I worry when my 10-year-old twins stand on neighbours' doorsteps shouting, "Trick or treat!" Last Halloween, Jimmy and Joanie collected six razor-blade-bearing apples. Admittedly, the twins were courting disaster. Joanie was garbed in a Stephen Harper outfit complete with a motorized Pinocchio snout that lengthened every time she prorogued, while Jimmy masqueraded as Maggie Thatcher in drag. "Shit, Dad," Jimmy said later. "People were fucking scared when we showed up." "We had to soap a lot of glass," Joanie added. "Quite a few stupid fuckers wouldn't even open their doors."
This year, I'm bracing for more trouble. I've been begging the twins to dress up as ghosts or goblins, but no, Jimmy has his little heart set on a Sarah Palin get-up, while Joanie will go disguised as federal Liberal/Tory leadership wannabe, Scott Brison. She got the idea last week when the Liberal MP was on CBC Radio ranting about how business taxes are way too high. "Shit, Dad," Joanie declared in disgust. "Sounds like Scott Brison knows fuck all about the tax system."
"Or maybe he figures we're too goddamn stupid to realize that business taxes have been falling for decades," Jimmy replied.
The twins' weird fascination with taxes began several years ago when our bedtime reading consisted of Linda McQuaig's 1987 book, Behind Closed Doors: How the Rich Won Control of Canada's Tax System...and Ended Up Richer. Jimmy and Joanie, then only three, sat bolt upright in astonishment when I reached page 63. That's where McQuaig discusses income taxes, the single biggest source of federal revenue. (Income taxes account for more than half of Ottawa's total tax take.) McQuaig explains that in 1954, the federal government "collected almost as much income tax from corporations as it did from individuals." She goes on to point out, however, that by 1987, the corporate share of income taxes had fallen to only 20 percent, leaving the rest of us to pay the remaining 80 percent. "That's fucking crazy," Jimmy exclaimed while Joanie contented herself with observing that "our asshole politicians either have shit for brains or enjoy getting screwed over by corporate Canada."
Truth to say, business taxes have fallen even further since McQuaig penned her tome. In the current tax year, the federal government expects to receive about $130.5 billion in income tax revenue, 83 percent of it from you and me and only 17 percent from corporations. In Nova Scotia, the provincial income tax split in the coming year will be 85 percent from individuals, 15 from corporations.
In his CBC rant, Brison made it sound as if Nova Scotia businesses are being taxed to death. He complained that we have the highest combined federal and provincial corporate tax rates in the country. Well, at first glance, he seems to be right. Nova Scotia's combined rate on corporate income (including income from business investments) is currently 34 percent. We're tied with PEI for the highest combined rate in Canada, except that, as McQuaig points out, corporations take advantage of so many deductions, write-offs, loopholes, credits and allowances that their real rates are far lower than the official ones. Besides, when McQuaig published her book, the combined corporate income tax rate stood at 46 percent, significantly higher than Nova Scotia's official rate today.
Needless to say, Joanie and Jimmy are appalled at Harper's plan to cut billions more from corporate taxes. The PM boasts that by 2012, Canada's corporate income tax rates will be the lowest in the seven richest, industrial countries. No wonder the twins were having such a hard time as Brison ranted and raved on CBC. "Are you fucking nuts?" Jimmy shouted at the radio while a massive scowl darkened Joanie's sharp visage. So please don't be scared if a pint-sized, glowering Scott Brison shows up at your door on Sunday evening accompanied by his tiny right-wing soul mate, Sarah P.
Trick or treat!