Elizabeth visited this past weekend. We hoped for some nice sister time while Graham was in Vancouver for a long stretch, but we were really lucky that his weekend was also pride weekend in Saskatoon. Now I love me some pride festivities, but not all pride parades are parties. Like Joe’s sign ‘This used to be a riot’, equality and acceptance haven’t reached all the earth’s corners (recall Budapest pride in 2009). I was worried that some of the conservatism and social justice non-savvy-ness I have encountered here so far might make Saskatoon pride more like Budapest than Toronto – but I was keen to go either way, either for fun or for fighting. How happy I am that it was fun!
Elizabeth and I were in the parade as hula hoop dancers. It was fantastic! Elizabeth had enough lead time to pack one of her many awesome celebrities rainbow-glitter costumes, and she was a real hit! Also very brave given she was fairly new as a hula hooper, but Elizabeth is outgoing and fun-loving so this was right up her alley. As a photogenic super star, there was a picture of her on the metro news site. Hooping-queen Karla brought her whole family along, 3 daughters and husband Jason. Ivy is a 7-year old hoop phenom who used two hoops in the parade and hooped while on her Mom’s shoulders. awesome! There was a photo of Ivy too, and Hula hooping was mentioned as a parade features. Ye-ha!!
This was the 20th anniversary of Saskatoon pride, and the parade set a record for participants. The fabulous sunny weather helped the turnout, even if it did give us a bit of a sunburn on our shoulders.
The parade ended in Victoria park with live music, free (delicious) cake, veggie tacos, and a beer garden. We met up with some of my Saskatoon buddies and also met lots of new people – it turns out hoops are a great conversation starter so I lent mine out to lots of folks to try. Hoop evangelism in action!
We unfortunately missed the backalley antics performance art show, but finished the evening at a dance club for a diva-disco-drag dance party. Fantastic! I did a lot of paddling this week so I was a bit tired and thought we would just stay for a little bit… but it was so fun we ended up shutting it down.
I have written before about fascism and intolerance in Europe (here, here, and here), but 2 weeks ago there was quite a startling reminder that it is not a benign movement. Some of the coverage borders on ‘terror porn’ I thought this report put the ‘one crazy guy’ concept within a larger context of anti-immigration and specifically anti-Islam.
Last year I learned I was being audited by Revenue Canada for 2009. Although there is a tax treaty between Canada and Sweden (whereby the taxes paid in one country can count towards the other), the good folks at Revenue Canada apparently didn’t trust my online tax filing without seeing all the documentation for themselves. I filed in good time before April 2010, but somehow did not get my audit notice until September 2010. At that point they wanted to have all the extra documentation by August. I scraped it all together and sent it in the first week of November. They say it takes up to 15 weeks for them to review a file submitted by mail, and there is no other way to do it. They also don’t want you to call them to see whether they received it or not. In the meantime, they send you notices of assessment with interest etc, which feels a bit stressful. When your tax assessment comes from a different country, RC wants to get the originals, but also a translation into English or French. This year I plan to keep meticulous care of my financial records, particularly since I will be moving to another country again in 2011 and those kind of things can go missing.
Taxes are similar in Canada and Sweden, although there seem to be more services for the money in Sweden. For example, in Sweden there is great healthcare, I get free Swedish lessons, the parks have fantastically maintained trails that are trackset for skiing in the winter, and they stock the cabins with wood for you to grill your marshmallows and hot dogs!
In contrast, US income taxes are really low, and social inequality concomitantly high. I recently read a neat article saying that this might be due to American beliefs about opportunity and social mobility:
Americans, then, are much more likely than the average citizen in our comparison countries to believe that individual characteristics determine success, wide gaps in income are acceptable, and the government should let them be. No wonder Americans tend to vote to cut taxes and services, tolerate unequal educational opportunity, and resist top-down solutions to inequality. They think inequality is good and that individuals will always get what they deserve.
Income inequality is a predictor and likely a cause of most social ills: poor health, unintended pregnancy, crime, etc. There is a great book on this topic written by UK epidemiologists Richard Wilkonson and Kate Picket. The book is (I think misleadingly) named ‘ The Spirit Level‘ and it is a fabulous, fact-packed, non-fiction read.
So I will happily pay my super high taxes in Sweden, and continue to enjoy my municipal composting, free Swedish lessons, pretty-good-considering snow removal and outstanding street cleaning, free public parks and ski trails, extremely low crime rate and high status of women and children. Yay sharing!