ILLUSTRATIONS: Alberta’s terrifying Temple of Tax, found on the media midway. So scary it even frightens billionaires away. Really! Below: Dr. Samuel Johnson, noted wit, N. Murray Edwards, oil sands billionaire (CBC photo), and Mr. James Boswell, biographer.
It’s official. The departure of oil sands and hockey bazillionaire N. Murray Edwards from Alberta had nothing to do with tax rates. Nothing.
Don’t take my word for it. Take Mr. Edwards’.
Mr. Edwards, 56 and in the midst of a change of personal circumstances, has apparently simply decided for some reason Calgary can’t hold a candle to the many charms of London, England.
Well, you know what Samuel Johnson used to say back in the day when James Boswell was still around to jot down his bon mots: “A man who is tired of London is tired of life.” No one has ever said that about the Athens of the Foothills, except maybe during Stampede Week.
Whatever … London is just a great place from which to oversee a business empire worth a couple of billion, and, anyway, Mr. Edwards explained to the Globe and Mail in a respectful interview last week, moving there was “based upon a change of scenery.” Period.
This is important because just weeks ago, Mr. Edwards was loudly and credulously reported by mainstream media – based on claims by “sources” said to be “familiar with the situation” who preferred not to be identified – to be moving abroad because Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government had raised taxes to a point they became onerous for a billionaire.
As was noted in this space at the time, this narrative really didn’t make a lot of sense if you bothered to compare taxes in the United Kingdom with those in Alberta, not to mention the cost of living in London, a city so expensive even the billionaires there whine about it, with the modest cost of life in Cowtown. Calgary is an obvious bargain by comparison, with a nice view of the Rockies to boot, as long as you stay out of the flood zone.
Nevertheless, the fairy tale about Alberta taxes was stated as fact in the Calgary Herald and all the other broadsheet and tabloid editions of the Postmedia Alberta Frankenpaper. “Two sources familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified said Edwards is switching his residency to the U.K. for tax reasons,” the Postmedia reporter explained breathlessly. This was then restated and rebroadcast in every corner of the mainstream media.
Organizations such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Fraser Institute and the University of Calgary then jumped on the bandwagon, defending beleaguered billionaires and attacking the “ideological soak-the-rich politicians” in Edmonton responsible for this outrage, as a Fraser Institute operative put it.
What a shocker, eh? Who would have thought the Fraser Institute’s crack research team would leap to conclusions based on the most pathetically flimsy evidence?
Now, thanks to Mr. Edwards’ clarification in the Globe and Mail, we know that everything about this story is baloney.
“I’m stepping back from a lot of my day-to-day things and London’s a good place to do that,” Mr. Edwards advised the Globe’s well-mannered reporter. “Moving to London was based on my personal circumstances, which I don’t want to go into.” (Emphasis added.)
The Globe, naturally, politely respected Mr. Edwards’ wishes and didn’t repeat any salacious gossip about his private circumstances, although its reporter did subtly try to slip between the lines a suggestion there might nevertheless be the teeny-weeniest something to the story of how the NDP’s equally teeny-weeny tax increases are forcing Alberta billionaires onto the endangered-species list. “Mr. Edwards did not specifically list (taxes) as among his reasons,” the scribe intoned.
The British tabloid press was not so reticent about Mr. Edwards’ change of scenery. Back in the fall of 2014, the reliably trashy Daily Mail reported that singer k.d. lang, “the 52-year-old ‘Constant Craving’ crooner,” was “dating Heather Edwards, the wife of Canadian oil and gas tycoon N. Murray Edwards, who is estimated to be worth a staggering $2.2 billion.”
Since then, the buzz in Calgary is that – Hallelujah! – Mr. Edwards has a new love interest, and she wants to live in London. Readers can be assured evidentiary standards similar to those that supported the Calgary Herald’s scoop about the impact of tax increases on the Alberta billionaire community have been met in reporting the tidbit of information in this paragraph.
All of this suggests that Mr. Edwards has friends and associates willing to use his changing domestic circumstances to exercise their personal political hobbyhorses. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to blame the guy for deciding to take his billions and leave the country!
Now that Mr. Edwards has clarified what actually happened, presumably we’ll never again hear anyone say he was driven out of Alberta by high taxes. Right?
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.