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The Progressive Economics Forum: Doubling Contributions To The Tax Free Savings Account: Even Nastier Than Income Splitting

The Harper government gives five reasons why Canadians ought to be happy with its proposal to double the maximum contribution to the Tax-Free Savings Account. Examine each of its points more closely, however, and it’s clear that the TFSA carries far higher risks than rewards — for individual Canadians as well as for the economy as a whole.

Let’s unpack the government’s arguments one by one:

1. The TFSA helps people save

The evidence certainly doesn’t support this statement. TFSAs first saw the light of day in January 2009 at a time when the savings rate had already been climbing (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Sales tax not only way to pay for public services

CCPA Budget Submissions

Natural Resource Royalties Reform, Iglika Ivanova, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, October 2014 BC used to collect well over $1 billion per year from natural gas royalties, but over the last five fiscal years these averaged a mere $330 million per year. The tax/royalty regime for LNG put forward in Budget 2015 should place more emphasis on achieving public benefits before signing away the rights to this non-renewable, publicly owned resource. BC should also collect more from companies using our water and forest resources.

The decline in revenues from natural resources is even worse than stated by (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Seccareccia on Greece, Austerity and the Eurozone

Over at the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Ottawa U professor Mario Seccareccia has given an interview titled “Greece Shows the Limits of Austerity in the Eurozone. What Now?”

The interview can be read here.

Politics, Re-Spun: The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

By Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

cmkl: Families earning 30K-$60K to see least benefit from Tory income splitting plan

Well now I’m just shocked. The Globe has an item about some finance department documents Canadian Press unearthed via an Access to Information Act request Families earning $30K-$60K to benefit least from Tories’ family plan. Yes, the kleptocracy is here. And it’s now.

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: A Little Heresy – Alberta Style

So, according to Premier Prentice, the downturn in oil prices is going to create an $11 Billion hole in provincial revenues, and is now talking about putting the brakes on all kinds of infrastructure spending, including a new cancer hospital in Calgary.

Okay, that’s a significant chunk of change.  Let’s talk about this for a moment.

As the leader of the governing party, Mr. Prentice has a responsibility to all Albertans to ensure that the machinery of government continues to operate smoothly.  Over the last 25 years, we have seen the government make further tax cuts all over (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: ‘Tis the Season to Rethink Our Charitable Giving

This op-ed by yours truly was published in The Province. The examples are BC-specific, but the message is much broader: donating to charity is not enough, we also have to change the status quo that forces so many people to turn to charity in a rich country like Canada.

It’s December, the season for charitable giving. Wherever you turn you see boxes and bins collecting non-perishable food items for the local food bank or toys for the less fortunate children in our communities.

The cashier asks if you want to add a $2 donation to your purchase. You donate (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: PDF version of preceding article

I’ve had a number of requests for copies of this article by people wishing to share the information. Readers can download a copy from SCRIBD.

Sorry poor people

The Progressive Economics Forum: Why the economy sucks (in one chart)

(The following is something I’ve prepared for the next issue of CUPE’s Economy at Work, a popular economics quarterly publication I produce.)

In his annual Economic and Fiscal Update (EFU), finance minister Joe Oliver told Canadians that while the federal government will finally record a surplus next year after seven years of deficits, we can’t expect the economy to grow much faster than the slow growth we’ve experienced since the financial crisis, with economic growth expected to average just 2.4% over the next four years.

Economic growth in this recovery is a third slower than in the (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Special treatment for special friends

Andrew MacLeod of The Tyee is reporting that BC Government officials aim to exempt natural gas producers from requirements they contribute to an industry fund that would pay to clean up toxic spills. “The gas sector would be exempt through a system that redefined what substances would be described as toxic.

“…’This takes [natural gas] off the table for these elements (and possibly coal – need some work on coal),’ [Jim] Hofweber wrote in the message to Fazil Mihlar, the assistant deputy minister for oil and strategic initiatives in the ministry of Natural Gas Development, and Jim Standen, an (Read more…)

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…)