Saturday, March 29, 2008

Letter to the Editor, St. Catharines Standard


Re: Political attack ad is nothing more than graffiti, The Standard, March 26.

This letter by David Lewis, written in response to the seven billboards our association currently has running in St. Catharines in reference to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's handling of the income trust matter, contains a number of gross errors and false assumptions.

For Lewis to suggest that our paid billboard advertising is akin to graffiti is a patently false claim. Paid billboard advertising is not the equivalent of vandalsspray painting on private property. Graffiti is a criminal offence, as is causing property damage.

The only property damage involved in this matter is the $35 billion permanent loss of value that hard-working Canadians, including many retirees in St. Catharines, sustained as a result of Harper's capricious and reckless act of betrayal to double tax income trusts and double-cross Canadians saving for retirement.

As for the baseless claims that the author of these ads, our association, lacks integrity and credibility is another attempt to slander the good work we are doing on behalf of the 2.5 million Canadians who were aggrieved by this policy to double tax income trusts.

The party lacking in integrity and credibility is the Harper government, since it was they who promised to never tax income trusts and they who promised to usher in a new era of accountability and transparency - and that took the form of 18 pages of blacked out documents released under the Access to Information Act as the "proof" of alleged tax leakage.

Those 18 pages are more akin to graffiti than our paid billboards, as the 18 pages are a true blight on transparency and democracy.

Brent Fullard
President & CEO,
Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors
Yonge Street, Toronto

10 comments:

Dr Mike said...

Flaherty must be pissing in his oatmeal over the billboards since he has his attack dogs out for blood.

Attack dogs without the facts are about as effective as attack dogs without teeth & these boys are nothing but a bunch of "gummers".

If the signs are false , why has Mr Flaherty not sued us or made mention of them in parliament---or better still , provided the proof to the contrary.

As I said before , no teeth , no bite.

Dr Mike.

Joseph said...

Excellent Response - one of the best opinion rebuttals I've seen on any topic.

Kudos.

Tell us they did publish it?

Anonymous said...

Joseph asked: "Tell us they did publish it?"

Yes they did, see embedded link in article by clicking on:

Re: Political attack ad is nothing more than graffiti, The Standard, March 26.

Brent Fullard

Ron said...

So very typically Liberal -- cry, whine, complain and pout about Conservative negative advertising and then turn around and do it. I don't have a problem with the advertinsing (as long as you didn't steal taxpayers money to pay for it), or the content (nothing says negative advertising has to tell the truth)- I am curious though - Where are all the journalists and Liberal spokesman who yelled and screamed about the Conservative negative ads? I haven't heard from them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron:

Take your partisan blinders off.

This is not Liberal advertising.

It is CAITI advertising.

It is not attack advertising.

It is truth advertising. Attack advertising would be to say that Harper is not a leader.

This is truth advertising since Harper and Flaherty did indeed Lie. Conceal. Fabricate.

No two ways about it.

First they lied by promising the would never tax income trusts if elected to office, which they promptly reversed. Second they concealed the basis upon which they claimed that income trusts cause tax leakage, and third they fabricated the basis on which they allege that income trusts cause tax leakage by arbitrarily leaving out the massive taxes paid on the 38% of income trusts held in retirement savings plan.

Brent Fullard

Dr Mike said...

Ron

How did you come to the determination that CAITI is affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada--we are totally non-partisan.

We do agree with the Liberal position that the Tax must be changed.

We do agree with the Liberals that a Public inquiry must be held into the income trust policy as set down by the Conservatives.

We do agree with the Liberals that the Auditor General must look into the very heart of the Tax Fairness Plan to determine to what extent or if Tax leakage does occur.

The Green Party has also agreed to follow the same pathway.

We are happy to have these parties on board with us.

A lot of us are Conservative supporters who feel we have been wronged.

All we are doing is looking for the truth.

Any government worth it`s weight in salt would acknowledge our concerns & would follow thru to show us if we are wrong.

Until now , the government has done nothing in this vain.

Also , they have done nothing to tell us to lose the signs--this gov`t will sue at the drop of the hat if they think they are right--the fact they have done nothing in this case , makes us all the more sure it is us who are right.

Dr Mike.

Robert Gibbs said...

Brent:

Excellent article and many thanks...again.

Regards,

Robert Gibbs

Robert Gibbs said...

The Hill Times, March 31st, 2008

By Simon Doyle

Income trust lobby not giving up, looking to next election

The Canadian Association of Income Trusts isn't slowing down its attacks on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, renting out 25 large billboards in his riding of Whitby-Oshawa, Ont., and viewing the next federal election with some sense of opportunity.

The billboards focus on Mr. Flaherty's Halloween 2006 decision to tax income trusts after Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) promised that he wouldn't do so in the 2005-06 election campaign.

They show Mr. Flaherty accompanied by captions such as "C'mon up to Jim Flaherty's great Canadian giveaway sale" (a reference to the so-called hollowing out of corporate Canada); quotes such as "I don't fix potholes" and "Too cute by half"; or the statement, "Jim Flaherty's income splitting only benefits 14% of seniors ... himself included." The billboards also direct viewers to the website JimHadHisChance.ca, which attacks Mr. Flaherty for having "not one but two chances to destroy the economy."

The campaign is led by Brent Fullard, head of CAITI, which formed after the income trust decision, and it's one of the most aggressive and well-financed lobby efforts in recent memory. The association, representing heavy-hitting trusts such as Acuity Funds Ltd., CI Investments, and Dynamic Funds, as well as the Coalition of Canadian Energy Trusts, a group of major oil and gas trusts, spent about $1-million last year between January and May, mostly on advertising and billboards.

It's now spending $30,000 per month on about 35 billboards that come in anticipation of a federal election. Twenty-five of them are in Mr. Flaherty's riding, and about another 10 are appearing in the ridings of Conservative MPs Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, Ont.) and Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, Ont.), both of who sit on the House Standing Committee on Finance.

Mr. Dykstra and Mr. Del Mastro both won their seats by slim margins in the 2006 election (four per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively). The association hasn't targeted Conservative MP Mike Wallace (Burlington, Ont.), also a member of the Finance Committee, apparently because it hasn't got around to it—yet.

Mr. Fullard said he does not know whether the billboards are having an impact, but said they are contributing to people's knowledge about the income trust decision. He pointed to a recent CPAC interview (which he distributed to reporters) with Deborah Meredith, the Conservative candidate for Vancouver Quadra, who said that as she was going door-to-door, she heard complaints about the income trust decision and that it could affect her fortunes in the March 17 byelections (she lost by 150 votes behind the winning Liberal candidate, Joyce Murray).

Mr. Fullard said the interview is evidence that the issue is a latent one that will resurface in the next campaign. "It's like an open wound that hasn't healed," he said.

CAITI is likely to be active in the next federal election campaign, he said, but at that time it will be limited by Elections Canada's third-party advertising spending limits.

"The most that we can spend after the writ is dropped is $150,000 in total and I think it's $3,000 per riding. That won't get you very far," Mr. Fullard said. He wouldn't say what the association has in store during the election, but added: "We won't be doing nothing, I can tell you that."

Dan Miles, Mr. Flaherty's communications director, told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Flaherty's constituency office has not received any calls about the issue, and that the government stands strongly behind a tax decision that is now law and that leveled the playing field between trusts and corporations.

"It's regrettable that they can't move on," Mr. Miles said. When asked if the campaign is having an impact, he said: "There's 25 billboards across the riding and we haven't received one call ... It's clearly something that is not top of mind for people in the Durham region."

Another Ontario Conservative told The Hill Times: "I don't think Jim's losing any sleep over it, as a matter of fact I'm sure of it. I'm sure he'd love to go a couple of rounds with these guys in a debate situation."

Mr. Fullard said that he's not urging people to vote for a party other than the Conservatives. He said he's "just trying to explain people who it is who represents them in Ottawa and the many adverse positions he's taken."

Critics have suggested that the attacks are too personal against Mr. Flaherty, to which Mr. Fullard responded: "Who else am I going to hold to account? His secretary? ... If you don't hold people to account, what do you hold to account?"

sdoyle@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

Robert Gibbs said...

The Hill Times, March 31st, 2008

Flaherty's strategy: shape Liberals as poor managers of economy

Tories are building up economic management as a wedge issue. Flaherty's attacks on McGuinty fall into the long-term strategy.

By Simon Doyle

Conservative insiders say Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's unusual but calculated political broadside against Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has several motivations, ranging from personal antagonism to ideological differences, but that his overall strategy is to shape a long-term view of the Liberals as poor managers of the economy.

Observers note that the Conservatives are in the process of building up economic management as a wedge issue between themselves and the Liberals—both provincially and federally—and Mr. Flaherty's attacks on Mr. McGuinty fall into the strategy. Indeed, one Ontario Conservative strategist told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Flaherty's strategy is a long-term one in which his criticism of Mr. McGuinty's provincial budget will have far more relevance about a year from now, when the federal Conservative government could be tabling a budget framed by a slumping economy.

"I'm not sure that they're so worried about it today or tomorrow, but I think they're probably thinking a year from now, what they'll be able to say," the Tory strategist said.

Another Ontario Conservative said Mr. Flaherty's attacks on Mr. McGuinty are unorthodox but "very calculated." The source pointed out that most economists agree with Mr. Flaherty's assessment of the Ontario economy, and that his strategy is to bring attention to Mr. McGuinty's handling of the economy amid what Conservatives see as the hypocrisy in Ontario's call for bailout money.

In January, Mr. McGuinty criticized the Conservative government's $1-billion relief fund for one-industry towns, which provided $350-million for Ontario over three years. Mr. McGuinty said the funding was not enough.

"The Ontario government, in the past six years, has not been tending the store, in terms of creating a good environment to attract and hold investment," the Ontario Tory said. "I think he [Mr. Flaherty] really is offended by McGuinty's attempt to shift bailout responsibility to Ottawa, when it's just not wise to bail out industries that are failing because they're not competitive. Ford isn't selling cars."

In a move that some observers called unprecedented, Mr. Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ont.), Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) regional political minister, last week held a news conference in Toronto the day before the release of the Ontario provincial budget, calling on Premier McGuinty to cut corporate taxes to stimulate economic investment.

"We run the risk, unless there's stimulus in the Ontario economy by way of tax reduction, of becoming a 'have-not' province over time—and not a long time," Mr. Flaherty told reporters in Toronto on March 24.

It was not the first time Mr. Flaherty had called on Mr. McGuinty to do so. He has been taking aim at Ontario in speeches delivered across the country, recently telling an audience in Halifax, N.S., that, "If you're going to make a new business investment in Canada, and you're concerned about taxes, the last place you will go is the province of Ontario."

Two weeks ago, while in Toronto to announce $350-million for 400 hybrid transit buses for the city, Mr. Flaherty requested an editorial board meeting with the Sun Media, and made headlines when he said that Ontario could become a "have not" province, that is, a recipient of the federal government's equalization program, "within two or three years if corrective measures are not taken."

The economy is quickly shaping up as a political issue as opinion polls show that Canadians are increasingly concerned about its health and as the Bank of Canada and private sector economists say the impact of the U.S. recession will have a more significant impact on Canada than expected. The impact will be felt particularly hard in Ontario, a province that depends on its exports, and whose expected growth rate for 2008 is its lowest since 1992.

Last week's Ontario budget did not include the corporate tax cuts Mr. Flaherty called for, instead offering targeted funding for education and skills training for displaced workers; money for innovation, infrastructure and social programs; and targeted business tax cuts with a view to improving competitiveness.

The budget also sped up the elimination of capital taxes for manufacturers, accelerated capital cost allowances, and introduced an Ontario Innovation Tax Credit for small and medium-sized corporations. Much of the budget was geared toward helping Ontario manufacturing, a sector that has seen tens of thousands of layoffs in the last few years.

In an unusual move last week, the federal government sent Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.)—considered something of a political pinch hitter for the Prime Minister's Office—down to Queen's Park in Toronto to criticize the Ontario budget.

Greg Lyle, managing director of the Innovative Research polling firm in Toronto, said that Mr. Flaherty may be thinking as far ahead as 18 months from now, to October 2009, when the Tories have scheduled the next fixed federal election date. The long-term strategy, he said, appears to be one of building up a perception of who is the best manager of the economy—the Conservatives or the Liberals.

"The answer of building a wedge on the economy against the Liberals makes a lot of sense," Mr. Lyle said. In the next federal election, if the Canadian economy appears to be going down the tubes, the Conservatives can point to Ontario and say that they were urging Mr. McGuinty to "the right thing," not the "most popular thing," in introducing corporate tax cuts.

"We may not be doing the most popular thing, but we're doing the right thing, and when you see Ontario sucking wind compared to the rest of the country, you'll see we were right," Mr. Lyle said, suggesting the Tory thinking.

Mr. Lyle, formerly a senior staffer to Ontario premier Mike Harris and the B.C. provincial Liberals, said that although Mr. Flaherty is now widely criticized for his criticism of Mr. McGuinty, voters will a year from now forget where the original attacks came from in the same way that they forgot about the Conservative Party's original attack ads on Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion (Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Que.).

"Other communications will play upon [the first one], and you remember that last communication, not the first one," Mr. Lyle said.

Observers note that Mr. Flaherty also has a personal history of taking on the provincial Liberals, having served as finance minister under Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris, and where his fiscal record was far from laudable.

Conservatives similarly note that there is a personal element to the feud between Mr. Flaherty and Mr. McGuinty, given Mr. McGuinty's steady criticism of the federal Conservative government on issues ranging from relief for Ontario's auto sector to criticizing the federal government's House of Commons seat redistribution bill. Just last month, for instance, Mr. McGuinty criticized the Harper government for taking a laissez faire approach to the economy.

"They've been bad-mouthing the Conservative government since it was elected. They don't do it as vociferously, but there is never a good word out of Queen's Park or Toronto City Hall," an Ontario Conservative told The Hill Times last week.

The Conservative added that Mr. Flaherty is motivated in part by personal principles, and believes strongly in the Irish model of minimal corporate taxes, especially for exporters. "I think Flaherty really does love the Irish model," the Tory said. "He does have his vision of getting every Canadian province to 10 per cent."

Pollster Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research in Ottawa, told The Hill Times last week that the Conservatives appear to be inoculating themselves from a potential slide in the economy by effectively shifting the focus from themselves to the Ontario government. The attack on Mr. McGuinty also sets the groundwork for a transition to an attack on the federal Liberals. The federal Tories, he said, are likely to go after Liberal MP Bob Rae's (Toronto Centre, Ont.) record in Ontario as the NDP premier.

"The Conservative position could very likely be, 'You might not like us, but it's very risky to elect St├ęphane Dion and the Liberals in these turbulent economic times,'" Mr. Nanos said. "I see them laying the groundwork for future attacks."

However, Mr. Nanos said that Mr. Flaherty's comments about Ontario not being a good place to invest do not go over well in the province, and that Mr. Flaherty may well have handed the federal Liberals material for future attack ads. "I think that particular comment is really the one vulnerability that the Conservatives have on this issue," he said.

Federal Liberals reacted with sharp criticism of Mr. Flaherty last week. Liberal MP Scott Simms (Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld. and Labrador) told The Hill Times that he challenges Mr. Poilievre to travel to Newfoundland for the release of the provincial budget, daring him to criticize Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.

"I'm looking at the situation between Flaherty and McGuinty, and I'm absolutely flabbergasted. I mean the nerve of these people," Mr. Simms said by phone. "Where's Pierre Poilievre? Come on down to Newfoundland and take on Danny Williams. Let's see how they do then."

Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), the brother of Premier McGuinty, similarly told The Hill Times last week that he challenges Mr. Flaherty to go to Quebec, the day before it releases its provincial budget, and criticize Liberal Premier Jean Charest. Mr. McGuinty said he believes Mr. Flaherty is in trouble because he has "spent the cupboard bare" with corporate tax cuts, spending, and cutting the GST.

"They've got everybody fighting with everybody, and public services are hugely compromised," Mr. McGuinty said. "The guy comes to Ottawa, inherits massive surpluses. He pisses it all away. He cuts the GST foolishly by two per cent when everybody tells him not to do it. He spends the cupboard bare at a time when he knows we're going into troubled times."

David McGguinty congratulated the federal and Ontario governments for reaching a $706-million deal later last week on funding for public transit, community development programs, and police recruitment, which appeared to calm relations somewhat. David McGuinty said that working behind the scenes to accomplish such agreements is how Mr. Flaherty should be operating now in his criticism of how to handle the Ontario economy.

Mr. Nanos said the Liberals have polled ahead of the Conservatives in the province in all of his firm's surveys since the start of the last federal election. But he added: "I don't think we can underestimate the potential impact of a pocketbook issue like the economy."

sdoyle@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

Robert Gibbs said...

In-House Memos Warn Harper

Environment. 'Government ignoring own advice.'

MIKE DE SOUZA, Canwest News Service

March 31, 2008

The Harper government was warned last year by its own experts on the environment that Canada would have to join an aggressive international campaign to fight global warming to avoid "substantial global and Canadian" effects or risk irreversible damage to the planet.

The warning is contained in newly released memorandums sent in June 2007 by Brian Gray, head of Environment Canada's Science and Technology branch, to the department's deputy minister.

The documents, obtained by Canwest News Service, were delivered days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a summit of major industrialized countries hosted by Germany.

The summit sought consensus for an international agreement to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Harper recognized the threat of climate change at the meeting, but his government has never taken a stance on Gray's warnings that allowing average temperatures to rise over a sustained period by two degrees could drastically affect the world.

Severe climate change could lead to sea level rises or major reconfigurations of coastlines around the world, a displacement of vast numbers of people, and increased human mortality rates.

The documents highlighted warnings from scientific research that up to 30 per cent of all plant and animal species could be wiped out after crossing a "tipping point" for average temperatures.

"The irreversible nature of extinction makes this impact of particular concern," reads one of the memorandums, released to the environmental research group Pembina Institute under the Access to Information Act.

"Current scientific knowledge indicates that if serious risks such as the extinction of significant numbers of species globally or a sea level rise of seven metres from the irreversible melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet are to be avoided, then it would be desirable to avoid a global temperature increase of greater than approximately 2C above pre-industrial (levels)."

Canada has already seen its average temperatures warm by 1.3C over the past 59 years, nearly twice the global average, the documents said.

Although the Harper government has told the international community in negotiations that global emissions should be cut in half by 2050, the documents warn that even an 80-per-cent cut might not be enough to avoid crossing a dangerous threshold.

Clare Demerse, a climate policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, said the warnings demonstrate that the government is isolating itself on the international stage without considering the scientific evidence.

She said she hopes the government would reverse course at a United Nations climate change meeting that begins today in Thailand.

"Unfortunately, Canada's government is continuing to ignore the advice of its own climate experts," Demerse said. "The UN negotiations this week in Bangkok give Canada an opportunity to reverse its reputation as an international climate laggard. Accepting the two-degree limit - as these briefing notes suggest - would be a very important first step."

The documents said the warnings and predictions were based on computer simulations and peer-reviewed research that was assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and produced in part by Canada's top climate change experts.

The panel was set up nearly 20 years ago by governments from around the world to evaluate scientific research and compile policy-relevant information for decision-makers.

"On the basis of current scientific understanding, as represented by the recently released IPCC Fourth Assessment reports, it is clear that substantial global and Canadian impacts can be expected for a global average temperature increase above 2C relative to the pre-industrial value," the document said.

Eric Richer, a spokesperson for Environment Minister John Baird, said he was not able to comment on whether the government agreed with all the conclusions listed in the memorandums without examining them in detail.

The Gazette (Montreal) 2008