Well, it’s official. The Meadow Lake Pulp Mill is the biggest financial disaster in the long history of government boondoggles. It’s the cream of the crop. The head honcho of failed government investments. And that’s no easy task in Saskatchewan.
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Well, it’s official. The Meadow Lake Pulp Mill is the biggest financial disaster in the long history of government boondoggles. It’s the cream of the crop. The head honcho of failed government investments. And that’s no easy task in Saskatchewan.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I am a BC MLA and I wish to remain anonymous. My "problem" is that I qualify for a gold-plated pension plan that has since been abolished for good reason. Now I am 69 and I am back in office and I qualify for the pension. Would it be alright with you if I just went ahead and collected that pension while still collecting my salary as an MLA?
In the report, presented recently to Speaker Bill Barisoff, Oliver wrote that he was approached before the May 2005 general election by an unnamed MLA about the “possible ethical issues” arising from an MLA’s collecting a pension at the same time he or she continues to be paid as an MLA.
“Since the member will be receiving both remuneration and pension in respect of the same employment, the member was concerned about the possibility that they might be accused of what is sometimes referred to as ‘double dipping’,” Oliver wrote in the report.
Oliver added that he’s faced the issue previously, and has read letters of advice from “leading tax lawyers”, as well as from chartered accountants.
After listening to this advice, Oliver decided there is nothing wrong with the practice. The rules and regulations of the federal Income Tax Act require that the pension begin no later than the end of the year in which the MLA reaches his or her 69th birthday, Oliver wrote. As well, under the rules of the B.C. Public Service Pension Plan, the benefits cannot be deferred, he noted.
Oliver had some reassuring words for any MLAs troubled by pangs of guilt for both collecting pensions from the time the pension scheme was still in effect, as well as presently picking up MLA salaries. “The member has, in my views, explored all possible avenues to counter any suggestion that he has been unjustly enriched by receiving pension benefits whilst still in active service,” he wrote.
Posted by David MacLean at 11:18 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
On behalf of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation I'd like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
The CTF blog is still pretty young, but our readership is steadily growing. Thanks for stopping by.
Posting will be light over Christmas. But feel free to post links in the comments relating to taxes, waste and government accountability.
Posted by David MacLean at 7:38 PM
We'll take it:
Gov't may speed up education property tax relief
James Wood, The StarPhoenixPublished: Friday, December 23, 2005
REGINA -- The NDP government may speed up its plans for education property tax relief and provide additional help in next year's budget, Government Relations Minister Len Taylor said Thursday.
Taylor made the remarks following the arrival at the legislature of an ersatz Santa Claus -- the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's David MacLean -- bearing not gifts but a stack of petitions calling for an education property tax cut.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Today I had the honour of delivering nearly 20,000 signatures calling for school tax relief in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Party MLA Yogi Huyghebaert was on hand to accept them and will table them in the legislature when the time comes. A great time was had by all.
We did, however, get some blow back from the government who pretended to be offended that we didn't deliver the petitions to them. Three things:
- We made a conscious decision in the Regina office NOT to deliver petitions to them. It’s somewhat insulting to go the the government cap in hand when they simply ignore or discredit the people who signed the petition.
- In the past when we have presented petitions, the government has refused to receive them. One example is last year in the lead up to the tax hike budget.
- As an organization we have to give credit where credit is due – in this case the Saskatchewan Party deserves credit for at least saying the right things.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Prior to the new election laws limiting corporations from making campaing contributions greater than $1,000, northern airlines would donate free flights to each northern candidate regardless of party affiliation. These free flights were used by candidates to get around to some remote communities only reachable by plane.
Now some northern candidates either have to pay for their flights (while keeping within their Elections Canada spending limit) or opt not to visit some communities.
Read more here.
Posted by Scott Hennig at 3:17 PM
The pledge, to be announced tomorrow, would be aimed at cutting Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions by four million tons a year by mixing gasoline with cleaner-burning ethanol, or using more biodiesel, which blends vegetable oils with diesel fuel.
It also allows the federal Conservatives to take the election campaign initiative on an environmental plank. The federal Liberals have not moved to a national standard for renewable fuel even though three provinces have already announced they will adopt them.
"This 5-per-cent standard for renewable fuels is good for agriculture and rural Canadians, it's good for the environment and it's good for drivers," said Conservative MP Diane Finley, the party's agriculture critic. "Specifically, it'll mean a four-megaton-a-year reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions."
Mandating ethanol may be great for ethanol producers but it's certainly not good for taxpayers or the environment. The research proves it, and even the Green Party is rejecting ethanol as a sustainable solution. For everything you ever wanted to know about ethanol check Clean Air for Citizens of Barrie.
Posted by David MacLean at 11:43 AM
From USA Today:
The MTA on Friday insisted its last offer — which proposed 9% wage increase over three years and was rejected by the union — was its best.
The union had been asking 8% in each of three years. Currently, train operators, station agents and cleaners earn between $47,000 and $55,000 a year before overtime.
They are demanding a 24% raise over three years! I also heard on cable news that strikers want the retirement age reduced to 50. I haven't been able to confirm this.
The average salary in New York is $45,000.
Posted by David MacLean at 12:19 AM
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Posted by David MacLean at 11:08 PM
I'm not suggesting this is a good idea, nor am I suggesting it's a bad one. All I know is that it has to be better than signing on to a flawed global equalization program destined to ship hard earned Canadian tax dollars to Russia in return for magical hot air credits.
Credits? Seriously, credits?
What, you might ask can these credits be used for? Nothing. You can't turn them in at some UN sponsored birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's for one of those plastic parachute men. You can't turn them in for 10 free pay-per-view movies. Our environmental studies professor isn't going to tack them on to our mark at the end of the semester.
They are completely worthless and they won't in anyway reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.
Who would be so foolish as to accept worthless credits in return for our tax dollars?
Perhaps our government should have considered paying Rick Mercer in hot air credits for his last batch of "One-tonne Challenge" comercials.
Posted by Scott Hennig at 12:39 PM
It's funny how every time politicians cook up a big new project extensive travel is required for research. A recent example is when Ontario politicians were looking into voting reform they felt the need to personally visit countries with different voting systems than ours despite the fact that taxpayers pay political scientists to study this stuff to death.
The most recent example is from Richmond, BC:
VANCOUVER -- Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is happy to explain why citystaff, volunteers and politicians have taken 16 trips since 2004 to research the Olympic skating oval being built for the 2010 Winter Games.
In a report to council, the tally for the 16 trips to various cities totalled just under $500,000.
"I'm prepared to justify it and give explanation for the money spent," Mr. Brodie said yesterday. "The oval is our project so we had to do the analysis and the investigation to see what it is we want to have for our city. At the outset, we knew there would be a number of trips that were necessary."
Richmond beat Burnaby in the competition for the speed-skating oval to build the $155-million rink originally planned for Simon Fraser University. The city aims to complete the rink, Richmond's biggest infrastructure project to date, by 2007.
Mr. Brodie said he has heard of residents' concerns about the massive project and the associated costs.
But he believes it has been worthwhile for staff and politicians to take trips to sites of past Winter Olympics such as Calgary, Salt Lake City, Lillehammer and Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Games.
Last year, Richmond spent $185,998 on travel expenses, and this year the travel costs for staff, politicians and volunteers with various committees totalled $273,899.
Consultants and contracts for the city's Olympic oval business cost $226,277, almost double last year's total of $99,460. The biggest year-over-year increase was in the meetings and special-event expenses, which increased tenfold from $3,026 to $36,784.
Posted by David MacLean at 9:55 AM
Monday, December 19, 2005
Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Sun pens an intersting column. Here's a brief look:
"The reason governments have not tried to prevent private clinics in this country from selling diagnostic services to patients -- MRIs, ultrasounds and such -- is because the tide of public opinion has shifted.
Manitoba this week became the fifth province where people have access to a private clinic selling diagnostic scans."
To read more click here Winnipeg Sun.
Posted by Tanis Fiss at 10:56 AM
But first, consider Dosanjh's November pledge to prevent doctors from "double-dipping" (which I expect to be recycled in January once the campaign gets nasty). It's an absurd accusation. For any government-insured service, doctors receive money from the public treasury.
For any non-insured service, doctors bill the patient. There is no double-dipping; no one pays for the same service twice. Dosanjh's assertion is akin to a claim that because a lawyer performs contract work for government and also has private clients, that a bill to each is "double-dipping." Dosanjh, a lawyer, knows better and engaged in rhetoric for voters who don't think.
Similarly, in an election-style speech in October 2000 to the Hospital Employees' Union, Dosanjh went on the rhetorical offence against private medical clinics. Such facilities include private doctors' offices, long part of the Canadian health-care system. But such technicalities never bother Dosanjh when he plays the role of a demagogue.
In his speech, the then premier charged ahead with a 1970s-style NDP approach to the private sector: Nationalize where possible.
"I want to tell you," roared Dosanjh to the cheering crowd, "as soon as we can outlaw private clinics, we will do so!" Deep down in Dosanjh, some youthful reflexes yet twitch.
Read the whole thing.
Posted by David MacLean at 9:45 AM
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
CTF spokespersons across Canada often hear similar comments. We're often told that the CTF doesn't "do" anything and that were "too negative." I was reminded of this yesterday after a conversation with a reporter from a major news outlet.
The reporter called to ask for our analysis of a document he had obtained from the City of Saskatoon. The document showed that city is having some success in controlling employee absenteeism. Turns out Saskatoon has reduced the average number of sick days taken by employees and the price tag for absenteeism.
This was significant to us because it was dramatically different from the provincial government where absenteeism has been steadily rising in most government departments. This issue was spearheaded by the CTF in some research we conducted (here and here).
The great news is that CTF watchdogging on absenteeism resulted in various levels of government tracking absenteeism and finding ways to reduce the costs associated with sick leave. Millions of tax dollars may be saved because the CTF found the government asleep at the wheel.
So back to the reporter from the major broadcasting company. He calls back after I had a chance to look at the documents and tack them up in my office for all to see. He asks me for my reaction and I said this is great news. The City of Saskatoon recognizes absenteeism as a legitimate management issue and is taking steps to reduce it.
He calls me back later and gets my voicemail. In the message he says they won't be doing a story on this issue. Something like:
"It's not that we don't like good news. It's just that it didn't really spark anyone's interest."
Posted by David MacLean at 10:42 AM
Thursday, December 15, 2005
As government does more and more for us, or in spite of us, the tax system has become more and more complicated. Today's tax codes and laws have taken a page from the famous Engima codes, incomprehensible even to most experts. All of this complexity has a negative impact on economic behaviour, with discincentives to save, invest and work... and props up an industry of tax lawyers and accountants. Simpler, flatter and lower....the radical idea is catching on.
Jurisdictions all around the world are reaping the benefits of being simple, scrapping several rates of income taxation and a myriad of exemptions and deduction for a uniform rate with a generous basic personal exemption. So far Estonia, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Hong Kong are proving that Flat is beautiful.... Government revenues rise, tax avoidance and administration decline, work, investment and economic growth flourish.
It's time the new world, look to the old country for reforms. It used to be the other way around but we have become comfortable on our North American island, it's time break out. Check out my latest commentary on our website, "The Benefits of Being Simple"
Posted by Sara MacIntyre at 1:59 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The Regina Public School Board announced this morning they are backing away from planned school closures after seeing at least a dozen letters to the editor of the Regina Leader Post and a couple angry meetings.
Let's review. The school board undertook a full audit of of the system. They realized that some schools were going to cost almost as much to repair as they would to replace. They also found that some of those schools were seeing declining enrollment. They held a public consultation to talk about whether some schools should be closed.
In the end they recommended closures and consolidating students into larger schools. They argue the closures will help reduce class sizes, improve services and educational opportunities, and make the system more sustainable. The recommendations were greeted with scorn from NIMBYs.
"They can't close MY school. I don't have a car."
"They can't close MY school. My property value might go down."
They caved. Like a house of cards. And we're all going to be paying more in school taxes as a result. Of course, the NIMBYs haven't calculated exactly how much more we'll be paying.
Posted by David MacLean at 12:10 PM
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Cato Institute published a report on the spending habits of American presidents over the past 40 years. The result? George W. Bush is a spendthrift liberal.
As it turns out, George W. Bush is one of the biggest spenders of them all. In fact, he is an even bigger spender than Lyndon B. Johnson in terms of discretionary spending.
By the end of Reagan's tenure, defense spending was up in nominal terms but down considerably once you adjust for inflation. All told, Reagan presided over a real nondefense discretionary spending cut of 9.5 per cent.
Contrast that with Bush's spending so far. He has presided over massive increases in almost every single category.
And get this -- the spending increase is not fully explained by military spending. .
Posted by David MacLean at 11:51 AM
He had pledged during the recent election campaign to not increase the overall tax burden of Montrealers while also promising goodies, like spending $500 million more over four years to fix roads, setting up a $10-million cleanliness fund and increasing the opening hours of public libraries.
Last week's budget included more money for roadwork, but financed by a special new tax. The $10-million cleanliness fund made it into the budget, too, but was to be collected via higher parking meter prices.
In fact, tax bills were set to rise in 17 of the city's 19 boroughs under last week's budget. Tremblay was pilloried in editorial cartoons in most dailies after announcing the tax hikes.
"Without wanting to, I undermined the link of confidence I had established with Montrealers," Tremblay said in English yesterday. "I regret this sincerely because I feel this confidence is essential to develop and defend the interests of Montrealers."
Posted by David MacLean at 10:59 AM
Had an opportunity to watch The Passionate Eye documentary "Medicare Schmedicare" last night.
Every Canadian, old or young, must watch this film.
This film obliterates Canadian health care mythology and sheds light on how our nascent private health system is helping Canadians.
Is one tier Medicare a myth? Have we been saluting its founder, the “Greatest Canadian” Tommy Douglas as an emperor who really has no clothes? As the country heads toward an election in which our health care system promises to be an emotional issue, Medicare Schmedicare takes the highly unorthodox (ed: maybe to some!) stance that two tier health care is already here and thriving. Premiering on The Passionate Eye on CBC Thursday, Dec. 8 at 9 pm, Medicare Schmedicare offers viewers an inside look at private health care clinics across Canada - where $1,250 can get you immediate access to a doctor.
Watch it. Tell your friends.
Posted by David MacLean at 12:57 AM
Monday, December 12, 2005
There are now 64 RMs refusing to turn over the education portion of the property tax they've been collecting. The Prince Albert-area RM of Shellbrook was among the latest to join.
People in the RMs say agricultural land is taxed at an unfairly high rate. Some of the areas have been hard hit by poor crop conditions and a generally tough farm economy in recent years.
Glenn Blakley, a councillor for the RM of Spy Hill and the spokesperson for the Tax Action Group, says he hopes more of the province's 296 RMs will join the protest.
We're surveying our Saskatchewan supporters on school taxes and I just got the first few responses on my desk this morning. One respondent says his total school tax levy is $3,405 per year on six quarter-sections of land. Their municipal tax bill is $1,711 per year, to bring the the total to $5,116.
For those not familiar with farms, six quarter-sections is not a big farm. It's probably the average size for family farmers. For urban families on an average home you are looking at a $900 bill, depending on the house and where you are. Tell me how this is fair.
Imagine losing money for three years in a row and getting hit with a $5,000 tax bill.
Here's our most recent commentary.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
From m.k. braaten...
The volume of shares traded for Paul Martin linked Medisys Income Trust shares the day before the Income Trust announcement is way to high to be a ‘co-incidence’. The volume increased 3400% from the prior day, and the following day, dropped back down about the same amount.
Paul Martins personal doctor started a medical company called Medisys Income Trust, a chain of private health care clinics located across Canada.
The day before the Goodale income trust announcement, the volume of Medisys shares traded for the day went from 5,714 on November 21, to 203,953 on Novemeber 22. On November 23, the shares traded dropped back down to 6,220.
Posted by David MacLean at 12:26 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005
Taking recycling to a whole new level. The new prohibitionists:
(MONTREAL, December 6, 2005) - Quebec is home to the largest number of private medical clinics in Canada, a troubling trend that threatens the very existence of public health care in the country, said Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris today in Montreal.
"The business magazine Affaires Plus trumpets the fact that Montreal is the private health care capital of Canada," said Harris. "Let me be very clear: This is not good news. What is happening in Quebec, as well as in several other provinces, is the thin edge of a wedge that will create two health care systems in Canada: one for the rich, and one for the poor."
"The Green Party is opposed to two-tier care. We're not partially opposed. We're not opposed on alternate days only or only for certain illnesses. We're opposed, point finale."
Posted by David MacLean at 10:48 AM
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Four hundred observers were on hand before and during the elections from the European Union, the Organization of American States and the electoral commissions of El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Uruguay and Nicaragua.
They overwhelmingly certified the election process as fair and free from fraud, in keeping with the experience of several recent elections there. Days before the election, Chavez accused the Bush administration of engineering the boycott.
“I denounce it before the world and hold responsible for this new conspiracy against Venezuela the very chief of the empire, Mister Danger, the president of the United States,” he said. According to Vice-President Jose Vincent Rangel, “The U.S. Embassy has been very active, extremely active.” In fact, the National Endowment for Democracy, through its International Republican Institute, provided a yearlong course in electoral politics for 500 members of 11 opposition parties.
Venezuelan opposition groups are said to have received $20 million over five years from the U.S. government. To support the contention that Washington had a hand in the boycott, analysts cite the precedents of similar election boycotts in Nicaragua in 1994 and in Haiti in 2000.
On Dec. 1, thousands of Chavez supporters appeared before the National Assembly building to oppose the boycott. Signs and banners invoked the memory of the mass mobilization that returned Chavez to power in April 2002 after an attempted coup by the right wing.
One of the signs read, “We will turn Dec. 4 into April 13,” referring to the date of Chavez’s return to power. Chavez’s opponents tried to flex their muscle in other ways. Explosions were set off in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities before the elections, and a small blast in the west of the country damaged an oil pipeline.
The government mobilized an army force of 110,000 to protect polling places and public officials.
It just has that creepy "Big Brother" feel.
On the streets of our cities and on the far-flung battlefields.
Fighting against the mutilation of our hopes and dreams.
Who are they?
They are the dark armies.
The dark, murdering armies of Eurasia.
In the barren deserts of Africa and India...
on the oceans of Australasia...
courage, strength, and youth are sacrificed.
Sacrificed to barbarians, whose only honor is atrocity.
But even as we grasp at victory...
there is a cancer, an evil tumor...
growing, spreading in our midst.
shout out his name!
Posted by David MacLean at 2:50 PM
Taube drops the hammer.
According to 2003 figures in an Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity report, Americans are $7,200 per person better off than we are. The Ottawa-based Centre for the Study of Living Standards revealed business sector output per man-hour in Canada has grown 0.9% a year since 2000, as compared to 3.5% in the U.S. And the C.D. Howe Institute discovered that the 2005 fixed capital investment per worker by American firms is nearly $2,700 higher than Canada's.
Posted by David MacLean at 12:14 PM
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale denies anyone in his office leaked word of changes to income trust policy, even as one man told CTV News he was tipped off in a phone call from one of the minister's senior advisors.
In the hours before Goodale announced that the federal government was increasing the tax credit on corporate dividends two weeks ago, there was heavier-than-usual trading in income trusts and dividend-paying stocks. That has fuelled speculation that some investors profited from an early warning.
Goodale has insisted all along that no advance word came from his office. "The Finance Department is very meticulous about these matters," he said Tuesday. "There was no specific advance notice whatsoever."
But a representative of Canada's most influential seniors' lobby group says he got a phone call on the morning of Nov. 23, several hours before the markets closed, and before Goodale made his announcement.
This is a deadly serious situation.
Posted by David MacLean at 11:35 AM
Einstein once said the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
Perhaps someone might be able to explain to me why PC leadership candidates in Nova Scotia are still advocating corporate welfare. Corporate welfare hasn't turned Nova Scotia around yet, why would they expect more corporate welfare to do the trick now?
Taxpayers thought they had found their savior in Bill Black, alas yet another one bites the dust.
Why Mr. Black, why?
You smartly suggested that Nova Scotia get out of the business of providing tax dollars to private industry.
You said "the province is deep in debt in part because it invested in money-losing businesses that couldn't survive even with taxpayers' help."
Don't back away from that statement now because some people are addicted to corporate welfare.
Stop the insanity Mr. Black.
Posted by Scott Hennig at 10:43 AM
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The letter of the week (from the Regina Leader Post). I'm borrowing liberally because I was so amused. That's a good enough reason, right?
The Lorne Calvert NDP government keeps coming up with new ways to waste our tax dollars.
Recently, I received in the mail an envelope addressed to my wife and I from Saskatchewan Centennial 2005. Inside were two lapel pins with the word "Senior" and "Saskatchewan 1905-2005". The note attached to each pin stated that 150,000 people in the province 65 years of age and over were presented with the pin as a memento of Saskatchewan's centennial year. A message from Premier Lorne Calvert advised that on behalf of the government he was presenting the pin in honour of our contributions to Saskatchewan during its first century.
What makes the NDP government think that anyone would want to wear a pin advertising the fact that they're over 65 years of age? People just have to look at me and they can tell that I'm getting old -- I see no need to confirm that fact by wearing a pin saying that I'm a senior.
If Calvert really wants to do something for older people, I would suggest that he increase the personal income-tax exemption for seniors.
It's my guess that the person who came up with the lame-brained idea to send out 150,000 pins also suggested spending $300,000 on ads telling Saskatchewan residents that the NDP is unhappy with the federal/provincial equalization formula. What, no one thought about having the premier phone the prime minister and saving the taxpayers $300,000 on ads?
We have the federal scandal-plagued Liberals spending billions of our tax dollars trying to buy votes with our own money so they can keep their corrupt government in power, while here in Saskatchewan the NDP misspends millions on unnecessary ads, lapel pins, etc., while our health care is in disarray, highways are crumbling and people are leaving the province. Is it any wonder that people are cynical with regards to politics?
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The new definition of infrastructure apparently has no room for roads, highways, and bridges. Everybody but motorists (gas taxpayers) seem to benefit from the gas tax transfers. Read this and watch for the quote below...
"Further, under the plan by the Martin Liberals, federal funds earmarked for municipal infrastructure funds could be used to build day-care spaces."
Either the Liberals don't care about the Volvo-vote or they have a secret new invention that is going to make the motor vehicle go the way of the Dodo Bird. Or Milli Vanilli if you prefer:)
Posted by Adam Taylor at 6:43 PM
Vote for the NDP and we can have a parallel private health system. Add in the Chaoulli Supreme Court Decision and we can purchase private health insurance, just like in Sweden. Sounds great! Oh oh, I think I just broke election gag laws.
Vancouver — NDP Leader Jack Layton, who spent the last Parliament rallying against the growth of private health care, said yesterday that he is not concerned with private clinics as long as they do not receive public money.
Mr. Layton delivered a speech in Vancouver yesterday accusing the Liberals and Conservatives of failing to protect Canada's public health-care system and pointed to the rise of private clinics across the country.
But when asked afterward about the specifics of his position, Mr. Layton suggested an NDP government would not do anything to stop such clinics provided they are 100-per-cent private.
"That's not our concern. What I've said is we would stop the flow of public money to the Copeman clinic," he said.
Posted by David MacLean at 4:21 PM
In 1993, the Liberals committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 1990 levels by 2005. Instead, emissions are up by 24%. The NDP's Clean Air Act will undo the damage caused by Liberal neglect and set a firm target - by 2020, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will be 25% below what they were in 1990.In other words, because of the liberals environmental mismanagement we couldn't meet our targets. There was nothing wrong with the targets. Now we need another 15 to accomplish that we thought we'd accomplish by 2010. It's a pipe dream.
Posted by David MacLean at 2:13 PM
From the Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan's new report.
Under the heading: "GRF financial statements not reliable"
Our auditor's report on the GRF's financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2005 warns readers that the financial statements do not include all the Government's financial activities. Therefore, readers should not use the GRF's statements to understand and assess the Government's overall performance. The appropriate financial statements to use for that purpose are the Government's summary financial statements.
In addition, our auditor's report on the GRF's financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2005 includes three reservations. The financial statements are not reliable because they do not properly record transfers to the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, loans receivable from Crown corporations, and pension costs.
The combined effects of these reservations are as follows:
- the transfer to the Fiscal Stabilization Fund of $383 million overstates expenses by $383 million.
- transfers to Crown corporations, improperly recorded as loans, understates expenses by $12 million
- pensions expenses are understated by $120 million
- liabilities are understated by $4.1 billion, assets by $0.7 billion and accumulated deficit by $3.4 billion.
Of course the Provincial Auditor is an accountant, not a politician. He writes factually and diplomatically, devoid of rhethoric.
I happen to speak a little governmentese. Allow me to translate:
At least, that's what I think he said.
The government's books are cooked. There is no money in the phoney stabilization fund and people should stop talking like there is. The government is misleading us about their accumulated debt by leaving out $4.1 billion in pension liabilities. Make sure you read these reports carefully and spread the word.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Various municipalities in Nunavut have resorted to some innovative methods to get back in the black. Municipalities have even gone so far as to scrounge for second hand auto parts to save money.
Perhaps some other Canadian municipalities should look north for cost saving measures.
Posted by Tanis Fiss at 1:29 PM
A federal court judge threw out the Samson Cree court case alleging $600-million in damages for how the federal government handled the band's oil and gas royalty monies.
The Samson Cree plan to appeal the decision, since the band has spend $75 million on the case so far.
Posted by Tanis Fiss at 1:15 PM
Sunday, December 04, 2005
If only we could have this kind of discussion here in Canada on the merits of universal daycare. Nope. Only in the USA. Turns out Californians will be going to the polls to decide whether to pursue a universal pre-school program.
This is not mere ivory-tower doom-mongering. This is what a sober assessment of a similar universal day care program in Quebec suggests.
If Reiner's initiative is approved in June, individuals making more than $400,000 a year ($800,000 for families) will face a 1.7 percent tax increase to raise $2.5 billion to finance three hours of free preschool a day for all of California's 4-year-olds -- even the 62 percent who already attend preschool without universal subsidies.
The final price tag for Quebec's day care program is 33 times what was originally projected: It was supposed to cost $230 million over five years, but now gobbles $1.7 billion every year. With this kind of spending, one would think that Quebec was offering top-notch day care to every tot, toddler and teen.
Much of the increased spending has gone not toward increased access, but increased costs. Day care worker unions, on the threat of strike, negotiated a 40 percent increase in wages over four years. The cost of care has doubled since the program began, with the annual per-infant cost now exceeding $15,000.
Besides unions, the other major reason for the skyrocketing costs is that when people don't pay the full price for a service, they consume more of it -- what economists call the problem of the moral hazard: Quebecois taxpayers pay 80 to 90 percent of the cost of care, requiring parents to pitch in only $7 a day.
Such low co-pays have encouraged mothers who might otherwise have stayed at home with their newborns to return to work. But any hope that the program would be able to meet the demand that it created was doomed right from the start, because it banned new centers and barred existing ones from participating, decimating the private day care market. (It has since reversed this policy). Literally overnight, long lines of desperate parents vying for a "free" day care spot emerged. Parents registered babies yet to be conceived. And when they did land a spot, they paid their $7-a-day to hold it -- even if they were months away from using it.
Many low-income parents, who lost their child care tax deductions in order to finance the program, have been crowded out by middle- and upper-income parents more savvy at negotiating the system. According to research by Peter Shawn Taylor for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, half of Quebec's day care spaces are taken by families in the top 30 percent income bracket.
Read the whole thing.
Posted by David MacLean at 2:58 PM
Saskatchewan's talk radio station has an online poll on tax policy. The question is whether you prefer an income tax cut or a GST cut. Right now it's 50.2 for GST and 49.8 for income tax cuts. Go and vote if you are so inclined.
We're curious how people feel about the issue. The great news is that we are actually debating tax cuts in this campaign. Music to our ears.
Posted by David MacLean at 2:49 PM
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The water is running clean, but the pipes have frozen. Egads!
Johnny Wynne says the water in the pipes is now clean, but it's also frozen, cracking the pipes and flooding dozens of homes. It's kept him busy pumping out basements.
One flooded basement is home to three families. Another five live upstairs. The problem of overcrowding hasn't been solved.
With all of the problems that still exist, there are some in the band's leadership who are urging those who have yet to return to stay away.
Posted by David MacLean at 1:12 PM
Friday, December 02, 2005
According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan lost 5,800 jobs from November 2004 to November 2005. This represents the third straight month of job losses under Lorne Calvert's NDP government at a time when Canada is experiencing record job creation. Read the report here.
In last few weeks the number of rural municipalities that are with withholding education tax from local school boards jumped from 17 to 50 despite the threat of legal action from the province. Judging by the number of letters, emails and phone calls to the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation’s (CTF) Regina office, the number of protesting rural municipalities could double.
A United Nations conference on climate change in underway in Montreal. The purpose is to develop a roadmap to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) – more commonly known as greenhouse gases – when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Unfortunately, Canada’s election campaign is diverting media and public attention away from this global meeting, which concludes on Dec. 9.
Posted by David MacLean at 11:12 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2005
About a month ago we received one of those ubiquitous "brown envelopes". The anonymous letter claimed that bureaucrats at the government-owned "Northpoint Energy Solutions" were being treated to annual trips to a fly-in fishing lodge in northern Saskatchewan on the taxpayer's dime. We decided that this needed to be investigated and filed a Freedom of Information request. In that request we asked for a breakdown of employee travel costs that includes the purpose, the destination, the dates and the cost for the past five years.
Intrepid CJME reporter Sarah Mills beat us to it and confirmed the allegations of the "brown envelope" (turns out the letter was sent to a lot of people).
Here is her story:
A newscentre exclusive "fish story" landed on the floor of the Legislature Wednesday afternoon.
The newscentre broke the story of how up to $40,000 will be spent to send employees of a wholly-owned subsidiary of SaskPower, and potential customers on an all-expenses-paid northern fishing trip. Northpoint Energy Solutions sells our surplus electricity outside the province.
The SaskParty's Donna Harpauer raised the issue.
"Last month, CJME uncovered two taxpayer-funded retirement parties for about 35 Department of Finance officials," said SaskParty critic Donna Harpauer, during Question Period. "Now, they've discovered that a SaskPower subsidiary has sent about a dozen of its staff on an all-expenses-paid fishing trip in northern Saskatchewan."
Today we received a response to our Freedom of Information (FOI) request. We received it exactly 30 days days from the day we filed our initial request -- the legal time limit under provincial FOI legislation. It was mailed the same day the story was brought up in the legislature buy the Saskatchewan Party.
In that letter Northpoint Energy Solutions inform us that they estimate it will take 50 hours of work to compile this information and are asking for $1,440 to pay for their costs. The kicker is that it doesn't include in-province travel costs. The $40,000 fly-in fishing trip wouldn't have shown up in their response even if I paid the $1,440.
A couple years ago, after the CTF exposed the province's Wide Open Future advertising campaign was around 1000 per cent over budget, the Premier committed his government to being more transparent. Apparently this was nothing more than political spin.
A complaint to the Information Commissioner is imminent.
From the campaign trail:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has promised to cut the GST if his party wins the federal election.
At a campaign stop in the Toronto area, Harper announced his intention to reduce the goods and services tax by one percentage point immediately, then by another point within five years. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday morning. That would mean reducing the tax to six per cent in 2006, and then to five per cent.
Canadians would have $4.5 billion put back in their pockets with the first reduction, Harper said. An average family of four earning $60,000 a year would pay about $400 less in taxes. The GST reduction would be a "tax cut you see every time you shop. No politician will be able to take it away without you noticing."
OK. The egghead economists are going to say this is the wrong way to cut
taxes. They will say that consumption taxes are less disruptive and more fair.
They will say that income taxe rates should be reduced -- particularly the top
Screw the eggheads. I want cheaper gas.
Posted by David MacLean at 10:59 AM