Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blogosphere on the new Edmonton arena

Colby Cosh has once again so eloquently outlined a few of the many flaws in the new downtown arena plan for Edmonton. Read them HERE and HERE.

Covered in Oil also does a decend rundown of the report HERE.

Also, PunjabiOil points-out that Alberta taxpayers may have funded the fancy dressing room update the Oilers now have. (Hattip: Grabia) Check out the video tour HERE.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shell game hides taxpayer contribution to new arena

Last year, the City of Edmonton struck a committee to review the feasibility of a new downtown arena for the Edmonton Oilers. Shockingly the committee has recommended it be located in downtown Edmonton.

To be clear, the CTF couldn't care less whether an arena is built downtown, uptown, or not at all, our sole concern is who is going to pay for this thing.

As we've seen numerous times in other cities, taxpayers are often on the hook to pay for these new palaces.

But Mayor Mandel clearly stated that no new tax dollars would be used to build this arena.

The committee is claiming to have stuck to this restriction, however, they instead are proposing a cute shell game to tax Edmontonians via the backdoor.

Here's how they recommend the arena be funded.

$450-million (not including the cost of purchasing the land)

Private financing:
$100-million (Edmonton owner Katz)
$35-million (other private sources)

So, this means a $315-million debt would be incurred by... someone.

That someone would receive these various sources of revenue to pay off the mortgage:
$2.5-million from the City of Edmonton (currently being used to subsidize Rexall Place)
$3-million from a "ticket surcharge"
$10-million from a "community revitalization levy"
$11-million from cash flow from facility operations

Total: $26.5-million

According to a quick and dirty mortgage calculator, a 20-year $315-million mortgage at 6% could be paid off at about $27-million per year, so that number may be about right to cover the debt. But, the $450-million price tag doesn't include the cost of land, nor the 20-30% annual inflationary increases in capital we're seeing right now.

Putting that major point aside for a second, are the sources of funding correct?

$2.5-million from the City of Edmonton
Well, the argument goes that this is money that is already being provided by city taxpayers to subsidize Rexall Place, if it moves over to the new arena, there's no cost. Well that may be true, but there is an opportunity cost. If the city stops providing that money they could build roads, sewers and all the other things that taxpayers pay for in taxes now.

The $3-million from the "ticket surcharge"
Provided that it wasn't a new municipal or provincial tax, this is a good idea. It's essentially a user pay system where the owners and the users cover the costs, and considering that there is a natural price point that people are willing to pay for tickets, the owners would eat even more of the costs out of their potential profits.

$11-million from cash flow from facility operations
Again, provided that the owner of the facility is not the city or province, this would be from the owners profits. So, this is fine.

$10-million from a "community revitalization levy"
Now this is completely bogus. The idea is that the city would designate an area as a "community revitalization zone." They would look at the assessment of the property in that zone now, and the taxes it generates for the city and compare it to the assessment of the property in the zone post-arena development, and the taxes collected by the city then, and use the difference to help pay for the arena.

The report suggest that there is a potential of $2.5-billion in additional assessment, resulting in $20-million of new tax money for the city. The report suggests using $10-million of this to help pay for the arena.

The fatal flaw in the logic is that there will be economic growth in Edmonton as a whole over and above what would have happened anyway. Granted, in that zone there will be more development than before, but it's merely a shift of development that would have occurred elsewhere in Edmonton.

Dr. Brad Humphreys, the foremost expert on the economic benefits of professional sport teams and arenas has proven that there is not an economic growth, but merely a shift of where the money is spent.

Here's just a sampling of some of his work:

But it makes sense. For example, if you build a parking lot next to the new downtown arena, that parking lot will make more money than the vacant lot that was there previously, and will pay more in taxes than before. However, at the same time, the parking lot next to the old arena will now be a vacant lot and will not generate any money and will no longer pay taxes. Net benefit = zero.

The same goes for say nightclubs or hotels. There is a fixed amount of money that will be spent going out to nightclubs. If you build one next to the arena, it may thrive and generate lots of assessment and taxes, but that also means the people who are going there are not going to other nightclubs, meaning loss of assessment and tax dollars elsewhere. Again, net benefit=zero.

Alternatively, if the demand for hotel space necessitates building a new hotel in Edmonton, if it is built within the zone, the money goes to the arena, whereas otherwise it would have been build outside the zone with the money going to the city.

However, the report is not taking this zero-sum game into account and is calling development within the zone "new money" and puts it into the arena. It fails to recognize that this is money the city is going to get anyway, regardless of the arena, just from another geographic location.

So, the money that is going to the arena would have otherwise been collected for things like road repair, snow removal and other civic priorities will have to be funded by... that's right TAXPAYERS.

But to the committees credit, it is an impressive shell game.

Carbon Tax Budget Surprise

The BC government will hit BC drivers with a carbon tax, supposedly to reduce energy consumption. How is it then, that government budget assumptions have gasoline and diesel consumption going up by more than they ever have in the past?

There are two problems here. First, why is the government bothering to impose a carbon tax in the first place if it doesn’t expect energy consumption to go down. Could it be political posturing? Seems likely.

Second, government spending went out of control last year and is forecast to go up at two-times the rate of inflation in the years to come. Revenues are not keeping pace. So, where is the revenue going to come from to fund this spending if gasoline and diesel consumption actually go down?

Other taxes will have to go up. In fact, it appears the government expects much higher revenue from BC Hydro. Hydro rates are already on the rise. Expect them to go even higher in the future.

This is a good example of the type of contradictory policies we see when central planners try to modify our behaviour. It didn't work in the Soviet Union (remember that place?). It won't work in BC either.

A child tax benefit paid to whoever ...

A BC parent, desperate to find out what had happened to her runaway daughter, was presented a bill by our ever-sensitive Canada Revenue Agency. Seems the mother of the guy the daughter shacked up with applied for the child tax benefit, and was given it. The parent was told to pay back the amount she had received and wasn't told where her daughter was!

Last time we checked, it was the parent who had the legal responsibility for the child. So why does the CRA give a child tax credit to just anybody? This situation is another example of the government getting involved in the parent and child relationship with the potential for very destructive results. The good intentions of the usual do-gooders, could easily be taken advantage of by those with bad intentions.

The welfare state is out of control.

Public sector unions seize on MLA raises

As of April 1, the wages of Saskatchewan MLAs will rise to $84,409. The 2.8% increase is equal to the raise in the provincial Consumer Price Index in 2007. All bonus renumerations will rise by the same amount, meaning all cabinet ministers will get an extra $42,974, for a total of $127,383. Premier Wall will make 145,799
and NDP Leader Lorne Calvert, 127,383. Yet, in 2006, the average person in Saskatchewan made just under $30,000.

Already, public sector unions publicly wonder if MLAs are deserving of the increase and claim that gains for lower-income workers should be greater than whatever the MLAs make.

Some major contracts with unions representing health care workers -- the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, Service Employees International Union, Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees -- expire at the end of this month

Barb Cape, president of SEIU local 299, joked that union members could evidently expect a 10-per-cent raise at the expiration of their contract based on the MLA model.

Cape agreed with Gantefoer that the public-sector unions will look primarily to precedents set in other contracts as opposed to the inflation rate.

Recent public-sector contract settlements in Saskatchewan have seen average annual wage increases of roughly four per cent.

But Cape said union members -- and people across Saskatchewan -- will take note of MLA pay.

"2.8 per cent on $80,000 is a hell of a lot more than 2.8 per cent on 10 bucks an hour," she said.

"I think our elected members really need to look at what the lowest end of our economic sector are making. They really need to look at their own wage increases and say, 'have I done enough to deserve this wage increase' because there are people working 12-hour shifts every single day and taking care of the poor and sick and most vulnerable in our society. They need that recognition too."

Saskatchewan CUPE president Tom Graham said he hopes government MLAs will consider their recent windfall as negotiations commence.

"They're giving themselves money. They better be prepared to give other people money too," he said in an interview.

The great omission in this line of reasoning is that taxpaying, lower-income workers will pay for whatever gains that elected representatives AND unionized public workers get. The real equalizer would be to keep all public wages down!

Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer also reportedly said he has never heard the public complain that MLA wages were too high. If you would like to be "the first," do let him know:

Rod Gantefoer, MLA Melfort
Address: Minister of Finance
Government House Leader
Melfort Mall,
P.O. Box 2800,
Melfort, SK S0E 1A0

800.242.6796 (Toll Free)
306.752.9005 (Fax) (Email) (MLA Website)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Scholars Question Global Warming

A scientist studying the environment for 50 years has documented the scholarly dissent against prevailing theories of global warming. Dr. Madhav L Khandekar recently published a 23-page annotated bibliography that contains selected peer-reviewed papers on the following areas:

1. Temperature reconstruction using proxy data; the Hockey Stick Graph
2. Impact of solar variability on the earth’s climate
3. Sea-level rise, ocean surface warming/cooling etc.
4. Arctic and Antarctic temperatures: from Holocene to present
5. Impact of large-scale circulation patterns
6. Extraneous influence on mean temperature trends: urbanization, land-use change etc.
7. Uncertainties in climate model simulations
8. Miscellaneous studies

His conclusion is that global warming is not as marked as has been reported, and whatever warming has occurred has little to do with carbon emissions. Urbanization, land use changes, solar activity, and weather cycles are larger factors. Moreover, extreme weather is not occurring more frequently--but our ability to monitor it and the media hype around it has grown significantly. Temperatures in past eras were just as warm, and the northern ice caps were even smaller. To top it all off, the science of weather projection in the longer term has not made significant progress over the past fifty years, meaning alarmist end-of-the-world predictions based on such weather models has a dubious basis.

Click here to read Khadekar's paper. If you're wondering about his credentials, read on.

Dr. Madhav L Khandekar is a former Research Scientist from Environment Canada where he worked for about 25 years. Khandekar holds M.Sc degree in Statistics from India and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Meteorology from USA. Khandekar has been in the fields of atmosphere/ocean/climate for over 50 years and has published over 125 papers, reports, book reviews, scientific commentaries etc. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers in various international Journals and authored a book on ocean surface wave analysis and modeling, published by Springer-Verlag in 1989. Khandekar is presently on the editorial board of the Journal Natural Hazards(Netherlands) and is a former editor of the journal Climate Research (Germany). He was an expert reviewer for the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Climate Change Documents (AR4) published in 2007.

The Frontier Centre has other climate change articles and feedback here.

Money For Everything But Democracy

Editorials in Toronto help demonstrate why Ontarions have had it tough for a few years with no prospect of it getting better soon. The budget comes down tomorrow and two of the main rags in town want more spending on everything.

Despite the Ontario economy going in the tank, The Toronto Star is calling for more spending to reduce 'so-called' poverty, more spending on welfare, more money for cities, more money for manufacturing, and more for infrastructure. They even have an opinion editorial today calling for higher taxes!

Ironically the Star also has an editorial today calling on the Toronto Catholic District School Board to save $1 million by avoiding a by-election and appointing a replacement for Trustee Chrisinte Nunziata (of expense account abuse fame) who was punted from the board for missing four meetings.

More Billions for socialist programs? Yes, they say. But spend $1 million on democracy. No way, they say!

This insanity isn't limited to the Star. Even the Toronto Sun is calling for more spending. They want Ontario and Canadian taxpayers to bid on the 2015 Pam Am games. A bid only costs $5 million they say. Fair enough. Of course, if they win, that is followed by a $2 billion bill to host them.

At at a time when the economy is dangerously close to recession some spending sanity is required. With calls from editorial leaders of the left and right calling for more spending, taxpayers may be in big trouble tomorrow on budget day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Listen to the Bunny - DO IT!

I told the Easter Bunny I'd pass a message along for him...

"If you believe in low taxes, less waste, and accountable government, support Canada's foremost taxpayer advocacy organization."


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rest of Canada on Hook for Ontario Standoff costs - $76 million and counting

The Rest of Canada is paying a heavy price for Ontario's failure to end the standoff in Caledonia and the Premier wants the rest of Canada to pay even more.

The province of Ontario has recently stated costs for the Caledonia land dispute with the Six Nations have cost $50 million PLUS $26 million from the feds totaling $76 million and no end in site. Click here to see a Toronto Sun article with Dalton McGuinty seeking more money from the federal government. Of course, this means he wants taxpayers from all across Canada to pay for his failure to end the standoff.

So far, the feds have kicked in $26 million to help pay for things like compensation to businesses and residents, costs for policing and repairs to damaged civil infrastructure. Despite this, Premier McGuinty says he'll be asking the feds for even more support!

Why are taxpayers from outside of Ontario on the hook for this? Because McGuinty and the OPP refuse to enforce the rule of law and end the illegal occuaption of the Douglas Creek Estates.

The feds have made two offers so far to the Six Nations and are still waiting for a response. In the meantime costs escalate due to McGuinty's failure to act and taxpayers from across Canada are increasingly on the hook.

Federal Minister Strahl should turn off the taps and tell McGuinty not a penny more!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Protect Your Wallet, McGuinty is Back

The Ontario Legislature resumes sitting today and taxpayers may want to grab their wallets before the government reaches into them once again.

Since having been elected last Fall, the government has not been busy in any meaningful way. McGuinty announced; a tax credit for bike helmets, a new provincial holiday, a small capital tax reduction, and plans to ban smoking in cars with kids.

What should Ontarions expect? Other than more spending, not much. McGuinty has promised more money for schools, more money for health care, more money to fight poverty, more money to create jobs, and more money for aboriginals. All to say, he promises more of the same old, same old.

Sadly the opposition is small with only 26 PC seats (and an unelected and embattled leader in John Tory)and 10 NDP (leader Hampton is also under fire). Taxpayers should expect a rough ride ahead with the budget next Tuesday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Few Highway Cops in Saskatchewan

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 14 of Saskatchewan’s 47 Highway Traffic Officer positions sit empty. This represents a vacancy rate of 30 percent.

Under the Saskatchewan Police Act, 1990, highway traffic patrol officers enforce federal, provincial and municipal laws relating to road transportation and the licensing, registration and operation of vehicles. Officers have the authority to stop and complete vehicle weight and safety inspections, enforce speed limits and other rules of the road.

But officers can't do as much as they used to. In recent years, some officers expressed a desire to carry sidearms because encounters with motorists can be dangerous. The department refused, but instead told officers to restrict their enforcement to commercial vehicles and leave private vehicles alone. Although this meant fewer potentially dangerous encounters, it also meant officers had a lot less to do.

This means regrettable situations where private cars have zoomed by as fast as 210 km/h and get off scott free because patrol officers don't stop people like him anymore. Another time an officer noticed a car drove 30 km/h over the speed limit, and a commercial trucker followed at 15 km/h over. When the officer stopped the trucker, the irate driver asked, "Who is the greater risk on the road, me, or the guy that blew by?" What can an officer say?

Taxpayers are paying for officers legislated to do one thing, but ordered by the department to do less. At least with so many positions open, the officers will be a little busier while they wait for their colleagues to be hired. Yet, with 30 percent of officers not there at all, who knows how many overweight trucks have made Saskatchewan highways even worse?

Heat your home? Get in line.

Federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion said in Vancouver; "With this kind of leadership, B.C. may be on track to do for climate change what Saskatchewan did for medicare."

Does that mean we'll have to get on a waiting list to turn the heat on when it's cold or at night when we want to turn the lights on?

Are we going to have to line up at gas stations to fuel our cars, as we did in the 1970's?

Please Stephane, don't give us another medicare !

Friday, March 14, 2008


I have to say, this Calgary Herald story makes me feel vindicated. We've been saying for the past few years that the government has a spending problem and that things aren't as rosy as some would like to believe.

Looks like our new Finance Minister, Iris Evans, agrees with that assessment.

Her admission that some of their expensive electoral promises may have to be delayed is the exact reason why we pleaded with party leaders during the last election to cost out their promises. While the PCs wanted to spend less than the Liberals or NDP, it's still a lot of cash.

One of our key recommendations that the PCs rejected during the campaign is for a legislated spending limit.

Ms. Evans didn't reject the idea:

"I have no defined thought about a spending limit at this stage, because I think that the promises we made in that election will be integral with what
we're going to do," Evans told reporters at Government House.
Budget 2008 should be a fun one.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taxpayers to fund indoctrination junket

Seems paying bureaucrats to take a week off to volunteer at the Olympics just wasn't enough for the BC government. Now, BC's government is using tax dollars to send five bureaucrats to Montreal to train with climate change guru Al Gore.

In October 2007, the British High Court ruled that showing Mr. Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" in UK schools, and misleading students into believing it accurately represented climate science, was in violation of the political indoctrination section of the country's Education Act of 1996.

Surely the government can think of better ways to spend our money than sending people off to learn climate change indoctrination techniques from the master.

Carbon tax attack in Denmark

The carbon tax experiment has been going on for some time in Europe, and the results are not good. Denmark, for example, hit people with "revenue-neutral" carbon taxes starting in 1991. Once it started to hit industry, manufacturing employment started to fall as manufacturers closed. Surprise surprise, carbon tax revenue fell as well. By 2001, with economic growth hovering at less than one percent, the government fell and the incoming government froze, and later cut all taxes, including energy taxes.

The lesson here, and one that is supported by the experience in other European countries, is a government can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as long as they're willing to cut economic and job growth as well.

The Danes have learned from their experience. Maybe we could too.

Ontario Backtracks on Debt Repayment

The Ontario Minister of Finance has announced an end to mandatory debt repayment when in surplus. Instead, if/when a surplus exceeds $800 million, the first $600 million will go to debt and the rest to municipalities for roads, bridges and highways.

This is McGuinty's sop to municipalities for infrastructure funding. So far, municipal response is postitive which proves how little most municipal politicians know about budgets!

First, with an economy contracting and a provincial government with a big spending problem surpluses are even less likey to occur.

Second, there will only be a surplus if the government does NOT shovel cash out the door in year-end spending, which, the Auditor General points out, the McGuinty government usually does.

Finally, if there is money left over at year end it won't be much for cities and infrastructure. Instead of this smoke and mirrors approach to funding there should be a Gas Tax Accountability Act as there is in Manitoba and Saskatchewan which by law would allocate 100% of fuel tax revenues to roads, bridges and highways.

Of course this issue ignores the fundamental point that surpluses are structured over-taxation and should be returned to taxpayers in the form of tax relief or debt relief then tax reduction through a tax-back guarantee.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Union Lockout of Union Ends

Local 481 of the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union had, until recently, been without a contract for 2 1/2 years. Their employer? The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union. Even though the CEP had negotiated substantial taxpayer-funded wage hikes for SGEU in times past, SGEU's offer was two percent over three years.

Finally, SGEU locked the CEP out on November 6, 2007. SGEU even set up temporary offices elsewhere to try to avoid picketing on their doorstep. This failed. For a time, SGEU even refused to allow third-party mediation. The CEP, in turn, made a motion to the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour to declare SGEU "hot cargo" and be kicked out.

After SGEU finally did allow third-party mediation it reached a deal with the CEP's bargaining committee. Yet, the CEP workers refused to ratify the agreement reached by their own people. After more tinkering, the two sides finally settled their differing issues: sick leave and wage hikes for the 58 CEP workers.

"I think they're ready to go back and we're hopeful we can begin the healing process," said CEP 481 Local President Kelly Diebel. Healing from the ordeal of negotiating with a public sector union, an odessey recorded at

Ontario Healthcare Missions of Hope Too Expensive?!

Ontario Health Care Minister Smitherman's Press Secretary has said that Ontario can't afford to pay for everyone's health care mission of hope. She was referring to the case of Ms. de Vries who sought treatment in the US for a tumour she couldn't get treated in Ontario. She paid $60,000 and the government won't pay her back.

Smitherman should explain the position of the government on this. His office thinks it is too expensive to keep people alive. In order to keep the budget down, I guess his Press Secretary would prefer people just die on a waiting list in Ontario.

They should provide means of quality and timely health care instead of protecting at all costs the farce that is the myth of Canadian Public Health Care.

Perhaps the reason for the Health Minister digging in his heals is that the number of people getting treatment in the US has tripled in the last few years as reported today in the Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Free" Ontario Health Care Cost $60,000

As reported in the Globe and Mail today, an Ontario woman is faced with a $60,000 bill for life-saving health care she sought in the United States because she didn't fill out the proper forms when treatment was not available in Ontario.

Rest assured, Premier McGuinty will protect public health care in Ontario at all costs and will not allow any changes to it; while budgets balloon, patients die or are forced into the US for care. He would rather people have the right to die on a wait list than to allow public insurance or privately-delivered publicly-funded care.

Status quo in health care isn't improving quality or timeliness of treatment. Increased funding isn't improving quality or timeliness. The time for health care reform is now but McGuinty isn't listening.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feds give native band $9.8 million for oxgoad

The Nekaneet First Nation should have received an ox, a plough, agricultural tools and some seed ever since becoming a Treaty 4 signatory in 1913. They never did. And, to make it up to them, the 417-member band in southwestern Saskatchewan will receive $9.8 million from the federal government in compensation. How many more hours and dollars were spent in the 20-year process to settle this claim are not public knowledge.

At least one taxpayer thinks this is ridiculous.

March 5 UPDATE: A member of Nekaneet says the band is poorly managed. He further said that the band's businesses advertised in the Regina Leader-Post didn't exist. In his letter to the editor, Jordan Fourhorns called the advertisements a "glaring page of untruths."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Get CTF, NCC Upset: Conservative Strategy?

Yes, according to Tom Flanagan. Getting the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and National Citizens Coalition mad at the government was part of the plan. Gerry Nicholls, former head of the NCC, says Harper's tack makes as much sense as drinking yourself unconscious to prevent yourself from drinking anymore.

CTF You Tube Channel

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box