Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses how Canadian workers are feeling the pain of decades of policy designed to suppress wages - and notes there's plenty more all parties should be doing to change that reality. And Doug Saunders points out what we should want our next federal government to pursue to bring about lasting growth:
Many economists came to realize not only that government intervention bailed many countries out of the post-2008 recession and restored growth and employment, but that the crisis itself may have been caused, in good part, by the disappearance of active government support in the economy – the sort of direct investment and partnership that had existed in earlier decades.
Economists began noticing that the great economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s had been a direct product of targeted state investments in specific companies and sectors. The Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato, in her influential book The Entrepreneurial State, chronicled the emergence of the iPhone as a direct product of Washington’s large-scale investments in Silicon Valley – not just through state spending on technology products and tax incentives to high-tech industry, but through the specific choice of Apple, in the 1970s and 1980s, as a company Washington would invest in (though small-business investments that put $2 into Apple for every dollar of private investment). Intel and Compaq were also targets of this active state investment, much as Elon Musk’s Tesla electric-car company is today.

Dr. Mazzucato, in an interview from her University of Sussex office, describes the heavily funded state banks that have allowed Germany, China and the United States to build globally competitive companies – and notes that Canada, despite having earned a fortune in petroleum revenues in the past 15 years that could have created a similar major institution, has nothing substantial of the sort, nor any proposal to create one.

“Canada is interesting,” she said. “It is one of the most skewed countries, not only in terms of sectors – lots of emphasis on the extractive stuff – but also in terms of instruments: It’s very, very indirect. It does most of its government investment through tax incentives. Compare that to the United States or China or Germany, where it’s all direct: If they want to do something, they do it. They directly finance a sector or the most innovative companies, and they create grants or guaranteed loans to do it, not an indirect tax credit. And on top of that, these Canadian investments are not so mission-oriented: At best, there’s a list of sectors to be supported indirectly, but no targeting of specific companies or industries. And then they get surprised when they’re not on the top any more in any of the big innovations.”
- Andrew Coyne rightly argues that we shouldn't spend so much of an election campaign attacking past personal statements from candidates, while noting that part of the problem lies in the vetting authority that's been taken over by the parties' leaders.

- Meanwhile, Kevin Grandia highlights Cheryl Gallant's climate change denialism as a symptom of the Cons' real unfitness for office. And Donald Gutstein comments on Doug Black's role as an oil lobbyist within the Senate.

- Tabatha Southey writes that the Cons are offering nothing but fear, uncertainty and doubt for voters, while Sandy Garossino weighs on that message as it applies to refugees in particular. And Terry Glavin zeroes in on how that strategy involves ignoring the plain facts even of high-profile events such as the tragic deaths in the Kurdi family.

- Finally, Parker Donham sets out why Canada can't afford any more of Stephen Harper. And Fram Dimshaw reports that the veterans who once served as Harper's political cover are joining the cause in demanding more responsible government.

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