Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ed Broadbent comments on Parliament's review of inequality in Canada:
In a more encouraging vein, the majority report cautiously endorses some positive proposals. Given stated support from both of the opposition parties, these could, and should, move to the top of the government agenda as we approach the 2014 federal Budget and the 2015 federal election.

The Broadbent Institute and other witnesses highlighted the need to increase the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) which supplements the incomes of working poor families, thus raising earned income from low wage jobs and helping offset unnecessary barriers to moving from welfare to work.

The majority report calls on the federal government to “formally review the WITB to determine how it could be expanded or modified to further benefit Canadians.”

The majority report, again accompanied by stronger statements from the opposition parties, further calls on the federal government “to make early childhood education and child care more accessible and affordable in all areas of the country, including through increased support for affordable early childhood and education and care programs.”

Such programs are key to removing barriers to work by single parents, mainly women, and are also important to expanding lifetime opportunities for low income children. However, the key question to ask of the Conservatives is whether they are actually prepared to fund income supports for the working poor and early childhood programs. After all, their stated priorities, following elimination of the deficit, are to cut income taxes by introducing family income splitting and by raising contribution limits for Tax Free Savings Accounts.
- Meanwhile, Martin Regg Cohn notes that Jim Flaherty is standing in the way of a secure retirement for a substantial number of Canadians while being able to look forward to multiple political pensions himself.  And Lawrence Martin looks at Peter Kent's brief stay as a Harper cabinet member - but finds that Kent himself is far more critical of the media than of the government which ignored his own recommendations.

- Dene Moore reports on the imminent release of the NEB's Northern Gateway review. But I'll offer a reminder of the reality which has largely been edited out of coverage of the NEB's hearings: rather than representing a "yea or nay" evaluation, the entire process was set up by the Cons to prohibit a "nay" conclusion.

- Frances Russell discusses the spread of low-paying work in the service sector - with a particular focus on how some employers are going out of their way to force workers to work multiple McJobs rather than receiving overtime or benefits through a single workplace.

- Finally, Heather Mallick points out the importance of tax revenue to build a functional society:
I am a tax eccentric. I like taxes and frequently rejoice at what they give me: highways, air traffic control, emergency rooms, the tracking of the emerald ash borer, abortion rights, traffic lights, schools, food safety, the RCMP’s terrific boots, policing, regulating, licensing, autopsies, compassion, all the things that make us an organized and rational nation that is a pleasure to live in. I don’t trip over small corpses on the way home. It’s rather nice.

Conservatives, on the other hand, enjoy these services while abusing taxes as the necrotizing flesh disease of Canadian life.
(T)axing is more complicated than that, as essayist Jim Stanford says. “Governments decide, in the context of the conflicting and contradictory political pressures they face, what programs they will provide. Then they figure out how to fund those programs.”

Neo-liberals cut taxes first, Stanford says, while the programs exist, thus creating a deficit that is used to justify further cuts. We are manipulated. For example, we are told that we can’t afford pensions. Neither can we raise payroll taxes to raise CPP benefits for the future.

But we can pay them if we choose to.

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