Mar 26, 2010
Why do most of us need assistance with filling out a tax return? Does it have to be so convoluted? Is it possible to make it simple? “Pink forms and green forms. Too many schedules. Too many worksheets. Too many calculations. Too many instructions which read like this: Fill-in Box 44, unless you are X, in which case, calculate lines 273 through 278 on Worksheet Z, and then enter the results in Box 22a, unless you are W, in which case, fill-in Box 22b and complete Schedule C”. That’s how Carol Edwards, instructor of Finance at BCIT, describes some of the instructions Canadians are asked to follow. Edwards has written a great article on designing an intelligent tax system. We encourage you to read it and give us your thoughts.
Mar 24, 2010
The Federal Budget was released on March 4, 2010 and during the announcement I sat at my desk reading the tweets by Finance Canada. A tweet, for those who don’t know, is a message one can post on the popular social media tool called Twitter using 140 characters or less. It is designed to update your followers on a number of issues from what you are doing at that moment to interesting news and articles you want to share. Finance Canada intended to tweet portions of the Finance Minister’s speech on the 2010 Federal Budget. As an active practitioner of social media, I was curious to find out the Finance department’s twitter approach but more importantly, its’ potential effect on how governments from all levels will use this social media tool to achieve their goals.
I’m not going to speculate about the Federal Government’s twitter intentions but it seems President Obama’s successful use of social media is having a profound impact in Canada. More and more politicians are developing Facebook Fanpages, Twitter accounts, YouTube video channels and so on. Although, one could argue that more than half of these are inactive, updated infrequently or updated by someone other than the politician in question. Thus, is there an actual strategy in place for all these social media uses or are elected representatives just jumping on this new communications tool bandwagon because of its popularity. Have they actually thought out who exactly they are sending their information to or communicating with? Do they know what they are trying to accomplish? How would they know if they are successful in meeting their goals?
My other concern is that the uses of social media by government officials is still through the traditional communications lens of message control rather than engagement and conversation which social media has progressed to (hence the term social). Finance Canada’s decision to tweet the federal budget is an excellent example of this. However, I still don’t know what exactly the federal government hoped to gain by tweeting portions of the Finance Ministers speech and providing links to the Finance Canada website. Yes, it may show that our Government is using new communication’s tools to relay information to Canadians but there is no incentive for social media-active Canadians to follow Finance Canada on twitter. How would this be different than watching CPAC and listening to the Minister give the Budget Speech live? Only a very keen political junkie who is not near the closest TV or computer would require real time updates via twitter on the federal budget. It would have been more useful to engage Canadians on twitter about the Budget. Let the tweets travel the other way. It would have been great to know the thoughts of my fellow Canadians, what they liked or didn’t like, suggestions, advice they might have for the Finance Minister. Instead, we got tweets that were copied from a speech and links to portions of the budget documents. Even today the only tweets from Finance Canada are links to news releases and media advisories.
The federal government missed an excellent opportunity to get some real time public assessment of the Budget, perception within the social media sphere, and some very valuable research data that can be used as the Minister inevitably travels to different parts of the country to sell the budget. Rather than engagement and creating dialogue, Finance Canada’s budget tweets were another example of pushing a controlled message to the public using a popular communications tool.
With a more and more disengaged electorate, I understand there needs to be new ways of communicating government messages, services and programs to the public. However, it is too easy to fall into the social media hype and begin tweeting away without understanding how to effectively use it or putting some much needed thought into developing a sound strategy to maximize return for investment. Let’s hope our all levels of government begin to understand this as they wade into the ever-expanding social media waters.
Mar 23, 2010
Now that the 2010 winter Olympic and Paralympic games have come to an official close, it brings us back to the noble cause that Kate Holmes launched. To commemorate or remember the 2010 games, she believes that BC should have a holiday in February. Since putting her petition online at www.gopetition.com more than 4000 people have signed on to support her plan to have the third Monday in February become a statutory holiday called Glowing Hearts Day.
Our Premier who has been the biggest advocate and supporter of these Games should take this opportunity to remember the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic games. Other provinces already have similar type holidays. Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan all have a Family Day. Manitoba has its Louis Riel Day and Prince Edward Island has Islander day.
Although I like Glowing Hearts Day, I like the idea of a Terry Fox Day even more. To remember the courage, pride, perseverance and dedication of a person that inspired a nation. Betty Fox and her son’s legacy were prominent in both the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics and we should remember Terry with a holiday on the third Monday in February. Maybe this will persuade Premier Gordon Campbell to make this possible as he would be known as the Premier honouring probably the greatest Canadian of all time.
Mar 19, 2010
There was so much promise for Michael Ignatieff, the Federal Liberal Leader, especially after Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament so he could attend the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Surprisingly, Mr. Ignatieff continues to lag in popularity polls behind both Harper and Layton.
Though Canadians were upset with Harper for proroguing Parliament, Canadians will also remember him waving the flag and cheering alongside Wayne Gretzky in the Gold Medal Game and Closing Ceremonies. Even the little guy from Shawinigan had more coverage at the Olympics then Ignatieff. Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jack Layton was celebrating amongst Torontonians at Gretzky’s Restaurant during the Gold Medal Game and millions of Canadians saw his picture flash across the TV screens. Ironic especially since Jack Layton was against Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics. However, you have to give credit to Layton for cheering alongside his constituents during the most watched Canadian sporting event in history.
As for Ignatieff, he was neither seen nor heard. At least not on the same scale as Harper and Layton were seen. All we saw was a man quietly cheering with his Federal Liberal supporters at a Langley Centre during the Canada vs. Slovakia game. As the leader of the Party that technically brought the games to Vancouver, he could have celebrated alongside thousands and thousands of Canadians. He could have bought a $99 ticket to Molson Hockey House. He could have fully embraced the Games but he came across as distant. Scott Reid, the former Communication Advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, has pointed out that voters relate to a beer and popcorn type of leader. What’s more Canadian then sipping a Tim Horton’s coffee or drinking a Molson’s Canadian beer? Canadians need a PM that is both intelligent and one that can relate to everyday Canadians. Ignatieff missed a chance to show that he was one of us.
Mar 17, 2010
Over the last number of months, there has been a lot of discussion around the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which takes effect July 1, 2010 . I have looked closely at the implications of the HST for my hotel business and I have come to the conclusion that this is a positive step for not only my business but for the hospitality industry as a whole. Let me explain. For example, my hotel buys towels for guest use, purchases plates and spoons for the continental breakfast, shampoo bottles and bars of soap for guest’s personal amenities, laundry detergent to wash towels and sheets and so on. For my 100 room hotel, these items can amount to approximately $200,000 and the PST amount currently levied would be $14,000 (7%). Let’s now suppose I decide to replace the TV sets to flat screen sets which cost approximately $800 each. Replacing 100 TVs in a 100 room hotel would cost $80,000 plus 7% PST or $5,600.
In this example, the total PST paid out would be: $14,000 on regular hotel supplies and $5,600 on capital items like TVs for a total of $19,600 in PST. The $19,600 of PST is an outlay of taxes for my hotel business and it creates an extra burden for hoteliers. Will the implementation of the HST reduce the costs for my business? Yes. As we all know by now, the PST gets harmonized with the GST which will allow businesses like mine to get a rebate for the taxes I pay. Accordingly, under the HST environment my cost of doing business will be $19,600 lower as I will be able to get the tax rebate for the PST portion which I am not able to do now. For this reason, I know a lot of hotels are waiting until after July 1st to purchase capital items like flat screen TVs because they will get a PST tax rebate. These savings are good news for any business. It can also mean good news for creating jobs. In my case, the above savings of $19,600 may mean hiring one more part time desk clerk or hiring an extra bartender for an additional shift. Or I could provide even better service to my guests as I may decide to update the high speed internet system which would require me to hire a local electrical contractor for upgrading.
These arguments hold true for most sectors of the economy and not just the hospitality industry. The HST will reduce the costs for any business. Every business buys supplies, stationary, technology software, or raw materials. Currently, PST is paid on all these items. Once HST is implemented, the PST that is currently paid out will be saved in the form of a rebate. Clearly, HST will be beneficial to all businesses as it reduces operating costs. That’s why I’m so surprised to hear in the news, business owners complaining that the HST is not beneficial for business. I do think it needs to be explained better and once people understand that the amount paid out in taxes will be reduced then they are more likely to be in favor of HST, unless they like paying more taxes.
Mar 17, 2010
Lloyd Robertson’s tribute to Terry Fox at the opening ceremonies of the Para-Olympics was excellent. My thoughts went to Steve Fonyo, who lost his leg to cancer at age 12, and at age18 ran 7924Km across Canada and raised over $13 million for cancer research. It is sad that we Canadians, who are known around the world for our sense of fairness, compassion and forgivness, did not see fit to recognize this remarkable achievment during The World Para-Olympic Games.
Just before the Winter Olympics, the Advisory Council of The Order Of Canada made the questionable decision to revoke Mr. Fonyo’s membership because of his addiction and numerous petty criminal activities. The opportunity to recognize Mr. Fonyo’s substantial contribution to the fight against cancer internationally has now passed. This is sad.
Mr.Fonyo must know that there are millions of Canadians who wish the best for him. His challenge now is to find the strength to put his life in order and realize his full potential.
Mar 3, 2010
The Sochi presentation at the Olympic’s closing ceremony gave us a glimpse into Russia. Come 2014, Sochi, a picturesque resort town near the Black Sea, will be transformed. For the last two weeks, I’ve had a front row seat to Russia and its’ hospitality. I work at Science World and as many of you know Sochi House, the Russian Pavilion, was located here. If the hospitality at Sochi House was an indication of things to come in 2014, then I’m pretty sure the Russians will be great hosts in welcoming the world to their country and yes, as many in the media reported the Sochi house was the place to party during the Olympics. Wayne Gretzky, Michelle Kwan, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Plushenko and Stephen Colbert were the highlights. Of course, on some nights the actual stars of the evening were the Russian ONLY Vodkas Nemiroff and Navigator which are not available in BC. That’s probably a good thing since the smooth but deadly liquor contributed to the good and the bad stories coming out of the pavilion. Perhaps some people should have stayed away from it! .
Overall, the Russians were wonderful guests and I hope they learned what they needed to make Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics the best ever. Still from a Canadian point of view the Vancouver Games have been truly the most memorable and remarkable event and I know we will be talking about it for years to come. Go Canada Go.
Mar 2, 2010
I’m so proud of our Canadian women! Female athletes have delivered for Canada at the Olympics. I think it is great that our Canadian women athletes have done us all proud. If we can reach the top in sports then why can’t we translate this kind of success into our political and corporate world. The issue of under representation of women in the political arena and the business world always invites a great deal of debate and discussion. In 2001, 24% of the elected MLAs in BC were women. Today, the number in the BC Legislature has slightly increased to 27%. In the federal Canadian Parliament, only 22% of the elected MPs are women. Even though times are progressing, the scenario in the business world is much like the world of politics. Canada’s corporate culture is dominated by men. According to Catalyst Census, of the 500 largest companies in Canada, about 51% of the firms have no women on their boards and about 11% of the board seats are held by women. Obviously more progress needs to be made on promoting women to corporate boards across our country.
Even though we have a long way to go, I am very happy to note our own Patty Sahota has been appointed to the Industry Training Authority board. Patty also serves on the board of the Westminster Savings Credit Union and is the Chair of Westminster Savings Foundation. Organizations like the Industry Training Authority and WSCU have a number of women on their board and by doing so are building the right leadership teams. I really believe for business and political organizations to succeed in the 21st century, they will need to find the most diverse and talented people to occupy positions of decision making.
Mar 2, 2010
Over the last number of days there has been a lot of discussion around the issue of lack of ethnic participation in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I was disappointed to read some of the comments made by our community leaders like Tung Chan of SUCCESS and elected politicians like MP Joyce Murray. Most of them complained that there was a lack of visible minority participation and some voiced that ethnic communities were not fairly represented at the opening ceremonies.
I participated in the opening ceremony. I was the Chinese guy on the rollerblades. Just to confirm, click on the picture beside this article and I’m the guy fifth from the left in the top row. You will notice in the picture that in our group there are people of many different ethnic backgrounds. In fact, in the opening ceremony itself, there were hundreds and hundreds of people from different ethnic backgrounds who were part of and performed at the opening ceremony. Somehow people dismissed this. In doing so, they also missed the wonderful dancers, skaters and fiddlers of Indian, Japanese, Chinese, French Canadian, Russian, Mexican and Filipino descent at the opening ceremonies. They missed Measha Brueggergosman who sang the Olympic Hymn.
As a first generation Chinese Canadian, I would rather show to the world that I can rollerblade, skate, fiddle, or tap dance as well as any other Canadian. By the way, I can skate and play hockey too! The legendary Vancouver Japanese Asahi Baseball Team, a symbol of Canadian pride, equality and perseverance gave our nation an early lesson on being more than our ethnicity. By showcasing various “thnic cultural performances”would be limiting ourselves and it is important for all of us to see outside our own ethnic backgrounds. As a Canadian I am proud and honoured to have been part of the opening ceremony and I was especially honoured to see so many people from various ethnic communities participating in the opening ceremony. We are all Canadians. Go Canada Go!