Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Simon Wren-Lewis connects the UK’s counterproductive austerity program to the lack of any wage growth. And Gary Lamphier observes that Alberta is serving as a case in point that jobs generated through public policy rigged in favour of the wealthy are no less precarious than any other type, while Erin Anderssen comments on the connection between public-sector work and greater wage equality.

- Adam Liptak writes that the First Amendment’s protection for speech – like so many other rights which have been redefined to suit the powerful – is now serving primarily (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: Vancouver’s Co-Working Co-op Stimulates Worker Empowerment

Tuesday night in the back room of The Tipper bar/bistro/restaurant on Kingsway at Victoria we are holding our Inception Meeting for a new kind of co-working space in Vancouver, one structured as a co-op.

You can read about the project in The Georgia Straight piece last week, and on the project webpage at Incipe, the consulting workers’ co-op that is spawning this co-op. Incipe, in-CHEE-pay, is Latin for “Begin!” And you can register for the [free] meeting here. And if you want to be involved and informed, you can sign up for the e-newsletter here.

We (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: How Does a Politician Define Contempt?

If you’ve ever wondered how a really really bad provincial MLA explains how to define contempt for the population, you must watch this.

At least twice!

February 2, 2015 The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped! (0) February 18, 2011 Endorsing Alnoor Gova for the Burnaby-Douglas Federal NDP (3) November 29, 2014 International Day of Action for Burnaby Mountain and ALL Land Defenders (0) March 18, 2013 #SpinAlert: Light Rail for the Valley Instead of a UBC Subway (17)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on the need and opportunity to show some vision in our provincial budgeting and planning – even if the Wall government has no interest in bothering.

For further reading…- I posted previously on the Sask Party’s habit of locking Saskatchewan into ill-advised long-term contracts which serve nobody’s interests but the corporations involved. – Karri Munn-Venn discusses the UK Energy Research Centre’s report on which fossil fuels we can afford to exploint here. – Likewise, Ivan Semeniuk and Shawn McCarthy report on the Acting on Climate Change study showing how Canada can eliminate the use of non-renewable power (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- David Vognar argues that we should push for a guaranteed annual income not only as a matter of social equity, but also as a means of building human capital.

- Mike Benusic, Chantel Lutchman, Najib Safieddine and Andrew Pinto make the case for stronger sick leave policies across Canadian workplaces: Canada’s current sick leave policies are not supporting the health of individuals and communities. First, employees are forced to choose between staying home when ill (losing income and potentially placing their job at risk) or to go to work (worsening their health (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- CBC reports on the latest research showing that Canada would save billions every year with a national pharmacare plan. And Thomas Walkom argues that politics are standing in the way of what should be a no-brainer from a policy standpoint.

- Richard Gwyn writes that most Canadians seem to be willing to put up with nearly anything in order to keep a relatively secure job – even as it’s far from sure that many workers can count on that being available.

- Lawrence Martin discusses the Cons’ strategy of provocation, pandering and prejudice (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Lydia DePillis and Jim Tankersley write that U.S. Democrats are recognizing the need for concerted pushback against the Republican’s attacks on organized labour – and rightly framing the role of unions in terms of reducing the inequality the right is so keen to exacerbate.

- And another obvious advantage to greater labour power would be a stronger push against the extractivist ideology that’s turning pensions and public utilities into corporate cash cows at our expense. 

- Sean McElwee and Catherine Ruetschlin discuss the multi-generational impact of systemic discrimination – while (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Takin’ care of business, every day and every way

“This project is not ‘run-of-river.’ It involves draining alpine lakes by levels of 60 feet in depth, diverting waterfalls and clearcutting lineal swaths for power lines and penstocks. This will permanently industrialize a local pristine fjord for the sole purpose of private profit.”

I read a letter to the editor published by The Tri-Cities Now, March 11, 2015. Since it adds information about the Narrows Inlet project that has been discussed here previously, it is worth republishing: I was disappointed to read a letter by BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer regarding closing of Burrard Thermal in the Feb (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On unwanted obligations

Mike McKinnon reports that austerity elsewhere isn’t being applied to continued seven-figure spending on a Lean tour. But it’s particularly worth noting how that particular money pit is still drawing Saskatchewan citizens’ money even as the provincial government cries poor at every other opportunity: The Saskatchewan government’s freeze on non-essential travel does not include costly trips to the United States for staff to be trained in Lean methods.

Seven of the so-called “Lean tours” were planned between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, at a cost of $8,900 per person, per trip. With 20 people on each tour, the total cost (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: Reject the Slow Motion Privatization of K-12 in BC

Privatizing education in BC has been largely subtle and hidden. Absurd conflicts like this below [Restricted Vancouver playground access sparks angry exchange between [PRIVATE!] school principal, parent] help the general public see what’s actually been going on for a long time with private schools. Mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine. Not ours. This is unacceptable!

Note the editor conspicuously omitted the word “private” from the headline’s description of this school principal. Spin alert!

And why have we given a free pass to the premier for sending her child to a private school? That’s not (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, on how the Saskatchewan Party’s manipulative consultation designed to push liquor retailing into the private sector only managed to highlight the fact that our current system is working just fine.

For further reading, the consultation materials are here, including the survey results here (PDF). And even though those don’t include the thousands of people who expressed their support for keeping liquor public, they indicate little interest in a larger number of retail locations or increased hours of availability – which of course represent the main difference in pursuing a plan aimed at letting private operators open (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

By Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Accidental Deliberations: Last chance to weigh in

While there’s always reason to be skeptical of the Wall government’s consultation processes, there’s also plenty of risk in not participating – as a lack of expressed opposition will all too likely be taken as agreement with the Saskatchewan Party’s plans.

Which is to say that I’ll strongly encourage Saskatchewan readers to participate in the province’s consultation on liquor retailing before today’s deadline passes.

If you’re looking for a strong general message to send as to the importance of preserving our current system, you’ll find one at Keep Liquor Public. I’ve chosen instead to focus on the opportunity to build (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frances Russell writes that NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements are designed to make it difficult for democratic governments to exercise any meaningful authority. And Rowena Mason discusses how the EU-US TTIP is particularly directed toward throwing the public to corporate wolves, while Glyn Moody notes that there are plenty more similar agreements in the works even if the TTIP fails.

- George Monbiot discusses Amanda Lang’s interventions on behalf of her business connections as a prime example of how far too much of our media is trying to serve the wealthy rather than (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: Standardized testing: a pillar of privatization

It’s FSA season again. Every year in British Columbia, every student in grades 4 and 7 has their regular classroom schedule put on hold for two weeks while they complete the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) — a collection of standardized tests mandated by the provincial government. Every student, parent, teacher and citizen should oppose these tests. There is a litany of reasons for this, but top among them is the role standardized tests play in the very destruction of public education itself — by privatizing a public service. Masquerading as a test for system quality, they are in fact an (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: How to Excuse Your Child from the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA)

Well, it’s that time again: Foundation Skills Assessment in BC.

There are so many things wrong with the FSA tests. I won’t go into them here, but you can read about many of them in these places:

Foundation Skills Assessment: Another Dirty Trick The BCTF on the FSAs.

And so you know, the BC Ministry of Education has an information FAQ for parents and a brochure. Neither tells parents that/how they can exempt their students from this silly test. No surprise. While the government “says” it doesn’t support the use of test results for school ranking, the BC (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Sam Pizzigati interviews Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett about the fight against inequality and the next piece of the puzzle to be put in place: [Pickett:]…In The Spirit Level, we have all these correlations between inequality and social problems, and we have theories and hypotheses about what is driving these correlations. But we didn’t know then whether or not the drivers we hypothesized — things like status anxiety — were actually higher in more unequal countries. Now those kinds of data are being used increasingly in psychological research. (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On limited victories

Truly, I wish Andrew Coyne’s latest actually described policy-making in Canada, and not merely the state of theoretical political debate.

But in fact, we live in a country where “let’s consider whether a trade agreement actually has benefits, rather than signing whatever gets shoved in front of us” has been shouted down by two national parties and the corporate press as an extreme view.

In fact, the “progressive” premier put forward as the paragon of leftism is from a government which brags about both trashing regulations for the sake of trashing regulations, and imposing perpetual real-money cuts to the public (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Beyond social democracy: new institutions, new subjects

So many of the debates on the contemporary left come back to the legacy of social democracy. The Swedish experience came closest to fulfilling social democratic ideals in the post-war era and so speaks to these debates in a unique way. Earlier this year, I talked to Petter Nilssen of Sweden’s Left Party about the legacy of social democracy in his country and its broader meaning. This was one of my favourite interviews of the year and one that stuck with me for a long time. I’ve transcribed it here for it to be shared more widely. It’s been edited for (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: No to pipelines, yes to Site C?

Peace River Valley

No to pipelines, yes to Site C?

Here’s a piece I wrote for Ricochet after getting riled up by *some* of the arguments against Site C. The full piece is here.

To shift off fossil fuels we’ll need more large scale, public energy infrastructure

As the movement against pipelines rapidly grows, more and more often you can hear the question, “We know what you’re against. What are you for?” The debate over the future of power generation in British Columbia offers some lessons for how to answer this question and not fall victim to a privatized (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato comments on the role of the innovative state – and the unfortunate reality that we currently lack anything of the sort due to corporatist thinking: (T)hanks in part to the conventional wisdom about its dynamism and the state’s sluggishness, the private sector has been able to successfully lobby governments to weaken regulations and cut capital gains taxes. From 1976 to 1981 alone, after heavy lobbying from the National Venture Capital Association, the capital gains tax rate in the United States fell from 40 percent to 20 percent. And in the name (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barrie McKenna comments on how far too many governments have bought into the P3 myth with our public money: Governments in Canada have become seduced by the wonders of private-public partnerships – so-called P3s – and blind to their potentially costly flaws. In a typical P3 project, the government pays a private sector group to build, finance and operate everything from transit lines to hospitals, sometimes over decades.

These projects almost always cost significantly more than if governments just put up the money themselves and hired contractors to build the same infrastructure, under (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Kevin Page points out a few of the issues which should be on the table when Canada’s finance ministers meet next week: Our finance ministers are smart. They know that faster growth is going to require higher investment rates and sustainable public finances. But the reality is that Canada is falling down on capital investments in both the private and public sectors. Business capital investment has grown a weak 2 per cent over the past two years. That is not boosting the investment rate. Meanwhile, government capital investment has declined 2 per (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: The Ontario Auditor’s damning report on P3s

The Ontario Auditor General’s 2014 Report includes a chapter on Infrastructure Ontario’s P3 program that is particularly damning–and corresponds with many of the criticisms made on this blog and elsewhere by myself and others.

While the headlines were that P3 projects cost the province an additional $8 billion than if they were procured traditionally, the report documents numerous other problems with the province’s P3 program and practices that should appal anyone concerned about responsible public policy and the appropriate use of public funds.

The problems identified by the Ontario AG with these P3 (or AFP “Alternative Financing and Procurement” as Ontario (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Some thoughts starting from a Fraser Institute graph

I’ve been meaning to post something on a chart from a Fraser Institute report for a while but slept on it. The chart comes from Fraser’s annual Consumer Tax Report and is supposed to show the different paths taken by how much households pay in taxes and how much they spend on basic goods like food and housing.

In one way, this chart represents a good news story for the right. Capitalism is fulfilling one of its major promises: the cost of the basic goods is decreasing relative to household budgets – in the aggregate, which given an increasingly unequal (Read more…)