Alberta must find alternatives to cutting social spending

I have an opinion piece in today’s Edmonton Journal about Alberta’s current fiscal situation. Points raised in the blog post include the following: -The Jason Kenney government will almost certainly announce cuts to social spending in the near future. -Yet, more than 80% of Alberta’s kindergarten through Grade 3 classes currently exceed the provincial government’s own class-size targets. -Tuition fees […]

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Ten things to know about this year’s Alberta Alternative Budget

The Alberta Alternative Budget (AAB) is an annual exercise whose working group consists of researchers, economists, and members of civil society (full disclosure: I’m the Editor). Our general mandate is to create a progressive vision for Alberta to boost economic growth and reduce income inequality. This year’s document was released today, and here are 10 things to know: The NDP […]

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Ten proposals from the 2018 Alberta Alternative Budget

The 2018 Alberta Alternative Budget (AAB) was released yesterday—it can be downloaded here. An opinion piece I wrote about the AAB appeared yesterday in both the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal. Inspired by the Alternative Federal Budget exercise, this year’s AAB was drafted by a working group consisting of individuals from the non-profit sector, labour movement and advocacy sectors. […]

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Ontario Budget: All Quiet on the Revenue Front

As others have noted, last week’s Ontario budget combined modest social investments in areas requested by the NDP with austerity for overall expenditures. Ontario program spending, already the lowest per capita of any province, will be subject to ongoing cuts relative to inflation. This paradox on the expenditure side of the ledger reflects a vacuum on the revenue side. The […]

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McGuinty’s Business Tax Breaks

An interesting nugget in last week’s Drummond report is Table 11.1, an updated version of Table 2 from “Ontario’s Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth” (2009). It provides a sectoral breakdown of the McGuinty government’s recent business tax breaks: HST input tax credits, cutting the corporate income tax, and eliminating the corporate capital tax. The combined annual cost of these […]

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Ontario NDP Platform: The Full Monty

Today, the Ontario NDP presented its comprehensive platform costing, including all policies announced during the election campaign. A popular theme among commentators has been that platform costings are unrealistic given the deteriorating economic outlook. As Andrea Horwath noted, her platform includes significant contingency funds. It is also cautiously built on the fiscal framework set out in the 2011 provincial budget. […]

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The Ontario NDP Platform

Pollsters tell us that Ontario’s New Democrats may double their seat total in next month’s provincial election. It’s also entirely conceivable that they could be part of a coalition government at Queen’s Park. But what’s actually in the party’s election platform? One central feature of the NDP’s proposals is to implement a tax credit for companies that hire new workers. The tax credits would be valued at […]

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So the BC HST Was Defeated. Now What?

Earlier today, Elections BC announced the much anticipated HST referendum results. British Columbians have voted to scrap the HST. The best part about having the results is that now we can move on from the narrow issue of what type of sales tax is better and focus our energies on some of the bigger issues affecting British Columbia. Since the […]

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Burned by B.C.’s Toxic HST Debate

“The fact that the Clark government’s Frankenstein HST hybrid will significantly reduce provincial sales tax revenue at a time when public services are already under intense fiscal pressure is a powerful and principled reason to throw the whole package out in the referendum, and start the debate from scratch.” I may live in Ontario, but I know enough about B.C. […]

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BC to Raise Corporate Taxes

Amazingly, BC’s government has joined its official opposition in proposing to restore the provincial corporate income tax rate from 10% to 12%. The same government that cut from 12% to 10% would now reverse itself as part of a last-ditch effort to save the HST. Revenue from a higher corporate tax rate would help finance a lower HST rate. According […]

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Economic Models and Tax Policy

Over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (WCI), Stephen Gordon reasonably argues that economic models can be useful for policy analysis even if they lack the predictive power needed for forecasting. He writes: A well-designed model will be able to reproduce the main features of interest of the real world. More importantly, it will also be able to reproduce the main features […]

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The HST and Consumer Prices

This morning, Statistics Canada reported that the implementation of Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario and British Columbia helped drive the national inflation rate from 1.0% in June to 1.8% in July. By comparison, the Bank of Canada’s core inflation rate (which excludes tax changes and volatile items) edged down from 1.7% to 1.6%. However, annual inflation rates are not the […]

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HST Without Harmonization

A recent letter from economists nicely summarized the two main theoretical arguments in favour of the HST: “Businesses, large and small, will face lower administrative costs from complying with one sales tax system instead of two. Lower business costs, especially on capital equipment, will encourage investment and economic activity.” Both arguments make sense in a stylized model of replacing retail […]

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The new Grecian formula: still toxic

The latest issue of the quarterly Economic Climate for Bargaining publication that I produce has just been posted on CUPE’s website. In this issue I have pieces about: the new spectre that is haunting Europe, this time of a public debt crisis impact analysis of Ontario’s HST tax reform by income group, already discussed below some analysis of recent employment, inflation and […]

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Ontario’s great HST tax shift

There have been clouds and clouds of smoke generated about the impact of Ontario’s impending introduction of its Harmonized Sales Tax.  Fortunately there is finally now some substance out there in terms of a detailed analysis conducted by Statistics Canada that was recently released by the Ontario NDP.  And what is shows is quite surprising. Much of the blame for all the […]

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McGuinty, the CCPA and the HST

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has taken a shine to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Over the past month, he and other Liberals have repeatedly cited it. Indeed, McGuinty invoked the CCPA’s name four times in the provincial legislature on February 17. However, he first did so the day before that: Ms. Andrea Horwath: Can the Premier explain why, […]

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Open Ontario: Kinsella vs. Hudak

Yesterday afternoon, I caught the subway down to Queen’s Park to find out whether the throne speech would shed any light on the provincial government’s privatization plans. As it turned out, the speech included only a couple of lines on Crown corporations. But I ran into blogger extraordinaire Warren Kinsella at the legislature and note that he has reprimanded Tim […]

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Ontario Budget Advice

Last Monday, I testified twice to the Ontario legislature’s finance committee: as an “expert witness” and then on behalf of the United Steelworkers. I emphasized the provincial deficit’s manageability, the folly of trying to reduce it through cutbacks or privatization, the importance of maintaining tax rates to bolster future revenues, and the advantage of targeted measures to create jobs rather […]

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CFIB on Ontario’s Budget: A Reality Check

Ontario’s pre-budget consultations include a session for which each party caucus selects an “expert witness.” This year, the Liberals invited Warren Jestin from Scotiabank, the Conservatives invited Catherine Swift from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the NDP invited me. In general, my role was not to engage with the other witnesses. The Conservatives asked me about CFIB’s […]

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HST and Manufacturing

Advocates of the Harmonized Sales Tax often suggest that it will support Ontario’s beleaguered manufacturing sector. They emphasize that the current Provincial Sales Tax applies not only to finished products purchased by consumers, but also to some inputs purchased by businesses. As one business sells components to another, sales tax could be paid repeatedly along the supply chain. This “cascading” […]

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HST Revenue Loss

Public debate in Ontario tends to frame sales-tax harmonization either as an unjustified “tax grab” or as a needed contribution to the deteriorating provincial budget.  Both views incorrectly assume that the HST will increase government revenues. In fact, the original proposal was more or less revenue neutral. Removing sales tax from business inputs and cutting personal income taxes would have offset […]

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Jack Mintz Eats Up Ontario’s Budget

This past week, Jack Mintz issued a report (PDF) praising Ontario’s last provincial budget. I like East Side Mario’s because it features both all-you-can-eat bread and all-you-can-eat salad. So, it is not surprising that a corporate tax-fighter would love a budget featuring both corporate income tax cuts and the removal of sales tax from business inputs. Queen’s Park is giving […]

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HST Opacity

A couple of days ago, I took part in a TV Ontario panel about sales-tax harmonization. I emphasized a couple of points that will be familiar to readers of this blog. First, harmonization is unlikely to have much effect on capital investment because many capital goods are already exempt from the existing provincial sales tax. Second, if the principle is […]

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