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Taxes: 'A good thing'

Lauren McKeon
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 21, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Tax the bad, not the good.

That was the message Alberta researcher Dave Thompson shared with attendees of a Wednesday lunchtime presentation on taxes Wednesday held by an Alternatives North.

The presentation, which had the ears of Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and Alternative North members alike - as well as a few exchange students from Honduras and one city councillor - was given again on Thursday to members of the legislative assembly.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Alberta researcher Dave Thompson gave a presentation on taxes - and how they can be a good thing - during Alternative North's Wednesday lunch meeting. - Lauren McKeon/NNSL photo

But the message was the same. "There is no choice between taxing and not taxing ... the choice is between smart taxes and dumb taxes," said Thompson, who prepared the report A Fair Price: Taxation, Services and Programs in the Northwest Territories for the Alberta-based Parkland Institute.

The report was made in response to the territorial government's two documents on tax options: the Revenue Options Paper and the Revenue Options Summary.

"So far tax policy hasn't caught up with common sense," Thompson said. "If we didn't have taxes we wouldn't have police, roads ... the Internet - anything."

Thompson called the GNWT summary report biased against taxes, saying while the report talked about the costs of taxing it did not talk "about the cost of not taxing."

"My recommendation is to withdraw the current round of comments and start over again," he added.

Among many things, Thompson suggested a payroll tax cut for all but the highest bracket of income where he suggested they be raised, as well as an income tax decrease for lower- and middle-bracket incomes. He also advised against a sales tax.

However, the researcher called for raises in tobacco and liquor taxes and the implementation of carbon taxes - all keeping with his "tax the bad" theory.

"Here the smoking rate is double the Canadian rate," he said.

Thompson warned about the amount of money leaking out of the territory through the diamond mines.

"This is your money and it's going out of the country," he said.

"It's not a bonanza. Some day the party will be over here and the territory is going to need savings to live off of."

"We have the gift of natural resources (and) the territorial government has stood by and watched it flow out of here," agreed Kevin O'Reilly of Alternatives North.

Thompson's suggestions earned many nods from the presentation goers including Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce president Jon Jaque.

The chamber recently produced a second plan of action for generating revenues in response to the GNWT revenue options plan.

"Some of the stuff we wouldn't even touch," Jaque said, but other suggestions really "resonated."

The territorial government, he added, "has lost focus in where it should go in the last eight years ... in a booming economy."