There are two Canadas: one, the open Canada, where people work, grumble about government waste, and pay their taxes. And two, the hidden Canada, where people work, grumble about government waste, and cheat, by paying little or no taxes at all. The second Canada is growing every year; this year, the cheats - or 'tax avoiders' - are getting away with an estimated C$100 billion ($627 billion), or more. And they claim to have the moral ammunition. Why pay taxes to a government that treats their money with such disregard? 'Never in our 15 years have so many calls come into our offices from Canadians frustrated with having to file their taxes this year,' says John Williamson, head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. One of the hallmarks of a democratic system is 'no taxation without representation'. But citizens are learning that taxation even with representation is no bargain. First and foremost are the daily headlines about how the ruling Liberal government has, in recent years, squandered more than C$100 million of the public purse in the Adscam scandal - passing money to friendly advertising agencies, and having much of it channelled back into party coffers. Some of the tax money even went to a political party that wants to break up Canada. And there is the notorious Firearms Registry, a government data centre for guns. It started out as a humble C$2 million agency. So far, it has cost 500 times that - and it is still not finished. Taxpayers are so mad, the joke is, that accountants on the project are seeking help in the Witness Protection Programme. Finally, there is the revelation that Canadian companies are collectively hiding more than C$88 billion in profits in foreign tax havens. 'The sheer contempt with which tax dollars have been treated makes it easy to understand why [citizens do not want to contribute],' said Mr Williamson. In other words, if governments and corporations are exploiting the system for billions, why shouldn't I, the average citizen, shave a few hundred dollars from my tax obligation? Who will notice? And who, in this venal, tax-dodging system, will judge me? Tax-dodgers are, for the most part, treated leniently. Both Canada and the US prosecute only a tiny percentage. Under Ottawa's voluntary disclosure programme, 5,067 citizens came forward last year to pay C$288 million in back taxes, the highest total ever. They did not get so much as a slap on the wrist. Maybe the authorities realise that cracking down on cheaters would be an exercise in hypocrisy.