Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Taxes Are What We Pay for Civilized Society Department: Who's Going to Benefit from Guy Laliberté's Space Trip?

Lots of stuff this morning on Guy Laliberté blasting off in a Soyuz rocket from the Russian space base in Kazkistan headed for the International Space Station. The high-flying founder of the Cirque de Soleil paid a reported $35 million for the privilege which he is touting also as a major event whose aim is to publicize the need for safe drinking water around the world.

His One Drop foundation is organizing a day long, worldwide poetry reading/media hullabaloo on October 9. The foundation’s website says that his “mission in space is dedicated to making an impact on how water, our most precious resource, is protected and shared. And he will be applying tools he has used so well for most of his life to bring about change: arts and culture."

Reportedly Laliberté’s five children and troops of aides from the Cirque were on hand to see the blastoff, and millions are expected to follow his escapade. Just how much all this is costing in anyone’s guess.

But obviously Laliberté has money to burn. He also is a high stakes poker player, and is said to have lost something like $17 million last year playing on-line poker. What he won or lost in Las Vegas or elsewhere is way up there too, although casinos apparently are more tight-lipped than on-line poker sites.

I’d like to know how much income tax Laliberté pays and where he pays it, because with that much to throw around, he should be able to help us all out. As a non-profit, One Drop likely operates as a tax-hedge too. Is it or the man himself paying for this adventure? Could make a big difference to Revenue Canada or wherever else Laliberté is supposed to pay taxes.

And what exactly will the outcome be for this campaign? Supposedly One Drop raises “awareness of water-related issues by entertaining and educating (It) works side by side with local partners to improve living conditions of disadvantaged communities through access and responsible use of natural resources, especially water,” according to its website. But so far the only projects listed are a few in Honduras and a multi-media show which is scheduled to travel, but which so far is only in Montreal.

Compare that with the serious health care and education projects sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Laliberté’s endeavors seem more acrobatics than accomplishment. I'd feel better about giving tax breaks to the former than the latter.

1 comment:

lagatta à montréal said...

I've been fuming about this "space tourism" for some time - this morning heard something on CBC radio news about the "One Drop" foundation having spent only $1m - pocket change for him.

I'm also very angry about the very concept of space tourism. Space travel is highly polluting and consumes vast amounts of material resources and technical expertise that could well be devoted to solving problems on Earth. There is a strong case to be made for pure scientific research (though we can't ignore the military sides of the history of the space race and space travel), but these justifications do not apply in the case of launching a tourist without scientific and technical qualifications.

The Gates Foundation has a lot of visible impact, including at libraries right here in Montréal.