Bill Cara's Position on Canadian Income Trusts

by: Bill Cara

My position on Canadian Income Trusts has been well advanced to my readers. I have written a lot about this subject.

In one article, dated Nov. 18, 2005, I told you what I really think. I didn’t want readers to think I was a fence-sitter, so I gave it that title.

And when the former Liberal government was about to fall, I wrote on Nov. 24, 2005 that the political grandstanding and the cow-towing of politicians by media was simply shameful.

Read these words from almost a year ago, and ask yourself who “gets it!”

”After the January federal election, there will be a new government, and as things stand, it will not likely be a Liberal one. The new government, however, must address this issue of taxation differences between corporations and trusts. That process will take many months, and millions of taxpayer dollars, before a legislative bill can be voted on.

Nothing today has changed. There is no legislation, just political grandstanding that plays into the hands of players who spin markets in order to create transactions.

All an objective trader need do is sit back and observe the cheerleading of various vested interest parties. That cheerleading is intended to swing momentum back and forth. The financial services industry, and the managers of Canadian royalty and income trusts are playing the owner of capital yet again.”

Today, I have read bloggers and writers, and watched Talking Heads react stupidly, absolutely, totally unthinkingly, about this issue. Instead of focusing on the crucially important issue of needed tax reform, these centers of influence are playing the “he said, she said” game.

Over recent months, as the equity market moved closer to Armageddon, maybe you noticed how I was using the research reports of Canada’s Humungous Bank & Broker in pointing to their advice. If you bought a security on that professional advice, and you claim to have lost your life savings, then sue them.

As for me, I’m on the record as to: (i) not liking these trusts, (ii) urging “buyer beware”, (iii) calling them “so-called” investment vehicles, (iv) saying they are part of the musical chair game, (v) calling them tax avoidance vehicles for some but not all, (vi) stating that buyers were fooling themselves in thinking they are fixed income, (vii) questioning their over-leveraged debt and aging asset structure, (viii) questioning the dubious value of most of the issues that were floated after the initial ones, and (ix) on and on.

I even pointed you to Al Rosen, one of Canada’s leading forensic accountants, and a person of considerable authority, as someone you needed to carefully listen to before listening to a sales pitch.

So, why let the media or your financial advisor rehash the past? If you bought these vehicles on bad advice, you have to take personal responsibility. Good advice was available to you – here and elsewhere. Did you listen?

Some of you did because you wrote me to tell me that. And, if I saved at least one family from material destruction to their estate, then I feel good. It's why I write this non-commercial blog.

This income trust issue and the need for tax reform must be decided in the federal legislature, and it will be.

Yesterday, the trust segment of the Toronto Stock Exchange was down -19-pct, and today it had regained about +10-pct. I suspect it will now lose about -5-pct and go back and forth in cycles of increasingly small amplitude that will soon balance current prices to value.

If the value is there, there may be some of these companies worthy of your interest. Without a tax advantage, however, many or even most may have to spend millions in legal and accounting fees to be restructured yet again. And that has to be factored into your decision.

In future weeks, I’m sure HB&B will try to save face and tell you which ones they continue to support on the basis of probable changes to the tax regime. If I’m able to obtain reports worthy of your time, I’ll pass them along, as usual.

And, as usual, I was not wrong on this issue, which, I am pleased to say, the record shows.