Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses Canada's woeful excuse for negotiations with the oil sector - particularly compared to the lasting social benefits secured by Norway in making the best of similar reserves:
Digging through the numbers, it seems Norway is considerably more skilled at negotiation. By charging higher taxes and investing equity ownership in their own production, the Norwegian taxpayer was paid $46.29 BOE in 2012. That same year, the U.K. taxpayer realized only $20.08 per BOE -- less than half as much.

What about Canada? Much of our production is bitumen, which admittedly is a lower value (and often unprocessed) product with higher extraction costs. That said, it seems the nicest nation on earth is being taken to the cleaners. In 2012, Canada produced more than two billion BOE and collected $18 billion in provincial and federal taxes and royalties. This means that the Canadian taxpayer realized a benefit of about $9 per BOE -- less than one-fifth what Norway collected in the same year.

Canada produces 45 per cent more petroleum than Norway. Imagine for the sake of argument that Canada collected what Norwegians did between 2009 and 2012. In those four years, Canada would have enjoyed revenues of $365 billion -- enough to pay off more than half of our national debt.
Every provincial jurisdiction is also in direct competition with each other in a race to the bottom to attract private petroleum investment. Internal government documents accessed by the Alberta Federation of Labour found that B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan charge lower royalty rates than any U.S. state. Bizarrely, this was framed as a public policy achievement.

Since our country has an every-province-for-itself negotiating strategy, job strapped jurisdictions are not only contending with immensely powerful outside forces, but their own angry electorate every few years. It's hard to drive a hard bargain when voters can be maneuvered to take up industry's negotiating position. Nothing motivates a politician quite like the prospect of electoral defeat, and voters have become enlisted as unwitting allies in the billion-dollar brinksmanship of industry to access resources at ever-cheaper prices.
- Jane Gerster's report following up on David Macdonald's study of wealth inequality includes this apt observation from Erin Weir:
In many ways, the growing divide is more concerning than income inequality, said Erin Weir, economist for the United Steelworkers.

“Wealth matters because it also confers political power and social status,” Weir said, adding “wealth makes increasing inequality a self-reinforcing trend: invested wealth is a source of income, those who already have the most wealth have the greatest capacity to accumulate more wealth.”
- Update: And Alex Pareene responds to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling to further facilitate the flow of concentrated wealth into politics on by pointing out the possibility of reducing wealth inequality in the first place.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford reviews the neoliberal policy choices which have exacerbated that inequality over the past few decades.

- Finally, Sheila Fraser rightly slams the Cons' cynical attack on Canadian voting rights. And Bruce Cheadle reports on how the Unfair Elections Act is set up to facilitate yet more Robocon-style schemes - even as Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor confirm the connection between the Cons' party database and the 2011 voter suppression fraud.

1 comment:

  1. This - from the McMaher piece you link to - could certainly use some wider exposure :

    "A national investigation into allegations of dirty political calls has been under way for more than a year. Elections Canada had planned to wrap up that investigation by March 31. On Thursday, spokeswoman Diane Benson declined to say whether it is ongoing.

    The agency was expected to include information about that investigation in a “compliance and enforcement mechanisms” report to Parliament this spring.

    Benson said the agency has decided not to report until after the next election.

    “In light of the government’s announcement in the fall that it would introduce comprehensive legislative reform, Elections Canada decided to postpone the general enforcement report until after the next general election,” she said. “This was necessary not only to focus our attention and resources on the announced reform, but also of the difficulty of engaging stakeholders simultaneously on a parallel initiative.”