Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Jackson argues that a federal infrastructure program can and should be oriented toward developing a skilled and diverse workforce, rather than rewarding free-riding contractors who don't contribute to those outcomes. And a joint statement from community and labour groups posted by Angella MacEwen argues that a major focus of the upcoming federal budget should be to repair and strengthen Employment Insurance.

- Andrew Sayer laments the fact that our economy is set up to disproportionately reward unproductive ownership and rent extraction rather than actual contributions to social well-being. And Jill Treanor provides a prime example, as UK banks who are laying off frontline workers and seeing their share values decline are nonetheless handing out billions of dollars in bonuses to a lucky few.

- Sabrina Tavernise writes about the U.S.' growing inequality in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.

- Glenn Burley studies how it's possible to eliminate tuition and compulsory fees from post-secondary education at a readily affordable price. And PressProgress follows up by highlighting how much tuition is currently costing Canadian students. 

- Finally, Andrea Hill exposes the Saskatchewan Party's appalling slashing of services for homeless residents of Saskatoon. And Ken Gousseau reports on the CCPA's research into what Saskatchewan stands to lose if the Wall government gets the chance to follow through on its plans to conduct a fire sale of publicly-owned liquor stores.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

New column day

Here, expanding on this post as to Nathan Cullen's proposal to make sure the outcomes of all plausible electoral systems are taken into account in designing a new one.

For further reading...
- Again, Cullen's proposal was reported on here, and discussed by Aaron Wherry here.
- Meanwhile, the Libs have presented a wide range of possibilities as to both the process and possible outcomes of electoral reform without indicating one way or the other whether they'll work with a proportional committee.
- And for those who haven't yet reviewed the Broadbent Institute's report (PDF) on both public opinion and electoral results under different systems, it's well worth a read.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Sally Goemer writes that extreme inequality is a cause of economic instability for everybody. And Tom Powdrill discusses the importance of organized labour in ensuring the fair sharing of income, while Steven Hill points out the harmful effects of precarious work.

- Sheila Regehr and Roderick Benns are hopeful that we're headed toward a basic income in Canada, while Molly McCracken notes that a secure income is the best defence against hunger.

- Tom Parkin observes that the Trudeau Libs have predictably started to ignore the principles and policies they trumpeted to win over progressive voters. And Duncan Cameron points out that the NDP can take on the cause of challenging corporate power as a matter of both egalitarian principle and political opportunity.

- Michael Geist discusses how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will interfere with Canadian cultural policies. And Jim Stanford finds that Canada's bilateral trade deal with South Korea has fallen far short of what was promised - leading to increased imports but decreased exports.

- Finally, Emily Peck comments on the connection between improved paternal leave and greater upward mobility for women in the workplace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Dayen examines the different treatment granted by businesses to well-connected elites compared to everybody else, and says it's understandable that voters are looking for leaders who understand their side of the divide. And Robert Reich highlights the dangers of trying to appeal for votes by telling people nothing they do will lead to meaningful political change.

- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman examines how the Republicans - like Canada's Cons - have deliberately trapped themselves in a time loop which will accept no new evidence or developments.

- Tom Jacobs writes about the connection between inequality, obesity and poor health - as childhood deprivation tends to lead to increased food consumption when it's possible later on.

- Paul Mason offers three questions we need to answer in order to meaningfully address a lack of affordable housing.

- Martin Regg Cohn answers the misplaced spin that an increase in public pensions is anything but an economic boon - as it ultimately helps both present-day investment and long-term income security.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan provides a few suggestions to restore some semblance of civility and functionality in Parliament.

[Edit: fixed link.]

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Downward facing cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Alice Martin offers three basic reasons why unions are as necessary now as ever, while PressProgress weighs in on the IMF's findings showing the correlation between unions and greater equality. And David Ball points out that there's a long way to go merely to reverse the damage the Cons deliberately inflicted on the labour movement in Canada.

- Peter Taylor-Gooby writes about the importance of job quality as well as quantity in assessing our economy. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the Libs' apparent lack of interest in young workers as they impose a system which facilitates the continued use of unpaid interns.

- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is assembling a must-read set of reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Murray Dobbin discusses the desperate need for real public input and debate before Canada gets locked into the most restrictive corporate rights agreement yet.

- Stephen Kimber argues that rather than focusing on smaller measures such as making prescription drugs available to seniors, we should be working on implementing national pharmacare for all. And Matthew Herder notes that we should also have far more access to information about the effectiveness of the drugs we do use.

- Finally, Peggy Mason asks and answers the right questions about the Libs' expansion of military operations in Iraq and Syria - as once again, Canadian troops are being sent into harm's way by a government which lacks any idea what they're supposed to accomplish.

Monday, February 08, 2016

On warped incentives

CC offers one noteworthy takeaway from Jenni Byrne's attempt to deflect blame for the Cons' election loss:
But let's follow what this line of thought means for Canada's electoral system. Would any rational electoral system encourage a party to promote one of its competitors for the purpose of arranging the votes it can't win (particularly one which is further away on the political spectrum), rather than trying to earn support for itself?

To be clear, Byrne's type of calculation isn't necessarily limited to the Cons. But it surely speaks to the perverse incentives embedded in a first-past-the-post system - and offers us reason to think carefully about the goals we should want parties of any ideological background to pursue instead.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Richard Eskow summarizes the basic facts about inequality in the U.S. Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that it's impossible to fully explain or address that problem without factoring in ongoing racial disparities. And Sean Trembath writes about James Daschuk's work in tracing health disparities among indigenous peoples back to Canada's colonial policies, while Cheryl McKenzie reports on the challenges in combating poverty.

- Greg Kaplan and Giovanni Volante point out that income insecurity isn't limited to poor households, as plenty of higher-earning families effectively live paycheque to paycheque at best

- Mike De Souza discusses the connection between TransCanada's firing of whistleblowers and a pipeline explosion.

- Andrew Mitrovica asks why nobody is prepared to tell Canadians the truth about the unauthorized  disclosure of tax data to CSIS. And Tonda MacCharles reports that the Libs are being even more obstinate than the Cons in trying to deny compensation to people who were wrongly detained and tortured.

- Finally, Lana Payne rightly argues that we can't move on from revelations of systematic sexual harassment without first doing everything we can to eradicate it.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Stewart discusses the possibility of a 20-hour work week to better distribute both work and income. And without going that far, Andrew Jackson suggests that our public policy priorities should include a needed shift in time on the clock from people who are working excessive hours to ones who lack for work:
Today, the job market is even more sharply polarized between those who are unemployed or underemployed (such as the one in four part time workers who want more hours), and those who are employed in mainly full-time and permanent jobs who often work very long hours. Data from Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey (CANSIM Table 282-0154) tell us that in any given week, one in five workers (21%) worked overtime (defined as hours in excess of normally scheduled hours) for an average of 8.2 hours, or more than one extra day per normal work week.

Unpaid overtime, mainly worked by salaried professionals, not least in public services, affects 11% of all employees. Paid overtime, mainly worked by hourly paid blue collar workers in industries like construction, transportation manufacturing and resources, affects 9% of all workers. These numbers have increased a bit since the late 1990s.

Theoretically, redistribution of working time could all but wipe out both unemployment and involuntary part-time employment, assuming a perfect overlap of skills and needed experience between those working long hours and those working no or less than desired hours. While this is unrealistic, redistribution of working time could still put a significant dent in the unemployment rate.
More use of work sharing today could help cushion the impact of the slump in resource prices on jobs in the hard hit mineral and energy industries. Even today, many workers in the Alberta oil and gas industry regularly work long hours. There is growing interest in using work sharing to avoid layoffs, and, even more creatively, government, employers and unions might develop programs to use temporarily reduced working hours for training in order to upgrade workers skills which will be needed in the next upturn.

The new Liberal government should also consider the many proposals which have been made over the years to amend the federal labour code so as to limit very long hours of work and to provide employees with more flexible working time options.
- Josh Eidelson discusses Bernie Sanders' sharp critique of welfare plans which try to coerce people into dead-end jobs. Bill Curry reports on Jean-Yves Duclos' openness to a basic income at the federal level. And Stanislas Jourdain notes that Quebec is now working on developing a guaranteed income for its citizens.

- Alan Broadbent and Elizabeth McIsaac call for Toronto to start funding its poverty reduction plan. And the Star argues that we should make affordable access to the Internet available to everybody as a necessary element of social participation.

- Michael Geist optimistically offers some suggestions as to how the Libs could deal with the Trans-Pacific Partnership now that they've signed it without consultation, while Scott Vrooman laments their apparent intentions of ignoring Canadians' concerns. And Erik Loomis offers some valid concerns about the TPP from a U.S. perspective.

- Finally, Patricia Lane discusses how a proportional electoral system could lead to far better governance for Canada.