Behind the Numbers

Why “Corporate Social Responsibility” is a Crock

September 19th, 2014 · · Alternative Federal Budget, Capitalism, corporations, Taxes and Tax Cuts

Back when I was in the MBA program at the University of Alberta in 1984, a wily professor put the cat among the pigeons. He asked us students to consider whether corporations should forget about charity and good works and simply…pay their taxes.

Businesses, he argued, were good at making money, not social welfare. The difficult decisions on which groups of needy citizens, domestic and foreign, to help out should best be left to elected officials (who could be turfed at the next election if we didn’t like their actions.) And, in the field of making life better for those in great need, governments employ people who actually know what they are doing. As I recall, the suggestion met with considerable support among my fellow business students. We were a pretty perceptive bunch back then.

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Prejudice Against the Poor Refuted by Facts

September 19th, 2014 · · Income Inequality

There are legions of negative preconceived ideas about the poor. We often hear that they make poor financial choices (pun unintended) when managing what little money they have. I studied the data available from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Household Spending to assess if they hold up to the facts. For ease of reading, I will not indicate dates for each data point: they extend from 2009 to 2011 according to data availability.

The poor drink more

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Saskatchewan – The Next Frontier for P3s

September 18th, 2014 · · Cities, corporations, Saskatchewan, Uncategorized

By Cheryl Stadnichuk

Eighteen months ago, John McBride, the CEO of Public Private Partnerships Canada, was at a cocktail party during a P3 conference in the United States. “All people wanted to talk about,” he said, “was what was happening in Saskatchewan.” McBride was one of dozens of speakers at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce’s second P3 Summit on June 9 in Regina. The conference brought together proponents of P3s (public private partnerships), construction companies like PCL and Graham, financial advisors, lawyers and delegates from provincial, municipal and school board sectors. Its not surprising that McBride gave his anecdote from the United States. The speakers and organizers were clearly aiming to hype Saskatchewan as the next frontier for P3s (as does this insert from The National Post.)

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Does Premier Brad Wall agree with ALEC?

September 16th, 2014 · · Energy Policy, Saskatchewan

Revelations from the Toronto Star today that the Saskatchewan government has paid $3 million to U.S. lobbying firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough to influence American policymakers should not really come as a surprise. As the Star notes, both B.C. and Alberta also maintain extensive lobbying capacity to pursue their respective provincial business interests in the United States. Whether or not this is a wise use of taxpayer money is up to the Saskatchewan public to decide. However, what does come as a surprise is the lobbying firm itself. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough is both a member and State corporate co-chair the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). You might know ALEC as the United States’ premier “corporate bill mill.” ALEC has also been characterized by the New York Times as a “stealth business lobbyist” and as a “bill laundry” for corporate policy ideas by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

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$15 Minimum Wage Movement Spills Into Canada

September 16th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Income Inequality, Ontario, Poverty and Income Inequality, Provinces

Today, the federal NDP is slated to use its Official Opposition Day to table a motion that would have Parliament Hill vote on a proposal to reinstate the federal minimum wage, which has been dormant since 1996.

The motion asks parliamentarians to consider incrementally raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period.

For a while there, it looked like it would never happen – a Canadian $15 minimum wage movement.

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A degree is the new high school diploma: But who can afford it?

September 12th, 2014 · · Education, Income Inequality, Ontario

It’s accepted wisdom that an undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma – it’s the ticket into the workforce.

But that ticket comes at an unrelentingly steep price: average tuition and fees in Ontario are the highest in the country, with no sign of abating.

While tuition fees are increasing all across Canada, Ontario’s have tripled — an increase way, way beyond the rate of inflation, as the following chart shows.



Ontario tuition and other fees are estimated at $8,474 this year and they’re expected to climb to $9,483 by 2017 – a 12 per cent increase, making Ontario consistently the most expensive place in Canada to try to get a ticket into the workforce.

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Where are all the women (candidates)?

September 12th, 2014 · · Child Care, Cities, Gender Equality

Licia Ronzulli voting with her 1 month old daughter

Licia Ronzulli voting with her 1 month old daughter on September 22, 2010. by European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

A number of cities across Canada are gearing up for municipal elections. As the field of candidates becomes clear it is also becoming obvious that there is a serious gap in the numbers of men and women running for office. It seemed like a good time to ask: why don’t more women run for office?

Here’s why.

1. Work. Life.

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The EI “Job Credit”: try “Job Killer”

September 11th, 2014 · · Employment and Labour, Employment Insurance

This morning the federal government announced a “Small Business Job Credit”. The idea is that small businesses with a payroll of under about $550,000 a year will have a portion of what they paid in EI refunded to them. Only the employers get some of their money back, not any of the workers. Also, this is at a time when EI is so restricted that 6 out of 10 unemployed Canadians can’t even get it.

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Canada’s job numbers: Ontario is driving the trends

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

Many analysts agree that this morning’s job numbers from Statistics Canada are dismal. Canada created only 81,000 new jobs between August 2013 and August 2014. That’s the smallest August over August change since 1990.

While taking a look at the Canada wide numbers is important to understanding the economic health of the country, zoning in on the provincial and regional levels can be very informative, showing that different parts of the country are driving different trends.

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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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