Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Eric Reguly highlights the growing possibility of a global revolt against corporate-centred trade agreements:
(A) funny thing happened on the way to the free trade free-for-all: A lot of people were becoming less rich and more angry, to the point that globalization seems set to go into reverse.

Maybe it should. The shocks unleashed by globalization have yet to be absorbed. The senseless deregulation of financial services and the globalization that went with it set the stage for the 2008 financial crisis, whose damage remains. Real average wages for low and middle-income earners have stagnated for decades in North America and Europe. Jobs continue to shift to countries, notably China, where costs are lower and industries are moving up the value chain. Disinflation is turning into outright deflation – falling prices – in some regions.
Western governments did virtually nothing constructive to manage the worst effects of globalization on their populations, such as the loss of millions of jobs.

No wonder more and more Europeans and North Americans are not buying the free-trade hype any more. The marginal trade gains could be more than offset by greater pressure on working-class jobs or laxer regulations on, say, food quality. Europeans also fear that both TTIP and CETA are essentially undemocratic. They were negotiated almost entirely behind closed doors, and both have dispute resolution mechanisms that would allow companies to sue governments for damages if profits are hit because of changes in government policy or regulations. In effect, the provisions would rob their governments of their sovereignty.
- Ed Finn reminds us of the role citizens need to play in shaping our own future. And Cheryl Santa Maria examines the flip side to misplaced anger about leaving oil in the ground by discussing the climate chaos that would result if (for whatever perverse reason) all available fossil fuels were actually burned.

- Chris Havergal reports on Christopher Martin's advocacy for a post-secondary education based on making further learning available to facilitate social involvement, rather than on the accumulation of massive debt which narrows students' future opportunities.

- Trevor Hancock discusses the policy choices around different retirement ages - and particularly the need to take into account an individual's type of employment and life expectancy, rather than raising an overall retirement age based on unequally increased lifespans.

- Finally, the Star makes the case for a review of Canada's tax code to make sure we're not bleeding needed revenues without some important policy purpose. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Musical interlude

Seven Lions feat. Kerli - Worlds Apart

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Murray Dobbin is hopeful that we may be seeing corporate globalization based on unquestioned neoliberal ideology come to an end:
There is no definitive way to identify when an ideology begins to lose its grip on the public discourse but could this clear resistance (it is even more developed and vociferous in EU countries) be the beginning of the end of corporate globalization? I am not suggesting that developed countries' governments are going to suddenly return to the good old days of the post-war social contract. But what has allowed them to proceed for three decades with political impunity has been the power of ideology to overwhelm evidence and reason. Neoliberalism has enjoyed hegemonic status for so long it has been almost impossible for ordinary citizens to imagine anything different. But now they can -- not just because of political outliers Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but because of Hillary Clinton, who has been a steadfast supporter of neoliberal policies, including free trade, throughout her political career.

Once members of the political elite begin to question the high priests of free trade, the spell is broken, and all sorts of alternative political narratives present themselves. It takes an accumulation of unlikely suspects breaking with the consensus before that happens and we have already seen some high-profile defectors from the TPP -- including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, economist Jeffrey Sachs and in Canada RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie. At first the Teflon seemed to hold, but there is always a time lag when it comes to cultural change and their interventions are still playing out.
- Meanwhile, Jordan Weissmann discusses the IMF's new report finding that neoliberal policies have delivered nothing close to what was promised - though Alexander Kentikelenis, Thomas Stubbs and Lawrence King note that the IMF itself has failed even in enforcing even its own insufficient commitments to social protection.

- Laura Benson points out that there's a direct connection between donations to the B.C. Libs and policies allowing mining corporations to avoid liability for environmental damage (along with other political perks). And Jordan Press reports on the conclusion by federal auditors that corporate contractors have been overpaid by over $100 million over the past three years, mostly in "excessive profits", while Trevor Zimmerman (for Friends of Medicare) highlights how private clinics are siphoning off public money while undermining our universal health care system. 

- Tom Cooper and Trish Hennessy discuss the promising growth of the living wage movement. And David Bush writes about the importance of a fair minimum wage for all workers.

- Finally, Dominique Mosbergen reports on the passage of "right to disconnect" legislation in France allowing for employees to have their off-work time to themselves. And the Canadian Labour Congress has launched a new campaign to allow Canadian workers to retire with a secure and sufficient CPP pension.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

New column day

Here, on how the Wall government is using a partial privatization of liquor stores to open the door to the wholesale destruction of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.

For further reading...
- The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act is here. Bill 1, which carves SLGA entirely out of the existing law, is here (PDF) - while the Wall government's press release contains no explanation whatsoever as to why it goes to such drastic lengths. And as a reminder, here's what happened when Saskatchewan Party candidates were offered the opportunity to explain their party's plans during the provincial election campaign.
- CBC reported on the privatization of the Information Services Corporation, while Simon Enoch highlighted the gap between rhetoric and reality when it came to the Saskatchewan Party's position on the Crowns, and SOS Crowns pointed out the lack of any logic behind the sale.
- And finally, Aditya Chakrabotty discusses the connection between austerity, privatization and the deliberate destruction of common wealth.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andre Picard writes about the widespread poverty faced by indigenous children in Canada - and the obvious need for political action to set things right:
The focus of the [CCPA's] report, rightly, is on the children among the more than 1.4 million people in Canada who identify as indigenous, about 4 per cent of the population. Half of that total are “registered Indians,” 30 per cent are Métis, 15 per cent are non-status Indians and 4 per cent are Inuit. More than half of indigenous people live in urban centres.

These figures are a lot to digest, but they should, nonetheless, be the object of much reflection for our politicians and policy makers.

They are, among other things, an eloquent illustration of the fact that Canadian society is stratified by class, by race and by income, a direct challenge to our comfy belief that we are an egalitarian, socially progressive and colour-blind country.

What we look like and where we came from have an inarguable impact on our opportunities, our income and our health. So does where we live.
- Meanwhile, the Star highlights the desperate need for more affordable housing in Ontario (as in many other places). And Bruce Johnstone notes that the Wall government is going out of its way to hide deliberate choices to raise basic utility costs.

- Angella MacEwen reminds us of the wide range of workers who earn less than a reasonable minimum wage.

- Ivan Semeniuk reports on the dangerous air pollution emanating from the tar sands even beyond their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. And Judith Lavoie takes a look at the price the public has to pay in dealing with abandoned mine sites.

- Finally, Maxwell Cameron comments on the widespread perception that the B.C. Liberal government is thoroughly corrupted. And Desmond Cole writes that the replacement of Rob Ford with John Tory hasn't changed Toronto's basic focus on favouring the wealthy at the expense of everybody else.