Our biggest challenge at the CTF is less about high taxes, government waste and unaccountable government as it is apathy: to build the idea that – like special interests – taxpayers need to make their voices heard.
If just 10% of the country’s 21-million tax filers gave a small donation to a taxpayer advocacy group and took 15 minutes a year to engage in public policy advocacy, both our household budgets and country would look very different than they do.
Governments take half of our incomes each year because we let them. We can either complain about it, or we can do something about it. Here are seven simple ways to contribute to making our voices heard.
Challenge yourself and other taxpayers to undertake just one activity each year that stands up for taxpayers and challenges big government to back off. It’s time for taxpayers to put some squeak in the wheel.
- Requests for input
- Writing a politician
- Write a letter to the editor
- Social Networking sites
Requests for Input
In 2006 then CTF-federal director John Williamson appeared before the House of Commons Finance Committee to present pre-budget recommendations. Chief among them was to reduce spending. One of the Committee’s members, MP Dean Del Mastro, was shocked. He could not believe what he was hearing. By Mr. Del Mastro’s tally, more than $600-billion of spending requests had been presented his committee. This was the first presentation of hundreds he had heard that actually requested government to spend and tax less.
Each year, the various levels of government put out surveys, requests for input, and even invitations to make presentations. Seldom do taxpayers take advantage of these opportunities. Even though taxpayers outnumber special interests, special interests dwarf taxpayers when it comes to putting forward their demands.
Take opportunities that are presented to you as a taxpayer and create some of your own. Find out when city council meets and ask how to make a presentation. Go to your provincial government’s website and find out what requests are posted for public input. Even filling out a ten minute online survey or one sent in the mail makes a difference.
Write a civic, provincial or federal politician
Writing letters or emails remains the best proactive way to get involved. Politicians understand that a single letter represents the views of several of their constituents. Here are some points to consider when writing a letter:
- Keep it short. Get to the point immediately and try to keep it to one page in length.
- Be polite. You may disagree on the issue, but don’t be abusive.
- Make your letter personal. Use a personal example that supports your concern.
- Write on one issue. Don’t ramble on and write a long list of gripes and complaints.
- Put your name and address on the letter.
- Ask what your representative will do about your concern. If they send a vague reply, send another letter asking specifically where they stand on the issue.
- Show respect for the leader’s position. It is proper to address the Prime Minister as "The Rt. Honourable" and start the letter with "Dear Prime Minister"; cabinet ministers and premiers should be addressed as "The Honourable" and start their letters with "Dear Madame or Mr. Minister." MLAs or MPs should be addressed as "Mr./Mrs./Ms. surname (MLA or MP).
- Send a thank-you letter should the MLA or MP take a taxpayer-friendly position. Politicians need to be rewarded for doing the right things.
Addresses for MPs and MLAs can be found through links on our reference page. In addition, you can find out who your MP is, as well as his or her contact info, by clicking here and entering your postal code. The contact info for legislators is also available in the blue pages of your phone book or by calling 411.
Feel free to cc a copy of your letter to the CTF, and especially any response you may get back. CTF directors may wish to follow-up themselves.
Writing letters to a publication or website
Letters-to-the-editor are one of the most widely read sections of any newspaper. Issues of taxation, government waste and accountability have a good chance at being published. This means your letter could send a message to thousands of people. Here are a few points to consider:
- Find specifics of who to address it to. Usually there is a specific contact person or department to send letters.
- Keep it short. Stay within the word limit given by the publication. They won’t edit it for you.
- The article should be timely. Try to tie it in with a current news story.
- Don’t be discouraged if your letter isn’t published. Publications receive a lot of letters, so do try again.
- Put your name, address and phone number on your letter. Publications will not print anonymous letters.
- Stick to one subject and present arguments to support your point. Use quotes and facts/figures to support your arguments.
Blogging is a great way to get your views out. A blog -- short for “web log” -- is a website that features commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics, videos and links. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. Visitors to blog sites can comment on postings.
CTF spokespeople contribute to a blog on this website. You can easily start your own and make regular entries. Sites such as Blogger.com and WordPress.com are popular web-hosting sites. All are user-friendly and provided at no cost. Some even give opportunities to make money off your blog.
Social Networking Sites
Upset about the latest transit tax? You can do something about it by starting a group page on Facebook. Anyone can add their name to your group. Often even the very existence of such groups, as well as their membership numbers, earns wider news coverage. The group also provides a forum for people of like mind to discuss the issue and strategize.
Twitter is another great way to keep your friends and followers updated on current issues and news stories. Twitter members can make posts no longer than 140 characters and other users can follow your updates. It’s a great way to publicize campaigns and events and to motivate others to get involved. Our twitter page is www.twitter.com/taxpayerdotcom.
YouTube allows users to upload videos and overlaps both the blogging and social networking categories. Other users can subscribe to a certain user’s entries, leave comments on videos, rate videos, or send private messages to other users.
YouTube has become a means for video blogging, whereby people comment on issues of concern to them. This is as simple as looking into a web cam, hitting “record” and speaking. Such videos can be a stand-alone commentary or function as a response to another video previously posted.
Our YouTube page is www.youtube.com/taxpayerdotcom.