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Joe Oliver gets it wrong on jobs 3 times in 30 seconds

The new Finance Minister is off to a rough start.

Joe Oliver stood up in the House of Commons this week and delivered three misleading statements in just 30 seconds about the jobs record since the Great Recession.

1.  Said 85% of jobs created have been full time

A recent report released by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, titled Canada's Labour Market Sputtered in 2013, found 95% of net jobs created last year were in part-time positions. Meanwhile, employment grew by a "mere" 0.6% in 2013, the slowest pace recorded since 2009.

Put another way, "that full-time employment growth is nearly flat in the past year while part-time job growth is up 2.5 per cent 'indicates that businesses are not eager to expand payrolls,'" according to Arlene Kish, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight. She provided that analysis after a dismal Statistics Canada jobs report in January.

2. Said 1 million net new jobs have been created since July 2009

If you look at the Conservative record since the beginning of the recession in September 2008 – instead of from the extreme low point – it shows how far Canada still is from a full recovery.

Between September 2008 and September 2013, 653,400 jobs were added to the economy, and more than half of those new jobs (53.4%) were in sales and services, the lowest-paid occupational category. Further, 40.6% of these new jobs were in temporary, rather than permanent, positions. 

3. Said Canada’s job record is the best in the G7

You can only make that claim if you use very selective statistics.

For a more accurate picture, an analysis from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), shows Canada ranks 11th in real GDP recovery since the trough of the recession in a ranking of the world's most developed economies.

And when population growth and purchasing power are taken into account, Canada falls to 16th spot in real GDP per capita growth, behind G-7 countries Germany, Japan and the United States. That's fourth spot.

Putting this in context

It shouldn't be surprising that Oliver's statements fall down on the facts. After all, Finance Canada has eggs on its face today after the Parliamentary Budget Officer discovered something embarrassing in the department’s jobs report.

Released last month alongside the federal budget, Finance Canada's report claimed the country's job vacancy rate has been "increasingly steadily since 2009." (The Conservatives often cite this trend to explain why the Temporary Foreign Worker program has expanded under their watch.)

The problem? It’s not true, according to a new PBO report.

Not only does the PBO report conclude there little evidence of a national labour shortage or skills mismatch; Statistics Canada has found the same thing. But the PBO discovered that Finance Canada relied on questionable job postings on Kijiji to draw conclusions.

"Officials with the Parliamentary Budget Office says Kijiji is so unreliable as a job site that it can single-handedly explain away the government’s claims. With the simple removal of that one site from the search, the steep rise Ottawa flagged becomes much closer to a flat line," the Globe and Mail reported Wednesday.

Now, watch Joe Oliver repeat talking points approved by the same department. Bonus: listen for Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, praise the work of Statistics Canada. "Stats Can, baby!"


Photo: YouTube

Conservatives making supernatural claims about voter fraud

We could all be living through an episode of the X-Files right now.

Or, the Conservatives have no evidence of the voter fraud they claim the Unfair Elections Act will fix, so they've decided to just make up phony stories.

First, Conservative MP Brad Butt got himself in trouble when he said he personally witnessed thefts of voter identification cards from mailboxes, which he claimed were used by people to vote fraudulently.

A few weeks later, after people asked why he hadn't bothered to report this to police, Butt retracted the statement.

He admitted he never actually "personally witnessed" the things he claimed he personally witnessed. Butt said he just "misspoke," but the opposition didn't believe his story.

Now, two more Conservative MPs have stepped forward with their own supernatural stories of voter fraud.

Did Laurie Hawn receive a phone call from...  the future?

Conservative MP Laurie Hawn told the House of Commons this week that back in 2006, he was "called personally" by an anonymous person and "offered hundreds" of voter information cards that could be used in a plot to commit voter fraud.

"In the 2006 election, I was called personally and offered hundreds of voter cards that had been left in apartment buildings and so on. Like an idiot, I said, "No, we don't do that sort of thing." I should have said, "Yes, come on down," and had the police waiting.


In the 2006 election, there were hundreds of people removed from the voters list, because it was clear that they did not live in the riding and that they intended to vote fraudulently. They did not, because we caught them."  

There's only one problem with Hawn's story: voter cards weren't issued as proof of address until 2007.

When iPolitics caught up with Hawn later in the day, and told him Elections Canada said his allegations were not possible, Hawn replied cryptically: "there's rules, and how it was used are two different things."

Paul Calandra asked how can dead people vote...

Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, startled the House of Commons last month when he claimed that eight years earlier, while working as a scrutineer on election day, he discovered that his dead mother had voted. And when Calandra dared to ask questions, Elections Canada got nervous, and he was "ushered out of the polling station":  

"I can provide a specific example from 2006 for the member. As a scrutineer at a poll, I was shocked to learn that my mother had voted. She had actually passed away in 2005, and when I asked the person why her name was checked off the list, she assured me that my mother had been in earlier in the day to vote. When I explained to her that was not possible, I was ushered out of the polling station."

When CBC followed up with Calandra this week, he changed his story. Here's what CBC wrote:

Reached by phone late Tuesday, Calandra said he made a mistake when he said he was a scrutineer in that election. He was just a voter, he says. But he noticed his mother's crossed-off name as the poll clerk was about to draw a line through his own name.


"In retrospect do I think there was something fishy about it. Yes. Do I think it was any of the polling people? No," he said.

But in offering this answer, Calandra only raises more questions: did Calandra actually talk to any poll worker about this irregularity or did he simply "notice" a pen mark on a sheet of paper and not ask anyone about it; did a poll worker really say she saw Calandra's deceased mother vote in the 2006 election? Did Calandra follow up with Elections Canada, since there's a well-established process for removing deceased electors from the voters' list? Why was Calandra "ushered" off the premises for asking questions about what is a routine record keeping issue? Who ushered Calandra out? Were they men dressed in black?

It's hard to say. But one thing we can all be sure of: the truth is out there.

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Corporate Canada tops global list of cash hoarders

You won't hear the Harper government boast about Canada leading the G7 in this category: the amount of "dead money" being stashed away by corporations.

The International Monetary Fund looked at the amount of "dead money" held by non-financial firms, and found corporate Canada is leading the G7 pack. 

This cash stash in Canada has almost doubled between the mid-1990s and 2012, and "the increase in corporations' cash holdings in Canada has been the fastest among G7 countries since the mid-2000s," the report states.

What happens is the cash hoard accumulates because capital expenditures significantly lags corporate retained earnings.

This "increase in cash positions raised concerns that Canadian firms may be missing on productive investing possibilities," according to the IMF report.

Put another way, this big stash of dead money helps explain the lack of investment and employment growth in Canada -- despite massive tax cuts pitched as necessary to boost investment and job creation. (Between 2000 and 2004, the former Liberal government slashed the federal corporate tax rate from 29% to 22%. The Conservative government cut the tax rate further from 22% in 2007 to 15% in 2012.)

To put the size of the cash hoard ($626 billion) in Canada in perspective, it now exceeds the national debt ($612 billion).

And courtesy of the IMF, here's what this looks like:

IMF - G7 corporate cash stash


IMF - cash stash growth among G7

The IMF also drilled down by sector, and found Canada's energy and mining sectors account for about 60% of cash held in Canada in 2012, doubling their cash holdings since 2005:

IMF - cash stash by sector

Photo: asburgessUsed under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

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