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

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Man arrested in Vanderhoof in connection to Alberta mall shooting

Jacob Doubt, 23, is facing a number of firearms-related charges

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

RCMP confirm homicide investigation underway near Quesnel

Police releasing few details four days after homicide occurred Monday, July 6

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Large rogue floating ‘island’ corralled by Lac la Hache residents

At least 60 feet wide, this large mass of plants is free-floating on the lake

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Most Read