It’s not just members of the Liberal caucus who are today expressing their doubts about Doctor Dion’s “Let the rich pollute” carbon tax scheme.
One of the country’s leading anti-poverty advocates is questioning the Liberal Party’s claims that their “Green Shift” is “the most aggressive anti-poverty program in 40 years” (that being the boast MP Ken Boshcoff made right before his more famous one).
As a prop in this most recent production of “Liberals Stand for the Same Things as the NDP,” the carbon tax is brilliant political theatre. Dr. Dion’s pitch to NDP voters goes like this: “Okay, you are right. A carbon tax won’t get us to our greenhouse gas reduction targets. But come on, you HAVE to play along with us because we’ve got all this great anti-poverty stuff in here too. Honest!”
But in an analysis of the plan, Rob Rainer, head of the National Anti Poverty Organization (NAPO) concludes that the carbon tax falls far short of Liberal boasts.
In his analysis of the tax measures, Rainer shows that individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet will still be deep in poverty were the carbon tax to go ahead.
A couple with two children scraping by with $20,000 would see only $1,150 in income tax cuts under Dion’s plan – still leaving them $12,800 below the poverty line. And a single person toiling for minimum wage at $15,000 would get the equivalent of a mere 3% back from Dion – still leaving them $2,500 below the poverty line.
Ranier’s analysis, emailed to anti-poverty activists this week, doesn’t even consider how increased prices due to the carbon tax will further worsen the state of those in poverty. It also doesn’t make mention of the fact that most people in poverty don’t benefit from the income tax system, as they don’t pay any taxes – except sales taxes, like the carbon tax.
But Rainer’s criticisms of the carbon tax aren’t just about those who don’t benefit. He rightly reprimands Liberals for having submissively hopped into bed with Harper’s agenda of gutting the public purse through tax cuts for corporations:
"By year four of the plan (~2013), the cut for the second highest marginal tax rate bracket and the corporate tax cut would remove $2.4 billion annually from the federal treasury – about what the AFB 2008 estimated to be needed in housing and homelessness supports ($2.3 billion) on top of current spending."
Despite all their earnest claims to the contrary, Rainer conclusion is that the carbon tax scheme is bad policy that won’t help people in poverty:
“the absence of a comprehensive approach to poverty reduction and eventual elimination; the unfortunate inclusion of tax cuts for corporations and relatively high income earners at the expense of further support for low-income Canadians; and most of all the absence of recognition of income security as a human right and right of citizenship, detracts not only from enthusiasm for Green Shift but ultimately its power of anti-poverty impact.”
So let’s review, shall we? The Green Shift can’t promise to meet targets and while it will increase costs for everyone, experts say it won’t help people out of poverty.
So, why is Dion offside when he could be working with Jack Layton and the premiers on a cap and trade system that will work?