As almost everyone knows by now, Canada has some interesting challenges looming when it comes to transporting increasing oil production to markets both inside and outside of Canada. What many Canadians might not realize is how important oil exports are to Canada's economy, and how these exports may have become a crutch.
The tragedy in Nigeria is less about the oil itself than it is about failed governance. Without radical improvements in public policy, Nigeria will continue to be a poor destination for investment. That's bad for everyone. But don't blame the petroleum for the problems there -- blame the public policy.
Bombardier is a fine Canadian-based company and one hopes it prospers in the years ahead and employs even more people -- but without taxpayer assistance. Governments should not pick winners and losers with taxpayer money or prop up industries with funds from other sectors, companies and individuals.
Plenty of people will shamelessly demand government spend lots of extra money to "buy local," even if the cost is millions or billions of dollars more. This is daft. The notion that jobs in Canada come at the cost of employment in Japan, India, China or Germany, or vice-versa, is profoundly mistaken. Jobs can be created in one's own country and abroad at the same time.
As part of their struggle with budget realities and the growing cost of health care, Canada's provinces continue to work on bulk purchasing agreements for pharmaceuticals as a way to save money. Unfortunately, the recent release from the Council of the Federation (the council of Canada's premiers) suffers from the typical one-sided approach that characterizes much of the drug policy discussion. Yes, there are up front savings to be had. But there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Recently, I asked Industry Canada for information on disbursements to businesses since the early 1960s. The result of that request revealed the hollowness of one claim often advanced in support of subsidies to business: that "acorns" will grow to "oak trees." Instead, what is evident from the data is that many "oak trees" never stop asking for handouts.
Waiting is a defining characteristic of Canadian health care. Canadians wait, often interminably, for access to health care services. Canada's wait times are among the longest in the developed world. And, contrary to popular belief, Canada's terrible wait times are not the result of insufficient health care spending. In 2009 (the most recent year for which comparable statistics are available), Canada's health care system ranked as the developed world's most expensive universal-access system. The solution to Canada's waiting time woes is sensible health policy reform that would employ private competition in the delivery of universally accessible hospital and surgical services .
Health associations have long been calling for a "fat tax"; taxes on foods that some nutritionists and researchers don't want us to eat or drink. Unfortunately, the lack of sound thinking behind vilifying sugary drinks or less healthful snacks has not changed, nor has the blunt, imprecise, and unfair nature of a "junk food" or "sugary drink" tax. Overly simplistic solutions to obesity that vilify an industry or food product are bad public policy. The reality is that "junk food" taxes or sugary drink taxes are ineffective instruments that fail to recognize the complex and manifold causes of obesity. It's time we put the idea of such taxes in their rightful place: the junk bin.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has released a "windvision" plan for Alberta that, not-surprisingly calls for the province to build a lot more wind-power capacity. CanWEA suggests that while the province currently generates 1,100 Megawatts of wind-power, it could install nearly five times as much. Of course, they point out that Alberta's competitive energy system makes it hard to get wind-power construction financed. But they have a solution to that, calling on policymakers to institute a clean energy standard in Alberta, and asking them to hike Alberta's carbon tax.
Every year, provincial health care systems across Canada dutifully reduce the volume of services they provide in preparation for the summer vacation season. This planned-for reduction has the inevitable effect of lengthening waiting times for Canadians over the summer months (and during Christmas holidays). The added twist this year is the slowdowns might be extended in a bid to reduce expenditures.
The government has acted illegally. In British Columbia, the provincial branch of the government continually demands owners of property designated as archaeologically significant pay for archaeological work before any redevelopment can proceed. It's a government arm that deems archaeological finds as publicly significant and should not burden private property owners.
As governments here in Canada wrestle with the challenge of providing high-quality transportation infrastructure, they should increasingly consider public-private partnerships, or P3s. The record shows P3s are more likely to be built on time and on budget, and they offer greater value for money than conventional infrastructure projects.
In 2013, Canadians worked until June 10, which happens to be Tax Freedom Day, to pay all their taxes. Tax Freedom Day is an easy-to-understand measure of the total tax burden imposed on Canadian families by federal, provincial, and local governments. But the true tax burden doesn't end with the revenues that governments collect.