Friday, January 11, 2008

Will the Toronto Star ever find its inner Woodward/Bernstein?

Although belatedly, I am pleased to see that the Toronto Star has finally found its inner conscience on the income trust issue with today’s acknowledgment by Carol Goar of:

“Then there was the income trust fiasco. Harper's contradictory signals left investors reeling and seniors clutching shrunken nest eggs.”

Actually it is most charitable and diplomatic of the Toronto Star to refer to Harper’s signal as being contradictory. There was nothing contradictory about it whatsoever, when Harper pandered far and wide with the promise: ”You know where the Liberals stand on raiding seniors nest egss. A conservative government will never let that happen. A conservative government will never tax income trusts.” If that wasn’t clear enough, then there was the Harper Editorial of October 26, 2005 in the National Post entitled "Questioning income trusts puts seniors at risk" and that little thing called pages 8 and 32 of the Conservative’s 2006 Campaign platform.

Now that the Star seems to have found its inner conscience. Can it find its inner mind? Can it find its inner Woodward/Bernstein, since when it comes to the Government's allegation of tax leakage, the question still remains, Where’s the proof? In the absence of proof where are the Woodward/Bernsteins who are in pursuit of the truth. ? In 2008, there are still inquiring minds that need to know the answers to mere assertions made by governments

If the Toronto Star actually believe that government’s should be transparent and accountable, them i'ts time for the Star to join in the Green Party’s call for a Public Inquiry into alleged tax leakage and to report on the following Liberal motion before the Finance Committee:

"That this committee as soon as possible launch an inquiry into the unproven allegation by the Finance Minister that income trusts result in a loss of tax revenue to Ottawa, in light of reports that 70% iof all recent trust purchasers are tax-exempt, while individual Canadian investors lost tens of billions of dollars, and therefore pay less tax, as a result of the government trust decision."

The Toronto Star has recently taken a strong editorial stance on dealing with poverty. I have news for the Toronto Star: The trust tax is taking matter in the opposite direction. Unlike the reporters and staff of the Toronto Star, 75% of Canadians don't have pensions and need to preserve essential investment options like income trusts. The resultant loss of income from this policy isn't confined merely to parties directly affected, but adversely affects all Canadians through the loss of $1.4 billion in ANNUAL taxes to date from takeovers. $793 million a year is from BCE’s alone, which can be averted by the CRTC’s preference for the Catalyst Proposal .

I recommend that you let the Editor of the Star’s Editorial page know your thoughts. Bob Hepburn at

When I met with the Editorial Board of the Toronto Star on April 12, 2007 I was completely unimpressed when they actually were defending the issuance of 18 pages of blacked out documents as evidence of tax leakage.

Subsequent events to that meeting, such as the raft of foreign takeovers of trusts like the $5 billion takeover of Prime West Energy Trust by middle eastern oil giant Abu Dhabi Energy and the resultant loss of taxes from the similar 40 trust takeovers should have motivated them to swallow their misguided pride and find their inner Woodward/Bernsteins. However that presupposes that knowing the truth still counts with the Toronto Star, even though there's no doubting that the truth still matters dearly to its readers.

Here was the e-mail I sent as a follow up to that meeting:

Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2007 20:17:23 -0500
Subject: Jack Mintz Quote


Thank you for the opportunity of meeting with the Editorial Board of the Toronto Star. In our meeting today and in response to a question that you raised with me, I made reference to correspondence I received from Jack Mintz that directly contradicts what he is saying in the public and the basis upon which the tax leakage numbers he has been advancing in the public have been based. Here is what he confided to me in an e-mail dated November 28, 2006:

“I do want to point out that there is a serious flaw in some analyses especially on the taxation of pension and RRSP accounts. Finance was not right to treat the impact as zero”

As I pointed out to you, this is the very basis upon which “tax leakage” turns. Wrongly excluding these taxes results in tax leakage. Correctly including them results in tax neutrality. Attached is a press release issued by Dennis Bruce of HLB Decision Economics following the testimony he gave at the Public Hearings. The operative phrase is: "While federal budgeting is done on a current basis, federal policy analysis is done on a life-cycle basis. Accounting for the life-cycle effects of tax changes, namely deferred taxes, is appropriate in the consideration of tax policy."


Dr Mike said...

“I do want to point out that there is a serious flaw in some analyses especially on the taxation of pension and RRSP accounts. Finance was not right to treat the impact as zero”
by Jack Mintz.

A very telling statement--one that surely should have been challenged by the Star journalists.

This statement suggests to me that Mr Mintz suspects the Pension & RRSP accounts were not the only source of a problem--he used the word "especially "to single out this one aspect of what he suggests by using the the term , to be one of several problems that did exist.

So where were the media "diggers"in all this--these guys used to be real hounds when there was a whiff of a possible story.

Was it because the cause was not glamorous enough??

Was it because news people are not as ambitious as they used to be in the glory days of the media.

Was it because the trust debacle represented a bunch of old folks who were thought to be too rich in the first place.

Or was it because someone said "don`t go there".

Whatever the reason , it appears that times have changed--the media is no longer the defender of it`s readers--it has become the whipping boy for the corporate owners & has become a platform for them to manipulate governments for their own agendas.

Robert & Carl --where were your Canadian counterparts when we needed them.


Robert Gibbs said...

'Tis true what you say Brent and Dr Mike.

For the most part, it appears the Canadian media, perhaps save and except the CBC, have devolved into simply reporting "he said-she said" statements, while adding their own apparently partisan or self-interest comments.

It's much easier and less costly to simply report these unchecked opinions than it is to perform actual investigative journalism.

Additionally, just as with many political parties, corporations and other organizations, there are also overriding "philosophies" promulgated on down from the upper echelons that either explicitly or implicitly dictate the content and flavour of chosen stories, to say nothing of whether the story is even investigated or reported upon.

Witness the recent refusal of both the Globe And Mail and the National Post to publish the op-ed article of October 31, 2007 by Dennis Bruce of HDR|HLB Decision Economics Inc that Brent told us about in his post of November 30, 2007.

As Brent asked: "What are they afraid of apart from the truth?"