Anti-tax group has hijacked debate
Pressure group: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, based in Regina, has no legitimate say in transit plebiscite
How is a non-democratic special interest group… able to develop such traction in framing the current Metro discussion of public transit funding?
How is a minuscule, Prairie-based, fundamentally non-democratic special interest group that operates like some self-appointed secret society able to develop such traction in framing the current Metro discussion of public transit funding?
Judging from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, you’d think Metro residents were staggering under intolerable taxes and about to be crushed by yet another.
Yet competitiveness studies show that after Alberta we enjoy the second lowest provincial tax in Canada. Our sales tax is lower than all but two provinces — and would retain that rank even with the proposed transit increase. Corporate tax rates here are second lowest in Canada. Small corporations enjoy a tax rate 20 per cent lower than Alberta’s. Residential taxes in Metro are lower than in Victoria. …
Yet here is the CTF, this tiny, unaccountable, unidentifiable pressure group, spouting demands for transparency in the coming plebiscite and choosing language that suggests a lack of legitimacy in the process all while implying some onerous tax decision.
Well, it’s not an election. It’s not a referendum. It’s a plebiscite. And it’s not a vote authorizing a tax, because the results aren’t binding. In fact, you’re only voting because your cowardly provincial government seeks to evade difficult decisions which arise when its narrow ideology founders on the reefs of reality. So, it’s simply a memorandum of advice to elected officials about what voters in specific municipalities think about a proposed regional policy for funding transit infrastructure that if left as is will be inadequate to service rapid population growth in a critical economic zone.
PT: Oh, it’s not a plebiscite – in the sense that it’s only advisory. What provincial government, in a post-HST environment, would ever suggest that this vote should not be effectively binding? How could any new tax mechanisms be considered to fund transit (except, of course, property tax, if decided by the local councils)?
In that sense the vote is historic: a No vote would be a message not only to our local political class and the broad leadership coalition that has assembled to support a Yes vote, but a message to governments across Canada. No More Taxes! Even Vancouver turned down transit!
A rejection of the Mayors’ Council proposal would likely be seen to so discredit the leadership of this region that a void would be left to be filled by, yes, the CTF and whatever other anti-tax, anti-government groups would assemble to take the credit. And they wouldn’t stop at TransLink and transit. The goal is, after all, to so limit government that its traditional roles (particularly of the provision of collective services and the transfer of wealth through taxation) would be eviscerated.
For a precedent, see the impact of Tim Eyman in Washington State. It’s another step on the Americanization of Canadian politics. And possibly of Canada itself – at least as far as the mythology that has distinguished us from the U.S.
Here, for instance, is that perspective found today in Reflecting Vancouver, where an American émigré blogged about his Canadian citizenship ceremony:
The judge bears confidence, candour, and splendid golden hair. She asks us to be seated, welcoming us from the central podium. She begins speaking to us directly…
“I hear many people say they love the benefits of Canada. It is so beautiful here, they say. The free education, the free health care. Make no mistake — these are not free. If you believe they are free, they will not be there for those who come after you. They were built through hard work, dedication, and compromise. You must do your part to maintain them for future generations.” …