Thursday, 31 March 2011

Why is a senior media personality threatening a 21 year old university student?

On March 28, 2011, the following tweet appeared on the Twitter account of a local Saskatchewan talk show host.  My question is:  Why is a senior media personality publicly threatening the newly elected president of the University of Regina Students Union?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Where's the Funding: Rural Health Care

Health Care is an important issue for everyone in Saskatchewan.

Our taxes are meant to provide everyone with REAL access to doctors, home care, hospitals and long term care services so that we can get the right level of care at the right time.

So why are people who live in Rural Saskatchewan being asked to pay an additional tax to get the same access that people in Urban areas receive?

The excuses from government are un-ending.

But there is no real plan in order to save our health care and keep it in good shape for our children.

It’s time to tell your MLA and the Health Minister of Saskatchewan that you won’t accept a two-tiered health plan.

Help put a stop to the under-funding of health care in this province.

Add your voice by sending an email now.

Monday, 28 March 2011

What is this Man's Position on Coalitions, Really?

Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy - Dobbin

The following is reproduced from the Council of Canadians website:
Stephen Harper’s Assault on Democracy

Author and columnist Murray Dobbin details the harm Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing to the political and social fabric of Canada in a new, hard-hitting essay commissioned by the Council of Canadians titled Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy.

As Dobbin explains in the opening paragraphs of the essay, “This study is intended to examine the most serious violations of democracy committed by the prime minister and his government. Some are clearly more serious than others. But taken as a whole they add up to a dangerous undermining of our democratic traditions, institutions and precedents – and politics. These violations are not accidental, they are not incidental, and they are not oversights or simply the sign of an impatient government or ‘decisive’ leadership. They are a fundamental part of Harper’s iron-fisted determination to remake Canada, whether Canadians like it or not.”

Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy
Download report here 1 MB or in sections below:

POLL: Environics, on behalf of the Council of Canadians, polled people about their feelings about proportional representation in February. Here are the results:

-   61% of Canadians support moving to a system of proportional representation in Parliament

-   36% said they were more supportive of proportional representation as a result of Prime Minister Harper’s recent prorogations

(These results represent the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a national random sample of 1,001 adults comprising 501 males and 500 females 18 years of age and older, living in Canada. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.10%, 19 times out of 20.)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The "Other Saskatchewan" - CCPA

Reproduced below is a 2011 Saskatchewan Budget Response by Dr. Simon Enoch, CCPA Saskatchewan:

The “Other Saskatchewan”

A Budget Response by CCPA Saskatchewan

by Simon Enoch

March 24, 2011

If yesterday’s budget was designed to give something to everyone in order to win over voters for the upcoming election, then it is clear where the poorest and most vulnerable in our province rank in the minds of Sask Party electoral strategists.

Despite an obvious and acute housing crisis, this budget offered a paltry $1.7 million for two new affordable housing initiatives while the immediate need for new housing in the province is approximately 3000 units. For those who cannot wait for the construction of new housing, no relief was forthcoming to prevent the regular rent increases that seem to have become the norm in our province.

Despite ranking dead last among the provinces in child-care space, the budget offered to fund the creation of only 500 new child-care spaces when the need is closer to 5000. Currently, Saskatchewan has licensed child-care spots for only 9.1 per cent of children between the ages of zero and five, compared to the 20.3 per cent national average. While we applaud the government for committing to the creation of these new spaces, our province desperately needs a much more aggressive and long-term policy to address our child-care needs.

Despite the desperate need to replace the only psychiatric hospital in the province, this budget offered absolutely nothing for those suffering from mental illness.

In contrast, business owners will reap almost $80 million in tax savings due to the reduction of the small business tax while off-sale beer vendors will enjoy a $5.1 million discount. While the government has made much of it’s low-income tax reduction policy, a tax cut on nothing is still nothing. If we were to measure what constituencies this government covets by the amount of largesse given to them in yesterday’s budget, it is obvious where the poorest in our province rank.

Finance Minister Ken Krawetz stressed that this budget represented the “New Saskatchewan” and that we are no longer “next year country” but “this year country.” Perhaps a better metaphor for the province could be borrowed from the famous American political commentator Michael Harrington; “The Other Saskatchewan.” The “Other Saskatchewan” has not shared in the prosperity that the Sask Party is so quick to claim credit for. The “Other Saskatchewan” includes people who cannot afford spiraling rent increases, food and fuel prices, utility bills and other basic necessities. The “Other Saskatchewan” is experiencing increased homelessness, growing social assistance caseloads, lack of access to quality childcare, increasing unemployment among aboriginal peoples and a woefully inadequate minimum wage.

Finance Minister Ken Krawetz also made repeated mention of the “Saskatchewan Advantage” – obviously borrowing from the oft-used “Alberta Advantage.” Let’s hope that the Sask Party is not intent on also borrowing Alberta’s record of wanton neglect for the poorest in that province as well; the “Other Saskatchewan” simply cannot afford it.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Open letter to Premier Brad Wall - CPP Improvements

Today I sent the following "open letter" to Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall respecting proposed improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).  It is self explanatory:  (PDF version here)

March 18, 2011

Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
Room 226
Legislative Building
Regina, SK
S4S 0B3

Open letter to Premier Brad Wall from SFL President, Larry Hubich

Dear Mr. Wall:

RE: Meeting regarding Canada Pension Plan improvements, etc.

Attached hereto are letters from me to you dated September 20, 2010 and November 29, 2010 respecting a meeting that we agreed to convene during a discussion we had at the Richardson farm in August 2010 while attending the meeting and events of the Council of the Federation in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

During our encounter and discussion, you committed to me, in person, that we would meet for the purposes of discussing proposals by the labour movement for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). In fact, your exact words to me were, “I agree, we should meet to discuss that (CPP), and other things.”

I am disappointed that you have not fulfilled your commitment to me or even demonstrated the common courtesy of a response to my follow-up letters. In fact, my office has not even received an acknowledgement of receipt of the correspondence.

I know you don’t treat representatives from business this way, but I am concerned that your government deliberately marginalizes and outright ignores the voices of organizations that you view to have different priorities than your own. What other organizations and/or groups do you dismiss out of hand?

Recently, I received copies of an e-mail exchange between you and a citizen writing to you concerned about expansion of the uranium industry set against a backdrop of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that your reply was dated (Tuesday) March 8, 2011, in response to the citizen’s original e-mail of Saturday, March 5, 2011. A three-day turnaround from the Premier is remarkable. Here I have been waiting patiently for you to live up to a personal commitment you made more than 7 months ago.

Now, Mr. Premier, we are not asking for special treatment, or special consideration – but we would appreciate the Federation of Labour being given the same courtesy as, say, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, or other business lobby groups. After all, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour represents approximately 100,000 taxpaying citizens in our wonderful province. Surely their thoughts, opinions and ideas are of interest to the Premier of the Province.

It’s alarming and inappropriate for you to suggest that you have had no time to hear personally from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour in the nearly 4 years that you have been Premier.

Awaiting contact from you regarding the commitment you made, but have yet to fulfill.

Yours truly,

Larry Hubich, President
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

cc: SFL Executive Council

UPDATE:  Today (March 22) I finally received a reply from the Premier.  You can view it here.  He has confirmed that he is reneging on the commitment to meet that he made to me in August of 2010.  Guess I should have bought one of them fancy $1,000 per year "Elite party memberships" instead of taking him at his word.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Labour Rights Human Rights - What's happening in Saskatchewan

Check out the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's newest edition of the booklet:

(Click on the image to download a copy)

Potash Corp's new numbers - Erin Weir Progressive Economics Forum

Potash Corp’s Fuzzy Math

March 10th, 2011

In a couple of recent posts, I threw down the gauntlet for PotashCorp to disclose how much corporate income tax and Crown royalties it paid to the Government of Saskatchewan.

As Bruce Johnstone reports, it has finally done so:

"While PotashCorp paid $77 million in resource surcharges in 2010, it also paid $82 million in corporate income taxes and $70 million in Crown royalties. In total, PotashCorp paid about $230 million in royalties and taxes to the province in 2010."

So, I was correct in suggesting that it paid less corporate income tax to Saskatchewan than to Trinidad ($82 million versus $113 million). PotashCorp paid Trinidadian tax on a manufacturing facility, not for extracting the island’s natural resources.

That is the fundamental difference between corporate income taxes and resource royalties. All industries are subject to corporate tax. Royalties are separate fees for the extraction of publicly-owned natural resources.

It is inappropriate to add up PotashCorp’s puny corporate tax payment and puny royalty payments to produce a seemingly respectable total. It is appropriate to combine the resource surcharge with Crown royalties for total resource royalties of $147 million in 2010.

That year, the company sold $2.8 billion of Saskatchewan potash. (It sold $3 billion in total, but 8% of its potash production was from New Brunswick.)

The surcharge is set at 3% of potash sales and Crown royalties range from 2.1% to 4.5% of potash produced from Crown lands. The $147-million total amounts to 5% of $2.8 billion – a nickel for every dollar of potash sold.

PotashCorp’s fourth-quarter reports compare royalties to potash gross margin, upon which the Potash Production Tax (that it did not pay in 2010) is based. The company generated a gross margin of $1.6 billion from Saskatchewan potash in 2010 ($1.8 billion minus New Brunswick). So, it paid a whopping nine cents per dollar of potash gross margin.

PotashCorp is now trying to argue that the appropriate base of comparison is neither sales nor gross margin but earnings: “If you just take a look at our net earnings after tax, yes, it was $1.8 billion (in 2010),” [CFO Wayne] Brownlee said. “But from Saskatchewan, it was $1 billion.”

Of course, earnings are money left over after royalties have been paid, so they cannot be the base from which royalties are paid. Earnings are also net of corporate income tax and other charges that apply after royalty calculations.

But then Brownlee goes even further off the deep end:

"Based on potash prices of $550 US per tonne and 14 million tonnes per year of production, PotashCorp projects it would pay about $1.75 billion annually to the province, including about $500 million in corporate income tax and about $750 million in potash production tax."

The story does not specify whether he means tonnes of KCl or K2O, but we have to assume KCl because that is PotashCorp’s usual metric. To put these projections in perspective, PotashCorp produced 7.4 million tonnes in Saskatchewan and received an average price of $316 per tonne in 2010.

So, if PotashCorp sells twice as much potash at nearly double the price, it will pay substantial royalties and taxes. I hope so.

I am by no means pessimistic about the potash industry’s future. But given that PotashCorp has kept prices high by limiting supply, projections based on doubling both prices and supply should be taken with a grain of salt (or some other salt-like mineral.)

PotashCorp’s disclosure of Saskatchewan-specific royalty and tax figures advances the debate. However, it does not change the conclusion that royalties are far too low.