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Occupy Toronto protesters clash with police while they march north on University Ave. in Toronto on Friday March 30, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Occupy Toronto protesters clash with police while they march north on University Ave. in Toronto on Friday March 30, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Globe Editorial

Punishing the rich with extra taxes not an answer to inequity Add to ...

Ontario’s New Democrats are tapping into the zeitgeist by asking for a two per cent surtax on people who earn more than $500,000 a year, in return for their support of the minority Liberals’ budget. The rich will always be with us, goes the thinking, but they answer to us, and we’re not in the mood for excess right now.

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Separately, the Broadbent Institute, a think-tank set up by former federal New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent, claims that Canadians want to pay higher taxes. “Would you personally be very, somewhat, not very or not at all willing to pay slightly higher taxes if that’s what it would take to protect our social programs like health care, pensions and access to post-secondary education?” Sixty-four per cent were either very willing (23 per cent) or somewhat willing (41 per cent) to pay slightly higher taxes.

One might flip around those results to say: Faced with health care, pensions and universities crashing and burning, only 23 per cent are very willing to pay even slightly more tax.

Still, the day may come when it’s necessary to pay more tax – for everyone, not just $500,000-plus earners, who already pay at the highest marginal rate, making for high individual contributions. An extra two per cent is a form of punishment for success. If you can’t cut off the head of the tall poppy, tax it.

It’s as if to say it’s a bad thing when someone earns lots of money. Better, says the NDP, to discourage initiative and entrepreneurship by taxing its successful manifestations. Our society won’t be any more equitable if we bleed the rich a little.

The NDP would also cap public-sector salaries at $418,000 annually, an arbitrary figure. Public hospital or university boards do need to show restraint and due diligence at the top – the top needs to be a model for the entire organization.

The logic of restraint, applied fairly to all, is the most sensible policy, before any talk of raising taxes.

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