Current Opinion Across The Dominion

Current Opinion Across The Dominion

A Nation-Wide Revolt Against Taxation

March 15 1924
Current Opinion Across The Dominion

Current Opinion Across The Dominion

A Nation-Wide Revolt Against Taxation

March 15 1924

Current Opinion Across The Dominion

A Nation-Wide Revolt Against Taxation

A CLARION call for economy, to be practised immediately and rigorously, by federal, provincial and municipal authorities, is heard from one end of the Dominion to the other. Magazines, newspapers, public and private organizations, business men, politicians, and ordinary citizens, have joined together as with one accord, insistently demanding not only drastic retrenchment, but materially lower taxation.

Striking and meaningful are some of the phrases used in scores of Canadian daily and weekly newspapers. “There is a point in taxation, which, once reached, inflicts peril upon a nation. That point has been reached in Canada,” asserts the Belleville (Ont.) Intelligencer. In the opinion of the Victoria (B.C.) Colonist, the people of Canada, as a whole, are persuaded that there is “something holding Canada back, and the realization is crystallizing that it is the burden of taxation.” In the eyes of the editor of the Peterborough (Ont.) Examiner, “Canadians are long-suffering people, but the limit of endurance has been reached.” The St. John (N.B.) Telegraph-Journal observes that, “Canada is being swept from coast to coast by demands for curtailment of public expenditure. This demand is being expressed in rural municipalities, in cities, in relation to provincial outlays, and to federal spending.”

The St. Catharines (Ont.) Standard records the fact that Great Britain leads twenty-two nations in the world in reducing war budgets in the last two years. “From all reports of our Civil Service at Ottawa,” the Standard sententiously adds, “Canada apparently is still at war!”

The Calgary (Alta.) Herald,_ which recently ran an extraordinarily vigorous, forceful, and informative series of twelve articles, devoted to “Canada’s burden of taxes,” refers to Great Britain’s action and inquires:

“When will the spending bodies of Canada—from the poorest rural councils to the government of the Dominion— begin to follow the sound and necessary British example? Only when every Canadian rate-payer and every public organization, by direct action and through the press, impresses upon all governments that expenditures must be immediately checked, then reduced, to the end that all taxation—Dominion, provincial and municipal—may be steadily lowered. Governments will not do these things except under pressure. Only an insistent public demand will force them now to action.”

Press Agitation Brings Pressure

THE disappointment, indignation, disgust, and finally open rebellion of the long-suffering Canadian taxpayer has been vigorously voiced through the medium of the Dominion press. The Kingston (Ont.) Standard believes: “It is very much to be doubted if the present movement (for economy in Ottawa) would have begun had it not been for the vigorous newspaper and magazine campaign which has lately been conducted against the shameless profligacy of governments at Ottawa, of their utter disregard of business conditions, and of the distressing condition of the people generally.”

The Regina (Sask.) Leader points out that the “press from one end of Canada to the other” has been harping for two

years'"upon the necessity for economy,” and the Fredericton (N.B.) Gleaner emphasizes the fact that “never in the history of the Dominion has there been such a recognition in the press, without regard to partisan lines, of the need of cutting the expenditure down to the limit of the revenue, and the stoppage of increases in the debt, as is to be noted to-day.” The Brantford (Ont.) Expositor feels, however, that this -demand must become yet still louder, and even more imperative.

After reviewing some imposing international statistics, the Ottawa Journal arrives at the gloomy, albeit presumably truthful, conclusion:

“The cold truth is that in both debt and taxation Canada is the worst off of the English-speaking countries. And what is more disturbing still, while, other Englishspeaking countries keep on getting better, we keep on getting worse.”

Canada’s whole taxation troubles and financial ills are summed up by Finance Commissioner George H. Ross, o Toronto, as follows:

“It is not an extravagant statement to say that a sort of financial madness is over the whole land. As private individuals we are living beyond our means. As citizens we have spent without thought, and mortgaged our city so heavily that we and our children will groan under the burden.” , .

The Port Hope (Ont.) Guide quotes this with cordial approval, and refers to one specific anticipated local expenditure: “Why should Canada squander millions on a useless enterprise—the Toronto and Eastern Railway? The country through which it runs is now amply served by steam roads, running trains with almost street car frequency.”

One of the facts which strikes the Calgary (Alta.) Herald and the Quebec Chronicle with particular force is that “the special taxes imposed by other countries to meet war conditions are being reduced or abandoned; in Canada, instead of being reduced, they have been increased—as in the case of the sales tax, which was only one per cent, at first, and is now six per cent.—and there is no sign in sight of any being abolished.”

“If the wheels of industry are to be set actively in motion again, it is essential that more accumulative wealth be made available for development purposes,” remarks the Edmonton (Alta.) Journal. In the opinion of the Moose Jaw (Sask.) Times, “taxation not only ought to come down, but will have to come down before enterprising citizens are given the inducement to which they are entitled.” This same viewpoint is emphasized by scores of other daily and weekly newspapers. To quote a few will be sufficient to drive home the point—that overly-burdensome taxation is drying up the wells of financial initiative, and sending money which could be devoted to new and nationadvancing enterprises, into old-line conservative investments, and into tax-free bonds.

Saving Fifty Millions

A CCORDING to the Brantford (Ont.)

Expositor, “Canadians are so heavily taxed that business is strangled and workers are leaving Canada by the tens of thousands every year for the lack of employment, to find situations in the

United States.” The Toronto Mail and Empire makes the point that “if taxation at Ottawa were reduced by fifty million dollars, there would be fifty million dollars more to circulate in ordinary business. Trade cannot mend in this country until the taxing powers stop bleeding the people.”

The Hamilton (Ont.) Spectator proceeds to demonstrate that “the way to attract capital and enterprise, and as a consequence to increase population, to this country, is to ease the burdens under which industry is struggling.” The Moose Jaw (Sask.) Times concludes a forceful editorial by showing that “every dollar taken from the public in the form of taxes is so much taken from ordinary business; for, after all, the government has no money except what it takes from its people.” Even such a strong Liberal paper as the Manitoba Free Press declares:

“One of the strongest points in the indictment against the government is this matter of finding new taxes and increasing old ones, in which -Mr. Fielding has shown great pertinacity and ingenuity. The in-.

■ crease in the sales tax made by the government last session, in disregard of an adverse public opinion which at once made itself known, was the ' last touch which started the avalanche of criticism and condemnation.”

Many other editors throughout Canada echo John W. Dafoe’s expression of opinion, voicing in their turn the sentiments of the business men in their various communities. '•

Quite naturally, in discussing economies, the personnel and salaries of the Civil Service are much to the fore. Many newspapers and magazines have indulged in scathing criticism of the Service. The Brantford (Ont.) Expositor ■■ concludes that, “after all this, the country is convinced that something is wrong. Either the Civil Service Commission' has not done its full duty, or it has been hindered in its work by political influence.” ».

In the opinion of the St. John (N.B.) Telegraph-Journal there is not so much fault found with “the salary of the ordinary Civil Service employee as there is with the number of them employed. Most of the people have considerable business with officials of the government, and are in a position to judge whether they are overstaffed or overworked. . . . drastic economy must be practised, if Canada is to arrivé at her destination.” Several newspapers counsel against thegovernment “wreaking its will in a mere short-sighted frenzy” in dealing with the Civil Service. The Ottawa Journal, which has been attacked by various newspapers throughout the country for allegedly two-sided opinions on the subject of governmental .retrenchment, asks:

“Is it any wonder that civil servants in Ottawa who have had to be party to rank and almost criminal squandering of public moneys should feel personal resentment at the most exaggerated statements that have been made respecting the salaries, efficiency, and conduct of the service as a whole?”

The Saskatoon (Sask.) Star contends that “there is no special reason why the whole brunt of the economizing should be borne by the Civil Service.” The

Ottawa Citizen and Montreal La Patrie point out that superannuation of civil servants, at an age to be agreed upon, should prove to be a sound investment by Premier Mackenzie King in public economy. “It would be sound economy,” remarks the Citizen, “if the government pensioned off superfluous employees in the Civil Service at full salary rates, provided precautions were taken to prevent the renewal of the overloading of the Civil Service through political influence.”

Difficulties in the Way

MANY difficulties which beset the path of a government which desires to practise real economy, and effectively lower taxation, are brought out by news-' paper after newspaper. The Sydney (N.S.) Post, for example, says:

“Retrenchment is a difficult and discouraging task. There will be heartburnings and resentment over this economizing and salary reduction, which cannot but impair the government’s popularity in certain quarters. The curtailment of expenditure on public works will weaken the chances of the government’s candidates in many of the constituencies. Retrenchment will ' lessen the opportunities for giving reward to faithful party workers. The business of government, has, in fact, become incompatible with the gameof politics. Ministers who do their duty, fearlessly and honestly must look for other reward than that of popularity . . . the day of machine politics is done, if not forever, at least for as long a future as one can vision. So also is the era of long periods of party domination.”

The Renfrew (Ont.) Mercury records with approval Premier King’s calling together of the deputy heads of various departments and members of the Civil Service Commission to consider reductions in the number of employees, and other economies in the government service. The Mercury goes on to say:

“No doubt _ economies could be effected elsewhere by the government, but probably there might be at least a few brought about on Parliament Hill and vicinity. For example, if it be true that daughters of Ottawa plutocrats ride to office in their own cars, and after spending very little time in the building, go elsewhere for pastime, this ought to cease at once; but it may be that such cases do not exist at all—are mere inventions. It may be accepted as a moral certainty that if any change is made in the direction of economy a great cry will go up, led by those who desire the defeat of the government, and those who have lost something by the change.”

In this campaign for economy what part will the common and garden variety of member of parliament play during the present session? In the opinion of the, Montreal Gazette the ministers of the Cabinet, even should they be in earnest, will not be enthusiastically supported. The Gazette says:

“The ministers, it is feared, will get little help in their task in curtailing expenditure, from members of parliament. These are the great cause of the enlarging debt and heavy taxation. They think more of their localities than of the general good,, and support all sorts of demands upon the treasury . . . the ministers’ task will be in some ways a thankless one. The consciousness of having done their duty may be their only reward.”

“Economy can be effected,” believes the Moose Jaw (Sask.) Times*-“when a budget of the most rigid economy is presented this year to Parliament.” “It will be done,” continues the Times, “if people quit playing politics and get down to talking good, practical common sense.” The Moncton (N.B.) Transcript draws attention to the fact that there is plenty of zeal for economy in parliament, but that the economy is a “vague abstract phantom” having no relation to the needs of any individual constituency. “A member of the House of Commons will make an eloquent plea for retrenchment in general and then demand some public work for his own riding.” The Transcript continues:

“This attitude is by no means confined to the members of parliament. It is the attitude of ninetyfive per cent, of the electors. On every hand one hears tax-payers demanding a reduction in taxation in one breath, and, in the next, complaining because the government is not spending more money in their constituency. As the Toronto Globe says, ‘it is time we recognized the fact that there can be no retrenchment unless everybody is willing to make sacrifices for that object as well as demanding such sacrifices from others.’ ”

One Skeptical Editor

THE editor of the Medicine Hat (Alta.)"

News professes to be somewhat cynical and skeptical of the success of the economy wave. He says that this Dominion-wide drive to reduce taxation by reducing expenditures will amount to “nothing more than a tempest in a teapot unless human nature undergoes a radical change in a remarkably short period of time. . . . delegates from Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, for example, might attend such a Conference (for tax reduction) and agree on the need existing for drastic limitation in public services, yet if the Post Office Department announced .that, in, the interest of economy, the postal carrier delivery service in these two cities was to be discontinued, what a wave of righteous indignation would creep over the two centres affected, and what wire-pulling would be gotten under way to have the verdict reversed!”

The Owen Sound (Ont.) Sun-Times admits that both administrations at Ottawa have been much more intent on the raising of revenue than on economizing in expenditure, and then inquires:

“What the ordinary elector, or even the - business man, cannot understand, is why the whole government service should not be put on a purely business basis and kept on it. The general opinion that the ‘overhead’ expense of government is double that of any successful business enterprise under capable management, may not be far mistaken. The question is, how is it to be reduced? This is for the conference of Boards of Trade to discover.”

The meeting of the various Boards of Trade of Western Canada, when they passed a powerful resolution advocating immediate and rigorous governmental economy, has been greeted with widespread press acclaim. It was planned to follow this meeting in the West with another, nation-wide, in Ottawa.

_ “Thé Revolt Against Taxes,” is the significant heading on an editorial in the Ingersoll (Ont.) Tribune. This paper quotes Sir Joseph Flavelle as “advocating the cutting of the Canadian income tax in half.” Many other papers greet this suggestion with unqualified approval, and believe it to be within the realm of ‘ practical politics.” Coming from a business man of Sir Joseph’s eminence, this suggestion has more than the usual

weight of such pronouncements. The Victoria (B.C.) Colonist feels that “it is chiefly by reducing taxation, and especially a reduction in the income tax, that money will be loosened up for investment in productive enterprises.” The

Quebec Chronicle quotes, with very evident approval, the bulletin of the Citizens’ Research Institute, which doubts the “wisdom of too severe an income tax, as discouraging the use of capital needed for the development of natural

resources.” The Institute’s bulletin goes on to say:

“While without doubt, both on financial and equitable grounds, there is a strong case for the taxation of incomes, it should be looked upoh rather as a supplementary tax, and levied in due proportion to other receipts, and with close attention to the special circumstances of thecountry. It is best suited to a wide and general use, and, ina younger country which stands the need of venturesome capital for its properdevelopment, the over-exercise and over-progression of this form of taxation, it is believed by many might, and probably would, seriously discourage initiative, retard or prevent the accumulation of capital for financing new enterprises and expanding old ones, and even lead to diminishing returns to the Government.”

The Quebec Chronicle gives some interesting information regarding the imposition of income taxes in Canada:

“Two provinces in Canada, Alberta and our own, Quebec, have no income tax apart from that imposed by the federal authorities. British Columbia, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island have provincial income taxation, while Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have municipal income tax but no provincial.

“Two income taxes, such as are imposed in Ontario, form a heavy burden for the man on salary or the business man who makes honest return. In the United States the income tax seems less, but there is the still greater advantage to the American tax-payer that he has but one income tax to pay. Even in Great Britain, with its extremely heavy income tax, there is no municipal levy. It is said to be a question indeed, if in Ontario, with a federal and municipal income tax, the total levy is not more burdensome than in the Old Land.” —

Several suggestions are made to the Government, advising Ottawa how to economize. “To economize, start economizing,” is the burden of most of them. The Peterborough (Ont.) Examiner advises all governments in Canada to “quit spending money rather than to occupy themselves with new methods of raising revenue.” The Ottawa Citizen, resident as it is so close to the “holy of holies,” suggests that “there are some ministers in the present cabinet, as there were in the last, who would have to work very much harderin private business to earn $4,000 a year as they do for $14,000 in politics,” arid suggests a definite reduction in the size of the Cabinet.

The Victoria (B.C.) Colonist believes certain definite savings could be effected if “so far as is possible, the duties of federal and provincial tax collectors should be amalgamated so that one authority collects the taxes. The distribution of the revenues is a simple, matter of bookkeeping.”

The Sarnia (Ont.) Observer sees no. reason why “the tax-payer is compelled to compute his own taxation, while at the same time the return must be scrutinized and passed upon by a staff of taxing officers, who might just as well compute the tax in the first instance and notify the tax-payer as to what he is to pay. That would at least remove part of the irritating conditions that surround the income tax impost.”

T? J Toronto (.Ont.) Star sees no reason why the amusement tax need be extended, particularly in small towns and villages, to cover amateur baseball, football, lacrosse, skating, theatrical and debating societies, where the people “should surely not be pestered by petty fines or taxes.” The Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Province and other dailies throughout Canada feel that the two most important things are: ■■

“No new commitments,” and

“A Commission on the co-ordination of taxation ”