Crawl Across the Ocean

Friday, October 07, 2005

Not for Sale

I was a little slow in reacting to this news, but I'm ahead of the game in that I have my response letter already written.

Dear Paul Martin,

It has come to my attention that you are planning to introduce legislation (the Surplus Allocation Act) which will return a third of any future surplus directly to Canadian taxpayers.

The only logical reason I could see for doing this would be because none of the federal spending priorities for which the money was collected are actually in need of the money. However, I find this somewhat implausible.

For example, consider child poverty. In 1989, all parties in the house of commons passed a resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. But here we are in 2005 and Canada's child poverty rate is one of the highest among all developed countries.

Alternatively, consider foreign aid. Perhaps the next time you meet your friend Bono, you can explain to him why, if our publicly stated justification for not meeting the 0.7% of GDP target for foreign aid is that it is irresponsible, might create a deficit / is unaffordable, you have now introduced legislation to return money to Canadians rather than spending it on foreign aid, with the condition being that this is done when it clearly is affordable?

Or consider immigration. Rumour has it your government is planningto significantly increase the number of immigrants to the country. But the system is already unable to handle the current flow of immigrants and is crippled by life and economy disrupting backlogs and delays. The funding announced to deal with the problem so far pales in comparison to what is needed, especially if the goal is to increase the immigration rate.

Finally, consider global warming and Canada's energy situation. What impact might this money have if devoted to an expansion of the Renewable Power Production Initiative or if used to foster the development of a national electricity grid?

I could go on, (I haven't even touched on the underfunded military, Canada's emergency preparedness, or unconstitutionally long waiting times for health service) but I think the point is clear, which is that there is no shortage of areas of federal involvement which are crying out for more money.

Now I don't mean to suggest that the government should always collect more money and spend more money or that the only priority is more spending. I recognize and appreciate the reductions in tax rates the federal government has made since 2000. But in my mind there is a clear distinction between setting the level of taxation ahead of time and deciding, once the government has a surplus in hand, to then return this money back to the population. Are you also planning to introduce legislation to mandate that Canadian taxpayers will be immediately tapped for contributions to make up one third of the shortfall in the case of any future deficits? I doubt it. Aside from the inefficiency of collecting and then returning money (and I understand that it is structured as a tax credit in the year following the surplus, but my point stands), the principle is what I find offensive.

Given that I think we both agree that a competent government could put the money to effective use, it seems clear that the purpose of this surplus 'rebate' is political rather than policy related. To be more blunt, it strikes me as an attempt to buy my vote with my own money.

Looking around the world, one of the key distinctions between regions with successful government and those with corrupt government is that areas with successful government are characterized by civic engagement and people who vote with the public interest in mind. Areas where government is corrupt are areas where people see government as a means of achieving personal gain and adopt a "what's in it for me" attitude towards politics.

This is why I cannot countenance your government pandering to our basest political impulses and why I am enclosing a cheque for the amount of the 'rebate'. Given that your government has, by this action, publicly declared that it has no idea how this money might be put to good use, I ask you to put it against our national debt, which stood, in case you had forgotten, at roughly $524 billion as at the end of 2004.

In this way, if we manage to someday vote in a government which has the will and the inclination to take on some of the pressing problems this country faces, they will have a little bit more money to put into that effort, instead of merely paying interest on your short sighted politics of surplus-rebate vote buying schemes.

Declan Dunne.


  • Declan,

    I think you ought to start a "Make Poverty History"-like campaign to send this letter to the PM and various Cabinet ministers to let them know.

    Thiws is brilliant and I totally agree.

    How can we have a "surplus" when we don't fund our programs enough or have a debt?

    By Blogger Mike, at 9:47 AM  

  • Thanks Mike, I'm not much for campaigns, but I will send this letter to Martin (seems a shame to waste a perfectly good letter).

    By Blogger Declan, at 2:36 PM  

  • "Given that your government has, by this action, publicly declared that it has no idea how this money might be put to good use..."

    Yes - exactly the problem. Not that I think these clowns can put the money to good use; it's that even they don't think so!


    By Blogger deaner, at 4:25 PM  

  • Sometimes I think a monkey could do a better job of running our country.

    Funny, when the Liberals had a majority government they actually seemed slightly interested in paying down our debt.

    If he goes forward with this idiocy, he will lose my vote.

    By Blogger Zip, at 10:36 AM  

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