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

Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury n/a @wiseexpert Profile

Peter Julian PeterJulian.ca @MPJulian Profile

Jagmeet Singh JagmeetSingh.ca @theJagmeetSingh Profile

Pat Stogran PatStogran.ca @PatStogranNDP Profile

Other Resources

All Posts By Label

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Jagmeet Singh

As I noted here, Jagmeet Singh's entry into the federal NDP's leadership race has attracted an enviable amount of notice from the media. But the combination of a relatively late start to his formal campaign and a lack of much definition so far does leave Singh with significant ground to make up. And it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to close the gap.


In a campaign which hasn't been marked by a lot of public notice, Singh's launch has already attracted more public and media attention than those of the current MPs in the race. And that represents an important factor both in standing out from the crowd of candidates, and in providing opportunities for the NDP as a whole to put its message forward.  

Meanwhile, the reasons for the media interest in Singh are also obvious pluses for him. He's well positioned to appeal both to specific audiences (as a regional candidate for urban Ontario, and as a voice for immigrant and non-white Canadians), and to people looking for charisma and professional credentials. And the fact that he's succeeded personally despite a difficult political tide in Ontario's most recent election offers reason for hope he can help the federal NDP do the same. 


The main point missing for Singh so far is any substantial policy focus. He has strong legislative credentials in policy areas including consumer affairs, law enforcement and labour. But none of those issues features prominently in his vague message so far; instead, he's saying little that hasn't been discussed in far more detail by the candidates already in the race.

Some commentators have also raised questions as to whether Singh will be able to maintain Quebec support for the NDP. But I'd consider that a secondary issue - both because he's also provided a well-thought-out answer to it, and because a campaign which succeeds in other areas should be able to convince voters that Singh can be a positive in defending and pursuing Quebec seats as well.

Key Indicator

Singh has already won a few key endorsements unveiled at his campaign launch, including former MP Mylene Freeman. But I'll be particularly interested to see which (if any) current MPs endorse Singh over their current caucus colleagues in the race - and if any substantial number do so, that should be an indicator that Singh will be difficult to stop.
Key Opponent

So far, Singh seems to be doing extremely pursuing both strategies and supporter groups connected to Charlie Angus. Either one should be able to win over supporters of the other based on their positive populist messages - and whichever lasts longer on the ballot should be very well positioned to win. 
Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A groundswell of support carrying him to a first-ballot victory
Worst-case: A mid-tier first-ballot showing with little room for growth

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury

I'll plan to add more to Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury's profile later on if he adds more public-facing content to his campaign. For now, though, I'll put forward at least a placeholder profile based on what's missing.


El-Khoury brings at least some political experience to the NDP's leadership race, including past campaigns for an NDP nomination and a City Council seat. And on paper, there would appear to be a niche available for a candidate fitting his profile, including a geographic base in Montreal and private-sector business and economic credentials.


But given his level of familiarity with the political process (in contrast to, say, Pat Stogran's scramble to assemble the basics of a campaign), it's been disappointing to see very little from El-Khoury beyond his registration with Elections Canada a month and a half ago. The blog he's used for other campaigns remains dormant. And he's taken to Twitter to complain somewhat about a lack of coverage, but done nothing of note to justify it.

In additional to signalling a lack of campaign organization, that also means there's little positive content available even for voters who are looking for it from El-Khoury.

Key Indicator

For now, let's start with the obvious: if El-Khoury can't assemble the resources to put together a substantial campaign presence, his potential pluses don't figure to matter. (I'll update this point if he clears that hurdle.)

Key Opponent

While I mention El-Khoury's potential niche above, it bears some obvious overlap to the strengths of Guy Caron's campaign. And El-Khoury's role when it comes time to vote might include either playing up a set of issues and priorities which works to Caron's advantage, or helping another candidate by offering down-ballot voters a signal that he can also speak to them.
Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A sufficient show of support and campaign strength to establish a place for El-Khoury as a key voice within the NDP
Worst-case: A distant last place as his campaign never gets off the ground

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Paul Krugman criticizes the use of non-compete agreements to trap workers at low wage levels with no opportunity to pursue comparable employment - as well as the Republicans' insistence on pushing employer-based health care which further limits workers' options:
At this point, in other words, noncompete clauses are in many cases less about protecting trade secrets than they are about tying workers to their current employers, unable to bargain for better wages or quit to take better jobs.

This shouldn’t be happening in America, and to be fair some politicians in both parties have been speaking up about the need for change (although few expect the Trump administration to follow up on the Obama administration’s reform push). But there’s another aspect of declining worker freedom that is very much a partisan issue: health care.

Until 2014, there was basically only one way Americans under 65 with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance: by finding an employer willing to offer coverage. Some employers were in fact willing to do so. Why? Because there were major tax advantages — premiums aren’t counted as taxable income — but to get those advantages employer plans must offer the same coverage to every employee, regardless of medical history.

But what if you wanted to change jobs, or start your own business? Too bad: you were basically stuck (and I knew quite a few people in that position).
You might say, with only a bit of hyperbole, that workers in America, supposedly the land of the free, are actually creeping along the road to serfdom, yoked to corporate employers the way Russian peasants were once tied to their masters’ land. And the people pushing them down that road are the very people who cry “freedom” the loudest.
- Jim Edwards highlights how in the wake of deliberate attacks on workers' bargaining power, low unemployment rates aren't producing the wage gains which would normally be expected. And Linda Gorman's look at global corporate savings makes it clear that the extra money kept in corporate hands is being hoarded rather than put to productive use.

- Geoff Dembicki points out how Canada's overheating real estate markets are more the result of domestic speculation than foreign investment - even if the political response has been oriented almost solely toward the latter. 

- Ashley Martin reports on the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's call for employers to ensure that work requirements don't trap people suffering domestic violence. And L.E. Reimer points out how the Saskatchewan Party's shuttering of STC will be particularly hard on women with low incomes who will lose a needed means of transportation.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls for Ontario's provincial government to finally reverse a multi-decade trend of reduced access to music and arts education in public schools.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Josh Bivens notes that U.S. corporations are already paying a lower share of taxes than has historically been the case - meaning that there's no air of reality to the claim that handing them more money will produce any positive economic results. And Noah Smith writes that public infrastructure spending would do far more than tax cuts to improve economic outcomes.

- Angella MacEwen discusses how NAFTA (like other trade agreements) has served largely to drive down labour and employment standards among all participants. And Michal Rozworski counters some of the corporatist myths being peddled in opposition to a fair minimum wage.

- Trevor Hancock reminds us of the outrageous levels of child poverty in Canada. Kings' College Investigative Workshop examines the woeful lack of mental health services in Nova Scotia.

- CBC reports on the Saskatchewan Environmental Society's push for the province to do its part in fighting climate change, while Abacus finds that Canadians in general recognize the need to transition away from fossil fuels. And Erin Weir points out that instead of inventing complaints about what the federal government might do, Brad Wall would be better served pointing out how the Libs are actively underfunding transit in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Rebecca Joseph and Jim Bronskill report on the continued public demand to repeal Bill C-51 and rein in the unaccountable surveillance state. And Matthew Behrens discusses his experience as a target of an "anti-terrorist" investigation.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign...

- I'll start by specifically pointing out NDPLeaderVote as an excellent resource for news as it develops. Because it's largely tracking what's happening in the media and on candidates' announcements, I won't be using these links posts to do the same to the same extent for the duration of the campaign.

- The big news is obviously Jagmeet Singh's public announcement that he's joining the race - with a launch that included what seems to be the largest show of support for any candidate so far. And the media also seems to be paying more attention to Singh than to the other candidates on their own, with Duncan Cameron, Chantal Hebert, Martin Regg Cohn, Adam Radwanski and Evan Solomon among the prominent commentators dedicating columns to his announcement and its impact on the federal political scene. 

- Probit has released what appear to be the first significant poll results of the campaign. They likely miss the impact of Singh's arrival, but show a very strong start for Niki Ashton in comparison to both her fellow MPs and her results from the last campaign, as well as another indication that Peter Julian's strong organization isn't yet translating into the support he'll need:

- And this despite Ashton's early-campaign propensity for drawing loud criticism for what should be absolute non-issues in the leadership race - following the previous brouhaha over quoting a Beyonce lyrics with a new complaint about her appearing in the same photo as a sign.

- Finally, the NDP has slightly tweaked its debate schedule, including by adding one in Victoria in August.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Dalia Marin argues that in order to avoid corporate dominance over citizens and workers around the globe, we should be developing international competition policies and systems to combat the concentration of wealth:
Two forces in today’s digital economy are driving the global decline in labor’s share of total income. The first is digital technology itself, which is generally biased toward capital. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have accelerated the rate at which automation is displacing workers. 

The second force is the digital economy’s “winner-takes-most” markets, which give dominant firms excessive power to raise prices without losing many customers. Today’s superstar companies owe their privileged position to digital technology’s network effects, whereby a product becomes even more desirable as more people use it. And although software platforms and online services can be costly to launch, expanding them is relatively inexpensive. Consequently, firms that are already established can keep growing with far fewer workers than they would have needed in the past. 

These factors help to explain why the digital economy has given rise to large firms that have a reduced need for labor. And, once these firms are established and dominate their chosen market, the new economy allows them to pursue anti-competitive measures that prevent actual and potential rivals from challenging their position.
The objective of a world competition network is to build an effective legal framework to enforce competition law against companies engaging in cross-border business practices that restrict competition. The network may coordinate investigations and enforcement decisions and develop new guidelines for how to monitor market power and collusive practices in a digital economy. 

In the past, the G20 has focused on ensuring that multinational firms are not able to take advantage of jurisdictional differences to avoid paying taxes. But the G20 now needs to expand its scope, by recognizing that digital technologies are creating market outcomes that, if unchecked by a new World Competition Network, will continue to favor multinational firms at the expense of workers.
- But Brent Patterson notes that instead, Justin Trudeau is planning to rebrand the corporate-biased TPP as a new version of NAFTA to further entrench the power of capital.

- The Star's editorial board challenges the Trudeau Libs' plans to push through a massive infrastructure bank giveaway without proper review and debate. And Stephen Whitworth examines the high price of the Saskatchewan Party's privatization of Crowns.

- Diana Duong interviews Andre Picard about Canada's health care system which falls far short of the universality we expect. And Alex Hemingway comments on the devastating social impacts of the B.C. Libs' austerity toward health care and other essential services.

- David Suzuki points out that increased public awareness of the realities of climate change is a necessary first step before we can make the kind of change needed to rein it in.

- Finally, Laura Cameron and Joseph Wasylycia-Leis write that an impending vote in Parliament offers an ideal chance for Canadians to push their MPs to support a more fair and proportional electoral system.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Maureen Conway and Mark Popovich argue that something has gone severely wrong if (as seems to be the case) Wall Street is treating higher wages as bad news:
In 2017, America has a jobs problem: It’s not that we don’t have enough jobs, but that we don’t have enough good jobs. We all lose when pay raises for workers – despite rising productivity and quality service – are unreasoningly restrained.

Corporate leaders say things like, “Our people are our most important asset.” The problem is that too few act like they believe it. And too many face Wall Street brickbats when they do. It’s time to turn down the distraction and up the voices for reasonable investment and due consideration to our workforce. If finance and investing take the right aim, the switch will be made to more good companies and good jobs.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen makes the case for a public job guarantee, while pointing out how the Center for American Progress' proposal on the issue falls somewhat short of the mark.

- Corey Mintz points out the problems with the Ontario Libs' workplace review in assuming that existing laws are actually being enforced. And Gary Marr reports on a new TD Bank study showing how widespread income volatility contributes to precarious lives for Canadian families.

- David MacDonald asks who stands to benefit from the Libs' infrastructure bank plan, and concludes that the only real gains will go to investors taking far larger returns than would exist if governments merely borrowed infrastructure money directly. And Shawna Curtis points out the problem with necessities like housing being treated solely as profit centres rather than social goods.

- Finally, Marc-Andre Gagnon discusses why universal programs which include benefits for the better-off ultimately lead to greater equality than means-tested systems. And Harold Meyerson highlights how income inequality correlates to disparate life expectancies.

Musical interlude

Radical Face - Holy Branches

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New column day

Here, on the importance of governments matching their talk about enforcing tax law with action - and the reason for concern that the Libs are headed in the opposite direction.

For further reading...
- Harvey Cashore, Nicole Percy, Nicole McCormick and Patrick Butler reported here on Colin Campbell's participation in a KPMG-sponsored tax conference while chairing the committee responsible for evaluating Canada's offshore tax enforcement. And Frederic Zalac and Cashore covered Tax Court Judge Randall Bocock's recusal for attending the same conference.
- Meanwhile, Cashore and Percy also note that the Libs have appointed a KPMG-connected executive as their party treasurer.
- The mandate for Campbell's committee is here, while its first report (as referenced in the column) is here.
- Finally, I'll again point to Percy Downe's observation that money alone won't be enough to ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency is able to collect the money owed by tax haven users.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones discusses UK Labour's true social democratic platform as a model for progressive parties around the globe. And Simon Wren-Lewis points out that contrary to the spin of opponents and uninformed presumptions of much of the media, Labour's plan is entirely affordable.

- Meanwhile, as part of the Guardian's election panel Faiza Shaheen examines how the UK Cons' platform offers pennies to workers as their reward for accepting the destruction of the social safety net.

 - Anjum Sultana and Nazeefah Laher highlight how a focus on the social determinants of health can lead to improvements in social and democratic conditions alike. And Nicholas Keung takes note of the health gap facing older immigrants as an area where there's obvious work to be done. 

- Branko Milanovic theorizes that more broadly-shared ownership of capital could ensure a more fair distribution of income.

- Finally, Ijeoma Oluo writes from experience as to the devastating effects of poor-shaming.And Matthew Yglesias rightly notes that instead of pretending Donald Trump is a child, we should see his sense of entitlement and detachment from reality as natural consequences of the U.S.' coddling of the rich.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Binyamin Appelbaum highlights the strong consensus view that Donald Trump's planned tax giveaways to the rich will do nothing for overall economic development. And John Buell points out that Trump's plan for privatized infrastructure - much like Justin Trudeau's - will serve only to enrich and empower corporations while undermining democratic decision-making:
Converting public things into private goods reinforces a trend toward corporate oligarchy. It also has consequences that move beyond economic inefficiency. And economic efficiency is unlikely to be an adequate defense of a robust infrastructure. Traditional fiscal conservatives appeal to metaphors of the home to attack government deficits.  Their stated concern is bankruptcy, but their real worry is the greater equality generous public things might foster and the coalitions across borders, ethnicities, and faiths it might encourage. There are good counterarguments, but the best approach touches the aesthetic and affective dimensions of our democratic experiment. Honig puts it eloquently: “The democratic experiment involves living cheek by jowl with others, sharing classrooms, roads, and buses, paying for them together, complaining about them together, and sometimes even praising and enjoying them together, as picnickers will do on a sunny afternoon in Central Park. But the neoliberal corrective absolves us of this necessity and responsibility. That Central Park—landscape architecture’s ode to the power of democratic beauty—is just a stone’s throw away from the barricaded Trump Tower is only one of the many sad ironies of the story to be told here.”

Public things and the democratic space they foster and are fostered by encourage both collective responses to common problems and an opportunity to address the injustices (remainders) that emerge from even the most egalitarian and idealistic processes. The physical state of our infrastructure reflects more than a conventional repudiation of purported governmental excess. It is an attack on democracy and must be resisted by appealing to and enhancing democracy itself.
- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson points out that there's ample demand for far stronger social supports, including over 91% of Canadians at least somewhat supportive of a national and universal pharmacare program.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey reports on the Auditor General's findings that the Harper Cons never bothered to produce any plan to meet their promised climate change targets, while James Wilt observes that the National Energy Board lost any public trust in serving as a rubber stamp for pipelines. And Molly Scott Cato writes that climate change is one area (of many) where Trudeau has betrayed the progressive voters who wanted meaningful change, rather than continued reliance on dirty industries. 

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls for Ontario to take a leadership role in establishing and enforcing labour standards and wage requirements to protect people involved in new forms of work.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Upturned cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin writes about the growing opposition to a Lib infrastructure bank designed to turn public needs into private profits at our expense:
Paying higher fares, fees and tolls because of a political decision to use more expensive private capital would be a “massive transfer of wealth to the wealthy,” says [Guy] Caron.

Now the chorus of think-tanks voicing concern includes the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Broadbent Institute, C.D. Howe Institute and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, which is headed by former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

The idea for the Bank followed a curious path. The Liberal-appointed advisory council which recommended a private Infrastructure Bank included executives whose investment funds stand to profit from it. That process is now subject of a conflict of interest complaint by Democracy Watch.

As more Canadians see the Infrastructure Bank as an inside job to drain their wallets and enrich the rich, the sharpness of opposition attacks continues to grow.

Perhaps Trudeau thought an Infrastructure Bank would hitch his star to powerful people. Maybe he’s anchored himself to a sinking sack of cement.
- And Randall Bartlett asks why Trudeau is so eager to privatize profits while forcing the public to bear the risks and costs of projects. 

- Meanwhile, Don Braid examines how Rachel Notley's NDP is establishing desperately-needed consumer protections in areas ranging from payday lending to homebuilding - and being challenged every step of the way by businesses who had grown accustomed to being able to exploit the public. And Rachel Reeves argues that now is the time for the financial transactions tax on offer from the UK's Labour Party.

- Claire Cain Miller discusses how motherhood contributes to the persistent pay gap between women and men. And Jordan Press reports on the wealth-based gap in access to child care outside Quebec, while Andrea Gordon points out how Ontario students (particularly in rural areas) are losing access to music programs due to austerity budgeting.

- Finally, Ian Bremner warns against treating the defeat of a couple of far-right leaders as an indication that we can afford to accept business as usual.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Barbara Ellen questions the positive spin the right tries to put on poverty and precarity, and writes that we're all worse off forcing people to just barely get by:
In recent times, there has been a lot said about those people who are “just managing”. They are neither rich nor poor, but usually working in low- to medium-income jobs, scratching a living, surviving from one month, week, day, or minute to another.

A narrative has emerged of plucky, cheerful sorts who soldier on, just about making ends meet, but “can’t complain, guv”, which has the effect of rebranding a permanent grinding state of poverty as something really plucky, gutsy and wonderfully, quintessentially British. Those just managing types, what sports they are about being poor. Gawd bless ’em! Back in the real world, maybe the just managing can and do complain, but nobody wants to listen?
If people are regularly reduced to borrowing just to keep a roof over their head, then they’re evidently not managing. Since when was this defined by stacking up dangerous amounts of debt just to avoid being made homeless? At what point did it become normal for people to drown in repayments just to keep up with basic utilities?

It could be that a lot of these people are not remotely managing – they’re being ground down by debt in a way that’s either ignored, normalised or, increasingly, sanitised.
- Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan write about dental care as a glaring example of the disparity in treatment based on wealth. And Rory Carroll highlights LAX's new, exclusive terminal - featuring an opportunity for the rich to entertain themselves with the comparative discomfort of everybody else.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey points out how pipeline backers largely took over the Libs' much-trumpeted consultations with First Nations. Michael Geist discusses the PBO's conclusion that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe will cost Canada hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty giveaways to big pharma. And Garfield Mahood and Brian Iler suggest that it's time to name and shame the individual executives behind tobacco-related diseases and deaths - which would seem a sensible plan for any corporation which puts the public's well-being at risk to serve its own ends.

- Marshall Steinbaum notes that Thomas Piketty's work in identifying and challenging inequality and economic unfairness is being papered over within the field of economics.

- Finally, Alan Freeman discusses the lack of long-term preparation and planning that results in floods (and other disasters) doing far more damage than they should. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Claire Provost writes about the spread of the private security industry - which now exceeds the size of public police forces in Canada among other countries - as a means of privileging the protection of wealth over public interests.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne comments on the importance of allowing civil servants to focus on what's best for the public, rather than serving as political tools for governing parties.

- Jamie Condiffe points out that automation is having less impact on employment relationships than is often assumed, while Bill Emmott laments how wage fearmongering has been used to divert more and more profits into corporate coffers. Martin Regg Cohn discusses what may be some positive steps toward improved wages and working conditions in Ontario - though the timing and motivation of Liberals in an election year offers reason to be wary. And Jill Petzinger reports on how unions have been able to protect the interests of employees of Tesla and other new manufacturers.

- Percy Downe writes that while it's helpful to see improved funding to combat offshore tax evasion, it remains to be seen whether that promise will lead to results. And Diana Swain and Jennifer Fowler report on how Russian criminal organizations are using Canada's secretive banking sector for money laundering purposes.

- Finally, in the wake of Brad Wall's declared intention to use the Charter's notwithstanding clause as part of the foundation of Saskatchewan's education system, Leonid Sirota discusses the danger of it serving as a tool for reactionary politicians:
The Saskatchewan government’s unwarranted and hypocritical behaviour illustrates the fundamental problem with the notwithstanding clause. In theory, it could be a means for elected representatives of the people to express reasonable disagreement with the courts on difficult philosophical issues regarding the extent of constitutional rights, as well as policy questions about what kinds of limits on these rights might be unavoidable in a free and democratic society. In practice, if Saskatchewan succeeds at normalizing the use of the clause, governments will not engage in any serious deliberation about these issues. At best, they will resort to the clause to avoid the costs of carrying out their constitutional obligations. At worst, they will do it simply in order to appear “tough,” enacting policies both unnecessary and iniquitous in a race to the constitutional bottom.

The recent proposal by Lisa Raitt, a candidate for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, to use the notwithstanding clause to prevent protests against the building of pipelines exemplifies the latter dynamic. So do calls by nationalist politicians (and legal academics) in Quebec to dispense with the right to be tried within a reasonable time. [Allan] Blakeney thought that enlightened politicians might need to overrule courts in order to preserve social programs from encroachments by judicial reactionaries. Instead, his toxic constitutional legacy is in danger of being used by unscrupulous populists to satiate the reactionary tendencies of the electorate. Voters should keep in mind that poison tends not to be as nutritious is it might seem.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Musical interlude

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Scott Sinclair writes that there's no reason for any party to NAFTA to see itself as being stuck with the existing agreement (or worse), while also mentioning a few ways to substantially improve the rules governing North American trade:
Canada should call Trump’s bluff by championing a fairer distribution of the benefits of trade — presumably the idea behind the Trudeau government’s ambitions to usher in a new generation of “progressive trade” agreements.

Anxiety about trade and globalization runs deep and goes beyond Trump’s core supporters.

Canada’s negotiating agenda will need to reflect that reality. It just so happens there are ways to redo or replace NAFTA to make it a better deal for workers in all three countries.

An obvious first step is to include strong, fully enforceable labour standards. Mexican workers, whose real wages have stagnated under NAFTA, and who are rarely free to join independent unions, would be the primary beneficiaries. But rising wages and improved working conditions in Mexico and many Southern U.S. states would provide support for the same in the rest of North America.
The Trump administration intends to bolster Buy American purchasing policies, which could side-swipe Canadian suppliers. But the government’s standard response — to seek an exemption for Canadian goods — has fallen short before and will fare much worse today.

Canada could instead propose reciprocal “Buy North American” policies for new public infrastructure spending. If this is rejected, Canada should maximize national economic spinoffs on its own planned public investments through Buy Canadian policies.
-  Swati Pandey and Jane Wardell report that while Canadian governments try to hand over everything in sight to the financial sector, Australia's right-wing government is instead raising taxes on banks to fund infrastructure spending.

- Gregory Beatty points out the desperate need for checks on corporate fund-raising in Saskatchewan politics.

- Jorge Barrera reports on the Trudeau Libs' dishonest approach to First Nations, as they're publicly stating a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while going out of its way to give effect to its terms.

- But in some good local news, Craig Baird reports on a new protocol between the City of Regina and First Nations groups. And having questioned City Council's past delay in signing on to the Blue Dot movement, I'll note that it has now approved the declaration.

- Finally, Fair Vote Vancouver highlights how a first-past-the-post electoral system accentuates the urban-rural divide in British Columbia (as in other jurisdictions).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New column day

Here, examining how Steve Keen's warning about the UK's excessive financialization and consumer debt applies even more strongly in Canada.

For further reading...
- Keen makes reference to the BIS' international data as to the ratio of private debt to GDP:

- Again, Erica Alini reported on Ipsos' latest number as to the dire fiscal straits facing many Canadians - which can be compared to last year's numbers from here. And Noah Buhayar and Doug Alexander write about a credit rating downgrade for Canadian banks due to their exposure to consumer debt, while Tricia Phillips notes that the problem with unsustainable consumer debt also represents a parallel between Canada and the UK.
- Dan Levin exposed the B.C. Libs' tax breaks for money laundering, job outsourcing and other shady financial activity by big donors, while David Ball examined the public response. 
- Stefani Langenegger discussed the millions of dollars Saskatchewan is paying to failed P3 bidders. And Murray Mandryk chimed in on the waning credibility of the Saskatchewan Party when it comes to managing public money.
- Bill Curry reported on both the Libs' outsourcing of the design of a federal infrastructure bank to the financial firms who stand to profit from it, their rush to ram the legislation setting up the bank through Parliament without meaningful review, and the NDP's work to ensure a public debate. And Jordan Press and Andy Blatchford followed up on the obvious conflicts of interest involved in the bank's design.
- Finally, Linda McQuaig highlights just a few of the problems with an infrastructure bank not designed to serve the public interest.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Nick Falvo lists ten things to know about social programs in Canada. And Mike Crawley offers a painful example of Ontario's social safety net and employment law both falling short, as injured workers are forced to go to work even when ill or injured in the absence of paid sick leave.

- David Cay Johnston writes that while corporate tax slashing won't do anything to boost the U.S.' economy, it may do plenty to undercut businesses who have planned based on tax rates as they stand.

- Make Votes Matter makes the case for UK Labour to push for proportional representation - including by pointing out how it leads to a more fair and equal society. And Fair Vote Canada is pushing for an NDP-Green agreement on electoral reform in British Columbia.

- Meanwhile, Ethan Cox discusses what should an obvious choice facing B.C.'s Greens in deciding between giving voters the change they want, and owning another term of Christy Clark's corporatism as usual. And Vaughn Palmer notes that Clark is the most important loser from yesterday's election.

- Finally, Daphne White interviews George Lakoff about the importance of fitting political messages into frames which will resonate with voters.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Floored cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe highlights why British Columbia's voters should be careful before lending any credence to the corporate media's call for yet another term of corrupt Lib government:
As expected, The Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Globe and Mail, published editorials urging voters to keep the Liberals in power for another four years. The uninspired prose and clich├ęd arguments are testament to the pure cynicism of the ruling elite in Canada.

They are also an insult to these newspapers’ own hard-working and dedicated journalists, many of whom have done important investigations exposing the dynamics of the housing affordability crisis, and the staggering corruption and cronyism that has come to define political and economic life in the “Wild West” under Premier Christy Clark and her right-wing Liberals.
No one reading these editorials would have any sense of the shocking scale of corruption and inequality that scars B.C. In the long run, these endorsements hurt the newspapers who make them more than anything. But, in the short run, given that it’s such a neck-and-neck election, they may be enough to help the Liberals cling to power for another four long years.

Compared to the rest of Canada, B.C. has a relatively thriving independent media ecosystem. But that still pales in comparison to the influence of the big, corporate legacy media. Needless to say, and regardless of Tuesday’s election results, building the reach of independent media should be a priority for anyone who wants to see progressive politics thrive.
- But lest anybody say the B.C. Libs haven't done anything to bolster collective action, let's remember that the Charter right to collective bargaining was confirmed in response to their unconstitutional trampling on the very concept of workers' rights. And now, their neglect of renters has led to the establishment of a tenants' union.

- Kai Nagata points out how the Clark Libs' campaign is funded by public money laundered into party donations. And Sarah Cox reports on the deliberate suppression of Site C budget documents until after today's provincial election.

- Martyn Brown makes the case for regime change in B.C., while Bill Tieleman warns voters seeking change that support for the Greens may only leave a corrupt government entrenched in power. Lizanne Foster asks what she's supposed to tell children about the election if that happens. And Charlie Smith provides some of the unpleasant answers.

- Finally, Erica Alini reports on the latest survey showing that most Canadians have virtually no margin for error when it comes to personal finances. And Nora Loreto highlights the Trudeau Libs' reverse Robin Hood economic plan as being certain to make matters worse.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Dean Baker notes that a reduction in required work time could go a long way toward ensuring that workers share in productivity gains.

- Meanwhile, Max Ehrenfreund writes about new research on the state of the U.S.' middle class - showing that lifetime wage earnings peaked for people born in 1942, and have been in decline most of the time since then.

- Adam Samson reports on Janet Yellen's observation that a lack of pay equity is a serious drag on the U.S.' economy. Denis Campbell highlights how the UK's health care system has been treated so poorly that trained professionals are abandoning the sector for jobs at supermarkets. And Rachel Sanders discusses the B.C. Employment Standards Coalition's findings about widespread wage theft and workplace abuse.

- Richard Starr points out the costs of the Nova Scotia Libs' preference for austerity (aside from election season). And Stephanie Taylor reports on Saskatchewan's HIV rates, which are both far above Canada's national average and rising further under a government looking to do less. 

- Erika Dyck discusses how stronger action against poverty would improve mental health outcomes.

- Finally, David Ball reports on the B.C. Libs' choice to have KPMG audit its own work on a $3.3 billion P3 bridge project. And David Beers examines the cozy relationship between the Clark Libs and the B.C. Greens, while Stuart Parker explains it as arising out of the Greens sliding into exactly the same political niche which the Libs once occupied.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Several of the candidates have been doing plenty of touring over the past week. And while not all the stops have included media coverage, you'll find features about Charlie Angus from Timmins, Sudbury (X2), North Bay, and Red Deer, along with Weyburn This Week's report on Niki Ashton's visit and the Hill Times' interview with Guy Caron.

- Meanwhile, Peter Julian has been very active in British Columbia's provincial campaign as it draws to a close.

- Joan Bryden's report on fund-raising at the federal level features a look at the early returns from the leadership campaign - including the surprising fact that Julian is in a fairly distant fourth place to date despite seemingly being ahead of the game in most other aspects of campaign organization:
New Democrat leadership contenders raised an additional $252,664. Of the four declared candidates so far, Charlie Angus led the pack with $110,765, followed by Niki Ashton with $65,521, Guy Caron with $57,235 and Peter Julian with $19,143.
- And Beatrice Britneff and Kyle Duggan follow up with a look at who's donated so far.

- Tom Parkin discusses the populist outsider element being brought to the campaign by Pat Stogran. And Marcel Nelson examines the relationship between populism and the NDP, while raising some questions about whether it represents the best choice for the party.

- Supriya Dwivedi offers some suggestions for Jagmeet Singh in building a national campaign that accounts for Quebec voters. And Parkin offers his take (along with advice from Brian Topp and Sally Housser) on how the next leader can earn support in Western Canada.

- Finally, Brittany Andrew-Amofah suggests that whatever the results of the leadership race, the NDP should be able to unite behind the theme of calling out the Libs' faux progressivism.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Branko Milanovic reviews Mike Lofgren's The Deep State, and highlights how entrenched wealth and power have hijacked our public institutions for their own benefit:
The deep state includes the old-fashioned military-industrial complex, top of Wall Street and Silicon valley, think tanks and foundations, and the mainstream media, most of them (with the obvious exceptions of Silicon valley and Hollywood) located in Washington, DC and New York. These are people who often seamlessly move between government, its legislative and executive branches, and then when not in power, populate think tanks, sit on the boards of large financial, IT or military-related companies or pen editorials for the mainstream media. They are linked by shared backgrounds, same ideology and even more strongly by shared economic interests. It could be almost said that they are all but one person, so at ease at seemingly very different tasks, Deputy Secretary of Defense, writer of an editorial in the Washington Post, analyst in a top Washington think tank. As Tocqueville wrote of another deep state from two and half centuries ago: “The nobles held identical positions, had the same privileges, the same appearance; there was, in fact, a family likeness between them, and one might almost say they were not different men but essentially the same men everywhere" (The old regime and the French revolution).

There are two very strong points of Lofgren’s book. First, Lofgren is somebody who knows the system from the inside (he worked for almost thirty years in Congress, sat on budget and armed services committees and knows personally a number of key political players). He thus brings to the book a knowledge that a political science professor just simply does not have. Second, Lofgren shows that there are strong links between domestic and foreign policy preferences of the deep state. The rising political power of the rich (documented by Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens) and increasing income inequality (documented by so many that it is superfluous to give citations) are, as Lofgren shows, intrinsically linked to domestic policy choices that reduce taxes on the rich, provide an increasing number of loopholes for the rich, curb social spending, but also (and only apparently contradictorily) increase military spending. Why the latter? Because the beneficiaries from the military spending are precisely the members of the deep state. As Lofgren argues, TARP and military spending are just the two facets of the same coin: the use of government resources for the benefit of the rich.
What Lofgren argues is that the deep state has effectively kidnapped the government. Its objective is to use this enormous money-churning machine to help its own members. But the deep state was able to kidnap the government because it was able to kidnap the Congress, that is to make sure that majority of the members of Congress vote the way that the deep state wants. They were able to do so thanks to an electoral system where winning is practically synonymous with having access to more money than your opponent. This is why Lofgren in the last chapter, where he discusses the changes that need to be done, puts the reform of electoral funding (“ Eliminate private money from public elections”) as the number 1 priority. It all starts there, and then logically unfolds further.
- Carole Cadwalladr discusses the similar takeover of the UK's democratic state, while Angela Monaghan reports on the increasing concentration of wealth in a small number of billionaires who have been able to use Brexit-related turmoil to their advantage. And Make Votes Matter highlights the strong public desire across all parties for a proportional electoral system which isn't so easily dominated by a couple of groups of insiders.

- Andy Blatchford reports that once again, growth in job numbers isn't being reflected in what Canadian workers are paid. And Jen St. Denis points out the work of the BC Employment Standards Coalition showing how often employers don't bother to pay what they owe.

- Finally, Jaime Watt writes that the reality of constant political campaigning severely limits the time and resources governments dedicate to actual governance.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe makes the case for much-needed regime change in British Columbia, while Nancy MacDonald notes that such a result is far from guaranteed despite the Christy Clark Libs' gross abuses of the public trust. And Christopher Pollon examines the close link between political donations and the distribution of Site C contracts, while Maximilian Kniewasser reminds us that Clark's LNG promises turned into nothing but an expensive failure.

- Azfar Ali Khan and Randall Bartlett discuss the complete lack of a business case for the federal Libs' planned infrastructure bank (that is, as long as one recognizes that enriching the financial sector isn't a justification worth accepting). Andy Blatchford reports that the Libs have received - and are apparently ignoring - the same advice from the public service about the dangers of privately-proposed infrastructure. And Bill Curry reports on the control capital has held over the process of developing the bank proposal.

- Meanwhile, the Canadian Press also points out that Ontario's Libs are the latest government to use Donald Trump as an excuse for yet more tax giveaways to the corporate sector.

- Bruce Livesey examines how Canadian spies have been used to undermine citizens raising questions about the fossil fuel industry. And Alex Boutilier and Tonda McCharles' report on the use of CSIS' powers of disruption under Bill C-51 reveals that new authority are not only being used (contrary to the unfortunate lede), but are being systematically used only in ways which avoid judicial oversight.

- Finally, Tom Parkin notes that the controversy over Harjit Sajjan's role in Afghanistan is particularly significant as a reminder of the questions which have never been answered about Canada's complicity in torture.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Musical interlude

Will Atkinson - Subconscious

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Clive Hamilton discusses the accelerating calamity of climate change which we're allowing to happen:
Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet in the face of these facts we carry on as usual.

Most citizens ignore or downplay the warnings; many of our intellectuals indulge in wishful thinking; and some influential voices declare that nothing at all is happening, that the scientists are deceiving us. Yet the evidence tells us that so powerful have humans become that we have entered this new and dangerous geological epoch, which is defined by the fact that the human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system.
So today the greatest tragedy is the absence of a sense of the tragedy. The indifference of most to the Earth system’s disturbance may be attributed to a failure of reason or psychological weaknesses; but these seem inadequate to explain why we find ourselves on the edge of the abyss. 
Perhaps the intellectual surrender is so complete because the forces we hoped would make the world a more civilised place – personal freedoms, democracy, material advance, technological power – are in truth paving the way to its destruction. The powers we most trusted have betrayed us; that which we believed would save us now threatens to devour us.
- Meanwhile, Lizzie Flew writes about the UK's growing crisis of child poverty. But with the Con government more interested in creating even deeper divides between children given a fair chance in life and those relegated to second-class citizenship, Chris Horrie offers a reminder of what segregated education has done in the past.

- Dave Chokshi comments on the social factors which cause people to miss out on needed medical care. And in a prime example of how anti-social decision-making can exacerbate the isolation of people who can least afford it, Cathy Crowe discusses the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty's report showing that funding intended for people who most need housing supports is instead being diverted to other purposes.

- Jordan Press reports on Kevin Page's finding that there's no business case to support the Libs' plan for an infrastructure bank when the federal government can borrow money for capital projects more affordably on its own.

- And finally, Ed Broadbent makes the case for any new or revised trade agreements to protect human rights - and particularly labour rights.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

New column day

Here, on the growing list of similarities between Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party and Christy Clark's B.C. Libs - and why voters in both provinces should demand far more attention than their government is willing to offer.

For further reading...
- Gary Mason describes the background to British Columbia's #IAmLinda campaign theme. And PressProgress follows up on Clark's utter refusal to apologize or admit any wrongdoing, while Bill Tieleman views the incident as an example of Clark's mask slipping when it matters most.
- Meanwhile, Cindy Harnett tells Roderick MacIsaac's story as just one life lost to a Liberal government bent on demonizing innocent citizens.
- D.C. Fraser reports on the corporate vultures circling SaskTel due to their apparent sense that Saskatchewan's common wealth is about to be handed over to the private sector - including a Sask Party insider lobbying on behalf of Telus. And Stephanie Taylor reports on Wall's view that it should have been obvious SGI is also about to be sold off in pieces - no matter how many times he promised the opposite.
- The successful Save Saskatchewan Libraries campaign, the Students Mobilizing Against Cuts, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation have been among the many voices pointing out how citizens stand to suffer from Wall's corporate focus and austerity budget.
- And finally, I'll point again to Eric Olauson's attempt to dig up dirt on a citizen who dared to write critical comments as a prime example of how Saskatchewan's people are being treated like Lindas too.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- James Wilt argues that the labour movement should be putting its weight behind green housing which will produce both social and environmental benefits along with jobs:
Workers need affordable homes. Workers also need stable and properly compensated jobs, especially those transitioning from work in oil, gas and coal production. And those homes will have to be built in ways that reduce heat loss, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for dramatically increased weather-related damages from flooding, winds and hail.

Sure, existing homes and buildings can easily be retrofitted with improved insulation, windows, furnaces, appliances and hot-water heaters; most jurisdictions have programs in place to provide subsidies or rebates for such upgrades. 

There are lots of good jobs in that field too: the One Million Climate Jobs — a collaboration between the CLC, Green Economy Network and Climate Action Network — estimates it could account for the creation of over 400,000 “person job years.”

But unions can and should be far more ambitious than this. After all, Canada is in the midst of a massive affordable housing crisis, a crisis that will only be resolved by the construction of thousands of new homes that the aforementioned retrofit programs won’t apply to. 
Millions of Canadian workers are in desperate need of truly affordable housing that is sustainable and prepared for the looming dangers of climate change. Many resource and construction workers are in need of jobs as well, which such a push could help facilitate.
To leave such conversations to the federal government, an entity which is clearly uninterested in the needs of the working class, would be deeply counterproductive and a huge missed opportunity for unions looking to attract new members and build militancy.
- Tanara Yelland reports on a call by anti-poverty groups for a maximum wage in Ontario. And Rupert Neale points out how extreme high-end wealth leads even people within the top 1% of the income distribution to face relative disadvantages.

- Ben Parfitt discusses how Christy Clark's B.C. Libs have allowed fossil fuel giants to skip any environmental assessment process before building substantial dams.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the Parliamentary Budget Officer's less-than-glowing review of the effect of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe. And in what's surely unrelated news, Andy Blatchford reports on the Trudeau Libs' efforts to limit the PBO's ability to report on anything without government approval.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert highlights how Justin Trudeau's ways are now anything but sunny. And John Ivison writes about the return of cash-for-access fund-raising at the federal level following the briefest of interruptions.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dan Levin writes that Christy Clark and her B.C. Libs have turned British Columbia into a haven for capital to run wild without any social responsibility or public benefit:
Like many places, British Columbia set up a system of tax incentives to lure businesses to the far western Canadian province in the hopes of creating jobs and transforming Vancouver into a global financial center.

But if the program has been good for business, it’s been less beneficial for British Columbia.

Participating companies have created few jobs, according to government figures, while more than 140 million Canadian dollars ($106 million) have been doled out in tax refunds since 2008, when the initiative was expanded.

The incentives operate under a cloak of secrecy that is unusual for similar efforts in Canada and the United States, critics say. The province will not name the companies that get the breaks. The only information available about them is on the website of a nonprofit that promotes the program.

“This is essentially a temporary foreign-worker program for the rich, with secret government subsidies for multinational corporations,” said Dermod Travis, the executive director of IntegrityBC, a nonpartisan political watchdog group based in Victoria, the provincial capital. “The government is selling B.C. as a tax haven for the global elite to park investment here, but not have to contribute.”
- Meanwhile, Jeremy Nuttall exposes just a few of the more blatant lies which Clark is substituting for any reasonable defence of her record or plans.

- Branko Milanovic examines just a few of the reasons why we need to be concerned about inequality - as well as some of the areas where there's room for far more study as to its effects. 
- Andre Picard highlights how Canada's current patchwork of prescription drug coverage is contrary to the principles of universal health care. And Steve Morgan makes the case for universal pharmacare, while Martin Regg Cohn emphasizes the importance of making such a program available to everybody.

- Finally, Alan Broadbent criticizes the City of Toronto for leaving needed city-owned social housing to rot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Colourful cats.

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Trade Justice reports on Justin Trudeau's role in pushing for an international corporate giveaway through a new Trans-Pacific Partnership - even as the country whose capital class largely shaped it before has no interest in participating. And James Munson reports that Justin Trudeau is officially more secretive than Chinese billionaires, having demanded that the press be kept out of what would otherwise have been a public meeting.

- Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias notes that like most make-the-rich-richer tax schemes, Donald Trump's tax plan is being sold based on nothing but brazen lies.

- Mia Rabson reports on the reality that the Libs are hundreds of millions of tonnes away from meeting the commitments they've already made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- PressProgress lists just a few of the ways workers are being left behind in Canada's economy. And Emily Donaldson interviews Katrina Onstad about the importance of taking back our time outside of work.

- Finally, Jordon Cooper comments on the Saskatchewan Party's callous cuts to crucial chaplaincy services. And Andrew MacLeod reports on the Union of BC Indian Chiefs' efforts to call out Christy Clark's neglect and ensure a change in government.