Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andre Picard notes that contrary to our self-image, Canada actually lags behind international peers in health and social spending. And PressProgress points out the same conclusion in new OECD research.

- Andrew Mitrovica writes that Doug Ford's ascendancy in Ontario politics suggests that Canada is catching the Trump virus - and not for the first time given his brother's history. And Jim Stanford highlights how Ford's planned austerity would affect the people who rely on strong public services:
The People’s Guarantee pledged to balance the provincial budget by 2020, and then run a small surplus. With no carbon tax, and no concrete plan for “efficiency” savings, how will Mr. Ford square that same circle?

Arithmetically, he has three options: increase taxes; tolerate a deficit; or cut spending. At door one, Mr. Ford could seek other sources of tax revenue. That’s a non-starter, given his rhetoric about long-suffering taxpayers. Door two is to tolerate deficits, converting lost carbon-tax revenue and the likely failure of the efficiency audit into higher debt. That also clashes painfully with Mr. Ford’s pledge to wrestle the debt to the ground.

Almost certainly, Mr. Ford will choose door number three: still-deeper cuts in provincial spending. He needs $10-billion in cuts over three years to offset carbon tax revenue; $6-billion more to meet the efficiency target; and still more to pay for any additional tax cut promises. All that’s on top of $1.9-billion in annual spending cuts from cancelling cap and trade. All told, he will need to cut spending by close to $25-billion over three years – and around $10-billion in the third year alone. Cuts of this magnitude would significantly damage government services (all the more so given continual inflation and population growth).
Mr. Ford won the leadership by stoking populist resentment against government, taxes, sex-ed and environmentalism. That mobilized enough grassroots party support to put him over the top. Completing a similar journey from centrism to austerity in a provincial budget, however, will be much harder. And many Ontarians will pay a steep price for the trip.
- Meanwhile, Cindy Blackstock offers a reminder of the fundamental injustice of forcing Indigenous children to keep waiting for their basic public services to be incrementally brought up to par.

- Adam Gartrell discusses the Australian Council of Trade Unions' plan to ensure that casual workers have a predictable path to stable employment after six months. And Sean McElwee, Colin McAuliffe and Jon Green argue that a jobs guarantee (already backed by Kirsten Gillibrand) would make for both a highly desirable public policy step, and a political winner for U.S. Democrats.

- Finally, the National Post's database of political contributions across Canada looks to make for an essential resource in tracking the influence of money on our political choices.

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