A taxing discussion – Editorial

You must have seen the TV commercial, the one in which the taxpayer tries to describe the pain to the pharmacist, the pain caused by taxes at his bottom, against which the pharmacist is totally helpless.

The humorous episode no doubt reflects the attitude of the majority of people in this country towards taxes. This is quite understandable, but is that the right attitude?

I am very fond of driving on Alberta’s well maintained, smooth highways and I am glad to be paying taxes for that.

But I don’t like my taxes being used as severance payment to fire an incompetent health czar, who could do nothing better than hiding behind a tiny cookie to dodge vital questions on such issues as wait times and health care reform.

On a national level, I am glad that at least some of my tax dollars are used to fund job creation programs, infrastructure projects that will put bread on more tables and prepare ground for more investment.

But I am not happy when the federal governments feels it is a prerogative for a minister to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for phony security arrangements for a two day summit, making a few people very rich in the process.

Paying taxes, in itself, is not what one should reproach, but it is how the tax dollars are spent that one needs to be watchful about.

Let’s think for a moment which the most prosperous countries in the world are as they are listed in the Human Development Index (HDI) created by the United Nations, which is not based on the per capita income only, but also measures a range of indicators from life expectancy to levels of education.

Just a brief look at the top of the list will show us that those countries listed there are “high tax” nations, including most Scandinavian and European countries as well as Canada.

Is it only a coincidence that in those countries income is taxed at considerably higher rates as opposed to lower listed countries?

The key is that in the countries that make up the peak of the HDI, taxes are collected and properly used for public good.

Does this mean there is no corruption in those countries; are all taxes used properly?

By no means. Wherever there is human greed, there is bound to be some sort of corruption and there can probably be no air-tight governance model that can completely wipe out corruption and/or fraud.

In the countries mentioned, there is, however, the culture of responsible government, whereby politicians are aware of their accountability with regard to their role in making decisions on how people’s money is spent.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation has just announced that they will honor former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and his finance minister Jim Dinning with a “Tax Fighter” award.

Personally, I believe the federation could do a better job fighting misuse of tax dollars instead of bashing taxes themselves.

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