Few Canadian economic debates are as long-standing and as predictable as that over the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage. Progressives call for a higher wage floor to combat inequality, low pay and poverty. But employers and the political right generally argue that a decent minimum wage comes at the cost of jobs, and harms those it is intended to protect.
A recent study from the Fraser Institute claims boosting premiums to pay for higher Canada Pension Plan benefits would not work, since individuals would simply save less in RRSPs and other individual savings vehicles. Thus there would be no overall increase in retirement income, and individuals would have less flexible access to their savings because CPP contributions are effectively locked in.
Posted by Broadbent Institute | Institut Broadbent · July 11, 2015 9:00 AM
Corporate tax cuts have been central to the Harper government's economic agenda. The result has been a huge loss of public revenues for negligible economic gain, suggesting that we need a major policy rethink.
While Canada's short term economic prospects are pretty gloomy, longer term projections are even worse. A major reason is that policy-makers here and in all of the advanced industrial countries have been content to settle for a very slow recovery which undermines our longer-term economic potential.
There has been a great deal of recent media commentary on inter generational unfairness, much of which misleadingly argues that affluent older Canadians are benefiting from current economic and social arrangements at the expense of youth.
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?
Which gives us a better picture of where the economy is headed -- near record low interest rates on government bonds or a stock market that is not far below record highs?
In Canada as well as the United States, bond yields are just above record lows. The interest rate on 10-year Government of Canada bonds is about 1.4%, meaning that investors are prepared to lock in their money for 10 years for a return well below the official 2% inflation rate target.
Glance at just about any publication from the Fraser Institute and other conservative think tanks, and you will be told that too much government social spending and too much regulation of the job market damage growth and job creation. There is, we are told, an ineluctable trade off between social equity and economic efficiency.
Yet this does not readily show up in international comparisons. Germany and some Northern European countries have built highly productive economies and enjoy low unemployment despite being much more equal societies than the United States or Canada.
There is also little evidence of an equity-efficiency trade-off within Canada. Consider the case of Quebec's social and economic performance compared to other provinces.
Economists love to talk about the theory of comparative advantage, which holds (somewhat counter intuitively) that two countries trading with each other will be better off if each specializes in what it does best, even if one country has an absolute competitive advantage in the production of all goods and services traded.
David Ricardo famously argued that it made sense for England to specialize in the production of cloth and Portugal that of wine, even though Portugal could produce both goods more cheaply.
Unfortunately, the theory has limited application to the real world, and can have pernicious policy consequences.
article originally appeared in the Globe and Mail's Economy Lab.
Photo: teegardin. Used under a Creative Commons license BY-SA-2.0