Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford is the latest to point out that the Cons see accountability and transparency solely as punishments to be inflicted on their perceived enemies, not as values to be applied to their own decision-making:
Following Mr. Hiebert's logic, any organization in society that benefits from a tax expenditure (no matter how indirect) should be required to post similarly detailed and intrusive financial and expenditure data on a government website. Here is the current listing of federal tax expenditures. Every organization connected to any expenditure listed in that catalogue (whether the personal, corporate, or HST sections) should be ready for the precedent set by C-377. A partial list of "supported" institutions would include: every small business, anyone who owns farming or fishing property, any company that declared a capital gain, any logging company, any company claiming accelerated depreciation, any company offering flow-through shares (and any investor owning one), anyone with an RRSP or RESP, any mutual fund or life insurer, and financial service provider. In short, everyone and every business is "supported" by the taxpayer, just like unions. Hence each owes us an equivalent degree of accountability and transparency. Some critics of C-377 from within the business community actually worried about the precedent set by this legislation, one day being applied to them.

Another point I've used lately is the asymmetry of the disclosure requirement given the nature of the relationship between unions (who have to disclose anything over $5,000) and businesses (who do not, if they are privately held, have to disclose anything). Unions by their nature confront employers in many bargaining, representation, and organizing situations. Under C-377, the employer will now much detail about how much the union is spending, and on what. In many cases, that will be valuable intelligence for a company resisting a union organizing drive, bargaining demand, or representation case. The union, however, knows nothing about how much the company is spending. That creates a very uneven playing field.

Imagine if the TD Bank had to disclose everything it spent over $5,000 on. As one wag put it on Twitter yesterday, all those fancy Bay Street restaurants would be out of business in a week if every bill in excess of $5,000 had to be posted on a government website!
- Michael Harris and John Baglow both point out the sad contrast between the Cons' empty gestures, and their lack of action to improve the living conditions for aboriginal Canadians. But while Stephen Harper has callously dismissed plenty of similar messages before, the developing activism of aboriginal citizens may be rather more difficult to ignore:

- Carol Goar discusses the Caledon Institute's proposal to extend the Working Income Tax Benefit to meaningfully reduce poverty among lower-income Canadians. But Armine Yalnizyan rightly recognizes that we can't meaningfully address poverty without seeing it in the context of greater inequality:
(I)mproving the lives of the poor means providing either more opportunity or more cold, hard cash. That involves money, which is where follow-through usually falls off, because it means some form of redistribution. And that brings us back to income inequality.

The IMF has warned that higher inequality is correlated to shorter spells of growth, and more market volatility. The Conference Board of Canada cautions that Canada’s levels of inequality mean squandered potential. Just this week, TD Bank CEO Ed Clarke acknowledged inequality in Canada has been growing for the last 30 years, raising a challenge for society that demands discussion.

Whether you want less poverty or a more robust economy, greater innovation or improved productivity, better life chances or a healthier democracy, the way forward in Canada involves reducing income inequality.
- Finally, pogge points out that the same Con government currently insisting on social benefit cuts due to projected cost increases had no interest whatsoever in making sure that past surpluses were used to actually fund the benefits - signalling that they're really more interested in attacking benefits for the sake of attacking benefits rather than ensuring that they're sustainable.

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