We Need to Raise Taxes


The photo above is apropos of nothing. It's a shot I took because I thought it looked nice. I snapped it on March 20, 2022, from the Viewmount entrance to Glencairn Station on the Toronto subway. Anyway, on with the post...

From 2011 to 2019, I was privileged to have a weekly column with the community newspaper, the Kitchener Post. It allowed me to say what I was saying on this blog to my neighbours and surrounding community as well as to the old blogosphere. And judging from the e-mails I received (most of them polite) my words were reaching people.

Sadly, the paper folded and, soon after, their website went down, and my online record of columns disappeared with it. I still keep copies on my hard drive, though, and may occasionally place them here. I think a lot of what I said then is still relevant today.

Case in point is this column, which I wrote on July 25, 2019, and likely appeared the week following. I received a number of responses to it, and overall, it was far more positive than I'd expected. I think it bears saying here too.

I don't remember what the headline was. That wasn't my job. I supplied the words of the column below my byline, but the headline above it was my editor's job (or their designate) alone. If I'd been allowed to write that headline, perhaps this is what I would have come up with:

To Build the Province We Deserve, It's Time to Raise Our Taxes

Occasionally, readers write, and while I have been down on the Ford government for reneging on its promise that "not one front line worker will lose their job", they ask a reasonable question: where are we going to get the money to pay for the services that are being cut?

We'll leave aside that Ford is somehow spending more money than the Liberals did before they were defeated. We will leave aside that Ford has invested money in horse breeding while cutting funds for education.

There are a lot of things that need doing in this province. Ford himself hopes to spend $11.2 billion on four Toronto-area rapid transit lines. Where's he going to get the money?

We have to be honest. If we want better schools, if we want better roads and transit, if we want hospitals that serve our communities well, we have to pay for them. That means we have to raise taxes.

But James! Taxes are ever so high! Taxes are slavery! Why would you want to raise them?

Except that tax cuts have been a mantra of most governments since the mid-1980s. In general, taxes have gone in one direction, and it's not up. Brian Mulroney cut taxes. Stephen Harper cut taxes. Even Justin Trudeau cut the Federal business tax rate from 15% to 13%.

As a percentage of our income, we're paying less taxes now than we were doing in the mid-1980s. So, why do we think that our taxes are still too high?

Perhaps because we haven't seen the bulk of the tax cuts governments have made. When Harper cut the HST from 7% to 5%, for most people that amounted to four cents off a Tim Horton's coffee. The real benefits went to home buyers - particularly rich home buyers -- who saved thousands on their purchase price.

Anti-tax interests like to point to the Fraser Institute's "Tax Freedom Day". Supposedly, this is the day when average Canadians "stop working for the government" and start working for themselves. Although its methodology has been questioned, Tax Freedom Day has been placed at some point in June.

Those interests never point out that Corporate Tax Freedom Day is January 30. And Ford has promised to cut Ontario's corporate tax rate from 11.5% to 10.5%, even though Ontario's corporate tax rate is already among the lowest in Canada.

So, even though corporations pay significantly lower taxes than average Canadians, that's been the priority of the Ford government. If you're wondering why it doesn't feel as though your taxes have diminished, here is a place to look.

But I object to the whole concept of Tax "Freedom" Day. It implies that we receive no benefit from the money that's been spent.

I am seeing, however, an increasing understanding of what these tax dollars represent as my neighbours get increasingly angry over the loss of teaching jobs and the increase in class sizes, or their frustration about needed infrastructure projects that aren't getting done.

The money I've spent on taxes comes back to me, in the police, firefighters and emergency workers who keep our cities safe. It comes back to me in my children's education.

My taxes ensured that when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she received hospital visits, palliative care, and the ability to die with dignity at home, without forcing my father to mortgage his house.

That's not slavery. That's freedom from it.

And if we want more, we have to pay for it.

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ontario. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbowkwto.

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