Saturday, April 07, 2018

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Peter Gowan and Ryan Cooper write about the need for much more affordable social housing across the income spectrum. Rhys Kesselman responds to a few of the more laughable attacks on British Columbia's more progressive property tax. And Stephen Punwasi discusses the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's warning that Canadian mortgage lenders are pushing both brokers and borrowers toward risky products which may create systemic instability.

- Dean Beeby examines FINTRAC's internal report showing how Canadian banks have been facilitating money laundering - and discusses how a report for public consumption was reworded to give the opposite impression.

- Mitchell Anderson rightly calls out the nonsensical claim that building pipelines is anything but a negative for the cause of reducing the effects of climate change, while David Suzuki weighs in on the audit showing how governments at all levels are falling short of their commitments. And Richard Partington reports on Mark Carney's warning that fossil fuel dependence may be just as catastrophic for financial interests as for the planet, while Olaf Weber and Chelsie Hunt model the superior prospects for investments which avoid throwing money at dirty energy. 

- And David Climenhaga rebuts the theory that Alberta (or any other jurisdiction) would do itself any favours by choosing to be an environmental pariah - even as the likes of Scott Moe and Doug Ford push in that direction.

- Finally, Ronald Labonte discusses the nutrition and health consequences of corporate-driven trade deals, including any attempt to renegotiate NAFTA.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Thursday, April 05, 2018

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' criminal justice bill (Bill C-75) is aimed solely at speed rather than fairness - and seems likely to fail even by that insufficient metric.

For further reading...
- Others weighing in on the bill include Omar Ha-Redeye, Michael Spratt, Stephanie DiGiuseppe, Sarah Leamon and Joanna Smith.
- And it's particularly worth contrasting the lack of any action on minimum sentences (coupled with many increases in maximum sentences) against Jody Wilson-Raybould's apparent mandate.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Canadian Press reports on new research showing how wealth shocks at any level of income or wealth are associated with a higher risk of mortality:
Middle-aged Americans who experienced a sudden, large economic blow were more likely to die during the following years than those who didn't. The heightened danger of death after a devastating loss, which researchers called a "wealth shock," crossed socio-economic lines, affecting people no matter how much money they had to start.

The analysis of nearly 9,000 people's experiences underscores well-known connections between money and well-being, with prior studies linking lower incomes and rising income inequality with more chronic disease and shorter life expectancy.
About 1 in 4 people in the study had a wealth shock, which researchers defined as a loss of 75 per cent or more in net worth over two years. The average loss was about $100,000.

That could include a drop in the value of investments or realized losses like a home foreclosure. Some shocks happened during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Others happened before or after. No matter what was going on in the greater U.S. economy, a wealth shock still increased the chance of dying.
- And on a related note, Richard Florida points out that Americans are much more anxious and dissatisfied than they were just under a decade ago.

- Sarah Anderson discusses the cumulative dangers of poverty and climate change in causing the spread of pest-borne diseases. And Canada Without Poverty examines the stresses of surviving on a low income - including the lack of access to basic dental care which many Canadians take for granted.

- Meanwhile, Chris Dillow highlights the danger of relying on a single indicator of inequality which may mask the breadth and depth of poverty.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board writes that Canada's access-to-information system is serving as a barrier to accountability, rather than a mechanism to facilitate oversight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Wednesday Evening Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Andre Picard writes about the unjustifiable limitations and inconsistencies in Canada's health care system:
Break your leg and the X-ray and cast will be covered, but you will need to pay for the crutches. Break your jaw and it will be wired at no cost; break your teeth and you will pay the dentist. Get cancer treatment at the hospital and there will be no charge; take the same oncology medication at home and you will pay dearly. Suffer from severe depression and your hospitalization will be covered, but psychological care and medications will not be covered by public insurance after you’re released. If you have diabetes and live in Quebec, many more of your drugs and supplies will be covered than in neighbouring New Brunswick. Need trauma care while visiting another province, and you could get stiffed with a big air ambulance bill. Live out your final days in a hospital and the state will pick up the tab, but do so in a nursing home and you will pay.

The list of inconsistencies and absurdities is a long one. Coverage often depends on where you live, where you work, your age – but more than anything, public coverage is limited by historical accident.
The inconsistent coverage of mental health care (and psychological services in particular), home care and prescription drugs has been the subject of much debate, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If we are going to have a semblance of a national health system across 13 provinces and territories – without forgetting the large federal health system – it’s important to have equitable (not equal) access for all Canadians. Yet, the variations in coverage between jurisdictions have never been more pronounced.
Medicare cannot provide all care to all people at all times. We need to make tough choices on what is, and isn’t, in the medicare basket of services. We need to eliminate obsolete and wasteful practices, and embrace only new ones that are cost-effective.

We have the tools to do so. But good evidence isn’t enough. As the report notes, we need to “translate the language of science and evaluation into the language of decisions and public policy.”
- Jocelyn Timperley explores the long-term economic benefits of fighting climate change now, rather than having to answer for its effects later. And Merran Smith discusses the obvious risks of being left behind in a global transition to clean energy.

- Tammy Robert examines the Saskatchewan public's widespread recognition of the problem of climate change and willingness to help fight it - no matter how obstinately Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party try to stand in the way. And Jennifer Quesnel takes a look at the modest effect of an Alberta-style carbon tax even before accounting for rebates and investments from the new public revenue.

- Finally, Tom Parkin weighs in on the mirror-image cynicism of Doug Ford and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario's election campaign. And Donald Savoie discusses how Justin Trudeau is either taking Atlantic Canada for granted, or abandoning it altogether.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Covered cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Amy Remeikis reports on new research showing how educational inequality translates into an even wider economic gap.

- Hannah Johnston and Chris Land-Kazlauskas examine (PDF) the gig economy and the need for workers to be able to organize around it. But Rebecca Moss discusses another of Donald Trump's moves to undermine workers even more, this time by trashing panels working on workplace safety and whistleblower protections.

- Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report on Trump's concurrent move to nix emission standards for vehicles. Ben Parfitt exposes the B.C. Libs' suppression of facts about the dangers of fracking based on their belief that the public shouldn't have accurate information about environmental risks before going to the polls. And James Wilt takes note of the Trudeau Libs' move to scrap any environmental assessment for major oil sands projects.

- Meanwhile, Jonathan Watts reports on yet another study showing that the effects of climate change are already more severe than assumed, this time resulting in far more underwater ice melting than anticipated.

- Finally, Andrew Boozary and David Naylor weigh in on the need for a stronger health care system - including stronger connections to the social programs which can improve public health:
Achieving wider insurance coverage and fairer prices for drugs would be important steps toward a better system. But that won’t ensure the right drug gets prescribed for the right reasons — especially if a condition might be better treated with, say, cognitive behavioural therapy by a psychologist, or by a course of physiotherapy.

Here’s the upshot. For over 30 years, there’s been good evidence about the reforms needed to modernize our health system. The key is integration of services and budgets, allowing savings to be realized when evidence-informed investments are made in new, cost-effective services and technologies.

If that happened, prescription drugs could be covered and managed as part of the same budget as professional services, hospital stays, and home care. Shared care would mean shared budgets — not more volume-driven stovepipes with new sets of professionals publicly insured on a fee-for-service basis.

Governments and providers would also have incentives to promote stronger linkages between health and social services, thereby helping build healthier communities from the bottom up.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Charlie May writes that the inequality which is radically reshaping the American political scene receives short shrift compared to other stories. And Thomas Piketty studies (PDF) the political realignment which is seeing relatively well-defined class politics replaced with "multiple-elite" models.

- Meanwhile, Tom Parkin notes that Justin Trudeau's particular elitist vision is wearing thin very quickly:
We have common needs. We all need health care. Our children need education. We need an income, nutrition and a community to live in. We need security and protection. We need an environment that can sustain us. We enjoy recreation and sport, art, cooking and entertainment.

We are in it together.

And it’s in working on those common needs that Trudeau has really failed. Over two years, perhaps the only common need he’s much addressed was through his improvement to the Canada Pension Plan.

But he’s cut transfers for our health care and seems opposed to a universal pharmacare plan. He’s turned his back on childcare to help our children while we work. Infrastructure and housing have been pushed into the future. His defence of the environment we share has disappointed.

Perhaps Trudeau sees his role as floating above our identities, balancing and celebrating them. But perhaps Canadians are recognizing that a politician who doesn’t get down to our level and address our common needs isn’t taking our society anywhere.
- Kate Aronoff discusses a growing movement among U.S. Democrats supporting a job guarantee. But Matt Bruenig raises some questions as to whether it would meet all of the intended purposes - then makes the case for family welfare benefits as a primary income support.

- The Wall Street Journal charts how any recovery since the 2008 economic crash has been limited to the few who already had the most. And Carys Roberts and Mathew Lawrence discuss the prospect of a citizens' wealth fund in the UK.

- Finally, Kelly Crowe examines one of the connections between corporatist trade and declining health, as an increase in processed food imports since the signing of NAFTA can be linked to increasing obesity.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lana Payne offers her take on the need for Canada to catch up to the rest of the developed world in providing social supports:
Canada is sitting at a dismal 17 per cent, down at the bottom of the pack with Ireland, Israel, and Latvia. No bragging rights here.

Indeed, Canada doesn’t even reach the OECD average of 21 per cent. It was a surprising finding for many who follow such things.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been though considering what’s been happening in Canada for the past 20 years or so and the dominant narrative that Canada just can’t afford to build a stronger social safety net. And yet based on the size of our economy (our GDP) which really should define our ability to pay, Canada has lots of room to develop a stronger social fabric, including universal childcare.

Of course, that means having an adult conversation about taxes and fair taxation and climbing back from the decades long race-to-the-bottom started by the United States.

In the last 25 years, Canada has reduced taxes by the tens and tens of billions, especially to corporations. At the same time, it has introduced a smorgasbord of tax breaks to the wealthy. We don’t have an affordability problem, we have a revenue problem.

And in the narrow box that public policy and budget discussions have occurred in pushing for increased social spending has become an uphill battle. Those who pushed for a different and more equal kind of Canada were ridiculed by the right and Conservatives who for too long controlled the public policy debate ensuring that cuts to social spending became inevitable and indeed the goal.

But the conversation is shifting.

The conversation now in many circles, even banking circles, is focused on growing the economy by reducing inequality. How do we do that when Canadian household spending has maxed out? Social supports and higher wages.
- CBC News reports on the findings of Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault confirming the Harper Cons' muzzling of federal scientists on climate change among other issues. And the Star recounts the difficulties its reporters have had trying to access public documents.

- James Wilt discusses the importance of supply-side policy as part of a transition away from dirty energy, while Brett Dolter highlights the Saskatchewan Party's refusal to deal with the demand side.

- Finally, Cam Fuller offers an apt review of the Sask Party's treatment of the film industry. And Alex MacPherson reports on Scott Moe's personal bankruptcy - which looks to have represented ideal preparation for the leadership of a party bent on pushing the province in the same direction.