Doctors say tax us! Ontario is worth it
TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
Published On Mon Apr 02 2012. Doctors for Fair Taxation
Over the last decade, many physicians have become concerned about the alarming growth of income inequality in Canada. The University of Toronto Centre for Urban and Community Studies has described three cities within the City of Toronto. Downtown and midtown neighbourhoods are becoming richer. The outer suburbs are getting poorer and the inner suburbs are barely holding their own.
Most doctors live in the higher-income neighbourhoods. Life is good for us and our neighbours. But many of our patients live in neighbourhoods that are struggling.
Almost all the economic gains of the past three decades have gone to Canada’s top 1 per cent but our taxes haven’t gone up accordingly. Controlled for inflation, during the last 30 years, the highest earning fifth of Canadians increased their pay by 40 per cent while the earnings of the lowest fifth fell by 11 per cent. As in the U.S., where Warren Buffet pays a lower rate of tax than his secretary, in Canada the poorest tenth of Canadians pay a higher rate of tax than the richest tenth.
To make things worse, the federal and provincial governments have slashed taxes in the past 15 years, especially for corporations and high earners. In the 1960s, the highest marginal income tax rate was 80 per cent and in the early 1990s it was 58 per cent. But now the highest marginal rate is 46 per cent, only for income over $132,000. We have a flat tax for the rich. Doctors pay a top rate of 46 per cent, but so do billionaires.
As physicians, we see the impact of this growing inequality on our patients and communities. Diabetes rates are skyrocketing in poor neighbourhoods. And economic inequality is bad for everyone. For example, less equal societies have much higher rates of violence.
After several years of discussion, five of us launched Doctors for Fair Taxation one week ago. We have been overwhelmed with public and media interest. Almost 200 doctors have signed our petition, which calls for higher taxes on the highest 10 per cent of income earners. A group of lawyers has created Lawyers for Fair Taxation and a group of religious leaders is organizing Clergy for Fair Taxation.
All of us are very concerned about the Ontario budget’s impact on the province’s most vulnerable residents. The budget will axe programs and services that are crucial to health and social development. Ontario social assistance allowances have been frozen and now buy almost 60 per cent less than in 1995. Ontario’s child tax credit, the keystone of Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy, will rise slowly, if at all. But there is no discussion of progressive taxation.
It is immoral to ask the poor, the unemployed and low-income workers to balance the province’s books and not require anything significant of Ontario’s highest earning citizens.
Tim Hudak and the Conservatives oppose the budget, placing them to the right of Attila the Hun. The government is putting a lot of pressure on Andrea Horwath and the NDP to support the budget. We want Horwath to put the pressure back on the premier.
We want the NDP to demand that the McGuinty government increase taxes on the top 10 per cent of Ontarians, who have more than $100,000 of taxable income (approximately $110,000 to $150,000 overall income). We would like the provincial government to institute four new tax brackets at taxable incomes of $100,000, $170,000, $640,000 and $1,850,000 corresponding to the top 10 per cent, 1 per cent, one-tenth of 1 per cent, and one-hundredth of 1 per cent of taxpayers. Our plan would raise approximately $1.7 billion in new revenue for the Ontario government while leaving tax rates unchanged for 90 per cent of taxpayers.
We are asking the New Democratic Party to vote against this budget unless the government agrees to increase taxes on high-income-earning Ontarians.
Horwath should also demand that McGuinty mandate the finance committee to review other potential revenue instruments and make recommendations in time for next year’s budget. McGuinty should put away his knives and implement fair taxation. This is crucial to protect the health of all our patients and communities. Ms. Horwath, please ask the government to increase taxes on high-income earners like us. Ontario is worth it.
Dr. Gary Bloch, Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, Dr. Tanya Zakrison, Dr. Philip Berger, Dr. Michael Rachlis, for Doctors for Fair Taxation.
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