Many young Canadians want socialism, paid for by the wealthy

A new study found strong support for socialism as an economic system, but there is a significant hurdle to that ambition

Many young Canadians want socialism, paid for by the wealthy
Steve Randall

Young people have always wanted to change the world, and many see capitalism as a barrier to doing so.

But is support for socialism as an economic system now strong enough in Canada to imagine a shift in that direction become reality?

A new survey from the Fraser Institute has found that half of young Canadians (18-24 years of age) favour a socialist system, which they define as more government spending and programs rather than the state owning and controlling businesses and industries.

Respondents see the government role in socialism as providing more services and 57% expect it to include a guaranteed minimum income. 

There is also strong support for socialism from the total survey population, with 42% saying they would choose it as an economic system, although that drops to 38% among the over 55s.

“A whole segment of the population—not just in Canada but across the developed world—self-describes as socialist, but many of them have never lived in a world with genuine socialism nor the misery it imposed,” said Jason Clemens, executive vice president of the Fraser Institute and co-author of Perspectives on Capitalism and Socialism.

A big problem

However, there is a major issue with this ambition: few people want to actually pay for it.

Working in collaboration with think tanks in the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom, the study conducted by Leger found that just 31% of respondents would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund increased government spending on programs and/or providing a guaranteed minimum income.

Just 16% said they supported raising the GST, but most Canadian participants have an alterative way to fund ‘socialism’ – get the wealthy to pay more.

More than 7 in 10 respondents want a wealth tax on the top 1% of income earners and higher rates of income tax on the top 10%.

But Steven Globerman, Fraser Institute senior fellow and study co-author, said this would not generate enough revenue to cover the costs of the programs on the wish list.

“If Canadians want a larger government and substantially higher government spending, then all Canadians, and not just top income earners, will have to pay higher taxes to finance it,” he said.