By Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 5:07:22 EDT PM
OTTAWA — Taking from the richer and giving to the poorer is alive and well in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).
The NHS, which replaced Statistics Canada’s mandatory long-form census, found that the richest 10% of Canadians paid about 42% of all income tax collected.
Alison Hale, Stats Canada’s director of income statistics, says that’s not surprising.
“That’s how the income tax system is designed,” said Hale.
The machinery of government plays Robin Hood with that money through various benefit programs.
That means the poorest 20% of Canadians get more than half their income from government pension plans, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplements, Employment Insurance benefits, welfare payments or child benefit programs.
Hale suggests people may find that finding “reassuring.”
“There’s a perception that transfers should be going to people in need,” she said.
The groups most dependent on government transfers, said Hale, are seniors and single women raising children under six.
Residents of some of the Atlantic provinces were the most dependent on government transfers for their income.
“In three provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick — the total in transfers received was slightly more than the taxes they paid,” said the NHS.
In all other provinces and territories residents paid more in income tax than they got back from government programs.
“As a percentage of total income, Alberta was the only province whose taxes exceeded transfers by more than 10 percentage points,” said the NHS.
The data also shows that while seven in 10 Canadians get some kind of government transfer, only 13% depend exclusively on those transfers for their income.
For the most part, Canadians don’t depend on their fellow taxpayer for their income.
The NHS found that almost 88% of Canadians’ incomes come from private sources.
“Obviously, we’re a nation of workers,” said Hale.
In fact, many Canadians are working into their golden years to supplement their income.
Most still retire at 65 when their state pension benefits become available, but the NHS still found that “at age 66, about four in 10 still had employment income.”
That gradually declines as workers age, however.
“By the age of 74, employment income accounted for less than 10% of total income,” said the NHS.
The 2011 NHS shows the average income of Canadians is $38,700.
Hale says it’s difficult to compare that with the figure from the 2006 census because of different methodologies used.