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Friday, October 31, 2008

Old Saskatchewan scandal gets new life



In 2007, the NDP paid out $275,000 to Murdoch Carriere, a civil servant who faced sexual harassment allegiations. While still Leader of the Opposition, current premier Brad Wall (above) received piles of letters from citizens upset about the settlement. The NDP insisted Carriere was fired, but now it seems he resigned. The Regina Leader-Post sheds new light on the controversy, unveiling bizarre allowances that allowed Carriere to collect a full pension.

REGINA -- The NDP government agreed to pay former senior environment manager Murdoch Carriere $275,000 compensating him for "pain and suffering and damage to his reputation," according to a settlement agreement obtained by the Leader-Post through a Freedom of Information request.

And despite NDP cabinet ministers' insistence that Carriere had been fired, the Jan. 7, 2007 agreement stipulates that Carriere "will resign from his employment with the Government of Saskatchewan, effective February 2, 2007 or such later date as required to ensure that the Plaintiff (Carriere) is credited with 35 years of pensionable service."

The five-page document signed by government lawyers and Carriere -- a former director of fire management and forestry protection who the NDP government said it fired in February 2003 in the aftermath of alleged sexual harassment allegations reported in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix -- indicates that both parties "agree that the Plaintiff has been on leave from the Government from the period of time commencing with his suspension on Feb. 12, 2003."

It states that the $275,000 settlement was also being paid for "the consequent loss of earning capacity resulting from the words published by the Settlors (the government and former NDP cabinet minister Joanne Crofford) that the Plaintiff asserts were defamatory.

The lump sum included 16 months in lieu of notice -- $120,048 plus pension contributions, according to the document. It adds that Carriere would commence receiving his full pension "based on 35 years of experience" -- $4,418 a month plus a $814-a-month bridge until age 65 years.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saskatoon sued for $1.7 million last year

Running a city can be a tad costly, according to the Star-Phoenix.

SASKATOON -- When your dog falls into a manhole, who can put a price on such grief?

The City of Saskatoon can. It paid a claimant more than $900 last year when an open manhole swallowed someone's four-footed best friend.

From food spoiling during a power outage to slip-and-falls and damage from dumpster fires, the city's legal department puts a price on city slipups.

Last year was one of its most expensive years on record. The city paid more than $1.7-million worth of claims, up 61 per cent from 2006. City solicitor Theresa Dust said she doesn't know why claims payouts rose so much, since claims are often filed a year or more after the incidents that caused them. But the spike perhaps demonstrates how comfortable people are seeking compensation from the public treasury.

$188,000 taxpayer dollars for Martin interviews

Library and Archives Canada paid $188,000 to conduct extensive interviews with former prime minister Paul Martin and other officials he worked with as part of an "oral history" of his years in politics. More here from the Ottawa Citizen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

$26M bus depot in Regina


A new bus depot has just been built in downtown Regina, costing taxpayers $26.2 million. Over budget and late, it finally opens on November 4. Yet, for all this, Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation, a heavily-subsidized crown expects few new riders.

What the public will see next Tuesday is a modern, airy, state-of-the-art facility, in which the passenger waiting area replicates a streetscape with streetlights and skylights....[picture tour here]

[Minister Ken] Cheveldayoff, who was a harsh critic of STC while in opposition, admitted that a $26-million terminal and head office building might not have been undertaken by the Saskatchewan Party government.

"We are always very concerned when we use taxpayers' money to subsidize the operation of anything in government. It's no secret STC takes a substantial amount of subsidy.''

This year, STC will receive an $8-million subsidy to cover operating losses.

...[Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation CEO Ray] Clayton said STC is still hopeful that the number of passengers will increase by two or three per cent in 2008. "We plan to do a number of things to make the bus itself more attractive,'' he added. For example, STC plans to roll out full-sized coaches, with fewer seats and more leg room, with alternating current (AC) power sources for laptop computers.
The only consolation is that the province is downsizing out-of-province crown investments, noting that on average they're a 15 percent loser.

Majority Oppose Deficits Favouring Spending Cuts

Canwest has published a national poll of over 1,000 people cofirming 57% of Canadians oppose deficit financing.

Importantly, 82% think government should be cutting spending.

This is clear proof Canadians get it that governments have been spending out of contorol for too long and need to get their fiscal houses in order.

Government should heed this. As stories emerge of government waste during times like these, when deficits are being run and spending isn't cut, government will face a backlash.

Politicians and their handlers would be wise to take note.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloc Quebecois enjoys generous federal funding

According to the Frontier Centre, the Bloc Quebecois is an ironic beneficiary of the taxpayer-sponsored dollars-for-votes party funding system. It received 5.6 times as many dollars from Canadian taxpayers as it did from donations. Read the backgrounder here and the full report here. It says,

Political parties and their candidates have received $312.8
million since 2000, most of it ($290 million) since the 2004 changes.
• Of interest to the four federalist parties given the success of the
Bloc Quebecois in the recent federal election, Bloc fundraising was
significantly down in recent years.
• In the first six months of 2008, the latest period for which statistics are
available from Elections Canada, the Bloc raised just $73,704.
• Compare that to the Bloc’s public subsidies: In the first six months of
2008, the Bloc received over $1.5 million.
• Without federal funding, the Bloc would likely have been handicapped
in its ability to fight the most recent election.
Columnist Barbara Yaffe also chimes in.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Carbon Tax, Cap & Trade Really ARE the Same

In a report conducted for TD Bank, the Pembina Institute said that cap-and-trade systems and carbon taxes really do have a lot in common. That's exactly what the CTF said in the www.nocarbontaxes.com campaign.

Reality Check on Kelowna Accord

Patrick Brazeau of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples had a worthy rebuke for columnist Doug Cuthand, who wrote in support of the Kelowna Accord. Brazeau writes,

First, the Kelowna Accord was never a sustainable plan that would have eliminated poverty in aboriginal communities and delivered hope to grassroots First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

The removal by the Martin government of all accountability measures a week before the November 2005 first ministers' meeting in Kelowna ensured that.

Brazeau also points out that from 2000 to 2006, Aboriginal organizations gave $350,000 to federal Liberal party campaigns. By contrast, the Conservative Party received $740 from them over the same period.

Cuthand did, however, write a very good column explaining why the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission has broken down.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sask school board trustees can be past convicts

The Leader-Post reports,

The Local Government Elections Act, which governs school boards, states citizens with criminal records cannot be barred from running for election, anyway, according to the lawyer for the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA).

"If a trustee commits an indictable offence while on the board, the board does have the power to remove them, however they can then run again in the next election," the lawyer wrote to the board."

That lack of accountability has infuriated [Fred] Wesolowski, a retired police officer who has been a trustee for 20 years. He has raised the issue in previous years but "the board has never had an appetite for it," he said.
Yes, it seems strange that Saskatchewan school board trustees, who help oversee K-12 budgets of almost $1.5 billion annually, could have a fraud charge without anyone knowing it. However, this may soon (finally) change.

The argument convinced Wesolowski's colleagues to submit a resolution to the SSBA fall general assembly next month in Saskatoon. It will ask the SSBA to lobby the provincial government to change the statute to institute mandatory checks for all candidates seeking to become a trustee.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Alberta to charge deposit on milk jugs

The Alberta government announced today that they will begin to charge a 25 cent refundable deposit on all milk containers starting June 1, 2009.

The goal is to increase the level of recycled beverage containers milk jugs to 85% from the current levels of 75%.  Of course, the current 75% recycle rate has been achieved through regular recycling practices (blue bins, community recycle centres, etc.) and not through deposits.

So, the obvious question should be, is an 85% recycle rate a reasonable expectation for milk jugs that could not be achieved through other non-financial incentive means?

Reasonable Expectation?

We already have a test-case with other deposit-required beverage containers.  So, what percentage of pop, beer and other beverage containers that have a deposit are currently returned for recycling? 

According to the 2007 Annual report of the Beverage Container Management Board, only 76% are returned currently, and that is up from last year's 74%.

So without charging a 25 cent deposit on milk (a staple in many family diets) 75% of milk jugs are recycled.  With a deposit beer, pop and other containers only achieve a 76% recycle rate.

Families all across Alberta are now going to have to shell out an additional 25 cents every time they buy milk and then haul their milk jugs along with them to the bottle depot to get it back for a measly 1% jump in recycling.

But, to be fair, historical levels of recycling of deposit-based beverage containers has been 80%, and deposit levels haven't increased in 20 years.  So, it's likely those percentages might jump. 

Achieved without a deposit?

The City of Calgary is about to launch it's curbside recycling program, meaning that a full 1/3 of Alberta's population will now have easier access to recycling programs.  Moreover, Strathcona County, the province's fifth largest municipality just enhanced their curbside recycling program. So it's very likely that the 63%75% recycle rate would be increasing anyway, without a deposit. 

But I guess I should look at the bright side, at least you get your money back eventually, unlike with the electronics recycling or tire recycling taxes...

UPDATE & CORRECTION: As pointed out in the comments, I apparently mis-read the government news release, and the 75% figure is not for milk jugs, it's for all deposit-based beverage containers.

The current level of 4L milk jug recycling is 63%.  Incorrect statements above have been stroked-out.

However, I still stand by my original premise that an 85% target is likely too high, 75-80% is more likely, and the 63% current level would have increased with Alberta's 1st and 5th largest municipalities introducing curb-side recycling programs.

Union complains about Sask foster care

Saskatchewan radio show producer Tammy Robert asserts that the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union has shown political bias and shared selective information. It has taken aim at the Saskatchewan Party for poor care of foster children but never cried foul when the same issue was present under NDP government.

The foster home shortage is our province is nothing new. In spring of 2005 it was reported that the number of children placed in care had risen 12% over the past year, with 700 more kids in need in Saskatoon alone. So, I'm just going to take a minute and go back through SGEU press releases from that time period, because surely that would have been an issue for employees then...look at that, nothing.

In March of 2006 then Community Resources Minister Buckley Belanger kicked off a foster family recruitment campaign, looking for at least 150 new families to volunteer in Saskatchewan. You'd think SGEU would have chimed in at this point...hmm. Crickets.

No, it was October 17th, 2008 before SGEU issued a statement, and you'll never guess who they declared at fault.

Yesterday SGEU vice-president Barry Nowoselsky spoke publicly on the issue, wringing his hands about the state of things and pointing all ten fingers at Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer's office and how she refused to meet with him - clearly insinuating that she doesn't care. In the same interview, Deb Davies of the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association - which has been jumping up and down about the urgency of this issue for four years - gently interrupts him and says "we are getting results from Minister Harpauer. Her door is always open...she is solution-focused."

Here's the thing - Barry did have a meeting booked yesterday to discuss the foster care issue with the Deputy Minister of Social Services, but Barry phoned and cancelled it right before it was scheduled to begin. Somehow though, the agreed-to meeting didn't come up in his public statements. Further, Barry held a meeting with Harpauer just three months ago, in which he raised several SGEU issues, but not one mention of the foster care situation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saskatchewan's gopher rebate

No joke! The Saskatchewan government is offering a 50 percent rebate to farmers for expenses related to eliminating gophers. An estimated $6 million was spent on 25 gopher-killing products last year, of which $3 million will be rebated.

The goal is to leave Gainer the last of his kind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dion votes to make Kyoto non-binding

In December 2005, at the Kyoto negotiation in Montreal w/Canada as the host, Stephane Dion joined Europe to defeat an amendment by the Saudis to actually make Kyoto binding (it isn't, admitting in the one-paragraph long Article 18 that it can *be made binding* by amendment...which Saudi proposed and Dion the conference's chair and pompous Europe blocked it).

Drop the sanctimony, Stephane, secret's out, you actually went so far as to make sure your gov't couldn't be held to its rhetoric.

To read all about it, go to: http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/20060126_horner.pdf

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Propaganda warning, not for BC

BC is getting quite the global warming education, all paid for by BC taxpayers, of course.

Interesting that the type of message we're being bombarded with is similar to one that was strongly criticized by the British High Court in 2007.

The claims made in the government’s ads are similar to those made in Al Gore's film An inconvenient Truth. Mr. Gore suggests that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming. The B.C. government's ads claim, for example, that: “the wildfires of 2003" were caused by global warming.

However, the British High Court's expert testified that one-off events such as Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The same would hold for the wildfires in B.C. In fact, Britain's High Court ruled if a teacher showing An Inconvenient Truth in class and did not explain it only told one side of the story, the teacher would be in breach of that countries Education Act and guilty of political indoctrination.

The citizen's of B.C. do not benefited from the same warning.

No Carbon Taxes ad censored?

Someone must not be happy with our NoCarbonTaxes.com campaign. Shortly after facebook ads appeared publicizing the site, facebook removed the ads without explanation and suspended the account from which they were booked. Some weren't seeing the YouTube video for a short while either, but it quickly reappeared. Perhaps a bandwidth problem...

As of today our petition is 3500 signatures and counting. Keep spreading the word!

Monday, October 13, 2008

First cracks in BCs carbon tax

The unpopularity of British Columbia's carbon tax helped boost the opposition NDP above the ruling Liberals in the polls for the first time in years. With an election date on the horizon, the premier hit the panic button.

The premier first cut carbon taxes to municipalities – a not-so-subtle admission the tax was never revenue neutral for families. The carbon tax will increase property taxes because any increase in costs flow through to property owners.

But expect property taxes to go up anyway because the premier expects municipalities to become carbon neutral by 2012. This means more municipal bureaucrats and higher building and vehicle costs as municipalities try to comply with the premier's whims.

The premier may believe in the righteousness of his carbon tax; but he believes in staying in government even more. Don’t be surprised to see more municipal-like exemptions, but with the same hidden costs. Instead of trying to have it both ways, the premier needs to get rid of the carbon tax.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Liberals Concede Carbon Tax Plan Might Not Work

The Liberal Party of Canada, finally admitted that their carbon tax might not work. According to an article by Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck, Liberal candidate Bob Friesen acknowledged during a debate this week that their carbon tax plan - "Might not change behaviour".

Obviously this admission begs the question - how can they seriously propose to revamp the entire tax system during the middle of an economic downturn in the name of something that might not work?

Brodbeck's article also notes that while the carbon tax plan suggests that the average household would only pay $250 per year in carbon taxes, it's quite likely that carbon taxes on natural gas alone would be about $247.

Anyone who has seen the CTF's http://www.nocarbontaxes.com/ site, will now that carbon taxes have already failed miserably in Europe. Despite introducing carbon taxes in 2000, European carbon taxes have actually increased.

To view Tom Brodbeck's article, click here - http://www.winnipegsun.com/News/Manitoba/2008/10/10/7038881-sun.html

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Environmental Policy Hurts the Poor

African-American Niger Innis says that environmental policies disproportionately imapct low-income families. That's why Innis, who is the National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, is also national co-chair of the Alliance to Stop the War on the Poor (www.stopwaronpoor.org). He says that radical environmentalism has disproportionate influence on politicians around the world, to the detriment of the poor everywhere.

Curious? Read more in The National Post, Leader-Post, and an article penned by Innis himself published by the Frontier Centre. Below, Niger's father Roy Innis, former CORE chair, talks about why his equality group believes that current U.S. energy policy, influenced by "radical environmentalism and global warming hysteria", actually threatens the economic civil rights of the poor.

MP Maria Minna Householder Update: Honesty Goes Missing In Action

Early in the election campaign the CTF filed a complaint with Elections Canada about MPs' use of parliamentary privileges sending out householders during the writ period at taxpayer expense. Maria Minna, MP for Beaches-East York, was highlighted as one of the first to do it.

Ms. Minna has a post on her website stating that "In fact, the Chief Electoral Officer has ruled that the householder meets all of the requirements covering the free printing and mailing privileges provided to all Members of Parliament".

This is a nose-stretcher which would make Pinocchio blush.

This morning I spoke to a representative from the office of Mr. Marc Mayrand, CEO of Elections Canada. She advises that the CTF complaint has been referred to Mr. Corbett, Commissioner for Elections Canada and an investigation is currently underway. No communications have been provided to Ms. Minna or the CTF regarding the complaint that her householder violates election spending laws - especially not exonerating her.

The statement on her website is misleading at best and an outright lie at worst. It is unfortunate that anyone running for office would so obviously try to mislead the public in such a manner.

I look forward to receiving a final ruling on the CTF complaint and sure wish we could get some honesty back in politics.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Federal Election Promise Tracker

It's a handy tool care of CanWest: a running tab of election promises by each party, listed by the week they were promised. Click here to read.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Art is too subsidized

Christine Blatchford was "married for many years to a painter - and a wholly self-supporting one at that, who on principle would not even apply for government grants because he knew how incestuous and often how far removed from merit that system is."

Perhaps this is why her Globe and Mail article opposes

the notion - pervasive in Canada - that Big Brother must be the only funder of the arts and should pick up the tab, cradle-to-grave, for artists, arts groups, art organizations, art schools and art classes, art publications, art shows, arts festivals, arts magazines, art touring and art publicity and that this is the only way for art and the arts to thrive.

As the great painter Charles Pachter said two nights ago, in a Bravo! discussion called Does Art Matter? that preceded the leaders debate, the Canadian arts world has "learned to exist on the grants system," not always with stellar results, and there ought to be a bigger role for philanthropists and corporations both....

As Charles Pachter said in his closing remarks the other night, let government support arts and culture for young people, "because that's where it all starts," and let's otherwise encourage entrepreneurship and good business attitudes in what is "the soul of the country." That means more schmoes like me buying art; more companies such as L'Oréal supporting festivals like Luminato, and at the very least, that the whole ball of wax is occasionally held up to the light and examined.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Separatist Atwood Gets Arts Funding Wrong

Yesterday famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood suggested if she were a Quebec voter she would vote for a separatist party whose mandate is to tear apart Canada. Voting for the Bloc Quebecois would stop a potential Harper majority, she says. To be clear, after all Canada has done for her, Atwood would prefer to risk having Canada destroyed by electing more separatists than risk having a Conservative government. Go figure! One would think someone who has benefitted from Canadian governments would favour a united Canada. Not Atwood.

Atwood denies she has been supported by the Canadian government. She denies that she gets arts grants. I doubt that she has never directly received a federal, provincial or municipal art grant. Importantly, her pronouncement that she thrives without such grants demonstrates how little she understands about arts and culture funding. Many of the magazines and books in which her work is published enjoy the benefits of federal programs and subsidies. Many of the festivals and events she attends are government-sponsored. In the unlikely scenario that she hasn't received direct support from government, Atwood has been the substantial recipient of support indirectly through the rest of the community who do get subsidies.

In the end, it is a tragic comment that such a prominent Canadian who has benefitted from government support would prefer Canada be broken up, merely to make a petulant statement to avoid a Harper government. If she doesn't like Harper, fine. She should suggest people vote for others, but not separatists.

Goodness, even the loud-mouthed Danny Williams doesn't support the separatists.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Publicize NoCarbonTaxes.com on YOUR site

Want to put our NoCarbonTaxes.com button on your website or blog? Click here for the code from Erwin Gerrits. Place it into your website or blog. Those who click on it will go to the NoCarbonTaxes.com website. Note, you may need to replace his quotation marks with ones you type out in order for it to work.




Ontario Audit Excludes Crazy Spender

The Minister of Education in Ontario ordered an audit of the Toronto Catholic Distric School Board spending. Good for her. A little late, of course, after the horse is out of the barn.

The big problem is that Trustee Nunziata is excluded from the audit as she is no longer a Trustee! She is the Trustee whose expenses generated the audit when it came to light that she billed the taxpayer for lingerie and trips to the Caribbean.

Forget the audit, she should just be prosecuted for her abuse of the public purse.

Don't hold your breath though. Sweeping this under the rug is the approach the government and the Board seem to want to take.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

CTF Launches NoCarbonTaxes.com



This morning, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation launched www.nocarbontaxes.com

A carbon tax would be bad for Canada. It would drive up the cost of heating your home, increase the price you pay at the pumps and make the cost of anything and everything transported to store shevles go up and up.

It will further devastate an already hurting manufacturing sector which will negatively impact ALL corners of the economy.

And it would hit residents of Quebec and B.C. with a second carbon tax - heading into winter no less.

Carbon taxes in Europe have failed. It is a huge tax grab for governments which simultaneously hurts families while swelling government coffers and bureaucracies.

Furthermore, the very countries that have imposed new, permanent carbon taxes have seen their carbon emissions continue to increase.

Are we ready to devastate an economy that is already hurting and make families poorer for nothing?

Sign the petition. And send to all your friends, family and co-workers and urge them to do the same. If you can spare some $, please donate to our campaign, and help us say NO to a short-sighted carbon tax!

CTF You Tube Channel

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box