Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Daniel Cohn theorizes that the only real problem with RBC's outsourcing of Canadian jobs is that they called attention to the government policies which facilitated that outcome. But for those of us who think there's actually a problem with an economy designed around minimizing wages and employment, Susan McIsaac and Matthew Mendelsohn offer some suggestions to turn the tide. And Tavia Grant points out that the Cons' preference for cheap, disposable foreign labour might help employers, but certainly doesn't produce positive results for Canada as a whole.

- In the same vein, Andrew Jackson discusses how the last great set of attacks on workers in the name of economic efficiency proved an utter failure in producing any policy outcome other than increased inequality:
Thatcherism did not provide an enduring solution to the problem of how to attain stable growth. Business profitability was indeed restored, but this did not flow though into much higher levels of productive investment. In both Britain and the United States (especially the former), finance expanded as a share of the economy at the expense of industry, which has collapsed.

London has become the most important global financial centre and home base to much of the global oligarchy, leading to great wealth for a few and many low-paid jobs catering to their needs. Meanwhile, much of the rest of the country, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, has never fully recovered from massive de-industrialization.

In Britain, as in the United States, “flexible” labour markets and the erosion of unionization led to the decoupling of wages from productivity growth, making growth dangerously dependent upon an unsustainable inflation of house prices and the growth of household debt.

A hands-off approach to regulation of business also set the stage for the growth of a speculative and destructive financial system, which would have collapsed in 2008 if the government had not come to the rescue.

Thatcherism did nothing to raise the living standards of the great majority. In the Britain, as in the U.S. and Canada, the incomes of the great majority have stagnated in real terms since the early 1980s, as most of the fruits of economic growth have gone to the top 1 per cent. Economic security was undermined by deep cuts to unemployment insurance and public pensions, and by the erosion of public services.

Margaret Thatcher was indeed a pivotal historical figure. But her legacy is one of heightened inequality, economic stagnation and instability.
- Chantal Hebert points out the limitations on the Cons' attack strategy:
If the Conservative black ops against Trudeau succeed, a significant chunk of those voters could be as likely if not more to turn to a centrist-led NDP as to want to help Harper secure a fourth mandate.

That trend is not based strictly on a cyclical tide for change. At this juncture an overwhelming majority of Canadians — around 70 per cent — agree as to the prime minister that they do not want, even if it means replacing Harper with an untested Liberal leader or an untried federal NDP.

Harper’s predicament is more akin to a multiplication of slow leaks than a major puncture. That could make it harder to fix. To reduce the current battle to a personality contest that can be won with attack ads is to miss the central point that it is also unfolding on the field of values.

Polls suggest that despite sustained Conservative efforts, Canadians are more likely to identify with Liberal- or NPD-inspired policies such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and medicare than with the favoured icons of the Canadian right. 
- And Bruce Johnstone notes that the Cons' attacks on Justin Trudeau are far from the first inaccurate ads of their majority tenure:
In the Machiavellian world of politics as practised in Ottawa these days, the end justifies the means. If defeating Justin Trudeau or NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair can be achieved by attack ads, so be it.

Case in point, Mulcair was vilified in Tory attack ads for his comments that Canada was showing symptoms of Dutch disease, in which the manufacturing sector suffers declining output and competitiveness as a result of high exchange rates caused by high energy prices.

Yet a recent study by Statistics Canada indicates that Central Canada saw the largest decline in economic output and labour productivity between 2000 and 2010. And the Ontario and Quebec manufacturing sectors bore the brunt of that decline. At the same time, there was a shift in capital investment from east to west due to increased investment in the natural resources sector. And what were the reasons for this shift in capital investment, economic output and labour productivity? Changes in exchange rates, commodity prices and global competition, the study said.

Sounds a lot like Dutch disease to me.
- Finally, Mike de Souza continues his run of important reports on the Cons' environmental policy - first by highlighting the Cons' willingness to give Exxon a veto over the terms of a new national park (featuring approval to drill horizontally under Sable Island), then by pointing out that tens of millions of dollars of public money are being used for research intended to do nothing but benefit tar sands operators.


  1. Honestly as a New Democract I agree with the ads against Justin, he is in over his head, and he is not competant , he wasn't even a good MP. The media just papers over his gaffes and the fact that he is unqualified for the most important job in Canada in the hopes he'll stop Mulcair from being PM. The ads against Mulcair were fiction the ones against Trudeau were fact. His celebrity based popularity is sickening and it needs to end.

    Hopefully we will be the ones to benifit as Chantal suggests.

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