Saturday, October 28, 2017

Leadership 2018 - #skndp17 Debate Liveblog

With the first candidates' debate taking place at the Saskatchewan NDP's provincial convention, I'll take the opportunity to do a bit of liveblogging. Again, you can find my reference page for the leadership campaign here.

- Highly entertaining opening bit with multiple-choice questions. Not sure if the candidates knew it was coming, but both showed plenty of humour and quick thinking in dealing with them.

- Wotherspoon's opening starts with a critique of the Sask Party, but shifts into a fair bit of his own policy. (And yes, I'll be dealing with the candidates' policies in more detail later.)

- Meili opens with an appeal to members and volunteers before pivoting to his own policies.

- First question to Meili on his quick pitch on the economy - he says there are people hurting because of Sask Party decisions, including reliance on austerity and corporate tax cuts which together harm the economy.

- On the same question, Wotherspoon says economic progress is part of the social democratic vision, including benefits for all rather than precarity and austerity.

- On a followup as to how to put unemployed people back to work, Wotherspoon says he'd fix the procurement model to keep money with Saskatchewan employers, and implement renewable energy and retrofitting.

- Meili notes the candidates' agreement on local procurement and green jobs, but points to unemployment in Indegenous communities in particular as a top priority. 

- Next question is on carbon emissions - Meili frames it as a generational issue, and says people are ready for leadership including a made-in-Saskatchewan price on carbon to incentivize decreased use.

- Wotherspoon points to Saskatchewan's previous leadership in wind power under the Calvert government, and notes the need for a provincial plan in response to the federal carbon price.

- In response to a follow-up question as to how to respond to the federal mandate, Wotherspoon discusses the need to talk to people to ensure protection for people and sensitive industries.

- Meili reiterates the need to design Saskatchewan's own plan, while recognizing the need to respond to fearmongering about a carbon price and present the opportunities it could generate.

- We've reached the first candidate question. Meili asks Wotherspoon about his willingness to forego corporate and union donations in light of his statements about getting big money out of politics; Wotherspoon notes that he has introduced a bill in the Legislature and approves of Rachel Notley and John Horgan's plans, but would only make the move as an act of government given the rules now in place.

- Meili follows up that his question is directed toward the internal race and to corporations as well as unions; Wotherspoon says he'll play within the rules that are there, and asks whether Meili can reasonably reverse course in the general election.

- The next question deals with a strategy to win rural seats. Wotherspoon mentions STC among other policy issues which resonate for rural residents.

- Meili says the NDP needs to recognize the value of representing the whole province, and reflect back the issues being raised by rural leaders, including Crown lands and agricultural research.

- The follow-up question addresses electing 20 female MLAs in 2020. Meili points to the work of the SNDW, and discusses amplifying the voices of women within the party while developing stronger policies as well as safe spaces for participation.

- Wotherspoon discusses the caucus' current gender parity, and points out the need to encourage and support more women to run for office.

- Patterson asks about keeping Crown corporations public. Wotherspoon (who just announced his policy on the point of amending the Saskatchewan Act to entrench constitutional protection) points first to the Sask Party's attacks before pivoting to his plan.

- Meili points to the activists already at work in keeping Crowns public, and talks about stronger legislation requiring any changes to go to the citizenry as shareholders before noting the need to allow Crowns to grow inside and outside the province.

- The followup question deals with STC. Meili discusses how people are having to move to cities for want of transportation, businesses are being affected and public safety is at risk, and proposes to build a new STC based on current transit needs.

- Wotherspoon says not to give up the fight to hold onto STC's assets, but broadly agrees as to the need to rebuild anew if that doesn't work.

- Wotherspoon asks Meili about the government's procurement model. Meili says we need to get back to building things ourselves, maintaining public ownership of services and hiring local businesses and workers, then ends by noting that wealth produced in Saskatchewan should stay in the province.

- Wotherspoon generally agrees before presenting his proposal on Crowns. Meili says it's a great idea and in line with the work of SaskCrowns.

- In response to a question about reconciliation, Meili says it's the second crucial priority alongside climate change, noting both the advanatages of a large young population and the risk of failing to give it an equal opportunity. Meili follows up by saying jurisdiction and geography should not be a barrier to equal access to services, and proposes to follow Australia's model of a "closing the gap" address and accountability model.

- Wotherspoon talks about building relationships with Indigenous leaders and communities, as well as fair access to services including closing the education funding gap and properly teaching students about the treaties.

- The final followup goes to Saskatchewan's leadership in social programs. Wotherspoon points to his plans for universal mental health care and universal $15/day child care.

- Meili notes the unfinished components of health care, including mental health, vision and dental care, as well as pharmacare.

- Meili's closing statement focuses on a fundamental belief in equality, community and love, then turns to the need for a change in approach to achieve better results.

- Wotherspoon closes with an alternative analysis that the party is already on the ascent, and frames his campaign in terms of fighting back against the Sask Party.

I'll close with a few of my own thoughts.

Both candidates were highly impressive throughout the debate: Wotherspoon held his own in a detailed policy debate (though he was slightly more prone to veer off topic), while Meili's sense of humour showed through in banter with Patterson. And it helped that the format and moderator created an upbeat mood without undermining the seriousness of the issues.

Meanwhile, the crowd didn't give a strong indication of favouring one candidate or the other. Wotherspoon's camp had more visible signs, but Meili seemed to earn a slightly stronger crowd response during the debate - leaving little basis to conclude either had an advantage among the members in attendance.

Of course, many more people will have a say in the vote - and the candidates will have plenty more opportunities to present their vision before then. And today's debate seems only to have confirmed that there are two extremely strong choices.

[Update: added link.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Dennis Howlett highlights how the Libs are only making our tax system even less fair by overreacting to trumped-up criticism of a plan to close minor loopholes:
As​ ​the​ ​dust​ ​settles​ ​on​ ​the​ Trudeau government’s private​ ​ corporation​ tax​ ​reforms,​ ​Canada​ ​seem​s ​to​ ​be​ falling ​ further​ ​behind​ ​in the quest for​ ​tax fairness.

While​ ​the​ ​government’s​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​proceed​ ​with ​ ​income​-sprinkling​ ​reforms​ ​is​ ​positive,​ ​we are​ ​disappointed ​ ​​​the​ ​capital​ ​gains​ ​reforms​ ​were​ ​dropped​ ​and​ ​find the​ ​ ‘tweaks’​ ​to​ ​the​ ​proposals​ ​for passive​ ​income to be​ ​overly​ ​ generous.​

​If​ ​the​ ​changes​ ​to​ ​the​ ​private​ ​corporation​ ​tax​ ​rules​ ​are​ ​assessed​ ​on their​ ​own,​ ​they​ ​move​ ​Canada​ ​a​ ​slight ​ ​step​ ​forward.​ ​However,​ ​the​ ​appeasement​ ​of​ ​the​ ​vocal business​ ​lobby​ ​with​ ​a​ ​further​ ​cut​ ​in​ ​the​ ​small​ ​ business​ ​tax​ ​rate​ ​to​ ​9 per cent​ ​means​ ​the​ ​government ​ ​likely​ will ​lose​ ​more​ ​revenue​ ​than​ ​it​ ​gains, which​ ​ will​ ​contribute​ ​further​ ​to​ ​growing​ ​inequality.

This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time​ ​the​ ​government​ ​has​ ​ backed​ ​off​ ​on​ ​tax​ ​fairness​ ​reforms.​ ​The​ ​closing​ ​of the​ ​stock​ ​options​ ​loophole​ ​suffered​ ​the​ ​same​ ​fate​ ​as​ ​the​ ​ private​ ​corporation​ ​tax​ ​reforms.​ ​These are​ ​black​ ​eyes​ ​ for​ ​Canada’s​ ​tax​ ​system.​ ​Even​ ​the​ ​IMF​ ​has​ ​raised​ the concern ​that​ ​capital​ ​income (including​ ​profits,​ ​interest,​ ​ and​ ​capital​ ​gains)​ ​is​ ​distributed​ ​more​ ​unequally​ ​than ​ ​labor​ ​income.

Capital​ ​income​ ​has​ ​been​ ​rising​ ​as​ ​a​ ​share​ ​of​ ​total ​ ​income​ ​over​ ​recent​ ​decades,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lower​ ​tax rate​ ​than​ ​labour​ ​income.​ ​The​ ​IMF​ ​states​ ​that​ ​adequate​ ​ taxation​ ​of​ ​capital​ ​income​ ​is​ ​needed​ ​to protect​ ​the​ ​overall​ ​progressivity​ ​of​ ​the​ ​income​ ​tax​ ​system​ ​and ​ ​that​ ​more​ ​equal​ ​treatment​ ​of income​ ​from​ ​capital​, ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​different​ ​forms​ ​of​ ​capital​ ​income, ​is​ ​critical if we want to​ ​avoid​ offering ​incentives​ ​for tax​ ​avoidance.​ ​ This​ ​means​ ​getting​ ​rid​ ​of​ ​the​ ​unfair​ ​tax​ ​treatment​ ​ of​ ​capital​ ​gains​ ​and​ ​stock options.

The​ ​next​ ​time​ ​the​ ​government​ ​moves​ ​forward​ ​on​ ​an​ ​ agenda​ ​for​ ​tax​ ​fairness,​ ​it​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​make it​ ​part of​ ​a​ ​larger​ ​package​ ​of​ ​reforms​ ​that​ ​looks​ ​at​ ​all​ ​the​ ​unfair​ ​tax​ ​expenditures.
- Likewise, Tony Keller discusses the terrible policy behind the Libs' attempt to change the subject from closing loopholes. And with Bill Morneau in the middle of the mess, Althia Raj reports that the Libs' defence that the Ethics Commissioner hasn't specifically said he's doing anything wrong when it comes to how policy affects his own wealth depends on her not actually bothering to check.

- Meanwhile, Jennifer Robson notes that plenty of federal policies which are supposed to help lower-income people aren't reaching their intended recipients.

- Linda McQuaig writes that the Sears pension fiasco should be a catalyst for change. And Tim Harper notes that nearly everybody aside from the Libs seems to be onside with protecting pensions.

- Finally, Sheila Block and PressProgress each examine some of Canada's persistent forms of inequality based on race.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Musical interlude

Royksopp - What Else Is There?

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rupert Neate reports on a new study showing that the world's 1,500-odd billionaires between them control over $6 trillion in wealth.

- Stuart Trew sets out Canada's choice between corporate-oriented trade deals such as the CETA, or sustainable and fairly-distributed economic development. And Laurie Monsebraaten writes about the need for political action to rein in inequality among minority groups.

- Kate Aronoff discusses how U.S. Democrats are wasting an essential opportunity to respond to climate change. And Martin Lukacs highlights how the oil industry gets sweetheart deals which result in it pay far less royalties in Canada than nearly anywhere else, while Carl Meyer exposes how the Libs have pushed any discussion of fossil fuel subsidies behind closed doors.

- The Conference Board of Canada examines the massive return on an investment in child care - with each dollar funded leading to six in social and economic benefits. And Iglika Ivanova offers a step-by-step plan toward a universal child care system in B.C., while pointing out how Quebec's system has dramatically improved labour force participation for women with children.

- Finally, Chris Vanderbreekel reports on Jagmeet Singh's plan to provide federal funding to revive the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mark Karlin interviews George Monbiot about the prospect of politics based on empathy, sharing and belonging.

- Andrew Jackson and Kate McInturff each offer their take on the federal fiscal update - with both lamenting the Libs' lack of ambition.

- Karl Nerenberg highlights how the federal government is ignoring the needs of workers facing precarity and poverty. And Brennan MacDonald reports that the Libs don't plan to change that pattern when it comes to giving workers more security through the pensions they've earned.

- Manuel Muniz notes that the same problem of an economy built around accumulating wealth for a few at the expense of the many is arising around the globe.

- Emma McIntosh reports on Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe's criticism of a provincial government which has consistently put Indigenous communities at risk. And Jorge Barrera exposes the neglect behind Health Canada's failure to respond to the human rights tribunal orders requiring that the federal government stop discriminating against Indigenous children.

- Finally, Paul Wells weighs in on the incoherence of Quebec's Bill 62. And Chantal Hebert notes that opposition is building based on competence issues as well as the discriminatory nature of the bill.

New column day

Here, on how Brad Wall's belated attempts to muddy the waters can't avoid a clear verdict that he's selling off Saskatchewan's commonwealth for corporate gain.

For further reading...
- Kendall Latimer reported on Wall's announcement that the price of previously-announced corporate tax cuts will be directed toward some other business-oriented use.
- CBC reported on the announced repeal of Bill 40, while Brent Patterson commented on the win for the activists who have been fighting it. And I'll point out again my post on how the bill was deceptive from the beginning.
- Finally, CBC also reported on the latest giveaway of what was a publicly-owned liquor store in Watson. And data on that store's sales in the column is from the government's backgrounder (PDF).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Hugh Mackenzie writes that the biggest problem with the Libs' closing tax loopholes for private corporations was the failure to push for far more tax fairness:
Any tax reform that isn’t just a give away creates winners and losers. If the goal is to make the tax system fairer, the majority of Canadians win—especially if the result in increased capacity to pay for public services. But, almost inevitably, the gains look pretty small and remote to most individual Canadians because they are spread out amongst so many of us.

The losers, on the other hand, are inevitably a concentrated group who know exactly who they are, who know exactly what they have at stake, and have the resources to fight back. That is, the rich and the powerful.
Any serious attempt to shift the course of the system towards fairness will generate ferocious opposition from vested interests. The corporate lobby’s wildly disproportionate response to what amounts to tinkering with the small business tax system at the margins should teach us that the opposition is never calibrated to the ambitiousness of the initiative.

If anything we do is going to generate hysteria from the concentrated few with vested interests, why not do something meaningful and take the debate head on with real energy and with stakes that are actually meaningful to the vast majority of Canadians who stand to benefit from a fairer tax system.

The risk in this debate is that the lesson learned is don’t mess with small business. The lesson should be go big or go home. If tax fairness for the majority is what you want, be prepared to fight for it.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson examines how the passive investment loophole for Canadian corporations is enabling a small number of extremely wealthy people to avoid contributing their fair share. And Nicholas Shaxson points out that it's impossible for a country to achieve inclusive development if its only ambition is to be a tax haven.

- George Monbiot writes about a P3 arrangement which is resulting in the UK city of Sheffield having its trees massacred due to a road maintenance contract. And Jathan Sadowski offers a warning against allowing the corporate sector to take over even more governing functions (as a Google subsidiary is being allowed to do in one Toronto district).

- Joseph Stiglitz weighs in on the U.S.' growing problem of corporate monopolies which limit the choices and standard of living for citizens.

- And finally, Alexander Hart theorizes that a message of making life less complicated and stressful may offer a rallying point for progressives.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Fuzzy cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Yves Engler discusses how Justin Trudeau is now the face of the exploitation of poor countries and workers by the Canadian mining industry. And Penny Collenette writes that governments and business should both bear responsibility for human rights - though it's worth being skeptical of her use of that theme to try to undercut what little corporate accountability currently exists.

- George Monbiot examines some options for a more participatory democracy - with a particular focus on public involvement in policy decisions on a far more regular basis than elections alone. And the Mound of Sound notes that many of Monbiot's criticisms would be met by a more fair and proportional electoral system.

- Meanwhile, Kenneth Andrews takes a look at how protest movements can bring about social change.

- Don Braid points out that Jason Kenney's latest attempt to whitewash history involves laying claim to the legacy of Peter Lougheed after shrieking hysterically about it through most of his political past. And Justin Ling exposes how Andrew Scheer is trying to build his party using Rebel Media's model of fomenting hate while denying any connection between the two.

- Finally, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood points out how Donald Trump's NAFTA posturing offers a much-needed opportunity to extricate Canada from some aspects of corporate rule. And Michael Geist likewise notes that life after NAFTA means far more freedom to set intellectual property policy in the public interest.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Jim Hightower writes that the risk of technology displacing workers is ultimately just one instance of the wider problem of corporate greed. And the New York Times is examining how the principle of total corporate control is the basis for the Trump administration's handling of regulation.

- Ed Broadbent highlights the options which will open up for Canada in a post-NAFTA policy environment.

- Tom Ayers reports on the Nova Scotia NDP's push to ensure that workers are at least able to make ends meet with a fair minimum wage. And Meagan Fitzpatrick discusses the spread of precarious work in post-secondary education.

- Andrew Coyne weighs in on Bill Morneau's flawed judgment in failing to recognize the connections between his cabinet authority and private wealth while falsely claiming to have avoided conflicts of interest. But Nick Fillmore points out that the real scandal surrounding Morneau is his inescapable ability to use public policy to add to the riches which already place him at a distance from all but the most privileged Canadians.

- Finally, Bruce Anderson suggests that our regulation of election advertising is far behind the times - and calls for all parties to work on catching up.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Richard Hill wonders whether neoliberalism is approaching its end, while noting the dangers of allowing progressive themes to be used to prop up elitist power structures. And Heather Boushey interviews Kimberly Clausing about the opportunity to raise revenue and reduce inequality by properly taxing corporations, while Marshall Steinbaum points out the connection between unfair taxes and increasing inequality of wealth and power:
(T)he point of conservative tax ideology was never to make the economy work better — it was to provide the pretext for a self-serving agenda that lets corporate shareholders (and the executives they deputize — very often, from among their number) milk the economy dry. And that’s exactly what will happen if Congress passes the current proposal to cut the corporate tax rate, “territorialize” the system to permanently exempt overseas profits, “repatriate” past overseas profits tax-free, and set a maximum rate for pass-through income.
Two nonsense economic assumptions will play a role in resolving this political dilemma. First, Republican dogma holds that cutting the corporate tax rate will cause so much economic growth that a boom in federal revenue will make up for the tax cut. Second, Republicans claim that the current corporate tax burden is ultimately borne by workers in the form of lower wages, so cutting it will actually increase wages, substantially benefitting those who rely on their labor to make a living. No serious researcher believes either of these claims, but that isn’t the point: the purpose is to give marginal votes in Congress a set of motivated economic analyses to latch onto, or just to kick up enough dust around technical issues of debt and distribution that those members can take refuge in the controversy, throw up their hands, and vote with the party.

It’s tremendously cynical — but then, so is the entirety of right-wing policymaking over the last forty years. That doesn’t mean it won’t work.
The larger point is that this decades-long assault on progressive taxes has a logic to it: the Right wants to destroy progressive taxation because it works.

It was originally enacted to tame the excesses of wealth and power that dominated the economy in the Gilded Age. The point was not to raise money, nor even, really, to shift the burden of taxation towards those better able to shoulder it (though the latter played a role). Rather, it was to fundamentally alter the distribution of power in society.
Part of the Right’s success was the removal of tax policy to elitist, technocratic grounds, where its capacity to act as a check on the accumulation of private power is entirely ignored. Even now, the broad left largely overlooks tax policy in favor of universal public programs for health and higher education — crucially important economic rights (and the haul brought in by progressive taxation will be instrumental to bringing about their reality); but the tax part of the picture should not be an afterthought. It must be a full and equal partner. We must use it to show the Left’s natural constituency the kind of world it wants to live in — one in which oppressive power is vastly curtailed.
- Sarah Turner reports that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is recognizing the unsustainable decoupling of economic growth and wages. And the Economist examines the continued wage gap between men and women - with the absence of available child care looming as the most important culprit.

- Megan Stanley points out the combination of stagnant wages and soaring rents which is squeezing workers out of housing in the U.S. And Amy Smart notes that B.C.'s NDP government is closing a loophole which has been used to evict tenants and drive up rents.

- Ashifa Kassam is the latest to highlight how the lack of prescription drug coverage is the glaring omission in Canada's universal health care system. And Lesley Russell discusses Australia's experience with two-tiered care as an example which nobody should want to follow - as the public system is being starved to force people to overpay for private care.

- Finally, George Monbiot argues that the precipitous drop in insect populations may be the most dangerous environmental development of all.