It’s been difficult to avoid catching wind of the latest scandal involving the Canadian Senate. This time four Senators are under investigation for the improper use of Senate allowances: Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Herb for improperly claiming living expenses totaling close to $200,000 and Pamela Wallin for more than $300,000 in claimed travel expenses. It’s safe to say these types of controversies aren’t rare; this is just one of the countless poor uses of taxpayer money we’re guaranteed to hear about in our lifetimes.
As university students, the time where scandals like these are easy to ignore is quickly coming to an end. We’re future tax-payers. We’re the group that will be depended upon to provide the lion’s share of the government’s tax revenue. When politicians are frivolous with tax dollars, we’re the group that will have to bear the brunt.
It’s easy to feel apathetic when there’s a perception of not having a horse in the race. Most of us have been full-time students our whole lives, working only on a part-time or temporary basis for not much more than minimum wage. Consequently, earning an insufficient amount to be required to pay income taxes or earning just enough as to only be required to pay taxes on a small portion of our earnings. This serves as a stark contrast to several years from now where a third or more of our earnings will go towards paying taxes.
When a person has the ability to look at their tax summaries at the end of the year and think to themselves what else they could’ve done with that money—bought a car, gone on a lavish vacation, put aside an entire university fund for future or current children—a spark is created in their head which leads to demanding more from the public officials entrusted with making good use of taxpayers’ dollars. Perhaps too, the infrequency in which public officials succeed in making good use of taxpayers’ dollars leads to the cynicism expressed by many regarding the subject.
The poor participation rate of Canadians aged 18-24 in the 2011 Federal General Election is no surprise then—nor is the positive relationship between age and income and the likelihood of voting. As scandals like these arise in the future—after we’ve long since graduated and have become working professionals—we’ll be compelled in the same way working professionals of today are to pay closer attention to how our money is being spent. As we will be reminded every single year while doing our taxes, that it is our money that is being wasted.