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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saskatchewan Swimming in Cash

Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer announced the First Quarter Fiscal Update today. Surprise--revenues to the Saskatchewan government will likely be $3.1 billion more than expected, increasing the budgeted $9.3 billion in revenues to $12.4 billion. New projections for potash and crown land sales are now about four times original estimates.

The government says what it hears most commonly from Saskatchewan people is that they want debt reduction. Strangely, however, it is not committing any additional dollars to debt. The status quo policy, to deliver half the surplus to debt reduction, will continue as scheduled. Government debt is currently at $6.8 billion. If new budget projections hold true, surpluses from last fiscal year and the current one will reduce debt to $4.7 billion by 2009.

The government has said it can offer education property tax relief and income tax relief at the same time. This indicates more good news could be forthcoming in the next budget, or even in the fall. With so many surplus dollars as well as reserve funds in the Growth and Financial Security Fund, it would seem the government could implement important tax relief quite drastically and not have to worry if it can afford it.

Meanwhile, Crown Corporation debt (separate from the numbers above) will increase $500 million this fiscal year, and health spending is slated to go up $70 million above budget projections. The contract with the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses was pricey indeed. With more health union contracts still outstanding, the bill is sure to rise.

If you're a Saskatchewan resident, be sure to click the buttons on the right sidebar and give the provincial government some feedback on what to do with its surplus money and how to lower education property taxes.

Harper Pledges No New Taxes

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to a Quebec audience July 30, 2008 that he would never introduce a new tax so long as he was in power.

Harper did not relent Wednesday, warning the environmental policies of Dion and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe would have "disastrous consequences for all of Quebec's citizens."

"Mr. Dion and Mr. Duceppe did not think about the disastrous impact their policies would have on our economy. But I give you my word: As long as I will be prime minister, ... there will be no new taxes."

This is good news. Either that or Fibber will have a new target...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Deputy Ministers get 10% pay boost in Alberta

The Stelmach cabinet released details on the pay boost to Deputy Ministers and other senior government staff members today.

The result is a 10% pay boost for Deputy Ministers, up from the scheduled 4.8% hike they were to receive on April 1, 2008.

Deputy Ministers will now be earning $253,668 for April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, up from $230,520 for April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008.

There are two points of interest, one that the Average Weekly Earnings of Albertans only went up by 4.5% during the same period, so this is more than double what most Albertans get. But, it’s still not the 30% the cabinet gave themselves. However, it could be argued that 10% is what the going rate is for senior management.

The second issue is that as recent as this past March, the government said that DM’s were going to get paid $241,584 effective April 1, 2008 to April 1, 2009, a 4.8% pay hike. Now, after the cabinet raises, that number jumps to 10%. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

But again, the argument will likely be made that a 10% hike is not out of line with senior management, and they need to retain… blah, blah, blah.

Conclusion: I’d say that it’s a bit more than normal, and certainly more than what the government announced in March, but at least they didn’t give it to themselves and it wasn’t 30%.

UK tax credit gaffe...

...shows why lower, simpler tax system are always better.

Apparently, the tax collectors in the UK messed up bad. Lost records, zero'd incomes, and large tax credits being given incorrectly is going to cost the UK government £2.8 billion ($5.7-billion CDN). (Hat tip: Bourque)

Complexity combined with ineptitude caused this loss. A serious tax reform would solve much of this problem.

This never would have happened if the UK government eliminated specialized tax credits in favour of larger universal exemptions and lower, flatter brackets.

Good thing the Canadian government has a well-researched, fully-costed model to follow to avoid the same problems here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carbon Tax Doublespeak

Contradictory statements by B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion don't add up according to Michael Smyth of The Province.

"Mr. Dion actually called me and said there would not be a double taxation, that he does not want to impose something that will not work on British Columbians," Campbell said on July 6.

Wait a minute: A federal carbon tax "will not work on British Columbians" but a provincial one will? Now I'm really confused!

But the confusion hit a new level on the weekend when Dion was asked the same question: Would there be special accommodation for British Columbia, which already has a provincial carbon tax?

Dion's answer: "No, we didn't speak about side deals."

So which is it: Would British Columbians get whacked twice or not? As both of these Liberals try to refine their political spin, voters are left to wonder.

What is clear, however, is the politicians want to have it both ways: They all want to take credit for saving the planet while trying to convince you that paying a carbon tax really isn't going to hurt you or the economy or impact your life.

Consider this amazing quote from Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, trying to reassure the oil-and-gas industry in his home province of Saskatchewan: "A significant portion of our oil-and-gas production in this province will end up being exempt from a carbon tax because it is largely put into a pipeline and exported right out of the country."

In other words: Who cares if our fossil fuels are burned in the United States and contribute to global warming? The important thing is that we feel good about ourselves while we carry on with business.

It's the same hypocrisy from Campbell, who whacks us with gas taxes because the future of the planet is at stake while subsidizing the oil patch and lobbying to lift federal bans on offshore drilling and tanker traffic.

Make no mistake: It's not about the planet. It's all about politics.

City of Edmonton's new slogan?

It has been "City of Champions" for a while now, so how about this one: "The City that spends tax dollars on things you can get for free!"

In fitting with it's new slogan (it's only a matter of time until it's adopted...) the City of Edmonton has just spent $40,000 to launch a carbon footprint calculator. Apparently the site will cost an additional $5,000 per year to maintain.

It's unknown as of yet whether the $40,000 includes the cost of paying for banner ads (below) on various websites (seen already on the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal websites).


It's also unknown whether the $40,000 covers the costs of the prizes the City of Edmonton is giving away for people who sign up and commit to two actions to help the environment, such as a one-year lease of a hybrid car. Of course you just have to sign up, you don't have to actually do them.

But what is clear is that there is absolutely no need for the City of Edmonton to spend a single cent on this project. There are dozens of free carbon footprint calculator websites already available on the internet.

Here's a short list: (h/t: David Suzuki Foundation)
Planetair
My Climate
TerraPass
Bonneville Environmental Foundation (USA)
Climate Care
Carbon Neutral Company
Climat Mundi
Leonardo Academy
CarbonZero
The Nature Conservancy (Climate change: what's your impact?)
Sustainable Travel International (hotels)
CO2Balance.com (ferries)
Environmental Defense Paper Emissions (Paper)
SafeClimate Carbon Footprint Calculator
EPA Personal Greenhouse Gas Calculator
EPA List of Emission Calculators
Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator
The National Energy Foundation CO2 Calculator
UBC's Ecological Footprint Calculator
Environmental Defense - Calculate Your Personal Impact
CarbonZero (includes trains & buses)
cleanairpasscool drive pass
CoolDriver
TerraPass
Drive Neutral
Certified Clean Car
DrivingGreen
Climate Carezerofootprint
Climat Mundi (includes motorcycles)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Canadian Taxpayer Rage

Even the picture caption notes the anger: "Gilbert Murphy, left, rides his wagon through Williams Lake, B.C., June 21, while Charlie Wyse, NDP MLA for Cariboo South rides alongside. 'Politicians aren't doing anything for us up here. We don't want any of 'em involved in this. They're so full of bullsh*t.,' said Murphy."

Yes, nationwide taxpayer rage was cited in newspapers across the country.

Pent-up anger unites our land
Poll finds a frustrated Canadian majority

Richard Foot
Canwest News Service
Monday, July 28, 2008

Gilbert Murphy could take it no more. The price of diesel had topped $1.40 a litre, and he knew it would get more expensive a week later thanks to British Columbia's incoming carbon tax.

Murphy was mad. The 74-year-old horse rancher and former oil rig worker couldn't understand how gas prices could climb so high, so fast, in a country so rich in oil.

"But I figured I can't bitch about it if I don't do something," he says.

So on June 21, he and a posse of irate neighbours near Williams Lake, B.C. hitched up their horses - six wagon teams and 24 outriders in all - and marched 32 kilometres down the highway into town and back, to protest the rising price of fuel.

"We're going back to the old ways," the horsemen hollered. The protest parade slowed traffic on the road, but only one passing motorist gave them the finger, says Murphy. Everyone else "honked their horns in support and cheered us on."

A homemade sign on one of the wagons said: "Born free. Taxed to death."

Taxes, gas prices, lousy airline service and ticket surcharges, text messaging fees - even Tibet - you name it, Canadians are angry about it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Carbon tariffs, Mr. Dion?

According to the Globe and Mail, Stephane Dion announced Canada would introduce carbon tariffs on imports. However, his party says they haven't decided that yet.

OTTAWA — The Liberal caucus has yet to decide whether it favours new import duties on goods from high-polluting countries, agriculture critic Wayne Easter said yesterday.

A day earlier, party leader Stéphane Dion said a Liberal government would impose a "carbon tariff" on countries that were not doing enough to combat global warming. Mr. Dion said the tariff could also be used to help Canadian farmers by raising the price of imports.

Mr. Easter said farmers have not been calling for such import tariffs and the idea is up for debate.

"I think it's an open question as yet," he said, when asked yesterday whether carbon tariffs are a good idea. "Everything that is being discussed this summer is not being written in stone."

Mr. Dion's proposal was dismissed by both the Conservative government and the NDP.

"Its a bit rich to start talking about punishing others, with the record of failure that the Liberals had while in office," Environment Minister John Baird's spokesperson, Amanda Galbraith, wrote in an e-mail.

NDP environment critic Nathan Cullen said Mr. Dion is "jeopardizing the entire climate debate by making it look ridiculous.

"We believe there will be an international consensus about how to deal with climate change laggards, but for countries to go one-off and start slapping on their own trade tariffs seems to me to just invite court battles and very expensive litigation," he said.

Federal Deficit $517 M for April, May

Yikes! Read more here.

The federal government ran a deficit of $517 million over April and May, the first two months of the current fiscal year, mainly due to lower corporate income tax and GST revenues.

Over the same time period last year, the government ran a $2.8 billion surplus.

The federal finance department said Friday that during this April and May revenues declined by $1.6 billion, or 4.1 per cent...

Spending on programs rose by $2.1 billion, or seven per cent, on higher transfers and other expenses.

Free health care not a native treaty right


Canadian courts have consistently ruled that free health care was not guaranteed to signatories of Treaty Six. However, Treaty Six nations across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba recently convened at the Thunderchild Reserve in Saskatchewan to propose a health system autonomous from the federal government. Thunderchild band spokesman Eldon Okanee features in this excerpt from the article.

Despite the presence of Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) senator Sol Sanderson and vice-chief Guy Lonechild, who holds the health portfolio, many of the dignitaries at the gathering were critical of the First Nations political bodies.

The FSIN and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) are not signatories to any treaty and as such, "they do not speak for us. Nobody speaks for us," said Okanee.

"The AFN does not represent First Nations as well as it should," echoed Chief Rose Labouchane of the Driftpile First Nation in northern Alberta....

Treaty Six was created in 1876 and has 50 First Nation signatories, including two bands from Manitoba, 17 from Alberta and 31 from Saskatchewan, totalling about 30,000 people.

One of the selling points for the original signatories was the promise of a vaguely-termed medicine chest. Rather than referring to a first aid kit with some gauze and bandages, First Nations contend the intent of the term is full health-care coverage.

In 1935, a federal court judge agreed, ruling the definition of the medicine chest clause should be interpreted as meaning that "all medicines, drugs, or medical supplies which might be required by the Indians ... were to be supplied to them free of charge." But that has been contested by Ottawa and the provinces, and argued in the courts ever since.

In 1971, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled "the terms of Treaty No. 6 do not impose upon the Government of Canada the obligation of providing, without cost, medical and hospital services to all Indians." That ruling stemmed from a $72 matter in 1966, in which a First Nation man accused of unlawfully failing to pay the Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act Tax ($48) and the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act premium ($24). He was acquitted in a trial in 1969 but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision two years later.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quebec government agency forces gas prices up

A bizarre case of government price-fixing that worked AGAINST consumers was blasted by the Montreal Gazette.

The Régie de l'energie, the government agency that sets floor prices for gas in the province, has ordered gas stations in the St. Jérôme area, where gas prices have lately been among the lowest in Quebec, to raise them by three cents a litre.

In doing so, it was responding to complaints by independent gas retailers that they were being ruinously undersold by big-box store chain Costco, which was selling gas in the area at a price that would drive the independents out of business if they matched it.

But that's how the marketplace works.

A certain amount of competitive Darwinism makes sellers efficient and increases buyers' purchasing power.

Laws against price-fixing and laws that encourage competition should be all the protection consumers need. Anything beyond that - such as minimum pricing - is merely government meddling, at consumers' expense, in support of a favoured few suppliers.

McGuinty's Equalization Whining Upsets Other Provinces

The lead editorial in Today's Halifax Chronicle Herald provides fodder for the argument that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty really is the small man of confederation that he has been accused of.

McGuinty is whining that Ottawa should give Ontario more cash. Of course, he does this the same day the the Toronto Star runs a front page story about how the feds are committing $7.8 billion for Ontario infrastructure. So much for his timing.

Ontario is flirting with a recession and Mr. McGuinty has spent the provincial cupboards bare, so there is no cash for him to provide the tax relief necessary to help fix things. Why is that? Because he has spent like a drunken sailor - more than twice the combined rate of inflation and population growth for five straight years. He has created almost as many government jobs as private sectors jobs. In fact, more government jobs than Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and Bob Rae combined!

If the feds want to help out Ontario they could scrap equalization altogether and reduce taxes by the same amount. It is better that Ontario taxpayers and businesses get the cash without the Premier getting his mitts on it because he has proven already that he can't be trusted to manage it responsibly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Biofuels the wrong approach

Biofuels are "costly and ineffective" says the OECD and columnist Paul Hanley.

Governments in Canada, Europe and the U.S. currently provide about $11 billion a year in various forms of support to the biofuels industry. Direct and indirect support is expected to rise to about $25 billion in five years.

The stated reasons for this market intervention are to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, to reduce the need for imported fossil fuels and to stimulate the rural economy. But according to the OECD, the biofuels policy is both "costly and ineffective" at reducing emissions and fossil fuel use. In fact, despite the heavy spending, biofuels reduce net GHG emissions from transport by less than one per cent. Fossil fuel use is also reduced by less than one per cent for most transport sectors.

OECD's Economic Assessment of Biofuel Support Policies concludes that public money spent on biofuels would be much better spent on much less costly and much more effective energy conservation measures.

The OECD report also tells us that
Current biofuel support measures alone are estimated to increase average wheat prices by about 5 percent, maize by around 7 percent and vegetable oil by about 19 percent over the next 10 years.

Taking into account the 2007 US Energy Independence and Security Act and the proposed EU Directive for Renewable Energy, 13 percent of world coarse grain production and 20 percent of world vegetable oil production could shift to biofuel production in the next 10 years, up from 8 percent and 9 percent in 2007, respectively.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chavez, Castro appeal to private sector

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez appealed to 300 business leaders to bring their dollars home, promising tax relief and $1 billion in loans, as Bloomberg explains in "Chavez Pleads for Investment as Falling Output Fuels Inflation". Chavez has reason for concern:

Annual inflation quickened to 32.2 percent in June, a five- year record and the fastest increase in prices among the 79 economies tracked by Bloomberg.

Total investment in Venezuela, the biggest oil exporter in the Western Hemisphere, shrank in the first quarter after growing at an average of 35.5 percent each year since a national strike against Chavez ended in 2003, according to Moody's Economy.com.

Foreign direct investment has dropped 90 percent since 1997, the year before Chavez was elected, to $646 million last year from a record $6.2 billion, according to the central bank.

That puts Venezuela, a country of about 28 million people and a gross domestic product of $182 billion, on par with Guatemala, a nation without any oil and an economy less than a quarter the size.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, Raoul Castro is privatizing state-owned farmland because public production is woefully inefficient.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coyne Chides Aerospace Subsidies

...in his latest column in Maclean's. What's another $350 million to Bombardier after all they've already received? Besides, they've almost paid back 80% of the last loan they got from the federal government. And, hey, what about Pratt and Whitney, who have only paid back 4% of their $1 billion from the feds?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kyoto and carbon taxes don't work

Former National Citzens' Coalition president Gerry Nichols bashes Harper and Dion's environmental plans, invoking Tim Horton's, the Flintstones, beer fridges, dialysis machines, and bacon frying in Satan's kitchen. It's a funny read.

Elsewhere, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger explain why neither Gordon Campbell nor Stephane Dion's carbon taxes will make any difference. Oh, and by the way, Kyoto didn't either.

Environmentalists around the world have for so long castigated U.S. President George W. Bush for his opposition to Kyoto that many have mistakenly concluded that he is somehow responsible for the fact that the emissions of ratifying nations have gone up, not down. Between 2000 and 2005, emissions in Europe - routinely held up as a paragon of ecological virtue - rose twice as fast as America's. Canada's rose five times faster.

They also note, "Were Canada to halt all emissions tomorrow it would have zero impact on climate change" and "policymakers should recognize that they will never be able to raise energy prices enough to make clean energy cheap."

40% Rate Hike, But Don't Email the Chair

Crown monopoly SaskEnergy has just applied to the rate review panel to increase charges by 40 percent. When I emailed input@saskratereview.ca to ask about how to give input, I received this auto-response I got from the chair of the Rate Review Panel who also works at the University of Saskatchewan.

Greetings! I am away from the office Monday July 14, 2008 until Thursday August 14th, 2008. I will not be clearing email during this time frame. If you are emailing with enquiries regarding the Bachelor of Commerce degree program, please email Ms. Wendy Wignes at: wignes@edwards.usask.ca.

Regards
Alison Renny
How convenient. Doubtless, when Ms. Renny checks her email in a month, she will give adequate time to the hundreds of messages in her inbox.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Roughriders only beneficiaries of bigger home

The City of Regina's recent 2020 Recreation report acknowledged (p.50 on .pdf) that expanding Mosaic Stadium won't facilitate any cultural or recreational benefits.

The need for additional sports stadium capacity (i.e. large numbers of spectators under covered grandstands at major sports events) was identified by the University of Regina, and, late in the process as the report was being prepared, by the Saskatchewan Rough Rider Football Club. The former wanted a new smaller stadium for high school and amateur football events and the latter was interested in exploring the need for a major enhancement to Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field. While some minor upgrading of some support spaces at Taylor Field may be justified to improve the quality of the athlete and spectator experience at sports events, major investments in either the existing large stadium or a new smaller stadium are not likely to have any significant payback to the City in terms of meeting recreation needs. The new smaller stadium is more likely to move some events from Taylor Field than it is likely to generate more activity. The major investments at Taylor Field are not likely to generate many additional new events at that site that could result in indirect benefits to all Regina citizens. The consultants cannot support either at this time and would be concerned that either would divert limited available capital from real community recreation needs and limit the City’s ability to meet them.

The authors added that economic development is the only argument that could be made in favor of the stadium. As the CTF has already noted, this is dubious.

Ralph Klein telling it how it is

There are days when I'm sure the media here in Alberta long for the 'shoot-from-the-hip' style of former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.


While in BC recently, Klein called-out Gordon Campbell's carbon-tax, climate change, and Al Gore.


Read more HERE


(h/t Bourque)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Overpaid EU Reps Run From Reporters

This funny video where European Union Parliamentarians literally run and hide from reporters (and transparency) shows why effective media and watchdog organizations are so important for keeping politicians in check.

Fontaine vocal for dollars, silent on votes

On the same day Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine made headlines for calling on premiers to give more money to First Nations, he was unavailable to comment on the fact that many bands still exclude off-reserve members from voting. Then again, the authors of the study, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, couldn't be reached for comment either.

The congress says 79 per cent of Canada's aboriginals live off reserve. Many are at risk of being excluded from voting for their chief and band council because the written codes do not give them the right and in some cases specifically exclude them, says the report.

The codes in question, called custom electoral codes, follow the traditions of the individual First Nation community. The custom codes do not fall under the auspices of the Indian Act, which was amended in 2000 to give off-reserve voting rights to aboriginals, says the study.

The report said that 344 of Canada's 600 reserve communities follow custom codes, and "upon scrutiny, many of the codes revealed fundamental flaws."

About 150,000 aboriginals who live off reserve are affected by custom codes, said the report.

A landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1999 declared it to be a violation of the equality provisions in the Charter of Rights for bands to exclude their off-reserve members from voting in elections.

The report looked at 60 custom codes currently in use and found that "a substantive number of band councils have not made reasonable effort to recognize and guarantee voting rights to their off reserve members."

The congress did not specify the exact number of codes that do not guarantee voting rights. Representatives could not be reached for comment.

**July 16 update**
First Nations chiefs in Saskatchewan likely refused to co-operate with a recent study on reserve governance "because they have something to hide," says the head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP).

"We received the most resistance from the FSIN [Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations] and its chiefs. The FSIN has rejected us," CAP national Chief Patrick Brazeau said in an interview.

"If they don't co-operate, it's probably because they have something to hide."

First Nations people in Saskatchewan, like those in other provinces, are being denied their rights, Brazeau said.

"The people in power don't want anything to change (but) the voices of the people were not being heard."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Green Shift about wealth, not environment

Ken Boshcoff, Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, told it like it is.

Failing to say much about any environmental benefits of the plan, Boshcoff proudly proclaimed on a political news blog that the Green Shift is the "most aggressive anti-poverty program in 40 years," which will target wealthy provinces -- particularly Alberta.

"The shift will transfer wealth from rich to poor, from the oilpatch to the rest of the country, and from the coffers of big business to the pockets of low-income Canadians," he said in a post on NetNewsledger.com.

The MP explains in his post that the $15 billion in revenues will be used to pay for Liberal party social policies, including $9 billion in tax cuts for low-income earners and $2.9 billion for a universal child tax benefit.
The Liberals have already admitted that 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from Alberta and Saskatchewan. This would mean $6 billion of carbon taxes. Even if the "revenue neutral" argument is taken at face value, these provinces have about 13.5% of the population, meaning the rebates woudl total only $2 billion. Therefore, the Liberal plan would drain a net $4 billion from Alberta and Saskatchewan and give it to the rest of the country. The biggest environmental impact here is the recycling of the National Energy Program.

Boshkoff tried to explain himself on the Charles Adler show on Friday July 11 (listen here) and on John Gormley Live in Saskatchewan (listen here). Gormley grilled Stephane Dion on this issue.

Bonuses for Severed Crown Employees

Hounding by the Regina Leader-Post revealed that some crown employees who no longer work for Saskatchewan Crowns will get bonuses purportedly designed for retention.

Unfortunately this information isn't easy to find. The "short term incentive" list (a list that CIC actually didn't initially include Monday with the 2007 payee report until Leader-Post reporter Angela Hall repeatedly asked for it) did not include nine other CIC executives who were recently let go.

But [CIC President Ron] Styles said in an interview Thursday that only former CIC vice-president Dale Schmeichel has settled on his bonus (which might have been as much as 12 per cent, or $26,073 of his $197,323 salary).

Others in line for as much as a 12-per-cent bonus include: SaskPower executives Bill Jones (eligible for a bonus of as much as $23,679 on top of his $217,283 salary); David Hughes ($26,894 on top of his $224,115 salary); Gordon Nystuen ($27,212 above his $226,770 salary); Myron Gulka-Tiechko ($22,245 on top of his $185,379 salary); SaskTel executive Diana Milenkovic ($27,014 on top of her $225,122 salary); SGI executive Cheryl Barber ($24,485 on top of a $204,040 salary), and:

Information Services Corp. executive Bev Bradshaw ($17,483 on top of her $145,691 salary). Meanwhile former STC executives John Millar and Ingrid Reid would be legible for bonuses of as much as 10 per cent of their respective $101,354 and $102,921 salaries.

Of course, the actual amount may vary from the above estimates and most will have to sue or negotiate these bonuses as part of their settlement packages. But Styles make no bones about the fact that these fired government executives all remain eligible for the retention bonuses and that the government will likely have to pay them.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Feds spend $3 billion in 3 weeks

Call it the summer break spending spree. Since Parliament shut down for the summer, the federal Conservatives have been making one high-spending announcement after another--$3 billion in 24 days!
The list:
-$867 million to Nova Scotia to keep energy royalties instead of transferring them to Ottawa
-$1.1 billion in 31 different announcements in Quebec
-$360 million through 27 announcements in Ontario
-And, in Alberta and Saskatchewan where Conservatives have all but one seat...25 announcements totalling $62 million.

Notwithstanding the federal government's $80 million contribution to a bridge in Saskatoon June 20, even mainstream media outlets see recent announcements as vote-buying.

An analysis by Canwest News Service shows the bulk of these spending announcements have been made in regions and ridings where the Conservatives need to win new seats to gain a majority. But in those areas of the country that are already bedrocks of Conservative support, such as Alberta or Saskatchewan, the money is barely trickling in.

As the CanWest article ironically explains, it was actually balanced budgets that destroyed federal penny-pinching.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Toronto Star Endorses CTF Position Re: New Ontario Recycling Tax

The lead editorial in today's Toronto Star echoed the CTF position, expressing concern that the new Ontario electronics recycling program established yesterday includes no incentives to recycle.

It writes, "where's the incentive for the consumer to take an old computer or TV to a drop-off location? Why not institute a deposit/return system, with part of the new fee being refunded for each computer or TV brought back? In the beer sector, a deposit/return system spurs recycling of more than 90 per cent of bottles and cans."

This is exactly the position the CTF took during the consultation process and again last week at a press conference. The CTF was the only organization to make this argument followed by the Ontario Electronic Resource Recovery Alliance (OERRA)after the CTF met with them.

Good for the Star for taking a page out of the CTF playbook. Too bad they don't give credit where it is due. But if it advances the policy cause all the better.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sask Government Wants Input

The Saskatchewan government has so much money it doesn't know what to do with it. In fact, the premier is asking for public input this summer.

Sharing the Benefits

New opportunities and prospects are on our province’s horizon. We are experiencing unprecedented economic growth, and your provincial government is working to ensure everyone shares the benefits of our new prosperity.

I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas about what we should do with the benefits of growth. Please submit your comments by clicking the Submission Form link below. Your response will be completely confidential, but rest assured all submissions will be given careful consideration as we develop our plan to sustain and share these prosperous times.

Submissions will be accepted until September 1st.

Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your thoughts and ideas.

Sincerely,
Premier Brad Wall

To tell us what you think please click on the Submission Form.

Columnist Murray Mandryk is suggesting debt reduction and a basic personal exemption. The CTF agrees, as shown by previous commentary and our prebudget submission.

MLA Jim Reiter is also asking for input on the education portion of property tax by September 1. Click here for contact info.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sask Crown Execs get big raises

The Leader-Post reports big pay hikes for the heads of Saskatchewan Crowns.

SaskTel president and CEO Robert Watson was among those at the highest-paid end of the list, with 2007 remuneration of $295,051 -- about $61,000 more than in 2006, based on data released by the government Monday.

In addition, Watson received a $45,811 incentive in early 2008 -- the highest amount among the 48 executives who received such a bonus based on their work in 2007....
Remuneration and incentives to some other Crown presidents and CEOs were as follows for 2007, based on the documents:

- $269,830 (compared to remuneration in 2006 of $229,675) for SaskEnergy's Doug Kelln, plus a short-term incentive of $40,171;

- $262,080 ($226,531 in 2006) for Pat Youzwa at SaskPower, plus an incentive of $31,208;

- $271,762 ($238,047 in 2006) to Jon Schubert of SGI, and a $41,690 incentive;

- $242,378 to Ron Styles at CIC, and an incentive of $30,191.
Want to know more about salaries and 3rd party payments from Saskatchewan Crown Corporations? Just click here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What global warming?

Premier Gordon Campbell plans to tax and spend $1.8 billion, and Stephane Dion $15 billion, over the next three to four years to reduce global warming. Yet they both seem to have neglected a couple of key questions: has the Earth been warming and if it has, is it the result of rising man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) levels?

Interestingly, the two global temperature data sets used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - one from NASA and the other from the UK government - all show a cooling trend since 2002.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, had to admit that no warming has occurred so far in the 21st Century.

Even more interesting, however, is that global CO2 levels have continued to rise. Maybe, just maybe, man-made CO2 has nothing to do with changing global temperatures.

Alberta solves bar violence...

... by increasing the number of drunk drivers and domestic altercations.

Clearly, there isn't a problem in Alberta this government doesn't believe it can regulate away.

In what is apparently an attempt to reduce the amount of violence in bars by drunken patrons, the Alberta government has introduced minimum drink prices, restrictions on happy hours and the maximum number of drinks that can be held by patrons after 1am.

From the government news release:

Minimum drink prices
Spirits and liqueurs - $ 2.75 per oz.
Wine - $ 0.35 per oz. ($1.75 per 5 oz. glass)
Draught beer - $ 0.16 per oz. ($3.20 per 20 oz. pint)
Beer, cider or coolers in cans or bottles - $ 2.75 per 12 oz. bottle or can

Happy hours
Licensees may reduce the regular menu price of drinks, but drinks can not be sold for less than the regular menu price after 8 p.m. At no time, even during ‘happy hours’, can a drink be sold for less than the new minimum price.

Maximum drink order
The maximum number and size of drinks that may be sold or served to a patron after 1 a.m. is limited to two standard servings per order - one standard serving is one ounce per highball or one bottle or can of beer. Also, a patron can’t have more than two drinks in their possession after 1 a.m.


How's this likely to work:

Minimum Drink Prices
The minimum drink prices will likely have little effect on most Albertans, negative or positive, as few places charge less than this now anyway, but the ones that do, cater to a clientele that are price sensitive. Most Albertans aren't going to pre-drink at home and then drive themselves to bars and still get in fights, but the ones who have less money may, particularly the 18-24 year old crowd -- like students. I'm not certain, but if you check to see which Albertans are getting really drunk and fighting, it probably isn't the 45-year old millionaire types.

Happy Hours
Again, those who are price sensitive will now be forced to either drink outside of bars, or to show up really early to get drunk. Is this what the government wants? Do they want to encourage people to be getting drunk at 7pm, and then vomiting in the street while children and families walk by?

Maximum drink order
The problem of people over indulging is not going to stop because the government has put in place rules that you can't hold more than two-drinks at a time. In fact, what do you think people holding five drinks will do when they see a "Government Drink Inspector" coming? Politely hand over their extra drinks? Or, down three of their drinks as quickly as possible? The goal is to stop binge drinking, and this will likely encourage it.

If bars are over-serving, there already are laws in place to charge those bars, you just have to enforce the current laws.

Moreover, is it really smart policy to put in place artificial last calls and closing times? Why should adult Albertans only be allowed to drink in a privately owned establishment until 2:30am? If bar owners were allowed to set their own hours, you wouldn't have hundreds of drunkards pouring out into the street exactly at the same time, all looking for taxis.

Plus, if some Albertan wanted to start her evening out at 1am, she wouldn't have to order 10 drinks as soon as she walked in the door to ensure she had enough to get her past the 2am last call. She could just go to a bar that was open longer hours.

The current rules have caused the last call binge drinking phenomenon, and these new rules are just going to force the drinking to other places, like homes or cars.

So, instead of encouraging people who want to indulge to come to a controlled environment, where police officers, trained serving staff and security can patrol many people in a small area, the Alberta government is encouraging people to stay at home, pre-drinking, and then drive themselves to bars. Or, just to stay home, get really drunk and fight their spouses.

Well, at least the government will be seen as "doing something." Huzzah!

Ontario Refuses Private Sector Calls for New Budget Forecast

In the last few weeks the CTF has been echoing private sector calls for new financial projections for Ontario. BMO Capital Markets, for example, says the province will be in recession and calls for all new government projections.

Today the McGuinty government issued its Q1 results. They admit that their forecasts were wrong about the economy but it won't re-forecast until sometime in the Fall. They predicted GDP growth of 1.1%. For Q1 it shrank by 0.3% Oil is now over $50 a barrel more than projected.

They say, "Updated information on the Province’s medium-term fiscal outlook, including the management of the fiscal plan in the face of slower-than-anticipated economic growth, will be provided in the 2008 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review later this fall."

Meanwhile, spending continues to run amok while revenues decline. I guess the plan is 'if we ignore the problem, maybe it will just go away'.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Global Temperatures Drastically Down

Despite all the hype over global warming, temperatures have actually been dropping since 2002. In fact, in 2007 alone, they fell 0.65 to 0.75 degrees. That's more than temperatures had warmed in the past 100 years. Meanwhile, carbon emissions continue to increase. Hmmm...maybe global warming isn't as dependent on greenhouse gases as we've been led to believe.

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