Great Ideas, Part 2: a new tax . . . The Pontiac Arts Tax!

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Taxes aren’t all bad. Something that provides us health care, schools
and universities, pensions, streets and roads, bridges, water, sewage treatment, police and fire protection, garbage pickup, detectives and crime prevention,

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Taxes aren’t all bad. Something that provides us health care, schools
and universities, pensions, streets and roads, bridges, water, sewage treatment, police and fire protection, garbage pickup, detectives and crime prevention,
airports, food inspectors, guards at the border, and our nation’s military – all to merely start the list – can’t be entirely bad, can it?
Sure, there’s also waste and graft, feather-bedding, empire-building and plain extravagance, but these are not limited to tax dollars. Everyone would agree taxes need careful accounting and audits. Each tax needs regular review
and . . . you get the picture. No free-for-alls.
We all, most of us, agree that health and education taxation is a “good tax”, even if it could be improved, streamlined, and more intelligently applied. 
I have another “good tax” to propose, and one that is even morally better than a government-imposed tax – “better” because it’s a tax we apply to ourselves. What could be more democratic than
self-taxing?
Self-taxation is not new: when we buy lottery
tickets, donate to cancer and other fund-raisers,
contribute to improvement campaigns and so on, we are taxing ourselves. This one’s morally improved, for several reasons.
There is a special
purpose, first, for this new tax. This is an arts tax, and its goal is to increase the art in our community and our surroundings, both public and private. Its goal is to favour local culture and the arts and to increase the
viability of the artistic
vocation – so that more artists are attracted here
to our communities,
contributing their creativity, keen eyes, energies, and abilities to making our lives and our environment more pleasing, stimulating, and innovative – as artists have always done for their
communities. Their creativity and drive, not to
mention their actual
creations, benefit everyone when the artists are involved. This new tax will improve our surroundings, aid in our community’s maturation, and assist a sizeable number of citizens in employment.
It will stimulate another economic sector, too –
cultural tourism, as well as the professional presentation and sale of artwork. There will be more galleries and studios, a flourishing art school, museums, collecting, tours, exchanges with other regions, and the whole substrata of art reviews and colloques. As they do in Montreal, tourists will come to see our magical transformation of the Pontiac and not merely to motor through, with hardly a glance at our region’s natural beauties.
The Pontiac Arts Tax is this: each household in the Pontiac, as best they can manage, undertakes to buy an original piece of art by a Pontiac artist – every year. Visual arts, a book, music, a concert, that’s it. That’s the tax, simple.
We can put these art works up and beautify our surroundings, stimulate our own minds, spirits and hearts, and our own creative juices; we can give the art as gifts or as bequests to local museums, schools, and public services. It plugs us into a shared consciousness – this is what art does for us – and it makes us proud of our region. We will no longer cry about “the
poorest MRC, etc, etc.”  We will surround ourselves with creativity, Pontiac
creativity. Yes, by a tax.