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Archive for January, 2012

GDP Turns Negative

Statistics Canada reported today that the economy shrank in November for the first time in six months. This decline was driven by reduced energy production, which partly reflected maintenance shutdowns in the oil patch and unusually mild weather. While those factors may not affect future economic growth, their ability to turn it negative in November […]

Low Income and the Age of Eligibility for OAS

To reprise a now topical earlier blog,  hiking the age of eligibility for OAS will have the biggest impact by far on future seniors who are in low income. Many if not most of this group are unable to work due to disability or ill health. If the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS […]

The Davos Speech

The Prime Minister’s speech at Davos was, I would bet, written by Stephen Harper himself. It  bore the stamp of his long standing contempt for the European welfare state. He all but said that the Europeans had brought the crisis on themselves through trying to live beyond their fiscal means:  As I look around the world, as […]

Odious profits and the Enbridge pipeline

Two obvious but generally unstated details about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline are climate change and that oil and gas companies stand to make mega-profits. An honest appraisal of the project would be something like, “yes, putting in the pipeline will facilitate even more greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta oil sands, but our buddies […]

Canadian Triumphalism Increasingly Bizarre

Prime Minister  Harper went to Davos yesterday to sing Canada’s praises.  No sooner had he finished reciting a long list of our national achievements, however, then he launched into a list of the sober, realistic, inevitable things that must be done in Canada to ensure “sustainability” in the long term.  Top of the list is […]

Hiking the Retirement Age is the Wrong Answer to the Retirement Crisis

Raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement (OAS/GIS) benefits is the worst possible way to deal with the retirement income security crisis facing Canadians. Experts such as former Assistant Chief Statistician Michael Wolfson project that one half of all middle income baby boomers face a severe cut to their living standards […]

The Race To The Trough: What Did Corporate Tax Cuts Deliver?

The CLC today celebrated Corporate Tax Freedom Day – defined as the day on which corporations have paid their share of all government taxes.  It featured a race of mechanical pigs to a trough full of cash – with the pigs wearing the colours of leading Canadian corporations with large cash reserves. Watch the video. […]

The IMF and Austerity

Today’s IMF economic update further downgrades growth projections, including here in Canada where growth in 2012 is forecast to be just 1.7%, down from the IMF’s September forecast of 1.9%.  That is well below the just released Bank of Canada forecast of 2.0%, and clearly implies rising unemployment. On fiscal policy they say: Countries should […]

Job Vacancies vs. Unemployment

Progressive economists have advocated expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to boost demand and create jobs, given the high rate of unemployment. By contrast, employers and conservative commentators complain of unfilled vacancies and labour shortages, emphasizing policies to increase labour supply and labour mobility. Today’s new Statistics Canada survey of job vacancies sheds fresh light on […]

Corporate Taxes and Investment in Ontario

Last week, Ontario’s Ministry of Finance released the Ontario Economic Accounts for the third quarter of 2011. As The Globe reported, business investment was less than impressive: . . . investment in machinery and equipment fell slightly by 0.2 per cent between June and September, 2011, prompting Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to fire a […]

When Management Locks the Doors

Quick: what do U.S. Steel, Rio Tinto, and Caterpillar all have in common? They’re all enormous, flexible global companies, given carte blanche by the Canadian government to purchase important long-standing profitable assets here with few if any conditions, who promptly locked out their Canadian workers in an effort to extract historic concessions in compensation and […]

Wall Strikes Out on Fiscal Federalism

Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall recently issued a statement exhorting his fellow Premiers to blaze largely unspecified new trails on healthcare, Employment Insurance and Equalization. Unfortunately, he misses the ball on all three issues. Greg Fingas and Verda Petry have already refuted Wall’s call for further healthcare privatization. On Employment Insurance, Wall implies that eastern Canadians are […]

The Political Roots of Inequality

 Last Thursday I was at an event on the issue of rising income inequality, sponsored by Canada 2020. It featured one of the authors of the recent OECD report on inequality, who highlighted the “skills biased technological change or SBT ” hypothesis so favoured by mainstream economists who desperately avoid discussion of inequality as a […]

Lower Inflation Frees Carney’s Hand

Statistics Canada reported today that consumer prices decreased in December, lowering the annual inflation rate to 2.3%. The Bank of Canada’s core inflation rate declined to 1.9%. Tame inflation leaves room to lower interest rates. If unemployment continues to rise, the Bank of Canada should reduce interest rates to boost the economy and create jobs. […]

Austerity: Making the Same Mistake Again?

There is a special, free on line, issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics with what look to be very interesting contributions from the progressive side of the spectrum.

Tax Shifting

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab published a piece by Stephen Gordon arguing that high income and corporate taxes won’t generate much revenue.  Gordon used used the metaphor of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s (finance minister to the Louis XIV, the “Sun King”) that the art of taxation was like plucking feathers from a goose: “ obtain the […]

Are There Labour and Skill Shortages in Canada?

Further to my earlier post on this topic, whether or not we are or will soon be experiencing labour and skills shortages is a question of critical importance to the development of sound public policy. Next week, we will get some new Statistics Canada data on job vacancies which will help support a more informed […]

The Focus of the Federal Budget Must Be Jobs, Not Cuts.

The Mark have published a pre Budget commentary from yours truly.

EI Benefits Decline Amid Rising Unemployment

Today, Statistics Canada reported that the number of Canadians receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell for a third consecutive month in November. This decline would be good news if it reflected an improving labour market. Unfortunately, unemployment has also increased for three consecutive months. The trend is a dwindling number of beneficiaries among a growing […]

Deregulation: A Bad Idea Crosses the Atlantic

The Harper government announced today that federal “regulators will be required to remove at least one regulation each time they introduce a new one that imposes administrative burden on business.” At the risk of imposing a proofreading burden on communications staff, that sentence is missing the word “an.” I first heard this idea at a […]

“Real” Youth Unemployment Rate Close to 20%

Statistics Canada’s “real” (R8 supplementary) unemployment rate adds to unemployed persons some labour force dropouts (discouraged job seekers who have given up looking for a job in the belief that no work is available) and the  hours of work lost by part-time workers who would rather have worked full-time. In 2011, the “real” rate averaged […]

The “Job Seekers Allowance”

Michael Mendelson has posted a long comment on my earlier post regarding the Mowat Report on EI. He defends Caledon’s proposal for temporary non EI income support for the unemployed as a clear improvement over welfare , and stresses that it is not intended to undermine EI as a social insurance program. I read the […]

A prescription for health care reform: think integration & collaboration

This morning the CCPA released a new report (co-authored by yours truly) that looks at the thorny issue of health care reform in BC (and Canada) and identifies some practical, evidence-based strategies that have been successful in improving quality of care and controlling costs in other jurisdictions. The papers comes out at a time when […]

Wall of Silence on Canpotex

Saskatchewan’s newspapers reported today that BHP Billiton intends to sell the province’s potash outside of Canpotex, the marketing board that helps to maximize the price for which Saskatchewan potash is exported offshore. BHP executive Tim Cutt stated, “We will not market through Canpotex. We talked to the premier (Brad Wall) about that. He understands that.” […]

Rising Inequality Spooking the 0.0001%

Contributors to this blog–and CCPA experts–have been warning about the negative economic and social consequences of rising inequality for decades.   Now the even the 0.0001% are getting concerned.   Experts polled for the Global Risks Report for this month’s meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos –one of the most eleite gatherings of the powerful in […]

Are Enbridge’s job numbers credible?

Putting aside the impact of the proposed Enbridge pipeline on GHG emissions or spills on land and at sea, the case in favour of the pipeline rests on creating jobs. Personally, I think industry and government use “jobs” as a euphemism for “profits” as that is where the lion’s share of revenues go. But for […]

Foreign influence in Canada’s oil patch

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s contention that the National Energy Board hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline are loaded down with foreign special interests is exactly right. But it is not the “environmentalists and other radical groups” that are the problem. It’s the oil and gas industry. This Statscan table lays out foreign ownership in […]

Capitalism as a Matter of Faith and Twisted Logic

Larry Summers has contributed to a new Financial Times series on Capitalism in Crisis. It merits a read, as an example of tortured reasoning. Summers is the consummate insider neo liberal Democratic economist. A  leading academic,  he was chief economist of the World Bank, acolyte and then successor to Robert Rubin as the US Secretary […]

When Will The Baby Boomers Retire?

Canada’s population, we are frequently told, is rapidly aging. The big baby boomer cohort is headed out of the workforce, meaning  that we face a future of very slow labour force growth and even possible shortages of workers. CIBC Economics has just gone so far as to argue that the Bank of Canada can afford […]

Cost of Inequitable Tax Loopholes Increases

Finance Canada published its annual Tax Expenditure Report for 2011 and it shows that the cost of some of the most inequitable tax preferences and loopholes continues to rise. For instance the stock option deduction, which allows CEOs and executives to pay tax at half the rate of ordinary working income, is estimated to cost the federal […]