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.

The case for wage-led growth

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The standard view in economics and in policy circles is that wage increases come at a cost that impacts individual firms negatively. According to this view, wage increases also lead to losses in a firm’s competitiveness in foreign markets. Thus, until the advent of the global financial crisis, mainstream authors paid little attention to the fact that wage growth had lagged behind the sum of productivity growth and inflation, in most countries and for several decades, and that as a result wage shares had fallen. There was also little concern with the rise in wage dispersion— the gap between the income share of the top 1% and the rest that became a part of the lexicon during the Occupy Wall street movement.

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How many Canadians have "middle-class jobs"?

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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.

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Flaherty's EI surplus sleight-of-hand

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The Parliamentary Budget Office has come out with a report suggesting that the Conservatives will likely balance the budget ahead of schedule. But, and it’s a big but, they also found there would be no balanced budget in 2016 if there were no Employment Insurance (EI) surplus. 

The Conservatives' use of the EI surplus to pay for a balanced budget deserves closer scrutiny.

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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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