Roughly 300 Occupy Vancouver demonstrators marched through the downtown core Saturday afternoon as part of the global protests demanding that G20 leaders institute a Robin Hood tax on currency trading and speculative financial transactions.
Marchers called out for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to support the tax while meeting with other G20 leaders in France this week.
While marshalling at the Vancouver Art Gallery beforehand, demonstrators were given a short history of the tax and then briefly debated its merits and possibilities.
"The main proposal out there is for a tax of a fraction of a per cent... on transactions of stocks, on foreign exchange and financial derivatives," explained Canadian Union of Public Employees economist Toby Sanger to a cheering crowd. "There's $ 600 trillion worth of financial derivatives out there, the value of the global economy each year is $60 trillion.
"So, most of that is being used for speculation, and that was a big cause of the financial crisis that we've gone through."
Sanger added, "The idea is from a small tax like this - it could generate hundreds of billions of dollars."
He said taxes would be collected nationally and half the money would go directly to each national government. The other half would go into a fund built to combat poverty and climate change.
"The incentives here are all wrong--you screw up the economy so you get a big tax break? The rest of us have to pay for it twice over? That's not fair and it's not good economics," Sanger said to reporters after his speech. "This is an idea for a small tax on the financial sector--which is undertaxed compared to other sectors--and the revenue from it would go toward badly-needed human needs such as reducing poverty and fighting climate change."
The idea of the tax as a possible demand from the Occupy movement was first by Vancouver's Adbusters magazine, the same organization that proposed the Occupy Wall Street movement last summer.
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Surrounded by roughly a dozen police, demonstrators marched down Georgia Street to the Central Library, then looped back west through the downtown core, blocking traffic in one direction.
"We have the same thing there, but this is the first time we've actually watched one," said Rick Thompson, a Los Angeles resident who watched the march from Granville Street while on holiday with his wife Marcella.
Thompson, 58, said he supported a flat tax on all corporate and individual income instead of a Robin Hood tax, but believed the current economic system was "off-kilter."
"Everything changes eventually, even the Roman Empire didn't last that long," Thompson said.
As the marchers wound down Granville Street, yoga teacher Sandra Stephanson walked alongside with an H & M shopping bag.
"I think you just have to give to the people around us every day, it's not just about relying on governments to make the decisions we want," Stephanson said. "I find Vancouver a beautiful city but I also find it very apathetic about decency."
"To be close to each other, this is caring - more than taxes - and in the end, that's what's going to save us."
Similar marches occurred in dozens of cities around North America, with about 1,000 taking to the streets of San Francisco.