Friday, February 27, 2009

They bought their building? Seriously?

Manitoba Public Insurance just bucked a national trend...but not in a way that will benefit ratepayers.

We're of course talking about MPI's announcement yesterday to purcahse the City Place building in downtown Winnipeg for $81.5 million. As a result, MPI is no longer just a tenant in the building, it is now responsible for being the landlord of two levels of retail space and must shoulder the risk for any capital ugrades required to the building. Further, MPI is now the proud owner of the building's adjacent parking lots.

Whatever happened to MPI's raison d'etre - to provide low-cost vehicle insurance to Manitobans.

The purchase has bucked a national trend for public sector organizations to lease their properties.

Consider a 2007 announcement by the federal government to enter into seven, 25-year sale/leaseback agreements across the country. In B.C., the government has set up an entire division to manage private public partnerships. Closer to home, the city of Winnipeg is utilizing P3 models for its new police stations and other city assets.

At this point there is no clear indication as to what MPI's recent purchase will have on rates that vehicle owners in Manitoba are obliged to pay. However, one thing is for certain, it's another great reason as to why Manitobans deserve choice when purchsing auto insurance. It's time to let MPI face competition.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Most Regina residents DON'T want a new stadium

The deceptive headline "Regina residents prefer new stadium" was on the front page of the Leader-Post Thursday. But, as their graphic illustrates (see below), a majority DO NOT want a new stadium.

A poll of 606 Reginans conducted by Sigma Analytics revealed that 52.5% either wanted just a renovation or for the stadium to remain as it is, with 42.5% wanting a new stadium.

Public opinion on the ideal location for the Moose Jaw Multiplex was similarly split. Downtown, the most expensive option, had the edge, and prevailed, even though almost 2/3 of residents wanted the building to be in the north end or at the current civic centre site. Should Regina go the same way, $350 million will be spent on a new stadium. Hopefully if that happens, the taxpayer contribution will be no more than half. Unfortunately, precedent reveals that's not the Canadian way.

No Tears for CBC

And no new dollars either. Blogger Stephen Taylor blows the whistle on CBC. Among the surprising stats, the average employee makes $75,000, and sick time alone costs more than $15 million each year. CBC revenue is down due to less advertising, but that doesn't mean it should get anything more from the taxpayer. Private TV stations have had to downsize, and the CBC should be no different.

Why are Winnipeg's School Taxes Rising?

Despite a decline in students and increased funding from the province, Winnipeg's school property taxes could go up by $25 per household. Why?

Moose Jaw votes for multiplex

Residents of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, population 32,000, just voted to put $34.5 million of their city's tax dollars towards sports facilities. The move will put the municipal portion of Moose Jaw's taxes up by almost 10 percent. The $62 million facility will be paid for in another 25 years. CTF Director Lee Harding comments below.

Most surprising were the comments of someone else in the video above who actually referred to the expensive Abbotsford arena in defense of the Moose Jaw multiplex. There are numerous parallels between the two projects including controversial referendums, cost overruns, tax increases, and payments over 25 years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Canada's debt clock returns

We hoped it would be gone forever. Alas, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's debt clock is back, now at Yes, you can watch the dismal multi-billion dollar national debt figure rise before your eyes, with your personal share of it beneath. On the brighter side, the site also provides an opportunity to learn more about the issue and make a difference. It's also brought more media attention to the issue.

Last time around, the debt clock looked like this. And, yes, that is Paul Martin in the lower picture standing with the debt clock.

Bracket Creep - Still Going Strong in Manitoba

No matter which way you cut it, bracket creep is a pretty unfair form of taxation.

For those unfamiliar with the "secret tax", it occurs when governments don't index tax brackets for inflation. As a result, without changing tax rates, governments can claw back even more dollars from taxpayers.

Consider that in 1999, the basic personal exemption (the amount a taxpayer can earn before paying income tax) in Manitoba was $6,794. After several arbitrary increases, the basic personal exemption is now $8,134. While it appears like a generous increase, it has actually fallen short of keeping up with inflation.

Had the basic personal exemption increased at the rate of inflation, Manitobans would be able to earn approximately $8,387 - $253 more, income tax free.

Further, had the lower tax bracket increased at the rate of inflation, it would be $36,530, not the current level of $31,000. Finally, the upper bracket's rate of $67,000 would be $73,060.

Bracket Creep Table

To be fair to the Doer government, the bracket creep didn't start under their watch. However, unlike most other provinces, the Doer government has yet to address this unfair aspect in the tax system.

According to CTF calculations (which are supported in part by a government briefing note obtained by the CTF), inaction on this issue since 1999 now costs taxpayers over $66 million each year.

Hopefully 2009 will be the year that Manitoba joins the rest of Canada by protecting taxpayers' incomes from inflation.

For further information, click here

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Left wing vs. Aboriginal Status Quo

Kevin Libin's interesting article begins,

In their living room, surrounded by posters of Vladimir Lenin and smiling, AK-toting Salvadorean guerilla girls, Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard hardly look like enemies of the Canadian Left. But in this country there are Things One Cannot Say; the most egregious of them being to question the special status Canada grants to entrenched Aboriginal interests. And the Calgary authors, despite their Birkenstocks and their confidence in Trotsky, appear, unconscionably, unworried about saying them.

Their new book, Disrobing the Aboriginal 260 pages of unspeakable challenges to what they consider the "romantic mythology" of native culture, the "quackery" of promoting traditional healing, the meaninglessness of "traditional knowledge" and treacherous assertions that Indians were "barbarians" before Europeans introduced to them "civilization."

Click here for the rest.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Governments trying to sponsor CFL

Tough economic times or not, the federal government seems to think coast-to-coast CFL action should be a priority. Apparently Moncton, New Brunswick could host a CFL regular season game in 2010 as part of an annual "Atlantic Bowl." However, the project is going to get a lot of government backing according to a blog post quoting the Times and Transcript,

Premier Shawn Graham and Moncton-East Liberal MLA Chris Collins travelled to Montreal last fall to meet with Cohon and CFL team owners during last fall's Grey Cup to discuss bringing CFL football to Moncton.

Graham said yesterday that the Atlantic Bowl fits into his government's vision of Moncton as the entertainment hub of Atlantic Canada.

"The fact that the commissioner has taken time out of his schedule to be here speaks volumes for his commitment of trying to develop and Atlantic Bowl that is going to be positioned in Moncton."

Graham said each level of government has a role to play in making the event happen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tax Relief not Auto Bailouts: Dragon's Den

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was warmly received on CBC's Dragon's Den for proposing $20 billion in tax relief. Buzz Hargrove, former head of the Canadian Auto Worker's Union, told the Dragons not to listen to the CTF and instead to spend money on everything in sight, including the auto sector. Dragon Kevin O'Leary called the Big 3 "losers" that didn't deserve help. Below, see Kevin Gaudet's presentation for the CTF and beneath that, Hargrove.

Kevin makes a winning pitch

Buzz is not so lucky

Yet another auto loan

The Canadian government is loaning a few billion more to GM, and possibly more to Chrysler. Sweden, meanwhile, refused to give $1 billion to SAAB, a subsidiary of General Motors. What does GM say? It's business as usual!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alberta Deficit

Scott Hennig predicted it a year ago and now it's here: an Alberta deficit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

She's got a ticket to ride and she don't care

Lori Ridgeway with Fisheries and Oceans spent $400,000 taxpayer dollars on travel, yet still insists she's trying to save. Why then does she fly business class and stay in ritzy hotels?

$101.7 million of gov't sick days in Saskatchewan

It's all in the press release here. Lee Harding spoke on the issue on John Gormley Live. Click here to hear calls on the issue.

STC: Sick and Subsidized

The Leader-Post reports that the provincial government has approved a $7.8-million operating grant and a $1.8-million capital grant for Saskatchewan Transportation Company this year. This increases operating subsidies for the provincial bus company to $27 million over the past five years, not to mention many more capital grants.

One way to reduce the subsidy would be dealing with sick days--a $101.7 million problem in Saskatchewan government departments, crowns, and health regions. The average STC worker takes 12.4 sick days per year, 40% higher than the 8.8 they took in 2001 and higher than the Saskatchewan average of 8.3.

Alas the government has a different approach to ever-increasing losses at STC: begin routes to remote areas in the north and advertise even more.

"We've challenged the board and challenged management to look at creative ways of marketing STC and, you know, making it cool to ride the bus. We're looking at that and looking at some fairly aggressive campaigns over the next six months," [Minister of Crowns Ken] Cheveldayoff said in an interview.

If money could save a neighbourhood...

then Vancouver's Downtown Eastside would be paradise. But $360 million of government spending in 2007 alone doesn't seem to have made much difference.

Welfare and jobs

Obama as interpreted by the Wizard of Id. Click on the image to enlarge.

Could this economic malaise have been predicted?

Actually, it was. Peter Schiff told us what would happen and why as early as 2006, even when "experts" were scoffing and literally laughing at him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Broadbeck: Cut Funding to All Cultural Groups

Another great rant from Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck:

"Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wants to cut off funding to the Canadian Arab Federation after their president called him a “professional whore” for supporting Israel.

My question is: why are taxpayers forced to fund ethnic organizations in the first place? ...

Of course Kenney should cut off funding to the CAF. They should [cut] off government funding to every other ethnic organization, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Family Day Impact

In Ontario, the cost is $2 billion. In Saskatchewan, it's $140 million. What are we talking about? Family day, the holiday that began in Alberta in 1990, and spread to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario in the last few years. Lee Harding of the CTF and Marilyn Braun-Pollon of the CFIB comment in the video above.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sask Taxpayer Service Commitments and Standards Code

According to a Saskatchewan government news release,

The Ministry of Finance has developed and adopted a code of standards to strengthen its working relationship and communication practices with the taxpayers and businesses of Saskatchewan.

The Taxpayer Service Commitments and Standards Code provides a window on the service levels Finance pledges to the public, including tax information, collection and enforcement, and audit services.

Click here or on the icon above to read the document. The last page has contact info for the finance ministry and the provincial tax ombudsman.

Feds Reduce Polling Costs

The Harper government seems to have done something right. It is being reported that the costs for 'public opinion research'...polling....have gone down year over year. To read the report click here. Of course, this is after they blew the bank on polling last year.

However, taxpayers will take a good new story when they see it.

If only more and larger budgets would also be ratcheted back!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recycling fees and taxes for Saskatchewan?

Could a bad program in Ontario be coming to Saskatchewan? Low prices for newsprint, paper and cardboard mean have left rural recycling programs stockpiling such products instead of selling them for profit. Apparently, the losses are around $700,000. Because there's a "possibility" of job losses, the recycling association is asking the premier for "emergency funding."

The Star-Phoenix reports,

The provincial government is aware of the crisis facing the [recycling] agencies, said Sam Ferris with the Environment Ministry's environmental protection branch. In the long term, the government is planning to create an industry recycling stewardship program where the companies and consumers that generate the waste contribute to the cost of recycling. That kind of program, already in operation in places such as Ontario, won't be ready to implement in Saskatchewan for at least another year. In the meantime, provincial officials plan to meet with the recycling agencies.

Saskatchewan could indeed learn a few things from Ontario--like how not to implement a program. Last July, Ontario's Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE) recycling program got the go-ahead. Its increased fees ($100 million per year in phase one alone) made the CTF and recycling groups sore.

Gordon Campbell wants to shut you up

Visit and join the protest over B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's election gag law. Click on the image above to read in more detail.

Budget Officer Debunks Auto "Loans"

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, released a report yesterday raising the strong likelihood that the bailouts for big Auto will likely be costs to the taxpayers not 'loans' as they have been portrayed by politicians and big Auto.

The CTF has argued for years, based on comprehensive and detailed research, that so-called loans are mostly written off - that only 17 cents is paid back for every dollar doled out.

It should come as no surprise that this money will merely increase the deficit and will not create jobs. Taxpayers should be glad Mr. Page sees this. Now, if only our elected officials would get it and end these ridiculous subsidies!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Corporate welfare doesn't work

Pratt and Whitney, a company that has received more than $1.6 billion in Canadian taxpayer-funded handouts since 1982, will be laying off 1,000 people worldwide.

Canadian numbers are not yet available.

You can't buy jobs ....

Oops, City of Regina releases personal info

Ironically, the City of Regina breached the security of 1,000 people by releasing information to "two researchers who were seeking a list of all payments made by the City in 2007 and 2008 as part of a study to determine how quickly public agencies respond to information requests."

There's more info in the city'snews release and in a Leader-Post article.

Speaker has exce$$ive Travel

The speaker for the Canadian House of Commons has been travelling a lot lately, as have other MPs. In fact, the speaker is actually travelling much more than the Governor General. CTF Federal Director Kevin Gaudet says the speakers' travel budget should be cut in half if not eliminated entirely.

Hullaballoo at Toronto City Hall

Taxes are up 4% in Toronto, and 10% if you count user fee hikes. The city employs 7,000 people more than when it amalgamated. And, despite a recession, Toronto is spending tons to fight climate change, and even creating 70 km more bike lanes. Canadian Taxpayers Federation Director Kevin Gaudet has had enough of high-spending mayor David Miller, as have many dissenting city councillors.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Talk to Sask gov about health

Tony Dagnone, head of Saskatchewan's "Patient First" health review, wants to hear from you about our health care system. In a public appeal in the letters section of the Leader-Post, he explains how:

I'm writing this letter today because, as valuable as these conversations have been, we want to hear from more Saskatchewan residents. If you haven't been invited to join one of our focus groups or small-group discussions, I want to invite you now to tell us your story at By following an interactive online guide posted there, you can share your experiences with health care and offer us your ideas as to how it can best serve patients. You can also call us at 1-866-281-6355 to obtain a paper copy of the guide or to arrange to share your story with someone in person.

Take this opportunity, as all options are on the table, including private health care. The potential for this is proven by the televised SGEU ads scared about this possibility. Hopefully it happens.

Regina Central Library due for reno/replacement

In 2004, a task force recommended that Regina close three of its libraries. Glen Elm, Connaught, and Prince of Wales had either structural problems, poor attendance, or both. Regina had the second-highest per capita spending on materials, and on libraries as a whole, in all of Canada. Unfunded pension liabilities were enormous. And, even if three branches were closed, the city would still have the same libraries per capita as other western cities.

But, none of that happened. In 2009, all the libraries stated for closure still remain. Connaught is getting a new basement, an expansion, and a top-to-bottom renovation. But the renovation or replacement of the Central branch will be Regina libraries' biggest capital project in 50 years. They installed a chiller recently for about $1 million, but the board chair reports that pieces of the building have actually fallen off. Yet, instead of a reno, there's talk about a replacement that is twice the current size. Let's hope the bill doesn't get twice as high.

Sask MLA Pay Hike

Saskatchewan MLAs are getting a 3.3 percent pay hike, in accordance with provincial inflation. The video above shows that many people think they're paid too much already.

The worst irony is that province's tax brackets, however, are increasing 2.5 percent instead because they are increased by the NATIONAL rate of inflation, not the province's.

Something is wrong here. Either the MLAs should limit their pay hike to 2.5 percent (something that would lower their pay by $676, and more than $1000 for cabinet ministers), or, preferably, taxpayers should get tax brackets raised by 3.3 percent. This move would increase the basic exemption by $103 and the threshold for the highest tax bracket by $894. This point got some editorial coverage as well.

Monday, February 09, 2009

BC to run back-to-back deficits

Premier Gordon Campbell called the B.C. legislature back early to introduce legislation that would allow the province to run a deficit budget. Ironically, it was Campbell himself who introduced balanced budget legislation in 2001. In the video above, the premier and finance minister explain themselves, while the NDP and CTF respond.

Another consensus? Oh really?

The forces of deficit spending - the stimulators - have lifted a page from the global warming alarmist's handbook. Instead of arguing against their opponents, they just pretend they don't exist.

Global warming alarmists have proclaimed the there is a consensus - everyone believes we're heading to global warming Armageddon. Never mind that it's not true.

The stimulators are doing the same thing! Steven Harper himself said, "there is a consensus ... a strong consensus, that all governments need to spend ... we've heard that everywhere."

But a Cato Institute ad in the New York Times showed that wasn't the case at all. Economists, including Nobel laureates, disagree with deficit spending to stimulate the economy. The best economic stimulus is tax cuts and reducing the burden of government.

Check it out here:

Equalization is very very flawed

David MacKinnon explains that Canada's equalization severely penalizes Alberta and Ontario and is a corrosive factor in the recipient provinces. Instead of ensuring equal services, it actually increases the disparity. Quebec, meanwhile, has had a 62 percent increase in its equalization payments over the past four years. There is little appetite in Ottawa to study the effectiveness of equalization, and so it has hardly been done. However, the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies have shown some of these disturbing discrepancies between "have" and "have not" provinces.

A newspaper article on this speech can be read here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

targeted tax cuts don't work

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has long called for a lower, simpler and flatter tax system. An uncomplicated tax system will provide the most benefits to the greatest number.

How do we know? The problem with targeted tax cuts is most people don't know about them so don't take advantage of them.

According to a Financial Post story from February 05, 2009;

A new poll indicates nearly 75% of Canadians did not take advantage of any new
tax credits on their 2007 tax return.

The poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies asked 1,010 Canadians if they took advantage of any new tax credits
last year, and if so, which ones. The results show that only one in four people
surveyed claimed any of the new tax credits introduced for the 2007 tax year.

Those new tax credits included the Children's Fitness Credit, Child Tax Credit
and Pension Income Splitting.

"Last year, a number of tax credits and changes
were introduced that would benefit just about every Canadian taxpayer," said
Cleo Hamel, senior tax analyst at H&R Block Canada. "But if you don't claim all
the credits and benefits you are entitled to, you are overpaying the government
with your hard earned money." Western Canadians were more likely to claim new
tax credits.

Politicians wonder why they get little if any credit for the tax cuts they make. Maybe it's because very few people are aware of them. It's time for a lower, simpler, flatter tax system.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

How to waste $16 million

The Saskatchewan government spent $16 million changing a nursing college in Regina into office space, and then back to a nursing college again! I had to laugh at how my comments on this one came out. More from the Canadian Press.

B.C. Beefs

Whether it's the Vancouver mayor's extravangant inauguration, cost overruns at the Olympic village, or carbon taxes, British Columbians have a lot to be upset about. And our B.C. Director Maureen Bader is there. Oops--and did we mention an upcoming deficit budget?

Vancouver Mayor's Inaugural Party

Olympic Village Outrage

Carbon Tax Clash!

Click here to see all the B.C. CTF videos.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

CTF gives Sask gov 17,000th school tax petition

At 9 am on February 3, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation gave 5,100 petitions to Saskatchewan MLA Jim Reiter. The petitions requested that the province cover 75 percent of the cost of schools, instead of the current level of 50 percent. The delivery brought the all-time total to 17,000.

On the same day, Reiter submitted a report recommending ways that school property taxes could be reformed and reduced in the province. However, that report won't be released until after the budget March 18. Not a good sign for those waiting year after year for relief from the highest school property taxes in Canada.

CTF You Tube Channel

Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Fan Box