Main menu:

Posts by Author

History of RPE Thought

Posts by Tag

RSS New from the CCPA

Progressive Bloggers


Recent Blog Posts

Recent Blog Comments

The Progressive Economics Forum

Liberal’s EI Plan Rests on Bad Math

Joe Oliver recently announced a Small Business Tax Cut, sorry, Job Credit. Economists across the ideological spectrum denounced it as poorly designed.

This opened up an interesting opportunity for a national debate about what we want E.I. to be – coverage right now is at all time lows, and the accumulated deficit from the last recession will soon be repaid in full.

The Liberal Party entered the EI debate by suggesting a one-year EI premium holiday for employers who hire new workers. It’s disappointing that they completely ignored the possibility of expanding access. What’s even worse is that their plan rests on some pretty terrible math.

How much do they think a one year EI premium holiday for new hires will cost? Why, they can create 176,000 jobs for the low price of $225 million / year.

Sure, you say, the maximum EI contribution for employers is around $1250 / year, and 176,000 * $1250 = $225 million. No problem.

But, wait! How do you define new job? And how many ‘new jobs’ are created in the Canadian economy in any given year? You might think that it’s in the 176,000 range if you listen to any of the coverage of the Labour Force Survey release at the beginning of every month. But you’d be wrong.

The Labour Force Survey counts ‘net new jobs’, which is the the number of new hires minus the number of job leavers in a given month. Between August 2013 and August 2014, there was an average of 6,000 net new jobs every month.

But the total number of new hires is much larger than the number of net new jobs. People leave one job for another, and move into and out of the labour force regularly.

Although Statistics Canada doesn’t measure new hires directly, it does ask “how long have you been in your current job?”. We can say that people who answer “1 month or less” is a pretty good proxy for new hires. By this metric, there were approximately 3.7 million new hires in 2013. That’s 310,000 per month.

The Liberals will have blown through their annual budget for the EI premium rebate about two weeks after it has been introduced.

This plan confirms two things. The Liberal Party of Canada is totally OK with an EI coverage rate of 36%, and they aren’t really sure how the labour market works in Canada.

Of Rising Tides and Sinking Boats

Recently, Minister Kenney took to twitter to defend his decision to limit the number of precarious workers entering Alberta through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Again, the minister is to be applauded for his grasp of the situation. His changes do little to fix the actual problem though.

The evidence that he cited was the lack of wage growth among restaurant workers in Alberta. The graph below shows that, adjusted for inflation, restaurant worker wages in Alberta peaked in 2010, and have fallen since then by over $35 / week. At the same time, the overall average weekly wage has risen by $67 / week. Wages for retail workers haven’t budged, and manufacturing wages have risen only slightly.

Source: CANSIM 281-0027

Source: CANSIM 281-0027

What is driving this? Workers bargaining power has been restricted in two ways. First, workers employed through the Temporary Foreign Worker program are tied to a single employer. Second, many are not allowed to unionize. If a worker is unhappy with the wages or working conditions of their job, they can neither band together to demand better, nor walk across the street to a better employer.

The result is that employers do not have to raise wages to attract and keep workers. If there is a sufficient supply of vulnerable labourers, then current non-TFWP workers may be easily disciplined with the treat of being replaced by a willing temporary worker.

Limiting the pool of workers whose bargaining power is restricted may improve the situation of non-TFWP workers somewhat, if it means that they are less likely to believe the treat of being replaced. But it does nothing to improve the situation for temporary workers.

If there is a need for more low-skilled workers in Alberta, then Alberta should open up temporary and permanent immigration for low-skilled workers. But all workers should be allowed to move between employers, and to bargain wages and working conditions through the union of their choice. The best way to enforce employment standards is by giving workers the power to stand up for themselves.

Update: A Petition of Academics Against the CCPA Audit

A guest blog post from Mario Seccareccia and Louis-Philippe Rochon.

After learning that the Canada Revenue Agency is auditing  the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives  on the grounds that it allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased and one-sided research activity,  a number of university professors  have drawn up an open letter asking the Minister of National Revenue place a moratorium on its audits of all the various think-tanks that claim charitable status, until such time when truly neutral criteria can be implemented in the selection and conduct of  fair, transparent and even-handed periodic audits.  Audits should be focused on the financial management and integrity of the organization, not on the content of the research it conducts.  Why single out only one such research centre that happens to be more critical of government policy?

The open letter (below) was drafted by Professors Louis-Philippe Rochon (Laurentian University) and Mario Seccareccia (University of Ottawa) after consulting with a couple of colleagues from the PEF, namely Professor Marc Lavoie.  It has circulated only over the last few days across Canada.  The  enormous support from hundreds of Canadian professors across disciplines has far exceeded all expectations.   The list of signatories as of noon September 14 follows the open letter.  Professor Louis-Philippe Rochon can be reached by e-mail at:, and Professor Mario Seccareccia at:

Thank you for your support. 


An Open-Letter to:

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C.

Minister of National Revenue

c.c.: Kathy Hawara, Director General of the Charities Division, Canada Revenue Agency

Dear Minister Findlay,

Recently, we were informed through reports in a number of newspapers that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has undertaken an audit of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) on the grounds that it allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased and one-sided research activity.

While we understand the need to prevent abuses of the charitable status, we are rather perplexed at CRA’s decision to perform the audit on this basis. The CCPA is an internationally-recognized and respected research centre, built on a solid tradition of critical analysis.  Indeed, the CCPA plays a vital role by supplying much needed reflection on a number of policies, which it has always done in a fair and unbiased way, and which respects the fundamental tools of sound research. They have produced much-needed research on many disparate topics, such as on income and wealth distribution, the hidden government support of the Canadian banking sector during the financial crisis, and an analysis of alternative federal fiscal policy implementation annually. Since these various research studies are academically all of very high quality, you can therefore imagine how this news took us by surprise.

By undertaking this audit, we feel that CRA fails to understand the nature of what academic research is all about. Research begins from a series of questions and observations, and, from there, it proceeds, following a set of guidelines, to infer possible answers.  In this sense, it contests.  All research in fact is critical, by its very definition: it tests hypotheses, seeks answers, and must be allowed to find these answers wherever it can.

But critical policy analysis does not equate with political activism, nor is it “biased” or “one-sided”, as CRA has claimed.  Researchers explore specific questions of interest, and then present the results of their research. Reaching a conclusion is not the same as bias. To illustrate, a CCPA researcher explored the issue of what would be the appropriate exchange rate regime for Canada and then concluded that a floating exchange rate was desirable to alternative types of exchange rate mechanisms because the former allowed the public authorities to conduct independent macroeconomic policies. The fact that this conclusion turned out to be similar to the policy view of the Bank of Canada does not make the CCPA researcher any more political than if the researcher would have produced that same research independently within his/her respective university.

The CCPA is not a political organization, nor does it engage in political or partisan activities.  The fact that it has criticized government policy on a number of issues does not make it a partisan organization promoting a narrow agenda.  Rather, it is engaging in serious, unbiased academic research.  It may reach a different set of conclusions from those of the government, but then, this is allowed in a free-thinking, democratic country.  On the contrary, we would argue, that such dissent should be encouraged and not stifled by such actions of the CRA.

Indeed, if there is bias, the bias seems to be mostly in the CRA’s decision to audit the CCPA and apparently no other think tanks, whose policy conclusions are friendlier toward current government policies.  We are not aware of any audits being launched regarding “bias” at conservative think tanks like the Fraser Institute; some have publicly confirmed that they are not being audited (including the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute).  We are therefore left with the conclusion that the decision to audit the CCPA is politically motivated to intimidate and silence its criticism of your government’s policies.

We therefore strongly urge the CRA to put a moratorium on its audits of think tanks, until such time as a truly neutral criteria and auditing process are implemented to ensure neutrality and fairness, and to ensure that the audit process does not silence dissenting voices. Periodic audit should be conducted in a fair, transparent, and even-handed fashion across all the various think-tanks that claim charitable status in Canada, with a focus on financial management and integrity (not on the content of the research being conducted). Why single out only one such research centre that happens to be more critical of government policy? Instead of trying to muzzle and impede sound and legitimate research, it is now time for you to try to promote more effectively the public good in the form of sound critical research for which Canadian researchers are respected internationally.


Signed (alphabetically by 422 Canadian academics in post-secondary institutions):

1. Teresa Abbruzzese, Social Science, York University
2. Abdella Abdou, Economics, Brandon University
3. Frances Abele, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
4. Zelda Abramson, Sociology, Acadia University
5. Roy J. Adams, Industrial Relations, University of Saskatchewan/Human Rights, McMaster University
6. Laurie E. Adkin, Political Science and Environmental Studies, University of Alberta
7. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, International Development Studies, Trent University
8. Greg Albo, Political Science, York University
9. Pilar Riaño Alcalá, School of Social Work, University of British Columbia
10. David Alper, École de service social, Université de Saint-Boniface
11. Sharon Alward, School of Art, University of Manitoba
12. Barb Anderson, School of Nutrition and Dietetics, Acadia University
13. Caroline Andrew, Political Studies, University of Ottawa
14. Ian Angus, Humanities, Simon Fraser University
15. Joel Anthony, Biostatistics, University of Waterloo
16. Kelly Anthony, Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo
17. Maria Fernanda Arentsen, Littérature/langue espagnole, Université de Saint‑Boniface
18. Hugh Armstrong, Social Work, Political Economy, and Sociology, Carleton University
19. Michael Asch, Anthropology, University of Alberta
20. Tildiz Atasoy, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
21. Patricia Ballamingie, Geography & Environmental Studies, Carleton University
22. Fletcher Baragar, Economics, University of Manitoba
23. Chris Barrington-Leigh, Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University
24. Virginia A. Bartley, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
25. Tuna Baskoy, Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
26. Milford Bateman, International Development Studies, St Mary’s University
27. Sara Beam, History, University of Victoria
28. Raluca Bejan, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
29. David Bell, Law, University of New Brunswick
30. Nicole S. Berry, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
31. Jacqueline Best, École d’études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
32. Manfred Bienefeld, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
33. Greg Bird, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
34. Karen Bird, Political Science, McMaster University
35. Anne-Emanuelle Birn, School of Public Health, University of Toronto
36. Andrew Biro, Politics, Acadia University
37. Katherine Bischoping, Sociology, York University
38. David Black, Political Science, Dalhousie University
39. Gary Bloch, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
40. John Bogardus, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
41. Marleny Bonnycastle, Social Work, University of Manitoba
42. Karine Côté-Boucher, Criminologie, Université de Montréal
43. Hassan Bougrine, Economics, Laurentian University
44. Philippe Bourdin, French Studies, Glendon College, York University
45. Dominique Bourque, Women’s Studies Institute, University of Ottawa
46. Susan Boyd, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria
47. Susan Braedley, School of Social Work, Carleton University
48. Linda Briskin, Social Science/School of Women’s Studies, York University
49. Darlene A. Brodeur, Psychology, Acadia University
50. Neil Brooks, Osgoode Hall Law School
51. Christine Bruckert, Criminology, University of Ottawa
52. Robert Brym, Sociology, University of Toronto
53. Jerry Buckland, Dean Menno Simons College, Affiliated with University of Winnipeg
54. Michael Byers, Political Science, University of British Columbia
55. James Cairns, Society, Culture, and Environment, Wilfrid Laurier University
56. John Calvert, Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
57. Barbara Cameron, Political Science, York University
58. John Cameron, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University
59. Maxwell A. Cameron, Political Science, University of British Columbia
60. David Camfield, Labour Studies and Sociology, University of Manitoba
61. Eduardo Canel, Social Science, York University
62. Liesel Carlsson, School of Nutrition and Dietetics, Acadia University
63. R. Nicholas Carleton, Psychology, University of Regina
64. William K. Carroll, Sociology, University of Victoria
65. Angela V. Carter, Political Science, University of Waterloo
66. Adrienne Chambon, Social Work, University of Toronto
67. Chris Chapman, School of Social Work, York University
68. Jean Chapman, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University
69. Lanyan Chen, Social Welfare and Social Development, Nipissing University
70. Robert Chernomas, Economics, University of Manitoba
71. Christopher Churchill, History and Global Studies, Alfred University, Alfred, NY
72. Stephen Clarkson, Political Science, University of Toronto
73. Andrew Clement, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
74. Michael Clow, Sociology, St. Thomas University
75. William D. Coleman, Political Science, University of Waterloo
76. Ken Collier, Social Work and Integrated Studies, University of Regina and Athabasca University
77. Thomas Collombat, sciences sociales, Université du Québec en Outaouais
78. Elizabeth Comack, Sociology, University of Manitoba
79. Bruce Connell, Linguistics and Language Studies, Glendon College, York University
80. John Conway, Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina
81. Paul Craven, Social Science, York University
82. Marcela Cristi, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
83. María Cristina Cuervo, Spanish and Linguistics, University of Toronto
84. Dara Culhane, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
85. Frank Cunningham, Political Science and Philosophy, University of Toronto
86. Richard Cunningham, English and Theatre, Acadia University
87. Raymond F. Currie, Sociology, University of Manitoba
88. Lykke de la Cour, Social Science, York University
89. Darrell Crooks, School of Engineering, Acadia University
90. Charles Daviau, Northern Development and Labour Studies, Laurentian University
91. Henry Davis, Linguistics, University of British Columbia
92. Amber Dean, English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
93. Maneesha Deckha, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
94. Jessica Dempsey, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
95. Deborah Dergousoff, Sociology/Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
96. Radhika Desai, Political Studies, University of Manitoba
97. Annette Desmarais, Sociology, University of Manitoba
98. Mitch Diamantopoulos, School of Journalism, University of Regina
99. Harry Diaz, Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina
100. Robert Dimand, Economics, Brock University
101. D. Dimitrova, Sociology, York University
102. Alexandra Dobrowolsky, Political Science, Saint Mary’s University
103. Joe Dolecki, Economics, Brandon University
104. C. J. Doran, Social Science, University of New Brunswick
105. Katie Dorman, Resident Physician, University of Toronto
106. Sara Dorow, Sociology, University of Alberta
107. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Institute for Resources Environment & Sustainability, University of British Columbia
108. Paul Downes, Department of English, University of Toronto
109. Daniel Drache, Political Science, York University
110. Sabine Dreher, International Studies, Glendon College, York University
111. Lindsay DuBois, Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University
112. David F. Duke, History and Classics, Acadia University
113. Peter Dungan, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
114. Emily Eaton, Geography, University of Regina
115. Patricia W. Elliott, School of Journalism, University of Regina
116. Christo El Morr, Faculty of Health, York University
117. Kimberly Ellis-Hale, Sociology,Wilfrid Laurier University
118. Peter R. Elson, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
119. John Eustace, English and Theatre, Acadia University
120. Bryan Evans, Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
121. Matthew Farish, Geography, University of Toronto
122. Leesa Fawcett, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
123. Sue Ferguson, Digital Media and Journalism, Wilfrid Laurier University
124. Maria Figueredo, Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, York University
125. Len Findlay, English, University of Saskatchewan
126. Liz Fitting, Sociology & Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University
127. Marco Fonseca, International Studies, York University
128. John W. Foster, Sociology, Carleton University
129. Karen Foster, Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada, Dalhousie University
130. Ruth A. Frager, History, McMaster University
131. David Frank, History, University of New Brunswick
132. Lesley Frank, Sociology, Acadia University
133. Sid Frankel, Social Work, University of Manitoba
134. Myron J. Frankman, Economics, McGill University
135. Gail Fraser, Faculty of Environmental Studies,York University
136. Gavin Fridell, International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
137. Harriet Friedmann, Sociology, University of Toronto
138. Don Fuchs, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
139. Kathryn Furlong, Géographie, Université de Montréal
140. Lynda Gagné, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
141. Marc-André Gagnon, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
142. Anca Gaston, School of Kinesiology, Western University
143. Jim Gerlach, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University
144. Lauren Gillingham, English, University of Ottawa
145. L. Good Gingrich, School of Social Work and Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
146. Maya K. Gislason, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
147. Rebecca Godderis, Society, Culture and Environment & Health Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
148. Luin Goldring, Sociology, York University
149. Nicole Gombay, Géographie, Université de Montréal
150. Todd Gordon, Society, Culture and Environment, Laurier University
151. Rachel Gorman, School of Health Policy and Management, York University
152. Gwendolyn Gosek, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
153. Matheus Grasselli, The Fields Institute, University of Toronto
154. Donald Grayston, Humanities, Simon Fraser University
155. Hirsch Greenberg, Justice Studies, University of Regina
156. Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Political Economy, Simon Fraser University
157. Ricardo Grinspun, Economics, York University
158. Julie Guard, History and Labour Studies, University of Manitoba
159. Satya Dev Gupta, Economics, St. Thomas University
160. Robert Hackett, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
161. Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, Women’s Studies, York University
162. Judy Haiven, Management, Saint Mary’s University
163. Donalda Halabuza, Social Work, University of Regina
164. Derek Hall, Political Science/Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University
165. Peter Hall, Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University
166. Deana Halonen, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
167. Paul A. Hamel, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
168. Roberta Hamilton, Sociology, Queen’s University
169. Trevor Hancock, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria
170. Roy Hanes, Social Work, Carleton University
171. Frédéric Hanin, Industrial Relations, Université Laval
172. Bob Hanke, Communication Studies and Humanities, York University
173. Stacey Hannem, Criminology, Wilfrid Laurier University
174. James Hare, Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba
175. Kathryn Harrison, Political Science, University of British Columbia
176. Trevor Harrison, Sociology, University of Lethbridge
177. Matthew Hayes, Sociology, St. Thomas University
178. Terry Heaps, Economics, Simon Fraser University
179. Tuula Heinonen, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
180. Eric Helleiner, Political Science, University of Warerloo
181. Judith Adler Hellman, Political and Social Science, York University
182. Stephen Hellman, Political Science, York University
183. Dawn Hemingway, School of Social Work, University of New Brunswick
184. Roderick Hill, Economics, University of New Brunswick
185. John Holmes, Geography, Queen’s University
186. Jennie Hornosty, Sociology, University of New Brunswick
187. Ian Hudson, Economics, University of Manitoba
188. Mark Hudson, Sociology, University of Manitoba
189. Peter Hudson, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
190. Judy Hughes, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
191. Sally Humphries, International Development Studies, University of Guelph
192. Thaddeus Hwong, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies,York University
193. Suzan Ilcan, Sociology, University of Waterloo, and Balsillie School of International Affairs
194. Shin Imai, Osgoode Hall Law School
195. Gustavo Indart, Economics, University of Toronto
196. Christopher Innes, Performance & Culture, York University
197. Andrew Jackson, Political Science, York University
198. Matt James, Political Science, University of Victoria
199. Jane Jenson, science politique, Université de Montréal
200. Rebecca Johnson, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
201. Miriam Jones, Humanities & Languages, University of New Brunswick
202. Eric Kam, Economics, Ryerson University
203. Burc Kayahan, Economics, Acadia University
204. Dip Kapoor, International Education, University of Alberta
205. LLan Kapoor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
206. Rita Kaur Dhamoon, Political Science, University of Victoria
207. Larry Kazdan, Accounting, British Columbia Institute of Technology
208. Paul Keen, Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, Carleton University
209. Samantha King, School of Kinesiology & Health Studies, Queen’s University
210. Paul Kingston, Centre for Critical Development Studies, University of Toronto
211. Stefan Kipfer, Faculty of Environmental Studies,York University
212. Mustafa Koc, Sociology, Ryerson University
213. Lisa Kowalchuk, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph
214. Kirsten Kozolanka, Journalism and Communication, Carleton University
215. Robert B. Kristofferson, Society, Culture & Environment/History, Wilfred Laurier University
216. Rod Kueneman, Sociology, University of Manitoba
217. Peter Kulchyski, Native Studies, University of Manitoba
218. Dany Lacombe, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
219. Rollie LaHaye, Arts Faculty – Justice Studies, Mount Royal University
220. Rosanna Langer, Law and Justice, Laurentian University
221. David Langille, Social Sciences, York University
222. Ganaele Langlois, Communication Studies,York University
223. Marc Lavoie, Economics, University of Ottawa
224. James Lawson, Political Science, University of Victoria
225. David Leadbeater, Economics, Laurentian University
226. Michael A. Lebowitz, Economics, Simon Fraser University
227. Joelle Leclaire, Economics, SUNY Buffalo State, NY
228. Paul Leduc Browne, Sciences sociales, Université du Québec en Outaouais
229. Iara Lessa, Social Work, Ryerson University
230. Leah Levac, Political Science and Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Guelph
231. Jacqueline Levitin, School for the Contemporary Arts (Film)/Gender, Simon Fraser University
232. Joel Lexchin, School of Health Policy and Management, York University
233. Myra Leyden, Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto
234. Ernie Lightman, Social Policy, University of Toronto
235. Abby Lippman, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University
236. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Social Science, York University
237. Margaret Little, Political Studies, Queens University
238. Cynthia Loch-Drake, Schulich School of Business, York University
239. Carlos David Londoño Sulkin, Anthropology, University of Regina
240. José López, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
241. John Loxley, Economics, University of Manitoba
242. Lucy Luccisano, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
243. Colleen Lundy, School of Social Work, Carleton University
244. Eleanor MacDonald, Political Studies, Queen’s University
245. Gayle MacDonald, Sociology, St. Thomas University
246. Heidi MacDonald, History, University of Lethbridge
247. Ian MacDonald, École de relations industrielles, Université de Montréal
248. Kenneth Ian MacDonald, Human Geography and City Studies, University of Toronto
249. Laura Macdonald, Institute of Political Economy Carleton University
250. Karen MacKinnon, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
251. Shauna MacKinnon, Urban and Inner City Studies, University of Winnipeg
252. Brian MacLean, Economics, Laurentian University
253. André Magnan, Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina
254. Warren Magnusson, Political Science, University of Victoria
255. Terrill Maguire, Faculty Fine Arts, Dance, York University
256. Rianne Mahon, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
257. Paul Makdissi, Economics, University of Ottawa
258. Guida Man, Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University
259. David Mandel, Science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal
260. Geoff Mann, Geography, Simon Fraser University
261. Allan Manson, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
262. Michael Markwick, School of Communication, Capilano University
263. Alina Marquez, Social Science, York University
264. Greg Marquis, History and Politics, University of New Brunswick
265. Fiona S. Martin, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University
266. Marie-Josée Massicotte, École d’études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
267. Dominique Masson, Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa
268. María Inés Matínez, French, Spanish and Italian, University of Manitoba
269. Atsuko Matsuoka, School of Social Work, York University
270. Lisa Matthewson, Linguistics, University of British Columbia
271. Stephen McBride, Political Science, McMaster University
272. Margaret McCallum, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
273. Dianne McCormack, Applied Science and Engineering, University of Brunswick
274. Joan McFarland, Economics/Women’s and Gender Studies, St. Thomas University
275. Elizabeth W. McGahan, History and Politics, University of New Brunswick
276. Martha McGinnis-Archibald, Linguistics, University of Victoria
277. Kim McGrail, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
278. Susan McGrath, School of Social Work & Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
279. Tom McIntosh, Politics and International Studies, University of Regina
280. Sheila McIntyre, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
281. Brad McKenzie, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
282. Marcia McKenzie, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan
283. J.J. McMurtry, Social Science, York University
284. David McNally, Political Science, York University
285. James McNinch, Faculty of Education, University of Regina
286. Rick Mehta, Psychology, Acadia University
287. Ryan Meili, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan
288. Merouan Mekouar, International Development Studies, York University
289. Margie Mendell, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University
290. Franklin Mendivil, Mathematics and Statistics, Acadia University
291. Adèle Mercier, Philosophy, Queen’s University
292. Michael M’Gonigle, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
293. Lisa Mills, Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
294. Suzanne Mills, School of Labour Studies and Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
295. Barbara A. Mitchell, Sociology & Gerontology, Simon Fraser University
296. Douglas Moggach, Political Studies and Philosophy, University of Ottawa
297. Faisal Moola, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto
298. Haideh Moghissi, Equity Studies, York University
299. Esteve Morera, Philosophy and Political Science, York University
300. Dawn Morgan, English, St. Thomas University
301. Marina Morrow, Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health, Simon Fraser University
302. James P. Mulvale, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
303. Allan Moscovitch, Social Work, Carleton University
304. Tiffany Muller Myrdahl, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
305. Jan O. Murie, Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
306. Brenda L. Murphy, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Society, Culture and Environment, Wilfred Laurier University
307. Laura J. Murray, English and Cultural Studies, Queen’s University
308. Tony Myatt, Economics, University of New Brunswick
309. Eric Mykhalovskiy, Sociology, York University
310. John Myles, Sociology and School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto
311. Eric Newstadt, Politics, Acadia University
312. Winnie Ng, Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University
313. Michael Nijhawan, Sociology, York University
314. Kendra Nixon, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
315. Liisa L. North, Political Science, York University
316. Richard W. Nutter, Social Work, University of Calgary
317. Nicole O’Byrne, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
318. Anne O’Connell, School of Social Work, York University
319. Paul Orlowski, Educational Foundations, University of Saskatchewan
320. Lars Osberg, Economics, Dalhousie University
321. Gerardo Otero, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
322. Robin Ostow, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
323. Karen Palmer, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
324. Leo Panitch, Political Science, York University
325. Sylvie Paquerot, Études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
326. Pierre Paquette, Gestion et Économie, Collège militaire royal du Canada
327. Daniel J. Paré, School of Information Studies, University of Ottawa
328. Kate Parizeau, Geography, University of Guelph
329. Corinne Pastoret, Economics, Laurentian University
330. Viviana Patroni, Social Science, York University
331. Justin Paulson, Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University
332. Christopher Pavsek, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
333. Mark Peacock, Social Science, York University
334. Hélène Pellerin , École d’études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
335. Patricia E. Perkins, Environmental Studies, York University
336. Nalini Persram, Social Science, York University
337. Paul Peters, Sociology and Economics, University of New Brunswick
338. Stephen Phillips, Political Science, Langara College
339. Toni Pickard, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
340. Kelly Pike, Work and Labour Studies, York University
341. Robert Pitter, School of Kinesiology, Acadia University
342. Kari Polanyi Levitt, Economics, McGill University
343. James N. Porter, Sociology, York University
344. Garry Potter, Sociology, Wilfred Laurier University
345. Gillian Poulter, History and Classics, Acadia University
346. Stuart Poyntz, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
347. Elaine Power, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University
348. Susan Preston, School of Social Work, Ryerson University
349. Craig Proulx, Anthropology, St. Thomas University
350. Vernon Provencal, History and Classics, Acadia University
351. Scott Prudham, Geography, University of Toronto
352. Norene Pupo, Sociology, York University
353. Jack Quarter, OISE, University of Toronto
354. Martha Radice, Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University
355. Reza Rahbari, Sociology and Equity Studies, York University
356. Momin Rahman, Sociology, Trent University
357. Saeed Rahnema, Political Science and Equity Studies, York University
358. Indhu Rajagopal, Social Science, York University
359. Dennis Raphael, Health Policy and Management, York University
360. Geoff Read, History, Huron University College, University of Western Ontario
361. Leslie Regan Shade, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
362. Darryl Reed, Social Science, York University
363. Ester Reiter, Liberal Arts, York University
364. Graham Riches, School of Social Work, University of British Columbia
365. Louis-Philippe Rochon, Economics, Laurentian University
366. Cathy Rocke, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
367. Sanda Rodgers, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
368. Cristina Rojas, Political Science, Carleton University
369. Herman Rosenfeld, Political Science and Labour Studies, York University and McMaster University
370. Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Statistics, University of Toronto
371. Stephanie Ross, Social Science, York University
372. Abraham Rotstein, Economics, University of Toronto
373. Christian Rouillard, Études politiques, Université d’Ottawa
374. James K. Rowe, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
375. Ranjan Roy, Clinical Health Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba
376. Nicholas Ruddick, English, University of Regina
377. Ellen Russell, Digital Media and Journalism, Society, Culture, and Environment, Wilfred Laurier University
378. Blair Rutherford, Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University
379. Phil Ryan, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
380. Sherida Ryan, Social Economy Centre, University of Toronto
381. Kim Rygiel, Political Science and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University
382. Eric W. Sager, History, University of Victoria
383. Miguel Sanchez, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina
384. Mark Sandilands, Psychology, University of Lethbridge
385. Rosa Sarabia, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto
386. Anna Saroli, Hispanic Studies, Languages and Literatures, Acadia University
387. Sébastien Savard, School of Social Work, University of Ottawa
388. Dana Sawchuk, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
389. Todd Scarth, History and Global Political Economy, University of Manitoba
390. Melissa Schaefer, School of Health and Human Services, Camosun College
391. Rita Schreiber, School of Nursing, University of Victoria
392. Rebecca Schein, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (Human Rights), Carlton University
393. Kelly Scott, Social Work, University of Manitoba
394. Robert Seale, English and Theatre, Acadia University
395. Alan Sears, Sociology, Ryerson University
396. Mario Seccareccia, Economics, University of Ottawa
397. Andrew Secord, Economics, St. Thomas University
398. David Seljak, Religious Studies, University of Waterloo
399. James Sentence, Economics, University of Prince Edward Island
400. Ardeshir Sepehri, Economics, University of Manitoba
401. John Serieux, Economics, University of Manitoba
402. Yasmine Shamsie, Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
403. Ketan Shankerass, Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University
404. Karena Shaw, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
405. John Shields, Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
406. Tyler Shipley, Department of International Studies, York University
407. David Shugarman, Political Science, York University
408. Janet Siltanen, Sociology and Political Economy, Carleton University
409. Daniel L. Silver, Jodrey School of Computer Science, Acadia University
410. Jim Silver, Urban and Inner-City Studies, University of Winnipeg
411. Derek Simon, Religious Studies, St. Thomas University
412. John Simoulidis, Business and Society Program, York University
413. Harry Smaller, Faculty of Education, York University
414. Charles Smith, Political Studies, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan
415. Patrick Smith, Political Science, Simon Fraser University
416. John Smithin, Economics and Schulich School of Business, York University
417. Ian Skelton, Department of City Planning, University of Manitoba
418. David Skinner, Communication Studies, York University
419. Russell C. Smandych, Sociology, University of Manitoba
420. Denise L. Spitzer, Institute of Women’s Studies and the Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa
421. Marc Spooner, Faculty of Education, University of Regina
422. Brenda Spotton Visano, School of Public Policy & Administration, and Economics, York University
423. Susan Spronk, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
424. Kendra Strauss, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University
425. Jennifer A. Stephen, History, York University
426. Pierre Stevens , Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dalhousie University
427. Erin Steuter, Sociology, Mount Allison University
428. Andrew Stevens, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Regina
429. Donald Swartz, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
430. Karen Swift, Social Work, York University
431. Luc Thériault, Sociology, University of New Brunswick
432. Hugh Thomas, Mathematics, University of New Brunswick
433. Mark Thomas, Sociology, York University
434. Laura A. Thompson, School of Education, Acadia University
435. Sonia R. Thon, Languages and Literatures, Acadia University
436. Edward D. Tymchatyn, Mathematics and Statistics, University of Saskatchewan
437. Suzanne Urbanczyk, Linguistics, University of Victoria
438. Peyman Vahabzadeh, Sociology, University of Victoria
439. Brian VanBlarcom, Economics, Acadia University
440. Anil Varughese, Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University
441. Henry Veltmeyer, Sociology and International Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University
442. J.I. Vorst, Economics, University of Manitoba
443. R.B.J. Walker, Political Science, University of Victoria
444. Glenda Wall, Sociology, Wilfrid Laurier University
445. Margaret Walton-Roberts, School of International Policy and Governance, Balsillie School of International Affairs
446. Rebecca Warburton, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria
447. Rennie Warburton, Sociology, University of Victoria
448. Ailsa M. Watkinson, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina
449. C.A. Watt, History, St. Thomas University
450. David Welch, École de service social, Université d’Ottawa
451. Donald Wells, School of Labour Studies, McMaster University
452. Emma Whelan, Sociology and Anthropology, Dalhousie University
453. Judy White, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina
454. Elizabeth Whitmore, School of Social Work, Carleton University
455. Melanie Wiber, Anthropology, University of New Brunswick
456. Sarah Marie Wiebe, Political Science, University of Victoria
457. Carol Williams, Women and Gender Studies, University of Lethbridge
458. Janice Williamson, English & Film Studies, University of Alberta
459. Rob Wilton, Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University
460. Mark Winfield, Environmental Studies, York University
461. Tony Winson, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph
462. Heather Whiteside, Geography, University of British Columbia
463. Julia Wong, Sociology, University of Manitoba
464. Lesley Wood, Sociology, York University
465. Andrew Woolford, Sociology, University of Manitoba
466. Thom Workman, Political Science and International Development Studies, University of New Brunswick
467. Ken Wyman, School of Media Studies and Information Technology, Humber College
468. Feng Xu, Political Science, University of Victoria
469. Matthew G. Yeager, Sociology, King’s University College at Western University
470. Hilary A.N. Young, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
471. Margot Young, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
472. David Zakus, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta
473. Anna Zalik, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
474. Isik U. Zeytinoglu, Management and Industrial Relations, McMaster University





Should Welfare Recipients Try Harder to Find Work?

This morning the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a new report about “motivational interviewing” for welfare recipients.  The link to the full report is here, and the link to the executive summary is here.

Authored by Reuben Ford, Jenn Dixon, Shek-wai Hui, Isaac Kwakye and Danielle Patry, the study reports on a recent randomized controlled trial done on long-term recipients of social assistance in British Columbia.  The research took place between September 2012 and March 2013.  There were a total of 154 research participants; 76 of the individuals were in the “treatment group,” while 78 were in the “control group.”

Earlier this year, I was invited to be a discussant on the study at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Economics Association.  Here are 10 things I think you should know about this report:

1. The “intervention” being studied was the Motivational Interviewing (MI) technique.  MI is “a method of interacting with clients who are ambivalent about making change in their lives.” It has “wide application in behavioural change: addictions, health, behaviour wellness, chronic disease management, and most recently in the employment field.”  For more on MI, see this web link.

2. Research participants were on welfare upon enrollment in the study.  By “welfare,” I mean last-resort social assistance.  For most eligible residents in British Columbia, this is known as “income assistance (IA).”  Upon being recruited for the study, most research participants were receiving approximately $1,000 per month to live on; this amount included “health supplements,” as well as “general supplements” for such things as transportation.  Research participants had also been identified by British Colombia’s Ministry of Social Development as being “employment obligated,” which means they were expected to be actively searching for paid employment.  (For more on benefit levels available under social assistance programs administered by provincial and territorial governments, see this 2013 report.  Readers should be mindful that, across Canada, there are separate social assistance systems for First Nations; a 2007 evaluation of the federally-administered “income assistance” program for First Nations can be found here.)

3. Research participants had been on welfare for at least one year at the study’s outset.  The rationale behind this recruitment strategy was to identify social assistance recipients who were most likely to be facing motivational challenges.

4. Most of the research participants reported health problems.  According to the report, more than 70% of study participants “reported activity limitations that affected their ability to work.” For example, just one-quarter of members of the treatment group reported that “their health was ‘good’ or ‘very good…’”  With this in mind, it’s not entirely clear to me why British Columbia’s Ministry of Social Development considers these individuals to be “employment obligated.”

5. The “intervention” was provided by welfare officials (specifically, by Employment and Assistance Workers and case managers).  Remarkably, each staff person received fewer than 70 hours of training before delivering the intervention (specifically, 60 hours of training in how to deliver MI and then nine hours of coaching as the intervention was being delivered).  The training of staff was provided by Empowering Change Inc., a Canadian-based organization that (perhaps not surprisingly) specializes in training people on how to deliver MI.  Members of the study’s control group “received the range of services and treatment which they would typically receive” as long-term recipients of social assistance.

6. The results of this study suggest that Motivational Interviewing can be effective.  By the end of the three-month study period, the difference in the respective employment rates of the treatment group and the control group was statistically significant.  The precise size of the difference in the employment rate between the two groups was 7.8%. (For the research wonks:  the level of statistical significance attained on this was 5%.  Put differently, the likelihood that this finding occurred by chance is less than 5%.)  This finding raises a question for me though:  what would outcomes have been for members of the treatment group after 12 and 24 months respectively?  Three months is not a long time.

7. Fewer than half of the members of the study’s treatment group actually took in even one (hour-long) Motivational Interviewing session.  Just 36 of the members of the study’s 76 treatment group members chose to go through with a Motivational Interview.  And only about one in five members of the treatment group took in more than one such session.  Ergo: the success of the treatment group as a whole appears to have been carried by a minority of its membership.  This suggests to me that the success of the treatment group is actually being understated; had every single member of the treatment group actually received the intervention (and not merely been offered it) I suspect the treatment group as a whole would have performed even more favourably compared with the control group.

8. The research was funded by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).  On the one hand, I suspect that most readers will not be surprised to learn that the federal government wants most people on welfare to ‘look harder’ for work.  On the other hand, it may come as a surprise to some readers (especially those who remember the Harper government’s decision to end the mandatory long-form census) that the federal government has funded research looking at what is effective in this regard.

9The study took place at a time when, throughout Canada, there were considerably more unemployed persons than job vacancies.  Across Canada there are roughly six unemployed persons for every job vacancy (a ratio that varies considerably across provinces).  This raises an important question:  in a country where the number of unemployed persons vastly outnumbers job vacancies, why does the federal government want to study the feasibility of long-term recipients of social assistance (many of whom have serious health problems) trying harder to find low-wage work?  Some readers will remember a Toronto study conducted in 2001 that followed more than 800 individuals who had left welfare within the previous year.  Fewer than half of those individuals “felt things had improved financially” for them since leaving social assistance; on the whole, after leaving social assistance, individuals “reported incomes at approximately 92% of Statistics Canada’s 2001 Low Income Cut-Offs.” (Further analysis of this Toronto study can be found here.)

10. This study took place at the same time that the federal government is aggressively bringing in more temporary migrant workers.  As Jim Stanford has recently noted: “Migrant employment [in Canada] rose 140 per cent between 2005 and 2012.” Further, “[o]ne in every five net new paid jobs created in Canada between 2007 and 2012 was filled by a migrant worker.” This raises yet another question for me:  why is the federal government interested in exploring how to encourage more welfare recipients to look harder for low-wage jobs while (simultaneously) ‘importing’ competition for many of those same jobs at an aggressive pace?  Don’t the two objectives work at cross purposes?

More on Secular Stagnation

Here is the link to a piece I wrote for the Globe on line this week re an interesting new eBook on secular stagnation.  I am struck by the fact that several eminently mainstream economists, mainly in the US but also Blanchard at the IMF,  see a need for public investment to drive growth, given the fact that loose monetary policy alone is not up to the job and is fueling financial bubbles. This is a view which we do not often hear in Canada from mainstream academics and economists.. eg Chris Ragan’s recent piece to the effect that we just have to tolerate slow growth and a weak job market.

The book also has an interesting discussion re technological progress and potential growth.

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Job Numbers

Today Statistics Canada released their first set of job numbers since the ‘oops’ of July 2014. And the news was dismal. The labour market shed 112,000 private sector positions, the largest single month drop in the private sector since, well, forever. Coming on the heels of a mistake is unfortunate, but you have to think that Statistics Canada was extra vigilant this month and checked everything up, down, backwards, and sideways.

Either way, month to month variations are far less meaningful than overall trends, so let’s have a look at those, shall we?

Part-time work

Only workers over 55 have seen an increase in full time work compared to last August, and most of this is likely due to demographic change. Among core age workers there were fewer full-time jobs and more part-time jobs. Young workers traded 3,000 full-time jobs for less than a thousand part-time ones.


Source: CANSIM 282-0087

Temporary work

The picture is quite similar for temporary employment. Year over year, core age workers saw a drop in the number of permanent jobs, and an increase in temporary employment. Temporary


Young Workers

Young workers in particular have difficulty finding work when the labour market is slack. As do new Canadians. So it would follow that young workers who are also new Canadians have an even harder time. The graph below shows the unemployment rate for young workers as a 12 month moving average from January 2007.

At it’s peak, the unemployment rate for young workers who had been landed immigrants for 5 -10 years almost hit 25%. While the unemployment rate for Canadian born young workers remains elevated over its pre-recession level, the trend seems to be gradually falling. On the other hand, the unemployment rate is rising for all three categories of new Canadian young workers.

Source: CANSIM 282-0103

Source: CANSIM 282-0103


Public / Private mix

Such a huge drop in private sector employment is a concern, since the labour market has been very heavily relying on private sector gains for the minimal job growth we have seen this year. And the huge spike in self-employment is also worrisome, as these jobs are more often precarious ones.

The good news is that this months drop in private sector employment and spike in self-employment didn’t really change the overall mix when you look at the average over the past twelve months and compare this to the year before.

Source: CANSIM 282-0011

Source: CANSIM 282-0011


With far too few job vacancies, and record low proportions of unemployed workers receiving EI (especially in urban areas), the Canadian labour market is looking pretty depressing. I think there’s going to be a lot to discuss at Unifor’s upcoming Good Jobs Summit in Toronto.


Self-Employment Masks Job Loss

Statistics Canada reported today that employers cut the number of employees by 98,000 in August, which was largely masked by 87,000 more Canadians identifying themselves as self-employed. As a result, the headline level of “employment” – which includes self-employment – was little changed.

Self-employment ranges from high-income professionals to people eking out a living doing odd jobs. However, when a large increase in self-employment coincides with a large drop in positions paid by an employer, it begs the question of whether Canadians are becoming self-employed by choice or because jobs are not available. One also wonders how many survey respondents are simply more comfortable reporting themselves as self-employed rather than unemployed.

The headline numbers are weak and they would be disastrous but for the surge in self-reported self-employment. Policymakers must focus on creating jobs and ensuring adequate benefits for jobless workers.

Indigenous Workers in Canada

Labour market data in Canada is easily available by sex, age, and region. We spend a great deal of time talking about these factors. More recently Statistics Canada made labour market data available on CANSIM by landed immigrant status, going back to 2006. This factor is less often included in most labour market analysis, and too few know that it is even available.

But if you want to know how racialized workers or Indigenous workers (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are doing in the labour force you basically have to rely on the census … oh, wait. And on top of eliminating the census, the Harper government shut down the First Nations Statistical Institute.

So imagine my delight when a recent search on the issue turned up an article from the Centre for the Study of Living Standards about Indigenous employment that cited the Labour Force Survey as a source.

I should have already known that the Labour Force Survey asked an Aboriginal identity question, but I didn’t. A quick call to Statistics Canada revealed that this data is freely available on request, but is limited to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples living off reserve (since the LFS doesn’t survey persons living on reserves).

I plan on doing a more thorough analysis, but I thought that I would post a few quick insights, and get the word out so that anyone who is interested can call and get the data for themselves.

Some of this data confirms things that we ‘know’, but having the hard numbers helps when we’re calling for action. For example, unemployment is a HUGE issue for Indigenous young workers living off reserve, before, during, and after the recession. The unemployment rate reached a high of 22.5% in 2009, and was still 18% in 2013.


While I don’t have the data to calculate underemployment, consider that underemployment rates seem to be about double unemployment rates for the general population. That suggests an underemployment rate of at least 36% for Indigenous young workers in 2013.

Unemployment rates for Indigenous workers are much higher than for non-Indigenous Canadian born workers, and are comparable to that of new Canadians.



As you can tell by the graph, the recession was more severe and lasted longer for Indigenous workers and new Canadians.

So whenever we’re talking about labour market strategies and good jobs, it’s important to keep in mind that for some workers there are systemic barriers that need to be addressed. Hopefully access to labour market data for Indigenous workers and new Canadians can be one way that we convey the need for action.

If you want to read more about Indigenous workers and the labour market in Canada the CSLS has a study using LFS data from 2007 – 2011, the Conference Board of Canada has a more employer driven study from 2012, and a 2011 paper in aboriginal policy studies by Friedel and Taylor analyses the colonial discourse in Indigenous labour market development policy in Northern Alberta.


Is Canada becoming a ‘part-time’ nation – the value of LMI

Most of the jobs added to the Canadian labour market in 2014 were part-time – prompting headlines such as “Experts fret Canada becoming a nation of part-time workers“.

Are we really a part-time nation? Well, 80% of workers in Canada are full-time, and a large majority of part-time workers choose to work part-time hours. So, no, we are not at the verge of some part-time workopolypse. But the labour market has been changing, driven partly by demographics (aging) and women entering the labour force.

Between 1976 and 2013, the number of core-age women working part-time jobs more than doubled – but the proportion of those women working part-time actually fell.


Source: CANSIM 282-0002

In the early 1980′s about one in four (25%) working women between 25 and 54 held a part-time job. By the mid-2000′s that number had dropped to one in five (20%). This means that as women entered the workforce in huge numbers, it became more common for them to hold full-time jobs as well.

A breakdown of part-time workers by age yields some interesting findings as well. When people think of part-time workers, they overwhelmingly picture pimply teenagers. But over time that has been less and less true.

Source: CANSIM 282-0002

Source: CANSIM 282-0002

In 1976, more than 30% of part-time workers were between 15 and 19 years of age. Now they make up less than 20% of the part time work force.

At the other end of the age spectrum, workers between 50 and 65 used to comprise only 10% of all part-time workers, and now make up more than 20%. As older workers need to stay in the labour force longer in order to supplement failing (or absent) pensions, this trend will likely increase.

All of this sparks a larger question: Why should we care about the number or proportion of part-time workers anyway?

Labour economists dissect the details of the monthly Labour Force Survey with the intensity of wild animals who have landed a fresh kill. We’re hungry for data and answers, and search endlessly for the crosstab that will give us a fresh perspective on what’s happening in people’s lives across the country.

We care about the number of jobs, the quality of jobs, and the wages of jobs, because we care about the well-being of workers and their families. Under our current economic system, jobs are the main way that we distribute wealth – so it matters, a lot.

Very often the Labour Force Survey doesn’t have the answers. But it gives us a place to start asking questions.

Revised LFS Numbers Don’t Change the Big Picture

What a rough week it’s been over at Statistics Canada.  It’s a world-renowned statistical agency — though its lustre has been tarnished in recent years by budget cuts, cancelled data programs and series, and the nonsense of the Harper government’s libertarian crusade against the long form census.  The problems this week around its Labour Force Survey report for July will certainly contribute to the sense of entropy surrounding this important and valuable institution.

The biggest change in the numbers is that full-time employment is now estimated to have declined by about 20,000, instead of the original 60,000.  Not exactly something to boast about.  60,000 part-time jobs were created (same as the original report).  The unemployment rate is the same as the original report — and exactly the same as 18 months ago.  The participation rate is unchanged from June: higher than in the original report, but still stuck at its lowest level since 2001.

I published a Globe and Mail commentary on Canada’s stagnant labour market based in part on the original LFS report.  Today’s revised numbers do not materially change the argument I made there, which is that Canada’s much-vaunted economic recovery was over-rated in the first place, and in fact ran out of steam a long time ago.  There has been no sustained labour market progress for over three years.  The employment rate is languishing just a hair above its level in June 2009 — the trough of the recession.  That means job-creation since the trough of the recession has only just kept up with growth in the working-age population (ageing demographics is part of that story, too, on top of poor job-creation).

And the revised LFS numbers still confirm a growing contrast between the accelerating U.S. recovery and the stagnation and “serial disappointment” (Stepehn Poloz’s catchy phrase) of Canada’s trajectory.  In the last year the U.S. economy created 2.3 million full-time jobs; Canada’s created barely any (with the smaller-than-originally-reported loss of full-time employment in July, the year-over-year change is now positive but miniscule).  The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 points since January 2013.  Canada’s hasn’t budged.  The stark difference in macro policy stance between the two countries is clearly an important factor behind this take of two recoveries: American policy is emphasizing job-creation, and mobilizes conventional and unconventional levers to get there, while Canadian policy is dominated by orthodox concern with balancing the budget.

In short, I think Canada’s relative underperormance since 2011 will become increasingly damaging to the Harper government, given how much it has invested in its reputation (deserved or not) as the “best economic managers.”

Debunking Fraser Institute’s latest contortion on taxes

The Fraser Institute’s annual Consumer Tax Index report generated some media buzz with its outlandish claims about just how much taxes have risen since 1961. Before you get worked up about this, consider that 1961 was over half a century ago, before the time of universal health care that we all benefit from, before the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that hugely reduced poverty for seniors, before the Canada Child Tax Benefit which is helping lower child poverty (though not enough!). Read more »

Declining pensions and bargaining power

[Cross-posted on my blog here.]

It’s relatively common knowledge that employer-run pensions have been scaled back over the past few decades. I’ve decided to dig up some data on pensions for this post to see just how this has taken place in Canada, motivated by a recently-released analysis of US pension reform that finds contradictions in how US workers have come to take on more and more of the risk for their retirement income.

First, a bit of background. There are two main kinds of employer-administered pension funds: defined benefit (DB) plans – where retirees receive a set monthly income, or defined benefit – and defined contribution (DC) plans – where retirees receive a variable monthly income dependent on how much they proportionately contributed to the pension plan and how this money was invested. There are also completely individualized retirement savings plans such as the RRSP, but these are essentially individuals investment accounts given preferential tax treatment. However, the link between RRSPs and DC plans is that they generally place investment risk on workers themselves; if whatever financial instrument the money is invested in suffers, retirement income also suffers.

While some employers have eliminated pensions altogether, many have restructured their pension plans. Here’s the Canadian data on registered pension plan membership, plotted as a percentage of employment:

Figure 1. Registered pension plan coverage as a percentage of employment by type of plan (Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM 280-0008 and 282-0008).

Figure 1. Registered pension plan coverage as a percentage of employment by type of plan (Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM 280-0008 and 282-0008).

Read more »

Is r>g in Canada?

Here is a little bit of rainy day economic doodling that may be of interest.

Piketty famously argues that there is a tendency for r – the rate of return on capital- to exceed g- the rate of growth of income. If r>g, wealth and income inequality will grow inexorably since ownership of capital and claims on income from capital are highly concentrated in a few hands.

Piketty’s definition of capital is very broad, and boils down to wealth, including housing and financial assets.

I am not at all sure that house prices must or do increase at a faster rate than nominal incomes. Though they certainly have done so for the past decade or so, I would see this as unsustainable

As for the rate of return on financial assets, it does seem to be true that r has been greater than g for the past twenty years.

Nominal GDP growth (g) for 1989-1999 averaged 4.1%;  for  2000-2008 it averaged 5.7%. (I leave out the recent recession, weak recovery,)

The risk-free return on capital proxied by the 10 year Government of Canada bond rate (January number) averaged 7.8% 1989 to 1999, due to high interest rates in the early to mid 1990s. However, it fell to an average of 4.8%, 2000-08. This was below the average nominal growth rate.

The average annual rate of return on capital employed (as equity and debt) in the business sector as reported by Statistics Canada was 6.2% from 1989 to 1999, rising to 6.9% from 2000 to 2008 – a rate of return comfortably greater than g.

(Data from Cansim 187-0002. I used Q1 numbers for each year)

Today, interest rates are very low compared to the nominal growth rate, but returns to capital in the business sector remain well above g.

So recent Canadian experience seems to broadly support the Piketty thesis.






Free Traders Panic Over German Challenge to Investor-State Dispute-Settlement

In my many years documenting and critiquing the overblown claims of free trade proponents about the supposedly self-regulating efficiency-promoting mutually-benefiting effects of globalization, I’ve encountered some real doozies.  Read more »

New Issue of Review of Keynesian Economics

A guest blog post from Louis-Philippe Rochon:

Dear friends and colleagues,

The new issue of the Review of Keynesian Economics (ROKE) is now out, and you can find it here. It features an interesting symposium on ‘Steve Keen and his critics’, and contains not only a paper by Steve Keen, but replies by Marc Lavoie, Tom Palley, and Brett Fiebiger. The Keen and Lavoie papers are available free for downloading.

Here is the full Table of Content. Enjoy.

Louis-Philippe Rochon
Founding Co-Editor


Mini-Symposium: Endogenous Money and Effective Demand

Endogenous Money and Effective Demand
Steve Keen

Keen and the “Walras-Schumpeter-Minsky Law”: Financial Intermediation and
the Distribution of National Income also Matter to Macroeconomics
Brett Fiebiger

Effective demand, endogenous money, and debt: a Keynesian critique of Keen
and an alternative theoretical framework
Thomas I. Palley

A comment on endogenous money and aggregate demand: a revolution or a step
Marc Lavoie


The Political Economy of Public Investment and Public Finance: Challenges
for Social Democratic Policies
Jamee K. Moudud and Francisco Martinez- Hernandez

Political Contest, Policy Control, and Inequality in the United States
Mark Stelzner

A New Interpretation of Kaldor’s First Growth Law for Open Developing
Penélope Pacheco-López and A. P. Thirlwall


Horizontalists, verticalists, and structuralists: the theory of endogenous
money reassessed’, Review of Keynesian Economics, 1 (4), 406-424 (2013)
Thomas I. Palley

Book reviews

Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few
by Jack Rasmus
London: Pluto Press 2012. 216 pp.
Reviewed by John Hall.

Central Banks and Financial Markets: The Declining Power of US MonetaryPolicy
By Hasan Cömert
Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing 2013. 207pp.
Reviewed by Joshua Wojnilower

Against Utility-Based Economics: On a Life-Based Approach
By Anastosios Korkotsides
Oxon and New York: Routledge. 2013. 272 pp.
Reviewed by Philip Pilkington

EI Needs To Increase Access Not Lower Premiums

Erin does a nice job of documenting the fact that the number of EI recipients is falling, despite the fact that unemployment is rising.

But it seems to me that the crisis in EI is forever falling on deaf ears. Even though only 37.5% of unemployed workers are receiving EI, pundits and politicians feel that the problem with EI is not access, but high premiums. Improving access is usually not even presented as an option. If there’s a surplus in the EI Account, it must be that there is too much revenue, full stop.

Recent case in point. The Mowat Centre agrees with my assessment that the federal budget surplus is coming out of the annual EI surplus. But, they frame this in terms of premiums that are too high, ignoring the abysmally low proportion of unemployed workers that are receiving EI.

The difference is not a subtle one. In one case, the government is balancing the budget on the backs of unemployed workers by denying them benefits, and in the other case they are doing it on the backs of employers and employees (i.e. current contributors).

In the past year, the number of EI recipients has fallen 4x faster than the number of unemployed workers. That is, the number of unemployed workers fell by only 3,000 at the same time as the number of EI recipients fell by 12,000. The trend over the past five years is shown in the graph below. (Source for unemployment: CANSIM 282-0087, Source for Regular EI recipients: CANSIM 276-0022)

EI Benefits

The red line is the number of EI recipients, and goes with the numbers on the left axis. The blue line is the number of unemployed workers, and goes with the numbers on the right axis.

Since May 2009, the number of unemployed workers has only fallen by 210,000 – or about 14% (so much for those million jobs Stephen Harper single-handedly created). The number of EI recipients has fallen by 300,000 – about 38% of the May 2009 amount. This shows up clearly on the graph above – proportionately, the number of EI recipients has fallen at two and half times the rate of unemployment.

While Federal Government program cuts, staffing cuts, and changes to appeals systems have made EI far stingier, simply reversing them doesn’t solve the problem. Labour market dynamics have evolved significantly even over the past 20 years or so. For example, in 1992, about 25% of unemployed workers were new entrants or re-entrants to the labour market. By 2012, that had risen to 45%. (Chart shows 12 month moving average, Source: CANSIM 282-0214).


In order to access EI, new labour market entrants and those that have not contributed to EI in the past two years must rack up at least 910 EI insurable hours in order to qualify for benefits or training supports. This is a giant barrier to a group of people who are most likely to make use of training and other supports offered through EI Part II.

Another issue is regional differences. Temporary and precarious urban workers (who are often racialized) face a much higher bar to entry than workers in regions with high unemployment rates. Urban workers often face many more barriers to secure employment than the regional unemployment rate conveys.

The only fair solution is a single national entrance requirement. A bar of 360 hours is equivalent to 30 hours per week for 12 weeks, which gets you in the door and able to access training benefits *if you lost your job through no fault of your own*.

The alternative is a deeply cynical one. If we say that premiums are too high, and current EI contributors are the victims of the government’s greedy tax grab, we’re also saying that it’s perfectly OK that only 37.5% of unemployed workers are receiving EI. We’re saying that it’s perfectly justifiable that the number of EI recipients are falling while the number of unemployed workers are increasing. We’re saying that it’s OK that EI access and EI training supports are out of reach for most of the 500,000 unemployed labour market entrants and re-entrants.

It’s not OK. No one who takes a minute to think of the people who are falling through the cracks could say that it even approaches OK. Stealing from the unemployed to deliver a balanced budget before the next election is pretty much the opposite of OK.

EI Falls as Unemployment Rises

Statistics Canada reported today that the number of people receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell by 12,070 in May – the largest drop in nearly two years. (The last time Statistics Canada records indicate a larger decrease was 12,670 in July 2012.)

This substantial decline in EI benefits comes as unemployment is rising. The Labour Force Survey indicates that unemployment increased by 15,200 in May and by a further 25,700 in June.

Overall, only 37.5% of unemployed Canadians received EI benefits in May (i.e. 504,080 out of 1,343,800).

The fact that fewer Canadians can access benefits even as more are unemployed likely reflects the Conservative government’s cuts to the EI system. The federal government should instead improve the accessibility and duration of benefits for workers who paid into the program and are unemployed through no fault of their own.

Financial Risk and Alberta’s Tar Sands

When it comes to global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that what matters is the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions going forward. This amounts to about 30 years of emissions at current levels – a global carbon budget that would provide the world a 66% chance of staying below 2°C. There is some debate about whether an upper limit of 2°C is itself too high – it poses unacceptable and catastrophic consequences for the most vulnerable countries – but nonetheless the 2°C target has been adopted in international negotiations towards a new treaty to address climate change.

Carbon budgeting is a fairly new way of conceptualizing the economic and public policy challenges associated with climate change. It restates a classic economic problem – how to allocate resources subject to a budget constraint – in the context of climate and energy policy research. A key implication that between two-thirds and four-fifths of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves need to stay underground, forever.

This was confirmed by a recent report to the UN on Deep Decarbonization Pathways, which found that proven reserves of fossil fuels represented potential CO2 emissions some 3-7 times larger than the world’s carbon budget. And if we look more broadly at proven plus probable reserves (what they call “resources”), potential emissions are something like 35-60 times larger than the global carbon budget. The conclusion is inescapable: there are vast amounts of “unburnable carbon” out there.

The UK outfit Carbon Tracker was the first to point out this means we are seeing a “carbon bubble” in our financial markets – that  fossil fuel companies, whose business model is the extraction of carbon, are over-valued on the stock markets of the world. This analysis was subsequently picked up by Bill McKibben in his now-famous article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying Math,” which launched the fossil fuel divestment movement, plus some local content by yours truly in a CCPA report called Canada’s Carbon Liabilities.

The latest from Carbon Tracker looks at planned capital investments in oil production around the world (future reports will look at coal and natural gas). These have different costs of extraction, leading to a “carbon supply cost curve” for oil production. Carbon Tracker argues that in a world of constrained carbon, it only makes economic sense that it will be the high cost suppliers that get cut out of the action.

This logic is bad news for Alberta’s tar sands, which are among the highest cost reserves. Using an oil and gas industry database, Carbon Tracker looks at a potential $1.1 trillion of capital expenditure on oil projects between 2014 and 2025 that require a price of at least US$95 per barrel market price ($80 break-even) – i.e. those projects most likely to not go ahead in a carbon-constrained world. They find that a very large share of these projects (nearly 40%) are tar sands projects in Alberta (see Figure 7 in particular).

Their advice is to financial investors, highlighting the risk associated with exposure to the high end of the cost curve. Topping the tar sands list is Canadian Natural Resources, a company now infamous for an uncontrolled gush of oil from its in situ operations in Alberta. They have US$38 billion of projected capital expenditures in the tar sands. Suncor is next with $31 billion planned. Shell is next, though the “carbon majors” are less risky as they have diversified portfolios spanning the globe. Cenovus and Athabasca Oil Sands round out the top 5 most risky bets in the tar sands (see Figure 10).

This analysis made big headlines in the UK when it was released a couple months ago, but was essentially ignored by Canada’s mainstream media. Indeed, there is rarely a peep about climate risk as Canada deepens its reliance on fossil fuel exports for wealth generation: new pipelines for bitumen, expansion of coal ports, terminals to liquefy natural gas.

There is good reason to think that this is going to change. Pipeline resistance is BC’s largest social movement. Obama’s climate plans and action in China have breathed some optimism into climate negotiations aspiring for a new international treaty in 2015. There have also been important wins for the growing movement for divestment from fossil fuels on university campuses and within churches. Combined with legal risks arising from First Nation land claims, the bar is high and getting higher for Alberta bitumen.

For the most part, however, the underlying assumption of Canadian financial markets, including most Canadian pension funds, is that governments of the world will not get their act together, so there is no reason to pull out from fossil fuel investments. Some skepticism that governments will be able to reach a new deal is warranted, but the probability of them doing so is not zero either. But even in the absence of a global treaty, unilateral actions by Canada’s trading partners could impose de facto carbon constraints. Examples include the Keystone XL pipeline and European Fuel Quality directives.

There is a strong possibility that, sooner or later, Canada will be living in a carbon-constrained world, a development that would have significant (and, to date, widely ignored) economic implications. In this context, “responsible resource development” implies strategic management of fossil fuel reserves in order to maximize shared prosperity, within the context of a carbon budget. The good news is that Canadians have been bombarded with several decades of budget talk about “living within our means”  – now we just have to apply that to carbon.



Affordable Housing in the Yukon

Earlier today, over at the Northern Public Affairs web site, I blogged about a recent (and controversial) decision made by the Yukon government about affordable housing in the Yukon.  Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-Very little affordable housing gets built in Canada without federal assistance.

-Without financial assistance from senior levels of government, for-profit developers in Canada generally don’t find it worthwhile to build rental housing even for middle-income tenants (never mind low-income tenants).

-Going forward, federal funding for existing social housing in the Yukon is declining.

The full blog post can be accessed at this link.

More People Chase Fewer Jobs

Further to Angella’s excellent analysis:

Statistics Canada reported today that unemployment jumped by 25,700 in June because of shrinking employment and a growing labour force. Canada’s labour force expanded because of population growth, even though the participation rate did not increase. The combination of less employment and a larger working-age population depressed the employment rate to 61.4% – its lowest level since January 2010.

The Harper government has long trumpeted having a stronger job market than the US. In June, the unemployment rate rose in Canada but fell in the US. Statistics Canada reports that it is now the same on both sides of the border, even after adjusting for methodological differences between the two countries.

Continuing evidence of a weak Canadian labour market underscores the need for public investment in important services and infrastructure to help create jobs. Austerity is the wrong priority for federal and provincial governments.

UPDATE (July 12): Quoted by Canadian Press and today’s Toronto Star (page B1).

Dismal job numbers for June

Statistics Canada’s release of job numbers for June look truly dismal. The unemployment rate rose to 7.1%, and there was a loss of 9,400 jobs compared to May.  Year over year, employment rose by only 72,000. That’s a weak 0.4% and the lowest year-over-year increase since February 2010.

An even worse sign – all of that job growth was concentrated in workers over 65. One industry boasted over 80% of net new jobs year-over-year – health care and social assistance.

While there was an increase in full-time work and a a decline in part-time jobs, total hours worked actually fell (month over month AND year over year).  And, despite the fall in part-time jobs, underemployment remains elevated as over 1 million workers are working part-time jobs and need full-time work.

When you break the numbers down by province, well, I’m sure you can guess who is doing well and who isn’t. If we look at the change in both population and employment for 15-64 year olds by province, both Alberta and Ontario stand out.

working age pop

Year-over-year Alberta dominates both population growth and job growth. Ontario, on the other hand, comes in second for population growth, but is actually down nearly 30,000 jobs. Quebec is also notable, as it has had almost no working age population growth, but is down nearly 50,000 jobs compared to last June.

As for that long awaited pivot to business investment and exports, our own Andrew Jackson says that’s like waiting for Godot.

Edit: For those without Globe and Mail subscriptions, here’s Andrew’s analysis over at the Broadbent Institute.

Impact of Fur Trade in U.S.

The fur trade in Canada is often said to have been less malign than in the US, and it was, but that doesn’t say much given the extraordinary disruption it is said to have createn in colonial America by the American historian Bernard Bailyn in his recent (2012) book, appropriately titled The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675:
“[S]omething general and profound…was developing on the eve of English settlement in North America. Emerging slowly at a latent level were the beginnings of fundamental alterations in native culture that, within a single generation after 1600, would prove to be destructive beyond any contemporary imagining….[T]his was a deadly disease. The specific virus, unmistakable in the case of the Iroquois, was the fur trade…Concentration on fur hunts upset the ancient pattern of shifting seasonal activities, led to the neglect of horticulture, and since women were increasingly involved in the preparation of pelts, disturbed the traditional0 division of labour between the sexes…Competition [between tribes] led to bickering, then to skirmishes, then to warfare among peoples otherwise peaceful.”

Bailyn has been charged by at least one reviewer of denying agency to the Indians. If this is true in some momentary sense, the fact of the matter is that the Indians lost out totally in the historical long-run, and are only now winning back ownership of land and resources in Canada, but not in the U.S.

Call for Research

“The interpretation of the history of North America in terms of rum and brandy has not been written, but in the fur trade, rum represented the contribution of the West Indies to trade of the Old Empire, and brandy the emphasis on French vineyards and self-sufficienty.” Innis, 1933
So far as I know, still not written
Must be willing to travel.

Kari Levitt Honoured

Kari Polanyi Levitt, one of own, has been given the Order of Canada. Congratulations to Kari. Richly deserved.

How do we measure job vacancies – beyond Kijiji

The Federal Government and Minister Kenney got a pretty good ribbing over their flawed methodology in measuring job vacancies – and with good reason. Anyone who has used Kijiji for anything knows how unreliable it can be. The difference between Statistics Canada’s method and one that includes Kijiji is pretty easy to communicate.

But there is another method from the CFIB that gets some attention, and different results than Statistics Canada. I usually talk about the number of unemployed workers for each job vacancy, but the proportion of job vacancies to total labour demand (job vacancies + jobs) is a very useful measure too. CFIB finds a job vacancy rate of 2.5% for 2013 Q4 and Statistics Canada reports 1.3% in December 2013.

This is sometimes presented as a puzzle, but the different result is mostly because the CFIB measures something different than Statistics Canada. The CFIB is very transparent about what exactly they are measuring, and why they think it’s important. This measure adds information to the policy debate, and that’s great. I think a better understanding of the differences enhances the debate.

First, the CFIB only surveys private businesses. That’s useful for their membership, and understanding unmet labour demand in the private sector. Statistics Canada includes public sector jobs. The CFIB suggests that job vacancies are lower in the public sector, but we don’t have conclusive data on that. Statistics Canada tells us that the job vacancy rate in the field of Education Services (which is 90% public sector) is very low – only 0.4%. But Public Administration (100% public sector) is at the national average of 1.4%. So it’s unlikely that this could explain the whole difference between the two numbers.

But wait, it’s not possible that low public sector job vacancy rates would explain the difference in results, because the CFIB method finds more job vacancies in the private sector (295,700) than Statistics Canada finds in both the public and private sector combined (202,500).

So what explains the difference? Well, Statistics Canada requires that an actual position exist for it to be considered a job vacancy. CFIB does not require that a position exist, or that a business be actively advertising to fill that position. All that must exist is a need. This is clearly explained in the CFIB’s methodology section of their regular job vacancy releases. This is a broader definition of labour demand, that tells us something useful. It is comparable to including discouraged job seekers, who aren’t actively looking for work, but express a desire to work if a passive search connected them to a good match.

So Statistics Canada’s job vacancy measure is to the CFIB job vacancy measure as unemployment rates are to underemployment rates. For the most part. Maybe when we get the upgraded job vacancy survey that Minister Kenney has promised to fund, we’ll also get a public / private breakdown of statistics so that the two measures can be better compared.

Job Vacancies Falling

The number of job vacancies recorded by Statistics Canada are at a four year low (job vacancy data collection began in January 2011). The number of unemployed persons has changed very little, and so we have a relatively high number of unemployed persons per job vacancy.

Even though the data is not seasonally adjusted, you can see an overall trend toward fewer job vacancies, especially since 2012.



As of March 2014, there were only 206,000 job vacancies for nearly 1.4 million unemployed workers in Canada, giving us 6.8 unemployed workers for every job vacancy. If you add underemployment into the mix, there were 2.9 million underemployed workers in Canada in March 2014 (three month average, seasonally unadjusted). That gives us a national underemployment to job vacancy ratio of 14.3.


There are very different trends in Ontario and Quebec. You can see that while Ontario has a higher number of underemployed workers per job vacancy than Quebec, this number is slightly better than it was in March 2011. On the other hand, Quebec’s ratio is higher in each subsequent March, and much higher in March 2014 than it was in March 2013.

Saskatchewan and Alberta boast relatively low ratios, but Saskatchewan saw a marked rise over last year. British Columbia’s unemployment to job vacancy ratio improved between March 2013 and March 2014, but their *underemployment* ratio worsened slightly.

If you’re interested in the number of underemployed workers in your province, and the resulting underemployed worker to job vacancy ratio, I’ve calculated the most recent numbers here.

March 2014
Seasonally unadjusted 3 month average
Underemployed Job Vacancies Ratio
Canada 2,946,545 206,200 14.3
Newfoundland & Labrador 65,821 2,700 24.4
PEI 19,561 500 39.1
Nova Scotia 96,907 4,400 22.0
New Brunswick 81,909 4,000 20.5
Quebec 684,505 37,100 18.5
Ontario 1,246,309 63,400 19.7
Manitoba 91,137 11,100 8.2
Saskatchewan 58,459 7,000 8.4
Alberta 216,606 46,300 4.7
British Columbia 383,557 28,800 13.3


If these numbers sound outrageous, that’s because they are. Recently in Nova Scotia, Giant Tiger received nearly 400 applications for 50 job openings. From the article: “Every individual that applied had great background in retail.”

Keep these numbers in mind this week (or next) as Jason Kenney announces changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and every time an employer claims that they are unable to find workers in Canada.

Will Enbridge’s pipeline ever get built?

You have to wonder why the Harper government bothered with process at all. It’s like there was never any doubt that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would get approved. But historians may look back on this moment as the beginning of the end of pipeline politics.

Opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline is BC’s largest social movement. A large majority of British Columbians are opposed to the pipeline. BC First Nations, who hold the ultimate trump card – the constitutionality of their rights and title, have said no means no. Thousands testified to the Joint Review Panel (and its arguably limited flawed process). Even friend of fossil fuels, Premier Christy Clark, maintains her five conditions for BC’s approval have not been met.

So the betting odds are that this pipeline will never get built. Even the federal decision came at the last minute, without ministerial fanfare, advertising campaign or the term “Harper government” on the media release. Moreover, by igniting a BC-based opposition, the 21 seats the Conservatives hold in BC could be the difference between a renewed majority or not in the 2015 election.

The Harper government’s relentless push to make Canada an energy superpower based on tripling production from the tar sands may now be its undoing. Blame Obama — the US president has had to delay and delay a decision on the unpopular Keystone XL pipeline. This pushed Harper to look to the west, only to find that Western alienation is now about BC not Alberta.

The proposed Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is in similar jeopardy, even as hearings on pipelines, post-Enbridge, have been hobbled. They no longer carry the risk that such large numbers will show up and make reasonable arguments against. I was denied the right to be heard at the upcoming Kinder-Morgan Pipeline hearings, even though I am one of just a few people in the country that has done research on the economic costs and benefits of pipelines.

Not that Enbridge had a stellar track record going into the JRP hearings, either. Enbridge’s poor handling of its Kalamazoo, Michigan pipeline spill was exposed at the same time the JRP hearings were underway (perhaps the three person panel was too busy to notice).  Indeed, Enbridge had over 800 oil spills on its North American pipeline network between 1999 and 2010, a total of 27 million litres of hydrocarbons or enough to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

With hearings on, the company promoted maps missing islands along the Northern BC shipping route. It peddled grossly inflated job claims based on shoddy modelling. It made claims of First Nations support that disappeared in the daylight. And yet, after all of these gaffes, in production, communications and science, it is remarkable that their proposal is even being given serious consideration. But even in straight up dollar terms, projected construction costs have soared from $5.5 billion to almost $8 billion.

The Enbridge brand has become mud in BC. Across Canada, the Enbridge Ride for the Cure raises money for cancer research (the solution brought to you by the problem). But in Vancouver, Enbridge’s name is so toxic, it’s just the Ride for the Cure. Promo ads now run for Northern Gateway Pipeline but do not name the proponent.

In the opposition to Enbridge, Keystone and Kinder-Morgan, we are seeing a public response to a fossil fuel industry has gotten too large, its infrastructure causing too much damage. The costs of the carbon economy, local environmental damage due to spills and costs associated with climate change, were recently estimated at $1.2 trillion per year.

Climate change and changing attitudes about addressing it also suggest this pipeline may never happen. It’s been widely noted that two-thirds to four-fifths of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, perhaps much more in Canada. A recent report by Carbon Tracker highlighted the highest cost sources of oil include most projects in Alberta. These are unfeasable in a carbon-constrained world (i.e. one that limits warming to 2 degrees).

These are the dying days of the old fossil fuel empires. The companies want to extract as much profit out of their investments as they can, and stick others with the bill for damages. They have won over political parties of all stripes across the nation, but lack the social license to proceed. In the interim they have shifted to Plan B – rail cars that periodically derail and explode – but the times they are a-changing.

We’ve reached a point now where the economics of renewables, knowledge of better building design and urban planning, “zero waste” approaches to materials, and so forth are transforming our economy even amid political support that is at best wavering and insufficient.

My bold prediction is that when we tell the Enbridge story in the future, it will be of a pivotal moment in how we view our economy and livelihoods, a rejection of dirty energy in favour of clean alternatives, and the collapse of a destructive economic dream.

Andrea Horwath’s Debacle

I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud when I saw election results. I almost spat a mouthful of my breakfast across the room.

Almost nobody expected Ontario’s Liberals to win a majority, least of all the NDP’s Andrea Horwath. Her decision to pull the plug on the Wynne government has to go down as one of the worst political miscalculations in recent memory.

While the NDP are putting a brave face on the results, there is little question this was a debacle of Horwath’s engineering. While once she was in the driver’s seat, now the NDP are once again relegated to third party status.

Moreover, it didn’t have to go down this way. She could have used the election to stake out the ground left of the Liberals. Instead, she did quite the opposite. As a result, the NDP picked up just one seat, although lost important seats in the crucial Toronto region.

In a story published by the Toronto Star days before the election, written by Linda Diebel, Horwath was portrayed as being deeply angry with the Liberals for reneging on promises made the previous year. She was so pissed that she apparently didn’t bother to read this year’s budget before pulling the plug. A budget many considered the most progressive seen in years.

But instead of running to the left and portraying the Liberals as corporate sell-outs, the NDP campaign steered right. They set out to curry favour with small businesses, and vowed to set up a ministerial post to chop waste. And they attacked the Liberals, while ignoring the far more dangerous Tories.

In fact, the Star’s Thomas Walkom ran a column in which he said that Horwath might be willing to support a Tim Hudak government and join them in slashing the civil service (the difference was that she wanted to chop managers and he wanted to chop frontline workers). Such willingness to embrace elements of the right’s agenda was what raised the ire of the 34 prominent leftists but also – it turned out – the Ontario electorate.

The NDP’s strategy is important because of next year’s federal election. The NDP, in 2011, went after the Liberals in order to pick up seats, which finally gave Harper his long-coveted majority. The question now is whether the NDP will dust off this strategy once again, risking the Tories sneaking up the middle. If they are smart (which is debateable) the party will stay clear of the sectarianism of the past and go after the Tories from the left. Indeed, Hudak’s policy of taking a hard right turn has shown how the right-wing message is not resonating.

Still, what is getting lost in the aftermath is the fact that all three parties have embraced, with varying degrees of severity, the austerity agenda. All three wish to balance the budget on the backs of workers and the poor. None of them are really prepared to raise sufficient funds by taxing the banks, brokerages, corporations and multinationals that do business in Canada. Or plug the numerous loopholes in our tax code that allow the aforementioned to exploit offshore tax havens to tremendous effect.

Recently, in one of France’s daily newspapers, Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party of Greece’s radical left, gave an interview about the impact of austerity on his country. There is a good chance that Tsipras could be Greece’s next prime minister.

Greece’s economic woes lie in the fact that its political elite basically took on way too much debt without collecting enough taxes to pay it off. Since the credit crisis began, the elite has attempted to solve the problem by cutting government spending, slashing wages, laying off civil servants and selling state assets to the private sector. They have not clamped down on massive tax evasion by the Greek bourgeoisie and corporate sector. The result has been 6 years of painful recession and 27% unemployment.

Tsipras said the crisis has been used by German capital, the EU and the IMF to turn Greece into a low wage state. Indeed, massive unemployment, as we know, freezes and even deflates wage growth. Tsiparis’s analysis clearly applies to Canada, where cuts to the public sector and growing unemployment tend to cow labour demands for higher wages.

In fact, Hudak’s agenda was clear on this: along with cutting 100,000 civil servants’ jobs, he planned to slash corporate taxes and turn Ontario into the cheapest place in North America to do business. And to think the NDP were open to forming a government with these guys.

The NDP could have tacked left and used the current economic conditions to emphasize the necessity to have big business and the rich pay their fair share. It was a lost opportunity, one they paid a steep price for.

Indeed, look forward to the Wynne government eventually taking an axe to the public service. And the NDP will now be sitting on the sidelines instead of preventing real damage being done. And it was all very unnecessary.

Until people begin to look at political alternatives beyond the three mainstream bourgeois parties, economic expansion is not likely to occur.

Labour market stagnant

Erin has already commented that the tiny silver lining of 26,000 net new jobs in May covers a net loss of full-time jobs. In fact, if you compare this May to May 2013, we see that all of the net job gain in the past 12 months is part-time work too.

To look at the trends, I broke down employment growth since October 2008 into part-time and full-time jobs. This shows that full-time job growth has been pretty much stagnant since January 2013.


While we expect to see stronger growth in part time work earlier in a recovery, here we see the growth of part-time work accelerating again – over four years after the beginning of the recession.

The number of underemployed part-time workers (working part-time, wanting full-time hours) has remained elevated since the beginning of this recession. You can see from the graph that there was some easing in 2012, but with the recent increase in part-time work, the trend is moving upwards again.



This May there were over 1 million underemployed part-time workers in Canada, and a total of 2.9 million unemployed and underemployed workers (not seasonally adjusted). Nearly 1 million of those workers were under the age of 24.

Ontario workers, in particular, are having a hard time. The underemployment rate for Ontario (not seasonally adjusted) was 16.6% in May – 2 percentage points higher than the national average. That represents 550,000 unemployed and 735,000 underemployed Ontario workers.

And Tim Hudak plans to fix that by firing 100,000 public sector workers. I think we need a better plan.

Jobs Up, But Hours Flat

On the surface, today’s employment numbers simply continue a recent trend: employers added some jobs but not enough to keep pace with Canada’s growing labour force. As a result, unemployment edged back up to 7%.

But just below the surface were some even worse developments. Employers actually cut 29,000 full-time positions while adding 55,000 part-time positions in May. Over the past year, the number of hours paid by Canadian employers edged up by only 0.1%, although these hours are now split between more employees.

By industry, the single largest change in May was the loss of 23,000 jobs in natural resources, a relatively well-paid sector. That was offset by more service-sector jobs, which tend to pay less. The average hourly wage edged up by only 1.4% over the past year, less than the rate of inflation.

I did the following interview yesterday comparing the Canadian and American job markets: