Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ottawa - Meet Boss Hogg

Larry O'Brien - A Timeline:

Runs for mayor and criticizes out of control wages and spending at city hall.

Pledges to freeze taxes ("Zero Means Zero")

On the day before he is to be sworn in it is discovered he will accept a 23% salary increase (an extra $32,000) that will make him higher paid than Toronto Mayor David Miller.

Mayor-elect O'Brien also urges fellow councilors to accept a 35% increase.

But don't worry folks, he's not going to raise your taxes and will get rid of wasteful spending.

Health care tsunami (or is it Katrina?)

Al, over at What's Wrong With Healthcare paints a pretty grim portrait of the future of health care, replete with an ominous solution.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


What are you doing Larry?

Wasn't Larry O'Brien the guy who talked about eliminating waste at city hall so taxes could be frozen?

How credible or successful will the new mayor be if he tries to get a union to accept a 0%, 3% or 5% wage increase? It'll look like peanuts up against his whopping pay raise.

Is a raise that is 16 times the rate of inflation sound fiscally responsible to you?

Not off to a very good start and he's not even sworn in yet.

3 Final Words:

Outrageous. Unbelievable. Disgusting.

Sask: Absenteeism survey

Saskatchewan government workers take 23 per cent more sick days than the national average for all employees. Why should we care? Because absenteeism costs taxpayers no less than $35 million a year.


Beg, Spend and Tax

What are the three things David Miller does in his role as Toronto's mayor Alex?

That's correct.

Just days after winning re-election Toronto Mayor David Miller went to Premier McGuinty and begged for one per cent of the PST to be transferred to his government. McGuinty gave him the obligatory "we have no money" and sent him to Ottawa. Finance Minister Flaherty didn't show as much courtesy when asked to transfer one point of the GST nor should he. Giving Mayor Miller another new revenue source after such a poor term of fiscal management would be like doubling your kids allowance after they wasted it all on candy!

Mayor Miller obviously didn’t take the hint from the Premier and the Finance Minister that he should get spending in check. Reports from City hall are saying that the Mayor is throwing around the idea of taxing parking as soon as his powers under the City of Toronto Act kick in Jan. 1.

I think Torontonians may get tired of Miller’s beg, spend and tax strategy at city hall sooner than later.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NFLD: Accountability at work

Former Newfoundland cabinet minister Ed Byrne, in announcing his resignation amid a massive spending scandal, suggests it is actually he who is the victim of politics.

"Politics does exact a price on people," Byrne said. "I feel like I'm in a
position where I can't do it."

Poor Mr. Byrne. It's so tough for a corrupt politician to make a living these days.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Don't worry, the government has it covered

When people are forced to flee to the United States to get life-saving health care the government does nothing. But when someone opens up a private clinic to possibly make money delivering needed health services right here in Canada, the government is there looking out for our best interests.

Again with the mean-spirited spending cuts

Coyne takes it apart. I loved the closer:

UPDATE: Just for fun, I've redone the chart as it would look if spending were held to a 0.9% rate of growth over the next five years, as Mike Harris and Preston Manning recommend in their recent paper. As the chart shows, this would result in real per capita spending being cut all the way back to the dark days of ... 2004.

Friday, November 24, 2006

So much for "mean spirited" spending cuts

Via SDA, a list of some of the "mean spirited" spending cuts to literacy bureaucracy. I'm waiting for the details on the "ideological" cuts to Status of Women Canada.

No Big Shocker

Not surprisingly, the man whose government almost bankrupted Ontario is leading the pack of Liberal leadership candidates with the largest campaign debt.

And the Liberals may hand this guy the keys to Stornoway?

Hopefully he gets nowhere near 24 Sussex.

Should be an exciting couple weeks.

Economic Update

Trying to get your head around yesterday's economic update from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty? CTF Federal Director John Williamson appeared on "MPtv" hosted by Garth Turner yesterday and does a great job of simplifying it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sask: Letter of the month

Very good letter in the Leader Post today. I laughed out loud.

I repeat, it's just amazing that only myself, Calvert and the NDP government realize this. I'm hoping the government will spend some cash on an advertising campaign to let everyone know what great things all of those advertising campaigns have accomplished. This seems to be the only way for everyone to fully understand how essential advertising campaigns are to all of us.

Wind power no answer

Saskatchewan's crown monopoly power utility carries on building wind farms, undeterred by reality.

Sask: Fixed election dates, elected senators

We see no reason why the government would not pass this legislation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Government math: less students=more schools

The Alberta government just released the new school "wish list" from every school board in Alberta. It amounts to $3.1-billion worth of new schools.

Ok, Alberta is a growing province, and new schools might be needed, but as every PC leadership candidate keeps saying "it's not that we don't have enough schools it's just that they're in the wrong place."

Fair enough, but then where's the plan to close down a bunch of schools. For every school they open at least one should be shut down. Especially considering:

There are 6,044 less K-12 students in Alberta, than there were three years ago, yet 20 new schools. 39 new schools if you only look at Public and Separate school divisions (which make up the bulk of schools in the province).

Less students and more schools. That doesn't make sense.

And now the government wants to put $3.1-billion into building even more schools.

Unfortunately the government doesn't seem to have the stones to tell these school boards that they only get a new school when they close down a half-empty one.

Revenue Canada bullying


OTTAWA -- A Canadian businessman who paid his taxes several days before they were due was slapped with a hefty $287,000 penalty because he remitted the cheque to a tax office instead of a bank.

Documents obtained by Sun Media show the Canada Revenue Agency punished the taxpayer with a 10% fine and warned him to pay up immediately or face potential "legal action being taken without further notice."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sask: Giving away your bargaining position

Saskatchewan NDP members passed a resolution calling on the government to offer a bailout package to anyone who wants to buy the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Saskatoon.

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sask: Fictional stabilization fund

Excellent column by Bruce Johnstone in today's Leader Post on the shell game politicians are playing with our money. I've been playing whack-a-mole for the past two days trying to figure out how this new scheme works. So much for's more like "metaphysical accounting."

I believe the government is hiding much more than that. I contend that using the GRF and FSF allows the government to bring non-renewable resource revenues into general coffers and spend them like ongoing revenue sources, such as income or sales taxes.

The fact of the matter is Saskatchewan is selling its birthright -- its non-renewable resource wealth -- and using the proceeds to pay for the groceries, such as health care, education and social programs. While there's nothing wrong with spending money on health care and education, those vital programs should be supported by ongoing revenue sources.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The sentence I'm glad I didn't write, but the National Post seemingly didn't have a problem with it:

Mr. Turner's proposal, in essence to make each MP a megaphone for the top-of-mind desires of his or her constituents, might sound like the ultimate in democracy. But it would, in fact, institutionalize the ascendancy of "immoderate political passions."

Milton Friedman Dead at 94

Economist Milton Friedman died earlier today at the age of 94. It is rare I attach the term "genius" next to a scholar’s name but Friedman was definitely one. As someone who had to read many economic texts, Friedman's works were among the most captivating. While today's news is quite sad I am confident that Friedman's ideas and written works will continue to be influential in academia and even find its way into the policymaking world.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Vote for the loudest beggar

Coyne on the political welfare mentality:

What a country. Elect me and I'll stick my hand out. I have a mandate to beg. That's what half our politicians see as their role: not to do their best with the money their own taxpayers gave them, nor even to raise taxes if that's too hard, but to spend other taxpayers' money.

Dave Hancock's Response to the CTF's 16 Questions

This morning I just received Dave Hancock's response to the 16 questions posed to Alberta's PC Leadership candidates. His responses will be added to the final document over the next few days (and of course graded).

In the meantime, here they are for your reading pleasure:

1. Will you commit to eliminate the health care premium tax?

Yes, in my platform I commit to discontinuing Alberta Health Care Premiums. I would transfer it to the personal income tax and offer tax incentives to encourage people to take charge of their own health.

2. Will you commit to eliminate the hidden sales tax on insurance premiums?

Reforms to the insurance system in Alberta will need to be done with consultations with all stakeholders, and part of a plan to improve the system rather than solely focused on reducing cost.

3. Will you commit to reduce or eliminate the education property tax?

Property tax is an anachronism. Property tax cannot be effectively utilized on a province wide basis. In short – we should get out of the property tax business, we should work with municipalities so that they can also move away from property taxes as their base funding and find appropriate taxing mechanisms to raise and share the necessary funds.

4. Will you commit to enact legislation implementing a municipal property tax cap to ensure municipal property taxes don’t increase by more than the rate of inflation without a referendum?

We need to look at the tools cities and provinces have to raise revenue and we need to talk about whether to change the way those revenue-raising powers are split between them. For example, should a resort community like Banff or Canmore have the power to tax consumption, so that it can raise revenue from people who visit, instead of only from people who live there? We a framework where solutions can be worked out locally – not a provincial formula slapped on every region of the province, but local solutions that work for the community.

5. Will you commit to an 8 per cent general business tax rate as promised in the 2001 provincial budget?

Alberta should commit to the policy of being the lowest taxed jurisdiction in Canada and aim to be the lowest in North America. To that end, I have suggested an increase to the small business limit to $1,000,000 as a first step to ensuring our business tax rate reflects that goal. Reductions in the overall business rate at this time give the biggest benefit to large oil & gas not small business.

6. Will you commit to amend the Taxpayer Protection Act such that any new provincial tax or an increase to an existing tax could only be approved through a successful provincial referendum?

I have put forward the idea of a Citizens’ Agenda Council, which would put forward three issues for referendum in each provincial ballot – certainly I believe that referenda are a key way to increase participation in our democracy, and should include a wide variety of issues. However, the ability to review and refine our tax policy must be part of larger plan that is a part of the mandate a government wins from its citizens during a general election.

7. Will you commit to introduce legislation capping annual provincial spending increases at a rate of the combined growth in the inflation and population rate?

Inflation and simple population growth are not the only factors that effect the provision of government services – Alberta needs to take a more future-focused approach to planning and governing. To that end I am suggesting thoughtful investment in areas like innovation and education while using the tax system to encourage diversifying our economy and decreasing demand in areas like health care.

8. Will you commit to introduce legislation that restricts the government from increasing spending during the fiscal year (other than declared emergencies)?

Alberta needs to plan better, and stick to that plan when it comes to areas like spending. The plan also needs to take the long view – well beyond a single year, or a single cycle. As the author of the government’s 20 year strategic plan, I know we can plan – we just need the political leadership to follow it. We also need to budget better, especially when it comes to our non-renewable natural resources. This will provide an immediate effect on spending outside of the budget with government acting according to a plan, and with our future in mind rather than immediate political gain.

9. Will you commit to roll back the Fiscal Responsibility Act such that only the first $3.5-billion of non-renewable resource revenues could be used for budgeting and program spending?

The non-renewable natural resource revenue belongs to not just the current generation of Albertans, but future ones as well. With our debt paid off, I am suggesting committing those revenues in their entirety to smart investments – 50% to the Heritage Fund, 30% to capital projects and 20% to the Sustainability Fund to protect against market fluctuations.

10. Will you commit to legislating a minimum of 50 per cent of resource revenues be saved each year?

Yes. Our non-renewable resource revenue represents an opportunity to build an asset base for Alberta’s dreams and future – we need to save and invest rather than spend on operating expenses. My platform has put forward a plan to save 50% of our non-renewable resource revenue in the Heritage Fund.

11. Will you commit to introduce fixed election dates for Alberta’s general elections?

I support fixed election dates, but that is not the complete answer. There are many great ideas surrounding the need for democratic reform – and I want to develop the tools to implement the best of those ideas. A Citizens’ Agenda Council would be responsible for putting forward three issues to Albertans through referenda each provincial election.

12. Will you commit to introduce legislation giving citizens the right to recall their MLA?

On the balance, I feel our electoral system is strong and produces a government and individual MLA’s that reflect Albertans’ views and values. Recall mechanisms employed in other jurisdictions have faced a myriad of problems, and any process developed would have to ensure that our MLA's are able to be legislators and representatives as well as politicians, and that recall is reserved for extreme circumstances.

13. Will you commit to introduce citizens’ initiative legislation giving citizens the right to initiate and vote in a referendum on issues of importance?

Yes – the establishment of a Citizens’ Agenda Council is an important part of my platform and crucial to advancing a democratic reform agenda. After taking in proposals put forward by Albertans and MLA’s, this group would then choose three issues to be put forward as binding referenda each provincial election.

14. Will you commit to disclose a complete list and dollar amount of all campaign contributions you have received during this PC leadership campaign prior to the first ballot vote?

I have committed to releasing names and amounts of donations to my Leadership Campaign. In the event any donor expressly requests so the donation will be noted but not identified. .I will release prior to the end of the year but not before the first ballot. Unfortunately budget amount is a strategic issue within the campaign itself and early disclosure of names and amounts can refocus from the policy debate.

15. Will you commit to introduce legislation requiring pre-election campaign contribution disclosure for all future elections (general provincial, municipal and party leadership elections) in Alberta?

Albertans should expect an open and transparent government, and that should apply to our elections as well. I would support raising the bar for the disclosure of campaign contributions in all races governed by provincial legislation to the same degree that governs provincial parties and campaigns.

16. Will you commit to give Albertans the ability to purchase private health insurance to cover costs incurred by those who pay for timely access to medically necessary procedures?

When looking at private health care we need to focus on what the private system is good at – innovation, new drugs and new techniques. Ultimately if everyone who wanted to buy private services could do so it would not make a dent in the cost of our public health care system.

Mr. Hancock's responses have been graded and the final full document (70 pages!) is complete. It should be available for download on the main CTF website on Wednesday morning.

He got a "C" by the way.


Have you joined the nopigou club yet?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Alberta PC leadership

Want to see how the candidates stack up on taxpayer issues? Be sure to check out the CTF report card.

All I'll say is this: Jim Dinning does NOT sound like the Finance Minister who helped kill the massive Alberta deficit and set them on the path toward killing the net debt. He sounds like one of the many Finance Ministers that came before him that created the debt.

Sask: Oyate bunglers let off the hook

Great news that the province is handing over responsibility for dealing with sexually exploited children to a group that actually knows what they are doing -- Ranch Ehrlo.

But why is Oyate still involved in any way? What about the nepotism, incompetence and waste? What about the fact that the board of directors paid themselves honoraria contrary to clear and long-standing government policy while the so-called safehouse was mired in failure? Why does this board continue to exist in the first place?

What about Belanger's total lack of disclosure on this file, and the stupidity of the idea to begin with?

It all comes down to accountability and the government doesn't have the guts to deliver any.

Alberta leadership race

Al over at "What's wrong with healthcare?" has a good rundown of the candidates' positions (or lack there of) on health reform.

Hockey snubbing

Apropos of nothing, does the Hockey Hall of Fame receive public funding? I've been fuming about this.


In case it's not clear how ridiculous things have gotten, have a look at a typical Maple Leafs roster from the JFK-Beatles era. Quite the high-powered lineup, no? With Duff, that team featured 11 future Hall of Famers and counting. The 1927 Yankees don't have this degree of representation in the Baseball Hall of Fame--yet somehow that group of Buds conspired to finish fourth in a six-team league and expire in the first round of the playoffs. And yet, believe it or not, the big Hall issue surrounding the team is "Hey, how come they haven't put Carl Brewer in the Hall yet?"

Senate seat not as fun as it used to be

It's amusing how Alberta Senator Tommy Banks is so upset about being burned for his Dubai junket. He's now suggesting he is being "spied on" by other Senators.

This is called transparency. Get used to it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Federal Economic Update - Nov. 23

Flaherty's fall fiscal update set for Nov. 23
STEVEN CHASE, Globe and Mail Update

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will update Canadians on the state of the nation's finances on Nov. 23 he announced today.
Mr. Flaherty will also unveil a new Conservative economic agenda for Canada the same day.
The traditional fall fiscal update gives Canadians the latest estimate of the size of the budget surplus as well as the most recent outlook for the economy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sask: Equalization deal won't lower taxes

I sense there is a growing misunderstanding in Saskatchewan about what a new equalization deal can and cannot do for Saskatchewan. For readers outside the province, the Saskatchewan government has been campaigning for years to get a deal from Ottawa that would exclude oil and gas from the equalization formula -- along the same lines as what some Atlantic provinces have obtained.

Now it seems that all good things promised by the Saskatchewan government are somehow contingent upon receiving more generous support payments from Ottawa.

The government even promises more equalization payments will help us all achieve our dreams and desires, and I read Saskatchewan political columnist Murray Mandryk echo that statement in a recent column. Indeed, the only thing holding us back as a province is the equalization program. (Read with John Lennon's Imagine playing softly in the background.)

Imagine how a Fair Equalization Deal could help us build the province that we have all dreamed of, a strong and vibrant province where our young people will find their futures. You know that you can trust Lorne Calvert and the NDP government to be there for you, to help make these dreams a reality.

So what is stopping us?

The question really is, WHO is stopping us?

The problem with equalization handouts is they do, in reality, the exact opposite of what is promised. Equalization actually creates incentives to NOT develop a strong and vibrant economy. Think of it this way: If equalization was all the province made it out to be, wouldn't Atlantic Canada be a beacon of hope for the rest of the country? They have, after all, been recipients of generous handouts for decades.

How does equalization hold a province back? Consider taxes, for example.

The Saskatchewan government promises that if we achieve a better deal from equalization it can significantly lower taxes which would help grow the economy.
Imagine how a Fair Equalization Deal could help us all build a stronger economy. With lower taxes and a greater investment in post-secondary education and skills training together, we could grow an economy that will create more jobs and provide greater economic opportunities for young people.

The catch is that part of the equalization formula is based on the province's "fiscal capacity." To put it simply, equalization looks at a province and says "if you can afford to cut taxes, you don't need as much welfare." The feds reduce the payments to the provinces if they cut taxes.

If a government wants to cut taxes, it's hit with a double whammy. First, it must forego the revenue it collected before the tax was reduced. Second, it must see its transfers from Ottawa reduced as well. In fact, the same rule applies to economic development as a whole. The more successful a province becomes, the less welfare it gets.

It's tough enough to get a government to cut taxes without the strong disincentives equalization brings. The equalization program can't and won't save us from decades of crappy government economic policies.

Imagine if the government sold you some magic beans.

First past the post a thing of the past?

Hopefully in Ontario. Coyne on the Ontario Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform.

But the most unconscionable effect of first-past-the-post is not that it discriminates between parties. It's that it discriminates between voters. The voter who sides with the winning candidate in his riding gets full representation in Parliament. The two thirds or more of voters who sided with another candidate get none. It took about 43,000 voters to elect each Tory or Liberal MP in the last federal election. The NDP, on the other hand, with 2.6 million voters, won only 29 seats -- or about 90,000 votes per seat -- while the Bloc Quebecois, with just 1.6 million voters, got 51 seats: one for every 30,000 voters.
Hear, hear!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

CTF on income trusts

It was a mess, but we're cautiously optimistic.

CTF mail bag!

Here's an example of the brilliant correspondence CTF directors receive on a regular basis. This one is from Lawrence Maier of the Grain Services Union in Saskatchewan. Lawrence worked on Jim Holmes' CCFR campaign to be Regina's mayor.

Time to stand up to unions?
More like time to stand up to greedy, shameless, anything for a buck self promoters like David MacLean. What have you got against people earning a decent wage? Why not release the list of the so called supporters you have so I can deal with them personally?

You want to stand up to unions? Identify yourself and your supporters, instead of being a schill for the rich. We already know your "membership" is a figment of your imagination - no members, no guts, no heart. Just a sad dedication to rob the poor and feed the rich.

Lawrence Maier
I offered to talk this over with Lawrence in person. Turns out he's not so eager to deal with people "personally" after all.

Who benefited from the Bush tax cuts?

As Captain Capitalism quantifies...everyone did! (with charty goodness)

So there you have it folks. The answer to the brainwashed, massed produced, broken record mantra of the left, "GW's tax benefits have only benefited the rich," is

"No it hasn't, it seems to have had the same effect on all income levels, besides which the broader economy seems to have a larger role in determining outcomes."

My new goal in life is to obtain my "Certificate of Junior Deputy Econonomist-ness."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Legislated spending limits

I must admit to being pleasantly surprised to see 6 in 10 Albertans support spending control legislation. After all, this concept is entirely foreign to Canadians. Americans, on the other hand, are quite comfortable with state expenditure limits as evidenced by the 29 states which currently have laws on the books.

Fix the Damn Roads!

It won't be long before overpasses and bridges are collapsing right across Canada.

Why does this happen? Because the federal and provincial governments don't put enough money into roads - pure and simple.

Motorists should be doubly outraged. First the government gouges them at the pumps through unfair and dishonest gas taxes. Next, those revenues aren't reinvested in roads. In fact, much of the money is spend on public transit.

Sign the CTF's gas tax petition here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More Tax Relief on the Way

Making Telus, BCE and other multi-billion dollar companies pay their fair share of tax means being able to further reduce the tax burden on hard-working Canadians.

Finance Minister-Jim Flaherty is eyeing further tax reduction, including shaving another point off the GST.

Cutting taxes? Taxpayers say two-thumbs up! Although, it'd be nice if Minister Flaherty would throw in a round of income tax cuts too. Just a thought...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sask: More tax cuts

I just received an email from Sask Finance announcing more tax cuts/shifts. Here's a cut and paste:

  • The small business corporate income tax rate is being reduced from 5% to 4.5%, effective January 1, 2007;
  • The small business dividend tax credit rate is being reduced from 8% to 6%, effective for the 2007 taxation year; and,
  • A new 11% dividend tax credit rate is being established for dividends subject to the 145% federal gross-up factor, effective for the 2007 taxation year;

Wow, this New Saskatchewan Party Government really does seem taxpayer-friendly.

In Defence of a Junket

Man, senators are entertaining...

Listen to the webcast of the Senate's Board of Internal Economy.

Senator Colin Kenney, and Senator Tommy Banks still maintain travelling to Dubai and staying 6 nights for a 3-hour meeting should be of no concern to taxpayers.

Can you say Teddy nomination?

CTF You Tube Channel

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box