LETTERS: How a Freedom government will afford eliminations of gas, beer, and health taxes
As set out in Freedom Party of Ontario’s 2011 election platform, a Freedom government will eliminate the beer tax, the wine tax, the gasoline tax, and the health premium. One of Freedom Party’s candidates has been knocking on doors, campaigning, and asked me the following:
Have you ever been asked something to the effect: “Sounds great that FP is going to cut all these taxes, but what services are you correspondingly going to slash? What’s your hidden agenda?”
How would you address that?
Secondly, any general advice (other than stick to the planks) when it comes to doing interviews with media etc? What to avoid, emphasize, etc.?
I’ve had some amazingly positive responses from people re: FP. Even the partisan PC guy cleaning his gun was keen and interested in FP.
I replied as follows:
Re: tax “cuts”, there are two parts to the answer. First, the three taxes we are proposing to eliminate bring in only a small percentage of the province’s total ($109B) revenue: the beer tax brings in about 1/4 of a billion, the gasoline tax brings in about $1B, and the Health Premium brings in about $3B. There are costs associated with collecting each of those taxes: people who process forms, payments, inspections, enforcement, collections, etc.. In all likelihood – we don’t have the figures – the amounts paid to enforce the the Beer Tax are a considerable percentage of the amount brought in by the beer tax: in other words, to a considerable extent, it’s just a make-work project.
Second, providing choice in health care would remove a substantial part of health care costs from the public purse, because some people would cease to use OHIP to pay for their health care. Health care currently consumes over 65 cents of every ONTARIO tax dollar (but not over 65% of total revenues, because the federal government gives the province a considerable chunk of federal cash). We cannot know the number of people who would opt-out of OHIP, so the savings cannot be known for sure, but in Germany, approximately 30% use private insurance instead of burdening the state health insurance system.
When it comes to health care, one of the key things to emphasize is: the government-created doctor shortage. We have a shortage for two reasons. First, beginning in 1993, to limit health care expenditures, the government imposed (and continues to impose) limits on the number of doctors by imposing a limit on medical school enrollments, and making it almost impossible for most foreign-trained doctors to practise in the province. Second, many of those enrolled in Canadian med schools will leave the country, because – to limit health care expenditures – the government places a wide variety of limits upon how much it will pay physicians for the work they provide (the situation was so bad that McGuinty imposed the $3B health premium for the sole reason of giving doctors a raise). In other words, in a failing attempt to contain the government’s health care expenditures, the government decided it would decrease the number of mouths (i.e., doctors) it had to feed. The result, of course, is that health care services are rationed: people have to wait, often suffering or dying while they wait, because the government limits the available number of doctors (and therefore limits the amount of health care service available at any one time).
Because Freedom Party would allow choice in payment options (OHIP, private insurance, or pay-as-you go), there would be no reason to limit the number of doctors. To the contrary, a Freedom government would want as many people training to be doctors as possible. There is no shortage of intelligent university students who want to train to be physicians. So one of the most important differences people would see with a Freedom government is this: the doors to medical schools would be opened full throttle. We want a dramatic increase in the number of medical school students and – as soon as those extra students finish their training – a dramatic increase in the number of doctors. That will have the effect of ensuring that patients have doctors – their own doctors, who know them and monitor their condition over time, rather than a drop-in clinic – and that they get the health care they need and want, when they need and want it.
When speaking about what our platform offers, it is best to mention aspects of one or two of the big-issue planks (e.g., increasing med school enrollments; instituting electricity based on getting clean energy at the lowest price instead of energy policy based on fighting climate change) in balance with some of the smaller, more easily understood changes we are proposing. Among the smaller changes: mention also a number of the tax eliminations (eliminate the beer tax [up to $5.76 off of a case of 24 beer] and the gasoline tax [which will knock 16.6 cents per litre off of the price at the pump]). Depending upon the interests of the audience, you might also mention our pro-democracy/anti-theocracy planks (e.g., no organized religious practice in our public schools, no having prayers to Allah and numerous other gods as part of the official opening of the Legislature), our anti-nanny-state planks (eliminating the light bulb ban/pesticide ban), or our other automobile planks (e.g., raising the speed limit to 120 km/h on our 400-series highways).
Avoid speculation about other matters that do not appear in our platform. You can tell the media the simple truth: that we have identified our priorities for improvements to the governance of Ontario over the next four years, and they are the priorities set out in our 18-plank platform. If something is not in the platform, we have no plan to change the status quo on that something. However, a Freedom government will of course respond to unexpected situations as they emerge, committed strictly to rational responses at every turn, rather than making irrational decisions based on fear and ignorance, or the popularity of a bad idea.
Finally: as a general rule, it’s probably best for a politician to leave a man to himself when he’s cleaning his gun. Just sayin’.