Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

I'm voting with Stoffer for tax-deductible golf

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Just when you are starting to lose hope for the future, just when you think federal politicians have completely lost touch with the needs of the average Canadian, along comes someone like NDP MP Peter Stoffer.

I'm guessing you have never heard of Peter Stoffer before. Well, neither had I -- at least not until the other day when I read a shocking Postmedia News story about his heroic crusade and saw him being interviewed live on CBC TV as I lay on the couch trying to retrieve my remote control from the floor using only Jedi mind-control powers.

What you need to know here is that Stoffer is the driving force behind the All Party Golf Caucus, a group of MPs that is lobbying the federal government to bring back tax writeoffs for golf-course green fees that were scrapped back in 1972.

Is that an idea worth teeing up, or what? The truth is, some heartless politicians are prepared to sit on their duffs and allow golfers to continue footing the bill for their favourite pastime, but, fortunately, the All Party Golf Caucus is not just "some" politicians.

No, these plucky MPs are saying enough is enough and riding to the rescue of well-off Canadians who enjoy spending their leisure time getting infected with poison ivy and wearing outrageous clothing that is visible from outer space.

According to a story I am holding in my hands, the caucus was created last year to persuade the government that golf games are a valid business expense and therefore deserving of a 50 per cent tax deduction.

Stoffer argues it's not fair that businesses can write off 50 per cent of things like NHL tickets and concerts, but can't claim deductions for playing 18 holes on the links. "At a hockey game, it's noisy, and you're not really talking to each other," he told Postmedia News. "On the golf course, it's 'Nice shot, buddy. What about that contract we were talking about?' "

I realize, on the surface, what with the global economy circling the commode and senior citizens fearing for their pensions, this may seem like a stupid idea. But, if we probe deeper, and give this proposal the sort of careful consideration it truly deserves, we realize it's even dumber than we thought in the first place.

Just kidding. As a golfer, I understand the unfairness in forcing me to pay my own green fees. For years, I wrongly assumed that, on the links, I was just having fun, walloping my balls into the woods, then trying to convince the cart girl I was hip for a middle-aged guy, when in fact, what I was really doing was engaging in a legitimate, tax-deductible business-related activity.

For example, on the course, my foursome spends a great deal of time discussing business and making work-related comments, such as: "This sure beats being at work, eh?" Or: "Wonder what those chumps back at work are doing right now?"

So I am praying the All Party Golf Caucus drives this tax break straight down the middle of the fairway. I hope they don't stop at golf when other activities deserve a tax break, too. Test-driving luxury automobiles, yachting and polo-pony grooming are only a few that spring to mind.

Sadly, it seems Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has already hit this idea into the bunker once, on the grounds -- get ready for a shock -- golf is more about pleasure than business. But I want Peter Stoffer and his golf caucus to know I am playing right behind them. If there's any way I can help, I'll be with my buddies at the bowling alley.

We're having a business meeting.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2012 A2

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