Winnipeg Free Press
Monday, March 26, 2007
Re: Bad deal for cottage owners, March 21.
Every year I hear cottage owners bemoan the fact that they have to pay an education tax for their vacation properties. Their argument is that they are not full-time residents, only use their cottage for weeks or months and have no children in the local school system.
My argument is always the same. If I inherited or chose to buy a home or condo in Winnipeg or Vancouver to use as a vacation home, do you think I would be exempt from paying education taxes on this property? Of course not.
As for taxing based on income, would it be fair to tax an individual who makes $300,000 per year and owns a $60,000 property more than a person who makes $40,000 and has inherited a $300,000 property? Again, of course not.
Bottom line -- owning a cottage or secondary residence is a great privilege.
If you can't afford it, sell it.
Fort Frances, Ont.
Mr. Norris' argument misses the point. It's like saying "is it fair to rob from someone who has a lot of stuff more than a person who has a little stuff?". Either way, robbing is wrong. And either way, funding education through property tax, or any tax for that matter, is wrong. You might as well fund it from library fines, or movie rental fees. Property values are completely unrelated to the cost of education. You can have a family with three special need children living in a moderate neighbourhood paying $2,000 for education on their property tax bill. You can have a single senior with no children living right next door, and paying the same amount.
There's a movement to remove the property tax levy for education and fund education through "general revenues". This is like removing a diseased lung and replacing it with a kidney. Replacing one bad program for an even worse one. What the "Let's Pay Fair" crowd don't realize is that the reason they're able to drum up such support for their movement is precisely because education taxes are on people's property tax bill. People see it every year. Joe Senior living with no kids living on CPP sees every year the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars the state takes from him for "education". Does anyone ever complain about how high payroll taxes are? What about health care taxes? Or alcohol taxes? Or gasoline taxes? Nobody complains about those. Why? Because they don't see them. They're hidden. Think about income tax, PST, and GST. Everyone complains about those, because they're visible. So the "Let's Pay Fair" crowd want to take the visible education tax and hide it in general revenue. So people can't see it. That's an even worse idea than funding it based on property values.
The best way to fund something is directly. When you go to Wal-Mart and buy a pair of jeans, you pay Wal-Mart directly and then take the jeans home. You don't just take the jeans, wait until the end of the year, then pay your mother, who pays your father, who pays your neighbour, who pays another neighbour down the street, who then pays Wal-Mart. Yet this is how we fund education. It's just a big shell game.