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September 2011
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It’s Still Up for Debate

I’ll admit it, I’m a giant nerd. Last night I actually recorded and then watched the Ontario provincial debates with intent! While doing a bit of yoga I watched the McGuinty, Horwath and Hudak square off against each other. But all I could think was..

Who actually won the debate?

Unfortunately politics, at least what I’ve seen as of late, in Canada (recent Federal and Toronto Mayoral elections) is about attacking your opponents instead of announcing your platform. And when we do hear about parties platforms, we hear about outlandish claims to make the city, province, country, etc a better place. But have any of these candidates actually considered the consequences of their promises on the budget?

Where promises meet reality, reality bites!

Here is a bit of reality (well at least in my opinion). Costs for education, transportation, health care, etc. are rising. Costs are increasing at a rate greater than what our tax system can manage. Instead of looking at reality (i.e paying more taxes) candidates make promises for more services with less taxes. That equation just doesn’t add up!

During the CBC debates 6 questions were posed by Ontarian citizens. The last question raised the issue of a tiered health care system. NONE of the candidates were able to directly answer the question (Although do candidates ever really directly answer debate questions?!). But the final question on tiered health care raised an interesting point;

We already have a tiered income tax tariff, why not introduce a similar program for other sectors?

The objective is tiered system is not to benefit the low income earners. Having said that the objective is also not to punish the high income earners either.

Energy: What about increasing taxes on increasing consumption? For the first ‘x’ number of watts there is no tax, the next ‘y’ units consumed are charged the HST, and above ‘z’ units consumption is charged an extra nominal tax. Consumption blocks would have to be broken up for residential and commercial. But this does a few things. First of all it promotes everyone to conserve, to consider the environment, you pay no tax if you’re a low consumer. Secondly it’s fair; it does not discriminate between high- and low-earners, each consumer is considered the same. And finally it would likely benefit the low-income earners. Typically they own small residential units , do not own a bunch of ‘energy-sucking gadgets’ that do not consume a lot of power. Seems pretty win-win-win to me, but I do understand the policy implications and the difficulty in setting up such a program.

Education: We are so fortunate for everyone to have access to great education in Ontario. I am a product of the public school system and loved every minute I spent there. From my classes (nerd coming out again) to the athletics to the organizations I was involved in; I was incredibly fortunate. I do not want to see that slip away for future generations. Keep those teachers that love what they do. I’ve never really thought about how to ‘tier’ education… I think that will be the thoughts of my run today.

Health Care: It’s a bit of a ‘can of worms’ when you discuss health care. It comes down to essential services and necessities; there is a lot of abuse in the health care system. I have no problem with 6-figure administrative salaries; all competitive CEO’s are paid these salaries and I want the best and brightest to be running the hospital I visit. Administration is needed; how else do you bring those essential services to the patients? Trust me the doctors are too busy to take care of all the administration and I’d rather have that amazing doctor working on me and other patients than pushing paper. Of course there is no easy answer. Many countries, who previously had a completely publicly funded health care system, are now privatizing some costs. Given that Ontario has the largest population in Canada, I would like to see a trial with some of the current health care services (for instance MRI’s, CT scans, x-ray..).

Transportation: Bring on the tolled highways. Not every lane, not every highway. HOT (high-occupancy-toll) lanes have proven successful. Congestion charging has proven successful. We have come to think that driving a car is a right, not a privilege. But to maintain that right we are going to have to pay the ‘actual’ cost to drive on our roads.

Ok, these examples are my opinion and fairly volatile. With the right policy they can work. I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution, but under a Nash Equilibrium you’re always looking for the second best solution!