The Green Party is fiscally prudent but very progressive in the way it collects and distributes tax revenues.

The 2011 budget — less tax for the average Canadian

The biggest difference between the Green Party’s proposed 2011 budget and the government budget is not in the size of the government nor in the total amount of taxes collected.  The enormous difference is in where those taxes will come from.  We propose to collect some $32 billion in carbon taxes and reduce a wide range of other taxes to make the change revenue neutral.  This would enable us to eliminate taxes on the first $20,000 of income, to dramatically reduce CPP and EI contributions while maintaining benefits, to promote a generous seniors and a rural supplement.  The average Canadian will benefit.

Big polluters will lose, but everyone can improve their bottom line by investing in emissions reductions.  It’s a bold way to embrace the new, smart economic future.

There are some smaller, but still important differences.

We would not proceed with the Harper government’s planned corporate tax cut.  It is unnecessary and irresponsible at a time of economic uncertainty, great economic change and existing deficit.  And it does not benefit the average Canadian.

We would cut the perverse subsidies in tax benefits to the oil industry, freeing up $1.4 billion for investment in efficiency and clean energy alternatives, where more jobs can be found.

We would legalize marijuana and collect taxes from its sale.  Proceeds would go to education and harm reduction.  We do not encourage marijuana use and would like to aim for a smoke-free Canada.  But criminalizing youth for using substances no more harmful than legal alternatives is an expensive way to make good kids become hardened criminals.  Legalization and education is a more economical and effective way to tackle drug abuse.  It also helps keep drugs away from kids by making them available legally only to responsible adult users buying from responsible, licensed suppliers.

Moving forward — easing the burden

Social justice is one of the core principles of the Green Party.

We all hope that the economy recovers and both governments and taxpayers have an easier time making ends meet.  But what if the economy remains slack?

That’s something I take fairly seriously.  We have been warned for decades that there would be economic consequences to our actions.  We’ve been warned that we’re increasingly dependent on declining energy sources.  We’ve been warned that many of our vital fisheries are being wiped out and prime agricultural land is either deteriorating or dependent on ever more difficult water sources, also requiring large energy inputs.

While the crisis of 2008 is widely attributed to banking irregularities involving insecure mortgages and bizarre derivatives, it took place in a context where oil was sailing at record high costs and many countries had food riots as the supply of oil simply could not meet demand.  In fact, foreclosures in the United States were largely restricted to small number of counties on interstate highways while urban properties near good public transit services actually enjoyed slight price increases.  The enormous freedoms extended to banks are in fact symptomatic of governments desperately trying to prop up growth by enabling speculation in a context where the production of real goods is stagnant.  I suspect that no matter what government is in charge, we will be navigating a very tricky economic future.

If times get tough and the government is having a hard time balancing the books, I will commit to making the delivery of quality services to Canadians a high priority.  Especially in tough times, it’s critical that our commitment to universal health care and education remains strong, and that nobody is allowed to fall through the cracks.

If there is no way to balance the books and we need more revenue, we would target the wealthiest first and most.  The Legacy Tax promoted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, for incomes above $250,000, is a good idea.  Even as a record number of Canadians are being driven into poverty, the ultra-rich are becoming richer than ever.  I am not proposing such a tax now, and I hope we never need it.  But if we have indeed reached a time when the economy will be turbulent or dull, it makes sense to share the pain so that no one suffers.

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