Saturday, June 1, 2013


Life is a balance sheet.  With every decision, we  end up in the black or in the red.  Of course, we aim for the black, weighing the pros and the cons in concert with the information we have at the time, and hope for the best.   Our decisions, however, exend way beyond ordinary financial matters, like buying a house, or a car, or accepting or rejecting a position.

Everything has a price.  We pay up, whether we realize we are paying or not, and in currency much more valuable than money.   How would I reconcile the needs of my children with my need for a career, for example?  I decided to resign my position to stay home with my children full-time for a few years;  later, I returned to work only part-time.     Today, I look at my three capable adults, and at my career path, and I can say, Okay, I’m in the black.  When I decided to return to work full-time, the decision affected our younger son, who was four at the time, the most.  Today, I look at him, and think, Okay, I’m in the black.  (Hopefully, he feels the same way!!)  When the nature of a new position breached the scope of what I perceived as my expertise, and I worried about ending up in the red,  I rejected an extension of a secondment in favour of a return to my school division.  I’m still in the black.

The ink is red on some of my other balance sheets, though.  I don’t compost or plant a large garden, and I know that puts me in the red.  I’ve had frank discussions with people that have left me in the red.  Who knows what the balance sheet shows today with respect to community involvement?  The volunteer positions that leeched so many hours when the children were still at home have become obsolete, now that they are gone.  Add to that scaling back my musical obligations, and I’m probably not doing my share.

Living in Canada has its price, too.  Taxes.   As my husband and I travel, both at home and abroad, non-Canadians we meet often ask us how we feel about what they see as the tax burden in Canada.  People are surprised at our response, I think.  You see, we have always perceived taxes as a responsibility rather than a burden.  Let’s be clear—we don’t go out of our way to pay as much tax as possible.  Yet we know that, beyond providing for the health care we enjoy, the education system, employment insurance, and the infrastructure of our country,  taxes enable us to fulfill our responsibility to our fellow citizens who struggle, for whatever reason.  Hardly ever do we find people heartily endorsing that position.

Until the other day.  Listening to CBC’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, on the way to work, I heard one of her guests articulate the view with the simplicity and eloquence that could make anyone wonder how any other perspective could make sense.  First, some background on the report.  Tremonti was discussing online home rental sites like Airbnb, that provide accommodation outside the scope of regulation and the tax bureau.  Tremonti calls it, "the law clash[ing] with the ‘share economy.’"  Her guests included Alan Ganev, an apartment owner who rents accommodations to travelers online, and Rob Ross, co-owner of La Loggia, a bed and breakfast in Montréal that operates within established regulation and tax systems.  This second interview is the jewel.

My sense is that Tremonti would have expected Ross to express dismay, at the very least, that Ganev and others are operating without being sanctioned.  But that’s not what happened.  In fact, Ross doesn’t feel threatened at all.  He and his partner have an established clientele, upscale, by his own admission, that chooses his establishment for a worry-free vacation.  He goes on to say that, as wealthy people become even wealthier,  people left stagnating in the middle will find ways to access the same opportunities as the rich. 

Even more surprising to some, Ross see taxes as his responsibility. "We live in an incredible social democracy," he says, "and, for that to continue, we all have to pay for it in a certain way, if we want our chldren and our nieces and nephews to inherit this kind of social democracy. . . . We pay a huge amount of taxes . . . we pay $5 000 to the government every year for each room, essentially . . . We’re happy to remit those taxes because it helps to contribute to the social democracy we have in the province, things like education, daycare, all those good things."  Wow.  Such conviction expressed in a calm, reasoned, voice.

To me, Ross is an example of living from the point of view of abundance (cf the May 1 post).   Airbnb is no threat to him.  No need to worry—both his establishment and Airbnb can share the market.  Targeting different clienteles and offering different levels of service and security, each business has a niche.  Furthermore, Ross is happy to pay his taxes, knowing that he is doing his part to preserve the society he cherishes for future generations.  Whether others are doing the same doesn’t matter.  He will have followed his principles.

 What an inspiration.  Ross is happy to pay the price; he knows he is in the black, and others coming after him will be too, because of his actions. 

The entire interview is well worth your time.  Check out  The Current: Airbnb: When the law clashes with the 'share economy'"

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