All Posts Tagged With: "taxes"
What students are talking about today (April 16th)
1. Canadian Business has published its annual 50 Best Jobs list, which is based on 2012 median pay, past growth and projected growth. The list includes some obvious titles—number one is ‘oil & gas drilling supervisor” and there are also three types of engineers in the top 10 alone. But there are also some less obvious jobs in the top 50, like dental hygienists, 18th on the list and with an average salary of $70,000 last year. In addition to the best jobs, CB also offers lists of worst jobs and the top 10 jobs by projected demand in 2020.
2. McGill University is considering shutting two libraries to deal with budget cuts. The Faculty of Education’s Library and the Life Sciences Library, used by medical students, could be merged with another library. “We have to consider everything,” Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook told CBC. A Facebook page titled Save the McGill Life Sciences Library from closure has 1,487 likes.
What students are talking about today (February 28th)
1. Students at McMaster University got creative crossing their slushy Hamilton, Ont. campus after a major winter storm hit Ontario on Tuesday. They paddled across it in a canoe. Someone made a video and posted it to YouTube where it already has 55,000 views and was shown on air by CBC News Network. Meanwhile in Ottawa….
2. Ryerson University student Sarah Santhosh wants to start a men’s issues group on campus called the Ryerson Association for Equality that would discuss mental health, male youth violence, misogyny, as well as gender disadvantages in education, the workplace and custody battles. “Universities are supposed to be places where any and all ideas are accepted and discussed. Nothing should be too taboo for discussion,” she told The Eyeopener. It’s unclear whether the Ryerson Students’ Union will prevent the group from gaining status considering vice president equity, Marwa Hamad, previously said that, “marginalized or underprivileged student members should be the focus of equity service groups on campus.”
What students are talking about today (January 2nd)
1. If 2011 was the year of Occupy Wall Street, 2013 may be the year that the rich get punished, if only just a little bit. The United States avoided its “fiscal cliff” after Congress passed a deal that includes tax increases for those who make more than $450,000—roughly the richest one per cent. They will now pay just under 40 per cent income tax, up from about 35 per cent. Meanwhile in France—where Socialist president Francois Hollande has made no attempt to hide his distaste for the rich—the country’s highest court, citing unfairness, rejected a top tax rate of 75 per cent. The French government plans to try again. In Canada the tax increases are more equitable: everyone will pay more in Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance premiums this year. Yay!
2. Meanwhile, the CCPA reports that the typical executive among Canada’s top 100 highest paid will earn the equivalent of the median Canadian paycheque—$46,000—by noon today. The good news for OWS supporters is that average executive pay fell eight per cent last year to $7.7 million. And this might make you feel better about your future earnings: $34,000 puts you in the richest one per cent globally, according to a World Bank economist. The median salary worldwide is $1,225.
Ontario is second
Quebec companies are by far the most heavily taxed in Canada and the United States, even after accounting for generous financial assistance from the province, according to a new University of Montreal business school study.
The HEC Centre for Productivity and Prosperity’s 2012 report said Wednesday that Quebec companies paid 26 per cent more in taxes than the Canadian average and face almost double the tax burden of U.S. companies.
Taxes represented 5.1 per cent of the gross output of Quebec businesses, compared with 4.1 per cent for Canada and 2.9 per cent for the United States, according to a Statistics Canada survey of 2008 data.
Ontario was the second least competitive province in terms of taxes at four per cent of gross output, followed by Alberta (3.9), B.C. (3.8), Nova Scotia (3.7), Manitoba (3.7), Newfoundland and Labrador (3.4), P.E.I. (3.1), Saskatchewan (3.0), and New Brunswick (2.6).
John Geddes on “intergenerational inequity”
Republished from Capital Read,your source for Parliament Hill news and gossip on Macleans.ca.
I often find arguments about “intergenerational inequity” compelling. There’s an obvious injustice when governments allow deficits to accumulate into debt, keeping current taxes low and spending high, on the assumption that future taxpayers will somehow be in a better position to pick up the tab than the current ones. Same goes for underfunded entitlement programs.
But I don’t know if John Moore, over at the National Post, has quite figured out the situation in Quebec when he argues that the province’s seemingly endless tuition-fee protests expose an intergenerational imbalance of this sort. “Quebec has had low tuition rates for a half century,” Moore writes. “That means almost every living adult in the province, having already been afforded a plum goodie, is now wagging his finger at the first generation that will be asked to pay the tab. So who really is entitled here?”
Concordia will shut on Thursday
As students prepare for a national day of action on Thursday to protest a $1625 tuition fee hike, today’s provincial budget will serve as a reminder of Quebec’s wobbly financial picture.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand said he will not raise income taxes, which are already the highest in Canada at 16 to 24 per cent. By comparison, Ontario’s max out at 11.16 per cent.
But even with high taxes, Quebec’s debt has grown from $133 billion (53.5 per cent of GDP) in 2003 to $184 billion (55.5 per cent of GDP) in 2012. That means credit ratings agencies will be looking to Bachand for fiscal restraint.
The $1625 rise in tuition fees is just one way that Bachand plans to wrestle down the debt. He notes that while income taxes won’t go up, payroll deductions for pensions and parental leave will rise, the new $200 health charge will be fully implemented this year, the sales tax was already increased to 9.5 per cent in January, an extra gasoline tax has been added and hydro rates will increase.
But many student associations believe that taxpayers can and should continue subsidizing tuition to the point that Quebec’s students pay less than half what the average Canadian student pays.
Protesters blocked access to Montreal’s Champlain Bridge Tuesday morning. It was a prelude to the demonstrations expected to cripple the city on Thursday when as many as 100,000 may march.
Meanwhile, Concordia says it will shut down campus on Thursday “in light of security concerns” as it expects 15,000 students will gather there before marching to the bigger rally at Canada Place.
Fewer jobs. Lower pay. Higher taxes. Now the Screwed Generation is starting to push back.
This January, the first baby boomers turn 65. The huge post-Second World War generation—which numbers 76 million in the United States, makes up almost a third of Canada’s population, and according to one estimate, controls 80 per cent of Britain’s wealth—will continue to enter their dotage at the rate of tens of thousands per day for the next 20 years. By 2050, there will be 30 million Americans aged 75 to 85, three in 10 Europeans will be 65-plus, and more than 40 per cent of Japan’s population will be elderly. In Canada, the ratio of workers to retirees—currently five to one—will have been halved by 2036. And despite the odd dissenter, the generation that still oddly finds Paul McCartney relevant has made clear its intention to take everything it feels it has coming. It will be up to all who trail in their wake to pay for their privilege.
Common sense, not to mention decency, wouldn’t call that just. But an outsized, over-entitled, and self-obsessed demographic is awfully hard for politicians to ignore. Take Britain’s example. In last spring’s general election, the most effective ad run by David Cameron’s Conservatives was also one of the simplest: a close-up of a newborn baby, wriggling in a bassinet as a music box tinkled in the background. “Born four weeks ago, eight pounds, three ounces. With his dad’s nose, mum’s eyes, and Gordon Brown’s debt,” intoned a female voice. “Thanks to Labour’s debt crisis, every child in Britain is born owing £17,000. They deserve better.” The point was impossible to miss: the time had come to stop mortgaging the country’s future.
As his first act, the new prime minister, a 44-year-old Gen Xer, cut his and his ministers’ pay by five per cent, and froze all their salaries for five years. Tackling the U.K.’s $177.5-billion budget deﬁcit and $1.6-trillion-plus national debt—annual interest payments alone stand at $70 billion—would require everyone to sacrifice, he told Britons. But there were also expectations that the burden wouldn’t be equally shared. After all, one of Cameron’s leading wonks, David “Two Brains” Willetts, now the minister for universities and science, had published a rather pointed manifesto, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future—and How They Can Give It Back, just before the election. After their victory, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, applauded the coming reckoning for a generation—his own—that had “eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts.” And even as the new government’s chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, stood before Parliament in mid-October to announce $131 billion in spending cuts over the next four years—and the elimination of as many as 500,000 public sector jobs—the protect-the-youth rhetoric continued. “Today’s the day when Britain steps back from the brink,” he said, ensuring “that we do not saddle our children with the interest on the interest on the interest of the debts we were not ourselves prepared to pay.”
The reality, however, proved to be somewhat different. The age when U.K. citizens can start drawing old-age pension would gradually increase from 65 to 66, but other entitlements like free eye tests and prescriptions for the elderly would remain untouched, as well as winter fuel allowances, and free local transit for anyone over 60. Among the biggest budget losers was the department for education, facing an overall reduction of 10.8 per cent, which according to one economic think tank will translate to funding cuts for 60 per cent of primary schools, and 87 per cent of secondary schools. And the legacy of “Two Brains” for Britain’s shafted youth? A 40 per cent cut to post-secondary teaching grants, and a doubling—or in some cases, tripling—of tuition, to as much as $14,500 a year.
On Nov. 10, more than 50,000 angry students gathered in London to rally against the cuts. A video of Nick Clegg, the Liberal-Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, promising to do away with university fees during the election campaign, was greeted with choruses of “wanker, wanker.” “They’re proposing barbaric cuts that would brutalize our colleges and universities,” said Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students. “We’re in the fight of our lives. We face an unprecedented attack on our future before it has even begun.” Later on, a crowd of several thousand descended on the Conservative Party headquarters, trading punches with police, smashing windows, lighting fires, and for a time, occupying the building.
“The situation for young people is not terribly good,” Ed Howker, a 29-year-old London journalist and author, says in a classic bit of British understatement. “And there’s no sense from the government that they have the interests of the next 30 or 40 years of Britons in mind.” Of the country’s 2.45 million unemployed, close to 60 per cent are under the age of 30.The new budget has not only frozen civil service hires, it scrapped two youth jobs funds, slashed rent subsidies, and cut the money for new housing by half. Howker, who along with Shiv Malik wrote the just-released Jilted Generation: How Britain Bankrupted its Youth, says the sense of despair is becoming overwhelming. “Our generation just seems to be a lot worse off. In terms of key things like getting stable housing, or a well-paid job, or a successful career, we just don’t have it.” The boomers’ aren’t evil, he says, but they nonetheless bear much of the responsibility. The generation that relentlessly mythologizes its “peace and love” heyday became ardent consumers as they aged, and ended up moulding politics in their “me-first” image. “It’s a consumer version of democracy, where politicians realized that if they merely satisfied the short-term desires of their electorate, rather than think in the long term and make good decisions on behalf of the future of the country, they would win elections,” Howker argues. The bills become somebody else’s problem.
Want a scary number? How about $1.5 trillion, the amount the C.D. Howe Institute estimates Canada’s rapidly aging boomers are going to cost Ottawa and the provinces in extra health and pension expenses over the next 50 years. Or perhaps 2,500, the number of new long-term care facilities the Canadian Medical Association says will be needed to accommodate the doubling of Canada’s 65-plus population in two decades. Sixty thousand is how many RNs the Canadian Nurses Association predicts we will be short by 2022. Or maybe just one per cent, the expected annual amount of real per-capita GDP growth in Canada over the next 30 years as boomers leave the work force—less than half of what we’ve experienced over the past four decades.
Combine a demographic bulge with a falling birth rate and ever-increasing life expectancy (now 80.7 years at birth in Canada), and pretty much all the figures start looking ugly. “We have a significant challenge ahead of us,” says Chris Ragan, a professor of macroeconomics and economic policy at McGill. “The tax base will slow down, and spending will speed up. We can’t just do nothing.”
For the government relying on academic research is bad politics
An outsider to Stephen Harper’s Ottawa might easily be forgiven for assuming that this summer’s uproar over the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the long-form census was an isolated event. How could a debate, no matter how heated, over the way government gathers statistics signify much beyond the argument’s own peculiar details? But ask prominent scientists and researchers who’ve struggled to influence federal policy over the past few years, and they’ll quickly link the census flap to wider misgivings about how the Harper government uses data and evidence—or refuses to—in shaping policy.
On sensitive files from crime to health, taxation to climate, the Harper government has often clashed with experts who argue the fruits of their research are undervalued by the Conservatives in the development of new laws and regulations. “I think,” says Gordon McBean, a University of Western Ontario geography professor and internationally respected climate-change scientist, “there is a significant problem—unwillingness to entertain, or invite, or listen to, people who are experts in their fields and want to provide advice and guidance to the government.”
Since he’s a prominent advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, McBean might be suspected of merely having an axe to grind, considering the Harper government’s track record of hesitant steps, at most, on the global warming file. But it’s not just that frustrated academics turn resentful when Conservatives look skeptically, even dismissively, at the recommendations that flow from their work. In fact, the Prime Minister and some of his closest advisers have occasionally expressed reservations about letting expert views directly inform their policies.
During the 2008 election campaign, Harper boasted that his party’s platform was grounded in real-world experience. “Grand blueprints that have been done on the blackboard,” he said, “endorsed by experts with no practical experience in the economy or society, are disastrous.” Harper added that he had steered away from that kind of expert-approved policy-making, at precisely the point when Stéphane Dion, then Liberal leader, was moving his party toward it with his elaborate “green shift” plan to tax carbon.
Painful experience lay behind Harper’s conscious move away from the influence of academic research. His former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, talked candidly about the transition at Montreal’s McGill University last year, in a panel discussion on the role of evidence in policy-making. Brodie recounted how Harper had run in the 2004 election on a tax-cuts platform carefully constructed along lines favoured by tenured economists. “We promised a comprehensive system of moving brackets around, cutting bracket rates, multi-year this, multi-year that, a corporate income tax cut as well,” he said. “A program so well thought out that even the people who wrote it can’t remember the details now.”
The Conservatives lost that election. The setback, Brodie explained, led Harper and his advisers to radically rethink their approach. By the 2006 campaign, Harper was pitching a simple idea, cutting the Goods and Services Tax, which was almost unanimously opposed by mainstream economists. But if experts would have overwhelmingly preferred reducing the tax burden on income and investment, voters liked the sound of Harper’s uncomplicated pledge to slash the widely resented consumption tax. That GST promise helped them win, and Harper’s team learned to treat conventional wisdom among specialists with a certain disdain.
On another key Tory policy theme—law and order—Brodie touted conflict with academics as good politics. Most university criminologists say there’s no evidence to back up the Tories’ heavy emphasis on imposing longer prison terms. They point to studies showing that more jail time doesn’t reduce crime. At the McGill panel, though, Brodie said voters tend to side with Conservatives when they argue with “sociologists, criminologists, defence lawyers and Liberals” about prison terms. “Politically, it helped us tremendously,” he said, “to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”
So not only do Harper’s advisers suspect that following expert advice leads to unsaleable policies, they also think battling the experts can boost their popular standing. In the census controversy they seem willing, almost eager, to take on virtually the entire Canadian research establishment. Among the many groups arguing for keeping the mandatory long-form census, which Harper is turning into a less reliable voluntary survey, are the Canadian Economics Association’s executive, the C.D. Howe Institute’s president, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
The National Statistics Council found itself in perhaps the strangest position. The 40-member expert group is appointed by the government, supposedly to provide advice on statistical matters. But when it came to deep-sixing the long-form census—the most consequential federal policy change on stats in memory—the council was kept entirely in the dark until the decision was announced. One of its best-known members, former Finance Department and TD Bank Financial Group economist Don Drummond, said discovering they had been frozen out was “shocking.”