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  • Study explores media coverage of pipeline controversies December 14, 2018
    Supporters of fossil fuel infrastructure projects position themselves as friends of working people, framing climate action as antithetical to the more immediately pressing need to protect oil and gas workers’ livelihoods. And as the latest report from the CCPA-BC and Corporate Mapping Project confirms, this framing has become dominant across the media landscape. Focusing on pipeline […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Study highlights ‘uncomfortable truth’ about racism in the job market December 12, 2018
    "Racialized workers in Ontario are significantly more likely to be concentrated in low-wage jobs and face persistent unemployment and earnings gaps compared to white employees — pointing to the “uncomfortable truth” about racism in the job market, according to a new study." Read the Toronto Star's coverage of our updated colour-coded labour market report, released […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Uploading the subway will not help Toronto commuters December 12, 2018
    The Ontario government is planning to upload Toronto’s subway, claiming it will allow for the rapid expansion of better public transit across the GTHA, but that’s highly doubtful. Why? Because Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek’s emphasis on public-private partnerships and a market-driven approach suggests privatization is the cornerstone of the province’s plan. Will dismembering the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2018 State of the Inner City Report: Green Light Go...Improving Transportation Equity December 7, 2018
    Getting to doctors appointments, going to school, to work, attending social engagments, picking up groceries and even going to the beach should all affordable and accessible.  Check out Ellen Smirl's reserach on transportation equity in Winnipeg in this year's State of the Inner City Report!
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Inclusionary housing in a slow-growth city like Winnipeg December 3, 2018
    In Winnipeg, there is a need for more affordable housing, as 21 percent of households (64,065 households) are living in unaffordable housing--according to CMHC's definition of spending more than 30 percent of income on shelter.  This report examines to case studies in two American cities and how their experience could help shape an Inclusionary Housing […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Wilbur Schramm and Noam Chomsky Meet Harold Innis

That’s the actual title of a recent book (2015) by Robert E. Babe, who has a doctorate in economics and is professor of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. The sub-title is Media, Power, and Democracy. Harold Innis you know. If you don’t, get with the required reading. Noam Chomsky everybody […]

The Anthropocene and the New World

In recent decades all but the wilfully ignorant have had to face two facts: that climate change is taking place and that it is the result of what we humans are doing. The term Anthropocene was coined in 2000 in recognition of that latter hugely important fact. When had this new era began – and […]

Possessive Individualism

That’s what the political theorist C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987) saw emerging historically with the rise of capitalism. Frank Cunningham in his just published intellectual biography of Macpherson, The Political Thought of C.B. Macpherson: Contemporary Applications describes possessive individualism as “The individual is proprietor of his own person, for which he owes nothing to society”. That sounds […]

Abraham Rotstein and the Radical Decade from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies

Remarks at a posthumous book launch of his Myth, Mind and Religion at Massey College, University of Toronto, October 2018 For more than 50 years, going back to the days of the old Department of Political Economy, Abe was my colleague in teaching and researching economic history and political economy, my intellectual soulmate, and my […]

Is there life after NAFTA?

  Like all sensible folk I was myself opposed to the NAFTA at the outset, convinced that it did more for the corporations than for the rest of us. I’m still of that view. Is it possible that the biggest change that is now taking place is in the name itself, from NAFTA to USMCA- […]

The New Language of Resource Exploitation: From Staples Dependency to Extraction Empire

“Staples dependency” we know from Innis onwards.  It can mean reliant upon, dependent on, the export of staples, and permits of a staple theory of linkages as economic theory. It can also mean a resource margin of a more developed imperium. Economic theory is infused by the power relations inherent in “dependency” and is transformed […]

Rotstein’s Monumental Epitaph

The late Abraham/Abe Rotstein (1929-2015) was an economist of a leftist persuasion, literally a Left Liberal. He left behind an almost completed manuscript which he had been working on for more than three decades. It has now been published.  Its title Myth, Mind and Religion: The Apocalyptic Narrative is indicative of its extraordinary breadth. Problems, […]

Was Innis Wrong?

The question is taken from the title of an article by Nancy Olewiler of Simon Fraser University in the Canadian Journal of Economics (November 2017), which, as it happens, was delivered as the Innis Lecture at the meetings of the Canadian Economics Association in 2017: “Canada’s dependence on natural capital wealth: Was Innis wrong?”  Her […]

The Contemporary Relevance of Karl Polanyi

The political economist Karl Polanyi, author of the 1944 volume The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, is arguably better known today than during his lifetime. The time has come for a major biography of Polanyi, Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left by Gareth Dale. It is thoroughly excellent and […]

A Tale of Two Books

Just published is Volume I of an exhaustive – occasionally exhausting – biography of Paul Samuelson. It’s titled Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A Samuelson Vol I: Becoming Samuelson, 1915-1948 and authored by Roger E Backhouse. The two books of my blog title are Foundations of Economic Analysis, published in 1947, a revision of Samuelson’s Harvard doctoral dissertation, in which […]

Toward a Better World

That is the well chosen title of a marvelous new book by Gerry Helleiner,  sub-titled Memoirs of a Life in International and Development Economics. Helleiner, from his home base at the University of Toronto, tells us in this most readable book, in his own modest way, the stories, notably from Africa, of how he devoted his […]

A Critical Take on Staples

Almost a century ago W.A. Mackintosh and Harold Innis created the staple approach to Canadian studies which came to be the core of “Canadian political economy.” Post World War II the staple approach was revised and rejuvenated, and became the core of what was now called “the New Canadian Political Economy.” There have always been […]

Origins of the New Canadian Political Economy

Abridged Text of Remarks to Panel on Canadian Political Economy in Commemoration of Abraham Rotstein and Stephen Clarkson, Department of Political Science, September 16 2016 Let us cast our minds back to the decade of the 1960 – which I recall as the best of times – as the time of the transformation of the […]

W. A. Mackintosh: Great Canadian Economist of the 20th Century

There were two great Canadian economists of the last century: H.A. Innis and W.A. Mackintosh. Innis had been much written about but not Mackintosh. This is now corrected by a thoroughly researched biography by Hugh Grant of the University of Winnipeg with the straightforward title W.A. Mackintosh: The Life of a Canadian economist. Mackintosh was […]

Impact of Fur Trade in U.S.

The fur trade in Canada is often said to have been less malign than in the US, and it was, but that doesn’t say much given the extraordinary disruption it is said to have createn in colonial America by the American historian Bernard Bailyn in his recent (2012) book, appropriately titled The Barbarous Years: The […]

Call for Research

“The interpretation of the history of North America in terms of rum and brandy has not been written, but in the fur trade, rum represented the contribution of the West Indies to trade of the Old Empire, and brandy the emphasis on French vineyards and self-sufficienty.” Innis, 1933 So far as I know, still not […]

Kari Levitt Honoured

Kari Polanyi Levitt, one of own, has been given the Order of Canada. Congratulations to Kari. Richly deserved. Enjoy and share:

Not Trickledown But Gush-Up

“Trickledown hadn’t worked. But Gush-Up certainly has. That’s why in a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one fourth of the GDP.” [Yesterday’s election results only promise to worsen that.] That’s how the extrordinary writer-and-activist Arundhati Roy, one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, describes contemporary capitalism in […]

From pulp and paper to magazines to progessive politics

Harold Innis wrote the history of Canada around its succession of staple exports, first to Europe and then to the US. He then wrote the history of empires and civilizations around the succession of media of communications. One of the bridges between these two phases of his work was the study of newsprint as a […]

Mel Clark 1921-2014

Mel Clark, a long time trade negotiator for Canada, passed away on March 14. His Notice of Death in the April 24 Globe and Mail describes him as “an independent and progressive thinker with a strong sense of social responsibility.“ “Mel`s decades of experience in the world of international trade had convinced him that free […]

Fur trade and tar sands

Here is Joseph Boyden talking with the Globe and Mail last fall about his novel Orenda: “You look at this novel and you think immigration, who you allow in and who you don’t. The Hurons allow in the ones who ulimately destroy them, because the Huron aren’t perfect either. They need the trade, and how […]

In Praise of our Distinguished Predecessor

J. King Gordon (b.1900, d.1989) was not a professional economist, though as a Rhodes Scholar he studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford while inhaling the Fabianism in the air. He was a progressive and a political activist who deserves to be remembered by us. Twice in his life he was there at the birth […]

Oil as a Staple

“By 1901, Baku [then part of the Russian Empire, now the capital of Azerbaijan Republic] produced half the world’s oil…Baku was a melting pot of pitiful poverty and incredible wealth…[T]he derricks and the refineries poisoned the city and corrupted the people…[O]il townships were polluted slums. The 48,000 workers toiled in terrible conditions, living and fighting […]

Surely lighthouses are simply a good thing?

“From a conventional view of progress, there were few projects more useful and less problematic than building lighthhouses to save life and cargo. From the shore, however, this was not so obvious. Among the local population were wreckers, who waited for storms to drive vessels ashore which they looted for cargo and parts – or […]

Staples Redux: Wheat and Canola

Acceptance or rejection of genetically modified food has tended to be analyzed with respect to the attitudes of consumers. But the attitudes of producers matter. For example, western grain farmers have mostly accepted GM canola and most rejected GM wheat. Emily Eaton of the University of Regina explores why in a new book Growing Resistance: […]

Staples Redux: Oil and Honey

Oil is a staple. Honey isn’t. That’s the point. The odd coupling comes from Bill McKibben’s most recent book, which is titled “Oil and Honey.” Oil is crude. Honey is sweet. That says it all. The central point that McKibben is making is that oil is global and honey is local, and that the disruptive […]

Kari Polanyi-Levitt’s New Book

The much respected progressive economist, and my long time friend and intellectual soulmade, Kari Polanyi Levitt, having just turned 90, has published a book of no less than 16 scholarly articles, all written in the past 25 years and mostly much more recently. Its title, From the Great Transformation to the Great Financialization: On Karl […]

Wordly Philosopher

This is the title of a recently published biography of Albert Hirschmam by Jeremy Adelman, a Canadian who teaches history at Princeton University. Hirschman’s life as an economist – which spanned so much of the 20th century – is worth learning about for it makes us think hard about what has happened to economics over […]

Re-reading Hirschman

Since I was a graduate student in the last millennium, I’ve been fascinated by the role of the cotton textile industry in recent economic history, beginning with that momentous event still being heard around the world, the First Industrial Revolution. It just caught fire in Bengladesh. There are books about cotton as a staple – […]

A Taxonomy of Linkages

As we discuss Dutch disease and the staples trap, it is good to be reminded that these discussions can benefit by being put in the context of Albert Hirschman’s linkages from commodity/resource/staple export. It so happens that a recent monograph begins with Hirschman and then elaborates on his linkages, and applies them in case studies. […]