Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chris Harper highlights a few of the factors necessary to help boost the long-term health of children:
First, Antonovsky found that whatever stresses you encounter must be comprehensible. Children, for example, must have the basic understanding that an action will often have a predictable, stable reaction. Imagine how difficult this must be when moving homes constantly or not having one at all. In 2010, 52 per cent of single-mother households in Canada with children under six years of age were living in unstable housing. Just last year, by the age of seven, 7.5 per cent of children in Manitoba had been placed in some form of foster care. How can we expect children to comprehend stress when they don't even have a home base in which to do it?

Secondly, children must have the basic tools to see challenges as inevitable yet manageable. For example, one in six Canadian children have vision problems interfering with their ability to read, yet despite our "universal" health care, just 14 per cent receive professional eye care before first grade. I would imagine it's a lot easier to break the cycle of poverty when you're able to see the blackboard.

Finally, children must be able to find things meaningful. To thrive, it's pivotal that children have the opportunity to find satisfaction and a sense of purpose. Sadly, even that isn't guaranteed.

So what do our policy makers and politicians need to do in real terms?

Build an effective national housing strategy so kids have a place to call home, institute comprehensive pre-school vision screening across the country so classrooms can have their full impact and cut red tape for First Nations children by committing to Jordan's Principle.

Isn't it time we put children's long-term health and wellness on the national agenda?
- Roderick Benns discusses how a basic income would serve as a launching pad for people whose best immediate option is temporary work - in contrast to the trap set by more restrictive social programs.

- Richard Kahlenberg comments on the connection between strong unions and a vibrant democracy. And conversely, Lydia DePillis points out that the middle class in particular suffers when unions come under political attack.

- Finally, Jeff Sallot writes that only misguided fear is holding us back from electoral reform. And Andrew Coyne reminds us of the warped incentives at the core of first-past-the-post:
The nature of winner-take-all systems, moreover, is that they are highly leveraged: A comparatively small shift in the popular vote often results in hugely disproportionate swings in the number of seats a party wins. Politicians are by nature risk averse. Consequently there is little incentive for parties to take chances aimed at expanding their support, for example by staking out new or distinctive policy positions — for they might just as well see it shrink. Instead they tend to hug the middle for long stretches, save for a few wedge issues aimed at a relatively small number of “swing” voters, which they trot out at election time.

In sum, the present system gives rise to false and exaggerated majorities, discriminates among voters, rewards regionally divisive parties and polarizing political strategies, strands many voters in “safe” ridings and wastes the votes of many others.

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