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Archive for October, 2009

BC’s GHG emissions shell game

The BC government recently announced a new climate action of some consequence: the phasing out of the Burrard Thermal plant in Metro Vancouver. The unit was used largely for back-up purposes, producing electricity for BC Hydro to supplement hydropower during times of high demand. But at a large GHG cost per unit of energy — […]

New Growth Model Needed?

Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 0.1% in August. The decline mainly reflected temporary closures of major oil rigs, mines and mills due to maintenance or labour disputes. This explanation is valid, as far as it goes. However, the broader issue is that more widespread economic growth should be more than offsetting these isolated […]

Employment Data: Working on a Mystery

This blog flagged, and Worthwhile Canadian Initiative pursued, a striking discrepancy in July’s employment data. The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) indicated that employers paid 74,000 more employees. Conversely, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) had indicated that employers paid 79,000 fewer employees in July. This difference of 153,000 exceeds 1% of Canada’s workforce. […]

Vale’s Striking Third Quarter

Vale, the company against which my union has been on strike since July, presented its third-quarter earnings this morning. These figures confirm that Vale does not need the concessions it has been demanding and that the strike is costing it significantly. The company wants to eliminate defined-benefit pensions for new employees and drastically reduce the […]

Farewell CPRN

I regret to see that the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) are closing down. This further narrows the scope and space for civil and rational public policy discourse in Canada, and is a not accidental by product of  cuts in federal government support for independent policy research combined with lack of business support for think […]

Vancouver bids to be world’s greenest city

Last week, the City of Vancouver’s task force, the Greenest City Action Team, issued a plan for the city with short and longer-term goals and policy advice on achieving them. The report covers more than climate change, a good thing as it is important to identify win-wins that lead to improvement on other environmental, health […]

Equalization Bailout?

I have always grudgingly admired the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s ability to manufacture news, but last week’s op-ed by Kevin Gaudet takes the cake. It launches an attack on Equalization from an utterly false premise: Next year, federal equalization payments to the provinces are expected to decline anywhere from 10 to 15%. As a result, some […]

Carbon Capture and Storage: Magic Bullet or Delusion?

Depending on who you talk to, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is either the face of climate salvation or the height of delusional behaviour associated with our favourite hallucinogenic drug, fossil fuels. I have read both cases and suspect that the truth is somewhere in between, but I’m not an engineer either so it has […]

EI: Evidence of Exhaustion?

Today’s Employment Insurance (EI) figures indicate that, in August, 23,000 more Canadians filed EI claims but 19,000 fewer received EI benefits. The most optimistic possibility is that all of the workers who stopped receiving benefits got jobs. Indeed, the Labour Force Survey indicates that total employment rose by 27,000 in August. However, that is not […]

Buy American Negotiations

It remains unclear whether or when Canada-US negotiations on “Buy American” policies might produce a deal. While such a bilateral agreement could serve both countries well, Canadians should resist pressure to have our provincial and municipal governments sign onto the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement. A Canadian exemption from Buy American requirements makes […]

Double the Canada Pension Plan Benefit

Konrad Yakabuski wrote a good final piece on Saturday to cap the interesting and informative Globe series on the pensions crisis. In it he touches on several possible policy solutions, including a universal pension plan. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/retirement/canadas-gathering-pension-storm/article1323513/ Unfortunately, he does not cite the Canadian Labour Congress proposal to double the CPP as part of a three […]

Decoding Carney

Last week, I posted about how several chartered-bank economists have been denying the Bank of Canada’s capacity to lower the Canadian dollar. While I think that the chartered banks generally prefer a high loonie, it is important to note that not all of their economists are signing from the same songbook. CIBC’s Avery Shenfeld advocates […]

Towards a Better Income Security System for Canadians

(Notes for my presentation to a recent workshop on the concept of a basic income.) Over the years, we have put in place an effective income security system for older Canadians – CPP plus OAS/GIS have come close to providing an adequate basic income for the elderly. And we have the instrument we need to […]

Chartered Banks Go Loonie

Debate is heating up about whether the Bank of Canada should or will intervene in currency markets to lower the Canadian dollar (as I have been proposing for three months). Today’s two-cent drop in the exchange rate may indicate that currency traders are anticipating this possibility. Over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, Stephen Gordon objected to recent comments […]

Beyond the Lower Bound

The Bank of Canada seems to have at least left the door open to taking unorthodox measures to take some of the steam out of soaring loonie. Today’s interest rate announcement – http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/fixed-dates/2009/rate_201009.html – to be followed by a full Monetary Policy Report on Thursday – expresses concern that the strong Canadian dollar will hold […]

Measuring Economic Performance and Social Progress

I recommend reading at least the executive summary of  the Stiglitz Commission. The Commission was appointed by President Sarkozy of France to look at statistical measures of economic performance and social progress.  It brought together most of the leading international experts in the area – including Amartya Sen who served as Adviser to the Chair […]

Economic Bill of Rights

I got speak on a panel for the BC Cooperative Association this week after a screening of Michael Moore’s new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. I thought it was quite well done, and better than I expected. Less of the MM kitsch and a fairly broad sweep over the history and current foibles of American […]

HST Opacity

A couple of days ago, I took part in a TV Ontario panel about sales-tax harmonization. I emphasized a couple of points that will be familiar to readers of this blog. First, harmonization is unlikely to have much effect on capital investment because many capital goods are already exempt from the existing provincial sales tax. […]

Plutonomy?

I put this post out for comments and discussion since this is an important question for which I don’t have an answer. A 2005 Citigroup report – apparently cited in Michael Moore’s new movie, which I have not yet seen – argues  that “plutonomy” – the extreme concentration of income and wealth in the hands […]

More Deflation

While some prices rose slightly and others fell slightly between July, August and September, the total Consumer Price Index has remained exactly the same through these months. The annual inflation rate declined by 0.9% in September, tying July for the largest rate decline since 1953. All provinces but Saskatchewan now have negative inflation. While the […]

A Second Great Depression?

From the on line issue of the Financial Times, Sunday. A Second Great Depression Is Still Possible Copyright Thomas I. Palley Over the past year the global economy has experienced a massive contraction, the deepest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But this spring, economists started talking of “green shoots” of recovery and that […]

Loonie Out of Control

The loonie’s spectacular flight toward parity with the greenback (and likely beyond) seems to know no bounds.  It’s climbed by over 25 percent in 7 months; its flight began the same day global stock markets turned the corner back in March.  There’s no reason why this appreciation, the steepest in our history, should stop at mere […]

Saskatchewan’s Electricity Future

Back in my home province, a legislative committee has begun a public inquiry on meeting future electricity demand. Written submissions and video of oral presentations are available online. Saskatchewan’s traditional reliance on coal-fired electricity is challenged by concerns about climate change and the prospect of federal charges for carbon emissions. The debate has recently been […]

Stimulus at Work

On Thanksgiving, Canadians can be thankful that public stimulus spending propelled a surprisingly strong labour-market rebound in September. This morning’s release shows full-time employment up and the unemployment rate down. However, the jobs picture is not as rosy as these top-line numbers imply. Stimulus Working? The improvement in Canada’s labour market should not be taken […]

Steelworkers on Extended EI

UPDATE (October 20): The transcript of the hearing described below is now available. . . . Late this afternoon, I had the pleasure of serving on a Parliamentary panel composed entirely of members of the United Steelworkers union.  My co-panellists before the Human Resources committee were Ken Georgetti, CLC President, and Rosalie Washington, a laid-off […]

The Denial Twist

I don’t get climate change deniers and skeptics. With the Copenhagen conference coming up quickly, there seems to be an upsurge of denial on-line. The skeptics are well-organized — any media post on climate change that allows comments is quickly tarred with their arguments. I get that we should not just accept the conventional wisdom, […]

Iggy’s Deficit Wall

I just saw Michael Ignatieff on TV warning that Canada could hit “the deficit wall.” I assume he means “debt wall.” (I would not fault a slip of the tongue, but the written text of a recent speech also incorrectly calls it “the deficit wall.”) The concept is not that a country hits the wall […]

Doughnut Economics

I recently questioned whether Tim Hortons’ reorganization as a Canadian corporation would bring any additional jobs or tax revenue to Canada. Aaron Wherry since did something that journalists covering the Prime Minister’s photo-op on this issue should have done: he asked the company directly. Its response is now available on the Macleans blog. Of course, […]

Canada’s Economic Action Plan: The Infomercial

During tonight’s Hockey Night in Canada I got to see the new ads for Canada’s Economic Action Plan (OK, I think they are new; I don’t watch TV except for hockey). Now that it is October, I find it interesting to hear the government trumpeting the plan they tabled back in … when was that […]

Weaker Than You Think

I had been girding my loins yesterday, with the release of StatsCan’s July GDP numbers, for another orgy of triumphalist headlines: “The Recovery Is Nigh! All is Good! Stop Worrying!  Nothing to See Here, Folks!  Just Go About Your Business!” After all, Chrysler’s two humongous Canadian assembly plants went back to work in July (after a […]