|Only 50 miles from Canada, Whitefish has a massive Canadian presence from which Montanans can learn many lessons about sky-high taxes and nationalized health care.|
Montana Moments: The Canadian Connection
By: George Noga – July 15, 2018
Whitefish is 50 miles south of Canada and a mere 4 hour drive from Calgary and its 1.3 million people; altogether, 2 million Canadians live within an easy drive. Given the profuse attractions of Whitefish and Glacier National Park, the massive Canadian presence during summers is no surprise. Alberta’s energy economy and the favorable exchange rate (until recently) bring in Canadian hordes flush with petrodollars.
Canadians also are attracted by the nightlife and incredibly cheap prices vis-a-vis Canada. They come for weekends, vacations and endless holidays; they even come for their weddings which, due to rock-bottom prices, can cost up to 50% less than home. Mainly however, they come to party because of the absurdly cheap booze. They party so frenetically that in the argot of Whitefish, drunkencanadian is one word.
Cocktails in Whitefish are one-third the price and twice the size of those north of the border due to Canada’s sky-high alcohol taxes. A scotch costs $2.75 and beer $1.00. During happy hour, our tab once was $32.00 for 27 drinks! Moreover, some watering holes accept Canadian loonies at par which makes cocktails ridiculously cheap. Before leaving Montana, they pack as much food and potables as allowed into their SUVs to beat the oppressively high Canadian prices and value added taxes.
Not all Canadians come for cheap booze; many come for medical care. There are long waits for procedures in Canada while Montana offers same day service. They are so desperate, they pay out-of-pocket at great sacrifice. I have heard many heart wrenching stories about Canada’s system and most of my Canadian interlocutors passionately forewarn me against Canadian style socialized medicine for the USA.
The median wait time between referral and treatment in Canada is over 21 weeks, 42 weeks in some provinces and a staggering 4 years in extreme cases. The wait for a CAT scan is 11 weeks and increasing – while Montana has no waiting whatsoever. Over 1 million Canadians (3% of the population) are in line. The long waits are not just inconvenient; they often transform potentially reversible conditions into chronic or permanent disabilities. Free medical care is not much good if you can’t get it.
While in Montana, I make it a point to ask our northern visitors how satisfied they are with Canadian healthcare. Out of the scores I have thus queried, only two said they were satisfied. The first said he liked the care in Canada but came to Montana whenever the wait times were problematic. The second defended the Canadian system by asserting is was very good at triage, i.e. if you were mired on a long wait list and your conditioned deteriorated, they would move you up on the list.
So, what can we learn from the Canadian connection? First, Canada has a high cost of living due to confiscatory taxation. The federal income tax rate is 29%; provincial income tax rates are 15%-20%; health care is 6% and a 13% VAT is embedded in all purchases. If you are keeping score, the total is 64% to 68%!
Second, Canada is a nanny state that doesn’t want its children, err citizens drinking and imposes alcohol taxes that make cocktails 600% more costly than in Montana. That shouldn’t be unexpected from a country whose founding documents tout “peace, order and good government” instead of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Finally, we learn much about the disaster that is Canada’s national healthcare. When anything is in great demand, it must be rationed via either time or cost; that’s an immutable economic law. Since healthcare is free, it can’t be rationed via cost; that leaves time. Bingo! How comforting it must be for Canadians to know that if their condition seriously deteriorates, they may be moved above the other 1 million poor, desperate souls waiting in line for treatment that is instantly available in Montana.
The next post is TBD