Friday, June 07, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- David Miller makes the case to take aim at inequality in Canada:
With globalization being the holy grail of efficiency, it became a race to the bottom as international capital sought the lowest cost and the lowest wages. The result in Canada and many other countries was the closing of industries, the gutting of union organizing through new laws that attack unions and limit their ability to operate, and the gradual rise in income inequality since 1990. Canada now ranks 12th out of 17 first-world economies for income inequality, and were given a "C" grade by the Conference Board of Canada.

How do we reduce this trend and reap the long-term rewards? There are a number of potential solutions, but I'll touch on three.

First, we need to re-think the "lowest possible cost" globalization mantra. International trade is here to stay and can yield many benefits, both in Canada and abroad. But the emphasis should be less on "free trade" and more on "fair trade," so that people from all walks of life can benefit. The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh is just one example of what can happen when the lowest cost trumps everything.

Second, we need to strengthen the rights of trade unions to organize in the new digital economy. The power balance has swung too far -- and we need to better empower trade unions in their fight to bargain for fairer wages. For those not in a trade union, we need to raise the minimum wage to reduce the incidence of subsistence living.

Third, we need to examine how we can use public policy for all projects at all levels of government to advance the economic prospects for those least well off. For example, in Toronto, when we decided to reinvest in one of our poorest neighbourhoods, Regent Park, our procurement policies stipulated that 25 per cent of jobs related to the rebuild go to local residents. It was an effective way of ensuring that greater economic benefits flowed directly to the community that needed it most.
- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford is optimistic that Canadian governments are looking for new revenue tools to help address inequality. And Avaaz is leading a public push to close international tax loopholes which could go much further.

- But then, Paul Dewar observes that the Cons are still determined to prevent international action on issues which should represent simple areas of agreement - writing in particular about Stephen Harper's attempt to protect illegal arms brokers.

- Seumas Milne writes that a combination of relentless lobbying and a revolving door between regulators and industry has resulted in a thoroughly corrupted state in the UK - and the problem figures to be no less significant in Canada. And Simon Ravenscroft notes that the rich have been conspicuously unaffected by the austerity afflicted on mere commoners.

- Peter Kent is trying to spin as a plus the fact that oil companies are demanding that their old, dirty operations be allowed to continue without being subject to environmental regulations. And Leslie Young reports that we have plenty of reason to worry about newer installations as well - as the Plains Midstream debacle in Peace River resulted in Alberta pulling its limited regulatory staff from inspections of new pipelines in order to help assess the existing mess.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig presciently suggested that Nigel Wright's role as a party bagman should receive far more attention. And one secret seven-figure Con slush fund later, it looks like we'll be talking about the Cons' off-the-books and under-the-table dealings for a long time to come.

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