Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Duncan Cameron is the latest to weigh in on the Cons' distorted sense of priorities in directing public research money toward private profits:
Publicly available research is important. Since no one knows where discoveries or advances in knowledge will lead, the entire scientific community needs access to new research. There is no other way to maximize potential societal benefits. Learning is cumulative, innovative thinking flows from research building on public research.

Now with the privatization of research findings, discoveries and knowledge become industrial secrets, unavailable to Canadians who have paid for it, and lost to other scientists.

Conservative distrust of scientific knowledge was evident under Mulroney who abolished the Science Council of Canada (along with a series of other research bodies like the Economic Council of Canada, and the Institute on Peace and Security).

Harper's science policy is to continue cutbacks to grants for basic science, and the new NRC mandate is to vacate the field, yet Canada ranks fourth in the world in publishing basic science findings in peer-reviewed publications (science starts with peer review).

The Harper government punishes its winners because it claims Canada performs poorly when it comes to registering scientific patents. The so-called solution is to wind down basic science, and hand over scientific resources to companies.

Instead of promoting research and development the government solution encourages corporations to outsource it to NRC. Not only does basic science lose, applied industrial research by private companies is transferred to the NRC instead of being done in-house.
- CTV reports on the news that Nigel Wright, chief of staff to Stephen Harper, personally gifted Mike Duffy the money used to repay wrongly-claimed accommodation and travel expenses. Jennifer Ditchburn traces Duffy's patchy record of expense claims and find that he was billing the public for supposed Senate business while campaigning for the Cons. Andrew Coyne and Thomas Walkom call on Duffy to resign, while the Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen note that the PMO needs to provide far more explanation as well.

- Marilla Stephenson writes about the damage being done to Atlantic Canada by the Cons' push to end seasonal employment. Erin Trafford reports on the abuse of foreign workers in Halifax, as cleaning workers were paid as little as $3 per hour while facing potential deportation if they dared to speak out. And Campbell Clark notes that while the Cons continue to push for a flow of dollars and jobs across borders, they're looking to keep roadblocks in the way of refugees and workers.

- Finally, Erin Weir adds to my previous observations by pointing out just how ill-advised the Sask Party's plan to privatize ISC actually is. And once again, I've managed to err on the side of being overly generous to the Wall government:
Last year, ISC generated $20 million of profit for the provincial treasury. Losing 60 per cent of this profit, $12 million, every year is a very costly way to get $120 million of one-time cash. That deal would be equivalent to borrowing in perpetuity at an interest rate of 10 per cent.

If the shares of ISC were to fetch less than $120 million, this rate would be even higher. By comparison, the Saskatchewan government could finance infrastructure at an interest rate of three per cent by issuing provincial bonds.

Don McMorris, the minister responsible for privatizing ISC, suggests that corporate taxes change this equation. On April 16, he told the legislative assembly: "The government will retain about 40 per cent of the shares of ISC ... not to mention the corporate tax that the other 60 per cent will be paying back into the coffers of the province of Saskatchewan."

But most corporate tax is paid to Ottawa rather than to the provincial treasury. The Saskatchewan government is promising to cut the provincial corporate tax rate to 10 per cent, compared to a federal rate of 15 per cent.

As a Crown corporation, ISC is exempt from both taxes. A privatized ISC with $20 million of profit would pay $2 million of provincial corporate tax and $3 million of federal corporate tax, leaving after-tax profits of $15 million. Of that, 60 per cent, or $9 million, would go to private shareholders.

Between that and federal corporate tax, Saskatchewan would lose $12 million of annual revenue.
[Edit: fixed title.]


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