By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
In a speech delivered yesterday, Pierre Poilievre explains why the Harper government wants input into collective bargaining at crown corporations.
It is a lovely principle. One that could be equally applied to comprehensive estimates reform, a fully independent and well-funded parliamentary budget officer, the independence of government backbenchers, the independence of parliamentary committees and the importance of government transparency and disclosure.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Officially, C-60, the first budget implementation act of the year, requires 128 pages to print. Government House leader Peter Van Loan gave notice yesterday that he’ll move a motion of time allocation today to limit debate at second reading to a total of five days.
We support efforts to help Crown Corporations manage public resources responsibly. We believe that this initiative may have unintended consequences on the successful operation of some corporations. It is important that these consequences are understood and addressed.
We will be writing to the Government to share our concerns about C-60, and to request a meeting to ensure that Ministers have accurate information on CBC/Radio-Canada’s record, both at managing public resources and delivering on its mandate.
The New Democrats, meanwhile, have tabled their proposal for splitting the bill. The motion was denied yesterday at the finance committee, but, for the record, here is what Peggy Nash proposed.
“That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, that Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures be amended by removing the following clauses:
a) clauses 136 to154 related to the Investment Canada Act;
b) clauses 161 to 166 related to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program;
c) clauses 174 to 199 related to the proposed Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act;
d) clauses 213 to 224 related to the National Capital Act and the Department of Canadian Heritage Act;
e) clauses 228 to 232 related to the Financial Administration Act and collective bargaining between Crown corporations and their employees;
That the clauses mentioned in section a) of this motion do compose Bill C-61; that Bill C-61 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;
that the clauses mentioned in section b) of this motion do compose Bill C-62; that Bill C-62 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;
that the clauses mentioned in section c) of this motion do compose Bill C-63; that Bill C-63 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development;
that the clauses mentioned in section d) of this motion do compose Bill C-64; that Bill C-64 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage;
that the clauses mentioned in section e) of this motion do compose Bill C-65; that Bill C-65 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates;
that Bill C-60 retain the status on the Order Paper that it had prior to the adoption of this Order; that Bill C-60 be reprinted as amended; and that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.”
The Conservatives have said they would like different parts of the bill sent to different committees for study, but we don’t yet have the details of their proposal.
By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 6:29 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a trimmed-down budget bill Monday that he…
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a trimmed-down budget bill Monday that he promised would face the proper parliamentary scrutiny, but the official opposition says the legislation still needs to be chopped up.
The Conservatives faced intense criticism over their so-called “omnibus” budget bills last year, which were stuffed with a laundry list of policy measures, including controversial changes to environmental monitoring.
The NDP and the Liberals introduced more than 1,000 amendments to the 2012 bill to register dismay with both the process and the content.
This year’s version is more modest in length, and Flaherty promised that sections would be studied by different parliamentary committees.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
Here is Bill C-60, the first budget implementation act of the year.
At 125 pages—according to the page count on Adobe—it is the shortest budget bill tabled by the Conservatives since 2009, when that year’s second budget bill was 60 pages (the first budget bill tabled that year was 551 pages). It is still larger than all but three budget bills tabled between 1994 and 2005. See this short history of budget implementation acts for previous page totals.
After tabling the bill in the House, Jim Flaherty told reporters that the government will ask the finance committee to send certain parts of the bill to different committees for study.
The bill amends the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001, the Customs Tariff, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office Act, the Investment Canada Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Pension Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Citizenship Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the National Capital Act, the Department of Canadian Heritage Act, the National Holocaust Monument Act, the Salaries Act, the Parliament of Canada Act, the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act.
It also enacts the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act, which allows for the amalgamation of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and CIDA.
By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 1:59 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The Conservatives are set to introduce legislation today to implement their 2013…
OTTAWA – The Conservatives are set to introduce legislation today to implement their 2013 budget.
The bill will include changes to the temporary foreign workers program already outlined in the budget, which was unveiled last month.
The Tories have been musing about overhauling the program for over a year, but their work has taken on greater urgency amid growing concerns the system is being abused.
Most recently, the Royal Bank of Canada came under fire for using a supplier whose foreign workers allowed the bank to cut Canadian jobs.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 29, 2013 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
While the Finance Minister will table the first budget implementation act of the year later today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has released a new report on the impact of this year’s budget.
The PBO’s latest estimates on the impact of the 2013 budget handed down in March show the cumulative impact will be to reduce economic growth by 0.12 per cent and job creation by 14,000 by 2016. Combining the latest budget measures with the cutbacks unveiled in 2012 means there will be 62,000 fewer jobs in 2016, rising to 67,000 fewer in 2017, than might otherwise be the case without the cuts.
The PBO cautions the estimates do not mean the cutbacks will result in a loss of jobs, but that employment will be lower than it might have been absent the measures. In economic speak, that means that government spending will act as a drag on economic growth, rather than a stimulus.
Rest assured that however much smaller the government is made as a result of these cuts, there will still be someone on hand to make sure Laura Secord’s attire is appropriately depicted.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 12:51 PM - 0 Comments
This morning, the Finance Department says this was an “oversight.”
It has been brought to our attention that hockey helmets were not included on the list of products receiving tariff relief. This was an oversight at Finance and they will be eligible for tariff relief going forward.
Mr. Thibeault crows.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
NDP MP Glenn Thibeault has written to the chair of the standing committee on industry, science and technology to request a “study into the increased taxation of iPods and other goods.” (The full letter is here.) And, tomorrow morning, NDP national revenue critic Murray Rankin will visit Joe Momma, a bike store in Ottawa, to discuss the Harper government’s “bicycle tax.” Joe Momma was the backdrop for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s announcement of C-45, last year’s second budget implementation bill.
The NDP has made up all this fearmongering dialogue about tax increases in budget 2013. There are no tax increases in budget 2013.
Somewhat similarly, Heritage Minister James Moore, responding to a question on this from Justin Trudeau this afternoon, ventured that “if we were raising the taxes the Liberals would be all for it.” Otherwise the government’s defence seems to be three-fold: assert that theirs is a “low tax plan,” claim a desire on the part of the opposition to raise taxes and allege that to not raise tariffs would be to give special treatment to China.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 12, 2013 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
The New Democrats have released the motion they’ll have the House debate on Monday.
“That this House condemn the tax hikes introduced by the government in Budget 2013 on hospital parking, bicycles, baby strollers, coffee makers, iPods and other goods and services, which break the promise the Government made to Canadians during the last election.”
See previously: A tax on imported blankets, The Commons: Ted Menzies challenges everyone to find a tax increase in the budget, A tax on bicycles, baby carriages and iPods, The Great iPod Tax Crisis of 2013 and The iPod tax: The finance department responds
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 10:26 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday evening, after CP reported that Sony was concerned about the tariff requirements on iPods, I emailed the Finance Minister’s office to ask if there was any response.
Tonight, the Finance Department sends along the following response.
“iPods and other MP3 players have come into Canada duty free in the past under 9948. iPods and other MP3 players continue to be eligible to come into Canada duty free under 9948 in the future.”
Both CP and Mike Moffatt have reported that sellers must obtain a certificate from the final consumer to qualify for the exemption under 9948. I’ve asked the Finance Department to confirm that and will post the response as soon it is received.
Meanwhile, Moffatt reported earlier tonight that Sony has already paid this iPod tax.
I have just learned that Sony has already paid an iPod tax on a number of their Walkman MP3 products including their Sony 2GB Wearable MP3 Player (NWZW262B). These items entered the country under 9948.00.00, but were re-assesed after the fact, as Sony could not produce end use certificates.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:31 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, Mike Moffatt suggested that the tariff increases introduced in the budget would result in an increase in the price of iPods. The Harper government claimed otherwise. The Globe and Mail subsequently retracted Mr. Moffatt’s original post. And then Moffatt penned a second post to explain his perspective.
I take the Finance Department at its word that iPods have been imported using the 9948.00.00 code, but am uncertain how the CBSA came to this decision in light of the precedent set by the Jam Industries case.
It is hard to believe that on further scrutiny – especially given the potential future tariff implications that didn’t exist before the budget announcement – the CBSA would be able to justify a 9948.00.00 classification for iPods. This certainly warrants further review and clarification by the government, so that importers and consumers can have greater comfort about where they really stand.
The Canadian Press added its reporting.
The federal government is tightening up tariffs on imported products such as televisions and iPods that receive a special exemption when used with computers. Importers owe about $16 million from 2011 alone due to a reassessment of customs duties, according to a memo from the Canadian Border Services Agency, released under the Access to Information Act and obtained by The Canadian Press.
The memo from March 2012 — which includes a handwritten notation to keep “the minister” informed — says the crackdown “will likely result in a significant amount of customs duty being reassessed, and will not be well-received by the importing community.” The agency has ruled importers who use the computer exemption must get certificates from the end users — consumers, in most cases — that certify the product will be used with a computer. No certificate, no exemption, says the agency.
Today, Moffatt presents two CBSA documents and restates his position.
My position that importers cannot meet the requirements of 9948 rests on three straight-forward premises: 1. It appears that sellers of iPods and MP3s are required to collect “end use certificates” from the final consumer on each sale, and be able to present these to the CBSA if audited. 2. The 9948 requirement for “end use certificates” appears to be actively enforced by the CBSA. 3. Retailers cannot reasonably collect these certificates from consumers when they buy an iPod.
These three, put together, make retail sales of iPods and MP3 players ineligible for 9948 and therefore subject to an iPod tariff.
Unchallenged so far are any of the other tariff increases that Moffatt has identified which will increase the price of imported bicycles, baby carriages, school supplies, wigs, USB drives, coffeemakers, rugs, paintbrushes, plastic tableware, sandals, scissors and carving knives.
Update 4:46pm. And now, via the Canadian Press, Sony claims the existence of an iPod tax.
Sony of Canada says Canadian consumers could soon face higher prices on some electronics, such as televisions and iPods, because it’s all but impossible for importers to apply for exemptions from a controversial tariff.
Mark Trylinski, logistics director at Sony of Canada, says importers are being asked to jump through too many hoops in order to qualify for a special exemption from the tariff on the popular products. Trylinski — who predicts a price spike of about five per cent — says companies may also decide the customs duties on some items mean it no longer makes financial sense to import them.
By Stephen Gordon - Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:37 AM - 0 Comments
If asked, the Conservatives will tell you that they favour a smaller government that intervenes sparingly in the functioning of the market, and it’s been pretty well-established that a medium- and long-term goal of the Conservative government has been to reduce the share of Canadian GDP that is taxed and spent by the federal government. But lower taxes and lower levels of spending are not the same thing as a smaller government.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 1, 2013 at 1:15 PM - 0 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries explain how to fix the estimates process.
Ask the President of the Treasury Board about whether spending will be going up or down in 2013-14 and he’ll tell you that it’s going down. Ask the Minister of Finance and he’ll say it’s going up. Who is right and why the conflicting answers? The Minister of Finance will likely be more accurate than the President of the Treasury Board. But why the confusion and why can’t Canadians and Parliamentarians get a straight answer?
See previously: Do you know how your federal government is spending your money?, ‘The fact is no one in Parliament can tell Canadians what the government is planning to spend‘ and ‘Parliament has lost control of the estimate process’
By John Geddes - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
Among the most-discussed measures in last week’s federal budget was the government’s plan to create a new “Canada Job Grant.” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Ottawa will contribute up to $5,000 per employee—if the employer and the province both provide matching funding—for short-term skills upgrading in places like community colleges and union training centres.
Flaherty said the plan will “transform” training and touted it as a key step toward improving the chances of workers filling in-demand occupations. But does his plan target the main problem? A report from CIBC World Markets, released late last year, found that most of the jobs facing serious skills shortages in Canada require post-secondary education—including doctors, nurses and dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists, along with mining, engineering and science occupations.
The report’s author, CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, talked with Maclean’s about the real nature of Canada’s mismatch between skills and jobs.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on what the latest Economic Action Plan fails to say
One of the little joys of the Harper government’s Economic Action Plan 2013 is a chart on page 298 listing “savings measures since Budget 2010.” There are a few lines listing the total value of all spending cuts from Budget 2010, a few for Budget 2011, a few for Economic Action Plan 2012 and some more for Economic Action Plan 2013. There is much to consider in the chart, but perhaps the most interesting is the news that the government of Canada no longer publishes an annual budget. In fact, it seems to have stopped two years ago.
I work in Ottawa and I try to stay on top of things, but this was news to me. In fact, I didn’t even notice it until four days after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his—er—plan on March 21. Of course, there was much chortling in the press gallery at the government’s insistence on calling its annual account of revenues and expenses something besides a budget. But the significance of the thing took a while to sink in. Flaherty and his boss, Stephen Harper, do not call their big annual document a “budget” anymore because it is no longer a budget.
A budget, as anyone who has tried to run a household knows, is the moment when you stop telling yourself soothing tales and inject a note of reality into your life. On page 64 of the 1997 budget, for instance, the government of the day gave us an “outlook for program spending” with multi-year projections for spending levels in defence, Aboriginal programs, “business subsidies” and so on. It was that straightforward.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 5:53 PM - 0 Comments
Megan Leslie stood to plead confusion. Within the budget, she said, were tax increases. But the Prime Minister, she recalled, had promised not to raise taxes. So why, she wondered aloud, had the Prime Minister allowed the Finance Minister to contradict him?
“Mr. Speaker,” declared the Prime Minister, “it is quite the opposite.”
Mr. Harper did not then explain how so. Instead, he alleged a number of tax increases that the NDP was apparently proposing.
Ms. Leslie tried again. “Why,” she wondered, “did the Prime Minister not keep his promise?”
The Prime Minister again insisted on talking about the NDP. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I know very well that the NDP favors higher taxes and taxes to finance larger deficits and higher expenses.”
Ms. Leslie was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, I understand why the government’s backbench is frustrated,” she responded. “Answers like that have been frustrating me for quite some time.”
The New Democrats laughed.
This is, most immediately, Ted Menzies’ fault. It was the minister of state for finance who yesterday pronounced that there were no tax increases to be found in last week’s budget. More specifically, he said “no one would find” tax increases in this budget. As a wager, this was a poor one. As a challenge, it had the unfortunate quality of having already been met—Mr. Menzies making it in response to a question about tax increases that had been found in the budget. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 6:13 PM - 0 Comments
“You know, there’s two schools in economics on this,” Mr. Harper once said, “One is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I’m in the latter category. I don’t believe any taxes are good taxes.”
“I give you my word: As long as I will be prime minister … there will be no new taxes,” Mr. Harper had said two years before that.
Perhaps that was merely a commitment to refrain from inventing entirely new taxes that had not previously existed. But otherwise it is to wonder if the Prime Minister was a touch disappointment when he opened the budget book last Thursday and found that, not only hadn’t the Finance Minister eliminated all taxes, but he’d seen fit to budget for several increases in the cost of civil society. If he was heartbroken to read as much, it is surely a testament to Mr. Harper’s commitment to party loyalty that he has not yet gone rogue and pronounced the budget to be unworthy of his support.
As it is, it must have been rather odd for the Prime Minister to have to stand in his place this afternoon and defend such a document.
First for the opposition this afternoon was David (Furious D) Christopherson, the NDP deputy whose floppy hair has a way of bouncing in time to his indignation. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP wants the RCMP to investigate the leak of a particular item ahead of the budget’s release last week.
I am writing to you about potentially criminal actions related to a breach of budget secrecy. Details appeared in the media of new tariff cuts on hockey equipment, details which were officially released in the budget document at 4:00 pm on March 21, 2013. The information released was outlined in a Globe and Mail article by Steven Chase and Bill Curry on March 20, 2013. The article described the tariff cut as part of “a pilot project to see whether the money the government loses in customs revenue is recouped in sales tax.”
The leak and availability of this information, prior to it being made public in the budget, gave those with this information an opportunity for personal financial gain.
Three years ago, the CBC proclaimed the “demise of the secret budget.”
The Conservative government is taking a novel approach to secrecy concerning the January budget: it is announcing everything ahead of time. So far, Canadians know the federal deficit will be about $34 billion in the next fiscal year and $64 billion for the next two years. There will be $7 billion in public works spending, $1.5 billion for jobs training, $2 billion for social housing and a raft of permanent income tax reductions, likely aimed at the middle class…
Indeed, the new approach in Ottawa could mean that measures such as the electronic encrypting of budget documents at the Department of Finance and the slightly-demeaning escorting of reporters to the washroom by security officials during the budget lockup will be relegated to the dustbin of parliamentary history. None too soon, say some Ottawa watchers. “[Budget secrecy] hasn’t mattered in 10 years,” said one former finance official who has been involved with past budgets.
Last year, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield claimed budget secrecy kept him from discussing cuts to the Department of Fisheries with the government of Newfoundland before the budget was tabled.
The idea that the information might have been used for personal financial gain perhaps attempts to draw a line between benign leaks and bad leaks.
By John Geddes - Monday, March 25, 2013 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Perhaps the biggest unanswered question about the budget Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled last week was how he planned to cut a whopping $4 billion out of the government’s operating expenses in the coming year. As it turns out, though, that might just be the easiest part of Flaherty’s budget-balancing task ahead.
The planned cut in question falls under the heading “direct program expenses,” which means it’s a saving that must be found in what Ottawa spends directly, not what it transfers to people and provinces. After posting $80.5 billion in operating expenses in 2012-13, Flaherty’s new budget allows for just $76.5 billion in 2013-14. And “Economic Action Plan 2013,” as he likes to call the budget, offers scant detail on what is to be slashed to achieve this $4-billion reduction, which led one columnist to say the budget plan shows operating costs “magically dropping” and another reporter to call the cut “something of a mystery.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 25, 2013 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
The impact on Canadians will likely be higher prices on a wide range of goods, including imported food. Some examples include an increase on the tariff on bicycles to 13 per cent from 8.5 per cent; venetian blinds to 7 per cent from 3 per cent; table fans to 8 per cent from 2.5 per cent; tableware to 6.5 per cent from 3 per cent; umbrellas to 7 per cent from 5 per cent, and potato starch to 10.5 per cent from 5 per cent.
According to the government’s own calculations, the elimination of duties on sports and baby clothes will cost $76 million a year, but it will gain $333 million annually by its other measure. ”They are basically giving us a dollar and taking back five. It’s a bit of a shell-game,” Moffatt said.
The Harper government expects to take in $1 billion more in revenue as a result.
If the New Democrats were proposing this, the Conservatives would almost certainly—using the same logic they’ve employed to deem the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal a “$21-billion tax”—describe this as a $1-billion tax.
Mr. Flaherty promised in his budget speech that the Harper government would not raise taxes.
By macleans.ca - Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 7:47 AM - 0 Comments
Budget 2013 is a quiet-seeming document with outsized ambitions: it seeks to reconnect skills to jobs, fund a new generation of rods and bridges, give the industrial heartland a boost and maintain Canada’s increasingly rare brand advantage as a reasonably functional Western economy. Jim Flaherty must have hoped his job would be getting easier by now. No such luck. How’d he do? Here’s the verdict from the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau:
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Get the inside story on all the highlights, and how Budget 2013 will touch Canadians
Welcome to the Maclean’s post-budget debrief.
By Dale Smith - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 7:29 PM - 0 Comments
Here are the three things you should not have missed:
Power & Politics spoke with Foreign Affairs minister John Baird, who said that bringing CIDA into the Foreign Affairs umbrella is a more streamlined approach to the conduct of foreign policy, as humanitarian assistance is part of foreign policy, and it brings all of the experts under one roof. Baird said that the move wasn’t too controversial, and that the department already has two parts and two ministers, the other being international trade, so a third won’t be a big change. In response, Chris Hall spoke with Julia Sanchez, President of the Canadian Council for International Development, and former Foreign Affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy. Sanchez said that they have been calling for a stronger CIDA, but that they are not convinced this is the right time for such a move because there is no clear policy direction in place. Axworthy said there needs to be a more integrated relationship between trade, development and diplomacy, as the world is not divided into silos. On Power Play, Anthony Scoggins, Director of International Programs at Oxfam, said that while he buys into the efficiencies argument, he fears that there will be less of a focus on the reduction of poverty.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen used his second supplementary during Question Period to question the Conservative government’s long-term commitment to infrastructure renewal. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird replied by touting the government’s plan and referring to kind words from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.