August 13, 2014

Fraser Games – 2: Infortainment Clickbait for a gullible media

YVRLutyens posts a comment below that deserves a higher profile – namely here – regarding the Fraser Institute’s report on increases in total taxation.

Like the TomTom congestion reports, what seems to be going on is the creation of infotainment clickbait. The key to this is to create something that will attract media types who will give it wider press.

Well, it works.  The report is quoted without qualification twice in The Sun today, including a Canadian Press story that was likely reprinted nationwide.  As YVR notes:

 Those media types certainly aren’t numbers people, but why they don’t just ask themselves whether the congestion in Vancouver is the worst they have seen or whether they themselves pay 42% of their income in tax, I don’t know.

Here’s what he asked himself:

I know that there is something funny with the Fraser Institute stats because I only employ one tax saving measure, RRSP contributions, yet there is no way that I pay 42% of my income in tax, including hidden taxes.

And here’s what he deduced:

  • When I look at the report, I see what fiddle has taken place. Using 13.3 million as the number of households in Canada, the tax rates shown in the report imply a total tax bill of $430 billion and the income totals imply a total income of $1,024 billion. When I do a rough calculation of total government revenue, I come up with $245 billion federal, $270 billion provincial, $55 billion municipal for a total of $570 billion. So the Fraser Institute has undercounted.
  • But total GDP is $1,700 billion so the Fraser Institute has undercounted this even more. The ratio of total tax to total income is 33 % which accords with OECD statistics (best as I can remember). (FI’s possible cover for this is that they used “cash” income, not national income, but they do not seem to have confined themselves to “cash” taxes.)
  • Another statistical problem is the use of averages. Income taxes are steeply progressive, so what the average family pays is not what the median family pays. High income families will pay a higher proportion of their incomes as income taxes than the median family. Sales taxes are complicated, excluding food and rent, which are a higher proportion of low income family expenditure, but also excluding savings which is a higher proportion of high income family expenditure. Other taxes are not progressive at all, so the total picture will be mixed, but nevertheless, the use of averages hides what is going on.
  • And the calculation of tax increases using nominal dollars is laughable: “The total tax bill, which includes all types of taxes, has increased by 1,832 percent since 1961”. The real number, which the FI does include in the report, is 147%.

In summary:

Not to say that I necessarily agree with our tax policies, but in order to talk about them, you have to use honest numbers.


Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. “infotainment clickbait” – sadly it’s all too common for cash-strapped news organizations to just rebroadcast the claims without any fact checking.

    Case in point, the recent report that Vancouver has the most skyscrapers per capita in the world – according to data obtained from a database maintained largely by people who live in Vancouver (doh). Originally reported by city hall watch, and sadly picked up by Global News.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,303 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles