Thursday, May 31, 2007

Protesters $125 million -- Caledonia homeowners -- zilch

But it aint enough...

Last night, a Six Nations negotiator dismissed the offer and said natives have made it clear from the start of talks they only wanted land. "The only positive thing about it is it was an offer," said Mohawk Chief Allen MacNaughton.

What if the feds throw in air space and cell phone signals?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Years of Fighting for Taxpayers

Our little blog has been alive and kicking for 2 years now. It has proven to be a mighty weapon in our arsenal in the battle for lower taxes, less waste, and accountable government.

From the blogosphere, we've reached tens of thousands of frustrated Canadians. People who are fed up with statist politicians, those who say one thing in opposition and another in government, and those who have little regard for how they spend other people's money.

Each day, Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast are tuning in to what the CTF is saying and doing. What are we saying about the Harper governement? What are we saying about Premier Stelmach in Alberta? What about McCuinty in Ontario? Each day, at this little blog and over at we are pushing our agenda as Canada's foremost taxpayer advocacy organization.

Thank you all for helping make Fighting for Taxpayers an effective tool in the battle against waste, high taxes and big government. You can be sure the best is yet to come!

Mayor Bronconnier's pre-election pitch

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier has officially launched his re-election campaign with a letter to each Calgary taxpayer, paid for by the taxpayers and received with their property tax notice.

Read the letter here. (It's a photocopy of a photocopy, scanned - so not the best quality)

Clearly the letter is designed to drive a wedge between Calgarians and the provincial government by abdicating any responsibility the Mayor has as a leader, and to direct any anger Calgarians have about traffic, police or anything else at the provincial government.

But if this over-the-top letter is the one he sent to everyone, I wonder kind of letter Bronconnier sent to his campaign backers, volunteers and supporters...

I imagine that letter would go something like this:

"Dear campaign team,

Good news! Remember how we were all concerned traffic delays, crime, and deteriorating roadways might hurt my future electoral chances? Not to worry, I've found a solution - and potentially a new slogan for the campaign.

Ready for it... "It's not my fault, it's the province's fault"

I know what you're thinking, and yes it is true I appeared all chummy with now-Premier Ed Stelmach him during the leadership race, but you guys all know that was just because I jumped the gun thinking Calgary's own Jim Dinning was going to win.

But so did most of you. Remember that meeting when the team decided I needed to try to beat Kevin Taft to the punch and set myself up as Dinning's number one nemesis?

Anyways, not to worry, I found a small loophole in the free money Stelmach promised me, and I'm back on track by suggesting it was the "the biggest lie every perpetrated on Calgarians."

And I've been practicing saying it in front of a mirror just to make sure I don't bust out laughing when I hear myself say something so out-landish.

Well, best get back to work. Working on a new way to increase taxes - wish me luck!

Yours truly,

Premier Mayor Dave Bronconnier

P.S. Actually, scratch that slogan. How about "Calgary wants in!"
Yeah, let's go with that one instead. "

Monday, May 28, 2007

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

The feds have announced a Taxpayer Bill of Rights and the formation of an ombudsman. Anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of a CRA tax review should see this a positive development.

Update: I'll be on CJME at around 1:30 Saskatchewan time to talk about the bill of rights. You can listen live.

UPDATE: BUMPED! We're rescheduled to talk about this tomorrow around 12:30.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Toronto Council Votes to Investigate Underspending Councilors

Toronto's crazy city council actually voted yesterday 24-14 to order the Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General to investigate two city councilors for not spending enough out of their office budgets!

Fears are that the councilors are either buying their own pens or, worse yet,that they may fall sway to the very powerful toner cartridge lobby.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sask: Is closing rural schools the only option?

As farms get larger and farmers become fewer, it’s no surprise rural communities are struggling to deal with the realities of dwindling populations. To compound the problem, newly amalgamated school boards see closing rural schools as their only realistic way to deal with declining enrolments.

But is closing a bunch of schools really the only option?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toronto Mayor Refuses to Meet CTF

At a public event today CTF Ontario Director Kevin Gaudet asked Mayor Miller if they could meet over the mayor's efforts to impose new taxes. The Mayor said 'No'.

The CTF issued an analysis today showing the average family of four in Toronto could pay up to $1890 per year for the new taxes.

Regina: Remember that financial crisis?

Things aren't so bad when the city administration is recommending a $1,000,000 skateboard park.

At the meeting today, the committee is to be presented with four options
for moving forward with the project. The first is to cancel the project and begin a redesign process that would see the skate park reduced in scope by 75 per cent.

The second option is to postpone the project and call for tenders again in January 2008.

The third option is to build the skate park over two years, by completing the construction portion this year and deferring the landscaping until 2008.

The fourth option, which is recommended by city hall administration in the report, is to proceed with the project in its entirety.

The funding shortfall would be recouped from deferred revenue in the park development charge account and from Community Share 2006 funding for the city.
Too bad they couldn defer some revenue from the "park development charge account" to fix my Beirut-style street.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quebec taxpayers -- unite!

Be sure to check out our partners at the Quebec Taxpayers League. I think they will be doing some good things in the future.

Another David Maclean

Disgracing the family name in England.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Alberta: Rent Controls

Anyone watching Alberta politics recently will know that rental price increases are by far the hottest topic around the legislature.

The opposition Liberals and NDP have been calling for rent controls.

The Edmonton Journal's Paula Simons column today on Rent Controls is probably one of her best pieces yet. She does an excellent job explaining the tough situation both renters and the governments (provincial and civic) are in when it comes to rental accommodations in Alberta.

She correctly points out there is no easy answer (ie. rent control), while still pointing out some things the governments may want to look at doing.

If the Alberta government is looking for talking points on this issue, Ms. Simons just wrote them.

Gas Tax Honesty Day

Ottawa: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today launched its 9th annual Gas Tax Honesty Campaign, marking Gas Tax Honesty Day. The yearly campaign kicks off the summer travel season for Canadian motorists. It is also the day of the year that Canadian motorists are reminded of the high tax component hidden in the price of gasoline.

CTF directors held press conferences at six gas stations across the country this morning to talk about government tax gouging. Afterwards, a handful of customers were refunded the tax component of their pump purchase by the CTF as a way to highlight the heavy tax load on gasoline.

Over the past 12 months – the period of May 2006 to April 2007 – the average cost of a litre of gasoline paid by Canadian motorists was approximately 99.2 cents. Gasoline taxes account for an average 33% of the pump price. In the past two years, the average national price of gasoline has increased by over 14 cents.

Read the rest of today's news release here.

Sign the CTF petition calling on Ottawa to cut gas taxes.

For further information, read the entire 2007 gas tax report...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sask: NDP, Sask Party suddenly want more scrutiny of caucus funds

What an amazing turn of events!

Both the NDP and Saskatchewan Party say they will consider enhanced oversight and more public transparency over the government funding provided to MLA caucuses.

The issue has taken on new life in the wake of a 15-year-old case of employee fraud within the NDP caucus that has only recently come to light.

NDP MLA Kevin Yates, a member of the legislature's board of internal economy, said the government would be supportive of changes that would see the provincial auditor audit caucus funds.

As well, the government "would have no difficulty" with caucuses being brought in line with the disclosure rules for government departments, which must make public their payments to employees and suppliers that exceed $50,000.

"If it's time now to take the next step and have those audits be more in line with what government departments do, that's good public policy and we're prepared to go there," Yates told reporters Monday.

"If it's time now..."? "If"?

The time came 15 years ago when Progressive Conservative MLAs were doing perp walks. This is why politicians are marginally less popular than lawyers and used car salesmen.

107-0: Illinois public health plan gets trounced

Via SDA:

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed a McGuinty-style tax hike to pay for more socialized health care. At the time of his re-election he predicted his health plan would amount to the "fight of the century."

He planned to pay for the plan with a "gross receipts tax" on businesses. Similar to Saskatchewan's capital tax, a gross receipts tax taxes money from business whether they earn money or not because the tax is applied to total revenues, and not profit.

The Tax Foundation estimated that Mr. Blagojevich's proposal would have been the largest state tax hike in the last decade, as a share of state general fund revenue--at 27% nearly double the next closest, which was Nevada's 14% increase in 2004. In per capita terms, the tax hike would average about $550 per Illinois resident.

All of this piled on top of the $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees that the Governor imposed in his first term. State revenue has been rising at a respectable 5% annual pace, but spending is rising faster. Jonathan Williams of the Tax Foundation says the Governor's proposed budget this year calls for a 13.2% spending increase, which comes on top of a near double digit increase a year ago. The cumulative impact of this rising tax and spending burden has been to drive businesses out of the state.
The Governor claimed this would prevent the corporate fat cats from avoiding payment.

Everyone bailed out on this plan -- including Rev. Jesse Jackson in one of his famous incomprehensible quotes:
"We all want health care. But business closer is not good health."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Jacques Bensimon's guide to fine dining

As promised, here's more follow-up on the expense claims of Mr. Jacques Bensimon, former chair of the National Film Board.

Once again, a bit of a refresher:

- Back in January I noticed Mr. Bensimon filed a few expense claims that appeared to be a bit lavish.

- This one was a dinner for 4 people (Mr. Bensimon, 2 other government employees, and 1 guest) at the Windsor Arms in Toronto.

- This dinner for 4 cost taxpayers: $425.63.

- I wanted to know what they ate that could cost them $106.41 per person, so I filed an Access to Information request.

Here's what I got back:

What did we learn:

- The "2 Government of Canada employee(s)" were none other than our Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaƫlle Jean and her husband, His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond, C.C.

- The "1 guest" was Mrs. Vera Bensimon, Jacques' wife!

- The "working dinner" occurred on a Friday night, ending at 11:23PM.

- They ate $280 worth of "OPEN FOOD."

- The four of them had (presumably shared) a $75 bottle of Moueix wine. (FYI - The Toronto Star had this to say about the Windsor Arms: 'The wine list is like no other in the city').

Coles Notes version: The GG and her husband and Jacques and his wife went out on a Friday night to a swanky Toronto hotel, ate $70 meals each, drank a $75 bottle of wine and then stuck taxpayers with the tab.

Makes you feel good about paying your taxes, doesn't it?

Here's a pic of the GG and Jacques earlier that same day:

Looks like they were sure working up an appetite.

Government spending squeezed out private sector

Courtesy of Captain Capitalism. I'm certain this chart can just as easily be applied to Canada, and in particular Saskatchewan.

Inevitably someone asks whether "replacing" the private sector with public spending is necessarily a bad thing. I recommend looking at Saskatchewan's (or perhaps France's) GDP and population growth rate for the answer to that question.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pretty sad

In Canada, being accused of having had surgery in a private hospital is seen as being some kind of smear.

While Chow may deny having visited a private surgical clinic, she can't deny having "medically necessary" dental work at a private clinic.

All logic and critical thought is abandoned when public policy debates are turned into morality plays.

More new taxes proposed in Toronto - hooker tax, coffe cup tax, etc.

In a mad rush in Toronto to use its new taxing powers (the first time ever in the history of Canada a municipality has direct taxing powerws) Toronto City Council is piling new taxes onto the original list:
The first ones planned were:
- liquor tax
- tobacco tax
- billbaord tax
- parking tax
- road tolls
- license registration tax
- land transfer tax
- enterainment tax (movies, raptors, jays, argos, opera, theatre, etc.)
The new ones added to the list later are:
- garbage tax
- sidewalk tax (for bars with lineups outside)
- legalize prostition and tax them
- coffe cup tax
- grocery bag tax, and
- styrofoam container tax


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Toronto Mayor Ducks Public Meeting then Attack Taxpayers Federation for Being There

Jim Byers
city hall bureau chief

Mayor David Miller was criticized yesterday for not attending an emotional Monday night meeting on proposed new taxes in the city. And it wasn't just his usual opponents muttering about the mayor's absence.

Deputy city manager and CFO Joe Pennachetti and other city staff were left to do the heavy lifting at Monday's session, the first of four public consultations about new taxes the city says it needs to balance its budget in coming years. The only councillors present were Denzil Minnan-Wong, Karen Stintz and budget chief Shelley Carroll.

Several members of the audience noted that the city's chief elected official was nowhere to be seen.

"We were surprised (Miller wasn't there)," Von Palmer, director of government relations and chief privacy officer for the Toronto Real Estate Board, said yesterday. "It would've been nice to have politicians on stage. We need to ask them questions."

Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), a frequent Miller opponent, said the mayor had a responsibility to attend. "These proposals will cost families thousands of dollars," he said.

Likewise, Councillor Brian Ashton said senior politicians should have been present.

"I don't know if the mayor needed to be there, but staff should never be hung out to dry like that at a public meeting that's so contentious. It's like a heavyweight boxer sending his trainer into the ring."

Ashton, one of Miller's choices to sit on the city's powerful executive committee, said councillors are accountable to voters and should attend important public meetings. "If you don't like getting hit in the face, you shouldn't run for office."

Miller spent the evening at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto.

The consultation was intentionally set up to be an occasion for staff to seek public advice, he told the Star yesterday.

"It's unfortunate that ... quite far-right organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation can't have a conversation, but that's just part of the process."

Kevin Gaudet, of the taxpayers federation, was among the vocal critics at Monday's meeting.

"It's legitimate for people to raise concerns," Miller said. "We want to hear their concerns. But I do know that organization, which is really at one end of the political spectrum, certainly had some members present."

Miller said he won't be in town for the next couple of hearings. The final session takes place on a night when city council is supposed to meet.

Gilles Duceppe to Canadian Taxpayers: Merci Beaucoup!

Why you ask would the Bloc Quebecois leader be thanking Canadian taxpayers? Well, Mr. Duceppe's annual parliamentary pension is worth $115,000.

Should Mr. Duceppe live to be 80, his cumulative lifetime benefits will be $2.8-million.

Not too bad. Should he jump to provincial politics in Quebec, we'll be paying him six figures to plot the breakup of our country.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Caledonia: Don't let the door hit you on your way out, Jane

London Fog:

Dalton The Gimp fails to mention that the land disputed in the Douglas Creek Estates has not been crown land for over a hundred years until his government purchased it with other people's money prior to consulting with the federal government. He has yet to answer allegations that according to his own logic, or lack thereof, the appointment of a new provincial negotiator puts his government in a conflict of interest because that chunk of land happens to be within Ontario's borders.

Follow-up: "Expenses out of line???"

Readers may remember a post from January 8th of this year entitled "Expenses out of line???" regarding the former chairman of the National Film Board of Canada, Jacques Bensimon (left).

In that post I questioned two expense claims listed for Bensimon on his disclosure website.

One was a trip he took to Paris:

It was, and is listed as a trip from May 14, 2006 to May 16, 2006.

What caught my attention was the accommodation expense of $1,355.61.

Assuming he checked in on May 14th and checked-out on May 16th, would have worked out to $677.81 CDN per night at some hotel.

Not being one to assume, I scraped together $5 and filed and Access to Information request with the National Film Board of Canada.

Here's what I got back. (Page 8 has the hotel details)

For starters, he checked-out on May 17th not May 16th, so it was three nights at the hotel instead of two.

But that still means he spent $451.87 CDN per night for a hotel room at the Hotel Westminster, a four-star hotel which appears to be towards the middle-to-high end of four-star Paris hotels.

Bensimon then jetted off to Cannes, where he stayed for 13 nights, at a cost of $6,721.61 CDN total or $517.05 CDN per night there. Perhaps I'll have to file another ATI request...

More on Bensimon later this week...

Bring on "google government"

The National Taxpayers Union in the United States is championing "google government."

A terrific idea.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Manitoba PCs promise to bring NHL back


McFadyen said a Progressive Conservative government would join forces with the private sector to provide a limited amount of public money, if necessary, and potential initiatives to keep a team afloat and profitable.

Those initiatives include government-issued "Winner Bonds," which McFadyen likened to Hydro Bonds, people could buy to invest their money in the team, a "White-Out to Win" lottery, and, if it is needed, a tax charged to players of visiting and home teams.

Promises to capture Sasquatch, build monorail pending.

$150,000 on flights in Quebec?

Editorial/news story.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Romanow and the great health care myths

Big labour and the big apologists for monopoly health care had wagon circling event in Saskatchewan this week. Roy Romanow says in order to turn the tide against choice in health care they must "defeat the myths" about Canada's health care system.

What are those myths?

Romanow myth number one:

The first myth is that there is a single medical system in Canada. Rather, there are 13, Romanow argued, with one in each province and territory. While the federal government provides funding for all, each is run independently with Ottawa avoiding holding provinces accountable for the money it has provided. Also independent are hospitals, health regions and even physicians who Romanow explained act as contractors.

Secondly, Romanow said health care in Canada is not exclusively publicly funded. There is a mix of public and private spending with governments providing for hospital and physician care, while other areas such as prescription drugs, are jointly paid for by individuals and private insurers as well as governments. Other areas, such as dental and vision care, are paid out of pocket by individuals either through private insurance premiums or, for those who don't have private insurance, from one's paycheque.

Wow. Earth shattering revelations! Romanow needs to stop blowing smoke. If I can't purchase my own health care insurance to get medical services in my own country, the mix of "public versus private funding" is completely irrelevant. If I don't have the reasonable ability to get a sick parent the care he needs, what difference does the fact we actually have 13 health systems make? The Canada Health Act forces them all to be the same anyway.

Romanow's myth number 2:
The myth that government spending on medicare is spiraling out of control can be disputed by looking at the publicly funded health care's share of Canada's gross domestic product which Romanow said remains consistent at 10 per cent. He also said health-care spending is not crowding governments' ability to spend on other social areas.

Whenever someone tells me I should look at something as a ratio instead of real dollars, I get nervous. That's because one side of the ratio, in this case, is how productive I am. If the bill for the disaster of a public monopoly health system is growing 5 times faster that inflation what difference does it make if I got raise during that time? GDP is measure of the total value of the goods and services sold in the country. What Romanow is really saying is they can always go back to the taxpayer for more cash and he wouldn't be worse for wear. After all, he just got a big fat raise!

Thanks for nothing, Roy.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sometimes it's hard to be principled

BC opposition tempted by ludicrous pay raise.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Seriously, do they have nothing better to do?

I'm still confused about this whole Shane Doan thing. Have these MPs gone off the deep-end?

Do they really think people in Quebec are outraged at Doan or that if they stand up and make a big fuss about this they're going to get votes from people in Quebec?

Ralph Klein used to refer to this as "Dome Disease." Essentially it's a mental deficiency politicians get after sitting under the dome of the legislature/parliament for too long, thinking that their petty games are of any interest to regular Albertans/Canadians.

And when they absurdly waste their (and our) time (and money) on these silly issues, it's no wonder people have such a low opinion of politicians.

Here's a petition started by some Doan fans.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sask: How not to treat a whistle blower

I recall attending a fundraiser event for Linda Merk and being surprised at how there was no representation from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

For those who are complacent about the need for effective whistle-blower laws -- let this be a lesson to you. And hope you will never be put in the same postion as Carla Douglas or Linda Merk.

From the Saskatchewan Party web site:

Memo from Carla Douglas to Caucus Administration Committee
Cover Letter
Part A - Review & Clarification of Key Points
Part A1 - Letter from Pat Lorje to Carla Douglas, September 6, 1994
Part B - Points of Concern
Part B1 - Recommendations & Comparison of Mintz & Wallace Audit vs. Douglas' Report
Part C1 - Ann Lord - Misappropriations
Part C2 - Mintz & Wallace Audit
Part C3 - Ann Lord confession letter to Jim Fodey & Glenn Hagel, August 23, 1992
Part D
- Jim Fodey - Travel Expenses

29% raise and return of Gold-Plated Pensions in BC

Apparently an "independent" commission has recommended BC MLAs are in need of a 29% raise and their current RRSP-style pension needs to be replaced with the gold-plated pension plan scrapped years ago (thanks to the CTF).

British Columbia MLAs should get a nearly 29 per cent raise, an independent commission reviewing compensation for provincial politicians suggested today.

The three-member panel also recommended that Premier Gordon Campbell receive a 53 per cent increase, lifting his annual salary to $186,200 from the current $121,100.
The report also recommends that a defined benefits pension plan be reinstated for MLAs and that the current group RRSP program be scrapped. Disability and excess health benefit plans would also be enhanced and transitional assistance for MLAs who are defeated or don’t run again would be increased.
Here's what we recommended to the BC MLA Compensation Review.

This may just trump the City of Edmonton's greedy 21% pay hike for council from last summer.

If BC MLAs are anything like Edmonton city council, it'll be a done deal in 5 days.

CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT: Interesting how governments wait until their local hockey team is well into the NHL playoffs until they try to sneak these payraises through. Last year the City of Edmonton released their recommendations after game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals and passed it the day after game 7.

Had the Oilers won game 7, every reporter in town would have been covering the celebrations, but they didn't and this story had some legs. So if you saw your city councillor on the evening following game 7 of the finals last year and they looked upset, ask yourself why.

If BC's going ahead with this now, with the Canucks only in the second round, I guess the BC government must think the Canucks don't have another round in them.

Q1 Political Party Donation disclosure

Remind me again why we have public financing of political parties...

According to this, it seems they're doing fine on their own. Or at least the Conservatives and NDP are.

Biggest surprise: Liberals raising 1/9th of what the Conservatives did, or the Bloq only raising $40k?

Toronto Auditor General to Investigate Underspending

Toronto's Executive Council voted yesterday to ask the Auditor General to investigate two city councilors who didn't spend out of their office budgets.
The AG's job is to probe for efficiency, effectiveness and financial prudence.
Let's see, budget was not spent, check. Audit complete!
Instead of looking for a pen and paper scandal Council should ask for a probe of the secret sole source contract to Bombardier for $674 million.

Sask: Who knew what, and when? (UPDATED)

Yesterday the NDP allowed their caucus Chief of Staff to fall on his sword for the team. In fact, Minister Hagel laid 100 per cent of the blame on Jim Fodey for not notifying the police that a fraud artist had stolen taxpayer money from the NDP.

Fodey holed up and didn' t return phone calls or answer door bells when media came ringing.

Hagel's latest version of events has him ordering Fodey to take the confession letter to the police. The NDP would have us believe Fodey alone is responsible for NOT contacting the authorities -- like it just got lost in the mail or something. Of course, there was no followup from Hagel on whether Fodey did what he said he would do. The fact there weren't police officers in the office combing through files in the NDP caucus office didn't set off any alarm bells for Hagel?

The story in today's Leader Post casts more doubt on Hagel's story.

But police Chief Cal Johnston said police became aware of Lord in early September 1992 due to a car fire outside the Legislative Building. It was discovered that the vehicle belonged to Lord's husband, and that she was wanted on fraud charges in the U.S.

Johnston said records show police had a discussion with Fodey about Lord's work at the caucus office, and were told an audit was being done. On Sept. 22, 1992, police were told the auditor wasn't concerned, Johnston said.

There is a big difference between somehow forgetting to mention a fraud case at the legislature and actually telling the police everything is just fine.

Hagel needs to be fired. Letting his Chief of Staff take the entire hit to his reputation and livelihood for this mess is unconscionable.

Obviously, with this minister, the buck stops not with him -- but his staff.

UPDATE: This is what you will be reading about in tommorrow's paper. The following is an excerpt from the 1994 police report prepared by the Regina City Police. Turns out Minister Hagel must have known since at least 1994 that documents were not turned over to police. NDP MLA Pat Lorje indicates the NDP caucus was trying to conceal the fraud from coming to light. You can read the whol thing (especially if you can't make it out) here.

UPDATE 2: Star Phoenix is running a web poll -- should Hagel be fired? (lower right, scroll down)

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