Nelson: Socialist policies keep Canada from reaching for the stars


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It was fitting last weekend that we were treated to a so-called pink moon here in Canada.

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That’s the state of our country these days: a rosy tint of tasteless socialism coloring almost every aspect of life. Certainly, if such a state of affairs is far from inspiring, it at least achieves its objective: to lull us into a sickly and global stupor.

Naturally, that proverbial chicken-and-egg riddle comes up quickly. Which came first: an endless parade of politicians promising to fix every perceived inconvenience, or our own rambling desire to demand they try? Whatever. These two forces are now closely linked to the unhappy hip.

Look no further than some of the recent federal budget measures to spot where we are headed: a collective path where those who claim our present favor and our future votes dutifully smooth out every difficult corner.

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It’s so pervasive that even the Canadian banking system can be offered a modicum of sympathy, a situation almost impossible to imagine just a few years ago.

Today, the Liberals are considering a one-time tax of 15% on bank profits worth more than $1 billion in the fiscal year just ended, a measure that is expected to raise about $4 billion. (The same excess profits tax is also levied on insurance companies, another industry few could have imagined before.)

Yet this decision will no doubt cause most Canadians to nod their heads in agreement, given that we love having someone else foot the bill for our collective well-being and, let’s face it, banks and insurance companies have never had much empathy.

But that’s the thin edge of a nasty wedge. Give it 12 months and then watch how Alberta’s energy industry, which has suffered seven long years of hardship, is next in line for a similar upheaval, as the current sharp spike in oil prices and gas leads to very healthy results. (If you think the banks aren’t liked, just imagine the collective approval of a tax on energy company profits that the rest of Canada will receive.)

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No doubt many might wonder why certain industries should profit generously from plague and war. (A somewhat biblical way of assessing recent world events.) The simple answer being: this is how life often works—there are ups and downs for individuals, businesses, and countries.

If we remove the possibility of future profit, we remove any incentive to invest in the present. Instead, society will simply sit on its collective hands and eagerly wait for the government to provide, which it happily does, by borrowing even more billions of dollars and then passing the resulting bill between hands of Canadians who are not even born yet.

Ah, but there’s a benefit in these industries suddenly suffocated under new tax cover. Canada offers them a comfortable environment in which to operate. Of course, they may not be as profitable, but in return they are safe from competition.

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Our banks are a prime example. For heaven’s sake, what industry still works to a five business day deadline to do anything for the benefit of customers, or still believes that the fax machine embodies cutting-edge technology?

So if you want to cut banks’ profits, open them up to global competition and see those big fees go down and the bland customer service improve. Hey, maybe they could even answer the phone in minutes instead of hours.

The same velvet-lined cocoon is offered to other major industries, such as telecommunications, airlines, and dairy farming, which is why Canadians pay far more for these services and products than our American cousins.

The competition is tough, manage your own mistakes even more so. Yet, both financially and morally, accepting this truth will collectively spawn a country where risk-taking and innovation become ambitious stars.

Certainly, reaching such a distant star could end in failure. But, hey, along that daunting path, you might encounter the moon. If so, you’ll notice there’s nothing rosy about it.

Chris Nelson is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.

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