By: Charles Cirtwill
It’s Christmas in September! The election campaign is underway and all parties are hard at work convincing taxpayers that they are the one and only Santa Claus (with all requisite apologies to the real deal for placing them in such bad company). Presents, presents and more presents are landing on New Brunswickers doorsteps, or at least promises of presents.
For the Robin Hoods among us we have the proposal to tax the supposedly uber-rich (at least in the Atlantic context) and give to the, well, if not poor then not so rich. We have promised pay freezes, pension cuts, red tape reductions, smaller government (well, cabinet, not government, but one can dream). We have an MRI in every town, buy New Brunswick, power rate freezes, more “free” child care spaces and of course, jobs, jobs, jobs. And just like at Christmas, the ribbon has been flying of late with ribbon cuttings and re-cuttings dotting the landscape.
And just like at Christmas the debt is piled up, to be dealt with later. When the bonus comes in, or the promotion, or the Christmas money from the grandparents, or whatever other little lies you need to tell yourself in order to make you feel okay about buying just one more thing. And there’s the rub as it were. Because the single most important way that an election is not like Christmas is the one thing voters seem the least likely to remember – you pay for your own presents. You also pay for your sister’s presents, your cousin’s presents, your neighbour’s presents and that nasty fellow down the street, you pay for his presents too.
Yes, you might get the fancy new tax break or the shiny new MRI, and ONLY see your taxes go up a few bucks, or user fees increase just a little, or your tax cut be the year after next instead of next year. Other folks might indeed pay more, but make no mistake you will pay too. It’s like giving your kids a trip to Disney World for Christmas but stealing their birthday money to help pay for it. That’s not Santa, that’s Scrooge.
So, here’s a challenge for you. When “Santa” wearing red, white, blue or orange, comes to your door promising you presents, tell them no. You don’t want their stinking presents. Take the advice of all those financial experts on the reality TV shows, if you can’t afford it, you don’t really need it. Or if you really need it, but can’t afford it, then give something else up. Like Santa, political parties supply gifts to order, so don’t order any – or ask for socks, if you really need them.
If you can’t do that. If you really, really need (not want, need) to have whatever bauble they are offering, then make sure they explain what they are going to cut in order to pay for it. Not in vague terms, specifics. Who is losing their job? What old bauble is being thrown away to make room for the new one? Don’t ask them how someone else can pay for it, and don’t let them give you the tired line that mysterious natural inevitable “economic growth” will somehow miraculously pay the bill.
You want specifics, an election, appearances aside, isn’t Christmas. Elections are strictly a cash transaction. What are they offering and how much is it going to cost you? But recall, as all good shoppers do, that any deal that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
Charles Cirtwill is the president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (www.AIMS.ca), a public policy think tank based in Atlantic Canada.