Richmond Hill voters raise taxing issues at all-candidates debate

Richmond Hill voters gathered at the Langstaff Community Centre gymnasium Thursday, Sept. 22 for a provincial election all-candidates event. About a hundred politically plugged-in residents came to hear the four main candidates talk about provincial matters, but the issue of taxation appeared to be foremost in their minds.

The incumbent Liberal, Reza Moridi, said taxes are necessary to keep the province functioning: “You can’t cut taxes, taxes, taxes and then invest $6 billion dollars in health care,” Moridi said. “Where are you going to bring the money? Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to find money from somewhere to pay for it.”

Progressive Conservative candidate Vic Gupta, said the Liberals are imposing too many taxes and thus making Ontario a more expensive place to live.

They were joined on the panel by candidate Adam DeVita for the NDP and candidate Brian Chamberlain for the Green Party.

“When the tax rates become so excessive that people look for every loophole to avoid paying them, that’s also a problem,” Gupta said. “So people need to have fair and reasonable taxation levels and we’re going to provide some tax relief.”

He promises that if elected, the PCs will also work to remove the HST, which he says was “the wrong tax at the wrong time.”

Truck driver Ivan Hughes was one of those who attended the debate. He bristles every time he thinks about the additional costs that taxes add to the price of gasoline. He says the government doesn’t seem to consider the problems added taxes have on his bottom line.

“I’m in the trucking industry and we’re getting murdered,” he said. “People don’t realize that truckers are blowing their brains out trying to get the goods to the stores. It becomes a safety issue.”

Hughes says truck drivers are already taking shortcuts and driving more dangerously because of the rising gas prices; rising costs only add to the stresses of being on the road.

A carbon tax was proposed in the 2008 Federal election by the Liberal Party under Stéphane Dion. It was to be a fee charged on carbon dioxide emitting sources, most notably gasoline, natural gas and coal. Its goal was to reduce greenhouse gases and to produce a healthier planet.

The McGuinty Liberals have already established a regulatory framework for a cap-and-trade mechanism under its Ontario Environmental Protection Act, 2009. The system would limit the amount of greenhouse gases companies can emit through distribution of allowances. Any surplus allowance can be sold or saved for later use. If a company exceeds their limit, it must purchase allowances from other companies or opt for an offset, such as planting trees.

To date however, the McGuinty Liberals have yet to follow through and implement a formal cap-and-trade framework and has essentially ducked the issue throughout the election, despite statements indicating it intends to introduce cap-and-and trade sometime in 2012.

Not everyone in the audience was against more taxes however. Michael Callahan is a lawyer residing in Richmond Hill. He believes taxes are necessary to keep the province afloat.

“Well, if you believe in conserving energy and if you believe in trying to get ourselves off of oil and things like that then yeah, the carbon tax makes sense,” he said.

“I just don’t want to go back to that kind of slash and burn and cut everything.”