The Broadbent Blog


"Tax Freedom Day": freedom from what, exactly?

8201935758_fb991e5d32_b.jpgConcrete is poured into the foundation of the Trois-Rivieres Regional Hospital.

 The Fraser Institute has declared yesterday “Tax Freedom Day”: the day, they claim, that Canadians stop earning wages that go towards income taxes and begin making money that they can spend at their discretion. Fraser's goal is to paint a picture of Canada as an overtaxed country suffering under the weight of big government.

The Fraser Institute’s math on income and taxation has been roundly criticized, including by a former Assistant Chief Statistician and by our Andrew Jackson for skewing numbers to make a point. But while we take issue with the Fraser Institute’s numbers, and setting aside the bias inherent in their tax calculator’s $150,000 income ceiling, the more important discussion lies in appreciating why we pay taxes in the first place. Our tax dollars, far from disappearing into a black hole, are the reason that our roads are paved, our public schools are exceptional, our tap water is clean, and that our public health care continues to keep Americans jealous of their Northern neighbours.

A recent BBC article on the free maternity packages Finnish new mothers receive from the government was picked up by the Globe & Mail, who raved that Finland’s “every child matters -- every family matters” philosophy contributes to their children being among the world’s healthiest. And it turns out the tax dollars Finns pay to provide programs like this, much like Quebec’s $7-a-day childcare program, end up more than paying for themselves. 

All this is to say that all but the most affluent of us get much more from our tax dollars than what we pay into the system. Taxes, in the words of a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, are the price we pay for a civilized society.

Now, there are many reasons why Canadians should be unhappy about the way some of our tax dollars are spent: the Senate expense scandal, the comically-mismanaged F-35 purchasing portfolio, and $16 glasses of ministerial orange juice are all reasons that we should hold government spending accountable.

But let’s not let bad Conservative spending choices, or Fraser Institute propaganda, cloud the fact that our tax dollars go towards paying for things that make us proud to be Canadian -- and ensure that our communities thrive.

Photo: Axel Drainville. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0 licence.