Here, featuring my take on the IMF’s recent report (PDF) on the relationship between equality, redistribution and growth.
I’ve already linked to other responses to the report from the Guardian and the Economist. But the column raises a point left largely unaddressed in those pieces – and which seems particularly important given some of the advice regularly dispensed to Canadian progressives.
I’ll sum up that advice as being “don’t worry about market inequality – instead, address poverty and inequality through taxation and redistribution”. Which makes for a neat enough recommendation on its face – and has led me to (Read more…)
Here, on the importance of letting voters decide among a full range of potential political candidates – rather than imposing rules or conventions which prohibit senior military leaders, public servants or others from participating in politics.
For further reading…- The column is largely a response to Andrew Coyne (who argues that personal decisions of military and civilian leaders should be evaluated differently based on their potential interest in politics) and Adam Chapnick (who argues for a five-year moratorium against political involvement which would exclude recently-retired military professionals from participation in the democracy they’ve fought to defend).- And (Read more…)
Here, starting from Nattavudh Powdthavee and Andrew Oswald’s study to discuss on how people have trouble telling the difference between luck and merit (particularly when they’re enjoying the benefit of the former) – and how we should take that gap into account both personally and politically.
I’ll add here one point omitted from the article. I’m skeptical in general of the all-too-common trend of public institutions like hospitals, libraries and schools being forced to rely on fund-raising lotteries rather than being funded directly. But the study hints at a hidden side effect – as a “successful” lottery which provides (Read more…)
Here, on how Brad Wall’s casino sell-off gambit might provoke a needed discussion of Saskatchewan’s relationship with First Nations – even while highlighting that Wall himself isn’t up for the public consultation needed to make that process work.
For further reading…- The original casino story was broken by the NDP caucus here, and subsequently reported on here. – SOS Crowns weighs in on Wall’s desire to sell off Saskatchewan’s casinos (and anything else that isn’t locked down through the NDP’s Crown preservation legislation). – And lest anybody think the Sask Party considers its standard practices to (Read more…)
Here, taking a closer look at the City of Regina’s 2014 budget – which offers a clear demonstration that the perpetual promise of growth doesn’t do anything to fund the municipal services citizens count on, resulting in current residents paying for the poor decisions of the city administration.
For further reading…- The City’s budget documents can be found here. – Both CBC’s initial report and the Leader-Post’s editorial focus on the mill rate increase (which seems to me to hide more than it reveals). And Paul Dechene starts the Prairie Dog’s work in digging somewhat deeper.
Here, questioning the Saskatchewan Party’s belief that meeting the province’s constitutional duty to provide correctional centre inmates with the basic necessities of life isn’t a “core” government function.
For further reading:- CTV reports on the label the Sask Party has applied to correctional food services (and the resulting privatization process) here. – And once again, CBC reports here on the cautionary tale of Ontario’s highway maintenance – where public safety has been compromised in the name of outsourcing provincial services.
Here, on how the reactions of the federal government and the rail industry six months after the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion only seem to reinforce the risk of more disasters to come.
For further reading…- Monique Beaudin reports on the finger-pointing and other attempts to avoid responsibility on the part of the corporations linked to the explosion. And I’ll especially highlight the chutzpah of the group of oil services companies in arguing that as U.S. companies, they’re entitled to ship oil through Canada while being above the law when it comes to cleanup of a spill.- Meanwhile, (Read more…)
Here, on how Mark Adler’s C-520 looks to undermine public participation in all Canadian political parties – including the Conservatives who are pushing it.
I’ll add here one point which didn’t make it into the column. While there’s obviously a need for independent institutions to act impartially, there’s also a need for them to have some familiarity with the systems they’re charged with overseeing. And if the Cons succeed in ensuring that regulators can’t have any personal knowledge of what they’re supposed to be regulating, the result may be far more damaging than the type of unsupported assertion of (Read more…)
Here, on how well-planned public infrastructure and a strong community spirit have helped Saskatchewan through weather that’s caused far more problems elsewhere – and how we’re in danger of losing that advantage.
For further reading…- The obvious point of comparison is the spate of problems faced by Toronto – including widespread power outages, and flight delays and cancellations. And the provincial government is now handing out gift cards to make up for what people lost due to the power issues. – In contrast, Saskatchewan’s main cities have seen some short and scattered power issues, along with (Read more…)
Here, on the link between personality politics and the culture of scandal that’s developed around Stephen Harper, Rob Ford and other political figures.
For further reading…- Once again, Dan Leger and Leslie MacKinnon provide the column’s starting point in discussing the central focus on scandals in 2013.- Eric Grenier’s year-end political grades offer a prime example of the type of election-results-only evaluation that feeds into the problem.- And Frank Graves discusses the Canadian public’s waning trust in its current crop of politicians.
Here, on the need to keep the holiday message of peace and goodwill in mind throughout the year – while working to foster both in our homes and in the world around us.
For further reading, I’ll point back to a couple of pieces about the effects of poverty and inequality on individual well-being: Moises Velazquez-Manoff’s discussion of status and stress, and Jack Monroe’s personal account of life in poverty. Both provide compelling examples of how individual-level peace is impossible for many who lack basic essentials – and I’d think that even a modicum of goodwill would lead anybody (Read more…)
Here, on how Michael Chong’s Reform Act privileges members of Parliament over party members and supporters – and how there’s far more reason for concern about a lack of genuine grassroots input as matters stand now than about the influence of MPs.
For further reading…- I’ll point to Andrew Coyne passim as the main cheerleader for the Reform Act. I refer in the column to some of the points made by Alice Funke and Don Lenihan. And Aaron Wherry surveys a few more responses – including Jeff Jedras’ proposal for a standardized primary system (which would seem to (Read more…)
Here, asking whether growth and stable employment are part of the deal when the Saskatchewan Party offers massive handouts to the resource sector – and if so, how to handle the fact that PCS is pocketing tax incentives while slashing jobs.
For further reading…- The Wall government’s own press release touting its potash giveaways is here. Needless to say, there’s no mention as to why we’d want to keep giving royalties away if they’re not linked to growth.- Simon Enoch’s list of Saskatchewan Party corporate subsidies is always worth a look.- Murray Mandryk is duly skeptical (Read more…)
Here, on how this week’s federal by-elections seem to confirm that another minority Parliament is a real possibility in 2015 – even as the main parties all rule out any discussion of what would happen under that scenario.
For further reading…- I make reference in the column to John Ivison’s rough calculations as to how a 2015 seat count might look. But his greater thesis seems to utterly miss the point that if the Cons finish with just a few more seats than each of the NDP and Libs (and far less than the two combined), they’ll be (Read more…)
Here, on what Saskatchewan can learn from some significant developments in privacy law in Manitoba and Alberta.
For further reading…- Paul Broad and Daniel Michaluk introduce Manitoba’s new private-sector legislation.- Alberta’s similar legislation is here, while the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision striking it down is here. In particular, see paragraphs 37-38: PIPA imposes restrictions on a union’s ability to communicate and persuade the public of its cause, impairing its ability to use one of its most effective bargaining strategies in the course of a lawful strike. In our view, this infringement of the right (Read more…)
Here, on how governments are outsourcing policy decisions to employers in areas ranging from immigration to employment insurance – and on why that may not be any more desirable for employers than for the people affected.
For further reading…- The relatively fine print surrounding the new immigration nominee program is here, with the key takeaways being that only 250 skilled worker applications and zero student applications will be considered “without an offer” from an employer.- Details on the federal government’s perpetually-shrinking list of eligible family class immigrants can be found here and here. – Finally, the (Read more…)
Here, on how P3 structures create a divergence of interest between short-sighted governments and the general public – and a few policy fixes to ensure we don’t lose value or accountability as a result of politically-motivated choices to use them.
For further reading…- The Saskatchewan NDP introduced its P3 accountability legislation (PDF) here.- And Murray Mandryk has some questions of his own about the Saskatchewan Party’s reluctance to subject P3s to any oversight or accountability.
Here, on the combination of institutional and personal flaws that’s combined to create the Stephen Harper Senate scandal.
For further reading…- CBC reproduces the documents tabled by Mike Duffy in the Senate here. – The Senate debates featuring the defences of Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau can be found here. – PressProgress reminds us what the Cons said about the residency of Duffy and Wallin just a few months ago, while Jordan Press and Kirsten Smith offer a partial timeline (if one which ignores the fact that the controversy dated back to 2008). And it was Press (Read more…)
Here, on the tendency of both the Saskatchewan Party and the federal Cons to pretend a problem doesn’t exist for years on end, then suddenly proclaim there’s no time to do anything other than force through the most regressive “solution” possible.
In shorter terms, the Shock Doctrine has evolved into the Schmuck Doctrine. And we shouldn’t be accepting a government’s own incompetence as reason to accept its rushed decisions.
For further reading…- CBC reports on the Sask Party’s sudden hurry to lock the province into P3 school construction contracts. And the NDP caucus responds to the announcement.- (Read more…)
Here, on how Michael Ignatieff’s empty vessel politics might become the norm if voters don’t respond with due skepticism to increasingly sophisticated vote-swaying tactics.
For further reading…- The year’s two must-reads on the evolution of politics are Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab (referenced in the column) and Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes. And both provide clear narratives to the effect that consumer-focused politics are becoming more and more pervasive. – Links to the commentariat’s take on Ignatieff’s political memoirs can be found here. And I deal with a few additional implications of empty vessel politics here. – Finally, (Read more…)
Here, discussing what elements of Saskatchewan’s referendum law look to have worked properly in Regina’s wastewater treatment plant referendum process – and where there’s some obvious room for improvement where future issues call for a vote among citizens.
For further reading…- While I note in the column that the 10% signature threshold seems to serve its intended purpose nicely, that of course requires that a municipality apply it fairly. And I’ll point back to Paul Dechene’s timeline of questionable City steps which attempted to avoid a referendum even though the standard was met by any fair measurement.- (Read more…)
Here, on Brad Wall’s choice to bring the Southern Strategy north with a dog-whistle appeal to prejudice against First Nations.
For further reading…- Rick Perlstein puts the Southern Strategy (and Lee Atwater’s description of it) in context here. – The Saskatchewan Party ad in question is here.- The NDP’s 2011 platform costing is here (PDF), featuring significant investments in housing, health care, child care, full-day kindergarten, tuition relief and other social causes. For those keeping score: total mentions of the beneficiaries of those proposed policies in the Sask Party’s 30-second attack ad, zero; total mentions of (Read more…)
Here, on how the real question in Regina’s P3 referendum vote is that of how to operate the City’s vital infrastructure – and why we should vote “yes” to maintain some control.
For further reading…- CBC reports on last night debate between Jim Holmes and Michael Fougere.- Brent Sjoberg’s interview with Paul Dechene referenced in the column is here. – Ryan Deschamps’ commentary on rent-seeking in the context of the wastewater referendum is well worth a read (particularly given that the entire operational phase of the P3 model has been set up as a giant, 30-year pool (Read more…)
Here, on how “we must increase stock prices!” – or worse yet, “we must increase company X’s stock prices!” – makes for a thoroughly regressive public policy goal.
For further reading…- The examples referenced in the column include Carol Goar’s column threatening a revolt over telecom share prices, and Andrew Leach’s piece about oil sands production costs (which at least acknowledges royalties as another concern beyond the hope that some profits might find their way into pension funds).- The wealth distribution data mentioned in the column is found in Armine Yalnizyan’s The Rise of the (Read more…)