A Letter to the Editor, by “Crusty Dusty”

The week it was announced the airport made a $5 hike in the now $35 “Airport Improvement Fee” I went on a social media blackout, to avoid the misguided mass hysteria. We’re far too angry to calm down, breathe, and read up on how more progressive places feel about taxes and fees.

Here in Newfoundland, we act like taxes and fees are out to get us, when really, they’re out to improve our surroundings, our lives, our cities — it’s about society pooling together to enjoy a better collective daily life. (Supposing your government isn’t useless.)

I winter in Florida, where there are tollbooths everywhere, and you know why no one cares about 50 cents here and there? Because the roads are PRISTINE on account of the toll fee paying for road maintenance! It’s a pleasure to drive in Florida compared to the potholed roads of NL. But if you try and toll a Newfoundlander to help pave potholes, HAH! I can see the Facebook mob now!

Small fees fund big societal perks. High taxes in Sweden and Denmark are verifiably WHY the Swedes and Danes rave about their hometowns and quality of life. It’s called society: we all chip in for the things we all enjoy.

There is this place called “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).” It exists solely to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. They created a thing called the Better Life Index, based on 11 measurements of quality of life including housing, jobs, community, health, and life satisfaction, to discern which countries had the happiest people in the world.

In that study, as with many others, Danish people consistently rank themselves as the happiest. Now, it could be because they have remarkable income equality, and make more bacon than they can consume, but it’s more likely because they have one of the world’s highest rates of income tax, and that tax money buys them the kinds of societal perks that make them happy. Instead of blowing their cheques on iPhones and boots, a bigger portion of it goes towards parks and free university. Note: it’s a progressive tax system where people earning over 61,500 euros a year pay 7% higher taxes.

Meik Wiking of Denmark’s Happiness Institute has famously said, “Denmark’s welfare model turns our collective wealth into well-being. We are not paying taxes. We are investing in our society. We are purchasing quality of life. I see countries such as the United States and South Korea having achieved tremendous growth in the past decades, but failing to convert wealth into well-being for the people.”

Education is free in Denmark, there is no tuition fee at university. And every student is given $900 a month from the state! “This means I won’t have to worry about how to finance my kid’s education,” Wiking has said, “It will be their talents and dreams that shape the path of their careers, not the size of my wallet.”

The Danes also get 5 weeks paid vacation! And parental leave that lessens the financial burden of bringing more happy Danes into the world. It totals 52 weeks. Not to mention high quality healthcare for free.

Maybe our problem in North America is our greed — we want our hard-earned money to buy something for ME not US. We want new clothes or a lavish meal out, but not to cough up money to help fund a community library or … fancier airport.

Various economic organizations have studied the OECD study, and they all say some variations of ” The happiest people in the world enjoy loads of tax-funded social services.” So, the government isn’t out to get you. It just needs some of your money to make the world go round. Think about it next time you flush your toilet (sewer systems!) or make it through a traffic intersection safely, because of tax-funded traffic lights.

As for the airport fee, c’mon. You can’t even buy a pint in the departures lounge at our airport. You can’t get a hot meal before a flight! (weird heater-lamped sandwiches are not meals). So screw it, I’ll pay $35 per outgoing flight to fix that. Because where is our airport going to get the money to build more space for more things? Thin air? Don’t be greedy minded: if you can afford the ridiculous airfare of Air Canada, you have some spare change for the airport.

That’s not to say government or corporations like the airport don’t mess things up sometimes, and make poor investment decisions, they do. NL’s credit rating is shot because of shoddy leaders. But that’s on us for electing fools. Get some bright minds in government, and give them a chunk of your income, and maybe, just maybe, Newfoundland would be a deadly spot to call home.

Norway has nearly no debt: it’s why they can afford great social services, healthcare, education, etc.  We can’t even afford a new mental health system.

I know, you can’t compare Denmark to NL for reasons X and Y. I’m just saying: we have to pay income tax. We might as well start seeing the bright side of it. And start pressuring government to do better with it.