Wake Up, Conservatives

March 2nd, 2014 | K. McGregor  

To illustrate that the middle class and rich do pay their fair share of taxes, I've used the example that the top 50% of wage earners in Alberta pay 97% of all the province's income tax. The bottom 47% of the wage earners pay no tax. How much more can the upper 50% be taxed before it backfires and has a derogatory effect on the economy? On the flip side, why are so many people not paying taxes and what negative effect will it have?
 
Unfortunately, this phenomena is not just restricted to Alberta. We can find similar stats for the Canadian federal government and the USA. In the US there are 50 million trapped in poverty and another 98 million with one foot over the cliff for a total of 48% of the working population. It's no wonder this large group of Americans couldn't care less about the debt, and instead want more spending on jobs and government assistance. This problem of almost half the working population in the US and Canada barley scraping by is going to play a big part in the 2015 election. Unfortunately, for the Republicans in the US and the Conservatives in Canada, the Democrats and Liberals have positioned themselves as the ones to represent the poor and lower-middle class.

In Canada, approximately 20% of the income earners earn less than $10 per hour with a significant portion of the working poor in blue collar manufacturing, agriculture and construction industries. This 20% is considered poor, not lower-middle class. Statistic Canada has a cut-off for one "poor" person in a larger city that was at $21,202 in 2006. This indicates that someone would need at least $13 per hour just to get over the average poverty wage. Presently, no province offers this minimum wage in Canada. 

Imagine 20% of the workforce and their families being unable to contribute any tax dollars to the system and being so poor that they are in need of additional funds to survive. On top of the poor there is another group that may not get government assistance but are just getting by with less than $25,000 per year. 

46% of the 25 million federal tax returns (according to 2008 stats) only represent 2.2% of Canada's total tax burden. This is a lot of families just getting by and it should be a big concern for Canadians of all political parties. In other words, 48% of Canadians don't care that the middle class and rich pay 95% of the tax. In fact, I doubt they care if the federal debt is paid down, or about the European trade agreement or the Keystone/Gateway pipeline, since any benefits derived from these economic endeavours won't include them.

So why are there so many working poor? There are probably as many guesses as there are taxpayers. Some would argue that the declining union presence that was responsible for maintaining a basic level of equality has been eroded over the years, allowing employers to keep wages low. Others would argue that governments have done little to provide legislation for a living wage or at lease a decent minimum wage. I would suggest that we simply can't compete with the emerging countries like China and India. We lost our edge by making "made in Canada" products too expensive. What ever the reason or reasons are, it's a problem that's not going to disappear. The Liberal government in Ontario is making great gains by offering a higher minimum wage while the Conservative government's "pay down the debt" slogan isn't getting any traction. This should be a wake-up call for all Conservatives.
 
Conservatives are going to have to come to grips and realize that more has to be done for the bottom 50% of wage earners. First, we need to create living wage jobs that are competitive in world markets for everyone who can work. We also need to offer education and incentives, so low-income workers are able to save and build wealth. Absorbing educational and healthcare costs for children of the working poor would help get the next generation out of the cycle and educate students about creating jobs instead of just asking for them. These are only a few suggestions. The bottom line is, the Conservatives are going to have to champion a solid plan to help the bottom 50% of our wage earners if they hope to win the 2015 federal election.

The 2015 election is fast approaching. I hope all Conservatives start a serious conversation about this problem and make sure their voices are heard. Justin Trudeau, at the February 22 Liberal Convention, already has and he is winning.