Tax fairness


I am writing to comment on two related articles in your Sept. 20 edition.

In her column "Attack on small businesses", Barb McKay mounts a defence of mom and pop enterprises, farmers, retail shops and independent professionals who, she argues, should be spared from the federal government's proposal to close tax loopholes that benefit primarily "wealthy private corporations".

The problem with this argument, however, is that whether the private corporations are large or small (or rural or urban), they are taking advantage of loopholes that are not available to individual taxpayers like you and me. The issue isn't the size of these private corporations, but the fact that they are set up so that owners who would otherwise have to pay taxes at the same rate as individual taxpayers get a special break: income can be split among family members (whether they actually work in the business or not) resulting in an overall lower tax rate. They can also shelter income from taxes in investments that have nothing to do with the business, which is another way of lowering their overall taxes.

This is not a debate over whether small businesses make important contributions to our economy and society (they do) or whether family members can continue to work in the business (they can) or whether family businesses can be passed to the next generation (they will). Rather, it is an overdue attempt to codify tax fairness. We pay taxes to fund the public services and infrastructure that improve the quality of our lives and all of us should be contributing according to the same rules.

That brings me to the second reason for writing - the article on Ontario's so-called "high-cost energy problem" from the Fraser Institute. This is an organization that pretends to be an unbiased, non-partisan research body but is, in fact, an unapologetic propaganda arm of a particular political movement in this country that seeks to undermine the public services that Canadians rely on, including healthcare and environmental protections.

Using junk science and selective statistics, this particular article claims that energy costs are so high in Ontario "that some families must choose between heating and eating", concluding that the provincial government needs to reduce energy prices, stop deferring costs to the future, but also ensure reliable supply. Some might call this magical thinking

These two articles are of a piece. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a society in which some of us feel entitled to high quality public services that we are not prepared to pay for through taxes or user fees.


Michael Mouritsen, Kincardine