So apparently I work for myself, as of 9 June. This is Tax Freedom Day in Canada, the day on which the burden on the tax payer to fund government and government services has been fulfilled. From this day hence, all the money I make is mine, all mine! Except for the money Mrs. Drew spends of course, and the girls. And the dogs. And the home maintenance. But the rest is all mine!
Tax Freedom day is a pretty scary concept – it’s the first day of the year on which the country as a whole has earned enough to pay for its governmental tax burden. In Canada, close to 45% of all the money earned in the country goes to pay for government and government services. That’s like, almost half. That’s right, I’m a math genius.
Tax Freedom Day comes considerably earlier in the US, largely, I suspect, due to the woeful lack of social assistance programs, or public health care. In the US, Tax Freedom Day fell around April 21. A quick review of the data shows many European countries have later Tax Freedom Days than Canada, which is no real surprise, given the greater propensity for social assistance and universal health care throughout Europe. I’m astounded though, to find that Australia has a Tax Freedom Day even earlier than the good old US of A. Australia is a country with universal health care and the same geographical challenges as Canada. I think there’s much we could learn from our antipodean cousins on governmental efficiencies.
I’m also gobsmacked to find that UK has a Tax Freedom date a whole month sooner than Canada. I can speak with some authority here, having spent the first four decades of my life on that bastion of warm beer, curry houses and bacon sarnies. If ever I saw a corrupt, inefficient public sector, it’s in the UK. One big difference is there are only two levels of government for the most part – so a whole raft of politicians and their brethren are cut off from the trough. The UK does have a massive social welfare / social assistance program, universal health care and a highly unionised Public Sector.
I can only assume that the densely populated islands benefit from economies of scale unavailable in Canada, where scale is a distinct disadvantage. The UK manages to squeeze 255 people into every square kilometer of space, whereas Canada allows its population a ludicrously generous 3.4 people / km2 (admittedly, most of this space is Artic wilderness, tundra or mountains). Still, the mere fact that the UK has twice the population of Canada has to account for something, I suppose.
You’ve probably surmised that I’m a little galled to think that almost half my money goes to pay for public services. This is the most militant, highly unionised, abused and yet neglected sector of the economy. Public sector is often the most inefficiently run with multiple administrative layers and complexities; contractors seem to double their estimates whenever they get a government job; local governments compete to attract new business, and so there are ‘bribes’ and incentives for private sector to relocate to a specific town or region. In other words, our tax dollars get diverted into the pockets of the top 1%.
My adopted home, clinging on by a mere fingernail to the mainland, is home to the Canadian Navy. Well, half of it. The rest is moored in the mirror image of Nova Scotia – Vancouver Island over on the Pacific coast. Nova Scotia fought a long and costly battle to win a 20 year ship building contract. Except that the real winner was the privately-owned shipyard, owned by one of the richest families in the region. Once the deal was inked, this family then proceeded to ask for more government money to equip their shipyard to begin building these ships, for which they would then take the profit. We are millions of dollars in the hole and years away from the first ship getting a Magnum cracked across its prow.
Canadians suffer through three levels of government and countless public sector quangos and governing Boards. Multiple existences of School Boards, Health Boards, Police, Fire. The duplication of effort is astounding. Small towns are swamped by the cost of maintaining their elected and municipal obligations. Multiple government layers means Municipal, Provincial and Federal elected officials all vying for the prize and deflecting the criticism onto one another.
When I think of politicians, I’m reminded of the poem about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody:
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
I guess complaining about our tax burden is a real First World problem. After all, you have to earn it, to pay it. Taxes are the cost of living. At least we have our say in how we are governed, even if it is only once every four years. I will leave you today with one of my favourite quotes on our democratic process:
It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.