Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News Release - Poll: Bigfoot existence (58%) more believable than campaign promises (27%)

OTTAWA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today released results of a national public opinion poll showing that by a two-to-one margin, Canadians are more likely to accept the validity of Bigfoot than they are promises on the campaign trail.

The survey of 1,000 Canadian adults was conducted by Praxicus Public Strategies Inc., and the results are considered accurate to within +/-3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Conducted prior to the election the question asked: "Which is more likely to happen... Politicians will keep their election promises or scientists will prove the existence of Bigfoot?" 58% said Bigfoot, while 27% opted for promises. 15% were undecided. Details of the poll are available at

"You know Canadians are cynical about politicians' promises when twice as many of them would bet on the existence of a mythical creature like Bigfoot," stated CTF Acting Federal Director Adam Taylor. "But who can blame them? Politicians always promise the moon and the stars during an election. Some even promise they can cut taxes and dramatically increase spending, all while maintaining a balanced budget."

"As we know, the only thing that can cut through the promises and ensure a balanced budget is a law in Ottawa outlawing running deficits," continued Taylor. "In a time of economic uncertainty, it is long past due to make running balanced budgets the law of the land, and should be top priority for whoever forms the government after October 14th."

For further information contact:
Adam Taylor, Acting Federal Director
1-800-265-0442 or 613-794-6554 (cell)

More coverage: National Post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harper digs in on arts funding cuts

The headline says it all: Grant-hungry artists out of touch with Canadians: Harper

SASKATOON - Stephen Harper took a swipe Tuesday at members of the arts community in Quebec who have opposed his party's funding cuts, arguing that ordinary Canadians aren't impressed by artists who complain about government funding at swanky galas.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at a rich gala . . . all subsidized by the taxpayers - claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper told reporters.

...Before the election, the Harper government implemented more than $40 million in cuts to arts and culture programs. Harper defended his party's record Tuesday, noting once again that overall funding for the Department of Canadian Heritage and associated agencies increased under his watch.

He argued that most Canadians, including Quebecers, understand some cuts are necessary in a slumping economy.

Got GST with that carbon tax ?

Natural gas bills started arriving at homes in BC in September with a new charge -- the Campbell government’s carbon tax. Well, everyone knew it was coming. To be fair, some of the blow will be cushioned by provincial rebates and lower income taxes. But not so the federal portion. The federal portion you ask?

Since the GST’s inception, the federal government has been taxing taxes. For example, Canadians pay GST on the full pump price of gasoline, including all taxes.

Just how much are we paying on natural gas?

Between July 1 2008 and July 1 2009, natural gas customers will pay about $8 million in GST on their natural gas bills. Even if demand for natural gas remains flat, which is very unlikely as many scientists think winters will be getting colder, the carbon tax will triple by 2012 and so will the amount of GST forked over to the federal government. By 2012, the federal government will probably be collecting at least $24 million in GST.

The carbon tax will not be revenue neutral to families, may or may not be revenue neutral for the provincial government, but will certainly prove a cash cow for the federal government.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rapid Transit "Light"

Concerned with the high cost of the City of Winnipeg's rapid transit proposal and the complete lack of a business plan, the CTF proposed an alternative approach today.

The CTF's plan calls for the government to continue with its original plan of running an "active transit signal priority pilot project" down Pembina Hwy before proceeding with their mammoth, $327 million proposal.

Active transit signal priority systems place devices on busses that allow them to communicate with upcoming traffic lights. Depending on the system's settings, traffic lights can be directed to turn green earlier or remain green for a longer period of time. Ultimately, the amount of time that busses spend at red lights drops. In fact, some jurisdictions have seen total transit time reductions as high as 40% after implementing active transit signal priority systems.

At $250,000 per mile on the high end, the CTF estimates that a system could be installed to service Portage Ave, Pembina Hwy, Main Street and Regent Ave for approximately $10 million. Most importantly, the system wouldn't require any new road infrastructure. Conversely, the governments' plan would require 9.6kms of new roadway, three new bridges and a tunnel.

You would think the city would jump at the chance to improve transit times without having to build new infrastructure. After all, doesn't the City always claim that it can't maintain its existing 'infrastructure deficit'?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kevin Taft hates free speech

Alberta's outgoing Liberal Party Leader, Kevin Taft, told Canadian Press reporter, Jim McDonald, that he thinks free speech in the form of citizen election advertising should be "regulated, limited or even abolished."

Apparently, the "Liber" in "Liberal" does not originate from the word "liberty"or "The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing".  Nor does it have anything to do with "Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control."

But I digress.  

The ability for individual citizens or groups of citizens to express their opinions, at all times, even during elections should be guaranteed somehow, perhaps enshrined in some sort of legal document.

Of course this all stems from the union-backed ads that ran during the last provincial election. 

Taft, rather than taking the blame himself for running a terrible campaign apparently thinks that the ads were to blame for his party's disastrous results.

Personally I think it was the $7.7-billion worth of crazy spending promises Taft made around the province during the campaign that made people shy away from voting for them.  

Regardless, hopefully the next Liberal leader will have a bit more respect for Albertans right to free speech than the current one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Ad hoc" project management costs Edmontonians dearly

Edmonton's Auditor recently released a report on the 23rd Avenue interchange project.  The project costs rocketed from $75-million to $261-million over the past few years.  
The obvious blame has been rising construction costs and general inflation.  

The Edmonton Journal article tells most of the story

However, Auditor David Wuin's report tells a more complex story.

This chart above is from page iv of the report showing how advanced the City's project management was of the 23rd Ave project.
As you can see it's barely above an ad-hoc project management.  Less than a 2 out of 5 on the scale.  

The report (as does the Edmonton Journal article) explains that an inexperienced engineering student was handed the reigns of this project.  Further, that city council was not told of the expected cost increases each year, not allowing council to budget for increases each year.

The bottom-line is that city administration dropped the ball repeatedly, costing taxpayers an additional $186-million or the equivalent of a 25% property tax hike.  

With this lack of competent management, it's no wonder the city is facing a $13-million deficit this year as well.

CTF on CBC Sunday Morning: Arts Funding

Kevin Gaudet, Ontario Director for the CTF, will be on CBC radio Sunday Morning in the first hour Sunday Sept. 14th hosted by Michael Enright. The topic is the Harper government's alleged 'cuts to the arts'.

Kevin is on with Karen Kain, former head of the Canada Council and renowned ballerina; Dr. Fleck Ph.D in Bus Admin, former CEO, and major philanthropist; and Stanley Paen, a Quebec author.

Kevin argues 1. that arts funding has gone up under the Harper Tories and
2. if taxes were lower, then individuals, families and businesses would have greater discretionary income to choose themselves whether to support the arts and, if so, to whom they would give the money, instead of government and artocrats doing it for them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taxation without representation

There is a disturbing trend developing in a few BC and Alberta towns of imposing a higher property tax on non-resident owned property.  

Here's a CBC story about Kaslo, BC.

It's also been done in Canmore, AB.

They can claim all they want that there are additional costs associated with cottage or secondary-home owners, but the bottom line is that these towns know that they can raise taxes on people who don't have a vote.  That is precisely why you never see these types of taxes occurring in summer villages (where part-time residents do get a vote) and only in towns where part-time residents done get a vote.

It's a shady way to collect taxes and it's taxation without representation

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A waste of $900G and 3000 votes

The federal election call pre-empted by-elections in Westmount- Ville-Marie and St. Lambert. This meant that 3119 votes were cast in advance polls in vain, and taxpayers' money wasted. The Montreal Gazette reports that the average by-election costs $982,000. Read about other election waste stories on the National Citizen's Coalition's OUCH page.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Vote-buying, a federal tradition

The CTF's release on the $8.8 billion pre-election spending the Conservatives handed out since June inspired a CBC TV report available here. No matter who the incumbent party is prior to the election, it spends and spends, and the opposition cries foul...until the roles are switched and nothign changes.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Conservative Pre-election Spending Tracker

A few minutes ago we released a tally of Conservative pre-election spending from June 2 to September 4.

Some highlights:

293 spending announcements totaling $8.8-billion, which works out to $94-million a day or $3.9-million every hour.

Read the news release.

Don't forget to check out the master list.

How does this stack up to past Liberal spending benders you ask?

Judge for yourself.

Check out our 2005 Liberal pre-election spending tracker.

One thing is for sure, politicians regardless of political stripe all play the same game.

Metis Senators Fired After More Voting Irregularities

Gilbert Pelletier was charir of the Metis Senate from 2003 until he was fired last week by the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan (MNS) executive without any reasons being given. As the Star-Phoenix explains, problems with the MNS are nothing new.

The firings of the senators come on the heels of their investigation into "numerous calls from concerned Metis people" regarding MNS executive members, said Pelletier.

"When I get complaints from people about serious issues like this I've got to something. That's why we're here as a senate," he said.

There were allegations that the executive interfered in the voter registry for the 2007 election and that 65 ballot boxes were issued when 136 locals and communities are eligible to vote. Further, people with no Metis ancestry allegedly cast ballots, according to Pelletier, who sought to review the election registry and other materials but has been denied access.

"(Doucette) gives me no reason. He just won't let us see it," said Pelletier. "If things are on the up-and-up there's nothing to worry about. He's in the clear."

At a senate meeting on June 12, a decision was made to suspend Doucette, vice-president Allan Morin, secretary Max Morin and treasurer Gabe Lafond to allow the senate sufficient time to review all of the election materials.

The executive has ignored the motion, he said.

The MNS has been mired in years of controversy. Doucette was declared president after the 2004 election, but later the same day, the decision was reversed and Dwayne Roth was named leader by 26 votes.

Allegations of improper practices emerged after reports of lost and unsealed ballot boxes and of deceased people's names being included on the voters' list. An RCMP investigation was launched and the provincial and federal governments cut off relations with the MNS as well as funding.

Fraud or forgery charges were eventually laid against 13 people, including Roth, who resigned from office in May 2006. The new election date was set and government funding resumed in October 2007. After his victory, Doucette vowed to "have the most accountable aboriginal government in Canada."

"This was certainly not the situation when a lot of (MNS) citizens did not have the opportunity to vote," Pelletier said Thursday. "This is not acting in the best interest of the Metis citizens."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama or McCain: who's the better choice?

Now that the national conventions are done, the United States' long process to choosing their next president is one step closer. But who would be better for taxpayers? According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Obama would be a real big spender compared to McCain.

According to the NTU's analysis of election platforms, Barack Obama would increase spending by $343.6 billion, while McCain's promises would cost 'just' $68.5 billion.

The organization also assessed their votes on various bills in congress reflecting a "commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation." By this criteria, McCain voted the right way 67% of the time, and Obama 0%.

The NTU also calculates the "annual change in federal spending that would occur if all the legislation sponsored or cosponsored by that Member were enacted into law." For the first session of the 110th Congress, the bill tally for Obama's agendas was $74.9 billion, while McCain's was $8.1 billion.

High regulation, high taxation, and high spending is a burden on the economy. On these scores, McCain is better far and away. And considering how much trade Canada does with the United States, those north of the 49th parallel also have a stake in this election and good reason to pay attention. Regular polling results can be found here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Green Shift - Revenue Neutral?

Stephane Dion's old Green Shift plan for new carbon taxes, grants and some tax cuts was alleged by him to be revenue neutral.

It is now being reported he will 'tweak' it with another billion dollars of grants and subsidies.

Question: If it was revenue neutral before and he has now added another $1 billion of costs, how can it be revenue neutral.

Voters will really need to see some math from him on this plan. This is why many often refer to crazy math as 'Liberal Math'.

With the Green Shift craziness, there seems to be less and less prssue for the Conservative to explain their emissions reduction scheme and it cost impacts. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Former Vendor Bashes Canada Post

Trish McKenzie and Andres Fuentealba, owners of Express Convenience in Saskatoon, no longer have a Canada Post outlet in their store. The crown wanted the store to pay $42,000 in renovations in a nationwide effort to automate computer systems and re-brand its corporate look. This was the last straw for this outlet and many others for whom the price is too steep to keep being part of the delivery service, according to the Leader-Post.

McKenzie and Fuentealba are still frustrated. The couple has a long litany of complaints about Canada Post, including inadequate training, excessive red tape, and shoddy bookkeeping, and they say that the renewal costs were the straw that finally broke their back.

And although they bemoan the loss of service for their customers -- particularly the elderly --they are glad to be rid of the stress associated with running the postal outlet.

"I won't miss it at all," Fuentealba says.

CTF You Tube Channel

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box