B.C. VIEWS: Perils of an ‘entitlement state’

Quebec is Canada's Greece, Ottawa subsidizes pizza parlours and other harsh realities of our economic situation

Occupy Victoria squat

VICTORIA – With the B.C. and federal governments once again struggling to climb out of deep operating deficits, it’s a good time for the release of Mark Milke’s book Tax Me, I’m Canadian.

An update of the same title published 12 years ago, the book retains the history of taxes in Canada, detailing how Canada’s tax system was initially built to mimic the United States system in the late 19th century.

Beyond the history, it is mostly new material. Included are chapters on the global meltdown of 2009, the surge of pension liabilities as the baby boomers retire and the flawed logic behind the “Occupy” and “Idle No More” protests.

Some readers will immediately note that Milke works for the Fraser Institute and was previously B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. But the book is not just an argument for cutting taxes. It also dismantles persistent myths that income taxes are illegal, and launches a broadside on what Milke calls “Canada’s corporate welfare carnival.”

Many people will be able to identify some top names in the government subsidy game: Bombardier, General Motors, even poor old Rolls Royce Canada. Some will also be well aware that our supposedly tight-fisted Conservative federal government has continued to pour out “regional development” and other funds to every part of the country.

But I did not know that Industry Canada grants were handed out to pizza parlours (including the remote pizza-starved village of Kamloops), or to help open gas stations or convenience stores in Kelowna, Vernon and Chilliwack.

Milke makes a useful point for B.C. about royalty rates for timber, natural gas and other resources. They are resource rents, and if they are too high the tenants will move out. Reducing them isn’t a subsidy, especially if it leads to big revenue gains as B.C.’s unconventional shale gas incentives have done.

On the Occupy movement: The infamous “one per cent,” who in Canada earn $250,000 a year or more, earned 10 per cent of all income and paid 20 per cent of all taxes in 2010. The bottom 73 per cent of tax filers paid just 17 per cent of all taxes. About a third paid no tax at all.

(My 2011 commentary on the B.C. Occupy squatters is here.)

On Idle No More: When Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence played to the Ottawa media with her soup strike, former Liberal leader Bob Rae suggested a nearby diamond mine should share more revenue.

Milke omits the substantial support and employment that mine provides, and glosses over the misguided blockades that disrupted that and other job-creating enterprises. But he does detail the disastrous effects of passive resource wealth bestowed on impoverished aboriginal communities, and contrasts it with the success stories of reserves that build their own enterprises through hard work.

On public sector pensions: Milke notes that historically, public employees traded higher wages for better benefits and job security. Now their wages are generally higher, and taxpayers have to cover their personal pension contributions (as a portion of those wages) as well as the employer contributions, plus the “defined benefit” payout, which has to be subsidized far beyond what the pension fund can support.

On the debt-financed welfare state, there are memorable observations, like this one: “For the record, the generous Quebec welfare state and its ostensibly more progressive model are paid for in part with the taxes of other Canadians; Quebec is merely the North American equivalent of Greece.”

The recent B.C. political crisis over adoption of the harmonized sales tax showed that there is too much emotion and too little knowledge about how taxes work. This book is a step towards addressing that.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalNews.com Twitter:@tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

PHOTOS: People soak up summer fun at FernFest

The annual community event saw families and friends gather for food, games and markets

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Taxing Vancouver Island

Big Read: find out which communities are paying the lowest and highest taxes on Vancouver Island

Saanich mayor pitches former Emily Carr library as housing site

Residents share concerns, support over Regina Park tent city

Victoria man wins job he was denied after saying he had depression

Transport Canada has been order to give Chris Hughes a high-level job and nearly $500,000

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

5 fun things to do this weekend in Greater Victoria

Victoria Ska and Reggae Fest, Ride Don’t Hide, Cordova Bay Day and more

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

How the Gorge Canada Day Picnic grew from a basement idea to a single-day event with 10,000 visitors

‘We’re going to need more food,’ among lessons from first Gorge Canada Day Picnic

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Canada’s Whale Initiative is part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan

Mounties seize 1,500 pot plants in ‘extensive Shawnigan raid

Mounties searched a property in the 4800-block of Goldstream Heights Drive on May 30

Horse put down, 1 person in hospital after hit by car in Lower Mainland

Accident along 132nd Avenue in Maple Ridge Friday afternoon

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Most Read