Thursday, February 16, 2017

Toronto, Canada

Some candies I picked up at the dollar store--I like the Smarties, which are Canada's version of M&Ms
8am in Canada -- beautiful

I just arrived in Toronto, Canada.  My airport experience was smooth and pleasant in Canada, but not so in my own hometown of San Jose, California.  Funny how that works--the people to whom we pay taxes don't seem to care as much about us as the ones who treat us as guests.

Toronto is so diverse, I cannot tell where people are from, unless I see obvious clues, like being light-skinned, African, and wearing a headscarf (i.e., of Somali descent). In my own family, my male cousins are married to women from Guyana; Trinidad and Tobago; and Pakistan by way of Bahrain.  My female cousin, the youngest one, is dating a Filipino.  I once said, "If you want to be happy, marry a Filipino/Filipina."  I should probably expand my folk wisdom to anyone raised in Malay culture who has a strong work ethic.  In any case, my uncle and aunt--both born in Iran--love Canada.

They particularly like Canada's healthcare system.  With a federal income tax of about 40% and a 13% sales tax (5% is GST/HST and 8% provincial), they can go to the hospital and never receive a bill to pay.  In California, the upper income tax rates after combining federal and state are around 35%, and the sales taxes are around 9%; however, after numerous deductions, such as mortgage interest, very few people in the upper income brackets actually pay listed tax rates.  A single person making around 100,000 USD in California would probably pay around 28% to 32% federal and state income tax--not including property or sales taxes.  If the difference in income taxes is about 10%, one has to wonder why American healthcare is so inefficient.  In Canada, employees do not have any deductions from their paycheck for non-dental healthcare expenses.

Certainly, Canada's much smaller population and oil and timber wealth play major roles in being able to provide better social welfare benefits, but the key takeaway is that Canadians don't mind paying high taxes because they receive clear and tangible benefits. Meanwhile, I just spent weeks attempting to resolve a hospital bill around 1,000 USD (reduced from around 2,000 USD because I had insurance). Most of my bill was related to blood tests, and I received a separate bill from the doctor who saw me for about 10 minutes. I also received another bill from the same doctor later--apparently, the original bill didn't include all the fees. I managed to get it all resolved, but I'm a single person in between jobs who had the time to go in person to my health provider's customer care office multiple times.  (Oh, the "Pay Now" button on Covered California's website?  It's only a one-time use to get into the system--you can't use it to pay the premium once you've signed up, which must be paid through the third party health care provider's own website. And yes, it still says "Pay Now" even after you've signed up and can't use it anymore. Your credit card is charged 1 dollar and then deducted 1 dollar, and unless you're vigilant, you may think you've paid the monthly premium only to realize you haven't.  Good thing I visited the health care provider's office again to be sure, because what else would I be doing with my time that's more fun than resolving issues with a non-intuitive website?)

Before coming to Canada, I went through my own government's transportation check.  I always opt out of the futuristic-looking body scanner experience, which elicits apathy at best and scorn at worst.  While the American TSA located an agent to pat me down, my luggage was abandoned at the end of the conveyor belt for five minutes, and I was then groped in my groin area. (They point out it's the back part of their hands they're using before the inspection, though I'm not sure why the obvious-shaped bulge isn't a go-around area.)  As an American citizen, I get to pay taxes for inefficient healthcare, totally unnecessary risk of luggage theft, AND an R-rated pat-down?  Why in God's name would anyone want to move north? 

1 comment:

ohms said...

Hey! Welcome to Canada! Some great observations. I think that if you live in Ontario your total tax rate (incomes / sales / property) is roughly the same as most of California. Property taxes in San Fran for example, are 30% higher than the City of Toronto.