January 29, 2013
As Finance Minister Blaine Higgs tours the province on his pre-budget consultations, his government remains in denial. They pretend that our deficit problem will go away as long as they just do what they and the Liberals have always done: chip away at government programs and services, while lowering taxes, on the mistaken conviction that this will magically drive growth and create new revenue.
The Liberals used this as the rationale for the reckless tax changes they made in their 2009 budget. Hundreds of millions of dollars needed for health care, education and social services were lost with the cuts to personal income and corporate taxes. They pretended that lower taxes would create growth and tax revenue. It didn't. It did mean we had to borrow money to pay for the tax cuts.
In the absence of an economic boom driven by tax cuts, the Conservatives now hold that shale gas will miraculously solve the problem. It won't.
Once you get beyond denial, then you have only two options: 1) slash health care and our social safety net, or 2) increase taxes back to where they were.
The Green Party has no illusions on this issue. In its very DNA, the Green Party knows we must face up to our limits and pay our own way, both environmentally and financially.
The deficit will not magically disappear. Income taxes must be returned to 2008 levels, before cuts in programs and service really hurt us. This will put $350 million back into the budget so we can pay for health care and education.
Unlike raising the HST, income taxes are progressive, so increases will largely affect higher income earners. It may mean fewer luxury purchases, but unlike HST increases, won't raise the cost of buying the necessities of life.
We have got to think about taxes differently. Taxes pay for the health care we need, for educating our children, and for caring for the most vulnerable in our province. Yet, the Conservatives and Liberals have successfully vilified taxes. The income tax system is also the primary tool for fighting inequality between the wealthy and everyone else. Today our incomes tax rates are too low to pay for the things we cherish, so we fall deeper into debt and the gap between the rich and poor gets larger.
New Brunswick now has the lowest personal income taxes east of Saskatchewan. It is hard to see how we can collect transfer payments from the rest of the country without collecting an adequate level of tax revenue from people and businesses.
Conventional politicians will say that income tax increases are not what people want. Maybe not, but it is what we need.
Leader, Green Party of New Brunswick