Opinion

NELSON: Tax on income would be better than TransLink sales tax bump

FACE TO FACE: Should a 0.5% tax be added to the PST to pay for public transit?

Metro Vancouver mayors want to increase the PST half a per cent to fund TransLink. The tax bump would bring in $250 million per year for much needed transit improvements for Metro Vancouver.

Raising sales tax is the second best way to fund needed public services, so it deserves our serious consideration. Better would be a progressive income tax that ties the level of our contribution to public services to the level of our income.

But my colleague and the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation don’t consider this option. Instead, they prefer to focus on suggesting TransLink stop wasting paper clips and end other “wasteful practices” to find the $750 million needed to fund public transit.

“The taxpayer can’t bear any more of the burden,” cries an outraged Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s B.C. director.

But taxpayers can apparently bear the burden of replacing the billions in government revenue lost from continuous tax cuts for corporations and the rich over the past 12 years in B.C.

My colleague, Mr. Bateman and his oxymoronically named group whistle past the graveyard at this outrage, the real burden of the average B.C. taxpayer. The group’s misleading moniker should be changed to reflect their real focus, perhaps to The Canadian Association for Rich Taxpayers.

But I digress.

A dependable, transparent funding source for rapid transit is the answer for Metro Vancouver residents. A full SkyTrain grid with connecting commuter trains east to Chilliwack and south to White Rock is a worthy, achievable goal toward making our region a modern, green metropolis.

And in Vancouver, surrounded by geographical barriers, an effective rapid transit system is a must. We travel in, we travel out, we seldom travel through. Other cities have the option of improving  transportation by building more freeways without having to span Burrard Inlet or False Creek every few blocks.

We need a dependable funding source for transit and our present sources — tolls, user fees, P3s, more casinos and public service cuts — won’t cut it.

Raising the PST to fund transit isn’t fair — Mr. Bateman and my colleague are right about that — as raising sales tax hurts progressively less the wealthier one is.

But while we’re waiting for fair taxation, raising the PST would at least provide dependable and transparent transit funding. It’s at least the second best answer.

Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.

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