Robbing Peter to pay Peter

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One of the best ways to get a sense of what is going on in the world is to get a haircut. No, seriously. I have never been one to talk during haircuts, but a lot of others like to share their deepest thoughts about the state of the world when they’re getting a much-needed head grooming. Last Monday morning, I stopped by the new Sport Clips location in Kemptville. I arrived right as they opened, hoping to get a quick haircut before any kind of lineup started. An older gentleman had the same idea, and we had our haircuts side-by-side. 

Like I said, I am not much of a talker during haircuts, but it’s not because I am a “private person”. Ask me pretty much anything about myself and I will be open about it, but I don’t like to waste a conversation talking about me. When it’s me doing the talking, I learn nothing, but when others talk, it’s a treasure trove of interesting information. An elderly person – in this case, an elderly gentleman – is probably the most valuable person you can talk to if you want straightforward talk on just about any subject. 

What did my “short lived haircut friend” have to say? He told me about his life and his roots and his wife and his dad. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to politics on a larger scale. Prime Minister Trudeau… many people dislike him, and in my experience, older people like him even less. My haircut friend urged us to pay attention to the next federal budget, saying that without a doubt we will find out just how much more we’re going to pay in taxes and other cash grabs. Let’s face it – he’s not wrong. However, he left out one key point – Mr. Trudeau loves to turn around and give us back some of the money in the form of “credits”, to make himself look like the hero. 

I love a good expression (have you noticed?), and a classic is “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. It is used to describe situations where money is transferred from one party to another, under the guise of providing free money to the receiving party. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” would be a great way to describe taxing the rich and then giving the resulting money to the poor. Trudeau’s taxes, however, apply to all. Take the carbon tax for example – to suggest that this only affects the rich is to suggest that poor people don’t need to heat their homes or put gas in their cars to get to work. 

I am fully aware that a carbon tax is meant to be “neutral”, in the sense that a corresponding quarterly credit reimburses Canadians for a “reasonable” amount of carbon spending, with only those who exceed this carbon footprint paying more than what they get back. The problem is that it still hurts poor people the most. Even if a poor person can manage to only heat their home and drive their car to a level that the government deems “environmentally appropriate”, they are still essentially “lending” the federal government money every time they use a gasoline pump or turn on their furnace. Poor people can’t afford outrageous prices now only to be reimbursed with a credit in three months. It all sounds like a scheme to me. Not only are Trudeau’s taxation policies heavily indicative of “robbing Peter to pay Peter”, but it also seems likely that Peter is not receiving quite as much back as what is being stolen from him. There are administrative costs to all of this back and forth, after all. 

Government management of personal finances is seldom good for personal finances, if you ask me. It seems like we now pay huge amounts in taxes, fees, and cash grabs, while at the same time the credits just keep rolling in. The carbon tax reimbursement, CERB money when it was available, increases in child tax benefit payments, and even a new “one time payment” for low income renters who are paying over a certain amount in rent. These are just a few examples. There seems to be a lot of these “one time payments” at both the federal and provincial levels. Reimbursement cheques for license plate sticker renewal fees are one example at the provincial level, and the student “catch up payments” for parents are another. Sounds a lot like Peter’s own money is being used to buy Peter’s vote. 

Will you read a notice in this issue of the Times, written by me, alerting you that time is running out to apply for the one-time low income renter’s payment? Of course you will. When people are taxed out both ears, they need to know what credits are available to them so that we don’t end up in a “robbing Peter to pay Trudeau” situation. But I have to wonder how well we could all manage our own money if we stopped getting taxed like crazy, only to have the same money thrown back at us. Something tells me that the current system is not as “net zero” as the feds would have us believe. 

If you ever end up reading this, haircut buddy, know that I enjoyed your thoughts. I never mentioned who I was because it’s more fun to just listen. Hopefully one day, Trudeau will realize that Peter doesn’t want to get paid anymore – he just wants to stop getting robbed. 

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