Open Letter: Let’s do some math with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Dear Taxpayers,

City council pensions are out of control! Well, that’s what the novelty placard held by CTF Alberta Director Colin Craig says anyway.

Craig’s quote bothers me. “If you do the math, it works out to councillors putting in $1 while taxpayers had to put in about $5.”

This is fine and well if there were one (or even five) taxpayers per councillor. But if you take a moment to actually do the math ugh – and I mean “show your work” just like in school – it’s a little more challenging to feel put out as a taxpayer.

(I feel like Jim Prentice telling Rachel Notley that “math is difficult,” or like Alison Redford telling me “if I actually understood budgets)

Anyway, here’s the math, boring though it is:

In the 10 years from 2007-2016, city councillors put $1,187,000* into councillor pensions.
$118,700 per year divided by 15 on council.
$7,913.33 per year per councillor.

Now here is the math from the taxpayers’ side:

In the 10 years from 2007-2016, city taxpayers put $5,803,000* into councillor pensions.
$580,300 per year divided by 464,000** Calgary households.
$1.25 per household per year.

The $1.25 hit to the individual taxpayer is hardly something to light one’s hair on fire about. It’s actually quite a bargain. Colin does go on to say that there’s a second pension plan we don’t have the details about, which is rather sketchy I must admit. But I’m not convinced the CTF’s yeoman’s work should be putting a few pennies back in our pockets each year.

This silly math ruse distracts from the point of the protest by the CTF, if there is one. I’m sure there is. It’s kind of lost on me since there’s no real substance in this protest.

Case in point, this quote/red herring from Colin Craig:

“It’s simply not fair for taxpayers, given that so many taxpayers don’t even have a workplace pension.”

This raises a lot of equally silly, equally disconnected questions.

Should taxpayers only be made to contribute to things which are made available to them in the workplace? “I don’t have a workplace City Hall/Police Service/Building Code Enforcement! What’s with this bullshit!?”

Here’s the thing:

Dear CTF,

Don’t waste our time with this petty crap. In a million years, you’ll never get me to believe that my personal contribution of about $2.75/year for the total compensation of the board of directors of the $3 Billion city/corporation in which I live is a raw deal. (I’m more pissed that it isn’t more than that given the talent that turns up for these elections every four years.)

Stop it with the low-hanging fruit photo ops with big numbers that painfully reinforce the need for basic financial literacy education in our province’s high schools.

Instead, please focus on the regressive and idiotic tax collection schemes we have in place right now (property tax, corporate income tax, personal income tax, etc.) and how much further ahead we could be as cities if we simply had the intestinal temerity to force the much-needed upheaval of out tax system.

Also… don’t be so patronizing.



*Assuming CTF numbers to be accurate.
** Assuming 464,000 households based on 2011 StatsCan data.

Dear Flames Fans…

I’m writing this letter because I want to understand you better. I have a question for you, but first… I want to explain where I’m coming from.

I had a mildly annoying discussion on Twitter the other night about the Calgary arena fiasco. I was annoyed because the person I was talking with seemed (maybe my spidey sense was off) to believe that there was an immediate net economic benefit to publicly-funded stadium projects and for that reason alone it’s a no-brainer. But he couldn’t support that argument.

Around the same time, the Flames said, “we’re no longer looking for a new arena deal with the city” or some such. They’re just gonna keep playing hockey at the Dome and if a better offer comes along from another city, who knows. Winnipeg Jets all over again.

This is politics. Pretty good politics, actually. The Flames are pinning this entire discussion to Nenshi and the current council and it just might work. The mayor isn’t a good friend of the conservative businessman archetype and if you look down the line of Flames ownership and brass, you’ll see one or two who fit that description.

So what’s the plan then? Get Nenshi out in October and the new mayor will be some sort of hero for being willing to sell-out taxpayers on this deal?

There are two things I find interesting about this current stage of the discussion… which has “broken off,” I guess.

1) The boss of a business is speaking from a seat in New York about how Calgarians should do things… and some of us are OK with this? Fair enough, I guess. After all, I spoke from my seat in Calgary for years telling Gary B how to make his All-Star festivities bearable. (It worked! Sort of…)

I think it would be funny if the President of Wal-Mart came to Calgary and said something like: “Our stores are pretty big and we sell a lot of affordable stuff to people in Calgary. We want you to foot the bill for a new Super-Center or we’re just gonna close all our stores and leave town.”

What’s that you say? “But Roger, Wal-Mart is nothing like the Flames! You can’t compare the two!” Yes. I can. And I did. There.

2) This latest development is precisely why Calgarians shouldn’t accept the offer from the Flames. If they ever have another tantrum and pull up stakes, who will be left holding the bag for this arena and associated operating costs? That’s a big slice of land to have nobody paying taxes on. Do we really think the city should open a “department of concerts and RV shows?”

Ok… getting to the question… soon… I promise.

If you go to a bank and ask them to help you build a house or a business or a house for your business, they will present you an offer with repayment terms. In one sentence: “We will give you money and you will pay us back with interest.” That’s typical and has value.

So my question to the strong legion of Calgarians and Flames fans who want the new arena:



Roger Kingkade

PS. More to come on the next edition of the National Talky League Podcast