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“Tax is Not a Four Letter Word”, is a collection of essays by various authors which I co-edited with my son Jordan, Opinion Editor for the Toronto Star.

The CCPA Ontario’s Jennifer Story recently interviewed me about the book, and our desire to get Canadians thinking differently about taxes. (The interview first appeared on the CCPA Ontario website on December 17, 2013.)

Jennifer Story (JS): The sub-head of the book is “A different Take on Taxes in Canada”… different from what?

Alex Himelfarb (AH): Different from the predominant negative view of taxes as simply a burden (Read more…)

Alex's Blog: Pourquoi les Canadiens n’ont pas de temps à consacrer à la politique (L’inégalité et la méfiance qu’elle engendre nourrissent notre apathie politique)


Article paru dans le Toronto Star, le 17 juillet 2013

*Why People Have No Time For Politics”

Samara a publié récemment une autre étude montrant que les Canadiens, en particulier les jeunes, sont profondément désintéressés de la politique traditionnelle. Les citoyens sont moins nombreux à voter et à participer aux activités des partis politiques, mais aussi à écrire ou à lire sur la politique partisane, voire à en discuter entre amis. Bon nombre d’entre eux continuent de donner temps et argent pour soutenir des causes, mais la chose politique leur semble sans valeur.

Bien sûr, ce n’est pas (Read more…)

Alex's Blog: Canada’s Dangerously Distorted Tax Conversation

“(In)visible Dialogue”. Installation by Wang King Road. 2011. Wikipedia Commons.

(This post was written by Alex and Jordan Himelfarb; an abridged version appeared in the Star here.)

We don’t like paying taxes. This is not big news: we don’t much like paying any bills, and there’s probably never been a time when we didn’t grumble in particular about taxes. But somehow “tax” has gone from irritant to four-letter word, not to be uttered in public and certainly not to be discussed favourably in politics. It seems the Canadian political consensus is that you’d have to be nuts to talk (Read more…)

Alex's Blog: Austeria

Informal talk to OMSSA’s 2013 Learning Symposium, held in Ottawa, Ontario from June 16 to 19, 2013.

Alex's Blog: Why we have no time for politics

Samara recently published yet another study showing that Canadians, especially young Canadians, are profoundly disengaged from formal politics. Not only are citizens voting less and participating less in political parties, they are not writing, reading or even talking with friends about party politics. While many are still donating money and time to causes, they don’t have much use for politics.

Of course this is not the first such study. With every passing year, we get more evidence that trust in politicians, government and our democratic institutions is in sharp decline. Every election seems to bring a new low in (Read more…)

Alex's Blog: Celebrating Public Service

Public servants celebrating the enrolment of 5 million citizens in the Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan (1959, Archives of Ontario)

Notes for talk at Public Policy Forum Dinner, April 11, 2013

I am delighted to be here with family, friends and colleagues this evening – an evening that can only be understood as a celebration of Canada’s public service. Such celebrations are pretty rare these days though the public service is an institution that deserves celebrating, and may need it now more than ever.

My hunch is that I can speak for all the former clerks here this evening that for

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Alex's Blog: The Trouble With Austerity: Economics as Ideology

A somewhat abridged version of this post first appeared in The Toronto Star here

Governments here and elsewhere are increasingly preoccupied with cutting even as evidence piles up of its harmful consequences on people and the economy. Austerity is not even delivering the balanced budgets its advocates promise. Even the IMF is now preaching balance rather than a single-minded focus on cuts. Yet, austerity’s adherents hold fast, deny the evidence or double down. Why is that?

Of course a few at the top benefit from austerity, at least in the short term, and though few, they exert considerable influence. And

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Alex's Blog: The Age of Austerity

Notes: Keynote talk, CCPA Post-Austerity session, Toronto, January 9, 2013

We are living in the “Age of Austerity” or at least so says David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister. He made this announcement in 2009 at the Conservative convention just before becoming prime minister. This meant, he explained, that he would have to fix the errors, the folly of previous governments. He would restore the economy by cutting spending, reducing the size of government, and shifting resources from public to private.

In 2010, the G20 met in Toronto and, apart from arresting citizens, they were also talking austerity. Canada led

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Alex's Blog: The mean test: how we measure success

Chief Theresa Spence (by Regina Southwind, Rabble, December 17)

As we enter 2013, how is Canada doing? How do we stack up against other rich countries? Emerging from the year of the 50th anniversary of medicare, the 30th anniversary of the Charter, are we making progress? Do we even have any shared notion of what progress would look like?

How we measure our success as a country matters. It tells us a lot about what we value most. It shapes what we ask of our politicians and how we judge the performance of our governments. It shapes

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Alex's Blog: Bargain Basement Citizenship and the Decline of Democracy

We ought to be outraged. Just about every day our media provides a new account of the decline of our democracy: the inadequacies of our electoral system and allegations of electoral fraud; the high-handed treatment of our Parliament through inappropriate prorogations and overuse of omnibus legislation; a government ever more authoritarian and opaque, resistant to evidence and reason, and prepared to stifle dissent. Adding weight to the urgency of these issues is that they are being raised across the political spectrum, left, right and centre, and among critics with very different models of democracy Even given these significant stirrings of outrage, why do so

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Alex's Blog: Taking Back Our Democracy: Bridging the Generational Divide

These are tough days for Canada’s parliamentary democracy. Having endured years of steady erosion, it is now under frontal attack. Journalists and public leaders, across the political spectrum, have begun to document the injuries. We are seeing stirrings of outrage. But this assault on our democracy could not be happening without some complicity or at least indifference on our part. How many of us are so disenchanted with government that we no longer watch what is happening in Ottawa because we no longer care? And, in these volatile and uncertain times, how many of us are prepared to trade off

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Alex's Blog: Going, Going, Gone: Dismantling the Progressive State

“An Auction”. William Pyne and William Combe (1808).

Now that some time has passed since the federal budget it might be useful to step back and assess what it says about where the government is taking us. Reaction has been pretty muted. The “centrist punditry” generally see this as an incremental budget, business as usual, “balanced” and “mature”. For our Globe editorialists, for example, this was not the transformative budget the government promised and a majority government supposedly made possible. According to them, the budget was OK; it earned a passing grade but had no vision, not much transformation. Canadians,

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Alex's Blog: The Price Of Austerity

Austerity, we have been told repeatedly by pundits and political leaders, is the defining issue in these uncertain times, the solution to our economic challenges.

We have been given fair warning that the next federal budget will be first about cuts – cuts to government even as we continue to cut taxes. We can expect the same from most provincial budgets.

This, we are told, is what must be done. Austerity is not simply the best way, the argument goes, but the only way, and not just for us but for our friends and allies. Canada has become the champion

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Alex's Blog: A Bad Day: What Now?

C10, the omnibus crime bill, passed third reading and is now over to the Senate for what is supposed to be sober second thought. The vote could only have been a depressing anticlimax for the many Canadians who were fighting to stop or amend this legislation. And the implacable inevitability of its passage must surely lead many to ask, ‘why bother, what’s the point?’

This question takes on added poignancy as we read with increasing frequency articles describing the relatively unconstrained power of the current majority government to do as it pleases, impervious to opposition voices or contrary evidence.

. . . → Read More: Alex’s Blog: A Bad Day: What Now?

Alex's Blog: The Consequences of Tax Cuts

Here is the video of a recent talk I gave on taxes as a good thing. The talk was hosted by the Literary Review and TVO and sponsored by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.