Saturday, December 23, 2006

Single Issue Parties Aren't Always What They Seem

When asked to give her stance on abortion during the recent London by-election, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said, "if one group of people say, "A woman has a right to choose," I get queasy, because I'm against abortion. I don't think a woman has a frivolous right to choose." (Full text here.)

Judy Rebick responds here.

Most Canadians assume that the federal Green Party is a left-leaning political group with a socially progressive platform. That is just not so, and my guess is that it's a strategic decision: the NDP and Liberals have the environmental left pretty well sewn up, so the Green Party is trying to attract disaffected environmentalists in the Conservative party.

I first cottoned on to the right-wing leanings of the Green Party during the 2004 federal election, when all they seemed to talk about was a green tax they wanted to impose to replace income tax - which struck me as irresponsible and crazy. Their idea was to do away with our progressive tax system in which richer people pay higher marginal tax rates than poorer people, and replace it with a regressive tax system based solely on how much energy we consume and how much we pollute. Their plan would have significantly reduced taxes for corporations and the rich and increased the tax burden on the poor.

As wikipedia currently says, "The direction of the 2004 platform ...was perceived as shifting from a centre-left to a centrist stance or even centre-right position. An emphasis on a green tax shift which favoured partially reducing income and corporate taxes (while increasing taxes on polluters and energy consumers) created questions as to whether the Green Party was still on the left of the political spectrum, or was taking a more eco-capitalist approach by reducing progressive taxation in favour of regressive taxation."



berlynn said...

I knew the Green Party was centre-right, but I'd assumed that under May it would move to centre-left. I obviously assumed incorrectly. Thanks for this post.

ericbwalton said...

Please do not misconstrue the Green Tax Shift. It would complement the progressive income tax not replace it. Any unintended "regressive" aspects of the shift would be deliberately countered with planned changes to tax rates and tax categories to the present progressive income tax system as well as the payment of an eco-tax rebate for people who pay no taxes. It is planned as a revenue-neutral and at minimum an equity-neutral exercise.

Next time finish the Wikipaedia section where this is mentioned.

Yappa said...

Hi Eric B. Walton,

I read it. The next sentence is "Green Party policy writers have challenged this interpretation by claiming that any unintended regressive tax consequences would be fully offset by changes in tax rates and categories as well as an 'eco-tax" refund for those who pay no tax."

But that's not true, based on my reading of the Cdn Green Party web site's page on the green tax shift ( For example, the GP page says, "This tax shift would allow workers to keep more of their paycheque initially, then choose whether to return more in taxes by frequently driving and buying pollution-intensive products, or to increasingly cycle and use public transit and then have more money left over for other priorities, such as funding increased vacation time." Income tax is being removed and being replaced by a consumption tax. This is regressive. There is no mention of any attempt to make the tax progressive, or any details of how (it it's even possible) you could put enough tweaks in place to make it fair. Vague claims that you'll deal with those issues do not cut it, particularly when they're contradicted by the policy itself.

I'm not in complete disagreement with you, and I think we should adjust prices to affect wasteful consumption, but not this way. A much easier way (well, not politically easy) would be to raise the tax on gasoline.


Anonymous said...

I realize that claiming the Green Party will not offset unintended consequences of the Green Tax Shift fits conveniently with the attempt to frame the Green Party as "regressive". Too bad its not true. We will change income tax categories and tax rates and we will offer an eco-tax rebate for those who pay no tax so that AT MINIMUM our Green Tax Shift is equity-neutral. You can believe it or not but we will be doing it.

Eric Walton - GPC Shadow Cabinet Industry Critic said...

Eric is right.

Because of the Green Party's Six Key Values - one of which is social justice - the poor will not be unfairly treated. In fact this goes not only for Canadians but for countries around the world, and the GPC has thought through the consequences of their policies and created a plan for sustainability that also considers the economic situation and accounts for jobs and other aspects. It's really a very good strategy, far better than our current growth/consumption model that has allowed our current civilization to stretch beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. We need a plan to address this now, but I see little to no action from the old-line parties.

For more of the details on this revenue neutral tax shift go to or see some links to sites dealing with this at my blog.

Yappa said...

Hi again Eric, and hi Cameron,

What I would expect (and don't find in any of those links or on the GPC web site) is a comparison of taxes paid by people at different income levels, tax dedutions and consumption patterns in the current system and the proposed system. Fairness in taxation goes beyond being fair to the very poor, although that's also important. But also show me how it affects people at $75,000 with 2 kids, and so on.

The bottom line is that I don't see how you can have a progressive tax when you're greatly reducing the progressive part of the tax.