Monday, January 27, 2014

Affordability tours and consumer-first agendas are a sham

The recent emphasis being shown by federal New Democrats and Conservatives surrounding “affordability” and “consumer-first” priorities are little more than a shameful political sham being perpetrated on an unsuspecting Canadian public. And we shouldn’t look to the Liberals for more sincerity on the issue.

Let’s start with the Liberals. Make no doubt about it, whether one means provincial Wynne Liberals or federal Trudeau Liberals, one is talking about the same people. Oh, those in the seats in the respective legislatures are, obviously, different and the parties may be separate legal entities, but they are the same core voters and the same strategists, staffers and apologists who move back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto.

But, frankly, these folks are too confused to be taken seriously on this topic. Liberal Deputy Leader MP Ralph Goodale told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday morning that his party wants to lower payroll taxes. At the same time, Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne is bringing in former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin to help structure an Ontario pension plan, which will undoubtedly—you guessed it—raise payroll taxes. Go figure.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair has just wrapped up his “affordability tour.” His jaunt could just as accurately been called the “blast Harper, Banks and Big Oil tour.” Nothing new here, just the same tired old claims about oil company collusion and bankers getting rich on the backs of ordinary Canadians. Dippers have wanted to nationalize banks for decades so one can take comfort from their new approach, which is only to tell the banks what they can charge for their services.

As to the charge that oil companies collude to keep gasoline retail prices high. Time and again, civil servants who are not in the pay of the oil companies have investigated and have been unable to support such charges. Time to move on.

Many of the NDP complaints seem to be shared by the Conservatives. And I notice some of those are discretionary expenses that can be avoided/minimized by consumers who find them too high. Lets see:

  • ATM fees: pay cash instead. I have never used an ATM machine and wouldn’t know how to use one.
  • Credit card: don’t use them (would also help solve another pet peeve of NDP and Conservatives, excessive household debt). I use credit cards for emergencies and convenience and never accumulate credit on them. For mid-term credit, I use a low-interest line of credit.
  • Household debt: governments can’t hold interest rates at historically low levels for years and not expect high debt levels. Better monitory policy management on the part of governments could favourable influence this level of household debt.
  • Cable TV: Government could, but won’t, open up cable TV to full competition, with no CRTC interference or control, i.e., let the market decide.
  • Cell phone charges: Government could, but won’t, open full competition to foreign providers, i.e., let the market decide.
  • High gas prices: over 30% of the price is taxes and the amount of tax goes up each time the gas price goes up. Governments rail about high pump prices while sucking in the revenue with obnoxiously high taxes. And Ontario is talking about increasing gas taxes even more to pay for Toronto public transit. 

So it seems that consumers are desperately in need of help on expenses they could, in some cases, relatively easily avoid. And in other cases, the main reason for the high cost is government mismanagement, intrusion, interference and control.

What we don’t hear the Dippers or the Tories taking about is the obscenely high costs of staples—virtual necessities—such as milk, cheese, butter, eggs and chicken. Domestic prices are artificially high and are supported by import duties of up to nearly 300% in some cases. And what about those of us who enjoy a glass of wine with our meals? How affordable is that with artificial minimum prices, crippling high taxes and luxury-level mark-ups at government-owned stores.

The cost of government in general is crippling most ordinary Canadians economically. Sky-is-the-limit benefit plans with top-hat sick leave and pension plans are the norm in the public sector, and this is on top of wages well in excess of those in the private sector. In 2013, tax freedom came June 10. Need I say more?

Yes, it is shameful—a real disgrace—to tax our food (near-necessities) in such a manner and then for politicians to preach to ordinary Canadians about how concerned they are about “affordability.”

1 comment:

  1. I cannot stand the NDP or left's attacks on the banks. I work in the banking sector and your median salary is lower than many public sector jobs. The difference is you are paid on performance not seniority. You start out at the bottom and stay there if you perform poorly but can move to six figure salaries in five years if A hard working, motivated, and skilled employee. Also as much as I may like ATM fees, they at least mean if I run out of money anywhere an ATM is not far away.

    I also wish the Conservatives would stop wasting money on their telco ads. Just drop the foreign ownership restrictions which can easily be done instead of wasting money on stupid ads.

    On supply management you are bang on. Even Martha Hall-Findlay despite being a liberal did some very good research on it. It only benefits the 14,000 existing dairy farmers but hurts everyone else and also keeps new entrants out. I suspect Harper would like to get rid of it but is afraid of the powerful dairy lobby. Trudeau and Mulcair though probably would keep it even if they didn't face the dairy lobby.