Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Carol Goar discusses Canada's broken fiscal stabilizers - as unemployment insurance and social programs intended to assure citizens of at least a reasonable standard of living have been cut to well below that level:
Canada’s economic shock absorbers are badly worn.
Employment insurance, which once softened the blow of losing a job, has dwindled to the point that only a minority of the unemployed are eligible for benefits.
Welfare, which once prevented people from hitting rock bottom, now leaves recipients 60 per cent below the poverty line.
The income tax system has become flatter and more rigid. There were 13 income brackets in 1981. Today there are four. This means people’s tax bills don’t go down as quickly when their earnings fall.
While the finance minister holds down the brakes, his colleagues seem bent on yanking the tubes out of Canada’s diminished shock absorbers.
Finley is making it harder to get employment insurance. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is making it harder for new Canadians to rebuild their family support networks in this country. Revenue Minister Gail Shea is making it harder for Canadians without Internet access — typically the poor and the elderly — to claim tax refunds and credits. Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel is making it harder for the provinces and municipalities to plan public works projects and hire workers. And Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is weakening the collective bargaining system.
The problem is not just austerity. It is austerity imposed with no regard for the hardship caused by a stop-and-start, up-and-down, lurch-prone economy.
- Meanwhile, Kev uses the example of Bell's one-day commitment to mental health funding as a reminder that we should be skeptical of corporate charity as a substitute for fair taxes and other public revenue generators.

- Michael Harris pushes back against what looks to be a transparently false claim from the Cons that new restrictions on government-employed scientists are merely a continuation of the status quo, then explains what the new policy means:
The big worry among scientists is that the new policies could be used to make it impossible for government scientists to do any “unmanaged” research in the future. That’s because whatever they do now will be tightly controlled from the onset — from funding applications through to the final step of communicating research findings to the scientific community and the general public.

With the rapid development of the Alberta oilsands a key priority of the Harper government, the need for independent science has never been greater. Under the new DFO policies, government could stop publication of studies like the one recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the United States. That federally-funded study linked oilsands activity to the deposit of toxic hydrocarbons in Alberta wilderness lakes, closing the door on the claim by industry and government that the pollution could be coming from natural sources.

Question: if scientists wanted to pursue the unfinished business of the oilsands research just published by the National Academy of Science, going beyond hydrocarbons to look at the levels of other contaminants such as heavy metals, mercury or soot, would they get the green light from DFO under the new funding policy?
- Finally, Duncan Cameron suggests that a pre-election cooperation agreement among Canada's opposition parties could include a broad range of issues rather than focusing on electoral reform alone. But the CP points out one of the areas where agreement may be difficult to achieve, as the Libs are joining forces with the Cons to preserve a patronage-based Senate.

[Edit: fixed wording.]


  1. You're missing a, I dunno, dependent clause or something in the "Michael Harris pushes back" sentence. Pushes back . . . against the claim . . . that . . . restrictions . . . (something about those restrictions should go here to constitute the claim).

    1. Right you are - hopefully it makes more sense now.