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Hiking in Ireland (part 2 of a 3 part series)

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Read “Ireland:  A Buddy Trip”, part 1 of this series.

Click to read Part 1 in this series

Hiking Ireland  (second in a three-part series)

‘A good walk spoiled’ is how Mark Twain described the game of golf. But clearly Huck Finn’s author never had the pleasure of strolling the links of Ireland. Having said that, after eight days chunking shots and misreading putts at Ballybunion, Lahinch, and a number of other venerable golf courses with seven buddies, I was more than ready to hang up the clubs and go walkabout.

Five of the lads made their way to Dublin Airport for the long flight back to Canada, but I and two lucky buddies remained behind at the Brooks Hotel, awaiting the arrival of our better halves – and the second portion of our Emerald Isle adventure. We were bound for a week of relaxed hiking in the west of Ireland. I was looking forward to a calmer, tamer chapter than the golf marathon. A road trip with the boys can leave one’s body – and brain – badly bruised.

We were slumped in easy chairs in the lobby of the Brooks perusing the Irish Times when a cab pulled up and the gals came swinging through the doors. We kissed hello while Connor, the affable doorman, unloaded bags. After a quick freshen up we hit Dublin’s late afternoon streets, introducing the ladies to the Stag’s Head, our favourite Temple Bar pub, where we slurped a Guinness, stared up at the stuffed stags staring down upon us and chowed down on some fine Irish stew.In the morning, before boarding the train for Killarney – the starting point of our hike – we enjoyed a city walking tour, visiting the statues of sweet Molly Malone and Oscar Wilde who, amongst other great witticisms, coined the phrase about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. As an unrepentant pilferer of other people’s ideas, I tip my hat to Oscar.

Oscar Wilde in clever repose

Making small talk in the taxi en route to the train station, I looked up at the sky and asked the driver, “Are you expecting rain?” He looked at me as if I were daft and said, “This is Ireland lad, we are always expecting rain.”

Sun and cloud dance together on MacGillycuddy’s Reeks

The train-view from Dublin to Killarney was uneventful – lots of tunnels and high hedges. On arrival, a dark-haired woman with a friendly face and a broad smile greeted us on the platform. Elaine Farrell introduced herself as we threw our packs in the back of an eight-seater van. Elaine, from Ireland Walk, Hike, Bike, would be our driver, private guide and constant companion for the week.

Elaine Farrell and canine friend enjoying Killarney Lake

The forecast for hiking was not as favourable as it had been for our golf week but, as the locals joyfully proclaim: “You don’t come to Ireland for the weather.”

The first day began with a soggy boat trip to the headwaters of the Three Lakes, in Killarney National Park. As we motored the narrow waters, the third-generation boatman entertained us with local history – some of which may have been true – and an infectious laugh. We docked at Lord Brandon’s Cottage from whence we tromped the ancient Butter Road from Mol’s Gap back to Killarney town.

A lovely Irish beach day!

After two nights in Killarney, we packed for Cahersiveen and a beach hike on the north shore of the Ring of Kerry. From there we moved on to Dingle and a glorious trek skirting Annascaul Lake.

We climbed up and through a mountain pass connecting the south of Dingle peninsula to the north. As we reached the summit, we encountered a solitary shepherd clad in leather breeches, a soiled woolen sweater and gumboots. He also sported a grizzled visage.

The shy shepherd.

I asked for his picture but he shook his head resolutely, “I’m not that attractive. Better to get a shot of the dog.” But the border collie was having none of it and hurried off in search of a wayward lamb.

Elaine turned and, as always, sloshed ahead, warning us around wet spots and cautioning against the few poisonous plants. “Beware the kidney vetch,” she said, “it can lead to Dingle chin.” She laughed, then strode into a field of bog cotton.

Every hike was different and unique. One afternoon we marched along a lonely beach, skirting sea-scoured boulders, tidal pools and the rising sea. Another day it was a narrow path, with ancient stone walls flanking our journey. There were high traverses and stunning outlooks to the ocean.

Mossy stone walls mark the ancient path.

foxtail season

And every night was unique. A fine pub with great dinner. Fish and chips with mushy peas, spring lamb, stew. And good company.

Mushy peas anyone?

Elaine always ate with us. In my experience it is unusual for a guide to eat supper with the guests; usually they’re exhausted after a long day attending to the whims of indulged tourists, so the tour boss lets them have a peaceful, solitary evening. But Elaine’s energy never abated. She was there ‘til the bitter end each night. And in the morning there she was, knapsack packed and water bottle full, ready to pilot us on a new adventure. These names won’t mean much to you, but if you’re thinking of traversing Ireland’s paths you should consider the Kerry Way, Derrynane, the Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head and the pilgrimage up Mount Brandon.

On our Mt. Brandon day, the final chapter in our weeklong experience, the summit was socked in – so Elaine spontaneously changed the itinerary. Scanning the horizon, she spotted the remains of a 15th century lookout on Brandon Head overlooking the sea and said, “Shall we give that a go?”

Elaine photo bombs the kissing gate at Brandon Head.

We jumped in the van, veering past ripening hay fields and a soggy peat bog toward what appeared to be a trailhead. Elaine asked the local landowner for permission to enter and directions to the summit – which were happily proffered – and off we trod up the steep pitch. The hike was a highlight – and the reward spectacular. As we climbed toward the ruins the path narrowed to a ridge; to the south all of verdant Dingle laid out below us, to the north certain death loomed over a sheer cliff.

The rugged coast of Brandon Head.

We ate lunch in the lee of the old fort, protected from the buffeting wind by a crumbling wall. “Brilliant,” Elaine said. We all looked around and silently agreed.

If you go: www.irelandwalkhikebike.com

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence now live in Kimberley, BC! Thanks to Ing and McKee insurance and Kennedy Wealth Management for sponsoring this great travel series.

We will travel again but in the meantime, enjoy Gerry’s ‘Buddy Trip to Ireland’

 

 

 

 

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COVID-19

Cases rising but still 18 in Central Alberta Hospitals – COVID19 update from Mike York

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Alberta for the second day in a row has had in excess of 1500 new positive cases, (1584 yesterday and 1549 today)
In the Central Zone, also a significant increase of 131 new cases along with just 22 recoveries.
The Zone now has 714 active cases of the virus. 18 people are in hospitals, 2 of those in ICU.
Here in the City of Red Deer, an increase of 17 cases along with 2 recoveries.
We now have 141 active cases in Red Deer.
*Of note –
Premier Jason Kenney will be addressing the unsettling rise of the Covid-19 cases in our province in a live broadcast tomorrow.
It’s assumed there may be new and more stringent restrictions being implemented to try and limit the continual trend of surging cases.
Please continue to encourage all of your family and friends to avoid unnecessary large gatherings and social functions when possible.
Thanks folks.
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Opinion

Middle Class

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The Middle Class

The middle class.

This phrase is shrouded in mystery but typically refers to ones occupation, income, education and social status in relation to others.

Depending on the political party using the term, the underlying definition can change.

The Liberal Party has an entire section of it’s 2019 election platform dedicated to the middle class and people working hard to join it.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity has had difficulties defining the characteristics of the people she was elected to represent.

Excuse me if I’m a little concerned that the middle class might be forgotten as a result.

Tax Free

Making Life More Affordable

Any claims of government giving anything to citizens “tax free” should be met with scrutiny.

All government funding ultimately comes from taxpayers so to suggest that government can give you tax free funds is simply not accurate. Someone is being taxed in order to provide the benefits.

Effective for 2016 tax filings, the Liberal Government lowered the tax rate on income in the 2nd tax bracket by 1.5%. This bracket currently applies to income between $48,535 to $97,069. All other brackets have either remained the same or increased since that time.

For those earning up to the maximum of $97,069, this results in tax savings of $1,456.

In conjunction with the 1.5% tax drop, the Liberal Government removed the Family Tax Cut (FTC). This allowed families with children to notionally transfer income from the spouse with higher annual income to the other spouse.

Depending on your situation, this could result in a tax credit of up to $2,000.

Effective in 2019, the Liberal Government implemented an increase in the Canada Pension Plan annual rates. By 2023, this will result in additional annual employee contributions of $1,107 for those earning above the annual ceiling of $65,700.

The employer portion would increase in proportion, putting further pressure on small business cash flows.

While the Liberal Government may claim that they are “making life more affordable”, the numbers above paint a different picture.

Income Tax Act

What should the government do?

The Canadian Income Tax Act (ITA) has not seen a major review since the late 1960’s. It is now a patchwork of legislation that is difficult for even seasoned Chartered Professional Accountants to apply into practice.

Complexities within the ITA result in a significant added administrative burdens. Instead of focusing on growing your business, creating jobs or planning for retirement, significant time is lost navigating the ITA.

The government should immediately engage in a full scale review of the ITA. The review must consult the private sector and address all major industries across Canada. The revisions should be made in such a way as to allow for amendments in future as the economy continues to evolve.

Key areas that should be the focus of a review:

  1. Simplify: The tax system needs to be fair, efficient and competitive.

  2. Modernize: Tax policy needs to be able to keep up with the digital economy.

  3. Be Supportive: Changes to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) policies that will ease compliance for taxpayers.

Keep it Simple

Simple:

In Alberta, there are now nine personal tax brackets, a patch work of credits and numerous complexities to navigate in complying with regulations relating to owner-operator business.

Serious consideration should be given to shift away from taxing income and toward taxing consumption instead. It is far more beneficial to tax activities that reduce the wealth of society, ie. consumption, rather than tax the creation of wealth.

The simplest way to make the shift to a consumption based tax system would be to increase the rate of federal GST. This would be offset with reductions in personal tax rates. The personal tax rate drops could be implemented in a manner that preserves the progressive tax regime, but with significantly fewer tax brackets.

For those in the lower tax brackets, the majority of their annual income is spent on non-GST’able expenditures such as groceries, rent and health care. Those with higher disposable incomes would contribute more to government revenues as a result. This preserves the progressive tax regime, protects the vulnerable and doesn’t penalize the creation of wealth.

More comprehensive reforms could also be analyzed to determine the best solution for Canadians.

Update

Modernize:

In recent months, there has been a growing call for government to implement a “wealth tax”. The New Democratic Party has suggested that a 1% on families with a net worth in excess of $20 million would generate net tax revenue of $5.6 billion in 2020-21.

As mentioned above, government should not introduce further tax on the creation of wealth. This tax policy will only further drive investment out of the country at a time that we can ill afford it.

Additionally, there have been calls to add an additional layer of tax on big tech companies, most notably Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. There is no doubt that these companies have seen record profits in 2020 but haphazardly implementing a 3% tax on the revenues of these companies will likely back fire.

The reason why large corporations are able to take advantage of low tax rates in foreign jurisdictions is due to varied rates across the globe. If one jurisdiction makes the decision to implement a tax increase, naturally, corporations will seek out lower tax jurisdictions.

If government is concerned with tech giants skirting federal taxes, they need to consult with all jurisdictions in which these companies operate. A unilateral tax will simply resulting in these corporations moving profits to lower tax jurisdictions.

Support

Be Supportive:

The Canada Revenue Agency is typically thought of with disdain by many Canadian taxpayers. Some of these feelings are self induced, others are not.

Much like the difficulties that individuals and businesses have in navigating the Income Tax Act (ITA), the same can be said for CRA agents. While the senior agents typically have specific training and field experience, the majority of front line CRA agents simply do not have the necessary training to effectively help taxpayers navigate the complexities of the ITA.

In order for the CRA to provide more supportive service to taxpayers, they too need to see a reform in the ITA. It simply is not fair to ask agents to be able to interpret the ITA and how it applies to each taxpayer they speak with.

Secondly, the CRA needs to revise audit training procedures for their agents that considers materiality of each case. Far too often I see audit cases that request significant amounts of supporting documentation in response to a taxpayers nominal expense claim. Some of these being less than $100.

This places a significant administrative burden on taxpayers, specifically small business owners. It also leads to a great deal of frustration, which further damages the relationship between this government agency and the general public.

 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Canada’s middle class has fallen on difficult times in recent years. This has only been exasperated by the impacts of COVID-19.

For far too long, Canada has lost investment and stymied growth due to its archaic tax regime.

The Liberal government has promised to “build back better” and create an economy that is just and equitable for all. Details of these plans remain to be seen.

Instead of grandiose plans stemming from pie-in-the-sky slogans, the government should immediately look to reform the tax system.

Focusing on simplicity, modernization and reducing administrative burden will give taxpayers the confidence to know that their hard work will translate into consistent after-tax earnings.

It’s time to unleash the power of the Canadian worker, supported by a competitive and modern tax regime. Future generations depend on it.

https://www.jaredpilon.com/

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november, 2020

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