By Jason Menard
With the budget announcement looming and the income tax filing deadline just in the past, it’s an interesting time to consider what Canadians want from their government.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty states that Canadians are facing an “excessive” tax burden. And, while that may be true, do we really want it to change? What are our alternatives? Is less taxation the answer?
Or are our elected representatives simply not asking the right question?
For many Canadians the issue is not simply one of too much tax, but rather the fact that our taxes are not being properly used. The much-debated one per cent cut of the GST is a simple sound-bite ready move to offer immediate sating our immediate ravenous appetite without tackling the larger issue of our hunger.
The GST, which due to the fact that it’s a consumption tax and therefore is actually one of our fairest taxes, is despised not for its existence, but for the fact that it was never applied as specified. Initially levied in order to cut down the country’s crushing debt, the GST has become just another cash cow from which our federal government can milk Canadians’ wallets.
However, if the funds were applied as prescribed, our deficit eliminated, and the debt paid down, would Canadians object? Would a minority that wields an inordinate amount of power in our first-past-the-post system of elections be swayed in an election to offer a negligible cut in a valuable tax?
Probably not. But we’re not being asked that questions now, are we?
The addition of $100 per month for child-care expenses? Great for those of us with stay-at-home spouses, not so good for those who truly need daycare. When in Quebec, we were able to take advantage of the then-$5-a-day system. Coming to Ontario and facing $30-ish costs per day, that $100 would simply provide us with a week’s worth of care.
Am I going to look a gift $100 in the mouth? No. But would I rather that my money go back into the creation of an effective system? You’re damn right!
And that’s the key. Canadians don’t want less taxes, they just want to make sure that we’re getting the most value for our buck. We don’t want duplication of effort, multiple levels of bureaucracy eating up funds and delaying processes between federal and provincial governments. Nor do we want to throw money after proven ineffective business models.
We, as Canadians, are proud to have access to universal health care and are willing to pay a premium through taxations to do so. We, as Canadians, in large part value our social programs and see the benefit in providing support for various segments of our society that may need it. We see the value of education, we see the value of environmentalism, and we see the need for a social conscience.
But what we also see is the fact that a significant number of those tax dollars are being misspent. We see hospital emergency rooms closing as school classes bulge due to lack of funding, yet more and more money is being siphoned from our wallets.
So, as Flaherty prepares to wow us with a budget that promises a reduction in our taxes, do we have any faith that the government is suddenly going to become astute money managers and be able to do more with less? No.
Canadians may be one of the most taxed nations in the world, but we’re fine with that as long as we get what we pay for. The question shouldn’t be one of whether we’d like to pay less taxes, but rather one of would we rather our government does a better job with the taxes it gets now?
And that’s an answer I’m sure we’re all in agreement on.
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