Thursday, May 02, 2013

Photo radar and taxes and the power of political myths

It’s interesting the way political orthodoxy emerges, without much real evidence.
Take two examples - photo radar and irrational tax phobia.
Photo radar, it was clear during the leaders’ debate, is seen as political poison. Asked about reinstating it, all four leaders said  no.
The evidence from around the world is conclusive - photo radar reduces crashes and health care costs and saves lives. In the six years that B.C. had photo radar, road deaths averaged 408 annually. In the previous six years, an average 534 people died on the roads. That’s 126 families spared the death of a loved one each year. (You can read more stats here.)
And the politicians can’t claim they’re reflecting the will of the people. A 2007 poll for the Canada Safety Council found 75 per cent of British Columbians supported photo radar on the highways - and 90 per cent in school zones.
So why the fear about an evidence-based public policy move - one accepted in Alberta? Maybe the opponents are considered passionate enough that they’re not worth riling. Maybe the politicians have bought into a myth of public opposition.
The more dramatic and damaging myth is around taxes.
Somehow, politicians have reached an agreement that they have to pretend all taxes are bad. If they plan increases, they offer elaborate apologies.
But the public isn’t stupid. Government services cost money, and have to be paid for. If you want a hospital bed, or a road, or a school for your children, then taxes have to be collected.
Further, people have indicated they’re willing to pay more for better services from government, just as they are in any other area of their life. A B.C. poll several years ago found 60 per cent of residents would pay more in property taxes to improve services. 
And an April poll for the Roundtable of Community Social Services of BC found 53 per cent of British Columbians would pay higher taxes to ensure better services in their community.
There is an important qualifier there - more money in return for better services. Not for convention centre or fast ferry overruns, or endless re-orgs or government advertising.
Still, it’s odd that politicians have largely accepted the myth that citizens reject all taxation, and allowed it to shape their policies and the public debate.


Anonymous said...

Yes just listen to Michael Campbell and Michael Levy on NW tell everyone its a no go. We can't tax the wealthy , we can't tax big business , no more taxes they are bad, raise the fees that hurt the little guy first. The rest of the time we have Bill Good telling us how are we going to pay for the services, Gord Macdonald telling us we can't afford the NDP. Well how much has the increased ferry fares hurt Vancouver Island. No one visits anymore . Goods cost more. Now we need a NDPer with guts to say they will build a highway for the rest of BC not just the lower mainland. A highway from Powell River to Lillooet would save fuel and money for the rest of the Province.

scotty on Denman said...

It is not misconception on the part of politicians that makes them accept the myth of the tax bogeyman, it's a misconception they're told to propagate so's to excuse the policies pre-shaped to benefit Big Money and to make it look like they're doing the public will.

Tax Bad, Government a lie.
Crooked government misappropriating public taxes for the benefit of their insider buddies is a sin.

Bill said...

A very thoughtful, timely article and also two excellent comments. Thanks to all.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

On the other hand one may wish to consider photo radar as remote state control, something I could live without, but which fast is becoming an everyday part of our lives. Will not be long now before drones begin patrolling civilian air space. It will be argued such remote surveillance saves lives. The cost of saving those lives? Another nail in the coffin of Freedom.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...
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Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...
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Anonymous said...

As a professional driver and volunteer firefighter for almost 3 decades i will say as much as i hate govt interference in my life photo radar works , it did and does slow drivers down and i do think it has a positive effect just by virtue of making people think when behind the wheel .
The Bc Liberals made photo radar an election issue at the time when tehy should have said speeding is law breaking slow down instead they added more unsafe driving to allready dangerous highways and i have seen first hand the results many times and would support any ways to reduce the numbers of accidents .