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Archive for May, 2008

Darkening economic clouds

Today’s release of first quarter GDP numbers shows a minus sign: Real gross domestic product (GDP) edged down 0.1% in the first quarter of 2008, its first quarterly decline since the second quarter of 2003. The economy, which had started to lose momentum in the second half of 2007 as exports declined, stalled in the first quarter due to widespread […]

Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade redux

I have equivocated on carbon taxes vs cap-and-trade on this very blog. But more recently I’ve been leaning towards carbon tax – with the caveats that distribution be addressed and that carbon taxes be part of a suite of other policy measures. That is, carbon taxes are only part of the solution, so I am […]

PEF at the CEA 2008 (updated)

We now have the official schedule for the CEA meetings. Please note that in addition to the sessions below, the PEF annual general meeting is on Saturday June 7 at noon. All paid-up members are welcome to attend. Also, the John Kenneth Galbraith Prize will be awarded on Sunday June 8, 10:30 am. The 2008 […]

Federal Liberals on housing: then and now

The Wellesley Institute blasts the federal Liberals on housing: Earlier today, the Liberal Urban Communities Caucus released a powerful report condemning the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, and calling for strong action. Eighteen years ago, almost to the day, the National Liberal Caucus Task Force on Housing released a powerful report that condemned the Conservative […]

Internal trade hypocrisy

If you have visited this blog before you probably know that Erin Weir and I have it in for bogus arguments about alleged but unproven interprovincial trade barriers. Give us some examples, we say, but the rhetoric of trade barriers always seems to trump any actual evidence. And I’m not even talking about empirical evidence […]

Carbon taxes, distribution, and politics

In his rabble.ca column, Duncan Cameron raises some concerns about carbon taxes: When Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion, floated the carbon tax idea in Toronto recently, Layton responded that such a tax would cause severe problems for poor and low income Canadians. May and Suzuki both support a carbon tax, and think its impact on the […]

Responses to high gas prices

Gas prices are way up and look to continue that way looking forward. So what does this mean in terms of behavioural change? Todd Litman does a major review of all kinds of transportation elasticities. An excerpt: As it is usually measured, automobile travel is inelastic, meaning that a percentage price change causes a proportionally […]

Ememies of the heir beware

My old classmate from Upper Canada College, Ed Rogers, was featured in a story in the Globe on the weekend. This gist is that Ed has been waiting a long time to assume the throne of the Rogers empire, but he does not a lock on the top job: Five years after taking the reins […]

Internal Trade Hypocrisy?

Murray Campbell’s excellent column in today’s Globe and Mail (excerpted below) accurately portrays the current state of play on the interprovincial trade front, including Steven Shrybman’s constitutional challenge of TILMA in Alberta and BC, Saskatchewan’s continued rejection of TILMA, the Quebec-Ontario negotiations and corporate Canada’s unrelenting push for new powers. One can only hope that […]

Anyone can become President

… if you are stinking rich. Quoth Associated Press: Cindy McCain, who two weeks ago said she would never make her tax returns public, revealed Friday that she had a total income of more than $6 million in 2006. The presidential campaign of her husband, Republican John McCain, released the top two summary pages of […]

The curtain falls on another fiscal year

Sometimes I wonder if I am going to miss Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty when they are gone. It goes away pretty quickly, but I was reminded of their clever conservatism when I opened up the 2007 federal budget just now. Like the 2008 Budget, named “Responsible Leadership” the 2007 budget also had a name: […]

A musical portrait of class in America

Summer is coming and so is my favourite band, the Drive-By Truckers. A rare Vancouver appearance at a small venue, the Biltmore Caberet, walking distance from my house. Heck, last year I drove to Portland to see what turned out to be one of the best live shows of my life. I would make the […]

Some perspective on carbon taxes

At a meeting I was at the morning, Green Party deputy leader Adrienne Carr made a familiar refrain that a carbon tax is needed to help solve our transportation woes by making driving more expensive. I generally support a carbon tax, as long as the revenues are recycled in a manner that ensures that overall […]

Labour Policies and the Wage Gap

A fine editorial from Marjorie Cohen in today’s Vancouver Sun  on the close link between labour policies and wage inequality. http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/editorial/story.html?id=4952dab6-b337-42b9-b872-5b338ef3f212&k=85286&p=2

Tales from the Mouth of the Fraser: Unfounded Liabilities

The Fraser Institute says the debt monster is gonna getcha: The study, Canadian Government Debt 2008, shows that federal, provincial, and local governments have accumulated $791.2 billion in direct debt and more than $2.4 trillion in total government liabilities. Total liabilities include direct debt and programs that the government has committed to provide such as […]

“Severe and Unusual Stress” — A Definition In Search of A Situation

Well. Finally. Some clarity. Sort of. Earlier this month, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney made appearances before the House of Commons Finance Committee and the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce committee to discuss the Bank’s latest monetary policy report . Transcripts are now available and with a little reading-between-the-lines, they tell us a lot, […]

Wells on the Responsibility to Protect

Last Tuesday’s episode of Politics featured Barb Byers on changes to (Un)Employment Insurance and Michael Ignatieff on the humanitarian crisis in Burma. I naturally agree with Byers, but get nervous whenever Ignatieff starts talking tough about the Responsibility to ProtectTM, the doctrine that he invoked to promote the invasion of Iraq. Ignatieff did not really answer […]

Profits vs. Wages in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland

Jim’s recent mini-study emphasized that profits now occupy gargantuan shares of GDP in the oil-rich provinces. He and The Jurist have noted the total disconnect between corporate profits and personal income in two of those provinces: Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. To explore this issue further, I have pulled some figures out of the recently-released 2007 Provincial […]

Steelworkers for Obama

Along with John Edwards, the United Steelwokers union has endorsed Barack Obama for the US Presidency. Those paying attention may recall that, a month ago, the Steelworker President indicated that it would be inappropriate for super (ex-officio) delegates to vote against pledged (elected) delegates in selecting the Democratic nominee. This position rejected Hillary Clinton’s strategy […]

No need for alarm over health care spending in BC

Jeffrey Simpson is right to lament that “there is no realistic, sensible debate” about health care in BC. Unfortunately, his May 13th Globe & Mail column “Even the redoubtable Premier Campbell struggles with health care” does not help. Simpson’s main point in the column is that health care spending in BC is rising out of […]

Sources of Rising Inequality in the US

An interesting paper: Controversies about the Rise of American Inequality: A Survey by Robert J. Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker. http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~idew/papers/BPEA_final_ineq.pdf Abstract This paper provides a comprehensive survey on six aspects of rising inequality: changes in laborfs share, inequality at the bottom, inequality at the top, labor mobility, inequality in consumption as contrasted to inequality of […]

Labour’s Agenda

http://canadianlabour.ca/index.php/policy_papers I commend to your attention the policy papers which will be presented for discussion and debate at the CLC Convention, which convenes the week after next in Toronto.  Progressive economists  Mike McCracken and Armine Yalnizyan will help kick-off discussion on the Good Jobs and Growing Gap papers respectively. Though neither they nor the progressive […]

Unions and Low Wage Workers in the US

Unionization Substantially Increases the Wages of Low-Wage Workers “While all workers benefit from union membership, low-wage workers see largest gains” For Immediate Release: May 15, 2008 Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115 WASHINGTON, DC: After decades of disappointing wage growth for many American workers, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research […]

Picking Winners (Who Are Already Winners)

The CCPA just published a mini-study by yours truly on how the coming federal corporate income tax cuts will exacerbate regional inequalites in Canada. Here’s the link for the full study: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/Reports/2008/05/PickingWinners/index.cfm?pa=BB736455 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his colleagues like to pretend they are “neutral” in their economic policy-making.  That is, they don’t “pick winners.”  […]

Green Jobs: An Industrial Strategy for Ontario?

Today’s Toronto Star continues the War on Poverty with a front-page report on an  emerging coalition among unions, environmentalists, and social activists.

Law of one price

OK, not the “law of one price” you learned in undergrad trade theory. I’m talking about plain old prices at the cashier. It has long bugged me that the price listed on a sales tag is not the same as the money that comes out of our wallets to complete the transaction. Most of the […]

Inequality and Well- Being

With credit to Edward Sussex who sends this summary ” This UNDP-IPC paper concludes that the real per capita income of the vast majority or the first eighty per cent of any nation (vast majority income – VMIpc), is of particular interest in comparing the income levels and income inequality of countries. It finds that […]

Behavioral responses to higher gas prices

In policy terms I have been concerned about regressive impacts of a carbon tax, and was pleased to see that BC’s carbon tax is being partly recycled into refundable tax credits for low-income families. But the $10 per tonne carbon tax starting in July is rather small (2.4 cents per litre), and in spite of […]

Bio-energy makes its move

When we think about renewable energy most of us imagine solar panels and wind mills. Few of us think about trees and crops. But these latter items are getting mainstreamed as new sources of energy – burning them for electricity generation and converting them into liquid fuels  – with no small amount of controversy attached. […]

Ontario’s Other $20-Billion Gap

Premier McGuinty and other commentators like to emphasize that federal revenues from Ontario exceed federal spending in Ontario by about $20 billion annually. Although this total partly reflects the overall federal surplus and federal spending outside Canada, it is usually presented as a transfer of expenditure from Ontario to other provinces. A standard story is […]