Monday, July 23, 2007

Michael Moore Got Me Thinking...

So, I went and saw Sicko this weekend. I'm generally not a fan on Michael Moore, but I have to admit I always want to see what he's saying - which I guess means he's successful at what he's doing.

He has always stated that the purpose of his "documentaries" is to get people talking and thinking. And, he did get me thinking - but maybe not in the way he intended.

Firstly, a quick review: as with all Moore films, Sicko is a massive generalization that has been tailored to butress his thesis: in this case, that the American healthcare system (specifically health insurance) is profit driven and is not taking care of the people who use it.

Fair enough. As much as I complain about the Canadian system (I'm getting to that), I am very glad to be a citizen of a country that has universal healthcare. Now, Moore makes Canada (and the UK and France) look like a medical utopia, where everyone is treated immediately using state-of-the-art equipment. Uh, yeah. That happens.

Anyway, after his 2-town (London and Windsor) adventure, he states, rhetorically: "This may all be good, but aren't residents who live in these countries drowning in taxes?", to which he "answers" by talking to a British doctor. Interesting questions he asks: how much do you make? What kind of a place do you live? What are your incentives to make money? (that doctor made about $200K a year)

Moore doesn't ask how much of that is taken by the taxman, which would be the logical question to ask. Nor, when showing the doctor's nice apartment and Audi coupe did he mention how much his wife (who appears on screen) makes or what she does for a living.

ANYWAY, watching the film made me wonder why I'm so peterbed at the Canadian healthcare system. Here's my answer.

Its all about the taxes I pay. It sucks ass that tax freedom day is in June in this country. WAY, WAY, WAY too much of salary goes towards paying federal, provincal and municipal taxes. But hey - I understand that we need taxes for basic infrastructure, some social programs and yes, healthcare.

So, how can the government make li'l ol' B-Double happy? Here's how. I would MORE than happy to pay my share of taxes if you took some of the pressure off other areas that affect my pocketbook. Try deregulating industries that smack around Canadian taxpayers, so they have more disposable income. Some examples:

Why does it cost me $1500 to fly to Boston via Air Canada when in the US I can fly from one coast to another for $200 with Jet Blue? Its almost criminal. Open up the skys and let Air Canada compete with the big boys - instead of wasting its money trying to stomp out competitors like Porter Airlines.

The cell phone oligopoly here in Canada is a joke. A PDA costs $2-300 more here than it does in the US. And they just fleece you with their monthly rates and 200-year contracts. It is not uncommon for me to have a monthly $800 cell phone bill.

The TTC monopoly (and VIA) needs to go as well. Or at least they need to find corporate partners to invest in the system. The way it stands right now, ridership goes up and so do fares. That's insane and completely unsustainable. I know of large companies that specialize in transportation solutions who have had very innovative proposals quashed by TTC bureaucrats scared to DEATH that they will lose their hold on transit riders if any alternative transportation systems were even considered.

If the federal government had the courage to open up any or all of these industries to competiton, that means more money in the pockets of consumers. I care less about the taxes I pay and more how much I actually take home at the end of the day. If the various levels of government want less complaining about healthcare and taxes, but like the revenue, they may want to look at offering ways to make it easier (read: cheaper) to live in Canada.

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You bring up many issues that Andrew Coyne wrote about last week in the NP.

I've got family in London, ON so if I need to take a flight I will stay in London overnight and fly out of Buffalo or Detroit to save a few hundred instead of flying out of Pearson.

Yeah, the cellphone monopoly pisses me off too! There is absolutely no reward for being loyal. After my contract expired with Bell Mobility I inquired about their offer to keep me as a customer... A whole lot of nothing because they offered me what they were offering new customers.

Problem is, there are relatively few alternatives. Thankfully, I was offered a corporate plan with my last employer and happily locked into a 3 year contract.
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