PERSONAL
10/20/2019 10:39 EDT | Updated 10/20/2019 20:41 EDT

It’s Time For One Per Cent Families Like Mine To Pay A Super Wealth Tax

This election, we have a chance to vote for a party with a serious plan to tackle inequality.

Even five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. The idea that voting for policies against my family’s own economic self-interest would actually be better for us.

I’m an adult child of the One Per Cent. I went to private school. And I graduated from university debt-free.

This election, the NDP is proposing policies — including a new “super wealth tax,” raising the tax rate for the top income bracket and closing tax loopholes — that would directly curb my family’s wealth to fund social services. If implemented collectively, these policies could cost my extended family hundreds of thousands per year.

Yet, I’m voting for them, and encourage other very wealthy Canadians to do the same.

SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN via Getty Images
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks during a rally in Montreal, Que., on Oct. 16, 2019.

I’m doing so because these policies are long overdue — all people in this country deserve access to quality health care (including mental health care, pharmacare and dental care); affordable childcare; to a high-quality education, and more.

I’m also doing so because I believe that these policies will make life better for affluent Canadians, too. We are living in the midst of a climate crisis. Averting disaster — for both wealthy and low-income people — will require a collective solution that involves more progressive taxation.

Much of the wealth my family has been able to accumulate can be tied to Liberal and Conservative policies.

I didn’t come to this perspective overnight. 

I grew up in suburban southern Ontario. When I was a kid, my family was upper-middle class, supported by the salaries of my two parents, both white-collar professionals. And in my 20s, my family’s wealth increased dramatically, as the business my father founded grew significantly — helped by favourable taxation rates.

Four years ago, aware of the increasing rise in inequality, and unsure of my place in advocating for change, I got involved with an organization that mobilizes young people from the top 10 per cent to work toward the redistribution of wealth, land and power. Through Resource Movement, I learned a few truths that have helped shape my perspective about who to vote for.  

I learned that while my parents are intelligent and capable, systemic oppression bars many from from leveraging their smarts to prosper economically. And that while I admire my parents’ hard work, I know that there are thousands of others who have worked just as hard (migrant farm workers, night shift workers and service workers, to name a few) whose families haven’t been able to build the same wealth as ours. For me, this learning debunked the myth of Canadian meritocracy — the idea that “we deserve” all the wealth we have. 

Much of the wealth my family has been able to accumulate can be tied to Liberal and Conservative policies over the last 50 years — policies that have deprioritized needed social spending in favour of tax breaks for wealthy Canadians.

Bloomberg Creative Photos via Getty Images

The changes to income tax rates over the last 50 years are one example. For over three decades since the Second World War, the federal income tax rate hovered around 50 per cent for folks in the top income tax bracket. This was a time of broad growth of the middle class and significant shared prosperity. In the 1980s, however, successive Liberal and Conservative federal governments steadily lowered the top income tax rate, enabling super high earners to keep more and more. Today, the top personal federal income tax rate (affecting only folks making over $205,842 per year) is 33 per cent.

This is obscene — and a policy failure.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found that raising the marginal tax rate for top earners to 65 per cent could generate over $15 billion in additional tax revenue annually. This money could be diverted from the pockets of wealthy Canadians and be used to fund necessary affordable housing, childcare or education. 

Some people will argue that raising rates to these levels would be punitive and unfair. I disagree.

Canada has the fifth most ultra-high net wealth individuals on the planet. In this nation, 10,000-odd families collectively control $1.053 trillion dollars. This is obscene — and a policy failure.

The NDP are proposing free dental care for families with household incomes of under $70,000 per year; the creation of 500,000 new childcare spaces over the next 10 years; and the elimination of federal interest on student loan debt.

To fund it, they’ll make the rich pay a little more. They’ll raise the top income tax rate by two per cent. And they’ll implement a “super wealth tax” — a one-per-cent tax on wealth over $20 million, annually. These are modest steps. And I don’t believe they go far enough, but they offer the most ambitious progressive tax plan of any major party — and are a step in the right direction.

On Monday, we have a chance to help bring about a more just and equitable world by voting for a party with a serious plan to tackle inequality.

A vote for the NDP isn’t just a vote for free dental care, childcare, and lower-cost education for low-income people. It’s a vote for a better future for all of us.

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