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Updated: 29 min 46 sec ago

Sunday Morning Links

8 hours 31 min ago
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Simon Enoch and Christine Saulnier examine how P3s are used to privilege corporate profits over the public interest:
The CCPA has published numerous publications on the question of P3s because they have been so pervasive and so riddled with problems. There have been books written. Our organization has even published helpful guidelines outlining the 10 questions that should be asked AND fully answered before entering into these partnerships. Never are all of these questions asked and rarely are they fully answered.

In November of last year, one such report, Privatization Nation, chronicled some of the most egregious failures of privatization in Canada in recent years. We thought this to be conclusive evidence that despite 30 years of experience governments rarely seem to get privatization right, and more often get it wrong with astonishing regularity.

Despite this record, the potential bonanza awaiting private contractors through the federal government’s public infrastructure bank has brought many of the same, discredited arguments in favour of P3s back into public debate. The most pervasive of late appears to be the argument that P3 contracts provide the requisite discipline for all players to ensure on-time and on-budget completion, while constraining politicians from meddling in project design and management. However, a recent study in the UK by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants  found no evidence that P3s were more successful at delivering projects on time because they were P3s; rather they succeeded because of the detailed way the contracts were written. There is no reason why the same sort of pre-negotiations and safeguards could not be applied to projects financed in the conventional public build model. Indeed, it begs the question of why such conditions were not previously made in traditional public procurement contracts.
The bottom-line is this: public services and infrastructure are best financed and delivered by the public sector. Private industry has a key part to play in the design and construction of public infrastructure under contract. The ‘partnerships’ become much more complex and fraught when those contracts are expanded to include private financing and operations.

P3 contracts are by their nature undemocratic — commercial confidentiality and the protection of a private corporation’s private interests are convenient political tools used to trump the public interest EVERY TIME.- Rich Puchalsky questions how neoliberalism has become a dominant economic and social paradigm when only a few (however well-resourced) people have any attachment to it, while lamenting the lack of an obvious left alternative. And Andrew Jackson argues that any changes from private-sector digital technology will fall short of leading to economic benefits that are either fairly shared or particularly substantial.  

- Meanwhile, Barry Ritholtz follows up on Seattle's increased minimum wage and finds - as pointed out by Jackson - that improved wages at the bottom of the income spectrum led to economic growth.

- Brett Norman reports on a Baltimore pediatric clinic's noteworthy work in systematically checking and applying social determinants of health as a basis for patient care.

- Finally, Chris Welzel and Russell Dalton examine the effects of citizen allegiance and assertiveness - and find that while both contribute to improved governance, citizens can achieve more improvement in policy outcomes through critical thinking and questioning than through passive obedience.

Saturday Afternoon #ERRE Links

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 14:06
A bit of electoral reform material for your weekend reading.

- Nathan Cullen points out how the Special Committee on Electoral Reform's report (PDF) serves as an effective road map to make every vote count in Canada.

- PressProgress highlights how the Libs are attacking their own campaign promises in order to preserve an unfair electoral system, while Jonathan Sas compares the Libs' scorched-earth approach and incoherent response to the remarkable level of consensus and success achieved by members of all parties on the committee.

- Craig Scott generously calls the Libs' approach one of "noble failure" - and that may have been the intention initially. 

- But the "noble" part seems to have been sorely lacking, as Michael Stewart calls out the Libs' mockery of both the MPs who worked on a broad consultation process, and the tens of thousands of Canadians who participated in it. Althia Raj notes that the Trudeau government's insults are particularly egregious since they're directed at people trying to fulfil their own promises - while also reporting that Trudeau and his inner circle would likely have been happy to accept a committee recommendation for a ranked ballot which was rejected by all parties. And Ryan Maloney points out the Libs' aversion to inconvenient math when it would help to achieve improved representation.

Saturday Morning Links

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 08:36
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Hawking discusses the urgent need to address inequality and environmental destruction as people are both more fearful for their futures, and more aware of what's being taken away from them:
(T)he lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone, however poor, who has access to a phone. And since there are now more people with a telephone than access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, this will shortly mean nearly everyone on our increasingly crowded planet will not be able to escape the inequality.

The consequences of this are plain to see: the rural poor flock to cities, to shanty towns, driven by hope. And then often, finding that the Instagram nirvana is not available there, they seek it overseas, joining the ever greater numbers of economic migrants in search of a better life. These migrants in turn place new demands on the infrastructures and economies of the countries in which they arrive, undermining tolerance and further fuelling political populism.

For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.- Adnan Al-Daini discusses how market dogmatism is affecting every facet of our society. And Noah Smith reminds us that some the economic theories used have been entirely falsified by real-world evidence.

- Roderick Benns highlights how a well-designed basic income could substantially improve the personal security of the people now at the most risk. But John Clarke warns against settling for an austerian model which treats an insufficient basic income as a substitute for fair wages and needed social supports.

- Bruce Cheadle reports on the International Institute for Sustainable Development's new research showing that Canada's economy is grossly overreliant on fossil fuels, as nearly all of our development has been oriented toward extracting dirty and limited resources rather than developing and applying human capital.

- Finally, Janyce McGregor reports on how the CETA and other trade agreements are designed to increase prescription drug costs - without any effort being made to assess what the price tag will be. But Kelly Crowe and Darryl Hol do note that without much fanfare, Parliament is studying a national pharmacare plan which could both reduce direct drug costs, and significantly improve health outcomes.

Musical interlude

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 18:59
Junkhouse - Out Of My Head

New column day

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 06:03
Here, on the Libs' pleasantly surprising hints toward enforcing the Canada Health Act - and the Saskatchewan Party's response that it would rather fight for profit-motivated medicine than work on building a sustainable universal system.

For further reading...
- By way of background on the enforcement of the Canada Health Act at the federal level, see here and here as to the Libs' refusal to act which helped to precipitate the fall of the Martin government, and here, here and here as to how matters further deteriorated under the Harper Cons.
- Stefani Langenegger reported on how pay-for-play MRIs in Saskatchewan (along with other similar schemes elsewhere) are at least attracting some scrutiny from Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott.
- And Scott Stelmaschuk points out how the Saskatchewan Party's corporate medicine is predictably endangering sorely-needed funding.

Thursday Morning Links

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 06:01
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Owen Jones argues that UK Labour needs to make far more effort to connect with working-class citizens in order to hold off the populist right, while Jamelle Bouie examines Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns as a worthwhile model for uniting groups of disaffected voters. And Wolfgang Munchau comments on the failure of neoliberal politicians to acknowledge and reverse how financial elites have twisted the global economy for their own benefit.

- Meanwhile, Miles Corak points out that a cycle of poverty is particularly acute for boys born into lower-income families.

- Jason Beattie discusses how UK attacks on recipients of social benefits are costing more money than the clawed-back benefit amounts, while creating desperate needs for people wrongly targeted.

- Gloria Galloway reports on the Auditor-General's findings that Canada's federal government is routinely failing to set or meet appropriate standards in assessing program effectiveness.

- Finally, Ed Broadbent discusses how a proportional electoral system would prevent the likes of Donald Trump from taking absolute power with a minority of support:
Consider that under our current first-past-the-post system, successive Harper and Trudeau governments have rolled to majorities with the support of fewer than four in 10 voters.
Consider that a leading Conservative leadership candidate, Kellie Leitch, has hailed the Trump victory as an exciting message that must be delivered here, as she continues to peddle her “Canadian values” mantra to the party faithful.
And consider that Van Jones, a leading CNN analyst and former Barack Obama adviser, warned at a Broadbent Institute gala this past week that a Trump-like victory could happen here. Mr. Jones urged progressives to push back with an “army of love.”
That army should be carrying PR as its weapon of choice. ...
We’ll leave our American friends to sort out their electoral-college concerns, but the question for Canadians is whether a PR system could block a Trump here.

The answer is yes, because PR rewards voters with a fair outcome. A party that wins 40 per cent of the vote will win only about 40 per cent of the seats, not a majority. A party winning 30 per cent will be rewarded with 30 per cent of the seats, and so on....If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is serious about having voters vote their values and have that reflected in the composition of the House of Commons – and delivering on a key and oft-repeated campaign promise – the most important thing he can do is support proportional representation.
Or we could wait until an unfair system allows a Trump-style government to gain a toehold in our backyard.

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 12:00
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Frank writes that a progressive party can only expect to succeed if it places principles of equality and workers' interests at the core of everything it does - rather than serving mostly as the voice of a wealthy professional class:
Somewhere in a sunny corner of the country, either right now or very shortly, a group of tech tycoons or well-meaning private equity investors will meet to discuss what went wrong in this election cycle. They will consider many things: the sexism and racism of Trump voters, the fundamental foreignness of the flyover, the problems one encounters when dealing with evangelicals. They will celebrate some activist they learned about from NPR, they will enjoy some certified artisanal cuisine, they will hand out prizes to the same people that got prizes at the last event they attended, and they will go back to their comfortable rooms at the resort and sleep ever so soundly.

These people think they know what liberalism includes and what it doesn’t include. And in the latter category fall the concerns that made up the heart and soul of liberal politics a few decades ago: labor and work and exploitation and economic equality.

To dedicate your life to concerns like these today is to sign up for obscurity and frustration. It’s to enter a world without foundation grants, without appearances on MSNBC, and without much job security. Nothing about this sphere of liberal activism is fashionable or attractive. Books on its subjects go unreviewed and unread. Strikes drag on for weeks before they are noticed by the national media. Labor organizers are some of the hardest-working but least-thanked people I know. Labor reporters are just about extinct. Promises to labor unions are voided almost as soon as they leave a politician’s lips.- Meanwhile, Tom Parkin discusses how the NDP - and Jagmeet Singh in particular - may serve as Canada's antidote to the Trump brand of politics.

- Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery and Josh Hoxie examine the toxic effects of relying on gilded giving from a small number of extremely wealthy individuals to support services, rather than being able to build a base of broader funding (whether public or charitable). And Cathy Crowe makes the case for a push toward building affordable housing.

- Daniel Leblanc reports on the CRA's long-awaited progress in cracking down on offshore tax havens.

- Kevin Metcalf discusses how the new surveillance state established by C-51 is only criminalizing and isolating youth while offering no real security benefit. And Justin Ling notes that the RCMP's response to the repeated rejection of "lawful access" legislation is to push for the same powers under a different name - with Ralph Goodale and the Libs only enabling them in the cause.

- Finally, John Doyle writes about the blatant elitism behind Kellie Leitch's drive to destroy Canada's only major media outlet which isn't ultimately answerable to corporate interests.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 18:01
Clingy cats.

Monday Afternoon Links

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:32
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Miles Corak asks how we should see the growing concentration of income at the top of the spectrum, and concludes that we should be concerned mostly with the breakdown between personal merit and success among the extremely privileged:
Connections matter. And for the top earners this might even be nepotism. This is not a bad thing if parents pass on real skills to their children, skills that might be specific to particular occupations, industries, or even firms. If this is the case, then it makes economic sense to follow in your father’s footsteps.
...But not all top earners got to where they are because of this sort of investment. In fact, sons of top-earning fathers who do not work at the same employer as their fathers are much more likely to fall out of the top than those who do.

Bad nepotism promotes people above their abilities by virtue of connections, and it erodes rather than enhances economic productivity. Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution encapsulates this intuition when he speaks of a “glass floor” supporting untalented rich kids, a floor that at the same time limits the degree of upward mobility for others.

There is, however, an even larger cost. Social mobility is about a lot more than just using job contacts to make it into the top 1 percent. It is also about making investments in the health, education, and opportunities of all children and supporting families in a way that complements their efforts to promote the well-being of their kids. If the rich leverage economic power to exercise political power, they can also skew broader public policy choices—from the tax system to the education system, and other sources of human capital investment—in a way that limits possibilities for the majority.

Social mobility is turned into a race, a race through a course with many bottlenecks that the relatively advantaged are best at manoeuvring. Besides, all of this discussion refers simply to the correlation of earnings across generations, which is only a partial measure of mobility. The inheritance of material wealth, not just earnings advantage, should also be part of the way we measure and think about social mobility. Much higher incomes at the top over an extended period translate to a higher stock of wealth, and this may advantage the next generation in a way that is not tied to their earnings capacity.

All of this may start eroding the belief that labour markets are fair and that anyone can aspire to the top. It is not envy that is at the root of a connection between the well-being of the less rich and the rich, but rather a concern over fairness as equality of opportunity. If the rich cannot leverage economic power to exercise political power, then it is quite possible for the majority to live with a richer top 1 percent and be less concerned about how this minority will influence their welfare and the prospects of their children.- Meanwhile, Meredith MacLeod reports on Credit Suisse's research showing that Canada is set to see a sharp increase in the number of millionaires over the next few years - even as Benjamin Tal notes that Canada's economy is shifting toward both part-time and lower-paying jobs. And Katie Allen rightly argues that governments which focus unduly on infrastructure as the sole basis for economic development will only exacerbate the problem by failing to account for the need for fair wages and more secure livelihoods.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on new research estimating the cost of poverty in Toronto alone at up to $5.5 billion per year. And the International Labour Organization assesses the cost of eliminating poverty in each country - with Canada needing to redirect only $249 million per year to lift all Canadians out of extreme and moderate poverty.

- Finally, Bruce Mutsvairo highlights the dangers of journalistic "balance" when it serves primarily to create false equivalencies and legitimize damaging policies. And George Monbiot lists the crises humanity has stumbled into, while highlighting the need for massive collective action to reverse any of them.

Sunday Afternoon Links

Sun, 11/27/2016 - 10:17
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Janice Fine discusses how the decline of organized labour as a political force has opened the door for the likes of Donald Trump:
Just when we need them most, the main institutions that have fought for decent jobs are a shadow of their former selves. Unions that have played a singular role in forging solidarity across racial, ethnic, and gender lines can now do so only for a diminishing number of Americans. Adding insult to injury, it is not just the right that has hastened their demise; liberals have been dismissing unions for years.

Unions matter for all the reasons described above, but more than anything, they are critical to the functioning of our democracy because of the role they have played in shaping working-class political consciousness and ideology. It has been largely through unions that American workers have developed an understanding of which side of the fence they are on, who is there with them, and who is on the other side. Of course they have had stiff competition, especially in recent years, from Fox News, Breitbart, the National Rifle Association, and now from Donald Trump. But this is precisely the reason it is so important for them to have the rights and the resources to organize and build real local structures. Union locals were once citizenship schools for the working class. When unions were weakened, working-class people lost a central means through which they could develop an understanding of the world—of who was to blame for the decline in their standard of living and how to take action to correct it.
Working-class people of all races and ethnicities have reason to be furious. Barack Obama extended unemployment benefits during the recession, bailed out the auto industry, expanded healthcare for millions of people, and extended overtime pay to millions, but for eight years he put investment bankers in charge of the nation’s economic policies, declined to break up big banks, and preached the advantages of free trade. He froze federal salaries, extended the Bush tax cuts, worried about the deficit, and skimped on the stimulus package. His narrative of recovery conflated a rising stock market and soaring corporate profits with an improving economy for regular people.

While millions of mid-wage jobs were lost during the Great Recession, including many in the public sector, few have been added back in the recovery. The optimistic tenor of the monthly jobs report conceals a bitter truth: the economy is adding jobs, but they are disproportionately low wage. Our nation today is an especially brutal place for older workers.
In the absence of unions, no other institutions have arisen that have elevated the voice, needs, and aspirations of working-class people and organized at the scale they once achieved. In the absence of collective institutions, people have been known to look to charismatic men who promise to make their countries great again.

While finding meaning in the election results is by definition a complex and complicated task, no one can credibly argue that Trump’s voters felt adequately listened to in the months and years leading up to last Tuesday’s political earthquake. It is unlikely that their lot will improve in a nation’s capital under Republican rule. Had they had strong institutions to express their collective voice, I, for one, believe the outcome would have been much, much different.- Derrick O'Keefe writes about the need for a more courageous progressive movement to stem the twin dangers of neoliberalism and exclusionism. And James Di Fiore theorizes that Charlie Angus may represent an ideal leader for that type of groundswell.

- Emily Mathieu reports on the federal government's less-than-surprising conclusion that we desperately need a national housing strategy to respond to a crisis of availability and affordability - though it's far from certain whether that will lead to action. And Christopher Cheung comments on the particular lack of family-friendly housing in urban areas.

- Meanwhile, Derek Cook argues that instead of treating poverty as a problem to be fixed solely through dispassionate and impersonal policies, rather than a social wound which needs to be healed with compassion and care.

- Finally, Carl Zimmer highlights the devastating effect global warming is having on the food chain in the Arctic. And Graham Thomson points out points out Alberta's experience with "clean coal" - and how it debunks the theory spouted by Trump and Brad Wall among few that carbon capture and storage is a remotely viable answer to the environmental dangers of relying on fossil fuels.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Sat, 11/26/2016 - 12:16
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne comments on the importance of the labour movement in ensuring that economic growth translates into benefits for workers:
The findings of a study released this month by the Canadian Centre for Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa-based think-tank, reinforces why there is a “pervasive sense among Canadians” in the so-called middle class that they are not getting ahead.

And the data supports this stagnation of the middle.

The study notes that while Canadians are more productive than ever, those productivity gains are not being shared. Indeed, median real hourly earnings grew by a measly 0.09 per cent a year between 1976 and 2014, while labour productivity grew by 1.12 per cent a year.

Yet workers were promised they would share in those gains if they worked harder, worked longer, worked faster, worked leaner. And so they did that.
The study found the gap in earnings and productivity was because of three key factors: rising inequality (more share going to the top), the rising costs of consumer goods and a decline in workers’ share of the national income while the corporate or capital share is getting bigger and bigger.

The authors, economists James Uguccioni, Andrew Sharpe and Alexander Murray, note that “economic history and economic theory suggest that labour productivity growth should generate rising living standards for workers over time, so the gap between annual labour productivity growth and annual median wage growth is puzzling.”
The authors conclude: “the most plausible explanations for both the ‘hollowing out of the middle’ of the earnings distribution and the decline of labour’s share of income are globalization, technological change and institutional change.”

By institutional change they mean declining unionization. More and more economic research has been noting that the inability of workers to join unions, often because of regressive labour laws, is impacting not just how the economic pie gets shared, but economic growth and rising inequality.

A U.S. study by the Economic Policy Institute found that declining unionization resulted in lower wages for non-union workers. This isn’t a surprise, as unions often lift the floor for everyone.- R.A. Washington notes that laissez-faire economic theory tends to miss the mark in describing reality due to its hand-waving away the significance of the consent of the governed when neoliberal governments implement policies designed to serve the market rather than the citizenry. And Rupert Neate highlights the inevitable result of allowing the populist right to get the upper hand, as a U.S. election decided largely by working-class insecurity figures to only further benefit the extremely wealthy at everybody else's expense.

- Daniela Vincenti reports on a study showing how CETA's environmental provisions are utterly ineffective, while its impact on democratic governance could be massive.

- D.C. Fraser, Pamela Cowan and Erin Petrow report on Brad Wall's decision to make a bad economic situation worse by treating a deficit as an excuse to cut already-suffering core programs in health, education and social services. Ashley Martin writes about the latest study showing that a quarter of Saskatchewan children already live in party even before the Saskatchewan Party takes an axe to existing supports. And the CP and CBC both report on the alarming vacancies in social work positions in northern Saskatchewan.

- Finally, Jonathan Freedland wonders whether the rise of the extreme right can be traced in part to the centre-left showing undue respect across the spectrum which is never reciprocated.

Musical interlude

Fri, 11/25/2016 - 19:37
Lange feat. Cate Kanell - Fireflies

On advance opportunities

Thu, 11/24/2016 - 18:03
And now, time to give credit to the Saskatchewan Party where it's due.

Some people are justifiably anticipating that thanks to Donald Trump, self-dealing will be the word of the year to come.
@MikePMoffatt @nutgraf1 I'm waiting for the OED to make "self-dealing" Word of the Year for 2017.— Ian Gillespie (@IanRGillespie) November 24, 2016 But if the rest of the world isn't going to see that as an expected governing principle until 2017, then Fred Bradshaw, Brad Wall and company can take a bow for being well ahead of the curve.

New column day

Thu, 11/24/2016 - 17:57
Here, on how the Wall government has Saskatchewan on the road to the same post-truth politics that laid the groundwork for the spread of fictitious "news" and Donald Trump's election.

For further reading...
- Dan Tynan, Craig Silverman and Terrence McCoy are among those who have reported on the development of a new strain of false media aimed purely at supplying the confirmation bias demanded by Trump supporters. 
- Tabatha Southey commented on the problem with public demand for fabricated news. And Rachel Giese discussed how Facebook's actions to enable or monitor posts from false news sites could affect Canada as well, while Van Jones warned that we're not immune from a Trump-style campaign.
- Finally, for a look at how the Saskatchewan Party government has handled the factual employment data supplied monthly by Statistics Canada, this search shows how the truth has been buried by what should be a neutral source of information when (and only when) it says absolutely nothing that can be spun for Brad Wall's benefit. And the single press release from this year shows how far Wall will stretch to try to claim some political advantage: of particular note, see the conspicuous lack of any mention of the year-over-year losses by industry which effectively match the cited gains.

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Wed, 11/23/2016 - 14:14
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Roy Romanow writes about the dangers of focusing unduly on raw economic growth, rather than measuring our choices by how they actually affect people's well-being:
At the national level, the picture that emerges over the past 21 years is a GDP rebounding post-recession but Canadians literally continuing to pay the price. From 1994 to 2008, the living standards domain rose 23 per cent. Then it plummeted almost 11 per cent and has yet to recover. Gains made on reducing long-term unemployment and improving the employment rate were lost. Income inequality is rising. And, despite increases in median family incomes, millions of Canadians struggle with food and housing costs. When living standards drop, community, cultural and democratic participation follow suit. Surely, this is not our vision of equality and fairness in Canada.

(Canadians) were hardest hit in the leisure and culture domain, which declined by 9 per cent overall. We’re taking less time enjoying arts, culture, sports — even vacations — the very activities that help define us as individuals. On the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial, household spending on culture and recreation is at its lowest point in 21 years.

To begin to narrow the gap, we can build on strengths, such as the education domain. Since domains are highly interrelated, we know that when more people graduate from high school and university, there is a positive effect on health and on almost all aspects of social, economic, and community participation. Strength in community vitality shows Canadians feel they belong and readily help one another. Collectively, we sense that action is required. There is growing support for forward-thinking programs, such as basic income and upstream health care approaches that tackle well-being issues at their roots. - Neil MacDonald highlights some of the obvious problems with the Libs' plan to go even further down that road with an infrastructure bank. And Dru Oja Jay argues that instead of pushing to put all major infrastructure development under the control of the existing financial sector, the Libs should be working on building a banking system that works for people.

- Carl Zimmer discusses the devastating effect global warming is already having on the Arctic region. And CBC reports on the massive health benefits of eliminating the use of coal power.

- Finally, Chelsea Nash reports on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's observation that there are necessarily tradeoffs between facilitating voting and centralizing information in the hands of political parties - and it should come as no surprise that the Cons are trying to prevent the former by claiming their entitlement to the latter. And Althia Raj reports that Thomas Mulcair is leading the charge to restore public funding in order to reduce the influence of big money in politics.


Wed, 11/23/2016 - 14:00
Brad Wall is perfectly happy to waste time tweeting his outrage at a business operating with both foreign and domestic suppliers.

But Brad Wall couldn't care less whether provincial money earmarked to clean up messes in Saskatchewan actually stays in the province - choosing instead to cut out local businesses entirely:
The province’s Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Orphan fund put out a request for proposals (RFP) in January looking for companies to, “successfully conduct the down hole abandonment(s) on oil, gas and industry related wells, flow line abandonments and well site decommissioning....
About 10 of the 15 companies that applied to clean those orphaned sites up were Saskatchewan-based, but the government chose four Alberta-based companies to do the work.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 16:25
Curled cats.

Tuesday Evening Links

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 15:29
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Star argues that Canada can't afford to leave tax loopholes wide open for the rich - as the Libs are doing in violation of their campaign promises. And Martin Lukacs notes that obscene giveaways to the rich seem to be the top priority for Justin Trudeau and company:
The politicians prattle about the private sector covering the risk of projects: the enabling lie that cannot for its life find evidence. Time and again, the costs of these public-private partnerships have instead been borne by the public. In Ontario over the last decade alone, their cost-overruns burdened citizens with an extra $8bn and racked up $30bn in public liabilities—the equivalent of $6000 per household. But perhaps Canadians are just too stupid to understand their merits. Stupid enough that 75 percent of them surveyed now oppose such privatization schemes. So stupid, indeed, that in many cases they have clamoured successfully for these services to be returned to public control.
 Trudeau’s plan for a privatization bank would expand these local disasters to a national scale. Corporate and pension-fund backers have already announced they expect returns of 7 to 9 percent on their investments. How do you think that will happen? The only way that skimping ever does: higher bills, user fees, and hidden government subsidies. Diminishment in quality of service. Cuts in jobs and pay. No wonder some of Trudeau’s corporate advisors are offering their helpful advice free of charge: it’s regular people who will end up carrying the cost.

These costs are not an oversight of privatization but their objective: the inevitable result of opening up the public sphere to private profit-making. For more than thirty years in Canada, such measures have been a tool of an elite agenda promoted by successive Liberal and Tory governments: the transfer of wealth from the poorer to the wealthy, from the public trust to the private clutch. Is it any wonder why most people’s incomes and standard of living have stagnated, while those of millionaires has skyrocketed?
Because privatization serves the elite, it always spawns contempt for democracy. Take this revelatory example from a decade ago: a slide-show used by a Canadian legal firm as they promoted privatization projects in British Columbia. One slide describing the obstacles to privatization is entitled “Inherent diseases.” The obstacles? “Stakeholders,” “transparency,” and “public justification.” For corporations chasing endless profits, the basic value of democracy are not essential to a healthy, thriving society. They are a scourge to be avoided.

All this secrecy, euphemism and dismissive rhetoric is meant to obscure a single, glaring fact: the arguments in favour of privatization are rubbish.- Sunil Johal and Jordann Thirgood examine the type of social safety net needed to keep workers secure in the face of increasingly precarious employment. And Valerie Tarasuk interviews Jim Oldfield about the effects of a basic income - including relieving against food insecurity and boosting individual health.

- Dale Maharidge chronicles some of the working poor people who are all too often cut out of any analysis of public policy choices. And Jose Ucelo rightly notes that wage theft against immigrants (and other vulnerable groups) winds up suppressing wages for everybody.

- Alex Hemingway points out that the most costly and inefficient parts of Canada's health care system are the ones that rely on for-profit and privately-funded goods and services. And Daniel Tencer points out that the Libs seem perfectly happy to exacerbate the problem out of sheer ignorance, as trade negotiators dealing with issues of drug prices have failed to take into account any additional costs arising out of giveaways to big pharma.

- Elizabeth McSheffrey reports on the causes of the Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River, and finds that it could likely have been prevented.

- Finally, Althia Raj comments on the Libs' glaringly misleading spin on electoral reform.

Monday Morning Links

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 09:46
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Paul Krugman writes about the dangers of Donald Trump's crony capitalist infrastructure plan. And Tom Parkin warns us that Justin Trudeau's Canadian equivalent is headed toward exactly the same results:
A private infrastructure bank means paying more for financing. It means getting less infrastructure. Fewer construction jobs. Less for land, materials and equipment. Lower economic spin-off.

Canadian Economist Toby Sanger recently compared 30 year private and public finance costs on a $100 million construction project. Public financing would cost $31 million. Private financing would add $164 million to costs. Who pays that money? Who gets it?
Privatization could mean airports and sea ports sold to consortiums from Abu Dhabi and China. And Trudeau’s bank would further concentrate wealth as money from Canadians is pipelined up to global investors.

Economist Thomas Piketty has made the case that excessive concentration of wealth isn’t just “economically useless,” it may lead to “political capture of our democratic institutions.” In 2014 he worried that, when institutions can’t address inequality and social problems, “it's always tempting to find other people responsible for our problems.”

Wall Street captured the Democrats and Republicans decades ago. [Piketty’s] next worry couldn’t have been more prescient.- Jordan Press reports on Trudeau's attempt to soften the image of corporatism in order to push through still more concessions to big business. But Jen Moore's review of Todd Gordon and Jeffery Webber's The Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America reminds us of the damage being done to people and the planet by the mining industry with the assistance of Canadian governments.

- Meanwhile, Konrad Yakabuski notes that we should be looking to facilitate sustainable trade while eliminating giveaways to the corporate sector - not following Trump and Nigel Farage toward insularity and deglobalization.

- Adnan Al-Daini is right to highlight the good which can be done by a well-organized government. But he shouldn't crediting Theresa May as an example - particularly when she's furiously backtracking on her previous statements about including citizens and workers in corporate governance

-Finally, Kathy Vandergrift responds to the Trudeau Libs' obsession with deliverology by arguing that instead of focusing on narrow short-term measurements, we should be pursuing progressive realization which puts those types of goals in a far wider context.