Most British Columbians support higher taxes for better public services: poll

Most British Columbians are in favour of changes in the provincial tax system to ensure a higher quality of life and enhanced public services, according to a new poll. 

Beyond the 1 per cent : What British Columbians think about taxes, inequality and public services reports results from an online survey of 1,023 BC residents, conducted in July 2012 by Environics Research, as well as nine group interviews conducted in Metro Vancouver, Nanaimo and Kamloops.

Below are key findings from the survey:

  • British Columbians generally support tax increases for major corporations and people with high incomes.
    • 67 per cent of respondents think major corporations are asked to pay less tax than they should, and 44 per cent say much less than they should.
    • 78 per cent of respondents say people in the top 20 per cent of incomes are asked to pay less tax than they should, and 63 per cent say much less than they should.
    • 57 per cent said those making $100,000 and over should pay more, and nearly a third believed the threshold for tax increases should be $85,000.

When asked how they feel about their own level of taxation, most British Columbians (71 per cent ) indicated they currently pay too much tax.

But when asked if they would consider paying a slightly higher share of their income to provincial income tax (for most people, representing a few hundred dollars per year) in order to help bring about 11 different policy changes, the majority agreed. The changes included items such as “provide more access to home and community care for seniors,” “create a $10/day child care program,” “protect BC’s forests and endangered species,” and “eliminate MSP premiums.”

About 68 per cent of respondents indicated they are willing to pay a higher share of their own income in order to support 4 or more of the 11 policies, while 38 per cent are willing to pay for 8 or more. The respondents’ overall willingness to pay slightly higher income tax for the policies varied depending on which political party they would support in a provincial election – but only slightly.

Low trust in government and politicians curbs people’s willingness to consider tax increases, but there are steps governments can take to regain the public’s confidence, people said. They included:

  • making government more open and transparent (83 per cent say this would increase their confidence)
  • creating more opportunities for citizens to have a say (76 per cent )
  • reducing the income gap between the wealthy and others (74 per cent ), and
  • making public services more accessible to everyone (75 per cent ).
“We’ve had this idea that tax increases are a no-go zone in BC,” said Shannon Daub, Director of Communication with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office, who led the study.
“But public opinion is shifting, and if anything our political leaders are behind the curve. Not only do most British Columbians want to see tax increases at the higher end of the income ladder, they are prepared to pitch in themselves — if they know the money will support concrete changes, and if we do tax policy in a transparent way.”
The opinion survey was conducted online with 1,023 respondents using an internet survey programmed and collected by Environics Research. A random sample of panelists from Research House was invited to participate in the survey, which was completed in July 2012. Since the online survey was not a random probability-based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated. 
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels. The margin of error for a survey of 1,023 respondents that does use a probability sample is +/- 3.0 per cent , 19 times out of 20.

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