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 budget provides is more of […]

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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 Canadians, and developing policies that […]

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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 weaken the economy, and their […]

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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 be triggered by job cuts […]

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EI Shrank by 100,000 in 2011

Statistics Canada reported today that the number of Canadians receiving Employment Insurance rose by 4,230 in December, a month in which unemployment rose by 6,100. The proportion of unemployed workers receiving benefits remained below 39% (i.e. 544,720 beneficiaries out of 1.4 million unemployed). Although December saw relatively little change in these totals, it capped off a year in which Canada’s […]

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Is The OAS/GIS Program Unaffordable?

No. Of course not. Even if the government waves around scary large increases in nominal dollar terms. As has been widely reported, the most recent OAS actuarial report shows that total program expenditures will rise from $38.8 billion in 2011 to $107.9 billion in 2030. However, the dollar figure reflects, not just an increase in the number of OAS beneficiaries […]

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Federal cuts could push unemployment to 8%

Now that the government is planning for an $8 billion cut,  the potential job losses could drive job losses to between 99,000 and 108,000 full time positions across Canada.  At this much higher level, the federal government could be single-handedly responsible for pushing national unemployment from its current 7.5% to 8.0%.  About half of those losses would be federal public […]

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Cost of Inequitable Tax Loopholes Increases

Finance Canada published its annual Tax Expenditure Report for 2011 and it shows that the cost of some of the most inequitable tax preferences and loopholes continues to rise. For instance the stock option deduction, which allows CEOs and executives to pay tax at half the rate of ordinary working income, is estimated to cost the federal government $725 million last year. […]

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A Long Way from Plan B

The best one can say about today’s Economic and Fiscal Update is that it signals some very slight flexibility amid changing circumstances. The Minister said “We will not be bound by ideology when it comes to making decisions to keep our economy strong and protect Canadians, their financial security and their jobs. We have responded to critical situations with flexibility […]

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Austerity Kills: Conservative cure worst thing for what ails the economy says Stiglitz

Governments around the world are heading down a path to economic suicide. So said Nobel Prize-winning former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, to hundreds of well-heeled financiers and decision-makers who paid a bundle to hear him in Toronto. With a voice as gruff as gravel, and an energy bristling with urgency, he told governments in Canada and […]

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Funding for Federal Granting Councils

The Canadian Association of University Teachers represents 66,000 university and college teachers, academic librarians, researchers and staff at more than 120 universities and colleges in Canada. Their 2012 brief to the Federal Finance Committee contains some useful numbers.  I was particularly interested to see their data showing decreased funding to Canada’s federal granting councils. Using constant dollars, the brief spells out that, over the past five years, the […]

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MMT: What it Means for Canada

Arun Dubois’ blog post yesterday on Modern Monetary Theory has prompted me to write my own take on the subject.  For those interested, an interesting thumbnail sketch of MMT, essentially functional finance augmented by a full understanding of monetary operations, is explained here. While MMT deals with the details of monetary and fiscal matters, the implications of its analysis are […]

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About those “unfunded liabilities”

When it comes to the Canada Pension Plan, a major talking point from the right is that the CPP has “unfunded liabilities”, with the implication that is not affordable and financially unsustainable. This is nonsense, a scare tactic based on an accounting fiction that counts only future expenditures but does not count future revenues. For example, John Robson writes in […]

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Clemens vs. Clemens

Jason Clemens, who hangs his hat at several right-wing think-tanks (the Fraser, Pacific Research and Macdonald-Laurier Institutes), lauds Canadian fiscal conservatism in today’s Wall Street Journal: Canada’s government, for example, has grown smaller over the last 15 years. Total government spending as a share of the economy peaked at a little over 53% in 1993. Through a combination of spending […]

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Family Values and Budget Cuts

Once again, in the middle of summer, the anti-government government has unleashed more anti-policy policy via a compliant Statistics Canada. Who needs data when you’ve got family values? The Harper team knows what you need. (Hint: tax cuts. Oops! Not for you sister, if you’re a single mom.) The Globe and Mail’s Tavia Grant has learned that Statistics Canada will […]

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Navigating challenging economic waters

Down south, the Obama administration is in a dangerous game of chicken with Republican congressional leaders, who are cynically holding the US economy hostage in order to impose a radical agenda of spending cuts. Obama has seemingly bought into the rhetoric of cutting debt, rather than focusing on the real US problem of unemployment. Yet, even his foolish offer to […]

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Federal Budget Refried

Was it worth the wait?  Hardly.   Today’s federal budget is about as appetizing as two month-old pizza warmed up in the microwave.  I guess they deserve high marks for consistency, though not for economic policy or a long list of other things. The Harper government’s June Budget is almost entirely a reprinted version of the budget they tabled two and […]

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How Much Will Harper Cut?

Some progressives worry that the new Conservative majority will dismantle the Canadian state. Hard-nosed economic conservatives like Andrew Coyne and Terry Corcoran worry that the Conservatives will not actually cut government spending. I have suggested that the Harper Conservatives will cut, but not as much as the Chretien Liberals. This debate would benefit from some numbers. Chretien slashed federal program […]

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NDP’s “Balanced Budget” Platform

Jack Layton unveiled the NDP’s policy platform today.  Among other things, it promises to eliminate the deficit (i.e. balance the federal budget) within four years.  I’m not sure it should. Several years back, I had the opportunity to take a directed reading course from John Smithin.  In addition to being a long-time member of the Progressive Economics Forum, John is […]

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Who Benefits from the TFSA?

A shorter version of this analysis was published today in the Globe and Mail’s online business feature Economy Lab. Stephen Harper has unveiled yet another plank in a platform that seems remarkably out of touch with the concerns of an electorate walking on post-recession eggshells. His latest proposal would double the contribution limit to the Tax Free Savings Account (TSFA) […]

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The Great Corporate Cash Stash

In response to some recent PEF commentary (now in the mainstream media thanks to today’s Globe article) on corporations in Canada hoarding cash (after-tax profits greater than new investment), PEF member Eric Pineault weighs in with some more detailed analysis: The great corporate cash stash Eric Pineault As we debate the merits and uses of a corporate tax cut, corporations […]

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Untying the Gordonian knot

First of all, today’s top Globe story on corporate income tax cuts not leading to increased investment is a nice example of “you heard it here first”, so a big pat on the back to Relentlessly Progressive Economics. As we like to say: tomorrow’s conventional wisdom, today. I want to take issue with Stephen Gordon’s response, an effort to torture […]

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Robin Hood Economics

Canada’s economic context at the time of Election 2011 is one of “precarious recovery”, and overall demand conditions are weakened by a few major factors. Unemployment is still just under 8%, which is good compared to the double-digit unemployment of the early 1990s, but not great compared to the expansions of the late 1990s and 2000s. Too much of the […]

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Low Taxes for Whom? Flaherty’s Rhetorical Retreat

I missed last week’s federal budget, but was pleased to see the quantity and quality of same-day analysis posted on this blog. Jim wrote an excellent piece, “Corporate Taxation and Investment in the 2011 Federal Budget,” about the corporate tax debate in post-budget media panels. But what struck me was David’s point about how the budget itself did not address […]

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