Susan Delacourt writes that, when Parliamentary reporters used to converge on Bob Rae to ask him how the issues of the day affected taxpayers, he used to correct them: “You mean citizens,” Rae would say.
It's interesting to track the use of the word taxpayer:
Google has a little gadget called ‘Ngram Viewer’ (it really needs a better name) which allows you to track the popularity of words over the past couple of centuries. You put selected words into the search engine and it tracks how often they’ve been used in books written since 1800 (all the books Google has archived online, at least).
It’s most useful for noting big trends in word usage. When you feed the word “taxpayer” into the Ngram gadget, it shows some fascinating peaks and valleys over the past 100 years. The graph moves steadily upward all through the first half of the 20th century, dips significantly in 1929 (the Great Depression), and then climbs again up to the 1960s. From then until the 1980s, the word seems to decline in common usage before taking another upward swing from the mid-1980s to the present.
Here’s an intriguing coincidence: The decline in the usage of “taxpayer” roughly matches the era when Trudeau’s father was in politics here in Canada, a time when politics worldwide was more preoccupied with social or identity issues. As politics turned more to economic questions in the 1980s, “taxpayer” started climbing back into fashion.
The website openparliament.ca lists the ten MP's who have used the word taxpayers most since 1994:
- Former Conservative minister James Moore: 313 uses of the word
- Treasury Board president Scott Brison: 312
- NDP MP Charlie Angus: 305
- Former Conservative MP Paul Calandra: 289
- Former Conservative MP Ken Epp: 266
- Former Reform/Canadian Alliance MP John Williams: 265
- Former Conservative minister/MP Monte Solberg: 245
- Conservative MP/former immigration and defence minister Jason Kenney: 242
- Conservative MP and former minister Pierre Poilievre: 236
- Former Liberal MP Keith Martin: 235
Remember Scott Brison and Keith Martin used to be Conservatives. How Charlie Angus wound up on the list is a bit of a mystery.
However, things seem to be shifting. Delacourt writes that, in a recent interview, Justin Trudeau told her,“The idea of ‘citizen’ involves both benefits and responsibilities, and I like that a bit better.”
Citizenship is a two way street. Not only do citizens receive, they give. It's a dynamic process that has more than one dimension.
Something Conservatives seem to have forgotten.