Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Grey Cup Champions' isn't the only title for Regina

According to the Real Property Association of Canada, Regina is the most expensive city in which to do business. Business owners pay property taxes equivalent to 5 percent of their property value, whereas business owners in St. John's, NL, a similar-sized city, pay the country's lowest tax at less than 2%. REALpac executive director Michael Brooks says "From a commercial point of view, Regina is far away the most expensive place in Canada to do business."

Incredibly, the finance director for the city says the comparison isn't fair because...Regina only reassesses property every four years!

Meanwhile, as 400 health care patients are affected every day due to a university workers strike, the premier says he won't take it much longer and is prepared to step in if necessary. He said he would like to introduce essential services legislation that would prevent the interruption of such services through strikes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Carbon Tax Poverty

Imagine carbon taxes so high that people can't afford to heat their homes in the winter. Think this could never happen? Think again. It's happening right now in the UK and could happen here too if the current climate change hysteria allows government to carry through with similar measures.

The UK government imposes three measures that tax industry for carbon emissions; the Climate Change Levy, the Renewables Obligation, and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

However, according to the UK National Action Plan, virtually the entire cost of CO2 reductions will be borne by consumers of because the industry can flow 100% of the cost increase through to consumers. To help consumers deal with the increase in electricity prices, the UK developed the Fuel Poverty Strategy. Since the the Fuel Poverty Strategy began the number of fuel poor households has remained at about 2 million.

We have our own energy use is subject to a levy (government speak for tax) on our hydro bills. We have our own renewables obligation with the government's decree that all new electricity purchased by B.C.'s electricity monopoly, BC Hydro, emit net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The B.C. government is also a partner in a number of emissions trading schemes.

If residential electricity bills in British Columbia double over the next 10 years, the government will almost certainly have to set up its own fuel poverty strategy. There is a deep perversity about significantly increasing the cost of energy only to turn around, after the bureaucracy takes its cut, and fund people in fuel poverty.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Australia's Howard out after four terms

Here's an excerpt from the tribute to John Howard in the National Post:

A fiscal hawk, Mr. Howard inherited a A$10-billion deficit when he took over government, which he eliminated in less than a year with major cuts to government programs and entitlements. His government gave workers more freedom to choose which union (or no union) would represent them, sold off many state corporations, permitted private innovation in health care and broke the monopoly of the Australian federal wheat board. The result has been an unprecedented decade of economic expansion.

Bravely, Mr. Howard also stood to the end against the UN Kyoto Accord. More than anything, this may have led to his loss last weekend. Australians, particularly young Australians, have been as susceptible as any Western voters to the constant propaganda in favour of Kyoto as a curative to potentially devastating climate change. Signing the accord — something Mr. Howard steadfastly refused to do — will be Mr. Rudd’s first priority. Since there is no evidence Kyoto has done anything to reduce carbon emissions, nor ever could, Mr. Howard was right to oppose it, even in the face of growing popular support for the pact.

Every government eventually wears out its welcome, but few leave behind a nation so changed for the better as Mr. Howard’s has.

Alberta Learning?

Got a package of information today in the mail that I thought was very interesting.

The contents were mildly interesting and appreciated, but what really caught my eye was the envelope.

The envelope return address and logo was from "Alberta Learning" (see scan above), however "Alberta Learning" does not exist, and has not existed for three years.

"Alberta Learning," which was an amalgamation of the K-12 education ministry and the post-secondary education ministry, was split on November 24, 2004 back into the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education.

So, while "Alberta Learning" is gone their envelopes remain.

This is a good thing.

This means the government didn't spend any tax dollars to print envelopes when they still had at least a three-year supply.

Too often minor name changes turn into costly propositions when letterheads, business cards and signs have to be changed.

This is an example of how things should be done. Kudos to Alberta Education for continuing to use old envelopes rather than waste money (and paper) on printing new ones.

Selling Poverty Diminishes True Poverty

The way the 'do-gooders' use language for describing poverty in Canada diminishes what truly is poverty and makes it difficult to take their claims seriously.

A new report is due out today in Toronto by the United Way. Newspapers report that it shows poverty is up substantially in Toronto. The Sun article paints a picture of families all over the greater Toronto area living in squalor. "Nearly 30% of Toronto's families were living in poverty in 2005". Sadly, the language of the left paints pictures that don't square with reality.

The report uses a definition of 'poverty' that is peculiar at best. Poverty is defined as when the family income is 50% below the median family income. Therefore, the poverty line in Toronto is $27,500. Keep in mind this is after taxes and 'transfers'. While no one family is getting rich on $27,500 in income they are not living in poverty as most understand the term. The do-gooders purposely use the term income in an effort to conflate gross income and net income. Most people assume gross income instead of net. This conflation makes the picture worse.

Poverty once commonly meant, according to Merriam Webster, "debility due to malnutrition". This came with visions of starving African children used in television fund-raising campaigns.

Today 'do-gooder' have stipulatively redefined poverty such that Merriam Webster also defines poverty alternatively as "the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions".

When these 'do-gooders' use statistical methods to define poverty it will not be eliminated unless and until all incomes are equal and form no distribution - i.e. full income redistribution.

Instead, a real definition of poverty should include a cost-based analysis for what is needed. This way a true evaluation can help drive what proper solutions may be required.

Withouth a clear and proper definition of poverty, carelessly tossing around the label 'living in poverty' is almost meaningless.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Global Warnings - Receding Glaciers?

The receding glacier on Mt. Kilimanjaro is used by Al Gore and other global warming Malthusians to show what will happen if we don't "do something" about climate change.

The glacier on Mt. Kilimanjaro has been receding since about 1880 but not because of warming temperatures. It is receding because the climate is becoming drier. No amount of CO2 reduction will change that.

In a recent British court decision, the government expert confirmed that it is wrong to claim that glaciers are receding on Mt. Kilimanjaro because of climate change.

That same court decision found that teachers would be violating the Political Indoctrination section of the UK's Education Act if they showed Al Gore's film without explaining that it does not accurately represent the science of global warming.

Without a balanced debate on the issue of global warming, taxpayers will be footing a huge bill for programs that will bring little benefit.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Global Warnings - Stronger Hurricanes?

Global warming extremists would have us believe that Hurricane Katrina is an example of the future strengh of hurricanes unless we "do something" about CO2 emissions.

However, the World Meteorological Organization (the parent organization of the IPCC) in a consensus statement said "though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable (human-caused) signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on that point."

Al Gore, someone who stands to benefit financially from the global warming hysteria, is wrong when he says there is a scientific consensus that global warming is making hurricanes more powerful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Global Warnings - Sea Level Rise?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the sea level will rise by five inches over the next 100 years.

Is that really a cataclysmic rise, as many global warming promoters claim?

Well, over the past 150 years, the sea level rose by about five inches.

Ask your grandfather which were the most significant events over the past century. He's likely to say two world wars, the cold war, and the advance of technology. He's very unlikely to say the sea level rose by five inches.

It's time to turn down the hyperbole and create a real debate in the global warming arena.

What Brad Wall learned from Grant Devine

What Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall learned from being a part of the Grant Devine administration was a lesson for ALL politicians: spend within your means!

Q: From your own experience as a staffer with the Progressive Conservative government in the 1980s, what did you learn and what do you bring from that?

A: I learned a lot of things. Some good things and some things that I resolved at a very young age that if I ever had the chance to never, ever see repeated. I think right across the country we saw provinces and a federal government engaged in deficit spending in a big way ... fiscal responsibility has to be the watchword, it has to be at the top of the list in terms of priorities. I think that's the lesson that everyone has learned from that time. I also learned that it's important for ministers to have some senior political staff. I've told people that I was too young to be in some of the jobs I was in to provide balance and some experience there. That's important for ministers to have access to and we're going to try and achieve that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CTF makes front page for Sask Severance

150 civil servants are leaving the Saskatchewan legislature along with their former NDP bosses--at a cost of $4.6 million. This total is more than the combined salaries of all of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who, ironically, share the front page of the Regina Leader-Post with the newly unemployed. The story was much the same in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.

Global Warnings - Heat Deaths?

In 2003, 35,000 people died in a heat wave in Europe. This terrible event has been used by global warming extremists as an example of what may happen if 'something' is not done about global warming.

But aren't all deaths equally tragic?

What about the 47,000 deaths from cold in England and Wales in each year between 1998 - 2000?

Why does a single heat-death wave create such outrage and cold deaths of between 25,000 and 50,000 per year go by virtually unnoticed?

In fact, should the earth's temperature increase by the expected 5 degrees over the next 100 years, we will probably see more lives saved.

It's time to get some balance in the global warming debate.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Global Warnings - Save the Bears

We are continuously pelted with information about how global warming will wipe out the polar bears. Funny how we haven't been told that over the past 40 years, while temperatures have been rising, the polar bear population has increased from about 5,000 to about 25,000 bears.

Why? Because of hunting restrictions.

But even today, about 49 polar bears are shot each year in West Hudson's Bay alone.

How many bears would we save if every country in the world fully implemented the Kyoto Agreement?

One-tenth of one bear.

So why don't we stop killing 49 bears a year before we commit trillions of dollars to do hundreds of times less good?

Carbon Tax Grab

B.C.'s finance minister must really want to hit us with a new gasoline tax. The gov didn't get the permission it was looking for last month during the pre-budget consultation, so it is looking for a polling company to go out and ask, again, what sacrifices are BC'rs willing to make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Why are governments so keen on carbon taxes? Because they are able to rake in huge tax gains with virtually no squealing from the already overtaxed taxpayers.

In the UK, governments collect far more in carbon taxes than climate change impact justifies. Green taxes fill the government's coffers by £10.2 ($20.5) billion more annually than necessary to meet the social cost of Britain's CO2 emissions. For example, Britain's 50p ($1) per litre Fuel Duty (gasoline tax) raises more than five times the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s estimate of the social cost of Britain’s entire annual output of CO2 emissions.

Let's face it, higher gasoline taxes equal higher transportation costs, which will be passed on to consumers for everything from food to clothing. It's time to say no to carbon taxes and yes to improving the outlook for the economy so we can adapt to whatever change may come our way in the future.

Regina Leader-Post calls on Saskatchewan to bring private options to medicare

Saskatchewanians aren't used to seeing their team in the Grey Cup nor their mainstream media looking for private health care. But this, and the swearing in of the first non-NDP government in 16 years, are all happening this week.

A Regina Leader-Post editorial says,

Former Saskatchewan health-care commissioner Ken Fyke warned almost eight years ago that huge annual increases in health spending aren't sustainable and other social programs could suffer -- but the big spending continues. Indeed, the Canadian Institute for Health Innovation reported last week that Canada's health spending is up by 6.6 per cent this year -- "the eleventh consecutive year in which health-care spending is expected to outpace inflation and population growth."

What's missing at the national and provincial levels is a profound debate on the innovation that might make the system more affordable -- from fees for some non-emergency services to more private-sector delivery within a publicly funded system.

Saskatchewan's new government has the opportunity to launch that debate this week in the birthplace of medicare.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Braver Options for Brad Wall

Jack Mintz, U of Toronto prof says Brad Wall Needs a Braver Policy. Mintz' deas include slashing corporate and income taxes further, prviatizing crowns, replacing a retail tax with a value added tax, and reforming labour laws, especially "onerous costs imposed on employers in hiring workers and the strike power of monopoly government agencies and corporations." The government should especially avoid picking business winners and losers.

Anyone looking for reasons why Wall should change the labour climate in Saskatchewan needn't look any farther than the gong show case between the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Giant Tiger Store in Regina. A labour relations board decision that should have taken ten days took three and a half years and no one intervened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cost of smoking

I am not a smoker, never have been one, never will be one. But I do respect people's right to smoke provided that they don't infringe on my right to not second-hand smoke.

I will admit to harassing friends who smoke about their smell, how cold it is outside where they are smoking, and the costs I will have to bear for their health care because of our socialized health system.

Apparently I'm going to have to stop making that third point...

According to a Government of Alberta news release, sent out just minutes ago:

“We need to reduce smoking and the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in our province,” said Dave Hancock, Minister of Alberta Health and Wellness. “Every year, 3,400 Albertans die from tobacco-related causes and the province spends about $471 million on health care costs directly attributed to tobacco use.”
That's it? $471-million? That's all?

According to the Alberta government First Quarter Fiscal Update, tobacco taxes are expected to generate $890-million in revenue.

So, in essence, smokers are already over-paying for their health care costs.

I suppose it's not surprising the government left that factoid out of this latest news release.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Al Gore - Conflict of Interest?

According to Reuters, Al Gore is becoming a partner in a Silicon Valley venture capitalist company that focuses on alternative energy investments.

He also has his own company called Generation Investment Management fund

Generation Investment Management's U.S. branch is headed by a former Gore staffer and fund-raiser, Peter S. Knight, who once was the target of probes by the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice.

... Gore stands to make a lot of money from his promotion of the alleged "global warming" threat, which is disputed by many mainstream scientists.

Check out this link for more on how he buys carbon offsets from his own company …

Policy Ammo

Recent articles have given lots of argumentative ammo for the privatization of crown corporations, a smaller civil service, implementation of single-rate tax structures, and offering private health care.

In SaskTel versus MTS, David Seymour of the Frontier Centre compares the two telephone companies ten years after MTS went private. Today MTS earns twice the revenue, has three times the assets, employs 20% more people, and offers Manitoba $125 million annually in income taxes that SaskTel is exempt from giving to the province of Saskatchewan.

Bloated Government is worse for the economy than the rising loonie, says William Robson of the Financial Post. After showing how Canadian public sector employment has grown 4.9% in the past year, while private sector employment has only grown 0.9%, Robson sums it up this way:

While no one begrudges government employees their jobs, and more health and education workers will be welcomed by many patients and students, a rising share of government employees in Canada should concern us. Canada needs more output per working person over time -- to expand our dwindling productive capacity, which stresses inflation control in the short term, and to support Canadian incomes and public services in the demographically challenged years ahead. Productivity in the public sector tends to be lower than in business, while compensation costs tend to be higher -- particularly the rich pensions whose accruing costs are understated in government accounts. Recent provincial and local elections have underlined, moreover, the importance of government-sector workers as voters, who naturally tend to support candidates promising yet more public-sector jobs, and yet richer wages and benefits.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information notes that for the first time ever health care spending will reach $160 billion this year, and that spending is growing faster than the economy.

In the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore asks, "If tax-cut strategies don't work, why are they so popular abroad?", pointing out Estonia's economy has grown more than any other in the world after adopting a single tax rate of 23% in 1994.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Potholes? No. Snow clearing? No. Celine? Yes.

The City of Halifax is spending $150,000 tax dollars to host a Celine Dion concert next summer.

If I lived in Halifax and knew my hard-earned tax dollars weren't going to fund core services, but rather to put on a concert of an artist I don't even like, I would be livid. Heck, even if I did like her music, I wouldn't expect my city council to use my money to get her to sing in my city.

What's next, bribing Conan O'Brien with a million taxpayer bucks to do his show from Halifax?

Whoops, Toronto already did that...

No more subsidies to business

Subsidies to business, any type of business, are a waste of taxpayers' money and create incentives that can lead to unintended outcomes. The Liberal government started its first term with a program to eliminate subsidies to businesses, but then fell off the wagon and introduced subsidies to industries such as the arts. The Liberal government must eliminate subsidies to all businesses, not just repackage those subsidies.

The government hands out $14 million each year to the arts. Arts subsidies don't end there, however. The government set up a one-time $25-million Arts and Culture Endowment Fund, established a $20-million Spirit of B.C. Fund, and the $12-million ArtsNow program through LegaciesNow to support arts and cultural components leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

When government subsidizes art, artists may make decisions based on funding applications, not artistic merit or demands of the marketplace. Government subsidies allow artists to ignore the market; to produce what governments, not people, want. More than a waste of tax dollars - artists may be dedicating their lives to production that no one, except maybe a few government bureaucrats, value.

How many artists from Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany do we remember and admire today? Drawing a blank? But we do remember and admire artists such as those in the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, Picasso, Jackson Pollock and others who worked independently of government handouts.

Subsidies to artists force taxpayers to pay for art they might not buy voluntarily. If artists cannot get people to voluntarily pay for their work, then no one should be forced to pay for it through the tax system. Free artists to follow their muse, but let people decide which art will live and which will die.

McGuinty Rejects PST Hike and Considers Harmonization

The CTF had urged Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to reject calls for him to increase the PST by 1% taking up the 1% GST cut and then giving the money to municipalities.

And he did. The Globe and Mail reports that the premier clearly rejects the idea. And good for him. During the election he promised not to raise taxes and so far he is keeping that promise.

As well, he says he will only harmonize the GST with the PST if the feds find a way to mitigate the hit on consumers. While the CTF agrees that harmonization should not come without ways to benefit individuals not just businesses, Mr. McGuinty could simply raise the exemption rate or reduce the marginal tax rates to offset the hit. Putting it all on the feds is a little unreasonable. Harmonization provides important benefits to business at a time when Ontario businesses really need it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Unions, laws, and Sask politics

The article 'No Right to Fine' by John Mortimer, published in the November 6 Financial Post, page 17, shows how the courts have ruled unions cannot fine members who cross picket lines or force people to join unions. The only exception is Saskatchewan, which has made laws enforcing these things, despite constitutional, international, and Supreme Court rulings. Mortimer says concerned voters should remember this tomorrow.

In other strange news, John Gormley's radio show led to a Star Phoenix article on "The New Saskatchewan Sign-Kicking Party," a facebook group that posted pictures of Saskatoon teens kicking down election signs. Led by the false claim that the Saskatchewan Party received three times the funding of other parties, they seemed to enjoy kicking those signs down the best. As it turns out, one of the teens "is the nephew of Jim Fodey, the NDP’s former caucus chief of staff, who resigned in April after giving 'incomplete' information about an alleged fraud that happened within the party 15 years ago."

The well-known Saskatchewan parody Saskabush has recently sounded off on the election campaign. The author's sense of humour and bias are both pronounced.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Horseraces and Blowouts in SK election: poll

The recent survey conducted by the Leader Post and Star Phoenix newspapers placed the Saskatchewan party with a commanding 54.2% of the vote, followed by the NDP's 33.7 and the Liberals' 8.1. However, the cities are much closer.

Saskatoon: SKP: 43.8 NDP: 39.4 LIB: 12.8
Regina: NDP: 45.7 SKP: 42.0 LIB: 6.1

Party leader NOT wanted as premier?
Calvert (NDP): 48, Wall (SKP) 30, Finley (Green) 13, Karwacki (LIB) 8.7

Bottom line? Saskatchewan citizens still need to vote.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Did McGuinty Cook a Fibratech Corporate Welfare Deal to Win the Seat?

Did Fibratech, an Atikokan fibreboard manufacturer, agree to wait until after the election to announce it was going into receivership? Voters deserve to know. The withholding of this news gave the Liberals the seat by 36 votes.

The first day after the election, Fibratech announced it was going into receivership. It is taking with it over $6.15 million in taxpayer money (maybe $8.15 million) not including some other federal contributions. It doesn't pass a smell test to make the announcement after the local Liberal was reelected. The local Liberal MPP won by a meagre 36 votes over the NDP candidate.

Regional Voting results:
DISTRICT: THUNDER BAY-ATIKOKAN Candidate Party Vote Count Vote Share Elected
Bill Mauro LIB 10913 37.66% X
John Rafferty NDP 10877 37.54%
Rebecca Johnson PC 5914 20.41%
Russ Aegard GRN 1271 4.39%
October 11, 2:25:56 AM EDT 193 of 193 polls reporting
About these figures:
All results are unofficial until final ballot counts are verified by Elections Ontario, which usually takes 2-3 weeks.

Despite a $2 million loan guarantee and a $400,000 grant handed out by Mr. McGuinty on the eve of the election in July, Fibratech is, yet again, going into receivership. As well, it owes Atikokan $1 million in upaid local taxes. In 2005 the federal government also gave it $2.75 million from FedNor and a grant of an undisclosed amount through the Softwood Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative (SICEAI). Further, a search of the public accounts of Ontario reveals a loan guarantee of $2,000,000 was already on the books n 2005. It is unclear whether the firm had two loans guaranteed for $2 million each of if there was one which was extended and reannounced.

This sure looks bad. Not only did the corporate welfare not create sustainable jobs but it appears to have been used to help secure a precarious Liberal seat. Corporte welfare defenders deny it is used for vote buying, but examples like this make it hard to swallow.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thank God Sorbara is Gone

Better the devil you know, they say. Not this time, at least when it comes to Ontario Finance Ministers. Better the new unknown than the known tax and spender Sorbara.

There is little good news from McGuinty's new cabinet, except perhaps the departure of Finance Minister Greg Sorbara who imposed the hated health tax, despite having promised not to raise taxes.

Sorbara says he wants to spend more time with his family. Perhaps the real reason is revealed by the National Post which reports that a lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court alleges Sorbara pushed York Central Hospital to locate a new dialysis unit in a property owned by his business associates, rather than a healthcare centre proposed by local developers.

This isn't the first time Sorbara has landed in hot water causing grief for the Liberal government.

He resigned on October 11, 2005, following a police investigation involving his family's real estate development firm and was reinstated on May 23, 2006 after a judge ruled that there was no cause for including Sorbara's name on a search warrant.

It is hard to imagine a new Finance Minister doing worse than his predecessor but that remains to be seen.

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