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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: “Out-sourcing” social programs and policy #nlpoli

The incredible story from Ireland about the remains of 800 babies and children found in a discarded septic tank caused your humble e-scribbler to think a bit about local history.

Then this post at the Monkey Cage put it in a bigger perspective.

(Read more…)

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

I’m on a plane now, reading over the notes I’ve made from the last four days.  I’ve just come from a week of listening, sharing and thinking about how society can be shaped and shifted to support family caregivers.  I was thinking too, about how care is at the heart of social change. The SIX (Social Innovation Exchange) Vancouver Summer Schoolbrought together social innovators from across the globe.  The place of care in social change was a theme that ran through every discussion and workshop and we were nudged to think about care through the cultural (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Rental Housing in Yellowknife

Yesterday I blogged about rental housing in Yellowknife, over at the Northern Public Affairs web site. Specifically, I blogged about a recent announcement by the city’s largest for-profit landlord that it plans to “tighten” its policies vis-a-vis renting to recipients of “income assistance” (which, in most parts of Canada, is known generically as social assistance). Among other things, I suggest in the post that the for-profit landlord in question may be in a monopoly situation. The link to my blog post is here.

The Progressive Economics Forum: Alex Usher Needs to Consider Taxation

My debate with Alex Usher on tuition fees continues, over at the Academic Matters web site. In my latest post, I make the case that Mr. Usher needs to consider Canada’s tax system when suggesting that reducing tuition fees is “regressive.”

The Progressive Economics Forum: Alex Usher is Wrong on Tuition Fees

Earlier today, over at the Academic Matters web site, I addressed the issue of whether Canada’s current system of high tuition fees and means-tested student aid is in fact “progressive.” My post was a response to a Alex Usher‘s May 9 blog post. My blog post can be found here.

The Progressive Economics Forum: More on the At Home/Chez Soi Study

Earlier this month, I blogged about the At Home/Chez Soi homelessness study prior to the release of its final report.

Today I’ve blogged again, this time about the contents of the final report itself. This second blog post, being rather long and nuanced, was written for the Homeless Hub. It can be accessed at this link.

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