Like every leadership contest, we wait for the first sizable gaffe of the campaign. I submit Brian Topp has provided that moment by commiting the CARDINAL sin of entering into hypotheticals, on of all things TAXES:
Brian Topp is boldly going where most Canadian politicians fear to tread: promising to make the wealthy pay more in taxes.
The perceived frontrunner in the NDP leadership race wants his party to make higher income taxes for high-income earners a key plank in its next election campaign platform.
He told The Canadian Press he intends to unveil a detailed proposal in the weeks to come.
"I will be talking about income taxes and I think it's time for our party to step up to that plate and to be pretty clear about that because then we'll have a mandate to act if we're elected," Topp said in a wide-ranging interview.
He also called for a hike in corporate taxes and did not rule out a sales tax increase "at some point," once the fragile economy is on surer footing.
At some point? I actually think Topp could find broad support for "tax the rich", this notion of a growing gap between rich and poor is resonating, perhaps fertile ground, bold but not reckless necessarily. As for corporate taxes, we need a debate about this race to zero mentality, again I think Topp isn't terribly "out there", although he does open himself to the easy "anti-jobs" attack line. Where Topp makes a perhaps huge gaffe, actually musing about raising sales taxes, leaving the door open on an idea which will be met with complete and utter rejection.
A more seasoned politician simply says, "a sales tax increase isn't part of my plans", and let's move on. Instead, Topp leaves room for saddling Canadians with more taxes, forget the philosophical or economic arguments, pure political poison no matter how you slice it. Canadians feel maxed out, the Conservatives have already exploited sales taxes to win a mandate, there is no political upside in this consideration. Topp reeks of a certain disconnect, in the soundbite world, this statement is pure gold, while he will be left explaining details nobody entertains.
Topp's ideas may be attractive to rank and file NDP supporters, but for a party that needs to broaden support, Topp is narrowing appeal, reinforcing baggage that prevents the NDP from capturing mainstream Canada (obviously Quebec aside). I will raise taxes on business, I will raise taxes on certain individuals and I will raise taxes on everybody. Honest yes, pure fodder for the Conservatives, oh my goodness YES, YES, YES, the ads write themselves.
Cutting the GST was actually a ill advised move by the Conservatives, wherein they pandered for votes at the expense of sound tax policy. However, Topp looks every bit the man who "has never been tested" with what amounts to a rookie mistake. I don't see much fallout from partisans, but the wider audience- should Topp succeed- expect to hear "at some point" TO the point of nausea in the future.