Monday, June 30, 2008

Saskatchewan: rich, rich, rich!

The Saskatchewan government is raking in so much money, they don't know what to do with it. It took in $9.84 billion in 2007-08, almost $2 billion more than budget expectations. Money from non-renewable resources was $2.3 billion ($809.7 million above expectations), while tax revenues were $4.7 billion ($628.6 million over budget).

As new legislation dictates, the recent $1.3 billion surplus will be split evenly between debt repayment and its Growth and Financial Security Fund. That fund now has $1.6 billion, while provincial debt has been reduced to $6.8 billion.

Up next, hopefully, is more aggressive debt reduction and lower income taxes.

The question now is what the government will do with all the money, which includes $1.6 billion now sitting in its reserve fund.

Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer listed the usual potential targets for the funding -- the provincial debt, infrastructure, property tax relief, increased municipal revenue sharing -- and added another option.

"Certainly the premier has said we should listen to the citizens in other areas as well, and certainly an issue that is being discussed and coming forward is personal income tax," Gantefoer said in a news conference at the legislature.
Meanwhile, the NDP is calling for lower gas taxes, lower utility rates, and an immediate reduction in the education portion of property tax. All this is sure proof it's a whole new ball game in Saskatchewan!

CFL working the government

The "economic development" angle that defends sports stadium subsidies is mostly mythical, according to a raft of academic studies. Even so, Canadian Football League Commissioner Marc Cohon told TSN's Brian Wililams, he has convinced many governments to fund CFL stadiums. He says he has lobbied Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and David Asper, who wants governments to help him build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, despite protests.

Recently, the public had its first indication of dollar totals to expand Mosaic Stadium in Regina: $50 million. Plans would increase seating from 28,800 to 32,000.

"It's a dear old stadium, we love the stadium, but it needs more," said [Roughriders VP of sales and marketing, Steve] Mazurak. "So I would absolutely have to say if we want to reach the next level we need major stadium enhancements and I would say that tune would be at a minimum of $50 million and upwards to get where we want to be."
That's only one small part of the potential costs of this nationwide affair. Consider...

B.C.: $150 million from the province to renew B.C. Place stadium and install a retractable roof.

Calgary: Nothing new, though McMahon Stadium was named in a November 2006 list of various facilities to get $320 million from the province. Luxury boxes in 2005 and field turf in 2006 are some of the latest renovations.

Saskatchewan: potentially $50 million, as mentioned. Negotiations continue between the Roughriders and the City of Regina. The City has already committed $2 million towards what a city report says are $5.8 million necessary for upgrades. The province already forgave $2.8 million of Roughrider debt in 2005.

Winnipeg: **July 3 UPDATE** A proposed new stadium calls for $25 million from the province, $15 million from the federal government, and $100M to $150 million from the City of Winnipeg. David Asper would contribute $350 million to the project. Regardless, the Bombers' current home, Canad Inns Stadium, has an entire end zone without seating currently used for a practice field. Click here for more info and pictures.

Hamilton: Premier McGuinty is supportive of a bid for the 2015 Pan-Am games to be held in Hamilton. This would mean a new 30,000 seat stadium to replace Ivor Wynne Stadium, home of the Tiger Cats. It would also mean expanded facilities at McMaster University. The cost to host the Pan Am Games would be $2 billion, with $1.4 billion coming from federal and provincial governments.

Ottawa: Frank Claire Stadium has fallen into some disrepair since the football team was last there (another proof most CFL stadiums are about football and little else). A stadium renewal is forthcoming.

Montreal: The Alouettes' current home, Percival Molson Stadium, will have its 5,000 seat, $27 million expansion completed by 2009. The Als still play the occasional game at their former home Olympic Stadium. The "Big-Owe" was built for $770 million in 1976, it wasn't paid off until 2006. Further repairs, renovations, and interest left the total cost at $1.47 billion.

Toronto: And, speaking of past bungles...Skydome, home of the Argonauts was built in 1989 for $500 million, with $30 million each from the province and the City of Toronto. Sportsco International LP bought it out of bankruptcy in 1998. In 2005, Rogers, owner of the Blue Jays, bought SkyDome for a mere $25 million.

Expansion cities: The league has its sights set on a tenth team after Ottawa takes to the turf again in 2009. Halifax and Quebec City are frontrunners. Halifax's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games called for a $121 million stadium with permanent seating for 25,000.

And a bizarre federal footnote to the Canada-Funded League: in mid-June, Senator Larry Campbell introduced Bill S238 to ban the NFL from coming to Canada. Is all this worth our time and money?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dion says carbon tax hardest for Alberta & Saskatchewan

So says the Globe and Mail:

Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion says 40 per cent of Canada's carbon emissions come from Alberta and Saskatchewan and the two western provinces will have to do the most to change their habits under his new green plan. But he said it will be good for them - and he's taking that message to the Calgary Stampede next weekend.

"If we do this plan, Alberta and Saskatchewan will be better off 10 years from now than if we don't do this plan," Mr. Dion said. "Their economies will be more diversified, their universities will be at the centre of something big happening around the world, and investments will grow."

He later added, "To do the right thing will be beneficial for them...I care about Alberta and Saskatchewan. I know many people who want to do the right thing. Many will know that it will create jobs there - green jobs."

Dion is not concerned that western alienation will increase because of the carbon tax. Yet, he does say that without a carbon tax, "Canada will be a lagger. Canada will be boycotted. Canada will be a free rider of climate change, and the world will not be nice to free riders of climate change."

Mr. Dion had a tough time convincing a Saskatchewan radio host of the benefits of the plan this morning (June 27).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One-off bribe pure political trickery

The B.C. government, in an effort to keep the carbon tax squealing to a minimum, mailed out cheques to every person in B.C. to help them assume the low-carbon lifestyle.

The $440 million for the cheques, plus the $10 million admin fee to the CRA, could have been better used to fund permanent tax cuts or, heaven forbid, lower the debt. The debt costs BC'rs $6 million per day in interest.

This pre-election loss of principles may, in fact, backfire on the BC liberals. The latest polls show 60% of people, across every demographic group, are rejecting the government's carbon tax.

This should make for a very interesting election come May 09.

Solomon's Wisdom on Global Warming

Lawrence Solomon, anti-nuclear environmentalist and co-founder of Energy Probe, is also author of "The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud". As he tours the country with the help of the Frontier Centre, he's causing a stir, and presenting an unfamiliar message to most ears. This is in spite of his well-known "Deniers" series in the National Post, of which many articles can still be found at the CTF website.

The main points:
-The 2500 scientists the IPCC claimed supported climate change were actually just the number who reviewed the materials. Of these, many actually told the IPCC that carbon-induced global warming was NOT what was happening.
-Carbon is great plant fertilizer. As well, rising temperatures release carbon from oceans. Carbon dioxide is the byproduct, not the cause, of global warming.
-Temperatures have risen a half degree in the last century, but that's no different from the previous two. We're simply emerging from the "Little Ice Age."
-Temperatures are also rising on Mars and Jupiter. Any SUVs there?
-Scientists on record as opposing the false consensus on global warming are among the most prestigious in the world--not fringe quacks on the pay of oil companies.

Solomon says that Kyoto has actually led to more environmental degradation than anything else. Current third world dam projects are only viable because of carbon trading schemes. Meanwhile these projects are destroying agricultural land. Others are destroying old growth forest for better carbon-capturing plants or converting food crops to ethanol production. Closer to home, he says carbon taxes led to the words "fuel poverty" common in Europe and would have the same effect here.

Hear the audio of Solomon talking and taking calls on the John Gormley radio show here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carbon Tax Backlash

The political battle lines have been drawn. Conservatives, the NDP, unions, the working poor, businesspeople, and consumers irate about gas prices face the Liberals, Green Party, and a large segment of environmentalists. The issue? Carbon taxes. According to the Vancouver Sun, BC Premier Gordon Campbell, whose carbon tax will increase gas prices by 2.4 cents per litre may face "collateral damage" from the federal fight on this issue.

Federal Conservative party strategists are preparing a national campaign of attack ads aimed at federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion's plan to hit Canadians with a $15-billion carbon tax. Republican attack-ad master Karl Rove couldn't have done better.

Now under development in the Tory inner sanctum and expected soon to hit the national airwaves, the ads won't explicitly name B.C.'s premier. But they are going to hurt him. Every British Columbian will quickly understand that Canada's political pioneer on the carbon tax isn't the federal Liberal leader, it's B.C.'s very own green premier.
The site, run by the Conservatives, gives a glimpse of what is soon to come.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tilting at Windmills

Wind power promise a lot of hot air

It's really amazing how governments in Canada jump onto bandwagons without doing some simple research.

If they had researched the recent history of wind power in Denmark, they would have realized that the industry needs subsidies to survive, and once those subsidies go away, so does the industry.

By 2000, heavy subsidization meant Denmark had more than 6,000 working windmills and 55 per cent of all wind turbines in the world had been manufactured in Denmark.

When subsidies ended with market deregulation, the industry had come to a virtual standstill. Only five windmills were installed in Denmark that year, the lowest in 20 years. The wind turbine industry shrank and some companies were bought by European rivals.

The stage is set for a wind boondoggle here in BC as well. The wind power industry in Canada gets a federal government subsidy of $10 per megawatt hour. But B.C. consumers can expect to dig deep as well. The cost of electricity from wind power is about $71 per megawatt hour. That compares to about $48 for natural gas and $25 for electricity produced from B.C.'s heritage hydro assets.

Subsidies to wind power projects in B.C. is a wealth transfer from the middle class to the wealthy and will create a welfare-dependent industry in the province, just as they did in Denmark. Taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing industry, no matter how momentarily worthy the cause seems to be.

Dion's Carbon Tax Forgot the West

...explains Regina Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk.

Forget, for a moment, the inherent unfairness in Dion's "Green Shift" to a province like Saskatchewan, with a relatively small population base (that won't capitalize as much on income tax reductions in this policy), but a huge fossil fuel base (that will bear the brunt of its taxation plans).

Forget that the Liberal leader appears oblivious to the political-economic power shift from east to west in this country and the fact that this plan will only stir up the shallow-buried Western sentiment against Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program.

Forget the fact that the oil and natural gas Dion proposes to tax is the only thing keeping this entire country out of a recession stemming from what's happening in the Ontario auto manufacturing industry.

Forget that Dion's modest income-tax reductions within this scheme probably won't make the plan revenue-neutral for anyone.

Forget the fact that all Canadians are already paying a high environmental premium on gasoline in the form of the most costly fuel ever -- now, more costly than it's ever been on a historically-adjusted-to-inflation basis.

Forget the fact that sparsely populated provinces like Saskatchewan are simply more reliant on fossil fuels, including critical industries like agriculture, oil and mining.

Forget that we're reliant on coal and natural gas (we don't have as much hydroelectric power and don't have nuclear power yet) to heat our homes in our freezing winters.

Forget that northerners now paying $100 a tank to fill up or farmers paying $20,000 to $30,000 in diesel fuel alone in order to put in the spring crop will view an annual $150 rebate for rural and remote areas as a joke.

Forget that, even after all this, there's nothing here to cause any right-thinking person to believe this Green Shift (editor's reminder: Please stop dropping the "f" in that word!) will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Taxes are 16% of homebuying costs

From Marty Hope of the Calgary Herald:

The situation hasn't changed since a CHBA study was unveiled in the late 1990s that showed, for instance, that about 16 per cent of the cost of a home in Calgary could be traced to various taxes, fees and charges.

There has been no repeat of that study, but doubtless the percentage hasn't gone down.

Not quite thumping the podium, but getting his point across, Hrynkow said there are a couple of areas in which government has to act:

- Indexing the GST rebate for new-home buyers to adjust for rising house prices.

- Government-imposed costs on new-home buyers.

Ottawa mined tax info on judges

Federal judges are looking for a raise. So, to minimize it, the federal government tried to show the justices were making more than they did while they were simply lawyers.

The Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission recently submitted a report to the government calling for an increase in the salaries of more than 1,000 federally appointed judges to a minimum of $304,000 annually by April 1, 2011, from their current minimum of $260,000.

The commission's recommendation, which the government must accept or reject by the end of November, is significantly nearer the 2011 salary of $307,000 sought by the judges and well above the roughly $287,000 the government offered.

To buttress its position that salaries for federal judges are generally higher than the income they earned as lawyers in private and public practice, the Justice Department took the unprecedented step of giving the Canada Revenue Agency a list of the names of 627 judges the federal cabinet appointed to the bench between 1995 and 2007.

The agency was able to match 567 of those judges to their tax records as lawyers, and provided the Justice Department with an aggregated version of the information, with no names attached. A consultant used the data to calculate what the department claimed was an indication of the average increases in salaries and benefits lawyers received after they became judges.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Which Came First, The SHIFT or the SHAFT?

What am I talking about? On Thursday, June 19, the Liberal Party of Canada released its long anticipated "Green Tax Shift." The plan calls for a carbon tax that will affect all Canadians through higher heating, electricity, and natural gas bills, etc. It will also raise the price of diesel.

To alleviate the pain this will cause, the plan calls for reductions in income taxes and the cutting of cheques to lower-income Canadians. That is the plan in a nutshell, hence tax SHIFTING. The plan is being touted as "revenue neutral" meaning the government won't be taking in any extra dollars as a result. (Heard that before? Think GST).

The Liberal Party of Canada has released a website to explain the plan called "" You can check it out here.

Here are the details about who registered that website:

"THEGREENSHIFT.CA" is registered.
Domain Name:
Registered: 2008/06/09
Registrant: Liberal Party of Canaada
Mike Girardin
613-783-8402 FAX 613-783-8444

And now for the SHAFT. Strangely enough, another domain name was recently registered called ""

Who registered this domain you ask? Check out below:

"THEGREENSHAFT.CA" is registered.
Domain Name:
Registered: 2008/06/16
Registrant: Parsons and Miron
Adam Miron

A quick internet search (Thank-you Al Gore) of the name "Adam Miron" reveals he is the National Director of the Young Liberals of Canada.

It was registered only 3 days ago. Is this evidence of a hidden agenda? Could the Liberals really be selling their plan as a SHIFT when they know full well it's a SHAFT?

Or do they simply realize that Canadians will rightly see through this plan and want to ensure no blogger from their mom's basement sets up a website that shows this is in reality a "green shaft??" You be the judge.

But since we now know that was registered 7 days before, we conclude that indeed, the SHIFT came before the SHAFT.

But rest assured, the SHAFT is coming...

Chiefs protest innocence

Two prairie chiefs are protesting their innocence. One former Saskatchewan chief is denying in court that he bought votes, while a Manitoba chief denies culpability in an unpaid bill that left 1100 without water and dialysis patients heading for the hospital.

The Roseau River First Nation south of Winnipeg was without water for most of the day Wednesday because of a conflict between Chief Terry Nelson and the Pembina Water Co-operation over a water bill of $50,000.

As the reserve went dry, residents canvassed the streets, collecting about 135 signatures, asking the Indian Affairs Minister for the removal of their leaders.

"I think it's his fault why the water is turned off; it's their responsibility to pay the reserves bills," said Kim Larocque, who needed water for formula used to feed the baby she was cradling in her arms.

By early Wednesday morning, the Roseau River water reservoir had run completely dry.

The chief came up with the money to pay the bill in the afternoon, and the water was turned back on.

Back in Saskatchewan, the accused former chief had some interesting comments on band politics.
The former chief of the Red Pheasant First Nation says if he's convicted of vote-buying, many fellow candidates should be as well.

"These charges are not justified. If I am (convicted), then others should be, too," Charles Meechance said following his first appearance in court Wednesday morning...

Outside court, Meechance and friend Larry Wuttunee said many First Nations elections involve "different" types of campaigns, but would not elaborate. Meechance said many candidates do the same things that he did, but again would not elaborate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ontario's Provincial Tax Police

Ontario Provincial Police are being diverted from fighting crime to hunt down dangerous criminals, serious offenders, the worst of society....diesel fuel tax cheats! See the CTV story here

The Ontario government Department of Revenue has diverted officers to detain and inspect drivers in the Durham region in an effort to ensure that pink-dyed farm diesel is not being used for non-farm purposes. Revenue says that drivers doing so would deprive the government of necessary tax revenues.

When taxes are too high sometimes people try to avoid paying them. This is what happened when cigarette taxes were too high. While one can't condone illegal acts, one can sympathise with frustration over high taxes.

Is this really the best use of precious OPP resources? Shouldn't they, instead, be fighting organized crime instead of being used as the tax police?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BC NDP green tax villian

The BC NDP finally told us about their climate change framework.

In typical NDP form, they propose to make big corporations pay to lower carbon dioxide emissions in BC.

While that sound bite might appeal to traditional NDP supporters, it is no different from what the Quebec liberal government said before it imposed its carbon tax on big business, and guess who ended up paying the tax? The consumer, as usual.

The Quebec government introduced a carbon tax that would supposedly target oil companies with deep pockets. It was based on the "polluter pay" principle.

Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but I digress.

What happened? When the carbon tax came in on January 1 2008, energy companies passed the tax increase on to their customers.

What did the government in Quebec say when people were outraged about their broken promise? A spokesperson for the government said they never intended to compel companies alone to pay for the green fund. "We have a market economy," he said. "We could never prove which part of the price was the carbon tax."

People pay taxes, not businesses. As long as the global warming hysteria continues, governments will play to the polls and continue to burden middle class families with lifestyle destroying taxes.

Why urban reserves?

Why should the reserve system not only continue, but also spread into Canada's cities? Proponents say that Aboriginal peoples received the land by treaty and that traditionally everything was held in common. Therefore, none of them should "own" such territories.

However, these arguments don't stand, especially in the case of Regina's first urban reserve, granted to Piapot First Nation. It was not acquired under treaty land entitlement, but as a special claim. These are not traditional lands. Secondly, the urban reserve itself is a counter-cultural invention, as the following quote from John Desjarlais, a member of Piapot demonstrates.

"They were never used to stuff like this. In the old structured, cultural, traditional ways they were bound to a reserve, right to the band at the band level, said Desjarlais. "But now they can give their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren something to look forward to."
Truth told, this "tradition" is only as old as the reserve system itself. But if aboriginals can break with this tradition to create an urban reserve, why shouldn't they actually own their land? The reason bands go this route is because of the tax breaks. For this reserve, and every other, they're great indeed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Property tax increase unsustainable

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business report, property taxes in BC have increased by 33% between 2000-2006, but population growth and inflation have increased by only 20%.

Some cities have seen property taxes rise by more than twice the level of inflation and population growth.

Victoria's Mayor Alan Lowe said," Costs have gone up dramatically everywhere; our policing costs are skyrocketing."

Mayor Lowe neglected to mention Victoria's per resident policing cost is higher than Vancouver's per resident policing cost.

Per resident costs don't tell us why costs are higher, but the between-city difference certainly makes for eyebrow raising comparisons.

If property tax increases at twice the level of population growth and inflation, eventually people will no longer be able to afford to live in their homes. It's time for a property tax cap, to create an environment of spending discipline at City Hall.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Friday the 13th Pay Hike Protest

We talked about petitions, rallies and other forms of protest, but finally settled on a phone protest as being the best way to send a message to our premier on the secretive pay raise he and his cabinet gave themselves a couple of weeks ago.

It's fairly easy to do, no driving to Edmonton, finding parking around the Leg and then yelling slogans and chants. Plus if it rains nobody gets wet, unless you are using a pay phone.

So, Friday, June 13th has been dubbed the "Friday the 13th Pay Hike Protest" day in Alberta. Well it's not quite a full day because we are trying to get people to call between 9am and noon.

But the "Three Hour Friday the 13th Pay Hike Phone Protest" event seemed a bit like a mouthful.

Anyway, I digress. If you are an Albertan, and you are upset with the secretive 30% pay hike cabinet voted for themselves. Please consider calling the Premier's office tomorrow. Here's the details.

What: “Friday the 13th Pay Hike Protest"
Where: Anywhere you can find a phone
Date: Friday, June 13th, 2008
Time: 9am to noon

To reach Premier Stelmach’s office:

Phone: 780-427-2251
Fax: 780-427-1349

Albertans outside of the Edmonton region can call the Premier’s office toll-free by dialling 310-0000 first and then dialing the Premier’s office at: 780-427-2251

Property taxes up again

Property tax notices have arrived. These are opened with notably less glee than that experienced at xmas time.

House values are way up, so assessments are up, so I guess that means property taxes should be up to, right?

Wrong ...

Property taxes pay for services the city provides to its citizens. How does the changing value of your house have anything to do with that?

It doesn't ...

Property taxes are up because municipal spending is out of control. In fact, a Canadian Federation of Independent business study shows that in British Columbia, municipal spending grew by almost 36% while inflation and population grew by only 20%. So spending grew almost twice as fast as population and inflation.

When spending consistently exceeds population growth, property taxes and user fees will grow faster than inflation. This is unsustainable, as it puts a great burden on already overstretched families and businesses. It's time to rein in municipal spending.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

CTF Uncovers Proposed Costs for Ontario PanAM Games Big

The Ontario government has leaked to the media proposed bid costs for the PanAm Games for 2015. Costs are estimated to amount to $1.77 billion - with $1.24 billion of the costs being borne by Ontario taxpayers.

The CTF submitted a Freedom of Information request on May 20th seeking this data from the government of Ontario. In violation of the law, the government did not comply with the request but instead leaked it to the media before bothering to hand it over to the CTF. The government chose to manage its message to limit the damage such a silly request for funds would generate.

All politicians should remember that when they say that the feds should pay 35%, the province should pay 35%, and the cities and the private sector should pay 30%; they mean TAXPAYERS should pay almost 100% totaling a minimum of $1.77 billion - as if the bid will really come in on budget.

The government of Ontario is on the verge of a deficit driven by a sagging economy. Now is the wrong time to drain this kind of cash into a risky venture which will have no economic benefits. Audits of other games and bids show the only benefits such bids generate are the warm and fuzzies from hosting such cultural events.

Is now really the time for taxpayers to pony up $1.77 billion for a warm fuzzy feeling?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Carbon tax - unintended consequences

Premier Gordon Campbell's overly-hyped claim that his government's carbon tax is revenue neutral might be true for the provincial treasury, but it is certainly not neutral for individuals or businesses. It will drain family income directly with higher gasoline and home heating costs, and indirectly as municipalities and businesses pass on their energy cost increases. Equally devastating is the economic hit to some of the province's biggest industries when the carbon tax leaves them less competitive in the world marketplace. The government's own estimates show the carbon tax will do little to help it reach its greenhouse gas reduction goal. Carbon taxes will have unintended consequences for families and the economy in B.C.

Those include:

  • higher property taxes as municipalities pass the carbon tax cost increase onto ratepayers;
  • higher costs for everything we buy as businesses past the carbon tax cost increase onto consumers;
  • fewer jobs in energy intensive industries such as mining, as they leave the province for carbon-tax free provinces.

  • The carbon tax will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will hurt B.C. families and businesses, and won't go away when the wheels of the global warming bandwagon fall off. Canadian taxpayers should hope - and ensure at the ballot box - that Ottawa and other provinces do not follow Premier Campbell's agenda. His quest for a political legacy has put him out of touch with the realities of B.C. families.

    CTF letter to the Premier of Alberta

    Last night on the Leslie Primeau show on 630 CHED (you can still listen through their audio archives from 630pm-7pm) the Premier's Director of Communications, Paul Stanway, once again said the Premier is open to any ideas on how his government could have handled the MLA compensation adjustment process.

    I promised to him, on the air, he would have a letter from the CTF before the day was over.

    HERE is the letter we sent to the Premier last night.

    Let's hope the the Premier was serious about his request and not just wasting all of our time.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    Sask Gov: I just wanna fly

    When it comes to using government aircraft, Saskatchewan's new government hasn't changed any policies. However, the numbers for fiscal 2007 are somewhat more favorable for the Sask Party, who have only been in power since November 2007, than for their NDP predecessors.

    Premier Brad Wall flew 31 times at a cost of $21,877, including a trip to the Grey Cup, while former NDP Premier Lorne Calvert flew 19 times for $24,053.

    Total cost for the 24 members who served at various times in the NDP cabinet - there was a May cabinet shuffle - was $431,290 for 564 flights on Executive Air Services' three planes and charters through private operators. The 18 members of the Sask. Party cabinet took 181 flights at a cost of $95,406.

    Dan D'Autremont, the Sask. Party minister of government services, said there has been no conscious decision to curtail the use of the planes by the new government.

    "It was left up to the discretion of every minister, that they should consider the costs and whether or not the flight was necessary," he said in an interview.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    When he's right, he's right...

    Have I mentioned lately, how much I enjoy the columns by Rob Breakenridge in the Calgary Herald?

    Book Report: The Twenty-First Century City

    Isn't it time that councillors from across the country stop wasting our tax dollars by flying (often in "herds" of five or more) to their annual junket (FCM) to dream up new ways of begging for money from other levels of government?

    Of course it is. What they should be doing is reading former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith's book "The Twenty-First Century City".

    Although finances were "sound" and taxes were "relatively low" when Goldsmith took office in 1992, reform introduced during his watch has been held up as a model for other cities to follow. During Mayor Goldsmith's 1992-99 tenure as Mayor of Indianapolis he implemented reforms which saved that city $400 million, allowed it to invest $800 million in infrastructure upgrades and reduced the city's crime rate.

    Most importantly, Goldsmith improved city services while offering tax relief to Indianapolis residents. The secret to his success? Competition.

    Mayor Goldsmith opened up virtually all city operations to competition with the exception of fire and police services. The results surprised many as his "managed competition" process allowed existing city union employees to bid into the competition (and they often won).

    Here is a great excerpt from the book:

    "Street repair crews previously consisted of an eight-man team that used two trucks to haul a patching device and a tar kettle. Once in charge, the city workers saw that by remounting the patching equipment they could eliminate one of the trucks, and by doing so reduce the crew from eight to five.

    The city employees bid significantly below their private competitors and won the job decisively. While the city previously spent $425 per ton filling potholes with hot asphalt, the new proposal reduced the city's cost to $307 per ton - a 25 percent savings.

    We were shocked. In fact, many within city government doubted the union proposal. But the city's employees not only met the bid price, they beat it - by $20,000. They increased the average production of a work crew from 3.1 to 5.2 miles per day - a 68 percent efficiency increase.

    Union leaders declared that the bidding process brought them "from darkness into daylight." Isaac Sanders, a crew leader responsible for street repair, said that before the bidding process, "we didn't give a hoot what anything cost," but because of competition "we got efficient real quick."

    Mayor Goldsmith’s book details several examples of “well operated” programs and services that improved as a result of introducing competitive forces. The book is a great read for any elected official, government bureaucrat or anyone with an interest in public policy.

    General Motors' Sinks 1,000 Jobs and $29 million of Ontario Cash

    General Motors has announced it intends to wind down production in 2009 at its Oshawa plant for vehicles the market no longer is buying. This will result in the loss of 1,000 jobs in the Oshawa area. This is a sad hardship families will be forced to struggle through. The Ontario government should demand repayment of the $29 million it gave the company to create jobs it is now killing.

    General Motors has sucked up over $29 million of taxpayer cash in Ontario, thanks to the misguided generosity of Premier McGuinty. This kind of corporate failure shows why corporate welfare is a mistake. These huge subsidies, like the hundreds of millions given to Ford, do nothing to maintain long-term sustainable employment. At best, they delay the inevitable layoffs. At worst, they simply subsidize overly generous wage and benefit contracts for labour and management.

    There will be many sympathetic calls to aid those families hurt by impending layoffs. Government should resist this temptation except to ensure current programs for employment insurance are properly funded and allocated fairly. There should not be special treatment.

    When other industries suffer from consolidation, change and downturns government rightly hasn't intervened. Note, for example, the telecom meltdown. When companies like Nortel, JDS Uniphase, Lucent and Cisco suffered and shed tens of thousands of jobs nothing was done.

    Individuals need to manage themselves and their careers and prepare for a rainy day. In the case of the auto sector, one could see this rainy day coming for a few years. It is not the job of government to intervene to prop up the industry. It may be the job of government to run some transition programs that apply equally to all.

    Auto employees are in a tough spot. With hard work, perserverance, and approporiate, fair and equitable government assistance they will get through it; just like all others do when they lose their jobs.

    Government should get the money back they gave to GM. This money can be used to pay for transition programs already in place. That way, taxpayers don't end up paying twice - once for jobs that don't exist and again to help workers find jobs that do.

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    Ontario Cap-And-Trade: Just Another Tax

    Ontario and Quebec Premiers McGuinty and Charest have announced plans to hammer taxpayers and consumers with a new tax - a carbon tax in the form of a cap-and-trade on carbon emissions.

    Cap-and-trade is just another tax grab in a more complicated form. Such a system has been in place in Europe. All it has managed to do is increase energy costs, drive away jobs. It the meantime carbon emission levels haven't changed.

    Now a struggling Ontario economy is facing an uncertain level of new costs, all in the name of 'protecting Mother Earth'.

    Ontarions will have about a year to head this off at the pass.

    Why do property taxes rise ?

    Let's stop and think about this for a moment. Property taxes pay for city services, and if city services haven't changed, why would property taxes go up just because your house is worth more?

    Property taxes don't go up because assessments rise. Property taxes go up because municipal spending is out of control.

    Why, if federal and provincial taxes are going down, are municipal property taxes going up?

    Because the municipal budgeting process is backwards.

    Federal and provincial governments start with a budget then work out how much they can spend. Municipalities start with a spending wish list then decide how much property taxes will have to rise to pay for their largess.

    Provincial governments must cap property taxes to limit municipal spending. This would provide a defined revenue stream for municipal governments and certainly for property owners.

    Please sign our petition, at:

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    Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box