Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star's editorial board writes that while we can do more to provide supports to make workers less dependent on a single job, we shouldn't pretend there's nothing we can do to improve working conditions. And Lana Payne reminds Morneau and the Libs that there's nothing inevitable about increasingly precarious work:
Precarious and insecure work is not inevitable. Changing this outcome is also not impossible.

How can government create the conditions for good jobs to grow?

A $15-an-hour minimum wage, including in the federal sector, would help tens of thousands of workers. The federal Liberals could do that tomorrow simply by introducing a piece of legislation.

Let’s start with a committee — an advisory committee on ending precarious work. Its job will be to recommend to the federal government ways and means it can make a difference in the working lives of young people by taking the problem of precarious work head on.

Let’s get some ideas out there. In fact there are already tons of ideas being generated by unions, workers’ action groups, advocacy organizations, labour market economists and others who believe good jobs, stable jobs are critical to lifting people up. Let’s look at the incredible work already done in Ontario around the changing workplace review.

We could also do as Sen. Diane Bellemare is suggesting and have a national conversation on full employment.

Let’s not assume that young people are destined to be the most educated cohort in history, but will be worse off than their parents are because we have given up.
- Andrew Jackson offers his take on the Libs' apparent plans to fund massive amounts of P3 infrastructure through a private bank, and concludes it would do nothing to assist the public interest.

- Gary Mason discusses how British Columbia's lax fund-raising rules (which mirror Saskatchewan's) represent an affront to democracy. Justin Ling reports on the federal Libs' constant pay-for-play fund-raisers, while Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on a much-needed investigation into the practice. And Martin Regg Cohn notes that the Ontario Libs' reaction to a provincial consensus that pay-for-play should be illegal has to go on one last multi-million dollar corporate shakedown spree.

- Finally, Fair Vote Canada highlights how the results of Parliament's electoral reform consultations are strongly in favour of a shift to proportional representation. But Alison finds yet another galling example of the Libs - in this case Maryam Monsef - trying to pretend otherwise by disqualifying PR supporters from any conversation.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musical interlude

Vogue Dots - Way With Silence

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ben Casselman points out how corporate consolidation can produce harmful results for consumers and workers alike. Guy Standing discusses how we're all worse off for the spread of rentier capitalism. And Mariana Mazzucato reminds us that an entrepreneurial government is a must if we want to see general economic development:
An entrepreneurial society needs an entrepreneurial state, one that through visionary and strategic public investments, distributed across the innovation chain, can create animal spirits in private businesses. Entrepreneurs then see growth opportunities, and business investment follows.

Breakthrough technologies, such as the internet and biotech, did not emerge from governments worried about “commercialization”; they emerged from the spillovers of investments that were focused on long-run public missions. Missions of the past, such as getting a man to the moon, translated into multiple homework problems that needed different actors to work together in dynamic partnerships, spurring innovation. Today’s societal challenges, from aging to climate change, can provide a similar focus and animating force. They can stimulate innovation and give direction for new private investment and entrepreneurial activity as profit-making opportunities come into sight. Mission-oriented thinking could also be used to develop technology roadmaps for the 17 sustainable development goals.

Crucially, this will require public leadership, challenging the prevailing ideology which limits the role of public actors to simply de-risking or facilitating the real heroes — the private sector wealth creators, like risk-loving entrepreneurs — while waiting for the market to find solutions. In the few countries that have achieved innovation-led smart growth — like the U.S., Israel, Denmark, and even China today — public actors have not just enabled the private sector. They have actively taken risks as an investor of first resort, not just a lender of last resort.
- Thomas Piketty discusses the spread of inequality in Australia (and around the globe).

- Yael Abouhalkah notes that much like Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party government, Sam Brownback's utter failure of a Republican administration is responding to the consistent flow of bad news by hiding the state of the economy from the public.

- PressProgress examines the evidence that Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau are utterly clueless about the dangers and costs of precarious work. And Nora Loreto responds to Morneau's position that young workers in particular have to settle for constant insecurity.

- Finally, Peyton Veitch writes that free tuition represents an important counterweight to elitism and social immobility. And Ashifa Kassam reports on Ontario's basic income pilot project as another means of giving people a reasonable base for future planning.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New column day

Here, comparing the Conservative Party's leadership race based on fear and division to the NDP's which looks set to bring a progressive coalition together.

For further reading...
- Bob Hepburn also notes that fear and hatred are the main themes emerging from the Cons' candidates so far. And while it's fair enough for Andrew Coyne to point out that there's room for the race to go in other directions, there's little evidence to suggest that will happen.
- Meanwhile, Ryan Maloney outlines the NDP's developing leadership contest in the wake of Peter Julian's announcement that he's stepping down as House leader to explore a campaign, while CBC's Pollcast discusses what's to come. Mohamed Omar points out Charlie Angus' work critiquing the Libs' failure to live up to their promises to First Nations. The NDP highlights Niki Ashton's national campaign to give precarious workers a voice here. Guy Caron's Huffington Post series on tax evasion can be found here. And Martin Regg Cohn discusses the prospective campaign of Jagmeet Singh.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jordan Brennan points out why Nova Scotia (and other jurisdictions) should move past austerity economics:
The McNeil Liberals appear set to rack up budgetary surpluses through a strategy of public sector wage suppression. This is likely to backfire. It is an elementary insight of economic analysis that, just as one person's expenditure is necessarily another person's income, one sector's expenditure (in this case, the government) is necessarily another sector's income (namely, households and businesses).

By limiting public sector wage increases below prevailing inflation rates, the government will shrink household purchasing power and weaken aggregate demand. Furthermore, a strategy of public sector wage restraint may spill over into the private sector insofar as it signals to employers that they can scale back on wage increases without risking retention.

With GDP growth rates in Nova Scotia running at half the Canadian average and with income inequality hovering at a four-decade high it would take an impressive contortion of logic to assert that Nova Scotia's workforce is in need of a pay cut.
In the context of weak economic growth, the IMF has recently stated that budgetary deficits are preferable to surpluses and debt reduction. Austerity measures, the IMF continues, reduce human well-being, weaken aggregate demand and worsen unemployment.

Job creation should be made the top economic priority, not balancing the budget. The government should take advantage of ultra-low interest rates and invest in critical social and physical infrastructure such as health care, childcare, education and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

These measures will not only strengthen aggregate demand, but they will improve the quality of life for Nova Scotians. And from a fiscal standpoint, the increased debt needed to finance these investments can be reduced through organic growth.
- The Equality Trust examines the increasingly precarious financial state of many households in Great Britain. But Angella MacEwen writes that Alberta's increasing minimum wage represents an important step toward income security for workers (along with a stronger economy for everybody).

- In contrast, PressProgress points out that the Liberals have chosen to let the value of their much-ballyhooed child tax benefit erode - particularly for lower-income families.

- Hilary Beaumont reports on the lack of action toward the Libs' campaign promise to ensure that First Nations have safe drinking water. And CTV reports on the NDP's work to get the Libs to comply with their obligation to stop discriminating in funding child services.

- Finally, Jerry Dias writes that Canada is arriving at a moment of truth on electoral reform - and that there's no reason for MPs not to work on giving effect to widespread support for a proportional electoral system.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#yqrvotes - Election Day Resources

While I haven't written much about Regina's municipal election (except for the column linked here), I'll point out a few of the resources worth considering before casting ballots today.

Again, Elections Regina's official information is here.

The Queen City Improvement Bureau's blog offers an opportunity to hear some of the candidates in action, while its latest podcast includes some analysis and predictions. CBC summarizes a few of the stories it's covered, while also pointing out how a lack of party structure leads to apathy at the municipal level. John Klein offers his choices among the candidates.

And while I won't put together a full set of endorsements or predictions, some of the candidates I'll encourage people to give a closer look include:
- Ward 3 - Andrew Stevens
- Ward 4 - Asfaw Debia
- Ward 6 - Shelley LaVallee
- Ward 7 - Leanne McKay
- Ward 9 - Aidan Wotherspoon
- Ward 10 - Brian Sklar
- Subdivision 2 - Aleana Young
- Subdivision 3 - Nathaniel Cole
- Subdivision 4 - Misty Longman
- Separate School Board - Wendy Gervais, Marg Romanow

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Terry Pedwell reports that young workers who were apparently expected to provide Justin Trudeau with a public relations backdrop instead delivered an important dose of reality by protesting his appearance. And Angella MacEwen points out that contrary to the Libs' spin, there's in fact plenty a government can do to combat precarious work and financial insecurity:
I would advise the economic council to take a look at Senator Bellemare’s work on full employment, and Professor Marc Lavoie’s work on wage led growth. It might lead them in a policy direction that will benefit both growth and well-being.

For example, transfers such as the Canada Child Benefit will help to reduce poverty and inequality. Expanding the Working Income Tax Benefit would help make work pay, and make life a little easier for the working poor.

Expanding the social safety net by improving CPP will help down the road, and it absolutely reduces the stress of precarity when workers know they will have that pension when they retire.  The current design of Employment Insurance amplifies and exacerbates labour market inequalities, and ideally a social insurance system would work to dampen existing inequalities. A lower entrance requirement & minimum benefit level would go a long way to doing that.

The federal government could use Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) with the provinces to provide more opportunities for training and re-training – and better supports for non-EI eligible workers who need access to basic numeracy and literacy training through Labour Market Agreements (LMAs).

High quality public services and social services are critical. I cannot overstate the need for more affordable childcare spaces in Canada, and the beneficial impact this would have on precarious workers.
- Thomas Walkom suggests that some of the federal-provincial tension on health care can be alleviated by including home care under the list of core services administered under the Canada Health Act.

- But sadly (if less than surprisingly), the Libs couldn't seem less interested in public solutions to social problems - as Brent Patterson highlights the latest indication that Justin Trudeau has decided to ignore the anti-social nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while David McDonald points out that the Libs' push toward privatization and outsourcing is contrary to the international trend in public service delivery.

- Susan Delacourt notes that amidst plenty of valid concern about the influence of money on politics, we could substantially eliminate that problem by restoring public funding.

- Finally, Monia Mazigh rightly argues that it's long past time to repeal Bill C-51. Craig Forcese examines (and offers some important warnings about) the use of secret national security laws in Canada. And Jeremy Nuttall offers some suggestions to modernize public access to information.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Lounging cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Dani Rodrik discusses the growing public opposition to new corporate-dominated trade deals based on the lessons we've learned from previous ones:
Instead of decrying people’s stupidity and ignorance in rejecting trade deals, we should try to understand why such deals lost legitimacy in the first place. I’d put a large part of the blame on mainstream elites and trade technocrats who pooh-poohed ordinary people’s concerns with earlier trade agreements.

The elites minimized distributional concerns, though they turned out to be significant for the most directly affected communities. They oversold aggregate gains from trade deals, though they have been smallish since at least NAFTA. They said sovereignty would not be diminished though it clearly was in some instances. They claimed democratic principles would not be undermined, though they are in places. They said there’d be no social dumping though there clearly is at times. They advertised trade deals (and continue to do so) as “free trade” agreements, even though Adam Smith and David Ricardo would turn over in their graves if they read, say, any of the TPP chapters.

And because they failed to provide those distinctions and caveats, now trade gets tarred with all kinds of ills even when it’s not deserved. If the demagogues and nativists making nonsensical claims about trade are getting a hearing, it is trade’s cheerleaders that deserve some of the blame.

One more thing. The opposition to trade deals is no longer solely about income losses. The standard remedy of compensation won’t be enough — even if carried out. It’s about fairness, loss of control, and elites’ loss of credibility. It hurts the cause of trade to pretend otherwise.
- Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew point out why progressives have reason to oppose the CETA, while Craig Scott rightly questions the Libs' spin on it And Gareth Hutchins reports on Canada's experience with challenges to democratic legislation under NAFTA as a cautionary tale for other countries.

- Jeremy Gilbert writes about the need for a social movement (going far beyond the partisan political scene) to provide a meaningful alternative to neoliberalism.

- Bob Mackin reports that the Vancouver International Airport Authority's CEO is highlighting the dangers of a selloff of airport assets. And Bill Curry notes that cities are raising important questions about the Libs' musings about diverting direct infrastructure funding toward an "infrastructure bank".

- Finally, James Wilt examines the utter incoherence of Brad Wall's excuse for a climate change plan.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thomas Walkom writes that the federal Libs' idea of "real change" for the economy reflects nothing more than the same old stale neoliberal playbook:
At its core, the federal government’s “bold” new plan for economic growth is strikingly familiar.

The scheme, worked out by Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s hand-picked advisory panel, relies on privatization, deregulation, public-private partnerships and user fees.

It would reserve profitable public infrastructure for the private sector but have governments alone foot the bill for those schemes — such as environmental remediation and First Nations projects — that are destined to lose money.

It would have the government set up a new agency to convince foreign investors that Canada is open for business.
The panel, if I understand it correctly, thinks it insufficient to simply have the government borrow money at rock-bottom interest rates in order to build the things that need to be built.

Rather, it wants private capital to build and own, in whole or in part, these new infrastructure projects.

To make ownership worthwhile to private investors, the government would “attach revenue streams” to both new projects and to some already in existence.

Simply put, this means figuring out way to let private participants reap profits from, say, a bridge or subway line.

This is an old strategy. It is the one that underlies, for example, Ontario’s Highway 407, a toll road built with money raised by the provincial government and owned by private-sector operators.

It is also the strategy behind the current Ontario Liberal government’s baffling plan to sell off most of Hydro One, the provincial electricity transmission monopoly.
The problem with privatization is that it usually ends up costing consumers more. Various auditors general around the world, including Ontario’s, have made that point when examining public-private partnerships.
- Michael Harris warns Justin Trudeau about the dangers of breaking his most important promises (in terms of public cynicism as well as partisan outcomes), while Tom Parkin notes that we shouldn't be surprised to see the Libs once again taking progressive support for granted. The Star's editorial board argues that it's particularly important to keep commitments to accountable government, while Dene Moore reports that indigenous leaders are rightly calling out Trudeau's year of failures. And Karl Nerenberg calls Trudeau out for personally undermining his own promise of electoral reform.

- But if there's anything worse than breaking one-time promises, it's a government's inclination to approach all problems from an anti-social perspective - and Lib Finance Minister Bill Morneau's declaration that workers should settle for precarious lives looks particularly telling on that front. Meanwhile, Peter Armstrong reports on the fading prospects for retirement among younger generations of workers.

- Steven Pressman argues that income inequality should be the core test for the U.S.' next president, while Kate Pickett reminds us why it remains a vital issue everywhere.

- Finally, Sam Pizzigati proposes a minimum base tax rate on the wealthy to help rein in inequality at both ends of the income spectrum.