Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Michael Ignatieff on Taxes and Getting Canada Back on Track



"Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Looking back at that Joe Canadian video I'm reminded of just how much Canada has changed since 2006.

There is not the same sense of pride that we once felt sewing that flag to our backpack. Then Europeans looked up to Canadians. We were leaders. Our distinct rights culture set us above the pack. We were welcoming, accepting and not the melting pot in Jason Kenney's vision. The recent announcement that we will be accepting even fewer refugees doesn't even raise my ire like it should. At one time it would have shocked. Now it's business as usual.

The country that Joe speaks of, with two official languages, diversity not assimilation, peace not policing; is slowly evaporating. Our gun laws are being repealed and our diversity denounced by a government that does not believe in Canada. We could never imagine Stephen Harper making a speech like that.

The media used to know that. They joked about Harper’s inability - or refusal - to utter the words "I love Canada." In a 1997 CBC interview, Harper was asked "Is there a Canadian culture?" To which he replied: "Yes, in a very loose sense. It consists of regional cultures within Canada, regional cultures that cross borders with the US. We’re part of a worldwide Anglo-American culture. And there is a continental culture." Joe would never have given that answer because he knew that Canadians did indeed have a culture ... a wonderful multicultural identity with an immense pride in our diversity.

To Harper "Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status... " "A northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term ..." A nation that needs to be dismantled, not united.

Canadians understood that taxes were the price we paid for a civilized society and the price we paid to live in the best country in the world. We knew that. We accepted that.

But now the Reform Conservatives are telling us that taxes are ugly. They are the enemy. We must track them down and crush them with our heels. We must abandon all notions of society, universality, multiculturalism, compassion and pride. Those things cost money and can no longer define us.

We must push for individualism, not collectivism. We can't think of ourselves as part of a Canadian society, but must keep our own society. If our neighbour needs something we've got, we must crush them too. Survival of the fittest ... natural selection. Personal wealth as the key to salvation. That's who we are now and Joe Canadian no longer makes the grade.

"Reform is somewhat un-Canadian. It's about tidy numbers, self-righteous sanctimoniousness and western grievances. It cannot talk about the sea or about our reluctant fondness for Quebec, about our sorrow at the way our aboriginal people live, about the geographically diverse, bilingual, multicultural mess of a great country we are." (Vancouver Sun, April 8, 1994)

Michael Ignatieff on Taxes

A recent piece in the Toronto Star opened with the statement: "At the risk of insulting a generation of 4-year-olds, it's time we had an adult conversation in Canada about taxes and public services." An adult conversation. How is this possible?

Glen Pearson once noted media reaction to any mention of the "t" word:

"Opposition parties would immediately pounce and all manner of bloggers, pundits and columnists would discuss the scary ramifications of such a daredevil proposition. I recall when Ignatieff came to London following a visit to Cambridge, in which he stated no leader would be worthy of the name if he or she didn’t place the possibility of raising taxes on a long list of future considerations if a deficit couldn’t be brought under control.

Political staffers mulled around, worried that it would be taken out of context, which it inevitably was. Media had a field day with it. Ignatieff, suffering from a gruelling cold, sat in a chair prior to the event in London and wondered what became of honesty in the public space. The very next day in the House, Conservative members used every possible occasion to ridicule Ignatieff, calling him just another “tax and spend” Liberal. The media ate it up."

How many tax dollars were wasted on ten per centers telling us that Ignatieff wanted to raise our taxes, even citing quotes from decades ago? Apparently, Canadians no longer want honesty. 'Taxes bad. Ugh, scratch, scratch.' We've been dummied down and we don't even know it.

I thought that Michael Ignatieff put it quite well in a recent speech to the Toronto board of trade:

"You can’t have an honest debate with a government that only plays games. All of this brings me to the fundamental distinction between Stephen Harper and the Liberal Party.

Back in July, after the G8 Summit in Italy, Mr. Harper gave an interview to The Globe and Mail, in which he said, and I quote:“I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.”

Think about that for a moment. It’s an astonishing statement for a prime minister to make.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, so that premature infants get nursing care when they’re born; so that policemen will be there to keep our streets safe; so that we have teachers to give our kids a good education.

We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, because we’re all in this together. It costs us something, but it makes Canada the place it is: a place where we look out for each other. But Stephen Harper doesn’t think that way.

Stephen Harper thinks no taxes are good taxes because he believes that the only good government is no government at all."

So put that in an attack ad Stephen Harper. Your ignorant masses will lap it up.

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