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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…)

Accidental Deliberations: Fool me twice

Andrew Coyne has a suggestion as to how the Cons might extort some increased adherence to free-market fundamentalism from the provinces: It’s the balance between spending and revenues, not just the totals, that matters. The federal government, as the PBO numbers show, will have substantial fiscal “room,” revenues in excess of what it needs to pay its bills, while the provinces will be in substantial structural deficit. Ottawa has the money, in other words, and the provinces need it — desperately.

This puts the feds in a very strong bargaining position. Rather than simply hand over the loot, as the (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Housing Policy Under Harper

Today I gave a presentation on Canadian housing policy at the annual conference of the European Network for Housing Research. Points raised in the presentation include the following:

-Fiscal context, more so than which party has been in government, appears to have shaped federal housing policy in Canada over the past two decades. Program expenses by the federal government (as a percentage of GDP) started decreasing steadily beginning in the mid-1990s and then increased steadily during the 2000s (up until the 2009-10 fiscal year). Federal spending initiatives on housing have generally followed this trend; they were relatively (Read more…)

Song of the Watermelon: Three Solutions to Mark Canadian Environment Week

In honour of Canadian Environment Week — currently underway amidst accelerating tar sands development, hot on the heels of withdrawals from the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification — let us reflect upon what the federal government, if it were so inclined, could be doing differently. In other words, broadly speaking, how might Canada move beyond the symbolic in pursuit of true environmental sustainability?

1. Get serious about climate change.

By and large, there are three basic policy tools available to the government here: standards, carbon taxes, and cap-and-trade. To the extent that they have acted at all, (Read more…)

The Scott Ross: A Toast For Canada

After the Quebec Conference, at a gala dinner hosted by George-Etienne Cartier, Canada’s Fathers of Confederation held a toast; it was offered as encouragement to face the difficulties still before them in forming a nation, but the verse stands today as encouragement for us to face the difficulties in now strengthening it.

 Then let us be firm and united   One country, one flag for us all;   United, our strength will be freedom    Divided, we each of us fall.*

*From Richard Gwyn’s  John A:  The Man Who Made Us

Accidental Deliberations: Deep thought

If a non-Con federal government even hinted at this kind of policy in dealing with provinces, the western Village would collapse under the weight of its own hysterical shrieking. But because it only involves Stephen Harper trying to extort resources from First Nations, I don’t expect to hear of it again.

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellanous material for your Monday reading.

- Will Hutton recognizes that an unregulated market can lead to disastrous results for everybody concerned – and that conversely, effective regulation can help to ensure the success of businesses which best meet the long-term needs of their workers and customers: What the Paterson worldview has never understood is that effective regulation is a source of competitive advantage. If Britain had a tough Food Standards Agency, it would become a gold standard for food quality, labelling and hygiene. British supermarkets and food companies could become known for their quality at home and abroad, rather

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Pample the Moose: Define "junior", oh great Toronto Star!

Kathleen Wynne’s new Ontario cabinet is being announced today, and my local MP, Liz Sandals, has apparently been tapped to become the new education minister.  But that’s not the observation that leapt out at me from today’s Toronto Star article about the cabinet shuffle.  Authors Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson note that former Education Minister Laurel Broten has been “demoted” to Intergovernmental Affairs, calling it a “a ministry so junior McGuinty ran it himself for years.”

 [ETA: Interesting to note that the updated version of the article calls Intergovernmental Affairs: “barely a stand-alone department because the premier

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Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- John Studzinski describes how a sense of social responsibility and a country-wide commitment to making jobs available have placed Germany in a better economic position than its European neighbours: Let me highlight some of the features unique to the Mittelstand model that I believe everyone should learn from – and imitate if they can. The first is what we might call the Mittelstand ethos – that business is a constructive enterprise that aims to be socially useful. Making a profit is not an end in itself: job creation, client satisfaction and product

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Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Alison highlights the attempts of Sun TV to rally the most extreme reactionary movements in the country behind its bid for mandatory carriage. And the question of whether we want to publicly sanction a network beholden to such interest groups would seem to answer whether the application is justified.

- Paul Krugman comments that the Republicans’ attacks on disabled workers are both thoroughly contrary to any sense of fairness, and utterly useless in practice:

(W)hen Reagan ranted about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, he was inventing a fake problem — but his rant resonated

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Song of the Watermelon: Quebec, Referendums, and Formulas for Secession

National unity is back in the news after the NDP tabled a private member’s bill yesterday, a bill that would repeal the Clarity Act and set the bar for Quebec sovereignty negotiations at a mere 50 percent plus one in a clearly worded referendum.

We all know what that means. The NDP, it will be claimed over the coming days and weeks, is “in bed with the separatists” and willing to “tear our country apart” for partisan advantage. There is nothing those treacherous socialists won’t do to preserve the Faustian bargain that won them Quebec in 2011!

Never mind

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Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses the meaning of the Ontario Libs’ attempt to take collective bargaining rights away from teachers in the context of the wider labour movement: The union movement is one of the last remnants of the great postwar pact between labour, capital and government.

That pact provided Canadians with things they still value, from medicare to public pension plans. Good wages in union shops kept pay high, even in workplaces that weren’t organized. Unions agitated for and won better health and safety laws that covered all.

True, union rules made it

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Accidental Deliberations: On needed advantages

Thanks in large part to an extremely active provincial leadership campaign, I haven’t discussed the evolution of the federal NDP over the past few months in as much detail as I’d like. But while there will be plenty more to talk about over the next little while, I’ll comment on a couple of the new stories emerging at the end of the fall sitting of Parliament.

Let’s start with this from Lawrence Martin: For New Democrats, it’s time for a national powwow. National leader Thomas Mulcair is planning to bring together all provincial NDP leaders for a party conference in

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Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Star-Phoenix editorial board comments on the need to crack down on tax havens: (T)he scale of the avoidance Mr. Henry detailed in his report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, drives home just how immoral is the practice of tax avoidance, particularly at a time when even rich countries such as Spain and the United States are staggering under their debt loads and deficits because they can’t raise enough tax revenue.

As Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian journalist based in Britain, notes in a recent column published in Embassy magazine, despite efforts by

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Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- The presidents of Canada’s provincial Federations of Labour highlight how the provinces need to respond to the Harper Cons’ efforts to push down wages and trample on workers’ rightst: Canadians need our country’s premiers to denounce this low-wage agenda and stand up for what is in the best interest of working people.

When the premiers meet this fall to discuss the economy, we believe the labour market ought to be front and centre in that discussion. They must denounce the exploitive expansion of the (temporary foreign worker program). They must collectively demand that

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Accidental Deliberations: On cooperative efforts

The reports on fiscal arrangements and health care developed in the lead up to this weekend’s meeting of Canada’s premiers have both received some coverage. But there are a couple of points worth noting which seem to have been largely neglected so far.

On the fiscal arrangement side, we now have agreement among the provinces as to the effect of the Cons’ unilateral changes to health care. And while those paying attention may have known all along, Table A.10.B. neatly lays out how Alberta is receiving $8.3 billion in new health care funding over 10 years while

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Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Barbara Yaffe discusses Thomas Mulcair’s strong start in winning over B.C. voters. And Martin Regg Cohn notes that Stephen Harper is starting to face some real (and needed) pressure from Darrell Dexter and other premiers to start actually talking to the provinces, rather than retreating from shared responsibilities.

- Sure, we should pay attention when public resources are used to make sales pitches for corporate interests. But what’s most noteworthy about Jason Fekete’s report on the Cons’ CETA PR push is the point they didn’t even both to answer: Parliamentarians have

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Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, expanding on this post as to the importance of a functioning federal system as a means of counterbalancing regional declines – and the forces working to limit anything of the sort in Canada.

For further reading…- Frances Russell also laments the Harper firewall model based on the need for national-level planning and coordination. – Pat Atkinson notes that Alison Redford’s goal of a national energy strategy serves as an ideal case in point. – Finally, the Florida vs. Spain comparison is drawn from here. And for some bonus Krugman…

Song of the Watermelon: The Senate Election that Refuses to Die

Three months ago, I wrote a post warning of coming Senate elections here in British Columbia. Now it seems that the private member’s bill providing for such elections, despite Premier Christy Clark’s support, will not be making it through the … Continue reading →

Accidental Deliberations: On federal cases

Paul Krugman compares the effects of burst housing bubbles in Florida and Spain to point out how the EU’s lack of genuine fiscal federalism has exacerbated its crisis. But there’s an important lesson to be learned for Canada as well.

After all, the Harper Cons and their big-business allies are doing their utmost to criticize precisely the stabilizers that have helped to prevent North American sub-national jurisdictions from facing the same calamity as countries like Spain and Greece. From general equalization payments to targeted health care funding to employment insurance benefits, each of the stabilizers that helps to prevent regional

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Polygonic: The case for an NPD-Q

A year, now, since Québec first crested the Big Orange Wave, and still, the NDP continue to thrive. It prompts a brand-new big idea: isn’t it time to build a provincial New Democratic Party in Québec?

Will six be enough for the thirsty masses?

There used to be one, though we’re forgiven to have forgotten. The federal party prompted a divorce from its wayward disciple (and forced a name change) years ago, as the provincial NDP-Q narrative became too nationalistic, its friends too unsavoury, and its aims too divergent from the English Canadian federal party.

Those conditions have changed. The

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A BCer in Toronto: Liberals need to rethink their Quebec approach

Since the election of former Quebec cabinet minister Thomas “Tom” Mulcair as leader of the NDP last month, much attention has been paid to the political situation in Quebec and the consensus seems to be the Liberals are screwed in the province.

Consolidating NDP gains in Quebec is certainly a priority for the party, and as a high-profile former minister in the Charest government whose departure from cabinet was spun as a matter of principle, Mulcair gives the NDP their best shot at holding and building on those gains. Already, commentators such as Chantal Hebert are touting Mulcair as the . . . → Read More: A BCer in Toronto: Liberals need to rethink their Quebec approach

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Brian Jones writes that we’re well on our way to an only slightly-sanitized version of feudalism: According to news reports this week, the average annual income of the Top 100 CEOs is $8.4 million. That’s less than is paid to superstar puckster Sidney Crosby, but then, the headaches one gets from running a major corporation, though significant, don’t necessarily rival “concussion-like symptoms.”

Also newsworthy was that the average Canadian earns $44,366 per year, and the average Top 100 CEO had already earned that amount by 2:30 p.m. on the first

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Accidental Deliberations: Parliament in Review: November 1, 2011

Yes, a couple of the Cons’ more odious bills have already made their way into law. But let’s at least resume a look back at the arguments they so flippantly ignored in pushing through their first set of legislation – with the November 1 debate on the gun registry offering plenty of cases in point.

The Big Issue

Once again, the main topic of discussion was the Cons’ choice to trash the gun registry and the underlying data – with particular emphasis on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s public statement that the gun registry data could be shared with a

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Impolitical: Cooperative federalism in action

As exercised by one of our intrepid cabinet ministers: Mr. Duncan described the provinces as being blindsided by Mr. Flaherty behind closed doors. “He put the document in front of us and said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’” the Ontario Finance Minister said. “We all kind of paused; we all looked at each other.”

Oh to be a fly on the wall in that room. Welcome to the majority government roll out of Harper’s federalism!

The health care deal from on high runs until 2024, when we may possibly be driving flying cars or commuting

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