CAW leader: `Don’t buy into tax rage’ – Opinions – CAW leader: `Don’t buy into tax rage’
Published On Sat Jan 23 2010

The following is excerpted from a speech delivered by Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, last month.

I want to raise the harmonized sales tax debate. I find it fascinating that in the province of Ontario, PC Leader Tim Hudak, a Mike Harris clone, stands up and argues about the harmonized sales tax, takes the Legislature captive, and says he’s Mr. Tax Fighter. He is an anti-union, anti-social, anti-collective bargaining guy, and unpredictable. The fact of the matter is he’s not doing this because he’s going to eliminate the harmonized sales tax when he is in government, he’s doing it for political opportunism. He’s doing it because it will enhance his position in the polls.

We can’t buy into this. Neither can my friends in the New Democratic Party. I said to the Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, “Andrea, the harmonized sales tax, as unpopular as it may be, cannot be an issue from the progressive side. It can’t be an issue that makes Ontarians more cynical about taxes. We want to pay taxes. We want a civil society. We want health care. We want education. We want infrastructure. We do not want every Ontarian to think that taxes are bad.”

That does not mean the CAW supports the harmonized sales tax in its entirety. Obviously, they’ve got to give tax credits to seniors, tax credits to lower paid people and should exclude certain things. I have already said to Dalton McGuinty… that he better not exclude the financial sector, which is being contemplated today, because they make a helluva lot of money and should pay taxes for a civil society.

We are arguing about elements of the harmonized sales tax, but brothers and sisters, don’t buy into this tax rage because if you do, as progressives, we will be destroyed because you need taxes for a just society, as a society that cares for one another. This union has always taken the position of fair taxation….

We’ve got to continue to fight for good jobs, good wages, pay fair taxes and fight for a civil society through that tax base. I know there’s a lot of controversy on this but the only ones who will have anything to gain will not be Ontarians. Do you know who is going to gain? The Conservative party. The NDP is never going to get elected on a revolt on taxes….

We have to concentrate our energies on jobs, on pensions, on precarious work, on the environment, and on good public services, because if we retreat from this, our country and our provinces will be much different.

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