Taxes and the Common Good: A CPJ Backgrounder on Taxation. By Chandra Pasma, Citizens for Public Justice. 2011.
The Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) report: Taxes and the Common Good: A CPJ Backgrounder on Taxation discusses public justice taxation and income distribution in Canada. It also provides strong and credible evidence to support the argument that income disparity is growing and that public justice (which they define as the political dimension of loving ones neighbour, caring for creation and achieving the common good) is on the decline in developed countries such as Canada (Centre for Public Justice, 2011).
In recent years, there has been a general disregard for public justice in Canada. This attitude towards public justice is being perpetuated by the current federal government. Conservative MPs are subjected to the interests of large corporations, shareholders and the associated lobbyists of powerful multi-nationals, providing them with generous tax cuts. The previous Liberal government also followed this practice, slashing corporate taxes for large Canadian companies and for high-income earners. Since the Government of Canada receives the majority of its tax revenue from personal income tax earners, this means that the federal government will have difficulty generating money needed to deliver important social services to the public. As a result, these cuts have had negative consequences on middle and low income earners, who depend on these services. CPJ also believes that while high-income individuals and corporations are pursuing a continued path of tax breaks, the gap between the rich and poor is expanding, leading to greater inequality in Canada.
From a Christian stance on equality and public justice, the CPJ argues in this report that all citizens, communities and democratically elected governments should support a fair tax system that generates adequate funding for essential public services and defends the interests of the majority of Canadians. The report supports this argument by looking at ways in which taxes support the public. For instance, the CPJ argues that taxation helps to build and maintain valuable public infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, and educational facilities, to fund programs that protect the environment and to provide financial assistance for low-income families. Because taxation supports public services that improve the well-being of the public and create a more just society, the CPJ believes that all Canadian citizens should be paying their fair share in taxes to ensure that our government has enough money to deliver these essential public services.
To Whom and Why?
This CPJ report contains detailed information on social trends and government policy on economic issues that would benefit a variety of groups in our community that are concerned about public services and income equality. For instance, the report could be presented to a high school Social Studies class focusing on social issues and governments role in solving them, to a church group that works toward assisting the poor or to a citizen who wants to question the platforms of candidates running for public office. The information presented in this paper is especially relevant to Canadian municipal governments. In recent years, transfer payments from Ottawa and the provincial governments to municipalities have been shrinking because of tax cuts. The consequences of a decrease in federal and provincial tax revenue may lead to higher property taxes, increasing rental costs or scaling back municipal social support services that low-income families are dependent on.
The CPJ report shows the growth of income tax inequality in this country. It also points to the frightening notion that the current federal government would prefer to rely less on income or corporate taxes and more on consumptive taxes such as the GST. As the wages of working Canadians remain stagnant and average household debt rises, the federal governments over-reliance on the GST will only continue to harm low-income or unemployed families and individuals. The report also suggests ways that government can generate additional tax revenue to ensure that public services can be delivered. In addition to raising taxes on corporations and high-income earners, the CPJ also recommends that taxes on carbon emissions be implemented to achieve this goal.
CPJ believes that a fair taxation system is important for the common good, giving government the means to fund important social service programs, build and improve infrastructure and run environmental programs that benefit us all. A taxation system that can deliver those valuable services and initiatives will reduce inequality and will ensure that the majority of Canadians live in an integrative and equal society.
Reviewed by Chad Armstrong
Centre for Public Justice. (2011) About Us. Retrieved online from: http://www.cpj.ca/en/about-cpj/about-us