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Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Different ways, different results

Note 11 from a study by John Calvert and Marjorie Griffith Cohen of Simon Fraser University, Climate Change and the Canadian Energy Sector: “In this regard it is interesting to compare the approach of Alberta with Norway. While the timing of their respective production rates varies, both jurisdictions have produced about the same volume of oil over the past four decades.

“According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, as of December, 2010 Norway has over US$512 billion in its ‘rainy day’ pension fund for future generations — a fund built up principally from its oil and gas revenues.” (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Restraint, BC Government style

Nearly half a million children are missing school days this year because government believes that spending restraint is imperative. Restraint in collecting taxes, at least from ordinary citizens, is not as vital.

The Transportation Investment Corporation (TIC) annual report provides a view of what lies ahead for commuters crossing the Fraser River on the new Port Mann bridge. When Gordon Campbell announced the structure and associated roadworks, it was to cost $1.5 billion and the toll was to be $2.50. The final tab, at $3.319 billion, is 121% higher but, at $3.00, the small vehicle toll (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Words and meanings

BC Liberal Throne Speech: “The core services this government provides need to be protected, and the inescapable truth is that they can only be protected if we can afford them.”

Translation: The core services this government provides

[ like subsidizing business, funding the Premier's trips and photo ops, employing hundreds of spinmeisters, paying extravagant executive salaries and giving away natural resources ] and the inescapable truth is that they can only be protected if we can afford them, [ so that requires higher MSP & ICBC premiums and increased BC Hydro rates, ferry fares, carbon taxes, transit taxes, fuel (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Tax evasion at the heart of global economy

The Globe and Mail reported September 19, 2014: “Internal Canada Revenue Agency documents confirm the agency is cutting some of its most highly-trained staff and folding international tax evasion units…

“The shakeup is raising concern both inside and outside the agency that the government is backing away from its promised crackdown on offshore tax cheats. Both the 2013 and 2014 federal budgets contained extensive pledges to increase enforcement in this area. There is also concern that veteran staff who know the ins and outs of offshore tax schemes will lose their jobs, leading some to take jobs in the (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Harper right? Did corporate tax cuts really pay for themselves?

In a little noticed comment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently was reported to say:

“Dropping our tax rate has not caused the government’s corporate income tax revenues to fall, which indicates that it does in fact attract business.”

No one seems to have questioned his statement, even though it was made on the same day Canada dropped to 15th place on the World Economic Forum’s index of global competitiveness from 9th in 2009. These rankings show corporate tax rates bearing little relationship to measures of global competitiveness.

Harper’s statement puts him squarely in the company of (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Harper right? Did corporate tax cuts really pay for themselves?

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Northern Insight / Perceptivity 2014-09-13 22:52:00

Trailer – THE PRICE WE PAY – a feature documentary by Harold Crooks from Filmoption International on Vimeo.

Playing in Vancouver as part of the VIFF, International Village #9, October 4 – 1:00 pm and October 5 – 8:45 pm.

Nobles did not pay taxes, and apparently some people would like to keep it that way! In his latest incendiary investigative documentary, Harold Crooks (Surviving Progress) examines the sordid history of offshore tax havens and the dire contemporary ramifications of such malfeasance. It’s not just oligarchs (our new ‘nobles’?) that are the problem, but our shiniest corporations (Apple, (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Lies and Liberals, an inherent match

In November 2001, after NDP MLA Joy McPhail reported a government plan to increase medical service plan premiums, Canadian Press quoted Liberal Health Minister Colin Hansen, “Joy MacPhail needs a new Deep Throat because we have no plans to change MSP premiums in British Columbia.”

Weeks later Health Minister Colin Hansen announced he was increasing health care premiums by 50%. Since then, MSP premiums continued to rise at a rate well above inflation.

MSP Premium HIstory vs Inflation

This is just one element of a philosophical aim to redistribute wealth, from poor to rich. Liberals rolled back income taxes (Read more…) . . . → Read More: Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Lies and Liberals, an inherent match

Bill Longstaff: Calling the bluff on "we must compete in the global marketplace"

The soul-numbing mantra “we must compete in the global marketplace” is much heard these days. Conservative politicians and business groups toss it out tirelessly as an argument to reduce taxes, and weaken labour and environmental laws. Unfortunately, their argument is valid. Trade agreements have so reduced the ability of national governments to tax and to provide legislative protection for

Politics and its Discontents: About Those Taxes…

Responding to the latest propaganda piece about taxation levels from The Fraser Institute, Star readers weigh in with their own perspectives, one of which includes taking the paper to task for publishing news of the report with no critical comment:

Re: Families pay more for taxes than basics, Aug. 13

This report of a study from a conservative think tank could be a verbatim quote from the authors’ press release, with no editorial comment or critical opinions included. The Star does us a disservice (and, rather atypically, gives the conservative cause a boost) by publishing it in this fashion. (Read more…)

Northern Insight: When you buy yourself a government, you expect results

From RossK, The Gazetteer, Mines Are Sparkle Ponies Too?….Who Knew? But here’s something that even we, the purveyors of all that is neither established nor credible, missed from Ms. Clark’s October 2012 ‘Calgary Speech’: …”Mining is an area where we have set some pretty ambitious targets. We’re planning to build 17 new and expanded mines by 2015. Mining revenues have grown by 20 per cent to $8.6 billion since we introduced our Jobs Plan last year, and we’ve done it with the highest standard of sustainable mining in the world.“So I’ll give you one example. (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Debunking Fraser Institute’s latest contortion on taxes

The Fraser Institute’s annual Consumer Tax Index report generated some media buzz with its outlandish claims about just how much taxes have risen since 1961. Before you get worked up about this, consider that 1961 was over half a century ago, before the time of universal health care that we all benefit from, before the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that hugely reduced poverty for seniors, before the Canada Child Tax Benefit which is helping lower child poverty (though not enough!).There are big problems with the Fraser Institute report’s methodology which lead them to grossly (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Socialized losses, privatized gains

Every megaproject conceived and executed by BC Liberals in recent years has ended with massive cost overruns, despite the predictable “on-time and on-budget” claims. Most involved contractors with foreign domiciles. Check out the Port Mann bridge project, South Fraser Perimeter Road, BC Place renovation, Vancouver Convention Centre, Sea to Sky Highway, Northwest Transmission Line, etc.

Remember claims reported by Canadian Press in February 2013, “Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government says the development of liquefied natural gas in northern British Columbia represents a generational opportunity that has the potential to wipe out the provincial debt and eliminate the need to pay (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Volatile gas revenues tend to evaporate

BC Liberals are reluctant spenders when it comes to improving public schools. However, they’re not reluctant to put money into the pockets of natural gas producers. The amounts are in the billions but it’s not much discussed, either in the Legislature or in budget documents. However, careful reading of the province’s audited financial statements reveals this information:

Gas Royalties

Northern Insight: Ability-to-pay does not apply

A few years ago, Glaxo SmithKline, a multinational drug company, agreed to settle an American tax dispute by paying $3.4 billion and abandoning claims for refunds worth a further $1.8 billion. GSK used improper transfer pricing schemes to shelter profits outside the USA. It’s a common practice but few coutries have the political will or the resources to challenge accounting practices of corporations that are wealthier than most nations.

According to the Centre for American Progress, “Recent analysis indicates that U.S. corporations are currently holding as much as $2 trillion in untaxed profits booked as offshore (Read more…)

Northern Insight: At least Liberal inconsistency is consistent

BC’s recent Budget and Fiscal Plan states total provincial debt is $63 billion. This amount, 62% higher than in 2009, is 27.3% of gross domestic product. Five years ago, the ratio was 18.7%.

By any standard, that is rapid debt growth. Unfortunately, those numbers present only part of the story.

In addition to admitted debt, the province is obliged by $100 billion in other contractual commitments.

If Liberals conducted business and accounting now as they did a few years ago, the debt reported for fiscal year 2014 would be $163 billion. But, at least the details of how (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Why have our trees have lost half their value?

BC Stats released an updated report ‘British Columbia Origin Log Exports’ and I extracted data to produce these graphs. The statistics show the volume of raw logs leaving the province continues at record levels. This demonstrates the average monthly volume of exports over time.

I’ve written much about the subject of log exports. Click here and scroll through the various articles. The quantities, loaded mostly on ships bound for Asia, tell one part of the story but there is another important trend line and it’s one that points in a different direction.

Using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, I (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Vapourtax

A few tech companies are noted for vapourware, which are products announced with much fanfare that never materialise. In my view, BC Liberal assurances of more than $70 billion new money from 30 years of LNG production is nothing more than vapourtax. These were promises issued solely for marketing purposes.

Jim Quail is the Executive Director of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Vancouver. BCPIAC is a non-profit law office in the field of social justice law. Jim Quail’s Blog has an important post about the difficulty of collecting tax revenues from liquid natural gas. I suggest you (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Reading Recommendation.

I have a deep respect for Alex Himelfarb, the director of the Glendon School of International and Public Affairs and tireless proponent of responsible, progressive taxation. The latter, as one can well-imagine, likely makes him persona non grata in many circles, but those are likely the same circles that close out responsible thought or discussion on any topics that might threaten to puncture the artificial and insular world they encase themselves in.

It is, of course, easy to take the expedient route, as have politicians like Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair at the federal level, and, here (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: The Corporate Tax Regime In Canada Is Corporate Welfare

… and it is being done at the expense of Canadians.

Corporate Canada Pays Low Taxes But Contributes In Lots Of Other Ways

Consider the following: PricewaterhouseCoopers did its own analysis — a survey of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives’ roughly 150 members. It was voluntary and only 63 replied. But of those who did, the survey found their businesses paid a total of $19 billion in corporate taxes, plus another $5 billion in various other charges and fees to various levels of government.

Okay, that’s a voluntary survey, and doesn’t give us the entirety of the picture. The left-leaning (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Ignorance occasionally has a purpose

Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”

If you’re older than 30, you remember the nineties. Hard times, according to Milton Friedman, were produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy and mismanagement is what occurred in BC for the decade that ended May 2001. Business writer John Greenwood recounted the disaster in a 2005 piece for the National Post. “…By the late 1990s, mining — once an engine of the economy — had shrunk to a point were companies (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Where’s the tax in BC’s carbon tax?

British Columbia’s carbon tax has been getting some high praise lately. A recent article in the Atlantic called it “the crown jewel of North American climate policy”. Such assessments need some tempering. BC’s carbon tax can tell us important things about the limits of fiscal policy today, which in turn questions the potential it has for fostering significant environmental change.

Tales of the tax’s effectiveness focus on its environmental impacts. Almost six years since its introduction, it is indisputable that the carbon tax has had some impact on resource use and emissions. This is clearly a good thing. There is (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Published elsewhere: Ontario is no California when it comes to debt

The Toronto Star just published an article I wrote in response to claims made by the Fraser Institute and the Toronto Sun that Ontario has a runaway debt problem worse than California’s.

The short version: I call BS. The slightly longer version: California has constraints, such as limits on the size of debt and difficulties in raising new taxes, that have severely hampered its ability to take on and manage debt. It has a smaller debt than Ontario on all measures but much worse credit standing. Ontario, on the other hand, still has a lot of flexibility to deal with (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Flaherty’s Legacy: Ideological, reckless and just plain lucky

This piece was originally published at the Globe and Mail’s online Report on Business feature, EconomyLab.

There are two reasons why it is difficult to comment on the legacy of a finance minister.

1) It is a tremendously challenging job, anywhere, any time. Stewarding one of the largest economies in the world through a global economic crisis is no cakewalk, and it has clearly taken a toll on Jim Flaherty. (Canada has fallen from 8th to 11th largest economy since 2006.) Critiquing this performance, when so many factors are beyond an individual’s control, and so much soul-searching takes (Read more…)

cmkl: Flaherty’s legacy? Ideological, reckless and just plain lucky – Armine Yalnizyan

In the people’s republic of Chris, Armine Yalnizyan is finance minister. I really love how she dissects this “Jim Flaherty steady hand on the tiller” narrative that so many commercial media outlets are building now that he’s resigned. I love how she looks at the policies and their effects rather than just loading up the […]

The Progressive Economics Forum: BC proposes LNG tax

I posted this on CCPA’s BC Policy Note blog but others across Canada should pay attention to BC’s quest for LNG gold. I’d also recommend this comparison of the Quebec and BC budgets by Michal Rozworski, which highlights the stubborn emphasis on natural resource development in both budgets. It’s like the tax cut culture has so permeated Canadian politics that our political class cannot see beyond the lure of resource revenues to pay for essential services. Bad fiscal policy and bad environmental policy, not even good policy in terms of job creation, but seemingly good politics in the Age of (Read more…)