The Globe on drugs (1)

Today’s Globe and Mail features two excellent articles about drugs in Canada. The first makes some great points about what might be possible with a national pharmacare plan and how politics is getting in the way of doing the right thing. The second is about how profit-seeking by pharmaceutical companies is distorting the cost of treatment. In this case, doctors […]

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More Conservative Spending Cuts to Come

A good piece from today’s Toronto Star by CCPA economist Ellen Russell on the erosion of federal fiscal capacity by recent tax cuts. Pressures to cut social spending are growing, compounded by a marked federal government shift to “security expenditure.” It’s a bit harder to figure out the best left response given that itt’s trickier politically to impose a tax […]

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BC’s new rent supplements

The BC government has introduced a new program to address the crisis in housing affordability: rent supplements. Over the past five years, the BC government has stopped building affordable housing for low income people. There has been new federal money for this purpose but the government has used that money to build “assisted living” spaces for seniors (properly part of […]

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Training, Productivity and Political Football

“Canada’s New Government” says that it wants to focus on “the productivity agenda.” But they seem unable to look beyond partisan considerations to make the rather obvious link between investment in skills, and building a more productive economy. The previous Liberal government had just begun to slowly re-invest in worker training and adult learning after years of federal cuts, devolution […]

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Relative Productivity Levels in OECD

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that someone ought to publish a comparative ranking of OECD countries by productivity per HOUR of work (rather than the more common, but utterly misleading, measure of GDP per capita). Turns out the Economic Policy Institute in Washington has done exactly that in their latest version of their flagship publication, “State of Working […]

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Those pesky global imbalances

Joseph Stiglitz takes on the matter of global imbalances with some thoughts on how they might be resolved. I confess to be perplexed by the persistence of these imbalances, as someone who was concerned about their potentially destabilizing impact a few year ago. But then again I called the stock market bubble back in 1997. Events have a way of […]

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From the mouth of the Fraser

Today’s report from the Fraser Institute finds that, surprise surprise, health care spending is unsustainable. Or at least that is what the Fraser’s funders want you to think. I find the Fraser Institute has an excellent knack for putting out media-friendly goodies that on closer examination do not stand up to scrutiny. But the media are generally not that interested […]

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Interesting UK Progressive Think Tank

http://www.compassonline.org.uk/publications/good_society/good_society.pdf Compass has just published the first of three short books in an attempt to redefine the social democratic project in the UK. Highly critical of New Labour but strongly influenced by Scandinavian social democracy, Compass is advancing themes and policies which will resonate on the progressive left in Canada – a relentless focus on equalizing the life-chances of all […]

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Policies for the working poor

The Toronto Star’s Thomas Walkom looks at the choices we make that keep the poor, um, poor. Walkom looks only at the working poor, not the welfare poor. If we add to the pile the numerous regressive reforms to provincial welfare programs the picture is even uglier. There’s much we can do to combat poverty Enforcing current laws would help […]

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Economic Impacts of Unions

The Economist (September 21 Print Edition) runs an article “The Limits of Solidarity” which attacks US Democrats for favouring union-friendly legislation. It concludes as follows: “After all, trade unions have obvious drawbacks as well as modest attractions. Whenever they win their members higher wage rises than in non-unionised firms, this money has to come from somewhere. If it comes from […]

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Costs of climate change

File this one under the economic costs of climate change. If you have been to or flown over BC lately you will have noticed the astonishing amount of red (dying) pine trees. The mountian pine beetle is normally killed by cold cold winters, but winters now are not cold enough, and summers are just to their liking. Add to the […]

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Politics and the “fiscal imbalance”

Having read the electoral tea leaves, Stephen Harper decides to take the “fiscal imbalance” issue off the table, to be replaced, it would appear with the new “green plan”, an issue unmentioned in the Tory platform, but one that they apparently think will get them better milage than the minefield of federal-provincial relations. When Harper first embraced this issue it […]

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Tax shifting: A gimmick with legs

While I admire Green Party leader Elizabeth May as a committed environmentalist, I have a big problem with her pushing “tax shifting”, which goes by the slogans “tax the bad things like pollution not the good things like employment and work” and “getting the market prices right”. This makes for a great political campaign but one that promises more than […]

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Climate change actions

I watched an interesting show on climate change last night. This one was hosted by Avi Lewis as part of The Big Picture series on Newsworld. He had an audience of viewers watch a video by David Attenborough about the challenge of climate change and solutions, then had the last hour for a “town hall” debate that featured interesting folks […]

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ILO Study on Impacts of Liberalization of Public Services

Winners or Losers? Liberalizing Public Services Edited by Ellen Rosskam International Labour Office, Geneva 2006 New state of the art review, available upon request by emailing your name/address to: secsoc@ilo.org. Approx. 400 pages. Free of Charge. Available from ILO Geneva Public services are being liberalized world wide, opened to foreign service providers, often turned into private services through privatization, commercialization, […]

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Fiscal update and “fiscal imbalance”

Yesterday’s release of the Fiscal Reference Tables also provides data at the provincial level. I reckon that the latest federal surplus of $13.2 billion might start some new cries of “fiscal imbalance” among the provinces in the lead-up to some federal-provincial negotiations this Fall (apart from a wide-ranging discussion paper released at budget time, we still have no real idea […]

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Income Inequality and Pensions

http://www.statcan.ca/english/research/11F0019MIE/11F0019MIE2006286.pdf This study, “Pension Coverage and Retirement Savings of Canadian Families, 1986 to 2003”, released by StatsCan today, highlights increased inequality of retirement savings at the family level. Unsurprisingly given increased inequality of both earnings and wealth, the top quintile of families are accumulating more retirement savings than was the case in the mid 1980s, while those at the bottom […]

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We’re Number Sixteen!

For as long as I can remember, the Canadian government has been obsessed with “competitiveness.” It is part of the lexicon of government-speak, despite the fact that unlike productivity there is no established measure of “competitiveness”. So the term is more of a values statement than anything else. To address this shortcoming, the World Economic Forum created an index of […]

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Cuts to Statistics Canada

Progressive economists should be disturbed about the cut to Statistics Canada’s Budget announced yesterday by Ministers Flaherty and Baird. The agency has to realize “operational efficiencies” amounting to $15 Million over two years – which may mean cancellation of one or two major surveys, or cuts to staff undertaking research and analysis. Despite the recent glitch in the CPI, StatsCan […]

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Surprise! Ottawa’s $13 billion surplus

The Annual Financial Report for the Government of Canada, fiscal year 2005/06, was released today, along with the updated Fiscal Reference Tables. Before getting to the numbers, let me rant for a moment on how astonishing it is to see the cover of the Annual Financial Report, freshly downloaded from the Department of Finance, sporting Tory blue, along with the […]

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Pitfalls of private health insurance

It is fascinating to me that in the wake of the Chaoulli decision by the Supreme Court private options are becoming more commonplace in Canada, just as more and more sensible people in the US are calling for a Canadian-style universal public insurance model. Here’s Paul Krugman in the New York Times (as edited by Economist’s View) with a reminder […]

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Health ministers on drugs

The Globe and Mail has coverage of a new report on the cost of a national pharmacare plan. I was not able to find a copy of the report cited on the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy website. Presumably it will be posted soon. I take issue with how this has been framed in the Globe. It is reported as something that […]

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Behind Closed Doors:How Public Policy is Really Made

News of this recent corporate/ state/ military elite forum on deeper integration of  North America is gradually trickling into the media, and being widely circulated on the internet. I don’t usually tend to believe that our collective future is determined by secret corproate conspiracies, but the fact that this event was completely ignored by the mainstream media is as staggering […]

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Who’s Productive, Anyway?

I wrote a recent column for the Globe and Mail on the issue of working hours.  It was a repsonse to a report from the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity that bemoaned that Ontarians worked significantly less hours than Americans (about 130 hours less per year, on average).  In the Institute’s view, this makes Ontarians $3700 less “prosperous” per year […]

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The Stench of Business

Here was an innocuous line from a recent Toronto Star story about the latter acts of the corporate soap opera that has been the battle for control of Inco and Falconbridge: “Inco must now pay Phelps a break fee of $125 million (U.S.), plus an extra $350 million if Inco “consummates” another deal by Sept. 7.” These merger and takeover battles […]

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Congestion pricing

Another aspect of the Swedish elections: voters in Stockhold back an already-introduced measure that changes a fee to motorists entering the city. Shades of London, where congestion pricing has been in effect for a few years now. In our traffic-clogged cities, it is an interesting question about if and how such congestion pricing might come into effect. The right has […]

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Ireland’s anti-poverty strategy

Remember a few years ago when Ireland was the talk of the chattering classes seeking to get big corporate tax cuts (they succeeded). Left unsaid at the time was that Ireland was the beneficiary of billions of euros in transfers in support of infrastructure, and that Ireland itself invested heavily in its education system (including free post-secondary education), and that […]

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