With the global economy mired in slow growth and right-wing, nationalist populism in the ascendant in many of the advanced industrial countries, one might have hoped that the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China would have come up with a real plan to promote a sustainable, shared recovery.
If so, one would be very disappointed since the final communique consisted mainly of empty rhetoric and evaded the key issues of competitive fiscal austerity and increasing income inequality.
Progressive tax reform to promote both greater distributional fairness and increased fiscal capacity to fund social programs and public services should be squarely on the agenda for the 2017 federal budget. Indeed, with faltering growth, the federal Liberals will be hard-pressed to meet their commitments to new investments,while still ensuring a promised decline in the federal debt to GDP ratio, if they do not significantly increase revenues.
The narrow victory of the leave side in the Brexit referendum demands a profound rethinking of the liberal globalization agenda.
At one, highly disturbing level, the majority for leave was a clear victory for the nativist, often overtly racist, populist right, and a clear defeat for the economic and political elites who overwhelmingly backed the remain side. As widely noted, this underlines the lack of broad popular support for deep economic and political integration which seems to be increasingly pervasive in both Europe and the United States.
When the federal and provincial finance ministers meet on June 20-21, they will have to decide whether or not to enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) as promised by the Liberals in the last federal election. This will require the support of at least seven provinces with a combined two-thirds of the population and, effectively, a broad public consensus.
In that context, it is encouraging that the leading business organizations of all provinces but Alberta endorsed a modest expansion of the CPP in a letter sent to finance ministers on June 1.
The newly elected Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba has moved quickly to cement its anti-worker bona fides with the radical right-wing by making it more difficult for non-union workers to join a union, and by opening up bidding on large scale public construction projects to non-union companies. Changes in these areas were announced in the Pallister government’s Speech from the Throne on May 16.
Under the current system in Manitoba, a union can be automatically certified by the Labour Board if 65% of the workers in a proposed bargaining unit indicate their support by signing membership cards. As in other jurisdictions with a “card check” system, signed membership cards are subject to independent scrutiny.
It is now often said, with reason, that the environment and the economy are not in conflict. But it is even more true to say that seriously addressing the crisis of global climate change could revive a moribund global economy.
The World Economic Outlook (WEO) released by the International Monetary Fund in April of this year once again forecast very slow growth, and argued that economic stagnation is likely to be self-sustaining. This is due to very low levels of business investment, combined with high levels of household and public debt which constrain household and government spending.
When Christy Clark’s government released its budget in February, many advocates were hoping for real action on soaring housing costs. British Columbia’s economy is growing and investments in affordable housing in this budget – for the last full fiscal year before going to the polls in 2017 – had the potential to address the severe crisis many British Columbians are facing.
In the midst of the catastrophic fires that have devastated homes and livelihoods in the city of Fort McMurray, the Alberta government has declared a state of emergency. All focus is now on ensuring the safety of Albertans in this time of need.
Inequality is a major theme of current research in economics throughout the world. The now-famous Capital by Thomas Piketty released in English in 2014 is a case in point. It is also a major focal point in Canada, as illustrated by the bookIncome Inequality: The Canadian Story published recently by the Institute for Research on Public Policy and in the ongoing work of the Broadbent Institute and other groups.