Friday, July 2, 2010

Her Majesty's Hats and Taxes

Greetings Friends,

Writing about overtly political topics is not something I want to indulge in often, but on the subject of taxes, well, they're somewhat difficult to ignore.

Yesterday, Canada celebrated its 143rd birthday with the monarch and about 100,000 faithful in attendance on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Her Majesty, dressed in patriotic red-and-white, including an ornate maple leaf brooch and one of her cheeky hats, referred to Canada as an "Example to the world", and a "Caring home for its own [and] a sanctuary for others." This is all true. We are also the Commonwealth nation that pays the most in taxes to keep her in her cheeky hats, and the rest of her family ensconced in their ludicrously ornate lifestyle.

The concept of royalty is a conundrum I've always grappled with. Yeah, I got up at the crack of dawn back in 1981 to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer. I even watched the Prince Andrew-Fergie nuptials; and look how well both of those turned out... As an adult, I realize it's no longer about the fairy tale, but the reality of what monarchy represents. The British royal family doesn't have any real political power anymore, but newly minted British Prime Minister David Cameron still had to get down on bended knee and ask for permission to form a new government. Here in Canada, Governor General Michaele Jean gets to read the Throne Speech at the opening of every new parliament, because she is the representative of the reigning monarch. Canada is considered a Constitutional Monarchy, so there will always be someone pinch-hitting for the Queen.

In addition to it being Canada Day, new tax guidelines went into effect yesterday in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Residents of both provinces now have to pay Harmonized Sales Tax on a whole new batch of goods and services that were taxed at lower rates or not at all. For example, a litre of gas now has an additional 8 cents in tax tacked onto its already high price, a double-double at Tim Hortons costs more, and that haircut will now have 13% tax added on to the price. The rhyme and reason is sufficiently convoluted, but both the provincial governments of BC and Ontario insist the HST is in the best interests of their residents, proclaiming it will save businesses money and create new jobs. I'm sure those proclamations will be of great comfort to those of us about to watch our cost of living increase.

As a Canadian and an American, I am pretty flummoxed by all this tax talk, as well as what it means to be a citizen of both countries. The Tea Party morons in the US get under my skin with their ignorant rhetoric, and their rejection of "Obama" Care. Here, people have lived with government sponsored health care for almost 50 years, and it's fine by them. Do they wish they didn't have "wait times" for non-life threatening procedures? Yes, of course. But ask any Canadian with a health card in his or her wallet if they'd rather pay a larcenous insurance company rather than 13% percent tax on most of their purchases, and the answer would likely be a resounding "no freakin' way". Canadians love the US for its vacation destinations and its shopping, but when it comes to where they'd rather live, the Great White North and its constitutional monarchy is the overwhelming location of choice. I can see why. But then again, I know better. I consider it a great honour to be a dual citizen, although I'm sure the Tea Baggers would see me hanged for high treason for the crime of being a citizen of the US and another country.

Despite heavy taxation with representation, the G20 fiasco, Stephen Harper, Celine Dion, and the clubbing of innocent baby seals, Canada is a great place; so is the US. I am proud to be both a Canadian and an American, Tea Baggers be damned. At least I get it. 

Happy 4th to all my American friends. Be careful with those M80s.


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