Fine w(h)ine

September 22, 2017

Got home to my tax shelter around 1 am last night, a couple hours after my ER shift was supposed to end – tired, hungry, ready for a late supper and a glass of wine before rolling into bed.

All was quiet, my family sleeping peacefully, only 6 hours to go before the usual gentle chaos generated by four kids on a school morning. I shoved some leftovers in the microwave, uncorked a $14 bottle of shiraz (typical wealthy-doctor vintage), and popped open my laptop to scan the previous day’s news headlines while I waited for my grub to cook.
And almost spewed that first mouthful of wine all over the keyboard.
Toronto Star headline: “Doctors say tax us: Canada is worth it.”
Yup. This courtesy of the eminent Dr. Michael Rachlis, prominent Canadian health policy analyst and commentator, and trusted consultant to government on all things health-related.
The good doctor, apparently currently serving as “interim coordinator” of an outfit called Doctors for Fair Taxation, opines that he is in full support of the Trudeau/Morneau initiative to tax doctors and small business owners more heavily – that, in fact, the measures don’t go far enough.
After all, he writes, Canada continues to grapple with significant income inequity, along with distressing levels of poverty particularly among our seniors and our children, with direct negative health effects on our citizens. Dr. Rachlis informs us that “even the well-to-do in less equal societies have worse health than the wealthy in more equal societies.”
And, oh!  The money we could save if we were all divinely, equally apple-cheeked and robust: “We could save 20 per cent of our health budget if all Canadians were as healthy as the one fifth in the highest income brackets.”
Now who wouldn’t be in support of that?
And in further pursuit of this grand utopia, Dr. Rachlis urges “all physicians to support universal child care, pensions, and maternity benefits.” Never mind that doctors themselves are afforded none of these benefits – take that up with your provincial medical associations, he advises – it’s certainly not the federal government’s problem.
This sort of thing puts me in mind of George Orwell’s allegorical novel “Animal Farm”; even casual students of literature will remember the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, “All animals are equal.”
We all know how that ended.
With a parting salute to the great socialist J.S. Woodsworth, Dr. Rachlis punctuates his piece with the priceless, destined never-to-be forgotten phrase:
“Please tax us. Canada is worth it.”
Gourmet microwaved feast and expensive glass of wine utterly forgotten, I hurried off to my little home office, flipped on the lights, and began rummaging frantically through my files.
Because, honestly, until this moment, I had no idea that my wife and I hadn’t been paying any taxes.
For years, we’ve sat at each year-end in our accountant’s office, listening with eyes glazed to Brian summarize the results of his careful perusing of our business affairs, and freely signing “tax” returns where directed.
And only now, with Dr. Rachlis’ prompting, do I realize that we have paid no tax at all.
I wonder, however: to what use has the great and powerful Canada Revenue Agency put the hundreds of thousands of dollars we have shoveled into its gaping maw over the past 14 years of medical practice? If they weren’t “taxes”, what, pray, were they?
Perhaps Dr. Rachlis can clear that up for me.

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