Shedding light on tax
Kudos to Molly McCracken for shedding some much-needed light on the taxation situation in Canada (Premiers' focus on transfers, July 24). In their policy of death by a thousand cuts, the feds are slowly but surely eroding the ability of all provinces to carry out the programs, infrastructure repairs and supports that are the backbone of any healthy country.
Federal money makes up about 30 per cent, or $3.4 billion of Manitoba's $11.5-billion budget. Every province pays into the transfer pot and gets a percentage back based on its need.
Even Alberta gets 18 per cent of its budget through federal transfers. Ontario is also now a big recipient of equalization payments.
The problem is the feds are cutting back on transfers and other cash payments to services based on their interpretation of need. Manitoba's combined cash transfers are 4.5 per cent lower this tax year than in 2009-10. Factoring in inflation, the 2013 budget papers estimate a decline of 11 per cent.
Eleven per cent of $3.4 billion is $374 million, somewhat more than the projected income from raising the PST by one percentage point. It becomes apparent why the province has seen fit to raise the PST. If it wasn't their agenda as well, the provincial opposition would be lobbying their Conservative colleagues in Ottawa to stop reducing provincial transfer payments instead of blocking the necessary PST legislation.
The one percentage point PST hike appears to have ignited some passion in Manitobans. But I would argue we have a lot more to be irritated about than just the PST.
Let us consider what the provincial and civic governments have recently served, or are planning to serve, to us (to name but a few): an Autopac increase; Manitoba Hydro rate increases (for up to 10 years); a fee on insurance; a fee on personal services; an environmental fee for electronics; a vehicle-licensing fee increase; provincial park fee increases; liquor price increases, a recycling fee; water and sewer increases; cottage lease fee increases; a school tax increase; a property tax increase; and a natural gas price increase.
Your July 20 story Inflation spikes up in Manitoba notes Manitoba has one of the highest inflation rates in Canada, and taxes and fees are the cause. Why this story doesn't raise more ire is truly surprising.
And yet our governments continue to trot out countless agendas, initiatives, programs -- all of which need funding. And just wait for interest rate increases that will affect debt-servicing costs. After all, we are $16 billion in debt, and today's debt is tomorrow's taxes.
But what you will never see is fiscal restraint.
Although a small (and decreasing) portion of transfer payments, money dedicated to post-secondary education deserves some attention from the province. Given our already under-funded system, any further decrease in federal PSE funding can only worsen a bad situation.
One clear indicator of our under-funding is the proportion of PhD degrees granted by the province. Although Manitoba has about 3.7 per cent of Canada's population, we typically grant about two per cent of all PhDs in the country each year.
A related indicator is the lack of success of Manitoba institutions at obtaining research funds from the three federal granting agencies. Since 2000, for example, Manitoba institutions have received only 2.5 per cent of the almost $10 billion distributed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, far lower than our percentage of Canada's population.
All told, the province received only 2.8 per cent post-secondary funding in 2009. The shortfall is many millions of sorely needed dollars. And it will only grow larger if transfer payments continue to be reduced.
University of Winnipeg
My words, as quoted in your July 25 story Children dead, mom missing, have been misinterpreted in your July 26 letters Depression happens everywhere.
At the beginning of my interview with your reporter, I spoke about hearing about Lisa Gibson possibly suffering postpartum depression, and at the end of my conversation, while pointing at the police cars, homicide detectives and crime-scene tape roping off the area, I stated, "stuff like that doesn't happen around here."
Those physical things are what we don't normally see in this area. I am sadly aware that many women suffer from this horrible affliction and I know that it can affect any woman in any section of the city. My prayers go out to Lisa, her husband, their beautiful children, her family and to the rest of the women suffering in silence.
I know how difficult it can be to make money and cope with poor reviews, especially if you are a local performer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
One review I will comment on is Kevin Prokosh's three-and-a-half star review of the non-fringe touring production of Les Mis©rables (Touring production of Les Miz a visual treat, but emotionally lacking, July 25). This show immediately brought the audience to its feet with thunderous applause upon its conclusion.
Now, Prokosh is a good reviewer and he makes some good points, but to say that this musical deserves fewer stars then some of the sub-standard fringe fare out there is absurd. Why not just review shows and write a good honest review without rating anything?
Let the consumer choose. Why should reviewers have the power to build something up or condemn it to obscurity?
Last, who are your fringe reviewers and what theatre knowledge do they possess that they should tell the people of Winnipeg what is worthy of seeing and what should be put back on the shelf for another draft?