The Canadian government has recently announced that it intends to address what it considers to be three loopholes that allow tax planning using private corporations: income sprinkling, passive investments made by private corporations, and the conversion of a private corporations’ income into capital gains. This post will focus on the first form of tax planning, income sprinkling.
Income sprinkling refers to the use of the flexible structure of a Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC) to do income splitting with family members in lower tax brackets. This allows some Canadian small business owners to reduce their income tax burden in a way that is unavailable to other Canadians. Finance Canada estimates that closing the income sprinkling loophole would generate $250 million yearly in additional tax revenue. Since the impact on federal finances is likely to be negligible, I focus my analysis on the issues of fairness and efficiency.
Queen’s University Economics Department is thrilled to welcome assistant professor, and J. William and Marion E. MacKinnon Junior Fellow, Brent Hickman into the faculty. Brent joined the QED faculty last summer from the University of Chicago. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of Professor Hickman’s work and celebrate some of his career accomplishments so far.
On Tuesday, May 11, the Queen’s Economics Department (QED) hosted the 12th Frontiers of Macroeconomics workshop (hereafter Frontiers). This conference brings together a diverse collection of contemporary research, exemplifying the frontier of modern macroeconomics. This article summarizes the objectives and findings of some of the conference’s presented work, and provides some commentary on the direction of both theory and methodology in macroeconomics.
What are the Determinants of Worker Job Matches?
Ilse Lindenlaub’s “Multi-Dimensional Sorting of Workers and Jobs in the Data” (with Fabien Postel-Vinay) explores the mobility of workers and asks which worker skills are relevant in the sorting process. By sorting, economists mean how workers move from job to job, each time finding a “better” match, and ultimately finding one that is stable, in the sense that neither the worker nor the job (the firm) expects to prefer another working arrangement. The key methodological contribution is to develop a relatively simple test of how skills drive sorting behaviour, accounting for the considerable heterogeneity of skills. In doing so, the authors break from a standard simplification found in much economic theory: that worker ability (for instance) is one-dimensional. Of course, in the real world, we can group workers according to a near-infinity of skills, such as interpersonal, cognitive, non-cognitive, routine, manual, or creative. Read More »
On May 8th, 2018, the Queen’s Economics Department hosted the second annual workshop on Financial Intermediation and Regulation, jointly hosted by the Bank of Canada and the John Deutsch Institute. The conference brought together some of the world’s leading experts in finance and industrial organization to present and discuss their latest research. The conference covered interesting topics relating to finance and regulations including the impact of shadow banking on monetary policy , the strategic use of trade credit in retail supply chains , the dealers’ and investors’ bidding behaviour in Canadian treasury bills auctions , and how the current selection process of arbitrators in the US favours the repeat selection of industry-friendly arbitrators.  A key feature of this conference is the emphasis put on the policy implications of academic research. In particular, the rise of the shadow banking sector in the last few decades have attracted the attention of academic researchers, central bankers and policymakers worldwide, making Kairong Xiao’s paper titled “Monetary Transmission through Shadow Banks” a very timely inclusion to the conference. To illustrate the importance of the shadow banking system, note that in the United States just prior to the onset of the great recession, the total shadow banking liabilities exceeded $20 trillion USD compare to $10 trillion USD liabilities in the traditional banking system.  Read More »
By Peter Shannon, M.A. Economics, Queen’s University
Ontario’s 2018 budget was released March 28, projecting an unanticipated deficit of $6.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The 2017 budget projected that Ontario was on track for consecutive balanced budgets and indeed, Ontario ended a 10 year string of deficits with a $642 million surplus in 2016-17.  Given the province’s rapid growth and low unemployment in recent years, tighter fiscal policy seemed imminent. However, pre-election promises of free childcare, expanded prescription drug coverage and increased health care spending will push Ontario back into red ink this year. 
The political motivations of Ontario’s 2018 budget are clear: with the June 7 election looming, Premier Wynne’s Liberals are attempting to replicate the success of their federal counterparts. Like Justin Trudeau in 2015, the Ontario Liberals are promising to run a series of deficits to expand social programs, with an emphasis on families with young children, seniors, and mental health.  Both governments display a shift in focus from net debt levels to debt-to-GDP ratios as a measure of sustainability.
Ontario is home to about a fifth of Canada’s Indigenous peoples aged 0-24, nearly 85% of whom live off reserve. In total, this means that Indigenous peoples make up about 3.4% of the off-reserve population aged 0-24 in Ontario. While the federal government has jurisdiction over the provision of education on reserves, it is the responsibility of the provincial governments to provide education to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living off reserve. The incoming government should seek to implement policies that reduce the gap in schooling outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living off reserves.
By Eliane Hamel Barker and Ardyn Nordstrom, Queen’s University
On March 14th, 2018, Frank Lewis passed away peacefully at home. Frank had been an Emeritus Professor for the Department of Economics at Queen’s University, where he spent 44 years of his career before retiring last year. He received his doctorate in Economics from Rochester University after graduating from Westmount High and McGill University.
Frank was devoted to teaching and mentoring students for many generations, and was an active researcher with a focus on Canadian economic history. His teaching legacy was recognized in 2016 when he received the Jonathan Hughes Prize for excellence in teaching from the Economic History Association. Even after retiring, Frank continued to contribute by publishing two academic papers and providing expert assistance to the Indigenous and Crown parties in a significant case involving 1850 treaties. The Queen’s Economics Department will always remember Frank Lewis for his years of contribution and for sharing his passion for economic history. You can read more about Frank’s illustrious career here.
A memorial service in Frank’s memory will be held on Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 in Grant Hall, Queen’s University. The ceremony will start at 2:30pm and will be followed by a reception at Ban Righ Hall in the Eliza S. Gordon Dining Room.
Frank’s full obituary is available here, where you will also find a space to pass along your condolences. Should you wish to donate to the Queen’s Economics Department in memory of Frank Lewis, you can do so here.
By Allan W. Gregory and Eliane Hamel Barker, Queen’s University
Statistics Canada recently took up the difficult challenge of finding out what Canadians pay for their cannabis both medically (licensed and unlicensed) and recreationally. Currently only licensed use of medical cannabis (both dried and oil) is legal to purchase from licensed producers under Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR). One reason governments are so interested in the street price of cannabis is the legalization of marijuana for recreational use due sometime this summer. The thinking is that legal marijuana prices must not be greater than those on the street; otherwise black markets will continue to flourish.
Statistics Canada is not new to the survey business and have in the past attempted to price cannabis and quantities smoked. However, in their most recent effort, a novel feature was using crowdsourcing on a web site survey to gather the data. Statistics Canada understood that there was a selectivity or participation problem in such a methodology but decided this was the best approach possible. We agree with this decision. Since cannabis was soon to be legalized for recreational use and no special personal identifiers were asked, the participating decision should not be associated with either positive (higher price) or negative (lower price) bias.Read More »
Canada is a country built by immigrants. It is known for its multiculturalist approach to welcoming these newcomers and uses a points system to select immigrants. This method of screening has received much praise from economists and policy-makers alike for its ability to identify applicants that will answer the varying demands of the labor market. As an immigrant myself, this initial description is both reassuring and inspiring.
Yet a component often forgotten is that attracting and screening immigrants is only half the battle. Once they arrive, it is just as important to ensure immigrants’ skills and assets are properly integrated into the labour market and the Canadian economy. Reports on Canada’s immigration policy reflects this gap in analysis by offering both positive and negative accounts of immigrant success in Canada. Statistics and articles such as OECD report a positive picture by stating that employment of foreign-born Canadian citizens has increased since 2008, and in 2012 Canada had the third highest employment rate for immigrants among the OECD member countries (Canada, 2014). In sharp contrast, articles by Ley and Smith (2008) discuss extensive immigrant poverty in gateway cities, Bloemraad (2006) speaks to non-economic factors such as possession of cultural knowledge as barriers to immigrant success, and Derwing et al. (2000) present the now-familiar issue of foreign credential recognition. These conflicting accounts invite questions as to the true success of Canada’s immigration policy.
In my M.A. essay, I propose an approach to reconcile these different accounts of immigrant labour market integration. I posit that the decision to ascend to citizenship acts as a signaling tool for employers.Read More »
The Canadian dollar (CAD) often is described as a ‘commodity currency’ or even as a ‘petrocurrency’. The correlation between commodity prices and the value of the CAD features in daily commentary but you can see it in data at any frequency.
The figure below shows monthly data for the CAD/USD exchange rate along with the Bank of Canada’s commodity price index (reported in real USD) over the past thirty years. Clearly, these two things tend to move together.Read More »