Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leadership 2017 Reference Page (Pinned)

A one-stop source for general links on the 2017 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments. (And note that new posts will appear below this one.)

General Information
NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF) - Voting Process
NDP Leadership 2017
Leadership Debates: Ottawa (March 12) - Montreal (March 26) - Sudbury (May 28) - St. John's (June 11) - Saskatoon (July 11) - Victoria (August 2) - Montreal (August 27) - Vancouver (September 10)

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Profile Analysis Ranking
Charlie Angus CharlieAngusNDP.ca @CharlieAngusNDP Profile
Niki Ashton NikiAshton2017.ca @NikiAshton Profile
Guy Caron GuyCaron.ca @GuyCaronNPD Profile
Jagmeet Singh JagmeetSingh.ca @theJagmeetSingh Profile

Other Resources
National Post Leadership Tracker
Karl Nerenberg Candidate Profiles

All Posts By Label
Candidate Rankings - August 6 - August 13

Babble threads: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Peter Julian Forum
Twitter: #ndp - #ndpldr

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Melanie Schmitz writes that Donald Trump's plan to hand giant tax goodies to the rich is opposed by nearly three quarters of Americans.

- CNBC reports on the skepticism among U.S. workers as to their future opportunities. And Jim Stanford offers a historical perspective on what's most recently been branded as the gig economy - but which only matches past abuses intended to limit workers' bargaining power and access to benefits.

- Meanwhile, Jessica Chin notes that Canadians are spending an unsustainable amount of their income on increasingly unaffordable housing, while Richard Partington points out increasing spending compared to earnings as another indication that workers are having to live beyond their means.

- Suzanne Fitzpatrick discusses the connection between childhood poverty and homelessness. And Clare Bonnyman writes that food insecurity has far more to do with insufficient income than with food in particular.

- Norman Farrell examines the effects of the B.C. Libs' preference for regulators who were ideologically opposed to their jobs. And Alec MacGillis takes a detailed look at the U.S.' Department of Housing and Urban Development as an example of a public agency crumbling due to the appointment of unqualified management for political purposes.

- Finally, Michael Spratt notes that the Libs seem to be back-tracking on their promise of evidence-based justice policy, and are instead using poll numbers as an excuse to retain mandatory minimum sentencing laws which serve no genuine purpose.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Angled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Karri Munn-Venn argues for a federal budget focused on social well-being - not merely on economic productivity. And Tom Hale discusses the harm done by social isolation.

- The BBC reports on new research showing that the UK's public support for parents is falling behind the rate of inflation, resulting in even two-income families falling well below a "no-frills" living standard.

- Matthew Jenkin assembles the stories of workers dealing with low pay and precarious employment in the UK, while Dominic Rushne offers a similar look at U.S. fast food workers. And Ali Chiasson exposes how Ontario restaurants took tip money from workers to fund so-called IOUs to be collected by management.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey digs into Husky's suppression of information about its oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River. And Karen Tam Wu (among others) writes to the federal government to push for a strong move toward energy-efficient building standards to reduce how much energy Canadians use.

- Finally, Peter Gowan and Mio Tastas Viktorsson discuss Rudolf Meidner and Gösta Rehn's model to put capital ownership in the hands of workers through wage-earner funds - and suggest that it's long past time to revisit the grossly unequal distribution of capital.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson write that equality of opportunity is an illusion if people don't have the necessary equality of income to make meaningful plans:
British social mobility is damaged by the UK’s high income inequality. Economists have argued that young people from low income families are less likely to invest in their own human capital development (their education) in more unequal societies. Young people are more likely to drop out of high school in more unequal US states or to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in more unequal rich countries. Average educational performance on maths and literacy tests is lower in more unequal countries.

It isn’t that young people in unequal societies lack aspirations. In fact, they are more likely to aspire to success. The sad thing is they are less likely to achieve it.

But the ways in which inequality hampers social mobility go far beyond educational involvement and attainment. In unequal societies, more parents will have mental illness or problems with drugs and alcohol. They will be more likely to be burdened by debt and long working hours, adding stress to family life. More young women will have babies as teenagers, more young men will be involved in violence.
The evidence which shows the damage caused by socioeconomic inequality is mounting. The UK government risks being on the wrong side of history if it continues to fail to address the divide – and condemn us all to its devastating impact.
- Ben Chu talks to Richard Blundell about the importance of combining fair wages with social supports to ensure people can stay out of poverty, rather than assuming the former is a full replacement for the latter. Paul Tulloch charts the large number of Canadian workers clustered at the low end of the wage scale, while the Star's editorial board weighs in on the need to improve wages. And David Bush discusses the slow path toward a $15 minimum wage being charted by the B.C. NDP.

- Matt Bruenig responds to the possibility of increased antitrust enforcement by noting the futility of merely breaking up corporate structures which remain substantially owned by broadly similar groups of people - and instead proposing that we focus on common ownership as a policy goal.

- Dean Baker notes that the development of the Zika vaccine offers a clear example of the value of publicly-funded research. And Danyaal Raza writes about the need for further public investment in the health of Canadians - particularly in the form of pharmacare and dental care for all.

- Finally, Owen Jones points out how the right-wing media has fanned the flames of bigotry and fascism.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

On closing questions

Thus far in my posts about the federal NDP leadership campaign, I haven't said much about my own preferences as between the candidates. And there's a reason why I haven't been pushing for any particular outcome just yet, as I'm still far from sure who I'll place in each position on my own ballot.

But for those who are likewise undecided, I'll offer my take on what I'll be looking for from each candidate from here on in - particularly in the last two debates which give us the best indication of the contenders' judgment under pressure as the campaign reaches its end.

Charlie Angus

One of the key themes of Jack Layton's success as the NDP's leader was that the lifetime of work he did in support of progressive causes earned him some leeway in making choices which might otherwise have been seen as controversial. And Angus' recent run of endorsements seems to suggest he enjoys much the same advantage. 

But Layton also succeeded in large part due to his work in reaching out to his caucus as well as to supportive groups. And while the leadership campaign is obviously a different context than the actual management of a caucus, Angus has presented himself as being relatively oppositional in his approach to his fellow leadership contestants.

I'll thus be interested to see if Angus is willing and able to pivot toward engaging with his competitors in a way which seems more consistent with being part of the same team once the campaign ends. And a failure to do so may be particularly problematic if he isn't able to move the needle any further in terms of caucus endorsements.

Niki Ashton

From the beginning, Ashton has been highly strategic in her approach to debates, taking many opportunities to put other candidates on the defensive. But possibly in order to minimize the risk of the same happening to herself, she's often defaulted to her talking points rather than seeming to engage with some of the questions directed toward here - even when they're at best tangentially related to the subject at hand.

To her credit, Ashton has released an extremely thorough and thoughtful set of policy proposals. But she hasn't yet changed her approach to the leadership debates, even when they delve into subjects areas where she's released detailed plans.

With that in mind, I'll be looking for Ashton to show some more willingness to get into the weeds as to policy details and analysis - with the ultimate purpose of testing her ability to explain and pitch the ideas her campaign has developed.

Guy Caron

Throughout the leadership debates so far, Caron has consistently demonstrated a superior combination of policy knowledge and good humour.

But his message has sometimes been lost in the delivery - sometimes as a product of his accent when speaking English, other times merely as a matter of timing and speaking style. And a relatively low-resource campaign - like a party facing a fund-raising disadvantage - needs to be able to make its strongest messages stick.

The upcoming Montreal debate represents Caron's chance to show that his strongest lines can land with a bit more punch in French than in English. And it's worth keeping an eye out as to whether his communication can be as sharp as his message from here on in.

Jagmeet Singh

Finally, after entering the campaign projecting a front-runner message, Singh has done extremely well in defending himself from the questions which inevitably come with that status. As a result, members shouldn't have any question about his ability to hold his ground.

What's still somewhat uncertain, however, is Singh's willingness to anchor his plans for growth in the values and policies of the NDP. And particularly given the likelihood that the campaign is headed for multiple ballots, Singh may need to reassure undecided members as to how their well-established priorities fit within his proposed movement.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Amira Elghawaby comments on the loss of empathy in Canadian politics - particularly due to a disproportionate focus on the perceived self-interest of a narrow group of upper-middle-class swing voters, rather than speaking to and about the people with the greatest need for collective voice:
A few years ago, psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley ran several studies that provide crucial insight into understanding this phenomenon. Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner wanted to investigate the role of social class. By measuring how those with more wealth, occupational prestige and education behaved while driving, they were able to conclude that those from more well-off backgrounds showed less empathy than others.

Luxury-car drivers were more likely than others to cut off other motorists, or speed past pedestrians, rather than give them the right of way. The researchers concluded that such attitudes were likely attributable to feelings of freedom and independence that negated the need to rely on others, or care about how others feel.

When governments and political parties are mostly concerned with wooing middle- and upper-class voters, it is small wonder that there is less focus on more niche social-justice issues, and more on issues perceived as directly affecting those broader segments of our society. When governments do buck the trend, segments of these privileged populations will often push back aggressively, attempting to drown out those less equipped to engage.

Take this line from a 2016 Environics study where the authors note that “acknowledgment of Aboriginal peoples as having unique rights is somewhat more evident among women, people born outside of Canada, and those with lower household incomes.”

Along with encouraging wider participation in the political process, there is urgency, too, in telling more stories to compel feelings of empathy throughout all communities.
- But in a promising sign, CTV reports that in Vancouver (as in Boston) a counter-protest has far outweighed a right-wing rally intended to foment bigotry.

- Andrew Coyne rightly argues that in the interest of genuine tax fairness, our public revenue system shouldn't encourage incorporation (or other strategic moves which allow for tax avoidance) in the first place.

- Cathleen O'Grady points out that in addition to having become entirely affordable, wind and solar power are already saving large numbers of lives compared to dirtier alternatives. Joel French discusses what needs to be done (beyond the first wave of modest carbon pricing) to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. And Hans Rollman contrasts the Libs' willingness to pump billions into questionable energy projects against their stinginess in funding equal services for Indigenous communities.

- Finally, Risa Schwartz offers some suggestions as to what a NAFTA chapter on aboriginal rights could look like. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board rightly proposes that the now-failing inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women should be turned over to Indigenous Canadians.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Bruce Anderson and David Coletto take a look at public perceptions of Canada's political parties. And the relatively small differences in public views of the NDP as compared to the Liberals may offer either a suggestion as to what grounds of distinction appear most open at the moment, or a challenge to the leadership contenders to discuss how they plan to shift public opinion.

- The Canadian Federation of Students offers the candidates' responses on post-secondary education. Arshy Mann examines Niki Ashton's LGBTQ policy proposals. Radio-Canada interviews Guy Caron about his place in the race, including the danger of focusing unduly on fund-raising totals. And Ryan Maloney reports on David Suzuki's endorsement of Charlie Angus.

- Stephen Tweedale offers a thoughtful endorsement of Jagmeet Singh, with a particular emphasis on his income security proposals. And Matthew Green discusses how Singh persuaded him to join a political party, while Jules Sherred offers his view of what the theme of "love and courage" means.

- Meanwhile, Jenn Laura Lee supports Ashton as a transformational voice for youth. And David Heap sees her as an inspiration for members of the progressive movement to re-engage in party politics.

- Aaron Wherry discusses the implications of Singh electing not to move immediately to seek out a seat in the House of Commons if he wins. Molly Kraft comments on the significance of Singh's candidacy - and some responses to it - in determining how inclusive the NDP will be as a party. And Eric Grenier offers some projected numbers as to the candidates' first-ballot placement - and the membership totals Singh would need to bring in to rank at the top.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Metcalf discusses the meaning and effect of neoliberalism:
“(N)eoliberalism” is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.
Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.
What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can’t be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

The authority of the professor, the reformer, the legislator or the jurist does not derive from the market, but from humanistic values such as public spiritedness, conscience or the longing for justice. Long before the Trump administration started demeaning them, such figures had been drained of salience by an explanatory scheme that can’t explain them. Surely there is a connection between their growing irrelevance and the election of Trump, a creature of pure whim, a man without the principles or conviction to make for a coherent self. A man without a mind, who represents the total absence of reason, is running the world; or at least ruining it. As a Manhattan real estate wiseguy, though, Trump, hey – he knows what he knows: that his sins have yet to be punished in the marketplace.
- Meanwhile, David Graeber writes that the recent push toward austerian politics and bubble economics is creating another private debt crisis.

- Lana Payne highlights the need for collective action to counter racism and hate. And Meghan Brophy interviews Tony Pecinovsky about his work building a workers' centre in St. Louis modeled on the cooperative education institutions of the early 20th century.

- Susan McReynolds talks to Alison Ronson about Canada's subpar protection for land and fresh water compared to other developed countries. And the CP reports that the damage wrought by tar sands tailings ponds is under investigation by NAFTA's environmental commission.

- Finally, Betty Ann Adam writes that after ten years of policy which regularly imposed disproportionate burdens on Indigenous people and communities, it's too late for Brad Wall to paper over his divisions with a one-time apology for the Sixties Scoop.

Musical interlude

Salvatore Ganaccia - Rocket Science

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Leo Gerard calls for an end to trade deals designed to favour the wealthy at the expense of everybody else. And Rick Salutin writes that NAFTA can't reasonably be seen as anything but:
(N)o matter how many numbers Freeland plucks to show the economy’s mighty growth in the free trade years, in those same years, most people’s lives have hardened: income stagnated; infrastructure declined; universities became debt traps — the growth was distributed entirely upward. This is politically toxic.

She said Monday, “Too many working people feel abandoned by the 21st century global economy, and have voted accordingly.” So, “We must share the fruits of trade ...” It’s “the all-important, connecting piece, the tie between free trade and equitable domestic policy … They need to advance together.”

This is not irrational, it’s just impossible. Why? Because the whole purpose of the deals was to undercut the gains of the majority, who’d benefitted since the Second World War, by shifting jobs to poorer places (like Mexico) so as to extract concessions and raise profits. Why would those who backed the deals for those reasons, give that up? Using trade deals to benefit everyone is a nice idea but, like that spider, it’s not their nature. You’re trying to reengineer their souls.
- Jeremy Nuttall explores how younger workers have been left out of any economic growth. And Angella MacEwen points out that businesses have plenty of room to offer higher wages rather than focusing solely on short-term shareholder payouts.

- Noah Smith offers a thorough set of suggestions to build a stronger and more equitable U.S. economy - with more progressive taxes and stronger social programs playing vital roles.

- But Robin Shaban highlights how the Saskatchewan Party's budget will result in a windfall for high-income residents and corporations, while forcing most workers to pay more. And Charles Hamilton reports that an emergency mental health unit funded by donations is on hold for lack of staff, forcing people with urgent mental health needs into the general emergency care system.

- Finally, Sarah Berman examines how the most basic of housing is becoming unaffordable in a large number of Canadian cities (including Regina).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New column day

Here, following up on my recent posts as to the state of the federal NDP's leadership race as of today's membership deadline.

For much more material on the leadership campaign, I'll simply point again to the reference page here. And I'll encourage anybody interested in the NDP's place in Canadian politics to sign up and participate in the leadership votes to come.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones calls out the dogmatic centre for first laying the groundwork for the rise of the populist right, then trying to vilify anybody working on a progressive alternative. And Chris Dillow zeroes in on what's wrong with the neoliberal view of the world:
- Insufficient scepticism about capitalism. Centrists have failed to appreciate sufficiently that actually-existing capitalism has led to inequality, rent-seeking and stagnation. New Labour’s deference to bosses fuelled their presumption that banks were in good hands and didn’t need to be on a tight leash.
 - A blindness to the importance of inequalities of power. Centrists take it for granted that elites should be in control, even if they lack the capacity to be so. This left them vulnerable to Vote Leave’s slogan, “take back control.”
 - Excessive deference to the media. Centrists were for years obsessed with a form of “electability” which consisted in accommodating themselves to media lies about austerity and immigration.
Centrism’s intuitive appeal lies in the tendency to associate it with the virtues of moderation and empiricism.
Such an association, however, is at least partly unwarranted. In failing to appreciate sufficiently the flaws in capitalist hierarchy, centrists are being ideologues more than empiricists.
- Meanwhile, Nora Loreto challenges the labour movement to take a leading role in countering racism and fascism.

- Justin Ling offers the inside story of the Cons' complete radio silence in response to the Rebel's role in fomenting hate. And Adam Radwanski points out that the Libs' choice to cozy up to Steve Bannon and the Trump administration can only undermine their claim to offer any alternative to the right's anti-social values.

- Katharine Lindemann interviews Tarani Chandola about her new research showing that people trapped in low-quality jobs may be worse off than those with none at all. And Dan Levin reports on the desperate situation facing migrant farmworkers in Canada - while Michael Grabell points out that undocumented workers in the U.S. have it even worse, as employers are able to have them criminally charged and deported at will to escape responsibility for work injuries.

- Finally, Vanessa Gruben and Louise Belanger-Hardy offer some suggestions to make sure provincial governments are able to hold big pharma accountable for harm done to public health.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roderick Benns interviews Ryan Meili about the value of a basic income in freeing people from perpetual financial stress. And Doug Cameron reminds us that we have a choice whether to show empathy toward people facing homelessness - even if far too many forces try to push us to do otherwise.

- Kadhim Shubber reports on the utter failure of the UK's attempt to privatize adult training and apprenticeships, as the corporation which received hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding ignored massive chunks of its responsibilities, then tried to suppress the evidence. And Kristin Rushowski examines an analysis of Ontario education funding which shows that grants to poorer areas are far more than outweighed by the push to rely on fund-raising in wealthier ones.

- Meanwhile, Tanara Yelland responds to Galen Weston's attempt to suppress the wages of low-income workers in order to pad his own multi-billion-dollar accumulation of wealth. And Zohra Jamasi and Michal Rozworski expose the most glaring errors and omissions from the Ontario corporate lobby's attempt to silence advocates of a fair minimum wage.

- Paul Willcocks explores what John Horgan will need to do to restore any semblance of a functional environmental regulator in British Columbia. And Sharon Lerner documents the appalling risks foisted on poorer U.S. communities through corporate environmental racism.

 - Finally, Geoff Dembicki writes that Canada's tar sands are set to become non-viable within a generation no matter what happens with pipelines or environmental regulations - making it an utter waste of public money to try to prop them up. And Don Pittis writes that Brad Wall and his ilk need to take responsibility for foolishly blowing the proceeds of a resource boom when the bust cycle is never far away.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Floored cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Asher Schechter examines new studies showing how massive markups are enriching corporations at the expense of workers:
The two standard explanations for why labor’s share of output has fallen by 10 percent over the past 30 years are globalization (American workers are losing out to their counterparts in places like China and India) and automation (American workers are losing out to robots). Last year, however, a highly-cited Stigler Center paper by Simcha Barkai offered another explanation: an increase in markups. The capital share of GDP, which includes what companies spend on equipment like robots, is also declining, he found. What has gone up, significantly, is the profit share, with profits rising more than sixfold: from 2.2 percent of GDP in 1984 to 15.7 percent in 2014. This, Barkai argued, is the result of higher markups, with the trend being more pronounced in industries that experienced large increases in concentration. 

A new paper by Jan De Loecker (of KU Leuven and Princeton University) and Jan Eeckhout (of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF and University College London) echoes these results, arguing that the decline of both the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power.
De Loecker and Eeckhout find that between 1950 and 1980, markups were more or less stable at around 20 percent above marginal cost, and even slightly decreased from 1960 onward. Since 1980, however, markups have increased significantly: on average, firms charged 67 percent over marginal cost in 2014, compared with 18 percent in 1980.
Markup increases, De Loecker and Eeckhout find, became more pronounced following the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Curiously, they find that economy-wide it is mainly smaller firms that have the higher markups, which according to De Loecker is indicative of widely different characteristics between various industries. Within narrowly defined industries, however, the standard prediction holds: firms with larger market shares have higher markups as well. “Most of the action happens within industries, where we see the big guys getting bigger and their markups increase,” De Loecker explains. 
- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew rightly question the Libs' attempt to paint platitudes and corporate giveaways as a progressive trade agenda as they sit down to renegotiate NAFTA. And David Climenhaga notes that John Horgan may be nothing but pleased with threats from Alberta Conservatives to remove British Columbia from the corporate-driven New West Partnership.

- Muhammad Hamid Zaman comments on the importance of reliable and complete data to shape public policy choices in the health sector (and elsewhere).

- Meanwhile, Andrew Seaman reports on new research suggesting that poverty can manifest itself in arterial buildup even in young children. And Jordan Press discusses the link between foster care and youth homelessness.

- Katie Hyslop highlights the importance of preparing children to bring a critical eye to manipulative media. But Tom Pride notes that the UK Cons have other ideas - instead encouraging parents to teach children not to share (and to value their property over all else) to avoid even the slightest hint of social responsibility.

- Finally, Denise Balkissoon rightly points out the problem with a white supremacist and anti-social movement built around the preservation of undeserved privilege.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Angella MacEwen and Cole Eisen challenge Galen Weston's laughable claim that he and his multi-billion-dollar empire can't afford to pay something closer to a living wage. And Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg connect the U.S.' growing inequality to policy choices which have facilitated the accumulation of extreme wealth.

- Meanwhile, the BBC reports on a study showing the close connection between childhood geography and university attendance in the UK.

- Patrick Smith discusses the revolving door between prison and homelessness - including the reality of people reoffending in order to secure services not available to them outside of prison walls. And Brendan Kennedy examines Canada's heavy-handed immigration detention system which locks detainees up indefinitely for little apparent reason.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand writes that Brad Wall's time in office has been marked by a lack of progress in reconciliation between Saskatchewan and First Nations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Rankings - August 13

As I noted here, there have been a number of key developments in the NDP's leadership campaign since last week's rankings. And two in particular have changed my impression as to the relative likelihood of success for the top two candidates, I'll assemble a new set of rankings for this week - while noting that the membership numbers available after Thursday's deadline will likely give us a far better idea where the campaign is headed.

1. Charlie Angus (2)

Angus takes the lead this week for two reasons.

First, the latest Mainstreet poll shows him breaking away from the pack among at its subset of self-identified NDP members. And however much uncertainty there is in trying to assess whether a pollster is reaching the right people, it's certainly worth noting the relative change showing Angus increasing both his percentage support and his lead within a pool that's been polled before.

And second, his broad set of labour endorsements looks significant in a couple of ways. The perception that Angus is the preferred candidate for well-known labour voices may sway a few more voters into his camp early. But perhaps more importantly, but it also offers Angus some validation as a down-ballot option for Ashton and Caron supporters with labour roots.

2. Jagmeet Singh (1)

To be clear, though, there are limitations to how much we can take from any one poll. And while Mainstreet's results contribute to the swap of positions between Angus and Singh, I'd see it as a severe overreaction to put too much stock in Singh's relative placement compared to the other candidates.

That said, this week's membership totals will give us a much better indication whether Singh has assembled enough new supporters to justify the media attention his campaign has been able to secure, or whether we should be taking a much closer look at the prospect of an Angus-Ashton final ballot.

3. Niki Ashton (3)

Meanwhile, the poll results - combined with a lack of other new developments - do serve to lock in the relative positioning of Ashton and Caron for the moment. And while Ashton's campaign figures to be making a strong membership push of its own, it may soon need to reorient itself toward laying the groundwork to build support between ballots.

4. Guy Caron (4)

Finally, Caron remains a credible contender if he can get over the first hurdle of staying on the ballot. And given the importance of building first-choice support among existing members, I'd expect him to push particularly hard to win over Quebec MPs - including those who formerly supported Peter Julian - to persuade current members to decide based on their impressions as to the NDP's prospects in his home province.

Update: Tom Parkin reaches a similar conclusion as to the relative positioning of Angus and Singh, while also discussing the state of the campaign as the membership deadline approaches.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jerry Dias writes that corporate greed is the common thread in numerous stories about Canadian workers being left without jobs or support. And Yves Engler points out that trade agreements have ultimately served little purpose but to entrench corporate power.

- Chris Doucouliagos reminds us that inequality is ultimately bad for everybody - no matter how hard the wealthy fight to preserve it in the false expectation of personal gain. And Denis Campbell discusses how austerity has exacerbated disparities in life expectancy in the UK.

- Juan Carlos Rivillas and Fabian Dario Colonia discuss the importance of the social determinants of health in ensuring (or limiting) health inequalities. And Kelly Hodgins discusses how false assumptions about low-income people results in a lack of access to healthy food.

- Tom Gunton sets out a few lessons from the failure of the B.C. Libs' LNG scheme. And Lindsay Kines reports on the Horgan NDP government's needed move to question the Libs' reliance on corporate-funded consultants make decisions on environmental assessments.

- Finally, Tom McIntosh offers a reminder that Brad Wall's departure merely confirms that he's led his party to a point where it can't defend its own actions while in office.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On banked support

A couple of weeks back, I examined the role of endorsements in the federal NDP's leadership race. Now, I'll take a quick look at where the current fund-raising numbers and distribution stand - and how they figure to relate to the NDP's previous leadership campaigns.

The closest comparison to this campaign is of course the 2012 leadership race. There, the final fund-raising totals for the candidates who stayed in the race ranged from Niki Ashton's $86,806.70 (from 1,163 contributors) to Tom Mulcair's $522,788.00 (from 3,482 contributors). And the contributor numbers ranged from Ashton's 1,163 to Martin Singh's 7,965. 

But of course, the final numbers weren't known when people actually voted. And there were some noteworthy changes over the home stretch of the campaign: Mulcair overtook Brian Topp as the top fund-raiser after trailing in the previous quarterly report, while Singh drastically increased his number of donors even while raising relatively little compared to the pre-convention numbers.

In general, total donations proved to be a strong indicator of voting support. (In contrast, donor numbers were far less reliable, with Singh's total serving as the obvious outlier.)

The connection between donations and votes was even stronger in the 2003 campaign: then, every candidate's vote share was within 1.5% of his or her fund-raising share. So there's certainly some precedent to suggest that NDP vote totals may closely track donations.

What's more, as I've noted, the connection between fund-raising and voting outcomes could be stronger this time out since there's far more room to convert an advantage in fund-raising capacity into campaign outcomes. 

In 2012, it's possible that Mulcair in particular could have raised more than he did. But a $500,000 spending limit provided him with no particular incentive to raise substantially more than that amount. 

In contrast, with the spending limit tripled this time around, the ability to raise more money can lead to a far stronger campaign operation. And with candidates needing to reach voters over multiple separate voting windows, a campaign's financial resources may be particularly crucial when members make their final decision.

So how much attention should we pay to fund-raising - particularly when it may conflict with some other normally-reliable indicators?

Since this time there actually is a meaningful difference in how the race projects based on various factors, I'd be surprised if the first ballot doesn't end up somewhere in the middle. 

We certainly shouldn't look at the 2003 precedent and assume Jagmeet Singh's vote share will match his proportion of funds raised, particularly given the poll results released so far. But nor should we ignore either the importance of Singh's fund-raising lead as an indicator of support, or his ability to use donations to change the course of the campaign. And that advantage may be especially important if the race comes down to the wire. 

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP leadership campaign as the August 17 membership deadline approaches. (And for those wondering, it's possible to both check one's membership status and sign up online.)

- Kyle Duggan reports on a new Mainstreet poll showing Charlie Angus with a substantial lead among identified members - confirming where the candidates appear to rank among existing members, but raising the question of whether new members might change the picture on the first ballot.

- On the endorsement front, Angus' labour endorsements reflect a noteworthy grouping of support. And all of the candidates have announced support among current or former politicians, including Eugene Kostyra and Jennifer Howard for Angus; Raymond Cote, Joe Comartin and Georgina Jolibois for Niki Ashton; Anne Minh Thu Quach, Howard Hampton and Peter Tabuns for Guy Caron; and Brian Masse, Tracey Ramsey and a bevy of Ontario MPPs for Jagmeet Singh.

- Caron has unveiled his climate justice plan, which notably addresses the international implications of climate change both by planning to recognize climate migrants and by proposing a carbon border adjustment tax. 

- Kristy Kirkup reports that Singh won't plan to run in a byelection if he wins the leadership - which some voters may see as a problem, but which strikes me as having at least as much upside as downside given how important engagement outside of Ottawa is to building a leader's reputation and connecting with the public.

- Charlie Smith discusses the strengthening left across Canada, and theorizes that it might allow Ashton to win with a promise to be our equivalent to Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. And Gerard Di Trolio interviews Ashton about her goals as leader.

- Nora Loreto offers her take on what she hopes to see from the candidates in order to succeed in Quebec.

- Finally, Tom Parkin makes his case to ensure that the disagreements between the candidates stay clean and civil. But I would take issue with where he draws the line - as the debate over how social programs should be structured is surely a legitimate one (particularly on the part of candidates merely defending party policy).

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bill Kerry discusses the role of inequality in causing a global financial meltdown
Leaving aside the greed and stupidity of so many of the world's financial institutions and, particularly, their leaders, it is easy to see why poor Americans jumped at what they saw as their chance of the American Dream and why under pressure sales forces, with targets to meet and commissions to earn, pushed unsuitable products on to them. The US is the most unequal, major, developed world economy and, as a result, it is racked with status anxiety from top to bottom. Inequality forces people to compete with each other to try and scramble up the greasy pole, or at least stay where they are in the pecking order. Buying your own house rather than renting is a massive step up the social ladder as is being a success in business, even if that business is saddling poor people with crushing debt that they can never hope to repay. But inequality helps out here too. Great inequality encourages us to think of poorer people as somehow having failed anyway, so maybe it matters less what is done to them. Out of sight, out of mind.

In a wider sense the 2007 crash was the result of deep-seated changes in the world economy, not least the massive expansion of private debt that had built up in the system over recent decades. But again, inequality and status anxiety had key roles here. Real wages have not allowed us or our families to live the lives we want, the lives that advertisers sell us every day. So in order to get these lives and to preserve our status and sense of self-worth in the world around us, we borrowed to bridge the gap. A massive bubble was created and this burst in 2007, all it took was the big American sub-prime needle to do it.
- And Sahil Dutta and Paul Gilbert point out that a meaningful left response to trickle-down economics needs to address management, not only ownership.

- Jake Johnson examines how U.S. corporations already avoid most of their nominal tax obligations - and how they (assisted by the Trump administration) are pushing to contribute even less. And David Dayen and Ryan Grim report on extra fees which have been added to consumers' monthly mortgage payments through opt-out junk mail.

- Michael Coren highlights the hypocrisy of executives who never hesitate to extract every possible nickel from businesses for themselves, but cry poor over any talk of a living wage for employees. And Daniel Gross calls out employers who are complaining about a lack of workers for refusing to offer wages which would make it worth working for them.

- Finally, the Ontario NDP has unveiled a new plan for worker-friendly labour and employment law reform. And Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon reports on Jennifer McKenzie's ascent to the leadership of the New Brunswick NDP - and the expectation that it will join other provincial wings in leading the way toward progressive policy choices.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Musical interlude

Greg Benz - The Depths

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Noah Smith offers a reminder that market principles don't work for everything. And Amelie Quesnel-Vallee and Miles Taylor note that in the health sector in particular, the use of private providers to supplement an underfunded public system is leading to inequitable disparities in accessibility.

- Andrew Jackson challenges the Bank of Canada's decision to focus on reducing future growth at a point when job quality and wages still have ample room (and a desperate need) for improvement. And Richard Wolff argues that while a higher minimum wage is a plus, we ultimately need to address more fundamental imbalances between capital and labour.

- George Eaton points out how the UK Cons' turn toward austerity is set to result in skyrocketing inequality. And Ben Chu reports on new research showing that the income gap is becoming more likely to be locked in between generations.

- Kate McInturff offers some suggestions to promote women's equality in the next federal budget. And Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Metrins-Kirkwood list a few options to prioritize in any NAFTA renegotiation.

- Finally, Christopher Cheung reports on the Columbia Institute's study showing that a conversion to green energy would create millions of Canadian construction jobs over the next few decades.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New column day

Here, on Yvonne Boyer and Judith Bartlett's report (PDF) on how Indigenous women were pushed toward tubal ligations within the Saskatoon Health Region - and how the now-departing Brad Wall bears responsibility to decide whether the system discrimination they identified will be dealt with.

For further reading...
- I've previously linked to the Star's editorial on the shameful forced sterilizations. And Colby Cosh has also weighed in, while the Canadian Press reported on federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett's response.
- Postmedia reported on the initial response from Dustin Duncan and Wall when the issue first surfaced.
- CBC reported on the ongoing amalgamation of Saskatchewan's health regions.
- Meanwhile, examples of the Saskatchewan Party's attitude toward First Nations can be found in their messages on resource revenue sharing. 
- Finally, Jennifer Ackerman reports on the Saskatchewan NDP's call for Wall to follow through on a promised apology for the Sixties Scoop - and Wall's demurral.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- David Leonhardt looks at the glaring growth of inequality in the U.S., while Matt Bruening charts how that trend is based entirely on capital ownership. And in the face of the Republicans' plan for another round of giveaways to the rich, the New York Times' editorial board discusses what tax reform could (and should) mean.

- Torsten Bell argues that the 2007 financial crisis represented a lost opportunity to build an economy that works for workers. And Ann Pettifor laments that the political response to a global financial crisis was limited to lining the pockets of the wealthy, while reminding us that people ultimately hold the power to set the terms of market operations:
In the real economy, those who do not own and rent out income-earning assets like rental property, bonds (government debt), stocks and shares (that earn dividends) have become poorer, and inequality has rocketed. To raise incomes many have joined the rentier economy by renting out their homes (Airbnb) their cars (Uber, Lyft) or bikes (Deliveroo and other couriers). This is an extraordinary development. Workers invest in the ownership, maintenance and insurance of the capital asset (the home, car or cycle) – while the rentier class based in Silicon Valley, having invested in, borrowed or stolen open source software, almost effortlessly extract rent from the worker and her asset. It is these developments that in my view have led to the dramatic rise in inequality worldwide.
So what is to be done? Challenging and dismantling gargantuan financial markets that operate beyond democratic regulatory oversight will not be easy, but it is long overdue. Some believe that the management of financial markets by governments will never be restored. I do not agree. Because of global imbalances, economic and financial tensions could lead to the onset of wars. These could dismantle global financial markets just as the two world wars did.

There is a more peaceful way of restoring finance to the role of servant to, and not master of, economies and regions. For that to happen the public must realise that citizens can exercise economic power over global financial markets. The global ‘House of Finance’ is almost entirely dependent, and indeed largely parasitic, on the public sector. In other words, private finance is largely dependent for its capital gains on taxpayers like you and me.

Neither politicians nor mainstream economists will hold the out-of-control finance sector to account until citizens make that case. The people must lead, so that leaders can follow. We must use the powers of taxpayer-backed central banks and finance ministries to demand a transformation of the global financial system. If our demands are ignored, then we must demand the withdrawal of massive subsidies provided to the private finance sector by our publicly-financed and taxpayer-backed institutions.

Nothing less will do if we are serious about creating an economy that works for people and the planet.
- Andrea Bellemare reports on the ubiquity of Airbnb and other short-term rental services - and how they're leading to needed rental housing being diverted to the app market. And James McCandless points out the end result of anti-government zealotry run amok by writing about the failed libertarian experiment in Von Ormy, Texas.

- Kristian Foden-Vencil discusses the importance of social factors in affecting individual health.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt examines personal examples of people changing their minds on some of the big issues in Canadian politics.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Linda McQuaig makes the case as to why any NAFTA renegotiation needs to focus on workers' rights:
NAFTA has been key to the transformation of Canada over the last two decades, enabling corporations to become ever more dominant economically and politically, while rendering our labour force increasingly vulnerable and insecure.

Indeed, the much-lamented rise in income inequality and feelings of powerlessness among working Canadians aren’t mysterious consequences of participating in the global economy. Rather, they’re the predictable consequences of our country signing a trade deal that greatly empowers corporations and their investors at the expense of everyone else.
ISDS, which has now been adopted in other international trade deals, has created an extraordinary set of legal rights for corporate investors. “If anyone doesn’t need to be protected it’s these guys,” notes Toronto trade lawyer Steven Shrybman.

Yet “these guys” enjoy legal protections much stronger than the protections available, for instance, under international human rights laws — for victims of torture and wrongful imprisonment.

Furthermore, NAFTA gives corporations rights — but no responsibilities, Van Harten says. Governments can’t bring a claim against a corporation for breaching NAFTA, and affected individuals and groups have no right to standing at the tribunals.

Indeed, NAFTA provides few rights for citizens or workers to counter all this corporate power, only “side deals” on labour and the environment that are weak and largely unenforceable.
The NAFTA renegotiation should be an opportunity to revise the trade deal to include rights for workers and citizens, not just corporate investors.
- Meanwhile, Jessica Elgot discusses a UK push to develop organized bargaining structures for self-employed workers.

- Andy Beckett traces how both of the UK's main parties have come around to recognizing the dangers of unfettered corporate control. And Matt Bruenig comments on the need to confront capital in order to rein in inequality.

- Trish Audette-Longo points out Greenpeace's work documenting the track record of pipeline operators - who are regularly spilling while demanding approvals for new projects based on their supposed concern about safety. And Damian Carrington reports on new research showing how the effects of climate change will be extremely dangerous even for healthy people. 

- Finally, Jerry Dias writes that it's time to call out Brad Wall as a liar for his deception about Saskatchewan's Crown corporations. John Conway explores what's become of the CCF's plans for public ownership as a central aspect of economic development. And Pamela Cowan discusses Saskatchewan's persistent racial divide.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cuddle-seeking cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Noah Smith makes the case for the U.S. Democrats to emphasize trust-busting as a means of restoring power to people rather than the business lobby:
Big companies often argue that mergers will allow increased economies of scale, whose efficiencies will more than cancel out any price rise from increased market power. Corporate acquirers hire expensive consultants to make that case to regulators -- the Chicago school means big money for economists willing to theorize that bigger equals better. But that idea runs counter to the basic theory of market power, which warns that when companies get dominant enough in their industry they raise prices and cut production. That tends to hurt economic efficiency, while simultaneously gouging consumers.

Evidence is piling up that the basic econ theory holds true more often than not. Economists Bruce Blonigen and Justin Pierce, for example, found that mergers tend to increase prices and profits without boosting productivity. In an era where outsourcing to low-cost countries has held prices down for many consumer goods, most Americans may not notice the creeping effects of oligopoly, but they are there nonetheless.

And economists are also starting to realize that industrial concentration may harm the economy in other ways as well. The Democrats’ new plan recognizes that big dominant companies may act not just as monopolists but as monopsonists as well, squeezing suppliers while increasing inefficiency. And research by top labor economists suggests that the profits of quasi-monopolists come out of the pockets of American workers in the form of stagnant or falling wages. The rise of big market players may even play a role in the declining rate of startup formation. Industrial concentration, in other words, might be one of the big culprits in U.S. economic sclerosis.

So it’s good that Democrats are trying to resurrect Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting crusade. The trend toward big dominant companies has been allowed to go on too long. A more competitive, dynamic economy would benefit American consumers, workers and small businesses alike.
- Meanwhile, David Penado interviews Ann Pettifor about the political power held by bankers rather than voters. And John Light exposes the Republicans' attempt to prevent authorities from enforcing what few laws still limit the influence of secret corporate money in U.S. politics.

- Kate Aronoff interviews Naomi Klein about the dangers of politics based on corporate branding rather than movement-building, while Bernd Riexinger writes about the importance of connective political parties. And Ian Welsh discusses the dangers of trying to rely on people's vices to shape incentives, rather than treating people with kindness and respect.

- Finally, Katharine Schmidt and Michael Maidment write that food banks are taking over the function of providing social supports which should be guaranteed by government. And the Star's editorial board laments the fact that Ontario's supposed plan toward improved accessibility has gone dark - both in terms of accomplishing little, and preventing advocates from seeking out information.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Peter Zimonjic, Katie Derosa and the Canadian Press each offered coverage of the Victoria debate.

- Charlie Angus unveiled Christine Moore's endorsement, providing him with some potentially crucial Quebec francophone support. Ryan Maloney examined Niki Ashton's racial justice plan. Fair Vote Canada compared the candidates' positions on electoral reform. And Kristy Kirkup offered a look at how the mainstream media is seeing the respective platforms - though there's lots more on the table than she addresses in her report.

- Campbell Clark sees Jagmeet Singh's focus being on expansion rather than the NDP's existing base. And Tim Harper theorizes that people questioning Singh sound similar to those who doubted Justin Trudeau in the course of his leadership campaign - though that comparison may not be a positive for Singh given how Trudeau has disappointed progressive Canadians on policy.

- Finally, Charlie Smith offered his take as to who the Libs and Cons prefer (and fear) out of the NDP's options. And CBC's Pollcast examined the state of the race.

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Paul Buchheit discusses the U.S.' combination of increasing inequality, systematic tax evasion and false promises of social mobility. Michael Savage reports that even UK Cons are recognizing that a refusal to ensure that the rich pay their fair share makes for bad politics. And Steven Klees highlights how full funding for the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals is well within our means as long as the wealthy pay their fair share:
Wealthy countries need to honor the commitment, made in 1970 and repeated ever since, to allocate 0.7% of GDP toward ODA. While a few countries already do this, most fall far short. Just by keeping past promises, wealthy countries could close the education-funding gap – and cover all of the other SDGs’ financing needs, too. The Education Commission, by contrast, lets wealthy countries off the hook, by asking them to commit just 0.5% of GDP to ODA, and not until 2030.

Second, we need a global approach to taxation. As my colleague and I point out in a report for the Education Commission, corporate-tax reforms could eliminate tax avoidance and evasion, which are costing the global economy more than $600 billion every year. To achieve the needed reforms, we need to increase the UN’s capacity instead of relying on the OECD, which has proposed only minor changes. 

We also need to institute a global wealth tax, as economist Thomas Piketty has proposed. It is obscene that the world’s eight richest people hold as much wealth as the poorest 50%. Like corporate-tax reform and fulfilling past promises to fund ODA, a 1% global wealth tax could finance all of the SDGs combined.
- Meanwhile, Gillian Tett examines the close correlation between financial deregulation and outsized pay for bankers. Paul La Monica notes that workers generally are still seeing little benefit from increased economic activity due to sluggish wages. And Ben Doherty writes about the gross exploitation of migrant farm workers in Australia.

- Gabriel Yiu discusses how the B.C. Libs handed profitable parts of ICBC over the private sector while reducing revenue from luxury cars for their own political purposes - providing an indication of the road map the Wall government seems all too likely to follow in Saskatchewan.

- John Abraham reports on new research showing that dirty fossil fuels are being implicitly subsidized at a cost of trillions of dollars annually - or roughly 6.5% of global GDP.

- Finally, Kapil Khimdas and Danyaal Raza write that a focus on genuinely putting patients first - particularly through preventative care and a prioritization of needs - can lead to far better health outcomes.