Saturday, June 03, 2017

Outside by choice

It's certainly disappointing that Pat Stogran has chosen to drop out of the NDP's leadership race - particularly by leaving taking shots at the party which made sure he had a place on its stage.

That said, Stogran's campaign ultimately seems to have been defined by an unwillingness to learn about the political process in which he wanted to participate, combined with an inclination to blame others for that weakness. And while he never had a strong chance of winning the NDP's leadership, his quick and bitter exit can't be taken to have done much other than throw away any chance of contributing to change for the better.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Meagan Gilmore examines how an increased minimum wage is good for business.

- Hannah Aldridge offers some suggestions to keep a poverty reduction strategy on target. And Make Poverty History notes that Brian Pallister is offering a textbook example of how not to do it by ignoring his government's responsibility to update Manitoba's existing plan.

- The CP reports that Canada's cities are trying to push Justin Trudeau's Libs to stop stalling on funding for social housing. But Jordan Press and Andy Blatchford note that instead of tackling important social problems, Trudeau is focused on an infrastructure banks scheme designed to privatize profits while leaving risks in public hands.

- Laura Stone discusses how the Libs' supposed response to public outcry over cash-for-access fund-raising falls short of the mark. And Karen Howlett points out how disclosure of doctors' ties to pharmaceutical funding could have gone a long way toward preventing today's opioid epidemic.

- Finally, Joe Castaldo explains why people are so easily persuaded that financial bubbles are the new normal - while noting that Toronto and Vancouver's real estate markets look to have fooled far too many in recent years.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Musical interlude

Tame Impala - The Less I Know The Better

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Don Pittis discusses the growing price everybody pays for more extreme weather events caused by climate change. And Adrienne Lafrance offers a grim look at what's in store if we can't curb greenhouse gas emissions in a hurry.

- Seth Klein and Shannon Daub write that British Columbia's Green-supported NDP government represents a historic opportunity for lasting progressive change, while Derrick O'Keefe comments on the prospect of a regular progressive majority to give effect to what most B.C. voters want. Maxwell Cameron recognizes the importance of a successful cooperate government in pursuing that end. Paul Willcocks declares citizens to be the big winner in B.C.'s election. And Nick Fillmore points out reasons for optimism for progressives from across Canada.

- Stefania Seccia highlights four principles which can end chronic homelessness - though they can largely be boiled down to treating people as mattering rather than being unworthy of help. And Matthew Yglesias comments on the importance of defending and improving the social safety net which already exists, rather than relying solely on a basic income to address poverty and inequality.

- But Steve Inskeep talks to Richard Reeves about the U.S.' privileged class which is hoarding opportunities which should be available to everybody. Patricia Cohen weighs in on the personal precarity created by uncertain incomes.

- Finally, Alberta Treasury Branches charts the rise of inequality in Alberta over a period of decades.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

New column day

Here, on how several other provinces are setting new (and necessary standards) for worker protections while Saskatchewan falls further behind.

For further reading...
- Ontario's Changing Workplaces Review is here (in full), and here (in summary form). CBC reports on Kathleen Wynne's subsequent minimum wage announcement, while Sheila Block crunches the numbers on how it will reduce inequality. And Thomas Walkom points out how even Ontario's plan falls short of the mark in protecting people stuck in precarious work and allowing for labour to organize.
- Alberta's summary of its planned Labour Relations Code amendments is here.
- The governance agreement between the B.C. NDP and Greens is here (PDF), featuring the terms on labour and employment issues at 2(d) and (e).
- Finally, in contrast to all those current plans, the last substantial review of Saskatchewan's general labour and employment law took place in 2012, and resulted in this largely anti-worker set of provisions.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Diane Cardwell points out how carbon politics are threatening renewable energy just at the point where it would win a fair fight against fossil fuels. And J. David Hughes finds that any case for Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline falls apart in the face of realistic assumptions about oil prices.

- Meanwhile, Emma Gilchrist digs into the many environmental positives of the B.C. governance agreement signed between the NDP and the Greens.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the sale of a large chain of child care centres to a foreign parent which figures to result in lobbying for lowered standards and higher profits. And CBC News reveals that KPMG-linked foreign entities saw fit to destroy the evidence which could have allowed the Canada Revenue Agency to track down tax cheats.

- Taylor Bendig discusses the end of the line for the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, while Erin Weir highlights the fact that Brad Wall's desire to shut down province-wide public transportation had nothing to do with funding and everything to do with ideology - as evidenced by his refusal to see whether federal funding could help to maintain services.

- Murray Mandryk writes about Wall's complete lack of accountability surrounding the Global Transportation Hub fiasco.

- Finally, Nancy Merrill argues that sufficient legal aid funding is an essential part of a just society.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sociable cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman examine (PDF) the size and distribution of tax evasion and (not surprisingly) find it clustered at the top - with the wealthiest .01% dodging 30% of its obligation to society at large. And Marco Chown Oved reports that the Canada Revenue Agency is finally pursuing criminal investigations into offshore tax evasion.

- Meanwhile, Paul Buchheit rightly questions why any government would want to hand tax cuts to businesses who are already refusing to pay their fair share.

- Angela Rayner writes about UK Labour's plan for a truly universal child care system. And Max Shanly and Ronan Burtenshaw highlight the drastic change for the better on offer from Labour's policy platform - along with the strong public support for improved redistribution of wealth:
But it wasn’t just the manifesto that was popular, it was also the kind of politics that has been used to communicate its ideas. For months, Corbynism has tried to build a radical politics from the halls of Westminster, playing a game of high politics at which its enemies are more adept. In this campaign, Corbyn’s team have thrown off the shackles of that environment — holding large rallies around the country, sharing the stage with campaigners from a wide range of social causes, taking socialist politics to the people who are its concern. This dynamic, grassroots campaign has helped to transform public opinion of Corbyn and engage thousands in his project of social transformation.
None of this could have happened if the battle had remained confined to the stage-managed theater of Westminster, with scripts written by the mainstream press and an ill-fitting costume of respectability draped around Corbyn’s shoulders. It is with mass politics that the Left can win — and the same will be true for this manifesto.

No significant program of redistributing wealth and power can be achieved through parliament alone. Even if Labour was to win on June 8, its manifesto would face significant opposition — from the right-wing of the Labour Party, the press empires, elite civil servants, and the business class. The only way to see it implemented would be to organize for it outside of parliament, through social movements that demand its proposals, trade unions that fight for them in the workplace, and a revitalized Labour Party that becomes a vehicle for popular power at a local as well as national level.

In the more likely circumstance that Labour is defeated in the election, the party’s right will immediately argue that it was because its leadership was too left wing. But we now know this is not true. The vast majority of the country supports left-wing policies — it is the Labour right and their allies in the political, business, and media elite who are in the minority. The next battle will be to defend the manifesto from their attacks.
- CBC reports on the progress made as a result of Ontario's workplace review (and the public pressure which caused it to happen), with a $15 minimum wage and improved protections for part-time and precarious workers among the gains.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board asks what it will take for the federal government to live up to its obligation not to discriminate against Indigenous children - though the obvious answer is a party in power which actually cares about substantive change enough to dedicate resources to it, rather than seeing photo ops and empty announcements as accomplishments.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Rhys Kesselman challenges the Fraser Institute's grossly distorted conception of "tax competitiveness":
Even with lower overall tax burdens, many Americans bear much heavier non-tax burdens than their Canadian counterparts. These costs can be so large as to swamp any tax-rate differentials between the countries. Private health insurance in the U.S. can cost a family US$15,000 or more per year. Inferior public schools in parts of the U.S. can impel families who can afford it to expend large sums on private schooling.

When provided by U.S. employers, health insurance constitutes a heavy cost burden to business that their Canadian counterparts don’t bear. Those costs are covered by public health care in B.C., which accounts for much of our higher tax rates, but overall doesn’t detract from our tax competitiveness.

The authors further ignore the impact of B.C.’s astronomical housing costs on the health of the economy. B.C. businesses must offer higher pay to attract and retain employees or limit their hiring and expansion. Both the B.C. Greens and NDP have taxation-based proposals to reduce home prices — aimed at foreign and speculative buyers — which would assist local business hiring while augmenting public funds.

In short, “tax competitiveness” is a catchphrase with limited meaning unless one delves more deeply. Warnings that NDP and Green tax initiatives would endanger the B.C. economy are alarmism. Rather, the added revenues could support public programs shortchanged for years by the provincial government’s dogged quest to be “tax-competitive.”
- Meanwhile, Wendy Bach examines the difference between the lucrative and effort-free tax giveaways available for the wealthy in the U.S., and the miserly and punitive benefit system for people who actually need public assistance.

- Josh Keefe and David Sirota discuss the obvious corporatist bent of Donald Trump's infrastructure scheme - including his plan to hand free money to the corporations taking over what's already been built with public funds. And Bill Curry reports on the obvious vulnerability of the Libs' planned infrastructure bank to political interference.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that the Cons' thoroughly uninspiring leadership race has left the door wide open for the NDP to make the most compelling offer of change for the better in the next federal election campaign.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Nick Saul reminds us of the need for strong and consistent public pressure to end poverty. And the Economist points out how punitive criminal justice policies coupled with a lack of rehabilitation strand people in poverty rather than allowing for a path toward contributing to society.

- Thomas Walkom comments on Ontario's relatively unambitious workplace review - and worries that even its modest suggestions won't end up becoming (or being enforced as) law. And Angella MacEwen examines the state of federally-regulated workplaces and finds plenty of precarity which needs to be addressed.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne highlights the need to keep counting gender iniquities as long as they persist.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the role a basic income can play in encouraging social entrepreneurship.

- Finally, Justin Ling writes that the Libs' attempt to normalize a less-accountable and more-disruptive surveillance state was met with ample public pushback - though it remains to be seen whether they'll bother to make good on their promise of any change whatsoever to the Cons' C-51.

On changing opposition

While there will be plenty more to discuss about how the Conservatives' choice of Andrew Scheer as their new leader, I'll offer a few preliminary thoughts now - starting with a warning about knee-jerk reactions.

We shouldn't presume that Scheer's apparent lack of current definition will last long: the Libs are obviously wasting no time in trying to define him, while the fruits of the Cons' fund-raising machine will surely kick in quickly in response.

But nor should we presume that his being young means that he'll have multiple election campaigns to grow into the position.

While the standard take seems to be that Scheer is the new version of Stephen Harper, I'd think the better comparison and cautionary tale for Scheer is Joe Clark: a young and little-known compromise candidate whose missteps as a leader will be amplified by the lack of many people particularly committed to him within his own party.

On the balance, Scheer's election looks to be relatively good news compared to the alternatives - not because of his merits as a candidate, but due to the greater electoral and policy risks posed by the alternative.

I'd considered Bernier the most dangerous of the Cons' potential leaders, being comparatively more likely to assemble a winning coalition in a near-term federal election (particularly by being able to win votes as a native son in Quebec), to make reckless policy choices if he managed to take power, and to be the main focus of the next federal election in a way that causes the race to polarize between the Libs and Cons.

In contrast, Scheer's starting point involves a distinct lack of meaningful policy priorities or avenues to build support beyond the Cons' base.

That doesn't mean he can't change matters with time. After all, Harper managed at various times to win seats with appeals to Quebec voters and immigrant communities who were far outside his initial core of supporters.

But for now, Scheer is essentially a blank sheet of stationery with Reform Party letterhead. And it remains to be seen whether there's anything he can write on the page to be seen as a viable candidate for power.