Hockey millionaires and pharmacare tell you everything you need to know about who the Canadian Taxpayers Federation really works for

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The Montreal Canadiens in 1912-13. Now the highest-taxed hockey players on the continent, they’re still the best and likely to stay that way. Below: Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions President Linda Silas; U.S. anti-public-health-care fruitloop and Canadian Taxpayers Federation ally Grover Norquist.

For a while now it’s seemed as if the so-called Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been adopting the modus operandi of the Fraser Institute – cherry-picked data, conclusions contrary to the evidence presented and dubious claims stated as facts in a frenetic stream of press releases.

Well, you can hardly blame them. The media treats each of the purported “taxpayer watchdog’s” pronouncements with a solemnity once reserved for texts thought to have been chipped into stone tablets by the Almighty.

Lately, though, they actually seem to be moving toward self-parody.

Consider the CTF’s astonishing revelation on Monday that since the least-taxed hockey stars in the NHL play for the worst teams in the league, we should all therefore, uh, cut taxes.

On this particular project, the CTF was working with Americans for Tax Reform, a group founded by notorious American fruitloop Grover Norquist, the anarchist and anti-public-health-care zealot best known for saying the U.S. government should be drowned in a bathtub.

From its calculation of state and provincial taxes, the CTF concluded that “Montréal continues to be the least financially attractive location in the NHL for players when it comes to personal income taxes.”

Um, OK. But Montreal also seems to be the most attractive location in the NHL when it comes to, erm, playing hockey.

Leastways, as the Broadbent Institute’s Press Progress cruelly pointed out yesterday, “CTF’s report ranks Edmonton and Calgary at the top of their list as the two lowest tax jurisdictions in the NHL. So were the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames among the two best teams in the NHL last year? … Careful readers will note that Edmonton and Calgary finished in the basement of the NHL’s Western Conference in 2013-14. Overall, the Edmonton Oilers were the third worst team in the league, followed by the Calgary Flames, who were fourth worst.”

Press Progress went on: “Only the Montreal Canadiens (30th) – dead last in CTF’s tax rankings – made the playoffs last year. They advanced all the way to the Conference Finals where they lost to the New York Rangers (26th). The Rangers went on to lose the Stanley Cup to the Los Angeles Kings (29th), who were the second highest taxed team in the NHL behind Montreal.

“In other words, the lowest-taxed teams in the NHL last year were the worst teams and the highest taxed teams were the best teams.”

Well, never mind that, the CTF seemed to say. NHL free agents who switch teams go more often to low-tax jurisdictions, Tweeted a CTF functionary. So maybe lower taxed teams can get better.

Not yet, though. As of yesterday, the Oilers were still last in their conference and the Canadiens were still first in the league.

So, actually, based on the facts, Press Progress concluded, taxing hockey millionaires a little more could help their teams win the Stanley Cup.

None of this stopped the CTF from quoting Mr. Norquist himself, presumably on the assumption most Canadians have no idea who the guy is and what he stands for, as saying, “higher taxes drive talent to other teams in lower tax states and provinces.”

Well, maybe it’ll all work out for the CTF some day. That said, it’s mildly encouraging that the CTF has time for any group of unionized working people – even if that privilege extends only to a tiny minority of sports millionaires.

Meanwhile, as I digested the CTF’s latest “research” bombshell yesterday, I had the privilege of listening to the passionate and articulate Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, talking about the need for a national pharmacare program.

The CFNU recently commissioned a study on what the impact would be in Canada of a national pharmacare program, meaning a publicly funded and administered national drug plan that would provide universal access to needed pharmaceutical drugs to all Canadians.

A national pharmacare plan would save Canadians $11 billion dollars every year, Ms. Silas said, quoting the research by Marc-André Gagnon, professor of public policy and administration at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

Alberta would save about $1.1 billion each year by being part of a national pharmacare program, Ms. Silas noted.

No hockey pools for Dr. Gagnon, whose research showed the savings from a national pharmacare plan could provide 80 million more daily home care visits for 220,000 more seniors, plus build 725 health centres and 10,000 more long-term care beds a year, plus hire 28,000 more nurses!

So this got me wondering where the CTF stands on pharmacare – which, from their perspective, would seem like a great opportunity to cut taxes instead of make all those improvements to health care Ms. Silas was talking about.

Still, you’d think the dedicated “tax fighters” at the CTF would see the potential.

Well, guess again. Here’s what the CTF’s B.C. director had to say about this opportunity last year: “We believe very strongly that there should never be a national pharmacare program.” (Emphasis added.)

You see, he explained, “forgive us if we don’t join the rush to create a national Pharmacare plan. We’ve seen this movie too many times before to believe that bigger is better when it comes to government. We believe the best path forward for both Pharmacare and taxpayers is to remain in the hands of the provinces – with more participation by the private sector.” (Emphasis added again.)

This scare tactic, in turn, reminded me of something else I read this week, a column in the New York Times by Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.

U.S. conservatives, Dr. Krugman wrote, “want you to believe that while the goals of public programs on health, energy and more may be laudable, experience shows that such programs are doomed to failure. Don’t believe them. Yes, sometimes government officials, being human, get things wrong. But we’re actually surrounded by examples of government success, which they don’t want you to notice.”

Apparently it’s no different in Canada. Indeed, the CTF is now importing the ideas of one of the looniest so-called conservatives in the United States to Canada.

So there you have the real story of who the CTF represents – and it’s not ordinary Canadian taxpayers.

A way to save $11 billion a year for taxpayers, and ensure all Canadians can have the pharmaceutical drugs they need if they are ill? A way to reinvest in health care and make a good system better? The CTF will do anything in its power to snuff it out.

Instead it proposes expensive and unequal private insurance run by big business, plus the lowest possible taxes for multi-millionaires.

Juxtapose these two stories and you’ve learned everything you need to know about who the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is really working for. It’s not you.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Canadian Politics