CTF in the News

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Step 10 centimetres too high for postie

Not rain, not sleet, not wind....but a 30 centimetre step, that's another matter.

Making matters worse, found this on ABCnews.com

ARG.

10 per cent pay raise for Alberta civil servants

This Edmonton Sun editorial makes a lot of hay about the proposed 30 per cent raise for Alberta Deputy Ministers, but what I found jaw dropping was that rank and file civil servants in Alberta are looking at 9.9 per cent raise over the next three years.

The last 3-year contract for provincial employees was 3-2-2. If you add in this next raise, civil servants will be taking an 18 per cent pay hike over six years. The proposed raises for DMs are a drop in the bucket compared to raises for the entire government.

"Why do it jack?"

Medicine Hat MP Monte Solberg live blogging from the Finance Committee meeting:

I am in the Finance Committee and just asked the Parliamentary Secretary John McKay why the Atlantic Accord was in the budget when the other federal provincial agreements like the Health Accord and the Equalization agreement had their own legislation. He answered that it was because those other agreements were signed in the fall whereas the Atlantic Accord wasn't signed until February so then it was better to have it in the Budget.

For reasons that just escape me members on all sides laughed at his answer. So the Parliamentary Secretary's position is that if the provinces sign an agreement with the feds between March and December then the agreement will get its own legislation. But if it's a January or February deal then it goes into the Budget. Who knew?

The NDP have such an interesting position on corporate tax relief. They want it removed from Bill C 43. But they are also okay with having the libs bring in the exact same tax relief through a ways and means motion. How strange.

I'm certain I'm wrong about this but this seems to be a completely useless exercise. In fact it will waste time, which the dippers and libs claim that they are fiercely opposed to. So why do it Jack?



The Grewal tapes...

Earlier this month, Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal accused the federal liberal party of offering him (and his wife) patronage style positions for their budget votes. Grewal secretly taped his conversation with high ranking liberal MPs and party insiders. Today Grewal released the tape recordings and transcripts . In addition, Grewal has handed the tapes over to the RCMP.

Listen to the tapes and decide for yourself if the contents warrant an RCMP investigation.

"Red serge" at Trudeau's wedding?

A watchful CTFer has noted that CBC footage of Justin Trudeau’s wedding shows RCMP officers in traditional “red serge” uniforms. Are our Mounties simply taxpayer-funded mascots for political elite social events?

We have a call in to the RCMP to find exactly what their policies are for loaning out national symbols to celebrities.

SK: Here we go again...

Saskpower is looking for a 5 per cent rate hike this winter. This is precisely what happens when the government strips a crown utility of a record high $169 million dividend (2003) to try to fill holes in a disastrous budget deficit. This rate hike announcement comes just days after Saskpower announced they were borrowing $150 million for "undetermined" capital expenditures.

Politics and economics don't mix. All the available literature says crown corporations are less efficient, less flexible, and under capitalized.

Crocus...this is ugly

The taxpayers of Manitoba subsidized this outfit for years. Scary.


In 2004, Umlah was eight months behind in submitting corporate Visa reports, the report said. When Kreiner sent a note seeking the information in 10 days Umlah bristled in his response: "I do not respond well to timelines imposed by you in this fashion. While this is an important issue to both of us I do not report to you and have significantly more seniority in this company than you do. Therefore I request that you refrain from this type of tactic and put it to you that this would be in both of our best interests."

Fraser Institute to study how to make money

The Fraser Institute has announced a new centre dedicated to studying "the institutions and environments within which entrepreneurial activity flourishes."

I liked this quote from John Dobson, the principle benefactor of the centre:

“When I grew up there was no capital gains tax and very limited government interference in entrepreneurial activity. I want to give others, particularly young people, that same opportunity,” explained Dobson. “We need to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in this country to help Canadians innovate and develop their own businesses. This will increase Canadian productivity and create jobs for our citizens.”

Gomery's Bark is bigger than his Bite

The Gomery Inquiry was supposed to get to the bottom of how taxpayers' money was stolen and given to Liberal cronies. Well, we know it was given to Liberal party apparatchiks, but unfortunately for taxpayers that is all we'll ever know. Find out why here.

Has there ever been more reason to have someone watching your back?

Monday, May 30, 2005

File this under "Pork" ...or something

Congratulations Saskatchewan taxpayers, you are now the proud owners of a dual shaft vacuum blender.

Labour Sponsored Fund On Fire!

It's the biggest scandal to hit Manitoba. Crocus Investment Fund, a labour-sponsored venture capital fund (LSVC) has come under fire from Manitoba's Auditor General (AG's).
The Auditor tracks irresponsible spending by the CIO and lack of accountability from the CEO and the board. Over 33,000 Manitobans have invested their hard earned money into the fund, but it doesn't end there, ALL taxpayers are on the hook for this boondoggle as there is a 30% tax credit from both the provincial and federal governments. An inquiry must be held and the CTF supports the Auditor's recommendation to review this as a criminal matter.

Check out the Ag's report

Breaking: Manitoba's adscam?

Manitoba director Adrienne Batra says the Auditors report (just released in the last few minutes) on Crocus -- a Manitoba labour-sponsored venture capital outfit -- is a major disastor. Developing....

Honey, while I am waiting, could you pass the morphine??

CALGARY – After waiting more than a year to have her knee replaced, Susan Warner finally had the surgery – but not before becoming addicted to a powerful drug needed to help manage her pain....

What happened to the Canada Health Act principle of accessibility? Does months and years on a wait list sound like our system is accessible?

Only in Canada do we brag about how great our health care system is - while waiting/dying in line! Oh, the joys of a monopoly - only in this game you may die before passing GO.

Health Care is free in Canada - just don't get sick!

Native Canadians hope for a $5 billion deal

If recent events are any indication of the willingness of Canada's Prime Minister, Paul Martin to cave into money demands - take for example the $4.6 billion deal with the NDP - Canadians should not be shocked to learn native leaders are working towards a $5 billion dollar deal with the federal government. The new deal would be in addition to the near $8 billion per year the federal government already spents on aboriginal programs.

An announcement is expected tormorrow evening.

Milke: BC NDP need to drop luddite economics

`Milke in today's Victoria Times Columnist says it well.


Now that New Democrats are back in the legislative game with their increased seat total, Opposition leader Carole James has an opportunity to flex her new political muscle. She should start with a clean-out of the Luddite economic concepts within her party. James might review some recent comments rom her colleagues and see if she can't help them to recover from their extreme perches.

Here's one example, from Nanaimo NDP winner Leonard Krog: "With the incredible wealth and public services we have in this country, there's no reason why people should be sleeping in the streets, or with no education. Even at my age, I'm still idealistic, I still believe we're capable of perfection."

Ah Leonard. Ever the good socialist, ever mistaking means and ends. Hands up, all who wouldn't like to see poverty eliminated? Anyone at all? Didn't think so.

For any decent person, the poverty debate is not about the desirability of ending it, just (a) whether that's entirely feasible and (b) when one realizes it's not, how to shrink it. Krog makes the classic lefty mistake of thinking that all a government need do is put enough smart people in the same room, add tax dollars, and stir. Voila. Any private problem will then be solved by public means.

But that ignores -- to stick with poverty -- its various causes. Sure, in some cases, a failure to ameliorate some poverty could arguably be attributable to some government inaction, somewhere, somehow. (I'd argue many governments around the world of the type Krog probably likes have done plenty to create poverty, but that's another column.)

But even if one takes that tack, the self-professed idealists cannot think of a poverty case that would defy a remedy no matter how much money is tossed at it. I can.

What could it be? The broken promises? The shameless patronage and vote-buying? The stolen money?

TORONTO - Canadians have grown increasingly dissatisfied with all politicians, with nearly two-thirds saying they have little or no confidence in their political leaders, according to an Environics poll commissioned by the CBC....

This is why taxpayers, voters, and citizens NEED a group like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, advocating on their behalf.

We have to keep blowing the whistle, acting as a watchdog, and holding all politicians feet to the fire. All Canadians have to remind these guys that they work for us and that it's our money!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

It's all about who ya know

450 patronage appointments in one month. Paul Martin was a busy man, what with "getting to the bottom" of the sponsorship scandal and all.

Governments hide behind a "veil of secrecy"

Outstanding piece in today's Regina Leader Post (I saw it in the Globe and Mail as well) on access to information laws across the country. I'd link but it's subscriber only.

The bottom line is that access to information laws are used by governments to PREVENT access, not to facilitate. CTFers file hundreds of requests each year. In Saskatchewan and Alberta (and I'm pretty sure everywhere else), government workers stamp "advice to Minister"on pretty much every document they create. Under the Act, anything deemed "advice" cannot be disclosed. So if you are looking for government analysis, say, something as innocuous as the overall impact of the film industry on a provincial economy, you're pretty much of luck because it has The Stamp on it.

The requester's only recourse is to file a complaint with the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which in most provinces is woefully underfunded. In Saskatchewan, the Commissioner's office is a two-person operation. Processing a complaint can take months, and requesters are usually no match for a team of government lawyers.

Government departments try to wait you out, hoping you'll lose interest in the information. In most cases they are successful, but not always. A reporter here in Regina once spent more than a year pursuing a receipt for a night of bureaucratic drinking.

In the country’s first-ever practical test of transparency, 89 reporters from 45 newspapers across Canada — including four from the Leader-Post — visited city halls, police forces, school boards, and federal government offices to test how bureaucrats obey laws enshrining the public’s right to know.


“The public’s right to government information that has impact on our lives is in failing health, and will get worse unless we start fixing it,” said Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association, which launched the audit. This is documentary evidence of something that newspapers have long suspected to be a fact.Reporters found a confusing patchwork of policies across the country, ranging from poor disclosure in provinces such as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick to a surprising 93 per cent disclosure in Alberta.

Overall, officials handed over records to just one in every three requests made in person. The rest remained locked in government filing cabinets as reporters were told they had to file time-consuming — and often expensive — formal requests under provincial or federal access laws.

Friday, May 27, 2005

What about the other $12.4-billion Mr. Martin?

TORONTO -- Prime Minister Paul Martin defended his recent social spending spree Thursday as part of the "cold arithmetic" necessary to keep his minority Liberal government alive, but promised business leaders he's not about to steer Canada back into deficit.....

Check out www.taxpayer.com for a complete breakdown of Ottawa's recent spending spree, that makes drunken sailors seem frugal!

CTF blog has arrived

Thanks to friends at Small Dead Animals and Shotgun, the CTF blog has been discovered. Thanks for dropping by. We're new to the neighbourhood, but we're figuring it out as we go along.

If you have any info about government waste you want exposed, let us know and we'll look into it.

P.S -- Here is the coverage received in Regina on gas tax honesty. I assure you, I'm much better looking and less angry in person. Ho ho.

Winnipeg Sun editorial on gas tax campaign

The federal government collected $4.5 billion in gas taxes last year. Of that, only $324 million -- or 7.2% -- was ploughed back into Canada's highways, roads and bridges. It's a disgrace. And it's highway robbery, as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reminded us yesterday while releasing its 7th-annual Gas Tax Honesty Campaign. More...
http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/WinnipegSun/Editorial/home.html

Calgary Herald editorial on Gas Tax Honesty Campaign

If the federal government thought it would earn any accolades from taxpayer advocacy groups for sharing a portion of its fuel-tax revenue with the cities, it was sorely mistaken. More...
http://www.canada.com/calgary/calgaryherald/news/theeditorialpage/story.html?id=b01d378b-ab75-44e4-bcab-5e7995fa0c96

Alberta report recommends 30% pay hike for senior bureaucrats

A report commissioned by Premier Ralph Klein recommends a pay raise of nearly 30 per cent for deputy ministers. Currently top bureaucrats earn an annual base salary of $157,392. The proposed pay hike would boost the salary to $200,000.

To remain competitive in recruiting top talent, is the rationale for the recommendation.

Full story.

A 4.5% sales tax in BC?

The British Columbia Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the BC government to reduce the provincial sales tax to 4.5% from 7.0%. A reduction to 4.5% would give BC the second lowest sales tax in the country. Alberta has no provincial sales tax.

What do you think? Should BC lower its provincial sales tax?

Full story here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Government jobs overtake private sector

A new report out by StatsCan shows that the only job growth this year has been in the public sector or in self-employment. Its no wonder, considering the amount of government spending over the past year.

It looks as though any of the bureaucratic fat trimming of the 1990s has not only be recovered, it's on track to balloon again. According to the report, close to 3 million people work for government, either local, provincial or federal--the highest since 1994. According to the findings, the steepest increases are found at the provincial and local levels and that half of all provincial employees work for a health or social service institution.---Big surprise!

In the first few months of 2005, Canada's job market saw a loss of 39,000 private sector employees and a gain of 45,000 government employees--is there something wrong with this picture....meanwhile real GDP growth in US is up 3.5%.

Check out the story http://www.canada.com/vancouver/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=c68af4be-1f68-4ca3-a9d4-37acd8da3cb3

SK: CTF on air

I'll be live on CJME in oh...15 minutes talking about gas tax honesty. Williamson and I will be guesting for a full hour on Greg Bohnert's CKRM talkshow tomorrow at 8:30 A.M.

Call in and be heard.

Conservative party takes up CTF cause

The Conservatives rushed out a news release supporting our gas tax honesty campaign, which of course is good news. The question remains -- who is mirroring whom? It's worth noting that we have been running this campaign for seven years. The 2003 motion Jaffer references was actually based on our 2003 report. Of course, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Over the years we have collected 110,000 signatures including 1,500 from mayors and councillors across Canada. If you want gas tax honesty, sign our petition here.

Conservative Party committed to gas tax honesty
CTF Report Mirrors Suggestions Put Forward by Conservatives
TORONTO – Rahim Jaffer, Member of Parliament for Edmonton – Strathcona and Official Opposition Critic for Infrastructure and Municipalities welcomed today’s report from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) on the Gas Tax. Many of the recommendations put forward by the CTF are similar to those made by the Conservative Party of Canada over the past several years. These include reducing the excise tax on gasoline, eliminating the GST on the excise tax and putting more money into infrastructure. In fact, it was the Conservative Party in 2003 that brought forward a motion in the House of Commons demanding the Liberals to directly invest gas tax money into Canada’s cities and infrastructure.

Mr. Jaffer said, “Today’s report from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows how truly dishonest Paul Martin and the Liberals have been with the taxes Canadian consumers pay at the pump. The Liberals claim they are helping cities while the reality shows that our cities are starved for cash and our roads crumble.”

“The Conservative Party of Canada” continued Mr. Jaffer, “is committed to a new approach of investing gas tax revenues into Canadian cities and infrastructure. Our party, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, has made the commitment to not only match but possibly even exceed the amount of spending the federal government does on infrastructure while reducing taxes for all Canadians. We are committed to fewer potholes, better highways, and more public transit.”

Conservative Party of Canada policy states that: “A Conservative government will reduce federal gasoline taxes conditional on an agreement with the provinces… to fund infrastructure in provincial and municipal jurisdictions.”

Manitoba taxpayers own a resort?

This has to be the most ridiculous crown corporation ever. I thought the Saskatchewan government owning a meat packing plant or a movie company was bad enough, but a resort?

And it's losing money to boot.

If you can name a more ridiculous government enterprise, leave a comment.

It just keeps getting worse

Williamson gets 10 points for use of the word "malfeasance."

Gas tax campaign launched

We held news conferences across Canada this morning calling for gas tax relief and a "real deal" for municipalities. John Williamson appeared opposite Infrastructure Minister Godfrey last nigh on Mike Duffy's Countdown...a great time was had by all.

For everything you ever wanted to know about gas taxes, check out our report.

PS. Adrienne Batra and I will be on Charles Adler talking about gas taxes this afternoon at 1:30 Saskatchewan time (whatever that is everywhere else).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

$500K down the tubes

Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor says as much as $500 thousand is unaccounted for at Saskatchewan environment.

The Auditor can't say with certainty that this kind of mismanagement isn't happening elsewhere in government.

Ouch.

A little satire on taxes...

If you are still feeling the pain from writing a cheque to the taxman, here is a satirical look at a "celebrity" tax in the United States, written by political satirist P.J. O'Rourke. Mr. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard.

Here's a tax we can all agree on, by P.J. O'Rourke

Taxman coming to Atlantic Canada

The Canadian Revenue Agency plans to target fishermen, natives, waiters and waiteress in Atlantic Canada who may not be paying their taxes as a way to recoup some of the tax money lost in the underground economy.

To learn more click here...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Liberal Vote Buying in the House of Commons? You Decide...

The transcript from a taped meeting Wednesday between Conservative MP Germant Grewal and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050519.wgrewal0520/BNStory/Front

The little guy fights the taxman

A retired vicar who refuses to pay a council tax increase said he is ready to go to jail after a magistrate warned him to pay up or come back to court.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/northamptonshire/4559159.stm

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Costly Commons Vote, Thank You Stronach

The NDP budget amendment will add $4.6-billion to federal spending over the next two years. It cost Canadian taxpayers $242-million each time one of the NDP's 19 members voted yea for the budget bill on Thursday. If Belinda Stronach had voted nay, the budget would have been defeated. Instead, the Speaker broke the 152-152 tie.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050519/wl_canada_nm/canada_politics_col

Raw deal -- not "new" deal

We've campaigned for six years. We've collected thousands of signatures calling on Ottawa to use fuel tax dollars as a user fee and put that money back into municipal roads and bridges. Heck, we even drove a van across Canada collecting signatures from hundreds of mayors who support our Municipal Road Trust model that would reduce taxes on gasoline and share what's left with municipalities. We met face to face with Paul Martin and demanded gas tax sharing.

We got a new deal alright. But not a single pot hole will ever be filled with new gas tax money coming to municipalities. Ottawa will not allow it. Instead, this money must be put toward "green spaces" and initiatives aimed at meeting the objectives of the ridiculous Kyoto protocol.

This must be changed. Call your MP and tell him to scrap the "new deal", and come clean with a REAL deal.

SK school boards fight against amalgation

The province's plan to amalgamate school boards has never been a winner where it matters most -- in rural Saskatchewan. In fact, the only people affected by amalgation live in rural areas. A group of community organizations have announced they are taking the province to court to fight forced amalgamation.

The case for amalgamation is thin. The province argues ultimately that we have too many school boards in Saskatchewan, which is inherently inefficient. They argue that larger school boards will result in the elimination of "zero-grant boards" (school boards that are funded entirely from the property tax base).

The case against amalgamation is stronger. Drawing lines on a map throws away the best practices of the more innovative school boards. There are many boards who have gone to great lengths to find efficiencies and improve services while at the same time holding the line on their mill rate. Amalgamating those boards away basically throws out the good stuff.

With larger school boards comes greater union bargaining power, which ultimately leads to higher taxes. Competition between many school boards is a virtue, but don't tell this government that.

Geography. Arbitrary lines on a map mean that some school boards are the size of small European countries...a logistical nightmare.

Keep an eye on amalgamation, this could be trouble down the road.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ex-MLAs leave legislature with $3.7 million

· Remnants of gold-plated pension plan continue to haunt taxpayers.
· CTF says taxpayers should be thankful for 1996 pension reforms.

VICTORIA: Based upon preliminary election results, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today released pension and severance package calculations for the province’s retiring and defeated MLA’s. “Defeated and retiring MLAs won’t be leaving the legislature empty handed. The 38 former MLAs will cost taxpayers $3.7 million in pension, severance and transition packages,” said Sara MacIntyre, the BC director for the CTF.

“Taxpayers should at least be thankful gold-plated pensions were reformed in 1996, otherwise the election shake-up would have much, much more expensive. But there remain a few former MLAs that are eligible for the golden handshake. The old pensions were grandfathered in for members that had been elected to the legislature before 1996. Of the 38 retirees and defeated MLAs, four qualify, Val Anderson, Lynn Stephens, Joy McPhail and Graham Bruce. Assuming the members receive benefits to at least age 75, these four pensions will total a staggering $2.1 million. As a top up, these members will also be eligible for the new pension plan,” said MacIntyre.

The pre-reform pensions were based on a 5% accrual rate per year using the average of the best three income earning years up to a maximum of 75%. The old pension was a defined benefit, that is, regardless of personal contribution to the plan; the benefit is paid out with taxpayers covering any shortfall. The new system is a defined contribution plan, where taxpayers contribute a set amount to the pension. The changes were adopted by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee in 1997 and were largely based on CTF recommendations.

Go to www.taxpayer.com to dowload the pension and severance calculations for all 38 ex-MLAs.

“The new pension and severance system is much more reasonable and in line with privately-offered packages. All members have a group-style RRSP where the legislature, aka taxpayers, contribute 9% of the MLA basic salary on a bi-weekly basis, with an option for the member to match up to 9% of their salary. If members are defeated in an election, they are also eligible for a severance package of one month per year of service and can also be reimbursed up to $5,000 for vocational training. Taxpayers certainly do their part to compensate members for their service in the legislature and to ease their transition to ‘civilian’ life,” concluded MacIntyre.

"Boy with $1 billion weds girl with $2 billion"

Steyn on the Stronach defection:

The pictures on the front pages today capture the reality of our country: a “Liberal” billionaire and a “Conservative” billionaire beaming as they announce their deal to carry on wasting the money of Canadians who earn $30,000 a year - all in the interests of “national unity”. For, as Belinda Stronach said (and with a straight face!), “I feel that the interests of individuals or parties are being placed above the national interest. The country must come first.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Largest tax hike in over a decade

The Calgary City Council recently voted to hike property taxes in it's first three-year budget. Property taxes may be hiked as high as 5.4% in 2006.

To learn more....click here

Saskatchewan to join "Adler Nation"

Confidential sources tell Fighting for Taxpayers that Saskatchewan's province-wide talk radio stations CKOM and CJME will soon be airing Charles Adler Online. Charles Adler is an award winning broadcaster (he actually won an Emmy) who enjoys the biggest radio market share in North America. Adler recently launched a national show in the afternoon in addition to his Winnipeg morning show.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Liberal Vote Winner?

Scrap GST, embattled Grits told
Killing hated tax would help win back voters, pollster says
The Ottawa Citizen (May 15, 2005)
Jean Chretien's former pollster says he knows how Paul Martin might win the next federal election: Scrap the GST.

http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/soundoff/story.html?id=b3968d96-cf2d-41c5-add1-b03b0fb3f1ef

Mike Duffy Back on COUNTDOWN

CTVNewsnet's popular prelude to last year's Federal Election, COUNTDOWN: With Mike Duffy has become a permanent addition to the nightly news line-up. Starting Monday, May 16, at 8:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) CTV's veteran journalist and political specialist Mike Duffy will bring...(CLICK FOR MORE)
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/show/CTVShows/1116006109838_111415137

Film subsidies killing SK taxpayers

First, taxpayers were asked to foot the bill for an $11.5 million for film soundstage in Regina that would woo film and television productions to Saskatchewan. The province also has a "Film Employment Tax Credit" that subsidizes 35% of a film production's labour costs. Actually, it used to be that the tax credit only applied to Saskatchewan workers, but the province changed the program to subsidize out-of-province workers when qualified local workers can't be found.

Now, we learn, that the soundstage was also the recipient of $5.5 million "loan" from Saskatchewan taxpayers. Intrepid CBC reporter John Weidlich has obtained documents showing that the soundstage has not made a payment loan for the past three years. In total, the soundstage has defaulted on $2.9 million in payments and interest.

The grand total, in case you are trying to keep track, is in the $26 million neighbourhood...and growing. $26 million to subsidize an industry that is showing few signs of significant life.

Oh yeah, the City of Regina also has given a property tax break that ends in 2009. The documents indicate that the soundstage won't be able to pay its $600 thousand annual property tax bill either.

The film industry is Saskatchewan's Music Man.

Oh we've got trouble!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Jersey residents pushing for prop tax reform

Americans are far more likely to embrace significant tax reform when required. In 1978, California voters approved an initiative that reduced property taxes by 57 per cent, and capped annual tax increases on houses at 1 per cent, until the house is sold and re-assessed.

As Saskatchewan residents are receiving their tax notices in the mail, CTF phones are slowly lighting with folks asking why their taxes jumped by, 8, 12 or 22 per cent this year for the no good reason.

This is an assessment year, that's why. In the last assessment year (2001) property taxes jumped by an average of 8 per cent. Expect more of the same this year.

It's time Saskatchewan residents and politicians took a good look at property tax reform. Voters in New Jersey are.

Prospects for reform are actually improving as time goes by. Property taxes do not reflect ability to pay, only a value attached to a home. Those most effected by property taxes are the elderly, and there are going to be a lot more older people in coming years.

Keep an eye out for a CTF Saskatchewan property tax report to be released in the coming days.

More on vote-buying...

Coyne on the federal spending binge...

CHEERY AFTERTHOUGHT: It's a nauseating little tableau, repeated countless times across the country, not just now but usually, as a matter of routine. That's what our politics has become, that's what they've made of us: a nation of peculiarly aggressive beggars -- by turns craven and belligerent, tugged forelock and open palm, permanently impoverished and perpetually aggrieved.

Remember all that tsunami aid pledged by Ottawa?

Most of it is still sitting in Ottawa.

No energy accord for Sask, just a check...and a warning

Fresh home from his fruitless trip to Ottawa, SK Premier Calvert held a news conference to announce he had obtained a check for $300 million.

As for what budget envelope this item falls under, it's not exactly clear. At first blush one would have to conclude that this falls under the $4.6 billion concession Jack Layton and the NDP brokered in exchange for their support for the budget.

The scary part is that it appears our politicians are just making it up as they go along.

The worst part is, our money is being used to buy our votes. Attached to the Saskatchewan announcement came a warning from Ralph Goodale that if the budget is not passed, the deal may fall through.

Queue ominous music....

Saturday, May 14, 2005

CTF the lone dissenters on bombardier handout

"Only the Canadian Taxpayers Federation denounced the deal as a waste."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Two happy meals for every man, woman and child

Top city managers in Richmond, BC managed to rack up $1.5 million in expenses last year on lavish trips to Europe and elsewhere -- the equivalent of a two happy meals for every man woman and child in the city. Last year's expenses more than doubled the previous years. According to city officials the massive hike in expenses are to be attributed to "city altering" projects related to the 2010 olympic games. Get used to it it...expect 5 more years of government excess in the name of international sport.

Great Reagan quotes

Where is Canada's Ronald Reagan?

Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."

"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant: It's just that they know so much that isn't so."

"Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong."

"I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandment's would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress."

"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."

"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."

"The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program."

"I've laid down the law, though, to everyone from now on about anything that happens: no matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting."

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

Up, Up and Away: Corporate Welfare Takes Off

The CTF is slamming the $350 million handout to Bombardier that was announced yesterday. I just saw CTF federal director John Williamson answer some pretty tough questions on CBC News world.

Questions like: "England, Brazil and the US does, so why shouldn't we?"

"Some might say that you are being naive, as this is the way it is done in the aeronautics industry, what say you?"

In the CTF release, Williamson dishes out this zinger: “In December, Industry Minister David Emerson said the taxpayers of Canada ‘haven’t lost any money on Bombardier.’ If this is true, Mr. Emerson should come clean and release Bombardier’s repayment records. But he won’t because such transparency will only confirm what taxpayers already know, that Bombardier is a welfare sinkhole.”

Nuff said.

Update: Calvert ends Ottawa sit-in

This just in...Premier Calvert is heading home to Regina empty handed after failing to secure handouts from Canadian taxpayers. Calvert headed to Ottawa earlier this week after learning that Ontario had hatched a scheme with Paul Martin to get some federal money. I spose Saskatchewan doesn't have enough liberal seats (1) to justify another shameless pay-off.

File this under "I told you so"

Alberta wants in.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Grading the Ontario Budget: From an F to a C

Last year's Ontario budget managed to break Premier McGuinty's major promises of no new taxes without consultation and no deficits. This year's budget doesn't raise taxes (though arguably this was achieved by announcing this year's health tax last year) and threatens to run deficits into 2008-09 (though that's highly unlikely, because the government will be going to the polls in 2007). At least he's focusing on core priorities and has limited spending growth to 4.5%, down from 9% last year. So are McGuinty's promises half-kept or half-broken? Love to hear your opinions.

For more on the CTF budget position,

http://www.taxpayer.com

For the budget itself,

http://www.ontariobudget.fin.gov.on.ca/

Calvert, Williams want liberals propped up

First it was the Saskatchewan Premier blaming "disconnected" conservatives for scuttling an equalization deal between Sask and the feds. Now NFLD Premier Danny Williams is calling on MPs to vote to pass the budget.

I'm sorry guys, but this thing is a little bigger than your two provinces. This is about preserving democracy, holding our politicians to account for their actions and sending a message to our leaders that corruption will not be tolerated. This transcends ideology, political partisanship and short term provincial interests.

Goodale: Saskatchewan will not get equalization deal

Moments ago Ralph Goodale was taking calls on Saskatchewan's John Gormley Live talk radio program about the fiasco in the Commons. Intrepid CBC reporter Stefani Langenegger called in and directly asked whether Saskatchewan would get a new equalization deal like the Atlantic provinces.

Goodale responded with a good, old fashioned fillibuster. He rambled on about how "complex" the issue is, and how it was about "building the economy" (funny how it wasn't too complex to sign deals with Atlantic provinces and Ontario).

Langenegger adroitly concluded: "I'll take that as a 'no'"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cato Institute recommends flatter US tax rates

The Cato institute made some interesting recommendations to the President's Advisory Committee on Tax Reform. Basically, they are recommending two income tax rates at 15% (up to $180,000 income for a family) and 27% (On income beyoned $180,000), while eliminating most deductions and credits. Good stuff.

UK Voting Reform Debate

Recently UK's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made history by becoming the first Labour Party Leader to win three consecutive majority governments. However, not everyone is jumping for joy.

Blair's victory has created a voting reform debate. The Labour Party received 35.4% of the popular vote, but control of 286 English seats in the Commons. Compare this to the Tories who won 35.7% of the popular vote, but only 193 English seats and you get controversy.

To learn more click here UK Voting Reform

Support voting reform in BC

CTF's Troy Lanigan on supporting BC voting reform:

Party discipline is designed to enhance the power of premiers, cabinets and political parties. When successful it robs voters of representation. When your local MLA becomes party property the day after the election -- as they all do -- you have just lost your vote, you have just lost your voice, you have just lost your representation.

Many hold that strong local representation is a virtue of our current voting system. That may be true elsewhere, but not in British Columbia. Under severe party discipline this alleged virtue is non-existent.

Under the current system interests of party are always placed ahead of local citizens. Representation for citizens is frequently sacrificed and accountability for taxpayers weakened. Between elections voters cannot count on their representatives to deny government the premier and cabinet anything it wants. It has led to frustration so great that for the first time in our history, fewer than 50% of eligible voters are expected to cast a ballot on May 17th

Dar Heatherington Wants Taxpayers to Pay for Her Appeal

As reported in today's National Post, Dar Heatherington, the former Lethbridge alderwoman convicted of public mischief for lying about a stalker is requesting taxpayers fund her appeal. The appeal is scheduled for September.

Why? Apparently Dar is broke. Legal aid turned down an earlier request for funding, but a hearing on the funding request will take place on June 23. To date no price tag has been provided for what it could potentially cost taxpayers.

What do you think? Should taxpayers pay for Dar Heatherington's Appeal? Post your comments here:

Brown Envelopes, Secret Meetings - Your Money

The Gomery Commission continues to hear testimony alleging corruption and abuse of tax dollars that would make any dictator proud.

Depressing as it is to learn how our hard earned tax dollars were spent ( or is that miss-spent) on the Sponsorship program, daily testimony can be found at:
http://www.gomery.ca

We're not alone

As annoying as it is that Goodale and the gang is running around bribing Canadians with their own money, rest assured that we are not alone. The American Citizens Against Government Waste named Sen. Daniel Inouye(d-Hawaii) as their "Porker of the month" for April, 2005.

(Washington, D.C.) Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) Porker of the Month for adding $40 million in pork to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (H.R. 1268). Among the pork-barrel funds the senator is sending home at the expense of taxpayers, homeland security, and the well-being of our troops are $10 million for a library and $3 million for a tropical agriculture research program.

The Emergency Supplemental — intended to bring much-needed funds to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and to protect the nation from terrorists — has fallen prey to appropriators determined to weigh down the bill with unrelated and inappropriate projects. Sen. Inouye rises above his colleagues as the most flagrantly wasteful and disgraceful pork-barreler in H.R. 1268.

In Canada, a similar award would have to bestowed upon Ralph Goodale for May, but it's open for debate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

BC NDP & Liberals, one in the same?

Surprise! Surprise! It's not just the end of polarized politics in BC, it's the end of choice, with the two main parties sharing everything---including party colours! The BC office just released its comprehensive platform costing analysis of the province's two major parties. What's the conclusion? Well the NDP and the Liberals want to go to power without telling taxpayers how much their promises will cost. A total of 118 platform promises are made with no dollar figures attached.

For example, the NDP fail to include the cost to taxpayers to make BC Ferries a crown coporation again---great idea, they performed so well the last time they were under the politicians thumb! And the Liberals forgot to include the cost to double the number of hybrid vehicles in the government's fleet or to create the Spirit Bear Conservancy or the Provincial Salmon Agency--(let's hope its not modelled after the federal deparment of Fisheries and Oceans)!

But the Liberal/NDP common ground extends beyond their mutual lack of costing, it's also on the policy front. Here's a sampling of the NDP/Liberal common ground: tuition (NDP freeze, Liberal cap to rate of inflation), money for surgery wait times (NDP $75 million, Liberal's $100 million), transtional housing (NDP $16 million, Liberal's $42 million), child care (NDP have no specific dollar amount but commit to creating universal child program, the Liberals commit to more child care with money from the federal deal).

Both promise more money for policing, parks, recruitment of nurses, apprenticeship training, English as a second language training, post-secondary institutions, industry specific tax cuts (read:industry wide corporate welfare), regional development, women escaping violence, children at risk and librarians.

While both the NDP and Liberals maneouver to out-spend each other for the next seven days, taxpayers should be preparing for some sober post-election news....

$17,000,000,000 and counting

Since April 20, the liberals have announced $17 billion in spending. Check out our jaw-dropping spending tracker for all the details. This is on average about $860-million per day, or $36-million every hour. Remember, the campaign hasn't even begun.

Slap shot sponsorship?

Heard it was a great hockey game in Winnipeg last night. The Moose were down 4-2 with 7 minutes to go, scored twice to tie the game, and then killed a 5 minute major to get the game to OT.

If you look very closely at the happy fans in this picture, notice they are holding "Thundersticks" (those big, inflated noise makers) emblazoned with the Government of Canada logo. Is the sponsorship program alive and well in Winnipeg?

Sask seeking handout

The ill-conceived equalization program was originally intended to ensure government programs are delivered equally in all regions in Canada. According to the Saskatchewan Premier, equalization is for building an economy.

"The accord I'm seeking is for the long-term building of the energy economy and the economy of Saskatchewan, in that regards it is long-term."

Band Members Protest Election

PRINCE ALBERT – Members of the Poundmaker First Nation near Battleford are protesting what they are calling voting irregularities in the last band election.

The protesters, calling themselves the Poundmaker working group, say the election of Chief Ted Antoine was marred by irregularities and they want new leadership.

They've been conducting sit-ins at the band office and at the interpretive centre all week. The economic future of the band is also part of the protest.

Poundmaker has significant oil and gas resources and a plan for developing those resources was approved by band members by a narrow margin. Eric Tootoosis, a spokesman for the protesters, said the deal has to be re-visited because it will mean the band will lose control.

Tootoosis said the protest will continue until the chief and council agree to a community assembly to decide both the election questions and the method of developing the energy reserves. Chief Antoine did not return calls.

Haven't we seen this movie before?

Canadian provinces are being played like a fiddle by film companies. Turns out the taxpayers of California are paying the biggest price.

Matt Welch of Reason writes in the LA Times:

If Mississippi and South Carolina want to offer government giveaways to Hollywood, well, that's what desperate, second-rate states do. If a hardworking Romanian wants a movie job, I don't want my tax money used to block him. And if subsidies and protectionism were the keys to a successful film industry, the Canadians and the French would have overtaken Hollywood years ago.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The state of fiscal conservatism in Britain

Steyn on the British election results:

Here's another observation: economic conservatism isn't enough for a conservative party. It may have been in the late Seventies when nothing worked and everyone was on strike. But, though it pains a low-tax nut like me, my sense of modern Britain is that it doesn't think of itself as over-taxed. Besides, many tax rates - VAT, for example - are beyond the jurisdiction of Westminster to reduce: the issue is not stealth taxes so much as stealth Euro centralism. It's true that many Britons seem to have less ready cash than other folks, but again that's not primarily a tax issue: the British spend more on accommodation and mortgages than their equivalents in other lands because the principal economic activity in the United Kingdom is selling undistinguished terraced houses back and forth to each other for ever moreabsurd six-figure sums. A ha'penny off income tax isn't going to change that.

Taxpayer-funded election campaigns coming to SK

First we endure the ridiculous federal campaign laws forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for political campaigns, now saskatchewan residents must tolerate the same thing. Legislation currently being considered will give prison inmates the right to vote, make it easier to vote with absentee ballots, and force taxpayers to pick up the tab for up to half a candidate's expenses. The next election tab could reach way beyond $2.4 million. How bad is it when taxpayers subsidize campaign lies and manipulation? Good grief.

SK Premier Calvert gets in line

Breaking: SK Premier Calvert is on a plane to Ottawa to talk about an energy accord for Saskatchewan, similar to the one struck by the Atlantic provinces. This comes on the same day an obnoxious revenue scheme with Ontario was announced. Saskatchewan is Canada's second-biggest oil producer...if Saskatchewan can get a deal, what about Alberta? Developing...

Manitoba's Education Minister Should be Fired!

Last week it was revealed that one of Winnipeg's School Divisions decided to play central planner and sold off some land for development. At the cost of $2 million, the school division made a $700,000 profit. The interesting twist to this story is that the school board was well out of its jurisdiction when it decided to dabble in land development as it not within the scope of the Public Schools Act. Adding insult to injury, this very same school division just raised taxes (again) for all of the home owners in the area.

The Minister of Education, Peter Bjornson, who's story changed day by day, claimed he did not know about the deal, but the division's superintendent said the deal had been approved years ago, thus blowing a big hole through Bjornson's ignorance plea.

Because of the Ministers' incompetence and lack of regard for the taxpayers within the school division, I called for his resignation which you can read all about.

Saskatchewan's biggest boondoggle

From a land where waste and mismanagement are way too commonplace, it appears the Saskatchewan government has broken all the records.

In a recent Let's Talk Taxes column I wrote:

The new King of the Jungle is Meadow Lake Pulp, which is part of the government’s Investment Saskatchewan portfolio. The province has already spent $275 million tax dollars but three write-downs have reduced the value of that investment to $78.8 million. In recent weeks the province threw another $52 million into the swamp to buy the mill’s debt owed to Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Board and Sun Life Assurance. Saskatchewan taxpayers are now the mill’s only creditor.

All in, that’s a $327 million (not adjusted for inflation) “investment” into an asset that is currently worth a humiliating $130.8 million – that’s a $200 million loss for taxpayers.

It appears I spoke too soon...The Regina Leader Post's Murray Mandryk (who has been around a long time) pegs the real loss since 1989 at nearly $750 million. The province defends this "investment" by pointing to the 150-200 jobs the mill provides. I have a better idea -- lets randomly select 750 Meadow Lake residents and make them all millionaires. Surely that would be a better investment than throwing tax dollars at a money losing pulp mill. But maybe I'm missing something.

Here come da pork

A short 8 months after Ottawa announces sharp hike in airport rental fees which raised the ire of airport authorities (especially smaller airports looking to add routes), the feds have come through with some relief. Where will it end?

CTF launches blog

Welcome to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) Blog. Over the coming months we'll be fine-tuning our blog so it best meets the needs of our readers, and advances the cause of lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.

I'm not going to say much in this very historic first post, because if you are here, you probably know the routine. I will say, however, that we have some distinct advantages over some of the other great blogs out there -- we are a national organization with smart people who "get it" in nearly every province. We have someone on the ground near you.

We're optimistic about this blog, but bear with us, we're new to this. We'll start off slow and clunky, but we'll get better. Check back often and you'll see.

CTF You Tube Channel

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