Behind the Numbers

A generation of broken promises: The 2014 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia

November 24th, 2014 · · Nova Scotia, Poverty and Income Inequality

“Study after study describes poverty as a profound and damning thing for child development. The political response has been to watch poverty levels dip and rise. On the sidelines, statisticians have debated how measurement might best occur…too often with a view to reporting the lowest numbers possible. There have been champions. Despite that Canada has arrived at a shameful place. 

Right now our inaction tells the world this nation thinks one in four children are not worth it. 

Not worth feeding. 

Not worth shelter. 

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Nova Scotia Tax Review: Eroding Tax Fairness

November 19th, 2014 · · Income Inequality, Nova Scotia, public services, Taxes and Tax Cuts

The Nova Scotia Tax Review released today lacks an analysis of the impact its tax changes will have on Nova Scotians. Who would benefit? A simple distributional analysis of different income groups would give us some information. Not available. (Informative to check out the analysis we did for the Hamm government’s proposed cuts back in 2003 – by income level & by gender and county.)

What is the anticipated effect of the tax changes on the economy? How many jobs might be created by this tax package? There is no evidence in this report on either of those. What can be said based on what we know about the problems facing the province, the current tax regime and the impact of taxes and government spending on the economy?

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Ontario’s economic update: pieced together with string and masking tape

November 17th, 2014 · · Ontario, public services

This afternoon, Ontario released its Fall Economic Update and Fiscal Review.

Both revenues and economic growth are slightly lower than expected. But, the government is sticking to its deficit reduction plan; and holding it together with string and masking tape.

It is hoping that an increased focus on collecting taxes that are owed and shifting around reserve funds will do the trick this year.  Meeting its  timeline to reduce the deficit to zero will rely on program spending growth at less than 1 per cent per year until 2017-18.

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IPCC doom, gloom and an LED light at the end of the tunnel

November 17th, 2014 · · Energy Policy, Environment

The latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a super-synthesis of the state of agreed knowledge about climate change, adaptation and mitigation. Imagine thousands of research papers summarized in three major volumes (released over the past year), with this new report the grand summary of that. And even that condensed into a 40-page summary for policymakers.

Now I will humbly boil that down to a few key observations: climate change is happening and costs are piling up; it’s caused by human activity, primarily the combustion of coal, oil and gas; staying on our current pathway risks ever-greater danger of irreversible adverse impacts around the world; and, perhaps most importantly, we still have time for a soft landing if we act quickly.

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Have artists become their own patrons in Quebec?

November 12th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Quebec

We’ve all heard people claim that artists “don’t work” or “don’t do any real work.” Some even go so far as to say that artists are just parasites living off the rest of society. IRIS looked into how creators, artists, and craftsmen and -women in the audiovisual sector organize their work. The findings were published under the title “Le travail des artistes est-il payé à sa juste valeur? [Are artists paid fairly for their work?]”. In this study, we expose artists’ working conditions in the audiovisual sector (we use the term “artist” to cover all the actors, screenwriters, technicians, directors… nearly everyone working in the sector) as well as the unpaid time and money they invest into their projects to ensure that Quebec culture stays dynamic.

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Women are talking. Who’s listening?

November 7th, 2014 · · Aboriginal Issues, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Gender Equality

The question is not, are we sorry? The question is, what lesson have we learned? The question is, what are we going to do now that we are sorry?”

- J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace. Penguin Books, 1999.

Women in Canada are speaking. They are speaking about the violence that one in four women will experience in her lifetime. What is most remarkable to me about this moment in particular, is not the fact of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Not the prevalence of these forms of violence. Not even that women are telling these stories (although I stand in awe of their courage). What is remarkable to me about this moment is that the survivors of these forms of violence are being given increasingly wide venues in which to be heard.

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An Initial Response to the Government’s Green Paper on Liquor Options

November 4th, 2014 · · Saskatchewan

Today, the Government of Saskatchewan released its’ Green Paper,“Future Options for Liquor Retailing in Saskatchewan” in anticipation of a province-wide liquor privatization debate. Firstly, the government is to be commended for what is a rather comprehensive document that gives the people of Saskatchewan a distinct set of options to consider for  the future of liquor retailing in the province. Unfortunately, the government’s obvious preference for the privatization option rears its ugly head again and again throughout the document. Most flagrant, is despite recognizing that arguments for and against privatization tend to focus on government revenues, price/selection and social harms, the government spends an awful lot of time on the first two and precious little on the third.

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Is Big Oil a big job creator?

October 27th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour

Job creation is high on the oil industry’s list of go-to arguments for increased investment in the oil sands. Energy extraction is a key driver of employment growth, they tell us, and the benefits extend well beyond Alberta. “Almost every community in Canada has been touched by oil sands development through the stimulating impact it has on job creation,” according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The industry’s favourite number? 905,000. That’s the projected increase in oil sands jobs in the next two decades, up from a meager 75,000 today, according to an oft-quoted report by the industry-funded Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).

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Dear 99%: Universal child care? No thanks; we’re good. Sincerely, the 1%

October 23rd, 2014 · · Child Care, Poverty and Income Inequality, Satire

Some time ago, a white-collar professional acquaintance of mine was temporarily laid off. She was concerned—maybe a bit embarrassed—but not too worried; she had good connections and an impressive CV. She even had some savings. But they certainly wouldn’t last long: she still needed an income.

I asked her if she had applied for EI yet, and she looked at me, shocked.

“I’d never go on EI—that’s for people who really need it,” she told me. “I’ve taken out a line of credit to tide me over.”

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Get back in line, Mr. Premier

October 17th, 2014 · · Health Care, Saskatchewan, Uncategorized

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall once again stirred the privatization pot yesterday when he took to social media to ask: “Is it time to allow people to pay for their own private MRI’s in Saskatchewan like they can do in Alberta?” The Premier’s twitter trial balloon suggests the government will argue that allowing private, for-profit MRIs will help reduce wait times in the public system. The Premier himself added: “It does make sense that the wait list is going to shrink because those who want to pay will come off that public wait list and they’ll get their MRIs and thereby shortening the wait list for all, whether they want to pay or not.”

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