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Here is How Our Tax Dollars are Spent

Frank Atkins

While having coffee with a friend recently, I quoted Stephen Lewis’ view that it is difficult to understand just what it is that Liberals actually believe in. (The full quote is in my September 2016 article). My friend stated he was sort of in agreement with this, except for the fact that Liberals seem to have some kind of affection for communist countries. As an example, he pointed out how Trudeau Sr. seemed to like both China and Cuba, and this affection has been carried on by Trudeau Jr. For instance, in what can only be called a stunningly naive comment, Justin Trudeau once said, “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime.” Similarly, Trudeau Jr. gushed after the death of Fidel Castro that Castro had a “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people.”

I have always believed that the Liberals in general, and the Trudeaus in particular, have a world view that is consistent with the need for a centrally-planned economy, and this would explain their affection for China and Cuba. Most of us remember how Trudeau Sr. turned Canada into a nanny state. In this view, you and I cannot be trusted to make proper decisions, and it is the role of the government to make decisions on our behalf. Presumably, the government knows more about what is right for Canadians than the Canadians themselves.

At the risk of oversimplification, a well-functioning economy works in the following manner. Individuals earn an income and decide to make various purchases. If consumers choose not to buy certain products, the companies making these products will start losing money and will eventually go out of business. The problem here is the Liberal’s view of the world: going out of business (for some firms) is a bad thing so taxpayer money must be used to rescue them. This is in spite of the fact these businesses cannot make a profit without government intervention. Essentially, the government is saying consumers are making bad choices and they will step in and correct these bad choices. In this scenario, the government is picking winners as opposed to consumers picking the winners through their purchases.

The typically Canadian example of this intervention is Bombardier. For as long as I can remember, Bombardier has been asking for taxpayer money to prevent some sort of a catastrophe. The latest plea came in 2016 when Bombardier announced it needed at least $1.1 billion in taxpayer money. This somehow got trimmed down to $372.5 million in interest-free loans. So, nearly $400 million in taxpayer money is going to a company that cannot seem to survive without continual government support. This is not much different from the communist central planning that goes on in Cuba. Perhaps Trudeau Jr. is, in his own words, “trying to turn the economy around on a dime.” Only it is the taxpayer’s dime.

Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.