Take a gander

Robert (Bongo Bob) Thomson, sometime leader of the Social Credit Party and a florid speaker who favoured malapropisms, used to say, “If so-and-so were alive today, he’d be rolling in his grave.” Well, if John Robarts were alive today, the former Prime Minister of Ontario would be spinning at high speed at the thought of his province receiving equalization payments.

Back in the salad days of his government in the 1960s, Robarts was happy to participate in the program, but he also warned that it couldn’t go on forever. Complaints from the have-not promises, he said, might one day “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Most of the focus on the $347 million in equalization payments that Ontario will receive has been along the lines of?’how the mighty have fallen.’ I have a different view. I think we should send the money back. Clearly, equalization has seen the end of its useful life now that former have-not provinces are haves, and haves are have nots.

Wastage offers another reason to end the system. By the time Ottawa recorded the taxes it collected, chased down fraud, thought about what to do with the funds, and paid some bureaucrats and consultants to massage the results, what had probably been $400 million shrank to $347 million.

By the time Ontario records what it gets, sends people to Ottawa complaining that the amount wasn’t enough, assigns civil servants to ponder how to spend the money and then distributes the funds through a variety of programs, further leakage will likely reduce that amount to something like $300 million.

Why not just leave the original $400 million in the hands of the taxpayers who earned it, lost it, and are now about get three-quarters of their money back again? And what about the $8.4 billion that will go to Quebec next year? How much of whatever that amount started out as will be frittered away on the way through? Snuffing out the National Portrait Gallery offers paltry savings by comparison. The goose is well past her best-before date.

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