Enter Stage Right hands out its monthly awards...

The May 1999 Earth is Flat Award

A celebration of the inane, insipid and asinine...

As you may may read in What was Job's tax bill? by your esteemed editor, one man of God recently decried the worshipping of the financial markets as false idols and called on Canadians to begin "joyfully" paying their taxes.

As a friend of mine remarked, "If he enjoys paying taxes so much, perhaps he should pay mine."

The Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Reverend Bill Phipps, issued a press release to further his frequent calls for a "moral economy." Phipps believes that Canadians should enjoy sending their money to Ottawa because it furthers what he refers to as a noble tradition of caring for each other in a collective manner.

"As Canadians we must remember that our taxes are what pay for services like Medicare, the social programs that our parents and grandparents fought so hard to establish," Phipps stated. "So yes, as you fill out your tax return, you should be joyful, you are contributing to a proud tradition that is worth preserving and protecting."

It is always refreshing to hear one's ideological and philosophic opponents openly declaring what they believe. Usually the debate is couched in dense language and references to long dead thinkers, but Phipps came out and said it: Canada is a collectivist nation and forced taxation is not only necessary, but good.

Phipps and the United Church of Canada are hardly potent forces on the political scene so, with the exception of a few sniggering pieces in financial newspapers and web sites, they were largely ignored by Canadians. A pity really since it served as an instructive example of what goes on in the heads of people like him.

If any of you Americans are laughing at us Canadians for having a boob like this with a public forum, I would remind you of what could be a salient point.

Like Bill Phipps, Bill Clinton goes to church every week.


U.S. Vice President Al Gore loves technology. He's made that known throughout the years, not suprising for the man who singlehandedly invented the Internet.

Gore loves technololgy so much that he's championing a $2.8-billion monitoring system which will use computer profiles to single out airline passengers for investigation and scrutiny. Airlines will use a secret algorithm to compare travelers' personal data to profiles of likely terrorists, according to a new proposed federal regulation. Other travelers will be chosen at random.

Yup, the same man who last May told an audience of graduating students at New York University that privacy "is a basic American value" is also trying introduce incredibly intrusive measures into law. I knew you'd be surprised.

"It's software that runs on the airline's reservation system. What it does is select passengers whose checked bags will require additional security and it also selects passengers at random," says Federal Aviation Authority spokesperson Rebecca Trexler told Wired News.

You'll be happy to know that most of the bigger airlines have already instituted a computer screening system.

According to the proposed rule, "Random selection helps to ensure passengers' civil liberties by guaranteeing that no individual or group of individuals is excluded from the selection process."

You see, your civil liberties will be protected because the airlines will be required to search bags making sure that it does not "discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, or gender."

Profiling is apparently vorbotten for law enforcement to use, but no problem for airlines as long as everyone is checked...to protect their civil liberties.

And to further protect your civil liberties, the FAA says it plans on keeping the data it gathers for 72 hours, but is considering keeping them on file for 18 months. The proposed regulation also allows the FAA or law enforcement unlimited access to the records "in the course of investigating accidents or security incidents."

Good thing privacy still is an American basic value...as long as you don't use an airplane.

The May 1999 Vinegar in Freedom Award

There is an old Serbian proverb that says vinegar in freedom tastes better than honey in slavery. This award is meant for events and people Enter Stage Right considers to be positive.

Michael Miller was right again. There are enough tax evaders to elect a government.

That was the theme of a piece written by Miller which appeared in Enter Stage Right back in May 1997. His assertion was that according to a poll, the number of Canadians who said they were determined to evade taxes would elect a government to a landslide victory unseen in recent Western history.

Canada's auditor general, Denis Desautels, provided more evidence for Miller's claim recently. In a report to the House of Commons, Desautels stated that income of $38 billion went unreported in 1997 or 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product. That translates into $12 billion lost in taxes.

Whining about how tax evasion was not a "victimless crime," his report also stated that the problem was so large that accurate data could not be obtained, and that this was compromising "the government's attack on the underground economy."

A March 1997 Gallup poll found that 73 per cent of Canadians would accept an offer to evade taxes when buying goods or services.

Revenue Canada should do more to educate people about the costs of tax evasion, and laws could be tightened to deter cheating, Desautels said. Auditors should more often compare reported income with assets, for example, and government should arrange "community visits" to remind business of their obligations.

What Desautels doesn't understand is that for many people, paying taxes isn't an attempt at getting a free ride, it is what Miller referred to as a "moral revolution."

"Tax evaders are to be applauded as tax heroes! In the conflict between tax evader and tax collector, morality sides with the tax evader, just as in the past it sided with the runaway slave against the slave-owner and legality," wrote Miller in his piece Tax Heroes.

"This is no idle comparison. Today, government takes about half our income. If it took it all, we'd recognize ourselves as slaves. But what else are we if government can take whatever it wants from us?"

The government's own numbers are proving that more and more Canadians are recognizing themselves as those economic slaves. It's just a matter of time...


Oddly enough, for a magazine that promotes capitalism as strenuously as we do, Enter Stage Right rarely singles out business people for our effusive praise. That's likely because most business people are no better than most politicians. Many may talk a good game, but in the end they're just as reliant on the trough of government as any other secondhander.

Some are different, or at least they're not as bad as others. Nortel Networks chief executive John Roth is one of them.

During Nortel's recent annual shareholders meeting, Roth blasted the Canadian government for a tax policy he correctly pointed out was leading to a massive drain of skilled workers to the United States.

The problem, Roth said, was "the shortage of scarce skills and high tech stars Nortel Networks needs to continue to grow in the country. It is about the movement of Canada's best and brightest out of the country, the difficulty in drawing experienced people from abroad, and the dampening effect this causes on growth here."

Demand for knowledge workers is growing globally and competition for talented people is intense, he said, particularly in the US, where the financial rewards are substantial. Almost half the employees who left Nortel Networks in the Ottawa region in the first quarter of 1999 went to the United States, and one-third of them had highly prized "scarce skills."

"Taxation is testing the allegiance of some of Canada's best and brightest." Roth said. "The people we need are being forced out. They're highly paid and are faced with a huge gap between what their talents and skills can bring them in Canada versus what they command elsewhere."

Roth gave the example of a skilled engineer in Ontario making Cdn$140 000 and taking home Cdn$83 000 after taxes and an engineer in Texas with the equivalent salary of US$94 000 taking home US$72 000, or about Cdn$108 000.

"That's like getting a Cdn$25 000 pay increase - a 30 percent increase in purchasing power - just for crossing the border," Roth pointed out. "And salary has nothing to do with it. Tax makes all the difference."

Roth has issued a dire warning for Canadians and their government. It used to be that people from all over the world came to Canada to find employment, but personal income tax rates, capital gains, and stock option rules make the premium for living in Canada too high for knowledge workers, who earn less and build up much less equity than their counterparts in other high-tech centers.

Roth has spoken, will anyone listen?

Have someone you want considered for the Earth is Flat Award or the Vinegar in Freedom Award? Email ESR with your candidates!




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