Imagine selling your prized assets, even though you use them everyday and they’re a great long-term investment?
Well, that's an idea some conservatives in a Toronto riding think their party should endorse at the Conservative convention later this week: sell “public assets where feasible with the proceeds of the sales being used to pay down government debt."
This is pretty vague, but let’s consider some scenarios under this ill-defined plan.
Does “where feasible” mean that any asset is for sale at any price if someone wants to buy it? Do we sell off the prized buildings and pay rent for their use if someone wants to buy them? What about government assets that produce an income, such as crown corporations and agencies like the Export Development Bank?
Besides, selling off assets for their book value does not reduce net debt at all. That’s because there’s an asset side to public accounts that already counts against net government debt, the most commonly used metric in international comparisons.
Photo: crossroads_foundation. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.
The Harper government hasn’t tried to hide its dislike for environmental groups. That became plainly obvious in 2012, when the federal budget created a special fund to target groups with charitable status to determine if they engaged in too much political activity.
Environmental groups discovered what the budget announcement meant: auditors from Canada Revenue Agency were all over them.
The audit program has been a bit of a bust. One group (a non-green org) has lost its charitable status. (The current law includes a 10 percent rule, meaning groups can do political advocacy work, including denouncing or supporting government policy, up to 10 percent of their time.)
It looks like a riding association in Edmonton has a solution, and the group wants the party to get behind the idea at the party’s convention.
The "government must review the laws governing charities in Canada with a view to tightening the rules on acceptable activity, the use of a registered charity number, disclosure requirements...."
Photo: vsellis. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.
Conservatives from a riding in Calgary, the host city for the party’s convention kicking off on October 31, want to see a “less progressive” tax system. They’d do this by “reducing the number of personal income tax brackets.”
A less progressive tax system means more tax cuts for the rich and less tax revenue overall to pay for vital programs and services. Already, inequality has been worsening in Canada where the top 1% of tax-filers now receives 14% of all income, up sharply from 8% in the early 1980s. And yet, Conservatives seem to think it’s fair for the wealthiest among us to pay less.
It’s a bad idea – and an unpopular one. Canadians are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, and are willing to pay higher taxes to fight it. Last year, a survey on inequality found that 77 per cent of Canadians see the growing income gap as a critical issue that must be addressed. In fact, almost two-thirds of Canadians said they were willing to pay slightly more tax in order to protect social programs such as health care, post-secondary education and pensions.
If we further cut revenue with lopsided tax cuts, Canada will become even more unequal, and we’ll be unable to make investments in services we need.
Photo: Images_of_Money. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.
By any measure, it’s been a bad week for Canada’s unelected Senate.
It’s also been a rough one for the Prime Minister’s new parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra. Stephen Harper tapped Calandra to face questions about Conservative scandals after the PM had to remove Dean Del Mastro from the post when he became ensnarled in his own ethics troubles.
Check out Calandra's best "they said what?" moment this week, when he was being pressed about accountability in the Senate during a debate about the future of the upper chamber. It's a novel take on Harper’s appointees to Canada’s unelected Senate to do partisan work on the public dime.