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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Income trust spike a breach of trust?

This issue is quickly becoming one that needs to be addressed. Not after Christmas, not after the election -- we need to know now how this happened and who is responsible.
Hat tip: SDA

From Conservativelife: (read the whole post)

What Ralph Goodale said on November 18th
OTTAWA -- Finance Minister Ralph Goodale says he's aiming to release Ottawa's new policy governing income trusts before the end of January, regardless of a possible election campaign.

Goodale says he's been closely following public consultations on the controversial trust issue and will be ready to move soon after Ottawa's Dec. 31 deadline for input.

He told The Canadian Press that the timing won't hinge on a possible federal election early in the new year.

Five days later abnormal volumes of income trust stocks were trading on the TSE. The next day Ralph Goodale made his announcement.

Steyn on Kyoto and olympic-sized stadium budgets

Steyn:

Actually, it's not difficult. Signing Kyoto is nothing to do with reducing "global warming" so much as advertising one's transnational moral virtue. America could reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 87 per cent and Canada could increase them by 673 per cent and the latter would still be a "good citizen of the world" (in the Prime Minister's phrase) while "Polluter Bush" would still be in the dog house, albeit a solar-powered one.

Likewise, those public sector union workers determined to keep their right to retire at 60. I've had many conversations with New Labour types in which my belief in low - if not undetectable - levels of taxation has been cited as evidence of my selfishness. But what's more selfish than spending the last 20 years of your life on holiday and insisting that the fellows who can't afford to retire at 60 should pay for it?

First Nations University told to trim its outrageous Board

And we had to pay a task force to tell them this? The chiefs are told to butt out.

A task force looking into problems at First Nations University of Canada is recommending a dramatic downsizing of FNUC's 32-member board of directors.

In its final report, released Tuesday in Saskatoon, the task force called on FNUC to cut 20 seats from the board.

It would also exclude Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations executives from sitting on the board and limit the federation's six appointees to no more than two chiefs.

It would also remove the federal and provincial governments and the province's other two universities from the board.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A political exchange on taxes, honesty and government accountability

This exchange was heard today in the Ontario Provincial Parliament (from hansard):

Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): In the 2003 election, Premier McGuinty signed a pledge not to raise taxes and to abide by the Taxpayer Protection Act. We all know the Liberals broke their promise in about six months, instituting the largest tax hike in Ontario's history, known as the health tax. Now they want to break their promise again by eliminating any requirement for the people to be consulted if the province allows a municipality to charge a new tax.

What does this mean for taxpayers? If the McGuinty Liberals let municipalities charge you a sales tax, you will have no say. If they allow a local income tax, you will have no say. If they allow any other kind of new tax, people across Ontario will have no say.

Ontarians are already upset at rising income taxes, property taxes and hydro rates. They don't want any more taxes from any level of government. We all know this bill is a lead-up to giving new tax powers to the city of Toronto. This government should be on notice that our party will continue to stand up for the taxpayers of Toronto and the taxpayers of Ontario. They are already paying too much.

TAXATION

Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): My question is to the Premier. Sadly, yesterday I watched as you broke another election promise. After promising to abide by the provisions of the Taxpayer Protection Act, you broke your promise and raised taxes by $2.4 billion. Now again you have broken that same promise by giving authority to municipalities to levy taxes. I'm not going to cast any aspersions on that, because maybe they need to. But my question to you is very simple: Will you admit today that you have no intention whatsoever of honouring your signature to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Hon. John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I must admit I find this question rather puzzling from an individual who is in this House who served as a mayor of parts of this municipality, in East York at one point in time. He well knows that in the 21st century we are in now, it's absolutely essential that municipalities, including the city of Toronto, and most of all the city of Toronto, which, after all, is the economic engine of this province, have the capacity and the ability to look after their own affairs. That's what we are trying to accomplish with the City of Toronto Act.

The mayor has asked for these powers. AMO has endorsed these kinds of powers. The task force that was set up between the ministry and the staff at city hall asked for these powers. The external review board that the mayor set up to give him advice has asked for these powers. We think that this is the right thing to do. And if the member doesn't like it, then maybe he should say why he's against the city of Toronto having the types of powers it needs to function properly in the 21st century.

Mr. Prue: What this member doesn't like is your party and your leader trying to have it two ways: signing the Taxpayer Protection Act and then doing something to the opposite. You have to choose which side you are on. You can't be part of this and then part of that; you have to be one or the other. You can't have a happy, smiling face with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and a happy, smiling face with the mayor.

I have to repeat my question to you: Do you admit that you were wrong in signing to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and do you promise not to abide by what you promised them in September 2003?

Hon. Mr. Gerretsen: I think the much more relevant question is whether or not that member over there, as a representative here in the city of Toronto, supports the people of Toronto and supports the city of Toronto in wanting a new City of Toronto Act. That's what it's all about in the long run. The people of Toronto want to know where you stand as their representative in this city as to whether or not you believe that the city of Toronto should have more powers, both at the fiscal end and at the legislative end, in order to restructure itself-
Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Order, Minister. Thank you.

I would like to hear the reply as well as the question, so you'll be helpful if you do that.

Taxation

Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Premier, on September 11, 2003, you signed the following pledge: "I, Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, promise ... that I will not raise taxes or implement" any "new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters...." And further, "I promise to abide by the Taxpayer Protection and Balanced Budget Act."

Premier, why did you sign this pledge? [ed: indeed why DID he sign our pledge?]

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I can only divine from that question that what the leader of the official opposition is getting at is the Respect for Municipalities Act and, in particular, our party's and our government's support for the city of Toronto. I assume that's what he's getting at.

There is no doubt about it: We are strongly in favour of doing everything we reasonably can to put the city of Toronto on a stronger footing, because we understand on this side of the House that a strong Toronto makes for a stronger Ontario. Now the leader of the official opposition may not be in favour of that. He may choose to disregard that reality.

We are working hard, and I'm proud to say we're working well with the city of Toronto. We've had in place a process that has been very effective. It has culminated in a very substantive report, which we're now carefully considering. Shortly, we'll be introducing new legislation that will have the effect of putting the city of Toronto on a stronger footing.

Mr. Tory: Of course we all support the need for a strong Toronto, but that was not the question. That was not the question.

You have introduced, at the last minute, your so-called Respect for Municipalities Act, which really should be called the disrespect for municipal taxpayers act, and you are removing through that bill one important test that was to precede the introduction of new taxing powers given by the provincial government. You supported that test in writing when you said you would support the Taxpayer Protection Act.

Your new bill gives to municipalities, or will give to municipalities, the right to raise taxes on top of the $2,000 in new taxes and charges and fees and hydro bills that have been brought in by the McGuinty Liberal government. When I asked about this issue two week ago, your minister refused to rule out any municipal tax hikes on your watch, and we now see why. Are you prepared to look taxpayers in the eye, then, and say you were wrong to sign the Taxpayer Protection Act pledge in 2003? Were you wrong to do that?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: It is hard to determine just on which side of the City of Toronto Act Mr. Tory stands, because he's not prepared to do what is absolutely essential to recognize their distinction as a mature responsible level of government that we're prepared to work with and put on a stronger footing. He's not prepared to recognize that, although, on May 7, 2004, he said the following: "We have to re-examine completely the relationship between the municipal and provincial government to give city governments more latitude to raise some of their own revenue if they choose to do so."

I agree with the statement made by Mr. Tory then. Perhaps he would stand up and tell us why it is that he's now decided that he's not prepared to support the city of Toronto in putting that city on a stronger footing for the benefit of all Ontarians.

Mr. Tory: The question was why you signed the Taxpayer Protection Act, saying you would submit any proposed new taxation power to a referendum before it was done-why you did that. The question was not whether I support it or not, the reform in the relationship between Toronto and the provincial government.

At least one city councillor in Toronto has talked even today about raising taxes for people in this city thanks to the powers that you're giving to them. He had this to say: "I've never been worried at being first at the trough." "If you can afford to drive a car, you can afford an extra five bucks or so"-in taxes-"to go to public transit."

This bill was introduced in a hurry. Your people are telling us you want to get it through in a hurry and you're about to strip away something you signed up for, which was to give individual taxpayers the right to have their say before you gave this power to municipalities. I'm only asking if you're prepared to take away the meaning of your own signature. Would you at least guarantee some hearings so people could come and be heard on this piece of legislation and on what you are doing, which goes back on what you signed?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I would ask the leader of the official opposition to reflect upon the conversation that he would have had with Mayor Miller, wherein he indicated that he would be supporting the new City of Toronto Act. He might want to give some thought to that. But in case he's forgotten, I'll quote from a letter that Mr. Miller sent to me. He said, "Toronto's fiscal sustainability is in part related to the new revenue tools at its disposal. It would be regrettable indeed if the bold, visionary initiative of your government is hamstrung by the ongoing impact of the actions of the previous government. I would like to encourage the provincial government to take action to eliminate the impediment to reform of Ontario's enabling legislation and future option for Toronto's overall fiscal framework."

I say to the leader of the official opposition, he cannot have it both ways. We've decided to do what is essential to ensure that the city of Toronto is put on a stronger financial footing. We're prepared to do that because we believe in Toronto and we believe that a stronger Toronto makes for a stronger Ontario.

Sask government insurance expanding to Alberta

Saskatchewan taxpayers are paying for SGI to enter "fiercely competitive" Alberta insurance market. What could possibly go wrong?

Saskatchewan Government Insurance Canada has received $21 million in cash from the province to help it break into the "fiercely competitive" Alberta insurance market, the provincially owned company says.

SGI has also received another $4 million to spend on its existing Coachman venture in Ontario. The money comes from the Crown Investments Corp.

In a recently released quarterly report, the SGI said the $25-million capital injection will allow SGI to meet its growth targets for out-of-province operations and spread its risk geographically.

Monday, November 28, 2005

On "Big Pimps"

Punches are not pulled at Dust my Broom:

All I can say about this recent circus is that now the entire future of our people lies in the hands of the Pimps. And when they piss all over the golden path that now lies in front of us, with their usual internecine power-battles and nepotism shaking the last drops out, not only will the money be lost, but also any modicum of credibility for any and all Indians — the Big Pimps themselves, right down to the grassroots, front-line warrior trying to keep his neighbourhood from going up in flames.

The Saskatchewan Time Machine

As I write, members of the Saskatchewan legislature are debating talking points from the 1980's Devine-era hansard. Out-migration and GDP problems remain unsolved. The government continues to grow.

Liberal Spending Bender


While politicians used to throw salted pork at voters to win their support, today's preferred method is using tax dollars, and the government's spending powers.

Between November 3rd and November 27th, the governing Liberals have made 145 spending announcements totalling $24.5-billion.

Last week alone, over $20-billion was announced in ribbon-cutting ceremonies and news wire stories across Canada.

A few of the real gems include:

$2.5-million to highlight Italian contributions to building Canada

$139,000 for fish harvesters skills promotion in Halifax

$276,000 for the Bata Shoe Museum....

$24.5-billion in 24 days works out to over $1-billion per day, or $42-million every hour....

Your Tax Dollars at Work. Check out the CTF's Spend-O-Metre for the complete breakdown...

Taxpayers fund retreat

Just when you think you've heard it all when it comes to government waste, along comes another story.

The Sun Media chain has undercovered senior Ministry of Health workers billed taxpayers for a retreat that was held a short distance outside of Ottawa.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Income trusts: This one will not go away

From the Gazette:

The pre-election mudslinging got messier yesterday as the New Democrats called on the RCMP to investigate whether someone in Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's office leaked advance details of his income trust announcement last week.

NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she planned to send a letter tomorrow to the Mounties' Integrated Market Enforcement Team, asking them to investigate whether anyone from Goodale's office leaked details of his dividend tax credit increase to Bay St., allowing some to profit from the advance knowledge.

When the issue was put to Goodale on Friday by reporters, he issued a stern denial, calling any suggestion of a leak "absolutely untrue, a complete falsehood."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A lost generation of leadership??

Check out Charles Adler's latest column in Sun Media where he writes "At least Brian Mulroney had substance"

Friday, November 25, 2005

Senate urged to study aliens

This has nothing directly to do with taxes, government accountability or waste, but it begged to be posted.

OTTAWA, CANADA (PRWEB) November 24, 2005 -- A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”

By “ETs,” Mr. Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Crazy Letter of the Month

November's crazy letter of the month goes to Saskatchewan's Jackie Lukey in today's Leader Post (sorry, subscriber only). In this letter, Jackie defends a failed resolution at the most recent NDP convention that would ban private MRI clinics in Saskatchewan AND ban doctors from even looking at MRI results purchased privately in other provinces.

Here's a taste:

Would we think it appropriate for teachers calling themselves "business people as well as teachers" to have the same attitude? Perhaps they could own the classroom pencil sharpener and charge people to use it, while at the same time determining when it needed to be used. How long would it take the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation to discipline such a person? How long would it take the public school board to fire them?

And why would doctors want to cross the line from being well-paid, hard-working heros and respected community leaders to being overpaid exploiters of the public?

You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sask: The story that should get more media attention but isn't

The possible repercussions are serious (sorry, subscriber only). We'll definitely be re-visiting this.

Sask. Party grills NDP over sale
Losses on Spudco will exceed the previously reported $35 million because the NDP government sold $3 million worth of potato equipment at a fire-sale price of $750,000, the Saskatchewan Party charged Wednesday.

Justice for a whistleblower

I had the honour of attending, representing the CTF, a fundraiser for Linda Merk. While the event was well-attended by NDP government members, there was absolutely no support from organized labour. Congratulations Linda. It has been a long haul but everyone benefits from your commitment to the cause.

From CJME:

A four-year-long ordeal for Linda Merk concluded with a win, Thursday, following a ruling by the Supreme Court. In a 6-1 ruling, the high court has determined Merk was in her right to question the expenditures of two employees, while she was working as an office manager with the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union.

Merk was fired from her job in 2001. The question posed to the Supreme Court was whether she had reported the allegation to a "lawful authority" -- in this case, the workplace. A previous ruling determined government officials or police would be, but workplace officials wouldn't.

Merk can now ask the provincial court for reinstatement and compensation.

Sask business tax review committee

If the recommendations from the committee are implemented, today could mark a turning point for the province.

Read the report.

MB: MRI fight may go to the Supreme Court

Last week, the CTF informed readers of our blog of the Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg, MB plans to offer private (or fee-for-service) MRIs.

It came as no surprise when Manitoba Health Minister Tim Sale, vowed to change the provinces own regulations and legislation to outlaw the private MRIs.

The tale is heating up, as the owner of the Maples Surgical Centre vows to take the fight for the right to offer and receive private MRIs all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Residential school payout goes too far

Today's editorial in the Montreal Gazette takes a bold view of the federal government's recent Indian residential school payout. read on:

  • "It's tempting to simply heave a sigh of relief that the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations have finally agreed on a settlement that will bring an end to the long, agonizing drama over the mistreatment of aboriginal children in Canada's residential schools. In fact, at $2.2 billion, the agreement seems almost a bargain if it can, indeed, bring this shabby chapter in our history to a close.

  • For the real victims - those who were sexually and physically abused - the agreement will bring some relief and compensation for their suffering. Not a lot, perhaps - $10,000 plus $3,000 for each year spent in the system - but something. And more has been set aside for victims of extreme abuse.

  • There are, however, elements of this deal that reek of expediency rather than justice. Compensating men and women who were raped and beaten as children is one thing; including loss of language or culture in the list of eligible grievances is going much too far.

  • It's true that many Canadians have come to regard residential schools with the kind of odium and disdain otherwise reserved for concentration camps. For those people - and they would include most of the aboriginal leadership - just to have been in one of these schools is qualification enough to line up for a government cheque.

  • But that's unfair, both to the smaller number of victims who bear physical and emotional scars unimaginable to most of us, and to the hundreds of well-meaning men and women who went north to work and teach in those schools, firmly convinced that they were acting in the best interests of the children involved. In fact, many graduates have positive memories of their experience in residential schools.

  • The motives of the people who built the schools and ran them were certainly coloured by the prejudices and preconceptions of their day, but their objective was to prepare aboriginal children for life in a modern society. Their methods were harsh and sometimes coercive, but at the time, assimilating children into white society was seen as a far better guarantee of success and happiness than leaving them to try their luck eking out a living in the wilderness.

  • We have become more sophisticated over time. Modern sociologists now tell us that the best place to help anyone is where they live (a concept, oddly enough, that the earliest Catholic missionaries also believed). But even that debate continues. The abuse and neglect that children suffer on many of Canada's more remote reserves - and the drug-and-booze-drenched hopelessness of their lives - doesn't seem much of an improvement on the residential schools. If anything, the lot of those children is sometimes worse; at least the schools made an effort to teach their wards a trade.

  • It's certainly sad that in that process, many of those children lost their language and their cultural identity, but the government and the religious groups who ran the schools acted in good faith and in accordance with the best understanding of the time in preparing their wards for the modern world. Just because something's lamentable doesn't make it actionable. Equating the loss of language with sexual and physical abuse is absurd."

  • © The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

Gentlemen, Start your Pork Barrelling


Paul Martin's government spent over $15-billion in the last three weeks.

This works out to about $750,000,000 per day, or $31,000,000 every hour!

Read more here

The CTF's "Spend-O-Metre" will be updated daily and will be posted on taxpayer.com later today.

A better life for natives

Gee, seems some folks are listening to the recommendations of the CTFs Centre for Aboriginal Policy Change. Let's hope the politicians and decision makers follow.

Take a look at the editorial in today's Victoria Times Colonist. The paper agrees that federal tax dollars currently sent to the chief and council to disperse within their communities should be given to individuals. The paper also agrees the federal AG needs access to the finanical documents.

Accountability on native reserves

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has long advocated for the mandate of the Auditor General of Canada be expanded to included native band councils, looks like the Vancouver Province editorial board agrees.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture


On November 3rd, Industry Canada gave $1.5-million to support "water management" in Africa.

Nevermind that dozens of Indian reservations are on boil-water alerts here in Canada.

This is almost as ludicrous as us giving foreign aid to China - a country with nuclear weapons, 10% annual growth and a space program.

Only in Canuckistan eh?! Your Tax Dollars at Work....

The Saskatchewan government rigged the poll

I just returned from the Saskatchewan legislature where I was talking to media about the rigged poll at the province's web site advocating for a sweeter equalization deal (check previous post and SDA for background).

At first a NDP staffer told me the poll was "hacked." I initially considered this a plausible explanation but the longer I thought about it the more I realized that if some nefarious individual or organization was able to hack the government web site for such a ridiculous purpose we have a damn serious government security problem on our hands.

Then the Premier was scrummed by reporters and was immediately asked about Small Dead Animals and raise-a-flag-gate. He made some jokes about listening to "small dead people" and asked why anyone would pay any mind to an organization with such a name or read blogs "or whatever you call them."

He then went on to say that raiseaflag.ca was indeed tampered with. He says that all of a sudden a thousand mischief makers logged on to the site and voted no. They responded to this security breech by basically restoring the setting on the poll to what is was before the mischief-makers flocked to the site.

In other words, they rigged the poll.

I'm not going to jump into hyperbolic North Korea-style propaganda metaphors, but this has to be the most ridiculous move a government could make. Those thousand mischief makers who voted "no" were actual people. Perhaps they didn't appreciate the fact the government is spending tax dollars on a publicity campaign aimed at extracting more tax dollars from Ontario and Alberta. Perhaps some of those individuals see the equalization program as a provincial welfare trap that rewards basket-case economies and punishes growing economies. Perhaps this was their way of protesting against this manipulative campaign.

The Premier said he didn't have any faith in "unscientific online polls" but you can be sure that he would not hesitate to use the fictitious 90 per cent support level if challenged on the merits of the campaign. If, Premier Calvert, you have no faith in unscientific online polls you should stop using them as manipulative propaganda tools.

$4 billion for former Indian residential school students

The federal government plans to spend $4 billion on former students of Indian residential schools.

It is important to note, that the $4 billion is a combination of money already pegged for Indian residential school cases.

For example, back in 1998 the feds create the Aboriginal Healing Foundation with a price tag of $350 million. The Foundation - which can not be audited by the federal auditor - will be topped up an extra $125 million.

Three years ago, the federal government created the Indian Residential School Resolution Framework for a mere $1.7 billion. This program will recieve an additional $800,000. So far, the framework has spent more money on administration than on finalizing claims.

How is the money being spent?

Below is a brief snippet taken from John Ivison's column in today's National Post. The column illustrates where some of the $8 billion per year Canadians spend on Aboriginal affairs ends up.

The entire article is available on line (subscribers only) or on newstands.

  • "OTTAWA - There is a popular misconception, according to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, that Canada's First Nations descend on Ottawa once a year in gigantic tractor-trailers, load up with bags of federal government cash and then drive home again.
    This image has been fuelled by stories of bribery and corruption on a minority of native reserves and by references to the billions of dollars at the disposal of the Indian Affairs department.

  • The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says funding for native programs doubled in the 12 years to 2002, to $6.6-billion from $3.3-billion, and native spending per capita is roughly double that for other Canadians. Yet, officials asked to break down aboriginal funding say the $6-billion the department now spends every year is largely devoted to basic services similar to those provided by various levels of government to other Canadians -- and at a comparable rate.

  • Apart from particular programs such as post-secondary assistance, where aboriginal Canadians receive more generous allowances than the average Canadian, officials say the amount paid to individuals for elementary and secondary education or for welfare reflects rates that are similar to those received by other Canadians in the same province. Of course, for bands like the Samson First Nation, near Edmonton, where 80% of residents are on welfare and 85% are unemployed, Ottawa's share of the local economy is huge.

  • In total, the federal government will be spend about $8-billion on natives across Canada this year. This mostly flows through Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) but also includes Health Canada, which spends around $1-billion on native health, and 11 other departments such as Canadian Heritage, which this year will spend $28-million on aboriginal associations, women's groups, community groups and friendship centres.

  • Provincial government funding varies. In provinces like Ontario, where 70% of natives live off reserve, direct spending is about $40-million and restricted to land claims. Around $4.8-billion of the INAC budget is spent on basic services, with the remaining $1.2-billion allocated to administration (the department employs about 4,000 people), litigation and land claims.

  • Officials say that the money is largely a reimbursement of actual spending by the First Nation. For example in elementary and secondary education, funding is dependent on how many children are attending school, with the First Nation being reimbursed at rates comparable to funding for provincial schools. The rate may vary from province to province, and there may be special funding to recognize remoteness or size of school. But officials maintain that Indian Affairs provides funding "with reasonable comparability to other Canadians living in similar geographic circumstances."

Saskatchewan open for business

If there is anything to this it's a powder keg.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Mill deal unplugged?
By Barry Glass Herald
Staff Herald
Weyerhaeuser’s Prince Albert mill.
Poor treatment by the province and task force leader Eldon Lautermilch could kill a deal with Chinese investors interested in the Weyerhaeuser plant, says the broker working on the proposal.

In particular, holding up the deal is a lack of clarity on what kind of offer SaskPower would make if these investors built a $150-million cogeneration plant with a U.S. partner.

Clarence Ekstrand, a Calgary-based consultant, used words such as flabbergasted, disgusted and astonished during a phone interview to describe his dealings with the province.

The great 2005 MLA pay raise caper

From the Campbell River Mirror:

VICTORIA - What's the worst thing about the Great MLA Raise Caper of 2005?Is it that the supposedly warring parties of the B.C. Legislature have been meeting secretly since summer? Is it the stunningly poor timing of approving raises between 15 and 30 per cent, so soon after legislating pay cuts and "zero, zero, zero" on the public service? Is it the three readings in two hours after telling the press there would be no more legislation this session?

Or is it that since the B.C. Liberal government's new "issues management" team was formed, issues from child death reviews to MLA pay have gone off the rails like a CN freight in the Cheakamus Canyon?

Sask: I really wish I caught this one

I've posted on Saskatchewan's raise a flag campaign before, but Kate at SDA and her readers have discovered the taxpayer funded web poll is rigged.

A couple of hours of experimental voting and the results are in - the Saskatchewan government is offering up a rigged website poll to support their "Raise A Flag" advertising campaign for a Saskatchewan Energy Accord.
It turns out the poll is stuck at 90-10 in favour of Saskatchewan getting handouts from Alberta and Ontario. And now, the poll has been completely removed.

Death-bed Spending Spree

In what may be the final week of the current minority parliament, the Liberals have once again embarked on a spending spree that would make drunken sailors seem frugal.

I am sure the fact that an election is imminent and all of a sudden the Liberals have money for everyone and everything is just a coincidence.

For once, playing the federal blame-game will help

Manitoba's Health Minister takes a pass on changing regulations that would make it illegal for Manitobans to purchase an MRI scan . . . patients can breathe a sigh of relief!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

If you are going to paint yourself into a corner, make sure you really want to be in that corner

Ken Dryden and his quixotic daycare pursuit. Read the whole disturbing thing. Big hat tip: London Fog.

But just imagine, if 100 years ago, in setting out as their task to build an education system, people said, well for an education system to be a real education system, it has to go from kindergarten to grade 12 and to be free to everybody of course, and there have to be scores of universities across the country for hundreds of thousands of students, and community colleges for hundreds of thousands of more and, well, forget it. It's hopeless. It can't be done. There's just no way. There's no point in even trying. It would bankrupt all of us. The same for health care 40 years ago, if people then could see what we have today.

(...)

I am not a perfectionist. I want to win. The key, I think, is to get the principles right. Then, with the $5 billion over five years, with a renewed commitment and the right focus, to make things better enough each year so that people can see for themselves just how much better it all can be. To get them excited, to hook them, to get them involved, to get them to take on some of the load as well. And all the time, it is important to approach the development of this system as an "of course." It will happen. It is a matter of when, not if. Go on the offensive. Put the other guy on the defensive. You have earned the "of course," so use it.

We also need to make what we are doing as irreversible as possible. There will hard moments, moments when it will be much easier to go back than to go ahead. We need to make going back as painful as possible. With each step we all take in these next five years, it will be harder to go back. More spaces, higher quality, higher expectations and ambitions, a bigger and growing public appetite, building the pressure on each level of government, to reinforce the commitment implicit in building a system. We need to paint ourselves into a corner because it's a corner we want to be in and need to be in.

Shameless

I don't know what they're putting in their un-metered water down in Calgary, but this is just shameless.

The logic of a Calgary Alderman:

"hmmm...looks like taxpayers don't want a 5.4% tax increase this year...but geez, I really don't want to ask administration to find efficiencies and tax saving measures...what to do, what to do? I know, we'll ask the police to issue more tickets! I am so smart, I am so smart, S-M-R-T."

Word is if this plan fails they're going to start asking Calgary firemen to sell Tuperware when they're not out fighting fires.

Strange bedfellows indeed

CBC North:

Like politics, the N.W.T.'s proposed natural gas pipeline is making for strange bedfellows.

The NDP and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are both accusing Ottawa of extending corporate welfare to Imperial Oil and its partners in the Mackenzie Gas Project.

They're responding to a letter sent by the deputy prime minister to Imperial Oil last week which outlines how the government can help gas producers with the economics of the project.

BC MLAs do an about-face

CTF news release:

VICTORIA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) responded today with relief to the government’s decision to repeal the legislation that would have massively increased MLAs’ salaries, office budgets and re-introduced a costly gold plated pension scheme. “The government has hardly earned our thanks but today’s reversal certainly demonstrates the power that taxpayers can have when they galvanize their opposition to an issue, politicians have to listen and respond,” noted Sara MacIntyre, BC director for the CTF.

Support for Soviet-style Health Care Waning


Candians are open to the idea of private health care believing it will reduce wait times.

It is time Canada broke ranks with the last bastions of communism and embraced choice, accountability, quality, and sustainability....

Monday, November 21, 2005

SK: This is NOT a tax cut

The province is announcing they have generously decided to index our tax rates to inflation and CJME is erroneously reporting this as "savings." By now everyone should understand that indexing tax rates to inflation (ending bracket creep) is nothing more than preventing a stealth tax increase.

Some Tax Savings to Ring in 2006

There is some tax relief in store for us, after all. The Government of Saskatchewan is going to fully index personal income taxes to a 2.2% inflation rate in 2006.

In total, $17.6 million dollars in tax relief will be provided. But, don't expect to get rich off it. It will mean tax savings of $32 next year for someone making up to $25,000. That "swells" to $59, or just under $5 a month, if you make $50,000.

Brent Pushkarenko reporting

Um...can we have our money back?

Perhaps this should make us think twice about handing out billions to big business.

Brandon Sun on choice in health care

Testify.

What’s the problem here? Monopolies don’t work. Canadians should not be denied choice. It’s absurd that Manitobans can spend whatever they want on the health care of their cat or dog, but not for a sick child or a loved one. Denying citizens this right is, simply put, inhumane.

As the Supreme Court concluded: “The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health-care system are widespread and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”

BC NDP pull support for pay hike

Like you didn't see this coming.

"This was a mistake. We need to take the time, give the public the opportunity to say how they feel about this. I've suggested it in fact go to a citizens' panel to look at the entire package to see if it's fair and make recommendations in public," she said.

Campbell said the Liberal caucus will review its position on the legislation on Monday in light of the NDP about-face.

The bill has created a storm of controversy, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calling it "absolutely disgusting."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

$4 billion to fight native poverty

The fix for a generation. But it's not all bad:

Perhaps the most significant change for natives will be Ottawa's commitment to encourage private home ownership on reserves, which could dramatically improve their financial success. Such a policy has long been advocated by conservative groups, such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, as a way of encouraging natives to build personal wealth and maintain their own homes, rather than expecting Ottawa or the band council to do it.

Some bands have already moved in this direction, allowing properties to be bought and sold on reserves, but only between band members.

Friday, November 18, 2005

BC MLAs vote themselves a big pay raise

Politicians never cease to amaze me.

The Liberals and NDP issued a joint news release that said both sides have agreed to bring their wages more in line with other provinces.

The new $86,580 salary, which will automatically be reviewed every year, amounts to 60 per cent of the $144,300 a year that MPs are paid.

B.C. MLAs are currently paid $75,400 annually. The pay raise takes effect on April 1, 2006. The new pension will see MLAs contribute 9 per cent of their salary to the plan.

Mr. Campbell's base salary rises to $146,320 a year from $119,500. Ms. James will now make $131,329 a year, up from $114,400.

Update: CTF weighs in.

It's "absolutely disgusting," said Sara MacIntyre, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"We're going to be looking at a government in a very difficult position to not be handing over the same types of massive increases to public-sector unions, who are going to be lining up in droves next year wanting pay raises similar to what MLAs voted for themselves."

MB: Povince wants private MRIs made illegal

Earlier this week, CTF Manitoba Director Adrienne Batra, provided information on this blog that a private clinic operating in Winnipeg will soon offer private MRIs to anyone who pays $695 for the service.

Seems this has created a bit of a stir. Now the province of Manitoba is trying to have private MRIs made illegal. However, they'll have to change their own rules first.

Read all about it at the Winnipeg Sun.

Sask: In defense of high business taxes

We can set aside the fact that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives chose to make their recommendations to the Business Tax Review Committee after the report is sent to the printers and talk instead of their submission.

The gist of it is that everything is great as it is. We shouldn't cut business taxes because we already subsidize them with roads and clean drinking water. Instead, we should tax them MORE, and then subsidize them. At least that's what I got out of it. Maybe I didn't read it right.

A progressive tax regime that fairly taxes businesses for the benefits it
enjoys will make it possible for the government to continue the public
investment support for the private sector in key areas of strategic
importance.

Here is our submission.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

NDP members want to ban results of private MRIs

Not only do they not want any private medicine in Saskatchewan, they want to ban the USE of private MRI results in Saskatchewan. Wow.

At issue is Resolution H5 from Health Minister John Nilson's own Regina Lakeview riding -- the fifth of 102 resolutions some 600 Saskatchewan NDP delegates will be debating at their annual convention in Regina this weekend. After a lengthy preamble that equates private diagnostic clinics with tobacco companies that engage in "deceptive marketing" and "exploit the fear, ignorance and pain" of sick people, the NDP resolution resolves the party to call on the government to "ban private medical diagnostic clinics in Saskatchewan."

It further asks for a ban on advertising private diagnostic clinics coming into Saskatchewan and the importing of test results from private diagnostic clinics into our public health care system."
Exploiting fear, ignorance and pain. Hmmmm....that sounds really familiar. Where have I seen this tactic employed before?

The income trust witch hunt

Know anybody who has holdings income trusts? They are in a tailspin thanks to Goodale's confiscatory pursuit.

Politics, Powder and Profit (George Koch) on energy trusts:

And therein lies my point: under a traditional corporate business model, many of these assets would have no future. For exploration companies, whose market performance depends on growth, such fields’ high operating costs and lack of new exploration prospects make them a waste of capital and a diversion of scarce human talent. Over time, they just wouldn’t be worth operating. They’d be wound down, shut-in and abandoned, leaving hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and natural gas equivalent in the ground – along with billions of dollars in lost value. Now that would cause “tax leakage.”

The energy trusts still want these assets. They’re drilling, developing, re-engineering, optimizing and otherwise eking every last barrel out of these old fields. One energy trust C.E.O. I know jokingly calls himself the “slum landlord of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin.” He doesn’t run dirty, ill-managed plants — he’s just making the point that he’s taking assets nobody else wants and transforming them into something useful. More like an orphanage than a ghetto tenement. His story illustrates the benefits of energy trusts: getting the most out of an aging supply basin, producing volumes that would otherwise generate no revenues, in an era of global supply scarcity.

As for the tax-man, the energy trusts’ production generates major provincial royalties (portions of which find their way to Ottawa as equalization payments). The operated field facilities generate local property tax. Head offices pay city taxes. Purchases to sustain operations trigger federal GST (and provincial sales tax in B.C. and Saskatchewan). The trusts’ thousands of employees pay hundreds of millions in personal income tax yearly. And the energy trusts’ cash distributions (estimated at $4 billion this year) are subject to income tax, even if at a reduced rate or deferred in RRSPs. Sounds more like a tax gusher than leakage.

$50,000 "pat yourself on the back" session for welfare workers

Toronto Sun's Sue-Ann Levy:

Some 550 Toronto welfare workers are expected to "mix and mingle" with their colleagues at a $50,000 shindig slated for tonight at Roy Thomson Hall, the Sun has learned.

And this is the fifth year such a shmoozefest -- called the "Living the Vision" forum -- has been approved by senior city staff and held at the same swanky locale, seemingly without most of council's knowledge.

The doors open at 5 p.m. and the festivities are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with the formal planning and recognition part of the program. The rest of the event -- from 7 to 9 p.m. -- has been set aside for a "Mix and Mingle."

The city's general manager of social services, Heather MacVicar, didn't return several phone calls from the Sun and brushed aside all questions at a budget committee meeting yesterday, citing a "family emergency."

Spending spree behind closed doors

The Sun:

But opposition critics and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation were quick to slam the Tory government for hatching a behind-closed-doors spending spree.

"I think that is a very, very scary thing," said NDP Leader Brian Mason. "I think there will be hell to pay down the road."

He said it's critical that elected representatives have a chance to scrutinize government spending in the Legislature, citing a decision to build two hospitals, rather than one, in the health minister's riding a possible example of an irresponsible expenditure.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sask: The helping hand that holds us down

The equalization program by design rewards province's that don't develop strong an diverse economies and punishes those that do but that doesn't stop Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert from screaming for a bigger slice of the pie.

More...

Who profits at the pumps?

A guest column in this week's National Review explores, who profits at the pumps and with high oil prices. No surprise to the CTF, the conclusion of the piece indicates it is government who profits.

  • "Over the past quarter century, oil companies directly sent more than $2.2 trillion in taxes, adjusted for inflation, to state and federal governments — three times what they collectively earned in profits over the same time period. Yet some politicians say this is not enough and are proposing a new “windfall profits” tax to raise billions more for federal coffers.

    Of course, as most economists agree, corporations don’t pay taxes, people do. Folks like us will really pay those new taxes, either through higher prices at the gas pump or through lower returns in our 401(k)s. Smaller profits for companies means smaller returns for our retirement funds."

Sask: No tax cuts for you

The province unveiled a massive projected surplus for this fiscal year. They will collect $873 million more than than they budgeted for in the spring. That's the good news. The bad news is they have spent almost every cent of it.

Minister Van Mulligen said this morning that he can't cut taxes because oil and gas revenues are too volatile, that we could wind up in a deficit if we recklessly cut taxes (he then raised the Saskatchewan bogeyman Grant Devine to support his case).

Yes, oil and gas revenues are volatile, but not too volatile to increase spending by 10 per cent over budget projections. Ladies and gentlement, there is no such thing as one-time spending.

One small step towards health care freedom

The headline in the Winnipeg Sun says it all: PRIVATE MRI HERE

The Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg, a private, for-profit clinic is waiting accreditation from the College of Physicians and Surgeons and within just a few short weeks, will be able to provide Manitobans with a very simple choice: wait on the public list for 3-4 months, or wait 48 hours and pay $685 for an MRI?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

EU Sponsorship scandal?

Not quite. But, for the eleventh year in a row, the books the European Union have supplied its own auditors have not received sign-off.

There are still many questions as to the legality and legitimacy of EU spending.

Sounds familiar.

Librarian fighting mandatory retirement

CBC:

A Saskatoon librarian who didn't want to leave her job when she turned 65 is fighting mandatory retirement, but her union doesn't support her.

The case of Louise Carlson, who worked for 13 years at the Rusty Macdonald Branch Library before retiring two years ago, is before a Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission hearing.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees argues that pension and benefit plans could be adversely affected if mandatory retirement is removed.

Union representative Colleen Quintal said removing mandatory retirement could have a domino effect on the rest of the collective agreement.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Economic update

The feds are announcing a $500 increase in the basic personal exemption this year. The BPE is increased every year by inflation anyway. The inflation adjustment (assuming a 2.7 per cent inflation rate) would have increased the BPE by $219 . That means the $500 increase in the basic personal exemption will save a low income taxpayer around $45 dollars next year.

All told, it works out to a Big Mac a month.

By my napkin math, the increase in the basic personal exemption and the one point reduction in the lowest tax rate will save the average taxpayers making $35,000 or more $265 next year.

Update (November 16, 2005): Never rely on napkin math
The accelerated BPE schedule announced yesterday is in addition to increases that take effect due to indexation. The new BPE figure for 2005, since it is retroactive to January 1st is $8,648. This figure will be indexed and then another $200 will be added to arrive at the 2006 total etc. With indexation and the new increases, it will be slightly over $10,000 by 2009. The tax savings for 2005 is therefore $80 for low-income Canadians.

Same for the spousal exemption. The 2005 figure is $7,344, making the tax savings $68.

Just in case

If Goodale does come through with a promise to increase the Basic Personal Exemption in about 30 minutes, remember who sold it to him.

Update: Link to "economic update"

Tax cuts do work

Here is a column from this week's National Review which describes why the tax cuts implemented by George W Bush are working. And, why Bush should stay the course and continue his tax cut agenda.

The stock market and economy responded: Since June 2003 real GDP growth has averaged 4 percent while growth in real business fixed investment spending has averaged nearly 9 percent on an annualized basis. Real equipment and software spending has averaged 11 percent annualized growth. The stock market is up 26 percent since mid-2003. Tax receipts have surged $275 billion over last year’s levels, the strongest rate of growth in 23 years, with notable strength in “non-withheld receipts” which are tied to capital assets. And the fiscal deficit, which reached 3.4 percent of GDP in 2004, has fallen by nearly $100 billion to 2.5 percent of GDP in fiscal 2005, in line with the 30-year average.

China set to deregulate gas prices

Although no date has been given, the government of China plans to deregulate gas prices in order for gas prices to reflect market costs.

China hopes that consumers will conserve more energy as they see their gas bills increase.

This is NOT a news story

Full text of a resolution adopted by the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada (hat tip: SDA):

Whereas the Chaoulli decision has demonstrated that, in practice, the current health care system enables the wealthy to obtain health care without the normal waiting times;

Whereas waiting times in the public health care system lead to physical and psychological illnesses; Whereas in certain cases waiting times can leadto death;

Whereas the illnesses caused by these waiting times are a violation of the fundamental principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

Whereas prohibiting private health insurance has not proven to be an infallible means of protecting the public health care system or as a provision ensuring respect for, and implementation of, our values enshrined in the Charter;

Be it resolved that the Liberal Party of Canada shall request Parliament to consider other methods of safeguarding and protecting the public health care system other than by prohibiting private health insurance;

Be it further resolved that we shall support all efforts to reduce waiting times by means that go beyond simply prohibiting private health insurance plans;

Be it further resolved that we recommend considering practices that make room for private initiatives whose terms and conditions will be supervised by the government.

My how things change

Mark Milke in the Victoria Times Colonist (sorry, subscriber only)

Back when the prime minister was merely a lowly billionaire magnate on the opposition benches with the job of finance critic, Martin had excellent ideas on business subsidies: Abolish them. Otherwise, noted the insightful critic, businesses often take the money and run when it is spent.

In February 1993 in conversation with the Montreal Gazette's William Johnson, Martin was properly critical of the Progressive Conservative government's corporate welfare policy. They had, said Martin, only two ideas: Building megaprojects or "Let's give a pork-barrel grant to some company so that they'll go build a factory."

In replacement, Martin proposed this: "The industrial policy of this country is going to be: No more megaprojects, no more grants to industry; it is going to be based solely on our educational institutions, our research labs, and the relationship between them and medium-sized Canadian business, with the capacity to develop export markets in areas where this country has a comparative advantage."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sask: Tricky language at raise a flag web site

If you don't know any better and you head over to the "raise a flag" (the antithesis of Danny Williams lowering the Canadian flags at the legislature) you'll get the distinct impression that Ottawa is actually confiscating our oil and gas revenues. We need to be clear that Ottawa is simply reducing our equalization payments when we have extraordinary oil and gas windfalls.

It could mean hundreds of millions of dollars next year and every year. It could mean securing the financial well-being of this province now and into the future. It means 100 per cent of our non-renewable, one-time energy revenues stay in the province for the benefit of Saskatchewan people, instead of flowing into the federal coffers.

Next year, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia will receive about $2 billion. We receive ZERO. We deserve better.

It's clever, but it gives the wrong impression.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sask: Raise a flag

The Saskatchewan government has taken it's campaign for more generous handouts from Alberta and Ontario to the interweb.

The equalization scheme is flawed in many ways, and it's certainly problematic that our equalization welfare payments are reduced by MORE than we take in in surplus oil and gas revenues.

The problem is that equalization, like all welfare programs, are more often a hindrance than they are help. This is how AIMS' Brian Crowley puts it:

For the rest, the first order effect of welfare matches our intentions: we intend to prevent destitution and tide people over. Welfare achieves this.

But there are undeniably second order effects of welfare. In particular, there are th problems associated with what has come to be known as the welfare trap. As we, in our good intentions, make welfare benefits more generous, we blunt the economic and social enticements to return to the workforce and to become self-supporting. This takes the form, not merely of higher benefits, but also of taxes that are too high on low-income people, plus the added penalty of the withdrawal of benefits as income rises.

The combined result of these factors is that the highest marginal tax rates in our society are paid, not by people at the top end of the income scale, but by people trying to escape poverty and dependence. They actually make themselves worse off by working. So the second order effects of a social welfare policy intended to be kind and generous, can in fact be cruel and destructive if you believe that pride and self-worth come from each person putting forth their best efforts to be a productive and contributing member of society, and if you believe that the long term result of dependence on state benefits is a whole host of social dysfunctions.


We can fiddle around with equalization and therefore make it a better welfare program, but it's still just a welfare program with all the inherent problems. Crowley goes on:
The reason that I raise this in the context of equalization is that this massive federal programme subsidizes some very specific things and taxes some others. And the net effect has been significant damage to the ability of the less-developed provinces to close the disparity gap with either the national average, or the wealthier provinces.

Apologists for the current regime say that it was never equalization’s purpose to “close the disparity gap” with the rest of the country, but simply to compensate for its existence. But what we have discovered after nearly half a century and nearly $200-billion in equalization payments (NOT adjusted for inflation) is that incentives matter, and the incentives attached to equalization can penalize the poorer provinces for developing their economy, and encourage them to settle for permanent reliance on federal transfers.

“Sharing” has its virtues, but surely the prime object behind our fiscal arrangements should not be to maintain poorer provinces in a state of splendid dependence, but rather to build their capacity to pay their own way. The greatest victory of fiscal federalism could and should be the elimination of the need for equalization payments.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

SaskPower is doing really well

..and how are YOU doing?

Leader Post:

In total, SaskPower is forecasting 2005 earnings to reach $129 million, up $63 million from last year.

David MacLean, provincial director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the Crown needs to consider giving customers a break when profits are soaring.

"We can understand rate increases when they're related to increases in the price of coal or natural gas or low water conditions, but when we get hit with significant rate increases and profits are soaring like this we demand an explanation."

Vote buying in Manitoba

National Post:

In the affidavits, Glenn Hudson, who has been defeated by Chief Stevenson three times, the last time by just 29 votes, appeals on the basis of allegations that Chief Stevenson indulged in "corrupt practices" and tampered with mail-in ballot boxes. One former band councillor said in the affidavits he estimated Chief Stevenson "gave between $75,000 and $100,000, in exchange for votes."

Mr. Hudson's claims are supported by a petition of 270 members of the Peguis band, who have formed a group called Peguis First Nation for Democracy. Eleven band members have signed affidavits detailing what they claim are widespread irregularities.

Private health insurance - It's about time

That's right folks. Just a few months after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to deny private health insurance in Quebec was against Quebec law, private health insurance will soon be available in la belle province.

Let's hope the other provinces catch on soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Competition??? Why would anyone want that?

"You see Mr. Mayor, the competition is obviously cutting into my profits, so you must step in, this is a matter of national security"

What's next, a hot dog stand demanding a food monopoly in the city?

The other side of the equalization coin

Ottawa Sun.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce yesterday released the second phase of its study on fiscal imbalance it says is driving Ontario to become a poorer-than-average province.

Chamber president Len Crispino warned that Ontario's prosperity is eroding as it pays out $23 billion more to the feds than it gets back.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

And we might even kick some kittens...

Well it's official, Tony Valeri has reached a new low.

Apparently he was reading from the new and improved, internal "Red Book" on how to maintain your tenuous grip on power:

Tip #46: If you steal from taxpayers and lose the confidence of the Parliament, the best thing to do is threaten opposition parties with seniors dying of hypothermia, war heroes not able to feed their families, and farmers losing their lifeblood.

Merit pay for teachers?

Some people are talking about it.

The three-year contract includes a provision for teachers and district officials to begin talking about instituting a knowledge- and skills-based pay structure, which would reward teachers based on performance, in lieu of the current step salary structure, which awards salaries based on seniority and level of educational degrees attained.

Big hat tip: Just right.

Comments from teachers?
CTF report on Alberta education reform.

Sask: Everyone gets more money

The Saskatchewan Party is pointing out that every single member of the NDP caucus except Sandra Morin is either a Cabinet Minister, An Associate Minister, or has some other post that enhances their pay.

They have even dug up a quote from Premier Calvert from 1990 where he criticizes the Devine Government for the exact same thing.

Calvert responded by saying that politicians work a lot harder now than they did then. Ahem.

One day, if the Saskatchewan Party forms government, the NDP will dredge up all these old quotes and repeat the same process. Thus the cycle of political life continues.

Canada -- a discriminating country

Imagine if you lived in a community where the mayor and council decided who could work, where you could live and whether or not you could receive social assistance and/or housing. Imagine too, the mayor and council controlled the majority of the money within the community.

More.

Sask Premier lashes out at Paul Martin


Lorne Calvert is doing his best Ralph Klein impersonation. Here's the thing about the ridiculous equalization program: if we aren't taking handouts from the rest of Canada the system would be none of our concern. Where is our dignity?

Update: John Gormley will have Ralph Goodale on live in a few minutes to discuss the equalization issue. Bring on the pandering. Listen live.

Harper to work with Layton

Just a thought: If the backroom health reform offer was so terrible so as to shake the principled Jack Layton's confidence in the liberal government, shouldn't Layton share that offer with the taxpaying public? The NDP have said a lot about transparency and accountability yet they keep secret the deal that toppled the government. It says a lot.

Update: Layton is now really really motivated to defeat the government.

SK: Lower School Taxes

With all the oil and gas money pumping into Saskatchewan, a group of local governments are calling for the Saskatchewan government to lower the education tax.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pondering word verification

Since I spend some time on this blog the spam messages really get to me. I'm reluctant to activate word verification because it just slows down the comment process, and comments are good.

Any thoughts on activating word verification? Should we just carry on and ignore the spam comments?

Sask: The taxpayer's throne speech

Welcome to the second session of the 25th Legislature of the Province of Saskatchewan.

Welcome to the first session of Saskatchewan’s second century.

Throughout 2005 Saskatchewan residents have enjoyed looking back over our rich 100 year history. Our centennial year provides an opportunity for us to remember our great successes and re-energize to meet future challenges.

In this session my government will enact legislation requiring this and future governments to eliminate the provincial debt within 25 years. In addition, no government will ever spend more than it earns in any given year. Never again will my government finance the public services of today on the backs of tomorrow’s taxpayers.

Our province’s second century must provide opportunities for our youth. That means that government must do its part to create an environment where businesses can flourish, create wealth and long-term, meaningful employment.

My government is launching a four year plan to improve the province’s business environment. Effective immediately the province’s corporate capital tax – which imposes taxation on companies regardless of whether they were profitable or not – is abolished.

More...

Manitoba branding project a waste of money

From the Winnipeg Sun:

But a spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said "it's pretty clear the government of Manitoba just flushed $500,000 down the toilet."

"I think it would be common sense that a local firm could have done the exact same thing for a quarter of the price," said spokesman David MacLean. "It's bureaucrats that are out of their league. They should focus on running the province, and leave the marketing to the private sector."

Sask Drone Speech

If you like goodies the Saskatchewan Throne Speech had lots of'em. You want the government to take care of your kids? Heck, the government is rolling out a universal pre-kindergarten program. As for that dicey Prince Albert riding and all their tough news lately -- well, they get a divided highway to Saskatoon. Municipalities need help building culture and recreation facilities, we'll do that too. Oh yeah, and we're also going to pay for midwifery.

"We did hear a lot of social programs, a new social program for every taxpayer in this province. And that's disappointing because as we've said all along, these spending rates that we're seeing in this province are not sustainable. In the long run this is going to come back and bite us in the butt," said David MacLean of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

English Daycare

State run daycare has found its way to England. The government has announced plans to force councils to provide daycare for any child who is unable to find daycare within a free market system.

Whistleblower legislation

Critics and academics argue the federal legislation to protect whistleblowers is toothless. They are strongly encouraging provinces to tighten their whistleblower legislation.

Note: The CTF has advocated for stronger whistleblower legislation at all levels of government for years.

Monday, November 07, 2005

MRI on Wheels?


MRI on Wheels

Something tells me it won't be 30-minutes or free.

Whatever helps reduce the pain and suffering of Canadians.

Interesting to note that one of the main points of the Canada Health Act is accessibility, yet Canada has some of the longest wait times for health care services in the world.

Competition non-existent in Saskatchewan

A new survey by the CRTC says Sasktel is the only telco with 100 per cent residential market share.

According to a Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) survey released earlier this week, local competitors have made inroads on traditional phone company turf in every province but Saskatchewan.

In Alberta and Ontario, for example, the competitors now have about 8 per cent of the the local service market. In Manitoba and New Brunwick, the competitors' share is tiny: only 0.2 per cent.

Alberta: The glass war chest

The Ward 10 scandal in Calgary may yet prove to be the best thing that has ever happened to Alberta taxpayers.

In the 2004 Calgary civic election, individuals tied to the Margot Aftergood campaign conspired to request hundreds of special ballots on behalf of unsuspecting residents of Calgary’s Ward 10. They then illegally voted on these residents behalf, temporarily giving the win to Mrs. Aftergood. This “ballot-box stuffing” was immediately caught by election staff and a provincial inspection team was sent in to determine how this could have happened.

Read more...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Saskatchewan falling further behind

The latest job numbers from Statististics Canada say a lot about Saskatchewan. We don't to read too much into these numbers, they are just a snapshot, but we definitely should take note. We sit next to the hottest economy on the planet and we're blessed with unimaginable natural wealth. Yet, it appears we are the ONLY province standing still this year.

Saskatchewan's oil boom and red-hot consumer economy failed to prop up October's job numbers, with the province shedding 6,200 positions last month, according to Statistics Canada.

The drop from 485,700 jobs in October 2004 to 479,500 jobs last month perplexed statisticians and government officials, who were at a loss to explain why employment fell for the second consecutive month when the provincial economy is strong.

"We've got high oil prices, an enthusiastic crop, enthusiastic consumers, centennial celebrations. We should be doing better than this," said Doug Elliott, publisher of statistical newsletter Sask Trends Monitor. "All of the normal things that go wrong in the Saskatchewan economy are not there and yet we're still losing jobs."

City of Calgary set to record a surplus

To date the City of Calgary books indicate the city will likely record a $4 million surplus.

The CTF is calling for the surplus to be returned to taxpayers. Or at the very least, for the city to eliminate the proposed 5.4 percent property tax hike scheduled for next year.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Whistle blower: Government buys leaking building


The Whistle Blower segment on CTV News Net this morning features a story about Public Works buying an old, leaky building in Ottawa for $91-million that cost another $82-million to fix up. Worse is that the federal government knew it had water damage and mould but bought it anyway.

Check out the video and pictures.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Myth Busting: CTF takes on the BCTF's Talking Points

Check out my latest commentary de-bunking the BCTF's main myths: class size, composition, wages and contract negotiations. It's time to add a dose of reality to the debate and challenge the wishy-washy edicts of the Teachers Federation. It'll be on our website in moments!

Sask: Province handing out corporate welfare

First, the province announces a plan to give more money mult-national film companies. Turns out, the old subsidies weren't doing the trick. Film companies would come to Sask, take tax dollars and make their movie without hiring very many Saskatchewan labourers. So, they decide to dangle a bigger carrot.

Saskatchewan is enhancing film industry incentives to maintain Saskatchewan's competitiveness in attracting major film and television productions to theprovince and the resulting jobs the industry creates. A tax credit of up to 55 per cent will be made available to film and video producers through legislation to be introduced this fall.

"The film industry generated $80 million in economic activity and createdabout 850 full-time equivalent jobs last year," Culture, Youth and RecreationMinister Joan Beatty said. "To continue to grow Saskatchewan's vibrant filmindustry, the province will enhance its incentives by increasing its film tax credit to producers to 45 per cent of total eligible costs."

Imagine the smiles in the big film studios.

Then there was this item:

Meat processors in Saskatchewan received a big boost today from the provincial government's Meat Processing Strategy. Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Wartman announced a $3.3 million investment to create a toll processing facility at the Thomson Meats Ltd. plant inMelfort.

Today's announcement is the third of three initiatives outlinedwithin the $37.3 million Meat Processing Strategy unveiled in June 2005." Toll processing will enable our agriculture industry to process more of what we produce in the province," Wartman said. "

It has the potential to enable thedevelopment of new meat products for specialized or niche markets and therebycreate new businesses and jobs for rural Saskatchewan."


Anybody else need some more cash? Anyone?

Update: Check the CTF news release here.

A hardcore loss for taxpayers

HT: Dust My Broom

Gov't pays for porn

Sex is not always a lucrative business.

The NDP government lost $10,000 after guaranteeing a loan to Queer Closet, a Sherbrook Street adult porn and gay store that recently went belly up.

Industry Minister Jim Rondeau said the loan guarantee was provided under a program to help young entrepreneurs who want to set up businesses in Manitoba.

Queer Closet sold lubricants, condoms, novelties and toys and rented gay cinema and adult pornography.

Dud subs cause stress


From CBC.

The repairs to Chicoutimi are expected to cost at least $20 million.

Right now, just one of Canada's four submarines is able to go to sea. The others are being brought up to Canadian navy standards.

HMCS Windsor is patrolling the Atlantic coast. Last week, Windsor had what the navy calls an "electrical incident" that caused the crew to go to emergency stations.

As for Chicoutimi, the repairs are expected to take another two years to complete.

Voting reform in PEI

John Ibbitson has an interesting piece on the referendum on voting reform in PEI scheduled for November 14 (subscriber only, sorry). We agree with Ibbitson that this is an important vote that deserves a lot more discussion. Word on the street is the proportional representation side ("yes") is going to lose, but a lot can happen over the next two weeks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sask: Province rolls out natural gas subsidies

Listening live to CJME where the province is announcing their natural gas subsidy program.

It sounds like province is going to subidize gas bills to the tune of $250 for the winter, but the program will be primarily geared toward low-income families. The government is saying energy bills will not increase faster than 10 per cent between November and March.

CJME's Murray Wood is noting that the province's plan is quite similar to the Saskatchewan Party plan, albeit lest expensive for taxpayers.

Total projected cost: $130 million

Why not eh? Got it, spend it. It doesn't matter that higher energy bills are here to stay.

Our tax dollars at work

Canada Free Press reports:

A Canadian taxpayer-funded coalition of 11 major churches and church agencies is holding a series of public forums in Toronto, which call for divesting in Israel, Canada Free Press has learned.

The social justice missioned KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives has received $2.9-million from CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) during the past two years.

KAIROS, which has 25 years of experience in supporting human rights and peace building in the Middle East, states on its literature that "Until a Palestinian state is realized, Israel is an occupying power in the Palestinian Territories and must respect international law as specified in the Fourth Geneva Convention."

CTF on the scene in Sri Lanka

In the Khaleej Times:

AN ONTARIO judge early this year said that anyone who expected politicians to be accountable for their campaign promises was naive about the democratic system. He made the remark when the Canadian Taxpayers Federation tried to sue the Ontario Liberal government for breaking their no-new-taxes campaign promise.

The law in many countries, including vibrant democracies, is silent about holding candidates accountable for promises they make during election campaigns. But it is an undeniable fact that political accountability is an essential characteristic of democracy. To state one set of policy during the campaign and implement totally another in power is to violate the principle of political accountability and undermine fundamental principles of democratic government.

Alberta: Clearing the cloud of doubt

EDMONTON: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling on the Alberta government to open up the municipal electoral process by implementing pre-election disclosure of campaign donations, mandatory voter identification at the polls, and the right for taxpayers to recall municipal politicians.

In its presentation to the Alberta government’s Local Authorities Election Act Review committee, entitled “Clearing the Cloud of Doubt: Improving transparency and voter confidence in Alberta’s municipal elections,” the CTF forwards 10 recommendations to the committee.

“Voter confidence in the municipal electoral process is continually eroding, the only way to reverse this trend is by empowering voters with transparent information and greater democratic rights,” said CTF-Alberta director and report author Scott Hennig.

Currently only five municipalities in Alberta require some form of campaign contribution disclosure, but voters only get to see these disclosures after they have cast their ballot. “Pre-election disclosure of campaign donations provide voters with the knowledge of who potentially has influence over each candidate, before they vote,” continued Hennig.

Read the report.

Sask: Sasktel keeping local IT industry down

From CBC:

"There is a sense that government – executive government plus the Crown sector – is the biggest competitor of many firms in the IT sector in Saskatchewan," the report said.

The authors of the report threw cold water on the idea that government can create a leading edge IT environment, paving the way for private industry to come in. That hasn't happened in any other jurisdiction, it said.

Many in the IT industry feel SaskTel – which has expanded from ordinary phone service to cell phones, internet access, burglar alarms and other products – is a particular problem.

Finally someone (other than us) put it into writing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

BCTF Class Action Takes a Step Forward

The class action suit against the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) moved forward today as claimants filed with the Labour Relations Board to get a declaration that the strike was illegal. In order to move forward with the class action, the strike first needs to be declared illegal. We hope to have a decision on that front in the next month or so. But the BCTF's deep pockets will likely stall and delay at every opportunity. Read today's news release and this morning's story.

Over 1000 people have logged on to our website and over 150 are ready to move forward with legal action. It's time to say enough to BC's powerful public sector unions and their willingness to shut down schools and hospitals.

Gomery's Findings

Read the report here.

UPDATE: Interesting facts regarding Warren Kinsella's involvement in the scandal on page 159 of the report.

1. Clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the Sponsorship Program;

2. Insufficient oversight at the very senior levels of the public service which allowed program managers to circumvent proper contracting procedures and reporting lines;

3. A veil of secrecy surrounding the administration of the Sponsorship Program and an absence of transparency in the contracting process;

4. Reluctance, for fear of reprisal, by virtually all public servants to go against the will of a manager who was circumventing established policies and who had access to senior political officials;

5. Gross overcharging by communications agencies for hours worked and services provided;

6. Inflated commissions, production costs and other expenses charged by communication agencies and their subcontractors, many of which were related businesses;

7. The use of the Sponsorship Program for purposes other than national unity or federal visibility because of a lack of objectives, criteria and guidelines for the Program;

8. Deliberate actions to avoid compliance with federal legislation and policies, including the Canada Elections Act, Lobbyists Registration Act, the Access to Information Act and Financial Administration Act, as well as federal contracting policy and the Treasury Board Transfer Payments Policy;

9. A complex web of financial transactions among Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), Crown Corporations and communications agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the Sponsorship Program;

10. Five agencies that received large sponsorship contracts regularly channeling money, via legitimate donations or unrecorded cash gifts, to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts;

11. Certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters;

12. The existence of a "culture of entitlement" among political officials and bureaucrats involved with the Sponsorship Program, including the receipt of monetary and non-monetary benefits;

13. A pattern of activity whereby a public servant in retirement did extensive business with former recipients of Sponsorship Program contracts; and

14. The refusal of Ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred.

Source: Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, "Who is Responsible", Summary, p. 5-7.

Paul Martin's Sneak Peak at Gomery Report Shows Democratic Deficit is Alive and Kicking


What's wrong with this picture?

Liberal government embroiled in scandal, requiring a judicial inquiry. Report is written and Liberal government gets to see it before anyone else.

Welcome to Canada. DeMOCKracy in action.

Read Gomery's first installent here

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