On the approaching 100th anniversary of the the sinking of the Titanic, the evocation of that event brings to mind a suitable metaphor for where we seem to be headed, as western societies in general, and Quebec society in particular.
Look around and take stock at where we are.
Over 40% of Quebecers do not pay any income tax.
For the remaining 60% who do, what do we get for our hard earned money?
A health care system stretched to the limits. Crumbling roads and bridges. An outdated infrastructure which cannot meet the demands being placed on it. (Decarie expressway any time after 2pm?) Rising taxes (pst at 9.5% and rising?). The highest taxed jurisdiction in North America. And oh yes. Students who benefit from subsidized education who demand that the government (ie you and me) do more. By the way, has anyone stopped to think how many of them leave our province after receiving a subsidized education, after having concluded that it's madness to start out in a place where they would be taxed to the hilt?
Now comes the good part.
Our health care system occupies more than 40% of our provincial budget, and this after transfer payments from those "terrible" people in Ottawa. Listen up Pauline Marois. The baby boomers are going to be making increasingly larger demands upon the health care system as time goes by. The generation "x" and generation "y" people are fewer in number than the babyboomers. Think inverted pyramid. How are they going to support the coming increased demands? How much higher can taxes be raised? The answer is that the coming demands won't be able to supported by the generations x and y which follow the babyboomers. Something is going to have to give. Think Greece.
So what is the answer.
For starters, it's time for our leaders to report for duty, grab the helm of the ship and get serious about prioritizing our spending. Cut programs which however desireable in a perfect world, are unaffordable and not priorities. Why is it that at election time, politicians always seem to promise the moon and the sky--irrespective of the added burden to the deficit and the debt? It's clearly cynical attempts at vote buying. I have yet to meet a person who is not in favour of a program if he or she does not have to pay for it.
Next: give businesses even more added incentives so that they will expand their businesses, hire more people currently on UIC and turn people who would otherwise be takers from the public treasury into contributing taxpayers.
Next, why not tie welfare payments to the able bodied to their willingness to re-train themselves, so that instead of taking money from the treasury, they retrain themselves to find work and become contributing taxpayers? (I can just hear all the handwringing and gasping as I write this). But why not INCREASE the payments to people who are able and willing to help themselves by looking to be retrained. You would think the general response would be positive and that within a period of time, a good many will leave the public safety net. And for those who are able but unwilling: reduce their payments after a process that deals with them fairly. The message will sink in slowly but surely.
Finally, why not means test the need for government aid right across the board? A case in point: universal $7 per day daycare. Is there any reason why 2 professionals should benefit from subsidized daycare? Madness.
Controversial? Sure. But in life, there are the poets and the realists. Government can't do everything and we're heading for a huge collision. What we've seen going on in Europe is coming here. It's just a matter of time.
Let's just hope that we're not governend by a ship of fools and that our politicians will rise to the occasion to make the tough decisions which have to be made. Otherwise, it's a matter of time before the ship hits the fan, or should I say, the iceberg.