Tax rebates, fairness and Toronto's lower-income earners

Post by Eric Mang in ,


Eric Mang asks if 20 bucks saved by the garbage strike is really worth handing back

I like paying taxes because I like a society that strives for greater egalitarianism through the redistribution of wealth.

I realize that taxes, being our money, carry the expectation of being used wisely. But here's the subjective part. Unless tax revenue is being blatantly wasted, how tax dollars are spent is matter of values and preferences. For example, I don't want my taxes to be propping up the war in Afghanistan but I have no problem paying for someone's abortion. Whereas, I know there are many who would vehemently disagree with me.

Neither of us, however, gets to check off boxes on our tax forms like we're directing donations to charities. "I'll designate 30% of my taxes to health care, 15% to the arts and the rest as needed". Rather, we vote for governments that declare how they plan on spending our money. 

Following the civic strike in Toronto, it seems that, as a result of suspended services, a modest "savings" has been identified. The "savings" amounts to $33 million.

Toronto residents and businesses are expected to see that money, not in the form of cash, but in a $20 reduction in property taxes.

I'm sure the details have yet to be worked out, but this seems an asinine proposal.

First, many Torontonians do not own property. How will they receive a rebate? Lower-income earners are more likely to be renters than property owners. Would they get anything? Would landlords pass along a $20 savings to tenants? Unlikely. But it's lower-income earners and the poor who need that $20 more than anyone else.

Second, will people who have million dollar properties receive the same rebate as those with homes assessed at $250,000? How would this be fair? Shouldn't a rebate be based on a sliding scale? The more your house is worth, the smaller your rebate gets (the assumption being that you need it less). 

Third, the underlying principle of the rebate seems to be the supposed inconvenience caused by the absence of garbage collection during the strike. But the strike affected more than waste pickup. What about those families who couldn't get their kids into city-run daycare or community programs? Again, these families are more likely (but not always) to be lower income. Shouldn't any savings found in the strike be passed on to them rather than some Rosedale matron irked that her garbage piled up for 39 days?

If anyone should benefit from tax relief, it should be those who earn low-incomes. Further, it might make more sense to give these citizens a cheque rather than a subsidy. They can decide how to spend the money and get the most utility from each buck they are given.

When a report is out today asserting that Toronto is "seriously unaffordable"; when that report finds that a family of four on social assistance "would need to spend 33% of its income on food and 72% on rent – that’s more than they have and doesn’t include other basic needs. More than 30% of children five and under are in families that are below the Low Income Cut-off and the median employment income for families in 2006 was 20% below the provincial median"; when access to affordable housing is increasingly out of reach; and when "recent immigrants are three times more likely to have lost jobs due to the economic downturn than their Canadian-born colleagues" shouldn't the city be focusing on halting and working to close the growing gap between rich and poor and not exacerbating it?

Shouldn't the $33 million saved from the strike go toward the most needy rather than relatively affluent property owners?

This is about being fair.


You really would have to live in a socialist dream world to drink the kool-aid you spew.

Of course the renters don't get money back, they didn't pay the tax!
And the idea that the owners should transfer the $20 back in the form of rent discounts? Right.....everyone should get their rent lowered by $2 month?

And have the perspective to present the other side. Why should a high income earner have to pay out 50% of every dollar they make to subsidize those who make less. Their are individuals who pay $1mil + in taxes, subsidizing countless surgeries, services and handouts to those who contribute nothing (or simply take). Who are you to suggest that they are not paying their fair share? Who are you to say that they have enough and you should be able to pick their pocket at will?

Your suggestion to everything is to bite that hand that feeds the only people you think matter.

It's not all about the poor.

"It's not all about the poor."

well said

Rf and Bill,

Let me make it easy for you and respond in bullet points:

• The $33 million is the money “saved” by not delivering services (because those who deliver the services were on strike).

• Renters pay taxes in this city (license renewals, property taxes embedded in their monthly rent payments, etc).

• I noted that rebating renters through decreased monthly payments was unlikely (and not realistic)

• Who am I to say that high-income earners aren’t paying their fair share? Me and many like me who are appalled by the growing gap between wealthy and poor. And as this gap widens (this gap is based on empirical evidence – see Statscan), remedies must be sought through redistribution.

• Why would you say that lower income people “contribute nothing”? What an elitist, ignorant, inhumane, and ridiculous thing to say.

• This piece wasn’t merely about taxing the rich, it was noting that lower income people would find more utility, dollar per dollar, in that $20 rebate than the rich would.

• It is about the poor when I make extensive reference to Toronto being a “seriously unaffordable city”.

Your profound lack of human compassion must make for a rage-filled life and one that I presume is short on experience. I don’t find your comments frustrating (what I find frustrating is either your not reading my most or your not comprehending it before posting your comments), rather I find them sad.

There are times when I don’t think people like the two of you actually think these things. Indeed, I imagine you must feel some shame writing such foolish and juvenile statements otherwise you wouldn’t cower behind a pseudonym.

Surely there are some CityCaucus readers who can debate me on the merits of what I’ve written and not simply repeat Rush Limbaugh’s daily talking points.

rf and bill,
Munch on the following scenario:
As both of are sitting at the corner of Thurlow and Robson streets, sipping a Grande Mocha each, one of your rich pals drives his SUV right in to your side of the Cafe. The driver’s cell phone, witnesses remember, flies throw the air and takes one of you right in the middle of your forehead. After several months in hospital barely making it, with no of you, half a brain...the other (after reading your posts I am afraid this one could be already happening), you return home only to find out that the bank foreclosed your silly character bungalow in Dunbar and your wives started Yoga classes and having affairs for a more fulfilled life styles. After your insurance monies runs out, because your lovely Gordo managed to privatize your already corrupt ICBC, your wives kick you out for need of more personal space. Now you have to defend for yourselves. Your jobs are long gone and there is no help in sight , see, you voted them out of the previous budgets, by checking the robber barons in. Not being able to afford your rents anymore you move to the country, maybe raise somebody else's pigs, make real hair wigs, or ring the bells of the donation buckets in front of some deprecated local grocery store. Every night when you go to bed you cannot stop thinking of how that damned day changed your lives forever, maybe if you did not use that bogus "Mental Day" from your handsome Winner's Club benefit package that you felt entitled to, or maybe you could have carried your own coffee inside your stainless steel the park (but I forgot, you have rather proudly paid for the Olympic memorabilia than for investing in your neighbourhood's green space), maybe you could have given that 5$ to a down on his luck homeless dude than throwing it on cup of black piss. Maybe. The line between you being the one at the beginning of this story and the one in the end is indistinguishable. Ask any paramedic working the ER about this one. To say about you two that you are representative of the people of this city is probably an understatement. I was too indulgent. And I'm not just saying that.

Check out!

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