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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Harper's Tax on Everything

A policy that raises the cost of doing business for a wide range of industries, particularly in rural areas, is going into effect.

"But the Tories are against the carbon tax," you say. Think again. It's the scrapping of the census long form. All kinds of businesses will find it a lot harder to obtain accurate data about their markets. They will either have to incur additional costs to obtain good data, or use worse data and incur the resulting losses. This is particularly true in rural areas, where voluntary data will be especially unreliable due to small sample sizes. And when the cost of doing business rises, we all know who's paying in the end.

But it's much worse than a carbon tax: this policy will actually cost the government money (both directly and indirectly through future poorly targeted policies due to lack of data), and doesn't do anything for the environment (with more forms sent out, it's actually a negative). Plus, you know, Canadians will still have to answer a bunch of questions on the short form, and a whole bunch more on their tax returns. Is it really more personal to tell the government how many rooms are in your house than to tell it how many people live in it, their relation to each other, and exactly how much income of each kind you made? So I fail to see what big privacy gains all this nonsense will get us.

Actually, let me take all this back. Although Harper's imposing a "tax on everything," these actions are actually consistent with the general Conservative strategy: assume Canadians are shortsighted ("Let's cut the GST cuz, you know, it's annoying, even though income taxes harm the economy more") and lazy ("A new carbon tax? Noooooooooooo... I don't want to deal with anything new, even if I'll get tax cuts that compensate for the cost"), and propose policies in consequence. It's worked pretty well so far, so let's congratulate the Tories on their good work, eh?

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