Thursday, March 29, 2007

Unfair this, unfair that

Hey folks! Hop on the latest trend in oppositional politics. Get your new, hip, socialist Liberal buzzword and amaze your friends with invigorating, intelligent debate! Can't come up with a rebuttal? Don't worry, "unfair" is here!

November 2006, Liberal Leadership Debate, talking to Michael Ignatieff:

"This is unfair. This is unfair. You don't know what you speak about. Do you think it's easy to make priorities?"

February 2007, Toronto Star headline on Conservative TV ads about Stephane Dion:

"Many found Tory ads unfair, poll suggests"
March 2007 pre-budget:
Opposition leader St├ęphane Dion told CBC News he doesn't want an election. "I hope the budget will be everything the last budget wasn't," he said, adding that the 2006 budget was unfair for ordinary Canadians, and cut environmental programs. "We hope the next budget — the budget of tomorrow — will be good for Canadians, enough that we may support it," Dion said.
March 2007 post-budget:

He [Dion] called the Conservative budget “unfair, divisive and dishonest."

What's funny is the big spending, barely any tax reduction, barely pay off debt 2007 budget is much different than the controlled spending, lower tax, pay off debt 2006 budget. But according to Dion, BOTH are "unfair"!

You can't find a better buzzword for a socialist. That should be their new motto, "Hey, that's unfair!"

So is this the level of vocabulary and debate we will expect further from the leader of the official opposition? I'd say so--there's certainly a trend going on.

As much as I'm not a fan of the recent budget, for me to use "unfair" to describe the fact that as a single guy, I'm not getting anything out of it, is a terrible and unconvincing argument.

If someone stated I was not a good leader, and I cried, "unfair!", that would seem to come across as whimpy, indecisive, and lacking leadership.

One thing I've always liked about Bloc Quebecois leader, Gilles Duceppe, is that he makes very good arguments, is direct, and doesn't come across as a whiny, grovelling whimp. His priority being Quebec, instead of being an antagonist and taking a separation/sovereignty-at-all-costs, he's a pragmatic person. Because of this, he's also the main reason why the Conservatives have been able to pass many bills, including the recent budget with goodies for Quebec.

Instead, with Dion, you have a supposed leader who even before he reads the budget, said the Liberals would not vote for it! Then, just before it's released, as you can read in one of the above quotes, he says they might vote for it if it's different. Well it is different; it's more Liberal than many Liberal budgets themselves. Obviously knowing that the Bloc was going to support it, the Liberals and NDP were free to not vote for it.

So it really wouldn't have mattered if Dion read it or not. He said he wasn't going to vote for it anyway, and whatever was in it, he could just cry "unfair" and call it another good day in opposition, which he'll experience for quite some time.

Maybe I "don't know what I speak about", but I know how badly you Liberals "want to go back to power soon" and feed at the trough. It's what you do best.

Or am I being unfair?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Q the music

Well being that they don't cover Canadian elections on TV in Kansas, I just found out this morning about the Quebec election results. To be honest, I could care less who won because the federal government will always continue to pander to that province, but am moderately pleased at the results (if that makes any sense).

For my American friends, the Parti Liberal Quebec (PLQ) is a middle of the road party that believes Quebec should definitely be a part of Canada and is the incumbant governing party. The Parti Quebecois (PQ) is a separatist/sovereignist party, meaning they want to have a third referendum on which has formed the Quebec government a few times, and the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) is a newer right of centre party. This election was the closest resulting in a minority government in well over 100 years:

Liberals ... 48 seats (33% of the vote), down from 72 seats
ADQ ........ 41 seats (31% of the vote), way up from 5 seats
PQ ........... 36 seats (28% of the vote), down from 45 seats

I'm glad the Charest Liberals won due to Prime Minister Harper's support and the chunk of cash he just gave them which Charest then wanted to use for tax cuts. But somehow, I think Charest went along that path ONLY due to the surge of Mario Dumont's ADQ party and his support for tax cuts. In this sense the ADQ reminds me of the old Reform Party and how its fiscal conservatism was a major reason why the Chretien Liberals became fiscal conservatives.

The strong ADQ showing then indicates to me that Quebeckers want to be a real player and a contributor to the country, instead of being bought with cash by various federal parties, and a perpetual have-not province, moving away from the socialism that has crippled the province for so long.

But here's a quote from former separatist/former Paul Martin Liberal cabinet minister that I was glad to hear echoeing my repeated posts on the forgotten middle class:

Jean Lapierre, a former federal Quebec politician-turned-commentator, told CTV News the ADQ's remarkable results represent a revolt by the middle class and the regions.

"They were sick and tired of the old parties. They had other priorities, like family values ... and taxes. They felt the other two parties weren't listening to them," he said.

So for the middle class folk of Quebec, I applaud you. (But honestly, hearing this about family values and taxes from a federal Liberal makes me laugh.) I think Quebeckers were sick and tired of the decades old federalist vs. separatist debate and wanted an ideological one. With the ADQ as official opposition, they're going to get it, and this is only good news for Quebec.

Speaking of the old debate, pay close attention to PQ leader Andre Boisclair's words here (emphasis mine):
He noted that Quebec has existed for almost 400 years. In speaking of those who have helped build the province, Boisclair said, "We have to honour those people ... We have to speak about how we're original, how we are different, how we are strong. Tonight, we all have a duty to keep this flame alive, and to keep the doors open for Quebec to develop for its future and for the role it can play within Canada and within the world."

What did he say? "Within Canada"? "WITHIN"? WHAT??? Doesn't sound like an optimistic separatist now does it? Previous leaders of the PQ would NEVER say that. Was it a slip up or an admission of defeat? These words also remind me of the wording in the infamous "Harper Nation Motion" not too long ago about Quebec being a nation "within a united Canada".

Now everyone's asking what the heck this all means for Prime Minister Harper. With the federal budget a week old, everyone's saying that the big $700 million transfer payout it gave to Quebec, and the impending election of Charest's Liberals again means that Harper's so-called "gamble" on propping up Charest worked. Or did it really have any effect? As I said before, I think Charest's tax cut announcement just a couple days after the federal budget staved off the ADQ, but at the same time I think a lot of voters weren't quite ready for the ADQ yet, having only 5 seats previously.

So from all this, will Prime Minister Harper rig up an election soon to get that majority government? Many seem to think so. With a supposedly successful budget and riding high in the polls, I think Harper wants to take on Liberal leader Stephane Dion and accomplish his ultimate goal of becoming the new natural governing party and further demoralize the federal Liberals to the fence-sitting, flip-flop, rudderless, corrupt and untrustworthy party they've become.

The last budget indicated to me that Mr. Harper is willing to do almost anything to reach that goal. I can't say I blame Mr. Harper, I can't stand the Liberal party, but I will say, at what cost to his core libertarian-conservative principles?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Poly Sci paper

A dear Liberal friend of mine is about to write a paper for a Poly Sci class. Here's the synopsis:

"Discuss the establishment of Canada's social 'safety net' in the middle
decades of the 20th century, and the pressures that have led to cutbacks in social programs in the last two decades."
Is it me or does this sound quite socialistic--"pressures" seem to tend to the left and "cutbacks in .. last two decades" just doesn't seem quite true, does it? Here's what I rambled together as a recommended conclusion; not sure if she'll use any of it:

"The establishment of Canada's social safety net in the 50's and more so in the 60's, while well intentioned, has created a Ponsi scenario, whereby future generations pay for the cost of the present and the past, thus causing the years of high deficits and high debt to pay for it all. This of course resulted in taxes of all kinds (income, CPP, EI, GST, etc.) being created and thus rising in the decades preceding it, plus massive interest payments on the debt which still currently make up the largest budget expense.

"This higher tax revenue coupled with cuts to these programs in the 90's resulted in large and continued budgetary surpluses. These governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, have used the resulting surpluses for new spending on small and large programs to satisfy various lobby groups and minorities, social transfers to provinces that demand more because they cannot get their own fiscal house in order, and to socially engineered tax rebates targetted to whichever voting block the governing party needs to attract in order to win a majority of seats in the next election.

"Essentially, over the decades, the federal government has setup itself to bribe voters with their own money to vote for them. Families, especially lower and middle class ones, now must have both parents working, one to pay for the essentials, and the other to pay for the taxes, which of course increases production and our domestic product for a more vibrant economy, but it also increases the amount of income tax the government actually takes in. So not only are we being bribed with our own money, but parents have been inslaved in the economy, by working more overtime, taking less holidays, which results in one or both parents not being at home enough to actually perform a proper parental role for the children. The resulting stress on the family is then a strain on the health care system and in providing a proper home for the children. It is no wonder why divorce rates have increased along with the higher tax regime on families and why the government then uses tax money that parents are trying to pay for to try and provide day care for children with working parents. This scenario is completely backwards and a drain on society and Canada's future as a whole.

"The social safety net was intentioned as a temporary measure to provide for those lower income and poor who slip through the cracks of the economy. It is now used to provide for the middle class as well, but the increase in their taxes has resulted in many not being able to get ahead, pay off debt, or save for the future. Individuals and families make cuts to their budget all the time to help pay for basic necessities. It is high time that governments started doing the same and return that money back to the individuals and families who earned it in the first place."

What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why the budget is not an F

In knowing the history of how federal programs sometimes "work", I hope that the new Working Income Tax Benefit implemented in the budget does work and get people over the welfare wall. Read more about it here.

I know some people who are on welfare who are fully capable of working, have no health problems, but just can't get off their asses to do much of anything except live off the people around them and the taxpayer. They justify it saying they "make" more on welfare, there's no jobs out there (which there are a plenty of), but this attitude has got to stop.

What can also benefit is a better accessibility to student loan programs, say for new single parents who need a career change. The loan amounts also need to be increased so students can spend more time studying than having to work part time so much to top up their income. While loan repayments can be stretched out over a long, long period and the interest can be written off, a bigger graduation loan remittance incentive should be in place too.

Some people say this is a bit much, but think about it ... with your new job, you'll be paying enough in taxes soon enough to have paid for it anyway.

The Harper government has taken a big step with this working benefit, how about another step with a schooling one too?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

And the results... D-

Okay, let's see if my list of "demands" were met. Then again, I already vote Conservative, so why continue to pander to me, right?

- Raise the personal exemption to $20,000 - really, can anyone earning below this amount afford to pay?

Was the personal exemption even raised at all? I really think there should be an automatic mechanism in place that at least matches inflation.

- Lower the bottom income tax rate from 15.5% to 10%

Nope. It's still 15.5%.

- Lower the middle income tax rate from (34%??) to 25%

If they never lower the bottom rate, they'll never lower the middle rate.

- Move the trigger income for the highest rate bracket to $150,000, not what $67,000 as it is now?

Nope.

- Lowered capital gains taxes (I have stocks)

Nope.

- Any debt payment interest savings go to tax cuts (which I hear is what's going to happen).

Um, hello? (tumbleweed passes by...)

So what DO we have for tax reduction?

  • A new $2,000 child tax credit will provide up to $310 of tax relief for each child under 18.
  • A new $550-million-per-year Working Income Tax Benefit that will provide up to $500 per year for individuals and $1,000 for families to reward and strengthen incentives to work.
  • Increasing the age limit to 71 from 69 for registered retirement savings
    plans and registered pensions.
  • Overall taxes for eligible pensioners will be reduced by allowing pension income splitting as promised in October when the government decided to tax income trusts.
  • New resources to the Canada Revenue Agency to detect and close down tax
    avoidance through offshore tax havens.

The Conservatives have become social-engineers extraordinaire, but with a family focus, so I'm for that. But the libertarian in me wished there were more broad based tax reductions.

And not only are they family based social-engineers, but are doubling as vehicle engineers too. Check out the crazy tax incentive scheme for new vehicle purchases!

To begin with, new automobiles with a combined fuel consumption rating of 6.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres or less; and minivans, SUVs and light pickup trucks with a consumption rate of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres, or less, will be eligible for the rebate.

The basic rebate amount will be $1,000, and an additional $500 will be added for each half-litre per 100-kilometre improvement in the combined fuel-efficiency rating of the vehicle below the threshold.

The rebate will max-out at $2,000, and vehicles purchased or leased March 20 and later will qualify.

Following are a list of the rebates for various vehicles (fuel efficiency rating in brackets):

Toyota Prius: $2,000 (4.1)
Honda Civic Hybrid: $2,000 (4.5)
Toyota Corolla: $1,000 (6.3)
Mini Cooper M6: $1,000 (6.5)
Ford Escape HEV 4x4: $2,000 (7.4)
Saturn Vue Hybrid: $1,000 (7.9)
Chevrolet Impala: $1,000 (12.3)

..

The budget also imposes a "green levy" on new gas-guzzling passenger vehicles, excluding trucks.

A charge of $1,000 will be levied on Canadians who purchase new vehicles with
fuel-efficiency ratings of between 13 and 14 litres per 100 kilometres. The levy
will increase by $1,000 for each full litre above the 13-litre benchmark, to a
maximum of $4,000.

This is a very progressive positive environmental incentive for auto buyers. It literally blows my mind how the auto industry hasn't produced more efficient big vehicles, when you know they can with the technology we have today. But let's see if this scheme actually works. Will buyers be aware of this incentive and will the auto industry adjust their engineering to follow suit?

Politically, this is a very saavy budget. Apparently, the big item was simply to "solve" the provincial fiscal imbalance (read: buy votes in Quebec). So now that's "solved", will the next budget solve the other fiscal imbalance. You know, the people who help buy the votes in Quebec -- i.e. middle class taxpayers.

You know, now that the Conservatives are addicted to tax incentives, I'm starting to think of another way to encourage people to work and boost the middle class.

Maybe the middle income tax rate should be lower than the bottom rate? But being that I wish the upper rate was more like it is in the U.S. at $200,000, this is a pipe dream.

Overall, there is nothing in this budget that does anything for a single income person trying to get ahead--not unless you get married and have kids and dance around or something. Hmmm.

Andrew Coyne sums up my feelings about this budget. Spin aside from fellow Conservatives: Dark Blue Tory and Noise From The Right, what's so "conservative" about this budget? I'd definitely say it looks more Liberal or very, very Red Tory.

This budget gets a "D-". Booooooooo!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Budget polls

So I could care less what a poll says about the budget and what "Canadians want". I bet a good chunk of those surveyed are from the T.O. region where more spending on government benefits them because they're at the trough too.

Every year, the same poll goes out and the same left-wing results come in.

What about a poll just for lower and middle income families and individuals? Or what about a poll for those who don't work for the government, a university, or other publically funded institutions?

Polls schmolls.

Budget 2007

The 2007 federal budget is about to be announced in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, if not already underway.

Before I see what's in it, as a single earner middle class taxpayer, here's what I want, and I think these are feasible:

- Raise the personal exemption to $20,000 - really, can anyone earning below this amount afford to pay?
- Lower the bottom income tax rate from 15.5% to 10%
- Lower the middle income tax rate from (34%??) to 25%
- Move the trigger income for the highest rate bracket to $150,000, not what $67,000 as it is now?
- Lowered capital gains taxes (I have stocks)
- Any debt payment interest savings go to tax cuts (which I hear is what's going to happen).

The federal government takes in a huge amount of cake from taxpayers already and it needs to control its own spending BEFORE we should have to control ours on things like food, clothing, and shelter. People's income taxes dwarf the amount spent on these basic necessities and that tragedy all started occuring during the 90's under the Chretien/Martin Liberal government where over 70 taxes in some form or another were introduced or raised.

I love it when analysts, journalists, economists and pundits say, "lowering income taxes will COST the government $2.5 billion". "COST"? Um, but bowing down and taking those high rates up the shlocka is COSTING taxpayers and families first and my lengthy walk to trying to pay down my student loans or families paying down a mortgage or trying to save for their kids' education.

You simply have to ask if you are getting the value from the thousands of dollars you send to the federal government, which, by the way, collects the most taxes from you and delivers the fewest tangible services. Health care and education you ask? Well, that's provided and paid for by your province.

What if you had a few extra hundred dollars to spend, save, and invest each month?

The middle class is getting screwed and has been getting screwed for years as the government gets bigger. What do I mean by screwed? It's harder for us to become rich with an hourly rate job.

I'm all for lowered tuition and graduation incentives, but a lowered tuition will never happen as long as bloated bureaucracies and inefficiencies occur in our universities and colleges. Teachers will continue to get the shaft, not from government, but by crappy school boards and their unions. Nurses, doctors, and ultimately, patients themselves are screwed even when we pour more money down the funnel. Aboriginals have been getting screwed for a long time, as billions are given, but the end result never changes as the money is syphoned off.

The way to cut them off at the trough is to lower taxes first and have these organizations find ways to improve and deliver the goods before individuals and families are asked to.

I'm all for trickle down economics, but I think we need to boost the lower and middle income earners and give them a break and an opportunity to not just wait a couple years for the money to run through the economy and get to them.

Does anyone remember when current health minister, Tony Clement, ran for the Conservative leadership? I always liked his idea of the first $200,000 a person earns is income tax free. Wow, that would really give young graduates a head start in life. I'd have paid off my student loan and owned a house by now.

Or is giving money to the government to spend more important to you?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

E E E

The "momentum" trickles along for Senate reform... with a boost from the Motherland!

Senator LeBreton said Harper's bill, which proposes renewable eight-year terms for senators, is being held up by the Grits for more study even though a special Senate committee has already filed a report on the proposed legislation. She said a second Senate committee which is examining the bill even appears poised to recall witnesses who have already testified to answer more questions.

"I just don't know why the Liberals are doing this. You know, they just don't get it. I've always thought they are insulated from the public in a type of closed society which totally ignores the Canadian public," said LeBreton, who acknowledged the Senate reforms would likely become an election issue if they are held up before a vote is called.

Liberal MP Stephen Owen agreed with LeBreton that the pro-reform vote in England should serve as a further catalyst for change in Canada's Senate. However, he said the numerical disadvantage that western provinces suffer in the Senate must be addressed before elections and shorter terms are brought in for the senators.

He said a proposed bill by Liberal Senator Jack Austin which would increase the number of Senate seats for the West needs to become a priority for the government.


Owen, who is not running for re-election, said despite objections from Liberal senators, he personally does not have a problem with the prime minister appointing senators who have first been elected through a consultative vote in each province, as proposed by Harper. Many Liberals have said bringing in an elected Senate can only be done through a constitutional amendment and Harper's plan would create a two-tier Senate.

"I'm not so worried about that since it will be solved in a fairly quick time-frame. But to bring in elected senators without adjusting the numbers will further disadvantage the West and give more power to the central Canada. And that's not acceptable," said Owen.


Nice try, Stephen Owen. This is a typical Liberal Senator tactic. Agree with the idea of reform, but don't do anything. Actually, it's a typical Liberal tactic in general. They like to use the word "tiers" don't they?

And does anyone give a rats ass how many "tiers" there are in the Senate?

With a population of over 300 million, the U.S. has 100 elected Senators, two for each state, with staggered six year terms . Canada is one-tenth the size in population, but has, what, 106 unelected Senators who serve life-terms to the age of 75? Seems a bit off, doesn't it?

So now Senator Austin wants MORE senators for the Western provinces. Currently, Alberta has 6 and Ontario has what 24? So is he saying we should add 18 senators to Alberta? Isn't that a little much? We already have 28 MPs. Then there's BC. Is there enough room in the red chamber for all these bodies?

And there's my point. The Liberal senators don't have the courage to want to change how THEY sit, so they simply ADD more, reducing the transparency and scrutiny of their own lazy jobs.

Well, last week, the British House of Commons voted 337 to 224 in favour of an elected upper chamber.

Mike Jenkinson has a good article here.

Prime Minister Harper has put forth an 8 year term for senators in Bill S-4, which is currently before the Liberal dominated senate, and has been sitting there for 10 months now, waiting, waiting.

"I encourage the senators to hurry up their detailed analysis," Harper said. Yeah, no kidding.

Now I'm going to throw an idea out there. I'd like to suggest that each province should have 4 senators with 12 year re-electable terms. An election would occur for one of the senate seats every 3 years in conjunction with a province's civic election (which are fixed). With fewer senators, they would be under greater scruitiny, but have the longevity to overlap governments in the house of commons.

There's my analysis.

I think the Conservatives can use this has an election issue to solidify the western base, especially in B.C. where the party lost a few key seats. Every little bit will help in getting a majority.

But the next time a Liberal talks about senate reform, you can't help but laugh.