Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Alberta Does Not Have The Lowest Taxes In Canada!

I wonder how many people have bothered to run the numbers on taxes in Canada. I doubt that many have. A lot of people take it on faith that Alberta, at a 10% flat rate, has the lowest taxes in Canada. The fact is, though, that Alberta doesn't rank #1 in any income group. It ranks #1 if you are a corporation, but only #4 of you are a small business.

Here is how Alberta ranks in terms of having the lowest taxes on Canada:

Personal exemption: #1

Small business: #4

Corporations: Tied for #1 with BC and New Brunswick

Income levels
$30k: #5

$50k: #6

$75k: #6

$100k: #5

$200k: #2

Sales Tax: Tied for #1 with NWT, Nunavut and Yukon

When Jim Prentice brings back health care premiums in his budget on March 26, he will make Alberta nowhere near the lowest taxed jurisdiction in Canada. And of course, the middle class will hurt the most, as usual. Will royalty rates be touched? Nope. Corporate taxes? Nope.

But hey, its the people of Alberta who matter, right?

But that's just the way I see it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why Albertans Should Oppose Health Care Premiums

With the price of oil now hovering around $50 a barrel and the Province of Alberta dearly wishing it had given more credence to the advice to diversify its economy, Premier Jim Prentice has some tough choices to make.

Based on the government's budget of last year the price sensitivity with respect to revenue is $215 million per dollar. If true, then the difference between what that budget forecasted for oil ($95/barrel) is $9.675 billion. The government is estimating that the hole is smaller than that, around $7 billion. So how will they make up that shortfall? Judging by the trial balloons being floated one of the methods they are seriously contemplating is bringing back health care premiums. I'm going to tell you why you should oppose that and call your MLA (assuming you have a government one) and tell them so.

1. Health Care Premiums Always Went To General Revenue
Calling health care premiums "health care premiums" is dishonest unless the money is targeted towards health care. When we had those premiums before the money went into general revenue. There is no guarantee of increased funding for health care or better service. In spite of calls for "sustainable funding" from the Alberta Medical Associations, the numbers show that public health in Alberta has been a money pit for a long time with more and more money going into it without results. Perhaps there is a structural issue there?

2. Health Care Premiums Are A Huge Tax Increase
Remember what health care premiums used to cost? The average family paid over $1000 a year in premiums. That was in 2009. Care to have your taxes increase by $100 a month? That's a massive tax grab.

3. It's Bad Policy
If health premiums are going to go to general revenue then why not just increase the income tax? Why have the administrative burden of two different taxes by two different names? Bringing in a massive tax increase that is disingenuously labeled is a really, really bad idea.

4. Alberta Spends Too Much
Alberta only lags behind Quebec in per capita spending among Canada's larger provinces. Alberta spends more per capita on healthcare, doctors, nurses, public servants and K-12 education than any other Province. Is there any grander strategy here? Does n't look like it. Maybe focus on education at all levels rather than having the funding per student drop in half between K-12 and post-secondary? How about an audit of actual health providers like nurses? Are they too scared to ask them how hospitals should be run? I think they are. Too many leather chairs, not enough actual care.

5. Alberta's Resource Royalties Are Too Low
There's competitive and then there's ridiculous. Taxing Albertans but not corporations? Single Albertans and families taking the whole burden, but oil companies get away with comparatively low royalty rates? Really, if the pain is coming, it should be shared by all, not shouldered by just some of us.

If the health premiums keep getting floated, we all ought to fight them tooth and nail. Call your MLA!

But that's just the way I see it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

6 Things You Should Know About Your Facebook Posts

Most people I know are on Facebook. But not everyone I know is on my Facebook friends list. Some people I don't have on Facebook because I don't think it's smart for me to have them. Others I don't have because I only know them in a professional way, so I keep them on LinkedIn instead. Finally, there are some whom I am not friends with on Facebook because I unfriended them either because I didn't converse with them ever, or because they simply annoyed the shit out of me. This leads me to the 6 things you should know about your Facebook posts.

1. Not all of your friends will see your post.
You may not realize this, but some of your friends have your posts blocked from their news feed. You simply don't show up. It's their way of unfriending you without risking you noticing and getting offended. What? you thought that friend with 780 other friends is paying attention?

2. Nobody gives a shit about your workout.
Posting about how awesome your workout was will lead to people doing what they do in #1, above. In the end, nobody is impressed with how long your run was, how many reps you did with how many pounds or how sore you are now.

3. When you send game requests your friends hate you.
Sending out requests to play Candy Crush Sage, Farmville or any other game on Facebook is as good as saying "please unfriend me…please!" It is annoying. You are annoying.

4. When people say "Aw! That's so cute" they don't mean it.
Your friends really don't want to see pictures of your kid puking on the floor, torturing your cat, or slopping food all over a high chair. But in order to stay in your good graces they post that it's cute and then hide it from their news feed forever. It's true.

5. People roll their eyes when you post sentimental bullshit.
Posting pictures of clouds with some pseudo-intellectual semi-inspirational saying on it makes people throw up in their mouths just a little bit. Posting things like "A friend is…." makes people ditch you on Facebook.

6. You look stupid when you post superstitious nonsense.
"Re-post this 20 times and good luck with come to you" is so obviously ridiculous that your friends think, "Jeebus, he/she must be desperate/stupid to resort to doing that". Yes, they really think that about you.

You can call me negative if you want, but somebody had to say it.

But that's just the way I see it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Let The Travel Gouging Begin!

If you're like me, you take a vacation every year. Traveling can be expensive at the best of times, but an annual vacation is a healthy thing to do. After all, the last thing I want to do when I'm in the end of days is to look back with regret and wish I had done this or that. My wife and I have taken to having a yearly Mexican slothiday. I am seeing some disturbing trends, however, that will likely force us to scale back some of our travel plans for the foreseeable future.

We usually book early for a winter getaway. Most often the vacation packages to sunny locales for the winter go on sale in late spring or early summer. I was surprised to see that not even two weeks after returning home this year the packages for next winter were already on sale. Since my wife and I enjoy getting pampered when we fly south, we try to make sure we get in and get the seats we want early. But I'm not interested in throwing down deposits on a trip a year in advance.

I have found that booking early has never been a mistake, price-wise. The price of my package has never gone down during the summer, fall or early winter. It's only the last few weeks that see the price drop significantly. I'm not interested in gambling like that, so I book in spring. What has me in shock isn't so much that they are selling so early, it's that the prices are more than 20% more than they were the previous year. The excuse given for that? The decline in the Canadian dollar. To this I say, "bullshit!". Here's why:

If you take a look at what goes into your vacation package you can piece out what parts are paid for in which currency. Your resort in Mexico pays its employees and suppliers in Mexican pesos. However the Canadian dollar hasn't dropped in relation to the Mexican peso. It's almost exactly where it was a year ago. 12 pesos to the dollar.

The flight crews, pilots, ground crews, and most fees are paid in Canadian dollars, which is obviously static in relation to itself.

The fuel for the aircraft is bought in American dollars. The American dollar is 20% more expensive to buy with Canadian dollars, which is the excuse for the price hikes. However, the price of oil is half of what it was last year. So a 20% increase in the cost of the American dollar, but a 50% drop in the price of oil.

Your sunny vacation package for next year should actually be somewhat cheaper than this winter's prices. Yet the prices are more expensive. Why? Simple. Airlines are pocketing the difference in fuel, but passing along the increase in the American dollar. They are doing it for flights and packages in every corner of the market. And that's called gouging, and it is supposed to be illegal. Do I think our Conservative government will do a damned thing about the airlines doing this? Well, you can wish in one hand….

But that's just the way I see it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jay's Awesome 2015 New Year's Resolutions

Those of you who are fortunate enough to know me personally will know that 2014 wasn't the easiest year for me. In fact, I'll be happy to see the back of it. But being the positive kind of guy that I am, I continue to look forward. While I am a super awesome, handsome, charming and talented man, one can always get better. So here are the ways I want to improve in 2015:

1. Be a better drinker.
This past summer I did something I haven't done in a dozen years: I got drunk enough to vomit. That can't ever happen again. Drinking is something that grown ups do in good regulation; puking on booze is something kids do. This year I will continue to master the art of riding that wave.

2. Be less forgiving.
I know what you're thinking, but sometimes people can be too nice. I feel like I fall in that category. If you continually let people get away with bad behavior, you're just an enabler. This year I will crush my enemies and see them driven before me. You know the rest.

3. Be more money-grubbing.
This one encompasses a few things. I have a bad habit of spending money while I'm making money. That has to stop. That was a resolution from a previous year that I'm giving myself a do-over on. I also intend to make more money this year. Doing that will involve some interesting choices.

4. Be more prideful.
Everyone should take pride in themselves. Never trust someone who says "I don't care what people think". People like that are fools. You should care what people think. Sometimes they're right and you're wrong. This year I'll take more pride in my work, my body and my appearance.

5. Be more hateful.
I have no time for stupid people, nor do I have patience for people who talk shit out of their asses. This year I'll tell off people who have it coming. It's better for them and satisfying for me.

Have a great year everyone. Thanks for reading the drivel I post on this blog.

But that's just the way I see it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bill 10 Has Made People Examine Faith's Justification of Bigotry

Christopher Hitchens once said that of all the so-called virtues the most over-rated is faith. I couldn't agree more. Faith is always painted as synonymous with goodness. It is praised. It brings tears to people's eyes. When someone dies people will proclaim that that person is with God now regardless of whether that person was faithful to any religion. Faith is also used to make bigotry seem acceptable. The ruckus over Bill 10 has made many in Alberta question this "safe zone" for homophobia. It's about time.

Catholic school boards want to be able to ban Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in catholic schools, as it doesn't fit with their faith. This has given the average taxpayer the perfect opportunity to question whether public funds ought to go to a school system that uses faith to discriminate against a segment of the population.

Make no mistake, people are born homosexual. Period.

Since people are born homosexual no religion should get away with discrimination against those people. It's morally wrong. It's unethical. It's flat out disgusting. Yet the idea that it's okay as long as it's justified by faith still seems to sit well with some people. That kind of thinking needs to be fought tooth and nail.

The Government of Alberta spends $6 billion supporting school boards, in addition to the education portion of property taxes. People can choose which system their property taxes go to, but not the provincial funding. So what we have is a school system that takes public funding yet discriminates against homosexuals. This is wrong on every level. It shouldn't be happening. If you take public money you need to adhere to public standards.

If people want to have Catholic schools or other religious schools they should be allowed to have them. But if they are taking public money then they should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals.

But that's just the way I see it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why The Edmonton Oilers Lose Every Game

Some facts on the Edmonton Oilers that explain everything are easy to find. You don't need CORSI. No PDO required. Simple stats explain it all. So here we go:

Goals per game: 2.17 (28th)
Goals against per game: 3.37 (30th)
Power Play: 13.2% (26th)
Penalty Kill: 79.1% (20th)
Shots per game: 28.8 (24th)
Facoff wins: 49.4% (18th)

Those stats suck. But in case any of you thought that Vikor Fasth's tantrum on the bench was righteous, look at these stats:

Shots against per game: 29.2 (14th)


Victor Fasth save %: .891 (60th)
Ben Scrivens save % : .887 (62nd)

That's out of 69 goalies who have played even one game.

So they're middle of the pack in shots against, yet have the worst goal tending tandem on the entire FAR.

There are other problems with the Oilers besides goal tending. But if you want to know why the Oilers keep losing EVERY game, it's goal tending. Even .900 goal tending wouldn't put them in the playoffs, but it would at least let them win one out of every 3 games.

If the Oilers want to make the playoffs next year and go far, they obviously need more than just good goal tending. But the reason they lose ALL of their games is because their goalies suck large, and freaking out on their team mates when they suck worse than any of them won't change anything.

But that's just the way I see it.

Taylor Hall, for all the talk of defensive miscues, has a -5 plus/minus, 10.7% shooting percentage, and 18 points in 24 games. On a terrible team. Ryan Nugent Hopkins has a -7, and shoots 9.9% and has 19 points in 28 games. On a terrible team. Trading either is crazy.   Most other forwards are well below -10. That's facts.