Posts Tagged ‘Taxes’

Sorry People, John Tory Won’t Save You

The major media have been touting the “top 5” candidates for months (the cast in alphabetical order: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, and Sarah Thomson). Giorgio Mammoliti dropped out of the race weeks ago, not a huge loss, though his though his proposals regarding affordable housing are worth adopting by whomever eventually wins the election.

Some have called for partisan politics and party affiliations to help voters along. Sorry, I tend to feel that partisan “branding” is the last thing we need at this level of government. Voters are, or should be sophisticated enough, to evaluate the people, policies and platforms presented.

Toronto voters will have to do some heavy lifting in before Monday October 25th. Last I checked there were far more than 5 candidates vying for the job of mayor. Oh yeah, John Tory made it painfully clear that he is not running for mayor this year. So who will win?

I know who should win. The candidate that can articulate a clear vision for Toronto. Someone who’s policies are not based liquidating assets but building on what we have or investing in the future. So far we have seen a lot of petty bickering and little leadership or vision. John Tory is not on the shortlist and the “top 5” financially backed candidates may or may not have what it takes. It will be up to the citizens of Toronto to choose the right candidate for mayor and hold them accountable beyond October 25, 2010. One thing for sure, apathy will get you nothing but grief.

Ontario Liberal Budget Invokes Misguided Anger

Looks as though Ontario is joining the ranks of provinces who have harmonized sales taxes. Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivered his budget at Queen’s Park yesterday. This tax reform is somewhat of a surprise but not entirely.

The Federal Conservatives and some advocacy groups have long pushed for provinces to adopt a harmonized tax. From from the province’s own task force on competitiveness to Jim Flaherty the pressure has been on. Up till now the Ontario Liberals have rejected the notion. They likely could not bow down to the pressure now, especially from the Feds .

With feeble stimulus funding from the Feds and tied in/matching fund financing for infrastructure the provinces have to go deep into debt to finance their projects or get no action at all. Ontario is not the only province running a deficit this fiscal year or next. The Federal Conservatives again are shifting the blame and responsibility to lower levels. The GST “cuts” and Economic Action Plan have been two tools in this aim.

As Andrew Coyne wrote years ago , the “cut” in GST was merely an “incentive” for provinces to raise their sales taxes via harmonization. Other “incentives” have been cuts in transfer payments despite unheard arguments over fiscal imbalance. Provinces (and municipalities) have to raise their taxes or deal with whatever they could get from the Feds. The Economic Action Plan,

“makes available up to $6.4 billion in new and accelerated funding for provinces, territories and municipalities in 2009–10 and 2010–11 at this critical time, and it is intended that this funding will be matched by provinces, territories and municipalities.” -Economic Action Plan, Immediate Action to Build Infrastructure

This just means the provinces and municipalities have to foot a larger part of the bill in order to get funding for infrastructure. How else could they do that? Taxes and deficits. That or do nothing at all to fix aging infrastructure, transit or other public services.

While the Liberals are wise to provide some relief to lower income families under this harmonization transition it seems that the help wont be permanent. Runciman and the Ontario Conservatives are saying now that they oppose the measures to cut corporate taxes and introduce the harmonized tax despite Conservatives supporting such measures in the past. Andrea Horwath has also criticized the timing of such a move since many family expenditures will become more costly.

You have a right to be angry but the problems start at the top my friends. In the end we are still paying taxes. How those tax revenues are being managed (mismanaged?!) is up to us to fix. No sign of an election on the horizon so get out your pens and write your MP’s, MPP’s and city councilors. After all it’s our money their spending.

Here Comes The Hike… OUCH

It was only a matter of time. The Federal Budget, while providing some stimulus, falls short of funding many of the Province’s and Toronto’s needs. Premiere McGuinty shrugged off the Fed’s budget since he was already thinking of running defecits as well. The buck stops in Toronto as it can’t spend in excess of taxes collected.

The result was predictable, taxes can’t be kept at inflation as hoped, the budget is here. Toronto now faces tax increases. Predictably the city has opted for increases to taxes (an average of $89 per year mostly through property taxes). Why? Four major cost drivers for the city’s 2009 budget are significant improvements to TTC, increases to the Police budget, increased snow clearing costs, rising welfare caseloads during this recession and labour cost increases after recent TTC and Police labour settlements. What to do?

Cry? Moan? Scream?! Well not about everything. Programs to waive or defer tax increases for seniors and low-income earners will be expanded. Best of all TTC fares are FROZEN and not cut as they have been in the past during tough times. There’s small comfort that the increases are being made to balance the budget and maintain services. It still hurts though.

Budget, Budget, Budget… Coalition, Election, or More of the Same

Yes the leaks have been plentiful but Jim Flaherty will be delivering the budget today. I bet CPAC has never been some popular. It will be an interesting ride for sure.

Many commentators are sharp to note that even the previously promised Infrastructure spending has yet to flow (to Toronto and other cities). Will it this time? Downloading the burden on Municipalities (who would be forced to increase taxes) won’t cut it. Miller tried to tame the condo-flipping crowd with a tax increase and got stonewalled. There’s no where to “increase” taxes unless you simply CUT expenditures (i.e. give people less services for the same tax dollars paid). A shady tactic all too familiar by several levels of government. It’s happened far too many times and I’m hopeful that this time the lack of Federal investment in social and brick and mortar infrastructure has been addressed. Tax cuts and no investment (most all of our surplus serviced debt vs. a balanced approach) have swayed Canada to deficit even before a stimulus package.

Will the government fall on this latest list of spending promises? Will a Coalition take over or will an election get called? Judgement day is coming.

An Interesting Editorial…BUT

The editorial by Alberta premier Ed Stelmach in the Toronto Star peaked my interest. Not because it tries to re-stoke the tired Ontario vs. Alberta debate. Not because it overlooks the reality of oil sands and the disruptive environmental damage that continues. That may be considered offensive but is not unexpected considering the source. Alberta is an economic engine, as is Quebec, Newfoundland,… etc. Alberta has and continues to carry some heavy baggage.

Mr. Stelmach talks of some efforts to lessen enviromental impacts and carbon capture and storage. Yes there have been some small steps in Alberta to reduce emissions and environmental impacts but not enough to change the downward spiral. Carbon capture and storage research and development is in its infancy. It remains to be seen if a solution of “hiding” CO2 underground will work. American big coal have touted this as a potential solution for years. The safety of storing massive amounts of an odorless gases that can asphyxiate seem daunting or near impossible at best. New technology, the geology of the storage sites and time will tell.

Ralph Klein was not a poster child of sound economic development nor is Ed Stelmach. By having no plan for oil sands development, up to 50%+ of Albertas economy demanded most of if not all of employment and other resources. With only modest reinvestment in infrastructure like roads and housing the tide slowly started to turn. The modest royalties during the boom period looked to be eclipsing demand for services. With several years worth of surplus at risk the Alberta government saw this and Stelmach helped to implement an increases to Alberta royalties last year. Now with the price of oil falling and the viability of Tar Sands expansion in jeopordy we have calls for special “royalty discounts” and high profile editorials. Mismanagement of the royalty program alerted the public to the problem at hand and created the pressure to increase rates in the first place. During the period from 2004 to 2007 it was found that Alberta was short paid about $1 Billion per year in royalties. Stelmach wasn’t concerned then since $22 Billion in government debt had been repaid under the old system. Continuing under this flawed logic not paying your taxes would be OK as long as you bought goods and services in Canada rather than while vacationing abroad (the money is still spent in Canada right?) Whatever?!!!

Stelmach misses the point once again. It matters not which province is in the economic lead, we are on the same team. TEAM CANADA. By squandering surplus funds, allowing growth without planning, and failing to protect the business and living environment the premier shows he has little to offer Alberta let alone Ontario. Hmm, what could he and his colleagues at The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships be lobbying for? Surely the runaway blank cheque approach should not form the basis of Public-Private Partnerships as well.

Taxpayers feel the pain of industry windfalls or shortfalls and elected officials should be more mindful of this than anyone. How much tax revenue will closed industries pay into the government? What are a governments costs of benefits paid to those put out of work and who are paying less or no income tax? How real is a deficit in these trying circumstances?

Am I calling for the end of the Tar Sands, the closing of Ford or a planned economy? No, no, and no. Your opinion is welcome Ed but your bias is a little bit transparent. Personally when it comes to infrastructure, resources, and industry I like to see return on my investment. The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ Toronto event, which Mr. Stelmach is attending, focuses on Canadian, U.S. and Mexican perspectives on infrastructure. Mr. Stelmach you seem to be running Alberta like a thirsty bloated furnace rather than well tuned engine. Thanks but no thanks. Canadians are calling for a much needed rebuilding of our infrastructure, not another puff of hot air.

An Election Promise to Build On?

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Mayor Miller both support Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s $70 Billion Infrastructure Plan (over 10 years). It’s refreshing to see politicians finally realize that taxes paid to the government are best used to invest in its citizens. Merely cutting taxes or increasing tax refunds does little to repair roads, build hospitals or improve our infrastructure.

I’m sure Mayor Miller’s and McCallion’s sentiments ring true from St. John’s to Victoria. This national strategy sounds like a viable promise and one worthy of implementing no matter who finally forms our government in Ottawa. Too much time has been wasted and too little has been re-invested back into Canada (and Toronto’s Infrastructure). Transit, Energy, Water Treatment and the neglected list goes on. A Liberal “Green Shift” promise for now but this should be a non partisan mandate for whomever takes office.

Round Two: Garbage Bins

Holy cow, did you get a gander at the new garbage bins? No, not the monstrous blue, I mean round two of bindom.

Garbage Bin Ad

I think she must be Glenn De Baeremaeker’s sister. Questions: Will Cabbagetown residents get more ticked off and ensure they get to continue to use bags for their garbage too? Am I going to have to make another call to get rid of this bin too?

If you couldn’t get worked up over round one, how about the fact that this time, you get to pay for it? These bins aren’t the ones they presented to the media last summer — those ones were tame compared to these behemoths! talk about massaging the message — but for the privilege of polluting the visual appeal of your property, even if you don’t use your bin some weeks, the bigger the bin, the greater the hit on your wallet. (BTW the reason why the smallest bin is much bigger than they advertised last summer is because they have to make it bigger for automated collection, which is impossible outside of the burb areas of Toronto but who cares about that small detail, and so they put in a false bottom. The actual bin capacity is half of what you see. You’ll get a $10 annual credit for using that one. Be still my beating heart.)

Of course, if we’d gone to bag tags and continued to be allowed to put out garbage your way (whether bags or bins) you’d have to pay only when you put out your garbage, not every two weeks regardless of how much, if any, garbage you put out. The bag tags also are an easy and visible way to show how much you can save if you put out less garbage; the bin way it’s far more of a hassle to reduce your garbage, that is, you figure out you could go down a size, but then you’d have to know you could do that every 2 weeks, for sure, and maybe you’re not sure plus you have to call City Hall, and who enjoys doing that? So in the end, why bother? So no, the bin way is a less-satisfactory method of reducing waste production plus it penalizes large families and cultures that live in extended-family units. But then Toronto really wants more taxes out of you, and bins are the way to do it. Have a good day!

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