Saturday, April 01, 2017

Your money, his pockets

So much for the theory that Brad Wall's handouts to the oil sector would merely help his donors. Instead, the Saskatchewan Party's plan to pay off oil barons would also serve to enrich Wall himself by paying the salaries of employees working for companies in which he owns shares.

But hey, surely this time the free money will lead to lasting jobs.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Nick Falvo, Janice Chan and Chidom Otogwu point out that housing is just one of the areas where federal action is needed to reduce poverty and its social harms in Canada. And Falvo also reviews Greg Suttor's "Still Renovating" as a worthwhile look at housing in Canada.

- Marc Lee highlights the need for governments to lead the way in replenishing insufficient stocks of affordable housing, while Daphne Bramham discusses the problems with the B.C. Libs' preference to instead sell off what little there is. And Seth Klein and Pamela ReaƱo lament a decade of stagnation in British Columbia's already-meager social assistance benefits. 

- Meanwhile, Dermond Travis writes about the role foreign corporate funding has played in shaping B.C. politics.  Bruce Livesey calls out the Irving corporate empire as one of Canada's most galling corporate welfare bums. And Murray Mandryk is gobsmacked at Brad Wall's continued willingness to hand money to corporations while insisting the province can't spare a dime for anything else.

- Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan discuss how the Trump administration is selling off personal privacy. And it's particularly worth contrasting the inclination toward handing over information to the private sector against the option of improving data collection to support public services.

- Finally, Vera Dyck writes that a first-past-the-post electoral system only encourages the politics of hate.

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest on the NDP's leadership campaign.

- Karl Nerenberg sees the youth debate in Montreal as having shown more differences in style than substance, while Christo Aivalis identifies some more clear distinctions. And James Munson examines the candidates' positions on economic development, innovation and the social safety net.

- The Tyee interviews Charlie Angus about the long road he's taking toward the leadership. And Cory Collins interviews Peter Julian about his plans for the leadership campaign and beyond.

- Speaking of which, Julian announced his plans for a Just Transition to clean energy (going a long way toward clarifying the previous brouhaha over pipelines), while also earning Erin Weir's endorsement.

- Meanwhile, the PBO has caught the Libs fudging the numbers on Guy Caron's private member's bill on small businesses.

- Finally, L. Ian MacDonald contrasts the Cons' comically childish excuse for a leadership race against the NDP's adult conversation.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Musical interlude

Emma Hewitt - Still Remember You (Stay Forever)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rutger Bregman writes that the most extreme wealth in our economy is based on rents rather than productivity:
In reality, it is the waste collectors, the nurses, and the cleaners whose shoulders are supporting the apex of the pyramid. They are the true mechanism of social solidarity. Meanwhile, a growing share of those we hail as “successful” and “innovative” are earning their wealth at the expense of others. The people getting the biggest handouts are not down around the bottom, but at the very top. Yet their perilous dependence on others goes unseen. Almost no one talks about it. Even for politicians on the left, it’s a non-issue.

To understand why, we need to recognise that there are two ways of making money. The first is what most of us do: work. That means tapping into our knowledge and know-how (our “human capital” in economic terms) to create something new, whether that’s a takeout app, a wedding cake, a stylish updo, or a perfectly poured pint. To work is to create. Ergo, to work is to create new wealth.

But there is also a second way to make money. That’s the rentier way: by leveraging control over something that already exists, such as land, knowledge, or money, to increase your wealth. You produce nothing, yet profit nonetheless. By definition, the rentier makes his living at others’ expense, using his power to claim economic benefit.
What innovation remains in a rentier economy is mostly just concerned with further bolstering that very same economy. This may explain why the big dreams of the 1970s, like flying cars, curing cancer, and colonising Mars, have yet to be realised, while bankers and ad-makers have at their fingertips technologies a thousand times more powerful.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Tollgates can be torn down, financial products can be banned, tax havens dismantled, lobbies tamed, and patents rejected. Higher taxes on the ultra-rich can make rentierism less attractive, precisely because society’s biggest freeloaders are at the very top of the pyramid. And we can more fairly distribute our earnings on land, oil, and innovation through a system of, say, employee shares, or a universal basic income.

But such a revolution will require a wholly different narrative about the origins of our wealth. It will require ditching the old-fashioned faith in “solidarity” with a miserable underclass that deserves to be borne aloft on the market-level salaried shoulders of society’s strongest. All we need to do is to give real hard-working people what they deserve.
- Nora Loreto reminds us of the potential for public-sector competition such as a postal bank to rein in the abuses of the private sector. And Joe Allen discusses the potential for the logistics sector to be a new organizing opportunity for workers.  

- Ilona Dougherty is rightly concerned with the prospect that an entire generation of workers is being told that it can't expect anything more than precarious work, while Murray Dobbin comments on the increasing stress and despair within the working class. Alexandra Sienkiewicz reports on the abuse of "part-time" classifications to suppress wages and benefits. And Frank Graves and Graham Lowe discuss what we'd see in workplaces which were actually intended to be smarter - rather than merely being more exploitative.

- Meanwhile, Jonathan Malesic argues that the U.S. shouldn't tie personal dignity solely to paid employment.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes about the slow-motion train wreck that is the Cons' leadership campaign.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

New column day

Here, on how Brad Wall's costly and counterproductive decision to trash the Saskatchewan Transportation Company mirrors his government's worst traits.

For further reading...
- Jason Warick reported here on the plan to shut down STC - as well as the absurd day-long shutdown of the service for nothing more than communications purposes. And the government's excuses are found here (PDF).
- Adam Hunter followed up by examining some of the effects of taking away STC service.
- Warick also reported on the first wave of protests against library cuts, while CBC took note of protests to save STC as well.
- Meanwhile, the CP highlights Don Morgan's bizarre claim that Saskatchewan has too many libraries.
- And finally, Doug Caldwell offers his take on the Saskatchewan Party's burn-the-furniture budget.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Julia Smith argues that one of the primary responses to the recent reports about banks exploiting consumers (and pressuring staff to carry out their plans) should be a drive to organize workers:
Banking is often viewed as an industry offering secure white-collar jobs with good wages. In reality, many non-management bank employees, including tellers and call centre workers, face the same issues as other non-unionized private sector service workers: precarious employment, low wages and stressful work environments.

In 2007, for example, workers filed class-action lawsuits against CIBC and Scotiabank over issues related to unpaid overtime. In 2013, RBC outsourced information technology jobs in Toronto to a multinational outsourcing firm from India, which meant that many Canadian workers lost their jobs. Over the past two years alone, banks have laid off thousands of employees, all while earning record profits. It's certainly no wonder why, as the CBC investigation into upselling revealed, many workers feared they would lose their jobs if they didn't follow management orders to upsell customers, even if they thought it was wrong.
Banks engaging in unethical and possibly illegal behaviour is neither new nor surprising; banks are primarily responsible to their shareholders and their main goal is to maximize profits. But the call for greater industry regulation, which usually comes from the public following these sorts of scandals, won't deliver the long-term, fundamental culture overhauls needed to fix the problem. Better protections for workers will.

As former president of the AFL-CIO Thomas R. Donahue once stated, "The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labour." Given that the public relies on bank workers to blow the whistle on unethical and illegal practices in the banking industry, a unionized and empowered banking workforce might be one of the best defences against unscrupulous bank tactics.
- Meanwhile, Erica Alini reports on the billions of dollars Canada loses each year to corporate profit shifting.

- Andrew MacLeod discusses the exorbitant price paid by British Columbia's Lib government for privatized health administration. And Bill Curry and Greg Keenan reveal the federal government's plan to pay four times the interest rate to private infrastructure investors that it would pay to borrow the same money directly.

- Finally, Trevor Hancock reminds us that the choice to do nothing about poverty is itself a policy decision. And Andy McNicoll points out the UK's trend toward social workers being charged primarily with restricting access to insufficient resources, rather than ensuring that citizens' needs are met. (And of course, that's exactly the model the Sask Party wants to encourage.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Your money, his friends

So much for any talk of economic diversification, shared sacrifice or responsible budgeting - the Saskatchewan Party is on another corporate giveaway binge, and no amount of public money is off the table if it'll buy a photo op with a CEO.

Shorter Brad Wall today:
Meanwhile, Trevor Tombe notes that Saskatchewan already hands more free money to corporations than any other province in Canada:
Which, for a government interested in rational policy-making, might serve as a hint that giveaways to businesses aren't a means to avoid the type of pain now being applied to everybody but Wall's would-be targets.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries point out that with interest rates still at historically low levels, Canada would be far better off funding infrastructure for itself rather than locking itself into privatized structures:
But that is not true at all at the federal level.  The federal government funds its infrastructure projects by issuing 30 or 50-year bonds, which it currently can do at historically low interest rates.  The costs are amortized over the service life of the project.  The impact on the budgetary balance is spread over the lifetime of the investment, perhaps as long as fifty years.  If it loans these funds, without concessions and covers its borrowing costs, there is no direct impact on the budgetary balance.

In other words, the government currently has access to unlimited and cheaper funding for public sector infrastructure investments than the private sector.
(W)hy does the Finance Minister want to create an independent CIB that will focus only on “National Economic Development projects such as toll highways and bridges, high-speed rail, port and airport expansions, smart city infrastructure, national broadband infrastructure, power transmission and natural resource infrastructure?  Projects considered by the Bank should generally have an all-in cost in excess of $100 million to meet the minimum to attract institutional investment”.

In other words, the Council wants an independent CIB that will concern itself with only about 2 per cent of the “national” infrastructure gap.  The remaining 98 per cent that is provincial and local is too small to attract large investors.

Perhaps the Finance Minister should concern himself more with the 98 per cent of infrastructure needs and less with the 2 percent.  It is at the provincial and local level where there are in fact revenue and borrowing constraints that could inhibit infrastructure investments.
- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson questions why the Libs are also pushing "development finance" aimed toward allowing the corporate sector to exploit the developing world, rather than toward improving conditions for people. And Chris Hedges discusses the Trump kleptocracy.

- Alex Ballingall reports on a new Environmental Canada projection showing that Canada is expected miss even the watered-down greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the Harper Conservatives.

- Emma Gilchrist notes that subsidies for the fossil fuel sector - such as the B.C. Libs' power giveaways - lead to disastrous economic consequences as well as environmental destruction. And Judith Lavoie points out how Imperial Metals' corporate political donations fed into Christy Clark's choice to saddle the public with a $40 million cleanup bill.

- Finally, Paul Taylor examines how unnecessary medical testing can do more harm than good - both in terms of the use of medical resources, and in terms of the health of the individual patient. And Andre Picard points out the example of tuberculosis in the North in showing how vital it is to have care available when and where it's actually needed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Captured cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Charles Smith and Andrew Stevens examine how Brad Wall's slash-and-burn budget is intended to exploit a crisis for political ends - while also highlighting the type of response needed to reverse the damage:
In our view, Budget 2017 should be viewed in two ways. First, it is clearly a reactionary document drafted by an openly conservative government responding to the dramatic fall in natural resource prices that began in 2014. Second, and perhaps equally important, the budget is also a calculated political decision to exploit the fiscal crisis to further transform the provincial state to facilitate long-term private capital accumulation in the natural resource sector, keeping those sectors free from a burdensome tax regime or regulatory pressure. In other words, the government is using the fiscal crisis to push through the so-called “Saskatchewan Advantage,” which it defines as the province having “the lowest corporate tax rate and the lowest tax rate on manufacturing and processing in the country.”

To date, opposition to the Saskatchewan Party has been largely waged by organized labour in response to wage reductions, job losses, and changes imposed upon the province's labour relations system. Notwithstanding a large labour organized demonstration outside the legislative assembly on 8 March, throughout the Saskatchewan Party's tenure, many of these struggles have been largely legal in nature and have not mustered serious community mobilization and rank-and-file activism. But now, with austerity and tax measures that will undoubtedly impact small towns and rural areas, the terrain of struggle might be shifting. With the amalgamation of health regions on the horizon, the winding down of the STC, cuts to education and libraries, and potential threats to municipal service levels, the space for broader opposition to austerity has widened.

Recent initiatives like SaskForward, which formed in 2017 as a means of constructing an alternative vision of “transformational change,” have brought together a coalition of civil society groups to work on charting a different political path for Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour has launched the Own It! campaign, designed to reach out across the labour movement to build a larger fight-back strategy and Unifor, CUPE, SEIU-West and SGEU have been vocal critics of the Saskatchewan Party's austerity agenda. Equally promising is that the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement that has been growing across North America has surfaced in the province. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) has remained virtually silent as their members face layoffs and significant funding cuts. Adding teachers to the chorus of anti-austerity efforts could create conditions for mass demonstrations against the government not unlike Ontario's Days of Action. If the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) were to add their significant influence to the struggle by joining forces with healthcare unions already engaged in the fight, we are convinced that the movement would be a formidable obstacle to the government's austerity agenda.

What is required now is the capacity to bridge public sector austerity and labour struggles with the conditions of employment and poverty facing low-wage workers and sectors in Saskatchewan. There is also a need for engagement with the growing number of refugees, migrant workers, and immigrants that call the province home. Anti-colonial, anti-racism, and feminist struggles combined with environmental justice also need to become a mainstay of community mobilization. This must be done with a focus on enacting change at the local and provincial levels of government. Most importantly, it's critical that this energy is channeled into community-based movements, and not partisan political action alone. Recognizing that the NDP's time in government during the 1990s and 2000s was defined by its own brand of austerity should not be forgotten. Now is the time to create a broader, inclusive, and democratic alternative to the austerity driven “Saskatchewan Advantage.”
- Larry Elliott writes that the growth of toxic populism can be seen as a natural response to "unpopulist" policies which have further enriched the wealthy at the expense of the public. And on that front, Alex Cobham and Petr Jansky tally up (PDF) the hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate taxes lost each year to a combination of lowered corporate tax rates and offshore tax avoidance.

- Sid Ryan argues that this year's federal budget represents the return of the traditional, cynical Liberal Party - though I'm not sure when they're supposed to have gone away.

- Greg Suttor points to Canada's history of social housing development as showing the importance of the federal initiative that's sorely lacking under Justin Trudeau. And Kent Driscoll reports on the dire state of housing in Nunavut due to a lack of public investment.

- Finally, Jon Stone points out a multipartisan UK report favouring the introduction of separate parental leave for each parent in a family.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Jordon Cooper writes that the Saskatchewan Party's slash-and-burn budget confirms that for them, the poor don't matter. CBC reports on the devastating effect the budget will have on municipalities, while Courtney Markewitch reports that Saskatoon's city council is fighting back. And Joel Senick notes that the planned shutdown of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company is another area where the Wall government may be on shaky legal ground.

- Tom Parkin examines how the Trudeau Libs are substituting meaningless buzzwords for coherent policy and campaign promises. Rob Gillezeau and Jeffrey Ansloos highlight Trudeau's empty words when it comes to First Nations issues in particular. And Campbell Clark warns about the risks of the Libs' plans to undermine the role of Parliament.

- John O'Kane reports on Douglas Hoyes' research showing how bankruptcies are increasingly the result of income inequality.

- Kathleen Lahey studies (PDF) the gender impacts of tax policy, finding in particular that both cuts to progressive taxes (including income and corporate taxes) and joint tax laws serve only to advantage wealthier men.

- And finally, Scott Price summarizes the attacks on labour coming soon from Brian Pallister's Manitoba PCs.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Pat Stogran

The latest putative entrant in the leadership race is Pat Stogran - well-known for challenging the Harper Cons' callous treatment of veterans in his role as veterans' ombudsman.

So how does Stogran fit into a field of current MPs and longtime activists, particularly when his own goal is largely to raise issues?


The primary advantage Stogran brings to the race is the combination of broader name recognition and perceived media credibility. It's not clear exactly how familiar he'll be to the public, but between a prominently-featured book and a number of media appearances he seems at least to be enjoying slightly more attention than his competitors.

In addition, Stogran has staked out some policy turf for himself with a focus on veterans' issues, open government and managerial experience.


That said, Stogran faces a steep hill to climb in pursuing the NDP's leadership. All of his opponents have multiple terms of experience as MPs and a long history of political organization. In contrast, Stogran's introduction has included mention of his own unfamiliarity with the political process in general as well as the NDP in particular.

What's more, Stogran's inexperience has manifested itself in some dubious messaging, including reinforcing other parties' talking points about the NDP's economic credibility. It's difficult enough to win over the membership of a party as an outsider; it figures to be even tougher when part of the pitch is one which party members are likely to see as a tired and hostile line of criticism.

Key Indicator

While Stogran will surely need to win over some existing NDP members, it's hard to see how he has much of a path to victory among party loyalists. With that in mind, the key figure for him will be the number of new party members he can sign up (presumably with a heavy focus on veterans as a constituency): if he's going to mount a serious challenge, he needs to bring people into the NDP tent who wouldn't make the effort to join otherwise.

Key Opponent

In order to generate any traction as an outside voice on the economy and governance, Stogran will at least need to show more command of the subjects than his competitors. And that sets up a noteworthy contrast with Guy Caron.

If Stogran can meaningfully challenge Caron's themes to the same effect, his critique may resonate somewhat - shaking loose some down-ballot voters while weakening the strongest competitor for governance-based ballots. But if he can't, any continued criticism of the NDP's ability to govern will serve only to alienate members while providing a boost to Caron in defending the party's qualifications.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A strong influx of new members which pushes him onto multiple ballots and allows for growth in an anything-can-happen scenario
Worst-case: A last-place leadership campaign finish based on a lack of membership support, coupled with a failure to establish a place within the NDP generally

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Niki Ashton

For Ashton alone among the NDP's leadership candidates, we've been through this exercise before. But for a candidate who stood out for her youth in 2012, it's remarkable how little has changed this time around.


Once again, youth and expanded appeal are obvious priorities for all of the NDP's leadership candidate. And for the second time, Ashton is the candidate who personally reflects those opportunities - particularly in light of her successful outreach tour talking to young workers about their experiences with precarious work and life.

Having run a leadership campaign before, Ashton also has more experience than her competitors in the task at hand. And her comfort level in both languages has shown in the debates so far, where she's done especially well managing the flow of discussion periods and two-candidate debates.


But it's not clear how far that experience will take her. While Ashton's 2012 results haven't received much attention, they have to be seen as a disappointment, as Ashton finished last on the first ballot. And she may have work do just to get back to where she left off five years ago: while she was a natural first choice for rural and First Nations voters once Romeo Saganash left the 2012 race, she now faces Charlie Angus as a magnet for that support.

Meanwhile, there's also reason for concern that Ashton has learned some of the wrong lessons from her time on the stage. She's proven more prone than the other candidates to offering surface-level answers to questions which call for more, or to answering a question other than the one asked. And while her core message of countering the spread of neoliberalism has its appeal, she has some distance to go in showing how to give effect to it.

Key Indicator

It remains to be seen how many pollsters will be asking questions along the lines of "best prime minister" or perceptions competence as compared to their usual first-choice support and favourability numbers. But I'd consider those to be the most important factors for Ashton's prospects of winning.

If she can compare credibly to her fellow MPs in those numbers while also inspiring a strong youth contingent, then she'll have a serious chance to emerge on top. If not, then she's likely headed for another disappointing result.

Key Opponent

Again, a substantial number of Ashton's core constituencies are also primary areas of strength for Angus. If Ashton can win enough over to stay ahead of him while outlasting him on the ballot, they may offer her a path to victory; if not, then there are limited paths for her to be competitive.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Narrow win based on mobilizing young workers to emerge as one of the final choices, then convincing members to shift votes her way
Worst-case: 2012 redux

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Guy Caron

So far, media coverage of Guy Caron's NDP leadership campaign has focused largely on one note (that being his basic income proposal). But there's plenty more to his candidacy - and he may well emerge as the party's favourite when it comes time to vote.


Both Caron's core campaign promise and his signature issues in Parliament (including fighting tax evasion and facilitating family transfers of small businesses) connect to his theme of economic competence. And the primary message he's conveying to NDP voters is indeed that he can both help reframe the debate on economic issues, and provide an answer to anybody questioning the NDP's strength in that area.

But in case anybody feared that Caron would be limited to talking numbers, he's had plenty of answers so far - offering both personal stories, and strong responses in every policy area covered. And in particular, Caron has offered both the most pointed critiques and best one-liners in responding to the Trudeau Libs.


The most significant issue for the moment looks to be a mismatch between Caron's current communication skills and the NDP's pool of voters. Caron's substantive comments are no less strong in English than in French. But for the moment, his accent is just thick enough to require some effort to work through - giving him a greater degree of difficulty in reaching most of the voters he needs to win over.

It also remains to be seen how much political infrastructure Caron can assemble behind him compared to the longer-tenured MPs in the race - though I wouldn't expect that to be a huge issue as the campaign develops.

Key Indicator

Based on the above, I'll be watching for Caron's favourability outside Quebec. If he's within range of his fellow candidates, that should serve as an indication that he's made it over any language barrier and thus has room to grow.

Key Opponent

Caron's best-case scenario involves being able to appeal on later ballots to voters who have both an  inclination toward policy, and a strong interest in a leader with Quebec ties. Since Peter Julian's base fits both bills, he looms as the candidate Caron most needs to surpass.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: Enough early support to reach the final ballot, where Caron would have a strong chance of emerging as a compromise candidate
Worst-case: A fourth-place finish, as higher membership numbers from the West and Ontario outweigh Caron's home-province support

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Charlie Angus

If Peter Julian's leadership campaign has been surprising in its relatively push toward controversy, Charlie Angus may be defying expectations in the opposite direction - as the punk rocker has been the most serene figure in the race so far.


Rather than spending much of the first two debates on a soapbox, Angus has thus far positioned himself as the comparatively happy warrior of the leadership campaign. His interjections so far have been measured, upbeat and personally compelling compared to those of his competitors - and members looking for an attitude and tone reminiscent of Jack Layton's leadership may find it in Angus.

Meanwhile, even while choosing not to deal much with policy specifics for the moment, Angus has proven comfortable dealing with whatever issues come up - at least as long as he's able to respond in English.


One of the key questions for Angus at the start of the leadership campaign was his strength in speaking French. So far, he's been functional in reading prepared statements while struggling with quick responses - and it will be worth watching whether Angus can improve his communications over the course of the campaign.

The more lasting issue may be the flip side of Angus' choice to punt on policy for the moment. If his personal appeal falls short, there currently isn't much else for his campaign to fall back on in seeking to win over potential supporters. And each of Angus' main areas of advocacy (First Nations, ethics and poverty) is being targeted by at least one other candidate, leaving a risk that Angus might not be seen as the voice for a single key policy theme.

Key Indicator

Angus' personal appeal looks to be the crucial factor in the end. But in a campaign of violent agreement where few candidates will be under the microscope (and there may not be much distinction in approval/disapproval to monitor), I'll be watching early on for examples of institutional support which might provide him the resources to take advantage of positive perceptions later.

In particular, if Angus can assemble some support from within organized labour and/or Jack Layton's previous NDP team, that will take him a long way toward pushing for a Layton-style result - and he may be the one candidate with a chance to win a first-ballot majority.

Key Opponent

In order to get there, however, Angus would almost certainly need a strong majority outside of Quebec. And that's where the strength of Peter Julian's campaign may be critical: Julian is likely both the candidate in the best position to hold Angus short of an early-ballot victory, and the one who most stands to benefit if early-ballot Quebec support for other candidates ends up being divided up later on. 

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-ballot victory based on personal appeal
Worst-case: Moderate first-ballot finish and little subsequent growth for want of a clear campaign theme

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Peter Julian

I'll start my series of NDP leadership candidate profiles with the first to enter the leadership race - and the one who's likely done the most to shape the campaign so far.

I've noted before my surprise at the choices made so far by Peter Julian's campaign: a candidate who could have portrayed himself as the safest of consensus choices has instead generated a great deal of polarization. But Julian nonetheless looks to be an extremely strong contender.


Again, the primary advantage held by Julian is his experience as an NDP activist and organizer, and it's showing so far in the campaign. He's been ahead of the field from day one in putting his infrastructure in place and winning caucus endorsements, and his diverse experience in Parliament and elsewhere makes him comfortable talking about nearly any issue.

Beyond that, there are advantages to being seen taking the strongest position in the campaign on the hot-button issue of pipelines. In addition to giving Julian a ready applause line, that choice also makes him a natural beneficiary of an already-energized group of activists both inside and outside the party. 


At the start of the campaign, I'd have expected Julian's largest concern to be whether he could speak powerfully enough on the stump and in debates to win first-choice support from members with plenty of options.

Having chosen to sidestep that potential issue through sharp issue messaging, Julian instead faces the challenge of defending himself from fossil-fueled vitriol now that he's become a lightning rod for criticism of any strong environmental policy. If Julian can hold up under those circumstances, he could position himself ideally to take the same message forward as the NDP's leader - but he'll face a lot more direct attacks now than he might have otherwise.

Key Indicators

The key indicators for Julian will then be second-choice support and negative perceptions. I'd fully expect Julian to rank at the top of many ballots, but a first-ballot win is likely not within reach - meaning that he needs to leave himself some room to add votes as other candidates are eliminated.

Key Opponent

To the extent Julian's campaign may turn on pipelines, Charlie Angus is currently positioned as the most distinct voice for facilitating (if not outright supporting) pipeline development. And Angus' handling of the issue could well turn the race in either direction.

If Angus decides he too can win first-choice support by firming up his own position contrary to Julian, the result may be to push perceptions further against Julian than he can afford, particularly if the position is echoed enough from outside the party. But it's also possible that strategy could set up a ballot question where Julian would pick up exactly the later-ballot boost he needs from Guy Caron and Niki Ashton supporters.

Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: First-place showing on the first ballot based on environmental and institutional support, followed by a relatively quick win
Worst-case: Moderate placement on the first ballot followed by little subsequent growth

Leadership 2017 Links

A few notes worth a look in advance of today's youth-focused debate...

- Kyle Duggan reports on Pat Stogran's imminent entry into the race. And The View Up Here features an extended interview to introduce Stogran as a candidate, while CTV offers a shorter interview.

- Anishinabek News examines Charlie Angus' focus on First Nations issues. Robert McCarthy offers an endorsement of Niki Ashton. And Jean-Philippe Langlais takes note of Guy Caron's analysis that the Libs' underwhelming budget only highlights the need for a progressive economic vision, while Tereza Verenca reports on Peter Julian's disappointment in the delay on housing in particular. 

- Lawrence Martin theorizes that the NDP needs to stick to what he perceives to be Jack Layton's script. But in addition to his questionable reading of the 2015 campaign, he noticeably omits Layton's track record as a progressive activist from any explanation of what led to his success.

- And finally, Nora Loreto offers her take on the campaign, while Eric Grenier previews the debate.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- David Olive offers his take on what a basic income should look like - and is optimistic that Ontario's ongoing experiment should hit the mark:
A UBI would be pointless in the absence of existing supports. In the Ontario pilot projects, the payout for a single person will be $1,689 per month. That’s still short of living costs. Average Toronto rent for a two-bedroom apartment ($1,450 per month) and a Metropass ($134 per month) leaves just $116 per month for food, clothing, prescriptions and other costs.

The model devised by Segal, a longtime advocate of UBI, is a sound and cautious one. Its payout is not that much higher than current welfare support under Ontario Works, whose payouts equal about 45 per cent of the Low Income Measure.

But the Segal payout, combined with existing welfare, is enough to lift recipients above the poverty line, ensuring substantial income for workers in precarious jobs and for those in the unpaid workforce. The latter includes tens of thousands of volunteers, whose social contribution is of immense value but doesn’t show up in GDP stats.

A well-designed UBI equates to freedom. Freedom from exploitative employers. Freedom to launch a small business or develop an invention despite a lack of employment income. Liberation from the “poverty trap,” where taking a paying job means surrendering welfare and other benefits. And freedom to escape an abusive partner relied upon for room and board.
We’re coming back to UBI now because the “social contract” between employers and workers lies in ruins. The decline of unions has consigned powerless workers to exploitative workplaces. And the tax system has been perverted to liberate the wealthiest 1 per cent from paying their fair share.

Income inequality is a widespread crisis. How we handle it will be a defining factor in shaping the 21st century.
- Meanwhile, Emily Mathieu notes that rising rents and other costs are driving the working poor away from Toronto. And Dennis Raphael discusses the importance of political choices in ensuring physical and mental health.

- Angus Deaton discusses how extreme inequality leads to unstable and unrepresentative governance. Peter Waldman highlights the importance of in ensuring that any jobs provide both stability and a reasonable standard of living - as political spin about auto industry jobs in the southern U.S. states has led to little but exploitation in the face of minimal unionization and corporate-owned governments. And Harold Meyerson calls out the corporate media's bias against a fair minimum wage (among other basic protections for workers).

- Daniel Tencer writes that the next stage of trade negotiations with China is likely to include demands that Chinese employers be able to import workers on their own terms, while seeking to eliminate any talk of human rights or national security. 

- Finally, David Rider examines the Ontario Libs' secrecy around their Hydro One selloff - which includes hiding information about who has been involved in the privatization and at what cost. And we should expect similar secrecy - and reason for suspicion - if Bill Morneau follows through on the federal Libs' continued musings about privatizing airports and other public assets.