- Charlie Smith discusses - and then follows up on - Donald Gutstein's work in tracing the connections between the Harper Cons and the shadowy, U.S.-based network of right-wing propaganda mills:
In Harperism: How Stephen Harper and His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.), Gutstein makes the case that neoliberalism is far more sinister than simply having a desire for smaller government. A central tenet of his new book is that Harper is undermining democracy by marshalling the power of government to create and enforce markets where they’ve never existed before.- And on that front, Arielle Mayer points out that the FIPA may severely limit Canada's ability to do anything to rein in climate change for upwards of a generation.
“He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market, which means that the decisions are not made by our duly elected representatives through the laws that they pass and the regulations that they enact,” Gutstein says.
With astonishing intellectual dexterity, Gutstein demonstrates in his book how Harper’s overarching mission to promote economic freedom through the imposition of markets is reflected in Conservative government policies.
This explains the zealous desire to dismantle environmental regulations, muzzle government scientists, and scrap the long-form census. The faith in markets also underlies Harper’s blindness to rising income inequality and his eagerness to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.
In addition, it provides a theoretical framework behind efforts to persuade First Nations to abandon collective ownership of their land in favour of a fee-simple system. Neoliberal ideology also manifests itself in Harper galloping around the world to sign free-trade agreements, which limit municipal and provincial governments’ ability to introduce regulations or procure locally produced goods and services.
- Meanwhile, Kevin Campbell reminds us that inequality is bad for business as well as being socially corrosive:
The moral case for reducing inequality is well known, and compelling. But there's little discussion of the economic case. Competition and free markets will always result in some doing better than others, but when growth accrues overwhelmingly to the top 10 per cent, it threatens the health of our society and the sustainability of the economy. If the majority of our population is unable to spend on more than merely the basics, money won't circulate through the economy. If money doesn't circulate, economic growth slows. When economic growth slows, businesses fail, jobs disappear and key programs providing health, education and safety to our citizens begin to fail. It is true that we manage inequality better than many other countries, but since when is B.C. satisfied with measuring itself against the worst instead of by our proximity to the best?- And as one example of a policy choice which could help improve the position of workers within a stronger economy, Dr. Dawg makes the case for free university tuition as an important step in encouraging economic development and social equality alike.
In 2011, the top 10 per cent earned 34.4 per cent of all after-tax income in this province. But income only tells us half the story. A recent report has estimated that the top 10 per cent owns 56.2 per cent of the wealth in our province -- well above the national average.
At this point some might suggest this line of inquiry is motivated by a disdain for the economically mobile. Wrong. I believe these numbers show how income inequality is bad for business. Let me put it this way: if an individual earns 10 times as much as her neighbour, she does not buy 10 times as many bottles of Okanagan wine or make 10 times as many trips to Science World. We can measure this effect: the 'velocity' of money in Canada -- the measure of how many times the money supply circulates in a year -- is now at a 35 year low.
There's no shortage of ideas about how to address inequality without threatening our ability to do business, but few have talked about how much the future of our economy depends on reconciling this. Let's dare to end the false choice between growth and equality. Let's make our province more prosperous by making it more fair.
- Tavia Grant discusses how workers lose out when employers offer only precarious and inconsistent work in order to pad their own profit margins:
The tilt to unstable work – temp jobs, shift work or erratic part-time positions – shows “these are not the 1970s jobs any more. There’s no sense of permanence to them. That’s the area that’s really changing – the lack of commitment by employers to employees in the long term,” says Wayne Lewchuk, professor at McMaster University’s economics and labour studies departments.- Finally, Kim Stanton both argues for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and describes what we'd need for that inquiry to lead to real progress. And Doug Cuthand is duly appalled by the Cons' push to undermine indigenous rights at the UN level.
In prior decades, workers were seen as investments for companies, an asset to be developed over the long term. Now, he says, they’re often viewed as a liability or a cost to be minimized whenever possible.
“The reality is, our economy is much more competitive now than it was 40 or 50 years ago. It’s a brutal world out there if you’re a firm, and so they are looking for ways to cut costs. … So we’ve seen a movement of firms to protect a core [of employees] and surrounding that with a periphery of less permanent employees or tasks that are contracted out,” Prof. Lewchuk says.
He has surveyed 4,000 people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area and found that nearly half now work in jobs with some degree of insecurity – from short-term contracts to self-employed, working for temp agencies or without benefits.
That has clear consequences for finances, his research has found, but the impact also spills into family, health and community involvement.