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Scott's DiaTribes: Internal CPC polling on Veterans Affairs issues must be terrible.

If the Conservative government – led by Harper in Question Period no less – has now decided they’re going to try to blame the Liberals for the current mess in Veteran Affairs (led by their mess of a minister Fantino), polling and reaction to their current shabby treatment of Veterans must be pretty bad.

Their argument gets a tad undercut however when they’ve had 10 years to fix any shortcomings (which Harper and party supported in 2005 and enthusiastically implemented in 2006), and are now in court trying to defend it against angry Veterans (and trying to use the argument (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: Quick question/poll

Is Julian Fantino (Minister of Veteran Affairs) the worst Cabinet Minister in the Harper Conservative government right now? That’s saying something in this government, but some folks are now openly asking if he should be replaced. His department faced a withering Auditor-General report on the inefficiencies of the Department is getting aid and help to Veterans, but he was conveniently out of the country so he didn’t have to face the music.

The answer is yes, though I’m not exactly sure anyone who would replace Fantino would do much better. As always with the Harper government, unless public opinion polls (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Why the economy sucks (in one chart)

(The following is something I’ve prepared for the next issue of CUPE’s Economy at Work, a popular economics quarterly publication I produce.)

In his annual Economic and Fiscal Update (EFU), finance minister Joe Oliver told Canadians that while the federal government will finally record a surplus next year after seven years of deficits, we can’t expect the economy to grow much faster than the slow growth we’ve experienced since the financial crisis, with economic growth expected to average just 2.4% over the next four years.

Economic growth in this recovery is a third slower than in the (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Harper right? Did corporate tax cuts really pay for themselves?

In a little noticed comment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently was reported to say:

“Dropping our tax rate has not caused the government’s corporate income tax revenues to fall, which indicates that it does in fact attract business.”

No one seems to have questioned his statement, even though it was made on the same day Canada dropped to 15th place on the World Economic Forum’s index of global competitiveness from 9th in 2009. These rankings show corporate tax rates bearing little relationship to measures of global competitiveness.

Harper’s statement puts him squarely in the company of (Read more…)

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The Progressive Economics Forum: A Petition of Academics Against the CCPA Audit

A guest blog post from Mario Seccareccia and Louis-Philippe Rochon.

After learning that the Canada Revenue Agency is auditing the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the grounds that it allegedly engages in politically partisan, biased and one-sided research activity, a number of university professors have drawn up an open letter asking the Minister of National Revenue place a moratorium on its audits of all the various think-tanks that claim charitable status, until such time when truly neutral criteria can be implemented in the selection and conduct of fair, transparent and even-handed periodic audits. Audits should be focused on the financial management and (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Should Welfare Recipients Try Harder to Find Work?

This morning the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a new report about “motivational interviewing” for welfare recipients. The link to the full report is here, and the link to the executive summary is here.

Authored by Reuben Ford, Jenn Dixon, Shek-wai Hui, Isaac Kwakye and Danielle Patry, the study reports on a recent randomized controlled trial done on long-term recipients of social assistance in British Columbia. The research took place between September 2012 and March 2013. There were a total of 154 research participants; 76 of the individuals were in the “treatment group,” while 78 were in (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: EI Falls as Unemployment Rises

Statistics Canada reported today that the number of people receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits fell by 12,070 in May – the largest drop in nearly two years. (The last time Statistics Canada records indicate a larger decrease was 12,670 in July 2012.)

This substantial decline in EI benefits comes as unemployment is rising. The Labour Force Survey indicates that unemployment increased by 15,200 in May and by a further 25,700 in June.

Overall, only 37.5% of unemployed Canadians received EI benefits in May (i.e. 504,080 out of 1,343,800).

The fact that fewer Canadians can access benefits even (Read more…)

Bill Longstaff: Why Canadians must resort to the courts for democracy

Federal Conservatives have been complaining lately about the courts being used, in the words of MP Dan Albas, “to do an end-run around our democratic process.” My immediate reaction to Albas’s remarks was, what democratic process? If he is referring to our current governance, describing it as democratic is overly generous.

To begin with, our government is run by a party that won the support of

The Progressive Economics Forum: Affordable Housing in the Yukon

Earlier today, over at the Northern Public Affairs web site, I blogged about a recent (and controversial) decision made by the Yukon government about affordable housing in the Yukon. Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-Very little affordable housing gets built in Canada without federal assistance.

-Without financial assistance from senior levels of government, for-profit developers in Canada generally don’t find it worthwhile to build rental housing even for middle-income tenants (never mind low-income tenants).

-Going forward, federal funding for existing social housing in the Yukon is declining.

The full blog post can be accessed (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Rental Housing in Yellowknife

Yesterday I blogged about rental housing in Yellowknife, over at the Northern Public Affairs web site. Specifically, I blogged about a recent announcement by the city’s largest for-profit landlord that it plans to “tighten” its policies vis-a-vis renting to recipients of “income assistance” (which, in most parts of Canada, is known generically as social assistance). Among other things, I suggest in the post that the for-profit landlord in question may be in a monopoly situation. The link to my blog post is here.

The Ranting Canadian: The Harper Cons have announced they are naming the new Finance…

The Harper Cons have announced they are naming the new Finance Canada building after the worst finance minister in Canadian (and Ontario) history, “Deficit Jim” Flaherty. To reflect Flaherty’s disastrous political record and mean-spirited personality, it will:

Be small and useless Go billions of dollars over budget and have a huge mortgage Be funded by money embezzled from veterans’ services, Employment Insurance, healthcare, scientific research, job training programs, environmental conservation, etc. Be built by underpaid temporary foreign workers instead of Canadians Be constructed and operated under unsafe conditions Have a false front Feature a gazebo, a fake lake and (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: More on the At Home/Chez Soi Study

Earlier this month, I blogged about the At Home/Chez Soi homelessness study prior to the release of its final report.

Today I’ve blogged again, this time about the contents of the final report itself. This second blog post, being rather long and nuanced, was written for the Homeless Hub. It can be accessed at this link.

The Ranting Canadian: "I can’t even get my friends to like me." Mark this date:…

“I can’t even get my friends to like me.”

Mark this date: April 16, 2014. Disgraced Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper tells the truth for the first time in his political career, as he campaigns at the state funeral of former finance minister Jim Flaherty. The rest of Harper’s speech was full of lies and propaganda, as usual.

Harper should be more like Flaherty (in his current state).

The Ranting Canadian: Canadians will forever be indebted because of Jim…

Canadians will forever be indebted because of Jim Flaherty.

Regardless of what one thinks of the recently deceased man on a personal level, if one uses objective, non-emotional criteria, it is clear that he was probably the worst finance minister in Canadian history. Unfortunately for us, his replacement, Joe Oliver, will likely be much worse.

Almost immediately after Flaherty’s death became public, the fawning political praise and sickening historical revisionism flooded in like oil from an Enbridge pipeline spill. Over-the-top accolades for the small callous man have been stomach-churning, and is an insult to his many victims. It is (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: 10 Things to Know About the At Home/Chez Soi Study

On Tuesday, April 8, results of the Mental Health Commission of Canada‘s At Home/Chez Soi homelessness study will be released at an Ottawa press conference. The study followed more than 2,000 participants in five Canadian cities. All were homeless when the study began. Half of them received the Housing First intervention, and half of them did not. Data was collected from 2009 until 2013.

Here are 10 things you should know about this study.

1. It is one of the most ambitious randomized controlled trials in Canadian history.

2. Its $110 million budget was funded entirely by (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Alex Usher on Jason Kenney’s Enthusiasm for German Apprenticeships

Alex Usher, one of Canada’s most well-known post-secondary education pundits, has just written a blog post offering some sober second thought on Minister Kenney’s recent enthusiasm for Germany’s apprenticeship system.

Mr. Usher’s blog post can be accessed here.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Flaherty’s Legacy: Ideological, reckless and just plain lucky

This piece was originally published at the Globe and Mail’s online Report on Business feature, EconomyLab.

There are two reasons why it is difficult to comment on the legacy of a finance minister.

1) It is a tremendously challenging job, anywhere, any time. Stewarding one of the largest economies in the world through a global economic crisis is no cakewalk, and it has clearly taken a toll on Jim Flaherty. (Canada has fallen from 8th to 11th largest economy since 2006.) Critiquing this performance, when so many factors are beyond an individual’s control, and so much soul-searching takes (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Harper’s Justice Agenda: Theory vs. the Evidence

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The Ranting Canadian: There has been a lot of talk in the Canadian mainstream media…

There has been a lot of talk in the Canadian mainstream media and from the mainstream Canadian political parties about the middle class, but almost no discussion of the working class. Even the (slightly) left-of-centre New Democratic Party (NDP) keeps using the buzzwords “middle-class families” instead of “workers” or “working-class people”.

I understand they do it because the PR consultants told them it would help them attract potential swing voters, who are irrationally scared off by honourable but misunderstood terms like “socialism”, “labour movement” and “leftist”, but it’s still disappointing. It drives me nuts when Conservatives and Liberals spread the (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Income Splitting Déjà Vu

This blog’s unofficial slogan has been “Tomorrow’s conventional wisdom, today.” After this week’s Conservative backpedaling on income splitting, we may need to change it to “Today’s conventional wisdom, seven years ago.” Or we could just stick with “You read it here first.”

My first-ever blog post, Income Splitting Redux, argued that this tax policy “would benefit an affluent minority at the expense of important public programs and create a disincentive for women to engage in paid employment.” I made the same case in an opinion editorial published in The Ottawa Citizen seven years ago this month (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Missing In Action: Federal Budget 2014

Here’s the first section of the budget summary and analysis I’ve prepared for CUPE.

The full version is on-line on CUPE’s website at http://cupe.ca/economics/missing-action-federal-budget-2014 together with CUPE’s press release at: http://cupe.ca/economics/federal-budget-2014-help-hurt-canadian

Missing In Action: Federal Budget 2014 CUPE Federal Budget 2014 Summary and Response

Conservatives ignore pressing economic needs with a Do-little budget

Using more of their doublespeak, the Harper government calls the 2014 federal budget “The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities.” Little could be further from the truth. Instead it’s a budget that glosses over the problems facing Canadian workers and continues to (Read more…)

The Ranting Canadian: Harper-&-Rogues Gallery – Part 3 Recent news that the…

Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney, Canada’s second-worst prime minister (Harper is the worst).

Stephen Harper and Silvio Berlusconi, disgraced former prime minister of Italy.

Vic Toews and Stephen Harper. Toews is a disgraced former Conservative MP with fascist tendencies and a sleazy personal life.

Pamela Wallin and Stephen Harper. Wallin is a disgraced Conservative senator who fraudulently misused senate expense money for personal and partisan purposes.

Bev Oda and Stephen Harper. Oda is a a disgraced former Conservative MP who misused tax money for personal benefit. She also fraudulently altered a government document.

Rob Anders and Stephen Harper. Anders is (Read more…)

The Ranting Canadian: Harper-&-Rogues Gallery – Part 2 Recent news that the…

Stephen Harper and Pierre Poilivere, the minister in charge of dismantling democracy in Canada.

Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl and Stephen Harper. Day and Strahl are disgraced former Conservative MPs who now work as sleazy lobbyists.

Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper. Flanagan, who is Harper’s political mentor and former colleague, is a creep who has said many creepy things.

Stephen Harper and Hamid Karzai, the corrupt president of Afghanistan.

Stephen Harper and Andrew Prescott, the alleged “Pierre Poutine” in the Conservative election fraud phone scandal.

Michael Sona and Stephen Harper. Sona is one of the alleged footsoldiers in the Conservative election (Read more…)

The Ranting Canadian: Harper-&-Rogues Gallery – Part 1 Recent news that the…

Harper-&-Rogues Gallery – Part 1

Recent news that the drummer in Stephen Harper’s terrible cover band was charged with sex crimes re-emphasizes the fact that Harper loves to surround himself with sleazebags, crooks and various ne’er-do-wells. That’s because he is one of them. Here is part one of a gallery of photos of Harper with undesirables. From top to bottom, Harper is with:

1. Phillip Nolan (on the far right), charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation over alleged incidents while he was a school teacher.

2. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s quasi-fascist, corrupt, bigoted president.

3. Justin Bieber (Read more…)

The Ranting Canadian: Crappy New Year 2014: Canada’s economy in the shitter Yes,…

Crappy New Year 2014: Canada’s economy in the shitter

Yes, it’s the economy, stupid! As of January 2014, the Canadian economy continues to be shite, swirling down the toilet. The Harper Conservatives are flushing our country down the drain.

When I say “the economy”, I mean the real, boots-on-the-street, money-in-your-pocket economy, job market and standard of living, not the abstract, pie-in-the-sky “economy” that’s measured in charts and graphs that reduce the concept of economic health to little more than GDP and corporate profits.

It’s infuriating that so many in the media – even those who are usually critical of the (Read more…)