Tax and Public Opinion Panel Discussion

This panel was held on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.


As Canadians have recently seen, tax reform is hard. The economics can be controversial, the law is complex, and the accountancy concepts are strange to many of us. People have strong views on tax questions, for pocketbook reasons or moral or political ones. This mix of factors can make it hard to engage the voting public in a meaningful consultation. There is a risk of much heat and not much light, shouting matches and head scratching.

This panel brings together three of Dalhousie’s experts on tax policy to help us think about how public opinion shapes tax policy, and whether we can do a better job of talking constructively about tax.

Our three presenters each bring special expertise to these questions. Graham Steele ran a public consultation on Nova Scotia’s finances when he was the Provincial Finance minister and brings to this event the insights he developed during that process and since. He is the author of the recently released book The Effective Citizen: How to Make Politicians Work for You. Shirley Tillotson brings an historical perspective, based on her study of 55 years of tax politics and public opinion in Canada. Her recent book Give and Take: The Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy was released in November 2017. Kim Brooks currently serves as an expert advisor to the Canada Revenue Agency on international tax, and will share with us her knowledge of the international publics (experts, interested parties) who influence international organizations and, as a result, Canada's own tax policy.

And we want to hear your thoughts. Do you talk about tax with friends and family? How does that go? Have you changed your thinking over the years? Why or why not?

Please join us on February 14 from 10:00 am to 11:20 am in The Kenneth C. Rowe Building, Room 1014.

About the speakers

Kim Brooks

Kim Brooks is a Professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She teaches and researches in tax law and policy. She serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the International Fiscal Association (Canadian Branch) and as Vice-Chair of the Canada Revenue Agency offshore compliance advisory committee.

Graham Steele

Graham Steele was a member of the Nova Scotia legislature from 2001 to 2013. He was Nova Scotia’s finance minister from 2009 to 2012.

Graham’s second book about his experience in the legislature and government, titled The Effective Citizen: How to Make Politicians Work for You, has just been published. His first book, What I Learned About Politics, became an instant bestseller when it was released in September 2014.

Graham now teaches business law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Shirley Tillotson

Shirley Tillotson taught Canadian history for 30 years, with an emphasis on politics, public administration, and social movements. She has has worked as a production manager in small business and as an academic administrator, both as a department chair and as an associate dean. She is the award-winning author of three books, The Public at Play (2000), Contributing Citizens (2008), and most recently, Give and Take: the Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy (2017). These books and her scholarly articles are about the interaction of state and civil society, community organizations and public policy, on matters such as municipal services, income assistance, charitable fundraising, labour organizations, human rights, and taxation.