Braid: The Liberals try their vilest tactic yet — using tax hike to sow anger between generations

It means less money from parents who provide financial help even as their struggling offspring climb toward middle age

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One national political activity is truly non-partisan — the singular lust of governments at all levels to screw Canadians on taxation.

The federal Liberals are raising the capital gains tax. City governments have hit citizens with whopping property tax increases (7.8 per cent in Calgary).

The provincial UCP government promised immediate tax relief in an election campaign, and then wiggled out of it when safely elected, using arguments that are now shown to be bogus.

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One hardly knows where to start, but the Liberal move on capital gains is truly a cynical keeper for the ages. It raises more money to waste, consciously tries to divide the generations against each other, and yet ensures that many younger people won’t benefit as much from their parents’ assets.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland made the anger-stoking politics vividly clear in her speech to the House of Commons.

“Do you want to live in a country where those at the very top live lives of luxury — but must do so in gated communities, behind ever higher fences, using private health care and airplanes, because the public sphere is so degraded and the wrath of the vast majority of their less privileged compatriots burns so hot?”

The tax hike, she said, “ensures that the very wealthiest pay their fair share.”

What a load of . . . pick your noxious byproduct. Only a tiny portion of our population lives that way. But Freeland’s tax measures affect a broad swath of older people who sensibly used the favourable conditions of their own earning years to save and invest some money.

The tax will now apply to 67 per cent of their capital gain over $250,000, if they’re lucky enough to score such a bonanza in a single year.

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This is presented as a big win for younger people who struggle against terrible economic conditions that have severely worsened under the Liberal watch.

But there’s really nothing in it for Millennials and Gen Z Canadians (Freeland’s terms) beyond vague promises of better housing, etc.

There will be an outcome, though — less money from parents who provide financial help even as their struggling offspring climb toward middle age.

Personally, I hardly know an older person who isn’t providing some financial assistance to their kids; help the older folks rarely got from their own parents, and usually didn’t need.

A tax is just a tax even if you dress it up in cross-generation anger. It simply takes from people with any connection to the money and puts it into a government pocket, only to trickle out to this or that vote-winning ploy.

But the harm of this tax goes much further, threatening the pensions of people and groups — like doctors — who are entirely responsible for their own retirement funds.

The super-wealthy will shrug off the tax as a minor annoyance. They’ll find ways to avoid it.

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But many in the tatters of the middle class will see more money vanish to taxes. The young people Freeland courts will have nothing but official encouragement to be even angrier at the boomers.

(Trust me, ageism is afoot and insults abound; being a vintage Canadian isn’t always that much fun, especially for one who won’t get closer to a capital gain than watching Washington win a hockey game.)

The Alberta UCP has added its own charade to the political theatre of tax policy.

Before last year’s election, they promised a big cut in provincial income tax. It would save $1,500 a year for a family of four.

That helped win a majority for Premier Danielle Smith. Albertans were given every reason to expect the break in the 2023 tax year.

Then, around Christmas, Smith and her finance minister started saying they were deeply worried about new provincial deficits, even though their own numbers showed no such prospect.

At budget time, the big promise suddenly vanished. Albertans won’t see half the promised relief until 2026, the rest only in 2027.

But here’s the kicker. The province just got its third credit rating upgrade in one year. The economy is doing well, the cost of debt is dropping. There’s no more talk of deficits.

And no tax break.

Cry if you like. Sometimes it helps.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald.

X: @DonBraid

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