Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tax fighter

Gerald Tremblay:

Perhaps because he cannot tell a lie, it was best for Tremblay to keep quiet about his plans for the union. He has never declared war on the Blue, hasn't told the public exactly what he intends to do -- and declined to be interviewed by Maclean's on the issue. So, when the first blows landed in late February, it took a while before the Blue realized what hit them. Covert detectives had filmed them at work -- or, rather, not. The news that three work crews took 90 hours to patch up a grand total of nine potholes hit the union in the knees. "Now the public has a culprit to chew on, and it's not he mayor," one city hall insider remarks. The pothole affair was followed by tern warnings in writing that loafers will be suspended, and repeat offenders fired. Then, another sledgehammer fell: more than 500 Blue who walked off the job to stage a protest at City Hall in February will be suspended without pay for one day. And unruly Blue who still threaten foremen will not only be suspended, but will be taken to court.

Regina could use a little Tremblay action.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The problem

You know you have a problem when you are spending more on taxes than you are on food and shelter.

"The average Canadian family spends $28,000 on taxes and just over $22,000 on those other expenditures," said Niels Veldhuis, senior research economist with the Fraser Institute.

Unions do it

When I read about how the public service union wants to increase its dues so it can replenish its strike fund, I was impressed. I think governments can learn from their approach.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is seeking a special $5-a month levy from its members to replenish a depleted strike fund before a contract showdown with the federal government next year.

The call from the largest federal union comes five years after members forked over the biggest dues increase in PSAC's history to stave off bankruptcy.

Now, the union has been forced to ask members for another lifeline to rebuild the strike fund emptied by a 2004 general strike that wasn't universally supported by the rank and file.

The proposed levy will be one of the main issues for 800 delegates and observers to wrestle with at the union's triennial convention, which begins in Toronto this weekend, but most expect it will pass with little opposition.

I'm not really interested in the inside-baseball of union financial problems. What I liked was that they identified a problem -- money woes -- and put together a plan to go back to the people for a free vote. Why can't governments do that? Why do we have tax increases forced down our throats by lying politicians?

Friday, April 28, 2006


Leader Post Editorial:

The federal government cannot argue poverty. Even after increasing spending by 53 per cent since 1997, it has still recorded huge annual surpluses, including $10 billion last year. On Tuesday, the Conservative government should give Canadians not only the GST cut it promised, but also retain the Liberal income tax cuts.

Death and Taxes

Yes folks the tax deadline is fast approaching. Although it is not a pleasant experience to file ones taxes, here is a column penned by the CTFs own John Williamson explaining why we must file.

Free-market capitalism wins again

Even with higher fuel costs, the US economy does not seem to be slowing down. Larry Kudlow of the National Review takes a look at some of the reasons for such a successful economy.

No surprise, Kudlow finds, "lower tax rates, huge profits, big productivity, plentiful jobs, and an ongoing free-market capitalist resiliency," as some of the reasons for success.

Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.

Ottawa's Culture of Secrecy continues.

While a failing grade may be premature, some of this stuff definitely warrants a phone call home....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sask: Everything new is old again

Another taxpayer handout to big business.

UPDATE: When union guys attack!

Innovation means choice

Recently, Canada’s Health Minister Tony Clement said the federal government was open to “innovation” when it comes to Canada’s health care system. However, any innovation would have to be within the parameters of the Canada Health Act (CHA). Regrettably, the CHA prohibits the delivery of private health care services within Canada.

Stifling competition and re-enforcing the status quo that is clearly not working is anything but “innovation.” Allowing greater competition and a parallel, private system to co-exist along side the public system — as is done throughout the world — is key to improving Canada’s health care system.

To read the entire column click here.

Are fixed election dates coming to Canada

The federal government is pondering with the idea of creating fixed election dates. It is thought to be unlikely any fixed election dates would affect the outcome of minority governments.

Thumbs-up for federal tories

The federal government has made it clear, taxpayers will not be on the hook for the legal bills of those accused in the Sponsorship Scandal.

In the words of John Baird, Treasury Board President, requests will be "dead on arrival". To bad in the dying days of the last government, taxpayers did pay for some legal bills.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hennig states the obvious

But what's sad is that it needed to be said.

On the surface, Strathcona County’s mayor earns $96,200 and its councillors collect $53,500.

But one-third of their salary is tax-free.When you factor in that tax break, the salaries jump to $113,755 for the mayor and $61,886 for councillors.

The Alberta chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is calling attention to the practice of taxing municipal officials on two-thirds of their salary. It’s a break afforded to MLAs as well.

Politicians should not be granted special status,” said Scott Hennig, the Alberta director of the CTF.

“They’re supposed to be representative of the people but the people don’t get to claim one-third of their income tax-free. It seems patently unfair.”

Photo radar rip-off

In 2001 when photo radar first popped up on the scene in Manitoba, the CTF cautioned it would turn into a cash-cow, our concerns have now rung true.

From today's Winnipeg Sun:

"Photo radar is now officially a cash grab.

I know some people have viewed it as such from the very beginning, including the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, which said five years ago that no good could come of photo radar.

They argued politicians couldn't be trusted with this kind of potential money maker. And as sure as the day is long, they would abuse it, the CTF argued.

They were right. And I -- a longtime supporter of photo enforcement -- was wrong."
-Tom Brodbeck, City Columnist

A public service

MacLean's has an outstanding piece on private health services in Canada. For those who want to hold their fate in their own hands.

Especially like this bit:

PUBLIC WAIT: The national median wait from GP to surgery for joint replacement surgery (hips, knees, ankles and shoulders) is 49.7 weeks. In some provinces, two-year waits are not unheard of. For cataract surgery, the median wait is 28.8 weeks.

PRIVATE WAIT: All surgeries can be performed within two weeks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Regina: I'm more than a taxpayer

Chad Moats, a frequent commentor here and a student activist with a fledgling municipal advocacy/political group Coalition for Citizen-Friendly Regina has a letter in today's Regina Leader Post.

In his letter he defends the inane ramblings of a local union chief who, every year, addresses city council begging for a tax increase. I was actually with Moats for a while:

A quick study of the City of Regina's capital budget for the next five years will show you that the capital investment by the city has decreased over the last three years, from nine per cent of the general operating budget to seven per cent this year, not including increasing debt costs.
This is true. Despite all the revenue-sharing increases Regina has enjoyed over the years, very little of that is going back into city roads. And trust Chad and I, our roads are very bad out here. It's not the city's fault entirely -- Regina has a funny clay soil structure -- which causes the ground to heave and toss with every freeze and thaw, so roads are a challenge. That said, a lot of cities have challenges. Address them and move on. So I'm with Chad so far.

The reserve fund has been eroded over the last four years from $25.556 million in 2002 to a projected $8.492 million next year. That's a 67-per- cent drop in five years. At that rate, property taxes could be held in check for less than three years, but then the tax hike would be excessive.

This is an excellent point. The last few city budget have essentially been deficit budgets. Revenues have been going through the roof, but they are still sucking the reserve funds dry.
I would argue taxes shouldn't be increased, but instead decreased. City council and the mayor should be attempting to secure a set formula for transfers from the provincial government.

Yes and no. No, property taxes should not be increased, but for completely different reasons. Moats fails to mention in his letter that Regina is actually rolling in dough right now. Revenues are sky high. Regardless of a mill rate increase, people will see a significant tax increase solely because of assessment -- despite what the city tells you.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (now the governor of PA) once said "you can't build a city on pity, you can't build a city on fear." His point was you can't effectively govern with one hand out to another government looking for help because, one day, that help will not come. Generally the CTF agrees with increased revenue sharing, but muncipalities have look at their own spending first.

Then he completely loses me:

In the end, the majority of Regina residents would be willing to pay for quality public services as evidenced by the large protests stemming from the attempted library and school closures. If, in the end, my property taxes have to increase so the parks are well kept, and schools and libraries stay open, then I will grudgingly accept this because I'm more than a taxpayer -- I'm a citizen of a fantastic city.
Does he really want to keep those schools open? At what cost? Once the school is completely empty of live students, should we keep the lights on so Moats feels good about being a "citizen"? With our current demographics, we should be closing at least 11 public schools in the next couple years. But Moats, and he's not alone on this, would sooner see them kept open, for whatever reason.

Is part of being a "citizen" the complete suspension of critical thought?

Gas Price Conspiracy Revealed...

Here are two great columns written by Rich Lowry and Max Schulz of the National Review Online. The two columns tackle the age old questions, "Is there a gas price conspiracy?" and if so, "Isn't it time to call in the price regulators?".

Enjoy the read, I certainly did!

The Pulp Mill that Keeps on Giving

Like a bad horror flick or re-occurring nightmare, the Meadow Lake Pulp Mill continues to saw and hack its way through the pocket books of Saskatchewan taxpayers.

To date the Meadow Lake Pulp Mill has cost taxpayers $937 million. Approximately $110 million in loans have been written off, causing the Investment Saskatchewan Crown Corp to post an $88 million dollar loss.

Health-care Canadian style

Here's yet another shinning example of Canada's "first-rate" health-care system. Just don't get sick out side of regular business hours.

From today's Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Passport VS. ID Cards

Joan Tintor has a great rant about McGuinty's push for a national ID card, and I think she is probably right.

Creating an ID card with biometric features would require new legislation, new bureaucracy, new civil servants, new software, etc. And there’s no guarantee the cost per card would be less than a passport. They might end up costing more.

McGuinty’s thinking is the kind of Liberal brainstorm that created the $2-billion gun registry, when everyone who owned a long gun was already required to have a Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and handguns and automatic weapons were already individually registered (except the ones owned by criminals, of course).

In pain with leukemia? You are on your own

The Saskathewan government has said that parents of an 18 month old girl who was screaming in pain for three weeks on a Saskatchewan hospital waiting list are responsible for the travel and hotel expenses for their trip to Edmonton. The parents, frustrated with the Saskatchewan wait, drove to Edmonton where the baby was diagnosed with leukemia. The government is refusing to pay their travel expenses.

CJME owns this story:

The girl's Aunt Alisa Worobetz says her 18 month old niece was in so much pain she couldn't walk. They tried getting help in Saskatoon but were according to Worobetz ignored and told to come back at a later time. They got help in Edmonton and they got it immediately. Now she tells CJME's John Gormley they have a diagnosis from an Edmonton doctor, cancer. She says had they stayed in Saskatoon they would have had to wait another 3 weeks for their niece to get care.
Let's be clear about the issue here. Due to legislation in Saskatchewan, it is illegal to operate a private hospital. Therefore, it is impossible to obtain health care in our province if the government is unable or unwilling to provide those services.

Is it "OK" for the government to legislate our right to health care away from us? Why can I spend money on my dog's health, but not on my son's? This is insane. And we are unique in the world on this. Only Cuba and North Korea have similar restrictions. If this young family's situation doesn't illustrate the absurdity of the monopoly health system for you, nothing will.

For some of the commentors around here, would you just sit back and take this crap because the interests of the many outweigh the life of your child? Or is there a line to be drawn somewhere, that transcends backward ideology?

The Abotech Affair

There is something here, and Angry has been on it the whole time. Keep an eye on this one.

Freedom for doctors

In backing away from all aspects of their "third way" health care reforms, the Alberta government made a huge mistake. The Alberta government once again has withdrawn proposals (which were really just bullet points, but that is neither here nor there) that might add some more competition in the health care mix.

Behind a subscriber wall at the CalgaryHerald, Mark Milke points out a couple things.

If carpenters on Calgary's new Children's Hospital site were told by politicians to forget about future government work if they ever hammered a nail on a private project, the politicians would rightly be pilloried.

But apply such logic to doctors who will soon labour in that hospital and too many politicians think it fine to restrict the labour, mobility, wages and skill development of physicians.

One of the abandoned proposals would have allowed doctors to work in the public system as well as the mythological private system. The arguments against this proposal, says Mark, are two-fold. First there's the "double dipping" critique, and then there's the argument that it will draw doctors away from the public system.

The morality and logic of such assertions is faulty. On the double-dipping charge, how does it differ from consultant Rod Love, who received taxpayer cash (via the Tory government) and cheques from the private sector? Plenty of lawyers bill government and private clients for similar work. The freedom allowed to consultants, lawyers and others is denied to doctors.

Let's whip out some numbers, shall we?

European countries and Australia (all of which also have universal access to health care) allow private insurance and much more doctor mobility between government and private systems. As a result, they have many more doctors per 1,000 people compared to Canada. According to the OECD, Canada has 2.1 physicians for every 1,000 people.

Countries with higher doctor-population ratios include: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Good stuff.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fishery 'crats travel big

How about a trip to Estonia?

The incidents occurred last fall, just as the department was saying it had moved to clean up its policing of travel and hospitality abuses, according to the documents obtained by The Canadian Press. The audits were specially ordered by deputy minister Larry Murray after his senior officials raised red flags about expenses claimed by staff at two events.

The department sent 31 people to the Estonian capital of Tallinn from Sept. 19 to 23 last year for the annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization. The trip cost taxpayers $250,000.

When this kind of abuse continues to happen, everyone should be looking at the top. Perhaps the Deputy Minister level. Voters have already done their job at the political level.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Vancouver Mayor wants to become a drug dealer

Says CTV.

Hey Mayor Sullivan, can you slip me some rock? I got c-note.

Oh yeah? Wanna see REALLY high gas prices?

Drudge has this picture on his site with a headline that screams "NEW PRICE OF GAS IN BEVERLY HILLS!"

You think that's bad Drudge? Come up to Canada and pay $4.35 a gallon.

Bye bye!

Go flames.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Taxing the dead

I just heard about this on Adler. Click here if you want funeral services to be exempt from the GST.

Montreal: A whiff of scandal

Something smells fishy:

Until he was safely re-elected, Mayor Gerald Tremblay and his administration wanted the people of this city to learn almost nothing about how last summer's costly World Aquatics Championships were being run. Even now some hard questions about the project have not been answered.

Federal Court affidavits unsealed this month show how city hall, the games organizing committee and the Federation Internationale de Natation managed
the news. Taxpayers, in city hall's view, were welcome to pay $44 million for the games, but not welcome to know what was going on behind the scenes. It's a chilling example of manipulative paternalism.
I bet lawyers are very involved.

The market or big-government

Here's an interesting article from Larry Kudlow, a National Review Economic Editor. Mr. Kudlow provides comments on a recent speech given by US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. In her speech to the Chicago Economic Club, Hillary called for big-government investment in infrastructure and heavy spending on health-care and education. In other words, implementing the systems of government engineering that failed in Japan, France and Germany.

Kudlow argues that a tax system that rewards success rather than punishes success is the way to go. Meaning, if government leaves more of an individuals hard earned money in that person's pocket, the economy and productivity will grow.

Encounter a hospital waiting list? Call the media!

A lot of people are talking about a situation in Saskatchewan where someone with rapidly-spreading cancer was told to wait three months to see an oncologist before the treatment could even begin.

The family of a 57-year-old Meath Park woman says it will take at least three months before their mother gets to see a Saskatchewan oncologist who can tell her if her cancer is treatable or fatal.

And while Health Minister Len Taylor says three months is too long to wait, he offered little Wednesday to indicate wait times to see cancer specialists in this province will soon be getting shorter.

Emily Morley has already waited a month to see an oncologist since receiving her biopsy results that identified her secondary cancer, but were inconclusive in determining the primary source. Until that primary source is identified, her treatment cannot begin.

And even though the cancer is now in Morley's lungs, liver, pancreas and spine, the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic has advised her it will still take at least three months to see an oncologist.
Well, CJME is now reporting that they have now moved up her appointment to next week. What does this say about our health system? Who, exactly, is responsible for moving the appointment up?

Did Health Minister Len Taylor call the health authority to have the appointment moved up, or was this an initiative taken by the health authority? Either way, doesn't this suggest our health system is politicized? If Len Taylor made the call, was it simply because of the media scrutiny focused on the incident?

There is a disturbing trend developing in Canadian society. People, fed up with the health system -- their very lives at stake -- are going to the media to get the treatment they pay for and deserve. To think that politicians or health bureaucrats have the power to snap their fingers and grant health care to someone is...well...unthinkable.

Bilingualism Bonus Boondoggle

An internal audit at the Foreign Affairs Department has revealed the federal government has paid 344 bureaucrats $275,000 for a bilingualism bonus. Thing is, the 344 recipients of the $800 annual bonus were not eligible. To further exacerbate this debacle, 76 eligible employees never received their bonuses.

Here's an idea, let's do away with the bonus.

Taxman audit

It appears auditor general Sheila Fraser will take a hard look at the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Seems CCRA has accrued $18-billion in unpaid taxes from various businesses and individuals and written off some $5-billion as uncollectible.

Look for the AG report next month.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dead Meat

If you haven't seen Dead Meat from On The Fence Films, you should. Stop what you are doing, take a coffee break, do what you can to watch this short film. Dead Meat looks at Canada's state monopoly health care system from an American perspective. Is there anybody in Canada who doesn't know someone who has been harmed by the health system? The film puts it all into perspective.

Daycare reality check

As much as I disagree with their slavish devotion to state-run daycare, TDH Strategies has a good post on the competing daycare programs.

Now before we get to the inadequacy of the Conservative plan, we need to be honest and offer a reality check with regards to some of the Liberal past claims. The Martin campaign publicly estimated during the election that the plan would create 625,000 new child care spaces. But it is clear that the 250,000 spots will not be magically expanded by 350,000 as a result of a simple extension of the $1 billion per year until 2015. This is particularly evidenced when you examine how many total child care spaces currently exist in the country, a number that stood at a mere 600,000 in 2001 (providing a national access ratio of 1 in 8 children).

My lying eyes!

This is hard to believe.

Drivers could get a break from high gasoline prices when the federal budget is introduced late this month or in early May, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.

MacKay said there is little the federal government can do to ease the international tensions blamed for the latest price spike.

Instead, the Conservatives are looking at tax relief, he told reporters after attending the Halifax Chamber of Commerce's annual general meeting.

I can hear the distant thunder of approaching enviromentalists. If gas tax relief materializes, it shows that hard work pays off.

Help get rid of the gun registry . . ."call an NDP MP"

Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews is looking for support from all parties to pass legislation that would repeal the gun registry. But in order to get our MPs to act, the public must get involved. As Tom Brodbeck from the Winnipeg Sun aptly puts it "at $2 billion and counting, we can't afford not to."

Pain at the pumps continues

With gas prices soaring above $1 per litre, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is continuing its call for the federal government to reduce gas taxes.

As a deficit reduction measure in 1995, Ottawa increased the federal gasoline tax from 8.5 to 10 cents per litre. The deficit was vanquished eight years ago, but the tax remains, therefore the CTF is asking Ottawa to eliminate the 1.5 cent deficit reduction tax. In addition, the CTF is asking the federal government to stop the tax paid on other taxes, as GST is charged on the full pump price, gasoline taxes included.

If Ottawa implements the CTF's recommendations, approximately $800-million would be left in taxpayers pockets.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Choice in Child Care is GOOD Policy

The opposition have vowed to fight for a zero-options childcare plan and now the Prime Minister has dared them to defeat the government over its own more flexible plan.

For the record, the CTF argued for a similar flexible plan in its most recent pre-budget submission.

Critics will say that this plan doesn't cover the total cost of daycare but surely the total cost of caring for children shouldn't fall to the government (read: taxpayers)?

How many more unsustainable, feel-good, programs does this country need? (Reminder: Canada is $500-billion in debt, excluding provincial debts).

Further, the Liberal plan ONLY provides for those who wish to put their kids in 9-5, government-run, institutional, unionized, warehouse facilities. Stay-at-home moms/dads, Granny, and Aunt Ethel don't even register on the radar under that scheme.

Conclusion: Give parents options, don't expect the government to pay the whole shot, and recognize that a cookie-cutter approach is inherently flawed.

As contortionists like to say - flexibility is key!

License to spend money

CBC say:

Oil prices brush $70 US a barrel
Last Updated Apr 17
2006 11:35 AM CDT

Oil prices briefly touched $70 US a barrel on Monday as apparent investor nervousness about U.S. supplies and global issues pushed the May futures contract for light sweet crude to a seven-and-a-half month high.

In morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the May contract pulled back slightly to trade at $69.77 US a barrel, up 32 cents from Thursday's close.

You know what this means for the governments of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia? It means "spend it while you got it." As Brian Crowley from AIMS points out, oil and gas revenues are "one-time" revenues. Once that hydrocarbon is pulled from the ground and sold on the market, it's gone forever. It's an asset that is constantly being reduced in value -- like drawing from your RRSPs before you retire.

Politicians don't see it that way. They see high oil prices as an oppornuty to "invest" in social programs. Incredibly short sighted.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kill the gun registry

After all we have heard and said about this embarrassing waste of tax dollars, can you believe we are actually asking if they will kill the gun registry?

Failure to kill the registry will only embolden those who still tell the lie that the gun registry actually fights crime. I can't believe we're even talking about it.

The question is when. The answer is unclear, for a variety of administrative, legal and political reasons.

"This is a minority government," says David Tomlinson, head of the Edmonton-based National Firearms Association.

"They cannot change the firearms control laws unless they have a majority vote, and it's going to take time to assemble a majority vote . . . . I don't anticipate this is going to go down in a hell of a hurry."

Good grief. If the gun registry had prevented one single shooting...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sask: Budget ad campaign

Check out Murray Mandryk's column on the taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign. He says it much better that I can.

(Behind subscriber wall, sorry.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

But...there's a labour shortage!

CBC say:

The pulp mill that was Prince Albert's largest private-sector employer officially closed Thursday, leaving hundreds of laid-off employees wondering about their next move.

When the closure was announced last year, Weyerhaeuser was the city's largest private sector employer.For many, that move may be to Alberta.

"Oh yeah, we are ready for the mover to come in," said Shelley Miller who, like her husband Ray, lost her job when the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper plants closed.


"My heart still wants to stay here. So it's tough," Shelley Miller said.

Prince Albert Mayor Jim Stiglitz was putting on a hopeful face.

"Prince Albert has been through some hard times before we'll get through this one," Stiglitz said. Efforts to find a new owner continue.

[Ed: Good thing someone is booming.]

The Face of a Tax Hiker!?!?

The federal government is giving strong signals it will cancel the tax cuts of the previous government to pay for their reduction to the GST.

In layman's terms, this is giving with one hand while taking with the other.

Note for the PM: This will be a giant misstep and will earn you the tax-hiker label and the wrath of middle-income Canadians.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NDP MPs to take voluntary pay cut

The headline you will never see.

The NDP is always pushing for tax increases for the wealthy, even after they are dead.

Given that MPs are now in the top 2 per cent of Canadian wage-earners, shouldn't they be voluntarily taking a 20 per cent pay cut -- thereby saving the government $30,000 for each NDP MP, every year? Of course this money will be used for important social programs such as the one-tonne challenge and the Canadian Television Fund.

What ever happened to leading by example? Think of the public relations boon.

Coming Soon to a Cash Register Near You

The federal government has confirmed that the proposed GST cut will be included in the upcoming budget.

Hopefully it won't be funded by cancelling the Liberal government's previous income tax cuts.

To give with one hand and take with another will not, I suspect, make taxpayers applaud.

Freedom of information

Teaming up:

OTTAWA, April 12 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Newspaper Association are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper tohonour campaign promises to end a culture of secrecy in Ottawa by committing to a timetable for enacting reforms to the Access to Information Act beforethe next federal election.

"We are calling on the government to implement - not study, but implement- the Information Commissioner's recommendations for reform of the Access toInformation Act, exactly as promised in the Conservatives' election platform," John Williamson, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said at a news conference on Parliament Hill today.

"Prime Minister Harper is wrong if he believes this is politics asusual," he said. "Advocates seeking reform are not looking to pocket half a loaf here."

It's a go

PM says the GST tax cut is coming. But what about those income tax rates?

Budget propaganda campaign

Star Phoenix:

...They make taxpayers and voters feel good about the government, the finance minister and the budget. And that's not an appropriate way to spend taxpayers' dollars," MacLean told reporters at the legislature Tuesday.

"When the implicit message in the advertising is that Andrew Thomson is looking out for you, that's not acceptable."

But Thomson was unapologetic about his presence in the ads.

"One of the reasons that I'm in them is that it's my budget and it's one of the opportunities I have to remind people that this is a budget that we've introduced," he said.

No, Minister. It's our budget.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Update: London's crazy politicians

Well, we can report a partial victory on the Giuliani issue in London, Ontario. Due to "public pressure," (read: CTF pressure) London City Council has voted not to accept tickets in return for contributing $10,000 tax dollars to a conference featuring Rudy Giuliani. They are still forking over other people's money, but no tickets will be accepted to avoid the appearance of "graft."

We'll take what we can get.

Update: Sask budget advertising

The total budget for the Saskatchewan budget advertising is $445,000 -- and the primary audience are Saskatchewan voters...I mean....Saskatchewan people.

UPDATE: CTF news release here.

Federal Accountability Act Introduced

CALGARY: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Aboriginal Division responded today to the introduction of the Federal Accountability Act .

Currently, Canadian taxpayers spend approximately $8 billion for federal programs directed at native Canadians. Once the federal government transfers roughly 80 per cent of the money to native bands, the auditor-general of Canada no longer has the authority to audit how and where the money is spent.

“We are very pleased to see the Federal Accountability Act will give the auditor-general authority to audit and scrutinize money transferred to native governments. For too long the lack of accountability mechanisms have lead to inefficiencies, redundancies, corruption and even abuse,” stated Tanis Fiss, the division’s director.

Since the Canadian Taxpayers Federation created its Aboriginal Division in 2002, one of the priorities of the Division was to push the federal government to expand the mandate of the auditor-general to include native bands.

“The CTF is concerned that 17 native governments will be excluded from the Federal Accountability Act because they have self-government agreements. As long as these communities receive Canadian tax dollars, they should be subject to the scrutiny of the auditor-general,” concluded Fiss.

Schedule VII of the Federal Accountability Act excludes 17 native governments that have self-government agreements or have elected to contract out of the Indian Act. Some of these communities include: Sechelt, Nisga’a, Tlicho and Labrador Inuit Association.

London, Ontario: Canada's craziest politicians?

Watch while London politicians twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify a taxpayer-funded trip to see Rudy Guiliani.

First, they need to spend $10,000 to help defray the cost of the London conference.

In exchange for the donation to the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, city councillors would get free tickets to the April 21 leadership conference at which Rudy Giuliani will deliver the keynote address.

London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco, city controllers and chief administrator Jeff Fielding have already endorsed the plan.

Let me get this straight -- the city needs to kick in the dough to make this thing happen and the conference organizers will sweeten the pot by giving free tickets to councillors and bigwigs to see Rudy in person. Has it even occurred to them that they might offer it in a raffle to local taxpayers? Nope. Why is it automatic that politicians get the junket?

By the way, this works out to be $500 per ticket.

Wait, there's more.

In exchange for $10,000, council members would get 10 tickets to hear Giuliani's keynote speech and another 10 to attend a private reception with him afterward limited to perhaps 100 people.

"This could be the future president of the United States here," Fielding said. U.S. polls show Giuliani to be at or near the top among possible Republican nominees to replace President George W. Bush in 2008.

Well, I apologize! This very well could be the next president of the United States. And of course you really don't want to get on his bad side...have you heard what he did with criminals in New York?

Then, in comes Paul Van Meerbergen to point out the rich, smelly irony.

Van Meerbergen is a fan of Giuliani but sees no reason taxpayers should fund an event that will happen with or without council's support.

"The attention will come regardless -- it's not a function of local politicians attending," he said.

"The irony is (some) want to shell out $10,000 in tax dollars to learn from someone who's a pillar of fiscal conservatism."

Oh yeah...and what will people think if city councillors don't go? How will they be seen? And, what if there is a future pandemic? Think about it!

Though the conference will draw attention regardless of what council does, it's good to collaborate with leading local institutions, he said.

"It's a question of whether we want to be seen as a partner," Fielding said.

With scientists worried about a future pandemic, council could benefit from seeing firsthand leaders who have shone during times of crisis, he said.

And, you better believe those politicians will be in a pitched battle to be the first to belly up to the trough.

If council agrees to a sponsorship, there may be a dog fight over the
tickets, Polhill said.

"It could be a real challenge," he said.

I say we spare these fools the trouble and ask them personally and directly to scrap the ticket purchase/sponsorship/junket. How about filling a few potholes instead? I understand the vote goes down on the faster you register your displeasure, the better. Make sure also you tell Van Meerbergen he's on the right track.

Email a London City Councillor!!!

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco:

Big hat tip: London fog

Monday, April 10, 2006

Saskatchewan budget advertising

I was just watching Prison Break, which in my opinion is the best show on television right now. I was enjoying the show when all of a sudden it was interrupted by a commercial featuring Finance Minister Andrew Thomson. The ad was to promote the business tax reforms that were included in the budget and how they lead to Saskatchewan being a better place to "live, work and raise a family."

More taxpayer-funded propaganda in Saskatchewan...and just a couple months before a byelection. Surprise, surprise.

The pirates of the marine atlantic

Ferry honchos living it up on taxpayer dime:

In recent years, executives from the Crown corporation that runs the ferries between Newfoundland and the mainland have gone to conferences in Athens and the Bahamas, for instance, with taxpayers footing the bill.

The executives golfed at the best courses in Atlantic Canada, dropped big money for meals at the best restaurants in the region, knocked back a lot of pricey booze and even submitted claims for a newspaper, coffee or crossword puzzle book picked up at the airport.

In a few cases, the executives brought their wives along on trips. The Crown corporation — and, ultimately, the taxpayers — picked up the tabs.

It seems like too much spending, says John Williamson, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"It sounds like Pirates of Marine Atlantic," he said. "In the good old days, this kind of behaviour aboard a ship would have resulted in the pirates all being hung up."

Irony on the earmarks express

American's For Prosperity is runing a nation-wide bus tour visiting communities that are beneficiaries of federal pork barrel politics. They hit some irony on the highway to Akron.

“We have a great deal of respect for the University of Akron, but we find this particular federal earmark extremely ironic,” said Americans for Prosperity Foundation President Tim Phillips. “Considering that more than $47 billion was spent on earmarked projects last year, we have to wonder if one of the ‘hard choices’ that students learn about is whether or not to stop funding pet projects with earmarks. Not every project that is funded with an earmark is necessarily a waste of money, but the practice of earmarking makes it much easier for truly wasteful pet projects like the Teapot Museum in North Carolina or the $223 million Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska to slip through. Let’s end earmarks and have an open debate about how we should spend our tax dollars.”

Quick thought: Throne speech amended

Today Parliament passed amendments to the throne speech calling for the conservatives not to raise personal income tax rates as they planned. Ralph Goodale is saying this is a good thing, as the finances of the country are in such good shape.

My how things change. This is the same Ralph Goodale who said during the campaign that the conservative tax changes would lead to a deficit. He knew, after all, because he had "seen the books" and "built a budget."

Here's an excerpt from the Liberal news release:

'and, while this House acknowledges the broader agenda mentioned en passant in the Speech, it particularly looks forward to early and meaningful action on such promises as those respecting Aboriginal Canadians, new immigrants, greater security for seniors, improvements in the environment, and increased supports for farm families; and, given the strong economic and fiscal situation which the Government inherited, this House sees no reason for tax increases or a decrease in anticipated early learning and child care spaces in Canada.’


Not sure if I'm the last to clue into this, but Dust My Broom's Raskolnikov has his own blog...The Times of Winnnipeg.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Subliminally speaking - health care good!

In yet another taxpayer funded attempt to convince Canadians that we have the best health care system in the world, big government has hit the TV airwaves.
H/T Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Sun.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Big unions on the Saskatchewan budget

Larry Hubich -- SFL President

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour waded into the fray on the Saskatchewan budget. Hilarious lede on their news release:

Largest Taxpayer Group Gives Budget a C+
Today the organization that speaks on behalf of more taxpayers than any other group in the province gave the 2006 Saskatchewan budget a passing grade.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President, Larry Hubich said, "through our affiliated and non-affiliated unions and on behalf of more than 120,000 'real' Saskatchewan taxpayers and their families, I offer a passing grade of C+ to the Finance Minister and the provincial government on the 2007-2007 budget released today."

Wow. How self-serving is that? Larry Hubich from on-high annointing the provincial budget with his approval on behalf of "real" taxpayers, and not those low-rent non-union hacks.

But check this: Larry says he would have given the budget a higher grade were it not for the the reckless tax cuts for land-owner elites.

"We could have supported targeted tax incentives in certain areas, but we would base such incentives on demonstrated corporate performance. Sort of a 'pay-for-performance' regime or an 'incentive based' plan for business, Hubich said. He added, "You know -- if you do this you get this. Not simply putting the money up first, and hoping business will respond positively."

OK, this is historic. I now look forward to seeing all union contracts based on performance, or "incentive-based." You know, instead of giving all the money up front and just blindly hoping union workers will work harder.

Sask budget: It's a balanced, seriously!

For those who keep asking, the Saskatchewan budget is indeed a deficit budget. Over the next two years the government will withdraw $578 million from the "fiscal stabilization fund." The funny thing about the fund is there is no fund. There is no actual bank account where this "rainy day" money is deposited. I've asked the Provincial Auditor, and he can't find it either. The stabilization fund is just government debt, like the rest of government debt. When you pretend to make a withdrawal from it, it shows up on the books as more debt.

Here's the rub: the same "withdrawal" which shows up on the books as increased debt, also shows up as revenue. Now, on page 7 of the budget estimates, the government talks about their accounting policies. They talk about how the government has adoped generally accepted accounting principles EXCEPT when it comes to "transfers" from the fiscal stabilization fund.

So, in order to make their bottom line look better than it really is, they suspend generally accepted accounting principles. They could spend $750 million more than they take in revenues, and still trot out a news release saying "the budget is balanced."

Tax cuts for business, more training opportunities for young people, a freezeon tuition fees and support for vulnerable citizens -- those are some of the highlights delivered by Finance Minister Andrew Thomson in Saskatchewan's 13th consecutive balanced budget.

The budget isn't balanced, yet they get away with this propaganda routinely. It's like the Iraqi propaganda minister "Comical Ali" claiming the Americans were being defeated while marines were pouring themselves coffee in downtown Baghdad.

Sask: Post-budget musings

Yesterday I was at the legislature for "rotundapalooza" as one NDP staffer calls it, and I had a conversation with some Regina politicos. I pointed out the absurdity of federal fuel tax money being spent by Regina City Council on new buses instead of fixing Regina's terrible roads. The politicos argued that our roads really aren't that bad compared to Montreal and Ottawa, and that council really had no choice but to spend money on the buses and that having good roads would mean a significant tax increase. Of course, I thought, the tax increase wouldn't be as necessary if they weren't spending millions on fuel efficient buses but I digress...

By coincidence I was driving back to the office after the festivities were over, and I heard Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco on the radio commenting on the budget. You see, the budget increased revenue sharing with the municipalities by more than $7 million.

And what was Mayor Fiacco's reaction? He said this money will go a long way toward buying new city buses! How much money do we need for these buses, anyway? Are they equipped with ejector seats and lazer guided missiles? Can they lift off the ground and hover? Do they both transport people and fix pot-holes at the same time? I can't wait to see one of these goliaths wandering around the city with one lone occupant -- the driver.

Dine and dash

Taxpayers picked up the tab for McClelland and Brison to take their campaign staff out for dinner.

Brison's spokesperson claims the dinners were to say "thank-you" for the efforts made during the last election. That's all warm-and-fuzzy, but taxpayers should not pick up the tab.

I must be dreaming

First it was a Manitoba native community utilizing private homeownership as a a way to deal with the housing shortage on native reserves, now this.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has long argued for the mandate of the auditor general to include native governments. For example, we argued our case before the House of Commons Standing Committee for Indian Affairs during the First Nations Governance Act consultations. If this rumor is true, the Tories new Accountability Act will included native bands.

Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Saskatchewan budget day

I'll be on the rotunda of the legislature in a few hours to get the good on today's budget. Get ready for the biggest spending budget in Saskatchewan history. They'll also move on corporate taxes, which is welcome. Should be fun.

UPDATE: One pleasant surprise. No, it wasn't surprising that the government implemented corporate tax reform, but it was surprising to see them implement the Vicq recommendations to the letter.

I got the distinct impression that people wanted the CTF to be grateful for the business tax reductions. Grateful for what? 60 years of oppressive rates of taxation? Give thanks for having dozens of crown corporation that squeeze out private businesses and economic freedom? Thanks for completely bungling the economy

No thanks. We don't play that game.

UPDATE 2: Yes, indeed, this is a deficit budget, but the 2007-2008 budget is expected to be a much deeper deficit.

Check the greensheets for detailed info.

UPDATE 3: Just realized that, on a per capita basis, Saskatchewan is spending just as much as Alberta.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Having your cake, and eating it too

Here's a completely unsubstantiated report I want to believe:

OTTAWA—The Conservatives may keep some of the personal income tax breaks promised by the previous Liberal government, even though they said during the election campaign they wouldn't do so.

With a budget expected in about a month, sources close to the government say the Tories have much more money to work with than was expected and may keep the cuts, which are already in effect, in order to limit a possible political backlash over taxes. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is silent on the issue.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tories backing away from beefed up access laws

This is a really bad move:

The Tories promised they would implement a set of recommendations by Information Commissioner John Reid that would radically loosen access laws and shine light into some of the darkest corners of government.

They will instead chop most of the access provisions from the legislation and send Reid's recommendations to a parliamentary committee in a separate document.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted at the pull-back two weeks ago but the remarks went unreported at the time.

Harper was swayed by bureaucrats and Crown agency officials who protested about the plan for more openness, one government official said.

"It was enough to shake the knees of the government into kind of backing this thing off into a committee," he said. The official asked not to be named.

"It sounds like there's going to be a lot more talking, but not much action."

Under the Access to Information Act, Canadians who pay $5 can request government files ranging from audits and expense records to briefing papers and correspondence.

But the 23-year-old law has drawn persistent criticism for being antiquated, riddled with loopholes and poorly administered.

How much was your raise this year?

MPs got yet another raise on April 1st -- adding up to around $3,500 a year on average. Check the new salaries here.


For more than a decade, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has advocated for private property rights on Canada's native reserves as a way to reduce poverty. Most of the past decade, the CTF has been ridiculed by Indian industry elites.

It would appear, in some parts of the country, there is a growing interest in the concept of homeownership. Check out this Manitoba native community that has discovered homeownership brings with it pride of ownership.

Here's my favorite quote:

  • Cecilia Ross, who owns her own home on the reserve, says homeowners feel better about themselves, compared with band members who live in housing provided by the reserve.
    "When you own your own house, you maintain it. You don't wait until there's big holes in the walls – you fix it right away," she said. "You've got goals, you know – like my door, I have to change it this year. And that's why you work."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Comments about the Big Five?

It is expected that in today's Throne Speech, Prime Minister Harper's government will outline their intentions to proceed with five main (aka the Big Five) priorities in the 39th session of parliament. They are:

1. Accountability Act
2. GST Cut
3. Child Care Allowance
4. Crackdown on Crime
5. Guaranteed Wait Times for Health Care Services

Which will be the hardest to legislate? Which should take priority? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What about Klein's health reforms?

CBC say:

With Ralph Klein's political future in doubt, it appears his plans for health-care reforms are in danger of being scrapped. In fact, some senior Conservatives – such as leadership hopeful Mark Norris – are openly saying the so-called Third Way is dead.

Yeah, health care reform is dead in Alberta, largely due to some of the spineless politicians currently seeking the top job. Yeah, I'm talking to you.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

This is important

National Post:

Imprisoning Selena Stevenson would not change these gruesome facts. A change of on-reserve culture is needed. For the past 40 years, government officials have told aboriginal Canadians that they are victims, that none of the ills that plague First Nations communities are their fault. Money and excuses have been pumped in, and a welfare-dependent mentality has led to a cycle of poverty, addiction and abuse. Unless and until politicians and race baiting native leaders stop feeding the dysfunctional mentality that pervades many First Nations communities, no amount of tough sentencing or social engineering is going to raise the value of life.

H/T: Dust My Broom comments. Emphasis mine.

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