Friday, May 30, 2008

Governing with integrity and transparency?

When Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was first elected, the first thing he did was create a list of five priorities or promises he would focus on as premier.

The first, the very first one was: "Govern with integrity and transparency." What he meant by that is:

Govern with integrity and transparency
  • implement democratic reforms including all-party committees of the Legislature
  • consult Albertans on key issues such as the provincial budget
  • improve the transparency and accountability of government agencies, boards and commissions

So, just how transparent was the government's recent decision to grant cabinet ministers and the premier 30% and 34% pay raises respectively?

- Public consultations? No.
- Legislative review? No.
- A Bill voted upon in the Legislature? No.
- A public debate in the Legislature? No.
- A government news release to announce it? No.
- A press conference to announce it? No.
- Stuck on the bottom of an Order in Council that is buried on a Queen's printer website, calling it "committee pay"? YES!

It was so obscurely hidden that I had to walk a few reporters step-by-step over the telephone today to show them how to find it.

Want to see it for your self?

Instructions on how to find the Order in Council:

1. Go to
2. Click on the "News" tab on the top toolbar
3. Scroll to the "News Search" box on the left hand side and click the "GO" button next to "Show News Releases for the: Last Month".
4. Scroll down to the "Orders in Council" area (near the bottom) and click on the Approved Orders in Council May 29, 2008 link.
5. Scroll down to "HONOURABLE MR. STELMACH" Order 240/2008, which is the order in question, however you cannot click on it, so you have to keep scrolling down to the bottom where it reads: "Orders in Council can now be viewed on the Queen's Printer website at:" Click that link.
6. After the new window has popped up, scroll down to "Premier" (about 3/4 down the page) and click the: "Legislative Assembly Act (May 28, 2008) -- 08240" link that is below.
7. There you have it, the Order in Council:
But, if you want to see the pay raise portion, you have to scroll down to the bottom, section 3(2) and 3(3) which grant "committee pay" to cabinet ministers and the premier (or as they call him, the "President of the Executive Council") of $3,500 per month for cabinet ministers and $4,500 per month for the premier.

Nice and transparent eh?

Ontario Taxpayers Throw Saskatchewan a Party

A year after Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten committed $500,000 from her ministry to the controversial Flick Off Campaign, Ontario taxpayers can finally pat themselves on the back. Tonight's the night their hard-earned dollars go towards a free "carbon-neutral" party in Estevan, a community in the middle of oil-rich southeastern Saskatchewan. The environmental impact of Flickfest featuring City and Colour, Sleepercar, and Black Lungs is questionable, but hey, free party!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Layton: $54B EI surplus is 'biggest theft in Canadian history'

Although federal Conservatives announced that all future EI dollars raised would stay in the EI fund, the government has no intentions of giving past surpluses back to workers. Recently, NDP Leader Jack Layton expressed his displeasure to the Canadian Labour Congress.

A clause in the budget implementation bill, currently before the finance committee, states future governments won't have to repay the money, Layton said.

Liberal and Conservative committee members voted to debate the clause for just five minutes, he added.

EI was created to help unemployed workers, but current and previous governments have treated the fund like free money, Layton said.

"This is $54 billion that belonged, and still does belong to, the working people of Canada," he said before hundreds of union representatives. "It was contributed by them and for them and it is being stolen.

"It is the biggest theft in Canadian history."

The NDP is doing everything it can to delay the bill's passing, Layton said.

In question period earlier this month, the NDP leader raised the issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper rejected Layton's claims the government is stealing money from workers, and he blamed previous Liberal governments for the misuse of EI funds.

The Conservative government has improved the management of employment insurance as well as established a $2-billion surplus for the fund, Harper said at the time.

The $54 billion from the EI fund has already been spent, and the Conservatives want to ensure the practice is not repeated in the future, the prime minister said.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Regina puts cart before the horse

Toronto photo

...or rather the bike rack before the bus. At the beginning of May, Regina put bike racks on all of its buses. The cost? $94,089.60 (taxes included) for 90 bike racks--plus installation costs. Unlike cities such as Toronto and Saskatooon, that are moving towards this target incrementally after modest beginnings, Regina has done it in one shot, ironically just weeks before it holds wide consultations for the first time in years.

Just today, the city announced it

will be working with an external consultant, well-versed in the transit industry, to develop a Strategic Transit Service Plan. This will involve public consultation through a number of methods.

Part of the consultation will begin this week with an on-board survey of riders to solicit comments and ideas on how to improve service. The survey can be filled out on the bus and left with the transit operators or mailed in.
This consultation will cost up to $250,000. Strange, isn't it, that Regina does a sweeping change like this BEFORE consultation. Regina hasn't examined its transit since 2002. If it had, it probably would have discovered most bus riders have far higher priorities than racks that hold two bikes on the front of a bus.

Its northern neighbour Saskatoon did a study in 2004. On p. 27 (22 on the .pdf), people said they wanted things like better service and routes far more often than bike racks. Of 77 respondents, only two mentioned bike racks at all. At least Saskatoon put bike racks on their 27 direct transit routes for a few years before slowly introducing them to new buses as they are acquired.

That said, Saskatoon is spending $1.5 million to put a global positioning system on its buses and changing fare boxes for smart cards. This, even though 7 out of 10 people surveyed in Saskatoon in 2004 hadn't used the bus in the past three months. Ridership went from a high of Best year 14,549,954 in 1982 to a low of 8,981,489 in 2005 and bumped up to 10,598,353 in 2007. Of $25.2 million in revenues, $14.8 million came from the subsidies of taxpayers.

Senior transit planner Sue Luchuck explains why the city made this step before consultations:
The Transit Service Review is expected to be completed by the end of the year with a report to City Council early in 2009.

The Transit Department believes that putting bike racks on our buses is a progressive step that should proceed independent of the Review. The bike racks provide residents with an environmentally friendly mode of transportation which can be used in tandem with transit as an alternative to the private automobile which, in turn, will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and result in a cleaner, healthier environment.

$1.4 B carbon capture project has no C02 buyer

Thanks to $240 million from the federal government, and $758 million from crown corporation Sask Power, a carbon capture project is going ahead in Estevan. However, there's a problem: the $1.4 billion total cost for the project has a $400 million gap to be filled by "industry." Without a company to invest those dollars to make use of the one million tonnes of captured C02 each year, the dollars just don't add up. So far, there's no takers.

This project, which will reduce output from 140MW to 100MW in two stages, makes sense in at least one way. Unit 3 of Boundary Power Dam in Estevan was built in 1960 and due for retirement in 2013. If the retrofit goes ahead, it can last an extra 20-30 years.

Calgary Alderman Ric McIver paying own way to FCM

Calgary Alderman, Ric McIver (seen to the left) just phoned the CTF Alberta office to inform us that he is paying out of his own pocket for his flight to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Quebec City.

Kudos to him for not burdening Calgary taxpayers for his flight, which is likely the most expensive part of the annual junket.

As reported by the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun (no longer available) 10 of the 14 Alderman are going this year to Quebec City for the FCM conference, as is the Mayor.

The value for taxpayers is fairly dubious.

In fact, one Calgary Alderman, Ray Jones, seems to agree:

"I go every three years," he said. "I don't think everybody has to go every year."
"If you go every two or three years, that's just fine."
And since Alderman McIver is paying his own flight, it would seem that he agrees too.

It's certainly rare for a politician to not accept a "free" junket like this. While Alderman Jones and the other 3 alderman have been identified publicly as refusing to go, Alderman McIver has generally been lumped into the same gang as those who are using taxpayer funds to go to Quebec City.

This is clearly unfair and McIver should be recognized for his respect of taxpayers' money.

Ontario Carbon Is Coming Confirm McGuinty Brothers

The CTF has been calling for Dalton McGuinty to make it clear where he stands on a carbon tax, especially at at time that his brother David McGuinty - federal Liberal environment critic - is pushing one with Stephane Dion. Now we know a little more. Dalton McGuinty wants one. Ontarions just don't know when or how the carbon tax will be implemented.

Yesterday Premier McGuinty said he prefers a cap-and-trade system first. FIRST! This raises the possibility of both.

As well, a cap-and-trade system is a carbon tax under a different guise and a different can dress up a pig in lipstick and tights but it is still a pig.

Dalton's statement raises important questions and his brother makes this obvious when he is quoted saying, "I think what the premier's said is, 'Look, given the here and now of the specificity of the Ontario economy, and how we would like to go forward in pricing carbon, we would rather go with a cap-and-trade system first,"' he said.

"But I doubt very much the premier's ruling out the notion of a carbon tax shift."

There you have it from his brother. Carbon taxes are on their way in Ontario. The only questions are when and how.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

35% raise not enough for Sask nurses

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses has just turned down a 35% raise over four years from their employer, the Saskatcheawn Association of Health Organizations.

The latest offer SAHO tabled carries a total price tag of close to $600 million. A general duty nurse at the top step currently makes a base salary of $64,232. Under this proposal, that nurse would see his or her salary increase to $86,624. A 20-year nurse would see his or her salary rise to $88,359.

SAHO already pays $1.5 billion annually in payroll to various unions, SUN being one of them. Many other public sector unions, including some that work for SAHO, are waiting to see how this one pans out. The hefty taxpayer bill is only beginning.

Next door in Manitoba, nurses only received raises of ten percent over two years--ones that were already paid less than those in Saskatchewan.

CTF debates income-splitting with day care advocates

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation John Williamson debates Martha Friendly of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit on CHCH TV. See video of the debate here. Other bloggers are already praising the debate and noting Friendly's imitation of Darth Vader.

Viewers can sound off with their own opinions here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Throwing Money at Canada's Worst Neighbourhood

Driven by the shame of a MacLean's article that called North Central Regina Canada's Worst Neighbourhood, the government keeps implementing one bad idea after another. The latest is a $90,000 art project, with a price tag high enough to buy a house in this neighbourhood.

As part of the Dewdney Avenue "Common Weal" project, Vancouver-based performance artist Cheryl L'Hirondelle will show up to have "quick conversations" with elderly people there because, she says, others don't get out enough to have these talks themselves. Then, pamphlets will be sent out to encourage people to listen to the FM broadcast of the comments. Later, streaming audio, and a CD compilation will be available.

The other three artists involved with the project are visual artist Edward Poitras who will be painting art installations throughout the neighbourhood, Terrance Houle who will be doing a collaborative video project on the community, and Vancouver-based photo artist Sandra Semchuk who will exhibit her work on city transit buses.

According to Executive Director Elwood Jimmy, the idea is to "develop projects that promote positive social change" and respond to the "negative press people living in the neighbourhood have been experiencing."

Is this the best leverage for $90,000 to transform a troubled neighbourhood? Will someone from BC parachute into Regina and impact the area through "quick conversations"? Will those living in an area recently made infamous for prostitution, crime, and more IV drug users per capita than Vancouver's downtown east side obey some pamphlets, listen on an FM channel to neighbours they don't care to visit, and then change their ways?

Art projects of dubious merit, quick approval of an urban reserve, 2.3 million taxpayer-funded injection needles for Regina drug addicts, and who knows what next?! No wonder Ronald Reagan said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"

Mintz to Feds: Stop Penalizing One-Income Families

Jack Mintz is proposing income tax changes that, apparently, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty supports, but Prime Minister Harper does not.

"The appropriate unit to tax is a family rather than an individual," said Jack Mintz, professor of public policy at the University of Calgary. He is speaking this afternoon in Parliament's West Block, flown in by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.

Picking an Ontario example, Mr. Mintz said a family with one breadwinner, earning $70,000 a year, pays about $4,000 more in federal and provincial income tax than a family where both parents work and each earns $35,000...

Ottawa would forgo about $4-billion in income with this policy change, estimates John Williamson, national director at the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation. But given that Ottawa projects a $10.2-billion surplus this year, it can afford income-splitting, he argued.

"Approximately 20 countries, including Hong Kong and Iceland, have removed the marriage penalty," Mr. Williamson said.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ontario Sneaking In New Cyber-Trash Tax

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty again is breaking his promise not to impose new taxes. This time he is trying to do it by stealth with a new cyber-trash tax.

The Toronto and London Sun newspapers are carrying the story about the $105 million tax grab.

Cabinet will quietly approve the tax in the next few weeks. The CTF has been trying to raise awareness of this tax for the last little while and few media outlets have been interested in the story.

Phase One of the Four-phase program will impose $62 million of new fees on importers and manufacturers. Once they mark up the cost of the tax and pass it on to consumers it will drain another $105-$210 million from the pockets of consumers. Just wait until phase 2, 3 and 4 kick in. Yikes!

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Header!

Click your refresh button and check out our new flash header on the blog. Nice eh?

Dean Smith, the wizard of the web for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation whipped up this beauty of a flash header for our blog. The standard blogger one just wasn't cutting the mustard anymore.

Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Layton Condemns Carbon Taxes, Shocks Suzuki

At an Ottawa homeless shelter, NDP leader Jack Layton had some noteworthy comments on why carbon taxes aren't a good solution for Canada.

"Those advocating a carbon tax suggest that by making the cost of certain things more expensive people will make different choices, but Canada is a cold place and heating your home really isn't a choice," Mr. Layton said. "We shouldn't punish people, and that's what a carbon tax does."

However, Layton does support a cap-and-trade system, sparking this admission from environmentalist Stephen Hazell, executive director of Sierra Club Canada:
"The carbon tax has a huge advantage over cap-and-trade in that it can be put in place very quickly and deliver results very quickly, whereas cap-and-trade, it's taken Europe decades to get that one figured out," he said. "It's just regrettable that he's focusing on the negative."

Yes, Layton has figured out that carbon taxes will immediately impact Canadians for the worse instead of slowly draining their money through cumbersome, bureaucratic, and shifting regulations related to a cap-and-trade system.

For his part, David Suzuki is "shocked" by Layton and the stance of his party. "I thought they had a very progressive environmental outlook...To oppose [the carbon tax plan], it's just nonsense. It's certainly the way we've got to go."


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Saskatchewan Filthy Rich

Excess oil money is giving Saskatchewan an excellent problem. Since budget forecasts called for oil to be $85 a barrel, the present price of $134 is dandy. It means an additional $800 million for the government this fiscal year, and even more for the future, since the budget forecast oil prices to drop to $65 by 2011. Since then, some analysts have projected oil could go as high as $200 per barrel within two years. Even if prices stay at $134 until the next election, the current government could have $4 billion extra simply because of low commodity estimates, including that for potash. So where will this money go?

Premier Brad Wall has asked MLAs to canvass their constituents this summer on what to do with the windfall revenues in both the short-term to deal with rising costs and in the long-term.

The government is increasingly making noises about a significant reduction of the $6.6-billion provincial debt, with its annual servicing costs that exceed $500 million.

But there are also significant -- and potentially costly -- items that are high on the Sask. Party's political agenda.

Former MLAs Bob Pringle and Ted Merriman will deliver recommendations on affordable housing this year; Rosetown-Elrose MLA Jim Reiter is preparing a report on education property tax reform for the fall; crop insurance is under review; and a new municipal revenue-sharing formula has been promised.

Axe The Vote Tax

Just when you thought the NDP had taxed it all, they have decided to tax Manitobans when they vote. If the NDP's Bill 37 passes, political parties in Manitoba will receive $1.25 for each vote that they received. That little measure will cost the taxpayers about $2 million. Funny how the NDP's new little welfare program for political parties missed being included in their 2007 election platform. Perhaps the idea of spending more tax on political parties didn't poll well.

One of the more offensive aspects of the bill is that it indexes the vote tax fee to inflation. In other words, the NDP want to make sure their little party fundraising scheme doesn't get eroded by inflation. Too bad they haven't indexed tax brackets to inflation in Manitoba. Glad to see they have their priorities straight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Canada's Debt Actually in Trillions

According to a Fraser Institute news release, almost $800 billion of direct debt is compounded by another $1.3 trillion in programs the government has committed itself to. At $75,942 debt per citizen, Canada is 13th out of 20 high income nations of the world.

VANCOUVER, BC— Each Canadian taxpayer owes $150,211 in federal, provincial, and local liabilities, according to a new study released today by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

The study, Canadian Government Debt 2008, shows that federal, provincial, and local governments have accumulated $791.2 billion in direct debt and more than $2.4 trillion in total government liabilities. Total liabilities include direct debt and programs that the government has committed to provide such as Old Age Security and Medicare (Canada’s public health care system).

Although net direct debt (liabilities minus assets) of all three levels of government fell from $800.4 billion to $791.2 billion between 2000/2001 and 2004/2005, this is a small drop compared to the growth of Canada’s debt since 1990/1991 when our net debt stood at $533 billion, said Niels Veldhuis, Fraser Institute director of fiscal studies and co-author of the study.

Would a gas tax cut lower pump prices?

Every time the Canadian Taxpayers Federation suggests gas taxes should be cut, someone claims that it wouldn't matter because oil companies would suddenly jump in and take up the room.

From the Montreal Gazette:

"It's unlikely a tax cut would actually lower prices much. It's far more likely that it would simply shift government revenues into the coffers of oil

Unfortunately, those who make these lofty claims have no data to back them up.

Why? Well because there is none. What the data shows is that the difference in gasoline prices across Canada is largely based on the difference in taxes.

Check the chart below.

Last year, Edmonton had the lowest average pump price in Canada of 110.1 cents/L. St. John's had the highest at 125.6 cents/L.

That is a difference in the pump price of 15.5 cents/L.
The difference in gas taxes between Edmonton and St. John's... 16 cents/L.


If gasoline taxes had no impact on the price at the pumps, the fine people of St. John's would pay exactly the same amount as the people in Edmonton. If Canadians are willing to pay 125.6 cents/L, then every Canadian would pay 125.6 cents/L.

The crude oil component of gasoline prices was 55.5 cents/L last year all across Canada. The refining margin and the marketing margin vary slightly from city to city and province to province (with them both being the smallest in southern Ontario - likely because there is more people and economies of scale kick-in) but the biggest variance is the amount paid in gasoline taxes.

So, what this means is that if gas taxes are cut, consumers will see the savings. They're arguably seeing them right now in Edmonton, where the provincial gas taxes are the lowest in the country, and not seeing them in places like Montreal, Victoria and Vancouver, where the gasoline taxes are the highest in the country.

Cheers! Tax Relief for Sask Breweries

Murray Lyons brought the good news in a Star-Phoenix column.

Saskatchewan's 25 brew pubs now have some additional incentive to convince other restaurants and bars to carry their product.

The tax they pay on beer production was reduced by the Saskatchewan government Friday, a move that puts the taxation of beer produced by brew pubs and sold off premises on the same level as the tax paid by microbreweries that sell their product to licensed premises.

Dan D'Autremont, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), says the tax change eliminates an inconsistency in the previous tax regime and is part of a number of changes he hopes will modernize provincial liquor rules and taxation.

"What was happening was that the brew pubs were being charged at the national brewers' rate even though they are immensely smaller," he said in a phone interview. "So we saw the inconsistencies in this and brought the brew pub (tax) rate down to the microbrewery rate so that very small producers would all have a similar rate."

For a brew pub such as Bushwakkers in Regina, which sells its product to other restaurants and Hotel Saskatchewan bar, it means the tax or "markup rate" drops to 57 cents from $1.13 for every litre tapped from the keg. For bottled beer, the charge drops to 90 cents from $1.65.

Saskatoon doesn't know where the homes are

Saskatoon city council voted to give $84,000 to two care homes in Saskatoon. The total cost of the homes for at-risk youth is $869,000, but most of that has been covered by federal and provincial governments. However, the organization that runs the homes, EGADZ, also has two other homes in the neighbourhood of Hampton Village and another two in the Dundonald area. As the concentration of care homes in a neighbourhood became an issue for debate, councillors realized the city doesn't even have the facts.

City administration's map of care homes in Saskatoon shows a roughly even distribution across the city. But [Councilor] Heidt questioned administration as to why at least seven Dundonald care homes don't show up on the map.

"If it's not accurate, why give it to us?" Heidt said. "Let's talk about the facts. There's nothing wrong with these homes as long as they're moved around."

Paul Gauthier, the city's general manager of community services, said there's a simple reason the map is incomplete.

"We do not know the list (of care homes) by a longshot," he said, adding only care homes assessed as such would come to the city's attention.

As the welfare state expands, governments continue to dole out money even after they've lost track of who's doing what and whether such expenditures are even worthy.

32,000 Scientists Dispute Global Warming

For every political, quasi-scentific world gathering trying to invoke doomsday scenarios and draconian environmental measures, there's been another conscienscious group of scientists dissenting. As Lawrence Solomon of the Financial Post explains, the dissenters number at least 32,000. Perhaps that's why a recent Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated "natural factors ... not human sources are behind global warming."

Elsewhere, renewed efforts to establish a new Kyoto accord foster a lose-lose situation for the West.

As a result of promoting environmental alarmism, Western governments find themselves trapped in a perilous, yet largely self-constructed catch. As long as climate change is elevated as the principal liability of industrial countries, as long as Western CO2 emissions are blamed for exacerbating natural disasters, death and destruction around the globe, green pressure groups and officials from the developing world will continue to insist that the West is liable to recompense its exorbitant carbon debt by way of wealth transfer and financial compensation.

Yet this is highly unlikely to happen. Attempts to punish developing countries by introducing carbon tariffs, on the other hand, would only create more fury and resentment. Ultimately, there is now a growing risk that the whole global-warming scare is creating more anti-Western hostility and further loss of influence on the international stage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saskatchewan to elect senators

The Saskatchewan government wants to have its federal senators elected.

A draft of the Saskatchewan Senate legislation has been created and [Justice Minister Don] Morgan said discussions are underway with the federal government about its willingness to appoint Saskatchewan senators from a list of elected people.

"The way the [law] works right now, to have an elected Senate by the federal government would require a constitutional amendment," said Morgan.

"No one is keen on doing a constitutional amendment at this point in time, so what we would like to do is have our legislation sort of dovetail with what they're doing so that we have a list of people that the prime minister is willing to pick from when we have Senate vacancies."

For its part, the opposition NDP said it wants the senate abolished.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ontario Taxpayers Fund Sex-Change Operations

Ontario began covering the bill for “sex-change” operations in 1971, but ceased doing so in 1998 under the Progressive Conservative government. In 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Commission required compensation for three patients midway through preparation for sex-change surgery during the 1998 insurance plan change. Now public funding is back regardless, at about $17,000 an operation. Health Minister George Smitherman estimates only ten Ontarians a year will have the surgery.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BC about to be gagged - again !

Gag laws restrict – and even prohibit – the right of citizens and citizen groups from advertising during election campaigns.

Gordon Campbell, the premier of BC, who got rid of gag laws when he was first elected, seems to have reconsidered the desirability of people's ability to criticize government now that his party is the government.

BC's premier is taking the gag law he got rid of to a new extreme. The new gag law forbids "an advertising message that promotes or opposes, directly or indirectly, a registered political party or the election of a candidate, including an advertising message that takes a position on an issue with which a registered political party or candidate is associated."

Election issues in BC, it seems, are only for discussion by established parties and their battery of lawyers and accountants.

This must be stopped. Check out:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Government is gouging, not oil companies

Neil Reynolds from the Globe and Mail's report on business says people who want government to do something about the price of gas should be demanding lower gas taxes. After explaining why the profit margins of oil companies are actually slightly lower than most S&P Industrials.

Whatever. Most people still think the government should do something.

Precisely. Here at home, the federal government alone collects an extra $100-million in windfall revenue from every 10-cent increase in gas prices. As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation observed earlier this week, in observance of its Gas Tax Honesty Day, one of the biggest costs in filling our tanks is the cost of government. Taxes account for 28 per cent of pump prices. Strip out the taxes (32.6 cents a litre) and you get back to the real price of gas: 86 cents a litre. All by itself, this honest-to-God price proves that there's no scarcity of oil. Which is obvious when you think about it. When – anywhere in the world – have we ever run out of gas?

Ban Stupid Senators Not the NFL in Canada

Unelected and unaccountable Liberal Senator Larry Campbell plans to introduce a bill in the Senate banning the NFL from coming to Canada. As if, somehow, professional football is the responsibility of the federal government. Oh right, it isn't. But an unelected senator won't let that stop him poking his nose around the league anyhow.

The Buffalo Bills have arranged through Rogers Sports to play 8 games in Toronto over the next five years. Doom predictors like Campbell imagine this is the death knell of the CFL. It won't be. One only need look to the maniacal and rapid love of the game across the country to see that. And even if did signal the death knell, why are tax dollars being wasted by unelected and unaccountable senators looking into bone-headed ways to impose themselves in the football industry.

He should spend more time worrying about how to stop wasteful spending so there is more money for tax relief to give to businesses (including football teams) and to individuals so that families can afford to attend more games.

Next thing you know, he will be suggesting the government buy and Nationalize the CFL.

Someone should use Senator Campbell as a tackling dummy to knock some sense into him.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gas Tax Honesty Campaign Rocks Canada

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation's 10th Annual Gas Tax Honesty Campaign was a tremendous success. In nine cities, from Vancouver to Halifax, the media and motorists were there. See the report here and the news release here. Sign our federal petition here.

John Williamson, Federal Director, was in Halifax and Fredericton

As seen below on CP video, a CP article, and May 14 Global National (starting at 15:18).

The Daily Gleaner tells us Williamson made a motorist happy in Fredericton.

Adam Taylor, Federal Research Director, in Ottawa

Adam featured in the clips and stories above, as well as the CTV online article and video.

Kevin Gaudet, Ontario Director, in Toronto

As seen on this segment of Mike Duffy Live. Starting at 2:55, Kevin explains the CTF position and why oil companies won't raise their prices if taxes are lowered.

City News video/ article. A phone-in poll showed 922 to 163 support for a reduction of gas taxes.
Global Ontario
CTV Toronto. A scientific poll showed 57% of Canadians want gas tax relief.
Lake Superior News
Ontario news release

Colin Craig, Manitoba Director, in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Sun
Manitoba Press Release

Lee Harding, Saskatchewan Director, in Regina and Saskatoon

(Saskatoon Star Phoenix photo)
Newstalk radio 650/980
Saskatchewan News Release

Scott Hennig, Alberta Director, in Calgary

Calgary Sun
Lethbridge Herald
Calgary Metro News
Global Edmonton
660 News
680 News
AM 770

Maureen Bader, British Columbia Director, in Vancouver

News 1130
The Province
Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Metro

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GM Corporate Welfare Keeps on Keepin' On

General Motors was given $235 million by the Ontario McGuinty government. They also got $200 million more from the feds. To be clear, GM was given $435 million of taxpayer cash. Now, they are laying off staff and are asking for another $140 million.

So much for the 'success' of corporae welfare!

It is high time GM (and its ilk) and corporate welfare were given the Trudeau salute. It doesn't work. If it really worked at creating jobs, every Ontario would have two!

$435 million would have been better used to reduce personal and business taxes across the board.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fed Liberal's carbon tax lies

We expect Suzuki-ites to confuse people by saying carbon taxes will reduce pollution - they won't.

But when Federal Liberals, such as John McCallum say "we would be putting less tax on people's income and work and more tax on pollution," it's time to shout out measures designed to reduce global warming are all about trying to reduce greenhouse gases, not reduce pollution. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is a necessary component of life.

Have carbon taxes done anything about greenhouse gases?

European countries started imposing carbon taxes in the 1990s. Greenhouse gases went up in Europe by 5% between 1991 and 2005. What did go down in that same period, though, were manufacturing jobs. Norway, Sweden and Germany, for example, saw manufacturing jobs fall by 5.6%, 18.5% and 30% respectively. Did emissions fall then as well? GHG emissions increased a whopping 62% in Norway and 11.3% in Sweden, but fell by 8.6% in Germany. It appears the drop in manufacturing jobs must be massive to get much of a fall in GHG emissions.

Yes, the carbon tax is a tax grab. Carbon taxes in Denmark, originally marketed as "revenue-neutral" quickly became an important source of government revenue as subsidies to people struggling to heat their homes and subsidies to manufacturing companies that hadn't moved on to carbon-tax free countries, required more and more handouts to keep going.

Carbon taxes have created a downward spiral in every country where they've been implemented.

Just say no to carbon taxes in Canada !

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Sask Severance Scandal?

The Sask Party questions whether the former NDP government should not have given their former Chief of Staff Jim Fodey $131,000 in taxpayer-funded severance.

"The rules of the Legislative Assembly clearly state that you are only entitled to severance if you are dismissed without cause," D'Autremont said. "So in order to trigger a severance payment, the NDP must have sent the Legislative Assembly Office a letter stating Mr. Fodey was dismissed without cause."

"This simply doesn't square with any of their public statements, so today, I am calling on Lorne Calvert to clear the air by releasing that letter," D'Autremont said.

As the Sask Party explains it,
Fodey stepped down last year for providing "incomplete" information to the public and ousted Moose Jaw North MLA Glen Hagel on how the NDP Fraud Scandal was handled. Fodey and Hagel received a letter in 1992 from a former NDP caucus staffer in which she confessed to altering cheques by about $6,000.

After a concerned citizen gave that letter to your SaskParty MLAs, and we went public with it, Fodey told reporters he went to the police with the information in 1992. Regina Police held an emergency news conference on a Friday night to say that they in fact had not received the letter until 1994.

Charges were dropped against Hagel. But NDP questions about who the police informant was, and Sask Party questions about whether this severance was proper or not have made this a story that refuses to die.

Regardless of the circumstances, this money will be hard to recoup. Last year, former civil servant Murdoch Carriere received $275,000 two weeks after being convincted of assault charges. Moreover, the NDP won't repay $1.3 million in misuse of the health budget on advertising in the lead-up to the election.

Rethinking Medicare

Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, is calling for massive changes to our current health care system. High on his priority list is a patient-first system where hospitals get pay based on how much care they're providing as an incentive to lower wait times. Of course, Canada doesn't have enough doctors, because, as Lorne Gunter has pointed out, our politicians chose to lower the training spaces and ration services.

With an estimated one million patients waiting for medical treatment, patients and ultimately Canadian taxpayers are already paying the price.

Data from a study done for the CMA by the Centre for Spatial Economics estimate excess patient wait times in just four areas -- joint replacement, cataract surgery, cardiac bypass surgery and MRI scans -- cost the Canadian economy $14.8 billion last year. In Saskatchewan the economic cost was $358 million.

"We can't achieve a patient-focused health system in Canada, however, if we don't have enough doctors,'' Day said.

Canada needs to train more doctors and encourage the 1,500 Canadian medical students currently studying abroad and those Canadian-trained doctors working outside the country to return and practise here, he said.

To ensure the system is sustainable there needs to be a public debate over what medically necessary services should be covered under Canada's universal health care plan, Day added.

New advances in medicine, technology and drug-therapy improves care and in some cases prolongs life but isn't necessarily cheaper and with an aging population the demand for services is growing.

"We can't cover everything and so we as a society are going to have to start making choices,'' he said.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Carbon Taxes: For and Against

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is floating the idea of introducing carbon taxes. Green Leader Elizabeth May, a friend of Dion, supports the idea. However, it is opposed by the NDP and Conservatives.

"We don't see that as the way to go," he [NDP leader Jack Layton] said. "We don't see putting a charge on the backs of individual Canadians through taxes as the way to go."

Mr. Layton said forcing big polluters to pay is the most effective and rapid way to bring down the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere....

Another Tory told the House of Commons that Mr. Dion will be in for a tough summer.

"We have learned that he plans to tour the country attempting to convince Canadians his new massive gas tax is a good idea," said Mervin Tweed. "With gas prices estimated at being the highest they have ever been this summer, that is going to take a lot of explaining."

Indeed, some Liberals are nervous at the prospect, arguing that the proposal needs to be unveiled well before an election because it is so technical.

Opposition Gas Tax Rhetoric Haunts Governments

Like Prime Minister Harper, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also blasted high gas taxes when he was in opposition. Now the NDP is reminding him.

With oil prices hovering above $120 a barrel, the New Democrats are reminding the Saskatchewan Party about their old idea of cutting gasoline taxes to give consumers a break.

On Sept. 6, 2005, then-opposition leader Brad Wall proposed cutting provincial gas taxes by one cent for every dollar over $60 the price of a barrel was exceeding. The man who's now Saskatchewan's premier argued then that a government awash in oil and gas money should give people a break at the pumps.

At that time, oil was $67.43 a barrel. Under Wall's proposal, the gas tax would have been cut by seven cents a litre at that point.

On Thursday, Opposition leader Lorne Calvert reminded the government of Wall's proposal, and noted that motorists in Regina are now paying 131.9 cents a litre.

Living up to Wall's promise would now mean eliminating the entire 15 cent-a-litre provincial tax. Calvert asked when drivers could expect that tax cut and added some more reminders of what Wall said in 2005.
In response, Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer said, "The price of gas at the pumps is only one of a number of issues that we are closely monitoring to make sure that our citizens are aptly looked after."

In the 2004 election campaign, Stephen Harper promised to eliminate the GST on gasoline once it reached 85 cents per litre. These promises were reiterated in the House while the Conservatives were in opposition. In August 2005, Harper said, "There's no reason for the federal government to profiteer when consumers are hurting...This is causing considerable dislocation. There are a lot of people on fixed incomes. There are a lot of businesses on thin margins that are going to be affected by this."

This remains true, even after the Conservatives lowered the GST by two points. Yet, now that Wall and Harper are in a position to do something, they're less willing to move.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tax, tax, everywhere!

It's a worldwide phenomenon--everywhere and everything--as this hilarious U.K. commercial shows.

Of course, Toronto is no exception.

Tories axe access to information database

The federal Conservatives have killed a useful tool that kept track of access to information requests, according to the CBC.

The Coordination of Access to Information Requests System, or CAIRS, is an electronic list of nearly every access to information request filed to federal departments and agencies.

Originally created in 1989, it was used as an internal tool to keep track of requests and co-ordinate the government's response between agencies to potentially sensitive information released.

Now, users mine the database to do statistical studies, fine tune phrasing on new requests and discover obscure documents — often using the information against the government.

...Last week, a notice to civil servants from Treasury Board stated that effective April 1, "the requirement to update CAIRS is no longer in effect."

The opposition cried "shame" in the House of Commons, but Prime Minister Harper says the system is a relic of over-centralized government.
[Treasury Board President Vic] Toews insisted his government was "opening up the books."

"For the first time, Canadians can see how their tax dollars are being spent by the CBC, the Wheat Board and Canada Post," Toews told the Commons.

...CBC journalist David McKie took over work on the web-based version of 2006 using another publicly accessible website (

It pays to be grieved

Should complaining to human rights commissions fetch a healthy income from taxpayers? According to Mark Steyn, this is what retired investigator Richard Warman has done for the last five years by being "grieved" on others' behalf. The explanation begins at the 4:00 mark below.

Gordon Campbell's Hawaiian Epiphany

Premier Gordon Campbell's conversion to global warming dogma reportedly came during his annual vacation in Hawaii. Less than two months later, the government announced its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal of 33% below current levels by 2020. B.C. is about to be hit with new taxes to achieve that goal. So just how did the premier come up with this goal and what is the outlook for B.C.?

It wasn't by discussing with a scientific panel. In November 2007, in a conversation televised on Vaughn Palmer's Voice of BC program, Premier Campbell said, "I don't want to pretend this was some - that I asked a scientific panel about how to get there. I didn't." Premier Campbell went on to say, "We felt that 10 percent below 1990 was a reasonable and achievable target for us to reach. That was 33 percent below 2007, and that makes sense to me."

So "feelings" have determined B.C.'s GHG reduction goal. Now, the premier is implementing the same type of programs that have existed in Europe for years. What have the results in Europe been? A 5% increase in GHG's and big drops in manufacturing jobs.

The premier has an obligation to cast an eye to the experience of other jurisdictions (as he did for health care) and balance his perspective with the ever increasing volume of scientific data suggesting man-made global warming is a hoax - another Y2K panic - that will do more to bilk taxpayers than save the planet.

Scrap Ontario School Boards

An independent audit of school board expenses reveals massive abuse across the board. View the report here at the Toronto Star.

Trustee expenses have ballooned at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TDSB)since 2003 and are now among the highest in the province – $100,000 per elected trustee compared with $67,000 in the Toronto public board and just $27,000 in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic board – because of the extra benefits and services trustees gave themselves, says provincial adviser Norbert Hartmann in his report Enhancing Public Trust and Confidence, released yesterday. The TDSB even broke the law by giving themselves benefits.

Boards have become irrelevant. They no longer set tax policy and most important decisions are made at the Ministry. There are too many boards with too many trustees spending too much money. Without them nothing will change, except money will be saved or allocated to the essentials of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ontario Drops $1.4 million on Plane to Catch Speeders

In another waste of cash the Ontario government is reportedly dropping $1.4 million to buy a plane so it can better catch speeders. How many extra tickets will the OPP have to add to their ticket quotas to pay off that baby, I wonder?

If police spent more of their precious time pursuing and catching crminals, instead of being used as revenue generators through tickets, we would live in an even safer society.

Sadly, Premier McGuinty and his ilk will do anything to increase the government's ability to generate money. If only they spent half as much time trying to figure out ways to reduce their spending and/or reduce taxes. As if.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Harper Should End Equalization and Cut Personal Taxes: No Blank Cheque for McGuinty

Now that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has taxed and spent Ontario to the verge of a recession he is bleating to Ottawa that equalization is unfair. When the good times were rolling and taxes were pouring in to his treasury he didn't seem to mind. Now that he wants to keep spending like a drunken sailor he complains to Harper that it is all so unfair.

Equalization is unfair. It is merely province-to-province welfare. The taps on this misguided program should have been turned off years ago.

HOWEVER, this does not mean that Mr. Harper should just write a $5.6 billion cheque to McGuinty because he will just waste it on his stupid pet projects. The $13 billion in federal equalization should end and be given back to the taxpayers to whom it belongs through broad-based personal tax relief.

Most of that would be in Ontario because, as McGuinty points out, Ontarions pays the most.

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