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.

10 things to remember about Stephen Harper’s consumer-unfriendly record

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The Conservative government devoted a big chunk of Wednesday’s Throne Speech to try and buff up its reputation as a government that cares – really, really cares – about consumers.

Here are 10 things to remember about the Harper government’s record when you’re being bombarded with Conservative spin about the consumer goodies in the Throne Speech:

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Review: The Entrepreneurial State

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The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths has been critically well-received in the UK by such publications as the Economist and the Financial Times and stands as a refreshing new take and counterpoint to today’s rather stale debates on the economic role of government.

On the one hand, the right celebrates private sector entrepreneurship and so-called free markets as the only sure road to prosperity. The private sector led “creative destruction” process is seen as the key source of capitalist dynamism and growth. On the other hand, progressives tend to stress the role of the state as a needed regulator of economic activity, as a Keynesian backstop to stable growth, and as a vehicle for achieving a fairer distribution of income and wealth. Proponents of a more active government role in the economy are often portrayed by the right as enemies of a successful economy.

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Costly and unfair: Stephen Harper's income-splitting scheme

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During the last federal election, Stephen Harper promised that his Conservative government would introduce a new way to tax families with children after balancing the federal budget.

We are likely to hear a lot more about the merits of Harper's 'income-splitting' proposal before the 2015 election. The Conservatives continue to slash spending and erode public services precisely in order to create the fiscal room for this promised tax cut. Never mind that Mr. Harper’s aggressive agenda of tax cuts has already helped turn a $16 billion surplus in 2006 into annual deficits.

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Bigger clawbacks to Old Age Security not the answer

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Not content with the recent Harper government decision to trim program costs by raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (OAS/GIS) from 65 to 67, the Fraser Institute wants to withdraw OAS benefits from more seniors.

They propose to claw back OAS benefits from seniors with individual incomes of more than $51,000, instead of the current clawback level of $71,000. Under their proposal, benefits would be entirely lost at an income of $95,000, instead of the current $115,000.

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Merit Canada’s low-wage, low-skills plan for the Canadian construction industry

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Having successfully lobbied the Conservative government to repeal the federal Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, Merit Canada now wants the Conservative government to enact what is ostensibly a “low-wage policy”. It’s an effort that threatens to drive down labour standards for all workers, erode wages, and imperil the long-term health of the construction industry.

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Upstream: talking differently about health

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Social factors play a significant role in determining whether we will be healthy or ill. Our health care is but one element of what makes the biggest difference in health outcomes. This has been understood for centuries, and empirically validated in recent decades with study after study demonstrating health inequalities between wealthy and disadvantaged populations. 

Yet political conversations about health still tend to fall into familiar traps. When we talk about health we return by reflex to doctors and nurses, hospitals and pharmacies. And when we talk about politics — the field of endeavour with the greatest impact on what determines health outcomes — a narrow and economistic outlook seems to trump any attempts to address those social determinants.

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Manning, Hudak, and the folly of attacks on labour

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On September 16th, Preston Manning published an article on the recent defeat of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the hands of the conservative Liberal-National coalition in the Globe and Mail. Left-wing governments destroy healthy economies, he told us, they 'binge' on stimulus spending, are soft on unions, govern badly and can’t manage environmental policy.

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Predistribution: the neglected side of the inequality debate

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The high-profile Toronto Centre federal by-election features two well-known opposition candidates who agree that soaring income inequality, especially the fast-rising income share of the top 1% with all of its well-documented negative effects, is the defining political issue of our times. At issue is what we should be doing about it, through changes to public policy.

In thinking about this question, it is useful to distinguish between policies that affect the distribution of income by the market (called predistribution) and policies that make incomes after taxes and transfers more equal than market incomes (redistribution).

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Unemployment is higher than you think

6234928908_84121ef679_b.jpgEvery month, Statistics Canada comes out with the unemployment rate, and every month it gets a lot of attention. But the unemployment rate provides quite limited information about the actual health of the labour market.

The addition of two other pieces of information nearly doubles the unemployment rate: the proportion of the labour market employed part-time but looking for more work, and the proportion that would like a job but aren’t actively looking for work, and so aren’t officially counted as being in the labour market.

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Right-to-work laws are no solution to manufacturing job woes

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A new study by the Fraser Institute argues that introduction of anti-union “right to work” laws in Canada would boost manufacturing output and jobs. While they are right that these laws, which make dues payments voluntary, severely weaken unions, it is far from evident that unionization comes at the cost of poorer economic performance.

This is because collective bargaining has benefits for employers as well as for workers, and because collective bargaining outcomes reflect economic realities.

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