The Hamilton Spectator
Politicians’ tax-cut obsession is feeding social exclusion
The hand-wringing on homelessness is back. In every major centre homelessness is increasing. Now many smaller centres, too.
Why are there so many homeless people now?
When I first started working on the streets of Toronto in 1979 for Toronto Hydro, there were about five homeless people we regularly saw. We got to know them all by nicknames and regularly gave or bought them food. All were elderly male alcoholics. I asked them how it happened; they had all suffered two or three major losses, loss of job, spouse or child and were just broken.
Did the thousands of today’s homeless all suddenly become lazy? Or are they casualties of an economy and government policy that protects business interests and the wealthy?
For decades now, in every election Conservatives have promised prosperity from tax cuts and repeat the line, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” Conservative governments in particular have done a very good job of convincing everyone that taxes are bad and have made tax cuts in the multiple billions.
For example, it was recently reported in the Toronto Star by Linda McQuaig that Premier Doug Ford is spending $8.2 billion a year in tax cuts. This during an unprecedented crisis in health care. Mike Harris and Stephen Harper also spent billions in tax cuts. In order to pay for these wealthy friendly tax cuts, they all took an axe to the public sector with massive job loss and or wage cuts and wage freezes.
Liberal governments have also been very eager to dole out tax cuts. For example, both the federal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin instituted corporate tax cuts after cutting the deficit on the backs of working people. Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne cut the corporate tax rate from 14 per cent to 11 then paid for that tax cut to balance the books with cuts to health care and the sale of Hydro One. In fact, Canada’s corporate tax rate has been effectively cut in half and has not led to an increase in investment and jobs. That’s because for 40 years tax cuts and all the income growth has gone to the top 10 per cent, particularly the top one per cent.
While both Conservative and Liberal governments have significantly reduced taxes, particularly on business and the well-to-do, this has not led to an increase in prosperity for all as promised. Quite the opposite. As revealed in the Toronto Star’s Panama papers this has only resulted in offshore bursting bank accounts for the few. Tax cuts mean declining revenue and inevitably lead to cuts to health care, education and infrastructure. As we now can now quite clearly see, cuts have a dramatic and very negative effect on the lives of most people particularly low income, the mentally and physically disabled.
We do not have a wealth creation problem. There is more wealth now than ever before. However, government policies of both the Conservatives and Liberals, tax cuts combined with deregulation and privatization have severely damaged our public services and civil society.
When you see Pierre Poilievre or any politician promising tax cuts, alarm bells should ring.
Look at what we have done. We have created a huge underclass of desperately poor people just so we can solve a revenue problem that was artificially created by tax cuts.
I don’t like paying taxes. But I hate stepping over people in the street more. I hate gridlock and potholes more. I want my schools, health care, libraries and community centres and my clean water to be there. I’m willing to pay more for these things so we can truly have a civilized society, a society where people don’t starve or freeze to death alone in the dark on the street.