Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- David Giles reports on the increasing cost of living in Saskatchewan. And Barbara Ehrenreich writes about the future of the U.S.' working class - including the reality that its major recent success has involved improving minimum wage levels:
Now when politicians invoke “the working class,” they are likely to gesture, anachronistically, to an abandoned factory. They might more accurately use a hospital or a fast-food restaurant as a prop. The new working class contains many of the traditional blue-collar occupations — truck driver, electrician, plumber — but by and large its members are more likely to wield mops than hammers, and bedpans rather than trowels. Demographically, too, the working class has evolved from the heavily white male grouping that used to assemble at my house in the 1980s; black and Hispanic people have long been a big, if unacknowledged, part of the working class, and now it’s more female and contains many more immigrants as well. If the stereotype of the old working class was a man in a hard hat, the new one is better represented as a woman chanting, “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated!)

The old jobs aren’t coming back, but there is another way to address the crisis brought about by deindustrialization: Pay all workers better. The big labor innovation of the 21st century has been campaigns seeking to raise local or state minimum wages. Activists have succeeded in passing living-wage laws in more than a hundred counties and municipalities since 1994 by appealing to a simple sense of justice: Why should someone work full time, year-round, and not make enough to pay for rent and other basics? Surveys found large majorities favoring an increase in the minimum wage; college students, church members and unions rallied to local campaigns. Unions started taking on formerly neglected constituencies like janitors, home health aides and day laborers. And where the unions have faltered, entirely new kinds of organizations sprang up...
- Meanwhile, Christopher Pollon, Christopher Cheung and Chris Wood point out the tax policy roots of the growing wealth gap between people who can afford to own homes, and people who are stuck in the rental market.

- Craig Wong reports that the Canada Revenue Agency expects to identify $400 million in taxes owed this year - and more in future years - by cracking down on tax havens. But the Department of Finance's study on tax expenditures highlights the fact that there's an awful lot more potential revenue being left on the table (and often for questionable returns).

- Finally, Scott McAnsh and Amir Attaran discuss how investor-state dispute settlement provisions such as those in the CETA can be disastrous for the environment:
Bilcon’s win (so far) in the NAFTA tribunal sends a chill over environmental policy in Canada. The Joint Review Panel put weight on socio-economic factors as part of the environmental assessment, but got into trouble for it. This is highly likely to make future panels shy away from socio-economic considerations in their assessments. It may also make the federal government cautious about including a consideration of socio-economic impacts in any new environmental assessment legislation — a review of which is currently ongoing.

If every negative environmental assessment risks hundreds of millions of dollars under an ISDS system run amok, how many environmental assessments will governments allow to be negative, and what does that mean for the future of environmental protection?

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