Charles Dickens knew a thing or two about tax fairness, corporate greed and income equality. So during this season of Black Fridays and Economic Action Plan ads I revisited one of his most famous stories for a bit of inspiration. It got me to thinking. What would the Christmas ghosts say to Stephen Harper if they were to visit 24 Sussex Drive on Christmas Eve? What would we hear if we could eavesdrop on those midnight visits? It might go something like this:
The Ghost of Christmas Past: “By the ghost of Jim Flaherty, how did you ever let the Income Tax Act get to 1100 pages? I have never seen a bigger mess of loopholes, boutique tax cuts and corporate tax deductions. Please don’t make me walk you through it. Even the high-priced tax lawyers are saying it has to be fixed. So how about you start cleaning it up rather than adding to the mess with more tax cuts? See this Christmassy street? We’re in the quaint but notorious tax haven of Zug, Switzerland. And see that little office. That’s the European headquarters of Cameco. They mine Saskatchewan uranium, their workers use the Canadian education system and healthcare. Somebody was looking the other way when they started shifting their profits to this offshore tax haven so they wouldn’t have to pay their share of what’s already the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7. And look here, now we’re in Barbados. It’s one of the top ten tax havens in the world. Wealthy Canadians and multinationals have stashed more than $170 Billion to avoid paying taxes. I may float through walls, but darn if I can follow the labyrinth they set up to foil the auditors. Speaking of which, see all these empty desks here at the Canada Revenue Agency? Your Revenue Minister keeps giving layoff notices to auditors working on the international tax files. She says she is “reorganizing” but all it does is demoralize staff and loose more uncollected revenue. The Parliamentary Budget Officer keeps asking for information to calculate Canada’s Tax Gap but the minister keeps refusing to provide it.”
The Ghost of Christmas Present: “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen. Income splitting. Really? You are going to spend $2.4 Billion, and low-income, single parents get nothing out of the deal? Correct me if I am wrong, but you are the Prime Minister of everybody, right? Not just people who own stock options and drive BMWs. And seriously, what’s the deal with that child fitness tax credit? It hasn’t seemed to have improved our fitness and kids who need help the most don’t benefit from it. Here’s an idea: You could spend $1.8 B and get the country started on a decent child care program. You’d still have money left over to boost the Canada Child Tax Benefit and National Child Benefit Supplement. That gets the money to the families who need it most and helps the economy. And if you want active kids, how about using that money to support community fitness programs and youth team sports instead of leaving it to companies like Canadian Tire and that not so tiny Tim Hortons? And speaking of Tim’s - get a grip on that takeover. You’ve already fixed it so that Canada has the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7. This new Brazillian corporate owner won’t commit to Tim Hortons paying its fair share of corporate taxes in Canada. That’s not a good sign. But warning signs are the specialty of Christmas Future. I wouldn’t ignore him if I were you.”
Ghost of Christmas Future “Look, Stephen, I know this whole global warming, greenhouse gas thing isn’t only your responsibility. But the environmental mess we are in isn’t all that futuristic anymore. . You’ve got to take this seriously. I can’t even replay your performance at the UN Summit, because you didn’t show up. Canada ranks 15 out 17 industrialized countries when it comes to action on this and it is starting to put our economy and our quality of life at risk. The only real action Canada has taken is because of several provincial and municipal governments. Last Christmas I had a little visit with your old boss, Preston Manning - showed him the Arctic, the BC forest fires and Prairie floods. He gets this climate change thing now. So why don’t you take a page from his carbon tax book? You’ve seen the research - a carbon tax is working in British Columbia, Australia, Ireland and Chile. You can even call it carbon pricing - just do something.”
On behalf of the board and staff at Canadians for Tax Fairness, we wish everyone a year of warmth, compassion and love.