Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Answers to Moncton Chamber of Commerce Questions

The following are Rob Moir's written answers to the questions posed of him by the Moncton Chamber of Commerce at their all-candidates meeting today:

Will your party encourage the provinces to speed up the elimination of capital taxes?

Respectfully, I would suggest that the premise of this question is faulty. On a national scale, consider the recent KPMG study on business taxes and competitiveness (http://www.kpmg.ca/en/services/tax/2008special_report.html). In comparison to 10 other industrialized countries, Canada has the 3rd lowest total tax index for business – lower than traditional powerhouses like the US, UK, Japan, and Germany. Provincially, turn to the data used by Jack Mintz in our newly proposed tax system (http://www.gnb.ca/0162/New_Brunswick_Tax_System/Discussion_Paper-English.pdf). Compared to the rest of Canada, New Brunswick has the lowest or the 3rd lowest METR on capital and we hold a similar ranking when comparing the METR on all costs. We’re only behind Saskatchewan and Alberta.

We can’t simply conclude that taxes are the cause of slow business growth in this province, if this were the case, we’d be doing better than many other provinces (and we aren’t). I’d argue that in New Brunswick there are two problems – the first we talk about quietly and the second we won’t talk about at all.

(1) There’s a great deal of red tape and bureaucracy – regulations that are not only not harmonized (and I favour harmonizing to the higher standards because our companies can be regional and international leaders), but sometimes in direct conflict with each other.
(2) This is the 800-lb gorilla in the room – we have a very uncompetitive province, particularly because of a few big business interests and governments that work with them.

Both of these issues must be solved before we’d see much in the way of a gain from lower tax rates. Right now, simply lowering taxes will only favour incumbent enterprises and further reduce effective competition, thereby stunting economic growth (sustainable or otherwise).

As an economist, I would encourage lower tax rates on small-business, some form of tax rebate on new (especially environmentally-friendly) capital in small- and medium-sized businesses and startups, and targeted R&D tax credits that fit into provincial goals with a specific focus on alternative energy production as this is a rapidly growing market.

Does your party support the development of all economic energy sources in order provide a stable, diverse and flexible energy supply?

The New Democrats have a policy of emphasizing energy efficiency/productivity first. As an economist, I recommend to people the recent work of the McKinsey Global Institute (http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/reports/pdfs/Investing_Energy_Productivity/Investing_Energy_Productivity.pdf) where it is shown that the highest internal rate of return in energy investment is in energy efficiency/productivity (about 17%). I would also stress that we have a great, but underfunded, institution in Efficiency NB and it is headed by a great New Democrat – Elizabeth Weir.

As a party (but also as an economist) we would argue against expansion in the Athabasca tar sands without full environmental impact analysis. As Preston Manning points out, four barrels of fresh water are used to extract one barrel of oil. Whatever we do, we need full cost accounting. This includes complete environmental impact assessments of major projects with potential environmental impacts (e.g., a new oil refinery) – with funding for research in the public interest.

Personally, I am excited by the natural gas that we have in our province. I have worked with groups on the natural gas in the McCully field. The idea was to set up an Energy Park and create local jobs with our resources. There was no success there; I’ll happily discuss my ideas of why this happened at another time. So, instead of a thousand plus jobs employing people from Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton, we got a pipeline spur that is managed with the labour of ½ of one overtime position. The fuel is now in Boston. BUT … there is exciting news on the horizon with mention of new finds of stranded natural gas. I see New Brunswick natural gas and energy efficiency investments as going a significant way to meeting both our job creation needs and environmental objectives.

Finally, I think we should ask for a significant federal investment into a province-wide project that would study Energy Production. This study would compare traditional sources we already have, emerging sources (e.g., natural gas, wood heat), and alternative sources (e.g., wind, tidal, solar-bio-hydrogen, HVDC, cellulosic bio-fuel, energy efficiency, etc.). This would make NB a national and world leader in Energy Studies, Energy R&D, and Energy Production. It might also kick-start new manufacturing and industry.


As an individual, currently spearheading the sponsorship of a refugee family, I am becoming familiar with the immigration process. As a professor at UNBSJ, with very high international student enrolments, I know the problems associated with new immigrants trying to find work here.

Will your party review and streamline current processes to ensure that applications are processed within six to 12 months, starting with economic and business applicants?

This is directly out of the New Democrats’ platform: “Jack Layton and his team of New Democrats will [r]eview the point system used to assess new applications to match the reality of work in Canada, including specific provisions for blue-collar workers and tradespeople. …[i]ncrease financial support for the settlement process for new Canadians to assist with literacy, community integration and orientation, including bridging, mentorship, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) programs and resource service centres. … [s]ignificantly increase resources and support for immigration processes to reduce the huge and unacceptable backlogs that currently exist in processing applications, work to meet Canada’s target of annual immigration (1 percent of population), and establish firm targets for on-time completion of family class and spousal sponsorships.” There is little I can add.

Will your party work with the provinces and territories to develop national accreditation standards to evaluate foreign credentials, professional and trade qualifications, and certification in regulated and non-regulated occupations?

This is directly out of the New Democrats’ platform: “Jack Layton and his team of New Democrats will [a]ccelerate and streamline the recognition of foreign credentials, overseas degrees and previous employment experience in conjunction with provinces and licensing authorities.” I know this has been part of party policy for years.

Will your party work with the provinces and territories to develop innovative immigration policies, programs and processes necessary to increase the number of immigrants recruited (and more importantly) retained in our smaller regions.

A federal party can work with a provincial government when the provincial government agrees to federal involvement. Inasmuch as the provincial government would like to work on a strategy, I would be more than willing to work on the project. As I noted earlier, I have been involved in immigration issues for a few years and certainly see the benefits to New Brunswick of an immigration programme that includes smaller regions.

Will your party develop and implement an objective-based National Transportation Strategy?

Yes. The NDP has argued for a long time for a more comprehensive method of analyzing transportation (both travel and shipping). I for one would like to see greater integration between ships, rail, and trucks – ships for international shipping, rail for long-distance land-based travel, and trucks for short haul.

Within New Brunswick, I would like to explore the feasibility of light rail as a method of travel between the three major business centres in southern NB (i.e., Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton) with a hub somewhere outside of Sussex.

Will your party invest the funds necessary to complete the Restoration of the Petitcodiac River – an important environmental initiative?

Yes. I have argued for the opening of the Petitcodiac before I ever entered the fray as a politician. It is a sensible thing to do. To date, the holdup from the federal government has been MP Rob Moore of Fundy Royal with support from MP Greg Thompson (a more senior cabinet minister in Mr. Harper’s government).
While this requires coordination with the provincial government, I view this as a critical issue and one that has been held up for far too long, throwing people’s lives – from both sides – into disarray.
I would expect that we can get money from an environmental grant, and infrastructure grant, and perhaps worker training grants.

What is your party’s strategy to address Literacy Issues?

As you are well aware, investing in children is a top priority of the New Democrats – just look at our costed platform. I have written a number of times on the issue of tax cutting without mentioning programme cuts. Indeed, with those tax cuts in the first part of Mr. Harper’s mandates, we saw programme cuts across Canada, and here in NB, including many of our literacy programmes.
The New Democrats see your tax dollars as a source of coordinated social investment. I personally see literacy, and more broadly education, as a very sensible investment. Why? Because it enhances productivity, thereby attracting new investment in higher-paying jobs, and it also enhances civic responsibility. Informed people are the cornerstone of a well-functioning democracy.
The New Democrats have long advocated that training of workers include a literacy component – it is a part of our platform.
On a related note, I would like to see CBC bring back Sesame Street or something similar. There seems to be little on public TV across Canada that focuses on issues like literacy and basic numeracy. Speaking as a parent, this would be a great asset.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rob Moir to appear on CBC Maritime Noon Call-In Panel this Tuesday

Rob Moir, an environmental economist and New Democrat Candidate in Fundy Royal will be part of the CBC Maritime Noon political panel/phone-in on Tuesday, Sept. 30th, from 1-2pm.

This week's topic:
Tuesday, September 30th : In the second of our election issue phone-ins : call with your questions about the parties' economic platforms and tell federal candidates from around the Maritimes which economic issue is most important for the next government.

Tune in to hear Rob answer questions on the economy and its link to the environment, and feel free to call in with your own questions. The other guests will be Scott Brison (Liberal, Kings-Hants), Kristen Rudderham (Conservative, Sydney NS), and Mary-Lou Babineau (Green, Fredericton).

Please pass this notice on to as many people as possible.


The Fundy Royal NDP Team.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another Day on the Trail

A pretty busy day today. Went in to the University to meet with the Washington Institute. This not-for-profit group provides some phenomenal opportunities for students to work in areas like international trade, energy policy, poverty reduction, and so on. It is a really great opportunity for students.

I met Mr. Moore at the ferry today - he was canvassing. He came to my car and jokingly asked for my vote. We had a nice chat for a few minutes, during which he commented on the fuel efficiency of my car. I just wish Mr. Harper would pay attention and do something to help all us regular people who are having to cope with high gas prices.

I heard Mr. Moore chat to the person behind me in the lineup. He started with a line like, "I'm Rob Moore, running against Rob Moir." He has that right - well, almost right. He's running against a whole team of us. There's a very large number of New Brunswickers (especially in Fundy Royal) that want to see a change. I can't do it, but WE can and WE will!

Thanks to everyone who is helping. If you want to help too, please talk to neighbours and friends about the momentum of our campaign. Point them to this blog or to the website (http://www.robmoirndp.ca). If you are really eager, and I hope you are, then please contact the office (506-832-0570) and find out how you can help. There are lawn signs to deliver, doors to knock on, and phone calls to make.

Another thing you can all do is participate in CBC's Riding Talk (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/riding/026/ridingtalk.html). Let's oust Mr. Moore and send a loud "NO" to Mr. Harper from Fundy Royal.

Good night everyone. Tomorrow is another exciting day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rob Moir raises warning flag over 'two-tiered' youth justice

23 September 2008
Hampton, New Brunswick


Fundy Royal New Democratic Party candidate Rob Moir is very concerned with Mr. Harper's recent proposals as part of his promise to "get tough" on youth crime. In an announcement this week, Harper stated that he wants to make it easier for courts to name young offenders.

"Mr. Harper suggests that 'name-and-shame' will lower youth crime," comments Moir, "but criminologists generally disagree. In the act of committing an offence, people rarely consider the consequences. Besides, we already have a Youth Criminal Justice Act that permits naming in certain cases."

Moir suggests that an increase the number of police officers, a renewed focus upon pro-active policing, and significant investment in the community - including youth programs and crime prevention strategies - is what is really needed. "Jack Layton and the New Democrats propose a solution that works, instead of one that fills jails with kids," says Moir.

Despite the questions he has of this policy and its potential effectiveness, a lesser-known caveat in the proposal has him perplexed. "The rules proposed by Mr. Harper would apply to 14 year-olds across Canada," notes Moir, "but to 16-year olds in Quebec."

Commentators speculate that this is because Mr. Harper wants to expand his caucus in vote-rich Quebec.

"Are we still one country?" asks Moir. "If Mr. Harper likes the more progressive views of Quebec on youth crime, then why not use Quebec as a model for the rest of the country; and while we're at it, why not implement their childcare program and their carbon trading system as well?"

Rob Moore, the Conservative candidate in Fundy Royal, was previously the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He would have known of this component of Mr. Harper's platform.

"I would like the public to know if Mr. Moore agrees with two-tiered youth justice." says Moir. "Does he agree with his leader in that there should be one set of rules for Quebec, and one for the rest of Canada? If so, why?"

See Related Story in today's Globe and Mail, "Harper pitches two-tier youth justice plan"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On the Trail

Hi everyone. Sorry to have left the blog for so long. Things get kind of busy with 2 kids in school, a newborn in the house, a job at UNBSJ, and a campaign. That said, with the awesome team of volunteers we have, things are getting done.

There is a definite change in the air right now. People have seen my face on the signs and they have read my musings in the papers - I am a known quantity, not some radical upstart.

As a team, we have been here for local issues. Not because it is important to wave an orange banner, but because there is so much opportunity in this province and in this riding. I see it as the correct thing to do and, wearing my economists' hat, the efficient thing to do. Indeed, for many things in this world, it is a question of efficiency.

We have two opponents in this coming election.

1) Big Business: I'm sure we can all guess some of the bigger names in our province. As an economist, I have no problem with big business. I do have a problem with big business if it infiltrates government, tells people that we need less government, and then gets government to make it easier for big business to get bigger. If you think this is a bit "out there" consider the massive (some say it could cost in total, a TRILLION dollars) rescue package for US financial institutions. PRIVATIZED PROFIT and SOCIALIZED RISK. Right now, work in the Athabasca tar sands is phenomenally profitable (in part due to a complete lack of environmental regulation).

So why do already astronomically rich companies need to forgo BILLIONS in taxes so they can expand faster? This is exactly the gift Mr. Harper gave them while cutting funding for literacy, women, seniors, and veterans.

This isn't capitalism, socialism, communism, or pragmatism. This is neo-liberalism which I also see as rampant corporatism. It is BIG government run for the benefit of BIG and EXISTING corporations. It leaves labour, the self-employed, and small-to-medium business behind in the dust.

As I see it, we have to invest in our communities - hardworking families, farmers, foresters, fishermen, and our small businesses. These investments in our local economies will have larger payoffs in the long run.

2) Tradition: More here than anywhere else I have been, people vote by colour. Indeed, while covering the last federal election, CTV's Lloyd Robertson said, " ... look at the NDP in Fundy Royal - that's Canada's most conservative riding!"

As a candidate from a "non-traditional" party, it is my job to provide a credible alternative and a real reason to change. I know that my approach to economics has got people talking positively, so credibility is not an issue. I think change is absolutely needed in Fundy Royal, and in New Brunswick, because we know the old way is not working at the kitchen table so to speak. I mean, we have a government that is willing to increase taxes on the poor, give big corporate managers a tax break, and we'll still need to cut investment in social programmes. This is lunacy. It is a waste of taxpayers dollars and goes against the principles of investment in sustainable economic growth. Pardon my bluntness, but "Throw the bums - the corporate welfare bums - out!"

That's exactly what I am off to do today. Canvassing blitz in Quispamsis today. Next Saturday we'll do Hampton. Contact the office (832-0570 or info@robmoirndp.com) if you can help out.

In the meantime, please talk to your friends and neighbours. Let's seize this opportunity for positive change.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rob Moir renews call for full panel EIA of 2nd refinery


Kingston, New Brunswick

Rob Moir, environmental economist and candidate for the Fundy Royal New Democrats, is re-issuing his call for a Full Federal Panel Review of the environmental impacts of the entire operations of the proposed second oil refinery in Saint John. The federal government has agreed to study only the marine impacts.

"I know it is called 'Project Eider Rock'," states Moir, "but really it is just another big stinky oil refinery, and recent scientific studies confirm that."

Moir is referring to a 2008 study in the August volume of the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association that was mentioned in last Saturday's Globe and Mail and on CBC radio yesterday (September 10). Using lasers to estimate fugitive emissions, the study shows that at an Alberta oil refinery half the size of the existing refinery in Saint John, smog-causing hydrocarbon emissions are about 15 times higher than those reported to government regulators, and cancer-linked benzene emissions are about 19 times higher.

"The existing refinery is twice the size of that studied," notes Moir, "and now there is a proposal to build a second one of equal size, but with virtually no federal assessment of the environmental impacts? Then we hear that the provincial government is not going to require Irving Oil to build in any carbon offsets for the new refinery. This is quite troubling!"

"Sure there are jobs - and big profits for the Irvings too," continues Moir, "but as you watch the fog creep up the Bay of Fundy, you realize that it is people in Fundy Royal and Moncton that will also pay the price in terms of healthcare costs, missed work days, and quality of life. People forget that the economy and the environment are a closed system – there is no trade-off."

Moir has asked for a Full Federal Panel Review in the past and followed up his request with complaints to both Environment Minister, Mr. Baird and directly to Environment Canada. "How can Environment Canada ignore its duty to trigger a full review," asks Moir, "when a number of a refinery's emissions appear on their Priority Substance Lists?"

An access to information request was filed by Moir to see documents pertaining to the Environment Minister's decision, but it was not pursued as the costs could have exceeded $1,000. "I can't afford that money as a private citizen, but surely as an MP I'd have better luck," notes Moir.

- 30 -

For more information please contact:

Pat Hanratty, Campaign Manager
(506) 647-1405

Rob Moir Campaign Office
1031 Main Street
Hampton, NB
(506) 832-0570

E-mail: info@robmoirndp.com
Web: www.robmoirndp.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tax Proposal Op Ed

The Net Effect of New Brunswick’s Tax Proposals

Like many New Brunswickers, I am interested in the tax proposals released by Premier Graham’s government in the Tax Green Paper. I have now submitted my written comments to the government and can only hope that they take the time to consider them along with the many comments received from others. I would like to publicly raise one issue which has only received lip service to date.

A significant portion of the discussion paper outlines the predicted effects of a flat income tax. The authors repeatedly show that everyone who already pays income tax would pay less under either a flat tax or a two-part tax (see Tables 2 , 3, 6, and 7 in the discussion paper). While the discussion paper reads like a marketing pamphlet, making great fanfare of reduced income taxes, it is a very simple mathematical truth that if income is taxed at a lower rate then people pay less income tax.

With little supporting analysis, the discussion paper vaguely estimates that the combined income tax and corporate tax cuts will leave New Brunswick short close to a half-a-billion dollars on tax revenues. According to the discussion paper, this decline in tax revenues should be offset by an increase in tax revenues from other sources: $250 million from a 2% hike in the HST (as suggested by Frank McKenna), and $100 million from a carbon tax (as suggested by Jack Mintz) which will be placed on fuel, heating oil, and electricity.

The discussion paper suggests that the hike in HST is relatively small – “3¢ on a $1.50 coffee” – and implies it would be painless. This, I contend, is a political sleight of hand. It is like a used car salesman dropping the price of a car by $1,000 but then charging you $300 for each tire. The cost of the car increases by $200 overall … unless you can do without tires.

Statistics Canada has powerful software (SPSD/M) designed specifically to look at potential changes in taxes and transfers. While I have not had time to run the entire tax proposal through the software, I have had the chance to study the potential HST effects and the results are disturbing. For brevity I include only the income tax savings for a single tax filer – Table 2 (flat tax) and Table 6 (two-part tax) – as presented in the discussion paper. To these I add the predicted increase in HST payments and then identify the net tax bill.

Net Tax Payments for a Single Tax Filer

Flat Income Tax

Two-Part Income Tax

Taxable Income

Income Tax Decrease (Table 2, p.15)

HST Increase

Net Tax Bill

Income Tax Decrease

(Table 6, p.19)

HST Increase

Net Tax Bill











































As a result of the HST increase, overall tax “savings” are smaller. Indeed, for single filers with incomes less than $60,000 the tax “savings” are downright modest and for the lowest income earners, the tax bill will likely increase. (For the sake of comparison, 50% of single income earners in New Brunswick earn less than $21,000 according to Statistics Canada.) On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to earn more than $60,000 (as am I), then the tax savings are likely to be substantial.

Given travel and energy use has a relatively large fixed component that does not depend upon income the carbon tax proposed in the paper would likely continue to move us in the same direction.

These data raise two important questions. First, why haven’t the various tax proposals been subjected to complete analysis? Second, are the rather modest gains most New Brunswickers are likely to see worth the expenditure cuts that will necessarily follow from a $150 million loss in tax revenues?

At the very least, the government’s tax proposals should undergo complete analysis using state-of-the-art software like SPSD/M. Along with publishing the entire results of this analysis, Premier Graham’s government should also publicly present any proposed expenditure decreases, service delivery shifts (from public to private), and efficiency-enhancing activities that he might make as a consequence of the tax revenue loss.

Only with this information in hand can New Brunswickers make informed choices when considering the bold tax and transfer changes suggested in “A Discussion Paper on New Brunswick’s Tax System.”

Rob Moir is an economist who teaches and conducts research at UNB in Saint John. His larger commentary on the tax proposals can be requested at robmoir2@gmail.com.

A Joint Letter I Coordinated

31 July 2008

To the Hon. Shawn Graham (Premier of New Brunswick) and the Hon. Victor Boudreau (Minister of Finance);

The New Brunswick Government has proposed a new tax and transfer structure for the Province involving significant change from the current system.

We, the undersigned economists from New Brunswick Universities strongly urge the Government to complete the following tasks before further consideration of such sweeping changes in provincial tax policies.

1. Conduct a comprehensive comparative examination (baseline versus variants) of the effect of the tax proposals on household disposable income using Statistics Canada’s Social Policy Simulation Database and Model which is specifically designed to test policy proposals of this nature, and to make public the results of these simulations.

2. Publish a revised version of A Discussion Paper on New Brunswick’s Tax System in such a way as to convey the combined effects of all proposed tax changes on the distribution of household income. For example, Tables 2 and 3 (p.15) and Tables 6 and 7 (p.19) discuss only personal income taxes but mention neither the HST increase, the proposed new carbon tax, nor any potential effects from changes to corporate tax rates.

3. Provide an analysis and empirical evidence from peer-reviewed sources discussing the predicted increase in the provincial tax base and provincial tax revenues resulting from the proposed tax policy changes.

4. Provide an analysis of the effect of the projected increase in the tax base upon equalization. For instance, does a $1 increase in tax revenues lead to a $1 decrease in equalization funding?

5. If analysis indicates a revenue decline, indicate how the Government proposes to deal with revenue shortfalls.

We believe that the above research will provide a clearer picture of the tax proposal and address some of the questions raised in recent public submissions.


Dr. Rob Moir (Economics, UNB in Saint John; President of the Atlantic Canada Economics Association)
Dr. Rod Hill (Economics, UNB in Saint John)
Dr. Joan McFarland (Economics, Saint Thomas University)
Dr. Joe Ruggeri (Economics, UNB in Fredericton; Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics)
Professor Ron LeBlanc (Economics, Université de Moncton; Chair)
Dr. Michel Deslierres (Economics, Université de Moncton)
Dr. Stephen Law (Economics, Mount Allison University)
Dr. Andrew Secord (Economics, Saint Thomas University)
Dr. Ted McDonald (Economics, UNB in Fredericton)
Dr. Mike Farnworth (Economics, UNB in Fredericton)
Dr. Dev Gupta (Economics, Saint Thomas University)
Dr. Weiqiu Yu (Economics, UNB in Fredericton)
Dr. Tony Myatt (Economics, UNB in Fredericton)

CC : Mr. Jeannot Volpé (Leader of the Opposition), Mr. Roger Duguay (Leader of the NB NDP), Mr. Mike Milligan (Leader of the NB Green Party), Media Outlets

Gearing up for Ottawa

Sorry to have been away for so long. First I got busy putting together a reply to that backwards tax proposal put together by the neo-liberal Liberals of New Brunswick. I loved the fact that most families would pay more in taxes overall so that the Irvings and their executives could pay less. I'll post a piece I wrote for the TJ in a few minutes or so. In any event, that took a while as I had to learn how to use some new software.

Then there was work on writing some papers for my daytime job as a prof and taking over as Acting Chair of the Social Science Department. Sneak a vacation day or two in there to spend with my family and that brings us to my big news.

On Aug 30, I became a dad for the third time. Little Tobias was born, and he is amazing. I swear I heard him say, "Dad, Mr. Harper is breaking his rules by calling an election. Please don't let him take over. Dad, please go change the world ... and my diaper."

So here we are, more prepared than ever before. People from all over the riding are calling for signs. Volunteers are coming at us from all directions. Expect to see a press release very soon. And that will be followed by another and another and another. We'll get our message out that the hardworking people of Fundy Royal - the families, the fishermen, foresters, and farmers, the small business owners - we all want our riding back. We want Ottawa to hear from Fundy Royal; we're sick-and-tired of following the latest wishes of Presi (oops) Prime Minister Harper.

So ... I invite you to stand up, take charge, and join in this campaign with everything you've got. I'm not looking to win, I'm looking for us to win!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Campaign launched!

With the drop of the writ, Rob Moir and his team are busy getting results for you in Fundy Royal.

During the next five weeks, you can keep up to date with the campaign news and views by visiting our new website, www.robmoirndp.com.

In addition, you can drop by our campaign office at 1031 Main St in Hampton to help, or call us at (506) 832-0570.

Together, we can make Rob Moir our next MP!