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Let’s talk about good taxes

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Now that our elected MPPs are back at Queen’s Park, it’s pretty clear what the main topic of debate will be for the fall session. It’ll be taxes: how they are spent, and how they are collected.

On the one hand, there’ll be a lot of talk about the waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned pay on executive perks at government agencies like e-Health and the OLG. On the other, MPPs will be weighing in on the McGuinty government’s plan for a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

Your OPSEU Executive Board opposes the HST. Its main purpose is to transfer the tax burden off Ontario corporations and on to ordinary citizens. All the same, I do get riled by opposition politicians who keep calling it a “tax grab.” Why? Because they make it sound like all of us agree that taxes in general are a bad thing.

Well, I don’t agree.

Taxes fund public services. Not just health and education, but social services, environmental protection, roads and transit, and even (lest we forget) help for business. They fund services we all need, services only a few of us need, and services we may not even be aware of.

We need taxes. Taxes are a good thing. Speaking for myself, I like to pay taxes. It let’s me know I’m supporting something that’s good not just for myself, but for all of us.

In a major study published this year, economists Hugh Mackenzie and Richard Shillington found that, “even in the $80,000 to $90,000 household income range, the benefit received from public services is the equivalent to about half the household’s private income. An upper-middle-income family would have to devote half a year’s wages to pay for the public services its taxes provide.”

In other words, public services – and the taxes that pay for them – are a bargain.

Between now and next spring, Ontario’s tax discussion will take place in the shadow of the biggest provincial budget deficit ever. If no one’s out there talking about taxes as a good thing, the pressure to slash the deficit through cuts to public services will be immense.

We can’t depend on politicians to talk up the good things taxes buy. It’s up to us.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

President

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