The single tax movement has not been confined to the United States. In fact, when adherents of the proposal wish to cite examples of its successful operation, they invariably choose them from the cities and provinces of western Canada. In a number of these towns and cities land has been practically the sole object of taxation, and under the system the country, towns, and cities grew and prospered. Land values rose rapidly, the taxes were comparatively low, and the burden of providing for the needs of the public purse was scarcely felt. The cities of the United States, especially in the West, have been urged, if they would be prosperous, to throw off the octopus of taxing improvements and adopt the system used by Vancouver or Edmonton.
Situation in Canada. - Present reports from experts who have made a study of the situation, and from the officials themselves, indicate that the tax system in these Canadian cities is becoming far from satisfactory. Land values are ceasing to rise in the accustomed ratio, which automatically affects revenues. The justice of exempting rich brokers, bankers, and merchants from taxes is being questioned by an increasing number of citizens. An official of the city of Edmonton has just pointed out the fact that when land values are rising rapidly, and taxes are low, the system works admirably; but that now land values are not increasing, while the need for revenue is increasing. Other sources of revenue must be found or the taxes on land will become unbearable.
A few figures will indicate the present condition of Vancouver's prosperity when land values cease to rise rapidly. In 1912 building permits reached over $19,000,000, but in a few years had fallen to less than $2,500,000. Tax arrears were about $510,000 in 1912, $4,220,000 in 1916, and $5,038,000 in 1918. The mill tax rate has gone up from about 16 to nearly 25. The debt has gone from $22,500,000 in 1912 to $40,000,000 in 1918.1 In a number of cities the rate is being increased to such an extent that refusal to pay the tax is the result, and numerous lots are being taken over in payment for taxes. It has been pointed out by many observers that these conditions do not prevail in the eastern cities, which have not been
1F, C, Wade, Bulletin of National Tax Association, April, 1918, affected by the magic of the single tax. It is significant that, in a recent Ottawa municipal election, the proposition to adopt the single tax as a basis for her revenue system was defeated by a three to one vote.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the claims that have been made for the tax system of western Canada can no longer be substantiated. A marked dissatisfaction with the system is becoming more apparent. Marked ability to pay taxes is seen among the class of bankers, merchants, and manufacturers, yet they frequently escape almost entirely. Demands are being made that these classes, who are enjoying the benefits of the government, contribute to its support, and future fiscal development may be expected to take the direction of an extension of the bases for the levy of taxes.
The Principle in Europe. - Some of the principles of the single tax may be found in use in some European and Asiatic countries, yet these features have no place as a part of the Henry George single tax movement. The Lloyd George scheme for land taxes of 1909 has been pointed out as a single tax achievement. In reality it was simply a plan to secure some return from the vast estates which were being held tax-free, since taxes had been assessed upon the annual rental instead of upon capital value. The unearned increment tax has been used extensively, however, in Germany and Australia.