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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: 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…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Provincial Corporate Taxes: A 12% Floor?

In his 2007 “Economic Statement,” Jim Flaherty threw down the gauntlet for provincial governments to cut their corporate income tax rates to 10%. Initially, it seemed like he might succeed in stampeding the provinces down to that level.

Alberta and Quebec were already at 10% (although Quebec had announced an increase to 12% in exchange for eliminating its corporate capital tax.) British Columbia and New Brunswick dutifully cut to 10%. Ontario and Saskatchewan announced plans to do so as well.

But the tide seems to have turned. Quebec went ahead with its increase to 12% and Ontario stopped cutting at 11.5%.

In this year’s provincial budgets, British Columbia raised its rate to 11% (with the NDP poised to win its upcoming election promising 12%), New Brunswick restored its rate to 12%, and Saskatchewan “deferred” its announced cuts (staying at 12% for now).

Two weeks ago, I suggested to the finance . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Provincial Corporate Taxes: A 12% Floor?

The Progressive Economics Forum: Provincial Corporate Taxes: A 12% Floor?

In his 2007 “Economic Statement,” Jim Flaherty threw down the gauntlet for provincial governments to cut their corporate income tax rates to 10%. Initially, it seemed like he might succeed in stampeding the provinces down to that level.

Alberta and Quebec were already at 10% (although Quebec had announced an increase to 12% in exchange for eliminating its corporate capital tax.) British Columbia and New Brunswick dutifully cut to 10%. Ontario and Saskatchewan announced plans to do so as well.

But the tide seems to have turned. Quebec went ahead with its increase to 12% and Ontario (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Self-Imposed Crisis in Post-Secondary Education

On June 7, I gave a keynote address to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Education Sector Conference. My PowerPoint presentation (with full references) can be found at this link.

Points I raised in the address include the following:

-Canada’s economy has been growing quite steadily over the past three decades, even when one adjusts for inflation, and even when one accounts for population growth. The exceptions, of course, occur during recessions.

-Yet, since the early 1980s, the federal government has been spending less, relative to GDP. Since that time, it has spent less on both “program expenses” and debt-servicing

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Canada’s Self-Imposed Crisis in Post-Secondary Education

The Progressive Economics Forum: Poverty in Yukon

The Progressive Economics Forum: “Differentiation:” The à-la-carte Way to Hire More Course Instructors

I’ve written before about attempts in Canada to create more separation between university teaching, on the one hand, and university research, on the other. In 2009, I wrote this opinion piece about an attempt by five university presidents to each acquire a larger share of university research dollars. And last year, I blogged here about a proposal for the Ontario government to create more separation between teaching and research within the university sector.

A recent proposal in Saskatchewan adds another dimension to the debate; apparently it’s possible for a university to create such separation within itself. According to CBC News,

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: “Differentiation:” The à-la-carte Way to Hire More Course Instructors

The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition: Between a Rock and Hard Place?

In the context of student protests over Quebec tuition fees, my friend Luan Ngo has just written a very informative blog post on Quebec’s fiscal situation.

While I encourage readers to read his full post, I do want to use the present space to make mention of three important points he makes:

-On a per capita basis, Quebec spends more on government programs than most other Canadian provinces.

-Residents of Quebec pay more personal incomes taxes than any other province.

-Quebec’s debt-to-GDP ratio is significantly higher than that any other Canadian province.

He argues that, in light of the

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition: Between a Rock and Hard Place?

The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Students: “Faire Leur Juste Part”

Simon Tremblay-Pepin, an emerging social policy scholar, has recently blogged here (in French) about Quebec tuition fees.

He points out that, when one adjusts for inflation, Quebec tuition fees are headed into uncharted territory. Indeed, contrary to some recent spin from the Charest government, Tremblay-Pepin makes two important observations:

1. When one takes an average of Quebec tuition fees over the past45 years (using constant dollars), current Quebec tuition fees are significantly higher than the 45-year average.

2. The tuition-fee increases being proposed by the Charest government would bring Quebec’s tuition fees to their highest levels ever.

The above

The Progressive Economics Forum: Discussing Quebec Student Protests on Talk Radio

Last Friday, I blogged here about the Quebec student protests. Subsequently, I was invited to appear on 580 CFRA News Talk Radio, with hosts Rob Snow and Lowell Green.

I should note that Mr. Green is the author of several books, including:

-How the Granola Crunching, Tree Hugging Thug Huggers are Wrecking our Country;

-Mayday Mayday. Curb Immigration. Stop Multiculturalism Or It’s The End Of The Canada We Know;

-Here’s Proof Only We Conservatives Have Our Heads Screwed On Straight

(Rest assured that Mr. Green is no more subtle on-air than when choosing titles for his books.)

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Discussing Quebec Student Protests on Talk Radio

The Progressive Economics Forum: Rex Murphy’s Naive Take on the Quebec Student Protests

On CBC’s The National last night, Rex Murphy weighed in on Quebec’s student protests; the transcript can be found here, and the three-minute video here. He calls the protests “short sighted,” points out that Quebec already has the lowest tuition fees in Canada, and suggests the students’ actions are “crude attempts at precipitating a crisis.” He says they are the “actions of a mob,” are “simply wrong,” and should be “condemned.”

I am glad to learn that Mr. Murphy does not feel inhibited when it comes to expressing himself. However, I think his analysis would be stronger if

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Rex Murphy’s Naive Take on the Quebec Student Protests

The Progressive Economics Forum: The Affordability of Post-Secondary Education

Carleton University’s Ted Jackson teaches a graduate seminar course on post-secondary education in Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration.

Earlier this month, I was invited to give a guest presentation to Professor Jackson’s class. I focused the presentation on affordability challenges faced by students wanting to pursue post-secondary education.

My slide presentation can be found here.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Stapleton on Harper’s Proposed OAS/GIS Changes

John Stapleton has an opinion piece out on Prime Minister Harper’s proposed changes to Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

I find the following quote from Stapleton to be particularly troubling:

By providing OAS and GIS at age 65, Canada has greatly reduced the incidence of poverty among seniors. By moving the age of eligibility for OAS to 67, absent any other measures, the Conservative government will place a whole new age cohort into risk of poverty. My own estimate is that almost 50,000 social assistance recipients, most of them persons with disabilities, would be forced

The Progressive Economics Forum: Drummond: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Drummond Commission reported today.

The Good

While the McGuinty government prevented the Commission from considering tax rates, it proposes some sensible measures to raise revenue. Chapter 18, “Revenue Integrity,” recommends combating corporate tax avoidance and cracking down on the underground economy.

Businesses sometimes hire workers as “contractors” to avoid paying Ontario’s Employer Health Tax. Drummond advises the province to deem them as employees.

Chapter 11 advocates greater scrutiny of tax expenditures and business subsidies, which might threaten worthwhile targeted measures but could end some useless giveaways. We should similarly scrutinize the alleged benefits of cutting the corporate income

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Drummond: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Progressive Economics Forum: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

December marked the three-year anniversary of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. While I believe there is much to celebrate, much remains to be done.

The Strategy surprised a lot of observers, especially in light of the fact that it was announced in December 2008, just as Ontario was entering a recession. Its focus was almost exclusively child poverty, and, at full implementation (i.e. 2013), it will result in $300 million in new annual spending. This is equivalent to 0.3 percent of total provincial spending in Ontario, which is roughly $100 billion.

One stated goal of the Strategy is to

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

The Progressive Economics Forum: Impact of Increased Health Privatization on PSE

An article in yesterday’s Village Voice looks at the rising costs of post-secondary education (PSE) in the United States. It points to research suggesting that the “biggest single factor” contributing to the rising cost of PSE for both private and public institutions is the cost of employee health benefits.

I would infer from the above that, insofar as Canada moves towards increased privatization of its health care system, our own PSE institutions will face increased financial challenges. Very likely, this would result in both tuition fees and student debt rising even faster than is currently the case.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Money Enough? The Meaning of 6% and Flaherty’s Health “Plan”

A shorter version of this piece was posted on the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab

As Christmas presents go, this one was a shocker: Over lunch on Monday, cash-strapped Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promised provincial and territorial finance ministers he’d increase federal funding for health care by six per cent each year for the next five years. No strings attached. No negotiations. A done deal. With a catch.

The provinces and territories have five years to figure out how to make health care sustainable on their own terms, every Premier for himself. After that, the Harper Government

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Is Money Enough? The Meaning of 6% and Flaherty’s Health “Plan”

The Progressive Economics Forum: Modest Inflation Outstrips Wages and Canada Social Transfer

Statistics Canada reported today that the annual inflation rate remained 2.9% and the Bank of Canada’s core rate remained 2.1% in November.

The monthly increase in consumer prices slowed to 0.1% in November from 0.3% in October. The monthly increase in core prices slowed to 0.1% in November from 0.2% in October.

Inflation remains modest and should not deter the Bank of Canada from keeping interest rates low, and perhaps reducing them, to support our fragile economy and labour market.

However, even this modest inflation exceeds the small pay increases received by Canadian workers.

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Modest Inflation Outstrips Wages and Canada Social Transfer

The Progressive Economics Forum: Conservative Health Transfers

During the federal election, I noted in a Toronto Star op-ed that the federal Conservative platform entails significant fiscal costs for provincial governments. I accepted the Conservatives’ promise to continue the 6% escalator for the Canada Health Transfer, but worried that they might cut other transfers of similar value.

Today, the Finance Minister unveiled plans to discontinue the Canada Health Transfer’s 6% escalator (via a press release entitled, “Harper Government Announces Major New Investment in Health Care”). So, I was right to flag fiscal federalism as an area of concern under another Conservative government, but I underestimated the directness of

The Progressive Economics Forum: Housing in the Northwest Territories

Last week, I was in Yellowknife, where I released results of new research on affordable housing in the Northwest Territories (NWT). The research project was sponsored by the Social Economy Research Network of Northern Canada, and was a collaboration with the Centre for Northern Families.

Research findings include the following:

-Housing indicators suggest that the state of housing in the NWT (especially in small communities) is much worse than in the rest of Canada. While 2% of Canadians report living in “crowded conditions,” that figure is 8% for rural NWT. And while 8% of Canadian households report living in housing

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Housing in the Northwest Territories

The Progressive Economics Forum: Federal Post-Secondary Education Act

Last month, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) released a document entitled Public Education for the Public Good: A National Vision for Canada’s Post-Secondary Education System. I found the document to be quite informative, filled with a lot of useful statistics. For example: -Enrolment is rising in colleges and universities across Canada. Since the late 1990s, full-time enrolment has [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Federal Post-Secondary Education Act

The Progressive Economics Forum: William Watson on PSE

On Wednesday, William Watson wrote a comment piece in the Financial Post in which he was critical of Armine Yalnizyan’s recent essay on inequality that appeared the National Post. In his piece, Mr. Watson alleges that Armine “is guilty of fantastical reminiscence,” particularly with respect to her take on post-secondary education (PSE). Among other things, Mr. Watson [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: William Watson on PSE

The Progressive Economics Forum: PSE in Newfoundland and Labrador

Last March, Keith Dunne and I wrote an opinion piece on Danny Williams’ post-secondary education (PSE) legacy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Among other things, we pointed out that average undergraduate tuition fees (for domestic students) in Newfoundland and Labrador are $2,624/yr., compared with $5,138 for Canada as a whole and $6,307 in Ontario. With a provincial election slated to take [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: PSE in Newfoundland and Labrador

The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition Fees

In light of plans by the Charest government to increase tuition fees in Quebec by 75 percent over the next five years, Eric Martin and Simon Tremblay-Pepin have written a recent article on Quebec tuition fees. (The hyperlink I’ve provided is for the French-language version of the article, but I’m told that the English-language version [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition Fees