Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘they are full of sh*t’ edition

  • First things first – Piper is home and she is fine. She was ecstatic to see us this morning at Can-West. She pulled like a tank all the way to the car. We have switched her over to a harness. It was a good thing we brought one with us as they had one for us to buy. When we dropped her off yesterday we paid 75% of the high estimate. We got money back today! I am sure that rarely happens. Piper is on tramadol for 5 days. She has to go on leashed walks only for 3 weeks. We are so relieved that this surgery is behind us. The surgeon said she has a good prognosis but she will still be a noisy breather. We like her little noises and she will probably still snore.
  • Back again to the HST. The whole thing is making me MENTAL! The latest is that the BC Liberals are saying that it will take 18 months to implement the PST. Oh, and apparently, 18 months is aggressive. I think they are full of shit. First of all they say it is going to take the feds 10 months to change the legislation and the rules. How? Why? All the feds need to do is repeal the BC portion of the HST. They have nothing to do with PST. The province is saying that they have to wait for this to happen. Even if this was true, which I doubt, they could work with them to get going on it much sooner. Plus there should be no change to the rules as they are to revert back to the same system prior to the HST implementation. The second reason they cite is that they will need all new computer systems to go back to the PST. Now, seriously people, are we to believe that the current computers that calculate the HST cannot calculate the PST? They also need brand new software, which they must either build or buy. What is wrong with the old software? Third they claim that they need all this time to educate businesses about how to collect the ‘decades old’ tax. Clearly this is spurious. If they could ‘train’ all the businesses in the province for the HST in a year why do they need much more time for the PST training? I think the real reason is that they want to suck as much money out of us as they can. I think most people are astute enough to know exactly what is going on and hopefully the BC Liberals are punished at the polls.
  • Listening to the news today we were appalled to hear that the cougar that attacked the child in Pacific Rim Park is going to be found and killed. I don’t understand why they have to kill the cougar. I am sure they can find an island where they cougar can live out its life. We encroach on their habitat and then kill them when they do what comes naturally to them.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘it’s over’ edition

  • Piper had her surgery early this afternoon. She pulled through like a trooper. She only needed to have some of her soft palate cut away. There could have 3 other things that needed to be done but we caught it early before a lot of damage was done to the rest of her throat tissues. She is at Can-West for tonight and we will be able to pick her up tomorrow if all goes well. I was quite confident with the surgeon although he has some outdated ideas about feeding raw food. I am so tired of hearing that dogs can’t handle food with a little salmonella or E. Coli on it. However, as Deb astutely noticed there was an anatomy book there published by Hill’s the makers of Science Diet.
  • I will be so glad when the whole HST thing is over. SFU economics professor, Krishna Pendakur, was on the radio for a call in show. He was extremely biased towards keeping the HST and made sure everyone knew how stupid he thought we all were for choosing the PST. I get that there are arguments why the HST is better i.e. it is a value added tax but the public made a democratic decision. It is over now they lost. I answered every single question he did without the bias. I am not an economist[1] and I have not done a great deal of research about the HST. I am just one of those dumb members of the public who shouldn’t be allowed to decide tax policy. Give me a break.
  • There are some seriously impressive women playing hockey for 10 days, 24 hours a day. They are playing in 4-hour blocks all day and night. Why are they doing this? They are raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. When I first heard that Dr. Beth from NTBTWK was doing this I was seriously impressed. Then I started thinking about other fundraisers where women perform amazing feats of physical endurance. I know someone who did the walk to end women’s cancers – 60 km a day, in the blazing heat for 2 days. What possess women to do these things? Sure the have been some great feats by men like Terry Fox and Rick Hanson running and wheeling across Canada respectively. However it does seem to be women who make these incredible commitments. If you haven’t donated please think about doing it.

[1] I’m an historian by training. I hate economics.

Great Day for Democracy

I am very pleased that BC voters have overturned the HST. The tax, which was implemented without any notice to BCers, was universally hated and had become a beacon of BC Liberal arrogance. In their paternalistic fashion they imposed the tax on us while telling us that it will create jobs and be a ‘revenue neutral’ tax. Most people in the province can do basic math and wondered if they were now paying 7% more for services how on earth could the tax be revenue neutral?

I heard Kevin Falcon on the radio and he was contrite about the results. He actually admitted that they made an error in how they implemented the tax and he felt that the results, in essence, were a slap on the wrist for the BC Liberal Party. He said that it will take 15 months to 2 years to revert back to the PST, GST situation. I am not clear why it would take that long maybe they are hoping to make up some of that 1.6 billion they now have to pay back to the feds.

One of the things that has bothered me throughout this whole campaign and now the results is that the government and the pro-HST business alliances[1] they seem to think voters are stupid. Repeatedly today I kept hearing that tax policy is too complicated for the average voter and that we should not be deciding tax policy by referendum. The BC Liberals showed complete contempt for the voters when they introduced it 3 months after an election. Regardless what the pro-HST forces said the tax was not good for BC. It hit largely services like restaurants and personal care services with an extra 7%. To say that it would not negatively impact families is bogus – almost everyone needs a haircut or wants to eat out now and then. They also never adequately explained how the HST created jobs. They just kept repeating it hoping that repetition is emphasis and we would all just believe it. I still do not know how the HST was supposed to neither create jobs nor, now, kill jobs. The public was not at all stupid – they understood the question.

Now we will have to contend with paying the feds back. Personally, I think the BC Liberal party should have to start fundraising for that but I know it will be us, the lowly taxpayer, who will repay it. The BC Liberals should have put that money aside and not spent it once the opposition to the HST began to heat up. They should have never underestimated Bill Vander Zalm; he has populism down to a science.

The terms of the referendum demand that the sales tax situation in BC be returned to what it was prior to July 1, 2010. I suspect the BC Liberals will introduce changes to increase the reach of the PST as soon as they think they can get away with it. Oh, and wait, what’s that sound? It is the sound of the air being let out of the tires of Christy Clarke’s surprise election call for the fall. She would likely lose.

The BC Liberals and the HST mess

The BC Liberals must be completely delusional. They seem to think that a majority of British Columbians can be hoodwinked into supporting a tax that no one wanted, imposed by a party who promised not to, simply by bribing (some[1]) taxpayers with their own money and the promise of a 2 percentage point reduction by 2014. Just because Christy Clark is now the premier does not mean that the leopard has changed its spots. We still have Kevin Falcon as the talking head finance minister making these promises. If we have not learned by now that we cannot trust him and his merry-band of conservative Liberals then we deserve what we get.

The whole scenario gets worse. We will only get the purported changes to this tax if we vote to keep it. If a majority votes against the tax, then, the BC Liberals point out, we would have to pay back $1.6 billion dollars.[2] Now, it seems to me that if the BC government spent that money then it is going to be up to them to figure out how to pay it back to the feds if that is indeed what has to happen. Threatening us with this consequence is meaningless, as we had nothing to do with bringing in the tax, accepting the payment or spending the money.

We also keep hearing how the HST is going to create jobs. I am not an economics expert but I fail to see how a regressive tax can create jobs? Every pro-HST expert seems to say: “The HST is great for business because it simplifies the paperwork businesses have to fill out. Oh and it creates jobs.” I have yet to hear anyone explain to me how reducing the purchasing power of the average consumer through increased and excessive taxation creates jobs. Maybe it creates jobs in the civil service counting all that extra money.

I get that the HST simplifies accounting paperwork for business and that is good. However, the real issue with the transfer to the HST was that it applied to everything the GST applied. While the PST was only on certain things, it was not on restaurant meals and books in particular. The restaurant industry has really suffered with an increase of 7% on meals. A tax on books is just ludicrous. We need to encourage people to buy books and to read.

I think the only way to make the HST palatable is to remove it from the items that did not have PST on them. Make restaurant meals, books and other items and services that were not subject to the PST tax-free. I think then people would see some benefit to them. The way it is now, the tax is both odious and onerous.

If the BC Liberals seriously want people to support the tax they need to make the changes, I have suggested and codify them in legislation regardless of the outcome of the referendum. To tell us that we will only get this minor change to the bitter pill we have all had to swallow if we are behaved and we agree to let them keep it is insulting. I only hope that all the people who have been betrayed by the BC Liberals send them a very loud message with this referendum.

[1] If you have kids or you are a senior earning less than $40,000, you will get a one-time bribe payment of $175.

[2] Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP says it is more like $1.2 billion. But what’s a few billion among friends?

The Minimum Wage

Christy Clark is making good on her promise to raise BC’s minimum wage. The minimum wage has not been increased pretty much since the BC Liberals were elected. In a province with one of the highest costs of living, a minimum wage of $8 per hour is just not sustainable for those earning it. Factor in a single parent raising one or two children, even without needing childcare, they are living seriously below the poverty line. As prices for many goods and services have risen over the past 10 years, many of those working for those businesses have likely seen very little increase in their wage unless they work for a good employer. There are many employers who will only pay what the government says they have to pay.

Coalition of BC Businesses argues that a large increase in the will force small employers to hold off new hires and potentially reduce hours as a result of the increase. Another factor is that wage inflation will also ‘hit’ non-minimum wage earners in order to keep ratios between workers in place. I find the use of language interesting here. By using the phrase ‘wage inflation,’ the Coalition of BC Business is casting minimum wage increases in a negative way. After all when is inflation ever referred to as a good thing? Normally inflation is bad as it means we pay more for the necessities of life.

I remember a poster that they used to put up in income assistance offices. It was a poster designed to encourage people to take a minimum wage job as they would be better off than if they stayed on income assistance. While in theory this was true, if you factored in the costs of working (transportation, clothing, lunches etc) they would probably have a higher quality of living on income assistance. This would be especially true in the case of single parents. Even with a child care subsidy there is no way they could pay the parent portion and still feed the family.

The bottom line is that increasing the minimum wage puts more money into the economy. If a business cannot afford to pay a phased in higher minimum wage and survive then there is something seriously wrong with their business model. Paying people higher wages puts more money back into the economy, which, in turn, drives business.

The HST is also cited as having a seriously negative effect on business – especially restaurants and other hospitality industries. Perhaps the Coalition of BC Business would be better off trying to get a reduction in the amount of HST consumers are charged in restaurants. I am sure a couple of percent reduction would do far more to improve business than keeping wages so low employees have to make a choice between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.

I am disturbed that the province gave in when it comes to ‘gratuity workers’ or liquor services. While other industries will see the minimum wage rise to $10.25 an hour in the next year and a bit, those working in bars serving alcohol will top out at $9 an hour. The argument is that they actually have a higher standard of living slinging beer because they get tips. I suspect that the amount of tips varies wildly. I am sure those servers working at the No. 5 Orange on the Downtown Eastside would argue that they do not get enough tips to live on compared to others working in swankier places. I think the separation is ridiculous and all of them should be paid the same minimum wage.

The catch up to $10.25 per hour is just that – a catch up. It is still not a living wage for people in this province. If Christy Clark is to be truly visionary, she will build in an ongoing increase in the minimum wage on a yearly basis tied to the cost of living increase. The one good thing that came out of that announcement was that the abhorrent ‘training’ wage has been discontinued.

What would be truly progressive would be a living wage program or at least a minimum income for families with children. If we invest in families and children now, while the children are young, then they stand a good chance of being ready for school and succeeding. We all know that children who fall behind in school due to economic reasons are disadvantaged their entire lives due to fewer opportunities and lower overall health. I hope that Christy Clark’s ‘family first’ agenda means just what it says.

Gordon Campbell Resigned

Gordon at his best!

I am not sure there is much else to say but squeeeee!!!! I heard the announcement at 11 am that he was making an announcement and I posted on facebook suggesting he might be resigning and I was correct! No one wanted to bring the knives out, instead they felt it was better to ‘honour’ Gordo’s career in public service.

So let’s have a look at this so-called career. From the time he was elected premier of BC, Campbell had a very distinguished career as a tyrant who targeted the poor and the disenfranchised in our province. He tore up contracts for some of the lowest paid health care workers. He made draconian cuts to income assistance and benefits to people with disabilities. He targeted the most vulnerable people in the province by re-assessing their disabilities and in the end, 33 cases were closed.

He made countless broken promises. From stating he would not sell off BC Rail to not introducing the HST. Then of course there was his stellar behavior as an individual. We all remember his DUI in Hawaii. He never really faced any consequences for an offence that should have brought him down. In the end, a former premier was his undoing with his HST petition and threats of a coordinated recall campaign.

I would like to think he resigned because he had a conscience. Given his track record, it is apparent that he does not have one. Likely caucus dissidents were making too much noise for him to be able to keep things quiet. His resignation was his way to save face and to prevent an internecine war like the one brewing in the BC NDP. Feasibly there is time for a new leader to come in and rebuild before the next election.

My hope is that the electorate does not forget that it was the Liberal party who was responsible for all of the things that have happened under Gordon Campbell’s leadership. Let’s hope that Carol James makes it a ‘two-fer.’

What’s the Point?

So instead of doing the right thing and repealing the HST the Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals want it to go to a non-binding referendum to be held in September of 2011. I have never understood the point of non-binding referenda. Why bother spending all that money just to have results that the government does not have to follow. But I digress.

We are having a referendum. In 2011. Are they hoping we are all going to forget about it by then? I am sure they think we will all just be used to paying the increased tax in another year. Probably they are right. People will just naturally calculate the increase as they head to the till or look at a restaurant menu. This issue is about way more than the 12% HST.

At its core this whole thing is about democracy and some honesty and integrity in government. In the last election, the Liberals did not mention the HST. They said it was not on their horizon and they had no intention of bringing in the HST. We now know that not only was it on the horizon, but the briefing note was on Colin Hansen’s desk. I have spent time working in government. Civil servants do not just go out and investigate something on their own. Senior civil servants are completely directed by their political masters. Having written briefing notes, I can tell you that the purpose is to sum things up for the minister, including pros and cons and advises the best course of action including potential difficulties. In order to have received it, Colin Hansen had to ask for it. Plus we know that no minister in this government has complete control over their own portfolios so likely Hansen asked for it because Campbell wanted it. It is also highly suspect that within a couple of months of the election they started to talk about bringing it in. The whole thing stinks.

I am not sure why the BC Liberals are incapable of ever doing the right or honorable thing. They seem to like to operate in an underhanded, back-door fashion most of the time. They are supposed to be the party of ‘business,’ is this what happens in business? Is this what people pay exorbitant sums of money to learn when the do an MBA?

There was one bright light today: Jenny Kwan. I heard her on CBC talking to Stephen Quinn on ‘On the Coast.’ She was fabulous! Female politicians have a hard time sometimes when they are passionate about something. They can sound screechy or somehow insincere. Carole James seems to be plagued by this problem. Jenny Kwan is not. She was passionate, strong, forthright and she knew her stuff. Perhaps she perfected her skills when it was just her and Joy McPhail sitting against all of the BC Liberals in 2001. I hope there is a NDP leadership campaign soon. Carole James cannot win against Gordon Campbell. I think a revitalized NDP, perhaps with Jenny Kwan at the helm, might be more successful.

Quiet Day

Not much happening. I had a quiet day. I had a massage which I desperately needed. Other than that I am craving meat constantly. I know my hemoglobin is low so I will continue to take iron. Other than that not much else is new.

I did feel the HST bite today. Before the HST we only paid GST on massage therapy now there is an additional 7% – that hurt.