Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Buchheit comments on the continued spread of global inequality - as a combination of top-heavy gains and lost wealth among all but the privileged few has reduced to 6 the number of billionaires with as much wealth as half of humanity.

- Bill Curry reports on Justin Trudeau's cynical pitch for the type of personal security for workers which he's doing nothing to implement in Canada. And Rick Salutin highlights the problem with politicians prioritizing the desire to look smart over the inclination to do good, while Mike Colledge theorizes that public trust in government is declining in no small part due to its withdrawal from areas where it should be helping people.

- Lewis Perkins discusses the prospect of developing a more sustainable economy by encouraging the development of products designed for reuse and repair, rather than quick replacement. (Though it's worth noting that in light of the large number of people currently lacking access to many of the comforts we take for granted, the wider results could also include broader distribution as well as a reduced environmental footprint.)

- And Hassan Yussuff, Robert Walker and Steven Fish point out the need for a transition toward a cleaner economy which accounts for the circumstances of workers who currently depend on the resource sector.

- Jared Bernstein comments on the importance of a labour regulator which understands the needs of workers generally.

- Finally, Andre Picard writes that the real problem facing Canada's health care system isn't wait times in narrow areas, but the lack of a cohesive primary care structure to avoid pushing problems into sickness care. And Hasan Sheikh notes how a lack of access to primary dental care feeds into the overuse of emergency rooms.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Martin Lukacs argues that the way to avoid a Canadian Donald Trump is to ensure people have a progressive challenger to the corporate establishment:
Trudeau’s social liberalism has been partnered with the very economic policies that have cemented inequality and savaged people’s quality of life—and which are now fuelling such unprecedented rage at politicians. The Liberal government’s plan to privatize our world-class public sector, a pro-business trade agenda, tax loopholes for the rich, the short-changing of healthcare, and climate policies that go easy on polluting corporations: this is a sure-fire recipe to continue enriching the wealthy and pissing off the rest of us.

For four decades, the Liberals as much as the Conservatives have been shredding our social programs and starving state spending, showing through such neoliberal policies their true colours: subservience to the corporate elite. These kind of policies are what have created such fertile ground for the new right-wing populism that has viciously triumphed in the United States and is now emerging in Canada.
...
It’s long past time to direct anger in the right direction. A report produced last month by Oxfam revealed that two individuals—David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr—own as much wealth as the bottom 30 percent of Canadians, or 11 million people. Why is the New Democratic Party not broadcasting this scandalous fact from every conceivable pulpit? The rich are treated to off-shore havens and historic low tax rates rates, while the rest of us have to make do with less and less, roiled by anxiety that our children will have it even worse. Canada is practically screaming for a bold and unapologetic redistributive agenda.
...
There are no quick fixes, no easy way of stopping O’Leary or spurring Trudeau. It will take face-to-face organizing among hundreds of thousands of people in Canada, part of a task of fostering new momentum behind left-wing movements. But the country is as primed for it as it ever will be. You don’t want a Canadian Trump to ascend in Canada? Start building this progressive populist alternative.
- Meanwhile, Michael Laxer responds that the crucial part of that analysis is the presence of a genuine left-wing option. And Stephany Griffith-Jones offers her suggestions as to the alternative progressive policies needed to give voters a real choice.

- Noah Richler highlights how the Libs' sudden reversal on electoral reform reflects their contempt for Canada's voters (and associated sense of entitlement). And James Wilt examines just a few of the Libs' key broken promises when it comes to the environment and indigenous rights.

- Stephen Hume discusses how a meager, election-year trinket from Christy Clark falls far short of what's needed to ensure that British Columbians with disabilities can live with dignity, while the Star's editorial board is rightly skeptical about the federal Libs' delays on a national anti-poverty strategy. And Nick Falvo and Chidom Otogwu write that Rachel Notley's Alberta NDP offers an example of how to turn a commitment to poverty reduction into action - while also noting there's still plenty left to be done.

- Finally, Jordan Brennan discusses how corporate mergers serve only to enrich insiders at the expense of the broader economy. And Nick Dyrenfurth writes that it's long past time to stop pretending that self-regulation is an answer to excessive executive pay and inequality (among other problems which involve the corporate extraction of wealth from society at large).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jordy Cummings exposes the shady side of Justin Trudeau's shin persona. Dimitri Lascaris interviews Nora Loreto about Canada's relationship with the U.S. And Michal Rozworski challenges Trudeau's decision to serve as a prop for Donald Trump rather than defending Canadian values:
The point to remember is that there would be intense pressure from within the US business world to prevent a trade war in the first place. Given today’s highly integrated supply chains, even a proportionately small volume of trade can still be crucial. It matters less that trade with Canada accounts for just 5% of GDP if some of that 5% is specialized parts and inputs that can cripple production. And it’s not that easy to replace Canadian-made goods in this case: doing so would require long-term investments with considerable fixed costs in plant and equipment. It could be done, but it won’t be the result of one critical statement.

Nevertheless, Trudeau acts as if that’s a real risk. Even if there might be no personal love lost between our cosmopolitan neoliberal leader and his nativist protectionist counterpart, officially this week it was all smiles and handshakes. Trudeau ducked questions from reporters at his joint press conference, stating, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.” This condescension misses the fact that a majority thinks that even worsening trade relationships would be a price worth paying for standing up to Trump—nevermind that fears of a worsening are overblown. Past prime ministers have been willing to stand up to US presidents over smaller things despite the trading relationship.

Trudeau has to be aware of Canada’s unequal standing in its relationship with the US but he doesn’t have to cower in the corner waiting for a strike from the bully that may never come. Being in less powerful in a trading relationship doesn’t equate to moral paralysis in other spheres. Economic disruption cannot be a cover for lack of spine. My hunch is that Trudeau knows this—that his failure to stand up to Trump is cowardice that has its source in political calculation not economic necessity.
- Brent Patterson comments on the need for Canada to seriously evaluate the dangers of the CETA and other corporate control agreements. And Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair map out the road ahead as CETA undergoes scrutiny from the EU's member states.

- Alex Hemingway and Iglika Ivanova examine how the B.C. Libs have gone out of their way to impose a regressive tax system. And Marco Chown Oved reports on the Conference Board of Canada's study showing that Canada may be missing out on up to $50 billion every year in uncollected taxes.

- Meanwhile, the Economist notes that one of Trump's first major moves has been to facilitate bribery and corruption by allowing resource giants to conceal payments to foreign governments.

- Finally, Dan Durcan and Faiza Shaheen take a look at the realities of work in the U.K., where reasonable surface numbers of jobs are outweighed by the fact that the new work is generally low-quality and precarious.

On non-solutions

Tammy Robert thoroughly documents how Brad Wall's billion-dollar deficit has nothing to do with either resource revenues (being Wall's primary excuse for blowing up the budget), or public services (which are his first target for attacks):
I can’t consider the way the Saskatchewan government has handled the prospect of streamlining public service – or even this deficit – credible, because all they’ve demonstrated so far is that they’re primarily interested in brazenly protecting their political tails by dividing and confusing the narrative, instead of even pretending to consider well-planned or strategic spending decisions.

What I know for sure that the mess we’re in is not just about reduced resource and taxation revenue (the latter of which has been at a record high, thanks in part to both increased population numbers and a run of successful years in agriculture).

No, the financial dumpster fire we’re fighting has everything to do with the fact that this government has jacked up spending – even with the best of intentions – to unsustainable levels, and has simultaneously ran out of money trees, aka the GFSF and the Crown Corporations, to continue to fund their spending habits.
Meanwhile, in case anybody was under the illusion that the Saskatchewan Party's current spin about a sudden budget crisis represents anything but an excuse to open up a new front in Wall's long-running war on public servants, here's his finance minister (emphasis added):
Doherty said the goal would be to hold compensation costs steady or reduce them if possible.

The austerity measures would be maintained over the long term, not just for the upcoming year, he said.
If Wall wanted to deal with the full range of options to improve Saskatchewan's fiscal picture, provincial employees would be well down the list of logical places to look. (On that front, CBC's look at the revenue effect of tax changes shows that merely mirroring Manitoba's PST could pay for all of the province's public service salaries another time over.)

And if he was acting reasonably in response to budget problems which he thought were temporary, he'd be asking for "sacrifices" which fit that bill - rather than demanding permanent reductions in the standard of living experienced by the people who keep Saskatchewan running, while asking nothing of his corporate benefactors other than that they keep funneling copious amounts of money into his political machine.

Instead, Wall is making abundantly clear that he sees his own billion-dollar deficit as nothing more than one more excuse to keep slashing away at Saskatchewan's workers. And it's about time that both the blame and the responsibility for fixing Wall's mess were placed squarely on his shoulders.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jonathan Charlton interviews Danielle Martin about the health benefits of eliminating poverty. And the Equality Trust studies expenditures by household income level, finding among other areas of gross inequality that the rich are able to spend more on restaurants than the poor are able to put toward housing and energy.

- Bruce Livesey, Robert Cribb and Marco Oved report on the precedent set by FINTRAC in allowing a bank to break the law with total anonymity. And Neel Kashkari looks at capital requirements as another area where banks are allowed to operate under different and more favourable rules than mere people.

- Tyler Kustra examines Justin Trudeau's broken promise of electoral reform. And Colin Walmsley highlights how it figures to facilitate the rise of the Canadian Trump by keeping in place a system which artificially consolidates power based on a minority of votes.

- Meanwhile, the Star's editorial board recognizes a developing crisis of trust which can only be exacerbated by Trudeau's self-serving politics.

- Finally, Martin Regg Cohn discusses why we shouldn't treat the Trump administration as an excuse to back off of action against climate change.

New column day

Here, on Brad Wall's choice to cover up the truth behind the Saskatchewan Party's Global Transportation Hub scandal - and the most plausible (if still inadequate) explanations for that decision.

For further reading...
- Again, the latest public revelation was Geoff Leo's reporting of political pressure to pay inflated prices for land. And Leo also reported on the role of Saskatchewan Party MLAs in the coverup, including by refusing to allow people who were actually involved in dubious land deals to answer questions about them. 
- And Murray Mandryk writes about the GTH deal as a precedent for other land acquisitions. But I'd think its significance goes much further in demonstrating the utter lack of judgment of the Wall government - particularly at a time when it's asking the province to accept massive cuts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Tom Parkin calls out the Libs' latest laughable excuse for breaking their promise of electoral reform - being the threat that a party like the one which just held power for 10 years might win a few seats. Andrew Coyne notes that we shouldn't accept Justin Trudeau's bogeyman as an excuse for doing nothing. And Abbas Rana and Derek Abma report that the focus of Lib MPs is to avoid political fallout from their party's betrayal of voters, rather than to try to live up to their commitment.

- Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt sees the electoral reform farce as a prime example of the Libs using a surface consultation process to paper over their basic lack of interest in actually listening to the public.

- Ellen Smirl examines the conservative voting patterns of many rural residents despite their commitment to co-operatives, credit unions and other collective alternatives to domination by the market. 

- Conor Dougherty hypothesizes as to how our economy would be different - and fairer - if we didn't rely so heavily on housing as an investment.

- Finally, Carole Cadwalladr interviews Daniel Dennett about the costs of declining co-operation and trust. And Trevor Hancock comments on how increasing inequality eats away at both:
“When inequality becomes too great, the idea of community becomes impossible”. If you want to create a healthier community, you need to address this issue head-on.
...
It’s hard to imagine the super-wealthy, or even the wealthy, having much shared understanding of the situation of their fellow citizens. This is compounded by the deliberate strategy, coming from the right, of labelling people as taxpayers rather than citizens. As taxpayers, people focus on their taxes, and are encouraged to resent paying them; this makes tax dodging and even tax-evasion socially acceptable.

Yet the whole point about community is a sense of shared identity and interest. But when the gap between the wealthy and the poor becomes so great there is no ‘we’, just ‘them’ and ‘us’. And pretty quickly ‘we’ don’t want to pay for ‘their’ children’s education, ‘their’ health care, ‘their’ public transit, roads or pavements.

But citizens, seeing themselves as part of a community, focus on their shared interests, common purpose and the common good. They understand, as US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it a century ago, that taxes are the price we pay for civilisation.

Revolution is an understandable response to exclusion and unacceptable inequality. Arguably, what we have just seen in the US is a revolution, although in this case a revolution from the right, as was the case in Germany in the 1930s. But it’s not the best or healthiest way to change society. Here in Canada, we still have time for evolution and reform. If we want healthier communities and a healthier society, we need to embrace that opportunity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Feline flops.





Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martin Kenney comments on Canada's continuing role in "snow washing" offshore tax evasion. The Conference Board of Canada examines the massive gap between what Canada should receive in public revenues, and what's actually taken in to keep our society functioning. And Kamal Ahmed highlights how employers are avoiding their responsibilities by relabeling work relationships.

- Joe Romm points out that Donald Trump's obsession with coal power - like that of other right-wing politicians - is doomed due to the ready availability of more efficient energy sources. Andrew Nikiforuk points out the $30 billion liability for inactive wells which may be absorbed by Alberta's citizens due to the lack of any requirement for the oil sector to clean up its own messes. Carol Linnitt notes that the Libs' promised tanker ban on British Columbia's north coast is anything but. Zoe Todd reports on still more research showing the connection between fracking and earthquake activity. And Melissa Davey discusses new research showing that the impact human activity on our changing climate far outweighs any natural effects.

- Nicholas Kristof reminds us how the trumped-up threat of terrorism pales in comparison to risks we think nothing about facing every day.

- Evan Dyer reports on the Libs' plans to sacrifice national sovereignty along with travellers' privacy and security in the interest of appeasing the U.S.' irrational fears. And Stuart Trew examines the lamentable track record of cross-border deregulation which has harmed the public in Canada and the U.S. alike. So suffice it to say that Michael Harris' hope that Justin Trudeau would doing anything besides go along with Donald Trump to get along is sadly misplaced.

- Finally, Sam Wong points out that even monkeys and dogs judge humans based on how well they treat others - making it all the more bizarre that so many voter pools seem to have decided to do otherwise.