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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CD Howe Institute and Business Taxes

The Howe released today yet another study on marginal effective tax rates on business (METRs) by Jack Mintz today, this time calculating METRs for many countries. http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/ebrief_34.pdf The CD Howe’s METR findings and methodology seem to be taken at face-value almost universally these days eg cited by the Department of Finance and the latest OECD Economic Review of Canada. Yet […]

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Economists’ Manifesto for Productivity

TD Economics has posted this manifesto, penned by Chief Economist Don Drummond, in the belief that it represents a broad consensus among economists on how to raise the rate of productivity growth in Canada. http://www.td.com/economics/special/dd0906_prod.pdf The manifesto – unsurprisingly – closely reflects the mainstream (Bay Street, Department of Finance, OECD) focus on “sound” macro policy, free trade, de-regulation and tax […]

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Unspinning the Swedish elections

OK, so the glee of the right regarding the loss of the Socialists in the Swedish elections on Sunday was getting to me. Even though the new government, The Moderates, won by a squeaker, the end of the Swedish model has been triumphantly splashed across the world’s business pages. But as Peter Lindert has pointed out, the end of the […]

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European employment rates

A short missive from Dean Baker: Old Europe Goes to Work Remember the days when the European welfare state led to economic stagnation and high unemployment? Well, like hula hoops and bobby socks, this story may be a relic of the past. The latest data from the OECD show that employment to population (EPOP) ratios for prime age workers (ages […]

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It’s the crude, dude

Sorry Linda McQuaig, but that was the worst title ever for a book. Still, I could not resist using it, so what does that tell you? Last week, Statistics Canada released a short report, Boom Times: Canada’s crude petroleum industry (summary in the Daily here and full report here). Here is an interesting tidbit from the summary: In total, Canada […]

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Who Benefits from Earned Income Tax Credits?

The last federal Liberal Budget promised to introduce a tax credit to supplement the incomes of the working poor, and this commitment was re-iterated in the first Conservative Budget. The recent Toronto-based task force on Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults advocated such a supplement, and this widely-publicized proposal has been taken up by several of the leading federal […]

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The China (and India) Syndrome

Many progressive Canadian economists have noted recently that the share of GDP going to wages and salaries has dropped perilously low, as low as recorded statistics take us back in any event. This article from the Economist, via Mark Thoma’s Economist’s View, points out that this trend is not particular to Canada. They suggest that this is globalization at work, […]

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HRSDC, Low Earnings and the Working Poor

An excellent article on issues facing the working poor in today’s Toronto Star cites a recent study by Human Resources and Social Development Canada in support of the employer counter-point that raising minimum wages would do little to help working poor families. http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1158531020220 Indeed, precisely this point is made in an August, 2006 HRSDC Working Paper “When Working is not […]

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Lies, damned lies and the Olympics

This CP article (published in the Globe and Mail) poo-poos the growing concern that Vancouver’s Olympic Games are coming in at great expense. Specifically, the article questions what projects should be included in the total price tag. The article should come with a warning, however: content written by the wife of former Finance Minister to the Campbell government back when […]

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