Tax and deficits plus other letters, May 18: ‘Why not give all income to government and let it hand back what it thinks we need?’

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The iron gates outside Parliament Hill on Nov. 12, 2019.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Common people

Re “Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives, common sense and the courts” (Editorial, May 8): “Common sense” has been a rallying cry for populist conservatism in Canada, part of the populist myth that everyone with a primary education and a little lebenserfahrung, or life experience, can understand all the complex problems of modern government and, more optimistically, identify “obvious” solutions.

This requires a disdain for experts, whether they are scientists, doctors or economists. It is, of course, “common sense” that if ordinary people can understand and, better still, solve all these problems, we don’t need experts. While we are at it, we don’t need their universities, either.

Taken to a conclusion, we can replace representative democracy with direct, or at least plebiscitary, democracy. Aristotle’s warning that direct democracy leads to mob role, then tyranny (why do my eyes keep jerking south?) whereas representative democracy offers the chance of stability, can conveniently be dismissed as the opinion of another unnecessary expert.

A fine, circular, common-sense argument.

Manuel Mertin Dean emeritus (arts), Mount Royal University; Calgary

It’s tempting to assume that one’s own opinions are based on common sense.

In these hyperpartisan times, this allows for an intellectual laziness that shuts out other possibilities. It’s deeply ironic to speak of common sense, which assumes at least a degree of commonality, when we are losing any feeling that we are part of something larger than ourselves.

True leadership means reminding us that civil society depends on reasonable debate and equitable compromise. What we get instead is the sort of behaviour immediately recognizable to any Grade 1 teacher (who would put a stop to it forthwith).

It seems that, in politics, there is nothing so rare as common sense.

Steve Soloman Toronto

Go boom

Re “Poilievre’s promise to end deficits sets collision course with boomers” (Report on Business, May 11): Baby boomers are relatively rich. They have never experienced world war, depression or unemployment. Now, as retirees, they live off those who work. (I am 83 and also guilty.)

Decades ago there were seven working people to every retired person. Now the ratio is 3:1.

We should stop the welfare to our retired population. I believe they are rich welfare bums: strong language, but look again. They are by far the greatest users of our health system, including free drugs and now free dental care.

A retired couple also receives multiple monthly pension cheques, some indexed to the cost of living. They get age deductions on income tax. They can split pensions. They get senior discounts. They do not have to pay for travel to work. They have lots of equity.

Many are experiencing guilt and support their children and grandchildren. Hopefully they are also making significant charitable contributions.

Michael Creaghan Hamilton

Today’s seniors (I am 48) are not at fault for political and financial strategies pursued by past and present leaders.

What is needed, in my opinion, is a complete overhaul of taxation to better encourage and reward hard work (“productivity”) by citizens. We should have a more stable tax system, not one that is ridiculously progressive nor adds new taxes on a yearly basis while adjusting current ones to our detriment.

Those who earn more should have stable, moderate percentages of taxation, as no one is encouraged to be more productive if half of their income flies away anyway. If we are taxed more fairly, than leaner government and less socialism is the answer.

Otherwise, why not give all income to government and let it hand back what it thinks we need? Does it not feel like this is happening already?

Back to the drawing board, please.

Tanja Hasler Kamloops

In recognition

Re “Quebec’s new history museum proposes an ethnocentric vision of the province’s past” (Opinion, May 11): I applaud François Legault and the creation of the National Museum of the History of Quebec. It is great to see recognition of the important contributions made to Canada by the founders of the first permanent French settlement in Quebec and their successors.

Now perhaps British Columbia will do the same and better recognize contributions made by the British, by giving more profile and presence to the artifacts and permanent exhibits at the Royal BC Museum.

I believe such efforts do not diminish Indigenous history, nor that of other ethnicities, but rather portray the cultural richness of Canada today and its foundational links to France and Britain.

Roger Emsley Delta, B.C.

Home and away

Re “Europe’s urban advantage leaves Canada in the shade” (May 11): I recently visited Newcastle, England.

It might not be the first place that comes to mind when talking about beautiful cities. But what I found was a cosmopolitan city with character, vitality and tasteful architecture, both historical and modern.

For about £5 (roughly $8.60), I travelled by metro to some charming seaside villages in about 30 minutes. No one I spoke to seemed to think this was miraculous.

On a recent trip to Halifax, I couldn’t help but notice how ugly the signage is on city streets. Even government-regulated signage is a mishmash of different fonts. No one I spoke to seemed to think this was depressing.

These might seem like trivial matters. But I think it’s a reflection of a deeper point: City-building is as much about cultures of good design from the bottom up, as it is about top-down planning and leadership.

Canadians should demand more beauty from their cities.

Mark Bessoudo London

In some ways, yes, but Europe has its issues.

True, highways in Spain are vastly better, but that applies to tolled highways only. Retiro Park is justifiably praised but, like all cities, Madrid has its share of graffiti and litter outside of well-heeled areas.

Spain has one of the highest income tax rates in Europe and, on top of that, a value-added tax of 21 per cent. Along with city taxes, that’s how Madrid can pay for the upkeep and maintenance of parks, roads, etc.

I am studying in Rome. The streets and parks here are in rough shape: litter, beer cans, wine bottles and overflowing bins. Locals shrug and say that the city is broken (sound familiar?).

Seeing a city from a tourist’s eye is far different from a local’s perspective. This applies to all cities, Canadian ones included.

I’m returning to Toronto soon, and looking forward to it.

Steven Lico Rome

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