Closing tax loopholes a sure vote winner

TheStar.com – Opinion/Commentary – Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s “tax fairness” move will be popular, because people making $50,000 a year had no idea wealthier people could fiddle taxes so easily, Heather Mallick writes.
Sept. 11, 2017.   By

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s “tax fairness” move to close loopholes, including the shameless ones with feathers and sequins, are more popular than many realize.

You may have been reading about the alleged backlash to the proposed reforms. But the backlash comes from the people using the loopholes. They include doctors, small business owners and, it must be said, freelance journalists who incorporate themselves and hire family members to do no work beyond accepting “sprinklings” of money from Ma and Pa Inc.

It should worry the complainers that most Canadians with jobs, where taxes are pre-deducted at source, had no idea this was allowed. They are not just annoyed, they are incandescent.

’Tis always the way. People resent anyone who earns more than they do, though less so if those people do tougher, higher-skilled jobs for which they were meticulously trained throughout years of poverty.

But as Prime Minister Trudeau said, “People who make $50,000 a year should not pay higher taxes than people who make $250,000 a year.” This is a vote winner. Loophole closing will be popular because people who make $50,000 a year had no idea that wealthier people could fiddle taxes so easily.

If Morneau is holding listening sessions across Canada and hearing only from people with tax loopholes, he’s not getting the message. The people who haven’t shown up are busy at work while stewing about not having a tax loophole for lolling teenagers.

One poll by Mainstreet/National Post showed that 76 per cent of Canadians say tax loopholes for individuals are a big problem or somewhat of a problem.

As the CBC’s Aaron Wherry points out, Ottawa has previously been successful at ending destructive Conservative tax plans. They managed to end fitness and arts tax credits which more often benefited the wealthy, and cut back tax-free savings accounts that would have starved the government of money.

So Morneau’s plan is likely a winner, unless he becomes unexpectedly timid. He doesn’t strike me as a man who is easily frightened.

Plus he faces the Canadian Medical Association. If there was ever a group of intelligent people with less ability to make their case to the public, and with less understanding of how they are perceived by that public, it’s doctors.

Lost in their sincerity, they lack the social skills to convince.

For instance, CMA president Dr. Gigi Osler said that two-thirds of family physicians under 35 are women and they don’t have the maternity leave that other female workers have. So they should be allowed to pay their spouses to stay at home with the children while they continue working.

“The stories are heart-wrenching; they’re in anguish and some of them really feel like they’re being asked to choose between their dream job and being a mother,” Osler said.

The statement, a disservice to feminism, could not have been more tone deaf. Most parents would respond that Canada needs a national daycare plan, not special breaks for women on the cusp of high-earning careers.

We live in an organized country where the tax system, so very different from the American one, strives to be fair, or at least transmit an appearance of fairness, to everyone who pays tax.

As long as Canadians have that, they will readily pay for highways, traffic lights, schools, flood prep, sewerage, clean water, tree planting, medical care and all those delicious things we have come to expect.

Family sprinkling? That makes people angry. All wealth is relative. I got a taste of this after a fine young colleague had written in the Star about her Toronto condo. One of my readers was furious. She had no condo when she came to the city.

“Our first housing in Canada was a converted chicken coop where my father took a job on a mushroom farm and my mother ironed baby clothes. [That] condo sounds swell by contrast.”

Competitive poverty is something of a parlour game. “When I were a lad, we lived in a cardboard box.” “That’s nothing, we ate the box.” “Cardboard’s for the rich. We ate buttons.” “Gravel was good enough for us.”

You can’t win.

I will close with the hapless Andrew Scheer, Conservative leader, who said of ending tax loopholes, “Perhaps the fancy socks, private islands and magazine covers have clouded [Trudeau’s] judgment.”

Scheer’s cluelessness is CMA worthy. Canadians do not resent the PM’s socks. They can afford their own, can buy great loads of them at Joe Fresh. Get out there, Scheer, and meet this great cosy, woolly-socked nation, and talk to them about lowering taxes for the rich.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/09/11/closing-tax-loopholes-a-sure-vote-winner-mallick.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *