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  • CCPA welcomes Randy Robinson as new Ontario Director March 27, 2019
    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy Robinson as the new Director of our Ontario Office.  Randy’s areas of expertise include public sector finance, the gendered rise of precarious work, neoliberalism, and labour rights. He has extensive experience in communications and research, and has been engaged in Ontario’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2019 Federal Budget Analysis February 27, 2019
    Watch this space for response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners. More information will be added as it is available. Commentary and Analysis  Aim high, spend low: Federal budget 2019 by David MacDonald (CCPA) Budget 2019 fiddles while climate crisis looms by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (CCPA) Budget hints at priorities for upcoming […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA-BC welcomes Emira Mears as new Associate Director February 11, 2019
    This week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office is pleased to welcome Emira Mears to our staff team as our newly appointed Associate Director. Emira is an accomplished communications professional, digital strategist and entrepreneur. Through her former company Raised Eyebrow, she has had the opportunity to work with many organizations in the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Study explores media coverage of pipeline controversies December 14, 2018
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    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Jason Kenney’s tax plan full of holes

Jason Kenney has proposed that he will revive the Alberta economy and create jobs by cutting corporate taxes from 12% to 8%. The thinking goes that profitable businesses already located in Alberta will take their larger tax returns and make capital investments or hire more workers. This also assumes that businesses in other provinces will decide to move their operations to a lower tax jurisdiction, increasing the tax and employment base for the province.

In practice, cutting tax rates for profitable corporations doesn’t create jobs. It didn’t work for the BC Liberals when they tried it. And recent experience at the federal level showed that it only made it more likely for corporations to sit on ‘dead money’, as former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney put it. Bigger tax returns from rate cuts can be, and often are, used to buy back shares to boost share prices or pay bonuses to executives, which have limited benefit beyond the pocketbooks of those who are already wealthy.

Like most tax cuts, this policy would only benefit those businesses who made enough money to be paying taxes in the first place, and arguably aren’t most in need of help funding new investments. The timing of a tax rate cut also blunts the benefits, as it disproportionately benefits those who have made investments in the past, rather than only rewarding new investments.

As for attracting out-of-province relocation, if Alberta’s existing overall tax advantage and competitive real estate markets haven’t prompted significant movement from other jurisdictions, it’s hard to see how this policy will make much of a difference. Even if it did encourage businesses to move, it’s a zero-sum game that steals from neighbours and sets up the expectation that we need to bribe businesses to set up shop. That’s an unsustainable foundation for long term economic growth.

Another difficult truth is that investing in machinery and equipment doesn’t necessarily create jobs. We need look no further than oil sands investments in self-driving trucks to see how corporate investment doesn’t always trickle down to more or better jobs for workers.

The success and impact of such a policy can’t be viewed in isolation, either. Many economists who support corporate tax cuts will tell you that they prefer a more ‘efficient’ form of taxation, such as a broad based sales tax. That’s not what’s on offer here, so we have to look at what Kenney might cut when the predicted jobs never arrive, and how that would impact the Alberta economy. This is especially true if he plans to follow through with promised cuts to education, the foundation for long term prosperity of any economy.

As government expenditures go, a corporate tax rate cut has the lowest bang for the buck in creating jobs and growing the economy. If we really want to encourage more productive investment, a more targeted approach could be used, such as the Alberta Investor Tax Credit (AITC). Or the provincial government could allow businesses to write off the cost of investments in capital faster, like the federal accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) introduced under Stephen Harper and extended by Justin Trudeau. But overall corporations and holders of capital need to pay higher taxes, not lower. It’s important to remember that decisions around corporate investment are guided by a number of factors, but most significant among them is ademand, not corporate tax rates.

Trickle-down economic policy is one of those zombie economic myths that will always find strong support among those who stand to benefit from it.

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Comment from Larry Kazdan
Time: April 5, 2019, 6:40 am

Research desk: What’s a dollar of stimulus worth?

By Dylan Matthews
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/06/research_desk_whats_a_dollar_o.html

“Direct government spending — through unemployment benefits, food stamps, work sharing or infrastructure spending — top the list, giving you more than a dollar’s worth of stimulus for a dollar’s worth of spending, while cuts to taxes affecting businesses and upper-income individuals — such as the corporate, dividend, capital gains and alternative minimum taxes — give you less.”

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