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June

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    MPlib
    In the latest economic growth projections from OECD, only US + Greece had bigger growth downgrades than did Canada. Talk about "leading the pack"? Growth projections for Canada are below the OECD average - 24 of the 34 OECD countries will do better. Also today, Harper government has recorded the 2 worst monthly trade deficits in history - more evidence of Mr Harper's no-growth plan.
    Jun 03, 2015 11:03 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    It was barely a week ago that Finance Minister Oliver was giving clownish advice to Europeans about how to boost economic growth by firing people. Back home, not only has Canada suffered full a full quarter of economic shrinkage; for second time in 6 months, the OECD has slashed Canadian growth projections. Latest forecasts for full 2015 put Canadian growth prospects is the same range as the Eurozone - this is Mr Harper's "no growth" plan.
    Jun 03, 2015 10:02 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In QP, Justin Trudeau asks Stephen Harper directly if he'll accept the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Mr Harper won't say. Both Justice Sinclair + National Chief Bellegarde say the government's Residential Schools apology has not been followed-up with meaningful action. Harper government won't budge on their refusal to call a National Inquiry into 1200 Missing + Murdered Indigenous Women.
    Jun 02, 2015 11:49 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Justin Trudeau reacts quickly to embrace the work and advice of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission http://bit.ly/1dJDyGS
    Jun 02, 2015 10:52 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Ralph Goodale, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, spoke about how greater economic growth is what's needed to lift the well-being of Canada's middle-class and all those working so hard to join it at Canada 2020: bit.ly/1Rl10sl Mr. Goodale will be the guest speaker at our AGM on June 13th!
    Jun 02, 2015 9:15 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Upon release of Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, Justice Sinclair describes Residential Schools as "cultural genocide", just as the Supreme Court of Canada's Chief Justice said last week. Justice Sinclair also calls for a renewed Royal Proclamation, an annual report on reconciliation + a National Inquiry on #MMIW. Chair Justice Sinclair delivers a powerful statement bringing the TRC to a passionate conclusion with a roadmap to the future.
    Jun 02, 2015 8:38 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Chair Justice Murray Sinclair now releasing massive final report of Truth + Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools
    Jun 02, 2015 8:09 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    No more gimmicks, the federal government must get serious about working with the provinces to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan http://www.ipolitics.ca/2015/06/02/the-harper-governments-do-nothing-approach-to-the-retirement-crisis/
    Jun 02, 2015 8:01 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Liberals hit hard in Question Period on the Harper government's "no growth" economy - GDP figures show shrinking economy in Q1 of 2015. Since Joe Oliver thinks greater economic growth comes from shedding jobs, how many lost jobs are required before growth begins? Liberals also call for constructive cooperation with all provincial governments on retirement income security - how best to upgrade CPP for all Canadians.
    Jun 01, 2015 11:52 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    RETIREMENT INSECURITY IS A BIG MIDDLE-CLASS WORRY Last week ended with the bad news that Canada's economy not only stalled through the whole First Quarter of this calendar year, it actually shrank -- in each of January, February and March, as well as in the previous months of November and August. Insecurity and uncertainty are real. Middle-class Canadians worry about sluggish incomes, the high cost of living, care-giving, learning and skills, their heavy household debts, diminishing employment prospects for themselves and their kids, and the increasing possibility that the younger generation may not be able to do as well as their parents did. Most Canadians are also troubled about not having enough to live on when they retire. Will they even be able to retire at all? Three-quarters of those working in the private sector do not have an employer-sponsored pension plan. The typical 35-year-old today is able to save only about half of what their parents did at that age. For those in their 50's, two-thirds have less than $100,000 set aside to look after themselves. One-third have no retirement savings at all. All this adds up to a retirement income crisis. And it's coming at us fast. It warrants serious attention, not just bumper-sticker slogans and other gimmicks from a government that cannot seem to muster the wherewithal to tackle a real problem in a serious way. Make no mistake, this is not just a crisis in social policy. It's a major economic problem too. If we fail to come to grips with it, Canadians will pay dearly in years to come with soaring social safety-net costs and sharply reduced consumer spending power. Since 2006, the Harper government's approach to retirement security issues has missed the mark. They "resolved the controversy" about Income Trusts by killing those investment tools altogether -- thus shrinking the savings accounts of about two million Canadians by some $25-billion. They are postponing the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. That will slash the retirement incomes of the most vulnerable low-income seniors by $32,000. The Conservatives are counting on a plethora of voluntary savings options to ride to the rescue. But most of them are designed as tax avoidance tools for "high wealth households" and none of them have made an appreciable difference in easing the retirement insecurity crisis. Most seriously, Stephen Harper has blocked each and every effort to work with provincial government partners on a comprehensive expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Indeed, he has long argued for the complete elimination of the plan. The CPP is marking its 50th anniversary this year. Its creation was a great achievement for Lester Pearson's government in 1965. But with changing demographics, by the 1990's many people were questioning whether it could survive. Then-Finance Minister Paul Martin mustered the federal-provincial consensus and will-power to make the necessary changes (including CPP premium increases) to save and bolster the plan. It's now actuarially sound and secure for at least the next 75 years. Premiums paid into the CPP are not a tax. They don't go into government coffers. They're an independently managed investment in long term personal security. And here's another key point -- all through that period when CPP premiums were last increased, private sector job creation remained robust. There was no discernible negative effect. The CPP is a defined-benefit pension plan. With strong management and an exceptional return-on-investment, it ranks with the best in the world. But its benefits are still too low. At maximum it pays out only about $1,000 a month. The average CPP monthly benefit is just under $640. That's simply not enough. The Government of Canada needs to respond on an urgent basis to the expressed will of provincial governments to find the best possible ways to upgrade the CPP in a comprehensive manner for all Canadians. With a retirement income crisis at hand, Canadians expect their governments to work constructively together on real solutions.
    Jun 01, 2015 11:41 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    MPs are wearing this lapel flower in HofC today - ALS awareness. Remembering by great friend Rick Wackid + many others.
    Jun 01, 2015 11:27 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

May

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    MPlib
    Looking forward to Regina Globe Theatre's in-the-round production of Mary Poppins tonight!
    May 31, 2015 6:31 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    St Paul's bell tower, Regina - will ring out more than 1200 times each Wednesday, for the next 3 weeks - for missing+murdered indigenous women
    May 31, 2015 9:54 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Colleague Louis Browne + Mayor Fougere at today's Mayor's Run/Walk for Fitness - chilly, but great day for a run!
    May 31, 2015 8:17 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Some of the great performers at Vaisakhi Mela in Regina tonight.
    May 30, 2015 7:02 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Massive crowd in Regina tonight celebrating Vaisakhi Mela with the Sikh Society.
    May 30, 2015 6:30 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Glad to join Mayor Fougere at CNIB pancake breakfast + AGM. This is a terrific organization, driven by great volunteers!
    May 30, 2015 8:31 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Former RSO concertmaster, Ed Minevich, performing with students of Mother Teresa Middle School. Giving kids a future.
    May 29, 2015 6:50 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    One of the students, Michael, talking to a big crowd in Regina supporting Mother Teresa Middle School. Good job!
    May 29, 2015 6:28 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Today's sharply negative GDP numbers cement Mr Harper's reputation for having the worst growth record in 8 decades. Part of Mr Harper's problem is he doesn't care much about economic unfairness. That hurts growth. More fairness is good for growth. That's why @JustinTrudeau has a solid plan to boost the well-being of middle-class families. It's for fairness + for growth. http://youtu.be/_Ekd5GAZ_cY
    May 29, 2015 12:08 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Tough new economic warning from BMO's Doug Porter, based on same stats I raised in Question Period today. At what point will this "govt in denial" wake up to the No-Growth economy that's a product of their No-Growth policies. http://www.bmonesbittburns.com/economics/econofacts/20150529b/econofacts.pdf
    May 29, 2015 9:27 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Here are two questions I raised in the House of Commons Question Period today. As usual, the Harper government's obfuscation provided no answers: 1.While the Finance Minister lectures G-7 countries on how to get economic growth by firing people, GDP figures here at home destroy his credibility. Under this government, Canada’s economy shrank in March. It also shrank in February and in January. And last November and last August. Joblessness is up – 200,000 MORE jobless Canadians than before the recession. More inequality. Business investment is down. Exports are down. We’ve suffered 51 months of trade deficits. The government’s plan is producing NO GROWTH and NO JOBS – why don’t they change it? 2. In a chronically weak economy, retirement security is a big middle-class issue. Under this government: THREE-QUARTERS of those working in the private sector do NOT have a company pension. The average 35-year old is saving LESS THAN HALF of what their parents did. Of those within 10-years of retirement, ONLY A THIRD have saved $100,000 or more. Another third – especially in the middle class – have no retirement savings at all. All the government’s optional devices have failed. Why not work constructively WITH the Provinces on a real plan?
    May 29, 2015 8:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    If you're raising children under 18, see how much MORE you will receive from Justin Trudeau's better, fairer Canada Child Benefit at liberal.ca/fairness
    May 28, 2015 9:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Here's a typical middle-class family that needs a better Child Benefit + Justin Trudeau's "fairness plan" would provide it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ekd5GAZ_cY
    May 28, 2015 8:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Proud to attend AGM of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #001 in Regina tonight. Lloyd Jones receives one of the Honours!
    May 27, 2015 6:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Harper govt flip-flop on voluntary CPP top-ups makes credibility the issue. Genuine? Or just a ruse to appear to be doing something? Remember Mr Harper in 1990's was opposed to the CPP in its entirety. He wanted to kill it in favour of private sector RRSPs.
    May 27, 2015 10:43 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    When Liberals proposed voluntary CPP top-ups years ago, the Harper government dissed the idea. Why not work with provinces on full CPP enhancements?
    May 26, 2015 12:27 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period today, the Harper Government defends tax policies that favour wealthier folks at the expense of those with middle+lower incomes. Inescapable record of the last 9 years shows pathetically poor Canadian economic growth, weak job creation + deepening unfairness.
    May 26, 2015 11:42 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A sketch graphically illustrating the key difference between "equal" + "equity" - a difference the Harper government fails to understand
    May 26, 2015 11:36 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    NOT WALKING THE TALK ON SECURITY On national security, the Harper government is long on rhetoric, but short on putting its money where its mouth is. More evidence emerged this week with the cancellation of the RCMP's "Project Condor". Starting in 2007, Condor was a special unit that pursued offenders who were unlawfully at-large. It achieved significant success, recapturing 645 individuals who had been previously convicted of murder, drug trafficking, sexual assault, robbery, fraud and other crimes. At last count, there were still 444 offenders on the loose. But Condor has now been shelved. Its resources have been reassigned -- especially to national security. So the Mounties are being forced to "rob Peter to pay Paul" because they don't have sufficient budget to do everything that is being asked of them. The government says the RCMP make all the operational decisions about where their budget goes. But it's the government that determines the overall size of that budget in the first place. Public safety is being undermined. And Stephen Harper cannot deflect the responsibility. Since 2010, funding for the Force has been cut every year except one. The chopping now totals more than $630-million per year. After accounting for inflation, that's a real reduction of 31%. On top of that, more than a billion dollars has been "lapsed" -- i.e., it was approved, voted upon in Parliament, announced but never in fact invested as intended. So what are the consequences? Over 600 officers have been taken away from such priorities as the fight against organized crime and reassigned instead to security work. Three national forensic laboratories have been closed. Underfunding has seriously backlogged the national police database (CPIC). And special projects like Condor are being eliminated. In recent days, Mr. Harper has made a big show of announcing "new" resources for Canada's security agencies. But it's paltry. He says $150-million will be coming to the RCMP -- spread over five years and back-end loaded. That's a drop in the bucket. It won't come close to replenishing what the Conservatives have taken away. They talk a big game, but all their "tough on crime and terror" speeches are not worth the paper they're written on without the budgets to back them up. This government has all the swagger of a dude cowboy with a big hat ... but no cattle.
    May 26, 2015 8:53 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    By focusing on need, the Liberal Plan for a bigger and better "Canada Child Benefit" will provide more help, tax-free, to nine out of ten Canadian families. See "HOW MUCH WILL YOU BENEFIT" at http://www.liberal.ca/fairness/
    May 25, 2015 12:50 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Harper government is faltering on trade. They brag about trade deals they claim to have concluded, but Canada's trade balance just ran huge deficit. Harper trade deal with EU has been announced + celebrated 3 times, but it's still not done, let alone ratified + implemented. The trade reality under the "all spin-no action" Harper government is 51 months of trade deficits - including the biggest in history.
    May 25, 2015 11:52 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Canada's economy is weak. Harper government has no plan for growth, jobs or fairness. Recession ended 6 years ago; still 200,000 more Canadians jobless. Finance Minister sits mum in his seat in Question Period. Fails again to respond to economic issues. Cannot explain why Job creation is down by 60%. Unfairness riddles Harper government tax policy. Why pay benefits to wealthiest 1%, while shortchanging middle-class families by $2500?
    May 25, 2015 11:42 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    MR. OLIVER IS CONTRADICTED BY HIS OWN DATA A few days ago, I published an article examining the Harper government's most recent statistics on the public's use of Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). You can see it at http://ralphgoodale.ca/blog/93-canadians-doubling-tfsas/ The figures, freshly published by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for 2013, together with the pre-budget and post-budget analyses of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), make one point absolutely clear. There is a good policy case for maintaining TFSAs with an annual limit on contributions at $5500, but there is no compelling argument to nearly double that annual maximum to $10,000. Finance Minister Joe Oliver felt obliged to respond to my blog. You can see his comments at http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/letters-suspension-of-disbelief-over-leafs. The Minister's reply was rhetorical and ideological. He made no effort to address the CRA's latest numbers because they contradict him. If he is trying to argue that the annual TFSA limit at $5500 is too low and needs to be drastically increased, he would have to demonstrate that a large and growing number of Canadians are regularly maxing-out and need a higher limit. But that is simply not the case. Here are three "killer facts" from the CRA that destroy Mr. Oliver's position: First, over 28-million Canadians are legally entitled to hold a TFSA, but more than 60% don't participate at all. And only a tiny fraction of those eligible -- a very small 6.7% -- are contributing the maximum. Second, any room to contribute that a TFSA-holder does not use up in one tax year can be added onto future years. According to the CRA, the average TFSA has, within existing limits, some $13,500 in unused room available for more contributions. Third, the numbers of people maxing out their TFSAs has been dropping steadily in both absolute and percentage terms since the program's first year. In 2013, it was down 39% from five years earlier. So where is the argument for increasing the limit? Mr. Oliver certainly hasn't advanced one. By the government's own prognostications, what they're proposing is pricey. Nearly doubling TFSA limits will cost several hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, and some tens of billions of dollars over the longer term. Mr. Oliver seems to think that's a good thing -- even if more than 93% of Canadians get no benefit -- because, in his view, anything and everything that diminishes the Government of Canada is a step in the right direction. But if the federal government weren't so warped by that ideology, what are some of the other policy choices that might be made? Veterans could be treated with greater generosity and respect. The middle class income tax rate could be reduced. Child Benefits to help parents with the costs of raising children could be substantially enhanced for nine out of ten Canadian families. The eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement could be restored to 65. We could have a strong national system for helping military personnel, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders with the debilitating realities of PTSD. Mr. Harper's plan to scale back federal support for medicare could be reversed. Our country could make a quantum leap forward in building vital public infrastructure to underpin a more prosperous, productive economy, generating both jobs and growth. We could tear down barriers to education and skills training, and climb back into the top ranks of countries investing in scientific research, new technology and innovation. It's all about choices and priorities. There are many better alternatives -- to nurture Canadians' precious tax dollars, break free from mediocrity, and build a better country. One that works for all of us.
    May 25, 2015 7:20 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Belle Plaine performing last night before a full house of generous Reginans at RCMP Depot Drill Hall - supporting "Creative Kids".
    May 24, 2015 5:34 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    RCMP Pipes+Drums open the Annual Charity Gala Dinner + Ball at Depot Academy - supporting "Creative Kids"!
    May 23, 2015 5:47 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    As we celebrate the CPP's 50th anniversary this year, here's more evidence that it's a strong performer + we should build upon it! Kudos to Lester Pearson for the vision creating the CPP in 1965 + to Paul Martin (Finance Minister in 1990's) for the courage that saved it! http://business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/cpp-fund-generates-highest-one-year-return-of-18-3-per-cent#__federated=1
    May 23, 2015 2:31 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Regina's Cathedral Village Arts Festival is getting a glorious May day and great crowd. Always a terrific event!
    May 23, 2015 11:23 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Good meeting this morning about saving the Federal Tree Farm at Indian Head, then two hours door-knocking in Wascana. Now Cathedral Village Arts Festival!
    May 23, 2015 11:16 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    The guests of honour at St Philip's annual Lobster supper in Regina. Full house. Great meal!
    May 22, 2015 6:16 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Next stop ... "Uncover the Cure" fundraiser supporting the Prostate Assessment Centre at Regina's Pasqua Hospital
    May 21, 2015 4:28 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Great visit with Melanie Bacon + her terrific team at "Play+Discover" Early Learning Centre Art Show at Sask polytechnic
    May 21, 2015 4:18 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    I had a great opportunity to speak to the Canadian Club in Regina today about how to strength Canada's democracy http://ralphgoodale.ca/speeches-1/democratic-reform-speech-to-the-canadian-club-of-regina/
    May 20, 2015 4:18 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Glad to be guest speaker today at Regina's Canadian Club - talking about Open Government and reforming Parliament
    May 20, 2015 11:14 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    By the government's own figures, doubling the Tax-Free Savings Account limit will cost billions, while benefits are limited to fewer than 7% of Canadians http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/ralph-goodale-doubling-the-tsfa-contribution-limit-is-the-wrong-way-to-benefit-canadas-middle-class
    May 19, 2015 8:49 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    PROGRESSIVE SOCIAL POLICY & SOUND ECONOMICS Justin Trudeau's plan to achieve greater fairness for middle-class families, and all those working so hard just to get to the middle-class, is a constructive mixture of progressive social policy and sound economics. Announced two weeks ago, it was the first of several Liberal policy initiatives coming this spring and summer. Stay tuned for more. The plan is progressive and fair because it's related to income levels and focused on "need". In other words, for those on lower incomes where needs are greater, more support is provided. The plan is good economics because it's simple, efficient and transparent in putting more dollars into the hands of lower and middle income families who will quickly reinvest that money in the economy. Reducing inequality is good for economic growth. Carefully costed to be fiscally responsible, accounting for all revenues, expenditures and offsets, Mr. Trudeau's plan has two components: (a) a targeted and much improved Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to help families defray the costs of raising kids up to the age of 18; and (b) a Middle-Class Tax Cut which lowers the tax rate on that portion of Canadians' incomes between about $45,000 and $90,000. The new CCB would provide some $22-billion in targeted financial assistance annually to families who need it. That's $4-billion more than current federal child benefit programs. The money would come from consolidating three existing family "benefit" schemes, adding in the annual saving from not proceeding with the flawed Income Splitting idea that the late Jim Flaherty said was too expensive and unfair, and then topping that up with tax dollars saved by cutting such things as wasteful government advertising and exorbitant spending on external consultants. The existing programs are a hodge-podge of inconsistencies. Some are means-tested, others are not. Some are taxable, others are not. Because some are dribbled out in small equal amounts across the entire income scale, top to bottom, they are inadequate for some families and superfluous to others. The government's tax rules add further complications, some of them quite perverse. Families with the same number of kids and the same incomes, can end up being treated in sharply different ways, depending on whether they have one-parent or two, or one-income or two. Income splitting on top of that provides a further bonus of $2,000 to some of those with earnings of a quarter-of-a-million, but nothing at all for the single mom or dad at the poverty line. By rolling all these funds together, topping them up with money saved from eliminating waste, and then targeting lower and middle income families, the new CCB would provide a lot more help per child every month, completely tax-free, to nine out of ten Canadian families. Mr. Trudeau's plan starts at $6400 per year for every child under six years of age in the lowest income families (i.e., those with a total family income below $30,000). For children over six but under 18, these lowest income families would receive $5400 annually. The new CCB would be gradually reduced as family incomes gets bigger. The benefit would phase out entirely at $160,000 of income (if the family has one child over 6) and at $190,000 (if the family has one child under 6) Take the example of the statistically "median" Canadian family -- two parents, two kids (4 and 8 years old), with a total income of $90,000. Under current child benefit programs, such a family gets about $3300 a year. Under Justin Trudeau's plan, they would get $5875 -- better than $2500 per year MORE. Repeat: Because it's focused, linked to income/need, and tax-free, Mr. Trudeau's plan would provide MORE to nine out of ten families! The other element of the plan -- the Middle-Class tax cut -- is pretty straight-forward. The tax rate applicable to the "middle" income bracket (approx. $45k - $90k) will be chopped by 1.5 points, from the existing 22% down to 20.5%. To cover the cost of providing this tax break at the middle level, we will ask the top one-percent of high-earning Canadians to pay a little more. A new upper income tax bracket would be created. The top rate would be 33% on that portion of higher incomes above $200,000. People in this upper income range contribute a great deal to the success and well-being of this country, economically and otherwise. They include many generous nation-builders. We're asking them to do a little more to achieve greater fairness and strength for the middle class and all those working so hard just to get there. A successful middle class with expectations of progress and upward mobility is good for all of us.
    May 18, 2015 5:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Spring in Regina!
    May 16, 2015 3:19 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Happy event at Toronto airport - 86 year old grandmother takes her 1st flight, going to Regina for grandson's wedding. Congrats!
    May 15, 2015 2:58 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    93% OF CANADIANS GET NOTHING FROM DOUBLING TFSAs At a time when the Canadian economy is sputtering – with virtually no growth, weak job creation, poor job quality, large trade deficits, record household debt, and low confidence levels – governments need to be careful in their policy choices. What will best drive jobs and growth, and provide the most help to the largest number of those who really need help the most? Growth and fairness must be prime objectives. One policy choice made by the Harper government is to increase the annual limit on contributions to “tax fee savings accounts” (TFSAs). Created in 2009, TFSAs currently allow taxpayers to deposit up to $5500 in after-tax money every year in a designated account which will grow over time on a tax-free basis. Mr. Harper is nearly doubling the annual contribution maximum to make it $10,000. According to the government’s calculations, this will cost the federal treasury several hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, and some tens of billions of dollars over the longer-term. It will also reduce provincial government revenues. For those who readily have an extra $4500 available every year, after they’ve paid their taxes, this increase would be an attractive future tax break. But is a higher limit fair to taxpayers across the board? The answer to that question depends on how many taxpayers at various wealth levels will be able to benefit from the higher contributions. At $5500/year, the benefits of TFSAs are generally accessible to a broad cross-section of taxpayers. But on the incremental amount up to $10,000 – not so much. Following a detailed review of this program last winter, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) said: “TFSA benefits, currently balanced across wealth groups, will become increasingly skewed toward high-wealth households over time.” After the recent budget, he said: “The contribution limit increases proposed in Budget 2015 would accentuate these distributional disparities.” “Distributional disparities” is PBO lingo for “unfair”. The most recent statistics on TFSAs, published by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), reinforce the PBO’s warning: In 2013, over 28-million Canadians were eligible to have a TFSA. About 10.7-million did so. That’s a participation rate of just under 38%. Of those who participated, only 1.9-million contributed the maximum. That’s less than 18% of those who had a TFSA and, more importantly, a very small 6.7% of those who were eligible to have one. Doubling the annual maximum does nothing for the 93.3% of Canadians who cannot max-out their TFSA contributions at the existing limit of $5500/year. Significantly, the number of taxpayers who are able to maximize their annual contributions has been dropping steadily since this program’s inception. At 1.9-million in 2013, it is down 39% from five years earlier. To look at it another way, in 2009 more than 64% of TFSA-holders maxed-out. In 2013, fewer than 18% did. It’s important to note that any “unused” room to make a contribution to a TFSA in any one year can be carried forward to future years. It accumulates. CRA figures show that the average TFSA is carrying more than $13,500 in unused, available room – within existing limits. All in all, then, it’s difficult to sustain an argument to increase the maximum. More Canadians would be further ahead if the government maintained the existing TFSA limits, while also: a) Cutting the middle-class income tax rate across the board; b) Creating a single, progressive, tax-free “child benefit” that provides significantly more support each month to 9 out of 10 families with children; c) Restoring the Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement eligibility age to 65; and d) Strengthening investments in public infrastructure to drive better jobs and growth immediately, while also laying a solid foundation for a more productive, competitive and prosperous economy for years to come. The Harper government frequently tries to concoct an argument that doubling TFSA limits would be especially helpful to Canadians earning up to $60,000 because these are the people who regularly max-out every year. Or so the Conservatives claim. But as my Liberal MP colleague (and statistics expert) Ted Hsu recently pointed out, the issue is NOT how many of those who max-out their TFSAs have incomes of $60,000 or less. The crucial question is the other way around – how many people earning $60,000 or less are actually maxing out their TFSAs? The answer is about 5%. As income levels rise, a larger proportion are able to contribute the maximum. This demonstrates the skew toward higher wealth (as reported by the PBO). Given only mediocre improvements in median family incomes over the past many years and the explosion in household debt, it’s just not realistic to expect many middle-class families will have an extra $10,000 lying around every year, after taxes, to enable them to fill up a higher TFSA contribution maximum. There are greater, more beneficial priorities to be tackled more urgently.
    May 15, 2015 11:09 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Check this out. Harper government's own figures show how doubling TFSAs skews to high-wealth households - just as PBO warned. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ralph-goodale/tfsa-contribution-limit_b_7290888.html
    May 15, 2015 10:12 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

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MP
Ralph Goodale

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