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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: Rising Homelessness

In 2010, I wrote a blog post in which I suggested that: a) the recession of 2008-2009 would bring on increased homelessness; and b) there would be a lag effect of roughly three to five years. Indeed, I suggested that it would not be until 2014 until the full effect of the recession is seen in terms of homeless numbers.

Recent data from the City of Toronto appears to lend support to my prediction.


The Progressive Economics Forum: Affordable Housing and Homelesness

This morning I gave a presentation to an church group in Ottawa on affordable housing and homelessness. My slides can be downloaded here.

Points I raised in the presentation include the following:

-Though government provides subsidizes to some low-income households for housing, it is important to be mindful of the considerable funding available for Canadian homeowners as well (including for high-income homeowners). For example, there is no taxation on the capital gains raised from the sale of a person’s primary residence. On an annual basis in Canada, this tax exemption costs the public treasury almost $2 billion.

(Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Do High Tuition Fees Make for Good Public Policy?

This afternoon I gave a presentation to Professor Ted Jackson’s graduate seminar course on higher education, taught in Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration. The link to my slide deck, titled “The Political Economy of Post-Secondary Education in Canada,” can be found here.

Points I raised in the presentation include the following:

-Tuition fees have been rising in Canada for roughly the past three decades. Yet, individuals in the 25-44 age demographic have the highest levels of household debt in Canada. This raises an important question: Is it good public policy to be saddling this demographic (Read more…)

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: The Four Walls of My Freedom – Why I Wrote This Book

“The trick to helping communities find their own answers to caring for their citizens is not in locating charismatic leaders, but in forming “leader-full” alliances of of elected officials, bureaucrats, members of the medical community, caregivers and care receivers.”  

From the updated paperback edition of my book, “The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Life of Caregiving (House of Anansi Press, 2014)

When I was writing my book in 2009 and 2010, I had one objective in mind.  I wanted to use our family story to ignite a public conversation about care.  Not just (Read more…)

Dead Wild Roses: “Why Would You Ever Spend Money on the Death Penalty?” – Words from an Executioner

The entire article is available on, but I found this section in particular very moving.

“Even when I was on the job, I was always asking, what can I do to prevent these guys before they get there? I used to bring kids down from schools. I would allow the kids to sit in the chair and explain that I want to see kids get an education and remove themselves from violence or you’ll end up here. I know it helped. I used to get letters. They would write back saying thank you for steering them in (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: A symbol of failure. A reason to change. #nlpoli

A couple of weeks ago, the St. John’s media devoted huge amounts of of the reporting space to the death of a woman who spent most of her time beating the streets of St.  John’s.

The word the news writers settled on to describe her was “iconic”.  People started a Facebook group about her and talked of making a collection to build a statue or do something else to mark her life.

There was a real sense to the reporting that suggested people didn’t understand the meaning of the word “icon” any more than they knew the woman’s name.  She went by “Trixie” but one of the fascinating trends inside the story itself was the way the news outlets had to edit their stories as people came forward to tell them what her real name was. And then others came forward to tell them that the real name was not . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: A symbol of failure. A reason to change. #nlpoli

The Progressive Economics Forum: Social Assistance in Canada

This week I am attending a conference entitled “Welfare Reform in Canada: Provincial Social Assistance in Comparative Perspective,” organized by Professor Daniel Béland.

The focus of the conference is “social assistance,” which typically encompasses both last-resort social assistance (i.e. ‘welfare’) and disability benefits. In Ontario, the former is known as Ontario Works and the latter as the Ontario Disability Support Program. Every Canadian province and territory has its own social assistance system—that is, its own legislation, its own policies and its own regulations. First Nations with self-government agreements have their own income assistance programs. (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Socially-responsible reporting trumps irresponsible government every time #nlpoli

For starters, the messenger the provincial government comms geniuses selected to scold CBC wasn’t their best possible choice.

Well, not if demonstrated credibility was the global

Charlene Johnson has a long history of bungling, of coming off as condescending and arrogant without even the slightest possible justification for being so.  

She is, as SRBP put it before, Nicola Murray but without the political oomph..

(Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Homelessness Policy

This afternoon, I gave a presentation on public policy responding to homelessness in Canada, with a focus on the past decade. I gave the presentation at this year’s annual conference of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.

Points I made in the presentation include the following:

-Once inflation is accounted for, the current annual value of federal funding for homelessness programming (now known as the Homelessness Partnering Strategy) has eroded to roughly 36% of its original value (that is, its value in 1999 when it was known as the National Homelessness Initiative).

-In recent years, it has become trendy (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: Child poverty rampant in Canadian cities

The story of child poverty in Canada is very much an urban story. One out of every 10 children living in urban areas was poor in 2010, compared to one in 20 children living in non-urban areas. Three quarters (or 76%) of all poor children in Canada lived in one of the urban centres shown in the chart below.* Child poverty isn’t a question of jobs: the cities with worst child poverty only had middle-of-the-pack unemployment rates (out of the 19 cities, St. John’s, NL was 8th highest and Vancouver, BC was 11th highest). Similarly, the cities with the (Read more…)

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM - A Blog by Donna Thomson: When A Family’s Love is Not Enough

There are some people who, in the prime of their lives, cannot conceive of getting old.  They imagine that only other people have babies with disabling conditions.  They champion independence and despise infirmity.  Those people might believe that if anything catastrophic ever DID happen to them, then surely the government or some agency or other would step in to help.


Families living in the trenches of caregiving know only too well that there is not enough help (if any at all).  Day programmes, respite care, supported housing options, home nursing are all just pie in the sky dreams for (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Christmas Message

As a retired teacher, I am well familiar with the works of Charles Dickens. Although his literary legacy is one of predominantly lengthy works, he is probably best remembered for his shortest one, A Christmas Carol, the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a nasty man consumed by the cost of everything but unable to recognize the value of anything. His redemption comes when he realizes the perversion of his life perspective.

Yesterday we went to Niagara on the Lake for a reading of the tale by some Shaw Festival actors who graciously invited my daughter, who has been very involved

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: A Christmas Message

cmkl: Social impact bonds: totally whack

Human resources minister Diane Finley announced this new thing this week – social impact bonds wherein the federal government contracts with a charity or NGO to provide some sort of service and floats a bond tied to the project. Socially minded investo… . . . → Read More: cmkl: Social impact bonds: totally whack

The Progressive Economics Forum: To address health inequalities, look beyond the role of individual responsibility

A new report by the Canadian Medical Association provides a timely reminder that money buys better health, even in a country with a universal public healthcare system. A poll commissioned by the CMA found a large and increasing gap between the health status of Canadians in lower income groups (household income less than $30,000) and their wealthier counterparts (household income over $60,000).

The fact that income affects health is hardly a surprise. A large body of research has shown that both globally and in Canada, income (and socioeconomic status more broadly) is closely related to virtually all health outcomes that

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: To address health inequalities, look beyond the role of individual responsibility

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: Missed Opportunity for PEI Poverty Strategy

The government of Prince Edward Island has introduced a Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty, found online at PEI CSS.

This Action Plan follows community consultations, including face-to-face meetings and written submissions by community groups.

The government of PEI seems to take very seriously a Social Determinants of Health approach to poverty reduction, and so has exempted departments of health, education, and social services and seniors from broad government ‘belt-tightening’ designed to bring the provincial budget back to balance. In fact, these departments will see minimal new investments of $4 million over three years.

Given that Christine Saulnier and I

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Missed Opportunity for PEI Poverty Strategy

The Progressive Economics Forum: Poverty in Yukon

pragmaticcanadian: An Ounce Of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure- Healthcare Cracks

Last year, my daughter, Hannah, 11 months old at the time suffered through a respiratory illness, commonly known as the common cold, but dangerous to those under the age of one. It was likely contracted from her two older school aged brothers. This illness, Respiratory syncytial virus, forced her into a general hospital, an hour and a half away from our rural home, for a week, and the week before Christmas, no less. We were discharged on December 23rd. The best Christmas gift, was her health mostly returned.

Luckily, she was old enough to not have sustained any lasting damage, but (Read more…)

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: The Quebec Student Protests: ‘Going International’

A recent article by Stefani Forster, of the Canadian Press, suggests that the Quebec student protests may be starting a larger social movement outside of Quebec.

According to the article:

In the last few days, Quebec’s student protests have received coverage in French news outlets like Le Monde and Agence France-Presse, in Australia, in New Zealand, and in the U.S., including on CNN.

A New York Times blog suggested tuition fees and student debt could become a key theme in President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election as the president tries to energize young voters. The “French-Canadian students”

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