Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Carol Goar summarizes the Institute for Research on Public Policy's review of the steps needed to rein in inequality in the long term, while pointing out the one factor which will determine whether anything gets done:
At first glance, it looks intimidating. But on closer examination, it is a sensible and coherent blueprint.

It has seven basic elements:

  • Expand the Working Income Tax Benefit. This refundable tax credit, brought in by former finance minister Jim Flaherty, makes work, even in a low-wage, precarious job, better than welfare. It could be broadened in next month’s federal budget

  • Revamp Canada’s outdated, threadbare, employment insurance system. Trudeau is promising to fix two easily correctable problems: cut the waiting time for benefits and channel more money into skills training. But much more is required. The two biggest imperatives are broadening coverage to all workers (as opposed to 40 per cent) and eliminating regional disparities in benefits.

  • Raise social assistance rates which fall below the poverty line in all 10 provinces. Regrettably Trudeau can’t raise the bar. Social assistance is a provincial responsibility and none of the premiers sees any urgency. Last week’s Ontario budget made it clear that Premier Kathleen Wynne is in no hurry to lift welfare recipients out of poverty.

  • Get moving on early-childhood education. It has been promised since 1984. Trudeau’s position is unclear, although the Liberal party is in favour of universal early education and child care. To give all kids a strong start, Ottawa would have to provide the provinces with funds to create thousands of preschool learning centres.

  • Improve high school teaching of science and math. Canada needs a generation of workers as numerate as it is literate to compete globally. Again, this is a provincial responsibility. Ontario has a litany of plans and goals. Qualified, enthusiastic teachers are harder to find.

  • Move gradually toward higher minimum wages. “Gradually” is clearly the premiers’ watchword. Not one province has a minimum wage that allows workers to cross Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off. Ontario raised its minimum wage to $11.25 last October — an increase of 25 cents an hour.

  • “Executive compensation needs to be reviewed and addressed,” the authors submit, leaving readers to figure out who will do it and how.
  • If these proposals sound familiar, maybe that’s the point. There’s no mystery about what it takes to make a society fairer. It is a matter of political will.
    - Nick Falvo's review of Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff’s book on working with homeless people highlights both the human factor on all sides of providing services, and the key connections between homelessness and other policy considerations. But PressProgress points out that the Manning Centre and assorted right-wing groups are still doing their utmost to destroy the labour movement which serves as one of the most important forces for fairness and inclusion.

    - Jim Bronskill reports on the Libs' decision to suppress government documents about options for increased transparency.

    - Finally, David Moscrop offers a detailed review of the benefits of a more proportional electoral system, along with responses to the major criticisms of proportionality.

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