April 27th – “Rendering To Caesar”
Tax time in our house growing up was never a happy time (is it anywhere?). We knew that it would unleash my dad’s fury which he would readily share at the dinner table. My dad is a career economist and a died-in-the-wool capitalist. While other kids at university in the 1960’s had pictures of Mick Jagger and The Beatles on their walls, my dad had a poster of Adam Smith (the father of free market economics).
My dad doesn’t like paying taxes.
My dad doesn’t like the idea of a nanny-state.
My dad believes we shouldn’t pay our government to do for us what we should be able to do for ourselves.
My dad has softened over the years, but back in the day, his views could be quite Bannon-esque, triggered by the yearly ritual of filing his tax forms.
And I’m not being critical, for never was there a harder working, more caring person than my dad, and true to his beliefs, he was a tremendous provider to our family who never asked for, no sought after, a handout. He put his money where his mouth was.
For a while, I fell in line with my dad’s thinking. In my first year at Carleton University taking Political Science, I immersed myself in the 1988 election, knocking on doors in the riding of Ottawa Centre in support of the local Tory candidate. I knew every argument there was in favour of Free Trade, and could spew them out to the shell-shocked person who opened the door and dared to question the wisdom of the Progressive Conservative Party.
I was 19 and life seemed pretty cut and dried.
As the years have ticked by, I have come to see things differently than I did when I was 19. I realize now that there are biases, imbalances, and prejudices within our social structures, and as result, we are not playing on a level field. Not everyone has the means to “take care of themselves”. Not only that, but I believe there is a collective responsibility that we have to take care of each other, taxation is one way of providing that. I know that some of my tax money is wasted, but I believe the majority of it is being well spent by public policy makers who are driven by the same desire as me, to create healthy, sustainable, and compassionate communities.
Oliver Wendall Holmes once famously wrote, “I don’t mind paying taxes, for with them I buy civilization.”
Like everything in life, there is a balance to be struck. We need an economic structure that seeks the well-being of all, while not robbing people of the qualities that build better citizens; industriousness, ambition and self-sufficiency. Has Canada found that balance? Some would say yes, some would say no, but a quick glance around the world is always good for some perspective.
Today I am sending my taxes away (right at the deadlines as usual!!). I’m not doing it with a smile, but nor am I going to rant and rave, for it is a small reminder again, that even at tax time, we are blessed to be Canadian.