Is it really a reality check that Liberals imposed a levy rather than a tax? Is it really a reality check that depending on how one calculates things the Liberals may not have imposed the largest tax hikes in Ontario history?A 24% tax hike regressively applied on average income earning Ontarians still ranks up there.

First, it's patently obvious that the Toronto Star is heavily a mouthpiece for Liberal rhetoric and policy. Having caught the Ontario Liberal government in scandal after scandal, funny that the writers of the Star never felt terribly scandalized themselves. A typical example was ColleGate. While lots of ink was shed to report the scandal, the coverage was often tempered with language ranging from "so called slush fund" to "there was no slush fund". Regardless of semantics here, the actions of the Liberal government around doling out year end funds should have scandalized the public in no less measure than did the sponsorship scandal of the federal Liberals.  These were reprehensible actions taken by our provincial government. They were unethical (funds not openly available to the public and meant to lure and bribe supporters) and lacked any integrity (completely disregard for  accounting controls and measures).

Speaking of semantics, and returning to the issue at hand, Mr. Urquhart's story today should be seen for what it is: a defense of the indefensible Liberal record on what will undoubtedly remain a campaigning issue this week. McGuinty will be pressed hard on both his breaking of a written promise and his imposition of a massive and regressive tax hike. And Urquhart's piece is clearly an attempt to deflect or attenuate this criticism. How so?

First, Urquhart repeats the Liberal apologist line in the title of his article when he calls what the Liberals imposed a "levy". Whether it was a levy, a tax, a premium, it was money taken away from me which McGuinty promised not to take away me. Second, Urquhart wants to argue the point that it wasn't the biggest tax hike in Ontario history. Fine, depending how you want to measure things, perhaps it was and perhaps it wasn't. But does it make it any more palatable that McGuinty's health tax hike might be only the second or third highest in Ontario history? We're all at least agreed that it was a massive tax hike. And, more problematically, this was a regressive tax in which average Ontarians  saw their taxes raised by almost 25%, but those Ontarians making over $200 000 per year saw their taxes raised by only 3%.

Truth be told, of the nefarious things done by the McGuinty Liberals, I actually don't consider McGuinty back tracking on his promise not to raise taxes as one of them.  I especially don't mind paying more to ensure a viable universal health care for Ontarians. What I greatly object to is the imposition of a regressive tax that disproportionally hurts those who can least afford to have their taxes increased, not to mention the failure to make significant improvements to our health care system with those monies raised through increased taxation.


Jay said...

Truth is that the NDP in 1992 and the Conservatives in 1981 levied the heaviest tax increases on Ontarians and after Harris's government, the liberal health levy still hasn't brought us up to the level of taxation created by Ontario s early 1990's NDP government.

1992 NDP budget hiked the personal income tax rate by 3 percentage points and added on some new surtaxes. The 1981 Conservative budget raised the provincial income tax rate by 4 percentage points. the 1992 tax increase amounted to 0.72 per cent of GDP and 4.9 per cent of government revenues. The 1981 tax increase was 0.48 per cent of GDP and 3.7 per cent of government revenues.

The comparable figures for the tax increase in the 2004 Liberal budget were 0.45 per cent and 3.0 per cent – less than both their NDP and Conservative predecessors.

Say what you will but don't pretend to be clean on this issue.

Derrida said...

First of all I am clean on the issue. I'm the sucker paying these taxes. Comparing the Bob Rae's NDP government of almost 20 years ago with McGuinty's current record is comparing apples to oranges, mostly because the economic contexts were entirely different, one a recession the latter a thriving economy.

Still, however you spin it, McGuinty not only deceived the electorate (I can't believe that he wasn't aware when making those promises that he would be inheriting a deficit) but he imposed a massive (if by your measures, you'll admit that McGuinty's health tax was not significantly less than the "highest" tax hikes)and regressive tax on Ontarians and the health system is no better off.

At least we're agreed it was a tax, right?

p.s. The CCF/NDP provincially actually have arguably the best record of any party when it comes to fiscal responsibility and balancing budgets. And that's public record as well...