Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Evaluating Harper: taxes

Part two in my evaluation of the Harper government, looking at campaign priority number two: providing real tax relief to working families by cutting the GST.

Now seeing as they promised to cut the GST by 1% immediately and by a further 1% within five years, we can fairly say they've come through on this one. Whether it provides "real" tax relief is quite another question and one that is, quite frankly, over my head AND excruciatingly boring to me. Please feel free to rant on this point all on your own.

I always saw this promise as a purely political move and a particularly brilliant piece of politics it was too. I will confess to chuckling in malicious glee the first time I heard it. Unlike most tax policies, it was blissfully simple, the effects - although very small - immediately apparent, and the Liberals could not possibly argue against it without reminding every voter with a memory that they had loudly promised to completely abolish this self-same tax and never lifted a finger to do so. It also made the Conservatives look prudent and non-radical because it was a gradual, measured approach that would not disrupt government coffers too severely. My admiration of this tactic had little to do with policy, being very similar to the awe a die-hard sports fan feels when they have seen a particularly lovely play. You have to admire it, no matter who you're cheering for.

Honestly, I think abolishing the GST altogether in an incremental fashion is probably a good idea. It's far from a comprehensive tax policy, but on its own, I think it's a good thing. Of course, I do hail from the school of thinking that believes that anything beyond very moderate taxes kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. I also tend to believe that most changes are better brought about incrementally, because abrupt change - however needed - tends to create enough disruption to cancel out any positive impact. I know, it's boring, but it works.

So on the very small point of the GST, I will give the Conservatives full marks. On the question of real tax relief, I reserve judgement. As far as I can see, they haven't done anything dramatic, just something visible.

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