Saturday, December 3, 2011

 

CLASH OF TITANS

Prime Minister Harper travels to Washington on Wednesday this week for a "Tete a Tete" with President Obama. It's expected the two will (finally) announce a conclusion to Canada's heralded and much anticipated "perimeter security initiative." Thrown-in for good measure, Obama will call on the IRS to "heal" its operatives who have been dogging Canadian / American (dual) citizens over paying-up penalties on alleged taxes they don't owe.

Harper will save face over the embarrassment of "Perimeter Security" which has now dragged-on for just short of a year, while Obama gets breathing room to launch his Presidential re-election campaign freed of the pesky, whinny Canadians from across his northern border.

Rather than resolving substantive bi-lateral matters, the "Perimeter Security" accord will be front-loaded with "Pilot" projects of every form and nature. For an additional good neighbourly gesture, the IRS will confirm that it's decided to cast its "net" beyond Canada over the recent strict enforcement of long ago forgotten but decades-old "Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts" tax provisions which have threatened to force most holders of dual citizenship living in Canada (and their dependants) into long legal battles and/or personal bankruptcy over penalties and debts they've likely never owed.

Our cross border irritants and tensions seemingly eased once more, despite the winter's holiday line-ups at checkpoints, Canadians will carry-on with our national spending and travel obsession south of the border. And fueled by our relatively strong currency, it seems we may be poised to set new records for travel to the United-States. 2011 third-quarter (July-August-September) numbers just released by Statistics Canada indicate that we took 12.3 Million trips to the United-States during the period. If the trend is maintained, the result could be as many as 50-Million Canadian visits to the USA in 2011, versus about 20-million by USA visitors to Canada.

The State of Florida is a major beneficiary as the main destination for longer-term visits by Canadians. As the "Sunshine State" struggles through a fourth consecutive year of moribund economic prospects, one of the few bright lights on its horizon has been the increase (up 14% in 2010) of visitors from Canada attracted primarily to the ever growing family themed parks and entertainment facilities clustered within 50 (or so) miles of Orlando.  This Monday, Walt Disney would have turned 110 years old. In the mid-1960's through a series of dummy corporations Disney acquired and accumulated almost 28,000 acres of central Florida land. Though he died before its completion, the Disney Corporation is not only (by far) Florida's largest land-holder, but Disney World is the world's most popular vacation destination. The state Titans appear to be on a collision course.

A Tea-Party favourite, the state's Republican Governor Rick Scott has been courting the international casino-resort investment community to take a look at developing major Las Vegas type venues primarily in the Miami Beach and Tampa/St.Petersburg areas. A matter which isn't sitting very well with Disney's traditional squeaky-clean family-friendly vacation-postcard well lubricated and financed image of Florida. Proposed gambling destination resorts are on the drawing board by the Sands Corporation and by the Wynn Corporation of Las Vegas. But it's the acquisition of 30 acres of Biscayne Bay property in Miami for $240-Million by the Genting Corporation of Malaysia which has most upset the folks at Disney, as well as the Florida Chamber of Commerce whose Chairman is (guess who?) an Executive of Walt Disney World.

Come January, Florida faces a budget shortfall of more than $2.5 Billion and an ongoing unemployment rate which is close to 11%. The allure of casino gambling destination resorts, the thousands of low-level jobs they would create and the revenues generated have vast appeal for the government.  The battle of Titans is engaged and the daunting opponent is Disney; (by far) Florida's most powerful corporation. It may be interesting to hear just how loud a Mouse can roar.





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