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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…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Wray Herbert examines Lukasz Walasek and Gordon Brown’s work on the psychological links between inequality, status-seeking and reduced well-being. And Linda McQuaig writes about the harm increasing inequality has done to Canada both economically and socially: (The OECD’s recent) report puts actual numbers on how much growth has been reduced as a result of trickle-down. In the case of Canada, the reduced economic growth amounts to about $62 billion a year — which economist Toby Sanger notes is almost three times more than the estimated annual loss to the Canadian economy of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Scott Clark and Peter DeVries remind us that any fiscal problems Canada has faced under the Cons have been entirely of Stephen Harper’s making: Harper needed a deficit problem; the fact that the previous government neglected to leave him one was just a short-term inconvenience. From the very beginning his fiscal strategy has been driven by a commitment to his Conservative base and ideology — which demand smaller government by any means — and by a desire to show that he had ‘what it takes’. He desperately wanted to be seen by history (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Will Hutton compares the alternative goals of either shrinking government to the point where it does nothing or harnessing it to meet everybody’s basic needs, and explains why we should demand the latter: A financial crisis has been allowed to morph into a crisis of public provision because the government of the day will not lift a finger to compensate for the haemorrhaging of the UK tax base. What the state does is not the subject of a collective decision with concerned weighing of options. Instead, it’s an afterthought, with the greater priorities (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Walden Bello discusses the need for our political system to include constant citizen engagement, not merely periodic elections to determine who will be responsible to implement the wishes of the elite: Even more than dictatorships, Western-style democracies are, we are forced to conclude, the natural system of governance of neoliberal capitalism, for they promote rather than restrain the savage forces of capital accumulation that lead to ever greater levels of inequality and poverty. In fact, liberal democratic systems are ideal for the economic elites, for they are programmed with periodic electoral exercises that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Reviewing Darrell West’s Billionaires, Michael Lewis discusses how extreme wealth doesn’t make anybody better off – including the people fighting for position at the top of the wealth spectrum: A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: No thanks Uber, I’m not signing your petition

So the ride-sharing app Uber is urging Vancouverites to sign a petition on its site to put pressure on the City to allow Uber to operate. An ad for the petition invaded my Twitter feed and I decided to take a closer look. Here’s the petition with my commentary. Spoiler: no, I’m not signing.

Uber begins by laying out “the situation”:

British Columbia and Vancouver are home to the quintessential winter playground, shining examples of liveable cities, and a launching pad for countless innovators and trailblazers across many industries.

That’s why so many residents are disappointed by Vancouver’s limited transportation (Read more…)

OPSEU Diablogue: Today’s big demonstration at Queen’s Park

Today will likely be the biggest Ontario Health Coalition demonstration at Queen’s Park since 2008. Across Ontario seniors groups, union activists and family members frustrated with their own access to care will be boarding more than 40 buses, some in … Continue reading →

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jenny Uechi and Warren Bell expose Canada’s embarrassing place as the only government participating in a climate-denial group pushing for a dirty war against the planet. But despite the Harper Cons’ worst efforts, there’s some good news on the climate front – as the use of solar energy is booming in the U.S., while a new bilateral deal between the U.S. and China is rapidly eliminating the Cons’ traditional excuses for blocking international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

- Kathryn May reports on some of the vital public services (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Robots, migration and the future of work (Briarpatch Magazine)

I have a longer read in the newest issue of Briarpatch Magazine, which is dedicated to the world of work. If you don’t know Briarpatch, be sure to check out the other articles in this issue and consider subscribing; this is one of Canada’s oldest independent left publications and definitely worth supporting. My piece has the rather grand title “Robots, Migration and the Future of Work” but it’s really about trying to see how we are often pitted against one another and encouraged to see external threats, like machines and migrants, to our well-being rather than working together in (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Rob Nixon’s review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything nicely sums up why the book – and the fundamental clash it documents between corporate profit-seeking and the health of people and our planet – should be at the centre of our political conversation: (N)eoliberalism — promotes a high-consumption, ­carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hypermobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, “more money last year than any company in the history of money.” Their outsize power (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich discusses the right’s utter lack of – and aversion to – empathy as either a personal or political value. Bob Norman reports on a particularly galling example of that phenomenon, as Fort Lauderdale has begun arresting people for feeding the homeless. And CBC reports on one of the systemic effects of a government which couldn’t care less about the people under its jurisdiction, as Saskatchewan is seeing a drastic increase in people having to rely on food banks.

- Speaking of the Saskatchewan Party’s contempt for social issues, Simon Enoch highlights (Read more…)

THE FIFTH COLUMN: Started Enjoying Our New Community Mail Box Last Week

I know as a progressive I am supposed to oppose the transition to community mailboxes (CMBs) for all urban and suburban residents but logic prevents me from doing so. Indeed this only seems to have become an issue when it was announced that downtown urban areas would join suburban areas in the use of CMBs. Our New Community Mailbox

Perhaps I see this differently because I live in a community (

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Geoff Stiles writes that instead of providing massive subsidies to dirty energy industries which don’t need them (and which will only have more incentive to cause environmental damage as a result), we should be investing in a sustainable renewable energy plan: (W)hereas countries such as Norway have gradually reduced…subsidies as their oil industry matured, at the same time maintaining one of the highest royalty rates in the world, Canada has allowed its subsidies to remain at a relatively high level while many provinces have actually decreased royalties on oil company profits.

(Read more…)