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Archive for April, 2008

Canada’s Two Economies – Implications for Workers

What follows are my speaking notes for a recent McMaster Labour Studies/CAW educational event – a fair bit of it condensed from some of my earlier pieces but this update may be of interest…. I will talk about our two economies in two senses, growing class divisions, the growing gap between workers and the corporate […]

Speculation vs investment

Financial market speculation masquerading as investment is driving me crazy. The business press fails to understand the distinction between buying an asset the delivers a stream of income in the future (a dividend) and buying an asset because of anticipated higher resale price in the future (a capital gain). It is a fundamental difference, and […]

You heard it here first: federal budget update

Today’s front page of the Globe and Mail business section calls out, Flaherty’s budget wiggle room shrinking.Which is indeed true, but what I find amusing is that I broke this story back in January. At the time, this was outside the consensus so many blew it off. But now that the mainstream has caught up, […]

Harvard moves to open access

Initiatives like the Public Library of Science have began to challenge the scientific publishers’ monopoly over the dissemination of research but now that high profile institutions like Harvard are coming on board with their own open access policies it really looks like the end of an era. Earlier this year, the Faculty of Arts and […]

Living on Welfare

The BC office of the CCPA released today a major study about life on welfare for the poorest of the poor. It tracked a cohort of welfare recipients for two years and tells the tales of how they have interacted with a nasty and mean-spirited welfare system, and also the challenges they face as people […]

TILMA and Medicare

An editorial in today’s Calgary Herald begins with the usual praise for TILMA, but ends by suggesting a new interprovincial deal on healthcare: Yet, for Ottawa to attempt to remedy matters by intruding itself into relations between the provinces would not only provoke reflexive opposition but, even if carried through by force majeure, be unlikely […]

Investment in manufacturing vs oil sands

 A fascinating tidbit from today’s Statistics Canada release on human activity and the environment (climate change): In 2008, oilsands producers intend to invest $19.7 billion, up 23% after a 31% hike in 2007. This exceeds the total investment plans of $19.6 billion by all manufacturing industries [Chart 1.6 on page 25]. Oilsands investment has surpassed […]

Bank of Canada Cuts to 3%

This morning, the Bank of Canada lowered its key target interest rate from 3.5% to 3%. This welcome move was widely predicted. Perhaps more interestingly, the Bank stated that “some further monetary stimulus will likely be required to achieve the inflation target over the medium term.” Since December, the Bank has begun following the advice […]

North American Cap-and-Trade?

In a Vancouver Sun article, Miro Cernetig wonders whether the BC government is slowing down climate change actions because of business push-back. There is no doubt some truth to this, but reading the full article reveals something different entirely. The real issue is the state of the Western Climate Initiative, a cap-and-trade system that focused […]

Steelworkers and the US Presidency

Yesterday’s Toronto Star contained an interesting article on Leo Gerard, “the most influential Canadian-born Democratic power broker in the United States.”

Corporatization of Universities, Gone Berserk

All too often these days I open the newspaper and become quickly convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.  But this little snippet (April 14, a Bloomberg story) really got my goat: The University of North Carolina (which was a reputable institution, the last I checked) has accepted a $1 million […]

Saskatchewan Rejects TILMA Yet Again

Notwithstanding the newish Saskatchewan government’s public rejection of TILMA, the Canadian Press recently reported: The [Alberta] premier says Bill 1 will be framework legislation to facilitate a sweeping 2007 trade deal with British Columbia known as the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA). “We have to move on it,” says Stelmach. “There are other […]

Vanishing Inflation

This morning’s Consumer Price Index release reveals that, in March, annual inflation fell to 1.4% and annual core inflation fell to 1.3%. The fact that both rates are well below the Bank of Canada’s 2% target gives it ample room to cut interest rates next week. Even the two highest-inflation provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, are […]

Revised TD Bank Report

As foreshadowed by Andrew, TD Economics has addressed the concerns raised on this blog about its April 15 report by replacing this document with a revised April 16 version. The new endnotes cite the CLC publications and acknowledge that they were “inappropriately left out of the original verson [sic] of the report.” TD has also amended […]

TD Economics and CLC Research

I have spoken to TD Chief Economist Don Drummond who assures me, as I would assume, that neither he nor Beata Caranci were aware that material had been taken without citation from the CLC studies.  The version of the TD study on the web will be revised to add an appropriate citation.

Economist as Renaissance Man

OK this is silly, but whatever… I was invited to participate in a most excellent annual fund-raising project sponsored by Creative Works Studio — a Toronto initiative that uses art therapy with the mentally ill.  They invite a number of so-called “celebrities” (definitely stretching the definition in my case) to actually paint a picture, that […]

TD Bank Echos CLC (Updated)

Today, TD Economics released a very interesting paper on the Canadian labour market in 2007. I was pleased to see it highlight many of the same general trends that Andrew and I emphasized: the sharp decline in manufacturing jobs, the increase in part-time work, the rise of self-employment, and wages barely outpacing inflation in Alberta. […]

Canadians want higher taxes

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities released a large poll today — the largest of its type on municipal issues.  The poll seems reasonably well done with decent questions and language.  Many of the results are to be expected: strongest support for increased funding for health care, with increased funding for local infrastructure as a solid second […]

Mintz on Tax-Free Savings Accounts

As Andrew, Marc, Toby and I pointed-out at the time, despite the low up-front cost of Tax-Free Savings Accounts, they will become exponentially more expensive over time. To obnoxiously quote myself, “this measure could burn a significant hole in future government revenues.” It is worth noting that Jack Mintz, a huge fan of Tax-Free Savings […]

The Greatness of Public Infrastructure

Today, Statistics Canada released an excellent paper concluding that the rate of return on investment in Canadian public capital is around 17%. This paper builds on another Statistics Canada paper from a few years ago that Marc cited a few days ago on this blog. If anything, the paper’s text somewhat understates its mathematical findings. […]

Income versus consumption taxes

In a commentary last fall in the NY Times, Robert Frank makes the case for consumption taxes to replace the income tax in the US. Yet, while this sounds revolutionary on first reading, what Frank is describing is essentially the Canadian tax system: Under such a tax, people would report not only their income but […]

Conservatives Block Foreign Takeover

Jim Prentice appears to have done what no previous Liberal or Conservative government had been prepared to for more than two decades under the Investment Canada Act. As the NDP has noted, preventing the takeover of MDA is a small victory for progressives.

Fiscal Economics 101, for Jim Flaherty

How about this latest gem from our let-the-market-rule Finance Minister: Les Whittington Ottawa Bureau, TORONTO STAR (APRIL 10) OTTAWA–Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the Conservatives will cut government spending if need be to avoid a budget deficit caused by the economic slowdown. “No deficit – balanced budget,” he said outside the Commons. “We’re not raising […]

The Budget and the Bank

Over the years, federal budget legislation has acquired the feel of U.S. omnibus bills (the Farm Bill is probably the quintessential example). To some extent, this is to be expected. Ever since the “disastrous” Trudeau era, the imperial Department of Finance has not-so-quietly re-asserted its domain over the federal bureaucracy. One manifestation of Finance’s power […]

Avoid Blame, Change the Game!

The asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) debacle: who is to blame?  According to the National Post , it’s everybody and nobody.  I find myself in unusual agreement.  While I don’t wish to see likely criminals let off the hook, a better approach out of this mess is to change the rules of the game. Last August, the Canadian […]

Is $1 Trillion a Big Number?

Well, it does take one’s breath away that the IMF now estimates that the financial crisis will result in $1 trillion in losses, about four times the total booked as losses to date by large financial institutions. I’m not entirely assure of the appropriate denominator to judge the percentage impact of this crisis on total […]

A new proposal for a federal carbon tax

In a new report released today for Sustainable Prosperity (a new research institute), Jack Mintz and Nancy Olewiler pitch a federal carbon tax constructed by broadening the base of the federal excise tax (which currently raises over $5 billion per year based on a tax of 10 cents per litre of gas and 4 cents […]

What Happened to the $54 Billion EI Surplus?

CLC Statement on the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board The 2008 Budget Implementation Bill (C-50) creates – through Part 7, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board Act – a new, independent crown corporation, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB). The key functions of the new corporation and Board are to manage a separate Employment […]

Employment Insurance and Severance Pay

There is a very specific set of issues for displaced workers arising from the treatment of severance pay, which represents compensation for involuntary job loss in recognition of the very real costs incurred by the worker. Under the current Employment Insurance system, a worker who is laid-off does not normally receive a regular EI benefit […]

Dofasco Redux

When the United Steelworkers ended the recent drive to organize Dofasco, Steve Arnold of The Hamilton Spectator posted the following: Today’s decision by the United Steelworkers to back off from the Dofasco organizing effort closes, at least for now, a bitter and divisive debate in the company. It’s clear before the USW comes back to […]