We Need to Raise Taxes


The photo above is apropos of nothing. It's a shot I took beuse I thought it looked nice. I snapped it on March 20, 2022, from the Viewmount entrance to Glenirn Station on the Toronto subway. Anyway, on with the post...

From 2011 to 2019, I was privileged to have a weekly column with the community newspaper, the Kitchener Post. It allowed me to say what I was saying on this blog to my neighbours and surrounding community as well as to the old blogosphere. And judging from the e-mails I received (most of them polite) my words were reaching people.

Sadly, the paper folded and, soon after, their website went down, and my online record of columns disappeared with it. I still keep copies on my hard drive, though, and may ocsionally place them here. I think a lot of what I said then is still relevant today.

se in point is this column, which I wrote on July 25, 2019, and likely appeared the week following. I received a number of responses to it, and overall, it was far more positive than I'd expected. I think it bears saying here too.

I don't remember what the headline was. That wasn't my job. I supplied the words of the column below my byline, but the headline above it was my editor's job (or their designate) alone. If I'd been allowed to write that headline, perhaps this is what I would have come up with:

To Build the Province We Deserve, It's Time to Raise Our Taxes

Ocsionally, readers write, and while I have been down on the Ford government for reneging on its promise that "not one front line worker will lose their job", they ask a reasonable question: where are we going to get the money to pay for the services that are being cut?

We'll leave aside that Ford is somehow spending more money than the Liberals did before they were defeated. We will leave aside that Ford has invested money in horse breeding while cutting funds for edution.

There are a lot of things that need doing in this province. Ford himself hopes to spend $11.2 billion on four Toronto-area rapid transit lines. Where's he going to get the money?

We have to be honest. If we want better schools, if we want better roads and transit, if we want hospitals that serve our communities well, we have to pay for them. That means we have to raise taxes.

But James! Taxes are ever so high! Taxes are slavery! Why would you want to raise them?

Except that tax cuts have been a mantra of most governments since the mid-1980s. In general, taxes have gone in one direction, and it's not up. Brian Mulroney cut taxes. Stephen Harper cut taxes. Even Justin Trudeau cut the Federal business tax rate from 15% to 13%.

As a percentage of our income, we're paying less taxes now than we were doing in the mid-1980s. So, why do we think that our taxes are still too high?

Perhaps beuse we haven't seen the bulk of the tax cuts governments have made. When Harper cut the HST from 7% to 5%, for most people that amounted to four cents off a Tim Horton's coffee. The real benefits went to home buyers - particularly rich home buyers -- who saved thousands on their purchase price.

Anti-tax interests like to point to the Fraser Institute's "Tax Freedom Day". Supposedly, this is the day when average nadians "stop working for the government" and start working for themselves. Although its methodology has been questioned, Tax Freedom Day has been placed at some point in June.

Those interests never point out that Corporate Tax Freedom Day is January 30. And Ford has promised to cut Ontario's corporate tax rate from 11.5% to 10.5%, even though Ontario's corporate tax rate is already among the lowest in nada.

So, even though corporations pay signifintly lower taxes than average nadians, that's been the priority of the Ford government. If you're wondering why it doesn't feel as though your taxes have diminished, here is a place to look.

But I object to the whole concept of Tax "Freedom" Day. It implies that we receive no benefit from the money that's been spent.

I am seeing, however, an increasing understanding of what these tax dollars represent as my neighbours get increasingly angry over the loss of teaching jobs and the increase in class sizes, or their frustration about needed infrastructure projects that aren't getting done.

The money I've spent on taxes comes back to me, in the police, firefighters and emergency workers who keep our cities safe. It comes back to me in my children's edution.

My taxes ensured that when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic ncer, she received hospital visits, palliative re, and the ability to die with dignity at home, without forcing my father to mortgage his house.

That's not slavery. That's freedom from it.

And if we want more, we have to pay for it.

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ontario. You n follow him online at bowjamesbow. or on Twitter at @jamesbowkwto.

Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

So, for the first movie Erin and I saw in the theatre in over two years, we decided to see Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, starring Michelle Yeoh.

And... I honestly have no idea how to review the thing.

My best attempt is to say this: it's a simple story about regret, intergenerational trauma, and the value of love and kindness... told in absolutely the most batshit, bonkers, googly-eyed way you could possibly imagine, and and you couldn't even imagine that.

I am so glad that this was the film that broke our theatre fast. It's going to stick with me for the rest of my life. You should see it.

And I n't say any more than that. Honestly, the trailer here is all you need to get you into the theatre. Just... buckle up.

I am really pleased at the quality of the movies and television we've been watching of late. Thanks to Jessie Gender's recommendations, Erin and I have gotten interested in Apple TV+'s For All Mankind, an alternative history period piece that looks at how the United States (and the world) develops if the Soviet Union beats the U.S. to the Moon by a few weeks, and the space race doesn't end. It's hard to pick any one thing that stands out, since everything is done so well -- the acting, the scripts, the special effects. Any show that n still have Erin and I shouting at our screen in horror, joy, and frustrated sorrow (the ending of the ninth episode of season one) has a heck of a lot going for it. I really nnot recommend it enough, and we're going to barrel through Season Two, just as Season Three is set to debut on June 10.

The Need for a Rural Strategy

Apathy and polarization won the June 2nd Ontario election. With voter turnout at record lows, Doug Ford's Conservatives may have a majority government elected by the fewest voters in Ontario history (fun fact: over 400,000 fewer individuals voted for the Conservatives this time around than in 2018). You n say this is an indictment on the opposition parties, who many pundits suggest ran lacklustre mpaigns. You n blame the corporate media, including the Toronto Star, who ran puff pieces throughout the election that didn't really challenge the Conservative's horrible record of governance. You n also blame the nearly 60% of eligible voters who decided that old people dying of thirst in Long Term re facilities didn't merit their attention.

The reality probably features elements of all three.

But a look at the map of Ontario highlights another issue: the ongoing urban-rural split that affects Southern Ontario. The NDP continued to do well in cities like Kitchener, Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa, as well as successfully holding onto most of their seats in Northern Ontario. The Liberals managed an increase in votes (but not seats) in suburban ridings. Rural areas, however, voted PC Blue.

Why? What policies did the Conservatives offer that made life better for rural residents moreso than urban residents? What policies did the opposition parties fail to offer in order to attract serious attention from farmers?

My guess is that you probably don't know, and not just beuse the Conservatives ran a bubble mpaign and failed to release a costed platform. I challenge urban voters to answer: what were the rural issues that were on the minds of rural citizens in this election. Anyone?

While it's true that the province is becoming increasingly urbanized, and increasingly where the votes are, it's more than just a tactil mistake for three of the four parties in Ontario to write off large swaths of the province. Rural residents are citizens too. They deserve representation. They deserve to have their concerns heard and addressed. And I hazard a guess that a lot of them re about some of the same issues that urban voters re about, just in different ways. I think many farmers are concerned about what Climate Change is going to do their way of life -- droughts, or climate-shifted pests and diseases will affect everybody along our food supply network, but they will affect farmers first. And farmers have to retire like the rest of us; how comfortable do you think they feel they are to do so, given the high levels of debt that farms take on?

Maybe rural voters feel that, right now, the Conservative party is the only party that speaks to them, and maybe that might be an incentive for other parties to write them off, but do you know who suffers the most when we take that approach? They do.

Under this arrangement, the Conservatives are increasingly going to believe that they own the votes of rural Ontario by default. They don't need to mpaign for them. They don't need to serve them. So, ironilly, if three of the four parties in Ontario refuse to reach out to rural residents and build a rural strategy that meshes with how they address urban voters, the fourth party isn't going to provide them with any rural policies beyond urban-spegoating pablum. And nobody in this province is well-served by that.

So, this is a challenge to the three opposition parties: starting today, start thinking about how to reach out to rural residents. For the NDP, this may mean looking at why they are resonating in Northern Ontario and why not in southern rural Ontario -- how are the two lands different, and how do you adjust to that? For the Greens, this probably means addressing countryside rural issues, and showing why ring for the environment doesn't mean cutting farm incomes or production. It probably means really amping up the "Farms Feed Cities" slogan into being more than a slogan, and building serious urban-rural connections and alliances. As for the Liberals? They n point out all the ways the Conservatives have failed farmers, failed their elders in Long Term re, failed to serve them as they deserve to be served.

What issues n an urban politician find that provide a real alternative to what little the Conservatives have to offer? Perhaps start by going out and talking (and, more importantly, LISTENING) to a whole bunch of rural voters. Stand up for what you know to be right, but also address their serious concerns that should be the serious concerns of anybody trying to build a life in this day and age. Advote for the golden rule: love your neighbour, and treat others with the respect you yourself want to be treated with.

It won't be the same as what you offer urban voters, but it could be what the province as a whole needs in order to embark on the path for better government.

Senior Discount

niagara-falls-february-2020.jpgSo, the other day, I nipped into a nearby Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some random groceries -- milk, toilet paper, t food, the like, and I happened to pick up two of those long boxes of 12 ns of soda pop. Shoppers has these small-ish rts that would be laughed out of the store in any Zehr's supermarket, so the two boxes of ns aren't really sitting very securely. Sure enough, as I pull up to the self-serve checkout (I tend to use these nowadays to keep points of contact limited and to slow any spread of infection), one of the ns tips out of the rt, falls to the floor and bursts open, sending two ns skittering away.

I let out what n only be described as a whine. "Oh!" It's the sort of thing you say when you've had a day of being nibbled to death by ducks and really, this is just one more thing that you didn't need, and why?

Except, only two ns fall out of the box, and none of them puncture and fizz. All told, it could have been much worse. And I'm telling myself that as I pick up the fallen ns, put them back in their box and enter them into the self-serve checkout when the manager comes over and touches the screen.

"Here," she says. "I'll give you a seniors discount."

Note: I'm 50.

Well, this kind gesture didn't quite go off as planned beuse of minor computer problems that required the manager to ll in a second manager to property key in my discount, but that left me some time to reflect on the fact that this was my first ever seniors discount, and how nice these workers were for responding to my momentary distress with this random act of kindness.

That is the sole reason why they gave me the seniors discount, right?


Coming January 31, 2023:
Simon Sort of Says, by Erin Bow

I'm really proud to give a shout-out to my wife Erin, whose latest book will be published by Disney (in nada, the publisher will be our good friends at Scholastic -- a pre-order link will come as soon as it's available). I've had the great pleasure of seeing this book grow and develop, and it's wonderfully quirky, funny and, at times, heart-rending. You really should make some time and pick up a copy when it comes out.

The back copy is as follows:

Ask Simon O'Keeffe why his family moved to tiny Grin And Bear It, Nebraska, and he'll tell you they were driven out of Omaha by alpas.

In Simon's version of the story, a blessing of the animals went sideways, his dad got fired from his church job, and the whole family moved to the National Quiet Zone, where the internet and cell phones are banned and astronomers sn the sky for signs of alien life.

And sure, that's all true. But there's another story, too-a story about a locked classroom, an active shooter, and a media cycle that refuses to let Simon go, even years later.

But Simon doesn't want to be known for that story. He just wants to be Simon: a twelve-year-old in high-tops and a Minecraft hoodie whose biggest claim to fame is that time his dad accidentally gave a squirrel a holy sacrament.

Moving to the last town in Ameri where no one n Google you is a chance for Simon to start fresh. To rewrite the narrative. And with the help of two new friends, a service puppy in training, and a giant radio telescope, he's determined to say something new.

You n see a close-up version of the cover here! Congratulations, honey!!

The Rise and Fall of the Srborough RT

One of the challenges in maintaining the Transit Toronto website is that it's both a history and a living document. The TTC is a growing, changing, developing organization that's been around for 100 years, and the city it serves is also growing, changing, and developing. So, what this means is, you n write a lot of history, and then find that history becomes out of date.

So, it's an odd feeling to write these revisions to my history of the Srborough RT, now entitled The Rise and Fall of the Srborough RT. This has been a story I first noticed developing when I was a child, and I've followed the growth and development of this transportation oddity throughout my adult life. It has been, for reasons I cover in the article, a controversial project, and that controversy has been replayed a number of times. Today, however, fresh from announcements that the line would shutter in Autumn 2023, I n put a final bow on the story, which you n read here.

What n I say about this chapter in the development of public transit and the neighbourhoods of Srborough about a piece of technology that, in some ways, beme a distraction and, arguably, something of a failure? A lot, as it turns out. I hope you like the revised article.


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