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Globe and Mail: Home sales eclipse resources as B.C.’s top source of revenue

 British Columbia will haul in more tax revenue from the sale of homes this year than its combined revenues from the province’s historical economic foundation of mining, energy, forestry, Crown land tenures and natural gas.

The first fiscal update on this year’s budget, released on Thursday by Finance Minister Mike de Jong, forecasts the property transfer tax will bring $2.2-billion into the treasury, a massive increase from the $1.2-billion predicted in the budget introduced in the spring. Direct revenues from the province’s top five resources are forecast to total $1.8-billion.

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Economist Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia, cautioned that the province’s economic growth, which is leading the country, is heavily reliant on a housing boom that is susceptible to a downturn.

“We estimate the residential real estate complex is generating up to 35 to 40 per cent of all economic growth in the province,” Mr. Finlayson said in an interview. That includes new home construction, the renovation industry, and the spin-off industries of intermediaries – lawyers, realtors, home inspectors and others – who profit from the turnover of real estate.

“For the B.C. government, it is producing something of a revenue bonanza. The question is, is it healthy in the long run to be dependent on it, and the answer is no, because you are vulnerable to a painful correction.”

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The Province: B.C. indigenous leader Shane Gottfriedson 'a guy who wants to get stuff done'

A B.C. First Nations leader, coming from a region of the province known for producing aboriginal rights trail-blazers, is at the centre of two unique efforts to generate economic activity on traditional territories.

Assembly of First Nations B.C. regional chief Shane Gottfriedson, who took over that role last year from current federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, will participate in a “groundbreaking” joint announcement here later this month.

The B.C. wing of the assembly is working with the federal government and a national aboriginal business organization to assemble “cutting-edge data analytics,” including information from a new national poll of 1,100 indigenous businesspeople.

The goal is to provide government, industry and aboriginal leaders with new information on “capacity, opportunities and critical challenges” within First Nations across the country.

Gottfriedson, the former chief of the Tk’emlups Te Secwepemc (formerly Kamloops) First Nation, was also a key player this week in an “historic” accord with the B.C. Business Council to create a “Champions’ Table.”

 

The regular gatherings will let chiefs and chief executives to “explore opportunities, identify barriers and discuss policy approaches for increased clarity, decision making and capacity for both parties,” according to a joint news release.

That effort was supported by a $2.5-million contribution spread over three years from the B.C. government.

The goal is to educate both sides of the partnership.

“The corporate sector needs to understand how to do business on First Nations land, and First Nations need to understand how business works,” Gottfriedson said in an interview.

Gottfriedson, 50, wants to create a “black book” of economic development on indigenous territories. His favourite catchphrase is that nations must transition from “managing poverty to managing wealth.”

It’s not all talk, said B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon.

“He’s going to make a difference in B.C., not just for First Nations people but for the province as a whole,” D’Avignon said Thursday.

“He’s a guy who wants to get stuff done, and that’s not uncommon among the next generation of First Nations leaders.

“But he has got a combination of vision and execution. There are lots of people who think in big terms, and there are some people who are good at doing.

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Vancouver Sun, Editorial: First Nations-business agreement sets positive tone

The memorandum of understanding between the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the Business Council of British Columbia released this week says all the right things. 

It sets out in respectful terms that the parties agree to “establish and define a collaborative and constructive relationship”, they will “engage to create a formal ongoing dialogue”, and they will “advance an agenda that supports the delivery of shared prosperity.”

To be sure, these sound like motherhood statements with which no one could disagree. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of words. As a veteran observer of aboriginal affairs told The Vancouver Sun editorial board this week, “First Nations don’t sign bullshit agreements.”

At a time when confrontation seems to greet every development, an understanding that emphasizes collaboration, economic reconciliation and a mutual desire to increase the prosperity of the province, marks a significant milestone in the economic relationship between business and First Nations. It is a giant leap from paternalism to partnership.

Of course, neither First Nations nor businesses were depending on this document to move forward. There are hundreds of existing agreements between businesses and First Nations worth billions of dollars that predate the agreement.

Indeed, in 2014, a database funded and developed by the Aboriginal Business Investment Council and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training offered an accounting of First Nations business development. It highlighted 1,099 self-identified aboriginal businesses, with more than 600 small businesses run by First Nation’s entrepreneurs, 50 community-owned development corporations, 80 formal joint ventures with businesses, 288 agreements between government or industry, 27 revenue-sharing agreements, and 12 agreements related to B.C.’s 19 operating metal and coal mines. 

It was pure coincidence that at roughly the same time as this week’s deal was released, oilsands giant Suncor Energy announced that the Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta would acquire a 34-per-cent stake in Suncor’s East Tank Farm project, a bitumen storage terminal, for $350 million. The band will issue bonds to raise the money. While the deal had nothing to do with B.C., it reflects the spirit of the agreement, a BCBC spokesperson said.

The deal makes clear that there is still work to do to ensure First Nations have the tools they need to equitably share in B.C.’s prosperity — access to capital through loan guarantees, for example, something the federal government has been talking about since January. 

The agreement states that the parties seek new opportunities to jointly advance the shared interests of sustainable economic development in B.C. through increased public engagement and understanding. That’s an objective many British Columbians will have no trouble buying into.

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. First Nations, business council pledge economic support with new agreement

B.C. business and First Nations leaders are touting a new formal agreement as a way to help lift indigenous communities out of poverty and build the province’s economy at the same time.

A memorandum of understanding between the Business Council of British Columbia and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, signed Tuesday morning in Vancouver, aims to bridge the divide between the two groups and help share the province’s economic prosperity.

“For far too long, we’ve administered poverty, and this is unacceptable,” said Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson. “No longer can we accept the deplorable conditions faced by many of our nations. We need to collectively find ways to ensure that no nation is left behind, that all of our First Nations people are supported.”

Marcia Smith, chair of the business council and a senior vice-president with Teck Resources Limited, described the agreement as the first of its kind in Canada, and told an audience of businesspeople and indigenous leaders that it would give investors more confidence in B.C.-based projects.

“We are going to work together to build shared understanding of aboriginal rights and title issues, economic opportunities and the priorities of First Nations communities,” she said.

 

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Globe and Mail: B.C. to restore Central Coast ferry service to boost aboriginal tourism

[Excerpt] The government’s announcements are part of a new economic agreement with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. Ms. Clark said her government will provide up to $2.5-million over three years to support the continued development of the assembly’s First Nations Sustainable Economic Development Strategy.

The strategy will include establishing a roundtable of First Nations “economic champions” from all regions of the province to advise leaders, as well as improving employment data for on-reserve communities.

The Business Council of B.C. and the provincial Assembly of First Nations also announced Tuesday that they have signed what they say is a “landmark” memorandum of understanding to ensure sustainable economic development.

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CBC: B.C. First Nations and business community set their sights on economic reconciliation

British Columbia's business and First Nations communities have signed a memorandum of understanding to recognize their commitment to economic reconciliation.

Shane Gottfriedson, the B.C. regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations, and Greg D'Avignon, the president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, both signatories to the agreement, spoke to Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

Chief Gottfriedson said the agreement is about creating opportunities for sustainable economic development for First Nations communities.

"We're living in the 21st century now and it's time to look at collaboration and partnerships, and make sure that sustainable economic development and reconciliation is taking place."

He added that many First Nations communities are focused on educating their youth and increasing the quality of life for their future.

"Right now, it's about managing poverty, but we need to get into the game of managing wealth, creating a better quality of life for our people. We can't be left out from that."

D'Avignon said the business community was eager to break down barriers in working with First Nations communities through this public declaration.

"If we can create certainty and clarity with a legal framework and structures in place to get decision making with transparency and understanding ... we're going to be quite unique in the world. That will be a competitive advantage for British Columbia going forward."

The gesture coincides with provincial funding that supports a number of initiatives supporting First Nations economic development including:

  • A roundtable to encourage dialogue between First Nations and the business community.
  • The creation of sustainable economic development guides.
  • Improving the quality of employment data for on-reserve communities.

Premier Christy Clark noted in a statement that "improving the quality of life of First Nations people and ensuring they see the benefits from Canada's strongest economy is reconciliation in action."

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CBC Radio, Early Edition: What does economic reconciliation look like?

Shane Gottfriedson, the B.C. Regional Chief with the Assembly of First Nations, and Greg D'Avignon,the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, talk about economic reconciliation.

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Investopedia: Could a Carbon Tax Work?

[Excerpt] British Columbia's carbon tax, introduced in 2008, is broadly considered a success. A May 2015 Duke working paper found that emissions in the province fell by 5% to 15% with "negligible effects on aggregate economic performance, though certain emissions-intensive sectors have faced challenges." The authors found the tax to be revenue-neutral; in fact the government returned slightly more money to households than it took in carbon tax revenues.

I appears that carbon pricing can work, in other words. Even business leaders in the province are more-or-less okay with the new status quo. "We were not very happy when it was first announced," Business Council of British Columbia's head of policy Jock Finlayson told the New York Times in March. But that opposition has since given way to "a sizable constituency saying this is O.K."

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The Georgia Straight: A close look at the B.C. NDP, Liberal, and Green plans for a higher minimum wage

[Excerpt] Jock Finlayson is executive vice president of the Business Council of British Columbia. He told the Straight that most employers are supportive of regular increases like the Liberal government’s peg to the consumer price index. On $15 by 2021, Finlayson said: “I think that would start to push the envelope a bit.”

He didn’t dismiss further increases outright, but he argued in favour of more nuanced policies: for example, looking at the relationship between the minimum wage and the average industrial wage, which was about $25 in 2015.

“I think there is room for healthy debate on what the statutory minimum should be,” Finlayson said. “Should it be 50 percent of the average [industrial wage] or should it be pushed up higher, as some people on the left will argue? I think that’s a reasonable debate to have.”

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Business in Vancouver: Carbon price comparison shows B.C. is not a laggard

A character in an Oscar Wilde play defined a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

When it comes to carbon pricing, it’s easy to fixate on the price rather than its value as a carbon reduction tool, and recently the Pembina Institute has taken a cynical view of B.C.’s commitment to battling climate change.

B.C. has frozen its carbon tax at $30 per tonne since 2013, and despite recommendations from its own Climate Action Team (CLT) to start raising it by $10 per tonne after 2018, there have been signals that the tax might continue to be frozen at $30 until a national carbon scheme is announced.

In June, the Pembina Institute labelled B.C. “a climate laggard when compared to Canada’s other most populous provinces,” based on the carbon tax freeze and the fact that B.C. will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction targets.

But is B.C. truly a climate change laggard?

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Even if B.C. does nothing more with its climate action plan, the efficacy of its current policies shows it’s no laggard.

The real value of any policy is its stringency – its ability to reduce GHG emissions.  And on that score, the Ecofiscal Commission cites studies that show the emissions to be reduced in B.C. by 2020 at between 5% and 15% compared with 7% in Alberta, 11% in Ontario and 15% in Quebec.

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The Business Council of BC has urged the B.C. government to continue the carbon tax freeze until other jurisdictions have caught up.

Cement plants and greenhouses are among business that could suffer from carbon prices that are too high compared with competing provinces, states and countries that don’t have carbon pricing.

As Ecofiscal Commission chairman Chris Ragan points, if a high carbon tax drives an industry to move across the border to a U.S. state where there is no carbon tax, it’s a lose-lose situation because it means a Canadian province takes an economic hit and no net GHG reduction has been achieved.

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Business in Vancouver: No carbon tax hike in B.C.’s new climate plan

The B.C. government will not raise the carbon tax above $30 per tonne for the foreseeable future, and its new climate action plan fails to adopt some key recommendations made by the government’s own Climate Leadership Team (CLT).

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Of the 32 recommendations made by the CLT, the key one was raising B.C.’s $30 per tonne carbon tax by $10 per year, after 2018. It has been frozen at $30 per tonne since 2013.

But Premier Christy Clark defended inaction on the carbon tax hike, saying other jurisdictions have not yet caught up to B.C.

“We will consider raising the carbon tax as other provinces catch up,” Clark said.

There is a concern with “leakage” when one jurisdiction has carbon pricing that is higher than competing jurisdictions. Industries may simply move to jurisdictions with lower carbon prices – or no price at all – which means a loss to the economy, but no net reduction to actual emissions, which will simply be produced in some other jurisdiction.

“There's a recognition that B.C. has had the highest carbon tax in North America, and still will have in the next five years, even based on the plans other jurisdictions have made,” said Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of BC. “And they’re mindful of the fact that B.C. has to remain competitive going forward, particularly for trade exposed industries and those that are energy intensive.”

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberals rein in greenhouse-gas emissions goals, put off carbon tax change

The B.C. Liberal government has put off the heavy lifting on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a later date, under a new plan released today.

The much-anticipated update to a 2008 plan created under then-premier Gordon Campbell recommits the province to achieving an 80 per cent reduction over 2007 levels by 2050.

However, today’s 52-page plan only lays out actions estimated to achieve less than half of the needed reductions by 2050, and much less if the government’s much-hoped-for liquefied natural gas export industry materializes and significantly increases emissions.

While it’s already known that B.C. will not meet its 2020 target of reducing emissions by one-third, the Christy Clark-led Liberals are not setting a new interim target and will have to remove from law the 2020 legislated target.

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B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon said the B.C. government’s caution in raising the carbon tax is prudent given that it’s the highest in North America, sixth highest in the world and no province has a carbon tax now. “We have to continue to make sure that B.C. businesses can compete,” he said.

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Daily Hive: New BC climate plan promises to hit targets but gets mixed reaction

[Excerpt] In a release reacting to the plan, the Business Council of BC supported the province’s efforts but expressed concern about being able to grow jobs in this climate.

“As a small trading economy, BC is competing with jurisdictions that have not taken similar climate management steps, putting a number of our energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries at a disadvantage in the global market,” President & CEO Greg D’Avignon and EVP & Chief Policy Officer Jock Finlayson said in the joint statement.

The council supports putting a price on carbon emissions, said the statement, but it was time to match others’ carbon tax rates instead of waiting for others to catch up.

“There are some businesses operating in British Columbia that pay upwards of $30 to $50 million in carbon tax each year.”

“In the wider Canadian context the Business Council supports putting a price on carbon emissions to incent behavioural change and encourage increased investments in low-carbon technologies.

“For British Columbia, this means coordinating carbon pricing with the national government to create a level playing field for business and industry across the country.”

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CTV News: B.C. keeps freeze on carbon tax in new climate plan, won't adjust target

The British Columbia government is maintaining a freeze on its carbon tax and refusing to budge on a timeline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a new climate plan that environmental groups describe as a missed opportunity.

Premier Christy Clark said Friday that the government needs to keep the province economically competitive to protect jobs in the battle against climate change as she highlighted 21 measures the province is taking to cut emissions.

"A climate plan is not just about carbon pricing," she told a news conference. "As the World Bank noted, carbon pricing is just one instrument in a portfolio of approaches to fight climate change. And we cannot get where we need to be in fighting climate change in British Columbia with a carbon tax alone."

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The Business Council of British Columbia said it remains concerned about the competitiveness of its members, particularly exporters.

"As a small trading economy, B.C. is competing with jurisdictions that have not taken similar climate management steps, putting a number of our energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries at a disadvantage in the global market," it said in a statement.

It said some businesses are paying up to $50 million a year in carbon tax.

"These businesses must compete with companies based outside of the province that sell goods into B.C. and other global markets while paying a much lower price on carbon, or no carbon levy at all. This makes these businesses less competitive."

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Jock Finlayson on Roundhouse Radio

Jock Finlayson joins Business in Vancouver on Roundhouse Radio to discuss the impact of the new Metro Vancouver Foreign Buyers Tax and its impact on attracting talent to the region. (Listen at 16:20)

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EnergeticCity.ca: Minister convinced LNG boom still going to happen

While it still believes the economy of this province will be at or near the top of provincial growth charts this year and next, the BC Business Council is nevertheless cutting its B-C growth forecast.

It’s now predicting growth of two point seven percent this year, and two point six percent next year, and economist Ken Peacock says it’s the result of a more muted global economy, and the lack of progress toward the long forecast development of a BC Liquefied Natural Gas Industry.

However, that doesn’t play well with a government which promised a robust LNG industry prior to the last provincial election, and is now getting ready to face the electorate again next spring.

After promising 100 thousand jobs and a debt free BC in the 2013 election campaign, Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman in speaking this week, with Jon McComb on CKNW, responded to critics, who suggest the Liberals have hoodwinked voters.

He argues that spending is already having a ripple impact in northern communities, and while the slump in world oil and gas prices has slowed things down the government expects a demand rebound.

He adds the feds. need to kick start the process with environmental approval for Kitimat’s stalled Pacific Northwest LNG project.

Mr. Coleman also believes while prices are now in the gutter — they’ll recover by the time the B-C plants are online.

 

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Abbotsford News: Metro Vancouver home tax could send foreign buyers to Abbotsford

The province's new 15 per cent property-transfer tax on the purchase of Metro Vancouver homes by foreigners could send some of those buyers looking to Abbotsford but is unlikely to significantly increase demand for local homes, according to one economist.

The tax applies to non-Canadian citizens without permanent residency status.

Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., said the new tax will likely dampen demand for residential property in Vancouver, Richmond, the North Shore and other municipalities where prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

But while some buyers will turn to the Fraser Valley, the Victoria area and other regions outside the Lower Mainland, such movement will be minimal, he predicts.

"We're talking about more of a dribble than a flood, simply because foreign investors who have been coming in to the real estate market tend to have very strong locational preferences," said Finlayson.

He said foreign buyers from China are more attracted to the west side of Vancouver and Richmond because of existing strong Asian population groups there as well as the neighbourhoods' luxury market.

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Economists such as Finlayson and Central 1 Credit Union's Helmut Pastrick both say more can be done to increase the supply of housing units in the market, through speedier municipal approvals for development projects.

But both also acknowledged that more rapid redevelopment and densification of single-family neighbourhoods would result in even fewer detached houses available, likely widening the price gap between multifamily units and detached houses.

Finlayson also suggested parts of the Agricultural Land Reserve that have never been productively farmed could be opened up to development.

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Black Press: Pundits split on whether foreign buyers tax will cool market

The province's decision to charge a steep 15 per cent property transfer tax when foreigners buy Metro Vancouver homes may help cool the region's "bubbly and overpriced" housing market, one B.C. economist says.

Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., said it should have "some effect in dampening the demand" for real estate, particularly the single-family houses that have shot up much faster in price than townhomes and condos.

He said there's some evidence the housing market is cooling already and that cooling may accelerate after the extra tax kicks in Aug. 2 on purchases by foreign nationals or companies they control.

He also noted the province's decision to apply the new tax only in Metro, at least for now, could shift the foreign appetite for B.C. real estate to neighbouring regions.

"It may in fact lead to greater foreign demand for housing in areas like the Fraser Valley, Squamish, Greater Victoria and the central Okanagan," Finlayson said.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong indicated the new tax could be extended to other parts of B.C. if needed.

Finlayson said he hopes the province uses the revenue, which will go into a Housing Priority Initiatives Fund, mainly to assist renters, who face steeply rising rents in some urban areas.

That should be a priority, he said, because home ownership, particularly detached house ownership, is "just not going to be the future" for many area residents.

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Vancouver Sun Editorial: Time to fix the PST

While the defeat of the Harmonized Sales Tax in the 2011 referendum may have been a victory for democracy, it demonstrated that sometimes the people get it wrong — witness Brexit or the rise of Donald Trump.

The arguments put forward by the proponents of the HST are as valid today as they were then and the flaws of the Provincial Sales Tax have become more apparent over time.

Of course, no politician who plans to survive the next election would dare to propose bringing back the HST but there are other options.

It should be understood that the B.C. government will need more revenue to provide the programs the electorate demands, most importantly those related to health care.  Ideally, it should be able to raise the necessary revenue through economic growth rather than raising taxes.

The PST fails on two counts here: First, it is focused on taxing goods when growth in the economy is increasingly being driven by services. Second, the PST is imposed on business inputs — effectively a tax penalty on productivity-enhancing investment — making it more difficult to grow the economy.

In a recent study commissioned by the Business Council of B.C., Kevin Milligan, an economic professor at UBC, laid out several options for the B.C. government to consider.

• Replace the PST with other revenue sources, such as the carbon tax.

• Improve the PST by exempting business inputs and expanding it to cover more services.

• Replace the PST with a new B.C.-VAT, an alternative form of value-added tax.

Each one presents opportunities and challenges for the government.

In the first case, replacing PST revenue with incomes taxes would shift the burden on middle-income earners, who would see no benefit from eliminating the PST and could legitimately complain that the tax is unfair. Replacing it with carbon tax revenue could erode B.C.’s tax competitiveness with other jurisdictions.

In the second case, improving the PST by expanding its coverage and providing relief for business inputs meets the test of revenue generation and fairness, but the political cost might be high as it begins to resemble the rejected HST.

Finally, a new B.C.-VAT offers greater efficiency (i.e. ease of compliance, lower collection costs to government) but the obligation falls to firms which may balk at paying a profit-insensitive tax rather than explicitly collecting it from customers on each transaction.

It is all well and good that the B.C. government has established a Commission on Tax Competitiveness chaired by economist Bev Dahlby, but with respect to the PST, the problems are well known, have been studied extensively, and the options are clear. It’s time to make a decision.

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BC Business Magazine: Weekly Roundup

"What’s wrong with the PST? A new study finds it’s neither fair nor efficient. By covering goods more than services, the tax doesn’t provide sufficient revenue—plus it doesn’t support investment."

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