Majority of British Columbians support higher taxes, says poll

By Contributor
November 30th, 2012

An opinion research study released today shows the public is ahead of political leaders when it comes to tax policy. It finds most British Columbians — regardless of how they would vote in a provincial election — are in favour of changes to BC’s tax system to ensure everyone pays a fair share and to enable new or enhanced public services.

Beyond the 1%: What British Columbians think about taxes, inequality and public services reports results from an extensive online survey of 1,023 BC residents*, conducted in July 2012 by Environics Research, and nine group interviews conducted in Metro Vancouver, Nanaimo and Kamloops.

Among the key findings:

  • British Columbians support tax increases for major corporations and people with high incomes.
  • 67% of respondents think major corporations are asked to pay less tax than they should, and 44% say much less than they should.
  • 78% of respondents say people in the top 20% of incomes are asked to pay less tax than they should, and 63% say much less than they should.
  • 57% said those making $100,000 and over should pay more, and nearly a third believed the threshold for tax increases should be $85,000.

When asked how they feel about their own level of taxation, most British Columbians (71%) indicate they pay too much tax.

However, the respondents were also asked if they would consider paying a slightly higher share of their income to provincial income tax (for most people representing a few hundred dollars per year) in order to help bring about 11 different policy changes.

The changes included items such as “provide more access to home and community care for seniors,” “create a $10/day child care program,” “protect BC’s forests and endangered species,” and “eliminate MSP premiums.”

68% of respondents indicated they are willing to pay a higher share of their own income in order to support 4 or more of the 11 policies, and 38% are willing to pay for 8 or more.

Respondents’ overall willingness to pay slightly higher income tax for the policies varied depending on which political party they would support in a provincial election – but only slightly. (On average, Liberal voters were willing to pay for 5.4 of 11 policies, Conservative voters for 5.5, NDP voters for 6.5, and Green voters for 6.8.)

Younger generations (respondents aged 18-29 and 30-44) are significantly more likely to be willing to pay than their older counterparts.

Low trust in government and politicians curbs people’s willingness to consider tax increases, but there are steps governments can take to regain the public’s confidence — among them, .

  • making government more open and transparent (83% say this would increase their confidence),
  • creating more opportunities for citizens to have a say (76%),
  • reducing the income gap between the wealthy and others (74%),
  • and making public services more accessible to everyone (75%).

“We’ve had this idea that tax increases are a no-go zone in BC,” says Shannon Daub, Director of Communication with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office, who led the study.

“But public opinion is shifting, and if anything our political leaders are behind the curve. Not only do most British Columbians want to see tax increases at the higher end of the income ladder, they are prepared to pitch in themselves — if they know the money will support concrete changes, and if we do tax policy in a transparent way.”

“Taxes can be a contentious issue, as we well know in BC,” says Randy Galawan, who co-led the study. “But our research shows that we’re ready for a thoughtful, democratic conversation about how to make the tax system more fair and improve our quality of life.”



The opinion survey was conducted online with 1,023 respondents using an internet survey programmed and collected by Environics Research. A random sample of panelists from Research House was invited to participate in the survey, which was completed in July 2012. Since the online survey was not a random probability-based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels. The margin of error for a survey of 1,023 respondents that does use a probability sample is +/- 3.0%, 19 times out of 20.

Beyond the 1%: What British Columbians think about taxes, inequality and public services is available online at www.policyalternatives.ca/bc-tax-opinion.

Categories: GeneralPolitics