The truth about taxes
In Ontario, where I live, news of devastating provincial funding cuts keeps pouring in.
Public libraries are cancelling inter-library loan services.
Refugees and immigrants are losing access to legal aid services.
Teachers are receiving layoff notices.
Conservation flood management efforts are getting cut.
Public health units are losing funding.
In other words, the government is putting tax cuts and deficit reduction ahead of community well-being. And that has devastating consequences.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen Da Villa said the cuts to public health units will have “significant negative impacts on the health of Toronto residents... Whether it is providing school immunization programs, protecting people from measles, influenza, the next SARS and other outbreaks, helping keep our water safe to drink, inspecting our restaurants, pools and beaches, investments in public health keep our city and residents safe, healthy and strong.”
Library staff across the province say the end of inter-library loans will hurt small and remote communities, which depend on these services.
Libraries are great equalizers in our society. In Toronto alone, the number of people who use public libraries is greater than the number of people who go the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, and Raptors’ games combined.
Public service cuts of all kinds of compound existing inequities in our communities.
Ontario isn’t alone in keeping public service spending low in order to deliver tax cuts.
Upon tabling the recent Saskatchewan budget, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer boasted: “Our province has among the lowest personal and business taxes in the country, and there are no tax increases and no new taxes in this budget.”
In Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, political leaders are doubling down on a campaign to turn the federal carbon tax into political hay—prioritizing tax cuts over battling climate change.
In this Regina Leader-Post oped, Calgary research consultant Nick Falvo says low taxes are nothing to brag about. He writes:
“First, taxes can help finance important social spending. …
“Second, taxes share the wealth, making a province more equitable. …
“Third, taxes can discourage undesirable behaviour, such as excessive consumption of energy, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. …
“Finally, taxes can reduce public debt.”
For too long, politicians have disconnected the price tag from the value of public services: taxes are how we contribute—as citizens, as residents, as neighbours—to our community’s well-being.
Taxes are the gift we give each other.
Feed Your Head
Public libraries are democracy in action: Read this excellent essay in praise of public libraries.
Public health cuts will haunt us: The Globe and Mail’s André Picard on how “public health is Davids fighting countless Goliaths.”
Cities and towns need better funding: It’s time to revamp our tax system so municipalities get the resources they need to provide services, say Mowat Centre’s Sunil Johal and Kiran Alwani.
Taxes as a force of good: In Denmark, tax is a term of affection.
Tax is not a four-letter word: Have you read this collection of essays on the value of taxes in Canada, edited by Alex and Jordan Himelfarb? I highly recommend it (and not just because I contributed to the book!).
Canada’s quiet bargain: It’s tax season. Read economist Hugh Mackenzie’s analysis of why Canadian households are better off paying taxes—they’re Canada’s quiet bargain.
“Public health is all about nothing ... That’s the fundamental output of public health, is the non-occurrence of events,” he said. “Which for folks who have no sense of history and no knowledge about what happens if you stop preventing disease, then it looks like you’re wasting your money because you’re spending all this money on public health and nothing’s happening. In fact, that is our deliverable — is not having epidemics in the city and not having people disabled by preventable health conditions so that you lose economically that way.” Dr. David Fisman, head of the epidemiology division at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Source here.
“Libraries are really a community haven and a community hub in a lot of our small communities. They're a place where anyone can go and you don't have to be a consumer to use the library. You don't have to buy anything.” Source here.
Trish Hennessy is a senior communications strategist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the director of Think Upstream