Monday, October 31, 2005

Here's one for the "Extraordinarily Stupid Idea" file

CBC Reports:

The Goods and Services Tax should be applied to food, with the revenue given to farmers to help save the struggling industry, a farm group says.

The Agricultural Institute of Canada – a group dedicated to farming research and education – believes adding the seven per cent tax to what we eat will help farmers.

"Farmers produce way more than they used to ... and yet they still can't stay in business," said Hugh Maynard, who has written a report on the issue.

"The long-term trend is that the price of food is going to continue to go down ... as the capacity to produce increases."

The GST is applied to most goods and services but not basic groceries, most medical services and devices, prescription drugs, residential rents and exports.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hurricane Kashechewan

In other countries it takes hurricanes or earth quakes to necessitate military-issued water purification systems. In Canada, it's a day-to-day problem.

How many wake-up calls will it take before Canadians take notice and demand real reform -- not the Paul Martin kind -- we mean REAL reform.

Where are the social justice advocates? They spend more time protesting against globalization and foreign wars than they do the lack of human rights on Indian reserves. I guess our Indian populations don't have ne sais quoi.

They're listening to us

From the Regina Leader Post. Sorry it's subscriber only. But if this initiative is what it appears to be, it's a definitely a step in the right direction and another feather in the CTF cap.

FSIN looking at options for private home ownership
Talk of creating a federal Aboriginal Financial Corp. to fund on- and off-reserve housing ownership opportunities is raising hope, skepticism and questions for Saskatchewan's First Nations.

Three more sleeps until Gomery day

And some of the biggest culprits have already been given a heads up. It's funny how the Inquiries Act requires Judge Gomery to notify the thieves before the public is told they're thieves. What a pleasant courtesy.

We have a sneaking suspicion the Gomery report won't provide the accountability satisfaction we crave.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Toronto tax dollars at work

Toronto school board memo calls for halloween to be downplayed. Hat tip: London Fog.

TORONTO - Teachers should forego traditional classroom Halloween celebrations because they are disrespectful of Wiccans and may cause some children to feel excluded, says a Toronto District School Board memo sent to principals and teachers this week.

"Many recently arrived students in our schools share absolutely none of the background cultural knowledge that is necessary to view 'trick or treating,' the commercialization of death, the Christian sexist demonization of pagan religious beliefs, as 'fun,' " says the memo.

Entitled "Halloween at TDSB Schools: Scarrrrrry Stufff," the document seeks to clarify for teachers and principals the extent to which Halloween activities should be pursued in multicultural settings. In the past, the unsigned memo laments, schools have received "mixed messages" from the board regarding Halloween.

Mayor Miller's Soccer Stupidity

October 28 2005
Soccer Stupidity

Here’s a multiple choice quiz. If you could choose a budget priority for Toronto, would it be:

A) Filling potholes and fixing crumbling roads
B) Putting more police on the streets to reduce gun violence
C) Adjusting property tax rates to offset skyrocketing evaluations
D) Building a soccer stadium

If you were Toronto City Council, on October 27th you chose D). Yes, dear taxpayer, you read that right...

Read more here...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Field of schemes

For everything you ever wanted to know about professional sports teams fleecing the taxpaying public, check this out.

Like what we're doing?

Support the CTF.

Band council putting money in their own pockets

A recent report indicates that some council members of the Labrador Innu community of Natuashish have pocketed some of the bands operating funds for themselves.

Unbelievably the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs says they cannot intervene.

This is yet another example as to why the CTF's recommendation for an Ombudsman for Aboriginal Affairs must be implemented.

Buzz off Taxpayer, Dingwall is "ethically entitled to his entitlements"

While an audit has found Dingwall broke no rules, it's clear the rules are the problem.

Read Greg Weston's column here

A Better Life for Indians

Below is an exerpt from a column written by the CTF's Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change's director.

"Canadian taxpayers spend about $10-billion each year for federal and provincial programs aimed at natives. But there is little to show for all that spending: Many reserves continue to exhibit high levels of unemployment, substance abuse and poverty. In some cases, living conditions resemble those in the Third World -- such as at the Kashechewan Reserve on the shores of James Bay, which is now being evacuated by the Ontario government because of contaminated drinking water."

The entire column is available in today's National Post or click here.

National Post Editorial

Here is today's National Post Editorial comment about the CTF's Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change's latest recommendations:

"Ottawa does not usually serve up much fresh thinking on the aboriginal file. In political circles, there are few politicians willing to challenge the status quo, whereby billions are sent every year to remote, economically sterile reserves, no questions asked -- with epidemic substance abuse, massive welfare dependence and poverty the predictable result. But this week -- even as residents were being evacuated from the particularly blighted Kashechewan Reserve in Ontario -- a tiny ray of hope emerged.

As Tanis Fiss of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation writes on these pages today, one of the greatest problems facing reserve-resident aboriginals is that they are not allowed to own their own land.

This is no mere inconvenience: Property ownership is the basis of middle-class wealth. It provides families with an economic incentive to keep their properties in good repair. It serves as an appreciating asset that provides a nest egg for retirement. It gives owners access to mortgage financing -- which is how small business owners typically raise money for their enterprises.

Finally, it allows the simple dignity that comes with autonomy. On reserves, chiefs and council control where people may live, how their properties may be disposed of and who gets a new house when the old one falls apart. Small surprise that many natives have no pride of place, and that their reserves often resemble Third World hamlets.

In recent years, governments have attempted to address this situation with a variety of faux-property regimes. These include Certificates of Possession, which signify a resident's interest in his land -- albeit one that falls short of fee-simple ownership.

As Ms. Fiss notes, Certificates of Possession can in turn be used to secure financing. But because banks are unable to seize property on reserves -- another anachronism forced on us by the Indian Act -- straightforward mortgages are impossible. Thus has the government been forced to step in to bankroll quasi-mortgages secured by quasi-property ownership.

It is all very awkward and convoluted. But at least such arrangements indicate that Ottawa understands how a lack of property rights on reserves is hobbling their development. And this week, it emerged the government would go further. According to a Cabinet document obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press, the Liberals are considering the creation of an Aboriginal Financial Corporation, which would work with the private sector to improve natives' access to home ownership and capital.

But such a plan, even if implemented, is only a start. In the end, the way to lift aboriginal reserves out of poverty is not through more government spending -- but by changing the law so that that natives are granted a right the rest of us take for granted: the right to own their own home."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"Class action catching on"

From the Campbell River Mirror:

Canadian Taxpayers' Federation B.C. director Sara MacIntyre reports that by late last week more than 600 parents had signed up to join a class-action lawsuit against the B.C. Teachers' Federation. According to lawyer Bruce Hallsor, specific costs incurred by each plaintiff would have to be documented to determine what each one paid as a direct result of the illegal strike.

Given that a $500,000 fine is chump change for this quasi-monopoly union whose members are compelled to join and pay dues, this lawsuit may do its part to level the playing field. More information is available at

Government-funded stadiums not worth the price of admission

Says Cato...

Games and circuses once were provided by government. How better to satiate the desire of the Roman masses than to entertain them in the Arena?

Today, governments build stadiums to attract sports franchises for the same purpose. But the American masses seem to be tiring of transferring billions of dollars to billionaire team owners.

New York City is beset with wealthy supplicants: Major League Baseball's Yankees and Mets, and the National Football League's Jets all want new stadiums. So do the NFL San Diego. The MLB St. Louis Cardinals did too, before the legislature rejected most of their requested public subsidies.

This can' t go unposted

From the Ottawa Sun.

The federal government has paid out tens of millions of dollars in rent for a piece of land in Vancouver that remains vacant 31 years after a lease was signed with the Squamish First Nation.

The bill to taxpayers could top $1 billion by the time the deal expires in 2045, a Conservative MP charged yesterday.

"This is more Liberal waste, incompetence and another terrible burden on Canadian taxpayers," Vancouver MP John Reynolds said in the Commons.

Reynolds alleged a federal project on the land was concocted in an unsuccessful effort to keep the old riding of Capilano Liberal in the 1974 election.

Environment Minister Stephane Dion accused Reynolds of "giving false numbers" on the potential cost to taxpayers over the 71-year lease.

Home-ownership on reserves

Well, for almost a decade, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been a lone voice advocating for private home-ownership on reserves.

It would appear the federal government is about to undergo a huge "paradigm shift."

It's about time, the federal government began promoting home-owernship as a way to help native reserves prosper. Regretably, the federal government seems to think such an easy thing to implement needs three new levels of bureaucracy.

Check out what the CTF has proposed for on-reserve housing here.

Private surgeries to reduce wait-times

The Calgary Regional Health Authority is considering contracting out surgery as a way to reduce surgical wait-times.

The surgeries contemplated to be privatized are cataract and hip replacements.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Private money for Calgary road

The province of Alberta will move its ambitious infrastrue plan forward by utilizing public-private-partnerships or P3s.

The province also announced the possibility of private money for the long awaited 'ring-road'. The province did not rule out the use of toll highways/roads.

We want the old Ralph Goodale

Today's lead editorial in the Star Phoenix hits it on the head. I'm going to borrow liberally and wait for the letter from their lawyer.

There's no question that it's a long way to nurse a 1981 Ford Econoline, but it is clear that the wheels have fallen off Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's "responsibility bus."

Goodale drove that van across the province during the 1986 Saskatchewan election -- he led the provincial Liberal party then -- telling anyone who'd listen that parties which promised to spend more and cut taxes rather than offer responsible government were jeopardizing our future.

Convinced that Saskatchewan voters were tired of "the endless promises of the Tories and the NDP" which reduced the election "to a bidding game," he predicted a minority government in which he'd hold the balance of power.

And he would use that influence to institute such reforms as establishing strict guidelines on government advertising, and setting up a legislative committee to review all political appointments and contracts, so that taxpayers wouldn't have to pay for party propaganda.

"Only the Liberals have had the guts to break that 'promisethem-anything' mentality that has dominated politics for the past five sorry, painful years," he told a Saskatoon crowd in 1986.

Goodale has spent almost his entire adult life in politics, but much of his reputation as a credible, hard-working, honest and prudent keeper of the public purse was forged during those 18-hour days in the driver's seat of the Econoline his tour director Duane Koch dubbed the "responsibility bus."

That reputation held him in good stead. Because of it former PM Jean Chretien appointed him to the troubled Public Works ministry, which Goodale promptly began to clean up by ending the sponsorship program and launching RCMP and internal investigations.

So, it is a wonder that this hard-working, upright Saskatchewan lad is now reputed to be looking to use public money federally to distract the electorate from the stink of patronage and sponsorship scandals.

Read the rest...

CTF plan for federal tax relief

Ottawa: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) appeared this morning before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Federal Director John Williamson presented the central pre-budget recommendations from the CTF’s submission, A Return to Fiscal Responsibility, for the 2006/07 federal budget. The CTF’s agenda items include:

Reducing the top two personal income tax rates by 3%, phased-in over three years, from 29% to 26% and 26% to 23%;

Increasing both the Basic Personal Exemption and Spousal Exemption to $15,000 within four years to provide tax relief for all Canadians. This change will remove 1.8 million Canadians from the tax rolls and benefit the remaining 13.8 million taxpayers;

Replacing the Canada Child Tax Benefit with a universal $10,000 per child income tax credit or payment. The credit (or $1,600 payment) should be available to all parents with children aged eighteen and under...Full Article

Sask: Province may subsidize natural gas

From the Leader Post:

Atkinson said the provincial cabinet will announce whether it accepts the
rate review panel's recommendation next week at the same time as it unveils its relief program, which the government wants to apply as broadly as possible.

The minister said it's be unlikely the government will dispense cheques directly to consumers but it is considering subsidizing SaskEnergy so customers' bills are kept low.

"Options for such a program would be capping any rate increase so people could get through the winter, energy conservation programs, including assisting people with getting a high-energy furnace, weatherization programs," she said.

The possibility of a further rate increase in January as outlined by the rate review panel is "the tricky part" the government must deal with as it comes up with its relief plan, said Atkinson.

In a news conference in a Regina hotel, rate review panel chair Boris Kischuk said the recommendation of a reduced rate was made out of concern about the massive financial impact of the full hike on customers.

As well, the volatility in the natural gas market suggests that the full 41 per cent increase may not be needed.

First, the province will subsidize natural gas thereby overriding the natural market message to consumers to conserve. And they'll do it with our tax dollars and reduce the chances of any tax relief or debt reduction in the future.

The Rate Review Panel is saying they don't necessarily agree with SaskEnergy's original request for a 41 per cent rate increase, saying that gas prices are volatile and may come down in the near term. That's right, gas prices always go down in the winter. The panel consists of a consulting engineer, a home-based accountant, an economist, a political science student, a sociologist, a political scientist, an accountant, and another sociologist.

That means there is a 4-4 tie on the panel between the social scientists and the numbers people. The future of our most important Crown corporation is in their hands.

High Gas Prices Drive Inflation

According to Statistics Canada, the rise in gas prices has driven up inflation.

Sign the CTF's Gas Tax Petition demanding lower fuel taxes here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sask: Rate review panel decides on SaskEnergy rate increase

I'm listening live on CJME. Be on alert for ongoing politicization of the crowns. If the panel turns down the rate increase request, you know some sticky political fingers have been in the pie.

UPDATE: The rate review panel is recommending a 27 per cent rate hike for natural gas -- a far cry from the 41 per cent request from SaskEnergy. That means SaskEnergy will be eating some of the cost of natural gas. Pay now or pay more later, take your pick.

Tax cuts almost definitely, for sure, for real, honestly on the agenda

Canoe says...

OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Paul Martin says federal tax cuts are definitely on the minority Liberal government's agenda and independent forecasters say they're affordable.

Martin says tax cuts are part of any plan to boost productivity and living standards. And forecasts conducted for the Commons finance committee all say the federal government will be reaping multibillion-dollar surpluses in the next few years.

The government is said to be looking at tax cuts as part of a plan to encourage more economic growth and better incomes for Canadians.

With surplus forecasts ranging from $10 billion to almost $12.5 billion, forecasters say taxes could be lowered without risking a deficit.
They really, really mean it this time.


From the Ottawa Citizen...

According to employment rules for the House of Commons, an employee who resigns after at least 10 years continuous work in an MP's office is entitled to severance worth half of one week's pay for each year of service, to a maximum of 13 weeks.

That includes employees in opposition leaders' offices. Political staffers in ministerial offices, including the Prime Minister's Office, get even more generous severance and don't have to work a minimum number of years in order to be eligible. They get two weeks' pay for each year of service, with no ceiling on the maximum payout.

Treasury Board guidelines for ministerial staff stipulate that severance pay "will be the same for resignation, death, dismissal, lay-off and retirement." On top of that, ministerial staffers are eligible for separation pay, which is paid at the discretion of the minister.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sask: Just the tip of the iceberg

You know what they say about icebergs – the part that you see poking out of the water is miniscule compared to what’s beneath the surface. In recent weeks, a few icebergs have been spotted in Regina’s Wascana Lake.


Liberals plan on broad-based tax cuts

The best news we've heard all week. I'm sure the NDP can do one better? How about the conservatives? Bring on the bidding war.

Bouchard's message

This message is a good one not just for Quebec -- but several others as well (especially my own).

"Unfortunately, at the very moment when we should be radically changing the way we view ourselves and the world around us, the slightest change to the way government functions, a bold project, the most timid call to responsibility or the smallest change to comfortable habits is met with an angry outcry and objections or, at best, indifference," their manifesto says. "This outright rejection of change hurts Quebec because it runs the risk of turning us into the republic of the status quo, a fossil from the 20th century."

(um, most of Quebec already is a fossil)

Saskatchewan teachers sending money to BC strikers

I think the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation are on thin ice with this one. Big, fat, illegal strikes don't play as well in Saskatchewan as they do in BC.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation is sending money to teachers in British Columbia.

The Saskatchewan union will donate around $24,000 to help striking colleagues in that province.

Civil servants agree to pay back province

Now only if the real players in the scam game (sponsorship scandal thugs, Volpe, Dingwall) would stand up and do the right thing as well. This is actually quite refreshing. Thanks to the civil servants who came forward and paid their share. They didn't have to. This was not the fault of the people who went on the trip, but rather the chucklehead who planned and approved it. Thanks for setting such a great example.

Finance department employees have come forward to repay most of the expenses connected to two retirement celebrations improperly paid for by the department in what has been a major headache for the provincial government.

A Finance official said Wednesday the $2,500 bill for hotel rooms in Prince Albert has been repaid by the employees of the auditors section of Finance's revenue branch who attended a banquet in Prince Albert on Oct. 6 and a luncheon in Saskatoon the next day.

As well, about four-fifths of the 35 employees involved will use holiday time for the day-and-a-half away from work. Originally they were being paid for work time.

"It's been a stressful lesson. A lot of people were . . . red-faced but there was no bad intent in any of this," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Open thread on BC teachers strike

If you want to share your thoughts on the BC teachers strike or the CTF class action suit against the unions, fill your boots here.

UPDATE: Some good discussion over at SDA.

UPDATE Milke in today's National Post (no link, sorry):

"...Instead, organized labour now claims the illegal strike is about children and that the teacher's union is engaged in an epic battle. The public is told that it's akin to historic struggles by southern U.S. blacks for civil rights, for Indians and black South Africans to rule themselves, and for Polish workers in the 1970s and 1980s to form a union and vote for a political party other than the one mandated by Moscow. "


"The strike has brought out other rhetorical excesses. After a recent article that I wrote criticized the Ghandi-Walesa-striking teachers' comparison, one e-mail correspondent likened essential service legislation to laws enacted in Nazi-era Germany.

But if overwrought e-mailers overdo it, they and labour leaders miss the irony of their own contradictions. According to CUPE, the government should obey a UN-funded, pro-union secretariat when it issues a non-binding diktat. But apparently teachers are under no moral obligation to return to work despite clear violations of binding domestic law and binding orders from independent courts."

(...) Then Milke brings it home...

"B.C.'s labour movement consistently lobbies for monopoly control over public education and yet complains when governments give such dominance to them but without the right to strike. The BCTF has a long history of playing the martyr card, except that the teachers' union can't get along with anyone. The previous NDP government also ordered teachers back to work and imposed contracts. "

Venezuela following a very dark path

From BBC.

The Venezuelan government has warned it will confiscate hundreds of private companies that are lying idle if they fail to re-open.

President Hugo Chavez said the firms' workers would be given help to set up co-operatives and re-start production for the benefit of the community.

He said the move was needed to fight poverty and end Venezuela's dependence on "the perverse model of capitalism".

Some business leaders fear it may lead to a wider attack on private property.

'Perfectly productive'
Speaking on his weekly television programme, Mr Chavez said the measures were necessary.

"It's against our constitution," he said. "Just as we cannot permit good land to lie uncultivated, so we cannot allow perfectly productive factories to stay closed."

Gee, where have we heard this before? This is why Chavez and Mugabe make such a good couple.
(hat tip: Shawn)

Piggies at the dinner trough

Winnipeg School Division One is at it again . . . now taxpayers are footing the bill for their elaborate dinner menu.

CTF targets BC teachers with class action suit

Parents will be able to hold BCTF accountable for illegal strike

VICTORIA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) announced that it is coordinating a class action suit against the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF).

“Once again, the province is being held hostage by a government union. Over 600,000 students have been shut out of their classrooms, parents are scrambling to find daytime care, and the BCTF continues to flout the law and remain off the job. It’s time taxpayers stood up to these unions and their bullying tactics,” said Sara MacIntyre, BC director for the CTF.
...Full Article

Affected by the illegal BC teachers strike? Join the CTF class action suit here.

Update: CTF BC director Sara MacIntyre will be on Charles Adler's national show at 2:00 pacific.

Canada Ranks 14th in Ethical Government

An international index ranks Canada 14th in terms of ethics in government.


5 least corrupt states

New Zealand

5 most corrupt states:


Source: Transparency International

Monday, October 17, 2005

Canadians Want Clean Government

What do Canadians want out of their government?

Honesty, Integrity, and Ethics would be a good start.

Sask: $166 thousand to parliamentary association

I was just thumbing through Saskatchewan Public Accounts Volume 2. I was perusing the expenses for the Legislative Assembly when I came across a $166,000 payment to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, of which Saskatchewan is a member (I assume).

Here is a blurb about the organization:

The CPA works in the fields of good governance, of democracy and elections, and of human rights, while special attention is also paid to gender sensitizing (through the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians) and to promoting awareness of parliamentary democracy among the youth of the Commonwealth. It was founded in 1911 as the Empire Parliamentary Association. Active CPA Branches now exist in nearly 170 national, state, provincial and territorial Parliaments and Legislatures, with a total membership approaching 15,000 Parliamentarians.

The Association's mission is to promote the advancement of parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and understanding of democratic governance. It seeks to build an informed parliamentary community able to deepen the Commonwealth’s democratic commitment and to further co-operation among its Parliaments and Legislatures. This mission is achieved through a Strategic Plan which ensures CPA activities continue to meet the changing needs of today’s Parliamentarians.

CPA programmes provide the sole means of regular consultation among Commonwealth Members, fostering fostering co-operation and understanding promoting the study of and respect for good parliamentary practice. This role is endorsed by Commonwealth Parliaments and Heads of Government. In 2003, governments bound Government themselves to an additional set of Commonwealth principles based on a CPA initiative with legal professionals to define the proper relationships between the arms of government. Click for details on the CPA's Organization and Constitution.

Now seriously, is this really a justified expenditure? Is it worth $166,000? Of course, their most recent meeting was in Fiji.

CTF Makes Wall Street Journal

October 17, 2005 3:36 a.m. EDT
Canadians: Govt Not Doing Enough To Curb Gas Prices: Poll
October 17, 2005 3:36 a.m.
The Wall Street Journal

NEW YORK (AP)--A vast majority of Canadians believe the government could act to limit increases in gasoline prices, an AP-Ipsos poll found, underscoring frustration with taxes that have pushed prices in the oil-rich country to over US$6 per gallon.
While 21% said the government is helpless to act in the face of crude oil prices at over US$60 per barrel, 77% said Ottawa could take action to limit such price increases at the pump, the poll found.

Gasoline prices in Canada - the ninth largest producer of oil in the world - have risen steadily over the past few months, boosted by hurricane damage to Gulf of Mexico offshore oil facilities.
As winter approaches, refiners also typically shift their production away from gasoline to accommodate demand for heating oil. The increases have galvanized public sentiment against what many have argued is an unfair continuation of government gasoline taxes initially imposed to help close a budget gap.

Consumers question the need for the price spikes at a time when Canada boasts recoverable crude oil reserves of over 185 billion barrels, including bitumen deposits whose development has been fueled by the surge in crude oil prices.

John Williamson, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the country's largest advocacy group for taxpayers, has blamed the government and its tax policy for inflating prices. Taxes account for roughly one-third of the retail price of gasoline.

While the taxes aimed to curb consumption, gasoline sales climbed just 1% annually between 1985 and 2003 while gasoline taxes grew more than five times higher between 1985 and 1995 and then by another 18% the following decade, Williamson said
. Canada now has a budget surplus of US$1.4 billion for this fiscal year - the eighth consecutive surplus, he said.

Of the 1,000 people polled between Sept. 27-29, 56% said a fair price for a gasoline would be between US$2-3 per gallon, roughly one-third to one half of the current price. 23% described a price between US$3-4 per gallon as fair - with the average US$2.72. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The surge in prices has prompted the premier of Ontario to urge federal officials to investigate huge price swings at the pumps. But Premier Dalton McGuinty also dismissed opposition calls to impose a 90-day freeze on gasoline prices.

Consumers have been quick to target cheaper gas stations, often leading to traffic jams as cars wait in line for fuel.

Those concerns were echoed in the poll, with 65% saying they expect the increases in gasoline prices to cause them or their families financial hardship while 35% believed it would have no impact.

"Canada is a very big country," said Darrell Bricker, president of public affairs for Ipsos-Reid in Canada. "A significant increase in gas prices, therefore, has a very personal impact."

Sask: Performance bonuses for bureaucrats proposed

Someone out there thinks Saskatchewan's top bureaucrats are doing such a good job they deserve a raise.

We think only the top bureaucrat who manages to reduce absenteeism by 20 per cent should get a raise.

Kicker is that most government bonus programs don't single out individual managers for a bonus, all managers get a bonus when certain hardly-measurable targets are hit (that's certainly the case in Alberta).

So that means the joker who planned the retirement junket to PA will probably get a bonus this year. Now THAT'S what I call accountability!

Bonus structures are good as long as they are tied to specific measurable performance targets.

Why audits are a good thing

It was the federal auditor general, Sheila Fraser, who first uncovered the sponsorship scandal. It was also the federal auditor general who uncovered the HRDC scandal and the overspending on the gun registry.

As the Canadian Press story below illustrates, audits are a good thing.

(CP) The exhaustive internal review of the department's $42-million annual bill for travel and hospitality found:

- Some employees attending foreign conferences stayed abroad after meetings ended, claiming expenses without any evidence they were actually doing government business.

- Staff at some meetings claimed meal allowances, even though meals were provided at the gatherings.

- Other employees used exorbitant exchange rates to make claims for foreign travel even though the rate they actually paid was lower.

- One staff member in a remote posting claimed $6,000 for hotel, meals and incidentals for 27 straight days so he could be with his spouse for the birth of a child. There was no evidence anyone had authorized the expenses in advance.

- One office habitually booked high-priced flights, each costing an average of $5,400 more than the lowest-priced flight available.

The audit, dated Sept. 30, covered two years of spending on travel and hospitality up to March 31 this year.

Investigators also found numerous cases where travel was not pre-authorized as required, expense claims were missing receipts, and Treasury Board policies were being ignored or subverted. (Canadian Press)

New access law

The federal information commissioner has proposed new legislation that will enable citizens to see just how their government is spending their money.

One of the recommendations is to open Crown corporations up to access to information legislation - something the CTF has been advocating for years.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

NDP proposes ethics package

Most recommendations from the NDP deserve a really good look.

The seven-point NDP package proposes:

-MPs should not be permitted to change parties without resigning and running in a byelection.

-Election dates should be fixed and held every four years.

-Reforming the electoral process by combining proportional representation with the current first past-the-post system.

-There should be spending limits and transparency conditions on leadership contests within political parties.

-Tougher laws to end unregulated lobbying and political cronyism.

-A fair process for government appointments to end unfair and unethical patronage practices.

-Better access-to-information legislation to make government more transparent.

Some of these are right out of the CTF playbook. Good stuff.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sask: Cabinet gets bigger

Two new cabinet members have been announced.

Eldon Lautermilch, spudco architect (the man who deceived the public by saying that government wasn't picking up the tab for Spudco and was fired for it. I still recall Premier Calvert sayin "Minister Lautermilch ought not to have written that letter), is back in cabinet as Minister of Highways.

Graham Addley is now Minister of Living Healthy or something ridiculous along those lines.

Good grief. Government is bigger, but will any taxpayer feel a difference?

What's this - a privately funded stadium

Yes, it's true. The City of Vancouver may soon have a brand new waterfront stadium that is 100% privately funded.

Note: That means no public - taxpayers - money will be used.

The owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team, Greg Kerfoot, is currently engaged in the application process to build a 15,000-16,000 seat soccer stadium near the waterfront SeaBus terminal in downtown Vancouver. Mr. Kerfoot plans to pay for the entire project - land and stadium.

Alberta throws more money at wait-times

The province of Alberta is likely to post an $8-billion dollar surplus for this fiscal year. The provincial government plans to use $1.4 billion to reduce wait-times.

The money will provide 657 new acute-care beds and 85 new long-term care beds.

SK: High Flying MLA's

The travel budgets of the Saskatchewan government MLA's increased over last year. In 2003-04 the travel expenditures were $569,240, they rose to $762,195.

Read more here: Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

BC: Natives fined for illegal fishing

From the Vancouver Sun:

FRASER VALLEY - Several members of the Cheam Indian band in the FraserValley have been fined in Surrey Provincial Court on charges related to illegal fishing and illegal possession of salmon, in a high-profile and physical confrontation with the federal fisheries department following a closure intended to protect stocks in 1999.

Judge Howard Thomas fined Arthur Aleck $1,000 on one count, Mark Giroux $1,100 on five counts, Darwin Jason Douglas $1,000 on two counts, Todd Kenneth Wood $500 on one count, Kelly Blaine McCabe $100 on one count,Gary Phillip Victor $100 on one count, Leonard James McKay $100 on onecount, Frederick William Quipp $500 on one count, Howard Glen Victor$100 on one count, and Kirby Edward Hourie $700 on four counts.

The judge said the heavier fines reflected the fact that several of the natives had prior convictions on charges related to unlawful fishing or possession of salmon. Mark Giroux and John Darren Rampanen were also handed four-month conditional sentences for assaulting a federal fisheries officer. "It is one thing to peacefully protest the enforcement of a law which the protester considers immoral or unjust," Thomas said in his judgment. "It is a very different thing to add the element of violence to such a protest. "There have been a number of protest fisheries on the Fraser River and they will no doubt continue as various groups try to assert and define their rights, but the law must deter protesters from resorting to violence, and violence in a protest requires denunciation by the courts. "

Sask: Gormley on absenteeism

The discussion on Gormley has turned toward the role of we're getting somewhere.

Update: Barring any changes, I'll be talking about government absenteeism on Charles Adlers's national show at around 2:40 Mountain time.

They must be kidding

From the Citizen...

OTTAWA -- University and college students from across Canada launched a campaign to get Prime Minister Paul Martin to increase funding transfers to provinces by $4 billion for post-secondary education in Ottawa, Thursday. Student federations said Martin made that promise during his election campaign.

The president of Quebec's university student federation, Francois Vincent, said pressure tactics will be carried out to get Martin to keep his promise. He said all campuses are going to do a massive postering campaign, a cross-country petition, mass post card mailing and a campaign to sensitize members of Parliament.

~Even though the students are totally misguided, it doesn't really matter much. Entitlementarian student protests have a lot of steam in the fall, but by May all will be forgotten, only to be taken up with vigour again next fall. Thus the cycle of life continues on university campuses.

Conflict of interest??

NDP Premier Gary Doer's (Ginny Devine) wife received a lucrative p.r. contract worth $500,000 from Manitoba's Workers Compensation Board. The Opposition Tories claim that her company, Viewpoints, was not the lowest bidder.

You may recall her company also did much of the p.r. work for Crocus.

The CTF says that perhaps Ms. Devine's company should reconsider when bidding on government contracts to avoid the perception of a conflict . . .

More at the Winnipeg Sun's Feedback section.

Tampon tax idea is "outright theft"

From the Ottawa Sun..

An NDP MP is accusing the Tories of ripping a page from her party's platform by floating the idea of cutting tax on tampons.

"That's outright theft," charged Judy Wasylycia-Leis after reports suggested the Conservatives are considering a policy to scrap the GST on tampons.

"This is very, very strange. I guess they're so bereft of good ideas that they have to steal from the NDP."

If there is anyone who knows ANYTHING about having their ideas stolen it's the Conservatives -- especially former members of the Reform Party. Get over it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Censorship in Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley school district of Nova Scotia recently cancelled a class field trip to watch a play of the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird', by Harper Lee.

School board officials claim they cancelled the trip due to the loss of valuable class-time.

Note: The school board never recommended the Grade 11 class read the classic and discuss as a way to utilize the valuable class-time.

To sum up the argument against 'To Kill a Mockingbird', the main objection is that it contains multiple negative elements that may not be sending the right messages.

Do you think this sanitization is equivalent to censorship?

Sask: Government absenteeism continues to soar

REGINA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling on the Saskatchewan government to conduct a review of human resources practices after surveying the amount of sick days taken by government and crown corporation employees.

The CTF obtained the average number of sick days taken by employees through Freedom of Information. The survey included most major crowns, government departments and ten of the province’s twelve health authorities.

Of the twelve government departments surveyed eight have seen increases in absenteeism since 2000/01. Saskatchewan Environment saw an increase of 39 percent – going from an average 6.9 sick days per FTE to 9.6 last year. Culture, Youth and Recreation recorded a 37 per cent increase, while absenteeism at Highways and Transportation increased by 25 per cent. Justice was the only department that saw a net decrease in absenteeism (24 per cent).

Read the backgrounder...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Red faces in Sask Finance

From the Star Phoenix...

That wasn't good enough for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), which said the manager should be fi red to send a message to the provincial civil service.

"It just reinforces in the minds of so many taxpayers that bureaucrats live in a little bubble separated from the average day-to-day reality of Saskatchewan residents," said the CTF's David MacLean. "There's a culture in all governments that bureaucrats are entitled to certain perks and privileges."

Finance spokesperson Mike Woods said the employees involved were part of the audit division in the revenue section of the department. The employees are not connected with the provincial auditor's offi ce, the watchdog of government money.

It's so ironic that it need not be said.

Taxpayers can't be trusted

From today's National Post.

Re: Please Sir, Can I Have a Tax Break?, Oct 11.

Tasha Kheiriddin and John Williamson seem to be under the illusion that Canadians can handle their money better than the government. Surely the vast sums spent on lotteries is proof that most Canadians do not know how to handle their money.

Would the $20 million sent to Pakistan have been as quickly produced if it had been left to individuals? I gladly pay taxes and expect no direct return because I know the money is being wisely spent for the public good by people who know what they are doing. Their actions are scrutinized; in comparison, who scrutinizes the average Canadian when he wastes money on beer and cigarettes?

Instead of continually complaining about the level of taxation, the directors of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would do far more for Canada if they limited themselves to suggesting how the government should properly disburse public funds; simply handing the money back to Canadians would be counterproductive.

Paul Jones, Mont St. Hilaire, Que

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sask: It's all because of Grant Devine

SaskEnergy announced today that they are seeking approval for a 41 per cent rate increase for natural gas. According to Pat Atkinson (right), the NDP minister responsible for SaskEnergy, the massive increase isn't about increased demand for energy or the world price of oil, it's all about Grant Devine (for those who don't remember, Devine was the disastrous premier of Saskatchewan in the 1980s).

According to Atkinson, we can blame the high price of natural gas on the fact that Devine sold off natural gas fields in the1980s. She claims that if it weren't for that, we would be like the City of Medine Hat and own our own gas and everything would be great.

A few facts elude Atkinson. Grant Devine sold off gas fields back when oil companies were flaring off natural gas because it was worthless. Also, she forgets a little thing called NAFTA. Even if she achieved her dream of the government owning everything, we would still be paying the exact same price for gas that our neighbours in Alberta pay.

A great deflection for the government though, although it's getting really tired. Is Devine also to blame for out-migration, high taxes and slow job growth?

Democracy in action

Have you remembered to cast your vote for "best new blog"?

Please sir, can I have a tax break?

Who knew that Paul Martin's Canada had something in common with Victorian England? On Friday, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale treated taxpayers just like Oliver Twist, working them to the bone, doling out barely a dollop of tax relief and expecting gratitude (read votes) in return. He tabled the Surplus Allocation Act, whereby the federal government promises to "give back" one-third of any future surpluses remaining at the end of the year. That is, if the surplus exceeds the $3-billion contingency set in the budget every year. The remaining two-thirds will go to new spending and to pay down Canada $496-billion national debt.

At a time when taxes consume close to half of the average family's income, when Canadians work from Jan. 1 to June 25 just to pay the tax man (Tax Freedom day arrives on June 26), and when the government is awash in gas tax and GST revenue, the Surplus Allocation Act is little more than a pre-election gimmick and an insult to taxpayers, plain and simple. Since the budget was balanced in 1998, Ottawa has amassed multi-billion dollar surpluses. But instead of returning that money to taxpayers, the Liberals would rather keep on collecting it so they can dole it out as they see fit.

What's wrong with rebating taxes based on future surpluses? Let us count the ways.


Dalton McGuinty: Lord of Wasteful Spending

Dalton McGuinty's economic management philosophy hails from Middle-earth.

Read the CTF's critique here.

Consultant to leave no paper trail

The CTF has long advocated shining a light on the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs as a way to increase accountability.

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is currently under fire for signing a $132,000 contract with a consultant that specifies the firm must leave no paper trail in government offices.

If the federal government continues to get away with signing contracts like this, it will have to be a very bright light.

Monday, October 10, 2005

All eyes on Germany

Will they follow eastern european countries and reform their economy?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Earthquake relief

As the trajedy unfolds many of us will be looking for a way to help. Here is a list of agencies (via CNN).

London garbage rotation and Suzuki-style propaganda

Hilarious outrage over at London Fog.

Londoners looking to print the calendar will find they'll need to replace their ink cartridge and replenish their supply of paper 17 pages later. The overpaid managers have decided that environmental propaganda is more important than the life of a small forest of trees. In addition, the format of the calendar forces residents to find a place for it on their wall, thereby making garbage an integral part of the decor.As I've said before, the rotating schedule does nothing but create confusion for Londoners looking to put out their trash:

We wouldn't need a schedule if garbage pickup was the same day, once a week, according to zone, like it used to be. The rotating schedule that we have now does nothing to reduce landfill, as people simply hold onto their garbage for an extra day or two. The current system only serves to confuse Londoners and employs useless bureaucrats who are paid to design and deliver David Suzuki style propaganda at the public's expense.

And I remember a time when you could print off one sheet of paper for your zone, displaying all the months of the year. Then, the year I actually received a calendar in the mail, I found I could tack it on the fridge with a high powered magnet. Now, I am expected to make another hole in the wall in order to display the calendar promoting the upcoming four container household limit. Let's get excited everyone and jump up and down and scream! More unnecessary regulations - yip-eee!

FFT nominated for best new blog

Check out the results and cast your vote if you like what we're doing.

Foreign convicts love our prisons

From the Ottawa Sun.

"Very few foreigners want to return back to their country of origin," she said. "Because we offer a whole gamut of programming, a lot offenders really want to deal with their criminogenic factors. And their quality of life in Canada, more often than not, is better than in the foreign country."

Even prisoners from the U.S. prefer to do their time here, she said.

While most being transferred have been convicted of drug crimes abroad, others have committed serious violent offences like murder.

Notorious killer Albert Walker, for example, caused an uproar in February when he was flown home from Britain to the surprise of outraged family members who weren't notified of the transfer.

Because CSC has a policy of paying for the relocation -- including staff, flights, hotel and meals -- costs can be hefty. Upon their return, CSC also incurs the costs of incarcerating the offender, which carries an average annual pricetag of about $88,000 in federal penitentiaries.


But John Williamson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Canadians should serve their time where they did the crime -- even if that means fewer perks and programs.

"If Canada makes an allowance for them to return home, it should not be taxpayers who are footing the bill," he said.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sask: Karwacki the cypher

Liberal leader David Karwacki wades into 40 per cent Sask Energy rate increase (subscriber only).

A SaskEnergy rate hike that’s likely going from an already daunting 27 per cent to over 40 per cent is raising questions about both the size of the potential increase and the amount of money being taken by the government in dividends from its Crown corporations.

A day after the 40-per-cent figure was dangled by the provincial government and SaskEnergy, Liberal leader David Karwacki said it doesn’t compute.

It’s based on the market price for natural gas, he said in a telephone interview, but SaskEnergy has been buying gas for storage at a much cheaper rate.

“They have basically a surplus of gas. I mean, they’ve stuffed every cavern that they have with gas. So to go and reflect today’s spot market to the people of Saskatchewan … is not appropriate,” said Karwacki.

“The gas they put in the ground, that gas was stuck in the ground at $7 (a gigajoule), under $7.”

Someone is full of gas. First off, the stored gas represents only 40 per cent of the supply for winter. Second, we have to factor in the cost of replacing that gas at market prices. So we are either hit with an increase now or six months from now.

Now there is something to be said for reducing the government take on SaskEnergy profits. In fact, if we're going to have crowns (and we shouldn't) they ought to be not-for-profit and, as we have suggested in the past, run like cooperatives. And there is the ongoing problem of the province hiding debt in the crowns by extracting heavy dividends to fill holes in the provincial budget, and then having the crowns turn around and raise rates.

Thanks for getting on board, Mr. Karwacki, better late than never.

Despite Karwacki's most recent brainwave, high energy prices are here to stay.

Manitoba's non-existent job growth

Courtesy of Tom Brodbeck from the Winnipeg Sun . . .

"And according to the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics (MBS), Manitoba so far has the third worst job-creation numbers in Canada for 2005.

It's not good news. And it's the kind of economic data business groups talk about when they say Manitoba is not as competitive as it should be.

When groups such as the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation complain that Manitoba's high income and corporate taxes are hurting the economy, this is what they mean."

Read more . . .

Friday, October 07, 2005

Need Cash Before Payday?

If you work at the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) and are a little short on a Friday night. Don't bother your poor old uncle Angus, just plunk down your ASC government issued credit card.

" 'cause the world judges a man by the size of his sporran..."

Is government control of the liquor trade still justified?

It never was.

If any of you are interested in reading the great paper from the Montreal Economic Institute on liquor privatization, here it is.

The alternative Ontario throne speech

The premier has promised to overhaul the legislation that governs what Toronto can and cannot do, from setting bar hours to placing speed bumps. Problem is, what the City really wants are new regulatory and taxation powers. Businesses are understandably worried that revenue-thirsty councilors will use these powers to tax them out of existence. Lest one dismiss this as a “Toronto issue”, it isn’t; what happens with this Act will set the bar for municipalities across Ontario. The premier should take the time to get this law right, not simply rush it through before the next municipal election in 2006.

Read more..

The spending binge continues

When will this stop? Another $1.5 billion set to be shot out of Ralph Goodale's cannon. This time the target is starving students.

Now, maybe I'm old fashioned, but whatever happened to good old student loans? Many of us squeezed through school with little or no outside help knowing full well that university education is already heavily subsidized (75 per cent) by the government.

OTTAWA -- The federal government is preparing a wide-ranging financial program aimed at helping low-income students, aboriginals and other Canadians gain access to postsecondary education as part of a multi-pronged plan the Liberals hope to introduce this month.

The money would come from a $1.5-billion two-year pot of cash earmarked for education in the budget deal agreed to by Prime Minister Paul Martin and NDP Leader Jack Layton last spring. The government hopes to introduce the measures in an economic update from Finance Minister Ralph Goodale later this month.

Sacré bleu!

Taxpayers open up their wallets for councilors and city hall staff to learn the language of love. From the Winnipeg Sun . . .

Sask: When you're right, you're right

People are going to jump all over me for this, but the Saskatchewan Party is right on the money today. In fact, to say we need a change is the understatement of the century. The facts are as follows -- we have one of the highest corporate income tax rate in Canada, we have a punishing corporate capital tax and we charge PST on business inputs. Yet the government would have us believe that businesses don't really mind paying all that tax.

According to a new Statistics Canada report released today, Saskatchewan lost 3,300 jobs from September 2004 to September 2005. During that same period, there were 1,500 new jobs created in Manitoba and 12,600 new jobs created in Alberta.

Read the Statistics Canada Labour Force Report released today here.

Last week, Statistics Canada also revealed that Saskatchewan's population dropped by 425 people in the second quarter of 2005. During that same period, Manitoba's population grew by over 1,000 and Alberta's grew by over 17,000.

War Zone Junket

Canada's top athletes and business elite are off on a taxpayer-funded junket to Afghanistan.

What's next? Wayne Gretzky off to Bahgdad? Celine Dion to Sudan?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sask: CTF on the air

For Saskatchewan residents, I'll be on CJME and CKOM with David Kirton at around 5:15.

You can listen live at

David Dingwall may or may not be discussed...

Politicians get break at the pump

What's good for them ought to be good for the rest of us.

MPs and public servants have been quietly awarded a 10-per-cent increase in their car travel allowances in response to soaring gas prices as the government refuses to cut federal fuel taxes to help the driving public.

The travel allowance increase, to 50.6 cents per kilometre from 46 cents for MPs, with a similar range for public servants, would result in a travel allowance of $400 for a return trip by car from Ottawa to Toronto, excluding costs for meals and lodging.

The increase came to light in a memo Commons Speaker Peter Milliken circulated to MPs yesterday, alerting them to the fact their travel allowances would rise to match Treasury Board rates for bureaucrats that the government increased last Saturday.

New Anti-Waste Website

Sask: Calvert leaves door open to Weyerhauser bailout

Weyerhauser to Calvert: It's not you it's me

Calvert said Weyerhaeuser's decision to close the two plants was not due to Saskatchewan corporate income or capital taxes, which are among the highest in the country.

"What they have said to us is that the decision that they've made is not related to any particular tax condition in Saskatchewan. It's related entirely to market issues and the Canadian dollar.''

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Strength in numbers

I know you are all planning to join the CTF.

Surplus allocation act

Man we need tax cuts, not another gimmick.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation called the plan a pre-election gimmick. "Smells fishy to me. Smells like election herring,'' federation head John Williamson told the Canadian Press.

First Nations' Women's Day

October 5, 2005 marks the first annual First Nations’ Women’s Day in Canada. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Assembly of First Nations adopted the resolution to acknowledge native Canadian women earlier this year.

The reasons for the resolution can be found in the minutes of the Annual General Assembly that took place in Yellowknife this past July, “First Nations women have contributed to the success, livelihood and survival of our communities; and it is important for people in our communities to support and recognize the need to acknowledge and honor First Nations women.”

This is a worthy cause yet rather ironic since, whether it is a Canadian government sanctioned report or a United Nations’ study, native Canadian women and children living on Indian reserves, are considered to be the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens. The lack of matrimonial property rights is one reason for the disparity.

Government liquor stores a joke

Montreal Economic Institute tells it like it is...

''This point should not hide the positive results that a privatization of the SAQ would produce for Quebec consumers as a whole, with more stores at their disposal and the probable creation of many jobs.''

The Montreal Economic Institute comparison found employment levels in the liquor industry rose considerably in Alberta between 1993 and 1996, going from about 950 full-time positions to 2,904.

These factors, combined with the potential government revenue of a deregulated industry, led Mr. Petkantchin and the institute to conclude the original rationale for government monopoly has been ''lost in the mists of time.''

For Saskies...check the CTF report on liquor privatization. Sigma Analytics found 72 per cent of Sask residents feel government should have no role in selling liquor, or that role should be limited to wholesaling.

CTF delivers 35,000 gas tax petitions to Harper

Ottawa: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) continues to speak out on the issue of high gasoline taxes. Today on Parliament Hill, federal director John Williamson unveiled 35,000 gas tax petitions calling on the federal government to cut gas taxes by 5 cents a litre. Last October, the CTF delivered 65,000 petitions to John Godfrey, Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities). Another 50,000 gas tax petitions were presented to Paul Martin, then-Minister of Finance, in 2000.

“Because the prime minister and his finance minister say they will not cut the gas tax, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation opted to deliver the gas tax petitions to the Conservative Opposition,” stated Mr. Williamson. “We want to turn taxpayer anger over gas prices into voter anger at Ottawa’s gas tax gouging. The Liberals are not listening to the cries from Canadians to tax them fairly at the pumps.”

Is conservatism dead?

Many readers of the CTFs blog may be aware last week the National Post printed a six-part series asking "is conservatism dead?"

Canada's conservative party - under its many different names - has certainly gone through many tials and tribulations to determine what its policies and identity are.

Similar trials and tribulations have occured abroad. The British conservative party has undergone 4 leadership elections in 8 years. So this begs the question, "is conservatism dead?"

Read more about how the British Tory party is evloving.

Parental Choice

School vouchers are currently a topic of debate in the US. Especially after hurricane Katrina forced the relocation of so many school aged children.

Do you think school vouchers should be used in Canada?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Waste watcher Warren Kinsella

If only he had used his powers for good...

1. Why is it necessary for this $80-million-and-counting "inquiry" to be in residence at the Royal York Hotel three days in advance of the actual event? (The press release lists a 416 number - that's the Royal York, folks.)

Direct government investment hurts people

Did the bitterly-contested 2003 election end the debate about the role of crowns and direct government investment into the economy? If you listen to the NDP or the political pundits in Saskatchewan it did.

However, if you ask Saskatchewanians about specific examples, you find a willingness to pursue
a different path.


You knew this would happen

Dingwall gets his severance.

Prime Minister Paul Martin says government lawyers have advised the Liberals that they must provide former Mint head David Dingwall with a severance settlement.

"The fact is that we have sought legal advice and legal advice has told us that there is an obligation and that we must meet that obligation."

But he emphasized that Mr. Dingwall will not receive the maximum amount.

"We will do so but it will be the minimum payment possible under the circumstances of the legal advice that we have received on the one hand and on the other if there has been any money that have been not properly disbursed, we will recuperate it,” Mr. Martin told reporters after a Liberal cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Japan reducing the size of government

Have to tell you, some really interesting things happening in Japan.

Controversy around private health conference

Big government advocates upset that BC politicians would actually speak at such a conference.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Report: Alberta considering cutting every tax under the sun

If only a few of these come to pass we'll be pleased and vindicated, as we're the voice in the wilderness on tax cuts in Alberta. Cutting taxes may be the only way to get the Alberta government to control spending. Killing two birds with one stone.

Not everyone is desperate for tax cuts at the earliest possible moment, however. Ray Prins, MLA from Lacombe-Stettler, said he's advising constituents not to necessarily expect a reduction.

Prins has a handy list of oil prices from recent history that he hauls out when people start talking too aggressively about recent natural resource wealth and the possibilities of tax relief.

"The average price of oil just four years ago was $25.90," says Prins, who then reads down the list: "In 1999 it was $19.24; 2000 it was $30.20; 2001 it was $25.90. Two years ago the average price was $30.90, so I don't think we should be basing our future on what's happening this year."

Well, that would seem like common sense. Except for the fact that Alberta has based it's spending on the premise that the oil boom will continue forever. I'm sure Mr. Prins is hopping mad about that.

Suzuki foundation slams Saskatchewan (and most other provinces)

The Suzuki Foundation is criticizing Saskatchewan for increasing it's CO2 emissions by 45 per cent since 1990.

Industry and Resources Minister Eric cline defended the province, saying something like "we don't hear other provinces complaining when they are buying our oil and gas."

A great comment. But then he added that the federal government ought to be helping Saskatchewan meet its kyoto requirements. In other words, all taxpayers should be subsidizing Saskatchewan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps the Saskatchewan government shouldn't have been so quick to jump on they Kyoto bandwagon?

A win for patients and taxpayers

VICTORIA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) responded today to the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s ruling that last year’s Hospital Employees Union (HEU) strike was in fact illegal and that patients can now proceed with a class action certification hearing against the union.

“This ruling is a victory for patients. During last year’s four day illegal strike, over 25,000 surgeries and procedures were cancelled, delaying treatment and causing unnecessary emotional, physical and economic harm to patients,” said Sara MacIntyre, BC director for the CTF.

Following last year’s strike, the CTF helped impacted patients organize a class action suit against the HEU. In order to proceed, patients had to obtain a declaration from the Labour Relations Board that the HEU’s actions were in fact illegal. After getting the declaration, the HEU appealed the finding to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Justice Kelleher dismissed the HEU”s appeal on all grounds. Patients have already filed a Writ of Summons under The Class Proceedings Act and are now be able to proceed with a certification hearing.

“The class action suit is really about reminding the HEU that illegal strike actions have consequences on patients. Using people’s access to health care as bullying tactic is not acceptable and the HEU should be held responsible for its actions. All too often public sector unions use their monopoly control over vital services to demand more from taxpayers and this time the union went too far,” concluded MacIntyre.

The ruling...

CTF takes some flack in Winnipeg

Dust my broom takes out the trash...

Wait Times in Canada the Longest in the World

For knee and hip replacements, Canada's has the longest wait times in the world. Anyone who has a loved one that needs this type of surgery know full well the pain caused by our inhumane wait times.

So much for accessible health care.

Manitobans taxed to the max . . .

the CTF has been saying this for years. More on this from the Winnipeg Sun & the Winnipeg Free Press (subscribers only)

We pay too much in taxes: report
Competitive edge lost, accountants' group says

Mon Oct 3 2005

By Mia Rabson

MANITOBA'S taxes are among the highest in Canada and have caused the province to lose its competitive edge, a new report says. The Chartered Accountants of Manitoba today released the first instalment of The MB Check-Up, a three-part report outlining Manitoba's attractiveness within Canada as a place to invest, live and work.

Uphill battle

The first phase dealt with investment, and it found that because of high business and personal taxes, Manitoba faces an uphill battle when it comes to attracting people to the province.

People moving to Manitoba should be prepared to pay provincial income taxes that are significantly higher than in Ontario and the other western provinces.

For example, a two-income family of four earning $90,000 would pay $2,880 more than they would in British Columbia or Ontario, and a two-income family of four earning $60,000 would pay $1,380 more than a family in Alberta. (See chart on page A4) Manitoba has reduced its corporate tax rate 1.5 points since 2002, but at 15.5 per cent, it still has the second-highest corporate tax rate in the West. Only Saskatchewan, at 17 per cent, has a higher corporate rate.

Gary Hannaford, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba, said he gives the NDP government credit for reducing taxes somewhat in Manitoba, but said it hasn't done enough to keep the province competitive with tax levels in other provinces.

"We're moving in the right direction, but it's not far enough or fast enough," Hannaford said.

He said when a business is looking at places to set up shop or expand, tax rates play a huge role in the decision-making process. When they look at Manitoba, they see high taxes.

Although Manitoba plans to further reduce the corporate income tax to 14 per cent by January 2007, Hannaford noted British Columbia has already committed to reducing its rate to 12 per cent, and Alberta's is already at 11.5 per cent. Comparing after-tax profits of corporations, the report found Manitoba lagged behind its western counterparts.

The average Manitoba corporation had after-tax profits of just 8.2 per cent of the provincial gross domestic product, compared to 17 per cent in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Canadian average is 10.7 per cent.

Hannaford said Saskatchewan's higher corporate tax rate is offset by higher profits in the oil and gas sector.

Speaking about Manitoba's high personal taxes, Hannaford said the province needs to become more competitive in the eyes of higher-income earners if it wants to drive economic growth and attract businesses to Manitoba.

"People who are leading businesses are people earning at that $80,000 level or higher," he said.

One area in which Manitoba did compare somewhat favourably was its debt-to-GDP ratio. The ratio, a comparison of what a province makes versus what it owes, is 18.9 per cent. The figure does not include the debt of Crown corporations such as Manitoba Hydro, which has a debt larger than the provincial government's.

Alberta has a zero debt-to-GDP ratio, and B.C.'s ratio is slightly better than Manitoba at 18.2 per cent. But Saskatchewan is at 20.8 per cent, Ontario is 24.5 per cent and the national average is 22.1 per cent.

Moreover, Manitoba's ratio has steadily declined over the last five years, from 22.6 per cent in 1999 to 18.9 per cent last year.

Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger said the report's figures are accurate but not all-inclusive. He said the province has the lowest cost of living in the country, based on utility rates, car insurance and housing costs. He said that while our taxes are higher, in the end it's still cheaper to live and do business here.

"We end up winning on cost of living," Selinger said. "This only gives part of the story. People don't make decisions based on one factor -- they look at everything."

Hannaford acknowledged cost of living is a factor and said the next two instalments of The MB Check-Up take that into account. He said Manitoba comes off better in both of them.

Tory Leader Stuart Murray said Manitoba's record on taxes and competitiveness is shameful.

He said a recent budget update in British Columbia listed Manitoba as having the highest taxes for middle-income earners of any province in the country, not just Western Canada.

"Mr. Doer should be embarrassed," Murray said of Premier Gary Doer. "To pay the highest taxes in Canada is something no government should be proud of."

Murray said even Saskatchewan has surpassed Manitoba. He said the province has to outline a long-term, significant tax-reduction plan, and the government must rein in its spending.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sask: New deal for city workers means a tax increase

Now is the time to look at some serious privatization initiatives. City services are pricing themselves out of the market.

From the Leader Post:

The City of Regina is facing an $8.4-million bill to pay for the salary and related benefit increases received by core city workers.

That total includes $6.3 million over three years for the 1,600 workers who recently were on strike, plus $2.1 million for pay raises for middle managers and out-of-scope workers. A report released by the city Friday said the city is hoping to cover off the pay raises for 2004 and 2005 within existing budgets.

But it said the city's operating and utility budgets will have to be increased by $3.5 million in 2006 as a result of the salary increases, potentially translating into a three- to four-per-cent property tax increase next year, if everything else remains the same.

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