R19: Working Income Tax Benefit

Yesterday I posted on Harper’s Regressive Tax Strategy (Bowles, 2015), and gave some examples (which are legion); in spite of this, many conservatives claim that Harper is quite progressive in his policies. So I thought I’d take a look at those claims: such as the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB). Often touted as one of the more progressive tax breaks established by the Harper government, close inspection shows that it does not live up to its claims. That does not mean the WITB does not have progressive elements; it does not mean that I’m not pleased it was introduced compared to what we had. The WITB is not bad: but it’s not nearly what it could be. It all depends on context and perspective. But after full analysis and comparison to others’ intentions, when it comes to influences on my vote, the WITB motivates me to vote for anyone but Harper.

Originally developed by the previous Liberal government, the Harper analysts adapted the WITB (stripped it) to better reflect their ideology. Apparently it had been quite popular; the Conservatives decided not to completely eliminate it but created a shadow of what it could have been. A full analysis is available online (Progressive-Economics, 2007: apparently originally published by The Star). The new version of the plan will only call for only 55% of the expenditures of the original (so it’s only half what was proposed): and the people who will benefit are a smaller cut of the population. Probably most surprising, the final version “does not provide any benefit to those who work full time at the minimum wage in most of Canada”. These are exactly the people who are most frustrated with economic system that Harper has created: people who work hard, often for quite large companies (46% of minimum wage earners are employed by companies that have more than 500 employees: Press Progress, 2015), and yet who aren’t able to get further in the Harper economy.

Jesus said in Mark 14:7, “For you always have the poor with you…” But that does not mean we should not be trying to decrease their ranks.

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