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Happy 100th Birthday, Income Tax. We Wouldn't Be Canada Without You

We just complain about paying taxes, without recognizing that pooling our money together has bought us a high quality of life.

09/20/2017 09:37 EDT | Updated 09/20/2017 09:43 EDT

I am alive today because I am Canadian. If I were American, and didn't have health care paid for through taxes, I would be dead. Today is the 100th anniversary of income tax in Canada, and it is a day, year and century I want to celebrate.

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When I was 18, I had no money. My father had died when I was 12, and my mother was living on a widow's pension of less than $14,000 a year. I kept getting medical check-ups because they were free, but I did not go to the dentist because it wasn't. A routine PAP test caught cervical cancer in its early stages. I received two biopsies to remove the tissue, at no direct cost to me. The cancer recurred when I was about 25, and I received three cryotherapy treatments to remove the top layer of the cervix so the cancer would be removed.

These treatments saved my life. They prevented the cancer from taking hold and spreading through my body. Later, when I could actually afford to go to the dentist, things in my mouth had become so bad that I needed an expensive and painful root canal.

We just complain about paying taxes, without recognizing that pooling our money together has bought us a high quality of life.

A think tank supported by private business comes out against taxes every year. It announces a "Tax Freedom Day." So if you want to celebrate a Tax Freedom Day, I would suggest that you refrain from using anything paid for by federal, provincial or municipal taxes, such as hospitals, schools, universities, food (because our food in Canada is inspected by the government to ensure it is safe to eat), municipally treated water, roads, bridges, garbage collection, search and rescue operations, and basically all of the infrastructure of modern life, which is subject to health and safety regulations, contract enforcement, and building codes. You and your relatives should send back your Old Age Security cheques or transfers. And God forbid that your home catches fire — because you can't call the fire department. It's paid for by your taxes.

We just complain about paying taxes, without recognizing that pooling our money together has bought us a high quality of life.

Courtney Keating

I run a small business, and have to pay taxes quarterly in very big chunks, so I get it. It just seems like the taxes go to the government, and then there is no direct link made between what you are sending in and what you get back in services. Some of the services only indirectly affect you. For example, you don't have to be an addict to benefit from addiction services. The more support there is for people battling these problems, the less likely they are to resort to crime (which can affect you), not show up for work (which can affect you as a manager of colleague), or become violent toward you (which can affect you as a family members, friend or neighbour).

The healthier and better educated we all are, the better it is for our country, our businesses and our lives.

I don't think we should have ideological attachments to big government or small government.

I remember seeing a sun plaque on some old buildings when I was on vacation in England. These were signs that an occupant long ago subscribed to private fire insurance. A few individuals would pay money to a company that would then come and try to put out any fire in that particular home, but not the neighbours' homes. This didn't work. Fire spreads, and it doesn't care whether you have insurance or not. Government services developed in democracies when people demanded better collective protection for ourselves, when we wanted to join together to tackle problems such as poor sanitation spreading disease. We pooled our money through government to build sewer systems and make sure water was clean and safe to drink.

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When we pool our resources and work together, we are stronger. This is what our ancestors figured out, and I hope enough of us remember that to rebuff the propaganda of those who would tear down all we have achieved together. Unfortunately, being so close to the United States, many of us have become infected with the ideology of individualism at any cost. Canadian Conservatives have not traditionally been individualist, but have become so more recently. Some of Canada's largest and most expensive nation-building projects have been undertaken under past Conservative governments, such as the national railway that first tied Canada together coast to coast. It's only in recent decades that Conservatives have become more assimilated into American ideologies of small government and low taxes.

I don't think we should have ideological attachments to big government or small government. I think we should have the government we want and need. It is ours. We vote for it, we fund it, and its role is to do whatever we collectively want it to do. For most Canadians that does involve supporting health care, pensions, education and a good quality of life for all. So, happy 100th anniversary of income tax, Canada. We wouldn't be who we are without it.

This column first appeared on Dr. Marika Morris' blog.

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