By Erica Alini - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
When asked about how much debt is too much for a Canadian family, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney politely declined to go into the details. Appropriate levels of red ink on private balance sheets depend on a number of factors, and the central bank isn’t in the business of personal finance consulting. The BoC does, though, have a benchmark red line after which—regardless of income level, job security and age profile—it believes anyone starts struggling. That’s when debt servicing costs rise over 40 per cent of after-tax income, the governor said at this morning’s hearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, his last such appearance as this country’s central banker.
Concerns about high levels of household debt have been a leitmotif of the governor’s tenure, and it looks like that will continue to be the case for his successor. Once keeping up with your debt repayments takes up nearly half of your net income, Carney continued, “there isn’t much margin for error.” If your shifts are reduced—let alone if you lose your job—chances are, you’re defaulting. Right now, eight per cent of indebted households are in such dire straits, the governor said. A spike in unemployment (caused by, say, a slowdown in global growth triggered by another crisis in Europe) could bring that number of “vulnerable” households up to ten per cent. And if the shock is big enough, it can hit the housing market as well, the governor warned his audience. None of that, however, is looming on the horizon, he added—just a scary story central bankers have to include in their modeling exercises, for now. Housing prices are firming up and household debt, which is mostly backed by assets, has been growing at slower and slower rates. It too should stabilize shortly.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
Tomorrow morning the finance committee will consider a motion tabled by the NDP’s Peggy Nash.
That the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommend that the government extend Kevin Page’s term as Parliamentary Budget Officer until a thorough, transparent and competitive search for his replacement can be completed and his successor is appointed.
The motion mirrors a request Thomas Mulcair made of the Prime Minister last month and allows for the possibility that the process for selecting a new budget officer won’t be completed by the time Mr. Page’s term ends on March 25.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 1:50 PM - 0 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries explain how to fix the budget process.
The use of Budget Omnibus Bills has grown to the point that they seriously undermine the credibility of the budget process and the authority of Parliament. There is a clear lack of transparency and accountability. There is an urgent need to restore the role of Parliament and its committees in assessing, reviewing and approving proposed legislation. Without sufficient information and clear intention of the proposed initiatives, Parliament and its Committees cannot properly assess the budget. Parliamentary debate is stifled, public involvement ignored and the implementation of good public policy prevented.
The budget needs to be much more explicit on the proposed policy initiatives, providing sufficient details and background information on the proposed initiatives for Parliamentary assessment and for a better understanding by the public at large. Budget Omnibus Bills should be restricted to proposed tax changes only and all proposed spending initiatives should be presented either through the Main Estimates or through separate legislation, submitted to the applicable Parliamentary Committee for review.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
That the federal government explore ways to simplify the Income Tax Act to reduce the complexity and inefficiency of its administration, including through the establishment of a royal commission to undertake a comprehensive review. Additionally, the government should ensure the timely assessment of income tax returns and explore the possibility of permitting consolidated reporting.
That the federal government undertake a comprehensive review of the tax system and ensure its fairness as well as neutrality by continuing to close tax loopholes that allow select taxpayers to avoid paying their fair share of tax.
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries have proposed tax reform in the past. Given the recent use of tax credits and the politics around the GST, a debate about the tax system could get interesting.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Brisonbuster continues at the finance committee.
Last night, Mr. Brison unleashed a 14-part series of tweets to explain himself.
What’s at stake here? When the Cons use their majority to effectively suspend the rules, we’re no longer in a democracy
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Paul Calandra uses the finance committee to try to root out Liberal sympathizers.
Paul Calandra, the MP for Oak-Ridges-Markham, north of Toronto, slipped into the end of a Commons finance committee meeting that was holding prebudget consultations on Tuesday and spent all his of allotted time accusing Susan Eng, CARP’s head of advocacy, of campaigning for the Liberals. Mr. Calandra said he recalled an event organized by CARP that he had attended in his riding in March of 2011, just weeks before the country was plunged into an election. Julian Fantino, who at that time held the seniors portfolio in the federal cabinet, was the headline speaker.
“I was a bit thrown back. You were actually campaigning for the Liberal candidate in the riding at that time. It was days before the election and there was, of course, a great deal of Liberal campaign literature strewn throughout the event at the same time that a minister was there announcing some great news for seniors,” Mr. Calandra told Ms. Eng as the committee and the public looked on … neither she, nor CARP, have ever backed the Liberals, Ms. Eng said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 10:08 AM - 0 Comments
As more transcripts are posted online, an update on the finance committee’s study of C-38.
The committee reconvened on May 28 to study Division 31 (Railway Safety Act), Division 32 (Canadian International Trade Tribunal), Division 33 (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development Act), Division 34 (Health of Animals Act), Division 35 (Canada School of Public Service Act), Division 36 (Bank Act), Division 37 (Corrections and Conditional Release Act), Division 38 (Coasting Trade Act), Division 39 (Status of the Artist Act), Division 40 (National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act), Division 41 (Telecommunications Act), Division 42 (Employment Equity Act), Division 43 (Employment Insurance Act) and Division 44 (Customs Tariff Act).
On the morning of May 29, the committee heard from the Canadian Association of Public Employees, Democracy Watch, Merit Canada and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. That afternoon, the committee heard from the Canadian Labour Congress, the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, PPP Canada Inc. and officials from public safety, justice and the RCMP.
On May 30, the committee heard from representatives of BCE Incorporated and Bell Canada, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Mobilicity, Public Mobile, Wind Mobile, professor Len Zedel, the Agriculture Union, the C.D. Howe Institute, Consumer Health Products Canada, the Canada Organic Trade Association, Nalcor Energy, professor Richard Steiner and the United Steelworkers.
On the morning of May 31, the committee heard from economist Patrick Grady, policy analyst Richard Kurland, professor Ian Lee, lawyer Lorne Waldman, the Canadian Federation of Students, Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Auto Workers, the Retail Council of Canada, professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen and Campaign 2000. That afternoon the committee heard from professor Aurel Braun, Canada Without Poverty, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Medical Association, professor Michael Jackson, professor Alain Noel, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Media Guild, the Canadian Museums Association and the Council of Canadians.
See previously: Studying C-38
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Scott Clark dissects the Harper government’s loud refusal to be part of an IMF initiative to backstop Europe.
By refusing to join the G-20 initiative to augment IMF resources, Canada’s credibility in the G-20 will be seriously diminished. Canada has been able to “punch above its economic weight” in international organizations and institutions because of the quality of its advice and the seriousness of it commitments to international institutions. Other members of the G-20 will see Canada’s refusal to participate as a weakening in its commitment to the G-20 and the IMF.
Another reason given for not contributing to the G-20 Fund is that this would require the use of taxpayers’ money. Presumably what the government is saying is that at a time when government spending is being cut it would be inappropriate to “give” taxpayers money to the IMF to help wealthy European countries. This is completely misleading. Funds are not given to the IMF; funds are lent to the IMF. More importantly the funds that would be lent to the IMF would not come from Canadian taxpayers. The funds would come from foreign exchange reserves held at the Bank of Canada. As of May 23, 2012 Canada had foreign exchange reserves of $68.7 billion … Were Canada to contribute to the G-20 fund the “contribution” would involve a transfer of SDRs from the exchange reserves to the IMF in exchange for a commitment that the funds would be repaid. There would be no use of taxpayers’ money and there would be no budgetary impact.
In April, Mark Carney appeared before the House finance committee and Peggy Nash asked the bank governor about Europe and the potential impact on Canada. She then asked Mr. Carney for the pros and cons of contributing to the IMF firewall. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 9:26 AM - 0 Comments
Near the end of the finance committee hearings on Wednesday night, Conservative MP Shelly Glover spoke up to clarify a few points, including the relative size of C-38, the current budget implementation act.
I also want to correct the record with regard to the size of the budget bill. Let’s get to the facts. Bill C-10, which is Budget 2009, the first budget bill there was bigger than this one. Bill C-9, Budget 2010, BIA No. 2 was 880 pages. Bill C-13, Budget 2011, just last year, BIA was 644 pages. All bigger than this one. This is not unusual in any way, shape or form.
C-38 is, indeed, just the fourth largest budget bill the Harper government has tabled. Between 1994 and 2005, when the Liberals were in power, Parliament never passed a budget bill larger than 144 pages (2003). The Conservatives have passed eight budget bills longer than that, C-38 would be the ninth.
The 12 budget bills tabled between 1994 and 2005 averaged 73.6 pages.
The 11 budget bills tabled between 2006 and 2011 averaged 308.9 pages.
See previously: A short history of budget implementation acts
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 3:53 PM - 0 Comments
Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers, sends along the following video of his appearance before the finance committee last night.
Kady O’Malley points with similar concern to an exchange between Peggy Nash and Vivian Krause during finance committee hearings on Monday. Here is the transcript of that exchange, along with Ms. Nash’s subsequent questions for Jamie Ellerton of Ethical Oil. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
As the budget implementation act makes it way through the finance committee, transcripts of the proceedings are finding their way online.
On May 15, the finance committee questioned the Finance Minister and studied Part 1 of the bill, which ”implements certain income tax measures and related measures proposed in the March 29, 2012 budget.”
On May 16, the committee completed its discussion of Part 1 and moved on to Part 2, which “amends the Excise Tax Act to implement certain excise tax and goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) measures proposed in the March 29, 2012 Budget.” It then moved on to Divisions 1 (Auditor General), 2 (life-annuity-like products), 10 (financial institutions), 11 (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), 16 (Currency Act) and 30 (Pension Benefits Standards Act) of Part 4.
On the morning of May 17, the committee moved on to Divisions 3 (PPP Canada Inc), 4 (territorial borrowing limits), 5 (reporting requirements), 6 (Social Security Tribunal and Service Delivery), 7 (Consolidation of Privacy Codes), 8 (Social Insurance Number Cards), 9 (Parks Canada) and 12 (Integrated Cross-Border Law Enforcement Operations Act) of Part 4.
That afternoon, the committee reconvened to study Divisions 13 (Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act), 14 (Canada Health Act), 15 (Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act), 17 (Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act), 18 (Fisheries Act), 19 (Food and Drugs Act), 20 (Government Employees Compensation Act), 21 (International Development Research Centre Act), 22 (Canada Labour Code), 24 (Old Age Security Act), 25 (Salaries Act), 26 (Seeds Act), 27 (Statutory Instruments Act), 28 (Investment Canada Act), 29 (Customs Act) and 30 (Pension Benefits Standards Act) of Part 4.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM - 0 Comments
Three cabinet ministers appeared, under debatable circumstances, this morning before the finance subcommittee studying C-38. Afterwards, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield attempted to explain himself.
When asked when he first leaned that he would be appearing at the sub-committee, Mr. Ashfield replied: “I think it was the day before yesterday.” His aide interjected to say he was not sure. “I’m not sure,” the minister added.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:26 PM - 0 Comments
Moments ago, after a recorded vote was compelled on a motion that “a member now be heard,” the NDP’s Yvon Godin stood in the House and spoke at length in regards to a committee report on “the snow crab industry in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.” Then Mr. Godin moved a motion to adjourn the House for the day. And now MPs are being called in for another recorded vote.
The Liberals have sent out a missive saying none of this will delay the actual second reading vote on the budget bill. (I’m trying to sort that question out.)
Meanwhile, there seems to be some dispute as to which MPs will be allowed to attend the finance committee meetings on the bill. Presuming the bill gets there at some point.
Update 4:54pm. Nathan Cullen spoke with reporters outside the House just before the first vote. He might have provided one clue to what’s going on here.
The way the procedure’s worked in the House is they’ve allocated days, not a date. The government can claim that the vote must come on Monday but that’s not the way that the instructions to Parliament work.
This might match one theory I’ve seen floated: that if the NDP can prevent today’s scheduled budget debate, they will push back the vote on the bill (by a day).
Update 4:59pm. More from Mr. Cullen’s scrum, this in regards to the dispute concerning the finance committee.
We also have an indication from government, as you’ll well remember, there was a promise made to allow associate members to sit on the Finance Committees, other experts that we have. For the first time we believe in parliamentary history, now the government is denying us that ability. So a promise that was made by the government to allow at least some measure of scrutiny over their budget bill has now been ripped up, we think for the first time in Canada’s history. It’s inexcusable, anti-democratic and they had this motion from us two days ago.
Update 5:07pm. With the Conservatives and Liberals voting against, the motion to adjourn has been defeated. The snow crab debate has resumed.
Update 5:12pm. The government moves that the debate be adjourned. A recorded vote has now been called for. It will be 30 minutes before that occurs, at which point it will be past 5:30pm, the time the House is scheduled to move on to other business. If the aforementioned theory is correct, the vote on C-38 will, as a result, have been pushed back a day.
Update 5:18pm. While we await the vote on the government motion, here is more of Mr. Cullen’s explanation for what is happening here.
It may sound strange but from opposition to government is a form of partnership. You try to have some conversations. You can agree on the actual substance but the form in which this government brought in they knew were wrong from the beginning. And it’s not me saying that. It’s every parliamentary expert that’s looked at the history of this country. It’s commentators from right across this country saying, while technically legal, it’s absolutely unethical for this government to do it. So let’s focus on how Parliament ought to work. Let’s focus on a government that if it had the courage of their convictions for each of these measures, be it unemployment insurance or be it on the environment they would introduce them as separate pieces of legislation. That was the reasonable offer that we gave to the government. They decided not to take that offer. That’s unfortunate. We now move on to secondary tactics and that’s also unfortunate…
Well, we have a series of options available to us. We’re looking at each one. It’s limited power. We don’t make any pretence that it can go for months and years. That’s absolutely not true and we don’t pretend it to be true. But we’re trying to put a little water in the wine of the government and say you may have some technical powers here but there are still rights and privileges for MPs and the people we represent and the people we represent want to see a fair hearing of this bill and want the worst parts taken out. That’s our job. That should also be the job of the government. They’re not doing their job so we’re going to push back a little.
Update 5:46pm. The House has now moved on to the previously scheduled votes. Meanwhile, a comment from the government whip’s office in regards to the dispute over which MPs can participate in the finance committee hearings.
The NDP are free to substitute any member they want to have participate on the Finance committee or any subcommittee of the Finance committee.
Update 6:13pm. The government side still seems to think a vote on the budget is happening, as scheduled, on Monday night. But by having the debate start again tomorrow, instead of on Wednesday’s abbreviated schedule, there will be more time for debate.
Update 6:44pm. Peter Van Loan just rose on a point of order to say that the opposition day that had been scheduled for tomorrow has been rescheduled. That presumably clears the way for the House to debate the budget bill tomorrow.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Bill Curry notes that the government’s own expert analysis found no impending crisis.
Edward Whitehouse – who researches pension policy on behalf of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank – was asked by Ottawa to study and report on how Canada stacks up internationally when it comes to pensions.
His conclusion: “The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes,” and “there is no pressing financial or fiscal need to increase pension ages in the foreseeable future.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 4:42 PM - 19 Comments
Conservative MPs on the finance committee move to ensure you are not frightened by this week’s hearings.
At a planning meeting Monday evening, NDP finance critic Peggy Nash put forward a motion requesting that a panel of economists be included as witnesses Friday, but the Conservatives used their majority to limit the invite list to Mr. Flaherty and Bank of Canada officials.
“It’s imperative, in my opinion, that we not do anything that might worry Canadians. And I think that hearing from the Minister of Finance and the Bank of Canada will help to reassure them, as they should be, that there is concern, but that we are proceeding, as parliamentarians, in their interests,” explained Conservative MP Shelly Glover, who is Mr. Flaherty’s parliamentary secretary.
If you dare look, here are some of those economists now.
So, about that $40 billion stimulus package …: Liveblogging the Parliamentary Budget Officer at the Finance Committee
By kadyomalley - Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 8:25 AM - 11 Comments
Join ITQ as embattled parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page makes his first post-budget appearance before the Finance committee – which, if the linked story is accurate, could turn out to be a memorable one.
Yikes. Not sure what just happened there, but I seem to have wiped out my first few updates, which is an unfortunate start to what could be one of the more important meetings that ITQ will liveblog this week. I’ll spare you the details, but rest assured that there is some serious frowning being directed towards WordPress.
Anyway, hi everyone! Welcome to the Finance committee meeting already in progress; Kevin Page – the parliamentary budget officer – is in the midst of delivering his opening statement to members, and it’s – well, I won’t say bleak, but he definitely seems to have a slightly less rosy view of the government’s fiscal fortunes.
More numbers, more analysis – I’m not going to transcribe this word for word, since I’m pretty sure I’d mangle at least some of the numbers, thereby unintentionally crashing the market and doing even more damage to the Canadian economy. Besides, I think the report he’s reading is available online, so I can link to that afterwards.
It’s important for parliamentarians to debate the benefits of the economic stimulus plan, Page stresses, which provokes vigourous nodding from Thomas Mulcair.
And – questions! Starting with John McCallum, who thanks Page for all the support he’s provided to Parliament, and goes straight to the accountability issue – is the infrastructure money likely to get out as quickly as the budget suggests, he wonders – and how will that be monitored?
That depends, Page explains – his office uses best practices, and there are other ways to put in place a “robust framework” for accountability, but it will require cooperation from the government, as well as the efforts of parliamentarians.