Increase taxes for the rich, NDP leadership contender says

Photo via Brian Topp Facebook page

NDP leadership frontrunner Brian Topp has broken politcal taboo and publically announced his desire to stick heaftier taxes on Canada's rich.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty brushed off the "dreamy" idea as "nonsense."

The Canadian Press has the story:

 

OTTAWA - Brian Topp is boldly going where most Canadian politicians fear to tread: promising to make the wealthy pay more in taxes.

The perceived frontrunner in the NDP leadership race wants his party to make higher income taxes for high-income earners a key plank in its next election campaign platform.

He told The Canadian Press he intends to unveil a detailed proposal in the weeks to come.

"I will be talking about income taxes and I think it's time for our party to step up to that plate and to be pretty clear about that because then we'll have a mandate to act if we're elected,'' Topp said in a wide-ranging interview.

He also called for a hike in corporate taxes and did not rule out a sales-tax increase "at some point,'' once the fragile economy is on surer footing.

Calling for higher corporate taxes is a staple of NDP election platforms and is relatively safe ground politically. Even the Liberals, during last spring's federal campaign, promised to roll back a 1.5-percentage point reduction in the corporate tax rate, which took effect last Jan. 1, and to defer another 1.5-point reduction planned for next year.

But it's been decades since any Canadian politician dared talk about raising income taxes. Indeed, since the 1990s, taxes have been steadily reduced and parties have competed for the title of biggest tax slasher.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was quick off the mark Friday in dismissing Topp's proposal as "one of those dreamy ideas...that don't make any sense.''

He said middle-class Canadians pay the bulk of income taxes in Canada and hiking taxes on the top one per cent of income earners wouldn't "produce the volume of revenue that you need to run a country.''

"If anyone thinks...in the United States, Canada, Europe (that) you can tax the one per cent or .5 per cent and raise a lot of money, it's nonsense.''

However, the notion of making the rich pay more has gained currency recently as debt crises in the United States and Europe threaten to tip the world into another deep global recession.

U.S. President Barack Obama last month proposed $1.5 trillion in new taxes aimed primarily at the wealthy, including setting a minimum tax on those making $1 million or more in annual income. The latter measure has been dubbed the "Buffett rule,'' after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has railed against the fact he pays a lower rate of tax than his secretary.

The yawning gap between rich and poor has also been at the root of the "Occupy Wall Street'' movement, which spawned protests last week in Canada and around the world.

Statistics Canada says the top one per cent of Canadian earners took home 11 per cent of total income in 2009.

Topp said the billions in tax breaks for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals would be better spent on helping people who are struggling to get by.

"I think the goal of aiming for the lowest corporate taxes in the industrialized world is feckless,'' he said, adding that "there are many other things that are more important first,'' including health care, social housing, public transit and municipal infrastructure.

"This is a grossly inefficient expenditure of public money on a completely inappropriate priority ... I think tax expenditures aimed at high-income individuals are another inappropriate priority and some of those expenditures should be redeployed.''

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