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Archive for July, 2011

Notes on the social cost of carbon

A recent paper by Ackerman and Stanton did some re-estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon, finding this measure of the externality (or costs imposed on third parties) from burning fossil fuels could be as high as $893 per tonne of CO2, rising to $1,500 per tonne by 2050. These are extreme estimates, but they […]

Decarbonizing homes and the price of gas

Our climate justice framework for BC is to eliminate fossil fuels by 2040. In the household sector, this poses a significant challenge, not so much in terms of technology and knowledge, but because natural gas is much cheaper than electricity per unit of energy. Even though BC has among the lowest prices in North America, […]

The Myth of Expansionary Austerity

As the US and Europe turn from stimulus to fiscal austerity, claims are heard that spending cuts actually stimulate economic growth. That is the argument heard, not just from the Republicans in the US Congress, but also from the Obama Administration who have pretty much stopped listening to even mainstream macro-economists. And it is the argument […]

Is Social Assistance a “Poverty Pariah?”

An article in the current edition of NOW Magazine looks at social assistance in Ontario. The article is aptly entitled “Poverty Pariah,” in light of how apparently unpopular Ontario’s welfare system has become over the past 20 years. As can be seen at the National Council of Welfare’s Interactive Welfare Incomes Map, a single adult […]

Global University Rankings

The European University Association (EUA) recently released a report they’d commissioned entitled Global University Rankings and Their Impact. The report was written by Andrejs Rauhvargers. According to the EAU, one of their major motivations in commissioning the report was that their member universities are “often under pressure to appear in the rankings, or to improve their position in […]

How To Fund Innovation

Just over a year ago, I wrote an opinion piece about the federal government’s “innovation strategy” and its impact on the post-secondary education sector. In the piece, I argue that the strategy has resulted in significant funding increases for university R&D. But I also argue in the piece that the strategy creates winners and losers–i.e. a “world class” doctoral student […]

Family Values and Budget Cuts

Once again, in the middle of summer, the anti-government government has unleashed more anti-policy policy via a compliant Statistics Canada. Who needs data when you’ve got family values? The Harper team knows what you need. (Hint: tax cuts. Oops! Not for you sister, if you’re a single mom.) The Globe and Mail’s Tavia Grant has […]

Expanding the Canada Pension Plan

The case for expanding benefits under the CPP as a needed response to the crisis of private pensions continues to win expert support – even as the financial industry and small business lobbies continue to fight real pension reform tooth and nail. The centre-right Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) have published interesting and useful […]

What is a middle class income these days?

Whenever we consider the pros and cons of a new policy, we want to know if it benefits or hurts the poor, the middle class and those who are better off. Often, the answer depends on how we define each of these groups. It’s said that 99% of Canadians think of themselves as middle class, […]

Home energy retrofits: part one

I was in the budget lock-up in Ottawa back in 2009, when the feds announced a home renovation tax credit as part of the stimulus package, and one of my first thoughts was “kitchen reno”. Months later we had a nice kitchen upgrade to enjoy as our contribution to getting the Canadian economy back on […]

The Bank Moves to Hit the Ball

The release of today’s Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada follows yesterday’s announcement of no change in interest rates, the latest in a long series.  It reminds me of an English County cricket match in which a batsman is politely applauded – “very well not played, sir!” – for doing absolutely nothing other than […]

“Time to Reduce Exposure to Europe”

CBC National News reconvened their “Bottom Line” economics panel (including yours truly) last night to discuss the twin debt crises (Europe and America) that are currently roiling financial markets.  Here’s the link to the webcast for aficionados. In the last segment, Pater Mansbridge asked all the panelists how the debt problems should affect individual Canadians’ personal […]

TILMA by Stealth in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Party had repeatedly promised not to sign TILMA, but signed the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) last year. At the time, many commentators (including yours truly) noted that the NWPTA was little more than a renaming of TILMA. I see that the official TILMA website is now automatically redirecting to the NWPTA […]

TILMA by Stealth

A month ago, Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments volunteered to be directly sued by investors under the Agreement on Internal Trade. This quiet announcement from Brudenell, Prince Edward Island, seems to have gone almost unnoticed. But it is a huge step toward imposing the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) on all Canadian […]

How much does poverty cost BC?

We’ve known for a long time that we all pay for poverty. We just didn’t know how much. This is the question I investigate in my latest CCPA report The Cost of Poverty in BC. If you’re not in the mood for reading the report, you can watch a short video that summarizes the findings […]

When Business and Progressives Agree

It was news, not so much because of what was said, as who said it:  The Conference Board of Canada released a report on rising inequality in Canada today, noting that despite the fact that Canadians are better off than a generation ago, the richest 20% in society are taking an ever-growing share of the […]

Deconstructing BC’s carbon neutral government

Besides the carbon tax, one of the most important BC government climate action initiatives has been the adoption of Carbon Neutral Government. That is, count emissions from public buildings and travel, reduce them as much as possible and pay for carbon offsets to negate the rest. As of the 2010 calendar year, the BC government […]

Navigating challenging economic waters

Down south, the Obama administration is in a dangerous game of chicken with Republican congressional leaders, who are cynically holding the US economy hostage in order to impose a radical agenda of spending cuts. Obama has seemingly bought into the rhetoric of cutting debt, rather than focusing on the real US problem of unemployment. Yet, […]

Is BC about to drop a new carbon bomb?

Any day now the BC government should be releasing the latest greenhouse gas data for the province, and we will see if any progress is being made towards a legislated 33% reduction in emissions by 2020 (relative to 2007 levels; data will be for 2009 and we know that emissions rose in 2008). Below the […]

New CAW Film About the Economics of CETA

The CAW has just released a 20-minute video featuring none other than yours truly giving a short lecture about the economics of the proposed Canada-EU free trade agreement (a.k.a. CETA). This link takes you to the film, which can be downloaded for free and shown at information meetings or any other organizing events.

Metro Morning, Return Engagement

I was invited back to serve as guest economics columnist all last week on Metro Morning, CBC Radio’s drive-in flagship show in Toronto, to substitute for the vacationing effervescent libertarian Michael Hlinka.  I did this once a couple of years ago (blogged about it here), when Andy Barrie was still the host.  Now he’s retired […]

Burned by B.C.’s Toxic HST Debate

“The fact that the Clark government’s Frankenstein HST hybrid will significantly reduce provincial sales tax revenue at a time when public services are already under intense fiscal pressure is a powerful and principled reason to throw the whole package out in the referendum, and start the debate from scratch.” I may live in Ontario, but […]

Arbitrate This!

Does anyone else find it odd that a free-market-worshipping government can happily leap into the fray to micro-manage a labour market outcome (deciding, for example, that postal workers must get 1.75%, not 1.9%, in the first year of their new contract), yet pleads powerlessness when it comes to interfering with market outcomes that are genuinely […]

The NDP and “Big Labour”

Rob Silver, a sharp guy I first met through university debate, has written a rather disappointing piece entitled, “Would NDP be neutral were it in power during a labour dispute?” This question is interesting and significant. On the one hand, the NDP’s political philosophy is strongly supportive of working people. Compared to Liberals and Conservatives, […]

Rationalizing Corporate Canada’s Cash Stash

Statistics Canada figures indicate that private non-financial corporations held $471 billion of cash in the first quarter of 2011 ($322 billion of Canadian currency plus $149 billion worth of foreign currency).  Including short-term paper would bring this total to half a trillion dollars, enough to pay off the national debt (i.e. accumulated deficit). Cash hoarding […]