Fixing the Fiscal Imbalance: Turning GST Revenues Over to the Provinces in Exchange for Lower Transfers


  • Ken Boessenkool KTG Public Affairs Ltd.



The central argument of this paper is that Canada should better align provincial own-source revenues with provincial expenditures by turning over the GST to the provinces while simultaneously reducing federal transfers. The paper begins by broadly outlining of Canada's present fiscal arrangements and explains why a reduction of cash transfers and realignment of federal and provincial tax rates – in short, a transfer of tax points – would benefit the federation. It reviews past tax point transfers and then addresses the question of why transferring GST revenues is superior to other alternatives using the principles of tax assignment as the guide. It lays out two comprehensive proposals for transferring GST revenues, with the key difference being the way in which the GST transfer is equalized across provinces. It shows the impact on Ottawa and the provinces of these two proposals for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. It highlights the benefits of these changes from a federal, provincial and taxpayer perspective with a special focus on one of Canada's major expenditure challenges what to do about public health spending.


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