Death and Taxes

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Steven Harper has been claiming all the credit for Canada’s relatively good performance in the world economy so I guess he’ll take all the blame if things turn sour. No? Quelle surprise!

Of course, the Canadian economy hasn’t really done that well over the last 7 or 8 years (collapsing manufacturing, rising debt loads, low growth, greater inequality, fewer good jobs and more bad ones). Some of that has to be attributed to events beyond the control of small national governments like Canada but things were undoubtedly made worse because the so-called professional economist at our helm actually has no economic vision for the country.

The conservative agenda seems to be sell oil, lower taxes and hope for the best. Now that the oil price has fallen, revealing critical flaws in our unbalanced resource heavy economic system, all they have left is lower taxes and hope.

But — the last few years have not so much been a case of tax reduction but rather inefficient efforts to buy people with their own money. Take for example the tax credit for bus passes. This was brought in, they claimed, to encourage the growth of public transit and to reduce carbon emissions. It has done neither. Finance department studies show that the increase in transit use was negligible and that in terms of alternative measures, this boutique tax is the single most expensive carbon reduction program ever devised — something like $1000 per ton.

Why was it done? To silence the critics mostly but also to give a little bribe to people for doing what they already do anyway. See — the government rewards your virtue, now vote for us.

Jim Flaherty did more than any other finance minister in the history of Canada to complicate the Canadian tax system and, through subterfuge, channel money from the middle class to the upper ten percent. But even he couldn’t stomach the latest plan — the income splitting plan that will shell out $2 billion to rich people.

When this fact was pointed out, the Conservatives deployed a classic strategy. They changed the definition of words, making sure that the middle class included families making more than $120,000 a year. Then they could claim that the middle class was benefiting. As long as you define ‘Middle’ as everything except the top 7% of people, we’re all good. Spin, spin spin — it’s what they do best.

So now all they have is hope. Well, hopefully this government will keep on spinning — in its grave while its replacement begins to reverse all the dumb things they’ve done over the last nine years.

And that’s ten minutes.

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