News Article

April poll: Taxes are just too high for what we get

Posted: May 02, 2012

If Knowledge Bureau Report's April poll is any indication, Canadians feel the income taxes they pay are way too high in relation to the value they receive. Ninety-six people responded to Knowledge Bureau Report's online poll and, of those, 80% answered "Yesî to the question: "Given the services you receive from federal and provincial governments, do you feel the income taxes you pay are too high?î

Those respondents don't begrudge governments spending on health care and education. In fact, there is a strong sense that governments should spend money "where it should be spent.î But there is distinct displeasure with overspending and government inefficiency ó a belief that taxpayers' dollars are being wasted as government rack up deficits.

As Gaetan, who added his comments to the Knowledge Bureau website, said: "Canadian do not receive value for the hard-earned tax dollars given to the government bodies of the day. These organizations are simply too large and too bureaucratic to be efficient.î

Susan puts it very succinctly: "They waste too much of our money.î

More specifically, respondents feel there is a disconnect between public sector and private sector. The public sector accumulated too many privileges during a period when governments were happy to spend and now far outpace the private sector.

"Above-average salaries, fat pensions, over-the-top employee benefits and almost-guaranteed jobs for life,î adds Gaetan. "Most government people I speak with are mostly interested in their own career paths (and eventual early retirements), as opposed to what benefit they provide to the Canadian people.î

Added another respondent: "One just needs to take a look at the Sunshine List to see how many [public sector] employees are making more than $100,000 a year.î

Politicians took their share of criticism for wonton spending of public dollars, be it helicopters or room service. A certain amount of that may be "venting,î as one reader put it, but it goes hand in hand with failing to treat taxpayers' dollars with respect.

As one respondent said: "I wish someone responsible would start spending the Canadian money properly.î

There is, of course, another side to the equation: Canadians incomes have not been rising at the same pace as taxes, and that makes the tax burden seem heavier. Compounding the problem is a rising cost of living, thanks to higher prices that often have buried within them indirect taxes and user fees. "The worst issue is the general cost of living,î posted a disgruntled Ontarian, "with electricity rates scheduled to continue to skyrocket in Ontario due, in large part, to the Ontario Liberal government's so-called ëGreen' Energy Act. The cost of food, rent, heating fuels, gasoline etc. have an impact ó especially on those on a fixed income.î

But although the "Yesesî carried the day, 20% of respondents indicated they feel they get value for the income taxes they pay. They point to our standard of living, our good health care, our good roads and infrastructure, and a support system that cares for the less privileged in our society.

"We have a lot of services provided due to our taxes,î said a reader. "They would not be possible if we did not pay these taxes. Look around the world and see how much better off we are ó and we do that by paying taxes.î

Aulf added another voice for the "No'sî: "You get what you pay for. We are not considered one of the best countries to live in because of lower taxes; we are considered one of the best countries to live in because of our balanced approach ó disposable income + government safety nets = security.î

But the last word goes to the "Yesî contingent. "If we can lower the costs of government, we can lower taxes,î posted one reader who advocates a long-term approach. "If we lower our tax rates, our country will be more attractive to immigrant skilled labour. An increase in a younger labour force would help carry the pensions of our aging population and stabilize our future economy. A growing labour force would help keep overall tax revenues high so that Canadians can continue to enjoy our current social programs, such as health care.î

Knowledge Bureau Report would like to thank readers for taking part in April's poll. May's question concerns Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney's comments about consumer spending. "The Bank projects that private domestic demand will account for almost all of Canada's economic growth over the projection horizon,î he recently told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. "Household spending is expected to remain high relative to GDP as households add to their debt burden.î To tell us about your spending intentions, please go to the poll question below.