Friday, November 28, 2008

FU from JF

Where is the support Jim?

Flaherty's instinct to cut out of step with world

As the rapidly worsening global recession pushes governments around the world to step up spending, Ottawa's first official response is to cut back.

The fiscal update presented yesterday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will suck $6-billion out of the economy next year. Heather Scoffield, Globe and Mail

Professors give Flaherty a failing mark

Desai said there must be across-the-board spending on infrastructure that has been systematically dismantled in Canada for 20 years. She argued the Harper government allowed partisanship to trump doing what was right for the country.

The Economic Forum has argued for massive economic stimulus, largely by investing in the country's infrastructure. Instead, Flaherty offered what McMaster University economist Atif Kubursi called the "window dressing" of minor changes in pension rules, previously announced tax cuts and selling as-yet-undetermined public assets. Linda Diebel, The Toronto Star

Harper plays chess… while Rome burns

The real outrage of yesterday’s economic “update” is not that it seeks to impose on most parliamentarians a change to funding rules that most of them would never ordinarily accept; it’s that it accomplishes nothing else. It’s that in the most dangerous economic times Canada has faced in 20 years if not far longer, this prime minister can’t wipe the smirk off his face and grow up a little. Paul Wells, Macleans

The Commons: Gaming the system

First Dion, then Duceppe, then Layton with a crescendo. “Mr. Speaker, later today Canadians are going to be looking for bold leadership and dramatic and immediate action. They are going to be looking to see EI reform. They want to see strong action to protect their pensions. They want to see credit guarantees for businesses that are on the edge. The jobs of those workers are on the edge literally this afternoon. Canadians want to see investments in infrastructure to create work,” he cried.

His caucus rose to cheer, his voice swelled to yell over them. “Instead of an immediate stimulus package to attack the recession, the government is apparently going to attack democracy,” he continued, the Conservative benches clucking at this. “I ask the Prime Minister how such an attack is going to create one job or protect one pension?” Aaron Wherry, Macleans

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Quotes then and now: Harper, Flaherty

Canwest News Service

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Then and now quotes comparing what Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said during and after the campaign for the Oct. 14 election about recession and a deficit.

"This country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G7 countries."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Oct. 10)

"If you don't want a carbon tax and tax increases and a deficit and recession, the only way to ensure that is the case is to vote for the Conservative party."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Oct. 12)

"We may well be in a technical recession."
- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Nov. 23)

"The most recent private-sector forecasts suggest the strong possibility of a technical recession at the end of this year and beginning of next."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Nov. 23)

"I know economists will say well, we could run a small deficit but the problem is that once you cross that line as we see in the United States, nothing stops deficits from getting larger and larger and spiralling out of control."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Oct. 6)

"We will not run a deficit."
- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Oct. 9)

"If we do short-term deficit spending as a deliberate policy we will have to be able to demonstrate to Canadians that those deficits will genuinely be short term."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Nov. 15)

"The government of Canada today is not planning a deficit. But if the government of Canada decides . . . that we do have to engage in fiscal stimulus, that government spending is essential not just to shore up economic activity but investment markets, that would be the occasion we would go into what would be called a cyclic or a short-term deficit."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Nov. 23)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Are they still dancing in the hallways at Bell?

October 31, 2006:

The response to the surprise Trust tax announcement by Conservative Finance Minister Flaherty was remarkably different at Canada's two Telcos.

At Telus headquarters in Vancouver, where it was still midafternoon, the reaction was disbelief.

In Montreal, the mood was decidedly more upbeat. Sources said BCE's Mr. Sabia was a reluctant convert to the trust model, and “there was dancing in hallways at Bell” after Ottawa's announcement. Globe and Mail

CAITI articles on BCE

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nothing for seniors in throne speech

The Gazette

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A chilling document utterly lacking in compassion, the throne speech might well have been written by another prime minister from Calgary, a lawyer, R.B. Bennett. This one was written by an economist from Calgary, Stephen Harper.

Millions or billions hinted for the auto industry but not a smidgen of help or rescue for Canada's pensioners who are forced to sell their savings in a plunging market (the subject of at least two excellent articles in The Gazette's Business pages last week).

John Diefenbaker ended 22 years of Liberal rule in this country in 1957 when he branded the Liberals "the six-buck boys" after they raised pensions by that amount over five years.

His spirit is dead in the Tory party of today.

Edward W. Barrett


Seniors caught in the RRIF trap deserve a break from Ottawa

Friday, November 21, 2008

Can you afford to trust a Conservative government with your retirement savings?

"We are not facing a deficit," Flaherty said after a speech to the Canadian Association of New York at the New York Yacht Club. Jim Flaherty April 24, 2008

"If we have to run a deficit, we'll run a deficit."
Jim Flaherty November 19, 2008

Conservatives drained coffers: Watchdog

Budget officer Kevin Page concluded the federal Conservatives are likely to run budget deficits "in the near term," possibly beginning this year, and that the fault lies as much with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as it does with the weak economy. Page's report projects a budget deficit of $3.9 billion in 2009-10. But it adds that, if the economic downturn proves worse than expected, next year's federal deficit could hit $14 billion.

Canadians have lost billions because of bad Conservative policy. None of this is new. October 8, 2007


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flaherty deserves to be fired as finance minister

The Cornwall Standard Freeholder
November 19, 2008

If Finance Minister Jim Flaherty worked in the private sector he would have been fired long ago.

First he blew away a $12 billion surplus left by the previous government which always built surpluses to take care of a rainy day. The rainy day is here, big time, and we are about to go into deficit, if not there already. Prior to the election Mr. Flaherty guaranteed there would be no deficit during his watch. He and Prime Minister Harper admitted, after the fact and under pressure, that his government knew there were major economic problems in the world but our economy was in such good shape and our banks were so solid, Canada would be pretty well insulated against many of the problems. Now they're admitting, not that they were wrong, but that we probably will be in deficit shortly and they have now joined the bank rescue parade, twice -- but it's not their fault

When Mr. Flaherty listened to bad advice and killed the income trust market, for no proven reason, he started an avalanche of unforeseen consequences. Trust values plunged, building up tremendous capital gain losses that individuals, companies and funds will use to write off against gains resulting in a huge future tax loss for the government in the years to come. More tax losses will be added when retirees take less money from their RRIFs due to trust value loss. Many trusts were bought out by foreigners and pension funds, neither of whom pays tax.\

BCE will soon be off the market, bought out by the teachers pension fund. The billions of tax dollars lost could, right now, be providing a surplus cushion of at least $3 billion and more. The future lost billions are in the double digit. Now we hear that our Canada Pension fund has lost billions Would you keep this man on in your company as your controller or treasurer?

Vernon Holt, Cornwall

Thursday, November 6, 2008

mike watkins dot ca : Flaherty's Fiscal Fumbles

"FFF - Flaherty's Fiscal Fumbles - destined to become a regular feature. Today's installment: Flaherty's moves have only enabled more corporate tax avoidance." Mike Watkins dot ca

Recently a $13 billion dollar deal concluded, allowing Teck to buy the remaining shares of Fording Canadian Coal Trust. Despite all the talk of the on-going credit crunch, the overly generous moves by the Bank of Canada and Flaherty's Ministry of Finance have made it possible for banks to work with Teck to obtain the necessary financing and conclude the deal.

No new jobs will be created through this transaction. There is no net benefit to Canada.

Yet Canadian taxpayers are footing a big chunk of the bill, by providing a taxpayer-backed credit backstop, and through being shafted as Teck avoids paying a $4 billion dollar tax bill as a result of this transaction.

While this exercise in tax avoidance plays out under our very noses, lets think back to the last time tax avoidance was a subject in vogue in Conservative politics in Canada.

On October 31st, 2006 Jim Flaherty, then and now the Conservative Minister of Finance, announced that Income Trusts would in the future be subjected to new taxation. The move was particularly controversial as the Conservatives had campaigned only months earlier in part on a promise to leave the income trust sector alone.

The aftermath, dubbed the Halloween Massacre, saw the income trust market plummeting on the news, erasing billions in market value in the weeks to follow. Small and large investors alike, including many of Canada's pension plans, were significantly impacted by the on-going turmoil. Now more than two years later, many still feel betrayed.

Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty's volte-face on trusts was defended as a sign their government was serious about fairness in taxation. Flaherty said trust conversion was "a growing trend to corporate tax avoidance". From a CBC News article:

By some estimates, the federal and provincial governments stand to lose as much as $1 billion annually in tax revenue to trusts. There are now more than 250 income trusts in Canada.

Trust conversions are increasing in popularity because trusts do not pay corporate tax. Instead, they pay out most of their income in distributions to unitholders, who then pay tax on those distributions.

Flaherty said that situation could not be allowed to continue. "This trend has caused me growing concern," he said. "It's not right and it's not fair."

Bringing both pieces of the puzzle together:

  • In October 2006 Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty closed what he called a "loophole" that companies could exploit to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, a loss to taxpayers controversially estimated at the time at $1 billion a year.
  • In fall 2008 that same finance minister, backed by Stephen Harper appointed Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, enabled Teck Cominco to avoid paying $4 billion in corporate taxes.

Flaherty's Fiscal Fumble has cost Canadian taxpayers at least $4 billion in avoided corporate taxes plus we are even footing part of the bill which makes this deal possible in the first place.

The deal smells so bad that even those in financial circles are fuming about it.

Courtesy of Mike Watkins dot ca

Fording tax avoidance deal poses questions