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

Jagmeet Singh JagmeetSingh.ca @theJagmeetSingh Profile

Other Resources
Karl Nerenberg Candidate Profiles

All Posts By Label

Babble threads: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Peter Julian Forum
Twitter: #ndp - #ndpldr

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Alex Ballingall reports on Niki Ashton's environmental platform which identifies corporate greed as a major obstacle to environmental justice, and proposes a new Crown corporation to ensure public investment in response. Manishna Krishnan examines Jagmeet Singh's plan to end racial profiling, while Doug King comments on the mechanics of fulfilling the promise. And Angella MacEwen offers her take on the debate over universality and means-testing of transfers.

- Bill Tieleman offers his support to Charlie Angus while interviewing Angus about his candidacy. And Helene Laverdiere's endorsement of Singh offers his first Quebec caucus support - and likely ends any question as to whether he'd have trouble making inroads in the NDP's existing caucus.

- L. Ian Macdonald theorizes that the race will come down to Angus and Singh. But it's hard to make sense of his view that Angus is the candidate of continuity while Singh is somehow both the change and establishment candidate - and there would seem to be plenty of ways down-ballot support could end up favouring either of the other candidates.

- Meanwhile, John Ivison figures that Angus is the favourite for now barring a large number of new members signing up to support Singh.

- Finally, Dan Leger writes that while most of the candidates are new to NDP leadership campaigns, some of the choices facing members are familiar. And Eric Grenier notes that the NDP is in a relatively strong position at a time when it's choosing a new leader.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Martin Lukacs discusses the need for collective action to fight climate change - and the dangers of allowing ourselves to be distracted by calls to focus solely on individual choices:
These pervasive exhortations to individual action — in corporate ads, school textbooks, and the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups, especially in the west — seem as natural as the air we breathe. But we could hardly be worse-served.

While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.

The freedom of these corporations to pollute – and the fixation on a feeble lifestyle response – is no accident. It is the result of an ideological war, waged over the last 40 years, against the possibility of collective action. Devastatingly successful, it is not too late to reverse it.
Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.
If affordable mass transit isn’t available, people will commute with cars. If local organic food is too expensive, they won’t opt out of fossil fuel-intensive super-market chains. If cheap mass produced goods flow endlessly, they will buy and buy and buy. This is the con-job of neoliberalism: to persuade us to address climate change through our pocket-books, rather than through power and politics.

Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it’s only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.
- Tim Harford argues that part of the public response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy should be to act on the desperate need for more and better-maintained social housing. And Michael Laxer connects the mindset behind the media's dutiful praise of a slapdash set of stairs in Etobicoke to the themes of deregulation and antisocialism that lead to public safety catastrophes.

- Aaron Mate interviews Kerris Cooper about the role of family income in a child's development and future prospects, while also highlighting the potential gains from a more fair income distribution.

- Rob Shaw reports on the precarious state of ICBC after it was used as a cash cow by Christy Clark and her self-serving B.C. Liberals. And Jennifer Ackerman reports that Brad Wall and the Sask Party are determined to similarly suck all the value out of Saskatchewan's Crown Corporations as quickly as they can get away with it - even as the Crowns remain a bright spot both for economic development and public revenue.

- Finally, Anjuli Patil reports on Nova Scotia's move to reverse the privatization of 10 schools due to its belated recognition that P3 schemes did nothing but cost the province money.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Leadership 2017: The Quebec Question

Don MacPherson has joined the many commentators whose main take on the federal NDP's leadership race is to zero in on how Quebec voters might react to Jagmeet Singh's Sikh background and head covering. And Adam Radwanski has rightly challenged the pundits' consensus to some extent.

But (as noted in part by Ian Capstick) the narrow issue of Singh's religion misses a much bigger picture as to the considerations facing the NDP in Quebec. And there may be a case for any of the four candidates in the race as the best-positioned to build support.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few theories as to what's necessary for a federal leader to win Quebec support, and how the current leadership candidates stack up.

The Native Son

One of the cardinal rules of Canadian politics (and one at least arguably consistent with the results of every federal election dating back 150 years) is that no national leader without substantial Quebec connections beats out another national leader with more substantial roots in the province.

Of course, there are a couple of recent examples which might challenge the theory. In 2004, Stephen Harper's Conservatives managed to top Paul Martin's Libs in the Quebec vote count - though both were far behind Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc. And in 2011, Duceppe saw his party's Quebec-centred message fall to pieces in the face of Jack Layton's surge of support - which again might be distinguished based on one's view of Layton's Quebec connections, and/or the question of whether provincially-based parties such as the Bloc require a separate line of analysis.

If NDP members accept this theory while seeing Quebec success as the primary concern in a new leader, the result isn't merely to rule out Singh as an option, but to turn the campaign into a coronation for Guy Caron. (Again, Peter Julian was the one other candidate who might have made a claim to sufficient links to Quebec to benefit from the rule - but he's now out of the race.)

That said, even taking this theory at its highest, Quebec roots can only be seen as a necessary but not sufficient condition for winning over voters: just ask Stephane Dion, Tom Mulcair, and others who were each merely one among multiple candidates on the stage with Quebec roots. And with Justin Trudeau not looking to leave the scene anytime soon, the NDP can't expect to secure any advantage on this front alone.

Any vote based on the native son theory would thus require not only considering it to be accurate, but viewing Caron as a sufficiently strong option to wrest the title of Quebec's favourite son away from Trudeau. And it doesn't offer a basis for distinction among the remaining candidates: to the contrary, it would imply that if Caron doesn't win the leadership, the NDP may as well focus elsewhere for want of a reasonable hope of challenging the Libs in Quebec.

Needless to say, I'd hope leadership voters will have a much more optimistic view of the NDP's prospects than that (as Layton did when he built up his own connection to Quebec). Which brings us to...

Le Bon Jack

The 2011 Orange Wave offers a rare example of a leader managing to win a plurality of Quebec voters and majority of seats by appealing to them over a leader based in the province. And there's little doubt that Layton's persona was a crucial part of that success.

If members are looking for the candidate who can most plausibly mirror Layton's political skills, then Charlie Angus likely has the best claim to the title. In addition to being stylistically similar to Layton, he's also done the most to match Layton's organizational skills in building up membership and fund-raising support under the radar.

That said, after winning the NDP's leadership Layton put in a large amount of effort to build up both his personal recognition and his comfort level in Quebec over a period of nearly a decade. And it took four election cycles before he was finally able to break through with more than a single seat.

Angus might project to have a reasonable chance to develop as Layton did. But it's far from certain whether leadership voters will want to allow that much of a development phase. And members focused on holding and winning seats in the near term may have reason to wonder about his ability to speak to Quebec voters by 2019.

The Movement Leader

Meanwhile, if French language skills in particular are going to be an issue, then Niki Ashton looks to be the next-strongest candidate after Caron. And while her most favourable model won't find many federal analogues (aside from arguably the Bloc), she can point to the provincial scene as offering some useful examples to follow.

It's been well documented how a single popular leader connected to a movement which sees itself as underrepresented in politics can drastically change Quebec's political landscape - with prominent recent examples including the rise of the ADQ and its evolution into the CAQ over the past decade-plus.

Of course, the precise groups of voters who have shifted allegiances to back those parties probably aren't among the ones likely to turn to Ashton in the near future. But the latest example of a movement turning into a political force is one which could very plausibly rally behind an Ashton-led NDP: Quebec Solidaire has been hitting new heights in provincial polling due in no small part to the arrival of student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois as one of its spokespersons.

Ashton may not start with the level of public familiarity Nadeau-Dubois has earned in Quebec. But there's a case to be made that her plan for a national movement can work with and incorporate the same activists who seem to be transforming the province's provincial scene.

The Precedent Setter

If all of the other candidates can point to Quebec precedents for a plan to build up NDP support, Singh may have to look further afield. But he figures to be able to adapt the strategies which have helped break down barriers before.

In particular, it's questionable that numbers which refer to a personal trait rather than a particular leader can be expected to hold up if they clash with perceptions of that candidate. It's one thing for poll respondents to express a view based on only one attribute, particularly if they're not frequently exposed to people who share it; it's quite another to make a decision about a person for whom that attribute is just one part of a well-developed persona.

On that front, I'll point to Charles Franklin's look at similar polling in the U.S. - which shows the largest jump in willingness to vote for any particular trait arising after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic President. And while the numbers which would have influenced Kennedy's candidacy start from a higher baseline, that may be based in part on more friendly wording (i.e. emphasizing that the candidate is qualified and of the same party as the respondent.)

To the extent there is a need to change minds about whether a single characteristic affects one's ability to lead, the first step in changing minds will be to call out and challenge whatever embedded assumptions may otherwise have resulted in any discomfort. And Singh is already doing a stellar job on that front (with a particular emphasis on connecting to Quebec voters).

But even among voters who aren't won over by messages about Singh's background in particular, the best way to challenge preconceived assumptions about the leadership of a person wearing a head covering is for a leader to be effective while wearing a head covering. Which means that NDP members who otherwise recognize Singh's strengths shouldn't see perceived public opinion about his religion as a meaningful reason to vote against him.


In sum, I don't see much basis to single out any one of the leadership candidates for a different test in evaluating how Quebec voters are likely to respond.

Each will face a great deal of work to be done - and some daunting historical precedents to overcome - in winning over voters in Quebec and across Canada. And for each, the strengths which help to connect and win over NDP members should be effectively the same factors which contribute to the NDP's success down the road.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- George Monbiot examines the history of James McGill Buchanan, Charles Koch and others who have used massive amounts of time and money to ensure that wealth wins out over democracy in shaping U.S. policy - and how their influence will sounds familiar elsewhere as well:
The papers Nancy MacLean discovered show that Buchanan saw stealth as crucial. He told his collaborators that “conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential”. Instead of revealing their ultimate destination, they would proceed by incremental steps. For example, in seeking to destroy the social security system, they would claim to be saving it, arguing that it would fail without a series of radical “reforms”. (The same argument is used by those attacking the NHS)...
Reading this book felt like a demisting of the window through which I see British politics. The bonfire of regulations highlighted by the Grenfell Tower disaster, the destruction of state architecture through austerity, the budgeting rules, the dismantling of public services, tuition fees and the control of schools: all these measures follow Buchanan’s programme to the letter. I wonder how many people are aware that David Cameron’s free schools project stands in a tradition designed to hamper racial desegregation in the American south.

In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called “economic freedom” and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.

Buchanan’s programme is a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to MacLean’s discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is, know your enemy. We’re getting there.
- Robert Reich writes about the erosion of social bonds by growing inequality. And Jonathan Kay discusses how the U.S. is suffering for refusing to raise tax revenue as the price of a civilized society.

- Thom Hartmann writes about the new forms of indentured servitude becoming increasingly common in the U.S.' labour market. Jake Johnson comments on the gap between CEOs who have seen gigantic pay increases over the past few decades, and workers who have seen nothing of the sort. And Frank Pasquale points out that significant collective action will be needed to prevent platform capitalism from further undermining workers' rights.

- On that front, Andrew Hartman theorizes that millennials' political activism figures to present a strong challenge to capitalist control. And James Elliott interviews Jon Lansman about the next steps for UK Labour - and particularly its progressive activists - following Jeremy Corbyn's first electoral success. 

- Finally, Geoff Leo reports on the GTH's latest violations of access to information laws - while finding that experts see the Wall government's combination of compulsive secrecy and gross incompetence as similar to Donald Trump's administration.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Musical interlude

Big Wreck - Under the Lighthouse

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- John Paul Tasker reports on the federal government's plans to close some loopholes which allow the use of small corporations in order to avoid income taxes. And Andrew Jackson writes that we should support that first step toward a fairer tax system. But the Star points out that there's far more ground to cover:
The three measures now being floated all aim to limit the ability of high earners to use the small-business tax system to dodge paying their share on income. The most far-reaching of these would constrain the practice of so-called “income sprinkling,” which allows individuals to significantly reduce their tax burden by transferring large portions of their income, through a corporation, to family members. Taken together, the package could save Ottawa hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

This is a start, but it likely won’t get Morneau even a tenth of the way toward his stated aim of saving $3 billion annually through a review of so-called tax expenditures.

The promised review is crucial. Over the last century, Canada’s tax code has grown into an unwieldy mess. The code is now roughly 200 times longer than it was in its original form, a result not mainly of thoughtful economic design, but of the slow accretion of politically micro-targeted tax breaks. The Harper Tories were particularly fond of such boutique tax credits, which allowed them to appeal to certain politically important constituencies while essentially shrinking government.

Tax expenditures now account for upwards of $100 billion of forgone revenue annually, about a quarter of all government spending. Yet, unlike other government outlays, they are not subject to significant parliamentary scrutiny or even government study. No one seems to know exactly how much is lost through these loopholes, or whether they achieve their stated objectives. As Auditor General Michael Ferguson warned in 2015, even the finance department seems to be in the dark.

What we do know, however, suggests that these tax breaks, like the ones Morneau is now seeking to tackle, too often benefit most those who need help least, deepening rather than mitigating economic inequality.
- Meanwhile, Ashley Renders reports on the new (if limited) disclosure required of Canadian resource companies to document what they've paid to governments.

- Speaking of which, Sara Golling rightly slams Christy Clark and her B.C. Libs for using their last day in office - and the cover of a public emergency - to award a major donor permits for mine activities which couldn't win federal approval. And Bob Mackin reports on how Clark's henchpeople have thrown public money at the Site C disaster with no time for even a cursory review.

- David Reevely notes Ontario Hydro's bizarre re-entry into the coal power business years after the provincial Libs shut down plants within the province. 

- Finally, David McKie points out that many Indigenous families are missing out on the federal child benefit - showing the limitations of a program which relies on people to identify their own opportunity to sign up.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Noah Smith writes that far too many Americans (like people around the globe) face needless barriers to thinking, and suggests that the key public project of this century may be to remedy those problems:
The biggest threat to clear-headedness comes from drugs. The twin epidemics of opioid-painkiller dependence and heroin abuse destroy people’s lives and harm productivity. There is a strong correlation between opioid use and unemployment, and it’s no great stretch to assume that the former helps cause the latter. A recent Goldman Sachs report concluded that drug abuse resulted in large productivity losses throughout the economy. Even when opioid and opiate users stay at their jobs, they probably become less productive.

A second, much-discussed problem is lead pollution. A flood of research is finding that even small amounts of lead exposure in childhood can lead both to worse academic performance later in life, and to more criminal behavior. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that American children are far more exposed to lead than most people realize. Lead paint contaminates soil, lead pipes contaminate drinking water, and a variety of commercial products from cosmetics to electronics contain bits of lead. The U.S. is allowing its people to be poisoned with heavy metals, and both their intelligence and their self-control is being degraded as a result.

But drugs and lead aren’t the only forces preventing Americans from being able to think clearly. Poverty is another. Everyone knows that the U.S. is a very unequal country, but few think about the damage that causes to American minds. A growing body of research shows that poor people have different brain structures from other people. Mental problems can and do cause poverty, of course, but poverty also exposes people to many of the forces that are known to cause post-traumatic stress disorder -- violence and unstable family situations -- in addition to brain-damaging malnutrition. Let's hope that new long-term studies will clarify just how much poverty damages the brain, although the mechanisms are already pretty obvious.

Violence in general probably causes lots of long-term harm to the minds of American children. The U.S. as a whole has a high murder rate for a rich country -- 4.2 homicides per 100,000 people, about three times as high as France or the U.K. Some U.S. cities, however, have murder rates as much as 10 times the national average -- St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit stand out. Millions of American children are probably getting some form of PTSD as a result of growing up in these cities.

When all these factors are added up, they represent a severe threat not just to Americans’ quality of life, but to the productivity of the U.S. workforce. Policy makers, economists and other intellectuals should start thinking more about how to beat back this multipronged assault on national clear-headedness.
- Doug Saunders discusses how the wealthiest few in Canada are almost entirely ghettoized, and offers a couple of suggestions to rein in inequality and rebuild the social links which once connected the 1% to everybody else. And Luke Savage comments on the great CEO revenue heist which allows corporate magnates to avoid tax on 50% of one of their main sources of income.

- Meanwhile, Marco Chown Oved and Robert Cribb report on a first discussion of corporate transparency - though it's telling that the Trudeau Libs are intent on preserving the "privacy" of people benefiting from the privilege of limited liability. And Dean Beeby reports on the Libs' continued plans to sell off airports and other public services.

- Nikil Saval traces how laissez-faire theory is now recognized as flawed by all but its most dogmatic adherents.

- Finally, Zarqa Nawaz writes about Saint-Apollinaire's embarrassing rejection of a cemetery for Quebec City Muslims.

New column day

Here, on the noteworthy successes of the first year of Regina's Housing First program - along with the appalling failure of our provincial and municipal governments to fund a full version.

For further reading...
- CBC reported on the program as it was introduced, while Kendall Latimer followed up with a report from this week's anniversary announcement.
- Regina Homelessness offers both background information on the state of housing and homelessness in Regina, as well as a summary of the results of Housing First.
- And finally, even Licia Corbella recognizes the importance of social housing based on the difficulty people face finding a place to live in Calgary and the public costs of homelessness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mike Konczal responds to a pathetic attempt to drain the word "neoliberal" of all meaning (which seems to have won favour with Canadian Libs desperately trying to disassociate themselves from their own governing ideology) by discussing its application in both the political and economic spheres. And Steven Hall examines how neoliberal economics have been a failure even on their own narrowly-focused terms:
Sure, growth for the sake of growth is not what we should aim for — it is indeed ‘the ideology of the cancer cell’, to use the words of Edward Abbey. But there is no evidence that less progressive taxes have promoted growth anyway. There is no evidence that more inequality has contributed towards growth. There is no evidence that deregulation has contributed to growth or to stability or social well-being. There is no credible evidence that trickle-down economics works. None whatsoever. It is a fallacy. An article of faith, perhaps — but not of science.

Almost everything which almost all policy makers have taken for granted and asked us to take for granted for more than a generation has been proved wrong. We were closer to the truth, it seems, in the 1950s and 60s, and there must be some lessons for us there.
- Meanwhile, Nick Bunker points out new research suggesting that corporate concentration and a lack of meaningful competition is a major factor in the decline of business investment over the past few decades.

- Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood review the U.S.' plans for NAFTA renegotiations. Lawrence Herman points out a few of the U.S. demands which would most clearly tilt the playing field against Canada. And Michael Geist offers some suggestions as to what Canada should be asking for to protect our interests in intellectual property freedoms and the protection of individual data.

- But for anybody hoping for a strong Canadian position, Linda McQuaig notes that the Trudeau Libs have already demonstrated their eagerness to capitulate to Donald Trump's most senseless demands by announcing gigantic military expenditures for no apparent reason.

- Finally, Andre Picard weighs in on how Canada's continued poor ranking among our international peers shows the need for more and better investment in our health care system.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Feline oversight.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Tom Parkin writes that the economic boost provided by an expanded child benefit offers another indication of how action to fight poverty ultimately helps everybody. And Dylan Matthews discusses how much more could be done through a well-designed basic income - while recognizing the pitfalls of pale imitations.

- Ginella Massa reports on a rent strike among Toronto tenants which has brought landlords to the table to discuss rents as a clear demonstration that collective action can achieve substantive results.

- Annabelle Olivier reports on Quebec's deal with generic drug manufacturers to reduce drug costs by $300 million per year. But Martin Regg Cohn notes that Canada's provinces can do far more to make prescription drugs affordable by cooperating to make pharmacare a national priority - including by making sure the public interest in affordable medication is protected in any future NAFTA discussions.

- Meanwhile, Kelly Grant points out that Canada ranks poorly compared to other developed countries in health outcomes due largely to patchy access to dental care and needed medications.

- Debi Daviau notes that the public pays the price when essential support services for program delivery are put in corporate hands. 

- Finally, Thomas Woodley discusses how the Trudeau Libs have followed the Harper Cons' pattern of tacitly supporting the proliferation of nuclear weapons rather than pushing for disarmament.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Guardian's editorial board weighs in on the undue gains going to the 1% while everybody else faces stagnation or worse:
While the rest of society have shared in an equality of misery following the crash, the top 1% – households with incomes of £275,000 – have now recovered all the ground they lost during the world’s worst post-second world war slump. The share of income going to the very richest is now 8.5%. That’s double their share in 1985. The question has to be asked: has the value of the 1% in society doubled in the last 20 years? What have all these higher earners – in the City or in the boardrooms – done that has been so socially useful to see their share of total wages go up so much?

It’s not that we are richer as a nation. The economy is about £300bn smaller than would be expected if the crash had not happened. Remember the recession was caused by the financial sector’s innovations – the excessive leverage; the perverse incentives; the fraudulent promotion of risky products as safe – and its promotion that greed was the ultimate good. While public spending as a proportion of GDP might be roughly constant since the crash, the country’s needs are higher, so there’s a feeling of less to go round. This has happened while there’s been a quiet secession of the successful.

All the rise in inequality is due to this group racing away with the goodies from the economy, while the rest of us are being squeezed closer together. For the very wealthy, rules are bent to suit their needs. When a dividend tax was readied for 2016-17, the very wealthy took their payments early and avoided £800m, money that could have been used for schools and hospitals. More than £100m of that tax saving was enjoyed by 100 people. Can you imagine a supermarket worker asking to bring forward his pay to avoid a tax charge? The richest in our society are not worth the rewards they give themselves. It’s because they have captured ideologically the political process that these absurdities continue.
- Meanwhile, Katie Forster discusses new research showing a severe spike in anxiety and depression among UK residents facing austerian welfare cuts.  

- David Crouch reports on Sweden's renewed effort to rein in inequality - though it too has decades of corporatist damage to repair.

- CBC reports on Calgary's closure of social housing units due to a lack of means to repair them. And Rebecca Marroquin reports that Saskatchewan's domestic abuse shelters are operating at capacity (and thus having to turn away or waitlist spouses in need of a safe place to stay).

- Maura Forrest highlights the dysfunction behind the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. And Gloria Galloway points out that First Nations are trying to address the child suicide crisis which has seen so little national attention - but need stable funding to make real progress.

- Finally, Terry Glavin criticizes the Libs' chumminess with an abusive Chinese regime - which is put in stark relief by the death of human rights activist and Nobel laureate Liu Ziaobo.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Larry Elliott reports on a Resolution Foundation study showing that while the UK's 1% has fully recovered from the 2008 financial crash, the rest of the population hasn't been so lucky and has faced extended stagnation at best:
Families on low and middle incomes had seen their living standards rise by just 3% since 2002-03. Once housing costs had been taken into account they were no better off than they were 15 years ago. Two in five said they were unable to afford to save £10 per month, while 42% say they could not afford a week away on holiday at least once a year, up from 37% before the financial crisis.

Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The incomes of the top 1% took a short, sharp hit following the financial crisis. But they’ve recovered rapidly since and the very richest households have now seen their share of the nation’s income return to very high pre-crisis levels.

“In contrast, for millions of young and lower-income families the current slowdown comes on top of a tough decade for living standards, providing a bleak economic backdrop to the shock election result.
- Meanwhile, the North York Harvest Food Bank talks to Elaine Power about the potential benefits of a basic income - including relieving individual economic stress. And Jessica Bohon tells her story about the social stigma attached to poverty.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the rise in the number of temporary employment agencies in Ontario, while highlighting that their main purpose is to keep workers in precarious situations. And the Economist points out that many abuses could be avoided simply by enforcing existing employment protections.

- David Bell takes note of the predictable public health effects of the removal of fluoride from Calgary's water supply.

- Finally, Tim Gray highlights the massive liabilities being left behind by the tar sands which look to exceed every nickel oil companies have paid (or are expected to pay) in royalties.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On costly considerations

I've previously pointed out that there might be much less than met the eye to Brightenview's much-trumpeted "ground-breaking" at the Global Transportation Hub. But while there's now some dispute as to what work is being done at the Brightenview site, I'd think we should be particularly concerned about the terms involved if the GTH project is actually departing from Brightenview's historical trends.

After all, Saskatchewan's provincial government put substantial amounts of money into catering to the two main GTH tenants - with the theory that Canadian Pacific and Loblaws would serve as magnets for other businesses to relocate to the area. And it went far out of its way to cover up the terms of the 2009 CP deal in particular: they were only revealed through CBC's reporting this year after being withheld in the face of access to information requests.

Here's what the province agreed to in order to get CP to build on the GTH site (despite its theoretical agreement that the move would be mutually beneficial):
CP sold its old site to the City of Regina for $7.5 million.

The agreement says the land is being given to the private railway company "in consideration of CP's contribution to the project." According to the contract, CP agreed to pay for railway infrastructure, container handling facilities and buildings for the project.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Highways promised to pick up the cost for most everything else, including land, servicing, the moving of power lines, and construction of CP's parking lot and internal roadways.

And the province agreed to provide CP serviced, accessible land west of the city "at no cost to CP and free and clear of all encumbrances" except for a few easements.
Of course, the promise of drawing other substantial activity to the GTH area hasn't been met. And the lack of any other good news around the time of the last provincial election is exactly why Brad Wall was so desperate to cozy up to Brightenview in the first place.

But with the Wall government now relying on Brightenview as its only excuse for development in the area and the other scandals surrounding the GTH, it's apparent that the Saskatchewan Party now has a strong political incentive to ensure that something gets built - no matter who ends up paying the bill.

It's also obvious that Brightenview's track record involves many grand proclamations, but very little follow-through - particularly when it comes time to put the money contributed by unsuspecting investors into building anything at its own expense.

With that in mind, I'd think it's worth asking: what exactly are the terms of Brightenview's development? And in particular, how much is the public paying - either in direct costs for the Brightenview site, or in upgrades to the GTH area for Brightenview's benefit - as the price of the illusion of progress?

(See also Tammy Robert's post expanding on CBC's story about on the connection between Brightenvie and pay-for-play immigration.)

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Economist observes that the effects of climate change fall disproportionately on poorer people, rather than the wealthier ones who have caused more of the damage:
The costs of global climate change will again be unevenly (and uncertainly) distributed, but harm will often be smaller for richer, temperate countries. As a result the estimated economic loss from warming is almost certainly understated, because the nastiest effects are concentrated in places where incomes are lowest: and, correspondingly, where tumbling incomes have the smallest effect on global GDP.
The rich are disproportionate contributors to the carbon emissions that power climate change. It is cruel and perverse, therefore, that the costs of warming should be disproportionately borne by the poor. And it is both insult and injury that the wealthy are more mobile in the face of climate-induced hardship, and more effective at limiting the mobility of others. The strains this injustice places on the social fabric might well lead to woes more damaging than rising temperatures themselves.
- Meanwhile, Richard Florida writes that inequality only exacerbates the dangers of economic downturns. And UNICEF makes the case to finally put and end to child poverty (and reduce inequality) in Canada.

- Noah Smith points out that no matter how much wealth gets linked to intangibles, economic stability and prosperity ultimately depend on actually producing goods. And Cameron Murray notes that longer-term development depends on industrial policy - which governments presently seem all too eager to leave to the few wealthy enough to shape it personally.

- Canadians for Tax Fairness calls for Canada's provinces to work on ensuring corporate transparency.

- But Jeremy Nuttall reports on Christy Clark's PR-focused response to the Mount Polley environmental disaster as an example of how governments are all too often focused only on minimizing corporate wrongdoing. And Brent Patterson points out the Trudeau Libs' decision to allow the dumping of mine waste in fish-bearing creeks as just another example of profits being put before the planet.

- Finally, Ken Neumann worries about the consequences of the Libs' obsession with courting Chinese capital regardless of its effect on Canada.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Musical interlude

Cosmic Gate feat. Emma Hewitt - Not Enough Time

Leadership 2017 Links

The latest from the federal NDP's leadership campaign.

- Mainstreet has released what looks to be the most useful poll of the campaign so far, showing Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton in the lead among a substantial number of self-identified NDP members. But the gap between Angus and Ashton is tiny compared to the number of later-ballot vots, and all of the candidates look to have plenty of potential for growth based on the still-substantial number of undecided voters.

- Ian Capstick offers his view of the noteworthy strategic choices that have been made so far in the campaign. And Christo Aivalis reviews this week's debate while also summarizing where the campaign stands.

- Angus makes the case for affordable housing as a human right, while pointing out that we have no fiscal excuse for failing to meet it. Jade Saab argues that Ashton is the candidate offering transformative change. John Ibbitson and Konrad Yakabuski both offer their take on the pros and cons of Jagmeet Singh based on his religious background - though it's worth noting that neither can identify any impact Singh's religion is supposed to have on his political choices (other than an erroneous claim by Yakabuski). And Erin Weir takes the view that the next leader needs to ensure that federal carbon pricing and green house gas emission regulations don't merely push the generation of emissions outside of Canada's borders.

- Finally, Kady O'Malley writes that while the public hasn't yet paid a great deal of attention to the campaign, there's reason to suspect that will change - particularly during the voting stage. And Luke Savage warns against trying to frame the NDP's campaign solely in terms of developments in other countries and parties.

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Josh Bivens notes that international trade deals have been structured to maximize the cost of globalization for the workers excluded from the bargaining table. And Jon Queally points out that a massive majority of Americans see power disproportionately hoarded by the rich at the expense of everybody else.

- So it should come as no surprise (as noted by Frank Clemente) that the corporate sector is avoiding making a fair contribution to funding collective programs - even while whining constantly about what little it is required to pitch in. And Chuck Collins discusses how much wealth is being hidden by the most privileged few.

- Kashana Cauley discusses the importance of a youth-led labour movement to ensure that changing priorities and workplaces are reflected in union strategies. And Democratic Audit UK examines the legal structures needed to protect workers' rights, while Paul Willcocks offers some suggestions as to how British Columbia's new government can bolster job quality and economic fairness.

- Evan Horowitz highlights the reality that an effective anti-poverty strategy can't rely solely on jobs and education, but instead needs to ensure that money gets into the hands of the people who need it most. And Left Foot Forward notes that the creation of precarious and low-wage jobs does nothing to improve the lives of the people who can't escape them.

- Finally, Nora Loreto and Michael Stewart ask whether Canada's media has a right-wing bias in granting unjustified air time (and credence) to reactionary ignorance.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Susanna Rustin reports on a new study from the London School of Economics demonstrating the lifelong personal impacts of childhood poverty. And Colleen Kimmit writes that the solution to food insecurity (along with other elements of personal precarity) is a guaranteed income, not charity or redundant skills training:
Many people think of basic income as a radical, untested idea, but Canada already has it for a significant portion of the population: seniors. One of the first projects that PROOF worked on, based on research conducted by Lynn McIntyre at the University of Calgary, looked at old age pensions in Canada. Using the Canadian Community Health Survey data once more, they randomly selected a group of single, low-income “near seniors” aged 55 to 64 and followed them for ten years. At the outset, 22 per cent qualified as food insecure. By the time the cohort passed age 65, that number dropped to 11 per cent. Nothing else changed in their lives except this crucial birthday. Turning 65 and becoming eligible for the old age pension—a stable, secure income, indexed to inflation and double regular social assistance amounts—immediately halved the number of people going hungry.

This kind of income is precisely what it will take, Tarasuk argues, to alleviate the stress many Canadians feel when it comes to covering even their most basic needs. She is encouraged by Ontario’s basic-income pilot; if it’s adopted, it may eliminate the need for piecemeal approaches.

“It’s not about a soda tax, or access to food, or better nutrition labelling. Community kitchens don’t solve it. Gardens don’t solve it. There’s arguments for all that stuff. But it’s not going to move the needle on food insecurity,” says Tarasuk. “We just want basic income. That’s it.”
- Meanwhile, Claudia Buch discusses how high levels of connected personal and corporate debt result in an economy that's less stable and secure for everybody.

- Matt Stoller wonders whether U.S. Democrats will notice the opportunity to take on the cause of trust-busting and challenging corporate power in light of the trust fund tycoon serving as the face of the Republican Party.

- The CCPA suggests that Canada treat its sesquicentennial as an opportunity to ensure that how we actually engage with Indigenous peoples matches our aspirations and self-perception. But the Star's editorial board notes that the long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is going off the rails. And Russ Diabo writes that the Trudeau Libs' broader plan seems to be to extinguish Indigenous rights under the guise of self-governance.

- Finally, Anna Lennox Esselment writes about the rise of the permanent campaign in Canada.

New column day

Here, on the noteworthy contrast in positions on income supports in the NDP's leadership campaign (and particularly the recent debate in Saskatoon).

For further reading...
- Jeremy Nuttall discussed the state of the campaign prior to Tuesday's debate. And Peter Zimonjic offered a summary of the debate. 
- I'd previously blogged here about the difference between Guy Caron's basic income proposal and Jagmeet Singh's limited income guarantees.
- The NDP's policy book is here (PDF). And I'll point in particular to the following passages as to universality in transfers as well as public services:
Seniors and retirees
New Democrats believe in:
Maintaining the universality of Old Age Security (OAS) and increasing funding for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)


New Democrats are committed to the kind of mutual respect among levels of government that is the hallmark of cooperative federalism; that makes collaboration on social and economic policies work, and that ensures the universality of social programs.
- And finally, Michal Rozworski offers a more detailed look at the different areas of debate (and confusion) around the structure of social programs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The Global Alliance for Tax Justice examines the most common tax evasion practices used to allow the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. And Desmond Cohen points out how our current estimates of inequality underestimate exactly how much is being hidden.

-  David Macdonald anticipates and criticizes the Bank of Canada's increased interest rates by pointing out that Canadians have already been sorely lacking for more increased wages. And Andrew Jackson argues for a higher minimum wage by pointing to our relatively low wages when compared to other developed countries.

- Meanwhile, UFCW highlights a report on how Guatemalan agricultural workers are being exploited in Quebec.

- Gillian Steward discusses the developing electric car industry - and the reality that no public policy can prevent fossil fuel-powered vehicles (and the oil and gas industry's profits connected to them) from taking a turn toward obsolescence within a decade.

- Finally, John Rapley warns against unwarranted belief in neoliberal economic dogma due to both its failure to explain actual economic outcomes, and its failure to take into account necessary interests and values:
For decades, neoliberal evangelists replied to such objections by saying it was incumbent on us all to adapt to the model, which was held to be immutable – one recalls Bill Clinton’s depiction of neoliberal globalisation, for instance, as a “force of nature”. And yet, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the consequent recession, there has been a turn against globalisation across much of the west. More broadly, there has been a wide repudiation of the “experts”, most notably in the 2016 US election and Brexit referendum.
It would be tempting for anyone who belongs to the “expert” class, and to the priesthood of economics, to dismiss such behaviour as a clash between faith and facts, in which the facts are bound to win in the end. In truth, the clash was between two rival faiths – in effect, two distinct moral tales. So enamoured had the so-called experts become with their scientific authority that they blinded themselves to the fact that their own narrative of scientific progress was embedded in a moral tale. It happened to be a narrative that had a happy ending for those who told it, for it perpetuated the story of their own relatively comfortable position as the reward of life in a meritocratic society that blessed people for their skills and flexibility. That narrative made no room for the losers of this order, whose resentments were derided as being a reflection of their boorish and retrograde character – which is to say, their fundamental vice. The best this moral tale could offer everyone else was incremental adaptation to an order whose caste system had become calcified. For an audience yearning for a happy ending, this was bound to be a tale of woe.

The failure of this grand narrative is not, however, a reason for students of economics to dispense with narratives altogether. Narratives will remain an inescapable part of the human sciences for the simple reason that they are inescapable for humans. It’s funny that so few economists get this, because businesses do. As the Nobel laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller write in their recent book, Phishing for Phools, marketers use them all the time, weaving stories in the hopes that we will place ourselves in them and be persuaded to buy what they are selling. Akerlof and Shiller contend that the idea that free markets work perfectly, and the idea that big government is the cause of so many of our problems, are part of a story that is actually misleading people into adjusting their behaviour in order to fit the plot. They thus believe storytelling is a “new variable” for economics, since “the mental frames that underlie people’s decisions” are shaped by the stories they tell themselves.

Economists arguably do their best work when they take the stories we have given them, and advise us on how we can help them to come true. Such agnosticism demands a humility that was lacking in economic orthodoxy in recent years.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Back-to-back cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Kate Aronoff writes that in addition to being a political loser, corporate-friendly centrism is extremely dangerous in allowing for far less than the effort we should be putting into fighting climate change. And Tess Riley reports on new research that only a hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions - making it clear how a few firms with a lot of money at stake will be an obstacle to needed policy choices absent a concerted effort to put the public interest first.

- Trish Hennessy takes a look at the benefits of a $15 minimum wage for Ontario workers, while Michal Rozworski offers a media roundup of economists speaking in favour of a more liveable wage.

- Gordon Laxer points out that NAFTA has locked Canada into an unheard-of loss of sovereignty over our natural resources, while noting that the U.S.' desire to renegotiate offers a prime opportunity for change.

- Finally, The Globe and Mail rightly questions how Canada can live in denial of a severe suicide crisis among Indigenous children. And Doug Cuthand laments the latest outbursts of racism, including the killing of Barb Kentner.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- The Courage Coalition discusses why economic justice is necessary for social equality. But Ed Finn writes that instead, Canada is pushing people into serfdom:
Today's big business executives are not so outspoken, at least not in public, but privately they could make the same boast. Their basic agenda is not that much different from that of their 19th-century forerunners, whom they envy and seek to emulate. And what's really scary is that they now have amassed almost as much of the political and economic power they need to recreate the "bad old days" of the industrial robber barons.
This flinthearted exploitation of child labour may never be repeated in Canada, mainly because there are so many children in poorer nations who can more easily be exploited. But don't rule out the possibility that much of our adult work force will be driven back into a modern-day version of serfdom. With our labour laws impaired and laxly enforced, with workers' unions and bargaining rights weakened, with well-paid manufacturing jobs being replaced by low-paid part-time or temporary work, the regression of our labour force into 19th-century-style servitude is far from a dystopian fantasy.

Canadians should take a good hard look back at the age of absolute corporate power that doomed millions to dire poverty and serfdom in the late 1800s. If they did, they might be more concerned about having to relive that blighted and benighted past -- and become active in the struggle to avert it. 
- And Andrew MacLeod reports on the CMHC's thorough rejection of Christy Clark's attempt to lock vulnerable people into housing prices they can't afford.

- Carolyn Ray writes that instead of doing anything to rein in the abuses of banks who are simultaneously slashing jobs and closing branches while raking into economy-distorting profits, the Libs are attacking the credit unions who offer the most important alternative source of financial services. 

- Finally, Ben Chapman writes about the results of Finland's test of a basic income - which finds that people with some basic economic security are actually showing a stronger inclination to seek out work. And Tom Parkin examines the federal NDP leadership candidates' respective plans to put an end to poverty - while highlighting the importance of recognizing that as a feasible and necessary goal.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Damian Carrington reports on new research showing that the actual change in temperature caused by greenhouse gas emissions may be larger than anticipated in even the most cautious forecasts to date. And Chloe Farand highlights France's plan to rein in its contribution to climate change by banning all gasoline- and diesel-based vehicles by 2040.

- Meanwhile, D.C. Fraser reports on a study (with particular reference to the Sask Party's Boundary Dam project) finding that carbon capture and storage is an utter waste of money. And it's hardly a point in the Wall government's favour that updated numbers about the unit's operation make it only five to ten times more expensive than natural gas, rather than ten to twenty as found in the study.

- David Climenhaga comments on the need for Alberta's workers' compensation system - like its counterparts elsewhere - to focus on providing benefits for injured workers, rather than denying them in order to send money back to employers.

- Tabatha Southey observes that the "Proud Boys" incident in Halifax reflects a movement of bigots seeking to avoid responsibility for their actions through a facade of jocularity. And Scott Sinclair reviews John Judis' The Populist Explosion, including his warning that the rise of toxic populism generally represents a symptom of deeper political problems.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom writes that the federal government's settlement with Omar Khadr (based on violations of his rights by Lib and Con governments alike) represents a particularly obvious example of the damage done by political fearmongering about terrorism.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Michael Rozworski discusses the importance of workers exercising power over how our economy functions. Robert Booth reports on a forthcoming UK study showing the desperate need for improved quality of work and life among low-income individuals. And Lana Payne writes that a strong labour movement is essential to fair and sustainable economic development:
(W)hile bankers bemoan “soft wage data,” in the real world workers can tell you exactly why wages are stuck. Too much of the gross domestic product — the economic pie — continues to be hoarded by the rich and corporations, creating unprecedented inequality. And workers have had less power to demand a share of that pie.

It is this inequality and its impact on economic growth that has finally pushed central bankers to re-examine their book of conventional economic “wisdom.”

To solve the issue of stagnant wages, government must fix the rules, including by empowering unions that can make a difference on the wage front. After 30 years of attacking them, governments should let unions do what they do best — raise people up, improve living and working conditions and share the pie.

Unions don’t just bargain better wages, they negotiate better jobs.
- Trevor Nunn discusses the growth of the gap between the rich and the rest of us. And Pedro da Costa makes it abundantly clear that the most important divide is between the extremely rich who have seen soaring incomes, and everybody from the 99th percentile downward:

- Eric Reguly discusses the emergence of corporate fascism. And Alan Freeman examines Sears' move to strip pension benefits away from its former employees as an example of how the consequences of corporate failures are visited primarily on workers. 

- Andrew Jackson makes the case for an increased minimum wage. And Jon Thompson reports on Ontario's basic income pilot program and its anticipated effect on people facing poverty and homelessness in Thunder Bay.

- Finally, Justin Ling highlights the absurdity of the Trudeau Libs' choice to cover up the details of their own transparency plan. Jeremy Nuttall interviews Harry Leslie Smith about the glaring gap between appearance and reality when it comes to the Libs' choices in office. And Murray Dobbin writes that Trudeau's push for corporatized free trade will be particularly damaging to Canada's cities.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Musical interlude

Big Sugar - Diggin' A Hole

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Naomi Klein highlights how capital and power combine to turn disasters into profit-making opportunities - while noting that the Trump presidency is just such a disaster. And Linda McQuaig discusses why we should see the income tax and other collective funding mechanisms as an important step in nation-building.

- Don Pittis writes that a focus on raw job numbers misses the important question as to whether any particular job is actually livable. And Jason Moyer-Lee points out that many of the attempts to avoid employment regulations through "gig" arrangements or other contractual contortions should be expected to fail as soon as governments enforce the laws already on the books.

- Meanwhile, BlueGreen Canada points out that plenty of desirable jobs are at stake based on the federal government's choice as to whether to enforce methane regulations - but it's a failure to properly regulate dangerous greenhouse gases that would leave thousands out of work. 

- Bill Curry takes note of the Australian model which forms the basis for the Libs' privatized infrastructure plan - as well as the fact that Australia itself is backtracking after realizing the dangers of putting profits ahead of public service.

- Finally, Stephanie Taylor and Jacques Marcoux report that the City of Regina's idea of "revitalization" involves putting housing ten times closer to operational railway tracks than is recommended.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

On graceful exits

Last time fund-raising numbers were released from the federal NDP's leadership campaign, I noted the possible significance of Peter Julian's relative lack of donations. And the problem looked to be a double whammy for Julian: while any candidate would have reason for concern in not being able to fund a campaign as intended, it was especially problematic for a candidate whose brand included organizational superiority.

Today, Julian cited fund-raising as the main issue in departing from the race - presumably meaning he'd run through another quarter of disappointment.

And the race will be weaker for his leaving on a couple of fronts. First, Julian made important contributions to the issues within the campaign, notably by ensuring that all candidates thought through and clarified their positions on pipeline issues.

And second, Julian was the lone candidate with a substantial connection to British Columbia. That means the other candidates will have new opportunities to seek first-choice support in a province with a large number of members. But it also creates a risk that less people will be motivated to participate at all - and it's possible that other candidates who might have seen Julian's supporters as a source of down-ballot support will be worse off for his leaving the race.

New column day

Here, on Ottawa's Canada 150 event which was planned solely for the benefit of VIPs and businesses rather than mere people - and how that reality fits the Trudeau Libs' general governing themes.

For further reading...
- Again, CBC reported on the Canada Day fiasco, while the Ottawa Citizen published accounts from a few of the people who ran into it.
- CBC also followed up with Ottawa Tourism - which is the source of the column's observations about full hotels and restaurants being seen as a far higher priority than the well-being of participants - while also going into a bit more detail about the security arrangements.
- And Rob Drinkwater wrote about the trumped-up outrage over Justin Trudeau's omission of Alberta from his list of provinces and territories.
- Finally, Amy Minsky reports on the Libs' continued use of cash-for-access fund-raising. And PressProgress reports on polling done for Finance Canada which makes it clear the public knows that Trudeau and company aren't governing in the interests of the middle class.