The run up to the recent Quebec election prompted a revival of the argument that only federal transfers keep that fiscally-challenged province afloat. For example, Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute argued in the National Post that Quebec is “massively subsidized by the rest of Canada.”
This argument is hugely over-done. And it contradicts a more effective and positive argument for federalism, namely that it has been no barrier to the construction of a distinctive and progressive social model in Quebec.Read more
As is well-known, the proportion of women who are active in the paid work force has grown very rapidly since the 1970s, transforming the workplace and society as a whole in the process. The rising participation rate of women was a major economic force over the past three decades in that it kept real family incomes afloat despite stagnant, if not falling, male wages.Read more
A widely-reported study by the New York Times shows that middle-class Canadians now have higher after-tax incomes than middle-class Americans, and that Canadian middle-class incomes, adjusted for inflation, have been rising significantly over the past decade.
The facts cited in the original article are not in dispute. The median per-person income in the United States (half earn more and half earn less) has stagnated for the past decade, and the income share of the top 1% in that country has continued to rise to record-high levels.
But this does not mean, as the Harper Conservatives and right-wing pundits have been quick to claim, that all is well with the Canadian middle class.Read more
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) have published a major report undertaken by PwC Canada to assess the contribution to Canadian public finances of their members. The report is based on data provided by sixty three participating member companies representing 40% of Council members.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the report is clearly intended to leave the impression that corporate Canada is heavily taxed and a major funder of government programs and services. It has been released in the wider context of studies questioning the effectiveness of deep cuts to corporate tax rates which have resulted in mounting piles of “dead money” accumulating on corporate balance sheets.Read more
A close look at today's labour force numbers indicates that fewer Canadians in all age groups are either working or are unemployed and actively seeking work.
While it is influenced by demographic trends such as an aging population, a falling participation rate is generally a sign that people have given up looking for jobs due to a low level of hiring by employers.Read more
Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will be rightly remembered for the 2009 federal Budget which provided much-needed fiscal stimulus to boost a crisis-ridden Canadian economy and helped set the stage for recovery.
While the government was reluctant to act, domestic political as well as international pressure from the G20 forced even strict fiscal conservatives such as Prime Minister Harper and Minister Flaherty to find their inner Keynes.Read more
The fact that income inequality in Canada today is significantly greater than it was 30 years ago is not in serious dispute. But there is much less agreement on the underlying causes.
It is important to look at trends in the “pre-distribution” of income by the market in the form of wages and salaries, and changes in the impact of government taxes and income transfer programs that redistribute market income from the more affluent to the less affluent.Read more
Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh. The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975. Harbour Publishing. 2012.
This impressive and readable book by two well-known and respected British Columbia authors sheds light on a now largely forgotten episode in Canadian politics and is a welcome reminder of the very real gains that can be made by a determined and genuinely progressive government.
Geoff Meggs is a journalist and current Vancouver City Councillor, and Rod Mickleburgh writes from Vancouver for the Globe and Mail.Read more
Statistics Canada released today the Survey of Financial Security (SFS), providing Canadians with the first comprehensive snapshot of wealth and wealth distribution in the country since 2005.
While Canadian’s net worth has increased significantly since 2005, mostly due to increases in housing prices, the real story is one of persistent economic inequality and rising debt.Read more
Discouraging women from working outside the home is surely not an appropriate goal for tax policy. But that may just be the motivation behind the Harper government's plan to introduce "income splitting" for families — an expensive tax gift to traditional families with one breadwinner and a stay at home spouse.
The gift is already proving costly to Conservative party unity. The Harper government's own finance minister is speaking out against the policy that would deprive the treasury of tax revenues while benefitting mainly big earners.Read more
Statistics Canada released Friday Canada's January Labour Force numbers, showing Canada's job market remains mired in a weak recovery.
On the surface, the labour force numbers look alright. The national unemployment rate fell from 7.2% to 7.0%, and employment rose by 29,000, all in full-time employment.
However, the employment rate (the proportion of the working age population with a job) was unchanged at 61.6%, and the unemployment rate fell mainly because of a decline in the number of persons seeking work.Read more
In last year’s Speech from the Throne, the Harper government promised to introduce legislation to require “balanced budgets during normal economic times, and concrete time lines for return to balance in the event of an economic crisis.”
This proposed legislation makes little sense in terms of sound economic policy. But it will likely be introduced as part of the federal budget, expected early next month.
As Christopher Ragan argued in a previous Economy Lab commentary, it is simplistic to think we can set out firm rules for responsible fiscal policy, the conduct of which demands a nuanced understanding of the state of the economy and of public finances.Read more
For the first time ever, the percentage of Canadian seniors aged 65 to 69 who are still working rose to more than one in four in the autumn of 2013.
As shown by Statistics Canada, while the life expectancy of Canadians has been steadily rising, the average number of years spent not working has actually been stable since the mid-1990s – due to the fact that more and more seniors continue to work past the traditional age of retirement.Read more
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the economy is too weak to support a modest, phased-in increase in Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums divided between employers and employees.Read more
This is disputed by experts, and also contradicts Conservative messaging in two important ways.
First, in every other context, from the Speech from the Throne, to the recent Economic and Fiscal Update, the Conservatives have bragged about Canada's economic performance and highlighted the chances of a strong recovery. Except when it comes to the CPP debate, "the land is strong."
There is broad agreement across the political spectrum that we need to create more 'good middle-class jobs', especially for young people leaving the educational system, recent immigrants to Canada, and aboriginal persons.
Middle-class jobs can be seen as those which provide decent pay, working conditions, and benefits; a measure of employment security; and, above all, opportunities to build skills and progress over time in a career. In today's labour market, these kind of jobs generally require a professional or advanced technical qualification acquired through postsecondary education.Read more
Today, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he is opposed to the provincial proposal to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) because it is not a “modest” proposal and would cost jobs. In fact, according to pension expert Robert Brown, the provincial plan would gradually raise employer CPP premiums by 1.55%, starting at earnings above $25,000.
That sounds pretty modest.Read more
In October, 2011, two leading U.S. economists, Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers, squared off in Toronto in the high-profile Munk Debates. At issue was the question of whether North America faced a Japan-style era of prolonged economic stagnation.
Mr. Summers, former Treasury secretary under president Bill Clinton, a key White House economic adviser in President Barack Obama’s first term, former president of Harvard University, and for a time a highly paid adviser to a leading hedge fund, is as close to an establishment economist as one can get. He was widely reported to be President Obama’s personal choice to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and probably would have been nominated if not for strong opposition from the many Democratic senators who saw him as too close to Wall Street.Read more
Two major recent studies – from Derek Burleton and his colleagues at Toronto-Dominion Bank, and from former senior federal government official Cliff Halliwell published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy – provide excellent overviews of recent developments in the Canadian job market, and an informed framework for thinking about our future skills needs.
This message seems to have finally got through to the Harper government. In a speech to the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce on November 14, Employment and Skills Development Minister Jason Kenney told employers to stop complaining and to stop relying excessively upon temporary workers. Instead, he said, employers should “put more skin in the game” by increasing wages in high-demand occupations and by investing more in the training of Canadians.Read more
In 1939, the United States and much of the world were still struggling to exit the Great Depression that had begun a decade earlier. In that context, Alvin Hansen – the prominent economist and disciple of John Maynard Keynes – famously argued before the American Economic Association that the underlying problem was not cyclical, but rather “secular stagnation.”
Mr. Hansen anticipated an extended period of sluggish growth and high unemployment, due to a structural shortage of demand compared with already existing productive capacity. Under such circumstances, there were few profitable investment opportunities for business, resulting in excess savings and idle resources.Read more
One of the major forces behind the rapid increase in the income share of the top 1% in the United States and Canada has been rising senior corporate executive pay, especially in the form of stock options.
The majority of the top 1%, and an even higher proportion of persons in the ultra-wealthy top 0.1%, are either senior managers of non financial companies or work in the financial sector where stock options are usually the biggest single part of total compensation.Read more
Andrew Jackson is the Broadbent Institute's Senior Policy Advisor.
In September, 2012 he retired from a long career as Chief Economist and Director of Social and Economic Policy with the Canadian Labour Congress.
In 2011, he was awarded the Sefton Prize by the University of Toronto for his lifetime contributions to industrial relations. Educated at the University of British Columbia and the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he earned a B. Sc. and an M.Sc. in Economics, Andrew is the author of numerous articles and five books, including Work and Labour in Canada: Critical Issues, which is now in its second edition with Canadian Scholars Press.