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Red Deer – Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins not impressed by first federal budget in 2 years

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4 minute read

This is what happens when people think budgets balance themselves.

Monday, Justin Trudeau released his 2021 budget, his first in two years, which introduces risky and untested economic schemes that will harm the personal financial security of Canadians by strangling job growth and raising taxes on hardworking Canadian families. It is most certainly not a balanced budget.
As a Member of Parliament from Alberta, I have some serious concerns about this budget and its impact on this province and the people that I represent.
Once again, there is nothing in this budget that addresses the increasing rates of rural crime in our province and across the country. Canadians are being victimized regularly and this government continues to turn a blind eye.
The budget also fails to properly support our agriculture sector and focuses primarily on climate issues. Farmers have for generations been the stewards of our land. Budget 2021 fails to recognize their important contributions to our environment, such as zero till and low till, and reward them for it. Rather than adopt Conservative Bill C-206 and exempt farm fuel from the full burden of the Carbon Tax they are only giving back a pittance of what farmers pay to run their farms and important implements such as grain dryers.
Budget 2021 contains nothing for our oil and gas sector, other than decelerating the capital cost allowance on technologies used in this sector, thereby further discouraging investment. It’s interesting to note that the word “pipeline” is mentioned 5 times in the budget, but not a single instance is related to the energy sector.
Unemployed Canadians hoping to see a plan to create new jobs and economic opportunities for their families are going to feel let down.
Workers who have had their wages cut and hours slashed hoping to see a plan to reopen the economy are going to feel let down.
Families that can’t afford more taxes and are struggling to save more money for their children’s education or to buy a home are going to feel let down.
While I am very concerned about what is not in the budget, I am also very concerned about what is in the budget. It seems to me that Budget 2021 is increasing and encouraging dependency on the government at a time when we should be concerned about strengthening our economy and securing our nation.
After celebrating a deficit of only $354.2 billion in 2020/21, the Liberals are excited to announce an additional deficit of $154.7 billion for 2021/22. In fact, Trudeau’s projections show that the federal debt load will nearly double to $1.4 trillion by 2026, up from $721 billion before the pandemic. With Budget 2021, Government debt will exceed 100% GDP. They have abandoned any fiscal anchors at all. It remains unfathomable to me that the Liberal government continues to mothball the oil and gas sector, the economic driver of our nation in favour of increasing financial burden on Canadians.
As I only received this budget at the same time as the rest of Canada, I will be spending the next few days reviewing this massive 724-page document.
Make no mistake, Budget 2021 is an election budget, but only if Justin Trudeau needs your vote.

Business

Canada’s economy has stagnated despite Ottawa’s spin

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From the Fraser Institute

By Ben Eisen, Milagros Palacios and Lawrence Schembri

Canada’s inflation-adjusted per-person annual economic growth rate (0.7 per cent) is meaningfully worse than the G7 average (1.0 per cent) over this same period. The gap with the U.S. (1.2 per cent) is even larger. Only Italy performed worse than Canada.

Growth in gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of all goods and services produced in the economy annually, is one of the most frequently cited indicators of Canada’s economic performance. Journalists, politicians and analysts often compare various measures of Canada’s total GDP growth to other countries, or to Canada’s past performance, to assess the health of the economy and living standards. However, this statistic is misleading as a measure of living standards when population growth rates vary greatly across countries or over time.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, for example, recently boasted that Canada had experienced the “strongest economic growth in the G7” in 2022. Although the Trudeau government often uses international comparisons on aggregate GDP growth as evidence of economic success, it’s not the first to do so. In 2015, then-prime minister Stephen Harper said Canada’s GDP growth was “head and shoulders above all our G7 partners over the long term.”

Unfortunately, such statements do more to obscure public understanding of Canada’s economic performance than enlighten it. In reality, aggregate GDP growth statistics are not driven by productivity improvements and do not reflect rising living standards. Instead, they’re primarily the result of differences in population and labour force growth. In other words, they aren’t primarily the result of Canadians becoming better at producing goods and services (i.e. productivity) and thus generating more income for their families. Instead, they primarily reflect the fact that there are simply more people working, which increases the total amount of goods and services produced but doesn’t necessarily translate into increased living standards.

Let’s look at the numbers. Canada’s annual average GDP growth (with no adjustment for population) from 2000 to 2023 was the second-highest in the G7 at 1.8 per cent, just behind the United States at 1.9 per cent. That sounds good, until you make a simple adjustment for population changes by comparing GDP per person. Then a completely different story emerges.

Canada’s inflation-adjusted per-person annual economic growth rate (0.7 per cent) is meaningfully worse than the G7 average (1.0 per cent) over this same period. The gap with the U.S. (1.2 per cent) is even larger. Only Italy performed worse than Canada.

Why the inversion of results from good to bad? Because Canada has had by far the fastest population growth rate in the G7, growing at an annualized rate of 1.1 per cent—more than twice the annual population growth rate of the G7 as a whole at 0.5 per cent. In aggregate, Canada’s population increased by 29.8 per cent during this time period compared to just 11.5 per cent in the entire G7.

Clearly, aggregate GDP growth is a poor tool for international comparisons. It’s also not a good way to assess changes in Canada’s performance over time because Canada’s rate of population growth has not been constant. Starting in 2016, sharply higher rates of immigration have led to a pronounced increase in population growth. This increase has effectively partially obscured historically weak economic growth per person over the same period.

Specifically, from 2015 to 2023, under the Trudeau government, inflation-adjusted per-person economic growth averaged just 0.3 per cent. For historical perspective, per-person economic growth was 0.8 per cent annually under Brian Mulroney, 2.4 per cent under Jean Chrétien and 2.0 per cent under Paul Martin.

Due to Canada’s sharp increase in population growth in recent years, aggregate GDP growth is a misleading indicator for comparing economic growth performance across countries or time periods. Canada is not leading the G7, or doing well in historical terms, when it comes to economic growth measures that make simple adjustments for our rapidly growing population. In reality, we’ve become a growth laggard and our living standards have largely stagnated for the better part of a decade.

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Business

New capital gains hike won’t work as claimed but will harm the economy

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From the Fraser Institute

By Alex Whalen and Jake Fuss

Capital taxes are among the most economically-damaging forms of taxation precisely because they reduce the incentive to innovate and invest.

Amid a federal budget riddled with red ink and tax hikes, the Trudeau government has increased capital gains taxes. The move will be disastrous for Canada’s growth prospects and its already-lagging investment climate, and to make matters worse, research suggests it won’t work as planned.

Currently, individuals and businesses who sell a capital asset in Canada incur capital gains taxes at a 50 per cent inclusion rate, which means that 50 per cent of the gain in the asset’s value is subject to taxation at the individual or business’ marginal tax rate. The Trudeau government is raising this inclusion rate to 66.6 per cent for all businesses, trusts and individuals with capital gains over $250,000.

The problems with hiking capital gains taxes are numerous.

First, capital gains are taxed on a “realization” basis, which means the investor does not incur capital gains taxes until the asset is sold. According to empirical evidence, this creates a “lock-in” effect where investors have an incentive to keep their capital invested in a particular asset when they might otherwise sell.

For example, investors may delay selling capital assets because they anticipate a change in government and a reversal back to the previous inclusion rate. This means the Trudeau government is likely overestimating the potential revenue gains from its capital gains tax hike, given that individual investors will adjust the timing of their asset sales in response to the tax hike.

Second, the lock-in effect creates a drag on economic growth as it incentivises investors to hold off selling their assets when they otherwise might, preventing capital from being deployed to its most productive use and therefore reducing growth.

And Canada’s growth prospects and investment climate have both been in decline. Canada currently faces the lowest growth prospects among all OECD countries in terms of GDP per person. Further, between 2014 and 2021, business investment (adjusted for inflation) in Canada declined by $43.7 billion. Hiking taxes on capital will make both pressing issues worse.

Contrary to the government’s framing—that this move only affects the wealthy—lagging business investment and slow growth affect all Canadians through lower incomes and living standards. Capital taxes are among the most economically-damaging forms of taxation precisely because they reduce the incentive to innovate and invest. And while taxes on capital do raise revenue, the economic costs exceed the amount of tax collected.

Previous governments in Canada understood these facts. In the 2000 federal budget, then-finance minister Paul Martin said a “key factor contributing to the difficulty of raising capital by new start-ups is the fact that individuals who sell existing investments and reinvest in others must pay tax on any realized capital gains,” an explicit acknowledgement of the lock-in effect and costs of capital gains taxes. Further, that Liberal government reduced the capital gains inclusion rate, acknowledging the importance of a strong investment climate.

At a time when Canada badly needs to improve the incentives to invest, the Trudeau government’s 2024 budget has introduced a damaging tax hike. In delivering the budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said “Canada, a growing country, needs to make investments in our country and in Canadians right now.” Individuals and businesses across the country likely agree on the importance of investment. Hiking capital gains taxes will achieve the exact opposite effect.

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