The taxes are insane, and I’m going that way too

They say madmen don’t laugh. So you see that I am not mad. For I laughed when I saw my property tax bill. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Here, look. I’m afraid you’ll have to pick it up for yourself. I can’t seem to get my arms out of the sleeves of this nice canvas jacket the men in white helped me into. I remember how it was … before. Public policy always put me on edge. But I thought I had redlined in the Trudeau years over windily self-satisfied political incompetence. Then I opened my property tax bill and executed an elegant final plunge into the steaming cauldron of venomous resentment. I saw red, and went into it.

I’ve always been careful about money. Even a bit odd. I can’t deny it. I do yard work in shoes I bought when Jimmy Carter was president. I use the same coffee cup all day to save dish detergent. It took me months to agree to my wife’s “proposal” to throw out a treadmill I bought used in 1998 and was busted three different ways. I live a life of almost compulsive frugality, with the occasional wild spree of tax-paying extravagance.

I only ever borrowed money to buy a house. Oh, and once a cheap TV on the instalment plan but I realized it was insane and paid it off. In 1993. When it died in 2003 I replaced it for $250. I have a $250 television.

Then I got a property tax bill for 10 times that much. Sound like a lot? It was just the second instalment. Despite which I had to take my own big trash to the dump and pay for the privilege and take my busted microwave to a participating recycler. Even though the trash removal fee was just removed from the general municipal assessment then added back on separately to avoid raising taxes. They say I am delusional.

I didn’t invent this, though. I’m sure of it. They said they wouldn’t raise my municipal taxes and they went up three per cent in 2005 and another six and a half per cent in 2006. I remember it like it was this week. Which it was. And I like how they spread the pain through the year by taking a big hack in March and another in June. I think fair would be, say, March and September, you know, half a year apart. But then they’d have to wait to count the loot and what fun would that be? For them I mean. I don’t count. At least not other people’s money. These days not my own either. All gone. Easy to keep track of. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. See? Mad people don’t laugh. I am not mad.

I can’t be, because I also laughed when my taxes went up without being raised because the sale price of my house skyrocketed without being sold according to some people who never saw it and wouldn’t buy it at that price. Its “value” went up by a percentage that would make Donald Trump’s hair stand on end. Which admittedly might be an improvement. I used to get online ads offering me the “Trump Lifestyle” and I didn’t even want the Trump hairstyle. But that’s not the point. The point is, turning Donald Trump into Don King is not a legitimate public policy undertaking. Nor is turning me into a dissolute pauper who, like most people, pays more in taxes than anything else. June 19 was Tax Freedom Day in Canada. And it was an “improvement” over 2005’s June 24. But my house isn’t falling apart like, say, the public health-care system, the roads and sewers or the Armed Forces. I cut my weeds. Say, I wonder if they’ll let me play with a shiny new train set in here. I paid more to the city for transit than policing and I think that nice Bob Chiarelli’s getting one. A train, that is.

Out there our total annual tax bill exceeded the sticker price of our car. Of course the car wasn’t fancy. After taxes I couldn’t afford a nice one like politicians get. But it was sturdy, affordable and reliable. Exactly unlike government.

City officials complain about large bills for social services downloaded from the province. Perhaps justly. But then they tax us until we head for the poorhouse or the madhouse and add to their expenses.

Last year I spent more on property taxes than on everything else to do with my house except utilities (also mostly public and, by coincidence, I just got a Hydro Ottawa pamphlet where my electricity rates went up 1.9 per cent in the first sentence and 3.5 per cent by the end of the first paragraph. I am not mad.). Paint, repairs, insurance, garden, furniture for gosh sakes, all combined were less than my property taxes. Perhaps they are experimenting on us. I think they are very strange people.

Although when people say politics is uplifting I have to agree. There go my taxes now. Ha ha ha ha ha. I am not mad.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]