Saturday, November 29, 2008

Harper's Subsidy Gambit a Pawn for Bigger Savings

Pundits of all persuasion are condemning the PM for his move to end $30 million in annual subsidies to political parties. They believe that we may be forced to suffer through another election or worse yet, have Dion as PM as a PM. There are other possible scenarios they have failed to consider.

Notice how the PM announced a suspension of the right to strike and limiting public service wages? Remember he said he will undertake a program review of $25 billion? In the past such actions with large financial impacts would generate great gnashing of teeth by the opposition.

Instead of being attacked by the BQ, Liberals, and NDP from the left on his spending restraint measures they and the media are helping instead to focus public attention on a $30 million cut to a political party perk.

This provides good cover for Harper to undertake the other necessary right-sizing of government. He may choose to sacrifice this $30 million to gain a check-mate on the other restraint measures he needs passed. If so, it is a relatively small concession for him to get the other elements approved. While a good symbolic move to cut politicians' access and use of taxpayer cash, it may need to be sacrificed for now.

If it is, Harper will always be able to point the finger at the three other parties who refuses to get their snouts out the trough on this one.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tax dollars used to promote CWB candidates

Conservative MPs are using their taxpayer-funded communication priviledges to advise constituents on what director to vote for in Canadian Wheat Board elections. Some are questioning whether this is an ethical use of tax dollars. Click here for more.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

News Release: Lead By Example - Cut the Per Vote Subsidy

·        CTF Praises federal government for proposing elimination of per vote subsidy

TORONTO/WINNIPEG:  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) commended the federal government for committing to end the $28.6-million annual political welfare subsidy scheme.

The subsidy scheme, passed in 2003 by the Chretien government, provides political parties with $1.95 for each vote it received in the previous election.

“We’re in tough economic times, so this is exactly the place to start tightening the belt,” said Kevin Gaudet, acting CTF Federal Director.  “We’ve opposed the subsidy scheme since 2003 because political parties should have to seek voluntary donations from Canadians, not steal tax dollars from the public treasury.”
For 2008, each party received:


Conservative Party of Canada - $10.5 Million
Liberal Party of Canada - $8.7 Million
NDP - $5.1 Million
Bloc Quebecois - $3.0 Million
Green Party - $1.3 Million
“Many politicians will claim that parties need the financing to stay afloat,” added Gaudet “But how can they justify forcing taxpayers to pay for political attack ads, especially when we’re about to run a deficit?”

“It’s absurd that Canadian taxpayers are forced to subsidize through their taxes, political parties that they do not support, especially in the case of the Bloc Quebecois – a party that seeks to break up our country” added Colin Craig, CTF Manitoba director.

To help political parties handle the cut in funding, the CTF provided some free advice on ways they could cut down on spending:

• Better Policies – if political parties were more in tune with the people they represent, they wouldn’t have a problem raising voluntary donations

• Fly Commercial – just like average Canadians, political parties leaders could fly commercial instead of using private jets during elections
• Reuse Election Signs – instead of buying new signs each election, parties could practice what they preach and recycle their signs

• Electronic Media – greater usage of web sites and email campaigns would mean less expenditures on print material.

• Less Attack Ads – cut back on running attack ads and focus on the issues
Hard Work –individuals can still donate $1,000 each to political parties. Ever heard of fundraising?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Edmonton City Councillors won't slash own budget

Do city councillors really need an 11% hike in their own budgets? It's no wonder taxpayers are still facing a 13% tax hike for this year.

Citi/Taxpayer Field?

Here is an interesting story from the United States. Due to the U.S. government's bailout of Citi Bank, a couple of New York city councillors have recently called for the name of the New York Mets' new baseball stadium (Citi Field) to be called Citi/Taxpayer Field. An interesting twist indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Unions can't gouge

"Canadian unions, both public and private sector, require a major reality check," says Randall Denley in the Ottawa Citizen. He has excellent examples from the City of Ottawa and the Canadian Auto Workers, but the federal public service has the most significant impact.

The federal government has offered its unions 6.8 per cent over four years. It's a fair raise that is likely to roughly approximate the rate of inflation over the term of the contract. Professional Institute of the Public Service Canada president Michele Demers characterized this as bad faith bargaining and said it amounted to the dismantling of the public service. This was an improvement on her earlier comment, when she suggested the government could put the offer "where the sun doesn't shine." This person represents our public service professionals, which probably explains why she didn't say "where the sun don't shine."
It's refreshing to see any government willing to limit civil service wages to inflation. Too bad it takes a worldwide economic crisis to force such a reasonable approach.

***Update: the Public Service Alliance of Canada agreed to the offer of 6.8% over 4 years.***

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Audacity of the Big 3 Auto Gang

Plain and simple, they're bullies. High priced bullies. Of course we're talking about the heads of GM, Chrysler and Ford. Consider the fact that just the other day, they all flew off to Washington, cap in hand and expected another rubber stamped bailout from Congress. Yes, all the billions they have received in the past from American taxpayers just haven't been good enough for them to stay afloat.

This time their call for $25 billion in handouts was at least met with some resistance. In question, was the fact that each executive flew into Washington on company owned private jets. You would think that if a company truly had 'cut to the bone' to find savings, private jets would have been gone a long time ago. Perhaps even more intriguing was the fact that ABC News revealed that Ford not only has a private jet for their CEO, they have a fleet of eight to fly around their top ranking officials.

When governments hand over tax dollars to private firms it stinks. It's no different than letting government officials play the stock market with our money.

However, when taxpayers learn that their dollars are going to firms that haven't even tried to cut luxurious perks, it stinks even more. Good for Congress for at least holding out momentarily, hopefully they'll stick to their guns. With any luck, Canadian lawmakers will do the same!

LA Times Story -,0,1807355.story
ABC News Story -

Federal debt could grow by $50 billion

The $457 billion federal debt could grow by $50 billion over the next five years, thanks to a $13 billion deficit next year, and more shortfalls in future years. Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page gave this unwelcome warning to MPs on November 21, as CanWest reports.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big tab for CBC French Exec

Sylvain Lafrance, the executive VP of CBC French, claimed almost $80,000 in exepnses in 2006. Among this is $28,000 on hotels, travel and meals in 2006 -- including almost $6,000 for lunch and dinner dates with other CBC managers and executives. He ate with TV host and editor Yvan Asselin eight times in 2006 spending almost $850 over the year.

According to the Ottawa Sun, the arts community in Quebec has also enjoyed an indirect subsidy through the CBC: "more than $33,000 in corporate expenses for CBC's French service, which were cleared by Lafrance, for benefit dinners and theatre tickets to events that raise money for Quebec-based arts and culture organizations."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today, Saskatchewan's government will introduce legislation that will allow for Senate elections. More from the Leader-Post.

Justice Minister Don Morgan said the Senate election bill would allow for the cabinet to set a stand-alone election date.

But unless the federal government carried the cost for such a vote, he said, it's more likely the Senate election would be held in conjunction with the next provincial election in 2011 or the next federal vote, which is probably at least a year-and-a-half to two years away.

It's possible the Senate vote could also be held in connection with the 2009 municipal elections but that presents difficulties because the votes for rural and urban municipalities are held at different times, said Morgan.

The best approach to climate change? Nothing

Nature magazine called Patrick J. Michaels one of the most popular academic lecturers in America on global warming. He says the best approach to dealing with it from a public policy issue is nothing. On p. 6 of Cato's Letter, Fall 2008, he says,

Do the politically incorrect and seemingly impossible thing: nothing right now. No carbon tax. No cap-and-trade tax. No emissions cap. Why? First, the rate of warming is very modest, meaning that there is plenty of time to develop new or modified forms of energy production that will emit less carbon dioxide. If those are desired goods (and efficient products generally are), preserving the capital for investment in them (by individuals) rather than take it away for government to invest (with taxes) is a more efficient way to get to a more efficient future.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No to Auto-Bail-outs

• CTF calls on Harper and McGuinty Governments to stand-up for taxpayers, not failed American corporations

OTTAWA/TORONTO: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) today released figures that trace how much Canadian taxpayers have spent to prop up the Big Three domestic auto makers since 2003, and is calling on the federal and Ontario governments to resist sinking even more tax dollars into companies that need to be radically restructured.

Access to Information documents and campaign promises in the table below, show that since 2003 alone, the Big Three, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, have received or been promised $782-million from taxpayers. This figure does not include hundreds of millions more committed previous to this.

“Taxpayers cannot afford to continue to bail out mismanaged companies that expect perpetual handouts in good and bad times,” stated CTF Acting Federal Director Adam Taylor. “The Big Three’s demand for tax dollars occurs as regularly as these same companies shed shifts and jobs and it’s time to put a stop to throwing good money after bad. Thousands of layoffs have shown clearly that these subsidies are not working.”

Automakers are now looking to Prime Minister Harper and Premier McGuinty for more public money to the tune of $1-billion. CTF data also reveals that firms receiving handouts in the form of “repayable loans” don’t pay back the money or in some cases aren’t required to for 50 years.

“A clear example of the Ontario government’s misguided auto strategy is its decision to give millions of dollars to General Motors to build a gas-guzzling muscle car like the Camaro, at a time when most companies are moving to fuel efficient vehicles,” stated CTF Ontario Director Kevin Gaudet. “Ontario taxpayers have provided more than half the money to the Big Three only to see jobs disappear as quickly as the handouts do. Further, the so-called $175-million “loan” to General Motors in November 2003 won’t even come due until Dec. 31, 2055. Do you know of a bank that offers an interest-free loan without a single payment due for two generations?” asked Gaudet.

Taylor concluded: "If governments continue to shore-up the ailing auto industry expect other industries -- from textiles to aerospace -- to come cap-in hand pleading the case for how “special” their industry is and how worthy it is for handouts. This nonsense has to end. The CTF will be mobilizing its supporters this week encouraging Canadians contact the government en masse and say NO to an auto bail-out. The Harper and McGuinty governments need to stand-up for taxpayers and not failed American multi-national corporations."

For further information please contact:

Adam Taylor, 1-800-265-0442 or 613-794-6554 (cell) or,
Kevin Gaudet, 416-203-0030

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jacques Chaoulli speaks on health care

In this October 28, 2008 address in Regina, Dr. Jacques Chaoulli shares on how more doctors and nurses are not as key an answer for Canadian health care, as private options are. He asks some moral questions on the ethics of for-profit health care then suggets a business model for how it could work in Canada. Then he takes questions from the audience.

Chaoulli won a landmark ruling in Quebec in 2005 overturning the ban on private health care. The speech you see was covered in the Leader-Post in this article.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

BC's Municipalities spend too much

Premier Campbell, in full election mode, announced he would freeze property assessments. Sounds good, especially because a lot of people believe property taxes are going up because assessments are going up.

But that isn't true. Property taxes are going up because municipal spending is out of control.

The Ontario government froze property tax assessments in June 2006 but Toronto's property taxes went up by 4.2% in 2007 anyway. If our premier wants to "create certainty for homeowners, businesses and local governments," he needs to freeze property tax rates. The property Tax Cap proposal just released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows how.

Just how out of line have municipal spending increases become? Between 2000-2007, municipal expenditures in B.C. went up by 41%. At the same time, inflation rose by 14.5% and population grew by 8.44%. Freezing property assessments will do little if anything to stop the property tax burden from getting bigger because out-of-control municipal spending is driving property taxes even higher.

Yes, the premier needs to do something because municipalities are creatures of the provincial government. But he needs to do more than use people's misconceptions to appear to be doing something about ever expanding property tax burdens. He must cap property tax rates.

Red light cameras a crass tax grab

Such is the statement of a former Saskatoon police officer. Cops give a few kilometres grace and can actually speak in court. Meanwhile, red light cameras can be set up in unforgiving circumstances that amount to traffic traps. Read his comments, published in the Star-Phoenix, here.

Rider Stadium Under Discussion

It's either a $100 million retrofit or a brand new stadium, according to Regina's Mayor Pat Fiacco. The Roughriders' longtime home of Taylor Field (now called Mosaic Stadium) has had 17 straight sellouts, prompting discussions between the City of Regina, the province of Saskatchewan, and, of course, the Roughriders.

Unfortunately, big dreams need big dollars. The federal government has little change to spare and won't be jumping at this one. The City of Regina says it can't pay for it all. Private funding and a contribution from the province of Saskatchewan seem like the big X-factors.

Already there are controversial plans for two new multi-sport facilities in Moose Jaw, upgrades to TWO football stadiums in Saskatoon, the new Shaw swim centre in Saskatoon, and a $60 million expansion of IPSCO place (while the WHL Pats ponder moving out anyway). These projects are almost entirely funded by taxpayer dollars despite many successful arena projects in B.C. (Langley, Chiliwack) that took few taxpayer dollars.

The province is still saddled with $14 billion of total debt and should tread carefully. Hopefully some of those businesspeople that floated the idea of a $350 million new stadium in Saskatoon still have some goodwill and can spare taxpayers another sports-related burden.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Scrap Equalization and Lower Taxes

Ontario is joining the ranks of have-not provinces and will receive $347 million of equalization payments next year - for the first time in the 51 year history of the program.

Equalization amounts to provincial welfare where natural-resource-rich provinces effectively have their taxes go to subsidize programs in provinces whose tax revenues are below the national average. This creates perverse consequences where provinces like Manitoba and PEI spend more per capita on health and education than does Ontario. Ontario taxpayers have ended up paying for the better health care enjoyed by PE Islanders.

Enough of this insanity already! Scrap the $14 billion a year intra-provincial welfare program and give the money back to individuals, families and businesses through broad-based tax relief. This way Ontarions get their money back but McGuinty doesn't get his grubby spend-happy hands on it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

STC mounts up losses

It's opening day for Regina's $26.2 million bus depot, all paid for by provincial taxpayers. It was built for Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation, a corporation that has taken $70 million from Saskatchewan taxpayers since 1999. Only 35 percent of freight and passengers go through Regina, so disregard any suggestion that this expensive 70,000 square foot building, complete with a 20,000 foot garage that has indoor bays for busses, electronic sensors to open and close doors, 38 security cameras, etc., etc., will rebalance STC.

-Nov 6 Leader-Post editorial: Harding is Scrooge!
-Nov 5 Leader-Post article
-Nov 4 CTF news release
-8-page Leader-Post STC terminal ad section
-Oct 28 L-P article: Sask Party explanation, building features
-Jan 15 L-P article: subsidies can't continue
-Dec 8, 2005 Sask gov't release with design pictures and original $19M estimate

Cap property taxes

While federal and provincial tax burdens fall, municipal tax burdens rise. Why is that?

Municipal budgeting is upside down. Municipal governments develop spending wish lists then figure out how much property taxes will have to rise by to cover off the spending largesse.

A property tax cap would set municipal budgeting right side up.

By capping the property tax rate at its current rate, and allowing assessed values to increase by no more than the rate of inflation, municipal big spenders would have to prioritize and focus on their core responsibilities - police, fire, and public works.

How would all the extras we currently get be paid for? Fees for service. A CTF poll asked people all across Canada if they would prefer lower property taxes and more fees for service - 58% agreed.

A property Tax Cap will create predictable payments for local ratepayers and predictable revenues for local governments by making revenues, not spending wish lists, the first consideration in the municipal budgeting process.

$78M land settlement gives just $1500 to band members

The full Leader-Post report is here.

The Cote, Key and Keeseekoose First Nations, located in east-central Saskatchewan, will together receive a total of $78.2 million for the 12,800 acres known as the Pelly Haylands, which were taken from them in 1899 and 1905.

The settlement, which has been in negotiations since 2000, will see the federal government pay the bands $73.5 million for the land claim and another $4.8 million for its research, negotiation and ratification costs....

The bulk of the settlement will be put toward land purchase and other economic development. On Tuesday, the bands will begin to distribute about $1,500 to each of the bands' on and off-reserve members, a total of about 5,000 people...

The bands and federal government had agreed to the conditions of the settlement a few years ago, but the payout was held up by a lawsuit, which was recently dismissed.

In 1891, the federal government set aside land known as the Pelly Haylands for the use of the three bands. However, in 1899 and again in 1905, the land was taken away.

In Saskatchewan, 40 specific claims from bands are currently "under review." Another 16 have reached the next stage and are being negotiated.

A further 14 claims are in the hands of the Indian Specific Claims Commission, which resolves differences once the two sides reach an impasse.

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