Friday, July 31, 2009

$40,000 from Ottawa to train 500 babysitters

The Leader-Post reports,

Thanks to more than $40,000 in funding from the federal government, there may be up to 500 newly trained babysitters in Regina.

Ray Boughen, member of Parliament for Palliser, made the announcement at the Regina Red Cross office on Thursday.

The local branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society plans to use the funding to support its project called Skills, Leadership and Injury Prevention for Aboriginal Youth. The project is designed to help aboriginal youths develop leadership skills by providing First Aid and CPR courses as well as child-care and babysitting courses.

Does it take $800 to train a babysitter? Only if the government is involved.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Furor over Auto Makers' Non-Disclosure

The recent CTF news release on board salaries and (non)disclosure inspired an online article on CTV. The comments section shows intense furor from a remarkable number of taxpayers.

Un-WED my tax dollars

The federal government operates a department known as "Western Economic Diversification" (WED). Although politicians publicly tout WED as an important agent in spurring economic growth in Western Canada, it is nothing more than a giant political slush fund.

That's because WED is a true dog`s breakfast when it comes to the types of projects it funds. From grants for chopstick manufacturing plants, airport lighting, investment schemes and wall murals, the department will fund just about anything. In some cases WED bureaucrats review and fund the same projects that bureaucrats in other departments are reviewing and funding. Talk about overlap.

The politics behind the department's funding is evident when one looks at the handout timing. In fact, a report released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) in early 2009 showed a striking relationship between the department's funding levels and election calls over the past twenty years. WED handouts spiked just before the 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2006 federal elections.

Government hands out money from hard working taxpayers for political, not economic reasons and WED is a classic example. It should come as no surprise WED has no idea whether its spending is effective and why should it? Spending is used to buy votes, not for economic development. To provide true economic development, the government should eliminate WED and use the savings to deliver broad-based business tax relief. Doing so would leave more money in the hands of those who drive any successful economy – entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Saskatoon CUC Director Opposes Regina Dome

Ken Wood, executive director of Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, is the latest to say that a domed stadium for Regina doesn't make sense.

"I'm a bit dubious on the concert market. To me, if you're going to spend that kind of money provincially, you would want to look at incrementally what you're bringing to the province," said Wood.

"I have a very tough time seeing for those kind of dollars what incremental benefits are being brought to the province," he added.

Wood said there are very few stadium concerts to start with and most are in the summer and can already be held at Mosaic Stadium. While a domed stadium would be able to hold a concert in winter, Saskatchewan would be a bit of an "island" far from other facilities able to accommodate such large touring acts.

While a dome wouldn't mean more events in Saskatchewan, it would almost certainly kindle some competition for Credit Union Centre in nabbing performers such as Elton John and the Eagles that have played 10,000- to 15,000-seat shows in Saskatoon as their stop in Saskatchewan, he said.

"There could be a fair number. Major arena concerts in western Canada, the only sure markets are Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver. For Saskatoon and Winnipeg it's dependent on whether the artist wants to do those dates, if the routing works and other factors. But in Saskatchewan there would be one play. It wouldn't mean because there is another facility there would be two plays. For a major concert, a major arena concert, you need the full market (Saskatchewan) for it to work," said Wood, adding he believes his facility has some competitive advantages it could further hone.

Wood said he believes the best option for Regina would be an outdoor stadium similar to Winnipeg's planned $135-million facility, which has covered seating and whose field will be topped with an inflatable bubble during winter to allow for year-round sports and recreation activities.
Wood's comments are very similar to those of the VP of Regina's Evraz Place, Neil Donnelly.

B.C. announces review of TransLink

TransLink review is good news for taxpayers. TransLink is a hungry predator hunting for more tax dollars - the current model is too expensive and doesn't solve most people's transportation problems.

For the Taxpayers Federation, the most significant part of the review process will be: compensation for the board of directors, operating costs and service delivery models.

During the first closed door meeting of TransLink's new board of directors, they gave themselves a 500 percent increase in meeting fees, a 150 percent increase in the retainer paid to the chair, and a new $25,000 retainer paid to each director. The cost to the taxpayer for TransLink's new board of directors was almost $575,000 for 2008, about five times the cost of the previous board.

TransLink spends $661 million on transportation operations (buses and skytrain), $37 million on maintenance of the major road network, and $38 million on administration. TransLink spends more on administration than to maintain the major road network. TransLink's priorities are in a serious need of review.

We need to start thinking about cost effective solutions to peoples' transportation problems that go way beyond throwing more money at a dysfunctional system.

One option is activity-based costing. Instead continuing to feed the beast, TransLink needs to find out the true cost of providing a single service: every labor hour, each piece of equipment, and all facility costs, materials and overhead dollars. Once that is determined, they need to show the results to their existing staff then allow them to submit their own bid to provide those services in competition with private operators.

Let's face it - without competition, Translink's appetite for tax dollars will never be satisfied and why should it? They don't have to compete with anyone so there is no incentive to rein-in spending. But if TransLink can't move people from point A to B at an affordable cost, it's time to try something new. Public transit expansion must stay within the ability of riders to pay for it, and be able to resist political meddling.

GM Board One of Highest Paid

GM board members have some of the highest compensation out there. Here is a list of ten firms and the compensation of their non-employee board members. As committee membership, expenses, per diems and stock options contribute to total compensation I have taken a rough median number for total compensation. This information comes from proxy circulars for fiscal years 2007 and 2008. All numbers are in US dollars.

Board Compensation for Non-Employee Directors
Firm Base Bay Total Comp
IBM $250,000 $275,000
GE $250,000 $275,000
GM $200,000 Unknown
WalMart $160,000 $225,000
BCE $130,000 $150,000
Imperial Oil $100,000 $230,000
Ford $100,000 $150,000
Microsoft $100,000 $100,000
AT&T $85,000 $250,000
Pfizer $75,000 $175,000
Bear Stern $75,000 $150,000

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More voices oppose stadium

Johnstone and Conway have company. Columnists Murray Mandryk of the Regina Leader-Post and Les McPherson of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix have also issued cautionary statements about the proposed domed stadium in Regina.

Mandryk writes,

But before we take a plunge, let's insist that any feasibility study answers the following questions: What is the true bottom-line cost? That $350-million pricetag sounds low and surely doesn't include land costs. Let's get the real bottom-line figure that covers everything -- including the inevitable cost overruns.

What are the operational costs? And because it would likely be unaffordable for university and high school sports, do we also need new facilities to accommodate them? Who pays for it and how much do we pay? Who are the mysterious partners and how much will they kick in? How much will provincial taxpayers be stuck with? How about Regina taxpayers, who should pay more considering they will garner the greatest benefit? If the partners are Crown corporations and casinos, will that hurt their profits or their dividends paid to the province's general revenue fund for schools, roads and hospitals? How will it affect the government's plans to build an infrastructure for a potentially far more beneficial and lasting "knowledge-based economy? What is the true value-added impact? If Regina and Saskatchewan are to become a true destination place for big events, we need more hotel space. What Century West Development Ltd. (which is perhaps planning a hotel development on the old Superstore lot) and other hotel chains have in mind may be the dealbreaker here.

Are we big enough for a 35,000-seat indoor complex? Even if we get to 1.1 million people in 10 or 15 years, is that a big enough population base to sustain several big events to cover costs? Considering the direct airline flight issues we have now, can a province with two cities of 200,000 and 250,000 attract a critical mass for events when the next-biggest population centres of 500,000-plus are a six- or seven-hour drive away? How many convention-events meritorious of a 35,000-seat facility can Regina possibly host in a year? Can we get past our own petty internal rivalries? This is sadly flowing south from an incredibly small -- and I do stress small -- dog-in-the-manger crowd in The Bridge City that is now thinking we should shut down the University of Regina in order to compensate.

But pettiness notwithstanding, a 35,000-seat Regina facility would take business away from Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre.

This is a big deal that needs to be addressed. Might a $200-million new outdoor stadium plus added seating at Regina's Brandt Centre be a better option for attracting joint Regina-Saskatoon events (i.e. world junior hockey championships) or multiple concert dates? It's OK to dream big, but it's also OK to say that our dream home is the one that we can afford -- and that truly suits our needs.
MacPherson says the game was meant to be played outdoors, and that Montreal serves as an example of why a tiny outdoor stadium is superior to a dome any day. That makes Mosaic stadium
...a historic gem of a ballpark that cries out for preservation, not replacement. No venue in the country has more character.

It's not as if people are staying away from the venerable old ballpark. On the contrary, Saskatchewan Roughriders home games routinely are sold out, even after the addition this year of 2,100 new seats, bringing capacity up to 31,000. A domed stadium might hold a few thousand more. Is that worth $350 million?

Whether there is sustainable demand for thousands more tickets is another question, especially if admission prices go up, as they certainly would, and if the team should struggle, as teams from time to time always do. Entertaining and competitive as they have been, the Riders right now are at the peak of their popularity. There's a lot more room on the downside than the upside.
G.E. Donnelly, a Star-Phoenix reader, agreed with McPherson, and wrote,
The proposed domed stadium is the pet project for a relatively small and select group of fatcats and sports types who will be the major benefactors of this boondoggle. The cost, which shall balloon to the very exclusive neighbourhood of $600 million before they are through, will be borne by the usual suspects: the taxpayers of Saskatchewan and Canada, who, I suspect, will be priced out of the park when the new prices are announced (inevitable). Think plush box apartments high above the riffraff. Think new plush boxes for the other beneficiaries.
Regina citizens and political science profs at the University of Regina have also expressed their doubts.

Although the pro-dome PR campaign is well underway, and disclosure of information is not, it's still going to take a lot of convincing for thinking people to accept that a new domed stadium is what this province needs.

Maxime Bernier on Liberty and Socialism in Quebec

I’ve tried from time to time to learn French but little has held my interest long enough for me to achieve much of a breakthrough, but Maxime Bernier’s website/blog, looks promising. Libery-loving Canadians looking for some good French material would do well to watch his videos and read his posts. Vive liberte.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Johnstone, Conway oppose domed stadium

Regina Leader-Post business editor Bruce Johnstone and longtime school trustee turned councillor candidate John Conway have both spoken out against the proposed Roughrider domed stadium. The Leader-Post reports,

Conway, a University of Regina professor with a PhD in political sociology, isn’t a fan of the domed stadium idea.

“Personally, I think it’s madness,” he said. While unlikely, the evidence could convince him otherwise; but for now, he thinks that such a luxury shouldn’t be contemplated considering great infrastructure and social deficits, he noted.
Johnstone dedicated an entire column to the stadium question. Here's an excerpt.
"Building an all-weather, multi-use stadium presents a 'generational opportunity' for Regina and Saskatchewan residents,'' the consultants conclude.

It could also be an anchor around the necks of Regina and Saskatchewan taxpayers for generations to come.

First of all, as the report points out, the $350-million price-tag doesn't include land, parking, practice field, overhead walkways and other services. Canadian Pacific will want a significant whack of cash for their property.

Nor does it include the cost of a retractable roof, which the consultants say could cost less than a fixed roof. Tell that to the taxpayers of Montreal and Toronto, who paid through the nose for retractable roofs at the Olympic Stadium (the Big Owe) and SkyDome (Rogers Centre).

Other much larger cities, like Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Montreal, are planning modifications or replacing their open-air stadiums. Are they all masochists who like freezing in the fall and boiling in the summer?

I'm not saying a domed stadium is a terrible idea. I'm saying there may be other, more cost-effective, options that haven't been addressed.

For example, what about renovating Mosaic Stadium and expanding and/or replacing Brandt Centre? You could do both for significantly less than $350 million-plus and achieve many of the benefits of a domed stadium, such as attracting major concerts, conventions and events.

That option might not represent a "generational opportunity,'' but it probably won't be a "white elephant'' either.

Federal deficit $7.5 B in April, May

Ottawa's finances are just as bad as we suspected--a 7.53 billion deficit for the first two months of the fiscal year. Revenues are down by $2.6 billion from a year ago, a 6.9 per cent drop. Program expenses rose by $4.4 billion, or 13.4 per cent. At this rate, the federal deficit will be $45.2 billion. Say it ain't so.

Federal Public Servants miss 16.2 days per year

While the national average for all sectors is 10.2 days per year, it's 16.2 for federal public servants. One HR consultant suggests it's because of low morale. Click here to read it all in the National Post. Check out the Sask stats here.

Screwed by stimulus

This picture was emailed to us by Richard Carder. Obviously, it also applies north of the border.

HST - A taxing surprise

In a surprise move on Thursday, July 23, the B.C. government announced it would harmonize the provincial sales tax (PST) with the GST. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation had been told by the finance department about a year and a half ago there was no way the B.C. government would harmonize the sales tax because it would hurt some of the Liberal party's biggest support groups, such as restaurant owners.

As late as May 2009, the B.C. Liberals apparently stated they would not harmonize the sales tax. It seems this was yet another "from on high" snap decisions, like the carbon tax, made with no consultation.

Unlike the carbon tax, however, the harmonized sales tax, or HST is, in theory at least, a positive tax reform.

Harmonizing the sales tax system simplifies our overly complicated tax system, and any reform that does that is a good thing.

The HST eliminates the PST on business inputs, things like machinery, equipment, and supplies, and that will make B.C. a more competitive place to invest. That will attract new investment and help make existing businesses more competitive and productive. That will boost the provincial economy over time.

Lower business costs and more productive companies should eventually lower prices to consumers and mean more jobs and higher wages.

There are a couple of problems, however.

First, the HST in B.C. still has a number of exemptions, and exemptions defeat one of the main benefits of the HST - a simpler tax system.

The bigger problem, however, is it will raise prices to consumers, at least in the short term, as almost everything we paid only 5% GST on before will be hit with the entire 12% HST as of July 1, 2010. Things like restaurant meals, new homes costing over $400,000, newspapers, accountant's fees, and home renovations will be more expensive.

But, as business costs fall, those prices should fall as well.

Meanwhile, one way to help families bear the burden of higher prices would be to lower the PST. That's what the Atlantic provinces did when then introduced the HST. But a much better option would be to increase the basic personal exemption on our income tax. Right now, the basic personal exemption in B.C. is $9,373, but it is $16, 775 in Alberta and even $12,945 in Saskatchewan.

The premier has said the HST was necessary now to be competitive with Ontario, which is also implementing its HST on July 1, 2010. But why do we want to be competitive with a province that's fallen into 'have not' status anyway? Why not be competitive with the province right next door -- Alberta? It has no PST at all and a higher basic personal exemption.

Ultimately, taxes are paid by people, not businesses -- business taxes are hidden in the cost of products. This reform creates a more transparent tax system.

Governments get revenue from taxation, and reforms that help people better understand the link between the taxes we pay and the services we receive from government will put pressure on government to reduce wasteful spending and be more accountable to the people left to pick up the tab -- the taxpayer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sober second thought regarding Roughrider Stadium

Many people are coming out of the woodwork to talk about the potential Roughrider stadium, including us.

Will Chabun of the Leader-Post poses some pointed and relevent questions about the stadium in a recent blog post. Will CP hand over its land for cheap, knowing the government is bent on putting a dome there? Unlikely. Tack land costs on top of the estimated $350 million for a new stadium.

The sports stadium blog, "Field of schemes" has given attention to the Rider dome in a post. Blog author Neil deMause has also penned a book, "Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Dollars into Private Profit".

Some are sounding off on the Leader-Post website. Why not join them?

Why governments can bloat the bureaucracy

A government is able to keep highly paid bureaucrats on the payroll long after they've outlived their usefulness because it pays no financial penalty for it -- the penalty is paid by thousands of taxpayers in the form of higher taxes.

BC Rail's CEO is able to continue making about half a million dollars per year to run a 40 kilometer long railway because government does not have to confront the financial discipline of the marketplace.

If a private sector company like General Motors, for example, allows its labour costs to get out of control, it can pass those costs along to its customers for a while, but high product prices attract competitors who enter the market with better and lower cost products. Eventually, the high cost competitor goes bankrupt -- sound familiar?

This doesn't happen in the public sector because a government is shielded from competition and won't go bankrupt -- if it needs more money it just raises taxes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Rest of the Recycling Story

Our critique of the Saskatchewan Waste Electronic Equipment Program (SWEEP) in a recent commentary led to an appearance on John Gormley Live. We pointed out only some of the problems and SWEEP board chair Joan Meyer responded on air.

An entire commentary could be made on Meyer's responses themselves. For starters, Meyer says that it was the precedent in Europe that got governments looking at recycling programs, to which the industry responded. It's true that Europe was ahead of North America, but the electronics industry certainly did take a proactive role in Canada to seize the day before legislation was forced on them. As well, the European example actually shows the inferiority of provincial programs in Canada because it leaves electronics manufacturers off the hook for life-cycle costs, re-use, and manufacturing of less polluting products in the first place.

No, the electronics industry was indeed pushing this file and actually proposing the legislation. Consider this 2002 document made for the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). In 2003, the Electronics Product Stewardship Canada was formed to help influence governments on what environmental legislation was coming. David Betts, formerly of ITAC became its CEO and president. Incredibly, he also became Chair of the Board of SWEEP itself while still holding the EPSC post.

Shortly after the SWEEP program was implemented, David Betts resigned from both SWEEP (see page 3 of the annual report) and the EPSC. On June 1, as soon as his resignations had taken effect, Betts joined the management team at eCycle Solutions where he is currently a vice-president.

Ever since the SWEEP program was first implemented in 2007, Alberta-based eCycle Solutions has been exclusively tasked with recycling the televisions and monitors collected at SARCAN and in B.C.'s similar program. For eCycle Solutions and EPSC companies, industry-led, government-mandated programs have proven lucrative. However, a system that de-emphasizes re-use and restricts private sector participation is second-rate for the environment, consumers slapped with eco-fees, and recyclers shut out of the system.


eCycle Solutions must be aware of our last commentary, seeing that they changed their website already. In our commentary, we noted the comment on an eCycle Solutions webpage that read, "Because we are government subsidized our services represent a significant cost savings for you." Immediately after the CTF brought this to light, they removed this sentence from their webpage, as can be seen here. As proof, we have posted a screenshot of the former site online.

Meyer defended the no re-use policy of SWEEP (even though by now even other provincial programs have embraced it somewhat). Meyer claims that only 1% of computers and TVs donated to SARCAN can be reused. This low estimate is laughable to any private sector recycler, who often receive re-usable products because the donors know that SARCAN will simply destroy it. This refurbishment is a large part of the private sector recycler's business.

A few hours after today's CTF's radio appearance on John Gormley Live, Darcy Moen of Second Time Office Equipment (pictured here) emailed to say,

We've had a rush of folks coming in dropping off ewaste today. Close to 30 tons today. Folks are saying, we heard about you on the Radio...its terrible what SWEEP is doing to is our ewaste, I hope you can make a buck or two with it....we don't want to support SARCAN.

One guy came in with 30 pieces in his truck. SARCAN told him they will only take 3 pieces, the rest have to be palletized and taken to the commercial drop off center on Albert Street. The guy said f___ it, and drove in here...


Meyer claims that company's like Moen's were always able to participate in the SWEEP program if they kept their recycling and refurbishing streams of operation separate. Not so. We posted a copy of the original .pdf application form where it plainly states,
This qualification process is strictly for recycling/dismantling processes and excludes applicants that utilize reuse or refurbishing processes. Applicants may apply for qualification as a reuse service provider or as a recycler/dismantler, but not both. Only one application per organization or company, including affiliates, will be accepted.
This has has since changed somewhat, as the new document posted here reveals. Yet, it still says, "Only materials supplied through SWEEP qualify for SWEEP compensation."

Unfortunately, the practical reality for private sector recyclers shut out from SWEEP has not changed. Three private sector recyclers, including Second Time Office Equipment, tried to get into the program recently and were declined. One reason was that they proposed using Potter's Industries Inc. in Moose Jaw for its glass recycling. They were told by Product Care (a B.C. non-profit that runs the SWEEP program) that they couldn't use Potter's because it did not meet the new standards for environmental specifications. The problem is, these are the very same glass recyclers that SARCAN uses for its computers! Product Care says, yes, but this was established under the old rules...


Second Time Office Equipment was also part of a joint application from a number of private sector recyclers to establish their own version of SWEEP, something that provincial legislation would seem to allow. It even included the idea of having the participating companies place a transport container (for free) at every municipal landfill in order to prevent such waste from going there. However, the environment minister has nixed this option as well.

That's too bad. Consider this report authored by the Information Technology Association of Canada in 2002 which says,
SARCAN initiated an IT waste recovery program consisting of three drop-off sites in Saskatchewan in December, 2000. The program collected over 15,000 units in the first year of operation (2001). 57 tonnes of material was recycled, and 5,000 CRTs were landfilled due to lack of economical processing options locally. An analysis of the costs of the program is incomplete as of March 2001.
At six pounds of lead per monitor, that's 15 tons of lead in the landfill that could potentially leak into the water supply. This was prior to SWEEP, yet even under the new program, this could still happen anywhere. However, some municipalities, school boards, and government agencies that are consciencious in this area are in fact, using the private sector to deal with their eWaste because they prefer such services to those received at SARCAN.

The intention of SWEEP to expand this program to all electronics in Saskatchewan should have every consumer and private sector recycler concerned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rider stadium report public

The long-awaited report on options for a new stadium for the Roughriders is finally in the public view. There's not much to see here, just more leanings towards a dome and some, pardon the pun, "ballpark figures". The clear preference, as has been stated by Premier Brad Wall and Mayor Pat Fiacco previously (now echoed by 'Riders board chair Rob Pletch) is a domed stadium just north of downtown Regina. That will cost $350 million, making assurances that no provincial tax dollars will go to the project...suspect.

Now there'll be a $1 million feasability study to look at the issue some more. Here's hoping they examine the work of economist Brad Humphries who has demonstrated time and again that sports stadiums do little to nothing for a local economy.

Why pay down the debt ?

The return to deficit spending, by the federal just about every provincial government in Canada, means the debt will get bigger.

As shown on, a website launched by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the federal government is borrowing money at a rate of $1,585 every second, $95,129 every minute, $5.7 million per hour, or just under $137 million every day of every week of every month for the whole of this year.

The revenue the government uses to spend doesn't grow on a money tree in the office of the minister of finance. It comes from taxation. If we care about future generations and the tax burden this debt is creating for them, we can get spending under control.

I can think of three reasons why we might want to lower the debt. Please add any you can think of in the comments section.

1. So future governments can spend savings from lower interest payments to cut taxes.
2. Young people should not be saddled with a financial burden they didn't create.
3. Once the baby boom generation retires, we won't have enough people around to pay the taxes to support the health care system or pay for the debt we've created.

So, we can try to ride the gravy train until we die, or we can vote for politicians who will cut wasteful program spending, cut taxes, and reduce the debt. The choice is ours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Spiraling bureaucrat salaries abuse taxpayers

B.C. taxpayers are being saddled with a public sector wage burden far in excess of their ability to fund it. In B.C. average annual salaries are only $42,000, and average family incomes are about $85,000. Bureaucrat salaries are spiraling well above this, and there is no end in sight.

The most blatant example of taxpayer abuse is the half-a-million dollar salary for the CEO of BC Rail who has what must be the very difficult job of running a 40 kilometer long railway. The government took a strong stand recently and stopped paying his golf club membership but seemed to forget to ask why we are paying someone so much to do so little in the first place.

Municipal employees appear to be doing what they can to hit the pay jackpot as well. Employees making more than $100,000 per year in the District of West Vancouver offices rose from 134 in 2007 to 161 in 2008. Interestingly, in 2000, West Vancouver had only 41 employees paid more than $75,000. This trend can be found in municipalities all over the province.

Governments looking for spending cuts must first look at the bureaucracy. Bureaucrat salaries have spiraled far beyond the incomes of taxpayers. Public sector salaries must be brought in line with taxpayers’ ability to pay.

Plug ins for demography

If the City of Vancouver forces developers to install electric outlets in new building parking lots, sure it will make housing even more unaffordable, but it could put Vancouver ahead of the curve, the demographic curve, that is.

In Victoria, many parkades have plug-ins, and jammed around them are electric scooters -- the ones with front baskets and cane holders, not trendy vespas.

Also, as more and more scientists come to the conclusion we are heading into a renewed period of global cooling, we'll have a place to plug in our car's block heater.

Actions have consequences and many of those are unintended. Vancouver's happy planet mayor could be more far-sighted than most people think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Catalyst for a tax revolt

The forestry sector in British Columbia is in big trouble because of market conditions. Now struggling to survive, forestry companies have taken a stand against gouging municipal governments -- we have the beginnings of a property tax revolt here in B.C.

Catalyst Paper, a pulp and paper company with four mills in B.C. towns told the municipal councils in those towns it would not borrow to pay its property tax bills. Catalyst pays about 40% of the property tax bill in each of those municipalities, but only consumes about 6% of their services. It has agreed to pay $6 million of its $23 million property tax bill.

Timber West Forest and Celgar Pulp have both said they wouldn't pay their full bill either. All three companies are now in court over the issue

One-mill towns have long gouged their biggest employer, but those days are over. In fact, B.C.'s finance minister has confirmed that a mill in BC that pays $5 million dollars per year in property taxes would only pay $500,000 per year in the US.

These industries heavily subsidize the services to residential property owners, and while property owners might be enjoying the free ride, if the biggest employer in town closes down, the free ride is over.

Indian Act 'will soon be history': FSIN chief

The Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says that the Indian Act "will soon be history." One could only hope. However, when this occurs, the Indian tax exemptions contained in section 87, and not the treaties, will also vanish.

Thanks to a Supreme Court decision, the definition of "Status Indian" must be reworked by 2010 to be more fair. The daunting task of determining such definitions will prove challenging indeed. Many Canadians have aboriginal blood. And, given the history of settlement, most Canadians are a Heinz 57 of races. It is easier for individuals, not groups, chiefs, or courts to decide what parts of their lineage to identify with, or simply identify with all of it. The human family is just that. We are all distantly related.

Assimilation has been falsely cast as an evil intention of European cultural imperialists. Of course, the idea that indigenous peoples could assimilate with the settling races, if true, would actually be a compliment to the latter. Regardless, this assimilation has already occurred. Indigenous peoples already live in the milieu of a capitalist and democratic society, and have little choice but to embrace it. The alternative is for them to live on reserves in poverty, isolation, and without human or economic rights. Many have chosen to leave.

Hopefully one day such rights will come to the reserves as well. In the meantime, that Indian Act just keeps getting in the way...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Salaries increase at Regina city hall

That's no surprise, and the story is here. But this posted comment caught my attention...

To Victoria July 14, 2009 - 5:17 PM I would suggest you gain knowledge of a subject before you comment on it. You paint all commentors of this article as "unemployed & barely educated", but obviously have not given any thought to comments by "it's a lie" or "on the inside". I too used to work for the City of Regina, and also agree that it's the most dysfunctional workplace I have worked in my 20+ years of professional employment. I personally witnessed some of the most qualified people within departments leave because of the unhealthy work envirionment created by overpaid and incomptetent directors & managers. I have also witnessed a near mass exodus of another department for the same reasons. Today's article and the comments associated with it confirm I made the right decision to leave that black plague known as city hall.

We were right about Corner Gas

The day after our post on Corner Gas, it turns out the Saskatchewan government is indeed looking at making the former set a better tourist trap. But at what cost?

At least this makes much more sense than Sask Tourism's advertising campaigns. Some signs do nothing but advertise one Saskatchewan city within another Saskatchewan city. Why would anyone go to Yorkton just because of a sign that says "Experience Saskatchewan: Yorkton"? It's not like someone in Regina didn't know Yorkton was there!

18% pay hike for Saskatoon firefighters

Saskatoon firefighters will be paid $78,000 annually when their current contract expires. This represents an 18% increase over two years. The reason? Regina firefighters are currently getting paid 12% more. The wage gap will be closed by the end of the contract.

This reasoning that civic employees of one city should always be paid the same as another ensures the taxpayer is always the loser. Consider last year when the Saskatoon police chief got a substantial raise because the city manager got a raise. And why did the city manager get a raise? Because a Regina city manager was getting paid more. The problem is at the end of all of this, the Saskatoon police chief got paid $40,000 more than the Regina one.

It's garbage.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Crown pay rising fast in Sask

According to Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk, between 2004 and 2008 the average pay for full time employees rose dramatically in Saskatchewan crown corporations. At SaskPower, it was 25.7%; at SaskEnergy, 16.5%; SaskTel, 25.7%; and SGI, 43.6%.

The average wages for full-timers? SaskPower, $92,378; SaskEnergy $91,832; SaskTel $75,563; and SGI, $72,258. Wow.

Mandryk is right to say, "...there is a danger that this administration is already falling into the trap of former Conservative governments (both federal and provincial) that cut taxes but failed to curtail spending."

Check out the full Crown Payee Disclosure report here.

Via Rail advertises Ontario routes in Regina

screen shot captured July 13, 2009
(screen shot captured July 13, 2009)

Via rail has taxpayer dollars to burn. What else could be the reason that it advertises a local Ontario route to readers in Regina, Saskatchewan where no Via train passes through?

Chalk it up as one more reason to sell off crown assets. According to CanWest, government documents in Ottawa indicate the federal government is preparing to do just that. It has identified the following crown corporations as "not self-sustaining":

Company name, commercial revenues, parliamentary subsidy, expenses
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., $614.2 million, $285.3 million, $1.3 billion
CBC, $565.5 million, $1.1 billion, $1.7 billion
Cape Breton Development Corp., $5.1 million, $60 million, $94.1 million
Federal Bridge Corp. Ltd., $14.6 million, $31.0 million, $42.9 million
National Arts Centre Corp., $26.0 million, $40.6 million, $65.7 million
Old Port of Montreal Corp., $16.7 million, $15.1 million, $32.0 million
Parc Downsview Park Inc., not available, not available, not available
VIA Rail Canada Inc., $293.9 million, $266.2 million, $505.5 million

Source: Department of Finance, Public Accounts of Canada
Note: Financial results are for 2007-08

Corner Gas All Pumped Out

Despite getting millions in tax credits from Saskatchewan taxpayers, no one involved with Corner Gas seems interested in making the set a tourist site, nor even allowing it. This Star-Phoenix editorial sums up the problem well.

Virginia Thompson, president of Verité Films that produced the show, says the company has found the money to slap a coat of paint on the old set, but says, "We're not in the tourism business."

This despite what the mayor says were promises made before the show ended that the townspeople would be left with a "wonderful legacy." Ms. Thompson says renovating the site to make it safe and attractive for tourists would cost at least $250,000, and her company is worried about liability issues if a visitor gets injured...

At a time when gobs of public money has been invested in a sound stage in Regina and tax credits galore are being offered to build a film and TV industry in Saskatchewan, those who avail themselves of the advantages need to look past their noses to leave something behind. It could even translate into an ongoing revenue stream from a hit show long after it stops production.
Unfortunately, it's not hard to imagine that the next "solution" to this impasse will involve more provincial tax dollars.

First food for fuel, now food for power

While it's now commonplace to hear of crops being used to produce ethanol and other biofuels, using farmland to create power is more of a novelty. However, it too is coming--and with government help--to the ire even of an environmentalist, anti-nuclear group.

A 200-acre farm just west of Ottawa, will get 300,000 solar panels at the cost of $100-million. Once it becomes operational, it will become Canada's largest photovoltaic plant and generate 20MW of electricity, enough for 7,000 homes. The venture is being done by EDF EN Canada, the Canadian arm of the French renewable-energy firm, EDF-Energies Nouvelles. Canwest explains,

The industry is getting a lot of government help. EDF is undertaking its photovoltaic project under the Ontario government's renewable-energy program, which the Liberals plan to fund to the tune of $5 billion over the next three years.

The plan has run into some trouble, however, with some farmers and residents east of Ottawa opposed to the use of fertile agricultural land for solar and wind power plants.

Critics say the bigger problem is that the government's well-intentioned plan to develop green energy has turned into a big scam, in which taxpayers are merely subsidizing private companies to produce inconsequential amounts of power.

Norman Rubin, a senior policy analyst at Energy Probe, says while solar energy will, in time, "revolutionize electricity as we know it," the government's current approach amounts to throwing good money after bad.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cross-country tax comparisons

How do your province's taxes compare with others? Click here for a recently updated chart.

Saskatchewan's first rate of taxation, 11%, is second-highest in Canada. This is one reason why the CTF-Sask office and Enterprise Saskatchewan are calling for a single 10% rate. The Fraser Institute recommended a single rate of 9%.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Should MP expenses be posted online?

Yes, say Auditor General Sheila Fraser and Kevin Gaudet of How else will Canadian taxpayers know if another U.K.-style MP expense scandal isn't already going on?

This is garbage alright.

$850M and Sask taxpayers in the dark

Saskatchewan taxpayers could foot the bill for a $350 million stadium and a $500 million nuclear reactor; yet, the details are sketchy. Both stories were front-page news in the Regina Leader-Post.

The premier has admitted that the reactor could be a money-loser for some time. Richard Florizone of the Uranium Development Partnership says that only 1/3 of the cost of a nuclear research reactor would be recovered by sales of medical isotopes. Florizone and NDP MLA Sandra Morin discussed the issue on John Gormley Live (click here to listen). The provincial and federal governments and likely the U of S would front money, but how much?

As for a potential $350 million new stadium for the Roughriders, the provincial government is keeping the $70,000 report it commissioned under wraps. The football club, the City of Regina, and the federal government are looking at it and taxpayers will see the report...sometime. The CTF has already requested a copy as well as the stadium proposal submitted by the Roughriders to the city early in 2008.

Click here for a panorama of the Riders' current facility, Mosaic Stadium.

No consensus - listen live on July 13-09

Climatologist Dr. Tim Ball will be interviewed live on Talk 1410 ( radio on Monday July 13 at 12:45 to outline how the climate changes, always has and always will.

Dr. Ball was one of a group of concerned scientists who signed an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to examine the science behind the government's climate plans before wasting billions of tax dollars trying to stop the climate from changing.

The climate changes, always has and always will. There is no consensus.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

U.S. bailout dwarfs all other spending

Auto bailouts aside, Canada's deficit spending is a lower percentage of GDP than that of the U.S. However, the chart above shows that the U.S. bailout is so massive, it's not much of a compliment to the federal government in Ottawa. Click on the chart for its full size.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cooling to Consensus

A study in the peer-reviewed journal Risk Analysis found that as people learned more about global warming, they were less concerned about it. As more people realize, of course the climate changes, climate change legislation drops off the agenda and the so-called scientific consensus breaks down.

Australia and New Zealand have rescinded their climate change legislation.

Dr. Kimimori Itoh, a Japanese environmental chemist who participated in the UN climate reports now says the theory of man-made climate warming is "the worst scienfic scandal in history."

It's time for us to drop the climate excuse for higher taxes to fund social engineering schemes.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Cap and tax continued

The US Republicans have defined cap and trade as 'cap economic growth and trade jobs to China.' If we look at the EU's experience with its attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we'll see the Republicans have a good point.

European governments have imposed a garden variety of GHG reduction measures since the early 1990's.

Nevertheless, GHGs went up in Europe by 5% between 1991 and 2005.

What did go down in that same period, though, were manufacturing jobs.

Norway, Sweden and the UK, for example, saw manufacturing jobs fall by 5.6%, 18.5% and 20% respectively.

The cap and trade system started in Europe in 2005. The additional tax on manufacturers will likely reinforce the effects of the previous tax increases.

Obama's climate change astrologer

Cap-and-trade (read: cap-and-tax) is coming to Canada, thanks in part to pressure from the Obama administration south of the border. Incredibly, President Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu is predicting a certain climate catastrophe by 2019. He says we can be confident for the first time in history that such a prediction would be correct.

Japanese scientist Kanya Kusano, a Program Director and Group Leader for the Earth Simulator at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology, has publicly declared that man-made climate fear promotion is now akin to “ancient astrology.”

No wonder. Even Nostradamus would blush at this nonsense.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

demographics matter

Deficits and debt mean government spending today will be paid for by future taxpayers, our children and grandchildren.

Mark Steyn makes a good point in his book America Alone. Among other things, he says fertility levels in the US, at 2.1 live births per woman, are at about population replacement levels. Canada's, at 1.5, and Europe's, at 1.3 are not, meaning the population is shrinking.

So, if you are expecting the government to pay you a generous pension based on future tax revenue, instead of funding your own retirement from your own investments, you might want to reconsider.

There may be few taxpayers in the future left to shaft.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Carbon tax coercion continues

While people across Canada celebrate Canada Day, here in B.C. we get to celebrate by paying a higher carbon tax.

The carbon tax goes up by 50% today (58% with the GST included), as the government continues with its plan to force people out of their cars, sit around in the dark, and wear sweaters in their homes to stop what some people believe is a looming global warming Armageddon.

But as political parties have discovered to their dismay, voters are not willing to sacrifice their wellbeing today to prevent something that may or may not happen 100 years from now. It's time to get rid of the carbon tax and use the tax system for what it was intended -- financing essential government services -- not as a tool to distort the price of energy to engineer a colour-of-the-month social outcome.

People still have to drive and heat their homes and increasing the cost of energy will do little to force people to behave otherwise. It will create hardship and difficult choices as people decide whether to enroll their children in soccer programs because of the cost of driving. But as more people realize the climate changes, always has and always will, the carbon tax will fall out of favour as a tool of coercion.

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