The Yellow Vest movement has surfaced in Canada to protest the Liberal government’s carbon tax but few have looked beyond the vest. Yes, the movement was initially protesting an added carbon tax to fuel prices in France where residents pay an average of £1.56 (or $2.38 CAD) per litre of gas. As usual, the added tax was simply a catalyst for what the French see as increased costs on the already struggling middle class.
Protesters in France claim their wages have stagnated over the last 20 years while the cost of living has increased. They are protesting a situation that is not unlike what is going on in many areas of the world: a growing gap between the rich and poor as the middle class is losing their once stable position. A majority of the protesters are working and say they cannot make ends meet on their low income.
The movement is predominantly against a tax system perceived as unfair and unjust, but there are numerous grievances and differences of opinion. Most want to scrap the fuel taxes, hold a review of the tax system, raise the minimum wage and roll back Macron’s tax cuts for the wealthy and his pro-business economic programme. But some also want parliament dissolved and Macron to resign.
The first 18 months of Macron’s presidency were defined by his drive for businesses to become more competitive; he cut taxes on companies and transformed France’s wealth tax, easing the tax burden on the very wealthy.
And what happens when governments reduce the tax burden on those who can most afford to pay? They either have to reduce services or they have to increase taxes on those who can least afford them.
What we are seeing in France is a reaction to a widening gap between the wealthy and the working poor; and it’s not singular to European countries. We have seen the same manifest itself in the election of Donald Trump and the rise in populist support in Canada.
If Jason Kenney manages to fulfill his intention to cut back corporate and small business taxes, decrease taxes for those individuals making over $130,000/year, and remove the carbon tax, what do people honestly think will happen?
Ontario just had their credit rating downgraded due to Ford’s revenue decreases despite the “efficiencies” of cutting a basic income program, education funding, prescription coverage for children, hospital funding, and city council. Alberta’s credit rating has already been downgraded three times with consistent recommendations to increase revenue or cut spending ignored but credit agencies have left the rating alone in 2018 citing economic recovery. Ford’s “efficiencies” have saved a measly $500,000,000 as the lion’s share of savings were eaten up by revenue cuts.
France, with their 9.3% unemployment rate and average income of ~$57,000 (CAD, compared to Canada’s $64,948) is protesting corporate welfare, decreased tax on the wealthiest in their country and increased tax on everyone else. So if you’re going to don the Yellow Vests, Canada, take a stand against the policies that put them where they are today so you don’t need to renew the fight in 2019.
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