Behind the Numbers

What if First Nations (and their poverty) were counted?

January 26th, 2015 · · Aboriginal Issues, Employment and Labour

Kudos to the Globe and Mail for their front page story on Jan 23rd highlighting the fact that the official unemployment rate does not count First Nations reserves. You heard that right: First Nations reserves, some of the poorest places in the country, are not included in the official unemployment rate.

As unbelievable as that sounds, the reality is even worse. Reserves are regularly excluded from all of our regularly updated measures of poverty, wage growth, average incomes etc. The exception to this rule is during a Census, i.e. every four years (and as a result of legislation making the long form Census voluntary, concerns have been raised about the future reliability of these data). Otherwise, reserves—some of the poorest places in Canada–are statistic-free zones: out of sight…out of mind.

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The Bank of Canada’s latest move is less surprising than you think

January 22nd, 2015 · · Bank of Canada, Economy & Economic Indicators

Canada’s financial industry and its associated analysts reacted with shock and dismay to the Bank of Canada’s announcement this week that it was lowering its trend-signalling interest rate from 1.0%, where it had been pegged since 2010, to 0.75%.

While they might have valid business reasons for their response – after all, virtually all of them had been advising their clients, employers, and shareholders that rates were likely to go up, not down, in the next few months, they shouldn’t have been surprised.

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Who gets paid more?

January 20th, 2015 · · Economy & Economic Indicators, Employment and Labour, Gender Equality, Income Inequality, Poverty and Income Inequality, public services

The Fraser Institute is really concerned that public sector employees might be making more than private sector employees. What is notable about the recent Fraser Institute report on public and private sector wages in British Columbia is that it does not seem particularly concerned with the reasons why there are variations in public and private sector compensation. The stated concern of the report is that public sector wages, benefits and job security should be more closely tied to private sector wages, benefits and job security.

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Toronto, you’re richer than you think

January 20th, 2015 · · Ontario, public services, Taxes and Tax Cuts

Toronto’s budget season has begun in earnest, and it’s yielding a mix of the predictable “we can’t afford things” debate, along with some refreshing surprises.

Refreshing: Mayor John Tory is clearly signalling a desire to break from the recent past with the 2015 budget. His announcement on improvements to the TTC and his focus on the value of service improvements at his budget press conference this morning are a welcome breath of fresh air.

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The case against a revenue-neutral carbon tax

January 16th, 2015 · · Energy Policy, Environment, Taxes and Tax Cuts

I’m a fan of carbon taxes, but increasingly I see the term “revenue-neutral” attached to it. Where I live, in BC, we have perhaps the most prominent example of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and carbon tax advocates have come to promoting the BC model to other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, who are contemplating their own carbon tax. This includes the new EcoFiscal Commission, which endorses a naive view of markets – the magic of free markets is alive and well, and if only we could put a price on carbon to change marketplace incentives, all will be well.

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Now is exactly the right time to regulate oil and gas

January 16th, 2015 · · Energy Policy, Environment

Late last year, Prime Minister Harper declared that, given plummeting oil prices, now would be a “crazy” time to introduce regulations on the oil and gas sector.

This comes after promising nine years ago that the federal government would bring in new GHG regulations on the oil and gas sector (but failing to do so), and after committing at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 that Canada would reduce its GHG emissions by 17% by 2020, a target that Environment Canada now says the government has no plan to meet.

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CETA: A Bad Trade for Women

December 18th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Gender Equality, International Trade and Investment

In September the federal government triumphantly announced the conclusion of the Canada-European Union Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). Again. The government boasts that CETA will benefit all Canadians, bringing $12 billion annually to the economy. Generous projections aside, does the government even know how the agreement will affect Canadian men and women? The answer is ‘no.’

So you might be wondering:

Was gender considered in CETA?

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Rigour is meant for others

December 11th, 2014 · · public services

Rigorous analysis: so overrated!

Late in November, former Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard unveiled the first set of recommendations by her advisory group tasked with reviewing Quebec government spending. Indeed, in June, the Couillard government mandated the committee to find potential avenues to reach a targeted $3.2G in savings in an attempt to shore up Quebec’s public finances and reduce the cost of debt servicing.

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High-priced help: Spending on consultants increases by 228%

December 11th, 2014 · · public services, Saskatchewan

I am not sure which is more alarming: the fact that the Saskatchewan government increased its spending on consultants by 228% in the last five years, or that Provincial Auditor Judy Ferguson found that the government can’t even justify their need for consultants.

Ferguson’s report, released December 3, devotes an entire chapter to the surging use of consultants by the Ministry of Central Services. She documents that spending on consultants increased from $8.1 million to $21.7 million from 2008-09 to 2013-14. The total spending on consultants for all ministries shot up even more: from $36.7 million to $120.3 million, or by 228%. Such a meteoric rise in consultants must mean they are desperately needed, doesn’t it?

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A tough month for job seekers in Ontario

December 5th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Ontario

After a gain of 37,000 jobs in October, Ontario posted a loss of 33,900 jobs in November.

Unfortunately, 80% of those losses were in full-time work.

Ontario’s year-to-date unemployment rate is now 7.3%. The province’s employment rate, which provides a snapshot of how many people are actually working in paid employment, nudged down a bit: year-to-date, Ontario’s employment rate is 61.2%. To put that into perspective, the employment rate in 2012, post-recession, was 61.3% and in 2013 it was 61.4%.

The November job numbers run counter to an overall trend in 2014: the year featured nine months of net job growth and two months of net job losses.

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