Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Education system needs more accountability, not more money

NB taxpayer is calling on Education Minister Kelly Lamrock to retract his statement in which he warned New Brunwickers that "he won't apologize for raising taxes" if it means he can implement policies which would see equal accessibility for all students.

This recent threat to taxpayers by Minister Lamrock is completely unacceptable, not to mention, his notion that the [education] system is starved of cash is absolutely obsurd considering the province of New Brunswick already allocates more tax dollars to education, which includes spending for disability access, than almost every other province in Canada. In the 2006 budget, education spending ballooned to $1.2 billion, a 3.3 per cent increase over 2004-2005.

Furthermore, at $1,700 per New Brunswicker per year and climbing, education spending in NB is higher than in Newfoundland ($1,553), P.E.I. ($1,548) and Manitoba ($1,351), just to name a few, according to Statistics Canada.

Moreover, in 2006-07, the New Brunswick government was projected to spend $7,834 per student per year, and with declining enrolment, this represents the highest-ever per-student funding to date. B.C. is projected to spend $7,338 per student (their highest) by 2008-09, Quebec ($6,761), Saskatchewan ($6,995), and Nova Scotia ($6,335).

So there is no question the funding is there.

And as David Shipley wrote in a Telegraph Journal article last November quoting AIMS president Charles Cirtwill:
Rather than spending more, New Brunswick needs to see its education system become more accountable for the money it already has, said Cirtwill. Among the ways to make the system more accountable would be to empower parents and students with the ability to choose schools.
Schools would be allowed to specialize in certain areas, developing expertise and offering students a choice. Schools that do well would be rewarded with high employment and funding per student from the province.

Schools that did a poor job meeting the needs of students would be held accountable through declining enrolment and funding.

Such a system is in place in Edmonton and has worked well, said Cirtwill.

"It's time to start thinking about some fundamental adjustments in the way we deliver education."
Indeed. So the next time Lamrock spouts off in favour of raising taxes (yet again) in order increase revenues for education, just tell him, throwing money at the problem isn't the answer. What we truly need in this province is more accountability and choice.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is this what you call democracy?

Well, the PEI election results are in and islanders overwhelmingly voted in favour of change on Monday evening...or did they?

Blogger Werner Patels (aka Alberta Spectator) believes the "recent election in PEI is a textbook example of why we need proportional representation (PR), rather than the undemocratic first-past-the-post system (FPTP)." I couldn't agree more as I wrote a quick post about a week or so ago defending the need for provinces in our region (with emphasis on PEI and NB) to abandon the old FPTP system in favour of a democratic reform (proportional representation). Check out Patels synopsis below:

Overall Election Results [link]

PartySeatsVote share
Lib2352.93%
PC441.34%
Green03.04%
NDP01.96%
Other00.73%

Under most PR systems, there is a threshold for obtaining seats in the legislature -- usually 5%. So, both the Greens and the NDP would have been disqualified anyway.

PEI has a legislature with 27 seats. Under PR, if the Liberals won 52.93%, they'd be entitled to 15 seats, while the Conservatives, with 41.34% of the vote, should have gotten the remaining 12 seats. A blind person can see that the almost 42% of the voters who voted Conservative are not democratically and fairly represented in the legislature. Under the current FPTP system, the Conservatives only got a third (!) of the seats they were entitled to.

Clearly, FPTP is the most undemocratic way of electing officials. It is high time we finally democratized Canada (currently, Canada is not a democracy) and implemented PR.

Update

On the subject of changing the way we vote, let's hope Fair Vote Canada's "Yes" for MMP campaign can persuade a few people to make Ontario's legislature the first in North America to be elected under a form of proportional representation.

Regulation by stealth

As a Libertarian, I often focus a lot of my attention on "big" government spending, regressive taxes and the like. However, I, like many others, pay very little attention to the overall effect of government regulation towards our fiscal performance and future prosperity. And as G. Bruce Doern explains in this article in the Ottawa Citizen, we definitely should be paying attention:
Carleton professor G. Bruce Doern, the Conference Board of Canada's newest scholar-in-residence, pointed out the folly of these problems in a meeting with the Citizen's editorial board. Setting regulations is as significant a function of government as taxing and spending, Mr. Doern says, but it almost always happens under the public radar. Everyone goes crazy for weeks over the federal budget, but 40 to 50 new federal regulations come into force each year with little attention.

Unless, of course, you're trying to be innovative in one of the industries affected by government regulations, in which case you're likely to find yourself spending years and millions of dollars trying to penetrate a thicket of rules, some of which might be redundant or contradictory, just to bring a product to market.

Mr. Doern proposes treating regulation with the same seriousness as we do taxing and spending, making an annual declaration of a regulatory agenda part of the normal parliamentary schedule.
(Hat tip Paul Tuns)

World Cup of Soccer Philosophy












Debate has been fairly heated and serious (ideologically) in this corner of the blogosphere lately. So I thought I would mix it up a bit and try to bring my readers a few laughs. And I figured, what better way to bring a few chuckles than through a Monte Python skit, especially when it's a football matchup between the German philosophers and the Greek philosophers. Enjoy.

Part I Part II

Monday, May 28, 2007

Federal Spending - Charts & Reports

2008: Federal Spending Still On The Rise

Ottawa - If the ’06 budget was disappointing, the second was worse. Mr. Flaherty loaded the 2007 budget with additional micro tax credits all the while ignoring calls for broad income tax cuts. When it came to programs he even managed to best Liberal spending levels.

When Paul Martin’s Liberals left office, total program spending stood at $175-billion. Yet, after only two years of Conservative rule Ottawa’s annual outlays were set to exceed the 200-billion-dollar mark. Under Mr. Flaherty, the size of the federal government has grown by an astounding 14.8%. By comparison, Mr. Martin’s two-year minority government grew the federal government by 14%. More...

2007: Finance Minister Delivers Liberal Spending Budget

Ottawa - Federal government spending on all programs increased from $175.2-billion to $189.0-billion in 2006/07, this represents the third largest increase in percentage terms at 7.9% and the second largest jump in dollars since the budget was balanced in 1997/98. Program spending is budgeted to jump another 5.7 per cent in the upcoming year fiscal 2007/08) to $199.6-billion. More...

Tax money belongs to the taxpayers, not the government nor Larry Jewett.

For those of you who believe corporate welfare shemes are wasteful, we agree. For those of you who think Ottawa spends too much, we agree. For those who believe Ottawa still taxes too much, we agree. For those who believe we must balance the budget, cut wasteful federal spending and provide further, permanent tax relief, we agree.

Which is why we here at NB Taxpayers commend Minister Flaherty and Minister Skelton for introducing the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
The 15-point bill of taxpayer rights - expanding on a 1985 declaration by the former Mulroney government - includes a promise of professional, courteous and fair dealings, as well as the right to an explanation after a complaint and "relief from penalties and interest under tax legislation because of extraordinary circumstances."
Speaking of wasting taxpayers money and corporate welfare shemes, eugene (aka To Be Announced) has an excellent post on Liberal Larry "I am entitled to my entitlements" Jewett and his quest for boatloads of government cash. (sorry for the pun)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Amalgamating municipalities federal ridings?

Opposed to Bill C-56, a bill that would alter the system of apportioning seats among the provinces in the House of Commons, National Post columnist and electoral reform advocate Andrew Coyne suggest a much simpler approach:
The formula is so mindnumbingly complex -- the legislation goes on for several paragraphs -- that few outside government can be expected to be aware of the skullduggery concealed therein. But how much simpler, and fairer, it would be if it just said this: There shall be one seat for every 100,000 population, rounded up to the nearest whole number.

That guarantees every province or territory at least one seat. More important, it would get us closer to that bedrock democratic principle I mentioned off the top: that every vote is of equal weight, that every citizen should have equal voice in deciding who governs us.
Is he really suggesting what I think he's suggesting? Reducing representation in demographically declining provinces or regions? Maybe. But as outlandish as it may seem, I'm not completely opposed to Coyne's proposal even if it were to reduce the number of federal seats in New Brunswick from 10 to 7. Why do I say that? Because it would force our province to be more united across divisive lines which have hurt us, as a province, for decades. Those lines being, linguistic, demographic, monetary and cultural. Lines which tend to fixate the provincial debate towards a narrow focus. Furthermore, the way the ridings have been gerrymandered in the past, it has left many ridings with unique "pockets" of rural poverty and linguistic "enclaves" shut off from advanced modern society. So a little reform couldn't hurt, could it?

But if this were to ever become a reality, there would have to be two major conditions met first. Firstly, our provincial legislature would have to have already been reformed wherein we adopted a mixed member proportional system with a significant increase of provincial seats (reduced districts and additional "list" seats). And secondly, the senate would have to be more democratic, in that, we would elect its members and they would be responsible for certain regional districts in our province.

Sound easy? I think not, especially considering the outrage demonstrated towards senate reform for decades and the recent show of negativity and uneasiness towards PR and MMP. Let's hope people can be more receptive to change as it is obvious the current system is broken. (Hat tip AC)

Friday, May 25, 2007

NB government needs to reevaluate its R&D focus

Past government policies have failed to nuture inovation

I have spoke ad nauseum about the fact that governments "would be better off focusing on policy initiatives that attempt to attract and retain the creative class rather than reintroducing old [failed] policies that do more to drive them out".

Case in point: BioProspecting NB Inc. a privately held cutting edge biopharmaceutical company in Sackville, New Brunswick focused on the development of novel peptides for the treatment of cancer and chronic pain. Why have we heard so little about the "leading edge" cancer research conducted out of one of Canada's elite post-secondary institutions, Mount Allison University? Plain and simple, government failed to implement the proper policies and strategies required to nurture their discoveries over the years.

Yes, I know what you're going to say, both the federal and provincial governments have offered tax credits and R&D incentives in the past; however, because many of these "startups" received very little "initial" financial help or attention from such programs as the Atlantic Innovation Fund (which had a reduced budget), the Ontario "centric" National Research Council - Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) or the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the impact of the tax cuts were minimal. Which is why it was in the best interest of Bioprospecting NB Inc. to patent its technology as well as reevaluate its policy structure so as to be fully utilized "as a state-of-the-art research body". In other words, it made more sense for them to bypass the government in order to concentrate on seeking "untapped resources" in order to provide “gap fillers” for traditional pharmaceutical companies in clinically relevant and "market-driven sectors".

More to the point, now that they [Bioprospecting NB Inc.] have changed policy direction, they are in perfect position to reap the benefits and advantages of Prime Minister Harper's newly proposed national science and technology (S&T) strategy which identifies the need for more private research and development as key to strengthening Canada’s economy.

“Canada’s New Government is charting a new direction, one that links the competitive energy of Canada’s entrepreneurs to the creative genius of our scientists,” the Prime Minister said. “Our new strategy will strengthen Canada’s economy by tapping our deep well of entrepreneurial energy to fuel our technological progress.”

Let's hope Industry Canada and the private sector can get onboard this research as soon as possible. Furthermore, as cancer institute CEO Rodney Oullette hopes, "the success of BioProspecting will also help win the war against New Brunswick brain drain. They believe the biotechnology sector is an untapped resource that could put this province on the road to self-sustainability." Indeed, and more importantly, this leading edge cancer research may end up saving billions of lives in the process.

But as I've said in the past, these types of technological initiatves will never see the light of day in this province as long as the New Brunswick government is content on focusing their energy and resources on declining industries rather than cater to the creative class in a knowledge based economy [KBE] through low taxes and industry based incentives.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Britain's erosion of freedom through super-nannyism














From Reason.com:

So in Blair’s Britain we are spied on constantly; we’re nannied everywhere from the pub to the soccer stadium; we can be reprimanded and have our freedom of movement and association restricted on the say-so of a local official. Dear reader, we Britons are no longer free. Instead we live in a permanent state of parole, where we must walk, talk and act in a certain way or risk having our collars felt by a CCTV spy, a cop or a council official.

Want more? Read the brutal details in this fantastic essay by Brendan O’Neill on Tony Blair’s legacy titled, “Tony the Nanny: Tony Blair’s shameful record on civil liberties.”

Ex-Grit leader Doug Young goes green?

Porkbarrelling lobbyist posing as environmental saviour

When I picked the Telegraph Journal up this morning, I couldn't believe what I was reading on the very front page: "Ex-Grit leader goes green"! Huh? I know Doug Young has done some strange and off-the-wall things as a Liberal over the years, including taking out a Canadian Alliance membership back in 2000, but an environmental activist? This is completely obsurd.

Not that New Brunswick Taxpayer has anything against a "green agenda", but let's get a bit of perspective here folks, wasn't Mr. Young a government lobbyist for big industry [manufacturing companies] in Canada, including Irving, during his time at Summa Canada Strategies Inc.? Which begs the question: Did all the companies in which he did business with (or lobbied for) abide by environmental law? I think these are very important questions that Doug Young must answer before annointing himself "Lord of the environment".

As Einstein once said, "We can never solve our significant problems from the same level of thinking we were at when we created the problems". I love that quote, especially when thinking of Doug Young as a converted "green" lobbyist. And I don't mean "green" as in money, although it does suite the situation a little bit better, doesn't it.

But I digress as maybe I'm way off on this one. What do you (the readers) think? Is it "ok" for a guy like Young to be touting the environment as a big business lobbyist? Discuss.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Begging for more dependency

Whatever Premier Shawn Graham and his Liberal team may imagine the process of economic development to be, "courting" private sector growth through low corporate taxes is not one of them.

With the present deficit in Fredericton, Finance Minister Victor Boudreau demonstrated (in his last budget) that he was in no mood to cut revenues, in fact, he chose to shift the burden over to low income earners and small business instead. Now I won't get into a long diatribe about the last budget as everyone knows where I stand on the moves made by Boudreau, so I won't discuss it any further.

However, much more disturbing than those moves [i.e. regressive tax hikes] last March was today's article in the Telegraph Journal titled "Courting Club Fed" which suggests New Brunswickers aren't getting their fair share of the federal government pie.

Hence the concern here is that our province needs to "court" (or as many say "relocate") more government agencies [units]. For instance, the federal Public Works department's superannuation division in Shediac, ACOA headquarters in Moncton and Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown are all examples of government agencies which have been moved out of the nations capital to benefit local communities.

Nothing new here, this is an ethos which has been strongly supported by many federal and provincial Liberals for decades, not to mention, it was even written as a policy proposal by Liberal senior advisor and academic Donald Savoie in his book Visiting Grandchildren. And who could blame these folks for cozying up to this policy since the pattern of government relocation has always favoured partisan Liberal ridings for centuries in this province; Shediac, Miramichi and Moncton to name a few. Moreover, I'm sure many people are old enough to recall the days of the "Cod Father" Romeo Leblanc who made a living off of using government units as a means to sway votes. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a few individuals have benefitted from these relocations, but that's not the point here. Using the public sector as a tool to leverage more political capital (and votes) does nothing for our overall economic self-sufficiency. It actually makes regions more dependent on government and, in turn, taxes become higher and innovation dwindles even further in areas of slow growth as a result. But that debate is for another day.

More to the point, it's interesting to note that the centrepiece of the TJ article, from Rob Linke's point of view, was based around a statement made by then Public Works Minister Scott Brison wherein he quoted the Bluenoser from a speech he made in Sydney, NS back in 2004 in which he said:
"there is simply no compelling reason anymore to keep the majority of public servants in the Ottawa-Gatineau area."
Unfortunately, what Link failed to mention was that Brison was obviously touting the Liberal "talking points" in 2004 as a return favour to Paul Martin for quickly promoting him to cabinet after he crossed the floor from the conservatives. In other words, as a newcomer to an unfamiliar party, I'm certain Brison felt compelled not to rock the boat with his true conservative ideologies. Former ideologies that went against regional development agencies such as ACOA in Moncton. Let's take a look at how he felt a few years before he made that statement in Sydney, NS, shall we. From the Halifax Daily News in February of that year, Brison said:
“I’m an Atlantic Canadian MP who had the guts to say ACOA isn’t working for Atlantic Canada, and getting rid of it and replacing it with dramatic tax reform for Atlantic Canada."
In that piece, Brison also made reference to the amount that ACOA spent in Atlantic Canada, in that, it was roughly equivalent to the amount that Ottawa collects in the region in corporate income taxes alone. In other words, as former AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley explains:
"We know what that means: the federal government takes money from private companies that have proven themselves successful in investing money and putting people to work in sustainable jobs. It takes the money, and spends a major share of it on an expensive bureaucracy employing hundreds of highly paid civil servants. Under pressure from the Atlantic government caucus of the day, they then distribute that money. Unsurprisingly, they do so so as to maximise the political rather than the economic benefits."
Not only does this prove that Brison position changed upon entering the Liberal party, it also proves that the party he defected to isn't interesting in changing this failed approach which does very little for longterm economic growth, as well, it acts as an inhibitor for better and more sustainable private sector positions. Crowley adds:

If you took 350 barrels (not pork barrels, of course — they’d be salt cod barrels, or perhaps today oil barrels, but that’s an aside), anyway, if you take 350 non-pork barrels, put $1-million in each one and then plunked them down in towns and villages across Atlantic Canada, and let people help themselves, economic activity would be “generated”. Jobs would be “created” because people would spend the money on groceries and house repairs and new cars. Tax revenues would be generated as governments took their share of all those transactions. But the economic activity isn’t real — it only lasts as long as the barrels keep coming.

So the only way to judge the value of ACOA or FedNor or Western Diversification, then, is to look at what these agencies choose to do with our money compared to what we would do with it ourselves if we were allowed to keep it. Not only would we spend it differently, but we would avoid all the costly direct and indirect distortions that taxation imposes. Ireland chose the tax cut route. (and was very successfull economically for doing so)
So there is no question in my mind, if the New Brunswick Liberals want to "court" another ACOA to the province as an answer to all our economic woes, they had better think again, especially since ACOA has not created any new economic activity in this region for years. It merely substitutes private sector activity with public sector activity (which Liberal partisans use for their political advantage) instead of lowering taxes for all New Brunswickers and creating a more level and competitive playing field where citizens can choose to spend and invest their money where they please. I don't know about you, but I trust people over politicians any day of the week, especially when it comes to my money.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Productivity needs investment

"Lack of investment is to blame for low productivity"

I hear the above line being touted in many circles around the province (both in the public and private sector), however, the former likes to sweep the issue aside in hopes it will go away. Unfortunately, as the Calgary Herald reminds us, this situation isn't going to go away anytime soon. The editorial begins by explaining the benefits of investment:

"Give someone a shovel, and he can dig a hole. Give him a backhoe, and he can dig a big hole, more quickly.

That's what capital does for productivity. There is also something in it for the worker, too. The more he gets done, the more his employer can afford to pay him."
Afford to pay him, indeed. The reality, of course, is that "regulation" and "high taxes" are stalling productivity in its tracks in this province. What was particularly galling was the fact that our current government, here in New Brunswick, were completely unwilling to do what is right for industry, in that, they chose to ignore pledges by the opposition (who obtained a higher popular vote) to lower business taxes and lift regulations [i.e. NB Power and rescinding Lord's small business tax cut]. Simply put, money paid in tax is not available to invest. Let the CD Howe Institute explain:

One place to look is at high taxes on capital formation in Canada. The country has some of the highest rates of capital taxation in the world (Mintz et al.2005). Governments need to continue to reform and rationalize their corporate, capital, and sales tax codes to ensure that investments can receive internationally competitive returns.

Another place to look is regulation. Some of the sectors likeliest to yield innovations, competitive products, and rising wages in the years ahead — such as telecommunications, financial services, and healthcare — struggle under regulatory regimes shaped by the economic and political imperatives of the past. Other key supports for the economy, such as transportation infrastructure and the production and transmission of fossil fuels and electric power, are not subject to market pricing and/or have restricted access to funds for investment.

Canada is blessed with high amounts of human capital, deep and efficient capital markets, relatively large amounts of infrastructure, and access to the US market that is almost entirely free of trade barriers. In the long run, translating these advantages into higher standards of living in Canada depends on increasing the productivity of Canadian industry. The higher incomes, faster productivity growth, and lower environmental stresses that new capital permits are especially desirable in the face of Canada’s changing demography, which threatens to hold back growth of the workforce while putting fresh demands on public programs. So tax and regulatory reform that would make Canada’s investment climate more favourable, and thus equip Canadian workers with better tools, is an essential task for federal and provincial governments.
And when speaking of human capital, as I said in a previous post: "the government of New Brunswick would be better off focusing on policy initiatives that attempt to attract and retain the creative class rather than reintroducing old [failed] policies that do more to drive them out.[...] So it makes no sense to me why governments are willing to nickle and dime these individuals with high taxes whereby they eventually drive them out. Wouldn't it make more sense to attract a larger and more competitive and educated talent base through lower taxes rather than discourage them with regressive ones.

State funded Catholic bashing unacceptable

NB Taxpayer is calling on the CBC to refund Canadian taxpayers the $600,000 which was provided [in part] from the Canadian Television Fund to run a pilot which portrayed altar boys as druggies and the Catholic communion host as “munchable snack food, possible poker chips and a repository for drops of LSD".

“Catholics should not have to pay for shows where their most sacred rituals and images are considered a starting point for dramatic licence,” said the Catholic Civil Rights League, which intends to lodge a formal complaint today with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for airing The Altar Boy Gang. And we agree wholeheartedly with the Catholic Civil Rights League here at NB taxpayer.

As an extension of the government and an institution funded by Canadian taxpayers, the CBC should be upholding freedom of religion for all religious faiths. Which is why I was surprised at the statement made by CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay where he defended the pilot and believed the premise of the show did not cross the line.

"Part of trying to produce compelling programming is to not be afraid of images that someone could find disturbing and I think this, while some people could have found it offensive, it falls within the realm of reasonable."

Yes, but. After the yes, comes the but for our organization here at [NB Taxpayers]: However, how does Keay explain the Mother Corp.'s recent decision to hire a Muslim Canadian consultant last year to ensure that Islamic practices were respected in the program Little Mosque on the Prairie? A consultant, which I remind you, was paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Are the CBC not setting a very blatant double standard here since the same treatment was not afforded to the Catholic faith?

Executive director of the CCRL Joanne McGarry questioned the CBC’s decision to air the program and demanded that their organization commit to respecting the religious sensitivities of all Catholics in Canada. She is also looking for a clarification from the CBC in order to determine whether they are truly "equitable" in upholding religious sensitivities for all faiths and denominations.

"It will be interesting to determine if opportunities were made available to observant Catholics to preview ‘The Altar Boy Gang’. If yes, upon whom did they rely? If not, why the double standard?” McGarry said.

“With this program, the CBC has moved into the area of blasphemy of sacred rituals. Can we expect similar treatment for other religious groups?

This is simply unacceptable and Catholics (and taxpayers alike) should not have to pay for state funded Catholic bashing. Plain and simple. Let's hope the CBC does the right thing and returns the money used to fund this pilot to its rightful owners, the Canadian taxpayer. (Hat tip Wolfvillewatch)

Why are taxpayers still footing the bill for separatist' pensions?

Conservative activist Stephen Taylor raises a great point about Canadian taxpayers money, in that, it's being spent very imprudently so that retired separatist can live comfortably. To be honest, it's simply appalling that our well earned tax-dollars are going towards a pension ($110,000 annually) wherein the person receiving it led an attempt (on a daily basis) to break up our country, not to mention, he compared our national hockey team captain (who represents our country internationally) to a bank robber. Frankly, this is almost as execrable as Hamid Karzai's new Afghan government approving a pension for Osama Bin Laden. In other words, it just doesn't make sense. And as Taylor adds:
Why is the bloc still running candidates for federal office? How are their dreams for sovereignty served by sitting in Ottawa, collecting a salary (and eventually a pension) paid for by Canadian Taxpayers?

As the leader of the third largest party, Duceppe occupies a better office on the hill than the leader of the "fourth party": Jack Layton.
Read full post

Monday, May 21, 2007

PARLEZ-VOUS 'BROKE,' ELIOT?

Here a great article in the New York Post on Eliot Spitzer's tax-and-spend tendencies. His recent decision to impose another regressive tax which would require businesses to buy insurance to cover paid family leaves for workers is not only harmful towards future investment in the state, but a deterent towards economic development.

Oh btw, I also liked this little tidbit near the end of the article: "And Canada, a welfare-state bastion, elected Stephen Harper - a free-market economist - prime minister last year." A free-market economist? Let's hope someone reminds him, eh Gerry?

Which also begs the question: "if Canada's a welfare state bastion, than what the heck are we here in New Brunswick? Marxist? Leninist?

Growing our Economy: Keeping Taxes Low and Restraining Spending

For those of you who have had just about enough of the imbecilities regularly emanating from the New Brunswick Liberal Party regarding "botched deals", "regressive taxes" and "corporate welfare", then I suggest you read this installment, found in a Neil Reynolds story in the Telegraph Journal, which is a useful reminder about why this current Liberal government is - truly - incapable of returning a two day old movie rental to Blockbuster, let alone a fledgling economy to the promised land in 2025.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

We need to embrace democratic reform

It was definitely refreshing to see both Hugh Segal & Ed Broadbent praise the Ontario Legislature for aggressively moving forward on electoral reform. (i.e. Referendum on mixed member proportional [MMP])
"The two of us reflect two competing, democratic, partisan traditions in Ontario. We differ on many matters of public policy. We strongly unite, however, in our commitment to an electoral system that is democratic in more than name. It's long overdue in our country. We salute the Ontario Legislature for putting the spotlight on our voting system and for making October's referendum possible. In particular, we applaud all those ordinary people who made up the citizens' assembly and produced an imaginative and practical proposal." Read entire article

If these two well respected partisans can put their political differences aside for the betterment of democracy, then why can't others do the same? As for the situation in our neck of the woods, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham chose to [unfortunately] go with the status quo whereby he quashed the idea of citizens voting in a referendum on the recommendations brought forward by the citizens' assembly on electoral reform. As well, Mr. Graham also refused to act on this democratic impulse when he chose to play petty partisan games with a great piece of federal legislation by submitting a 13 page brief which, in turn, further delayed the passage of Bill S-4 (a one clause bill on senate term limits). It's very unfortunate that our premier didn't chose to follow the excellent example set by Segal and Broadbent who both put partisans bickering aside in favour of promoting a more "fair" and "equitable" voting system.

Moreover, I see our friends over on Prince Edward Island (who chose to stick with the FPTP system in a referendum last fall) are on the verge of having election results [again] which don't reflect the diversity of thought amongst its citizenry. In other words, according to a Corporate Research Associates seat projection model, the Green and NDP parties will be shut out once again.

Let me tell you, this is really, really unfortunate, especially after glancing over a few comments made in the "comments section" of the PEI Guardian as it seems many island citizens want to put their vote somewhere other than with the Tories or Liberals, however, because of the way the old first-past-the-post system is set up, they feel like a vote for the NDP or Greens is nothing more than a wasted vote. And in the end, instead of voting for what they want (i.e. Greens & NDP), people begin voting against what they don't want. (i.e. Tories & Libs) I especially like this comment by Samantha where she said, "Do you really want Robert Ghiz leading this province? Sure the Conservatives have made a couple of mistakes, but the good things they've done far outweigh the bad, and if the Liberals get in, the opposite will definitely be true. For the love of God, vote PC!" Doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement for FPTP, does it?

There's no question, we need to start engaging more citizens on the advantages of democratic reform. As Globe & Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson said recently, "Give yourself a test. Raise electoral reform around the barbecue this summer. If friends even know what it means, let alone start discussing it, MMP has a chance. If people ask for the ketchup or a beer, the status quo will win."

Section 1 of the constitution is flawed

Here's a great article in the Interim by Gerry Nicholls regarding the Charter and free speech:

If you think the Charter of Rights and Freedoms truly safeguards our democratic rights, think again. In fact, in one notorious case, the Charter did nothing to prevent bureaucrats, politicians and judges from squashing the most basic of all democratic freedoms: the right to free election speech.

I know all about this case, because it involved my group, the National Citizens Coalition. We were fighting against what the media termed the “election gag law.”


Enacted in 2000, this gag law imposed severe legal restrictions on how much money private citizens or independent organizations could spend on “election advertising.” Under this law, a citizen could actually be thrown into prison for the “crime” of running a full-page newspaper ad urging voters to support (or oppose) a political party. Under this law, it’s also illegal for citizens or groups to run effective media campaigns during elections to raise public awareness on important issues such as the environment, abortion or same-sex “marriage.”

Clearly, this gag law infringed on the democratic right to free expression – a right specifically guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So the NCC challenged this law in the courts.

After a four-year battle, the case ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada. We were confident of victory. After all, we had won every round in the court fight up until then. Both the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal had ruled all or parts of the gag law to be unconstitutional.

But on May 18, 2004, the unthinkable happened.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 to uphold the gag law and essentially killed a core democratic freedom.

What happened? Why did freedom lose?

Well, while the court agreed the gag law did indeed infringe on free expression, it ruled it to be a justifiable infringement. And indeed, under Section 1 of our Constitution, a freedom can be suspended if the government can provide the court with solid evidence that the exercise of that freedom causes harm.

In this case, however, the government was unable to provide any evidence that free political speech did cause harm. The best argument it could come up with was the gag law was needed because without it the rich might unfairly buy elections.

It was a flimsy argument, but amazingly, the Supreme Court bought it, ruling the lack of evidence didn’t matter. For the court, a “reasoned apprehension” that free speech might lead to some sort of unfairness was enough. In other words, as an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen put it, the Supreme Court took away our freedom on nothing more than a “hunch.” And in so doing, the Supreme Court justices have made it immeasurably easier for future governments to take away more of our freedoms.

The bar of proof under Section 1 has been drastically lowered.

That’s why anybody relying on the Charter to protect our rights could be in for a major disappointment.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Weekly Waste Round-Up 1

In the news this week:

Canada

Additional MPs a waste of cash- "In Ottawa, our Conservative government wants to add 22 new members to the House of Commons - in order to reflect the growing population. Ontario would get 10 more seats, British Columbia seven and Alberta five if the proposed legislation passes. Provinces without growing populations, or even with dwindling ones, won't lose any seats. [...] Speaking of getting what you pay for, more MPs don't come cheap. Do Canadians really want to spend another $141,000 a year per MP, plus benefits and office expenses and their gold-plated pension plan? With more MPs will come more Cabinet posts, and that's another $66,700 each (plus the $141,000)." (
The Barrie Examiner 18.5.07)

Premier's racked up about $1 million in gov't flight time- "Premier Dalton McGuinty has used government aircraft flights worth up to $1 million to reach destinations as close to Queen’s Park as Hamilton and Niagara, an investigation by the Hamilton Spectator has revealed. Details of McGuinty’s travels came to light through summaries of government aircraft flights from 2002 to the summer of 2006 acquired under the Freedom of Information Act. [...] While the costs are not summarized anywhere, a Spectator analysis suggests the premier’s in-the-air time alone would have, conservatively, cost more than $600,000 at the standard government rate of $2,000 an hour. Add on time waiting for the passengers on the ground and before and after flights, and the cost approaches $1 million or more. [...] By number of flight legs flown, McGuinty was the biggest user of the government’s two-plane fleet of executive Beechcraft turboprops, accounting for about one in four authorized flights since he was elected in October 2003. (
Ottawa Sun 17.5.07)

Study by the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality a waste of taxpayers money- "At least 80 per cent of women surveyed in a new study say they have been approached in a sexually overt way while at a singles bar." (
CTV.ca 18.5.07)

United States

Taxpayers foot bill for $40G farewell- "U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan has left taxpayers holding a $40,000 bill for an emotional farewell letter that trumpets his accomplishments as he prepares to depart for a six-figure job in academia." [...] "Meehan, who once decried the use of taxpayer-funded mass mailings, sent the two-page letter to more than 100,000 constituents in his congressional district, which is now girding for a $1 million special election to replace him." [...] “This is a very expensive good-bye, and there’s no need for it,” said David Williams of Citizens Against Government Waste, which tracks congressional spending. “Why is it that taxpayers are always the first ones to foot the bill for everything that goes on?” (Boston Herald 18.5.07)

$1.2 million for state owned golf courses wasteful spending- "A national taxpayer watchdog and a Tennessee think tank have teamed up to expose wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. The Tennessee Pork Report is the second annual report released by citizens Against Government Waste and the Tennessee Center for Policy Research." [...] "The report cites $1.2 million to subsidize failing state owned golf courses and $350,000 for computers and printers that were never used." (WKRN.com 15.5.07)

Britain and the UK

£10bn pa on pensions black hole- Every family in Britain must spend an extra £400 this year
making up a shortfall in public sector pension funds. Official figures show that the cost of pensions for the country^s state workers is expected to reach £29 billion this year. But contributions from employers and employees total just £19 billion, leaving a "black hole" of £10 billion which must be paid for by the taxpayer. This extra cost is the equivalent of each of Britain^s 25 million households being given a bill for £400 to cover the shortfall." (Telegraph 10.5.07)

Tax credit errors waste £1.9bn- "Another £1.4bn is likely to be written off in overpaid tax credits, according to a report from a committee of MPs. The Public Accounts Committee said this would bring losses from overpayments to £1.9bn. A revamp to the system meant it would pay £500m more a year, it added. The new tax credit system started in 2003, but it has been plagued by complexity, overpayments and fraud." (BBC 8.5.07)

NHS spending set to exceed £92 billion- "New Labour had its limits, even in 1997. Those limits were made flesh by the appointment of Frank Dobson as Tony Blair’s first health secretary. For all the changes which the NHS has seen since then, there has been an underlying Old Labour consistency to the government’s approach to the NHS over the past decade: spend as much money as possible, fiddle with the management structures, and all will be well with the wonderful NHS. But if that was the answer, then one has to wonder what on earth was the question. Tony Blair’s legacy, after a decade in charge of the NHS, is a false dawn on reform and waste on an unprecedented scale." [...] "Much attention has focused recently on the chaotic £12 billion NHS IT project (estimated by the public accounts committee to end up costing £20 billion)." [...] "But that is a pinprick compared with the overall sums thrown at the NHS’s fiscal black hole. By the end of this financial year, NHS spending will be £92 billion – a rise of over £50 billion a year since 1999. But to what end? Even the King’s Fund, one of the NHS’s stalwart defenders, has conceded that three quarters of the increased spending disappears each year in costs rather than ‘activity’ (the jargon for treating people)." (The Business Online 18.5.07)

Hidden Gas Tax Gouging NBers At The Pumps

Premier must reinvest $275 million back into highways, roads and bridges in 2007/08

With the Victoria Day weekend upon us and marking the unofficial start to our summer season, there is no question that many people will be planning to travel. Unfortunately, those who are planning to take to the road this summer may find themselves in a huge dilemma, since high gasoline prices will definitely become an obstacle to their all-important travel plans.

That is why, in congruence with the CTF's 9th Annual Gas Tax honesty Day, New Brunswick Taxpayer is calling on Premier Shawn Graham to follow in the footsteps of both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments by passing a Gas Accountability Act. As motorists begin to take to the highways this summer, they will unfortunately be reminded of the high tax component hidden in the total price of gasoline. A tax which is unfairly gouging many New Brunswickers at the pumps.

For example, of the total $275 million in provincial revenues collected from gas taxes and fees, only 62% of that is reinvested back into highway infrastructure, bridges and roads. Though we commend the premier for keeping his election promise to lower gas taxes by 3.8 cents per litre, we are hopeful that he will do the right thing and reinvest 100% of the total revenues collected by gas taxes and fees back into highway infrastructure, bridges and roads for 2007/08.

Moreover, NB Taxpayer is also urging the federal government to reduce the regressive gasoline tax, as it is gouging too many consumers. At the moment, taxes account for approximately 33 per cent of the pump price, on average.

And to add insult to injury, the GST is being charged to the full price one pays at the pump (every 10-cent increase at the pumps results in government bringing in a total of $175 million in GST revenues). In other words, it is nothing more than a tax on a tax - where revenues collected by Ottawa will range in the billions of dollars for 2006-07, around $1.5 billion to be exact.


To understand the breakdown, one can refer to the diagram below which illustrates how the cost of a typical litre of gasoline (assuming a retail price of $1 per litre) is affected by federal and provincial taxes, as well as costs for crude oil, marketing and refining.(note: PST and HST vary from province to province)

Approximate Price Components of Gasoline at $1 per Litre (in cents)

click on imgage to enlarge









Note: Values for crude, refiner and retailer are estimated and are for demonstration purposes only.

The hidden gas tax is unfair and should be treated as such. That is why the government, at both the federal and provincial level, should treat it as a user fee. In doing so, the money could be reinvested back into highway infrastructure, bridges and roads and, in turn, would go a long way in reducing municipal taxes, especially since a good percentage of local taxes goes towards maintaining roads.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The business of government is not the government of business

Why high taxes drive out the creative class

In his budget message to Congress in January of 1963, President John F. Kennedy wrote, "Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased - not a reduced - flow of revenues to the federal government."

Interesting. Perhaps it's time to remind the New Brunswick Liberals and Finance Minister Victor Boudreau [once again] of Kennedy's exemplary fiscal insight and that the notion of lower taxes, both personal and business, is definitely sustainable over time. In other words, government intervention into business and high taxation as a means to "bring revenues and spending into line with one another" are not the answer to our province's future prosperity as Boudreau claimed back in March. Why? Because we now live in a more competitive global economy where other governments are attempting to make their own tax regimes sufficiently attractive to lure talented people to settle in their neck of the woods, not the other way around.

Moreover, not only is it bad public policy, very few people in New Brunswick these days seem to share in Boudreau's skepticism towards lower taxes. Take Moncton native Brian Rietzel who recently stated "taxes are way too high" or Hali Mullins who pointed out that "taxing NBer's to the point to which everyone is moving out of the province should be a clear indication that NBer's have had enough with our governments taxation antics" or Michael Boucher who said "was thinking of buying a home ....but why bother, won`t be able to afford one seeing I have to pay all these taxes they keep thowing at us taxpayers!" or Katherine Maurice also from Moncton who said "the government needs to quit gouging its citizens with high taxes. No wonder so many people are leaving for Alberta and other greener pastures. We love New Brunswick but enough is enough!!" and finally Bruce Lane of Riverview who asked "what happened to trying to make N.B. more attractive, so people who have moved away would move back? This seems like a pretty sure-fire way to drive more people out of the province."

These individuals are not alone in their plights. Nevertheless, as it stands right now since the last provincial budget, we now live in a province which taxes its citizens through the roof; and as long as this government mindset perseveres, we will continue to see, as Mr. Lane and Miss Maurice stated above, a mass exodus of individuals to more "attractive" regions in the rest of Canada and abroad. Furthermore, it didn't come as any surprise that so many New Brunswickers shared the same sentiments as those individuals documented above, however, what was quite surprising was the fact that these regressive [high taxes] were not even given a single mention when premier Graham began to quickly adopt many of the recommendations from the final report on self-suffiency issued by Gilles Lepage and Francis McGuire two week ago.

What was even more curious about all this --- as became blatantly obvious ten days ago during the press conference for the release of the final report --- was that the media were unprepared to make a case for taxpayers in New Brunswick and, in turn, found themselves more caught up in the allure of the report rather than its substance. In some cases the media, particularly the one that is funded by our tax dollars, were more interested in reporting how the opposition believed the report on provincial self-sufficiency favoured "J.D. Irving forestry company" instead of reporting how much this government's fiscal policies were out of step with New Brunswick taxpayers.

The truth is, the report on provincial self-sufficiency was quintessential of the type of novice [economic developement] thinking that unfortunately existed throughout most of the 1990s. An ethos that championed regional development programs as a means to attract more business from other parts of the country by offering non-repayable loans and subsidy grants. As easy and efficient as this policy may seem, there are significant drawbacks to this approach in a more globalized economy, especially since other successful regions favour human talent, rather than financial capital, as their primary economic base.(i.e. a knowledge based economy [KBE]).

For example, a firm might indeed be encouraged by subsidy or support grants to locate in an area it would not have otherwise chosen. It might have chosen a location favourable to its suppliers and markets, or somewhere pleasant enough to enable high quality staff to be attracted and retained. However, in an economy where human capital trumps older style economies, a firm enticed by government may find itself economically disadvantaged as a result. In other words, when government pulls its subsidies and supports out, the firm may find itself struggling in a less-than-ideal location which it would not otherwise have chosen. So in the end, in a global economy that is quickly putting more emphasis on human capital, it would be much more difficult for even a good company enticed by government subsidies to convince quality talent to move with them to a less-than-ideal location like New Brunswick.

Moreover, it is true that, in this new age of global capitalism, no one has a job that they could not leave tomorrow? Not because they hate their job or are doing useless work, but because the creative class tends to migrate to so-called global city regions [GCRs] where there are ample opportunities and positions in their field of work. Which is why you see so many other countries developing attractive policies which cater to the needs of these individuals through lower taxes, high-tech modern infrastructure and state of the art services. As Richard Florida explains in his book The Rise of the Creative Class, "access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore were to steelmaking, Cities that score well in terms of Florida's 3Ts --- technology, talent and tolerance (where the latter is measured by the amenities and opportunities available for every lifestyle) --- will become places where the creative class will cluster."

That is why the government of New Brunswick would be better off focusing on policy initiatives that attempt to attract and retain the creative class rather than reintroducing old [failed] policies that do more to drive them out. Not to mention, the creative talent generates wealth outside of itself. It constitutes a huge loss to society if it leaves. (as is evident in New Brunswick with increased outmigration and lack of immigration due to poor policies)

Let's face it, these high earning individuals buy property, goods, they patronize stores and restaurants, they buy personal and financial services. Plain and simple, their wealth circulates, generating strong economic spin-offs and job creation as a result. So it makes no sense to me why governments are willing to nickle and dime these individuals with high taxes whereby they eventually drive them out. Wouldn't it make more sense to attract a larger and more competitive and educated talent base through lower taxes rather than discourage them with regressive ones.

Graham may believe that liberalism is merely the same old liberalism of his father's generation brought up to speed. But it is much more than that, if the budget and final report on provincial self-sufficiency be considered the precursor. As a political document, it reveals the new order as pro-big business, anti-democratic and poor fiscal managers. Let's just say the Tories could not have asked for a better gift to regroup its wounded forces.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Are NB francophone high school students being set up for failure?

Atlantic Institute for Market Studies [AIMS] Director of education policy, Robert Laurie, gives us a grim reality check on the current state of our public education system whereby he examines the relationship between teacher assigned marks and provincial examination. In this study, he discovers a very disturbing "grade inflation" trend which exists amongst twenty-one New Brunswick francophone high schools right across the province. Furthermore, he argues that this unfortunate trend in the public school system is usually accompanied by lower than average results on provincial math examinations.

Setting them up to fail? shows a clear link between grade inflation and student performance on provincial exams, that link raises many urgent questions. AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill elaborated:

“It is time for the education establishment to set the record straight. The unfortunate relationship between high grade inflation and low exam marks is too strong to ignore. Are teachers overcompensating for poor preparation and poor performance on provincial exams? Or are expectations so low that kids are not being prepared to meet a fair, reasonable and objective assessment?”
Very good questions, indeed. And ones that we will definitely need to find answers to. Moreover, this discovery may just be the tip of the iceburg as something tells me that this phenomenon exist right across the province in both francophone and anglophone high schools. Which begs the question: if children and young adults are being given false hope (through grade inflation), doesn't this completely undermine the entire education system to its core in New Brunswick? Not to mention, if it is allowed to continue, it will certainly seal the fate of many young NBers, in that, many of them will be ill-prepared upon entry into a very competitive global society and will likely become tax burdens down the road.

The declining ethos of economic nationalism

The debate in Canada over foreign takeovers reached rock-bottom last week when politicians raised the ire of economic nationalist by suggesting that our national sovereignty was being compromised by the interests of international big business.

Though some would suggest that free market globalization has eroded the power of nation-states, there are others that suggest otherwise. In fact, the rise of government interventionist in the media [lately] over Alcoa's Inc's $33 billion (USD) bid to take over Alcan Inc. is a sure-fire sign of how far liberalization of markets and the single market have advanced. As international corporations restructure, the scope of national authorities becomes far more narrow, in that, their attempt to impose barriers on trade in goods, services, and people, issues of corporate control are viewed as one last area where national authorities still wield some power. Thus, it can be seriously argued that recent actions to stop foreign takeovers represent the end of the battle, not the beginning.

Intertwined with the upsurge in economic nationalism is the notion that the nationality of ownership matters in the overall management of the world economy. Thus the merger of Canadian firms with other global competitors is acceptable but the takeover and aquisition of Canadian firms by an outside global competitor is not. However, as Andrew Coyne explains, where the arguement by economic nationalist comes up short is when they assume that private ownership is linked to the democratic deficit of government institutions and their power to legislate. [i.e. a threat to national sovereignty]

But then, this is par for the course. Economic nationalists never get around to explaining just how Canada’s sovereignty -- the right of our governments to make laws for the public good -- is tied up in the ownership of a private corporation. It’s just sort of assumed. But in fact a foreign-owned company may as easily be taxed or regulated as a Canadian, as a moment’s thought will reveal. Or if sovereignty is synonymous with ownership, how is either preserved by depriving Canadians of one of the most elementary rights of ownership, the right to sell?

But back to the dollar. It cannot have escaped notice that the dollar has been rising steadily, from 85 cents to over 90 cents, over the past seven weeks -- coinciding with the latest wave of foreign takeovers. First thought: so much for the notion, popular a while back, that foreign takeovers were driven by a low dollar -- the “fire sale” theory. Second thought: so far as the dollar is a factor, then Canadian firms are rather less exposed to foreign takeover than they were before. The same high-profile sales of our “corporate icons” that excite such nationalist passion, by sucking in capital and driving up the dollar, make other Canadian companies less attractive to foreign buyers.

As is so often the case in these matters, the debate over foreign investment pits the interests, not of Canadians against foreigners, but of some Canadians against other Canadians. By preventing or inhibiting the sale of Alcan, we would not only be depriving Alcan’s Canadian owners of the capital gain to which they are entitled, but also shareholders in those other Canadian firms in which the newly liquid Alcan shareholders might choose to reinvest -- not to mention Canadian consumers, who might otherwise benefit from the lower prices associated with a higher dollar.

Industries vital to Canada’s future? Alcan’s owners would only sell if they thought they could earn higher returns elsewhere -- in other firms, and other industries -- than by holding onto their shares. I suggest they are better placed to make these judgments than the Globe’s editors.

Very true, indeed. And even if we did have thriving special industries in Canada, limiting their ability to attract smart, innovative and aggressive new owners from other foreign countries would be extremely counterproductive in a global society. Case in point: consider the fact that there were a total of 790 deals in which Canadian companies acquired foreign firms in 2005-06. This was 20 per cent higher than the 660 deals in which Canadian companies were taken over by foreign firms in the same time frame. So despite the constant fear mongering by economic nationalist, Canadian firms have been the benefactors of a wider and more liberalized global market, not the opposite as Toronto Star financial writer, David Olive, would suggest.

Furthermore, there is no question that an irresponsible resurgence of economic nationalism, which discriminates against foreign ownership, could also provoke other markets, in foreign countries, to retaliate in response. Such a reaction could undermine the mutual economic benefits, including millions of jobs, that are derived from the robust two-way flow of foreign trade and investment.

Take McCain Foods Ltd. located Florenceville, New Brunswick as an example. Much of their success and business growth was derived from their aggressive expansion into foreign markets whereby they acquired Alpine Foods Ltd in New Zealand, Safries Pty. Ltd. in Penola, Australia, Heinz Frozen Foods (SA) (Pty.) Ltd. of Viljoenskroon, South Africa and Goodman Fielder International (Taiwan) Limited to name a few. So the fallout from possible economic nationalist policies would be dire for firms competing in a global market. In other words, globally competitive firms, like McCains, would suffer enormously if free market principles were compromised in favour of state economic protectionism.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Nebulous Argument of Pay Equity

What everyone needs to know about government and wage-gap reporting

Once again, the topic of pay equity is front and centre in the news as Family and Community Services Minister Carmel Robichaud tabled the first annual report in the legislature yesterday regarding the government's five-year Wage Action Plan titled Facing the Economic Imperative. The crux of the report attempts to convince New Brunswickers that women are undervalued and underpaid in the workplace.

I know what you're thinking, who in their right mind could oppose something like pay equity or wage-gaps, especially when buzzwords like "discrimination", "fairness" and "equity" can be found riddled throughout the document. Well, let's get one thing clear here, I'm all for equal pay for equal work, however, in the document Facing the Economic Imperative, the conclusions suggest that the "wage-gap is the difference between the average wages that men earn and the average wages that women earn". Furthermore, the report suggest this gap is likely due to the discrimination which supposedly exist amongst women in the workforce. Two things that tend to favour the allure of the pay equity arguement.

First of all, I quickly noticed that the report identifies a wage-gap between males and females of 15.5%. This figure is very deceptive because it doesn't take into account differences in work hours, occupational choices, and other key variables. In other words, the concept may sound egalitarian, but many times certain variables are missed or left out so as to make the arguement stronger in favour of "pay equity" as the only means to curb wage inequalities. But please don't get me wrong here people, I'm not suggesting that there is absolutely no gender wage gap, but I do believe that one must consider a few things first before one quickly hops on the "pay equity" bandwagon.

For example, the wag-gap cited above does not take into account such factors as men who enter the Canadian Forces right out of high school do so at much higher rates than do women. Thus, these men command a bigger paycheck upon graduation and, in turn, widen the wage-gap. As well, fewer women than men work full-time, not to mention, those women who enter the workforce tend to work fewer hours than men on average --- according to a 2001 Statistics Canada report, women's participation rates were lower (59.3 per cent) than their male counterparts participation rates (68.3 per cent).

What does this all mean?

Given that these variables and discrepancies are not considered or accounted for in the "pay equity" arguement, then there is good reason to believe that wage gaps could be as low as 5 per cent in some parts of Canada, even New Brunswick. Statistics Canada notes that the unadjusted wage gap is small for workers with less than two years experience (4 per cent) but grows larger as years of work experience increase. A National Graduates Survey found that the gender gap was relatively small two years after graduation (7 per cent) but widened two to five years after graduation (16 per cent). Not only that, they found that single female university graduates earned more than single male university graduates: $40, 024, compared with men $39,342. So there definitely is a wage gap, however, it just isn't as sizable as initially reported (15.5 per cent).

Big or small, it would be easy to make the assumption that the remaining gap is primarily due to discrimination, but before one makes this judgement, there are two things to consider: choice and experience. In order to put this issue into a better and more working explanation, I will cite an arguement made by former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Mark Milke;

If one compared the per capita earnings of female lawyers with their male counterparts, the wage gap would likely be even more pronounced.

Because women have only recently flocked into law school at the same rate as men, a majority of the most senior lawyers, judges, and law professors --- those with the money --- are male. Because it takes several decades to reach the top rung of any profession, it will take that long for the wages of women in the legal profession --- and thus the per capita comparison, to equal that of their male counterparts. And that assumes that one day both sexes will work the same number of hours over the course of their careers, have identical qualifications, and perform work similar enough that each will bill per hour at exactly the same rate. If even one female lawyer did more pro bono work than the average male lawyer did, the first statistical "wage gap" would appear between the sexes.
And the same example could be true in reverse. If 50 years from now, law is a female-dominated profession where the majority of the most senior and longest-serving lawyers and judges are women (and even both sexes worked the same number of hours at that point), the wage gap due to seniority reasons alone would then favour women.

Point being, any decision to stall one's career climb, whether to raise children, take a leave of absence or to backpack around Europe, will affect one's future earnings in relation to those who opt not to make similar choices. Granted, the person who takes time off to raise children or goes to Europe may be a more balanced person; they may have a fuller life than the workaholic lawyer. But none of that is relevant to wages. The wage gap that would exist between male and female lawyers in this example is because of different choices and experience, not discrimination.
So as you can see, the "wage gap" between males and females is due to many different variables, but to blame employers’ discrimination as its primary cause is irresponsible to say the very least. Instead of government's determining over-inflated salaries for each and every profession, the report Facing the Economic Imperative could have been more constructive if its policy-makers faced up to workforce realities in both the private sector and the public sector. To be honest, it's not up to government bureaucrats, lawyers and human rights tribunals to regulate wages, that should be the job of the market in a true egalitarian society. In other words, not allowing the market to determine wages and industry professions could only lead to one scenerio, a bureaucratic nightmare that New Brunswick taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook for. (Hat tip Spink About It)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Old Fashioned, Pork Barrel Politics"

Bradshaw's appointment a bloody boondoggle

New Brunswick Taxpayer joins John Williamson and the CTF in condemning the premier for allowing a political partisan to profit off of studying the non-profit sector. This is simply outrageous and a waste of New Brunswicker's hard-earned-tax-dollars, and therefore, we are calling on the premier of New Brunswick to do the right thing and pay back the people's money pronto. Fullfilling this request will only serve to clarify the duty of a government to "act in good faith" when dealing with taxpayer's money.

"This is just an example of old fashioned, pork-barrel politics," John Williamson said Monday. "The whole reason people get into the public service is to serve the public - not to jettison into the upper echelons of income earners."

Williamson said Bradshaw should receive no salary and simply be reimbursed for her expenses while serving as the head of the Community Non-Profit Task Force. Bradshaw already receives an annual $60,500 pension, which rises with inflation, for her previous work as a Member of Parliament. When her $9,000 per month salary is factored in, the former federal minister for homelessness joins the top two per cent of Canadian income earners, said Williamson. "

Given the pension amount and the salary amount, it's just too much," said Williamson. "And it doesn't pass the all-important sniff test."

On top of her earnings, Bradshaw's appointment after serving as an adviser to Graham during the provincial election last year reflects poorly on the government, said Williamson."

Any one of those alone would get eyebrows raised," he said. "But all of them together just looks awful."

Monday, May 7, 2007

About "Countering the Nanny State"

What do you hate most about big government? Babbling, self-serving bureaucratic agents? Pork-barrel spending schemes that line the pockets of partisans? Entitlement programs that either create dependency or threaten to bankrupt future generations? Regulations written in drivel-speak that make life miserable for common citizens on the street? Local politicians who dream up "fees" for government services you've already paid for?

We hear you. That's why there's Countering the Nanny State, sponsored by the NB Taxpayers, New Brunswick's only taxpayer blog.

This is your blogspot for fiscal issues -- any size, anywhere, all the time. This hard-charging blog digs up the freshest facts on taxes, government spending, abuse of power, and anything else that serves to limit our freedom to strive and thrive.

But we're not just here to complain about what our government is doing to us. We want to change the way leaders act with our money and the power we've given them. Tax reform, constitutional budget limits, ballot measures to stop tax hikes, recall petitions, privatizing government agencies -- it's all on the table here.

Help us make Countering the Nanny State the best spot on the web for taxpayers:
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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Turning up the heat on big government

New Brunswick lawyer fighting for taxpayers

As a blogger, taxpayer and citizen who was unequivocally disgusted by the amount of taxes unilaterally invoked by the current Liberal government, I was glad to see that Yassin Choukri has taken matters into his own hands wherein he's now demanding [via a possible class action lawsuit] that the energy tax rebate be returned to it's rightful place, that being, [you] the taxpayer.

Fredericton lawyer Yassin Choukri, a former assistant attorney general under the previous Conservative government, said he is waiting until the end of June when new legislation comes into effect that will make it easier to proceed with class actions in New Brunswick. Choukri said he has already served notice to the provincial Liberal government that he will file the action on behalf of New Brunswick energy consumers.

The Conservative government established a program last year to rebate the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST on home-heating bills.

But the recently elected Liberal government refuses to honour the rebate program, saying the province can't afford it.

Choukri said that until the current government cancels the program or a court says it cannot go ahead, the rebate order remains in effect and people should hang onto their bills for a possible refund in the future.
In congruence with Mr. Choukri efforts, New Brunswick Taxpayer is calling on the premier of New Brunswick to return the energy tax rebate back to its rightful owner, the taxpayers of New Brunswick.

As well, we recommend that you, the taxpayer, support this effort by getting involved. Though it is a risky venture, this lawsuit has considerable potential and is rich with opportunity: compensation for your losses and an important message to the government that citizens and taxpayers will no longer sit idly by and be held hostage by their undemocratic and unilateral decisions. Unless we are bold in stepping forward today, history will continue to repeat itself in this province. We elected a government in New Brunswick to represent the interest of all its citizens, not to impose unfair taxes against their will.


Stand up and take action today: Send NB Premier Shawn Graham a message to honour the tax rebate.

Friday, May 4, 2007

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The Spinning Yarn of Corporate Welfare

Atlantic Yarns: Nose Back in the Trough

On the heels of finalizing their last report on "self-sufficiency", the Government of New Brunswick has shown its [citizens] once again why it can no longer be trusted with their hard-earned tax-dollars. According to a recent report filed by the Telegraph Journal, New Brunswick taxpayers are on the hook once more for additional corporate subidies worth a wopping $3.4 million dollars. The winning recipient? A repeat offender by the name of Atlantic Yarns in Atholville. As Telegraph Journal reporter Daniel Mchardie explains;

This isn't the first time the provincial government has opened its wallet to help Atlantic Yarns or Atlantic Fine Yarns, which is owned by the same company and operated in Pokemouche.

Atlantic Fine Yarns has received approximately $41 million in different loans and loan guarantees since 2000. And on April 10th, the Liberal cabinet waved the interest on its loans for another year, a similar stance taken by the former [Progressive] Conservative government. And on April 5th, the cabinet approved a $2.4 million loan not to exceed four years and another $1 million loan for a term not to exceed 10 years. To date, taxpayers have fronted Atlantic Yarns $37.7 million bringing the total public investment in the two mills to $78.7 million.

And so it goes, once again Atlantic Yarns gets a subsidy while all the other New Brunswick firms stand patiently in line [waiting] to get their share of the government pie. When will this vicious cycle end? Unfortunately, for all those hard-working taxpayers and small business owners, it will ultimately mean higher taxes and a less competitive business climate.

However, I can't say that I'm all that surprised since this is the same Graham government that unilaterally raised personal income taxes retroactively, rescinded corporate and small-business tax cuts and raised liquor prices. All in the name of increasing government revenues.

I think it's time that the Liberal government stopped this practice of picking winners and losers and focused more on creating a level playing field with lower taxes, especially if they are serious about attracting investment and stimulating job creation in New Brunswick. Coincidently, a pledge they will most likely be making when they table their final task force report on "self-sufficiency" this coming Monday.