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Federal budget: You can’t solve a productivity emergency with tax hikes


3 minute read

News release from the Montreal Economic Institute

  • Ottawa still has no plan to return to a balanced budget.
  • Under Justin Trudeau, the federal government has hired over 98,000 new bureaucrats.

Montreal, April 16, 2024 – The increase in the capital gains tax inclusion rate will further exacerbate Canada’s productivity lag, asserted the Montreal Economic Institute in response to the publication of the federal budget this afternoon.

“Canada’s productivity is in crisis and the best way to get it back up is to attract new investments,” explains Renaud Brossard, Vice-President of Communications at the MEI. “And few are those who have been able to lure investments and job creators with promises of higher taxes.

“With this budget, the Trudeau government is shooting us in the foot.”

In the budget, the Trudeau government has announced the capital gains inclusion rate from 50 per cent to 66 per cent for capital gains superior to $250,000 per year.

Last March, the deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, Carolyn Rogers, spoke of a “productivity emergency” in Canada.

Canadians rank second to last among G7 countries in terms of productivity per hour worked, according to an MEI study published last August.

The Institute explains that this lag arises from a shortfall in private non-residential investment. In 2018, this investment amounted to an estimated $27,307 per American worker, but only $17,389 per Canadian worker.

“Every dollar the government expects to subtract from the pockets of investors with this tax hike is a dollar of potential investment lost,” explains Brossard. “It’s time for the Trudeau government to realize it doesn’t have a revenue problem, but rather a spending problem.”

The budget tabled by the Trudeau government today forecasts a shortfall of $39.8 billion for the year 2024-2025.

High interest rates are contributing to this situation, with interest payments on the federal debt estimated to reach $54.1 billion dollars this year, up 14.6 per cent over last year.

The MEI observes that one of the major sources of increased spending is the massive hiring of federal public servants under the Trudeau government.

Since the first Trudeau budget in 2016, the federal public service workforce has grown by more than 98,268 employees. Considered in terms of the number of government employees per Canadian, this represents a 28% increase according to an MEI study published in January.

“The explosion in the number of bureaucrats in recent years is symptomatic of a government that has lost all control over the growth of its spending,” explains Brossard. “There are now 28 per cent more federal public servants per capita, but very few Canadians would tell you that Ottawa is doing 28 per cent more for them.”

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

CBDC Central Bank Digital Currency

Australians Abandon Physical Cash, Financial Freedom

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From Heartland Daily News

By J.D. Tuccille

Australians abandon physical cash for digital payments that are easy to use, monitor, and block.

The end of cash has been heralded for years—mostly by government officials eager to end the expense of minting coins and printing banknotes while pushing transactions to digital forms that can be tracked and taxed. The transformation has met varying degrees of acceptance or resistance from people around the globe. But Australians appear to be eagerly advancing down the road toward a cash-free world.

Disappearing Banknotes and Coins

“Cash was once a staple in the economy, but it’s fast becoming a relic of the past,” according to an April report on Australia’s financial evolution from SBSNews. “Just a decade ago, more than half of transactions were cash. Now it’s just one in seven, and it’s happened at an alarming rate.”

Various forms of digital payments now account for the lion’s share of transactions, with a growing number of merchants now refusing coins and banknotes, and ATMs disappearing around the country. That means cash is increasingly difficult to find and use even for those who prefer physical money.

The transformation was turbocharged by COVID-19, as people moved away from any sort of contact. But usage of cash was already plunging, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia, from almost 70 percent of transactions in 2007 to less than 30 percent in 2019. “Cash payments accounted for 13 per cent of the number and 8 per cent of the value of all consumer payments in 2022,” the bank finds.

While Australian consumers and central bank bureaucrats embrace the shift, there are serious downsides to an all-digital economy.

“Digital payments have shortfalls, including their reliance on the internet—which can prove problematic in times of crisis,” cautions SBSNews. The report described the plight of people cut off from processing services by wildfires that severed communications; those with cash could still buy necessities.

Digital transactions also require people to have accounts in their names, which is a challenge for young people and immigrants. And budgeting can be easier with paper and coins than with abstract numbers.

Unmentioned in the piece are any concerns about lost independence when all transactions can be monitored and, potentially, blocked. But that’s a major concern elsewhere.

‘Printed Freedom’

Printed freedom” is how German economist Lars Feld described physical money in 2015 while responding to a push in his country to abolish physical cash. He defended banknotes and coins on the grounds that people “should be entitled to an escape from all-out state control,” as Hardy Graupner of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle put it.

Such concerns came to a head in 2022 when the Canadian government cut off Freedom Convoy protesters’ access to their own bank accounts and blocked digital donations to their cause.

“It’s a Western version of China’s social credit system that does not altogether prohibit political dissent but makes it so costly that it becomes impractical to the ordinary citizen,” commented David Sacks, former COO of PayPal. He had already warned that electronic payment processors were working with governments to deny access to the financial system on ideological grounds.

Canada’s crackdown was dramatic, but it didn’t stand in isolation.

Digital Transactions and Targeted Industries

In 2022, American Banker reported that “a new code identifying credit card sales of guns and ammunition has been approved by the International Standards Organization, creating a potential path for card networks to help law enforcement agencies identify suspicious sales of guns and ammunition.”

Amidst concerns that banks would help government officials track gun owners, and several states banning the gun-specific merchant codes, the financial industry “paused” implementation.

The merchant code controversy was reminiscent of earlier government efforts, under programs including Operation Choke Point, to cut off businesses disliked by politicians from financial services.

“Operation Choke Point was created by the Justice Department to ‘choke out’ companies the Administration considers a ‘high risk’ or otherwise objectionable, despite the fact that they are legal businesses,” summarized a 2014 House Oversight Committee report. “The sheer breadth of industries affected – including firearms and ammunition sales, adult entertainment, check cashing, and payday lending – has generated significant concern with the objectives and scope of Operation Choke Point.”

Notably, physical money offers a workaround for businesses that government officials don’t like. To this day, marijuana is a largely cash industry for businesses legal at the state level but still illegal under federal law—a serious concern for heavily regulated financial institutions. For pot growers and vendors, cash may not always be ideal (it’s a target for thieves), but it offers the freedom to operate.

Use It or Lose It

That was the sort of concern that pushed Germany’s Lars Feld to describe physical money as “printed freedom.” It also inspired Swiss activists last year to urge their countrymen to vote “yes to a free and independent Swiss currency in the form of coins and banknotes.” Swiss officials rejected the initiative as insufficiently specific, but they also promised to incorporate protections for cash into the constitution.

Many Australians appear to feel otherwise, and they’re not alone. With demand plunging for cash, Denmark stopped printing and minting kroner in 2016 (private companies will be commissioned to produce more as needed).

“One of the reasons why it is no longer profitable to produce coins and banknotes in Denmark is that the Danes increasingly pay with either credit card or mobile phone,” BT reported at the time.

There is no denying that digital transactions are easy—sometimes too easy—requiring only a card or app, and not sufficient paper in your wallet. But despite the still largely unrealized promise of Bitcoin and other cyber currencies, most digital transactions leave records and require processing by third parties. Those intermediaries, under political pressure, can turn our own funds into tools of control. The more accustomed we become to digital payments, the more likely physical money and the freedom it offers will slip away.

“If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” Steve Worthington of Swinburne University’s School of Business, Law, and Entrepreneurship told SBS News. “The less and less we’re able to access and use cash, the more likely it is that we will lose access to it the same way we have with paper cheques.”

It’s something to think about the next time you head for the store to make a purchase.

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Poll shows 7 in 10 Canadians want carbon tax exemption for farmers

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Gage Haubrich

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released Leger polling showing 70 per cent of Canadians support a carbon tax exemption on propane and natural gas for farmers.

“The poll is clear: the vast majority of Canadians want the government to get farmers relief from the carbon tax,” said Gage Haubrich, CTF Prairie Director. “Canadians know that keeping costs down for farmers helps lower costs at the grocery store for all of us.”

The federal government exempts its carbon tax from gasoline and diesel used on farms. Members of Parliament are currently considering Bill C-234, which extends the carbon-tax exemption to include natural gas and propane used on farms. Farmers use these fuels to dry grain and heat barns.

The Leger poll asked Canadians if they support taking the carbon tax off natural gas and propane used by farmers.

Results of the poll show:

  • 39 per cent strongly support
  • 31 per cent somewhat support
  • 8 per cent somewhat oppose
  • 7 per cent strongly oppose
  • 15 per cent don’t know

Without any relief, the carbon tax on natural gas and propane will cost farmers $1 billion by 2030, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

“MPs need to get farmers and families relief now and take the carbon tax off all farm fuels,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Ottawa needs to listen to Canadians and stop charging farmers carbon taxes that make all of our lives more expensive.”

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