Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saskatchewan Election Debate

(Photo courtesy Leader-Post)

The CTF got two honourable mentions in the Oct 30 Saskatchewan election debate, both by Liberal Leader David Karwacki who tried to say something about us, but never got to finish. The format had all the leaders talking over one another, to the chagrin of Newstalk 650/980 host John Gormley. I recommend listening to the first part of hour one of his October 31 show, as he hilariously rants and bashes the whole event. (Click here for that.)
Click here to watch the one hour debate, or read about the best punch lines here and columnist Murray Mandryk's take here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Municipal Taxes in Saskatchewan?

A recent survey of the three main political parties, published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, yielded few surprises, save one: Saskatchewan cities want to feed from the same trough as Toronto and get new taxation powers. Survey says...

Our NDP government had no plan in place to provide increased taxation powers to municipalities. However, the cities have requested access to additional revenue sources, and we have agreed to explore with them a range of options and assess their feasibility. This process could take several years before any decision is made.
No change is contemplated, and no change would occur without consultation with all sectors, including the business community.

A Saskatchewan Party government will reject proposals that would provide increased taxation powers to municipalities.

Read the Leader-Post article on the poll here. An excerpt:
One substantive issue on which the NDP and Saskatchewan Party diverge is on labour legislation, specifically the requirement for a secret ballot on a certification vote.

The NDP supports the existing Trade Union Act, which allows for certification of bargaining units by 50 per cent plus one of employees signing union cards. The Sask. Party calls for secret ballot votes for certification.

New Ontario Cabinet - Shift Left

Dalton McGuinty is set to appoint a new cabinet today. It appears that it will signal a shift to the left. Forget about the flagging economy. Instead, he will focus on poverty and aboriniginal affairs.

The ontario economy is on life support and the premier has signalled that spending increases are on the horizon.

One can only hope that the feds offer some tax relief to offset this 'drive for last place' mentality.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Duck hunters not murdering people?

According to Lorne Gunter duck hunters and farmers aren't apparently using their registerd long-guns to commit the majority of murders in Canada.

In fact, more murders last year in Canada were committed with knives (205) than with guns (190). Of those 190 gun murders, 108 were committed with handguns and 24 were committed with illegal sawed-off shot guns.

"A registry will never prevent crimes committed by illegal guns since, by
definition, illegal guns will never be registered. And, if registration
were capable of lowering gun crime, the first place we would see the
benefits is with handguns."
Good thing we spent a billion dollars setting up that long-gun registry.

Bonus Video:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Be informed on the Saskatchewan election

Want to know more about the Saskatchewan election? Check out our front page of or check out the following articles:

In NDP Drug Plan a Misuse of Health Dollars, former NDP finance minister Janice MacKinnon blasts the NDP plan saying, "'If you're going to provide everybody, including rich people, with prescription drugs for $15, why would you do that?' she asked Monday. 'Why wouldn't you use that money for something that is going to be more beneficial in terms of the overall health of people?'"

This is the $64,000 question. And for the Sask Party, it's literally that, as they will pay for the drugs of anyone over 65 and under 15 that makes less than $64000. MacKinnon says the NDP plan will either break the bank or cause a tax increase, while the Saskatchewan party's plan is unnecessary.

"Wall's interest in politics 'disturbingly long'" finally answers the question, "Who is Brad Wall?" A similar profile on Liberal Leader David Karwacki appears here.

Benefit of property tax relief plans questioned tells us why all parties' school tax plans fall short.

Finally, Sask Wait Times the Country's Longest tells us why throwing more money into medicare isn't the answer. It adds, "the median wait time for elective surgery was about 27.2 weeks in [Saskatchewan], which is nearly double Ontario's median wait time of about 15 weeks from seeing a family doctor to receiving treatment."

You can see the NDP's platform here, the Sask Party's here, and the Liberals' here. You might also want to check out the Liberal critique of the Sask Party platform, that prices some of the 29 uncosted items, and re-estimates other apparently low-balled figures. The Liberals claim the Sask Party plan will put them into deficit budgets and that the NDP plan is even worse.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sask Liberals want provincial auditor for Aboriginals

Saskatchewan Liberal leader David Karwacki wants Indian-run casinos to be subject to a provincial auditor. A former CEO of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority was fired in 2000 after a provincial auditor's report found $360,000 in unauthorized debit and credit card advances. But Lawrence Joseph, head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, says the only auditor they want is the one THEY would appoint!

Karwacki told a news conference Wednesday morning a Liberal government would make Indian-run casinos smoke-free, subject Indian gaming revenue to scrutiny by a provincial auditor and reduce the number of VLTs.

The only way First Nations will agree to regular inspections of revenues is if the person is appointed by the FSIN, Joseph said.

"They (provincial government) have said 'No' to a First Nations auditor general. To now impose a provincial auditor when the government hasn't contributed a red cent to gaming is a slap in the face," he said. "This is an issue we will continue to fight."

There is a public demand for accountability to ensure the revenue is not being spent in places it shouldn't, Karwacki said. A former Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority CEO was fired in 2000 after a provincial auditor's report flagged $360,000 in unauthorized debit and credit card advances.

"Liberals would fight to make sure the public funds flowing to the First Nations Trust are scrutinized with the same rigour as other government partnership agreements," Karwacki told the media. "If we want to make sure the money is going into housing, education initiatives, and economic development, we need to do this."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reservations about reservations

"The reserve system is Canada's worst moral failing," wrote Jonathan Kay in the National Post today. "Let's do the right thing and get rid of it." Read the full article here.

After the Party, the Hangover ...

The Olympic Speed Skating Oval, one of the new Olympic facilities here in B.C., was lauded as an example of how government could partner with the private sector to relieve the overburdened taxpayer from the burgeoning Olympic Games cost.

Turns out, for some reason, that wasn't the case.

VANOC awarded the oval to the City of Richmond, transferring most of the financial risk to the city. VANOC’s financial contribution to the oval construction was given with the understanding that no additional funds would be provided. The city then sold off adjecent lands in a lucrative deal that covered the cost of the oval and then some.

Why then, did VANOC (the Vancouver Olympic Committee) give Richmond another $150,000 to finish the Speed Skating Oval?

The decision to hand over more money was made in a closed door meeting, VANOC is not subject to the freedom of information act, and they don't return calls.

With this level of risk management ability, the taxpayer will probably be called upon yet again to fill in an even larger amount on the blank cheque the government seems to have given VANOC. The Olympics will be a big party, no doubt, but the hangover increasingly promises to be even bigger.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Toronto Sun and Toronto Star Endorse New Toronto Taxes

One is not surprised that the Toronto Star endorses Toronto Mayor Miller's new tax proposals that will drain $360 million from the Toronto economy. However, it is surprising to see the Toronto Sun endorse these taxes.

The Sun argues that it is so late in the process to balance the upcoming budget that the money is necessary. I disagree. A failure to plan on their part should not constitute a crisis on our part.

With an $8 billion budget facing a $400 million deficit council should cut spending not increae taxes. A 5% cut in spending would not be easy or fun but would be doable. Some programs and some staff would face reductions. Yes, that would be the better choice than tax hikes.

In the meantime if the city chose to investigate alternate service delivery, outsourcing, contracting out, partnering with not-for-profits, activity based costing and so much more while asking the province for a Gas Tax Accountabilty Act and to upload social programs; then this problem would be solved.

Instead Toronto council will hammer the taxpayer making the city less affordable, more expensive, less attractive, and less competitive. So much for city building.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

CTF Alberta Tour

On October 16-19, Federal Director John Williamson and Alberta Director Scott Hennig helped mentor me (new Saskatchewan Director Lee Harding) on a four-day Alberta tour.

Global TV filmed John as the federal throne speech came down. We ate Japanese food with Dave Maclean that evening and were surprised as the wall of the booth next door collapsed on top of patrons. John's cell phone hardly stopped ringing that day or the next.

On day two, John was interviewed for the morning show for City TV in Edmonton (and Calgary via live feed). Then we headed over to get interviewed by Global. The National Post had us smiling as John's praise of the throne speech was featured on the front page.

The biggest highlight of Day 3 was the Rutherford show on QR77 in Calgary. Dave Rutherford had just finished giving Ussal Dosanjh a hard time for criticizing the Conservatives intentions to get tough on crime and cut the GST. As it ended, Rutherford said, "That was Ussal Dosanjh who for some reason is always on this program." Rutherford is definitely in his element as a radio host.

I watched from the control room where a technician asked me all kinds of questions about Regina, having been yet another one of Saskatchewan's best export: people.

The rest of the time was spent meeting columnists, going to an editorial board meeting, and enjoying Alberta's fine cuisine. We rounded off our journey on the fourth day in Red Deer with a field meeting.

Toronto Board of Trade Uses Stephane Dion Logic to Support New Taxes

In a bone-headed move, the Toronto Board of Trade and a handful of land developers has endorsed a plan by Mayor Miller to impose two new taxes - a $260 million land transfer tax (assuming it is reduced from the current $300 million) and a $60 million vehicle registration tax.

Strangely, in a Dion-esque maneuvre, the Board of Trade spokesperson suggests they still oppose the taxes in principle, despite the endorsement.

Why would business oppose the taxes when they don't have to pay the taxes? Because their customers will. And when the government drains another $320 million a year of disposable income from consumers, business sales will reflect it. Remember this assault on the wallet of Toronto taxpayers is on top of the already-imposed new garbage tax draining $60 million a year and the 3.8% property tax hike. Just wait until the votes on the new billboard tax, the new liquor tax, and the new sidewalk tax!!

Waht is missing from this mad rush to impose new taxes is the voice of the average taxpayer who already pay 46% of their income in taxes!!

As well, the mayor created a so-called 'blue ribbon' panel to investigate savings and efficiencies that includes a union voice and business but no taxpayer voice.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good opinions at the Calgary Herald

As Scott Hennig showed me, the October 18 editorial page of the Calgary Herald was fantastic. The lead editorial, Full Speed Ahead on Human Rights, says Aboriginals should have full access to human rights ASAP. (No kidding!)

Persistance does pay off tells the heartwarming story of Bert Brown, elected to our Senate after 24 years of activism for Senate Reform. Taxpayer advocates take note:

Politics sometimes does yield a story of how persistence in a good cause may be rewarded, and when Prime Minister Stephen Harper marched Brown into the Senate Chamber to be sworn in, all Canadians could see that this was one for the history books.

More particularly, it is one for the school textbooks. When this country has an elected Senate, and surely one day it must, it will be because ordinary Albertans gathered in an Alberta farmhouse decided it should, and believed it strongly enough to do the work it took, for 24 years. The lesson: If you think you're right, never give up.

Finally, in "More chice makes for better equality," Preston Manning tells us why the Alberta education system is outperforming other provinces and how it relates to the recent Ontario election.
The debate in Ontario is narrowly focused on whether to publicly fund religious schools. The bigger issue is how to expand freedom of choice for all Ontario parents, while improving the performance of both public and private schools and ensuring their adherence to provincial standards.

The following recommendations address this larger issue. They are relevant to all provinces:

Fully embrace the principles of freedom of choice and accountability for results in K-12 education.

Provide a voucher worth 50 per cent of the total per-student cost of public education to parents opting for independent education.

Support children with special needs, whose parents choose alternative education, by providing those parents with a voucher worth 75 per cent of the cost of their child's education in the public system.

Compile and publish annual report cards on all K-12 schools, holding them publicly accountable for results and adherence to provincial standards.

Saskatchewan Election Auction

Christine Whitakker had a fantastic article featured in the Leader-Post called "Testing Credibility and Gullibility." Whitakker, a freelance journalist from Edgeley, Saskatchewan, concludes,

This is only the beginning, and the campaign is already sounding like an auction sale, with most votes going to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, those doing the bidding are using our cheque books.

Who knows how many more costly promises will have been made before we cast our ballots on Nov. 7.

It is time that politicians realized that our votes cannot be bought with our own money and that we do not need the government to provide for every contingency of life.

How refreshing it would be to hear party leaders declare that they would take less from us; that they would dismantle some of the expensive and unnecessary programs, and the bureaucracies who manage them; and that they would graciously allow us to keep our own money and to make some decisions for ourselves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toronto City Councilor Tells CTF to 'Go Back to Alberta'

Toronto City councilor Howard Moscoe today suggested the Canadian Taxpayers Federation 'go back to Alberta where they belong' suggesting they are a 'paper tiger' because they don't hold membership meetings.

Moscoe was responding to journalists' questions regarding the CTF-organized protest on Friday to oppose new taxes in Toronto and to the CTF report card issued today that gives him and 33 other city councilors a failing grade for reducing perks and waste at city hall.

The CTF works the same way as does Greenpeace as a not-for-profit without charitable status. By the way, the CTF is headquartered in NDP country in Saskatchewan and Kevin Gaudet is from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Moscoe wouldn't want the facts to get in the way of his efforts to raise taxes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Independent Commissions of Convenience

B.C. is a special place.

How is it when recommendations of an independent commission don't suit our premier he steps in to change the rules of the game? The Electoral Boundary Commission (EBC) spent 18 months and $3 million to create a new map to distribute our representatives in Victoria based on population changes in the province. With clearly established rules, EBC's recommendations resulted in a net increase of two MLAs. These recommendations however, resulted in the loss of MLAs in some regions of the province. Not so fast - the premier stepped in and undermined the EBC. Now, instead of two more MLAs, the B.C. taxpayer might be funding eight more MLAs. Not only has an important independent process been made a mockery, more MLAs will cost the B.C. taxpayer big time.

Eight extra MLA's will cost B.C. taxpayers about $1,925,000 per year, almost $1.5 million higher than what just two would have cost. That doesn't include the future liability created by the gold-plated pensions for the new MLAs of upwards of $6 million, or the one-time payout of up to 15 months of basic salary as transitional assistance (as high as $122,500), or the $9,000 for career counseling. Let's also not forget about the cost of physical changes to the already overcrowded legislature. The list just goes on and on.

I'm sure you recall politicians of all stripes voted last spring to slap the B.C. taxpayer with a 30% pay increase and bring back gold-plated pensions. This incidentally, came from another independent commission, one the premier didn't see fit to amend.

Yes, we're special ...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Al Gore is Ridiculous

One of the world's foremost meteorologists calls the theory of Global Warming that underpins Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize ridiculous.

It is reported in The Sydney Morning Herald that the theory is being proposed by a bunch of people who don't know how the atmosphere works.

Dr. Gray agrees that there is global warming. His research shows it has nothing to do with human activity. He also predicts a cylce of cooling to take place shortly.

Sadly government are buying into the Global Warming hysteria and using it as an excuse to ramp up program spending and raise taxes. Instead they should focus or reasonable efforts to ensure a clean environment.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Family Day or Vote Buying Day: He Kept His Promise

It took him only one day. It cost him nothing. McGuinty kept his promise to create a new holiday in Ontario. The third Monday in February is now Family Day. Bully for him.

Of course, businesses are on the hook for the cost but what does the premier care. It was a cynical vote-buying election campaign promise and it seems to have worked. It is reminiscent of the class clown who runs for council promising beer and pizza for everyone. Promises like that are never kept becuase their makers are never elected - except in Ontario.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

McGuinty's Win Being Used by Miller to Raise Taxes

Look out Toronto taxpayers. The Ontario election tea leaves haven't even been read yet but already its results are being used as a tool to hike taxes.

This morning on Toronto's AM 640 radio the John Oakley show, Mayor David Miller noted that Dalton McGuinty raised taxes and got reelected so why shouldn't he raise taxes?

While it is true that Ontarians handed back to Mr. McGuinty the keys to the public treasury, Mayor Miller may want to notice that 60% of voters cast ballots for parties who promised to cut taxes, especially the health tax.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Linda Sloan's Voting Record

If you happen to live in Edmonton's Ward 1, you may be interested in City Councillor Linda Sloan's voting record on City Council.

Click HERE to see Linda's version of her voting record.

Click HERE to see the CTF's version of her voting record.

And she called the CTF's voting record website ( "narrow and superficial."

Odd that she'd call our site "narrow" when I'm not sure you could get a slimmer voting record site than hers.

McGuinty's Tax Promise - Yet Again

It is hard to understand or believe but for the third time in this election campaign, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is promising not to raise taxes.

Big Deal.

1. he promised this in 2003 and broke the promise with the largest tax hike in Ontario history; and,
2. with surpluses in Ontario running in the billions of dollars we would rather hear him promise to cut taxes than not promise to raise them.

With the vote tomorrow, voters can choose to reward this kind of dishonesty in politics or they can find a credible other choice. On Thursday voters will only have themselves to blame if they reward dishonesty in politics.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Debt Reduction should be BC's #1 priority

BC's 2008 budget priority should be legislated debt reduction.

To be sure, recent surpluses have allowed the government to reduce the debt. But it has been debt reduction by accident rather than design. In fact, the government is forecasting B.C.'s debt to increase by 20%, to almost $40 billion, by 2009/10.

Alberta legislated a debt reduction plan in 1995, stipulating that the province’s entire surplus would go to debt reduction. Predictably, the government came under tremendous pressure to abandon debt repayment and spend the surplus dollars. And while the government caved in part, a new Act passed in 1999 still required 75 per cent of all surplus dollars be put toward debt repayment. By 2004, the debt was essentially gone.

In B.C., we currently use about 7% of provincial tax revenues to fund the debt, to the tune of about $6 million dollars per day. Think about that, $6-million dollars a day that could go into health care, environmental protection, infrastructure development, or better yet, left in the pockets of taxpayers!

The government has brought B.C.'s debt back down to 2001 levels, and made good progress on tax reductions, but confused budgeting priorities could leave a legacy of debt to future generations. It is time to reorient priorities and create a legislated debt reduction plan.

Friday, October 05, 2007

P3s - The need for transparency

Governments have a lot of money and a lot of power tied up in very few hands. And when so much money and power is concentrated in such a small place, the vultures start to circle. People are fallible, and that is why openness and transparency should be the rule, not the exception in the business of government.

Governments are turning more and more to public private partnerships to build core infrastructure. This creates a challenge in terms of transparency and accoutability, because as taxpayers, we need to know that our money is being spent wisely, honestly, and fairly.

In B.C., the contracts between government and industry are on the government's website, but information harmful to the business interests of a third party is not disclosed.

If some information is excluded from disclosure, who decides what to exclude?

Who decides which information would harm the business interests of the third party?

Agreements must be available for scrutiny and be designed to minimize opportunistic behaviour on the part of the private sector partner.

Thomas Jefferson said long ago that a well-informed electorate is the most important constraint on government, and he was, and still is, right.

McGuinty Promises Not to Cut Health Tax

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he was in denial about how he could deal with the deficit when he took office aftering promising not to raise taxes. He refuse to apologize saying that it won't help anyone for him to do so. See his quotes in the Globe and Mail

He promises he will keep the money, though. With Ontario now running surpluses, job growth on fire and taxpayers getting hammered now would be the time for him to give up on this tax - one that 60% of Ontarions are about to cast a vote against.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Toronto Council: Save a Buck and Water Your Own Plants

Toronto Mayor David Miller stubbornly refuses to give up a single perk while he campaigns for two new taxes. He wants to impose a new car tax of $60 on top of the one already in place and a new house buying tax of up to 2% on top of the one already in place. These taxes will soak taxpayers for $360 million a year.

While he is reaching into taxpayers' pockets he and council refuse to give up a single perk. Council enjoys many taxpayer-funded benefits like free golf passes, free zoo passes, free transit passes, free coffee, free lunch, free newspapers, and free plant watering.

If Toronto wants to get its fiscal house in order it should start by having council brown bag their lunches, water their own plants, buy their own transit passes, pay for their own trips to the get the point.

When it comes to city finances leadersship by example would be the best place to start.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Honesty in Ontario Politics

John Tory has climbed down off his promise to fund faith-based schools by holding a free vote.

It is better to have a politician change his mind before the election than break a promise afterwards, I think. Still, it is hard to understand why in Ontario a promise to pay for the schooling of 53,000 students is driving the whole campaign.

Even though Dalton McGuinty broke so many promises and raised taxes, Ontario may still vote to forgive him it seems.

Voters run the risk of getting what they ask for: more of the same tax and spend policy that has put Ontario in last place for growth in Canada.

Voters beware!

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