This French delicacy is the appropriate name for a government intent on piling ever more rich, unnecessary, not to mention indigestible and costly, goodies on the wealthy.
It’s achieved by seizing geese by the neck and using large funnels to pound ever more food into their crops and stomachs. When they achieve a certain corpulence, they are butchered and their fatty livers fed to equally corpulent humans.
How else to describe the cornucopia of boutique tax cuts showered upon Canada’s richest families by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Here they are, thanks to the folks at Press Progress:
Tax-Free Savings Accounts. Already flush with the initial Harper Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), Canada’s wealthiest families will now be able to double – yes, double – their earnings thanks to the most recent budget. When the existing TFSA system matures, it will cost the federal government up to $15.5 billion annually and up to $9 billion from the provinces, according to both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Broadbent Institute.
States the Broadbent Institute: “The expansion of the Tax Free Savings account program will heavily favour higher-income households. Boosting the TFSA cap will drain the government of additional billions, money that could be invested in vital areas like social programming and health care.”
Finance Minister Joe Oliver was sanguine about the looming tsunami of red ink to saturate Canada’s books into the future, coining the most famous phrase of the whole budget exercise: “We’ll let Stephen Harper’s granddaughter worry about that.”
The “Leave It To Beaver” Family Tax Cut. Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s income splitting scheme disproportionately benefits Canada’s wealthiest families, allowing parents with different incomes to shift up to $50,000 from a parent in a higher tax bracket to a parent in a lower income bracket (with a $2,000 cap.) Needless to say, the biggest winners are families with only one high-income earner and a stay-at-home spouse.
The Adult Fitness Tax Credit . The Conservatives promised to introduce a new credit covering up to $500 in fitness registration fees for adults and to double the size of the Child Fitness Tax Credit to $1,000. Amin Mawan who teaches taxation at the Schulich School of Business at York University calls it for what it is: a subsidy for the rich. “Households earning over $200,000 claimed, on average, more than $250 in additional eligible physical activity expenses than households earning less than $40,000.”
States Press Progress: “The Conservatives certainly have a record of stacking the deck. Since taking power in 2006, their over 160 targeted tax breaks have skewed towards wealthy Canadians, including education tax credits and pension income splitting.
Expansion of the Universal Child Care Benefit means families will receive an additional $60 million per child under six for a new monthly total of $160 as well as a new monthly benefit of $60 for children aged six through 17. It’s the reincarnation of the former baby bonus introduced at the end of the Second World War. A recent Parliamentary Budget Office report found that more than half of the benefit– 51 per cent – will go to families without any child care expenses or with older children – not families that need it most. And $60 a month is almost meaningless given today’s child care costs. But it isn’t almost meaningless when put in the context of the cost. The UCCB expansion is estimated to cost $26 billion over five years and doesn’t create a single new child care space. By comparison, the cost of creating a national child care program has been estimated at just $1.87 billion annually.
Canada Has A Massive Revenue Problem – Not A Spending Problem. The Harper Conservatives openly boast about their abhorrence for all taxes. As Harper himself once said “There is no such thing as a good tax.” However, he has his favourites, at the top of which are the military, the police and hard time jails, all very well-funded. But since taking office he has savagely cut and slashed science, especially on the climate change issue, deliberately picked fights with the federal civil service and is slowly strangling medicare to death by the simple expedient of tying its funding to Canada’s current feeble GDP growth.
The Decades-Long, Slow Assault On Canada’s Cherished Universal Medicare and Canada Pension Plan. Medicare began life with 50-50 cost-sharing by Ottawa and the provinces. Successive federal governments of both Conservative and Liberal stripe have consistently chiselled away at it, gradually paring it down to a vestigial amount. The Harper government seems intent on delivering the final coup de gras, changing the medicare formula so that Ottawa’s share of health spending will plunge from 20 per cent to below 12 per cent in the next few decades. The provinces will take a $36 billion reduction between 2017 and 2027. Unless a new federal government reverses course, medicare as Canadians once knew it will just slowly fade away like the grin on Alice’s Cheshire Cat. The replacement will be private, for-profit U.S.-style medical insurance.
Meanwhile, Harper will continue his practice of consistently refusing to meet the nation’s premiers to discuss important national programs and issues except for occasional one-on-one chats.
Grover Norquist shares the abhorrence Stephen Harper and Joe Oliver have for governments and taxes. The American anti-tax crusader once uttered this memorable phrase: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
Frances Russell was born in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. A journalist since 1962, she has covered and commented on politics in Manitoba, Ontario, B.C. and Ottawa, working for The Winnipeg Tribune, United Press International, The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun and The Winnipeg Free Press as well as freelanced for The Toronto Star, The Edmonton Journal, CBC Radio and TV and Time Magazine.
She is the author of two award-winning books on Manitoba history: Mistehay Sakahegan – The Great Lake: The Beauty and the Treachery of Lake Winnipeg and The Canadian Crucible – Manitoba’s Role in Canada’s Great Divide. Both won the Manitoba Historical Society Award for popular history.
She is married with one son and two grandsons and lives in Winnipeg.