Liberal income tax claim doesn’t tell full story

Editorial: Dermod Travis, The Province

On one level the Liberals are right. On another it’s a bit of a pig in a poke, because income taxes are just one part of any government’s revenue mix.

Governments can and do cut income tax rates for a variety of political reasons, while simultaneously raising fees on a dizzying array of other services to offset those cuts. Somehow they can do both at the same time with a straight face. The B.C. government is no wallflower when it comes to the tomfoolery.

Bottom line, though: is it fair to form any opinion about a province’s fiscal shape just by comparing income tax rates without a more thorough analysis of each province’s programs, transfers, user fees and its fiscal relationship with local governments? No province is a fiscal carbon copy of another.

Case in point: According to a chart in the B.C. government’s 2012 budget highlights, B.C. has the lowest personal income tax for those earning $80,000 and Quebec has the highest. But Quebec doesn’t charge its citizens monthly health-care premiums, it has a universal phar-macare system, $7-a-day public child care and its university students pay the lowest tuition in Canada.

Forty per cent of Quebecers don’t even pay personal income taxes.

Fault their choices, but Quebecers have chosen governments that have maintained these programs – financed in part through higher income taxes than other provinces – over successive elections….