11.04.2010 12:34 PM

Political death and taxes

A few folks have asked me what the resignation of Gord means for Dalton [full disclosure: whose caucus I’ve given comms advice].  Some columnists have written about this too.

As someone who has actually lived in both B.C. and Ontario, and been involved in politics in both places, here’s my take.  Consider them your free talking points.  You’re welcome.

  • The two situations are different. B.C. rolled out their change first. Ontario learned from their mistakes, and implemented the HST in the Summer with little to no controversy.
  • B.C. has recall legislation, and Ontario doesn’t. Recall gave Campbell’s political opponents a focus for their attack.  The fact that B.C. Liberals had campaigned on a promise not to implement the HST didn’t help matters.
  • When he introduced HST, Campbell started to go down in the polls, and he kept going down. McGuinty never really dropped – and he certainly didn’t drop in the way that Campbell did.
  • The Atlantic provinces introduced a blended tax more than a decade ago. All of those governments did fine, politically, after that.
  • B.C. is not Ontario. They have a very polarized political environment, one that historically encourages weird political movements. Ontario doesn’t.
  • Hudak is completely compromised on HST; he has no credibility on the issue. He said he’d get rid of it, but now he quietly admits he won’t. The NDP, meanwhile, aren’t very credible in their new “tax fighter” role; socialists, after all, love taxes.
  • Bottom line, in both B.C. and Ontario: taxes aren’t ever really about taxes.  Politically, they’re always about character. McGuinty is the only guy who has been consistent and truthful on the HST; Hudak, meanwhile, lied.  Simple.


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    James Bow says:

    “socialists, after all, love taxes.”

    Not quite true. Socialists love progressive taxes. In that category, they place income taxes. Outside of that category, they put consumption taxes.

    I had an interesting debate with Dr. Dawg about this. He called the HST regressive and harmful to the poor while being easy on the rich. I argued the opposite.

    I’m slowly coming around to the idea that consumption taxes may be a better way to go than higher income taxes. After all, income taxes produce a disincentive to earn more income, whereas consumption taxes produce a disincentive to consume. The latter has potential applications in taking revenue from activity that costs the economy and the environment more, whereas the former may be stifling the flow of new money into the economy. At least, that’s the gross overgeneralization.

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      Andrew says:

      My thoughts exactly!

      It can also work in replacing regressive taxation, i.e. property taxes and would help capture revenue for users of services (commuters rather than relying on a tax base that cannot grow much more beyond a cities borders).

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      Jonathan Crowe says:

      Gord: You can be sure that those cash and barter sales won’t be reported on income tax returns either.

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    Pedro says:

    You’re right about Hudak. Conservatives had high hopes for him but he’s a total loss. Something about spending your whole life in politics makes for poor leaders.
    I wish you were right about McGuinty but he only has credibility in your (and a few other’s) eyes. Something about spending too much time in politics and very little in the private sector, again.
    I sure wish McGuinty used his political capital to make a better case for the HST. I suppose he didn’t want to be too closely associated with the Conservative feds. Too bad he doesn’t have the cojones to forget politics and exhibit some statesmanship. Ontarians are like melting butter on toast when you can stand up and tell us this is good for the country. Dalton said this about the HST once I think and his spin doctors have told him to avoid the subject ever since.
    Somewhat off-topic but…
    You’ve made much about John Tory being the best mayor Toronto never had. In my eyes, Dalton showed his lack of statesmanship when in the last election he took John Tory to task over the funding for schools in other than the public and Catholic systems. John Tory was on the right side of that issue. Dalton turned tail and ran. He should’ve agreed to it or stand up and remove funding for Catholics. I say this as a Catholic. Statemanship? – Not.
    Too bad. It makes him look scared. Not of Hudak mind you, just scared.
    With the mood of electors moving to anti-incumbent a scared Dalton is not what we need.
    You are right – there is no one better. But electors are realizing we get screwed either way.
    A few years out of power for a party that thinks their farts don’t smell won’t hurt taxpayers any worse.

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    Andrew says:

    “Liberals had campaigned on a promise not to implement the HST didn?t help matters.”

    That’s funny. In 2003 I seem to recall Dolton signing a document that said he would resign if he raised taxes. Still waiting for that to happen. I guess it’s good he only signed it once, I don’t think you can resign 4+ times…

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    Brian says:

    Jesus, you’ve lived in as many provinces as I have.

    No wonder you’re so screwed up. 🙂

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    Lindsay says:

    We, here in B.C., seem to be falling back into the wierd and wacky Vanderzalm/Sihota/ days again. Oh woe.

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    Maria says:

    B.C. didn’t roll out the HST first. Ontario did.

    McGuinty repeatedly shot down the HST, then changed his mind suddenly on Jan. 23, 2009. I remember it distinctly because I was there. Don’t think even the cabinet knew he’d changed his mind because Duncan was still dismissing harmonization.

    Campbell didn’t announce it until after the Ontario budget in March of that year.

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      Jeremy says:

      Agreed. Ontario rolled out the HST first. More to the point, Ontario did most of the political, policy and communications heavy lifting. Have a look at BC’s website, they’ve basically copied Ontario’s messaging.

      With respect to McGuinty “changing his mind suddenly”, the Feds gave him 4.5 billion reasons to have a change of heart.

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