Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer revealed a massive tax cut on Sunday aimed at convincing voters that his party’s platform will make life more affordable for Canadians than Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
Scheer is promising that a Conservative government, if elected, would cut the tax rate on the lowest federal income bracket, $47,630, from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent over the next four years.
Under what the Conservatives are calling a “universal tax cut,” the average individual taxpayer making roughly $47,000 would save about $426 a year, while a two-income couple earning an average salary would save about $850 a year.
“We’re going to deliver a tax cut targeted specifically at taxpayers in the lowest income tax bracket,” Scheer said, speaking at the home of a couple in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, B.C.
“This means that every Canadian will see their income taxes go down, and those in the lowest tax bracket see the biggest benefit of all,” Scheer said.
The plan looks to build off the Liberal government’s “middle-class tax cut,” which was implemented after the last Canadian election in 2015 and saw the tax rate on earnings between $45,282 and $90,563 drop from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.
WATCH: Conservatives propose new tax cuts
“You only get the full value of the Liberals’ tax cut if you earn after or above the $90,500,” he said. “A couple would have to earn $180,000 before they get the full value.”
The Liberals helped pay for the tax break by creating a new bracket for earnings above $200,000 with a marginal rate of 33 per cent — a four per cent increase from 29 per cent. According to the Department of Finance, tax reduction benefited more than nine million people — with single earners saving an average of $330 a year and couples an average of $540 a year.
How do the two compare?
University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe said Scheer’s proposed universal tax cut is, by definition, a larger tax break, as it applies to the first income tax bracket.
“This will affect almost anyone who paid federal income tax,” Tombe told Global News. “Roughly speaking, this affects three out of four families in Canada.”
Canada’s tax system is based around progressive brackets, meaning you pay different amounts on different shares of your income — i.e. 15 per cent on the first $47,630 of taxable earnings, 20.5 per cent on the next $47,629 and up to 33 per cent of taxable income over $210,371.
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Mostafa Askari, a chief economist with the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, said that while the Conservative tax cut would affect more earners, he wants to see the full explanation of how its cost would be covered.
“It’s really hard to judge a policy like this without seeing exactly where they are going to get the money,” Askari told Global News. “If you are already in a deficit and they are promising to balance the budget, obviously, they have to find the money somewhere.”
The Conservatives, like the Liberals, have not yet released a fully costed platform. On Sunday, Scheer said his plan will be fully costed and include a commitment to increase funding for health care and education by at least three per cent a year. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) estimates the cut will cost federal coffers about $6 billion a year if fully implemented.
“We are absolutely committed to balancing the budget over a responsible period of time,” Scheer said.
Tombe noted that the proposed tax changes would reduce the value of other tax credits. For example, the Conservatives recently announced a 15 per cent public transit tax credit that would be worth around 13.7 per cent under the changes. On Monday, the Conservatives also promised to bring back Stephen Harper’s boutique tax credits – axed by the Trudeau Liberals- called the the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and the Children’s Arts and Learning Tax Credit.
“When you reduce that first bracket rate, you reduce the value of many of our tax credits,” he said. “The question really is whether you think that is worth $6 billion versus the other potential uses.”
Navdeep Bains, Liberal candidate for Mississauga-Malton, accused Scheer of misleading Canadians with his tax announcement, saying that it would lead to cuts in services.
“Conservative politicians like to say they’re ‘for the people’ — but then they cut taxes for the wealthy and cut services for everyone else,” Bains said in a statement. The Liberals pointed to Scheer’s record, which included voting against the Canada Child Benefit, voting against a tax cut for the middle class and opposition to Canada Pension Plan benefits.
Scheer has pushed back against Liberal claims he will make significant cuts to services and pledged to maintain education and health care spending.
What the other parties are offering?
Meanwhile, when it comes to taxes, the NDP is promising to increase the capital gains tax inclusion rate from the current 50 to 75 per cent. New Democrats are also promising to create a “super-wealth tax” of one per cent on wealth exceeding $20 million, including “luxury items” like real estate and investment portfolios. The PBO has found the tax could raise $5.6 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, rising to nearly $9.5 billion in 2028-29.
“Our plan is simple — we can afford to help people when we have the courage to ask the super-rich to pay a little bit more to fund the services we all rely on,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a news release.
The Green Party of Canada unveiled its platform Monday, which looks at everything — from the economy to health, foreign affairs, immigration and transportation — through the lens of the climate crisis.
The Greens’ platform, which included a section on tax fairness, promised to boost the federal corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from the current 15 per cent but would maintain the current level of taxation for small businesses at no more than nine per cent. The Greens also outlined a plan to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and end offshore tax dodging by taxing funds hidden in offshore havens.
“We must transition off fossil fuels, and it must be a just and fair economic and social transition that ensures a safe and prosperous future for all Canadians,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in a statement.
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