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Archive for March, 2012

How Much Will YOU Lose from OAS Deferral??

Announcing a bad policy 10 years in advance doesn’t make it a good policy. So the fact that the Harper government is giving people at least 10 years to prepare for 2 years of life without an important source of income, hardly makes it OK — as so many media commentators have tritely implied.  In […]

Lockouts Almost Derail GDP Growth

Statistics Canada reported today that economic growth dropped to a bare 0.1% in January. The New Year began with Rio Tinto locking out former Alcan employees at Alma, Quebec, and Caterpillar locking out former Electro Motive employees at London, Ontario. Closing these major facilities contributed to cutting growth in durable-goods manufacturing from 1.5% in December […]

OAS, the Budget and the Baby Boomers

The Budget justifies raising the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS on the grounds that  the long-term fiscal sustainability of the program is being undermined by rising life expectancy. No estimates of savings are provided. They will be very modest. Given that average life expectancy at age 65 is 20 years, raising the eligibility […]

Budget 2012: Pennywise But Pound Foolish

Marc, Andrew and Toby have posted substantial analyses of yesterday’s federal budget and I have some comments in today’s Hamilton Spectator. My two cents about the budget’s economic forecasts follow. Table 2.1 envisions a 7.5% unemployment rate this year, slightly above last year’s rate of 7.4%. That seems like an admission of failure from a […]

Conservatives’ small-minded budget kills jobs and fails Canadians

Here’s the budget analysis I prepared for CUPE’s website. Despite its size and the hundreds of measures it details, Harper’s 2012 budget demonstrates just how small-minded their vision is.  Canada faces major challenges, with 1.4 million unemployed, stagnant productivity growth, a crisis in retirement security and growing inequality.  Instead of addressing these challenges, what this […]

CLC Analysis of the 2012 Budget

Introduction Budgets are all about choices. With unemployment and underemployment still at very high levels and a shrinking middle-class, the federal government could and should have laid the basis for a sustained and broadly shared economic recovery. The federal government should be taking a larger and stronger role in making the economy work for average […]

A budget that screws the planet for short-term profits

First off, the 2012 federal budget makes no upfront claim to be a budget. Indeed, the cover states only “Economic Action Plan 2012: Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity.” While we have been accustomed in recent years to budgets with their own titles, this one does not actually say “Budget” anywhere. This makes it more a […]

Taxing High Incomes in Ontario

It is notable that the scale of  Ontario’s ostensibly dire fiscal position did not prompt any major response on the tax side, beyond postponing planned reductions to the corporate tax rate. The government could have raised taxes on high income earners as at least a token of solidarity with everybody from social assistance recipients  to […]

The Current Account Deficit

The National Bank have published a very useful and interesting report on the current account deficit, which is now running at about 3% of GDP. They argue that the deficit – largely driven by a huge fall in our manufacturing and wider goods trade balance – has now become structural, and should be cause for […]

Ontario Budget Emulates Drummond

Perhaps the most striking feature of today’s Ontario budget is how close it comes to last month’s Drummond report. Drummond’s preferred scenario for 2017-18 was $134.7 billion of provincial revenue, $117.5 billion of program spending and $15.3 billion of interest payments. By comparison, today’s budget envisions $135.9 billion of revenue, $118.9 billion of program spending […]

The Illusory Savings of Hiking the Age of Eligibility for OAS

Former Assistant Chief Statistician Michael Wolfson shows that governments collectively stand to save very little from hiking the age of eligibility for the OAS/GIS, a measure that is widely expected to be in Thursday’s Budget. The math (based on the SPSDM): In 2011, cutting OAS/GIS from seniors age 65 and 66 would save the federal […]

The Rise of the Casino Economy

I was on a road trip recently, driving through the American south, and ended up coming face to face with the economics of gambling. The friend I was travelling with is a professional poker player, making his living at casinos all across the US. He used to work as an IT consultant in Toronto, helping […]

The Parable of the Prius

I was at a talk on dematerialization a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers told “the parable of the Prius” to illustrate Jevon’s paradox that efficiency gains do not necessarily reduce energy consumption (and from a climate perspective, greenhouse gas emissions). In the case of buying a fuel-efficient Prius, one saves a lot […]

Inflation Central

Statistics Canada reported today that consumer prices edged up by 0.1% in February on a seasonally-adjusted basis, bringing the annual inflation rate to 2.6% and the core inflation rate to 2.3%. These rates are within the Bank of Canada’s target range and should allow it to keep interest rates low, which would be appropriate given […]

Below 40% of the Unemployed Get EI

Statistics Canada reported today that 12,400 more Canadians received Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits in January. The increase in recipients reflected higher unemployment. Indeed, the proportion of jobless workers receiving benefits remained 39% (i.e. 561,060 beneficiaries out of 1,421,200 officially unemployed Canadians.) Only 28% of unemployed Ontarians received EI benefits in January (i.e. 163,570 beneficiaries […]

Enbridge Pipe Dreams and Nightmares

CCPA released today a report by yours truly on the economic costs and benefits of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. In particular, I take aim at the outrageous claims about jobs made by the feds and Enbridge as part of their sales pitch. The report takes a closer look at the input-output modelling of job impacts, and considers […]

Upstream Supply Chain as Sector Development Strategy

My column in Wednesday’s Globe and Mail suggested that Canada implement a “Buy Canadian” strategy associated with major natural resource developments, with the goal of enhancing Canadian content in the overall value chain.  Can we utilize our strong foothold in resource extraction, and try to leverage greater investment and value-added upstream in the value chain (for […]

Alternative Federal Budget 2012

The following is a ten-point summary of the CCPA Alternative Federal Budget released today: The federal government is planning an unprecedented fiscal austerity budget, claiming that massive cuts to public sector jobs, services, and social programs are necessary to pave the way for jobs and growth. But in fact the opposite is true. Austerity programs […]

Canadian Deindustrialization

I thought I had been reading Jim’s posts carefully enough, but I was still kind of stunned when I did a quick stat check to respond  to a comment on my earlier post on globalization and unions. In 2000, manufacturing output (in constant 2002 dollar terms) amounted to $188.9 Billion. In 2010, manufacturing output amounted […]

Severance Pay and Public Servants

I am an economist, not a lawyer or expert on the collective agreements in the federal public service, but I can still detect a hatchet job. The CBC have given a lot of play to a Greg Weston story that allegedly generous severance payments to public servants amounting to as much as $2 Billion will […]

The Curious Case of Guano as a Staple

Peru – the heart of the Inca Empire – and thereabouts is where the potato originated, to be spread around the world after Europeans ‘discovered’ it. Off Peru’s coast a “weird trick of climate and topogrophy” created “[s]warms of anchovies (which) fed the birds that produced the guano that fertilized the fields that yielded such […]

More on Declining Labour Force Participation

As a supplement to the excellent (and more timely!) posts from Andrew and Erin this morning, let me add a few points on the most striking feature of today’s Labour Force Survey: namely, the accelerating decline in labour force participation. The part rate (seasonally adjusted) fell to 66.5% of the working age population (remember, Stats […]

Labour Force Exodus

Statistics Canada reported this morning that 38,000 people gave up looking for work in February. The official unemployment rate fell because these Canadians were no longer counted as being unemployed. However, this huge withdrawal from the labour force is a sign of weakness in the job market. Nationally, 25,000 of the 38,000 who dropped out […]

Job Recovery Remains Stalled

Today’s job numbers underscore the need for a federal Budget to create jobs rather than destroy jobs. The overall picture since September of last year has been one of job losses, a decline in the quality of jobs, and falling real wages. The recovery in the job market has stalled and gone into reverse. The […]

Pooled Registered Pension Plans

PRPPs – or what I prefer to call Mr. Flaherty’s Inferior Pension Plan or FLIP- are a poor alternative to the option of expanding the Canada Pension Plan. Unlike the CPP, PRPPs will not provide a defined pension benefit  in retirement; there is no required employer contribution; there is no inflation indexing; costs will be […]

“Globalization” and Unions

Last weekend I participated in a labour law conference at the University of Western Ontario, speaking on a panel which was asked to speak on the impact of trade and investment on labour rights. I weighed in somewhere between my co panelists Kevin Banks and Marley Weiss, arguing that there are very strong downward pressures […]

Iceland and the Loonie

Dean Baker has weighed in on the weird idea that Iceland might adopt the Canadian dollar.  It is their decision to make, but I also don’t see much to recommend it.

Mike McCracken: Winner of the 2012 Galbraith Prize in Economics

The Progressive Economics Forum (PEF) is proud to announce that Mike McCracken, Chair and CEO of Informetrica Ltd. in Ottawa, has won the 3rd biennial Galbraith Prize for a lifetime contribution to economics and social justice in Canada. Congratulations, Mike! Mike co-founded Informetrica in 1972, after working at the Economic Council of Canada, where he […]

The Loonie’s Stagnant Purchasing Power

The following note also appears on Business Insider. I owe Paul Tulloch a hat tip for reminding me of these issues in a good comment on my last post. When Ontario’s Premier recently complained that Canada’s petro-dollar undermines manufacturing exports, many economists tripped over each other to counter that a strong loonie benefits all Canadians […]

What To Do About Dutch Disease?

In response to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s complaint about oil and the exchange rate, several (conservative) commentators argued that this “Dutch disease” is not what ails Ontario manufacturing. Andrew Coyne took a different tack yesterday, agreeing that petroleum development drives up the exchange rate to the detriment of manufacturing and hence Ontario’s economy, but concluding […]