Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Janet Bagnall discusses Canada's steadily-growing income inequality:
In the last 20 years, the income of 80 per cent of Americans has stagnated while that of the richest one per cent has nearly doubled. Similarly, the Conference Board of Canada reported this week that a third of the wealth created in this country in the past 22 years has gone to the top one per cent of the population. The story for most other Canadians was income stagnation or slight growth.

That top one per cent of Canadians - who number about 246,000 - made their phenomenal gains mainly in the years 1998 to 2007, years when Canada experienced its fastest economic growth since the 1950s and '60s. Fifty years ago, however, the richest one per cent of Canadians took a much smaller portion of the country's income growth: eight per cent.
This extreme inequality in income - a feature in many developed countries today - can have serious consequences. It can undermine the social and economic health of a country, if the skills and capabilities of all its citizens are not being used. Citizens who feel cut off unfairly from their country's wealth won't want to invest in a society that refuses to reward their efforts.

For years, Canada's progressive social programs and tax policies helped keep the income gap in check. More recently, however, a number of forces began driving the gap wider: stagnating minimum wages, decreased unionization, tighter access to unemployment benefits, lower welfare payments and the halving of the top marginal tax rate between 1948 and 2009, from 80 per cent to 42.9 per cent. Quebec, with its tradition of social solidarity backed by legislation, is the province where income inequality has grown the slowest. Market forces - especially globalization and high demand for skilled labour - also drive income inequality.
- And Rick Salution points out a substantial part of the reason why we've reached that point:
We are a society that has largely lost sight of the fact that there is anything to debate in politics except how to save money. So even when (the Rob and Doug Fords) lose, they win — by reinforcing the ground rules. Don’t credit Rob and Doug for inventing this mindset. It’s been drummed into the public ear for decades by think-tanks, pundits and politicians. But the Fords reproduce it ably.
We’re now mired in this profiteering, privatizing mentality. It cuts off every alternative viewpoint. Brian Topp is running for NDP leader. The worst the Harper Tories can say about him is, he has “deep union ties” and can’t “speak on behalf of all Canadians.” They don’t say why, it’s taken for granted. But tell me one thing unions have done that was even slightly as damaging as a business class that shipped out good industrial jobs (and factories) to cheap labour zones; or a financial sector that concocted useless and incomprehensible “devices” that contributed to an economic meltdown rivalling the 1930s. Yet no one challenges the ability of people with “deep business ties” to represent us.

CBC News’ nightly hour on business promotes itself with host-journalist Amanda Lang saying: “I think what is really special about the show is that it does celebrate business.” What — are they feeling needy? They don’t get enough support? They need a party every night? Is there a whole hour per year celebrating unions, librarians or teachers? And this is our public network.
- The Saskatchewan NDP's latest policy launch deals with renewable energy and recycling - with a particularly noteworthy target to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2025. And some commenters wondering whether the party would adopt a "team" approach will also have reason to like the announcement, as it rightly gives Peter Prebble prominent billing as a voice for the environment.

- Finally, pogge highlights the fact that the Cons plan to lock Canada into an information-sharing agreement with the U.S. without the slightest public input - then declare their willingness to listen only when it's too late to change anything.


  1. 50% renewable energy by 2025? In Saskatchewan? Solar and wind power aren't drop-in replacements for base load coal, gas, or nuclear plants.  Sometimes the wind simply doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, but you still need power. It would only work because Saskatchewan would be selling off renewable energy whenever it produced too much, and buying electricity from Alberta/Manitoba when it's producing too little.

    Without something exotic like geothermal or solar power beamed from space or hydro Saskatchewan lacks the geography for a plan based on renewables only works as long as you can buy base load power from your neighbor when you need it.

  2. jurist1:20 p.m.

    But then, Saskatchewan has plenty of undeveloped hydro capacity, as well as some strong prospects for geothermal development. So while solar and wind look to be an important part of the mix, there's plenty of opportunity to develop exactly the type of renewable baseload power you mention as well.