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No struggle for what you believe in is ever futile.
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Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 16:16
Downward facing cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 07:00
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Alice Martin offers three basic reasons why unions are as necessary now as ever, while PressProgress weighs in on the IMF's findings showing the correlation between unions and greater equality. And David Ball points out that there's a long way to go merely to reverse the damage the Cons deliberately inflicted on the labour movement in Canada.

- Peter Taylor-Gooby writes about the importance of job quality as well as quantity in assessing our economy. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the Libs' apparent lack of interest in young workers as they impose a system which facilitates the continued use of unpaid interns.

- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is assembling a must-read set of reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Murray Dobbin discusses the desperate need for real public input and debate before Canada gets locked into the most restrictive corporate rights agreement yet.

- Stephen Kimber argues that rather than focusing on smaller measures such as making prescription drugs available to seniors, we should be working on implementing national pharmacare for all. And Matthew Herder notes that we should also have far more access to information about the effectiveness of the drugs we do use.

- Finally, Peggy Mason asks and answers the right questions about the Libs' expansion of military operations in Iraq and Syria - as once again, Canadian troops are being sent into harm's way by a government which lacks any idea what they're supposed to accomplish.

On warped incentives

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 07:02
CC offers one noteworthy takeaway from Jenni Byrne's attempt to deflect blame for the Cons' election loss:
Wherein Jenni Byrne openly admits that the CPC *needs* vote splitting to stay relevant.— CC (@canadiancynic) February 8, 2016 But let's follow what this line of thought means for Canada's electoral system. Would any rational electoral system encourage a party to promote one of its competitors for the purpose of arranging the votes it can't win (particularly one which is further away on the political spectrum), rather than trying to earn support for itself?

To be clear, Byrne's type of calculation isn't necessarily limited to the Cons. But it surely speaks to the perverse incentives embedded in a first-past-the-post system - and offers us reason to think carefully about the goals we should want parties of any ideological background to pursue instead.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 06:56
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Richard Eskow summarizes the basic facts about inequality in the U.S. Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that it's impossible to fully explain or address that problem without factoring in ongoing racial disparities. And Sean Trembath writes about James Daschuk's work in tracing health disparities among indigenous peoples back to Canada's colonial policies, while Cheryl McKenzie reports on the challenges in combating poverty.

- Greg Kaplan and Giovanni Volante point out that income insecurity isn't limited to poor households, as plenty of higher-earning families effectively live paycheque to paycheque at best

- Mike De Souza discusses the connection between TransCanada's firing of whistleblowers and a pipeline explosion.

- Andrew Mitrovica asks why nobody is prepared to tell Canadians the truth about the unauthorized  disclosure of tax data to CSIS. And Tonda MacCharles reports that the Libs are being even more obstinate than the Cons in trying to deny compensation to people who were wrongly detained and tortured.

- Finally, Lana Payne rightly argues that we can't move on from revelations of systematic sexual harassment without first doing everything we can to eradicate it.

Sunday Morning Links

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 09:06
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Stewart discusses the possibility of a 20-hour work week to better distribute both work and income. And without going that far, Andrew Jackson suggests that our public policy priorities should include a needed shift in time on the clock from people who are working excessive hours to ones who lack for work:
Today, the job market is even more sharply polarized between those who are unemployed or underemployed (such as the one in four part time workers who want more hours), and those who are employed in mainly full-time and permanent jobs who often work very long hours. Data from Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey (CANSIM Table 282-0154) tell us that in any given week, one in five workers (21%) worked overtime (defined as hours in excess of normally scheduled hours) for an average of 8.2 hours, or more than one extra day per normal work week.

Unpaid overtime, mainly worked by salaried professionals, not least in public services, affects 11% of all employees. Paid overtime, mainly worked by hourly paid blue collar workers in industries like construction, transportation manufacturing and resources, affects 9% of all workers. These numbers have increased a bit since the late 1990s.

Theoretically, redistribution of working time could all but wipe out both unemployment and involuntary part-time employment, assuming a perfect overlap of skills and needed experience between those working long hours and those working no or less than desired hours. While this is unrealistic, redistribution of working time could still put a significant dent in the unemployment rate.
More use of work sharing today could help cushion the impact of the slump in resource prices on jobs in the hard hit mineral and energy industries. Even today, many workers in the Alberta oil and gas industry regularly work long hours. There is growing interest in using work sharing to avoid layoffs, and, even more creatively, government, employers and unions might develop programs to use temporarily reduced working hours for training in order to upgrade workers skills which will be needed in the next upturn.

The new Liberal government should also consider the many proposals which have been made over the years to amend the federal labour code so as to limit very long hours of work and to provide employees with more flexible working time options.- Josh Eidelson discusses Bernie Sanders' sharp critique of welfare plans which try to coerce people into dead-end jobs. Bill Curry reports on Jean-Yves Duclos' openness to a basic income at the federal level. And Stanislas Jourdain notes that Quebec is now working on developing a guaranteed income for its citizens.

- Alan Broadbent and Elizabeth McIsaac call for Toronto to start funding its poverty reduction plan. And the Star argues that we should make affordable access to the Internet available to everybody as a necessary element of social participation.

- Michael Geist optimistically offers some suggestions as to how the Libs could deal with the Trans-Pacific Partnership now that they've signed it without consultation, while Scott Vrooman laments their apparent intentions of ignoring Canadians' concerns. And Erik Loomis offers some valid concerns about the TPP from a U.S. perspective.

- Finally, Patricia Lane discusses how a proportional electoral system could lead to far better governance for Canada.

On double majorities

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 13:59
Nathan Cullen's proposal for party representation on the Parliamentary committee reviewing electoral reform has received plenty of attention. But it might actually go much further than advertised to validate the results of the committee's work and legitimize a more fair electoral system.

One can view Cullen's proposal as reflecting a proportional system for allocating committee seats. But it doesn't mean for a second that any change to Canada's electoral system would come about only based on that structure.

Whatever the committee comes up with will still have to be dealt with through legislation in a Parliament in which the Libs have a majority. And that means what Cullen has suggested would in fact serve to confirm the legitimacy of any new system under all plausible interpretations of the results generated by the current one.

By way of explanation, it's fairly clear that the range of options under serious consideration includes three primary types of electoral system. Two of them - first-past-the-post (to the extent it's seen as an option in light of the Libs' promise to scrap it) and ranked ballot - would both have resulted in Lib majorities based on 2015 voting patterns. (Of course, we don't have direct information about what voters' alternative preferences would have been in 2015. But even if one ignores the simulated results prepared based on alternative data, that's not a problem capable of being remedied without conducting an election under a different system.)

That leaves the proportional representation option, where the first-choice preferences of Canadian voters would indeed result in exactly the representation proposed by Cullen. And there could be a substantive complaint about legitimacy if what can be fairly criticized as a false majority under one system is used as the sole basis either for preserving that system, or for imposing another one.

Cullen's suggestion then responds to that concern. But I'll argue that it also implicitly answers the question of what beyond a bare Parliamentary majority should be required to make electoral reform legitimate beyond reasonable complaint.

As I've noted before, it would be utter folly to demand unanimous support among all parties or MPs before any change could be implemented. But one can fairly make the point that in assessing our electoral options, there's no reason to question the validity of a system which would be able to earn majority support in Parliament regardless of the structure in place at the time the election process is amended. (And similarly, there's no plausible basis to insist on retaining a system which can be replaced based on that multiple-majority support, no matter how much one party shrieks about wanting to preserve its advantages.)

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Libs will follow through on Cullen's proposal. But if they do, it should ensure both a more inclusive discussion of Canada's electoral system, and a more legitimate result.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 13:27
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robert Atkinson discusses the need for corporate tax policy to encourage economic development rather than profit-taking and share inflation. And Jim Hightower notes that it's an anti-democratic corporate mindset that led to the poisoning of Flint.

- Stephen Tapp offers some noteworthy ideas to ensure the public can meaningfully discuss our federal government's fiscal choices.

- Steven Chase finds that a majority of the public would prefer that Canada prioritize human rights over profits in deciding whether or not to supply military equipment to Saudi Arabia. But in case anybody was under the illusion that the Libs were going to pay attention to either public opinion or their own promises, Robert Fife reports on their plans to extend and exacerbate Canada's combat operations in the Middle East.

- The Star rightly calls for an end to the Cons' legacy of secrecy. But there too, there's little reason to think the Libs are offering anything more than show and symbolism.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone comments on the Saskatchewan Party's dishonesty when it comes to the state of Saskatchewan's economy and fiscal picture. And the provincial auditor's view that a big-money giveaway to land developers was "not a normal transaction" looks to reflect just one more set of shady choices.

Musical interlude

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 16:08
Iris - Closer To Real

Friday Morning Links

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 07:08
Assorted content to end your week.

- Ben Oquist laments the fact that trickle-down economics and destructive austerity remain the norm in Australia no matter how thoroughly they're proven to fail. Alvin Powell discusses the burgeoning inequality of opportunity in the U.S. And an anonymous tutor to the super-rich writes that even they don't ultimately benefit from gross inequality or social exclusion:
Seeing the human side of the 1% has caused me to view them less as a faceless symbol of injustice and more as people with their own, sometimes relatable, struggles. The feelings that are evident – anxiety, disconnect, isolation – are universal. And that’s promising. Recognising the humanity in the “other” – even the “enemy” – does not mean I do not judge them, but it does give me a chance to transcend the inequality and start conversations about change.
Educational inequality, the housing crisis, economic poverty all have narratives of villains and victims, winners and losers. But, having slept with the “enemy”, I feel more sincerely than ever that when you live with vast, systemic disparity, no one truly wins. And while I don’t believe in the system that creates jobs like mine, tutoring the super-rich has been valuable. I now believe more strongly than ever in the potential of empathy between people from different backgrounds, with different outlooks. And as a result – ironically – more strongly than ever against the social segregation inherent in private schooling.  - Meanwhile, Alex Morash points out the need for far more coverage of inequality and poverty as part of economic reporting in order to start reversing the trend. And Carmela Fragomeni reports on Hamilton's lack of progress in trying to reduce poverty.

- Raksha Vasudevan highlights the need for a national food policy based on the importance of social health. And Nick Falvo examines what we could and should be doing to combat homelessness in Canada.

- Alison calls out the Trans-Pacific Partnership as setting up an economic casino where the house always wins, while PressProgress points to Bernie Sanders' argument as to how it will continue eroding the middle class. And Maude Barlow notes that after-the-fact amendments to Canada's latest agreement with Europe only look to further entrench corporate control.

- Finally, Michael Winship interviews Naomi Klein about the devastating effects of climate change which go far beyond the globe warming up.

Thursday Morning Links

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:52
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- PressProgress weighs in on the OECD's findings that Canada's income inequality is significantly worse than previously assumed. Didier Jacobs argues that our current economic system is anything but meritocratic. And Paul Morrison points out how a poorly-designed tax system forces low-income workers to pay massive effective taxes on work income.

- Andrew Prokop finds that a majority of Americans agree with Bernie Sanders' message of a "political revolution" to ensure a more fair distribution of wealth, while Michal Rozworski and Derrick O'Keefe discuss the significance of Sanders' presidential campaign.

- The Broadbent Institute makes its suggestions for a more fair and progressive federal budget. And Thomas Piketty outlines a "New Deal for Europe" to address the concurrent problems of inequality, economic stagnation and public debt.

- James Wood reports that Alberta's NDP government is making a major move in the area of affordable housing, while a group of academics calls for Rachel Notley to follow up by introducing a sales tax to ensure there's enough revenue to address social needs.

- Finally, Matthew Coon Come writes that it's long past time to end the underfunding of First Nations services whether or not it's seen as a legal obligation.

New column day

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 05:38
Here, on how Regina City Council's embarrassing heel-dragging in response to the David Suzuki Foundation's Blue Dot Declaration on environmental rights contrasts against the spread of trade agreements with virtually no scrutiny.

For further reading...
- Shawn Fraser both introduced the motion supporting the Blue Dot Declaration, and discussed it here. And the list of cities who have already signed on is here
- Meanwhile, CBC reported on Council's demurral. And Paul Dechene was duly outraged here.

Wednesday Morning Links

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 04:57
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ben Casselman and Andrew Flowers discuss Raj Chetty's research on the U.S.' glaring lack of social mobility and fair opportunities:
Children from poor families are much less likely to work in adulthood than children from middle-class families. Only about 60 percent of children from the poorest families are working at age 30, compared with 80 percent of children from median-income families.2 And the relationship extends beyond the very poor; the higher a person’s parents were on the earnings ladder, the more likely he or she is to work as an adult — at least until the very top, when employment rates dip again.
When the children of affluent families do work, they make a lot of money. The chart below shows how much 30-year-olds earn given their parents’ income. There’s a steady increase until the top few percentiles of parental income, when it spikes. The average man whose parents were in the 97th percentile earns about $60,000 at age 30; the average man who grew up in the richest 1 percent earns more than $80,000. (This measures only wage and salary earnings, so it doesn’t factor in any other advantages these young adults might have, such as trust funds, lower student debt, or parental help with housing or other expenses.) - Karen Jusko studies (PDF) the U.S.' social safety net and finds that it falls short of meeting even half of the needs of low-income individuals. 

- The Canadian Labour Congress points out the widespread dangers raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Brent Patterson reminds us how the TPP will enrich pharmaceutical multinationals at the expense of citizens and health care systems.

- Dennis Pilon refutes the claim that Canada is constitutionally trapped in an unrepresentative electoral system. And PressProgress highlights the unfairness of false majorities - no matter which party happens to benefit from one at a given time.

- Finally, Paul McLeod exposes examples of widespread abuses of power by the RCMP which typically don't get released to the public. And Jim Bronskill follows on the revelation that CSIS has wrongly collected tax data by reporting that the Canada Revenue Agency has no idea what information was improperly shared.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 17:48
Surrounded cats.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 05:52
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Krugman writes that we're far closer to a major energy transformation than many people realize - but that public policy decisions in the next few years may make all the difference in determining whether it materializes:
According to a recent report by the investment firm Lazard, the cost of electricity generation using wind power fell 61 percent from 2009 to 2015, while the cost of solar power fell 82 percent. These numbers — which are in line with other estimates — show progress at rates we normally only expect to see for information technology. And they put the cost of renewable energy into a range where it’s competitive with fossil fuels.

Now, there are still some issues special to renewables, in particular problems of intermittency: consumers may want power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. But this issue seems to be of diminishing significance, partly thanks to improving storage technology, partly thanks to the realization that “demand response” — paying consumers to cut energy use during peak periods — can greatly reduce the problem....I’d argue that the kind of progress now within reach could produce a tipping point, in the right direction. Once renewable energy becomes an obvious success and, yes, a powerful interest group, anti-environmentalism will start to lose its political grip. And an energy revolution in America would let us take the lead in global action.
Salvation from climate catastrophe is, in short, something we can realistically hope to see happen, with no political miracle necessary. But failure is also a very real possibility. Everything is hanging in the balance.- Ian Welsh argues that the 2008 bank bailout - which effectively prioritized financial gambling over real economic development - is largely responsible for the lack of any real recovery afterward.

- Jim Stanford explains why Canada's auto sector in particular stands to suffer under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Shachi Kurl finds that Canadians in general are rightly concerned about what the TPP means for jobs.

- Finally, Laura Tribe comments that we shouldn't have to wait indefinitely to change the civil rights abuses pushed through in Bill C-51:
[Ralph] Goodale has said that reforms on C-51 won't likely be introduced until the fall at the earliest. Sadly, in the meantime, Canadians' rights are being violated everyday C-51 remains in place.
Oversight can't retroactively undo the damage that current legislation is doing. Each day, we're being subjected to excess surveillance. Our data is being shared without any checks and balances in place. There is no recourse for innocent Canadians.

C-51's overreaching powers are being normalized.

Many of the effects of this legislation won't be felt for years to come -- but in the meantime, we go on with our lives. Canadians remain on no-fly lists. Our private data is being collected. Information is being shared and compiled between government agencies. Rights are being violated. And all of this is happening without the oversight to ensure it's being done legally, effectively and safely.
It will take some time for public consultations, expert input, and analysis to determine the best policies and legislative solutions for Canada's security mechanisms. But we do know that right now, C-51 is quite simply incompatible with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why do we have to spend the best part of yet another year subject to laws that even the Liberals, the party ruling with an overwhelming majority, thinks are problematic?

Sunday Morning Links

Sun, 01/31/2016 - 08:06
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- The Guardian's editorial board comments on the role public entrepreneurship should play in fostering economic development and avoiding bust cycles:
The state’s only legitimate economic role is often seen as patching up discrete failures in particular markets. But Ms Mazzucato stresses how proactive policy is often required to create the markets in the first place. She stresses the role of public agencies in advancing industry’s frontiers. The iPhone may be an archetypal example of entrepreneurial brilliance, but it draws on numerous government-funded technologies including the internet, GPS, touch-screen displays and even Siri, the voice-activated operating system-cum-butler. From Nasa to the BBC, public organisations have created private opportunities. The entrepreneurial state should embrace its unsung role as a venture capitalist, be bullish about the need to run risks to secure returns. New institutions, such as national investment banks, might need to be part of the mix.

Ms Mazzucato points out that the crisis-hit states in Euroland were also all countries where the pre-crisis state failed to innovate. That fostered a frail prosperity, depending less on progress in industry than on booming house prices. When the emergency cures look inadequate, economists interested in fending off future slumps should reconsider the preventative role the state can play.- Michal Rozworski's proposed solutions to Canada's housing crisis include a strong dose of public investment. And Chelsea Vowel duly criticizes Scott Gilmore's attempt to force First Nations and residents of remote areas into cities, rather than working on building existing communities.

- Chris Malsano draws a sharp distinction between socialism and statism. And Greg Sargent notes that Donald Trump's presidential candidacy may be exposing the large number of Republican voters who aren't inclined toward austerity or corporatist economics. 

- Teuila Fuatai documents the gap between the low wages paid to many Canadian workers and the cost of living.

- Finally, the New York Times' editorial board slams corporate tax evasion.

On delayed rectification

Sun, 01/31/2016 - 07:54
I'll largely echo David Climenhaga's take on Alberta's oil and gas royalty review (PDF). But it's well worth highlighting the difference between the two main interpretations of the review's recommendations - and what they mean for future resource policy.

By way of comparison, some of the media spin includes statements along the lines of the following:
The key points of the report are:
  • Albertans are receiving their fair share.
  • Oilsands royalties won't change.
Contrast that against Rachel Notley's message (which matches the actual comments from the review panel, and indeed from Brian Jean in gloating about the lack of changes):
“The fact of the matter is the environment has changed profoundly, even in the last 12 months, and so that is what is driving our decision-making at this point,” Ms. Notley told a news conference in Calgary yesterday morning. “It is not the time to reach out and make a big money grab. That just is not going to help Albertans over-all right now, and so I feel quite confident that this is the right direction to take.” There's thus a stark contrast between the claim that Alberta's royalty structure is in fact sufficiently fair to stay in place indefinitely, and the view that a period of low prices isn't the time to alter it to improve its level of fairness.

Indeed, anybody looking to the report to confirm or refute the first point will find plenty of conflicting information. Yes, it suggests that Alberta's royalty rates are "comparable with other jurisdictions". But it also recommends annual reporting and further reconsideration as to whether royalties paid meet a number of goals, including "returns to Albertans" - meaning there's ample room for further review as circumstances change. And we'd expect the gap between costs and royalties to be much higher when prices and profits are up.

So the answer on an improved return for the public is best seen as a "not now" rather than a "not ever". And while that's still disappointing compared to the prospect of ensuring improved public benefits in the long term (which could be palatable if paired with supports to cover a short-term downturn), it doesn't close the door to a more fair system in the future.

Saturday Morning Links

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 09:03
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Duncan Brown discusses the connection between precarious work and low productivity. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh examines how Ontario's workers' compensation system is pushing injured individuals into grinding poverty by setting impossible requirements for claimants.

- Jim Balsillie worries that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will only increase the tendency of profits from Canadian ideas to flow elsewhere. And Cory Doctorow criticizes the Trudeau Libs for blindly following the Harper Cons when it comes to corporate control agreements.

- Stephanie Levitz reports on the Cons' cherry-picking of Christian refugees contrary to Canada's international obligations. And Fram Dinshaw exposes the Cons' willingness to keep pesticides in regular use long after they were known to be toxic.

- Nora Loreto discusses the state of Canada's media, including the need for both public and activist support for alternative news-gathering as corporate newspapers are slashed. And Thomas Frank points out the role of elite media in limiting political choices, particularly by presenting special treatment for the wealthy as an inevitability.

- Finally, Alison Crawford reports on CSIS' pattern of unauthorized intrusion into Canadians' tax information. Andrew Mitrovica situates that violation in the broader context of intelligence abuses, while Colin Freeze discusses how substantially more oversight could serve as at least a partial solution. And Cara Zwibel argues that it's time to put Charter rights at the forefront of how laws are made (which we can also extend to how government functions are carried out):
Clearly there are critical accountability and transparency gaps in our law-making process, which enable the advancement of arguably unconstitutional laws, such as Bill C-51. Indeed, at no point in the process are parliamentarians required to publicly defend the constitutionality of the laws they pass.

That job seems to have been left to our already overburdened courts, and to affected individuals and public interest organizations, such as CCLA, who, in recent years, have been compelled in some cases to launch Charter challenges as the only viable recourse. This is unfortunate given that these particular challenges — which come at a significant cost not only to the applicants, but also the public — could likely have been avoided had Parliament done its duty. And of even greater concern, as these lengthy court battles play out, the laws challenged remain on the books, restricting the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians, and risk becoming normalized.

Furthermore, the limited safeguards we do have are simply not working. Typically, the Department of Justice (DOJ) provides legal opinions to the justice minister regarding the constitutionality or legal vulnerabilities of government-proposed legislation. However, the government has refused to make these opinions public, stating that they are subject to solicitor-client privilege. The minister is also required to report Charter inconsistencies to Parliament, but the DOJ has suggested that the minister need only report when there is no credible argument in favour of a bill passing the Charter test. This standard is simply too low and, in practice, has meant that not a single report relaying concerns about Charter compliance has ever been made to Parliament.

Proactive accountability and transparency measures are sorely needed to help compel our government and parliamentarians — both present and future — to honour their fundamental duty to uphold the Charter throughout the law-making process. This is why CCLA has launched a new campaign called Charter First, which calls for the reform of our legislative process such that Charter rights are prioritized and Canadians are informed about the constitutionality of proposed bills.

Musical interlude

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 16:54
Greg Downey & Bo Bruce - These Hands I Hold

Friday Morning Links

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 06:20
Assorted content to end your week.

- Rachel Bryce, Cristina Blanco Iglesias, Ashley Pullman and Anastasia Rogova examine the effect of inequality on education in Canada. And John McMurtry comments on the increasing hoarding of wealth and the lack of anything left over for the rest of us.

- Emily Badger highlights the "million dollar block" phenomenon showing that incarceration is just as systematically concentrated as extreme wealth (if of course in different places). 

- Dana Milbank traces the poisoning of Flint back to Rick Snyder's corporatist mindset. And Julia Lurie reports that Snyder was well aware of the dangers of the city's water long before publicly admitting anything - resulting in state employees receiving an alternate source of water while residents were left to ingest lead.

- Mychaylo Prystupa points out that the Libs' changes to pipeline review processes are still avoiding the downstream environmental effects of fossil fuels. And Stephen Rees notes that resource-based economic bets being made with large amounts of public money - including the B.C. Libs' push toward fracked liquid natural gas - are themselves doomed by market forces.

- Finally, Mark Hume reports that Environment Canada had effectively shut down enforcement activities under the direction of the Harper Cons. And Bill Curry reveals that much-trumpeted inspection plans to limit the abuse temporary foreign workers never actually got started.

Thursday Morning Links

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 06:58
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Ed Miliband offers his take on inequality and the political steps needed to combat it:
(T)he terms of the case against inequality have changed. I have always believed that inequality divides people, deprives many of the chance to succeed and makes us all worse off. But now there is good reason to believe that inequality isn’t just unfair but that it actually inhibits economic growth. ‘Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time,’ the IMF announced in a report last year: ‘We find an inverse relationship between the income share accruing to the rich (top 20 per cent) and economic growth … the benefits do not trickle down.’ Last May, the OECD published a study entitled In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. All this makes it possible for us to talk about equality not only in terms of fairness, but also as the means to prosperity. The UK is deeply unequal and has an unproductive economy when compared to its major competitors. There are good grounds for thinking the two facts are connected: a low-wage economy, which doesn’t invest properly in its workforce, is an unproductive economy. The mechanism that links low growth to inequality is still debated: some say that low wages for the majority cause low demand and low growth; others say that the social exclusion of a large segment of society has a depressive effect. But what is clear is that inequality must be tackled not just because it is important to distribute resources fairly but also in order to secure higher growth, from which everyone can benefit.
(F)inally, there is the question of how political change happens, and how to mobilise the millions of people needed to bring it about. Labour must make use of the opportunity afforded it by the remarkable number of new members it has gained since the general election. But it also needs to acknowledge the challenge it faces. The party emerged from the traditions of community organising, and some local Labour branches are now rekindling that spirit. To succeed, the party needs to be about more than knocking on doors, crucial though that is, and the passing of resolutions. Labour needs to use its expanded membership to build deeper roots in local communities, and to help people find the collective power to change things. In a way I didn’t manage, it needs to reinvent itself as a genuine community organisation.

This is a tough time to be a progressive in Britain, with the re-election of a government that seems determined to dismantle the progressive institutions that remain and to make inequality worse. Labour’s renewal must be built on ideas, the most underrated commodity in politics. Ideas create and sustain movements and inspire people – and indeed voters – to join a cause. The right can’t solve the problem of inequality because to do so would be to abandon too much of what they believe, from a belief in the small state to trickle-down economics. The deep injustices of modern capitalism compel us to find a better way of living together. The left should approach the coming years with a determination to renew itself but also with confidence in its values.- And Ally Foster reports on a panel discussion on the erosion of the middle class in Canada.

- Derek Leahy discusses the Libs' plans to include upstream emissions as part of the environmental review process for pipelines. But Mike De Souza notes that the Libs are already falling behind on international climate change reporting.

- Meanwhile, the list of the Cons' damage in need of repair continues to grow. On that front, Kady O'Malley notes that their changes to elections rules may have enabled third parties to engage in unlimited robocalling, while BJ Siekierski reports on the wide range of Statistics Canada data gathering which was scrapped for no apparent reason.

- Finally, Laurie Monsebraaten writes about the push for Ontario to lead a national movement on child care, rather than settling for wage subsidies as the upper limit of public action.