Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star-Phoenix calls for Saskatchewan's election campaign to focus on the future rather than the past. And Paul Orlowski reminds us of the continued callous corporatism that's in store if Brad Wall holds on to power.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Johnstone points out that the Saskatchewan Party's spin on the past bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality. And Geoff Leo fact-checks Wall's attempts to avoid responsibility for his government's Global Transportation Hub land scandal.

- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives offers up its alternative federal budget aimed at both reducing poverty and generating development. And in one hopeful (if only preliminary) step, the Libs appear willing to consider strengthening Canada Post by looking at banking and other services, rather than treating stagnation and privatization as the only options.

- Danyaal Raza and Ryan Meili discuss the economic and health costs of expecting people to work while sick (or requiring them to forfeit pay if they can't).

- Finally, Tabatha Southey rightfully challenges the idea that activism is something to be criticized rather than applauded - and its roots in the belief that there are few if any social problems left to be ameliorated:
In part, the rejection of activism as a concept stems from a belief that a sufficient amount of change has already been made. It has to stop. We’ve literally done enough as a society – not-society can stop asking for stuff now.

It’s a way of thinking that emerges when people frame the righting of great historic wrongs (letting the other half of the population vote, not literally owning people) as concessions that one group has personally made, as largesse bestowed in some sort of ongoing negotiation for which there must be quid pro quo.

That’s just not how this better-society thing works, people. Yes, it’s not illegal to be gay any more. That doesn’t mean straight people get to demand more seasons of Everyone Loves Raymond and free Dockers when next everyone’s back at the bargaining table.

The constant disparaging of activism – the casual acceptance of the idea that the more dedicated a person is to a subject, the less they are worth listening to on that subject – has been fashionable for a while now.

The plethora of “Taxpayers for …” and “Concerned Citizens Against …” groups is a reaction to that trend. These people are “concerned,” about an issue, you see, having apparently rejected “Peeved” and “Indignant” as descriptors. We are to understand that while, yes, these groups are campaigning to bring about political or societal change through vigorous action, the difference is they’re right.

All of this is how we come to the less-than-clarion call to arms, “I am not an activist.”

Well, lady, take out another bus shelter, when you’re ready to say you are.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Musical interlude

Secondcity feat. Ali Love - What Can I Do

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Elise Gould studies the continued rise of wage inequality in the U.S. And Teuila Fuatai points out how a strong movement to improve minimum wages and study basic incomes in Canada still has a long way to go to secure a living income anywhere.

- Michael Geist's series on the problems with the TPP turns to the likelihood that Canada as a whole will lose jobs from the deal. And Glyn Moody points out that investor-state provisions end up giving corporations multiple opportunities to attack government actions.

- Robyn Urback writes that it's inhumane to ticket homeless people for having the nerve to exist - though of course, providing only a bus ticket instead is hardly an improvement. And Veronica Harnish observes that poverty alone can trap individuals in homelessness.

- Meanwhile, Paula Simons highlights the need for the Alberta NDP's crackdown on payday lenders. And CBC offers some needed background on the for-profit plasma industry introduced by the Saskatchewan Party.

- Finally, Tom Parkin rightly calls for marijuana possession to be decriminalized immediately - even as the Lib party which made legalization a signature issue now drags its heels on any action at all. And Dana Larsen highlights the tens of thousands of people continuing to be arrested for activity which Canada's government has promised to make legal.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

New column day

Here, on the Wall government's embarrassing excuse for a strategy to reduce poverty in Saskatchewan - and the people who are being left behind or shipped away as a result.

For further reading...
- Again, the report of the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction is found here (PDF). And I wrote here about the lack of investment in poverty and related issues from all levels of government in Saskatchewan.
- D.C. Fraser reported on the worried response to a plan to do nothing.
- And while I've previously linked to reports on the Saskatchewan Party's slashing of funding for the Lighthouse's homeless shelters, the news this week that people with mental health issues and no supports outside Saskatchewan are being issued one-way bus tickets out of the province only makes the Wall government look all the more callous.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Emily Badger discusses a new study showing just how much more expensive it is to be poor:
(T)he problem isn't simply that the poor aren't savvy about sales or bulk buying. They're more likely to use these tactics closer to the beginning of the month, when they have more cash on hand from paychecks or benefits. Then, they behave more like consumers who have more money.

Of course, the poor face a lot of other obstacles to reaping savings, too. They may not have access to larger supermarkets that offer a wider variety of cheaper items. Or they may not have the car you'd need to transport home 30 rolls of toilet paper, or the closet space you'd need to store them.

The world, in fact, is full of opportunities to save money — if you just have enough money to access them. If you can afford a Costco membership, you can buy pounds and pounds of incredibly cheap canned soup. If you can afford Amazon Prime (and have a stable mailing address and credit card), you can really rack up savings on costly items like diapers. And buying diapers in bulk can mean spending hundreds of dollars at a time (or borrowing hundreds of dollars from your future self).
These results, she says, should make us reconsider how poverty can prevent people from making smart financial decisions. If we simply drop a new supermarket into a food desert, for instance, that doesn't guarantee that poor people who live right next to it will be able to take advantage of all its savings. One possible solution is that retailers could consider pushing their deals to the beginning of the month. But they'd only be incentivized to do that — to help their customers pay less per unit — if they have to compete for these shoppers.
- And James Wood reports on the Alberta NDP's move to cut down on one of the costs of poverty by cracking down on predatory payday lenders. 

- Glen Hodgson comments on the urgent need for Alberta to develop a reliable tax base rather than relying on royalty revenues to pay its bills. 

- Laurie Monsebraaten writes about the UN's report showing a persistent housing crisis in Canada. And Jeremy Nuttall points out the need for a rights-based approach to basic human needs.

- Pete Evans reports on Oxfam's finding that the gender wage gap in Canada is actually growing. And PressProgress points out a few of the policy options available to push toward pay equity.

- Finally, Tonda MacCharles reports on a Senate hearing indicating that CSIS is stealthily making use of its new powers under C-51 with no public accountability. Thomas Walkom notes that CSIS' explanation as to what's being done under those powers only highlights how unnecessary C-51 actually is. And Leadnow responds by rightly demanding that any new powers be suspended pending review - rather than allowing a secretive security state to keep trampling rights until a poorly-defined consultation process plays out.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Accompanied cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- CBC exposes the galling amnesty deal offered by the Canada Revenue Agency to wealthy individuals who evaded paying tax through a sham offshoring scheme.

- Caelainn Barr and Shiv Malik examine the generational divide which is seeing the income of young adults wither away across most of the developed world. And PressProgress highlights how a higher minimum wage would benefit a large group of workers - including, but not limited to, those younger workers.

- Emma Graney reports on the Saskatchewan Party's cuts to language schools at a time when there's a particularly large need to support newly-arrived residents to Saskatchewan.

- Meanwhile, Chantal Hebert notes that Brad Wall's climate change obstruction is making him look like a dinosaur even compared to other right-wing leaders. And in contrast, Gillian Steward discusses what Rachel Notley was able to accomplish by approaching the federal-provincial climate change meeting with a willingness to listen to other provinces, rather than Wall's strategy of bluster and complaints.

- Finally, the Star makes the case for a national child care program (while recognizing the Trudeau Libs' total lack of interest since they took power):
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has ranked Canada dead last out of 25 states for the quality and accessibility of its child care.

No single move by governments would make such a big difference in the lives of women and families as a comprehensive national plan to provide quality, affordable child care. On the day set aside to mark women’s achievements, and the barriers that keep them from making even more progress, it’s worth remembering that.
It’s not just parents who are losing out. A TD Bank study found that for every $1 invested in child care, provincial governments receive $1.50 in increased tax revenues.

And then there’s the cost to the children themselves. Early childhood education reduces inequalities that result from poverty. And it decreases the number of children in special education classes by identifying problems and intervening early. Indeed, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada concluded that the lack of affordable child care was putting the health and well-being of children at risk.

Women and families have been waiting for decades for real progress towards comprehensive national child care. The Trudeau government has pushed forward on many fronts since it took power in early November, but child care isn’t one of them.

On International Women’s Day, especially, the politicians should remember that this remains one of the country’s biggest unmet social needs and resolve to make it a real priority.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Don Pittis rightly notes that there can be a significant difference between an economy trumpeted as growing due to share prices and profits, and one which actually provides benefits to workers - and that the U.S. looks to be making some rare progress on the latter point.

- Sarah Bakewell reports on a new study showing that the headhunters whose work consists of finding and placing corporate executives agree with the view that CEOs are both eminently replaceable and significantly overpaid. But Hamilton Nolan observes that the U.S.' corporate class is trying to increase its own share of the pie by trying to force workers to put in unpaid time. And Bernie Sanders's campaign highlights an extreme example of employer abuses - and the successful public policy response:

- Clare Leschin-Hoar writes about the massive social benefits which could be achieved by making healthy food more affordable.

- Finally, Geoff Leo follows up on the Sask Party's questionable Greater Transportation Hub land deal by reporting that the appraiser responsible for developing the province's valuation considered the sale price to be well out of the ordinary.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Bill McKibben offers his take on the news that the entire northern hemisphere has reached two degrees Celsius above its normal temperature level, including the increased urgency it creates in reining in climate change. And Bruce Johnstone writes about Brad Wall's losing battle to keep promoting the unfettered and unpriced pollution of our atmosphere.

- Matthew Desmond comments on the connection between unaffordable housing and the other stressors resulting from poverty and inequality:
Poor families are stuck. Because they are already at the bottom of the market, they can’t get cheaper housing unless they uproot their lives, quit their jobs and leave the city. Those with eviction records are pushed into substandard private housing in high-crime neighborhoods because many landlords and public housing authorities turn them away. When poor families finally find a new place to rent, they often start off owing their landlord because they simply can’t pay the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.

When tenants are behind, protections designed to keep housing safe and decent dissolve. Tenants in arrears tempt eviction if they report housing problems. It’s not that low-income renters don’t know their rights. They know that exercising those rights could cost them. So many go on paying most of what they have to live with lead paint, exposed wires and broken plumbing. Saving and stability become wishes, and some days children go hungry because the rent eats first.
A universal housing voucher program would fundamentally change the face of poverty in the United States. Evictions would plummet, and so would the other social problems they cause, like family and community instability, homelessness, job loss and depression. Suicides attributed to evictions and foreclosures doubled between 2005 and 2010. A universal housing voucher program would help reverse this disturbing trend.
A national affordable housing program would be an anti-poverty effort, human capital investment, community improvement plan and public health initiative all rolled into one. It would especially benefit mothers and children, the face of today’s eviction epidemic.
- But William Greider notes that instead, the U.S. seems set to give away hundreds of billions in revenue through a corporate tax amnesty - even though exactly the same scheme produced none of the promised economic development when tried in 2004.

- Chico Harlan examines Louisiana's example of how right-wing politics in their purest form - including top-heavy tax cuts, corporate giveaways, resource dependency and selloffs and patches intended to avoid any political consequences in the short term - can affect people once somebody recognizes the need to start paying the bills.

- Finally, David Watkins points out how private security firms are pitching their lack of responsibility to comply with constitutional rights as a feature.