Behind the Numbers

Armine Yalnizyan’s Blog Posts

Armine Yalnizyan is a Senior Economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (

Grocery Wars: Lessons from Canada’s Changing Retail Landscape

March 4th, 2015 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Capitalism

As Target Canada tumbled into bankruptcy, Loblaw announced that its fourth-quarter profits more than doubled. What should we make of this tale of two retailers?

The main reason for Loblaw’s surge was its acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart last March, which turned it into Canada’s largest grocer and pharmacy chain.  Shoppers contributed $3 billion to Loblaw’s $11.4 billion take in sales, a 50% jump. Profits more than doubled from the previous year as Loblaw also saw cost savings from the merger. The irony behind this success story is that it was likely Target’s arrival on the retail landscape  that forced Loblaw to step up their game.

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Doubling TFSA Contributions Limits: Even Nastier than Income Splitting

March 2nd, 2015 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Canada, Income Inequality, Taxes and Tax Cuts

The Harper government gives five reasons why Canadians ought to be happy with its proposal to double the maximum contribution to the Tax-Free Savings Account. Examine each of its points more closely, however, and it’s clear that the TFSA carries far higher risks than rewards — for individual Canadians  as well as for the economy as a whole.

Let’s unpack the government’s arguments one by one:

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Ontario’s slow growth economy: better news than you might think

April 14th, 2014 · Armine Yalnizyan · 1 Comment · Economy & Economic Indicators, Ontario

Ontario’s Minister of Finance recently released a report that looked into the future, and saw a slow growth scenario for our economy over the next 20 years.

Charles Sousa predicts that Ontario’s economy will grow at just above 2 per cent a year, on average, for the next 20 years. To put just how slow that is in context: that’s below the average for the previous 25 years – including the two huge recessions that took place during that period.

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The ‘girl effect’ reduces inequality, but we can’t count on it forever

March 7th, 2014 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Gender Equality, Income Inequality

This piece was first published in the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.

Every year when International Women’s Day rolls by, I can’t help but reflect on power, how it’s shared, and how women use the power they have. This year, I am struck by women’s power to reduce inequality, and not just to help ourselves. Women are key to reducing income inequality.

It’s been dubbed the girl effect, more powerful than the Internet, science, the government, and even money.

Canada is actually a poster girl (sorry) for the truth that education and hard work can transform not just lives but societies.

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Will income-splitting’s politics trump its lousy economics?

February 14th, 2014 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Poverty and Income Inequality, Taxes and Tax Cuts

This piece was first published in the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.

You could hear the sound of jaws dropping across the nation this week when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, in response to a question from a journalist, cast doubt on the idea of income-splitting for young families, something his party has been promising since March 28, 2011.

The idea – which would allow the higher-earning spouse to transfer income to their lower-earning spouse in order to reduce their total tax hit – provoked controversy right from the start. But it became an increasingly hard sell as economists and think tanks from across the political spectrum lined up in agreement: Income-splitting costs too much for something that is worse than doing nothing.

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Why the minimum wage debate isn’t going to go away

February 5th, 2014 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Income Inequality, Ontario, Poverty and Income Inequality

This piece was first published in the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.

There is a good reason why the minimum wage has fired up so much debate lately. It has to do with how a “trickle-away” recovery has dogged so many advanced economies since the 2008 global crisis hit.

For most people today, growth is happening somewhere else, for someone else. The result is a crescendo of frustration.

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Canada Post’s vow to ‘protect taxpayers’ needs a reality check

December 16th, 2013 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Employment and Labour

This piece was first published in the Globe & Mail.

In a move that caught everyone off-guard, Canada Post announced a five point “action plan” last week that included phasing-out home delivery of the mail over the next five years, making Canada the only G7 nation to do so. Why? To “protect taxpayers.”

Of all the reasons that merit discussion as to whether letter carriers belong to a redundant class of workers, like the milkman or iceman, taxpayer protection isn’t one. This Crown corporation is more likely to make money than lose it.

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How Harper can avoid turning the Budget Implementation Bill into a Duffy Budget Bill

November 27th, 2013 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Economy & Economic Indicators, Federal Budget

On November 25th, I made the following submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding Bill C-4, Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2, on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.  

1.     Introduction and Context

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the Committee, as Members of Parliament review the second budget implementation bill for the budget of 2013.

It is a particular honour to appear as a witness, since this committee will only hear eight hours of testimony from witnesses — including one hour from the Finance Minister — over just 2 days of hearings.

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Toronto is Canada’s hottest job market – for better or worse

October 4th, 2013 · Armine Yalnizyan · 2 Comments · Employment and Labour, Ontario

This piece was first published in the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.

A company called Career Builder recently released a list of what it called the ten hottest jobs in Toronto, based on data about the occupations with the fastest increases in employment between 2010 and 2013.

That made me wonder: how does Toronto compare to the rest of the country in overall job growth? And where are the engines of job growth?

So I took a look under the hood and was surprised to learn that Toronto accounted for one in three of all jobs created in Canada between 2010 and 2013 thus far.

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The rise and fall (and rise?) of Blackberry – the story that just won’t quit

September 24th, 2013 · Armine Yalnizyan · No Comments · Corporations, Economy & Economic Indicators

This is an experiment. I’m writing an essay based on my latest Metro Morning column. Each of these columns take hours of prep, so I thought I’d convert it into prose to see if it’s worth it. Would love your feedback.  

The rise and fall (and rise?) of Blackberry is a story that has gripped our attention, and not just because it affects so many Canadians.

It’s because this tumultuous story has more plot twists than a thriller.

Yesterday the company stole the spotlight yet again with news that its future might not be dashed after all, thanks to a home-grown financial rescue package that took everyone by surprise.   Here’s why it’s important:

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