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Firefighter Rob Wonfor rescues Marisa Lazo from misadventure on a crane. "The real story is that in Toronto, if someone’s at risk, the city can immediately deploy trained teams to make them safe and take them to hospital for free health care," writes Heather Mallick. "That is one well-designed system." (Photo: Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

Why I Love Taxes — And So Should You

Taxes should not be a dirty word. Tax is the price we pay for civilization.

Heather Mallick

 by Toronto Star

I love taxes. I even love paying them because they’re inarguable, which brings a kind of comfort in a shifting world. What Revenue Canada wants, Revenue Canada gets. Good for them.

Unlike so many coveted things that fail to deliver — wealth only brings a new set of problems, infants are worry magnets, good men are hard to find — taxation does what it promises. It keeps Canadian life tidy and organized.

My annual column on the sunlit side of taxes usually lists services that slide beneath people’s radar, like traffic lights, nail salon inspection, harbour police, newborn registration, farm product marketing, fire safety, the Death Investigation Oversight Council, drug evaluation, the Moose-Bear Allocation Advisory Committee and so on.

One day the investigation into your death will be conducted shoddily, or you will be allocated a bear and not the moose you yearned for. I’m assuming you wanted the moose as a pet? My editor is shaking his head. So no, then.

Well, had you been willing to pay a little more tax, government systems might have had sufficient staff to attend to you, a murder victim with an estate consisting of a dead herbivore the size of a moving van.

I’ll give you the best example of a service Torontonians never dreamed was needed but now are cheering.

At 4 on Wednesday morning, a young woman was seen downtown clinging to a block hanging by wires from a tall crane. It was not clear if she was suicidal, drugged, a rooftopper, or a crime victim. But 12 storeys up, one slip of her arm would have had her broken, bloody and pasted to the ground.

Firefighters and police arrived. Rob Wonfor, a cheerful 52-year-old firefighter who describes himself as “a bit of a monkey,” climbed the crane, along with a police negotiator who talks people down — Wonfor said the negotiator was so calming he sounded like Perry Como, who basically slept through his songs — and reached the woman.

She wrapped herself around him and he held her to him like a baby in a carrier. It was found to be unsafe to lower the block so they both rappelled down.

As it turns out, the woman had been a fierce climber since childhood and rooftopped for the joy of it. “You overlook the city. It’s really amazing, like a deep breath of euphoria,” as one rooftopping photographer has described it to the Star.

I salute both of them, Wonfor, the affable athlete, the quintessential good Canadian heading off after the rescue to tend goal in a recreational hockey league, and risk-hound Marisa Lazo who, like all 23-year-olds, thinks she will never die. Long may she think this.

But charming as the story is, the real story is that in Toronto, if someone’s at risk, the city can immediately deploy trained teams to make them safe and take them to hospital for free health care. That is one well-designed system.

Think of the places in the world where poisonous water is delivered to homes, where passengers are violently ejected from planes, where airports are dangerous and filthy, where being injured means medical bankruptcy.

Could this be the USA, a huge and powerful country where “tax” is the most despised word there is? A politician dare not say “tax” except to deplore it.

“Tax” smells of sulphur, it rots your flooring, frays your gumption, makes your morals pliable, your children shorter and scared of the ball.

In Canada, tax is the price we pay for civilization. In Ontario, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne is boxed in; she dare not raise taxes to pay for total pharmacare. So I wish Andrea Horwath of the NDP would show some courage for once and call for a tax increase to cover more than those 125 or so choice medications. Under her plan, I envision those with costly cancer resenting the cosseted asthmatics.

Canadians can have everything they want, as long as they’re willing to pay for it. My Main St. bus route in Toronto is a road of rubble. Canada is short of judges. Victoria still pumps raw sewage into the ocean. We need more English classes for refugees, more hospital beds, more help for indigenous people.

Why has tax come to be a dirty word in Canada? If each Canadian contributed a few dollars more, we could fix all this, as well as plucking the younger generation out of the air and taking them to safety.

© 2020
Heather Mallick

Heather Mallick

Heather Mallick is a Canadian columnist, author and lecturer. She writes a twice weekly column for the Toronto Star, an occasional column for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's website, and a monthly column for The Guardian's website.

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