Post budget: the other two solitudes

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It was a long a long day yesterday in the budget lock-up at the Conference Centre just off Parliament Hill. I filed reporting piecesafter 4PM (EST), and then stayed late to interview financial analysts for budget reactions.
The place was crammed during the lock-up as usual but the mood was jovial with, dare we say, clever repartee. In one instance, a radio reporter accidentally knocked over his coffee cup. Fortunately, the lidkept the spill to a minimum. An acquaintance quickly quipped: Hey Steve, you got your own budget leak there.
When the curfew ended at 4PM, the Centre emptied, but I stayed on to do phone interviews and write upthe budget reaction. Just before 6PM, the support staff came in toclean up and put away tables. The repartee was decidedly different: rougher, with many four-letter words and stories such as spending time on pogey and working on the sidefor cash.
Which brings me tothe several measures in the budget to control tax avoidance by investors. Of note was income-splitting based on capital gains and “RRSP strips.”
Like the journalists and support staff in the Conference Centre yesterday, there seems to be two different cultures in Canada. At the public level, where politicians and the media operate, there is a great deal of concern for helping the less fortunate and providing incentives to save, invest, work and be productive. But at the grass roots, many Canadians look for ways to exploit public programs for their own profit and pleasure. It sort of reminds me of the two solitudes Hugh MacLennan wrote about, except this one is not based on language but on human nature.

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