In light of the current situation in Syria, looming war, and most individuals’ attention turned towards the growing tragedy in the Middle East, it seems a strange topic that I choose for my first post:
But as my drive when writing for this blog is to focus on current affairs in Canada, what better topic could I choose than one that helps to ease our sorrows?
Alberta, the province in which I live, is one that (thankfully) does not suffer from some of the tax woes of other provinces. In fact, it is one of the few provinces without a provincial tax on top of the GST (federal Goods and Services Tax).
Nevertheless, when it comes to partaking in the consumption of a round of “wobbly pops” or “oat sodas,” Albertans, just like their provincial neighbours, have to pay the price.
Often, the high tax on alcohol is justified as a deterrent for alcohol-related deaths and abuse. Just recently, the Calgary Herald ran a story on physician James Talbot’s recommendation to increase the rate of markups on alcohol in Alberta. The story refers to Dr. Talbot as “Alberta’s top doctor,” most likely because he is the chief medical officer for Alberta Health, where they affectionately state that they refer to him as “Alberta’s Top Doc” (in addition to the fact that the Twitter handle he has chosen for himself is actually @ABTopDoc).
As expected, Talbot’s viewpoint is that a higher “sin tax” = less binge drinking, impaired driving, unsafe one-night stands, and sexual assaults. A report from Talbot’s office, referred to in the article, states that:
Alcohol taxation or markups can be used to successfully reduce underage drinking because youth, who typically have lower incomes, are more sensitive to higher prices.
In my opinion, this sums up the main fault that can be found in this form of logic. It is a cheap solution to a serious problem which, the report itself admits, affects those in the lowest economic status to the strongest degree.
It was Benjamin Franklin (and yes, I am an American, living in Canada, quoting an American in a blog post about Canada) who said:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards,
there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine,
a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
It makes me wonder if the imposition of a tax should only allow those who can afford it to enjoy that which “proves” that God loves to see us happy.
Alcohol will be consumed, one way or another. We saw this clearly with the effects of prohibition (on both sides of the border, no less). Individuals, especially teens, are going to find a way to get alcohol — beg, borrow, or steal.
Those who are unable to stop themselves will pay the cost of their addiction, even as they sacrifice their rent money, child support, or food costs.
Ultimately, it will never be a tax or law that will serve as the sole solution to a moral problem in our communities. That’s up to us, reaching out to those around us who are in need or at risk.
Whew, all this talk has left me feeling rather thirsty.