Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Charles Smith and Larry Savage write that Justin Trudeau's use of back-to-work legislation against postal workers may have far more significant consequences than he seems to have anticipated. And Christo Aivalis examines the next steps for Canada's labour movement - as well as their importance for the country as a whole:
...In a time of growing inequality, all Canadians need to think about the questions unions face: At what point does the concentration of economic power in the hands of massive multinational corporations limit workers’ ability to respond through the traditional means of collective bargaining? At what point does this power threaten to control the destinies of entire communities and regions, rendering the democratic will of Canadians, if not irrelevant, then certainly compromised? And will endemic automation – even if it’s farther away than some people fear – only serve to disenfranchise the masses in favour of an ever-consolidating elite with more control than ever? These were the essential forces that led to these setbacks for UNIFOR – after all, how could an American company unilaterally decide to gut a Canadian town, leaving both workers and government holding the bag? – but those issues will come to workplaces and communities everywhere before long.
...
When it comes down to it, we need economic systems that reflect the democratic principles we so cherish, the ones through which we define so much of our Canadian identity. Unions have been a force for generations, giving workers at least some input into the operation of their workplaces, and organized labour will always have an irreplaceable role in building and preserving a democratic spirit that goes beyond the ballot box. It is in all our interests that unions succeed in organizing the workplaces of the present and future, that our governments enact policies that assist in this process, and that we as citizens retain a skeptical eye towards the further concentration of economic power in unaccountable private hands.

If unions fail, our democracy may well be at stake.
- Helia Ebrahimi discusses the connection between economic stressors and a hundred thousand suicide attempts in the UK in the last year alone. And Kwame McKenzie points out how it's only the people already facing the most challenges who are being asked to sacrifice by Doug Ford's government.

- Henry Grabar writes about Minneapolis' decision to end single-family zoning which has long served as a major source of housing segregation. And Douglas Todd comments on the complex relationship between immigration and housing in Vancouver - including the reality that more for-profit development does nothing to ease the lack of housing availability for the people who most need it, regardless of their place of origin.

- Roberta Lexier and Avi Lewis argue that it's long past time for Canada's corporate welfare bums to start paying their fair share for a country that serves the best interests of its citizens. And Yanis Varoufakis and David Adler highlight the need to fundamentally reshape and empower sources of collective decision-making - including international institutions - in order to be able to respond to our common problems.

- Finally, Peggy Nash and Tracey Raney point out how more equitable representation and power-sharing is a necessary component of any plan to end gender-based violence.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Chris Dillow discusses the connection between the failure to understand the role of luck in producing unequal outcomes, and the perpetuation of policies which exacerbate inequalities:
As Ed Smith writes in his lovely book, Luck: “randomness is routinely misinterpreted as skill.”

Why do people do this? I suspect it’s not just because of a lack of statistical literacy: many of the subjects in the experiments I’ve cited had taken statistics classes. It’s also because of two reinforcing biases. One is the outcome bias. We judge a performance by its result so if a team wins the game, or if a fund manager beats the market, we infer that they did well rather than got lucky. The other is the narrative fallacy. We are story-telling animals. We seek links between things and detailed explanations even if the truth is only that a bit of good luck happened, then a bit of bad. I suspect that most football punditry is like this.

All this is about how we attribute skill rather than luck to other people. But of course, we also do so to ourselves, and asymmetrically: good results are down to skill and bad to luck. A study of day traders has confirmed what you probably suspected:
Retail day traders in the forex market attribute random success to their own skill and, as a consequence, increase risk taking.
The upshot of all this is that the successful are apt to become bumptious arrogant prats because they attribute their success to their own talents rather than luck. And observers are apt to take them at their inflated self-estimation.
...
This, of course, colours our whole social and political structure. Our tendency to see skill where there is just luck causes the successful to have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and the rest of us to be overly deferential to them. Very few people are luck egalitarians. This is one way – of perhaps many – in which inequality sustains itself.
- Meanwhile, Harry Glasbeek argues that capitalism (as opposed to democracy or liberalism) lies at the core of Canada's political power structure, resulting in the government's willingness to hand out corporate welfare at the drop of a hat while attacking workers and lower-income residents. And Rebecca Jennings examines some of the problems with a culture of CEO worship.

- Kristin Rushoway and Laurie Monsebraaten discuss how Doug Ford's plan to shred the regulatory state in Ontario will endanger children in child care. John Michael McGrath points out that a campaign promise not to do any harm to Ontario's greenbelt has been scrapped in favour of a scheme which will allow for its destruction at the whim of any municipality. And Edward Keenan notes that Ford has relabeled virtually any type of public protection from corporate excess and abuse as "red tape" to be systematically destroyed.

- Finally, Michelle Zilio reports on the consistent message from experts in the field that Andrew Scheer's anti-immigration bleatings about a UN migration compact lack any basis in fact. And Andrew Coyne connects the Cons' message to that of nativist and racist parties internationally.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Musical interlude

Zuckerbaby - Overexposure

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Anna Bawden reports on new research from the Health Foundation showing the multiple ways in which young people face the burden of growing economic inequality. And Owen Jones points out that working-class children have borne the brunt of the UK's financial crisis and subsequent austerity:
(R)eal per-pupil spending in English schools has fallen by 8% since 2010. One all too little discussed scandal has been a reduction in funding for sixth formers of more than a fifth.

This is vandalism. It inflicts damage not just on the young people directly affected but on the nation’s future. Think of the unnecessary poverty created later in life by the failure to offer support to struggling pupils. It’s a false economy, too: the state will have to spend more, later, to support those let down at school. But it is more profound than that: think of the lost talents that would otherwise have enriched our society and culture.

The children of the most privileged will be fine, of course, not least the top 7% sent to private schools. Those in comfortable, rather than overcrowded houses; who have good diets; who don’t suffer the stress of poverty when young; who have the “cultural capital” of university-educated parents – they will generally continue to realise their potential. So the bankers who threw Britain into crisis, and then kept their shiny limousines, multiple homes and luxury holidays, will have forced other people’s children to pay for what they did, not their own.
...
Consider the full gamut of this government’s impact on young people. The scrapping of the educational maintenance allowance, a small amount of money to support aspirational young working-class people, and the trebling of university fees. The decimation of youth services: in London alone, 81 youth clubs and council youth projects have been cut since 2011, and a real-terms cut on children and youth services of nearly a billion pounds in just six years. A generation driven into an unregulated, rip-off private rental sector, lacking basic security, dependent on their landlords’ whims. The explosion of insecure jobs, at a time when living standards for young people have fallen most steeply. It is a list as incriminating as it is long.

It has become almost a cliche that Brexit sucks the oxygen out of the political conversation, depriving growing social crises of the attention they need. The irony is that many of the injustices that helped fuel the Brexit vote in the first place have been even more ignored since, despite the pathetically empty promise by Theresa May at the start of her term in office to cure the “burning injustices” in modern society.
- Similarly, Brad Hershbein writes that the 2008 economic meltdown presented a double whammy for much of the U.S.' middle class, including both initial losses and a lack of much recovery compared to other groups of workers.

- David MacDonald and Toby Sanger examine the savings to be achieved through a universal pharmacare program. And the Wall Street Journal reports on the predictable failure of the Trump tax giveaway (among other corporate giveaways) to do anything to make drugs more affordable in the U.S.

- Guy Verhofstadt argues that after far too many broken promises that corporate choices will protect consumer privacy, it's time for stronger public regulation of social media platforms.

- Finally, Hassan Yussuff discusses the importance of paid employment leave to enable people to break cycles of domestic violence.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

New column day

Here, on the fundamental need for governments to provide a secure source of income and benefits - and the choice of the Trudeau Libs and Moe Sask Party alike to instead make citizens bear the brunt of political choices.

For further reading...
- The National Post offered a backgrounder on the Phoenix pay system which has resulted in federal civil servants getting shortchanged on the money they've earned for public service. The Auditor General reported on its inexplicable failings. And CTV reported on the continuing rallies to draw attention to hundreds of thousands of still-outstanding issues.
- Terry Farrell reported on Canada Post's orders which resulted in the delay of benefit cheques which CUPW specifically agreed to keep delivering. CUPW called out Patty Hajdu's misleading attempt to then use management decisions to attack workers' right to strike. And Nora Loreto pointed out that no government can reasonably expect labour peace while going out of its way to undermine the bargaining processes which are supposed to keep conflict contained.
- D.C. Fraser reported on how a rental supplement cut by the Saskatchewan Party will result in a year's gap in coverage since a federal replacement has been delayed - and since Scott Moe and company don't care enough about renters to fix the mess they've made.
- Finally, I'll point again to Noah Smith's post on the many facets of poverty and insecurity in order to highlight the importance of a government willing to reduce all of the drivers of precarity.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Noah Smith writes that for all the recognition of poverty and precarity in the U.S., it may be home to even more material insecurity than normally presumed:
Imagine a 55-year-old single woman with diabetes working a part-time job making close to minimum wage. Thanks to government assistance, her total income is $15,000 a year. But if she loses her job or has a medical emergency — both of which, as Matthew Desmond’s book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” illustrates, are sadly common — she will probably become homeless. That in turn will make it very hard to get a new job, or to pay for her future health-care needs. In short, her situation is very precarious.

As Maslow would predict, this kind of insecurity causes extreme stress. And this precariousness exists along several dimensions — housing, health care, income, the risk of violence — which makes it hard to capture in a single measure. Still, there are some existing measures that could be used to help create a composite picture of security-based poverty.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks food insecurity, a survey-based measure of how worried people are that their food will run out. Economists track income volatility, which measures swings in earnings from year to year. This kind of risk has been on the rise in the U.S...

A reasonable, common-sense definition of poverty should include not just an absolute measure of material deprivation and a relative gauge of a person’s situation compared to the rest of society. It should also strive to measure how secure people feel — in their homes, their health, and their jobs.

This new measure might well show that poverty in the U.S. is worse than the current statistics say. But an accurate view of a problem is the first step toward addressing it. And eliminating poverty should be a priority of any wealthy society.
- Meanwhile, Molly Moss notes that austerity in the UK has disproportionately withdrawn public funding from the struggling northern region.

- In the wake of failed charges in British Columbia, Barrie McKenna points out how Canada continues to be used as a money-laundering haven.

- Bronwen Tucker makes the case for Alberta's oil production cuts to serve as a first step toward our needed transition to clean energy. And Dennis Gruending reviews Tony Clarke's new book offering a road map to get there.

- Finally, Matthew D'Ancona discusses how the UK's Brexit fiasco is the result of bigotry. And Keith Kahn-Harris writes that the essence of white supremacy is a belief in an entitlement to treat others without respect or moral constraints.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Dean Baker responds to attempts to paint inequality as an inevitable result of market forces by pointing out the choices being how our markets are structured. And Jonathan Tepper discusses how the concentration of wealth and power has created giant corporate monopolies which are antithetical to market competition and innovation.

- Richard Reeves points out the need for growing inequality to be addressed by sufficient worker bargaining power to boost wages. Julia Wong and Kaylen Small report on the acts of solidarity by workers across Canada in response to the Trudeau government's choice to force CUPW to give up an effective and effectively-managed strike. The Canadian Press reports on the similarities between the effort to respond to GM's abandonment of Oshawa and the wider issues facing Canada's labour movement. And L. Ian MacDonald points out that our reaction to the Oshawa closure speaks volumes about our view of the significance and meaning of the national interest in managing economic development.

- Robin McKie writes about another global climate summit being held in the face of warnings that we may have already reached a point of no return as we try to avoid outright climate breakdown. Bob Weber reports on new research showing that Canada's cities are woefully unprepared for the future projected to result from climate change. And Amy Harder comments on the wilful ignorance and disinformation at the core of the only position opposed to a massive effort to change course.

- Simon Little reports on the apparent connection between fracking and earthquake activity in Fort St. John, B.C.

- Finally, James Wilt analyzes how far too much of Canada's media is dedicated to serving the ruling class rather than the public interest.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Nick Saul calls out Doug Ford for undermining the dignity of lower-income Ontarians through barriers and cuts to needed benefits. And the Star's editorial board notes that both labour policy and social programs need to account for the needs of a workforce facing precarity as the norm, rather than being based on the expectation that any worker can find high-paying, long-term employment just by showing up.

- Martin Regg Cohn, Steven Zhou and the Globe and Mail's editorial board each discuss Ford's sad excuse for a climate change plan whose primary effect is to have the public fund polluters. Mike Moffatt focuses on its counterproductivity in achieving its stated purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And the Economist highlights how a combination of a wide-ranging problem, a lack of institutional capacity and the presence of firmly entrenched interests makes climate change a particularly intractable problem to address.

- Meanwhile, Common Dreams takes note of the newly-launched Progressive International as a forum for organizing for democracy, prosperity, sustainability and solidarity - and perhaps with time and effort, exactly the type of forum capable of bringing about global-scale change. And Chris Hatch reports on the Canadian youth occupying MPs' offices demanding that their federal government start taking some steps commensurate with the reality of a climate breakdown.

- Douglas Todd comments on the goodie-laden immigration system which applies to the ultra-rich as opposed to the rest of us.

- Finally, Doug Cowan examines how several countries shifted away from first-past-the-post electoral systems - and why they've been far better off since switching to more proportional systems.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephanie Kelton, Andres Bernal and Greg Carlock highlight how a Green New Deal is entirely affordable south of the border. And Clayton Thomas-Muller examines what we could demand in a Canadian equivalent:
(I)f we’re going to do what the science says we need to do and stop expanding fossil fuels, we need a plan to transition to 100 per cent renewables within the two decades. For that, we need the federal government to step up and guarantee that every single worker, family and community impacted by this transition will be supported. The best way to do that is to borrow from the Green New Deal and implement a federal job guarantee that tells every single person in Canada that they don’t have to choose between putting food on the table and ensuring our children inherit a liveable planet. 
 
This kind of climate plan would ensure that Indigenous peoples have the ability to continue to hunt, fish, gather, practice ceremony and build sustainable economies on an adequate land base and it would support the restoration of lands despoiled by the fossil fuel economy. Put another way, a climate plan built on this basis could make good on so many politicians’ hollow promises around the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ninety-four calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. 

This doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. In the United States, they’re calling it a Green New Deal, but I have a simpler name for it here in Canada – The Good Work Guarantee

It’s called the Good Work Guarantee because that’s exactly what it is, a guaranteed good job for workers connected at the hip to a climate policy that moves Canada off of fossil fuels and respects Indigenous rights. And, despite what our political leaders tell us, we have every reason to believe that this kind of bold policy is possible here in Canada.
- Meanwhile, Christo Aivalis points out the important lessons from GM's abandonment of Oshawa - including the pitfalls of depending on the corporate sector alone for economic development.

- Ricardo Tranjan examines Doug Ford's plan to undermine Ontario's welfare system by stealth through higher entry barriers and more haste in withdrawing supports.

- Abdi Latif Dahir discusses new research into the effect of cash transfers in alleviating poverty with substantially no side effects. And Matt Bruenig points out how a child allowance would reduce both the breadth and depth of poverty in the U.S.

- Finally, Karin Larsen reports on the effect of Vancouver's empty homes tax, which has raised tens of millions of dollars with little impact on housing availability.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Musical interlude

Zero 7 - Destiny

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Larry Elliott reports on another of UK Labour's proposals to democratize the economy, this time by giving consumers some say in executive pay.

- Alex Paterson comments on the relationship between the housing market and the investments of many pension plans - though it's worth noting that pensions would seem to be exactly the type of investors with a strong interest in achieving steady long-term returns from rental housing.

- The CP reports on the Lancet's latest study of the health costs of climate breakdown - including the response from Canadian health providers.

- Meanwhile, Andrew Nikiforuk points out that the manipulation of pipeline availability through the booking of "air barrels" both serves to favour some oil producers over others, and results in a misleading picture of the amount of pipeline capacity available. Robyn Allan highlights how the oft-repeated rhetoric about oil price differentials fails to acknowledge that the difference only applies to a small quantity of oil. And Gary Mason writes about the oil industry's plan to stick the Canadian public with massive cleanup costs.

- Finally, Martin Lukacs investigates how Canada's arms industry has contributed to the devastation in Yemen. And Sam Cooper, Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell report on the laundering of the proceeds of crime through B.C. casinos.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Trish Hennessy discusses the connection between child care deserts and child poverty, while pointing out the importance of eradicating both:
While the evidence shows the importance of greater learning and socialization opportunities in the early years, it also shows that Canada is home to extremely high child care fees—which is a barrier to low- and middle-income families. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) documents how some families pay child care fees the size of a monthly mortgage payment.

Some families simply don’t have child care options: the CCPA estimates 776,000 children (44 per cent of all non-school-aged children) live in what it calls child care deserts—a notion similar to food deserts, where some communities lack access to licensed child care spaces.
...
Back in 1999, the now-defunct National Council of Welfare put the importance of child care this way in its Preschool Children: Promises to Keep report: “Many social programs support families, but child care is the backbone of them all.”

What if Canada replaced its child care desert with an adequately funded national, universal, public child care program that is both high quality and affordable?

Mothers of young children would take up paying work, contributing to the family’s economic bottom line while ensuring their children have access to great socialization opportunities.
- Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sachs points out the numerous revenue tools available to ensure that funding is available to meet social needs. Melanie McFarland notes that the tax evasion and avoidance documented in the Panama Papers has direct consequences for everybody. And PressProgress exposes the offshoring connections of some of the big-money funders of British Columbia's anti-electoral reform campaign.

- Ken Kimmell and Brenda Ekwurzel write that Donald Trump's attempt to suppress and deny facts about our climate breakdown can't change the reality of a planet on the brink. And Fiona Harvey reports on a new UN report showing a need to triple even what's been promised to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid a catastrophic outcome.

- Meanwhile, Climate Justice Saskatoon studies the concerns of communities who currently rely on coal as a major economic driver, and notes how it's possible to achieve a just transition by taking into account the people affected by changes in energy sources.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis discusses how the Trudeau Libs have chosen to trample on labour rights in their pursuit of corporate convenience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- In the wake of GM's abandonment of Oshawa, David Olive suggests that it's time for Canada to work on developing its own signature automaker. Sara Mohtehedzadeh writes that the Oshawa closure should serve as a warning for anybody who believes that big business will provide secure employment, while John Michael McGrath highlights the closure following massive public bailouts as a prime example of the futility of corporate welfare. Julia Conley examines the broader impact of GM's multiple plant shutdowns even in the face of multiple government concessions and giveaways. And Gerard Di Trolio, David Bush and Doug Nesbitt write that the labour movement needs to ensure that it's fighting for sustainable jobs and a just transition to clean energy, rather than hoping to preserve operations which have a limited shelf life. 

- Meanwhile, PressProgress points out why we shouldn't take the Libs' word for it that everything is hunky-dory for Canadian workers.

- Marco Chown Oved reports that Toronto's real estate market is vulnerable to the same type of money laundering that looks to have run rampant in Vancouver. And Abby Young-Powell offers a reminder of what we should want from our housing system - including building affordable communities and lives, not only bare accommodations.

- Finally, Ingrid Peretz reports on the first major Canadian climate change lawsuit challenging an avoidable climate breakdown as a violation of rights.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robinson Meyer rightly criticizes the Trump administration for trying to bury a devastating national climate assessment on Black Friday.

- David Leonhardt discusses the U.S.' increasing corporate concentration and monopolization of nearly every major industry - and the resulting pressures on communities and workers in the face of shrinking choices.

- Meanwhile, Melanie McFarland writes that the tax evasion and offshoring reflected in the Panama Papers is far from a victimless crime, as everybody else ends up paying more for weaker public services as the wealthy stash their loot overseas. And Polly Toynbee points out that Britons have every reason to be unhappy with wealth inequality, but notes that the solution should be to seek economic justice rather than to withdraw from the world.

- The Economist makes the case for harm reduction rather than blanket prohibition as the best means of addressing the dangers of drug abuse.

- Finally, Christo Aivalis traces the Libs' history of trampling on collective bargaining rights from one Trudeau to another.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Crawford Kilian reviews Christo Aivalis' The Constant Liberal, and discusses how Justin Trudeau is continuing a family tradition of betraying progressive voters:
[Pierre Trudeau] wanted to strengthen unions and workers in general — up to a point. It wasn’t to help the workers; it was to use them “instrumentally,” to rescue liberalism from the dead end of the Duplessistes and right-wing Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in the rest of Canada. Otherwise, labour would move left again, back to its 1930s socialism.
...
Trudeau mocked Tory leader Robert Stanfield’s promise of wage and price controls in a time of soaring inflation, won the election with working-class votes, and promptly brought in wage and price controls. Labour and the NDP were furious because they’d been led to hope for “tripartism,” whereby workers, corporations, and the government would be equal partners. Instead, Trudeau cast unions as the greedy drivers of inflation and locked down their wages while the corporations found loopholes. Worse yet, the Charter was adopted without any guarantees of social or labour rights. 
...
Aivalis finds Justin Trudeau very much like his father: politically able to “hamstring” the NDP by attracting left-wing voters and then disappointing them by reneging on his promises (proportional voting) and taking labour-hostile measures (legislating an end to the postal workers’ strike).

“Ultimately,” he concludes, if it truly is ‘like father, like son,’ Canadians on the left might be wise to prepare for years, if not a generation, of deep disappointment.”
- Kerensa Cadenas points out how the U.S.' National Climate Assessment confirms that climate denialism only stands to be a drag on economic development in the long run. Jeff Lewis, Jeffrey Jones, Chen Wang and Renata D'Alesio report on the financial and environmental mess being made of Alberta's oil patch as the oil industry tries to simultaneously extract short-term profits and offload long-term responsibility. And Regan Boychuk comments on the massive cleanup costs likely to be left for the province after the oil barons have cleared any liabilities off their books.

- Meanwhile, Martin Regg Cohn discusses how Ontario's environment stands to suffer from the Ford Cons' plans to place any watchdog function in the hands of an auditor general's office which both isn't equipped for the job, and has been inexplicably cavalier toward environmental actions in the past. And Christen Shepherd comments on the elimination of Ontario's child advocate who served as a desperately-needed source of hope for vulnerable children.

- And in case there was any doubt how little interest Ford's government has in ensuring that any oversight is effective or unbiased, Rob Ferguson reports on directions from Ford's chief of staff to use law enforcement to raid cannabis stores in order to generate photo ops.

- Finally, Lori Culbert and Dan Fumano report on the failure of one of the B.C. Libs' private housing projects. And the Canadian Press reports that rather than following the same model, the Horgan government is providing direct funding for 1,100 homes for Indigenous residents.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrea Germanos discusses the problems with relying on the charity of the uber-wealthy rather than stable and sustainable public revenues to meet the needs of the people with the least. 

- Dan Fumano reports on the City of Vancouver's call for a shift toward tenant protections and non-profit housing, while Seila Rizvic offers some ideas to alleviate housing crises by focusing on residents rather than developers. And Steve Meaghar notes that Toronto's emergency shelters are already over capacity long before the worst of winter hits, while Elizabeth Fraser reports on the realities of homelessness among university students.

- PressProgress exposes the big-money, anti-worker actors trying to buy Jason Kenney's way into office in Alberta. And Stuart Trew points out how the federal Libs are catering to big business through dangerous deregulation.

- Andrew Nikiforuk notes that Alberta's revenue problems trace back through decades of PC mismanagement of resources. And Robyn Allan discusses yet another concession the Libs appear to have made to Kinder Morgan, as their public bailout of the TransMountain pipeline appears to include taking on what were supposed to be corporate promises to pay for ocean protection measures.

- Finally, Owen Jones points out that the rise of violent racism can be traced in large part to the refusal of right-wing parties to call out fascist tendencies as they've developed.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Musical interlude

Phantogram - Futuristic Casket

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- May Bulman reports on the growing gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor in the UK. And Owen Jones offers a reminder that it was the political choices of the UK Cons - regardless of their position on Brexit - that have led to austerity and misery.

- David Moscrop discusses how Doug Ford's plans for Ontario are aimed at making life worse for the people who already have the least. And the Star's editorial board comments on his choice to single out people living with disabilities for scrutiny and benefit restrictions.

- John Michael McGrath highlights the importance of Ontario's environmental commissioner just as her role is about to be eliminated.

- Oliver Milman reports on the U.S.' National Climate Assessment, which confirms the devastating impacts of climate breakdown even in a country going out of its way to block international action. And Alex Ballingall points out the latest study from Oil Change International on the massive amounts of public money still being gifted to the fossil fuel sector, rather than being used to fund clean energy alternatives.

- Finally, Emma McIntosh and David Bruser report on Alberta's dubious approval of remediation plans which amount to little more than gambling that fresh water will eventually overcome the presence of toxic waste.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Kathleen Harris reports on a federal budget update designed to have Canada borrow to shovel money into the pockets of big business. And PressProgress points out the absurdity of that plan when the corporate sector already has far too many loopholes and freebies at its disposal:
Corporate Canada will receive $14 billion in new tax giveaways over the next five years even though they are already receiving tens of billions of dollars every year through special tax loopholes.
...
Although Morneau opted against Trump’s no strings attached approach in favour of targeted tax incentives that allow companies to write-off the costs of investing in new machinery, clean energy equipment and newly acquired assets, the new measures are not offset by closing any of the ineffective and unfair tax loopholes that cost Canada tens of billions of dollars each year.

According to one estimate by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada is already losing $18 billion per year through special loopholes that primarily benefit Corporate Canada.

Various loopholes benefiting corporations and corporate executives relating to the taxation of capital gains, stock options, dividends as well as entertainment expenses for businesses have been widely criticized and identified as an easy way to restore billions in revenue.

Meanwhile, Canadian corporations already route billions of dollars through offshore tax havens, contributing to an estimated $10-15 billion in lost revenue each year.

Likewise, Morneau’s tax incentives to encourage clean energy investments are not offset by a move to “phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry,” something the Liberals promised in their 2015 election platform — in fact, Morneau actually introduced new subsidies in his 2017 budget.
- Meanwhile, Kevin Milligan offers his take as to what a progressive approach to revenue could include - with a focus on increasing personal income tax rates and ramping up enforcement to ensure everybody pays what they owe.

- Zi-Ann Lum reports on new research showing that hundreds of thousands of Canadians have to borrow money to fund necessary prescription drugs.

- Andre Picard writes about the appalling lack of public policy support for caregivers. And David Baxter reports on the growing number of newborns being stripped away from their families in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne criticizes Doug Ford's plan to return to systemic cash-for-access fund-raising - previously deemed unacceptable by all of Ontario's parties - now that his government has power to sell.

New column day

Here, on the yawning gap between talk and action when it comes to building up Regina's downtown with more focused residential development.

For further reading...
- The Underutilized Land Study referenced in the column is here (PDF), and was the subject of a recent report by Emily Pasiuk.
- Pasiuk also reported here on Andrew Stevens' push for answers about the underdevelopment of Broad Street.
- The City's overall community plan is available here, while links to neighbourhood plans are here.
- Finally, the latest from the "revitalization" project is here - again with no apparent news since the demolition of the old Taylor Field stadium in October 2017.

Update: The good news is that there's at least been some funding announced for the "revitalization" project.  The bad news is that its website linked to above has been disappeared, suggesting there isn't much appetite to have people pay attention to its status.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports that the Ford government's move to strip sick days away from workers was made without any attempt to consider the consequences for public health. And Emma Paling reports on how public protests at least delayed the final passage of the bill designed to attack employment standards and reduce the planned minimum wage, while Michal Rozworski debunks the Montreal Economic Institute's propaganda piece intended to criticize any minimum wage increases. 

- Rachel Aiello reports on the Auditor General's findings that the Canada Revenue Agency grants more leniency to large corporations and wealthy people with offshore dealings than to the general public. And D.C. Fraser notes that the Saskatchewan Party is refusing to provide any information about the money being gifted to Nutrien in "head office" giveaways even as its executive functions move out of the province.

- Jim Harding offers a reminder that time isn't on our side in trying to combat climate breakdown - and that every day of delay only makes the fight more difficult. And Mike Crawley points out that the apparently climate change policy model for the Ontario PCs (and other right-wing governments) is an Australian scheme which has led to greenhouse gas emission increases.
 
- Robert Fife, Steven Chase and Xioa Xu report on the Cons' use of related non-profit corporations to avoid federal spending limits.

- Finally, Mattha Busby discusses how safe injection sites are saving lives across Europe, even as the UK and other regressive jurisdictions insist on maximizing the harm done to drug users.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Enclosed cats.




Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Katrina Miller writes that Canada's economic future lies in developing equitable and sustainable growth, not following the U.S. in its race to the bottom:
There is a growing body of evidence that rising inequality is threatening every aspect of our collective well-being - social, economic, environmental and health-related. In Canada, like in many other countries, wages have stagnated in most earning brackets while precarious unstable jobs have ballooned. This toxic combination has become the biggest contributor to economic inequality in Canada. The U.S. corporate tax cuts that were supposed to bring working people prosperity have largely resulted in windfalls for shareholders. Very little has trickled down to the average worker4.  Clearly, the U.S. hasn’t set much of an example to follow if we wish to shrink the gap between the rich and everyone else.

We should also be asking whether we are building a world for future generations, but that isn’t where our economy is headed right now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently announced that we have twelve years to contain global warming to a 1.5C rise, or face world-wide and devastating consequences. Whether we do so now by choice or in a decade by default we have to change the way we live, and find a far less carbon intensive path forward. Countries that are early adopters of a low carbon economy will have an easier time, and may even find great success exporting technology and expertise to the rest...
...
Closing Canada’s worst tax loopholes and cracking down on tax avoidance would create the revenue needed to implement universal pharmacare and bolster other social and educational programs that make Canada a great place to live and work, for everyone. A healthy, educated and equitable society has long been one of Canada’s strong suits when it comes to economic competitiveness, it’s worth investing in.
- Campaign 2000 offers (PDF) a National Child Day reminder that far too many Canadian children are facing poverty and malnutrition, while Laurie Monsebraaten focuses on the importance of child care as a means to end child poverty.

- Chris Selley discusses the cruelty of Doug Ford's cuts to Ontario's advocate for children and youth. Katie Hyslop reports on a British Columbia child welfare system stacked against low-income parents. And Kristy Kirkup reports on Romeo Saganash's push to investigate the involuntary sterilization of Indigenous women.

- Barb Pacholik writes about the need for far more legal protections for people trying to escape domestic violence.

- Lucas Powers reports on the Caregivers Action Centre's call to treat foreign caregivers as people rather than disposable labour. And Warren McCall discusses how unduly low minimum wages end up imposing costs on everybody.

- Finally, the Canadian Press reports on Climate Transparency's study showing Canada having the worst per-capita greenhouse emissions levels in the G20.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Chris Hughes discusses how progressive politics, including expanded social programs and more progressive taxes, are proving to be a winner for U.S. Democrats in both primaries and general elections. Jacob Bacharach writes about the myth of the U.S. as a particularly wealthy country in the face of the deprivation it's imposed on so many of its citizens. And Nesrine Malik notes that it's pointless to shoot the messenger in light of reports such as the one by the UN's special rapporteur on poverty and human rights documenting the blight of poverty in the UK.

- Alex Hemingway approves of the Horgan government's replacement of a regressive health premium with a payroll tax aimed at large employers, but points out it would have been far better not to cut overall revenue in the process.

- Luke Savage points out how Doug Ford has exposed the contempt of Canada's right for basic norms such as not gratuitously overriding Charter rights. Edward Keenan comments on his politics of spite. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board criticizes Ford for using his majority power to permit cash-for-access now that he has power to sell.

- The Canadian Press reports on the Canadian Medical Association's pushback against Ford's plan to tie up the health care system with doctor's notes for employers. And Carolyn Ferns compares British Columbia's progress on child care to Ford's regression.

- Finally, David Pugliese exposes the "capability gap" used as an explanation for the purchase of fighter jets as a political talking point with no basis in operational records - and that in fact the Libs were informed there was no need for any purchase before 2032 before giving the thumbs-up to immediate orders.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Alex Morris writes about the barriers between the U.S.' working class and any hope of financial stability and security:
In 1960, the annual average health care costs in America were just $146 per person; in 2016, that figure had risen to $10,348. Over the past few decades, the cost of attending a four-year public college has risen more than 200 percent, which helps explain why Americans now have $1.4 trillion of student-loan debt. The median home value also rose dramatically, from around $3,000 in 1940 (or around $30,000 in inflation-adjusted terms) to more than $200,000 today. And for those who can’t afford to own, renting is problematic as well: A 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined that there is now literally nowhere in America where a minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

Meanwhile, as costs have risen, the relative amount of money that many American workers earn has gone down. From the early Seventies until 2017, productivity (the amount of goods and services created in an hour of work) has grown by almost 77 percent, but the inflation-adjusted amount workers are paid for that productivity has only grown by about 12 percent (by way of comparison, from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, compensation rose by about 90 percent). Increased productivity expands the economy, driving certain prices up, which means that the cost of living has been rising faster than incomes for more than 40 years. “That’s kind of all you need to know,” says Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It’s not so much that people are worse off as much as that they haven’t kept up.”

Though certainly, they’ve tried. Much of the (paltry) growth in household income over the past 40 years has occurred because — often out of necessity — people are simply working more. What Bernstein has seen is that “families have had to work harder, work longer hours, spend more time in the job market, send more people to work in order to keep from falling behind.”
...
(T)he shift from a manufacturing to a service economy has had an effect, since service work — scrubbing toilets, flipping burgers, running day cares rather than doing something that produces a tangible product — is somehow viewed as “lesser” and therefore commands a lower rate. But all of these explanations would make more sense if the economy overall were suffering. It isn’t. Only its workers are.

And that’s happened, not because of economic forces beyond our control, but rather because government and corporate choices have been made that prioritize the wealth of a few people over the welfare of the many. The perverse incentives of tying executive pay to the price of stock have transformed the American worker from a stakeholder into merely an expenditure, from someone whose cultivation and training benefit the company into a mere line item for the next quarter. “Something like 80 percent of officers admit that they would forgo an investment in their company that has long-term benefits if it meant missing that quarter’s earnings,” says Rick Wartzman, author of The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America. “It’s disturbing stuff. And the effects are just profound.”
- Sarah Jaffe points out the dangers of allowing a single corporation to exercise the type of overwhelming influence on political decision-makers that Amazon has been able to assemble. Allie Conti muses about the superior results if public money were used to reduce student debt rather than to enrich corporate giants. And Laura Bliss discusses how big box stores are using the overbuilding encouraged through municipal tax breaks to argue they should never have to pay their fair share in property taxes.

- Andrew Jackson reviews Adam Tooze's Crashed as a useful look at the causes and effects of the 2008 economic meltdown. And Maureen Dowd comments on the lasting fallout of the U.S.' choice to avoid any consequences for the architects of inequality and financial meltdowns.

- Mariana Mazzucato discusses the importance of building an economy to generate lasting collective value, not merely to allow for financial profits to be extracted in the short term.

- Finally, Jacob Bastian and Maggie Jones examine (PDF) the net cost of the U.S.' earned income tax credit, finding that it nearly pays for itself even based on immediate returns to the public purse alone before accounting for other improvements in health and well-being. And Lindsay Tedds identifies some of the problems with Doug Ford's plan to replace scheduled wage increases for all lower-income workers with a gimmicky tax scheme.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday Evening Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Nick Charity reports on the observations of the UN's envoy on poverty and human rights that callous and cruel austerian political choices have caused harm to millions of UK residents.

- Tess Kalinowski reports on the reality that Doug Ford's move to remove rent controls won't do anything to make housing available to the people who need it most. And Rick McGinnis writes that even leaving aside the importance of dealing with poverty and homelessness generally, suburban residents can't pretend they're somehow contained in core urban areas only.

- Meanwhile, Mike Crawley points out that a first set of cuts to important services won't even put a dent in Ontario's provincial debt - especially since it's being used to fund giveaways to polluters and the wealthy. And Robert Benzie notes that those handouts to the rich and their businesses are being paired with a loophole to allow corporations to funnel political donations through employees.

- Bill McKibben discusses how climate breakdown is shrinking the habitable space on our planet. Climate Transparency's Brown to Green study (PDF) highlights how Canada has both the highest emissions per capita of any G20 country, and the fourth-highest proportion of public financing for the fossil fuel sector as a proportion of GDP. And Charlie Smith interviews Donald Gutstein about the Libs' "grand bargain" (at the request of the oil industry) to keep allowing unsustainable emissions as long as they're attached to modest prices. 

- Finally, Malone Mullin reports on the Husky oil spill off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador which can't even be examined (let alone cleaned up).

Friday, November 16, 2018

Musical interlude

Eels - Mistakes of My Youth

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jonathan Watts reports on a new study showing how the world's largest economies (including Canada) are falling far short of the Paris climate goals due mostly to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, while also noting that Canada ranks with China and Russia among the world's absolute world climate offenders. And George Monbiot points out the need for radical action to get us on track to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

- Meagan Day writes that we can and should view affordable public housing as an opportunity to build vibrant and beautiful communities. But Mike Crawley reports that Doug Ford's first order of business is to make Ontario's housing situation even more grim by eliminating rent controls for tenants. 

- Noah Smith makes the case for the U.S. to finally raise its federal minimum wage in order to improve the circumstances of lower-income workers.

- Christo Aivalis offers his take on why Canada deserves a proportional electoral system.

- Finally, Andre Picard marks the Remembrance Day week by noting that the first pieces of Canada's health care system were among hte products of World War 1.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday Evening Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Richard Waters and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson report that five large tech companies alone turned the Trump corporate tax cuts into tens of billions of dollars in share buybacks benefiting nobody other than those who already had the most. And Caroline Haskins writes about the inequality in firefighting services which has left only a few wealthy California residents with any hope against wildfires.

- Jorge Barrera reports that the Libs have added an Indigenous rights framework to the list of campaign promises now being pushed past the next federal election. And Jenelle Davies discusses how many young adults are disillusioned with politics as they stand, but have reason to hope for better with a proportional electoral system.

- On the bright side, Chris Arsenault reports on a new foreign aid experiment to benefit poor people with direct cash transfers - though it would make sense to try the same strategy to combat poverty at home as well.

- Robert Booth relays the stories of exclusion and deprivation told by young Britons to the UN's rapporteur on extreme poverty.

- Finally, Josha McNab points out the health benefits of acting to fight climate change. And Fernando Arce discusses how Doug Ford's attacks on worker protections stand to make all of Ontario ill:
When asked about the rationale for eliminating paid sick days, the Ministry of Labour offered in an email response to NOW that “these eight days... would be in line with Alberta and British Columbia, and could be taken without fear of termination.”

But as studies have shown, paid sick days can make a crucial, sometimes even fatal difference, when workers choose to stay home or work through their sickness.

“A lot of specialists don’t have availability in the evening, so having sick days allows patients to get to those appointments during the day,” says Raza. Employees without paid sick days also tend to get fewer flu shots, mammograms, pap smears and blood pressure checks.

The changes proposed by the Ford government mean that Ontarians will be at greater risk of contracting diseases when workplaces become inundated with sick workers unable to afford a day off to see their physician or get well. Raza says schools could soon follow when sick children are forced to attend because their parents or guardians can’t stay home with them.

Two years ago this scenario came to pass, with tragic consequences, when two-year-old Jude – described by his mother Jill Promoli as an otherwise “perfectly healthy child” – succumbed to influenza B, which had begun with a fever the day before. His sister had first caught the bug in her kindergarten class. Said Promoli at last week’s press conference: "One sick child came to school, and basically, it became an entire classroom full of sick children."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Trish Garner comments on the need to acknowledge the humanity of people living in poverty - which leads to the inescapable need to use readily-available resources to ensure a reasonable standard of living. And Arindrajit Dube studies the effect of an increased minimum wage in helping to pull people out of poverty.

- Meanwhile, Robert Benzie reports that Doug Ford's choice to attack workers is leading to a substantial drop in public support.

- Jim Tankersley and Matt Phillips report that the Trump Republicans' giveaway to the wealthy has produced negative results on multiple fronts - including a net reduction in the workforce of the large employers targeted for extra freebies. And Derek Thompson discusses why it's long past time to put a stop corporate relocation incentives. 

- Helen-Maria Vasiliadis points out the important returns - in both fiscal and human terms - from investing in universally-accessible mental health care.

- Tom Perry discusses how a proportional electoral system can lead governments to reflect and listen to a wide range of voices, rather than being motivated solely to stick to a single party line. 

- Finally, Don Braid weighs in on the demonization of minority groups - and particularly LGBTQ people through John Carpay's consistent attacks - in Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats with company.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Kibasi writes that the UK's best option in light of its impending Brexit is to develop a more active and entrepreneurial state:
So in a sense, Brexit changes everything and changes nothing: it exacerbates the UK longstanding problem with an investment rate that was already far below our international competitors at the time of the referendum. It makes it harder to achieve escape velocity from an economic model that isn’t working to one that does.
 
We know that rather than crowding out investment – as free marketers claim – greater public investment in fact crowds it in. Brexit will therefore make it even more important to get public investment up, not less. And with interest rates close to zero, a programme of quantitative easing that has not been wound down, fiscal policy will be the only option left to lift Britain out of any future recession. It is therefore illogical to say that Brexit must mean more austerity. It must mean the reverse. Paradoxically, the right response to Brexit is to become a more European economy, with a more active and entrepreneurial state. 
- Meanwhile, Brett Christophers examines the large-scale privatization of land in the UK - with roughly half of its remaining commonwealth in land by area, and more than that by value, having been sold off since 1979.

- Callum Burroughs discusses how the oil industry is failing to put its money where its mouth is in developing renewable energy even as it pours tens of millions of dollars into squelching any public policy improvements. And Chantal Hebert points out that the mindless oil industry jingoism being parroted by right-wing parties across much of Canada looks to be political poison for the federal Cons in Quebec.

- Troy Henderson notes that public-sector wage caps and general job precarity serve to drive down wages and working conditions for everybody.

- Taylor Scollon suggests that the disproportionate political influence of big money could be counterbalanced by ensuring that campaigns are financed through public dollars distributed based on voter choice.

- Finally, Brent Patterson is hopeful that Canada will see a wave of progressive millennial activists emerge comparable to the ones which are already reshaping politics in the U.S. and the UK.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Wayne Swan writes that it won't be possible to take necessary steps to combat climate breakdown without ensuring that corporations pay their fair share. And the Guardian argues that exorbitant executive pay needs to be restrained.

- Sam Pizzigati discusses how the uber-wealthy can disproportionately influence the U.S.' public discourse under the cover of dark money. And Mariya Hake and Christian Belabed examine the relationship between income inequality and distrust in public institutions.

- Crawford Kilian offers a reminder of the devastating effects of other diseases which can be eradicated through vaccinations - but which are threatening to return due to both policy and personal choices.

- Maryse Zeidler reports on the tens of billions of dollars worth of food wasted in Canada every year. And Matt Humphrey reports that Raise the Rates has had to cancel its Vancouver welfare challenge because there's simply no hope for participants to find food for even a week a based on what social benefit recipients receive.

- Finally, Ken Boon makes the case for British Columbia to try a more fair and proportional electoral system, rather than resigning itself to a system which has produced far too much inequality and corruption.