Party leaders ignore crucial facts and figures in election debates

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Still from debate livestream. Image: YouTube

Many relevant facts and figures were omitted or minimized during the recent election debates, and in interviews given by party leaders while campaigning across the country.

Voters denied this crucial information have thus been deprived of pertinent facts and figures they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

For the sake of brevity, I'll confine my remarks to social issues and taxes.

Where's the money coming from? This is the invariable question posed by conservative politicians and pundits. They automatically cast doubt on the affordability of enhancing health care, child care, university education and other social programs.

During the run-up to the current federal election, these falsehood fabricators fixated on the alleged annual $3 billion or more that would be required to provide all Canadians with prescription drug coverage.

Here are a few facts and figures that prove the federal government could readily expend this additional amount, and considerably more, to upgrade social programs.

  • Canada's gross domestic product (its total income), as recently calculated, was $46,200 in U.S. currency for every man, woman and child in the country. That's higher than the per capita GDP of Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Russia, Japan and many other countries. Significantly more, as well, than the European average of $39,200.

  • Somehow, all these countries manage to afford health-care systems that include pharmaceutical, dental and vision care, as well as the limited hospital and physician care supplied in Canada.

  • In fact, of all the advanced countries in the world with public health-care programs, Canada is the only one that confines coverage to the services of doctors and hospitals.

How, then, have our federal and provincial governments managed to get away for so long with the feeble excuse that, unlike every other industrial country with public health care, they have never been able to provide Canadians with all-inclusive coverage? Even though Canada has always had the financial capacity to do so?

The answer is not difficult to ascertain. It's because our federal and most provincial governments' financial priorities have been callously diverted from serving all the people to serving a wealthy and powerful elite.

The following facts and figures speak for themselves:

  • The federal tax rate on corporations has been reduced from 28 per cent in 2000 to just 15 per cent today, so that corporate income taxes now constitute less than one-seventh of federal tax revenue.

  • Much of the income of Canada's richest citizens, including the CEOs and large investors of corporations, is being stashed away in foreign tax havens. Our federal government's failure to stop this blatant tax-avoidance practice deprives the federal treasury of at least $10 billion a year in tax revenue, possibly as much as $15 billion.

  • The latest OECD report on the social spending of its 34 member states ranks Canada in a low 24th spot for the relatively meager 17.2 per cent of GDP it expends on social programs. This is far below France's 31.5 per cent, Finland's 31 per cent, Belgium's 29 per cent, Denmark's 28.7 per cent, and the roughly 27 per cent spent by Sweden, Norway, Austria, Italy, Iceland and Greece.

  • In addition to providing their citizens with complete health care, these countries also supply them with publicly funded university education, a superb early childhood care and education program, and public retirement pensions that far exceed those in Canada. Europeans, of course, pay substantially higher taxes than we do here, but with the cost of their health care, child care, higher education and retirement covered by their tax payments, they can afford to buy food, homes and automobiles with their remaining income.

  • Our federal government and the four largest provinces -- Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia -- collectively and annually endow Canadian corporations with $29 billion in subsidies. The most extravagant of these handouts, by far, is the $3.3 billion a year that our governments lavish on the large oil and gas companies, the worst polluters of the environment.

  • Another colossal waste of taxpayers' hard-earned tax payments was the Trudeau government's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, with another $8 billion or more committed to expanding the pipeline to British Columbia.

  • This momentous depletion of government tax revenue through profligate business bounties and tax cuts is a cunningly devised strategy. It gives political leaders the contrived excuse that they simply don't have the financial means to improve or expand social services. It also enables them to cite rising government deficits as an excuse, even though two-thirds of such revenue shortages are incurred by the massive handouts and tax breaks heaped on multinational corporations.

This crafty deception of so many Canadian voters deprives them of the vitally important data they need to have when they cast their ballots. Without these pertinent facts and figures -- concealed or barely touched on during the pre-election period -- they are less likely to vote in their own best interest, and more likely instead to vote the way the affluent and powerful business elites -- and their media mouthpieces -- prefer.

So we're headed for another political exercise in voter befuddlement.

Ed Finn grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where he worked as a printer's apprentice, reporter, columnist and editor of that city's daily newspaper, the Western Star. His career as a journalist included 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star. He was part of the world of politics between 1959 and 1962, serving as the first provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.

Image: YouTube

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