Things I Approve Of (And Second Thoughts)

The Conservative government wishes to end the practise of offering a 2-for-1 credit on time served in jail awaiting trial. This makes a lot of sense, as evidenced by the fact that the bill has multi-partisan support. My only caveat is, I would hope that the bill comes with additional measure and/or funding to expidite trials, so that justice is served promptly, and people serve more of their time as convicted criminals rather than potentially innocent people awaiting judgement.

(And, on second thought, Runesmith notes that the reason time served before conviction is credited two-for-one is the result of legal precedent rather than some legislation somewhere, so the Harper government’s lawyers might want to take a careful look at this one, and ask themselves, why does the legal precedent exist? Could it be because of an individual’s right to a speedy trial? Again, one hopes that this legislation will contain measures that will speed up the judicial process properly, so that criminals serve time rather than the merely accused. Because if things remain slow, a judge might point to this Charter right as a reason why a case should be thrown out. I guess we’ll see.)

Similarly, Dalton McGuinty’s proposal to harmonize the Ontario provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax is an idea that’s long overdue. Assuming that the change is revenue-neutral (meaning that McGuinty may have to lower the PST rate by a percentage point or two, given that the GST applies to more things than the PST does), it just makes financial sense. Although it means some items will see their consumption taxes increased, you remove the cost of duplicate bureaucratic oversight, and save businesses (especially small businesses like restaurants) paperwork. Works for me.

(And, on second thought, the budget seems good in its package of tax cuts and stimulus spending, but the McGuinty government has been a little bit sneaky, here. I had assumed that, to acknowledge the fact that the GST applies to more things than the PST does, McGuinty would knock a percentage point off the harmonized PST to keep things revenue neutral. Instead, McGuinty kept things revenue neutral through the use of rebates ($1000 for all families earning under $160,000 in the first year, $300 for individuals earning under $80,000 in the years following). When the family-based rebates run out in June 2011, the PST will still be 8%, but applied to more goods and services. So this is essentially a sneaky tax increase.

Sneakier still, if it turns out that the new PST does add more money than expected into provincial coffers, the McGuinty government has room to knock a percentage point off the PST in June 2011, making for a significant tax cut four months before the next election.

Strategically this is brilliant, but I’m still not sure if I like the McGuinty government being this sneaky with their reforms.)

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