Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David Olive writes that the dangerous effects of long-term unemployment (caused in no small part by gratuitous austerity) are just as much a problem in Canada as in the U.S.:
With our persistent high levels of long-term unemployment, Canada is at risk of creating a new permanent underclass. The world’s economic policymaking elite, Ottawa’s included, hasn’t grasped that its enslavement to the “austerity chic” of severe cutbacks in government’s contribution to the economy is retarding the recovery it claims to be promoting. It’s like watching a grainy newsreel of Herbert Hoover’s lectures on the paramount virtue of balanced budgets, while banks, farms and barber shops go bust and the jobless rate soars above 30 per cent.
Long-term unemployment is an affliction for more than a quarter million Canadians who have been out of work for longer than 27 weeks. A great many of these 250,000-plus Canadians have spouses, and children and elderly parents to care for. So the total number of Canadians suffering the hardship of long-term unemployment is far higher than a quarter-million people.
With a low debt-to-GDP ratio that is the envy of our G-7 peers, Canada can comfortably afford to rebuild the country and prevent the emergence of a new permanent economic underclass.
It needn’t be repeated that decisions on austerity and stimulus have consequences. Or perhaps it does, since by our silent assent to faddish government austerity we are accepting “unnecessary human misery,” not in some faraway land but in our very midst. 
- David Climenhaga traces Alberta's 2011 labour code rewrite directly to corporate influence. And while Bob Weber reports on the province finally laying charges related to an oil spill from the same year, he also notes that the PCs' first response was to try to suppress the truth:
The Greenpeace report outlines examples which it says demonstrates how officials were more concerned with protecting the image of a besieged industry than protecting the public.
It points out the board's own reviewers recommended on Sept. 13, 2011, that a public inquiry into the spill be held — a recommendation that was squelched by the board's chief operating officer three weeks later.

The environmental group also suggests that the board misrepresented air-quality data from the Little Buffalo school, quoting a board statement that "based on the current data, there is no evidence that the air quality poses risk of long-term health impact at this time."
Greenpeace also pointed out contradictions between the board's report and what Energy Minister Ken Hughes was told privately. While the board concluded "contaminated water was not migrating off site," a May 6, 2011, briefing note to Hughes said "there are some exceedances of hydrocarbons downstream from the wetlands."

Finally, Greenpeace quotes a May 31, 2011, briefing note to then-premier Ed Stelmach that the group says contradicts assurances given to the public: "Full restoration of the localized area is unlikely," the briefing note says.
- Meanwhile, Dave Sims points out that Saskatchewan's regulatory system is in rather rough shape too - with no information available as to what injuries and deaths have taken place at which rural and northern sites for employers with a head office in a city.

- Travis Lupick notes that Christy Clark's parting smash-and-grab of British Columbia includes the destruction of a pharmaceutical watchdog which ensured better prices and outcomes for the province's health care system (at the expense of allowing big pharma's marketing to go unquestioned).

- Finally, Erin Weir suggests that most Canadian provinces are arriving by consensus at a 12% floor for corporate tax rates.

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