How much should we pay and what should we pay for? -

How much should we pay and what should we pay for?


The Agenda convenes a panel—including our Andrew Coyne—to discuss the sorts of questions that should probably be dominating our politics.


How much should we pay and what should we pay for?

  1. I use a lot of health services. They allow me to work and pay back at least a portion of what I've received. I'll be happy to pay more.

    • I've used a similar argument when discussing this with American friends. Even if you disagree with the social benefits of universal health care (which I don't), there's a decent fiscal argument to be made too. If my neighbour gets sick, it's in my economic best interests for him to get care, get healthy, and rejoin the tax rolls as soon as possible. And if widespread preventive care and early diagnostics can lower the costs involved, so much the better.

      • And if your neighbour gets help sooner, maybe you don't catch what they had. I was watching somethig the other day measuring the effects of social policy decisions on a crack neighbourhood in Baltimore. By removing just a few personnel from front line medical support, syphilis rates went way up. Longer wait times and lower service levels made health care too difficult for crack addicts to get treated, syphilis remains, johns/jills get infected and away we go.

  2. 18 minutes in and I have to pause so I can rant about this. I'm personally really wary of referendums and I was actually pretty unimpressed by the way that whole discussion went. Diane Francis' comments about her experience at the US ballot box was especially worrying.

    One of the reasons why voting down south is such an ordeal is because voters are practically assaulted by huge numbers of ballot measures stacked with voting for a large number of local, state, and federal positions. There's little guarantee that people are going to be anywhere near adequately informed on many of the issues they face, and its entirely possible that the only information they'll see on a given topic is the marketing done by some group that stands to directly benefit or lose from the result of one ballot measure or another. Not only that, but ballot measures exacerbate the exact phenomenons that both John Tory and Hugh Mackenzie both point out: people want services but they don't want to actually pay for them, and this is effectively the difference between our financial situation and the situation down south. What kind of result do you think we'd get from ballot measures or referendums?

    Really though, this isn't just about raising taxes: its about holding our politicians accountable and ensuring that they do what we elected them to do. Things like accountability and transparency legislation, recall legislation and the like are the true solution to this kind of issue rather than referendums. We have a representative democracy and elect MPs for a reason.

  3. M_A_N said: "I…me…I…I."

    It's not about you, "comrade", it's about Canada. Can you imagine how awful this country would be if everyone only accorded to their narrow wants instead of viewing the bigger picture and voting to make Canada better? A heavy user of health services who supports public health care is not progressive, that person is selfish, same with a student who wants more money for students and a senior who wants more money for seniors. It's anti-social, in the truest sense of the word, in that it puts the wants of a select few ahead of society as a whole.

    Andrew Coyne recently wrote an excellent piece detailing how the government could eliminate the alleged structural deficit without raising taxes or dismantling our welfare state.

    "One of the reasons why voting down south is such an ordeal is because voters are practically assaulted by huge numbers of ballot measures"

    LOL, why stop at assaulted when you could have said raped and pillaged too? Ha, assault by direct democracy, Liberals don't even bother hiding their contempt for democracy anymore.

    • I'm not your "comrade". Your choice of demeaning terminology needs some updating. "Comrade" has a distinct 1970's tone to it. "Useful idiot" was the 80's term. I'm fairly sure you meant to call me a "socialist". But i can see how you're going for style over substance, so we'll let that pass. Besides, the whole purpose of de-humanizing your opponent with a label is to diminish their standing in the eyes of others. All you've managed to do here is make me giggle. Comrade. Seriously?

      I am fortunate to live in a country where I am allowed, at some public expense, to pursue gainful employment. Am I selfish, or grateful?

      Your attempt to discount the opinion of those who make use of tax-funded services is a poor strategy. If you have ever called police, driven, sent children to school, hired a plumber or eaten a meal in a restaurant, you too are a frequent user of tax-funded services. Your "selfish" argument must thus be applied to everyone, including you, making your point somewhat…pointless. Or are you the selfless exemption?

    • "Liberals don't even bother hiding their contempt for democracy anymore."

      I don't have a partisan preference in my voting habits. I try to make my choice based on the matters at hand at the time. That being said, just so you don't automatically assume me to be motivated solely by partisanship,

      Did you even watch George W? he and his minions waged an all out assault on free speech, freedom of assembly, the Constitution and everything else that underpins a healthy democracy.

    • Funny, I seem to recall a time when things like accountability and recall legislation were the kind of thing that conservative parties talked about. Are you sure you want to call me a Liberal?

      More to the point, if you actually care about this stuff, why antagonize people instead of trying to persuade them?

  4. It's hilarious that John Tory, bitter loser that he is, blames the winner of the 2007 election for his own misfortune, as if he had no role whatsoever in picking a policy, namely the funding of separate religious schools with public money, that led to his downfall including within his own political party. Perhaps the general public would have a bit more respect for Tory if he could accept responsibility for the debacle which was his leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and move on.

    • On the other hand, John Tory just called Hudak dishonest over the HST.

  5. Additionally, I'm a little shocked at Coyne the libertarian for coming out on the side of the taxman. What about the economic efficiency of the underground economy ? Huh.

  6. I recall seeing an article recently questioning how much of the current/coming situation can be ascribed to a general refusal of the baby boomer generation to make (and pay the price for) hard choices. The demographic challenges coming up are nothing short of immense, and the general thesis as I remember it is that it's a bit of a failure of responsibility for a generation about to receive the benefits of a social system to rag the puck and let the next bunch figure out how to pay for it all.

    EDIT: Here's the thing:

    • It would appear that people don't like to pay taxes. Amazing, really.

      I'd prefer to not work and eat danishes all day without losing my home or getting fat. Why can't we have a referendum on that?

  7. My comment cross posted from another blog:

    Interesting debate on TVO's The Agenda Mon. Night. Ideology Part II: Time to Pay More Taxes?. A. Coyne was putting forward basically the same arguments shared on this blog [Worthwhile Canadian Initiative] – arguing for continuing lowering of corporate taxes as a means to increasing productivity. He connects his dots around 27:20 on this video.

    As I have mentioned before here, the problem I have with this argument is: when do you decide that your taxes are already low enough, and how do you know it's not already time to focus on other means of increasing productivity? A q that has largely gone unanswered.

    Coincidently, Wed's Lang and O'Leary Exchange
    had as a guest Greg Wiebe, Tax Division, KPMG (starts 36:20), who compared compared tax rates across countries. Canada ranked 2nd worldwide (behind Mexico). And with HST being implemented now in BC and Ont, and with further planned cuts (assuming the Conservatives remain in power – target 25%), a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done. In other words, to get further gains in productivity (42:30)- the biggest leverage remaining is elsewhere (ie improving management I would argue – he notes no productivity improvements yet have been seen despite very favourable tax regime).

  8. I’m currently preparing tax returns for the common man. The same theme I’ve brought up countless times on these boards stares up at me from my desk: the failure of the different levels of gov. to cooperate in order to maximize the efficiency of programs. I complete the provincial schedule to the T1 general. It’s a beast! I calculate a Working Income Tax Benefit. woo-hoo! Nice handout to cabbies and waiters making 40k. I note an OAS supplement of 10k to a widowed senior who’s paying City property taxes that eat half of it. More Taxes? Sure. if they were fair.

    • "I'm currently preparing tax returns for the common man"

      what – you are doing a tax return for the insane, boring Con-bot who posts here under the rubik "common man" ?

  9. What tripe.

    Diane Francis out-and-out accused the Irvings of living n Bermuda for tax reasons and returning to Canada for their health care.

    Everyone in New Brunswick knows this is compete BS.

    No member of the Irving family would dare set foot in a Canadian doctor's office, much less a hospital. They fly down to Boston or New York for first-class treatment, without the wait.

  10. What a joke this country has become. We now have over 3.5 million people working for government across the country. Just sickening! Average salary in government is about 70 thousand yearly and rising. Average salary in the private sector is around 45 thousand yearly and dropping. Over 10% of government employees now make over 100 thousand yearly. In the private sector the number is under 2 %. Nice eh? Look to Greece and Quebec, this is where Canada is headed if we don't stop equalization and get spending and government growth under control. This tax and spend, union, socialist, big government, social engineering that has been destroying this country has got to stop. Yes, it has left Quebec and has been spreading throughout the rest of the country since the 1970”s. Thanks Trudeau.

    Part 1,

  11. Part 2,

    The Liberals and Conservatives have spent the last few decades destroying Ontario and Canada's economy, its English speaking history and culture, with high taxes, high salaries, big government, social engineering – expensive forced bilingual and multicultural policies (only outside Quebec of course), unions controlling just about everything, new programs and new departments yearly, the size and growth of government and salaries have been out of control for decades with no end in sight. Lie after lie, spin, propaganda from politicians and all government officials on a daily basis, scandals, corruption, billions of dollars being wasted on all sorts of socialist nonsense, again with no end in sight.

  12. Part 3,

    All governments are heavily in debt, the HST, tax after tax after user fee again with no end in sight – The Conservatives response to any of this, silence as usual? No such thing as a fiscally conservative, common sense party anywhere in this country. What Liberal policies will the Tories repeal, what programs will they eliminate, what taxes will they reduce, what waste will they cut…? No response as usual. Liberal, Tory same old stories, both are destroying Canada. We need a new party ASAP. The entire system needs to be overhauled ASAP.