The Broadbent Blog

THE HUB FOR CANADA’S LEADING PROGRESSIVE VOICES.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute.

What's behind the opposition to a bigger, better CPP?

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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.

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Economy needs infrastructure boost, not belt-tightening

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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.

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Pope Francis and Catholicism's long ignored progressive tradition

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The wrath of the biblical prophets was often directed at those who enjoyed the inequality of their riches while ignoring the needs of the vulnerable at the other end of the economic scale. One of the earliest of such prophets was Amos, who condemned those who oppress the poor and crush the needy. According to biblical scholar Walter Bruggeman, Amos was protesting against the “self-indulgent economy of the urban elite.” In statements made both before and after he became Pope, it is clear that Pope Francis sees the prophetic tradition as integral to his understanding of what it means to be a good pastor of the flock.

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Grey Cup victory, forgotten history

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Grey Cup 101 is in the books. The green and white confetti has been trampled over, the line-ups at the Roughrider stores are no longer out the door, and fans are likely caught up on their sleep after a huge celebration in honour of Saskatchewan winning their 4th Grey Cup victory.

Reviewing the blogs, newspaper coverage and television commentary that came with this victory, I noticed a theme when Saskatchewan’s history is discussed. It is said Saskatchewan was built on the backs of the settlers and pioneers, who had determination, vision, and cooperation. It is said the Riders fans have deep roots in this province, and they bleed green as they don their fanciful green gear to faithfully watch their team win or lose.

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On industrial policy and free trade

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The current debate over the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU typically pits “free-traders” against “protectionists”. Free-trade proponents are depicted as those who accept the alleged benefits of globalization — more jobs for everyone, lower consumer prices and more consumer choices. Protectionists, on the other hand, are characterized as those who oppose any trade and want to preserve today’s jobs and consumer choices at any cost.

Framing the issue in these terms, however, is no longer meaningful. The debate has moved on, thanks both to the work of certain economists, as well as the experience of a number of Asian countries that have pursued different policies.

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No shortage of workers – just a shortage of training

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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.

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Cynically hiding our heads in the (oil) sands

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First she was against Northern Gateway — now she’s for it. What a difference an election makes.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s reversal on the Northern Gateway pipeline project is typical of these cynical times we live in, when the lure of quick oil wealth outweighs any responsibility for the threat of climate pollution.

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Innovation: re-thinking the role of the state

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Mariana Mazzucato’s new book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, has created some buzz: her Ted Talk has been widely shared, and the book is being discussed by the Economist, the Financial Times, and in the Globe & Mail by the Broadbent Institute’s own Andrew Jackson.

The book goes a long way towards debunking myths about private sector innovation. There is a persistent view that private entrepreneurs are the lions of the economy, fearlessly setting new directions and taking risks. Mazzucato argues that the private sector is important, but should really be viewed as a pussycat, with the state more aptly described as the lion that takes risks and drives innovation. 

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Economy’s supposed slow recovery is really a ‘secular stagnation’

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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.

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Rob Ford and the truth about privilege

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Renowned lawyer Clayton Ruby’s intervention into the Rob Ford spectacle got me thinking about the ways in which this civic mess has unfolded. Namely, it has brought into focus how privilege continues to be accrued unfairly to certain individuals and communities and not others in Canadian society.

Toronto Police Chief William Blair’s announcement concerning the recovery of the infamous video came just as a judge’s ruling on disclosure of the warrant became public. Some of what has been revealed in those documents is more damning than the reality of the video. The video vindicates the reporters and the Toronto Star in particular. However, the documents raise a whole other set of issues and concerns, ones that are bigger than Rob Ford and the specifics of his actions and represent a far more troubling, systemic scandal.

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