Sep 17

(Final) Open Letter - to Mr. Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

So, the “consultation period” around your tax “reforms” is coming to an end.  And not a moment too soon, as opined by Ms. Bardish Chagger, your very own Minister of Small Business - further discussion will serve only to further inflame your electorate:  "The longer we're talking about this, the more people are concerned that they will be impacted.”

Indeed.  Best to shut ‘er down, post-haste, before the natives move beyond restless and stage a full-on tax revolt.  And before Canadians find out that the finance minister’s own firm, Morneau Shepell, is already pitching its products to doctors in anticipation of the coming tax hit.

There’s scary rumblings afoot about the need for wholesale, top-to-bottom tax reform – a complete overhaul of the noxious, hopelessly complicated Canadian tax code that gave rise to this nonsense in the first place.  It’s a pretty safe bet that a proper and equitable rewrite of that venerable document would target the trust funds, fortunes and business dealings of both you and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, as well as those of your uber-wealthy friends, just as squarely as the comparatively hum-drum activities of industrious farmers, doctors, and small business owners.  “Getting hoisted by one’s own petard” is the applicable principle here, methinks.

No, better to strangle the insurgency in its cradle, pass this sucker into law ASAP, and hang the consequences.

After all, can’t Canadians just get behind your glorious quest to “Level the Playing Field”, already?

You’ve already taken the bold step, as you’ve trumpeted repeatedly in the House of Commons, as well as before the august United Nations General Assembly, of “raising taxes on the wealthiest 1% and lowering them for the middle class.” Let’s put aside for now the uncomfortable fact that this has had precisely the opposite effect:  cash flows to the federal treasury from the rich have decreased, while the haul from the middle class has increased (ouch).

It’s the laudable intent that matters, after all.  And why should it be any different for your current initiative?  You’ve weathered a deluge of feedback from an entire host of well-informed experts, including from esteemed former Liberal finance minister John Manley, pointing out that these changes will severely harm the Canadian economy, and will again hurt the very middle class you purport to be fighting for.  But your “intent” is good, so you've forged ahead, undaunted.

I’m sure you know, however, that the road to H-E-double-hockey-sticks is liberally paved with good intentions (pun absolutely intended).

Of course, you’re not the first Canadian prime minister to be staring down a revolt from angry taxpayers.

In 1985, when you were a pimply, privileged teenager (you shared your acneiform struggles with us in Common Ground, remember), Prime Minister Brian Mulroney proposed to limit the annual indexing of old age pensions to a maximum of three percent (inflation rates hadn’t been at the three percent mark since 1970, and had frequently been much higher).

Like you, Mr. Mulroney was early in his mandate, in his first term as prime minister. Perhaps he and Michael Wilson, finance minister of the day, were still cringing from the stagflation echoes of the ‘70s; in any event, they evidently thought they could tame the inflation bear, and took aim at Canada’s pensioners as a starting point.

Canadian seniors went ballistic. 

At the apex of the ensuing firestorm, a diminutive, silver-haired, 63-year-old spitfire from Ottawa named Solange Denis accosted the prime minister as he stepped from his car on Parliament Hill.

“You lied to us,” she cried, in French. “I was made to vote for you and then it’s 'Goodbye, Charlie Brown.'”

Mssrs. Mulroney and Wilson beat a hasty retreat, their proposal consigned to the dustbin of history.

Mr. Trudeau, perhaps you could learn a thing or two from your gravel-voiced predecessor.

The pickle you are in, I will venture to say, stems from the fact that your celebrated period of “consultation” has been anything but that.  I know a thing or two about consultation – I am a physician after all, as I pointed out in my recent (ignored) letters to Mr. Morneau.

When a family consults me for advice on their sick child, I, like any reasonably competent physician, listen carefully to a description of the presenting ailment, and weigh carefully the evidence generated by that interview joined to a thorough examination of the patient.  I order additional diagnostic tests as indicated, and confer with specialist colleagues if necessary.  Only then do I offer a considered therapeutic course of action - and even that prescription is open to constant revision, as new evidence comes to light or as that child’s condition changes.

If I don’t operate in this careful manner, I can be fairly accused of malpractice.

Your version of consultation, sort of a modern-day parallel to the Salmon Arm salute, has consisted of you and the finance minister simply clapping your hands over your collective ears and intoning with great sanctimony that you are “taxing the wealthy to benefit the middle class”, while simply ignoring the mountains of evidence to the contrary – once again the truly wealthy will be exempt, and the middle class will get gored.

And, in your campaign to flip Canadian public opinion your way, you and the finance minister have been busily and unashamedly stoking class warfare, pitting Canadians against Canadians.  You actually stood in the House of Commons to offer that doctors simply want to “defend their right to pay lower taxes than the nurses who work alongside them.” 

What utter and demonstrable nonsense, sir.

These are not sunny ways. These are funny ways, perplexing, low-brow, malignant ways, and unworthy of your office.

Meanwhile, the only “leveling of the playing field” that is going on, so far as anyone can tell, is the result of your administration submerging it an ocean of debt – this while capital flees the country, doctors consider doing the same, and Canadian small businesses and farmers fret about how they are going to cope.

I would point out that malpractice in my world gets one’s license to practice medicine suspended.

Malpractice in politics gets you evicted from office.

Never mind Charlie Brown:  in two years it’ll be goodbye to you, Mr. Trudeau.

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