Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Donovan Vincent reports on the Institute for Social Research's study showing Canadians are highly concerned about income inequality:
“People think the income gap has gotten worse. What was surprising to me was the universality of this belief. Younger people, older, higher levels of education, lower, men and women. The fact is, a wide cross-section of Canadian society believes that the income gap has gotten bigger, or much bigger in the last five years,” survey author David Northrup said in an interview.

“Usually we see a lot more variation in opinion in social ideas like this,” added Northrup, director of survey research at York who co-authored the report with York professor Lesley Jacobs.

“One of the fundamental bedrocks of being a Canadian is thinking we have a fair society. This survey is going against that grain.”

When it came to explaining the income gap, 70 per cent of respondents said there just aren’t enough jobs that pay a decent wage, while 60 per cent said the flight of jobs to countries that pay low wages is a major reason for the expanding income gap. About two-thirds of Canadians, 65 per cent, blamed “increasing salaries to business leaders” as a major reason for the widening income gap.
- Meanwhile, the CCPA's alternative federal budget offers plenty of means to address Canada's burgeoning inequality and lack of social progress. And Bill Moyers points out that a substantial number of businesses stand to do better if they can appeal to a strong middle class.

- Claire McIlveen writes that the Cons' elections legislation falls far short of what was promised, while Chantal Hebert and Steven Chase both note that it fits the Cons' pattern of suppressing voter turnout and other public participation at every available opportunity. And in case there was any doubt about elections legislation receiving more scrutiny than anything else the Cons are pushing, they're are following their usual pattern of shutting down debate (and presumably amendments as well) to ensure the truth doesn't come out until after the legislation is forced through Parliament.

- Alex Boutilier writes that the PBO has called out the Cons' compulsive dishonesty about sick leave taken by federal public servants. And John Nicol and Dave Seglins report that in the lead up to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, Lisa Raitt was receiving - and granting - a steady stream of requests for exemptions from rail safety rules.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom recognizes an important distinction between the NDP and its federal competitors:
What would the New Democrats do if they won power? In an open letter to Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Toronto MP Peggy Nash, the party’s finance critic, provides a few hints.

Her letter marks a welcome respite from the usual political bromides about the horrors of fiscal deficits. Putting government spending and revenue into balance is a worthy abstract goal. But in the real world, it can cause more harm than good.

Nash gets this. She warns Flaherty that in his rush to balance the books, he risks prolonging a slump that has already lasted six years.

She notes — correctly — that unemployment remains stubbornly high and that the savants of the International Monetary Fund predict more trouble for the Canadian economy.

Indeed, IMF economists have gently suggested to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government that it delay its budget balancing plans should the economy turn particularly sour.
Still, (Tom Mulcair's) New Democrats are on the right track. They understand that Canada’s economic priority should be jobs and incomes. They understand government has a role to play in this. They are not quite as terrified of breaking away from the orthodoxy of balanced budgets as they used to be.

They may not be saying much. But unlike, say, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, they are saying something.

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