By Shirley Tillotson
Party politics made the privacy of the prime minister’s income tax return a sensitive topic in mid-July 1931. On July 16, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett stood up in parliament and declared that the income tax measures proposed in his budget would not benefit him personally, as his Liberal opponents had alleged. If that were so, he bridled ostentatiously, he would be unworthy to occupy his office.
It seemed that Canadians would have to take his word for that. Unlike U.S. Presidents today, Prime Ministers then did not disclose their income tax returns. The federal taxman would never tell creditors or fundraisers or mooching relatives how a tax filer was really fixed. And no one would have a chance to see if people who were living large were contributing little.
And yet Bennett’s critics had some kind of information about his tax bill, and they also had a strangely precise count of how many other wealthy Canadians – sixty – would supposedly benefit from the “millionaire’s budget.” Where did they get these numbers, if tax returns were not public records? Continue reading