Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Amanda Connelly reports on the Alberta Federation of Labour's latest revelations as to how the temporary foreign worker program has been used to suppress wages. And Jim Stanford reminds us that the employment picture for Canadians remains bleak even after Statistics Canada's job numbers were revised:
(F)ull-time employment is now estimated to have declined by about 20,000, instead of the original 60,000.  Not exactly something to boast about.  60,000 part-time jobs were created (same as the original report).  The unemployment rate is the same as the original report — and exactly the same as 18 months ago.  The participation rate is unchanged from June: higher than in the original report, but still stuck at its lowest level since 2001.

I published a Globe and Mail commentary on Canada’s stagnant labour market based in part on the original LFS report.  Today’s revised numbers do not materially change the argument I made there, which is that Canada’s much-vaunted economic recovery was over-rated in the first place, and in fact ran out of steam a long time ago.  There has been no sustained labour market progress for over three years.  The employment rate is languishing just a hair above its level in June 2009 — the trough of the recession.  That means job-creation since the trough of the recession has only just kept up with growth in the working-age population (ageing demographics is part of that story, too, on top of poor job-creation).
The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped 1.7 points since January 2013.  Canada’s hasn’t budged.  The stark difference in macro policy stance between the two countries is clearly an important factor behind this take of two recoveries: American policy is emphasizing job-creation, and mobilizes conventional and unconventional levers to get there, while Canadian policy is dominated by orthodox concern with balancing the budget.

In short, I think Canada’s relative underperormance (sic) since 2011 will become increasingly damaging to the Harper government, given how much it has invested in its reputation (deserved or not) as the “best economic managers.”
- Brian Gifford writes that more progressive taxes could go a long way toward getting our economy on the right track:
To promote strong economic growth, tinkering won’t do. Neither will clinging to failed orthodoxies of tax cuts and cutbacks. We can do much better. Why increase taxation? To invest in new services that will help grow the economy and improve social conditions. Quebec’s universal child-care program saves governments money by increasing women’s participation in the workforce and enabling them to pay more taxes. Housing chronically homeless people saves on emergency services costs. A universal Pharmacare program would reduce drug costs and fewer people will be deprived by unaffordable medications from getting treatment they need. We could go on.
Growing the economic pie is important, but only when equality is increased at the same time. It is not an either-or choice: some policies do both while others grow the economy while undermining equality. Given the empirical evidence, we really are at a point where cash-strapped jurisdictions such as Nova Scotia must justify why they are not leveraging the tax system to alleviate poverty and broaden social supports. We cannot afford not to commit to serious social investments to achieve greater equality and economic growth.
- But of course, tax dollars are of limited use if an anti-social government won't allow them to be used for anything but its own perpetual campaign. And the Cons' insistence that a modest amount of housing spending be used on photo-op-friendly new construction rather than maintaining existing infrastructure makes it clear that they're fully focused on PR rather than actual housing needs.

- Instead, the Cons are again obsessed with getting governments at all levels out of the business of improving citizens' lives. And the CETA is providing a prime example, as both Les Whittington and Andrea Rexer write that "buy local" policies which can serve as important economic stabilizers are being trashed at all levels of government.

- Finally, the CP reports on the Carbon Tracker Initiative's list of oil projects which are least likely to make a profit if prices aren't extremely high. (And it's well worth noting that many of the projects with the lowest likelihood of any return are also the ones with the most damaging environmental effects - including deepwater drilling as well as tar sands operations.) Meanwhile, Chris Mooney discusses the growing scientific case as to the dangers of fracking.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Musical interlude

Dinka - Elements (EDX Remix)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Glen McGregor reports on Michael Sona's conviction as part of the Cons' voter suppression in 2011. But both Michael den Tandt and Sujata Dey emphasize that Sona's conviction was based on his being only one participant in the wider Robocon scheme - and that Stephen Harper and company remain fully responsible for covering up the rest of it.

- Meanwhile, Carol Goar duly mocks Tony Clement's attempt to talk up open government while serving as one of the least accountable ministers in the most secretive Canadian government ever.

- And Justin Ling discusses the myriad of areas in which the Cons are signing away Canadian sovereignty through closed-door trade deals while refusing to admit to what they're doing. 

- David Sirota writes about Los Angeles' attempts to reverse credit swap arrangements which are handing hundreds of millions of dollars from the public to the financial sector - and points out in the process that the city spends more on giveaways to Wall Street than on its own roads.

- Mike de Souza exposes Alberta's sad publicity campaign intended to greenwash the tar sands - or at least muddy the waters in the U.S. But Bob Weber reports that long after that misinformation campaign intended to portray Alberta oil as well-regulated and environmentally responsible, Alberta's government is refusing to regulate pollution based on its assertion that it has no clue how to do so.

- Finally, David Gratzer examines the urgent need for stronger public policy on mental health:
Mental illness is a human tragedy. A patient – off work and sick with depression – recently told me what he missed most from his old life: the ability to laugh. Stuck in darkness, he wished to laugh again. Health-care professionals like me hear such things too often: stories of lost jobs, lost loves, lost years. A recent Danish study suggests that more than a third of the population will have some form of mental illness over their lifetime, with mood and anxiety disorders being the most common.

Mental illness is also a societal tragedy. By one estimate, 500,000 Canadians missed work today because of a mental health problem. The lost productivity and direct health expenses have an economic cost; in a recent analysis for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the value was pegged at $50-billion a year. Labour economist Richard Layard argues that such estimates are inherently conservative: Mental illness casts a long shadow, over our jails and emergency departments, with total costs of more than 8 per cent of a country’s GDP.

But if mental illness is devastating, common, and costly, there is good news. In many cases, it’s also highly treatable.
Yet studies show that people with mental illness routinely fall through the cracks. Only about 1 in 3 will get the health care they need. A pathetic paradox, then: Psychiatry has never been better able to help people yet many don’t get the help they need.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Nora Loreto reviews the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights' Unions Matter:
Unlikely to convince someone who is anti-union on its own, Unions Matter provides the fodder for union activists to be able to make important arguments in favour of unionization. Even more important, the statistics and arguments in Unions Matter could be used by labour activists to convince the ambivalent of the fact that, yes, unions matter.

Section one, "Reducing Income Inequality Through Labour Rights," gives an impressive overview of the role that unions have played to reorganize wealth in Canada. As union density has dropped, Canadian society has become objectively more unequal. The data presented in this section demonstrates that the trend between union density and inequality is not casual, but directly connected.

Unions are not just agents of economic redistribution, though. In section two, "Promoting Democracy, Economic Equality and Social Rights," the articles examine the role that unions have played and should play in defending social rights and fighting against injustice. The section examines how, through activism rather than simply through structural redistribution, unions defend democracy and the human rights of all people, regardless of union membership.
Armine Yalnizyan ends her chapter by arguing that the greatest threat to income distribution is the profits amassed by the 1%, and that unions cannot necessarily stop this trend through collective bargaining alone. "Ultimately," Yalnizyan writes, "the long-term impact of unions on Canadian trends in economic inequality is primarily through their political action… and only secondarily through their direct impact on wages."

Indeed, building the necessary campaign to fight neoliberal and austerity measures will require unions to engage in political action. While Unions Matter might not provide union activists with a road map on how to do that, it does offer the requisite facts to shut down any anti-union, right wing argument that might be floating around the ether. 
- And in a prime example of what can happen when the balance of power tilts thoroughly in favour of corporations, Jodi Kantor writes about the complete control employers exercise their most vulnerable employees through erratic scheduling for low-wage workers:
Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes. “It’s like magic,” said Charles DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos, which supplies the software for Starbucks and many other chains.

Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships, undermining efforts to expand preschool access, driving some mothers out of the work force and redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families, say parents, child care providers and policy experts.
Child care and policy experts worry that the entire apparatus for helping poor families is being strained by unpredictable work schedules, preventing parents from committing to regular drop-off times or answering standard questions on subsidy forms and applications for aid: “How many hours do you work?” and “What do you earn?”
(F)lexibility — an alluring word for white-collar workers, who may desire, say, working from home one day a week — can have a darker meaning for many low-income workers as a euphemism for unstable hours or paychecks. Legislators and activists are now promoting proposals and laws to mitigate the scheduling problems. But those who manufacture and study scheduling software, including Mr. DeWitt of Kronos, advocate a more direct solution: for employers and managers to use the software to build in schedules with more accommodating core hours.
- Meanwhile, weinenkel highlights how privatized probation services are turning poverty into a crime in and of itself.

- Bill Curry reports that the Cons' general public-sector vandalism is resulting in newly-unemployed Canadians seeing a delay in the processing of their EI applications, while Jason Kirby writes that a disastrously botched jobs report is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the destruction of Statistics Canada. And Colin Freeze discusses the Cons' broken promise to rein in an intrusive and unaccountable CSEC surveillance apparatus.

- Finally, Iglika Ivanova looks at how tax rates and revenues have actually changed over the past 50 years. And Jennifer Wallner and Daniel Beland respond to the Fraser Institute's spin with a dose of reality:
What the study fails to report is that, thanks to government programs, Canadians are paying less for many of these necessities. Government programs that are paid for by, you guessed it, taxes.
In 1961, there was no universal health care, limited public education, limited public transportation systems and the Trans-Canada Highway wasn’t even open.
Keeping careful watch on the quality of programs provided by the government and paid through public taxes is our democratic responsibility.
Failing to acknowledge the necessity of these programs and the individual benefits they provide through collective action is misleading at best, as it deprives us from the big public policy picture through which we should understand taxation.
The latest report on taxation is a case in point in using misleading information to infuriate Canadians about taxes rather than make them see the big picture about why taxes are the way they are in the first place, and how the major public programs they finance improve the social and economic life of Canadians.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once claimed, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” This was the case in the past and this is even more the case today, regardless of what the Fraser Institute wants you to believe.

New column day

Here, on how the Harper Cons' kabuki consultations can't mask the fact that their budgets utterly neglect what's most important to Canadians.

For further reading...
- Dean Beeby has previously reported on the disconnect between the public position on policy issues and the Cons' budget choices, while Andy Radia also comments on the lack of public interest in tax baubles.
- And both CBC and Bill Curry note that the same pattern is playing out once again, as the Cons' anti-government orientation is taking precedence over any interest in listening to good ideas.
- James Baxter writes about the Cons' general message of "shut up" to Canadians. 
- And among the submissions which do deserve further attention, I'll highlight those of the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres and Citizens for Public Justice (PDF). 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot discusses how a market-based society makes people unhealthy in a myriad of ways - and how it's worth maintaining our innate reluctance to value everything and everybody around us solely in terms of dollar values:
The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness.

The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafkaesque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty, and breeds frustration, envy and fear. Through a magnificent paradox, it has led to the revival of a grand old Soviet tradition known in Russian as tufta. It means falsification of statistics to meet the diktats of unaccountable power.

The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy.

These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders.
So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
- And Brian Bethune highlights the end of connections to neighbours (and any associated "social immune system") as an increasingly worrisome social trend in Canada.

- Douglas Skinner points out that major U.S. companies are increasingly obsessing over the extraction of cash (both through repurchases and dividends) at the expense of any sustainable development. And digby links the obscene profits for the U.S.' privileged few to the excessive borrowing required of anybody else wanting to live what's seen to be a normal life.

- Alexander Knight traces the incestuous relationship between oil money and political power across Canada. Fern Hill focuses in particular on Enbridge's apparent attempt to buy favour with police departments in communities which are likely to see opposition to its Line 9 project. And Dermod Travis connects crony capitalism to the Mount Polley tailings pond spill:
Since 2005, Imperial Metals has donated at least $149,890 to the BC Liberals. With a win, place and show wager, that total includes $2,500 to each of the leadership campaigns of Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon and George Abbott. It also tossed $3,000 into the kitty for Bill Bennett's 2009 re-election campaign.

Mount Polley got in on the action as well, with the mine topping up donations to the Liberals by $46,720.
Giraud -- then vice-president, corporate affairs at Imperial Metals -- called on the B.C. government to retain the flow-through tax credits for the exploration industry, to keep the PST off capital investments for mining companies and, most importantly, to reduce the approval process for a new mine from upwards of 10 years to as little as three.

As he noted to the committee: "I think if we're really looking for some flexibility on budget in terms of the mining sector, there is perhaps some wiggle room, but it needs to be in the context of 'I'm going to build a mine in three years, so maybe I'll tolerate those additional tax rates.' People are willing to pay for certainty and for time."

Lo and behold, six months later the BC Liberal Party was promising voters that it would streamline the mining application processes, work with the federal government to ensure mining projects undergo only one environmental review process, and that it would extend the new mine allowance and other credits allowing new mines and mine expansions to receive depreciation credits of up to 133 per cent to 2020.
There was one last thing about Giraud's presentation that jumped out. Arguing his case for a shorter approval process, he claimed: "Nobody trusts experts anymore from an NGO or from a third party, saying: 'You know what? We don't trust what you've done.'"

After Mount Polley, that can be marked down as famous last words.
- Richard Brennan reports on a federal-provincial program which will provide money for affordable housing in Toronto. But as Brennan notes, the real story lies in what isn't included: the city is barred from using a dime of it for maintenance rather than new construction, meaning that the senior levels of government will maximize their photo ops while actively refusing to do anything to maintain the existing (and equally necessary) housing stock.

- Finally, Frances Russell weighs in on the continued clash in values between a progressive Canadian public and a hard-right Con government. But Paul Adams notes that based on current popular support, that conflict could be resolved in the next federal election by a Con collapse into third place among federal parties.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Backdoor cats.

History repeating

Shorter Joe Oliver:
Sure, we're getting thoroughly lousy results after years of setting our economic policy based almost exclusively on corporate interests, with special privileges for the resource sector. But I've got an idea: what if we instead based our economic policy even more exclusively on corporate interests, with even more special privileges for the resource sector?

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jack Peat argues for trickle-up economics to ensure that everybody shares in our common resources (while also encouraging economic development):
Good capitalism is the ability to promote incentives and opportunity in equal measure. Sway too far one way and the potential of human capital is stifled, sway too far in the other direction and the willingness to realise this potential also goes amiss. Of late, bad capitalism has manifested itself in incentives over opportunities, and has become a parasitic drag on our economic growth as a result.

A recent IMF study has caused quite a stir in the western world, finding inequality can sabotage a market economy and can be a hindrance on economic growth. The findings point to the fact that, particularly in the US, things like food stamps, universal health care and perhaps a few other basic human rights might actually be a good idea. Not that we can now all go home feeling a little better about ourselves at night, but it actually makes economic sense.
The IMF and S&P reports present politicians with a chance to act on inequality based on prudent economic factors. Rather than place spikes on doorsteps to prevent the homeless from getting shelter or squandering millions of pounds on water cannons to prevent the next London riots we could consider the impact trickle up economics could have on everyone, rather than the few. If “income distribution is robustly associated with higher and more durable growth”, why not consider passing a bit of wealth through the poor fellow’s hands?  Trickle up will benefit us all.
- Iglika Ivanova discusses how the B.C. Libs are using their own reckless tax slashing along with false spin about "affordability" as an excuse to needlessly attack health care and education:
The provincial government’s decision to underfund health care and education has nothing to do with affordability as defined by our ability to pay...
To sum it up: our ability to pay for education, and other much-needed public services, depends on two things: the size of our economy and our tax rates.

Our economy is not booming, but the BC budget projects it to grow by 19% over the next 5 years. This is before adjusting for inflation, but so is the BC government’s estimate that teachers’ demands for wages, class size and composition funding would add up to 14.5% over five years. Future economic growth would easily cover those.

Is it reasonable to expect that economic growth will translate into improvements in education? I’d say so.
The thing to keep in mind is that governments choose how much revenue they have available to spend on programs by setting tax rates. Saying there’s no money in the budget for education improvements doesn’t mean we can’t afford it. It just means we can’t fund them with our current taxes.
- Barbara Yaffe writes that the Clark Liberals have given British Columbians nothing but reason to doubt that their province's environment is safe from industrial disasters. Michael Smyth discusses the history of deregulation that led to the Mount Polley tailings pond failure - and figures to lead to far more tragedies to come. And Michal Rozworski examines the broader policy issues surrounding Mount Polley.

- Meanwhile, Marc Jaccard explains why a moratorium on new tar sands development makes a world of sense if we have any interest in combating climate change. (Spoiler alert: the Harper Cons have no interest in combating climate change.) And in an example of the hidden effects of underregulation, Matthew Yglesias points out the connection between lead contamination and all kinds of social problems.

- Finally, Gareth Kirkby writes that we should expect charities to fight back against the Cons' abuses of power rather than allowing themselves to be silenced. And Dean Beeby reports that foreign aid charities in particular are starting to do just that.

On progressivism

Joe Fantauzzi explains his reasons for avoiding the term "progressive" in defining his own political beliefs. But I'll argue that the proper response to Fantauzzi's concern is to work harder in defining what terms mean - not to abandon them altogether:
The achievement by marginalized people of social citizenship. Collective movement toward big goals that make life better on a societal scale. State intervention with the aim of lessening the burden caused by the market. Smoke from an oil field and tailing ponds as the economy chugs along.

Progressivism is typically identified as a synonym for activist liberal and is often associated with the types of things talked about in the first three examples above.

But the conflation of the economic, as seen in the fourth example above, with the political leads to a conflict that I can’t resolve.
I'll readily agree that we shouldn't accept that even destructive economic development should be classified under the term "progressive". But does that mean we should throw away the term altogether?

Let's first ask where it fits in comparison to other political terminology. And most prominently, "progressive" (both on its face and in its most common usage) serves as an ideal foil for "conservative". Conservatism can generally be defined in terms of a belief in the primacy and desirability of enforcing power relationships, including all the unfairness and imbalance that entails; progressivism can then be defined in terms of one's belief in the importance of instead ameliorating that unfairness or imbalance.

From that starting point, there's plenty of room for subsets under the "progressive" banner, depending primarily on one's perception as to which power relationships most require collective action and how to go about challenging them. A personal preference for addressing economic, social or environmental issues, as well as an inclination toward state, cooperative or individual action can give rise to a wide range of policy proposals - while still being consistent with a broadly progressive view. (Likewise, conservatism can include individuals focused on enhancing the accumulation of power within states, churches, corporations or families.)

But what about, say, John Tory's attempt to define airport enlargement as "progressive", which seems to trouble Fantauzzi?

There, the proper answer seems to be that Tory is stretching the term further than it should go. But we should treat that as a reason to criticize the spinmeisters trying to bend language to fit their political purposes, not a reason to abandon useful terms altogether.

And indeed, other terms can be abused in similar ways - and almost certainly will to the extent they're seen as carrying positive identifications.

Replacing one's "progressive" framing with "liberal" certainly does nothing at all to eliminate any confusion: in fact, large-L Liberal parties in Canada include some of the most conservative governments in the country by any reasonable definition. And on a case-by-case basis, other potential identifying terms can also be spun toward regressive ends - such as flat-taxers using egalitarian language to claim that "fairness" and "equality" should be based on how much one pays in income taxes rather than one's standard of living.

In sum, we shouldn't let the people most motivated to corrupt the language of collective action dictate the terms of political debate. And while "progressive" may not be everybody's choice of identifying term, we're better off ensuring that it keeps some meaning - particularly when it can serve as a useful shorthand and rallying point for a majority of Canadian voters.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- CJ Werleman writes that the U.S.' inequality nightmare is getting worse even as the public gains a greater recognition of the issue. Nick Kristof recognizes that radically different levels of wealth result in a serious lack of opportunity for anybody who doesn't win the genetic lottery. And Katharine Cukier notes that the type of empathy and generosity all too often lacking south of the border has given her and her family a fair chance at happiness in Canada.

- But Ralph Surette observes that the Cons are going out of their way to destroy any sense of fairness or equality in Canada - as evidenced by their work in eliminating equalization in favour of funnelling money and workers toward the tar sands:
(O)ne thing has changed over time -- now the Canadian government is quite content with this state of affairs, and is even encouraging it. Dumping costs on provinces will help it balance its budget, and favouring Alberta and its powerful oil economy at the expense of everything else is its main game. Having Maritimers in particular leave for Alberta is seen by the Harper government as a solution rather than a problem.
Stephen Harper had not campaigned against equalization before becoming prime minister in 2006, instead talking of righting the "fiscal imbalance" he accused the Liberals of creating in a new era of "open federalism." Instead, his response has been unilateral measures that give more to the rich and less to the unrich, capped off by the 2011 decree on health care that gave Alberta an extra $1 billion and taking from everyone else.
Maritime governments in particular and the political class generally have for decades now failed to address the issue of equalization and the broader federal role (for example, we flagellate ourselves over the cost of the Yarmouth ferry while the federal government, which used to subsidize that run as an essential service, is now happily absent, and nobody says a word). This may be our real "culture of defeat." Small provinces acting alone control only a part of their political, economic and social reality. The rest is federal. The very idea of Canada as a nation is bound up in in it.

It's time to talk about this again, and stop taking dictatorial edicts lying down.
- Meanwhile, Gary Younge theorizes that the U.S.' cities are becoming engines of progressive change - making for a pattern worth emulating in Canada.

- Mark Burgess reports on the constant growth of the Cons' PR apparatus - as the money spent propagandizing on behalf of Stephen Harper now exceeds the resources available for Parliament to hold the government to account. And Alex Williams points out that there's an even more striking gap in pay and job availability between the PR flacks spinning on the part of the corporate sector, and the journalists who make a profession of seeing behind that surface message.

- Finally, Kathryn May highlights how the Cons are grasping at straws in searching for an excuse to attack public sector pensions.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Robert Green looks at Quebec as a prime example of selective austerity - with tax cuts and other goodies for the wealthy considered sacrosanct, and well-connected insiders being paid substantial sums of public money to tell citizens they'll have to make do with less:
In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec's elites.
With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec's expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures.
(B)etween 2000 and 2008 PQ and Liberal governments combined to deny Quebec $9.8 billion in revenues through a series of tax measures (both tax cuts and deductions) that disproportionately favour the wealthy. For example, the deep PQ tax cuts of 2002 provided the wealthiest Quebecers (those earning $75,000+) an additional $1,709, over six times the amount gained by the neediest (those earning less than $25,000). The Liberal tax cuts of 2007-2008 were even worse, providing absolutely nothing to households with $25,000 in income, $110 to households with $50,000 in income and a whopping $1859 to households with $150,000 in income.

Add to this $9.8 billion a cut to the tax on the capital of corporations (a move that provided little to small business but was a boon for large corporations and particularly banks), which cost government $1.9 billion, and we're talking about a hole in Quebec's public finances of nearly $12 billion annually.

To put this in perspective, consider that Quebec is currently planning $3.9 billion in spending cuts in order to arrive at a projected deficit of $1.75 billion. Had the government of Quebec not deliberately created a $12-billion hole in its revenues, or even limited itself to a $6-billion hole, we would not be talking about where to make cuts right now; we would be talking about where to reinvest our large surplus.
(T)he first step towards reversing Quebec's great neoliberal heist is informing ourselves and others about the true source of our collective problems. Problems that have nothing to do with out-of-control spending and everything to do with a series of irresponsible tax cuts directed at those who needed them least.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Nikiforuk writes that oil money has gone a long way toward funding the disconnect between the Alberta PC dynasty and the general public, while Mike Moffatt discusses Philip Cross' wishcasting as an example of how to get ahead in a right-wing propaganda tank. And James Baxter discusses the Cons' concerted refusal to listen to the values and policy preferences of Canadians:
While Canadians have been polled and focused-grouped ad nauseum on their policy priorities — which, consistently, are health care, education, the environment, pensions and veterans — they’ve instead been fed a steady diet of made-in-Alberta priorities: skills development, Employment Insurance reform, temporary foreign workers and plenty of pipelines.
(F)or citizens to consent to be governed, there needs to be a sense that government understands their priorities and will focus on them.

What galls is the fact that Finance Canada has spent tens of thousands of dollars in public money (and likely much more) polling and studying the priorities of Canadians in every province — only to completely ignore the results. It’s either that, or Finance was simply overruled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself.
- Paul Krugman writes that inequality is an impediment to growth in and of itself. And Paul Buchheit offers a few inconvenient truths for poverty deniers.

- Alex Hanson exposes the cozy relationship between B.C.'s Lib government which has trashed environmental enforcement, and the corporation responsible for the Mount Polley chemical spill. But lest there be any doubt, British Columbia is far from the only place where businesses which are actively destroying the environment are being rewarded for their efforts.

- Finally, Joseph Heath is duly appalled at John Snobelin's message that people should "embrace big risks" with no regard for the downside of following that strategy.