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Taxes and Isang Kusing

My friends in the US have always told me that Canada is a nice place to live in, but they immediately follow this up with, “But your taxes are steep!” Being Canadian, I scramble for a defense, then end up with an apology; nevertheless, I still feel better after the conversation because I know why I agreed to pay these taxes, to become a Canadian citizen, and to live in the most beautiful province in Canada.

First of all, I was paying the same percentage of taxes in the Philippines ten years ago. Considering I was already earning one of the better salaries in the city at Php 25,000.00 gross income as a teacher, I was coughing up almost half of it to the Bureau of Internal Revenue every year, and what did I get out of it? Potholes, a corrupt government and a bleak future for my two daughters. None of it was going to health care, publicly funded schooling, regulated transportation fees and a list of other things. I still get about the same percentage of taxes off, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I can send my daughters to a university, the hospital can’t reject me for non-deposit, and I am safe to roam around the streets because the highest number of homicides per year is about ten.

Second, you can’t escape taxes in the Philippines. The moment you were born, you were already paying taxes to pay for loans you never had a chance to use because all the politicians beat you to it. With an external debt of $70 billion dollars and a public debt of $163 billion dollars, there is no way a typical Juan dela Cruz in the Philippines can ever dream to pay for all that, and have health care on the side. Not in our lifetime. Or anyone’s, for that matter.

So, when the Liberal party comes up with some tax breaks a few months before the May elections, we wonder if this is for votes.

Of course it is. I can’t complain, though.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled what he called “the people’s budget” in the legislature — a $50.2-billion, 2017-18 fiscal plan that offered spending hikes for child welfare, education and health care, and tax relief for businesses. This is part of Premier Christy Clark’s promise to put back into BC citizens’ pockets any surplus from the budget. De Jong presented in the form of a 50-per-cent cut to Medical Services Plan premiums for an estimated two million households with less than a $120,000 income. That could save a single adult $450 a year in premiums or $900 for a family.

Therefore, I can’t complain.

A number of people may think I should read between the lines, or look at the fine print, or investigate where the rest of the taxes will add up, because it seems to be covered by this tax cut masterpiece by the Liberals, but honestly, I am a simple, law-abiding citizen, who, despite knowing that there are price hikes by the BC Hydro, ICBC and other institutions in form of taxes and premiums, the fact that the government is thinking of giving me back some of the money that wasn’t spent, no matter if it is in nickels and dimes,  is a relief  and a blessing for me.

You want to know why?

Because in all the years I was a tax paying citizen in the Philippines, I never got, kahit isang kusing (half asentimo),  back in my pocket from the government, and all those years, all it did was bleed me dry of my hard earned income, with nothing left to spend for even a decent celebratory meal when milestones came up. No health care, no child care, no subsidized university education for my children, and not even an efficient transportation system to bring me to work.

And in Canada, I can do more for others by paying it forward, in volunteer work in the community, the Church, Answering the Cry of the Poor, and other agencies that need my help here and in the Philippines. This is because I don’t have to worry about where my next paycheck is going to come from. I can get a job if I lose mine or get temporary relief in the form of employment insurance, a place to live if I can’t afford one, and a hospital bed if I am ever in need of one. I can also sleep because I know where my hard earned money goes – in taxes that come back to me in various ways.

So, thank you Mike de Jong. Thank you, Christy Clark. As for the votes, I remain