The historic results of the Alberta election on Tuesday represent a resounding win for progressives. After more than four decades of conservative rule, here’s a primer on the top eight progressive policies Albertans embraced with the election of a majority NDP government under Rachel Notley.
Mel Watkins delivered this eulogy for Abe Rotstein (1929 - 2015) on April 30th 2015
My dear friend Abe had lived so long. He kept teaching after his contemporaries had quit, and was still so sound of body and mind, that it seemed to me that he just might live forever.
We both joined the old Department of Political Economy at the University of Toronto more than 55 years ago and became the best of friends. We have so remained ever since. Our lives intersected personally, politically and intellectually.
Right across Canada and around the world, jurisdictions are moving away from coal-fired electricity generation in favour of cleaner options, and this critical debate has finally come to the mainstream in Alberta.
The Alberta NDP has reignited this much-needed discussion with its platform commitment in the current election to “phase out coal-fired electricity generation to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions and expand cleaner, greener sources, including wind and solar”.
Budget 2015 is, surprise, primarily a political document that extolls the government’s record and highlights tax cuts, but does almost nothing to deal with rising inequality or to shape the trajectory of the struggling economy.
As expected, annual contributions to Tax Free Savings Accounts are to be almost doubled to $10,000 per year, which will cost over $300 million in lost annual revenues within five years. The increase will eventually all but eliminate taxation of investment income, to the primary benefit of the very affluent earning more than $250,000 per year who collect almost half of all capital gains and dividends subject to tax.
1. Family Income Splitting
The federal government plans to spend about $2-billion per year on family income splitting that will mainly benefit high-income, traditional families with a stay at home spouse, to a maximum amount of $2,000 per year. There is no benefit at all from income splitting for single parents, or for two parent families in which both earners are in the same tax bracket, including the middle and bottom income tax brackets; these families with children under 18 represent over half of all families that are the apparent target of the scheme, according to the Broadbent Institute study, The Big Split. Meanwhile, the large savings will go to families with one partner in the top tax bracket and a stay at home spouse with a tax rate of zero. This big pre-election tax cut will directly increase income inequality.
The federal Budget to be introduced on April 21 should have one clear priority – to boost public and private investment so as to create jobs now and a more productive and sustainable economy tomorrow.
The slowing Canadian economy continues to be mainly driven by household borrowing fuelled by ultra low interest rates. With wages stagnant, families are still going deeper into and deeper into debt to spend more than they earn, setting the stage for a nasty housing crash and a rude shock to family finances down the road.
Over the past 20 years, income inequality has been growing faster in Canada than in other similar countries. During this period about one third of all income growth has gone to the top 1%, leaving precious little to be shared among the remaining 99%. We know the inequality problem all too well, but what is the answer to addressing it?
There seem to be three main pillars that provide effective solutions: progressive taxation, a robust safety net, and ensuring fairness in the workplace. This third pillar includes raising the minimum wage in a transparent and predictable manner, improving associated employment standards legislation, and generally making sure labour laws have kept pace with what’s happening in workplaces across the country.
There are many factors other than federal government policy that strongly influence the quantity and quality of Canadian jobs including resource prices, business decisions, the state of the American and the global economy, and the actions of provincial governments to name a few.
That hasn’t stopped Stephen Harper and his Conservative government from trumpeting their record as good economic managers and pursuing a successful jobs and growth agenda. Harper’s supposedly “steady hand” on the economy is central to Conservative election messaging and his perceived economic acumen a frequent talking point of the mainstream press.
So on the eve of the tabling of the federal budget for 2015-16 and during this election, it is relevant to ask: has the job market improved under Harper’s watch from 2006 to 2014?
In a series of recent landmark decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that basic trade union rights, including the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, are protected by the freedom of association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Court has struck down federal and provincial laws that deny some workers the right to join a union, which unilaterally change collective agreements without consultation and due process and which limit the right to strike in the event of an impasse in bargaining.
In a recent feature interview with Amanda Lang, host of CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang, Broadbent Institute Chair Ed Broadbent spoke about inequality, politics, government, social democracy and more.
Here is the interview: