Pique N' Your Interest 

Our attention to the deficit disorder

As provincial and federal governments fight over taxes and jurisdiction, and funding for health care, education, and everything else I wonder how many Canadians realize that their country is dumping more than $35.4 billion down a black hole each and every year.

That’s more than 23 times the amount of money the Canadian Student Loans Program lends out annually to more than 300,000 students. Even a fraction of the money we waste could reduce tuition fees and make post-secondary school more affordable and accessible to all Canadians.

That lost $35.4 billion is almost three times what we spend on our military annually, not counting special programs like the planned purchase of 29 new maritime helicopters to replace our decrepit fleet of Sea Kings. We could have more than 700 new helicopters every year with the money we waste – not that we need to, I’m just saying.

Everyone talks about the health care crisis in Canada, with our overworked doctors, our poorly served rural areas, and our critical lack of funding for facilities, staffing and new equipment.

If the average doctor makes $150,000 a year, we could hire 10,000 more physicians for less than a twentieth of $35.4 billion. We could hire 20,000 more nurses for another twentieth of the cash, and build five more 300-bed hospitals and purchase more than 750 MRI, CT and X-Ray machines with two more twentieths. Increased capital costs and general staffing could cost another few billion, so, rounding up and estimating, we could almost completely solve Canada’s health care crisis for about a quarter of the cash that disappears from our national coffers every year.

Some people are concerned with the level of taxation in this country, so what if we gave a third of our lost money back to the wage earners in this country in a progressive way that gives the biggest cuts to middle and low income earners?

Our total labour force has about 12 million full-time people, according to 2003 tax rolls, which means on average Canadians could see themselves paying almost a thousand dollars less in taxes each year.

And the government would still have a surplus of more than $23 billion to spend on health care, education, the environment, the military, and all kinds of useful programs. If we were smart we would plop down a couple of billion on infrastructure, trickle down a few billion to pay off provincial debts, and could still put away a few billion each year for emergencies like ice storms, firestorms and Haitian coups.

No, I’m not an economist, or any kind of math wiz. I wouldn’t stake my reputation or my career on any of the figures I’ve mentioned above. I got most of the numbers I used off the Internet, and guess-timated the rest, rounding up and down a few hundred million here and there.

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