A high-stakes war of words

TheStar.com – comment – A high-stakes war of words
March 04, 2008

Re:McGuinty to Ottawa: Back off – March 3

It is very easy for federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to call for Ontario to reduce business taxes. What is disconcerting is the lack of context he seems to have in his discourse on lower taxes.

Flaherty demonstrates either intellectual lethargy or a lack of candour by telling the Halifax Chamber of Commerce that Ontario should cut taxes, while refraining from sharing with his audience what expenditures he recommends Ontario cut to meet that objective.

Since the current Ontario corporate income tax rate of 14 per cent still falls below the current federal corporate income tax rate of 19.5 per cent, Flaherty’s salvos at the Ontario government become even more curious.

Governing is not easy. Governing is all about making choices, setting priorities and being accountable for those decisions. For my part, I prefer the approach of the McGuinty government in Ontario, which has balanced tax cuts with investments in infrastructure, skills training, health care, transit, education, the environment and other areas so important to our overall quality of life.

I support lower taxes. Who doesn’t? But I’d also like to hear Flaherty tell his own constituents, at his next town-hall meeting, which of the above investments he would like to see the province cut. He should keep his car running, though, since it may be a speech cut short.

Gary Sands, Toronto

It seems, again, that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is exhibiting his government’s tendency to forget recent history.

One of the main Conservative mantras is lower taxes. On that point, his government is doing just that, but without regard for what happens next.

There are three facts that he conveniently ignores in harping on business taxes in Ontario:

While they are high, the provincial Liberal government never made them that high. They were that high when the last provincial government, run by the Conservatives, fell.

The previous provincial government, in which Flaherty had a significant role, had ample opportunity over two terms to lower those same business taxes to stimulate the provincial economy, but it did not. Instead, it ravaged the future viability of the Ontario economy in other ways, and those effects are being felt today.

If the provincial government did lower business taxes, given the fragile nature of the current Ontario economy, would the federal Conservative government rush to Ontario’s aid to help make up the shortfall during the period the economy needs to get back to life? We all know it will not.

So other than for cheap political rhetoric, Flaherty has no basis to demand Ontario cut business taxes.

Joel Berson, Toronto

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s tirade against Ontarians and their elected government has gone beyond political grandstanding and has become just tiresome and foolish. Flaherty is acting like a schoolyard bully unbecoming a mature person – even more so a government minister.

By making this issue a political hot point, he has ensured that Ontario cannot make any downward adjustments or it risks being seen as pandering to these kind of tactics.

It is unlikely Flaherty is doing this of his own volition and without the blessing of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I think the cheap shots will backfire on his government when Ontario voters have a chance to again judge him and his ilk.

Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga

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