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Archive for 'big business'

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

The NSA Scandal is all about Economics

Back in 1998, I wrote a lengthy investigative feature for The Financial Post about Canada’s signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and its post-Cold War role. You can read it here: http://circ.jmellon.com/docs/pdf/trolling_for_secrets_economic_espionage.pdf The CSE and its sister signals intelligence agency in the US, the National Security Agency (NSA), engage in espionage using solely […]

The Blackberry mess and what Canada needs

Another year, another dead Canadian tech giant.  Blackberry was sold yesterday for scrap to the Toronto private equity firm Fairfax.  The purchase price of $4.7 billion is essentially valued at its cash of $2.6 billion and the value of its patents.  Blackberry’s active businesses are being valued at essentially nothing.  If Fairfax can stop the […]

The rise and fall (and rise?) of Blackberry – the story that just won’t quit

The rise and fall (and rise?) of Blackberry is a story that has gripped our attention, and not just because it affects so many Canadians. It’s because this tumultuous story has more plot twists than a thriller. Yesterday the company stole the spotlight yet again with news that its future might not be dashed after […]

How Offshore Tax Havens Destroy Governments

Last fall, Greek magazine editor Kostas Vaxevanis published in his magazine Hot Doc a list of 2,000 wealthy Greeks who were hiding taxable savings in the Geneva branch of HSBC. The list had been furnished years earlier by the then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to the Greek government, who did nothing in regards to chasing after […]

Statistics Canada Resuscitates Dead Money

Interestingly, the day after the new Bank of Canada Governor gave a speech distancing himself from his predecessor’s “dead money” comments, Statistics Canada released a significant downward revision to the usual measure of corporate cash accumulation. The cash holdings of private non-financial corporations reached $594 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012, so I was […]

Is new coal export infrastrucutre in the best interest of BC and Canada

Today’s CBC Edition Business Panel focused on the proposal by Fraser Surrey Docks to build a new coal terminal on the Fraser river to export US thermal coal (if you missed it, here’s the recording starting at 1:50). This may seem like a local issue for the West Coast, but the arguments stand for most […]

GDP: Resource Exports Cover for Domestic Weakness

Statistics Canada reported today that GDP grew by 0.6% in the first quarter. The volume of energy and mining exports expanded by more than 5%, offsetting lower exports of many manufactured goods as well as a weak domestic economy. Consumer spending growth slowed to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013, its lowest rate of […]

Ontario Budget: All Quiet on the Revenue Front

As others have noted, last week’s Ontario budget combined modest social investments in areas requested by the NDP with austerity for overall expenditures. Ontario program spending, already the lowest per capita of any province, will be subject to ongoing cuts relative to inflation. This paradox on the expenditure side of the ledger reflects a vacuum […]

More Dead Money

The sector and financial-flow accounts released with today’s GDP figures indicate an expansion of the pool of dead money flagged by this blog and by Mark Carney. The National Balance Sheet Accounts have not yet been released for the second quarter, so we cannot update the accumulated total of $526 billion. However, the updated Financial […]

Agrium Halves Potash Royalties

Agrium reports that it paid half as much to the people of Saskatchewan in the second quarter as it had in the same quarter of last year. The company’s quarterly “potash profit and capital tax” payment dropped to $8 million from $15 million a year ago. Agrium’s only potash mine is in Saskatchewan. The value […]

Taking Over Nexen

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) bid to acquire Nexen is a large and complex proposal. Canadians should call for a more thorough and transparent review than other foreign takeovers have received under the Investment Canada Act. A preliminary outline of possible costs and benefits follows. The Downside: Chinese Consumer Interests A company like […]

Baskin-Robbins and the Walmartization of Ice Cream

It’s been an unusually hot summer, and soaring temperatures have boosted sales of that quintessential summer food, ice cream. But Baskin-Robbins has decided to shut its production facility in Peterborough, Ont., and lay off 80 workers because of…wait for it… increased demand! From the department of “wait, what?”, here’s the scoop behind this brain-freeze-inducing decision. […]

Mosaic Profit Argues for Higher Royalties

Today’s Mosaic quarterly report provides further evidence that the Government of Saskatchewan should improve its royalty and tax structure to collect a better return on the province’s non-renewable resources like potash. Quarterly Comparison Despite higher potash prices, Mosaic paid lower royalties and resource taxes to Saskatchewan last quarter than in the same quarter of last […]

The Economics of Deception

The following is a guest post by Robyn Allan, the former president of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia who appeared with me on TVO’s panel about Dutch disease. It summarizes her recent paper: An Analysis of Canadian Oil Expansion Economics. There is a chorus singing the praises of the oil industry and its vast economic […]

Santa Claus Delivers a Positive Quarter Despite Corporate Scrooges

The Month: Christmas Gift Canada’s economy was buoyed by Christmas cheer as a December bounce more than offset slight declines in October and November to turn the fourth quarter positive. Unfortunately, one month does not make a trend. The key question is whether December’s strength continued into the New Year or whether economic activity reverted […]

In the Wake of the Crisis: Bully Capitalism

A shorter version of this article appears today at Economy Lab, the Globe and Mail’s on-line business feature.  Capitalism has entered an ugly new era, one that may work well for the shareholders of world, but not for the rest of us. I couldn’t help but notice that, on the very same day Caterpillar shuttered […]

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.” […]

Unrest in Bill’s Republic of Doyle

PotashCorp CEO Bill Doyle waded into Saskatchewan’s election campaign on Friday with an op-ed in the province’s two largest newspapers. It was accompanied by a paid advertisement from PotashCorp in Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix. The company got some free advertising in Regina’s Leader-Post through Bruce Johnstone’s column, which repeated Doyle’s op-ed. The Saskatchewan Party is parroting the […]

Inequality is bad for business

In August Canadian Business magazine published my article on why inequality is bad for business.  It is produced in full below. Last week the International Monetary Fund, not known for left-leaning views, released a series of articles entitled “Why Inequality Throws Us Off Balance”. One of the papers is by Andrew Berg and Jonathan Ostry […]

Copyright on Campus

A recent article by George Monbiot in The Guardian takes a critical look at academic publishers, apparently with a focus on the United Kingdom. The article makes the following points: -Journals now eat up 65 percent of university library budgets. -”[A]cademic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free.”  -The […]

When Business and Progressives Agree

It was news, not so much because of what was said, as who said it:  The Conference Board of Canada released a report on rising inequality in Canada today, noting that despite the fact that Canadians are better off than a generation ago, the richest 20% in society are taking an ever-growing share of the […]

A July 1 Portrait of Corporate Canada

My copy of the Globe and Mail the other day included the July edition of the Report on Business magazine, featuring its annual ranking of the top 1000 publicly-traded corporations in Canada.  The survey makes for fascinating reading.  In honour of Canada Day, I would like to present a few statistical factoids about these huge […]

The Underground Economy and Business Tax Evasion

Statscan have produced interesting and important new estimates of the upper bound size of the “underground” or “non observed”  economy, putting it at a seemingly modest 2.2% of GDP in 2008. (Some of this is already included in GDP which is  adjusted to take into account some hidden and unreported economic activity.) The 2.2% estimate […]

CEOs and “Creating Value”

Today’s Globe and Mail carried a story on the front of the business section about Jason Underwood, CEO of Whiterock REIT (a real-estate development income trust).  He earned $4.8 million compensation last year (an increase of 475% from the previous year), which is especially surprising since the entire fund has a market value of just […]