A class of refugee the National Post and Wildrose Party can finally love: billionaires in tax flight

Posted on March 30, 2016, 2:42 pm
8 mins

PHOTOS: N. Murray Edwards talking about himself in a screen capture from a Facebook video. Below: The National Post’s Kevin Libin and the Wildrose Party’s Derek Fildebrandt, united in their fearless championing of the Canadian overdog. Bottom: Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, sitting while the rest of us stand to attention.

N. Murray Edwards, where are you now that we actually need you?

I am not, of course, talking about the billionaire tarsands tycoon’s alleged managerial brilliance or vast contribution to the commonweal of Western Canada, but to his missing voice in the increasingly bitter debate about tax policy and his role in it in this part of the world.

kevin-libinOne could argue, I suppose, that with so many people speaking for Mr. Edwards, his contribution is hardly required. But this is obviously wrongheaded, since, without his clear explanations, Mr. Edwards’ apparent decision to move to London has become a tabula rasa on which we can all scratch our own uninformed opinions.

Was it really taxes, or the state of Mr. Edwards’ domestic life? Could it have been Calgary itself, which nowadays has all the vices of a big city with few of the graces, that drove Mr. Edwards to London?

Inquiring minds don’t just want to know, they need to know: Why was it, sir, really, that you decided to up and move kit and caboodle to London, England? If, indeed, that is what you’ve done.

Whenever it took place – the precise date is not clear- the departure for London of Mr. Edwards, petro-billionaire late of Calgary, certainly set off a storm of controversy when it eventually hit the virtual public prints a couple of days ago.

Despite the best efforts of the Wildrose Party, the business press and pockets of Harperite dead-enders holed up on Facebook to pass this off as the result of cruelly high taxes imposed on suffering billionaires by Alberta’s NDP and the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa, one doesn’t get the sense this theme is going over all that well.

fildebrandtStill, give Mr. Edwards’ supporters or exploiters, whichever they may be, their due. They’re thorough, and they’re certainly full of beans.

The it-was-the-taxes-dunnit explanation even turned up in the Wikipedia’s potted bio of the Regina-born billionaire. The following rather awkward line was added to Wikipedia sometime in the past 48 hours by someone who seems to be on a first-fame basis with Mr. Edwards: “Murray recently moved to London England for what many believe was done to avoid paying higher taxes.” (Sic, as they say.)

While Wildrose Leader Brian Jean sat by a lake and asked us to stand with him, prompting general hilarity on social media yesterday, Opposition Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt was on the job as Alberta’s No. 1 defender of tax-weary billionaires, decrying the way Alberta’s poor oligarchs are treated by the taxperson.

“The Left are the only ones surprised that raising taxes on the wealthy will drive many of them to pay their taxes in more competitive jurisdictions,” the former Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta director huffed on his Facebook page yesterday evening. Actually, professional economists would be surprised by this claim as well, if it turned out to be true, but let’s never mind that just now.

Mr. Fildebrandt kindly provided a link to a windy, tear-streaked lament by the National Post’s Kevin Libin about the tragic inability of Liberal and NDP governments to understand that “even one brilliant, job-creating, philanthropic entrepreneur refugee leaving Canada is one too many.”

JeanSitsIt’s nice to see that the long-time Ezra Levant associate – Mr. Libin, that is – feels sympathy for at least one class of refugee, even if this particular line of argument sounds pretty lame to anyone paying attention in a jurisdiction in which taxes on the ultra-wealthy are already ludicrously low.

Meanwhile, the comments I’ve been receiving from readers of this blog have a different tone entirely, for the most part not particularly sympathetic with Mr. Edwards’ supposed plight. This suggests there may even be a considerable amount of resentment about this story.

“Edwards should take out an ad in a newspaper thanking the taxpayers of Canada for allowing him to make his billions in a safe and secure, business friendly environment, complete with all of the publicly funded infrastructure he required to succeed in life,” one correspondent wrote. “As well, he should thank the taxpayers for his publicly funded education.”

But it occurs to me that this indeed may in fact be unfair to Mr. Edwards, though not for the reasons suggested by Messrs. Fildebrandt and Libin.

To wit, in the few hours since the claimed relationship of taxes to the billionaire’s departure has become an issue, about the only voice that has been conspicuously absent is that of Mr. Edwards himself.

Albertans now need to hear – in Mr. Edwards’ own words – the real reasons he decided to leave Wild Rose Country!

It remains my strong suspicion that Mr. Edwards was simply tired of Calgary – it may have seemed like the big smoke after his beginnings in Regina but, face it, a chuckwagon can only take a fellow so far, especially when it’s only racing around in circles and there’s no one to share the front bench.

As my correspondent pointed out, Mr. Edwards owes his great success in significant part to us, his fellow Canadians, and since a lot of people are using his name to advance their highly dubious political claims, he now needs to explain to us in his own words why he has moved on.

Indeed, I would go further: it is his public duty to provide answers.

I look forward to his prompt response.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

16 Comments to: A class of refugee the National Post and Wildrose Party can finally love: billionaires in tax flight

  1. David Veitch

    March 30th, 2016

    Media jump to conclusions in an effort to kiss up to billionaires? Mmm, sounds familiar. Like when something as seemingly benign as Shania Twain’s tour itinerary was released last year and Calgary was not on it. “Shania snubs aging Saddledome!” screamed one headline, and the story implied Shania wasn’t playing the facility because it’s too old so Calgarians need to buck up (literally) for a new arena for the Flames’ billionaire owners. I should point out: no one in Shania’s camp actually said they were snubbing Calgary because of the state of the Saddledome. I suggested on social media that Shania was probably bypassing Calgary because she had played two sold-out shows at that same ‘aging Saddledome’ less than a year prior — snubbing Edmonton — and she probably didn’t want to come back to the well too soon. That reasonable alternative explanation drew angry responses from the newspaper and from one of Flames organization’s top execs, who said I was “out to lunch.” Which might be a euphemism for “stop ruining our narrative designed to get taxpayers to fork over for a new stadium that will benefit our beloved billionaires.” The story ends a few months later when Shania adds a second leg to her tour and includes — you guessed it — Calgary on her itinerary. Where did she play? Yup, the “aging Saddledome.”

    Reply
  2. Deb

    March 30th, 2016

    With the cost of living in the UK, tax treaties between the UK and Canada, estate tax and VAT, I find it hard to believe a business man like Edwards is leaving because of an additional 9%. There will no personal savings there. I believe this move to be business motivated when oil prices are having such a devastating effect here in Alberta. Whatever his reason, I have no doubt the conservatives will milk it to death until Edwards says otherwise.

    Reply
  3. David B.

    March 30th, 2016

    Ah David your writing as evidenced by this article has exceeded even your best journalistic standards.

    A great job of skewering both Edwards and his right wing friends who see nothing wrong with making a fortune in Alberta but who damned well don’t like to pay the ridiculously low taxes here.

    Reply
  4. Val Jobson

    March 31st, 2016

    Possible personal reasons, according to Frank Magazine. But I wonder if there’s any connection to the mess at Mount Polley? He’s apparently a big shareholder of the company involved. He also raised funds for BC Liberals who seem to have a lot of scandals lately.

    http://www.desmog.ca/2015/12/18/no-fines-no-charges-laid-mount-polley-mine-disaster

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/01/18/news/environment-canada-issued-warning-mount-polley-mine-disaster-fois-reveal

    Reply
  5. Stephen

    March 31st, 2016

    CNRShell merger begins. That’s a no brainer!!

    Reply
  6. jerrymacgp

    March 31st, 2016

    Ahhh, capital flight, the vengeful tactic of the oligarchs when confronted with an even moderately progressive government. Takes you back, doesn’t it? Makes you want to dust off the Regina Manifesto and freeze their assets before they can be moved out of the province…

    I jest, of course, but if capitalists insist on pushing back against a moderately progressive public policy agenda, they run the risk of engendering a more radically leftist policy to take its place.

    Reply
    • K. Larsen

      March 31st, 2016

      Why jest my friend? Farmers had about $140 million in cash in the Wheat Board, along with office buildings, ships and rail cars – all with essentially zero debt against it. Harper seized it all without compensation to the farmers who paid for it all, and ultimately it ended up being partially owned by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

      There is a court case on this, but so far Harper has won at every step – Parliament, even under Harper, is supreme.

      Reply
  7. political ranger

    March 31st, 2016

    Let’s have all the 1%’ers leave, and good riddance to them. They have no impact on the general economy themselves, except as has been pointed out, as leaches.
    The economy flourishes, or declines, on the backs of and strength of the buying and selling middle class. If there is a need for some kind of risk-for-reward taking, someone will step up to provide the service. Even some schlub from Regina will do apparently.
    Once the rewards are in there is very little risk taking anymore, except by ignorant, incompetent and compliant governments.
    Let the pompous bastards go, I say. Give them a gold colored watch and many thanks for their past service and turn our attention to today’s unnamed and yet-to-be-recognized job creators. Likely some schlub right next door.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 31st, 2016

      Enough schlubs, Ranger!

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      March 31st, 2016

      Agreed. I would think more so in entrepreneurial Alberta, where the dominant narrative has it that fortunes are made solely by people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and working hard. In other words: you can’t play both narratives (the one about self-reliance and the one about oligarch-reliance) at the same time. Well, evidently you can, but only until you are found out.

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        March 31st, 2016

        “you” in the above post meaning the conservative media, not Ranger.

        Reply
  8. ronmac

    March 31st, 2016

    Or maybe the reason Edwards left is because the Flames failed to make the playoffs this year, a bitter disappointment after last year which Calgary’s hockey heroes snatched a playoff spot in an exciting season. He couldn’t endure another season of Flames futility.

    A lot of the billionaires these days became rich by rerouting the flow of tax dollars into their bank accounts

    Reply
  9. Athabascan

    March 31st, 2016

    I wonder, if the CTF, and the Wildrose party will claim that I left the town of Athabasca for tax reasons, when the university closes or is relocated to St. Albert?

    I doubt it I guess since I am not a billionaire, and therefore not a philanthropist either.

    Reply
  10. Val Jobson

    March 31st, 2016

    This change affecting CNRL might actually be blamed on the Notley government, though I think they are doing the right thing:

    “Nor is CNRL under any obligation to consult with or even listen to the Métis community under Alberta’s current laws. But that may be about to change. The province’s NDP government is poised to announce a new consultation process for Métis communities.”

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/metis-accuses-cnrl-1.3513443

    Reply

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