Behind the Numbers

Something is rotten in the state of labour negotiations

September 2nd, 2014 · · Employment and Labour

The rich are growing richer at a faster pace than the rest of the population, which explains the widening gap between the richest and the poorest. That we know. Studies have proven the existence of income inequality time and time again. But why is the 1% getting richer at the expense of others? The latest IRIS study, conducted by associate researcher Paul-André Lapointe, provides potential answers. Basically, labour unions’ decline has weakened workers’ bargaining power, preventing them from taking full advantage of productivity gains. And if unions can no longer hold the balance of power, they can’t negotiate advantageous working conditions or ensure compensation keeps up with productivity gains.

To better understand the phenomenon, we must first go back in time. After WWII, the Western world (including Canada) went through a period of uninterrupted growth known as the postwar economic boom, or more pompously as “the Golden Age of Capitalism.” Productivity gains then were huge, and wages increased at roughly the same pace. The 1%’s share in wealth even decreased, meaning that others were managing to grow richer. The postwar economic boom is also a high point in unions’ history. Membership grew, and many struggles ended with victories. The improvements in working condition they won for their members then spread to other sectors. This is especially true for unionized workers in the public sector, long considered the labour movement’s powerhouse.

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Where is the economic action for women in the North?

August 29th, 2014 · · Child Care, Employment and Labour, Gender Equality

Umimmak School in Nunavut

By Timkal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Prime Minister is wrapping up his ninth annual trip to Canada’s north this week. This year, like every year, the stealth ski-doo is loaded up with announcements.

Presents for everyone!

So what are women in Nunavut going to find in their stockings this year? The bulk of federal investments in economic development in the north are funnelled through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, which has an annual budget of just over $50 million (although that number is projected to decline over the next few years). Much of that $50 million is currently directed towards resource development—training for folks to work in the resource sector, infrastructure to get to the resources, research to tell us where the resources are.

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5 reasons why Ontario’s latest economic update matters

August 27th, 2014 · · Economy & Economic Indicators, Ontario, public services

Each quarter, Ontario’s Ministry of Finance releases an update on Ontario’s economic accounts.

The numbers for the first quarter of 2014 were released in the heat of summer, and on the same day that the provincial budget was re-introduced. As a result, it went largely unnoticed.

A closer look tells us this update deserves more attention than it got.

Here are some highlights (or lowlights as the case may be):

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Let’s Be Creative: Let’s Destroy the University

August 26th, 2014 · · Education

In its July issue, The Economist placed on its front page a picture of a graduate cap turned into a bomb nearing explosion under the heading “Creative destruction: reinventing the university.” Repurposing Joseph Schumpeter’s well-known phrase, the magazine announced this time that university, that venerable institution, would undergo a true revolution because of rising costs, transformations in the labour market, and an important technological shift.

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Tim’s + BK = $ for Canada right? …. Wrong! (in one table)

August 25th, 2014 · · corporations, Economy & Economic Indicators, Taxes and Tax Cuts

Big news today that Burger King, a US company, is planning to buy Tim Horton’s, a Canadian one. This is another in a string of “tax inversion” deals where US corporations move their corporate headquarters from the US to elsewhere to avoid US taxation. They don’t actually change anything or move anyone outside of their accounting fairyland. Instead, they just check some different boxes on their income tax forms and ‘poof’ save millions in taxes.

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How Have Taxes Changed Over the Last Half Century

August 25th, 2014 · · Taxes and Tax Cuts

The Fraser Institute’s annual Consumer Tax Index report generated some media buzz with its outlandish claims about just how much taxes have risen since 1961. Before you get worked up about this, consider that 1961 was over half a century ago, before the time of universal health care that we all benefit from, before the Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement that hugely reduced poverty for seniors, before the Canada Child Tax Benefit which is helping lower child poverty (though not enough!).

There are big problems with the Fraser Institute report’s methodology which lead them to grossly overestimate the tax bill of the average Canadian family.

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The Truth Behind Corporate Tax Cuts (in one chart)

August 19th, 2014 · · corporations, Economy & Economic Indicators, Taxes and Tax Cuts

Corporate Canada has reached a milestone in 2014. For the first time ever, it is now hoarding more cash than the national debt. What that means is that in one foul swoop, Canada’s corporations could pay off our entire national debt with just the cash sitting in their banks accounts, nevermind their other assets.

Corporate cash hoarding really ramped up as corporate tax rates were slashed in half from 31% in 1997 to 16% today. Corporate Canada argued in the late 1990s that they’d use that extra cash to build more factories, train more workers and make Canada more productive. Turns out … not so much.

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Ten areas of regulatory failure that contributed, directly or indirectly, to the Lac-Mégantic disaster

August 18th, 2014 · · corporations, Energy Policy

My report, Willful Blindness?, released today, summarizes the regulatory failures behind the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. The federal government has so far not acknowledged any culpability or responsibility for the accident. On the contrary, the Minister has blamed the accident on the negligence of individuals and not on gaps in the regulatory regime.

In reality, there were multiple regulatory failures. It is one thing if there was just one or two, but the many failures contributing to the accident begs the question: was this a case of willful blindness?

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What’s wrong with the tar sands boom? (in one graph)

August 5th, 2014 · · Economy & Economic Indicators, Environment, Income Inequality, Uncategorized

So let’s say that you don’t care about pipelines. Let’s say climate change doesn’t concern you or your children. Let’s say you aren’t concerned about the radical alternation in the landscape of northern Alberta.

What if when I say “tar sands” and you say “Show me the money!”

Well even if you didn’t care about the above, you should care about the money and where it has been going since the tar rush began. The value of crude oil since 1986 has risen 50% from $379/m3 to $570/m3 ($2010). That has created a resource rush like Canada has never seen. At its epicentre, the richest Calgarians have seen their average incomes rise over $600,000 (inflation adjusted) an increase of over 180% since 1986…make it rain!

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Is it time for a Canadian “daddy month”?

July 31st, 2014 · · Child Care, Employment and Labour, Gender Equality, Quebec

What makes for happy families? It turns out parents and policy makers could learn a lesson or two from their kids.

Lesson one: share.daddy_mouth

OK, I’ll admit it, there is one thing you can’t share—those nine awesome months of heartburn and swollen ankles. But the day your bundle of joy arrives, the sharing benefits start. In 2006 Quebec implemented a new paternity leave program to help fathers share more of the benefits and (yes, also the dirty diaper, and the middle of the night headaches) with mothers. Result? More fathers take time out after their kids are born in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. A lot more. Three times more.

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