Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On self-serving claims

Others have pointed out a few of the problems with Stuart Thomson's hagiography of Jason Kenney. But let's take a look at one part of Kenney's spin which can be tested against other available evidence - and which highlights just how implausible his claims are.

Here's Kenney on the UCP's plan to slash taxes for corporations:
It may seem eccentric to stake the farm on a massive corporate tax cut even as populist politicians around the globe are taking aim at big business, but Kenney believed he had an ace up his sleeve: The party’s internal polling on the issue was absolutely off the charts.

“It was like, shocking,” Kenney said in an interview with the Post. “I was even shocked. It was like 70-30 in favour of this. There’s like 25 per cent of the population that wanted us to go deeper, wanted us to go to a 50-per-cent reduction in the business tax rate.”
Setting aside the folly of shaping tax policy based primarily on polling rather than the actual impact of rates and revenues, how likely is it that public opinion would actually be anywhere near what Kenney claims?

I'm not aware off hand of public polling on the exact same issue, and would certainly be interested to see what's out there. But there has been plenty of polling across Canada around related aspects of tax policy - with findings including:
  • only 14% of respondents across Canada accepting the claim that we should engage in a race to the bottom against the U.S. (which is effectively what Kenney claims a large majority supporting);
  • 69% of respondents nationally supporting increased taxes on the rich to support the poor (a number which matches Alberta's support for corporate tax increases in the past), and
  • 90% of Canadians ("consistent across provinces") agreeing that it's wrong for corporations to dodge taxes and demanding legislative action to stop tax avoidance.
It would thus seem probable that Kenney is overstating public support for a scheme which serves him and his backers than that it's a remotely accurate statement of the public's position - particularly when it's paired with Kenney's concurrent argument that any dissenting voices need to be silenced. And Albertans who gave Kenney too much of the benefit of the doubt during the campaign will need to be wary of letting him make dubious claims as to what they want.

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