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The Progressive Economics Forum

StatCan Reports Fewest Vacant Jobs on Record

Statistics Canada reported today that there were only 199,700 vacant jobs in December 2013, the fewest recorded since it first reported these figures for March 2011. Statistics Canada began tracking job vacancies in response to claims of a labour shortage by governments and corporate Canada. But the number of vacancies falling below 200,000 casts further […]

Corporate Cash Stash Surpasses National Debt

Today’s National Balance Sheet Accounts indicate that the amount of cash held by private non-financial corporations in Canada soared from $591 billion in the third quarter of 2013 to $626 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013. Corporate Canada’s accumulated stock of cash now exceeds the federal government’s accumulated deficit, which was $612 billion at […]

Did the US Take a Bite Out of Canada-Korea Trade?

On last night’s The National, Terry Milewski introduced the Canada-Korea trade deal as follows: The truth is that Canada is a latecomer to free trade with South Korea. The European Union and the United States both got there first, and their free trade deals took a big bite out of Canada’s exports. So, the government […]

Corporate Olympics: Profit Sprint vs. Investment Crawl

Statistics Canada reported today that private and public investment intentions are up by 1.4% for 2014, even weaker than Canada’s investment growth of 1.5% in 2013. Private-sector investment intentions are only 1.3% higher this year, a far cry from the growth of after-tax corporate profits. Yesterday, Statistics Canada reported that net profits were 17.3% higher […]

Income Splitting Déjà Vu

This blog’s unofficial slogan has been “Tomorrow’s conventional wisdom, today.” After this week’s Conservative backpedaling on income splitting, we may need to change it to “Today’s conventional wisdom, seven years ago.” Or we could just stick with “You read it here first.” My first-ever blog post, Income Splitting Redux, argued that this tax policy “would benefit […]

Economists Against Austerity

UPDATE (Feb. 12): Carol Goar reports this statement on page A17 of today’s Toronto Star. To add your signature to it, please e-mail your name, title and institution to Mario Seccareccia at mseccare@uottawa.ca Statement by 70 Canadian Economists Against Austerity We, the undersigned, strongly urge the federal government to stop implementing fiscal austerity measures just to […]

Canada’s Job Market: Slower, Lower, Weaker

The following commentary on yesterday’s job numbers is quoted in today’s National Post (page FP4): The Olympic motto may be “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” but Canada’s employment growth is slower, lower and weaker going into the winter games. Of the 29,000 Canadians who supposedly gained employment in January, 28,000 reported being self-employed. Only 1,000 found jobs […]

PotashCorp Projects Low Royalties

Today’s fourth-quarter report indicates that PotashCorp paid “provincial mining and other taxes” of $194 million on potash sales of $3 billion in 2013. In other words, Saskatchewan’s resource surcharge and potash production tax amounted to just 6.5% of the value of potash sold. Adding the basic Crown royalty (which PotashCorp includes in “cost of goods […]

Dutch Disease, Prices and Wages in Saskatchewan

Jim Stanford recently pointed out that many of the conservative economists who had defended the overvalued loonie have quickly shifted to applauding its depreciation. The Government of Saskatchewan may be making a similar conversion on the road to Damascus. When federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair expressed concern about Dutch disease, premier Brad Wall denied that […]

2014 Essay Contest

The details of the Progressive Economics Forum’s 2014 Student Essay Contest are now online. The submission deadline is May 5. Please put up this poster to promote the contest.

StatCan Debunks Small-Business Mythology

Canadian economic commentators often worship small business as the supposed source of economic dynamism and growth. This cult of small business has greatly influenced public policy, with federal and provincial governments giving huge tax preferences to small corporations. But new Statistics Canada research finds: “The gap between the levels of labour productivity in Canada and […]

Canada Post: A Billion-Dollar Boondoggle?

One of the most frequently repeated claims in coverage of yesterday’s Canada Post announcement is that the Crown corporation is on track to lose a billion dollars annually by the decade’s end. This apprehended threat to taxpayers supposedly justifies the complete elimination of door-to-door mail delivery. The Conference Board made this billion-dollar projection earlier this […]

Canada-Europe Deal Not About Trade

I have the following letter to the editor in today’s Prince Albert Daily Herald: Canada-Europe Deal Not About Trade In their letter of Dec. 3, Darryl Hickie and other Sask. Party MLAs back away from his previous claim that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU) would be […]

Weir vs. Wall on Potash Profits, Dividends and Royalties

Earlier this week, PotashCorp laid off 440 workers in Saskatchewan. Here are the closing paragraphs from today’s front-page story reporting a letter from Premier Brad Wall asking the company to consider reducing its dividend payments to shareholders in order to maintain jobs in Saskatchewan: Regina economist and former NDP leadership candidate Erin Weir said if […]

A Part-Time, Do-It-Yourself Job Market

Statistics Canada reported that employment grew by 22,000 in November. But 20,000 of those new jobs were part-time. The proportion of all Canadian jobs that are part-time rose to an even 19%. Broken down another way, 19,000 of the employment increase were people reporting themselves as self-employed. Canadian employers actually hired fewer than 3,000 additional […]

PEF Session at the House of Commons Finance Committee

The Progressive Economics Forum (PEF) normally hosts sessions at the Canadian Economics Association’s annual conference. But the House of Commons finance committee threw most of the PEF members testifying in its pre-budget consultations onto the same panel on November 21 and then moved it to a room without TV. MP Randy Hoback participated in the first […]

A Nuclear Error: Uranium Royalty Cuts

On Thursday’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange (at 24:45 in this CBC video), I noted that while the Government of Canada just signed a deal with Kazakhstan allowing Cameco to invest more in that country’s uranium industry, the Government of Saskatchewan recently slashed its uranium royalties to encourage Cameco to invest in the province rather than […]

Black Friday GDP: Consumption Slows, But Inventories Jump

Ironically, Statistics Canada’s third-quarter GDP report on Black Friday showed the growth rate of consumption being cut in half. Final consumption expenditure grew by 0.4% in the third quarter compared to 0.8% in the second quarter. Household spending growth fell to 0.6% from 0.9%. Government consumption growth plummeted to 0.1% from 0.4%. In other words, […]

Job Market Stuck in a Rut

The words “little change” appear eight times in today’s Statistics Canada press release on the Labour Force Survey. The figures for October are indeed remarkably similar to September. This lack of change might be viewed as welcome stability in better economic times, but it has to be regarded as stagnation given the actual state of […]

The Perils of Passivity

Almost a year ago, Paul Krugman wrote a blog post entitled “Inaction is the Greatest Risk.” He was addressing American monetary policy, but the same theme applies to Saskatchewan politics. Much as Krugman warned readers upfront that his post was “wonkish,” I’ll admit that the following is “hackish.” For several months, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall […]

Do C. D. Howe’s Numbers Support its Policies?

The basic storyline of today’s C. D. Howe Institute “E-Brief”, “Canada Lagging Peers in 2013 Business Investment Growth,” is that corporate tax cuts helped boost investment per worker in Canada above the OECD average. Yet corporate Canada is slipping in 2013 and apparently needs more tax cuts. However, the C. D. Howe Institute’s own graph […]

Fossil-Fueled GDP Growth

Yesterday, Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian economy had a month of fossil-fueled growth in August. Overall GDP was up by 0.3%, only half as much as in July but still a respectable monthly growth rate. By far the strongest growth of any industry was a 1.9% increase in “Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas […]

Wordsmithing 80,000 Jobs

Last week’s federal throne speech stated, “The Government will soon complete negotiations on a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union [CETA]. This agreement has the potential to create 80,000 new Canadian jobs.” There has since been a subtle but important shift in the government’s wording around that figure, as I point out […]

Raising Ontario’s Minimum Wage

On Friday, the United Steelworkers made the following submission to Ontario’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel. The United Steelworkers union endorses the Ontario Federation of Labour’s (OFL) call for a minimum wage of $14 per hour, to ensure that Ontarians who work full-time earn appreciably more than the poverty line. As the OFL submission states: Minimum […]

Canada’s Trade Deficit with the EU Doubles

On last night’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange, I debunked the claim that the trade deal between Canada and the European Union (EU) will create 80,000 Canadian jobs. The conservative panelists did not even try to defend this figure (see this CBC video, starting at 15:45). As Jim Stanford has previously explained on this blog, the […]

Grounding the Toronto Island Airport’s $1.9-Billion Claim

As part of its push to expand to accommodate jet flights, the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has been advertising that it contributes $1.9 billion to Toronto’s economy. This claim is based on a study that the airport commissioned from InterVISTAS, an airline industry consultancy. The study estimates the airport’s economic impact as of March […]

When a Lower Unemployment Rate is Bad News

Today, Statistics Canada reported an unemployment rate of 6.9% for September. One might have expected Canada’s unemployment rate falling below 7% for the first time since 2008 to be cause for celebration. But as Statistics Canada noted, the decline in official unemployment reflected youth dropping out of the job market rather than any notable increase […]

This is Not the Saskatchewan NDP’s Official Position

I have the following opinion piece in the latest (September 2013) edition of The Commonwealth, accompanied by this disclaimer: “The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the official position of the Saskatchewan NDP.” Comparing the NDP and Sask. Party Employment Records Right-wing politicians often win elections by presenting themselves as good economic […]

Royalties should be the Keystone of Saskatchewan’s Petroleum Policy

The Saskatchewan Party has appropriated the province’s name, flag and football team. More recently, it asserted a new symbol of Saskatchewan patriotism: the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Earlier this year, provincial energy and resources minister Tim McMillan had the following letter in Regina’s Leader-Post: Province Needs XL (January 28, 2013) I write in regard to […]

Sask. Party Spin Outstrips Population Growth

Sask. Party spin appears to be growing even faster than the province’s population. Today’s Saskatchewan government news release quotes Premier Wall as saying, “We have the strongest job growth and lowest unemployment in Canada.” By what measure does Saskatchewan have the strongest job growth? Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey indicates that employment grew by 2.9 per […]