David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Real Discussions on Tax and Crime are Being Avoided

Brandon Sun, September 26, 2011 - David McConkey

We are in the 21st century, aren’t we? Because you would never know it from the current Manitoba election campaign.

I can appreciate why the younger generation is turned off politics. Their 21st century reality is just not reflected in the political debate.

Young people see the Internet and other new technologies transforming their world. Transforming how they learn, how they communicate with each other, how they shop, how they spend their free time, how they engage as citizens, how they will make their living. 

Young Manitobans understand our province is part of a global village. They can readily look at themselves in relation to everyone else in the world.

All topics (even the most controversial) can be explored and talked about. Having taboo subjects just doesn’t cut it anymore.

But this reality – of the Internet, of a global perspective, of forthright discussion – is missing from the election discourse.

As examples, look at taxes and crime.

First, taxes.

I know that the HST is not the most glamorous topic. But it does relate to the Internet and the global marketplace. It is also a taboo issue. 

I wrote on this page last year about the advantages of the HST (harmonizing our provincial sales tax with the GST).

Most provinces already have the HST. The federal government says the HST is the single most important step Manitoba could take to improve the competiveness of our businesses. 

But during this election? The NDP won’t even discuss the HST. And the Conservatives simply dismiss it out of hand. 

One advantage I see is that the HST can better ensure the collection of sales taxes from Internet retailers. This would be more fair for our local stores.

But, surprisingly, a recent Manitoba government policy report on the HST does not even mention Internet sales.

Think about that: developing government policy for the retail sector – and completely ignoring online shopping!

(You may also notice that the Internet is hardly mentioned in other election discussions. Yet, you would think that the Internet could play an increasing role in provincial government programs, like education, health care, and municipal services.) 

Again, isn’t this the 21st century?

Now, take a look at crime. It is an important issue, but the approach of both the Conservatives and NDP is so “last century.”

Manitoba has some of the highest crime rates in the country. Yet, neither party can explain why. Even more disturbing, neither party proposes to find out.

Name calling isn’t an explanation. The Conservatives say that the high rate of crime is the NDP’s fault. The NDP counters that auto theft, for example, was “out of control” when the Conservatives were in government in the 1990s. driven by “reckless thieves” as young as 10.)   

But why won’t either party explain why there is more auto theft and other crime here than there is in other provinces? 
 
How can we address the problem if we aren’t ready to look at and talk about the causes? 

We are in the Internet age: all topics should be investigated and openly discussed.

Both the NDP and the Conservatives promise to be “tough on crime,” especially on gangs.

But gangs flourish selling illegal drugs. So, I am afraid that this NDP / Conservative crime crackdown will be just another version of what has failed around the world: the War on Drugs.

The global War on Drugs has not stopped the supply of drugs. It has not helped those addicted. It has not ended the power of gangs.

Remember Prohibition? Another similarly doomed effort from the last century.

There are alternatives to the War on Drugs being developed in places like Portugal, Switzerland and Australia. 

We can be smart in our small world. The information and insights are out there.

Meanwhile, however, a ramped-up War on Drugs here only will increase the costs to society and increase the number of people in prison. 

In turn, the impact of prison will be borne mostly by our aboriginal people. (In Manitoba, 70% of prisoners are aboriginal.)

And prison statistics are just one indication of a gnawing gap between aboriginal people and the rest of the population.

But this racial disparity is yet another important and controversial issue that you won’t hear much about in this election.

* * * *

See also:  

Harmonized Sales Tax Deserves a Closer Look in Manitoba

Stop Thief!

Perception and Reality of Crime Not Always the Same

Drug, Alcohol Policies Reveal Our Hypocrisy

A More Thoughtful Approach to Racial Issues is Required

 



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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
204-726-9440
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