International scholars add their voices against elections act


Meet Canada's new Finance Minister

Canada's new Finance Minister certainly made his mark as Natural Resources Minister.

Joe Oliver's famous quip about environmentalists as "radicals" for questioning unbalanced resource development set the tone for his tenure in that portfolio.

Oliver also sometimes got his facts wrong or exaggerated things. In one memorable television interview, Oliver got it wrong on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline six times in four minutes, including widely overstating job creation numbers.

There's also this back-and-forth in the House of Commons last May:


Photo: YouTube

Look forward to tax time... really


The Bank of England throws theoretical basis for austerity out the window


So much for those "overpaid public sector workers"

Treasury Board President Tony Clement often sounds like a broken record, taking shots at the public service whenever he can.

If he's not complaining about a "complete disconnect" between public sector and private sector compensation, Clement is talking about clawing back salaries of public servants.

Clement must have been disappointed, then, when his office was handed a document last fall that undermined his talking points.

The chart, released to PressProgress under access to information, compares private sector and public sector annual wage increases over the past 20 years. The document was prepared just as Conservative government was getting ready to table its omnibus budget implementation bill containing provisions that attacked the public service.

(C-4 included amendments to the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Canada Labour Code, including a watered down definition of "danger" to make it harder for workers to refuse dangerous work. It also replaced the definition of "essential" to one described as anything that the government in its "exclusive right" determines is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public, stripping unions of their bargaining rights.)

Turns out employees in the private sector did slightly better on wage increases than public sector workers, besting federal civil servants in 10 of those years; employees in the federal public sector received a higher wage increase in nine of those years; the two received the same increase in one of those years).

And overall, the two streams emerged in nearly identical positions: private sector employees received an average annual wage increase of 2.125%, compared to 2.016% for public sector employees and 2.105% for federal public servants.

(These small increases in both the public and private sectors help explain why there's been virtually no change in real income growth between 1982 and 2010 among those below the top 10%. As you move up, "distribution gains become much larger." The top 0.01%, for example, saw a jump of 160%.)

So much for that "overpaid public sector workers" line the Conservative government likes to use...

Treasury Board compares public and private sector wage increases 

Here's the original document produced for Clement's office.


Photo: icann. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Corporate Canada's cash hoard exceeds national debt

This is quite a milestone.

The amount of cash held by private non-financial corporations in Canada stood at $626 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $591 billion in the third quarter, according to Statistics Canada.

The big jump means corporate Canada's accumulated stock of cash now exceeds the federal government's accumulated deficit, Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers union, points out. (The national debt stood at $612 billion at the end of 2013.)

Weir puts this "hoard of dead money" in context.

"The corporate sector's aggressive accumulation of cash helps to explain the lack of investment and employment growth. It also strengthens the case for reversing corporate tax cuts to fund needed investments in public services and infrastructure. If corporate Canada will not invest its dead money, the government should resuscitate some of it," Weir explains.

Photo: quinnanya. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Government policies have widened Canada's income gap


Dear Rob Ford: This is what mayors who aren't homophobic look like

It's St. Patrick's Day, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York is skipping the city’s traditional St Paddy's day parade.

The issue? March participants aren't allowed to carry gay pride signs. The move by de Blasio, the first NYC mayor in decades to skip the parade, comes a day after Boston's new mayor, Marty Walsh, decided to sit out his city's St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday for the same reason.

In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has his own issues with parades. Since becoming mayor, Ford has refused to attend the annual pride parade.

Up until a month ago, Ford said that scheduled vacations to his family cottage always got in the way, so he couldn't possibly attend pride events in Canada's largest city.

Ford dropped that pretence in February at the first candidates' forum of the 2014 mayoral campaign, when he was asked about the upcoming World Pride festival in Toronto in June.

"I'm not going to go to the Pride parade," Ford said. "I've never gone to a Pride parade, so I'm not going to change the way I am."

Translation: I'm homophobic, and I can't possibly change that about myself.

Playing to type, Ford then objected to flying the gay pride flag during the recent Olympics to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws.

But, just to be clear, Ford wants to set the record straight: "I'm not homophobic. I will go to anyone's house, anyone's place to help them out," Ford said during a recent "Ford Nation" YouTube episode. (But he won't go to the city's gay pride parade. Got it?)



Photo: YouTube

Inequality costs Britain billions annually


Nasa-funded study: industrial civilization headed for "irreversible collapse"?