Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leadership 2017 Reference Page

A one-stop source for general links on the 2017 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments.

General Information
NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF) - Voting Process
NDP Leadership 2017
Leadership Debates: Ottawa (March 12) - Montreal (March 26) - Sudbury (May 28) - Halifax (June 10) - Saskatoon (July 11) - Montreal (August 27) - Vancouver (September 10)

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Profile Analysis Ranking
Charlie Angus CharlieAngusNDP.ca @CharlieAngusNDP Profile

Niki Ashton NikiAshton2017.ca @NikiAshton Profile

Guy Caron GuyCaron.ca @GuyCaronNPD Profile

Peter Julian PeterJulian.ca @MPJulian Profile

Pat Stogran n/a @PatStogran Profile


Posts
All Posts By Label

Discussion
Babble threads: 1 - 2 - 3
Peter Julian Forum
Twitter: #ndp - #ndpldr

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Captured cats.






Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Charles Smith and Andrew Stevens examine how Brad Wall's slash-and-burn budget is intended to exploit a crisis for political ends - while also highlighting the type of response needed to reverse the damage:
In our view, Budget 2017 should be viewed in two ways. First, it is clearly a reactionary document drafted by an openly conservative government responding to the dramatic fall in natural resource prices that began in 2014. Second, and perhaps equally important, the budget is also a calculated political decision to exploit the fiscal crisis to further transform the provincial state to facilitate long-term private capital accumulation in the natural resource sector, keeping those sectors free from a burdensome tax regime or regulatory pressure. In other words, the government is using the fiscal crisis to push through the so-called “Saskatchewan Advantage,” which it defines as the province having “the lowest corporate tax rate and the lowest tax rate on manufacturing and processing in the country.”
...

To date, opposition to the Saskatchewan Party has been largely waged by organized labour in response to wage reductions, job losses, and changes imposed upon the province's labour relations system. Notwithstanding a large labour organized demonstration outside the legislative assembly on 8 March, throughout the Saskatchewan Party's tenure, many of these struggles have been largely legal in nature and have not mustered serious community mobilization and rank-and-file activism. But now, with austerity and tax measures that will undoubtedly impact small towns and rural areas, the terrain of struggle might be shifting. With the amalgamation of health regions on the horizon, the winding down of the STC, cuts to education and libraries, and potential threats to municipal service levels, the space for broader opposition to austerity has widened.

Recent initiatives like SaskForward, which formed in 2017 as a means of constructing an alternative vision of “transformational change,” have brought together a coalition of civil society groups to work on charting a different political path for Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour has launched the Own It! campaign, designed to reach out across the labour movement to build a larger fight-back strategy and Unifor, CUPE, SEIU-West and SGEU have been vocal critics of the Saskatchewan Party's austerity agenda. Equally promising is that the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement that has been growing across North America has surfaced in the province. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) has remained virtually silent as their members face layoffs and significant funding cuts. Adding teachers to the chorus of anti-austerity efforts could create conditions for mass demonstrations against the government not unlike Ontario's Days of Action. If the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) were to add their significant influence to the struggle by joining forces with healthcare unions already engaged in the fight, we are convinced that the movement would be a formidable obstacle to the government's austerity agenda.

What is required now is the capacity to bridge public sector austerity and labour struggles with the conditions of employment and poverty facing low-wage workers and sectors in Saskatchewan. There is also a need for engagement with the growing number of refugees, migrant workers, and immigrants that call the province home. Anti-colonial, anti-racism, and feminist struggles combined with environmental justice also need to become a mainstay of community mobilization. This must be done with a focus on enacting change at the local and provincial levels of government. Most importantly, it's critical that this energy is channeled into community-based movements, and not partisan political action alone. Recognizing that the NDP's time in government during the 1990s and 2000s was defined by its own brand of austerity should not be forgotten. Now is the time to create a broader, inclusive, and democratic alternative to the austerity driven “Saskatchewan Advantage.”
- Larry Elliott writes that the growth of toxic populism can be seen as a natural response to "unpopulist" policies which have further enriched the wealthy at the expense of the public. And on that front, Alex Cobham and Petr Jansky tally up (PDF) the hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate taxes lost each year to a combination of lowered corporate tax rates and offshore tax avoidance.

- Sid Ryan argues that this year's federal budget represents the return of the traditional, cynical Liberal Party - though I'm not sure when they're supposed to have gone away.

- Greg Suttor points to Canada's history of social housing development as showing the importance of the federal initiative that's sorely lacking under Justin Trudeau. And Kent Driscoll reports on the dire state of housing in Nunavut due to a lack of public investment.

- Finally, Jon Stone points out a multipartisan UK report favouring the introduction of separate parental leave for each parent in a family.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jordon Cooper writes that the Saskatchewan Party's slash-and-burn budget confirms that for them, the poor don't matter. CBC reports on the devastating effect the budget will have on municipalities, while Courtney Markewitch reports that Saskatoon's city council is fighting back. And Joel Senick notes that the planned shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company is another area where the Wall government may be on shaky legal ground.

- Tom Parkin examines how the Trudeau Libs are substituting meaningless buzzwords for coherent policy and campaign promises. Rob Gillezeau and Jeffrey Ansloos highlight Trudeau's empty words when it comes to First Nations issues in particular. And Campbell Clark warns about the risks of the Libs' plans to undermine the role of Parliament.

- John O'Kane reports on Douglas Hoyes' research showing how bankruptcies are increasingly the result of income inequality.

- Kathleen Lahey studies (PDF) the gender impacts of tax policy, finding in particular that both cuts to progressive taxes (including income and corporate taxes) and joint tax laws serve only to advantage wealthier men.

- And finally, Scott Price summarizes the attacks on labour coming soon from Brian Pallister's Manitoba PCs.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Pat Stogran

The latest putative entrant in the leadership race is Pat Stogran - well-known for challenging the Harper Cons' callous treatment of veterans in his role as veterans' ombudsman.

So how does Stogran fit into a field of current MPs and longtime activists, particularly when his own goal is largely to raise issues?

Strengths

The primary advantage Stogran brings to the race is the combination of broader name recognition and perceived media credibility. It's not clear exactly how familiar he'll be to the public, but between a prominently-featured book and a number of media appearances he seems at least to be enjoying slightly more attention than his competitors.

In addition, Stogran has staked out some policy turf for himself with a focus on veterans' issues, open government and managerial experience.

Weaknesses

That said, Stogran faces a steep hill to climb in pursuing the NDP's leadership. All of his opponents have multiple terms of experience as MPs and a long history of political organization. In contrast, Stogran's introduction has included mention of his own unfamiliarity with the political process in general as well as the NDP in particular.

What's more, Stogran's inexperience has manifested itself in some dubious messaging, including reinforcing other parties' talking points about the NDP's economic credibility. It's difficult enough to win over the membership of a party as an outsider; it figures to be even tougher when part of the pitch is one which party members are likely to see as a tired and hostile line of criticism.

Key Indicator

While Stogran will surely need to win over some existing NDP members, it's hard to see how he has much of a path to victory among party loyalists. With that in mind, the key figure for him will be the number of new party members he can sign up (presumably with a heavy focus on veterans as a constituency): if he's going to mount a serious challenge, he needs to bring people into the NDP tent who wouldn't make the effort to join otherwise.

Key Opponent

In order to generate any traction as an outside voice on the economy and governance, Stogran will at least need to show more command of the subjects than his competitors. And that sets up a noteworthy contrast with Guy Caron.

If Stogran can meaningfully challenge Caron's themes to the same effect, his critique may resonate somewhat - shaking loose some down-ballot voters while weakening the strongest competitor for governance-based ballots. But if he can't, any continued criticism of the NDP's ability to govern will serve only to alienate members while providing a boost to Caron in defending the party's qualifications.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A strong influx of new members which pushes him onto multiple ballots and allows for growth in an anything-can-happen scenario
Worst-case: A last-place leadership campaign finish based on a lack of membership support, coupled with a failure to establish a place within the NDP generally

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Niki Ashton

For Ashton alone among the NDP's leadership candidates, we've been through this exercise before. But for a candidate who stood out for her youth in 2012, it's remarkable how little has changed this time around.

Strengths

Once again, youth and expanded appeal are obvious priorities for all of the NDP's leadership candidate. And for the second time, Ashton is the candidate who personally reflects those opportunities - particularly in light of her successful outreach tour talking to young workers about their experiences with precarious work and life.

Having run a leadership campaign before, Ashton also has more experience than her competitors in the task at hand. And her comfort level in both languages has shown in the debates so far, where she's done especially well managing the flow of discussion periods and two-candidate debates.

Weaknesses

But it's not clear how far that experience will take her. While Ashton's 2012 results haven't received much attention, they have to be seen as a disappointment, as Ashton finished last on the first ballot. And she may have work do just to get back to where she left off five years ago: while she was a natural first choice for rural and First Nations voters once Romeo Saganash left the 2012 race, she now faces Charlie Angus as a magnet for that support.

Meanwhile, there's also reason for concern that Ashton has learned some of the wrong lessons from her time on the stage. She's proven more prone than the other candidates to offering surface-level answers to questions which call for more, or to answering a question other than the one asked. And while her core message of countering the spread of neoliberalism has its appeal, she has some distance to go in showing how to give effect to it.

Key Indicator

It remains to be seen how many pollsters will be asking questions along the lines of "best prime minister" or perceptions competence as compared to their usual first-choice support and favourability numbers. But I'd consider those to be the most important factors for Ashton's prospects of winning.

If she can compare credibly to her fellow MPs in those numbers while also inspiring a strong youth contingent, then she'll have a serious chance to emerge on top. If not, then she's likely headed for another disappointing result.

Key Opponent

Again, a substantial number of Ashton's core constituencies are also primary areas of strength for Angus. If Ashton can win enough over to stay ahead of him while outlasting him on the ballot, they may offer her a path to victory; if not, then there are limited paths for her to be competitive.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Narrow win based on mobilizing young workers to emerge as one of the final choices, then convincing members to shift votes her way
Worst-case: 2012 redux

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Guy Caron

So far, media coverage of Guy Caron's NDP leadership campaign has focused largely on one note (that being his basic income proposal). But there's plenty more to his candidacy - and he may well emerge as the party's favourite when it comes time to vote.

Strengths

Both Caron's core campaign promise and his signature issues in Parliament (including fighting tax evasion and facilitating family transfers of small businesses) connect to his theme of economic competence. And the primary message he's conveying to NDP voters is indeed that he can both help reframe the debate on economic issues, and provide an answer to anybody questioning the NDP's strength in that area.

But in case anybody feared that Caron would be limited to talking numbers, he's had plenty of answers so far - offering both personal stories, and strong responses in every policy area covered. And in particular, Caron has offered both the most pointed critiques and best one-liners in responding to the Trudeau Libs.

Weaknesses

The most significant issue for the moment looks to be a mismatch between Caron's current communication skills and the NDP's pool of voters. Caron's substantive comments are no less strong in English than in French. But for the moment, his accent is just thick enough to require some effort to work through - giving him a greater degree of difficulty in reaching most of the voters he needs to win over.

It also remains to be seen how much political infrastructure Caron can assemble behind him compared to the longer-tenured MPs in the race - though I wouldn't expect that to be a huge issue as the campaign develops.

Key Indicator

Based on the above, I'll be watching for Caron's favourability outside Quebec. If he's within range of his fellow candidates, that should serve as an indication that he's made it over any language barrier and thus has room to grow.

Key Opponent

Caron's best-case scenario involves being able to appeal on later ballots to voters who have both an  inclination toward policy, and a strong interest in a leader with Quebec ties. Since Peter Julian's base fits both bills, he looms as the candidate Caron most needs to surpass.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Enough early support to reach the final ballot, where Caron would have a strong chance of emerging as a compromise candidate
Worst-case: A fourth-place finish, as higher membership numbers from the West and Ontario outweigh Caron's home-province support

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Charlie Angus

If Peter Julian's leadership campaign has been surprising in its relatively push toward controversy, Charlie Angus may be defying expectations in the opposite direction - as the punk rocker has been the most serene figure in the race so far.

Strengths

Rather than spending much of the first two debates on a soapbox, Angus has thus far positioned himself as the comparatively happy warrior of the leadership campaign. His interjections so far have been measured, upbeat and personally compelling compared to those of his competitors - and members looking for an attitude and tone reminiscent of Jack Layton's leadership may find it in Angus.

Meanwhile, even while choosing not to deal much with policy specifics for the moment, Angus has proven comfortable dealing with whatever issues come up - at least as long as he's able to respond in English.

Weaknesses

One of the key questions for Angus at the start of the leadership campaign was his strength in speaking French. So far, he's been functional in reading prepared statements while struggling with quick responses - and it will be worth watching whether Angus can improve his communications over the course of the campaign.

The more lasting issue may be the flip side of Angus' choice to punt on policy for the moment. If his personal appeal falls short, there currently isn't much else for his campaign to fall back on in seeking to win over potential supporters. And each of Angus' main areas of advocacy (First Nations, ethics and poverty) is being targeted by at least one other candidate, leaving a risk that Angus might not be seen as the voice for a single key policy theme.

Key Indicator

Angus' personal appeal looks to be the crucial factor in the end. But in a campaign of violent agreement where few candidates will be under the microscope (and there may not be much distinction in approval/disapproval to monitor), I'll be watching early on for examples of institutional support which might provide him the resources to take advantage of positive perceptions later.

In particular, if Angus can assemble some support from within organized labour and/or Jack Layton's previous NDP team, that will take him a long way toward pushing for a Layton-style result - and he may be the one candidate with a chance to win a first-ballot majority.

Key Opponent

In order to get there, however, Angus would almost certainly need a strong majority outside of Quebec. And that's where the strength of Peter Julian's campaign may be critical: Julian is likely both the candidate in the best position to hold Angus short of an early-ballot victory, and the one who most stands to benefit if early-ballot Quebec support for other candidates ends up being divided up later on. 

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-ballot victory based on personal appeal
Worst-case: Moderate first-ballot finish and little subsequent growth for want of a clear campaign theme

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Peter Julian

I'll start my series of NDP leadership candidate profiles with the first to enter the leadership race - and the one who's likely done the most to shape the campaign so far.

I've noted before my surprise at the choices made so far by Peter Julian's campaign: a candidate who could have portrayed himself as the safest of consensus choices has instead generated a great deal of polarization. But Julian nonetheless looks to be an extremely strong contender.

Strengths

Again, the primary advantage held by Julian is his experience as an NDP activist and organizer, and it's showing so far in the campaign. He's been ahead of the field from day one in putting his infrastructure in place and winning caucus endorsements, and his diverse experience in Parliament and elsewhere makes him comfortable talking about nearly any issue.

Beyond that, there are advantages to being seen taking the strongest position in the campaign on the hot-button issue of pipelines. In addition to giving Julian a ready applause line, that choice also makes him a natural beneficiary of an already-energized group of activists both inside and outside the party. 

Weaknesses

At the start of the campaign, I'd have expected Julian's largest concern to be whether he could speak powerfully enough on the stump and in debates to win first-choice support from members with plenty of options.

Having chosen to sidestep that potential issue through sharp issue messaging, Julian instead faces the challenge of defending himself from fossil-fueled vitriol now that he's become a lightning rod for criticism of any strong environmental policy. If Julian can hold up under those circumstances, he could position himself ideally to take the same message forward as the NDP's leader - but he'll face a lot more direct attacks now than he might have otherwise.

Key Indicators

The key indicators for Julian will then be second-choice support and negative perceptions. I'd fully expect Julian to rank at the top of many ballots, but a first-ballot win is likely not within reach - meaning that he needs to leave himself some room to add votes as other candidates are eliminated.

Key Opponent

To the extent Julian's campaign may turn on pipelines, Charlie Angus is currently positioned as the most distinct voice for facilitating (if not outright supporting) pipeline development. And Angus' handling of the issue could well turn the race in either direction.

If Angus decides he too can win first-choice support by firming up his own position contrary to Julian, the result may be to push perceptions further against Julian than he can afford, particularly if the position is echoed enough from outside the party. But it's also possible that strategy could set up a ballot question where Julian would pick up exactly the later-ballot boost he needs from Guy Caron and Niki Ashton supporters.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-place showing on the first ballot based on environmental and institutional support, followed by a relatively quick win
Worst-case: Moderate placement on the first ballot followed by little subsequent growth

Leadership 2017 Links

A few notes worth a look in advance of today's youth-focused debate...

- Kyle Duggan reports on Pat Stogran's imminent entry into the race. And The View Up Here features an extended interview to introduce Stogran as a candidate, while CTV offers a shorter interview.

- Anishinabek News examines Charlie Angus' focus on First Nations issues. Robert McCarthy offers an endorsement of Niki Ashton. And Jean-Philippe Langlais takes note of Guy Caron's analysis that the Libs' underwhelming budget only highlights the need for a progressive economic vision, while Tereza Verenca reports on Peter Julian's disappointment in the delay on housing in particular. 

- Lawrence Martin theorizes that the NDP needs to stick to what he perceives to be Jack Layton's script. But in addition to his questionable reading of the 2015 campaign, he noticeably omits Layton's track record as a progressive activist from any explanation of what led to his success.

- And finally, Nora Loreto offers her take on the campaign, while Eric Grenier previews the debate.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Olive offers his take on what a basic income should look like - and is optimistic that Ontario's ongoing experiment should hit the mark:
A UBI would be pointless in the absence of existing supports. In the Ontario pilot projects, the payout for a single person will be $1,689 per month. That’s still short of living costs. Average Toronto rent for a two-bedroom apartment ($1,450 per month) and a Metropass ($134 per month) leaves just $116 per month for food, clothing, prescriptions and other costs.

The model devised by Segal, a longtime advocate of UBI, is a sound and cautious one. Its payout is not that much higher than current welfare support under Ontario Works, whose payouts equal about 45 per cent of the Low Income Measure.

But the Segal payout, combined with existing welfare, is enough to lift recipients above the poverty line, ensuring substantial income for workers in precarious jobs and for those in the unpaid workforce. The latter includes tens of thousands of volunteers, whose social contribution is of immense value but doesn’t show up in GDP stats.

A well-designed UBI equates to freedom. Freedom from exploitative employers. Freedom to launch a small business or develop an invention despite a lack of employment income. Liberation from the “poverty trap,” where taking a paying job means surrendering welfare and other benefits. And freedom to escape an abusive partner relied upon for room and board.
...
We’re coming back to UBI now because the “social contract” between employers and workers lies in ruins. The decline of unions has consigned powerless workers to exploitative workplaces. And the tax system has been perverted to liberate the wealthiest 1 per cent from paying their fair share.

Income inequality is a widespread crisis. How we handle it will be a defining factor in shaping the 21st century.
- Meanwhile, Emily Mathieu notes that rising rents and other costs are driving the working poor away from Toronto. And Dennis Raphael discusses the importance of political choices in ensuring physical and mental health.

- Angus Deaton discusses how extreme inequality leads to unstable and unrepresentative governance. Peter Waldman highlights the importance of in ensuring that any jobs provide both stability and a reasonable standard of living - as political spin about auto industry jobs in the southern U.S. states has led to little but exploitation in the face of minimal unionization and corporate-owned governments. And Harold Meyerson calls out the corporate media's bias against a fair minimum wage (among other basic protections for workers).

- Daniel Tencer writes that the next stage of trade negotiations with China is likely to include demands that Chinese employers be able to import workers on their own terms, while seeking to eliminate any talk of human rights or national security. 

- Finally, David Rider examines the Ontario Libs' secrecy around their Hydro One selloff - which includes hiding information about who has been involved in the privatization and at what cost. And we should expect similar secrecy - and reason for suspicion - if Bill Morneau follows through on the federal Libs' continued musings about privatizing airports and other public assets.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Brian Jones rightly argues that a fair tax system would go a long way toward eliminating any serious concerns about government deficits. And Marco Chown Oved offers some reason for optimism in the Canada Revenue Agency's response to the Panama Papers.

- David Macdonald examines what could have been in the Libs' federal budget, while Luke Savage calls out Justin Trudeau's combination of populist messaging and status quo, elite-friendly budgeting. And PressProgress notes that the main message to younger workers from the Libs is again to expect a lifetime of precarity.

- Russell Diabo discusses Trudeau's penchant for closed-door decision-making and surface consultations - and how First Nations thus need to be wary of empty words.

- Gary Mason writes that Brad Wall has thoroughly undermined any case for conservative economics (even as he continues to push its most inequitable aspects by handing freebies to big businesses while demanding massive sacrifices from citizens). And David Climenhaga wonders whether Wall is headed for a quick political exit - which would make sense given how his latest PR stunts are backfiring

- Finally, Daniel Bessner and Matthew Sparke point out that a few populist themes can't paper over Donald Trump's neoliberalism.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Musical interlude

Chicane - Dandelion

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Vicki Nash challenges the claim that unemployment in a precarious economy is generally a matter of choice rather than the absence thereof. And Jia Tolentino argues that we shouldn't pretend there's any value in being forced to work oneself to death:
It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news....
...
At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.
- Geoff Leo reports on the Sask Party's plans to make life even more precarious for the worst-off people in Saskatchewan as it looks for excuses to push people off of social assistance, while Adam Hunter takes note of the hundreds of cancer patients left stranded by the sudden demolition of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company. Which means that we can add compassion to humility on the list of attributes sorely lacking in Brad Wall's government.

- Lauren Pelley highlights how many Toronto renters are facing the constant threat of imminent homelessness due to a lack of affordable housing. And Christopher Pollon suggests reining in the capital gains giveaways which favours wealthier homeowners at the expense of those less privileged.

- Laura Bliss offers a reminder that public-private partnerships aren't a free lunch - only a means to pass a higher bill off to future governments. And Gordon Harris comments on the dangers of selling off public assets to pay for privatized infrastructure.

- Finally, Jim Bronskill reports on the Libs' broken promise of improved access to information, while the Star notes how that fits Trudeau's pattern of failing to deliver on core commitments.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- In the wake of a thoroughly disappointing budget day at both the provincial and federal levels, it's worth taking note of Ivan Sigal's view on the importance of building trust - rather than limiting citizens to either fake news or fake policies:
How do we begin to tackle the larger challenges, those beyond simple technological fixes or self-blame? There are no easy solutions for the economic and social inequities that create divisions, and the technological and economic incentives that underpin our current information ecosystem are deeply entrenched. Yet we need to find a way to start serious conversations about these systemic challenges, rather than tinkering with their effects or simply assigning responsibility to the newest players on the field.
...
Confronting our social and economic inequities is even harder. It is the challenge of our time to find the language to conduct honest and frank debate about how we construct our economies and our states, how we apportion benefits, and which values guide us. Building civic communities that are rooted in trust, both online and off, is the ongoing and vital work necessary for public conversations about our collective future.

It is no small irony that the communications systems that we built to support such debate are imperilled, both by those who would explode the social norms of civic discourse for their ideological ends, and through resultant attempts to control extreme or misleading expression. It is easy to find fault with the technologies that facilitate our collective civic life. It is much more difficult to look at our civic life as a whole and determine whether and how it may be failing.
- Meanwhile, Tom Parkin pointed out what a genuinely progressive federal budget could have included. Andrew Jackson laments the Libs' choice to go with a stand-pat budget instead. David Macdonald highlights the lack of action to rein in inequality, while Don Pittis points out that there never seems to be a point where Justin Trudeau is willing to follow through on the promise of requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share. And Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood notes that the Libs are at best taking baby steps in addressing climate change when major strides are needed, while Citizens for Public Justice extends that analysis to poverty as well.

- As for the Saskatchewan budget, Tammy Robert rightly describes it as a bloodbath (even if I disagree with some of her specific takes, particularly as to the need for additional revenue). Murray Mandryk discusses the gross disparity between corporations who will contribute less, and citizens who will face both increased taxes and the slashing of many important services. And Sarath Peiris notes that Brad Wall is inflicting far more pain than necessary because he waited far too long to try to get Saskatchewan's finances under control.

- Alex Hemingway and Iglika Ivanova trace the B.C. Libs' history of tax giveaways to the rich. And Hemingway then points out that their latest budget does nothing but continuing the trend of putting corporations first.

- Among the glaring social issues which have been essential ignored in the latest set of budgets, Daniel Tencer notes that Canada has one of the highest rates of "severe" rental costs in the world. Greg Marchildon and Raisa Deber discuss the need for a more comprehensive system of health promotion and care. And David Jala reports on the broader social problems flowing from poverty.

- Finally, Katie Hyslop highlights how post-secondary students are affected by the spread of increasingly precarious work. And Avvy Go and Chris Buckley write about the importance of strong and effectively-enforced employment laws to reduce racial discrimination in the workplace.