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  • Boom, Bust and Consolidation November 9, 2018
    The five largest bitumen-extractive corporations in Canada control 79.3 per cent of Canada’s productive capacity of bitumen. The Big Five—Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil and Husky Energy—collectively control 90 per cent of existing bitumen upgrading capacity and are positioned to dominate Canada’s future oil sands development. In a sense they […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • A new Director for CCPA's BC Office: Message from Mary Childs, Board Chair October 24, 2018
    The CCPA-BC Board of Directors is delighted to share the news that Shannon Daub will be the next BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Last spring, Seth Klein announced that, after 22 years, he would be stepping down as founding Director of the CCPA-BC at the end of 2018. The CCPA-BC’s board […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Who Owns Canada’s Fossil-Fuel Sector? October 15, 2018
    The major investors in Canada’s fossil-fuel sector have high stakes in maintaining business as usual rather than addressing the industry’s serious climate issues, says a new Corporate Mapping Project study.  And as alarms ring over our continued dependence on natural gas, coal and oil, these investors have both an interest in the continued growth of […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Pharmacare consensus principles released today September 24, 2018
    A diverse coalition representing health care providers, non-profit organizations, workers, seniors, patients and academics has come together to issue a statement of consensus principles for the establishment of National Pharmacare in Canada. Our coalition believes that National Pharmacare should be a seamless extension of the existing universal health care system in Canada, which covers medically […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Kate McInturff Fellowship in Gender Justice September 19, 2018
    The CCPA is pleased to announce the creation of the Kate McInturff Fellowship in Gender Justice.This Fellowship is created to honour the legacy of senior researcher Kate McInturff who passed away in July 2018. Kate was a feminist trailblazer in public policy and gender-based research and achieved national acclaim for researching, writing, and producing CCPA’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

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. […]

Who Benefits from M&A?

The Globe and Mail (Feb 28) reports that “in the past few years…Canada’s resource plays have attracted international attention, and Canada has punched above its weight in generating fees for bankers and lawyers. Deals last year such as the takeovers of Nexen Inc. and Progess Energy made Canada the second-biggest source of deal fees in […]

How Productivity Falls When Planes Takeoff and Land

Late in the last calender year, the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sent a letter to the FAA (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) advising it to “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights. “They empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and […]

What Caused the American Civil War?

One hundred and fifty years ago Americans were fighting a most bloody civil war. There were serious persons then and now that blamed the war on Eli Whitney for his invention of the cotton gin in 1794. While Whitney’s gin directly reduced the demand for slaves to separate cotton fibre from the seeds, it broke […]