I’m tired of being called a “taxpayer.’’ Use of this term ramped up this past week as campaign coverage has turned to the downturn in the economy. The thing about being called “taxpayers” is that it suggests that the money we pay to the state is the most meaningful contribution we make to Canadian life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, money matters, a lot—our access to it greatly influences our access to quality food, clothing, shelter, services and education and it also impacts our engagement with culture and politics. But, I can’t shake the feeling that us being called taxpayers is an extension of a growing practice in politics called “political marketing” whereby political parties treat the electorate like consumers. The result is that political parties use sophisticated marketing strategies on an electorate who don’t know how the strategies works or how to resist them. We keep hearing that declines in voter turn are about public apathy. But, in this era of political marketing low voter turnout might just reflect marketing strategies that encourage us to disengage from politic processes instead of connect to them.
So, when politicians call us taxpayers it’s a distraction; it can turn our attention away from the many meaningful and quiet ways that we shape Canada through our participation in our communities, organized sports, families, shelters, workplaces, schools, libraries and more. It can turn our attention away from expecting politicians to articulate how they plan to help us increase and improve the meaningful contributions we make to Canadian life everyday. This isn’t just about money. We aren’t just taxpayers.