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November 2007 Archives

November 30, 2007

Taxpayers Release Top 100 Tory Handouts

OTTAWA: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has compiled a list of the top 100 grants and contributions paid out by the Conservative government during its first budget year. The list tallies handouts for the 2006/07 fiscal year, which began on April 1, 2006, and ended on March 31, 2007.

The 100 largest payments total $3.3-billion and were doled out by 16 different government departments and agencies. These payments represent only a small part of Ottawa’s annual budget of $25-billion spent on grants, contributions and subsidies. (According to the finance department, the government’s total grant/subsidy budget accounts for just over 11 cents of each tax dollar spent.) For the list of 100 handouts compiled by combing the public disclosure of grants and contributions, click here: www.taxpayer.com/pdf/Top100.pdf

“While some public money is spent on legitimate initiatives and activities that fall within public expectations, funds are also spent questionably, inefficiently and in some cases, outright irresponsibly,” stated CTF federal director John Williamson.

Noteworthy Observations on Corporate Welfare, Transfers to Natives, QANGOs & Toronto:

The two largest handouts went to Pratt & Whitney Canada, the first for $213-million and second for $137-million. Other notable examples of corporate welfare include $47.5-million to the Mont Tremblant ski resort (12th overall ranking), $27-million for a soccer stadium in Toronto (34th spot), and Alcan pocketed $19.1-million (#75).

“Money is funneled to native bands despite the lack of accountability to Canadian taxpayers. Canada’s auditor-general is still not permitted to scrutinize those dollars,” stated Williamson. In its totality, the federal government currently provides over $9-billion a year to aboriginal groups across Canada, many of these transfers appear throughout the list of top 100 grants and contributions.

An alphabet soup of international agencies is prominently featured throughout the subsidy inventory. QANGOs (quasi-autonomous non-government organizations) and advocacy groups include: UNFPA (#14), UNODC (#33), OCHA (#41), UNDP (#57 & 58), WFP (#62 & 80), WHO (#63), DID (#64), CCA (#67), IADB (#70), International Planned Parenthood (#89), PAHO (#91), UNICEF (#92), and the World Bank (spots #6, 59, 60, 61, 65, 71, 85, 93 & 94). There is taxpayer-to-government funding as Ottawa transfers money to Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Zambia (#56, 68, 69 & 79).

Most cities can only dream of the subsidies sent to Toronto: $120-million to the Canadian Television Fund (#5), the Toronto International Film Festival (#39) collected $25-million, over $24-million was handed to the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization (#42) and another $21-million to the Toronto Harbourfront Centre (#52) [Ed. note: how does a waterfront differ from a harbourfront?], the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (#84) obtained $18-million and $17-million went to Historica Foundation of Canada (#96). Of course, Toronto Mayor David Miller will say it is not enough.

John Williamson
Federal Director
Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Posted by John Williamson, Canadian Taxpayers Federation [permalink]



November 24, 2007

CRA News release - Be an Informed Donor

According to the Canada Revenue Agency web site, tips for protecting individuals from fraud when donating to registered charities will be shared through public notices that will be published in newspapers across Canada beginning the week of November 19, 2007.

"Canadians are very generous people. As a matter of fact, close to 5.8 million Canadians claimed donations to registered charities on their income tax returns last year", said Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Revenue. "As a government, we have taken steps to encourage charitable giving and to inform Canadians on the ways that they can ensure that every dollar given to charity has the maximum possible impact and stays out of the hands of fraudsters."

The public education initiative aims to help donors become more informed by accessing CRA resources such as the CRA Charities Listings (available at www.cra.gc.ca/donors) to research registered charities before they give.

For more information, please see:
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/newsroom/releases/2007/nov/nr071120b-e.html

Posted by Taxes.ca Editorial Team [permalink]

Parliamentarians fiddle while RCMP burns

The tragic killing of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14 at the hands of four RCMP officers in Vancouver’s airport has upset many Canadians. It was a shameful display of police brutality and a clear message that Ottawa does not have a firm grip on its own police force. So why isn’t it the lead topic in the House of Commons? The governing Conservatives seem unwilling to openly probe an agency they are now responsible for, preferring instead to manage the problem. More disappointing is that Question Period is dominated by the Liberals single-minded obsession with the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. When the Opposition does get around to asking questions about individual rights it doesn’t concern heavy handedness by the police at home, but the plight of terrorist detainees in Afghanistan.

Canadians are rapidly losing faith in the Mounties as one troubling incident after another sullies the force’s public standing. Its leadership and cultural troubles can no longer be neatly swept under the carpet. Accountability cannot be limited to the spending and management of tax dollars. Paramount is how citizens are treated by government and its institutions, no matter how revered. The state is not serving the public whatsoever when careless law enforcement tactics are deployed and police mislead the public after the fact.

Public attention is drawn to improprieties involving tax dollars, big or small. We hear howls of protest from Parliament when a billion dollars is wasted on a useless long-gun registry or when $1.29 – the cost of a pack of chewing gum – is charged to taxpayers. Canadians properly expect the federal government to be accountable for the financial conduct of its officers and agencies.

Yet, it seems Parliament, as well as many proponents of limited and responsible government, are not ready to hold the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the same rigorous standards expected from other government departments and agencies. This is as much an accountability issue as anything the auditor-general might uncover: Parliament is obsessed with money in envelopes and Taliban prisoners while their police force is killing hapless travelers in Vancouver.

The tragedy in Vancouver is only the latest controversy to hit the national police. The Brown investigation into the mishandling of the force’s pension and insurance fund is piercing. It concluded that the RCMP governance structure and culture are “horribly broken.” The Nov. 26th edition of Maclean’s reveals “one in eight members are now receiving a disability payment” (how is this possible?) and that the RCMP escapes accountability since “unlike other police organizations in Canada, the force remains answerable only to itself.”

There are many questions to be asked: why did the RCMP officers apparently not follow protocol on Taser use, which outlines six procedures to follow before firing. As pertinent, why did guards with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) permit Mr. Dziekanski to languish in its processing facilities for almost ten hours? There are, of course, other matters, but answering these would be a good start.

It also does not sit well that a public inquiry has been called by British Columbia, not the federal government. Why isn’t Ottawa leading the review since the RCMP is in obvious need of reform, and immigration and border security are federal responsibilities? It was good that Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said this week the four Mounties might face criminal charges. Unfortunately, the RCMP will conduct the investigation on itself.

Say what you want about Washington’s system of checks and balances. When a U.S. law enforcement agency steps out of line that country’s attorney-general faces tough questions from Congress. It happened in the wake of two deadly confrontations involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the first involving white separatists at Ruby Ridge and the second between government agents and a bizarre cult in Waco.

At the very least there is a requirement on our MPs to ask questions of four police officers who killed a lone man with a Taser within seconds of arriving at the scene. The Harper government made a bold move early this year by breaking with tradition and hiring a commissioner from outside the force. But it is still necessary to make the RCMP more accountable to the public through Parliament.

Because the RCMP brass is notorious for its silence precisely when information is most needed, Parliament must demand answers and take responsibility for its police force. CBSA guards will soon be issued sidearms and yet it is not clear which – if any – lawmaking body is responsible for its oversight. This is a troubling omission that needs to be addressed.

There is no need to turn a blind eye to this branch of government. Indeed, lawmakers would be mistaken assuming Canadians want vigilance when safeguarding tax dollars but no action to rein in bureaucratic neglect or overkill from our security agencies.

John Williamson
Federal Director
Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Posted by John Williamson, Canadian Taxpayers Federation [permalink]

November 21, 2007

Tax Alert: Email Fraud Alert

The Canada Revenue Agency is warning Canadians about email fraud. According to the CRA, "numerous individuals are receiving emails that are falsely identified as coming from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) confirming the registration of a complaint case. This email is not from the CRA." The fraudalent emails pertain to complaints made to the CRA by individuals about identity theft.

The web links within the fraudulent email contain harmful software. If you receive this email, you should delete it. The CRA has already notified the proper authorities of this illegal activity.

A copy of the fraudulent email, which identifies individuals by name, is included on the CRA web site to help you better identify the scam.

For more information, including a sample of the fraudalent email, please see:
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/newsroom/alerts/2007/a071119-e.html

Posted by Taxes.ca Editorial Team [permalink]

November 20, 2007

Canada’s rich not contributing fair share in taxes: study

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has released a study Eroding Tax Fairness: Tax Incidence in Canada, 1990 to 2005 by CCPA-BC Senior Economist Marc Lee. According to the CCPA, the study is the first comprehensive review of tax changes at all levels of government in Canada within the past 15 years. It finds the system is delivering larger tax savings for high income families.

The news release for the study and the full study itself are available on the CCPA web site at www.policyalternatives.ca and www.growinggap.ca.

Posted by Taxes.ca Editorial Team [permalink]

November 15, 2007

CPP pensionable earnings ceiling for 2008 up to $44,900

The Canada Revenue Agency has announced that the maximum pensionable earnings under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for 2008 will be $44,900 - up from $43,700 in 2007.

According to the CRA:


The new ceiling was calculated according to a CPP legislated formula that takes into account the growth in average weekly wages and salaries in Canada.

Contributors who earn more than $44,900 in 2008 are not required or permitted to make additional contributions to the CPP.

The basic exemption amount for 2008 remains $3,500. Individuals who earn less than that amount do not need to contribute to the CPP.

For more information, see:
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/newsroom/releases/2007/nov/nr071102-e.html

Posted by Taxes.ca Editorial Team [permalink]

November 5, 2007

Canada’s rich not contributing fair share in taxes: study

More than a decade’s worth of tax cuts have disproportionately lined the pockets of Canada’s most affluent families, says a new tax study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

From the CCPA news release:

The study finds the top 1 percent of families in 2005 paid a lower total tax rate than the bottom 10 percent of families.

“Canada’s tax system now fails a basic test of fairness,” says Marc Lee, senior economist with the CCPA’s B.C. office and author of the study. “Tax cuts have contributed to a slow and steady shift to a less progressive tax system in Canada.”

The study, which is the first comprehensive review of tax changes at all levels of government in Canada within the past 15 years, finds the system is delivering larger tax savings for high income families. This reinforces the growing gap in market incomes between high income families and the rest of Canadians.

“Most Canadians will be surprised by these findings because they believe we have a progressive tax system – but looking at all taxes combined, that’s no longer the case.”

The study, Eroding Tax Fairness: Tax Incidence in Canada, 1990 to 2005, is available at www.growinggap.ca and www.policyalternatives.ca.

Posted by Taxes.ca Editorial Team [permalink]