Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leadership 2017 Reference Page (Pinned)

A one-stop source for general links on the 2017 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments. (And note that new posts will appear below this one.)

General Information
NDP Constitution (PDF)
Leadership Rules (PDF) - Voting Process
NDP Leadership 2017
Leadership Debates: Ottawa (March 12) - Montreal (March 26) - Sudbury (May 28) - St. John's (June 11) - Saskatoon (July 11) - Victoria (August 2) - Montreal (August 27) - Vancouver (September 10)

Candidate Information
Candidate Website Twitter Profile Analysis Ranking
Charlie Angus CharlieAngusNDP.ca @CharlieAngusNDP Profile

Niki Ashton NikiAshton2017.ca @NikiAshton Profile

Guy Caron GuyCaron.ca @GuyCaronNPD Profile

Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury n/a @wiseexpert Profile

Peter Julian PeterJulian.ca @MPJulian Profile

Jagmeet Singh JagmeetSingh.ca @theJagmeetSingh Profile

Pat Stogran PatStogran.ca @PatStogranNDP Profile


Other Resources
NDPLeaderVote

Posts
All Posts By Label

Discussion
Babble threads: 1 - 2 - 3
Peter Julian Forum
Twitter: #ndp - #ndpldr

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Rhys Kesselman challenges the Fraser Institute's grossly distorted conception of "tax competitiveness":
Even with lower overall tax burdens, many Americans bear much heavier non-tax burdens than their Canadian counterparts. These costs can be so large as to swamp any tax-rate differentials between the countries. Private health insurance in the U.S. can cost a family US$15,000 or more per year. Inferior public schools in parts of the U.S. can impel families who can afford it to expend large sums on private schooling.

When provided by U.S. employers, health insurance constitutes a heavy cost burden to business that their Canadian counterparts don’t bear. Those costs are covered by public health care in B.C., which accounts for much of our higher tax rates, but overall doesn’t detract from our tax competitiveness.

The authors further ignore the impact of B.C.’s astronomical housing costs on the health of the economy. B.C. businesses must offer higher pay to attract and retain employees or limit their hiring and expansion. Both the B.C. Greens and NDP have taxation-based proposals to reduce home prices — aimed at foreign and speculative buyers — which would assist local business hiring while augmenting public funds.

In short, “tax competitiveness” is a catchphrase with limited meaning unless one delves more deeply. Warnings that NDP and Green tax initiatives would endanger the B.C. economy are alarmism. Rather, the added revenues could support public programs shortchanged for years by the provincial government’s dogged quest to be “tax-competitive.”
- Meanwhile, Wendy Bach examines the difference between the lucrative and effort-free tax giveaways available for the wealthy in the U.S., and the miserly and punitive benefit system for people who actually need public assistance.

- Josh Keefe and David Sirota discuss the obvious corporatist bent of Donald Trump's infrastructure scheme - including his plan to hand free money to the corporations taking over what's already been built with public funds. And Bill Curry reports on the obvious vulnerability of the Libs' planned infrastructure bank to political interference.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that the Cons' thoroughly uninspiring leadership race has left the door wide open for the NDP to make the most compelling offer of change for the better in the next federal election campaign.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Nick Saul reminds us of the need for strong and consistent public pressure to end poverty. And the Economist points out how punitive criminal justice policies coupled with a lack of rehabilitation strand people in poverty rather than allowing for a path toward contributing to society.

- Thomas Walkom comments on Ontario's relatively unambitious workplace review - and worries that even its modest suggestions won't end up becoming (or being enforced as) law. And Angella MacEwen examines the state of federally-regulated workplaces and finds plenty of precarity which needs to be addressed.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne highlights the need to keep counting gender iniquities as long as they persist.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the role a basic income can play in encouraging social entrepreneurship.

- Finally, Justin Ling writes that the Libs' attempt to normalize a less-accountable and more-disruptive surveillance state was met with ample public pushback - though it remains to be seen whether they'll bother to make good on their promise of any change whatsoever to the Cons' C-51.

On changing opposition

While there will be plenty more to discuss about how the Conservatives' choice of Andrew Scheer as their new leader, I'll offer a few preliminary thoughts now - starting with a warning about knee-jerk reactions.

We shouldn't presume that Scheer's apparent lack of current definition will last long: the Libs are obviously wasting no time in trying to define him, while the fruits of the Cons' fund-raising machine will surely kick in quickly in response.

But nor should we presume that his being young means that he'll have multiple election campaigns to grow into the position.

While the standard take seems to be that Scheer is the new version of Stephen Harper, I'd think the better comparison and cautionary tale for Scheer is Joe Clark: a young and little-known compromise candidate whose missteps as a leader will be amplified by the lack of many people particularly committed to him within his own party.

On the balance, Scheer's election looks to be relatively good news compared to the alternatives - not because of his merits as a candidate, but due to the greater electoral and policy risks posed by the alternative.

I'd considered Bernier the most dangerous of the Cons' potential leaders, being comparatively more likely to assemble a winning coalition in a near-term federal election (particularly by being able to win votes as a native son in Quebec), to make reckless policy choices if he managed to take power, and to be the main focus of the next federal election in a way that causes the race to polarize between the Libs and Cons.

In contrast, Scheer's starting point involves a distinct lack of meaningful policy priorities or avenues to build support beyond the Cons' base.

That doesn't mean he can't change matters with time. After all, Harper managed at various times to win seats with appeals to Quebec voters and immigrant communities who were far outside his initial core of supporters.

But for now, Scheer is essentially a blank sheet of stationery with Reform Party letterhead. And it remains to be seen whether there's anything he can write on the page to be seen as a viable candidate for power.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David MacDonald studies the federal government's loopholes and giveaways targeted toward those who already have the most - noting that there would be plenty of revenue to fund the programs we're told are unaffordable if that preferential treatment was ended. And Felicity Lawrence highlights
how multinational corporations are planning to exploit international trade deals to siphon $55 billions away from the UK's public coffers.

- On that front, Jerry Dias argues that having dodged the bullet that is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada shouldn't waste any more time (or endanger the public interest) by trying to renegotiate and revive it.

- Andrew Jackson points out how inequality worsened during the Harper Cons' stay in power. Zohra Jamasi highlights how Canadian wages continue to lag behind inflation. And Pedro Nicolaci da Costa discusses the U.S.' similar lack of wage growth due to the destruction of workers' bargaining power, while Chris Rexrode writes that U.S. households are returning to their pre-crash pattern of borrowing against home values to paper over the gap.

- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford examines Air Canada's history of selling itself off for parts as an example of businesses similarly prioritizing easy and quick money over long-term planning - making a few insiders rich, and everybody else worse off.

- Finally, Ashifa Kassam calls out Justin Trudeau for using public relations stunts as a substitute for government accountability to citizens. And a few creative commentators (particularly @ajhtweeting) have put Trudeau's running away from issues into some handy visuals:





Friday, May 26, 2017

Musical interlude

Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts - I'm Shattered

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On sucker's deals

While my Leader-Post column won't be running this week, I'll take the opportunity to offer some context and an update on Geoff Leo's must-read report on Brightenview's founders who have become the Wall government's latest corporate darlings.

By way of background, Leo was also the one to break the news about how the Saskatchewan Party's campaign promise based on Brightenview was built on an incomplete deal, as well as the province's giveaway to CP which was supposed to provide an anchor tenant for the Global Transportation Hub to encourage other businesses to build without the need for massive public subsidies. And Julie Mintenko and David Giles reported on Brightenview's disappearance of its past promises of a Dundurn megamall.

With that in mind, should we expect anything different from Brightenview in the GTH? To answer that, let's take a photographic tour of its planned development.

First, here are artist's renderings of what it's supposed to look like (from Leo's report):


Second, the "breaking ground" photo op three weeks ago (also from CBC's report), showing what was advertised for public consumption as the start of work:


And for the punch line, the same site in its current condition:



Needless to say, the smart money looks to be on past performance predicting future results. But since Brightenview and the Saskatchewan Party each seem to have contributed to each other's confidence games, whether they lead to any benefit for the public is at most a secondary consideration.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett write about the psychological and social harms arising out of inequality:
Members of species that have strong ranking systems need social strategies for maximising and maintaining rank while avoiding the risk of attacks by dominants. Although there are many variations in the way ranking systems work in different species, what we might call the ‘pure’ logic of ranking systems is that position in the dominance hierarchy determines who has precedence over whom in access to scarce resources; orderings are based on strength and power, and disputes are resolved by trials of strength; you show respect and deference to superiors and treat inferiors with impunity and disdain.

This contrasts sharply with the social strategies that in more egalitarian societies replace rank as the main determinant of access to resources. These include social accounting systems based on reciprocity, sharing and cooperation, in which trust and trustworthiness are essential. People who seem to be more trustworthy, generous and kind will be preferred as mates and as partners in cooperative activities. But as well as selection for pro-social characteristics, Boehm shows that there was also deselection for anti-social characteristics: Selfishness and anti-social behaviour in hunting and gathering societies would result in people being ridiculed, ostracised or even killed (Boehm, 2012).

Because the contrast between the behaviour appropriate in each of these two systems is so great, it is important to match one's behaviour to one's setting. Generosity and selflessness are valued and rewarded among friends and in egalitarian settings but would simply be taken advantage of and exploited in a dominance hierarchy. Similarly, the naked pursuit of self-interest and self-aggrandisement appropriate to a rank ordered society would have led to ostracism in a typical hunting and gathering society. It is therefore crucial for behaviour to be sensitive to how hierarchical or egalitarian a society is.

This leads us to expect the pattern of differences in behaviour that we see between more and less egalitarian societies (egalitarianism as judged from the distribution of material resources or income). As we shall see, in more unequal societies, status becomes more important, status anxiety increases and self-serving individualism and self-aggrandisement increase. Community life, rooted in trust, reciprocity and public spiritedness, declines; bullying and violence increase. Of course, rather than using one social strategy or another, everyone uses a mix of dominance and affiliative strategies in different areas of life. Our hypothesis is simply that the balance between these strategies shifts depending on the level of inequality.
- Ann Pettifor discusses how democracy is suffering due to the failures of neoliberal economics. And the Kansas City Star points out that Donald Trump's choice to follow Sam Brownback's failed prescription only stands to make matters worse for most people.

- Alex Collinson points out how increased borrowing has replaced wage growth as a major support for consumer spending. And Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider comment on the stresses caused by income volatility.

- Freddie Deboer examines how the U.S.' exclusive private universities exacerbate inequality - particularly as public universities face severe government cutbacks. And Colette Shade laments the reality that the Smithsonian and other cultural institutions are serving to provide prepackaged corporate messaging rather than neutral or public-focused content.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board asks all levels of government to make sure that social housing is maintained and retained, rather than being allowed to crumble.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Gary Younge examines how Jeremy Corbyn and an unabashedly progressive campaign platform are making massive gains in a UK general election cynically called to exploit Labour's perceived weakness:
Seeing the response to Labour’s election manifesto last week was a clear illustration of just how powerful the amnesiac qualities of that system can be. For the past two decades, even as inequality grew to obscene levels, the notion that a government could tax the wealthy in order to fund public services had been all but banished from the public square. Similarly, the idea that we could take back into national ownership private companies delivering abysmal but essential public services, such as trains and utilities, was simply not discussed. These arguments were never lost; they were simply marginalised until we just stopped hearing them.
...
[Corbyn] was never going to succeed on the terms of the mainstream media and significant sections of the parliamentary party. For them, his failure was pre-scripted. Last Monday Corbyn was mobbed by enthusiastic crowds in Leeds while Theresa May was confronted by a woman with learning difficulties in Abingdon over the disability cuts. On Tuesday the Daily Mail front page headline was: “Corbyn’s tax war on the middle classes”. Meanwhile, those who abstained on the Tory welfare bill and ignored a million people marching against a war long ago abdicated the right to accuse anyone of failing to provide opposition.

The problem was that Corbyn was failing on his own terms. As such, the manifesto has had an almost therapeutic effect. Beyond reintroducing basic social democratic policies to the arena, it provides the clearest illustration yet of what the last two traumatic years within the Labour party have been about. This unexpected left turn in the party’s leadership was, it turns out, not about delivering the party to Hamas, but delivering decent public services and a programme for tackling inequality.
- Meanwhile, Abi Wilkinson sees Labour now having a substantial chance of winning an election where pre-election punditry focused on little more than a presumed wipeout. And Matt Zarb-Cousin notes that the requirement for fair coverage during a campaign is likely helping matters significantly.

- Dean Beeby reports on the real-time reaction of Canadians to the most recent federal budget - with higher taxes on the rich ranking as by far the most-appreciated message on offer. And Yves Engler suggests that the benefits of incorporation could be limited to businesses who act based on some recognition of social responsibility.

- Alex Hemingway discusses the social costs of poverty and austerity in British Columbia. Claire McIlveen highlights the social benefits of a $15 minimum wage. And George Crisp comments on the connection between inequality and poor health in Australia.

- Finally, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood studies the gap between promises and actions when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sun-soaked cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Patrick Butler writes about the increasing number of UK families mired in poverty and insecure housing even with one or more people working. And Ali Monceaux and Daniel Najarian discuss the importance of a fair minimum wage in providing people with a basic standard of living.

- Kelly Grant reports on the Libs' baby steps toward dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs. And Andre Picard offers some suggestions as to how to make our health care system work better, while John Geddes points out that Maxime Bernier wants to lead the Cons toward trashing universal health care altogether.

- Damian Carrington discusses new research showing how even relatively small rises in the sea level caused by global warming will massively increase flooding risks, while Chris Mooney notes that levels are in fact rising increasingly quickly. But Hiroko Tabuchi and Eric Lipton highlight how a single bad actor - in this case the Trump administration - can undermine any effort to regulate the causes of climate change.

- Meanwhile, Maude Barlow examines (PDF) how corporate-centred trade deals threaten the availability of clean and safe water. And Edgardo Sepulveda takes a look at the needless public expense being created by the Wynne Libs in order to avoid answering for their damage to Ontario Hydro.

- Finally, Matt Bruenig argues that class struggle is key to ensuring that the benefits of growth go to the many rather than the few:
If you believe, as Piketty argues in his book, that a reduction in growth will inexorably lead to a higher wealth-to-income ratio and a higher capital share, then perhaps the best you can do is pare down wealth accumulation and spread out its ownership through a progressive wealth tax.

But if you believe instead that the capital share does not rise inevitably but only as a result of capitalists getting the upper hand in the perpetual battle over the distribution of output in society, then many more solutions become plausible. Increasing housing supply and imposing rent controls, weakening intellectual property protections, empowering workers to fight for a bigger piece of the pie — all would have the same or even greater egalitarian effects.

American Airlines’ decision to increase its workers’ compensation caused over $2.2 billion of national wealth to vanish almost instantly — not because actual capital goods were destroyed, but because capital’s share was ever so slightly reduced. Empowering workers to repeat this fairly mundane episode again and again, throughout the economy, would likely be a much stronger brake on runaway wealth accumulation and inequality than a global wealth tax or other similarly elaborate strategies.

Class struggle still gets the goods.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Jagmeet Singh

As I noted here, Jagmeet Singh's entry into the federal NDP's leadership race has attracted an enviable amount of notice from the media. But the combination of a relatively late start to his formal campaign and a lack of much definition so far does leave Singh with significant ground to make up. And it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to close the gap.

Strengths

In a campaign which hasn't been marked by a lot of public notice, Singh's launch has already attracted more public and media attention than those of the current MPs in the race. And that represents an important factor both in standing out from the crowd of candidates, and in providing opportunities for the NDP as a whole to put its message forward.  

Meanwhile, the reasons for the media interest in Singh are also obvious pluses for him. He's well positioned to appeal both to specific audiences (as a regional candidate for urban Ontario, and as a voice for immigrant and non-white Canadians), and to people looking for charisma and professional credentials. And the fact that he's succeeded personally despite a difficult political tide in Ontario's most recent election offers reason for hope he can help the federal NDP do the same. 

Weaknesses

The main point missing for Singh so far is any substantial policy focus. He has strong legislative credentials in policy areas including consumer affairs, law enforcement and labour. But none of those issues features prominently in his vague message so far; instead, he's saying little that hasn't been discussed in far more detail by the candidates already in the race.

Some commentators have also raised questions as to whether Singh will be able to maintain Quebec support for the NDP. But I'd consider that a secondary issue - both because he's also provided a well-thought-out answer to it, and because a campaign which succeeds in other areas should be able to convince voters that Singh can be a positive in defending and pursuing Quebec seats as well.

Key Indicator

Singh has already won a few key endorsements unveiled at his campaign launch, including former MP Mylene Freeman. But I'll be particularly interested to see which (if any) current MPs endorse Singh over their current caucus colleagues in the race - and if any substantial number do so, that should be an indicator that Singh will be difficult to stop.
 
Key Opponent

So far, Singh seems to be doing extremely pursuing both strategies and supporter groups connected to Charlie Angus. Either one should be able to win over supporters of the other based on their positive populist messages - and whichever lasts longer on the ballot should be very well positioned to win. 
 
Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A groundswell of support carrying him to a first-ballot victory
Worst-case: A mid-tier first-ballot showing with little room for growth

Leadership 2017 Candidate Profile: Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury

I'll plan to add more to Ibrahim Bruno El-Khoury's profile later on if he adds more public-facing content to his campaign. For now, though, I'll put forward at least a placeholder profile based on what's missing.

Strengths

El-Khoury brings at least some political experience to the NDP's leadership race, including past campaigns for an NDP nomination and a City Council seat. And on paper, there would appear to be a niche available for a candidate fitting his profile, including a geographic base in Montreal and private-sector business and economic credentials.

Weaknesses

But given his level of familiarity with the political process (in contrast to, say, Pat Stogran's scramble to assemble the basics of a campaign), it's been disappointing to see very little from El-Khoury beyond his registration with Elections Canada a month and a half ago. The blog he's used for other campaigns remains dormant. And he's taken to Twitter to complain somewhat about a lack of coverage, but done nothing of note to justify it.

In additional to signalling a lack of campaign organization, that also means there's little positive content available even for voters who are looking for it from El-Khoury.

Key Indicator

For now, let's start with the obvious: if El-Khoury can't assemble the resources to put together a substantial campaign presence, his potential pluses don't figure to matter. (I'll update this point if he clears that hurdle.)

Key Opponent

While I mention El-Khoury's potential niche above, it bears some obvious overlap to the strengths of Guy Caron's campaign. And El-Khoury's role when it comes time to vote might include either playing up a set of issues and priorities which works to Caron's advantage, or helping another candidate by offering down-ballot voters a signal that he can also speak to them.
 
Plausible Outcomes

Best-case: A sufficient show of support and campaign strength to establish a place for El-Khoury as a key voice within the NDP
Worst-case: A distant last place as his campaign never gets off the ground

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Paul Krugman criticizes the use of non-compete agreements to trap workers at low wage levels with no opportunity to pursue comparable employment - as well as the Republicans' insistence on pushing employer-based health care which further limits workers' options:
At this point, in other words, noncompete clauses are in many cases less about protecting trade secrets than they are about tying workers to their current employers, unable to bargain for better wages or quit to take better jobs.

This shouldn’t be happening in America, and to be fair some politicians in both parties have been speaking up about the need for change (although few expect the Trump administration to follow up on the Obama administration’s reform push). But there’s another aspect of declining worker freedom that is very much a partisan issue: health care.

Until 2014, there was basically only one way Americans under 65 with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance: by finding an employer willing to offer coverage. Some employers were in fact willing to do so. Why? Because there were major tax advantages — premiums aren’t counted as taxable income — but to get those advantages employer plans must offer the same coverage to every employee, regardless of medical history.

But what if you wanted to change jobs, or start your own business? Too bad: you were basically stuck (and I knew quite a few people in that position).
...
You might say, with only a bit of hyperbole, that workers in America, supposedly the land of the free, are actually creeping along the road to serfdom, yoked to corporate employers the way Russian peasants were once tied to their masters’ land. And the people pushing them down that road are the very people who cry “freedom” the loudest.
- Jim Edwards highlights how in the wake of deliberate attacks on workers' bargaining power, low unemployment rates aren't producing the wage gains which would normally be expected. And Linda Gorman's look at global corporate savings makes it clear that the extra money kept in corporate hands is being hoarded rather than put to productive use.

- Geoff Dembicki points out how Canada's overheating real estate markets are more the result of domestic speculation than foreign investment - even if the political response has been oriented almost solely toward the latter. 

- Ashley Martin reports on the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's call for employers to ensure that work requirements don't trap people suffering domestic violence. And L.E. Reimer points out how the Saskatchewan Party's shuttering of STC will be particularly hard on women with low incomes who will lose a needed means of transportation.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls for Ontario's provincial government to finally reverse a multi-decade trend of reduced access to music and arts education in public schools.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Josh Bivens notes that U.S. corporations are already paying a lower share of taxes than has historically been the case - meaning that there's no air of reality to the claim that handing them more money will produce any positive economic results. And Noah Smith writes that public infrastructure spending would do far more than tax cuts to improve economic outcomes.

- Angella MacEwen discusses how NAFTA (like other trade agreements) has served largely to drive down labour and employment standards among all participants. And Michal Rozworski counters some of the corporatist myths being peddled in opposition to a fair minimum wage.

- Trevor Hancock reminds us of the outrageous levels of child poverty in Canada. Kings' College Investigative Workshop examines the woeful lack of mental health services in Nova Scotia.

- CBC reports on the Saskatchewan Environmental Society's push for the province to do its part in fighting climate change, while Abacus finds that Canadians in general recognize the need to transition away from fossil fuels. And Erin Weir points out that instead of inventing complaints about what the federal government might do, Brad Wall would be better served pointing out how the Libs are actively underfunding transit in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Rebecca Joseph and Jim Bronskill report on the continued public demand to repeal Bill C-51 and rein in the unaccountable surveillance state. And Matthew Behrens discusses his experience as a target of an "anti-terrorist" investigation.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign...

- I'll start by specifically pointing out NDPLeaderVote as an excellent resource for news as it develops. Because it's largely tracking what's happening in the media and on candidates' announcements, I won't be using these links posts to do the same to the same extent for the duration of the campaign.

- The big news is obviously Jagmeet Singh's public announcement that he's joining the race - with a launch that included what seems to be the largest show of support for any candidate so far. And the media also seems to be paying more attention to Singh than to the other candidates on their own, with Duncan Cameron, Chantal Hebert, Martin Regg Cohn, Adam Radwanski and Evan Solomon among the prominent commentators dedicating columns to his announcement and its impact on the federal political scene. 

- Probit has released what appear to be the first significant poll results of the campaign. They likely miss the impact of Singh's arrival, but show a very strong start for Niki Ashton in comparison to both her fellow MPs and her results from the last campaign, as well as another indication that Peter Julian's strong organization isn't yet translating into the support he'll need:

- And this despite Ashton's early-campaign propensity for drawing loud criticism for what should be absolute non-issues in the leadership race - following the previous brouhaha over quoting a Beyonce lyrics with a new complaint about her appearing in the same photo as a sign.

- Finally, the NDP has slightly tweaked its debate schedule, including by adding one in Victoria in August.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Dalia Marin argues that in order to avoid corporate dominance over citizens and workers around the globe, we should be developing international competition policies and systems to combat the concentration of wealth:
Two forces in today’s digital economy are driving the global decline in labor’s share of total income. The first is digital technology itself, which is generally biased toward capital. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have accelerated the rate at which automation is displacing workers. 

The second force is the digital economy’s “winner-takes-most” markets, which give dominant firms excessive power to raise prices without losing many customers. Today’s superstar companies owe their privileged position to digital technology’s network effects, whereby a product becomes even more desirable as more people use it. And although software platforms and online services can be costly to launch, expanding them is relatively inexpensive. Consequently, firms that are already established can keep growing with far fewer workers than they would have needed in the past. 

These factors help to explain why the digital economy has given rise to large firms that have a reduced need for labor. And, once these firms are established and dominate their chosen market, the new economy allows them to pursue anti-competitive measures that prevent actual and potential rivals from challenging their position.
...
The objective of a world competition network is to build an effective legal framework to enforce competition law against companies engaging in cross-border business practices that restrict competition. The network may coordinate investigations and enforcement decisions and develop new guidelines for how to monitor market power and collusive practices in a digital economy. 

In the past, the G20 has focused on ensuring that multinational firms are not able to take advantage of jurisdictional differences to avoid paying taxes. But the G20 now needs to expand its scope, by recognizing that digital technologies are creating market outcomes that, if unchecked by a new World Competition Network, will continue to favor multinational firms at the expense of workers.
- But Brent Patterson notes that instead, Justin Trudeau is planning to rebrand the corporate-biased TPP as a new version of NAFTA to further entrench the power of capital.

- The Star's editorial board challenges the Trudeau Libs' plans to push through a massive infrastructure bank giveaway without proper review and debate. And Stephen Whitworth examines the high price of the Saskatchewan Party's privatization of Crowns.

- Diana Duong interviews Andre Picard about Canada's health care system which falls far short of the universality we expect. And Alex Hemingway comments on the devastating social impacts of the B.C. Libs' austerity toward health care and other essential services.

- David Suzuki points out that increased public awareness of the realities of climate change is a necessary first step before we can make the kind of change needed to rein it in.

- Finally, Laura Cameron and Joseph Wasylycia-Leis write that an impending vote in Parliament offers an ideal chance for Canadians to push their MPs to support a more fair and proportional electoral system.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Maureen Conway and Mark Popovich argue that something has gone severely wrong if (as seems to be the case) Wall Street is treating higher wages as bad news:
In 2017, America has a jobs problem: It’s not that we don’t have enough jobs, but that we don’t have enough good jobs. We all lose when pay raises for workers – despite rising productivity and quality service – are unreasoningly restrained.

Corporate leaders say things like, “Our people are our most important asset.” The problem is that too few act like they believe it. And too many face Wall Street brickbats when they do. It’s time to turn down the distraction and up the voices for reasonable investment and due consideration to our workforce. If finance and investing take the right aim, the switch will be made to more good companies and good jobs.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen makes the case for a public job guarantee, while pointing out how the Center for American Progress' proposal on the issue falls somewhat short of the mark.

- Corey Mintz points out the problems with the Ontario Libs' workplace review in assuming that existing laws are actually being enforced. And Gary Marr reports on a new TD Bank study showing how widespread income volatility contributes to precarious lives for Canadian families.

- David MacDonald asks who stands to benefit from the Libs' infrastructure bank plan, and concludes that the only real gains will go to investors taking far larger returns than would exist if governments merely borrowed infrastructure money directly. And Shawna Curtis points out the problem with necessities like housing being treated solely as profit centres rather than social goods.

- Finally, Marc-Andre Gagnon discusses why universal programs which include benefits for the better-off ultimately lead to greater equality than means-tested systems. And Harold Meyerson highlights how income inequality correlates to disparate life expectancies.

Musical interlude

Radical Face - Holy Branches

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New column day

Here, on the importance of governments matching their talk about enforcing tax law with action - and the reason for concern that the Libs are headed in the opposite direction.

For further reading...
- Harvey Cashore, Nicole Percy, Nicole McCormick and Patrick Butler reported here on Colin Campbell's participation in a KPMG-sponsored tax conference while chairing the committee responsible for evaluating Canada's offshore tax enforcement. And Frederic Zalac and Cashore covered Tax Court Judge Randall Bocock's recusal for attending the same conference.
- Meanwhile, Cashore and Percy also note that the Libs have appointed a KPMG-connected executive as their party treasurer.
- The mandate for Campbell's committee is here, while its first report (as referenced in the column) is here.
- Finally, I'll again point to Percy Downe's observation that money alone won't be enough to ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency is able to collect the money owed by tax haven users.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones discusses UK Labour's true social democratic platform as a model for progressive parties around the globe. And Simon Wren-Lewis points out that contrary to the spin of opponents and uninformed presumptions of much of the media, Labour's plan is entirely affordable.

- Meanwhile, as part of the Guardian's election panel Faiza Shaheen examines how the UK Cons' platform offers pennies to workers as their reward for accepting the destruction of the social safety net.

 - Anjum Sultana and Nazeefah Laher highlight how a focus on the social determinants of health can lead to improvements in social and democratic conditions alike. And Nicholas Keung takes note of the health gap facing older immigrants as an area where there's obvious work to be done. 

- Branko Milanovic theorizes that more broadly-shared ownership of capital could ensure a more fair distribution of income.

- Finally, Ijeoma Oluo writes from experience as to the devastating effects of poor-shaming.And Matthew Yglesias rightly notes that instead of pretending Donald Trump is a child, we should see his sense of entitlement and detachment from reality as natural consequences of the U.S.' coddling of the rich.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Binyamin Appelbaum highlights the strong consensus view that Donald Trump's planned tax giveaways to the rich will do nothing for overall economic development. And John Buell points out that Trump's plan for privatized infrastructure - much like Justin Trudeau's - will serve only to enrich and empower corporations while undermining democratic decision-making:
Converting public things into private goods reinforces a trend toward corporate oligarchy. It also has consequences that move beyond economic inefficiency. And economic efficiency is unlikely to be an adequate defense of a robust infrastructure. Traditional fiscal conservatives appeal to metaphors of the home to attack government deficits.  Their stated concern is bankruptcy, but their real worry is the greater equality generous public things might foster and the coalitions across borders, ethnicities, and faiths it might encourage. There are good counterarguments, but the best approach touches the aesthetic and affective dimensions of our democratic experiment. Honig puts it eloquently: “The democratic experiment involves living cheek by jowl with others, sharing classrooms, roads, and buses, paying for them together, complaining about them together, and sometimes even praising and enjoying them together, as picnickers will do on a sunny afternoon in Central Park. But the neoliberal corrective absolves us of this necessity and responsibility. That Central Park—landscape architecture’s ode to the power of democratic beauty—is just a stone’s throw away from the barricaded Trump Tower is only one of the many sad ironies of the story to be told here.”

Public things and the democratic space they foster and are fostered by encourage both collective responses to common problems and an opportunity to address the injustices (remainders) that emerge from even the most egalitarian and idealistic processes. The physical state of our infrastructure reflects more than a conventional repudiation of purported governmental excess. It is an attack on democracy and must be resisted by appealing to and enhancing democracy itself.
- Meanwhile, Brent Patterson points out that there's ample demand for far stronger social supports, including over 91% of Canadians at least somewhat supportive of a national and universal pharmacare program.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey reports on the Auditor General's findings that the Harper Cons never bothered to produce any plan to meet their promised climate change targets, while James Wilt observes that the National Energy Board lost any public trust in serving as a rubber stamp for pipelines. And Molly Scott Cato writes that climate change is one area (of many) where Trudeau has betrayed the progressive voters who wanted meaningful change, rather than continued reliance on dirty industries. 

- Finally, the Star's editorial board calls for Ontario to take a leadership role in establishing and enforcing labour standards and wage requirements to protect people involved in new forms of work.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Upturned cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin writes about the growing opposition to a Lib infrastructure bank designed to turn public needs into private profits at our expense:
Paying higher fares, fees and tolls because of a political decision to use more expensive private capital would be a “massive transfer of wealth to the wealthy,” says [Guy] Caron.

Now the chorus of think-tanks voicing concern includes the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Broadbent Institute, C.D. Howe Institute and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy, which is headed by former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

The idea for the Bank followed a curious path. The Liberal-appointed advisory council which recommended a private Infrastructure Bank included executives whose investment funds stand to profit from it. That process is now subject of a conflict of interest complaint by Democracy Watch.
...

As more Canadians see the Infrastructure Bank as an inside job to drain their wallets and enrich the rich, the sharpness of opposition attacks continues to grow.

Perhaps Trudeau thought an Infrastructure Bank would hitch his star to powerful people. Maybe he’s anchored himself to a sinking sack of cement.
- And Randall Bartlett asks why Trudeau is so eager to privatize profits while forcing the public to bear the risks and costs of projects. 

- Meanwhile, Don Braid examines how Rachel Notley's NDP is establishing desperately-needed consumer protections in areas ranging from payday lending to homebuilding - and being challenged every step of the way by businesses who had grown accustomed to being able to exploit the public. And Rachel Reeves argues that now is the time for the financial transactions tax on offer from the UK's Labour Party.

- Claire Cain Miller discusses how motherhood contributes to the persistent pay gap between women and men. And Jordan Press reports on the wealth-based gap in access to child care outside Quebec, while Andrea Gordon points out how Ontario students (particularly in rural areas) are losing access to music programs due to austerity budgeting.

- Finally, Ian Bremner warns against treating the defeat of a couple of far-right leaders as an indication that we can afford to accept business as usual.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Barbara Ellen questions the positive spin the right tries to put on poverty and precarity, and writes that we're all worse off forcing people to just barely get by:
In recent times, there has been a lot said about those people who are “just managing”. They are neither rich nor poor, but usually working in low- to medium-income jobs, scratching a living, surviving from one month, week, day, or minute to another.

A narrative has emerged of plucky, cheerful sorts who soldier on, just about making ends meet, but “can’t complain, guv”, which has the effect of rebranding a permanent grinding state of poverty as something really plucky, gutsy and wonderfully, quintessentially British. Those just managing types, what sports they are about being poor. Gawd bless ’em! Back in the real world, maybe the just managing can and do complain, but nobody wants to listen?
...
If people are regularly reduced to borrowing just to keep a roof over their head, then they’re evidently not managing. Since when was this defined by stacking up dangerous amounts of debt just to avoid being made homeless? At what point did it become normal for people to drown in repayments just to keep up with basic utilities?

It could be that a lot of these people are not remotely managing – they’re being ground down by debt in a way that’s either ignored, normalised or, increasingly, sanitised.
- Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan write about dental care as a glaring example of the disparity in treatment based on wealth. And Rory Carroll highlights LAX's new, exclusive terminal - featuring an opportunity for the rich to entertain themselves with the comparative discomfort of everybody else.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey points out how pipeline backers largely took over the Libs' much-trumpeted consultations with First Nations. Michael Geist discusses the PBO's conclusion that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe will cost Canada hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty giveaways to big pharma. And Garfield Mahood and Brian Iler suggest that it's time to name and shame the individual executives behind tobacco-related diseases and deaths - which would seem a sensible plan for any corporation which puts the public's well-being at risk to serve its own ends.

- Marshall Steinbaum notes that Thomas Piketty's work in identifying and challenging inequality and economic unfairness is being papered over within the field of economics.

- Finally, Alan Freeman discusses the lack of long-term preparation and planning that results in floods (and other disasters) doing far more damage than they should. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Claire Provost writes about the spread of the private security industry - which now exceeds the size of public police forces in Canada among other countries - as a means of privileging the protection of wealth over public interests.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne comments on the importance of allowing civil servants to focus on what's best for the public, rather than serving as political tools for governing parties.

- Jamie Condiffe points out that automation is having less impact on employment relationships than is often assumed, while Bill Emmott laments how wage fearmongering has been used to divert more and more profits into corporate coffers. Martin Regg Cohn discusses what may be some positive steps toward improved wages and working conditions in Ontario - though the timing and motivation of Liberals in an election year offers reason to be wary. And Jill Petzinger reports on how unions have been able to protect the interests of employees of Tesla and other new manufacturers.

- Percy Downe writes that while it's helpful to see improved funding to combat offshore tax evasion, it remains to be seen whether that promise will lead to results. And Diana Swain and Jennifer Fowler report on how Russian criminal organizations are using Canada's secretive banking sector for money laundering purposes.

- Finally, in the wake of Brad Wall's declared intention to use the Charter's notwithstanding clause as part of the foundation of Saskatchewan's education system, Leonid Sirota discusses the danger of it serving as a tool for reactionary politicians:
The Saskatchewan government’s unwarranted and hypocritical behaviour illustrates the fundamental problem with the notwithstanding clause. In theory, it could be a means for elected representatives of the people to express reasonable disagreement with the courts on difficult philosophical issues regarding the extent of constitutional rights, as well as policy questions about what kinds of limits on these rights might be unavoidable in a free and democratic society. In practice, if Saskatchewan succeeds at normalizing the use of the clause, governments will not engage in any serious deliberation about these issues. At best, they will resort to the clause to avoid the costs of carrying out their constitutional obligations. At worst, they will do it simply in order to appear “tough,” enacting policies both unnecessary and iniquitous in a race to the constitutional bottom.

The recent proposal by Lisa Raitt, a candidate for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, to use the notwithstanding clause to prevent protests against the building of pipelines exemplifies the latter dynamic. So do calls by nationalist politicians (and legal academics) in Quebec to dispense with the right to be tried within a reasonable time. [Allan] Blakeney thought that enlightened politicians might need to overrule courts in order to preserve social programs from encroachments by judicial reactionaries. Instead, his toxic constitutional legacy is in danger of being used by unscrupulous populists to satiate the reactionary tendencies of the electorate. Voters should keep in mind that poison tends not to be as nutritious is it might seem.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Musical interlude

Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Scott Sinclair writes that there's no reason for any party to NAFTA to see itself as being stuck with the existing agreement (or worse), while also mentioning a few ways to substantially improve the rules governing North American trade:
Canada should call Trump’s bluff by championing a fairer distribution of the benefits of trade — presumably the idea behind the Trudeau government’s ambitions to usher in a new generation of “progressive trade” agreements.

Anxiety about trade and globalization runs deep and goes beyond Trump’s core supporters.

Canada’s negotiating agenda will need to reflect that reality. It just so happens there are ways to redo or replace NAFTA to make it a better deal for workers in all three countries.

An obvious first step is to include strong, fully enforceable labour standards. Mexican workers, whose real wages have stagnated under NAFTA, and who are rarely free to join independent unions, would be the primary beneficiaries. But rising wages and improved working conditions in Mexico and many Southern U.S. states would provide support for the same in the rest of North America.
...
The Trump administration intends to bolster Buy American purchasing policies, which could side-swipe Canadian suppliers. But the government’s standard response — to seek an exemption for Canadian goods — has fallen short before and will fare much worse today.

Canada could instead propose reciprocal “Buy North American” policies for new public infrastructure spending. If this is rejected, Canada should maximize national economic spinoffs on its own planned public investments through Buy Canadian policies.
-  Swati Pandey and Jane Wardell report that while Canadian governments try to hand over everything in sight to the financial sector, Australia's right-wing government is instead raising taxes on banks to fund infrastructure spending.

- Gregory Beatty points out the desperate need for checks on corporate fund-raising in Saskatchewan politics.

- Jorge Barrera reports on the Trudeau Libs' dishonest approach to First Nations, as they're publicly stating a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while going out of its way to give effect to its terms.

- But in some good local news, Craig Baird reports on a new protocol between the City of Regina and First Nations groups. And having questioned City Council's past delay in signing on to the Blue Dot movement, I'll note that it has now approved the declaration.

- Finally, Fair Vote Vancouver highlights how a first-past-the-post electoral system accentuates the urban-rural divide in British Columbia (as in other jurisdictions).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New column day

Here, examining how Steve Keen's warning about the UK's excessive financialization and consumer debt applies even more strongly in Canada.

For further reading...
- Keen makes reference to the BIS' international data as to the ratio of private debt to GDP:

- Again, Erica Alini reported on Ipsos' latest number as to the dire fiscal straits facing many Canadians - which can be compared to last year's numbers from here. And Noah Buhayar and Doug Alexander write about a credit rating downgrade for Canadian banks due to their exposure to consumer debt, while Tricia Phillips notes that the problem with unsustainable consumer debt also represents a parallel between Canada and the UK.
- Dan Levin exposed the B.C. Libs' tax breaks for money laundering, job outsourcing and other shady financial activity by big donors, while David Ball examined the public response. 
- Stefani Langenegger discussed the millions of dollars Saskatchewan is paying to failed P3 bidders. And Murray Mandryk chimed in on the waning credibility of the Saskatchewan Party when it comes to managing public money.
- Bill Curry reported on both the Libs' outsourcing of the design of a federal infrastructure bank to the financial firms who stand to profit from it, their rush to ram the legislation setting up the bank through Parliament without meaningful review, and the NDP's work to ensure a public debate. And Jordan Press and Andy Blatchford followed up on the obvious conflicts of interest involved in the bank's design.
- Finally, Linda McQuaig highlights just a few of the problems with an infrastructure bank not designed to serve the public interest.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Nick Falvo lists ten things to know about social programs in Canada. And Mike Crawley offers a painful example of Ontario's social safety net and employment law both falling short, as injured workers are forced to go to work even when ill or injured in the absence of paid sick leave.

- David Cay Johnston writes that while corporate tax slashing won't do anything to boost the U.S.' economy, it may do plenty to undercut businesses who have planned based on tax rates as they stand.

- Make Votes Matter makes the case for UK Labour to push for proportional representation - including by pointing out how it leads to a more fair and equal society. And Fair Vote Canada is pushing for an NDP-Green agreement on electoral reform in British Columbia.

- Meanwhile, Ethan Cox discusses what should an obvious choice facing B.C.'s Greens in deciding between giving voters the change they want, and owning another term of Christy Clark's corporatism as usual. And Vaughn Palmer notes that Clark is the most important loser from yesterday's election.

- Finally, Daphne White interviews George Lakoff about the importance of fitting political messages into frames which will resonate with voters.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Floored cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe highlights why British Columbia's voters should be careful before lending any credence to the corporate media's call for yet another term of corrupt Lib government:
As expected, The Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Globe and Mail, published editorials urging voters to keep the Liberals in power for another four years. The uninspired prose and clichéd arguments are testament to the pure cynicism of the ruling elite in Canada.

They are also an insult to these newspapers’ own hard-working and dedicated journalists, many of whom have done important investigations exposing the dynamics of the housing affordability crisis, and the staggering corruption and cronyism that has come to define political and economic life in the “Wild West” under Premier Christy Clark and her right-wing Liberals.
...
No one reading these editorials would have any sense of the shocking scale of corruption and inequality that scars B.C. In the long run, these endorsements hurt the newspapers who make them more than anything. But, in the short run, given that it’s such a neck-and-neck election, they may be enough to help the Liberals cling to power for another four long years.

Compared to the rest of Canada, B.C. has a relatively thriving independent media ecosystem. But that still pales in comparison to the influence of the big, corporate legacy media. Needless to say, and regardless of Tuesday’s election results, building the reach of independent media should be a priority for anyone who wants to see progressive politics thrive.
- But lest anybody say the B.C. Libs haven't done anything to bolster collective action, let's remember that the Charter right to collective bargaining was confirmed in response to their unconstitutional trampling on the very concept of workers' rights. And now, their neglect of renters has led to the establishment of a tenants' union.

- Kai Nagata points out how the Clark Libs' campaign is funded by public money laundered into party donations. And Sarah Cox reports on the deliberate suppression of Site C budget documents until after today's provincial election.

- Martyn Brown makes the case for regime change in B.C., while Bill Tieleman warns voters seeking change that support for the Greens may only leave a corrupt government entrenched in power. Lizanne Foster asks what she's supposed to tell children about the election if that happens. And Charlie Smith provides some of the unpleasant answers.

- Finally, Erica Alini reports on the latest survey showing that most Canadians have virtually no margin for error when it comes to personal finances. And Nora Loreto highlights the Trudeau Libs' reverse Robin Hood economic plan as being certain to make matters worse.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Dean Baker notes that a reduction in required work time could go a long way toward ensuring that workers share in productivity gains.

- Meanwhile, Max Ehrenfreund writes about new research on the state of the U.S.' middle class - showing that lifetime wage earnings peaked for people born in 1942, and have been in decline most of the time since then.

- Adam Samson reports on Janet Yellen's observation that a lack of pay equity is a serious drag on the U.S.' economy. Denis Campbell highlights how the UK's health care system has been treated so poorly that trained professionals are abandoning the sector for jobs at supermarkets. And Rachel Sanders discusses the B.C. Employment Standards Coalition's findings about widespread wage theft and workplace abuse.

- Richard Starr points out the costs of the Nova Scotia Libs' preference for austerity (aside from election season). And Stephanie Taylor reports on Saskatchewan's HIV rates, which are both far above Canada's national average and rising further under a government looking to do less. 

- Erika Dyck discusses how stronger action against poverty would improve mental health outcomes.

- Finally, David Ball reports on the B.C. Libs' choice to have KPMG audit its own work on a $3.3 billion P3 bridge project. And David Beers examines the cozy relationship between the Clark Libs and the B.C. Greens, while Stuart Parker explains it as arising out of the Greens sliding into exactly the same political niche which the Libs once occupied.