Skabar? Bueller? Anyone...?

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It’s not a scientific survey, but still: Preliminary results from our online poll indicate 53% of respondents would support the province spending $10 or more per resident on animal welfare enforcement. Given a population of 900k-plus, 53% at $10 or more equals a minimum of about $5-million the province should be spending protecting animals.

Like I said, not a scientific poll. But even if the positives are off by 80%, you still have a million bucks – 10-times what the SPCA asked for (and were refused) from the NDP.

It was more than a little disheartening to find 47% of respondents share Dexter’s attitude to safeguarding animals: they want no money spent protecting animals, not even opting for the $1 a year option they were presented.

Here’s the thing, though. The poll question can be read to imply these would be additional tax dollars. A huge number of citizens think they already pay enough taxes, and many may think significant money should be spent on animal welfare out of existing tax revenues. In other words, they may have been balking at supporting a tax hike, however small, not at spending money to help critters.

I wrote that poll question, and I wrote it that way on purpose because I wanted the result to be a strong statement. It’s easy for people to say, yes, do the right thing, as long as the money isn’t additional spending. If the question had said “more money but without raising taxes” it would have been easier for people to support. But even with the tougher question the poll posed, more than half of respondents said do the right thing, despite no promise those tax dollars would come out of existing reserves.

The result is an unequivocal endorsement by more than half of respondents for spending vastly more money than this government has committed.

(The truth is, I’m sympathetic to both perspectives: I’d love to see far more of our tax dollars spent on animal welfare AND I don’t think taxes should be raised. In fact, I think taxes should go down and animal protection should still be a much bigger priority within that reduced budget.)

Mr. Skabar hasn’t gotten back to me. I left two phone messages, one with a person and one with a machine. I’ll be sure to email a link for this post to his office.

What can we conclude? Well, the real sticklers will say nothing, and they’re right. We can’t CONCLUDE anything. But there are certainly grounds for thinking the NDP may be way off the mark in terms of public sentiment when it comes to supporting the SPCA. Even if our little poll drastically exaggerates public interest in spending tax dollars to protect animals, the government drastically underestimates public interest with its pitiful $3,000 contribution.

Forget the $100k the SPCA asked for. Ten times that should just be the starting point.

UPDATE: Mr. Skabar sent me an email just now. He expressed confidence "this concern will be resolved shortly."

"Ensuring inspections take place and pets are properly looked after is important, and will continue to take place," he said.

He pointed out a flaw in my logic: not every Nova Scotian is a taxpayer, which was my assumption when arriving at dollar figures the government should allocate. Skabar pointed out in his household of four people only one is a wage earner, so let's work with that:

We'll assume 225,000 taxpayers in the province (actual number is likely much higher), which is about a quarter of the populace. As the poll currently stands - and I'll grant it has shifted in favour of more money for animals since my post this morning - 22% say they'd spend $100 a year and 37% say $10 a year. If we do the calculation, what does that work out to...?

Well, 49,500 taxpayers would be willing to spend $100 each, and 83,250 would be willing to spend $10 - a total commitment of $5.78 million, which exceeds the previous amount I assumed ($5 million), and is based on a conservative guess of the percentage of Nova Scotians who pay taxes.

Gotta love math.

 

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  • D. Scott
    February 21, 2013 - 20:03

    It seems like this is a fairly straightforward problem to solve. A majority of people are happy to provide additional support to the SPCA for animal welfare enforcement. All they have to do is go through with it. I have to agree this is a worthwhile cause. It would be nice if the government could afford to do more, Unluckily, they are on track to spend several hundred million more then they are bringing in already. It would be some consolation, if this were a case of an exceptionally poor government being elected or a temporary downturn in revenues. The part that I find disheartening is that the electorate demands their officials be spendthrifts. The average voter wants more hospitals, schools, and services then they can afford to pay for. And I have noticed, you are normally quite willing to champion their cause. The average voter demands that jobs that no longer actually create wealth be subsidized through taxation. Do I think the Irving's were the best use of $300 million? Not a chance but members of the steel workers, electrical worders and whatever other trade and professional unions are involved disagree with me. The voters of Nova Scotia chose to put the province in the position where it literally can't afford to provide financial support to animal welfare. Over and over again, the politician who makes promises we can't afford is elected.