Taxpayers get what they vote for
Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 06:00 am
This editorial was originally going to be about statistics, damn statistics and a defence of government after the right-leaning Fraser Institute think tank released another report strongly suggesting Canadians pay way too much tax.
And then along came the latest spending allegations involving the short-lived reign of our princess ex-premier Alison Redford, who if it can be believed, hired a so-called travel scout to suss out suitable hotel rooms, clean bathrooms and, we can only assume, the best appetizers in places such as China, India, Switzerland, London and Washington, before our provincial leader set a delicate foot there. London, Switzerland and Washington? Really?
For fiscally responsible Albertans, this embarrassing Redford scandal (and make no mistake, that is what it is) is getting to feel like a bad case of Rob Ford disease. It just keeps coming back.
So when we hear in the same week that Canadians spend more on tax than on food, shelter and clothing each year, it is hard not to become unsettled by our collective political choices. And that doesn’t bode well for you-know-who, or worse, our political process.
But back to the statistics. The Fraser study says that the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and gave nearly 42 per cent of that, or $32,369 in taxes. While you couldn’t buy a new Cadillac for that money, you could get three new Nissan Micras. That same family, apparently, only spent about 36 per cent of their hard earned dollars on the necessities of life. That presumably includes things like milk, running shoes and open-concept kitchens.
The Fraser group compares this tax tab to the one Canadian families paid in 1961 which was a more affordable 33.5 per cent of their then $5,000 annual incomes. Economists have been quick to point out, however, that back in 1961 there was no money-gobbling public health care, no Canada Pension Plan and no Old Age Security. In those days, far fewer of our beloved children finished high school before going to work and fewer still considered university an option. There likely isn’t an average Canadian family who doesn’t understand first hand that all of this investing in the future costs money. Lots of it.
These are all benefits of being Canadian. They may not be perfect, but most average modern families would be hard-pressed to live without them and, in fact, have taken to the streets when our social programs have been threatened. They are things that make us proud as a nation and, if you think about it, should make us proud to pay our taxes.
And then along comes the almost unthinkable news of Redford’s travel scout on top of all of the other evidence of the provincial government’s culture of unabashed entitlement. It is tough not to become cynical, that cheapest of all emotions, but then again …
Let’s at least hope the travel scout’s invaluable guidance can be used by the average Alberta family in planning their next vacation abroad. If not, what did they pay for?