Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Amanda Connelly reports on the Alberta Federation of Labour's latest revelations as to how the temporary foreign worker program has been used to suppress wages. And Jim Stanford reminds us that the employment picture for Canadians remains bleak even after Statistics Canada's job numbers were revised:
(F)ull-time employment is now estimated to have declined by about 20,000, instead of the original 60,000.  Not exactly something to boast about.  60,000 part-time jobs were created (same as the original report).  The unemployment rate is the same as the original report — and exactly the same as 18 months ago.  The participation rate is unchanged from June: higher than in the original report, but still stuck at its lowest level since 2001.

I published a Globe and Mail commentary on Canada’s stagnant labour market based in part on the original LFS report.  Today’s revised numbers do not materially change the argument I made there, which is that Canada’s much-vaunted economic recovery was over-rated in the first place, and in fact ran out of steam a long time ago.  There has been no sustained labour market progress for over three years.  The employment rate is languishing just a hair above its level in June 2009 — the trough of the recession.  That means job-creation since the trough of the recession has only just kept up with growth in the working-age population (ageing demographics is part of that story, too, on top of poor job-creation).
The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 points since January 2013.  Canada’s hasn’t budged.  The stark difference in macro policy stance between the two countries is clearly an important factor behind this take of two recoveries: American policy is emphasizing job-creation, and mobilizes conventional and unconventional levers to get there, while Canadian policy is dominated by orthodox concern with balancing the budget.

In short, I think Canada’s relative underperormance (sic) since 2011 will become increasingly damaging to the Harper government, given how much it has invested in its reputation (deserved or not) as the “best economic managers.”
- Brian Gifford writes that more progressive taxes could go a long way toward getting our economy on the right track:
To promote strong economic growth, tinkering won’t do. Neither will clinging to failed orthodoxies of tax cuts and cutbacks. We can do much better. Why increase taxation? To invest in new services that will help grow the economy and improve social conditions. Quebec’s universal child-care program saves governments money by increasing women’s participation in the workforce and enabling them to pay more taxes. Housing chronically homeless people saves on emergency services costs. A universal Pharmacare program would reduce drug costs and fewer people will be deprived by unaffordable medications from getting treatment they need. We could go on.
Growing the economic pie is important, but only when equality is increased at the same time. It is not an either-or choice: some policies do both while others grow the economy while undermining equality. Given the empirical evidence, we really are at a point where cash-strapped jurisdictions such as Nova Scotia must justify why they are not leveraging the tax system to alleviate poverty and broaden social supports. We cannot afford not to commit to serious social investments to achieve greater equality and economic growth.
- But of course, tax dollars are of limited use if an anti-social government won't allow them to be used for anything but its own perpetual campaign. And the Cons' insistence that a modest amount of housing spending be used on photo-op-friendly new construction rather than maintaining existing infrastructure makes it clear that they're fully focused on PR rather than actual housing needs.

- Instead, the Cons are again obsessed with getting governments at all levels out of the business of improving citizens' lives. And the CETA is providing a prime example, as both Les Whittington and Andrea Rexer write that "buy local" policies which can serve as important economic stabilizers are being trashed at all levels of government.

- Finally, the CP reports on the Carbon Tracker Initiative's list of oil projects which are least likely to make a profit if prices aren't extremely high. (And it's well worth noting that many of the projects with the lowest likelihood of any return are also the ones with the most damaging environmental effects - including deepwater drilling as well as tar sands operations.) Meanwhile, Chris Mooney discusses the growing scientific case as to the dangers of fracking.

No comments:

Post a Comment