Tag Archives: taxes

TWIM: Dion’s carbon tax idea

Somehow, despite working 42 hours this week, I managed to put together another bluffer’s guide, for the Liberal carbon tax plan. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion calls it Green Shift, which I guess is not to be confused with this Green Shift. From the video, it seems to have something to do with stock photos of plants and animals, combined with people in suits clapping awkwardly in a white room.

The 48-page plan (PDF), which ironically wastes quite a bit of space by having blank pages and one-word all-green title pages, explains far more details than non-Liberal politicians would have liked, because now they can’t attack Dion for being unclear.

That doesn’t mean they won’t attack the Liberals though. The Tories have already setup a they-think-it’s-funny website mocking Dion and his plan, saying everyone but the tooth fairy and leprechauns will have to pay more taxes as a result of it.

Basically all you need to know about the plan is this:

  • It would tax polluting fossil fuels and cut income taxes to balance the money difference
  • It exempts gasoline, because politicians are too scared to admit that high gas prices help the environment when suburban soccer moms are griping about how much money it takes to fill up their SUVs. This makes the plan useless for its intended purpose.
  • It’s a Liberal plan, and the Liberals have to become the government and get support from a majority of MPs before they can implement it.


Montreal is pressuring Quebec to approve a 1% municipal sales tax so that cities can get a piece of the lucrative extra charges tacked onto our purchases, just days after the federal GST got reduced from 6% to 5%.

I hope this isn’t a selective thing, in which some cities will charge different tax rates from others. That would be a recipe for disaster and rampant loophole-exploitation.

Instead, perhaps the provincial government should increase the provincial sales tax by one point, and put that money into something important like health care.

UPDATE (Jan. 8): No dice, Quebec says.

Wanna buy Mitch Melnick’s house?

Mitch Melnick, of the Team 990 fame (and his blog), is apparently in trouble with the city of Westmount (via Media in Montreal). Last month, the city ordered his home on Hallowell Street to be sold at auction (PDF) in January for non-payment of taxes.

Unless Melnick pays his back taxes by then (and really, these kinds of things are more threats than anything else), his home and others on the list will be up to the highest bidder on Jan. 30. You’ll have to pay a hefty price though, the city has it pegged at $579,600.

Vaillancourt getting greedy

Vaillancourt needs MORE METRO!

Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, apparently not satisfied that the Quebec government spent more than his city’s entire annual budget building a metro extension of questionable worth there, wants even more money to close the loop of the Orange Line.

That’s kind of ballsy.

His arguments are as follows:

  • Laval’s population is growing: Yes, but the area around the Laval metro stations is still pretty vacant. Extensions of the blue and yellow lines would be through much more highly-populated areas that are in more desperate need of high-density transit.
  • The metro costs less per person, saving money: I don’t know where he gets his figures, but I’m guessing it’s based on operational costs, not construction costs. Building a metro to nowhere won’t pay for itself.
  • The current extension is a huge success: Its ridership numbers were a bit higher than an arbitrary conservative estimate pulled out of someone’s ass. Meanwhile, the project was almost an order of magnitude over budget. I don’t call this a success.
  • Closing the orange line loop would simplify many transit trips: Almost all Laval bus routes terminate at either the Montmorency or Cartier metro stations, funneling passengers onto metro cars. Creating a western connection would only split that traffic. It wouldn’t add another 40,000 riders to the system.
  • It’s environmentally friendly, and we need to get more cars of the road: In that case, I’m sure you’ll have no problem taking all that cash that’s building a new bridge along the Highway 25 axis and putting it into metro development instead.

Vaillancourt says he wants a dedicated tax for the extension. I agree. But I think he should be the one implementing it. If Laval wants a redundant metro extension for no particularly good reason, they can pay for it themselves.

UPDATE (Dec. 13): The Gazette’s Jim Mennie sees this as a shot across the bow in a battle between Laval and Montreal. And an editorial plagiarizes agrees with my main points.

No geographic tax breaks, except these geographic tax breaks

Hey, remember last week when the city, receiving complaints from businesses along St. Laurent Blvd. that construction was running them out of business, refused to consider tax breaks because they couldn’t legally offer them on the basis of geography? (“If we give one, we will have to give one to everybody.”)

This week, the City of Montreal has announced a $60-million new “business subsidy” program, called réussir@Montréal, which would offer tax breaks for companies who expand or renovate (allowing them to not pay taxes on the increase in property value for a few years).

Here’s where it gets interesting:

The remaining $12 million of the funds would be available to merchant associations on some commercial streets the city wants to revitalize. The money would go to facade renovations and for the association to prepare a business plan.

St. Laurent Blvd. is one of the streets that would be eligible, executive committee member Alan DeSousa said. Other streets include Fleury St. in Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough and Monkland Ave. in Cote des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grace.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that sound like a geographically-targetted tax break?

Please leave your bags at the tax office

Plastic bag
“A Plastic Bag” by currybet

Quebec is considering a $0.20 per bag tax on plastic shopping bags. The intent is to cut down on their production, use and disposal.

I’m in favour of reducing the use of these bags. I have a green basket I use when doing grocery shopping. Those few bags I do use get reused to hold what little garbage I produce, and any which aren’t usable get recycled.

I’m even in favour of charging for bags. Something small, like $0.05 per bag, won’t make a big difference to the people who burn through money, but it might make some think twice about double-bagging that milk or using an extra one for the can of concentrated orange juice.

But I’m not crazy about the idea of a tax, that benefits neither the consumer nor the retailer, encouraging both to find a way around it. There’s an (admittedly self-serving) opinion in the Toronto Star which explains some of the cons to such a tax. Basically it comes down to the fact that people need something to carry their groceries in. In some cases this means finding loopholes — those bags which for some technical reason aren’t subject to the tax, and may be worse for the environment.

That’s basically my issue. We need an alternative. The green baskets are great, but they have a high initial cost (around $5), and you need to lug them around. The re-usable bags also require forethought, and might not be sufficient to carry a week’s worth of groceries. Their use should be encouraged beyond the $0.05 per bill rebate that Loblaws offers, but it’s not a complete solution. What about smaller stores? What about department stores like Wal-Mart? What about those clear bags we put fruit in? What about all that excessive packaging that’s used on electronics?

That, combined with the fact that plastic bags still seem to be the method a lot of places use as proof of purchase.

Once we handle these things, then we can talk about drastic measures to reduce bags. In the meantime, I don’t get why stores don’t charge a small amount per bag, and offer more incentives for people to bring their own bags (like, say, ending the policy of everyone having to surrender their bags at the cash when they enter).

UPDATE: The Gazette’s Max Harrold has some man-on-the-street reaction to the idea.