Egan: Government cheques in the mail — a creepy kind of bribery

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The government — all of them — should stop giving us “free” stuff and sending cheques in the mail. It’s all getting a little creepy.

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Election or not, it just doesn’t seem like an adult way to conduct the state’s business. “Dear voter,” says a stranger in a long coat, “here’s a fiver, shut up and go get yourself some ice cream and a sack of fries.”

On Thursday, my $330 cheque arrived for a couple of years of licence plate renewals. Why? Isn’t driving a privilege in Ontario? Does it not cost the province money to keep track of seven million vehicles on the road? If not, why have we paid annual fees lo these many years?

And are not the roads themselves — please drive anywhere in Ottawa — in pretty pathetic shape? So, sure, send $1.1 billion back to taxpayers; Queen’s Park can’t think of a single thing to do with it.

Ontario’s deficit for 2021-22, by the way, is projected at $13.1 billion. I can’t picture 13.1 billion anything, but “one hell of a lot” might be a start of this exercise in Himalayan visualization.

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The “regressive” versus “progressive” notion of taxes is easy to mix up, but in this case, it probably means: why should a multi-millionaire with seven luxury cars get the same relative break as the minimum wage kid eeking it out working overnights at Timmy’s with his ’96 Civic?

Admit it. The whole plan is absurd.

I was at Rexall the other day and the cashier handed me a package of five rapid antigen tests. Free. Okay, then. Guess they grow on trees. I mean, happy to have (we’ve used one), but somebody “paid” for this.

The government of Doug Ford wants to temporarily cut the gasoline tax by 5.7 cents a litre, starting on July 1. Possibly there was no easy way to give everyone FREE gas during the election campaign. It is hard to know. So drive cheaper and drive more, Ontario, and worry not we’re killing the planet with each fresh tank of burned fossil fuel.

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There was finally a breakthrough in Ontario in the federal government’s effort to have a national daycare program. By late 2026, average daily fees in licensed daycares is to be $10 per child.

But starting in May, parents are to begin getting “rebates” on their daycare costs. More cheques in the mail, one presumes. Would it shock anyone if daycare were one day free?

The NDP in Ontario are pitching a provincial dental care plan. One of its aims is to provide basic dental care, at no cost, to those who can least afford it — like retired seniors with no benefits or those on social assistance.

The principle is sound, of course. (Is the state not there to help the poorest of the poor? And having good teeth avoids a host of problems, and public expense, later.) And — is it not the mood we’re in? — it’s free.

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The city of Ottawa, meanwhile, is discussing the idea of broadening free transit. So the days of taking a free bus to a free dental appointment, then spending the “free” $330 government rebate on buck-a-beer or Lord-knows-what, may be very nearly upon us.

Some of you will recall the summer of 2020 (the pandemic’s “pioneer days”) when the federal government decided to send $300 to roughly 6.7 million Canadians drawing Old Age Security. Why? Well, in the spirit of “life is hard, then you die,” our older ones needed a boost.

In a well-pensioned city like Ottawa, many seniors admitted they didn’t need the money and started campaigns to direct the 300 bucks to a worthy charity. It was a lovely redirection of funds, but evades the question of what the government was doing in the first place.

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(One of my newsroom pals, by the way, reports he and his wife are directing their combined $490 sticker rebate to those working on the ground in Ukraine. Bless them; may others follow.)

But back to Ontario.

Are we not living at a time when nurses are working to the point of collapse, when important surgeries are backed up to frightening levels, when the long-term care sector is desperate for more workers, better working conditions, more and better beds — the list goes on and on — and we’re giving $1.1 billion BACK to a group that, largely, does not need it?

(And, imagine, the Ontario election campaign hasn’t even started.)

Dear governments: Be a grown-up, provide good public service, tax people accordingly. Don’t be a weirdo on the corner, handing out free candy you stole in the first place.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email

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