Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barrie McKenna takes a look at how the Cons are pushing serious liabilities onto future generations in order to hand out short-term tax baubles within a supposedly-balanced budget, while Jennifer Robson highlights the complete lack of policy merit behind those giveaways. And Ian McGugan writes that even as they're trumpeted as attempts to improve saving none of the Cons' plans have anything to do with actually improving retirement security, especially for the people who need it most:
Our reliance on private savings to fund our retirements makes Canada an outlier among developed countries. Public transfers – programs such as Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security – account for less than 39 per cent of seniors’ incomes compared to 59 per cent on average among OECD members.

Women are most at risk, especially if they are divorced or separated. “Higher poverty among older women reflects lower wages, more part-time work and career gaps during women’s working lives, as well as the effect of longer female life expectancy,” the OECD notes.

These are problems that Ottawa should be addressing, but isn’t. Instead, it’s bending its efforts to ensuring that those who already have substantial retirement nest eggs can live even better.
To make matters worse, the TFSA system narrows the tax base. As wealth builds up in those tax-sheltered accounts over the years to come, Ottawa will have to push more of the tax burden on to the remainder of the population – in effect, shifting the load from affluent, older Canadians onto younger, poorer Canadians.

There are ways to fix the problem while still maintaining all the good parts of the TFSA program. Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, recommends instituting a lifetime cap of $150,000 on contributions to TFSAs, as well as a lifetime tax-exempt limit of $450,000 on each TFSA holder. That would allow typical Canadians to amass a substantial nest egg without subsidizing million-dollar-plus portfolios for the affluent.
- Zach Carter reports that at least some U.S. Democrats are rightly challenging the position that free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership should be drafted entirely by corporate interests without any public accountability, then accepted without question. And Paul Krugman responds to the trade-at-all-costs crowd by pointing out that there's little reason to think the TPP will do much to encourage trade in general - as opposed to locking in monopolies - in the first place.

- Jim Coyle reports on George Lakoff's advice for progressives in framing our vision for Canada. And Susan Delacourt observes that there may be a natural disincentive for parties to try out new or different messages even if they otherwise wanted to.

- But lest anybody presume that political courage will never be rewarded, Ryan Donnelly comments on Tom Mulcair's opposition to the Cons' terror bill - which was once seen as a political risk, but has proven to be a boon instead.

- Finally, Michael Harris points out that Mike Duffy's trial may represent the only opportunity to seek honest answers from Stephen Harper about his appointment of ineligible senators.

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